Friday, September 27, 2013

Undiscovered App #39: Penguin Pile-Up - An Indie Dev Debut

Penguin Pile Up
Every once in a while we get a request from indie devs to have a look at their apps and possibly consider it for a review. The other day we got one from Christian West, developer of Penguin Pile Up, and his email was one we felt deserved some recognition for how well he conveyed his sincerity and effort in building his first game as an independent developer.

Here is what he had to say:

I've just finished my first game as an independent developer, releasing it is without a doubt the most challenging thing I have ever done. I've worked on titles such as Geometry Wars Galaxies, Tumble, South Park and Burn Zombie Burn, but this game represents me and what I can achieve on my own. I am scared but incredibly excited.

I've taken what I learned making Tumble for PlayStation Move and applied that to making a great physics based stacking game, with some extra variety thrown in for fun. Surprisingly, this is a genre that hasn't been conquered (not to the level of other physics based games). Penguin Pile-Up can fill that gap, people enjoy the game with a sense of nostalgia. It reminds them of the games they started playing on their phones a few years back. However, I've worked really hard to add a great level of polish and visual feedback you'd only see on today's devices.

I hope the screenshots and trailer attached to this email appeal to you. Hopefully you feel it’s worth covering (and hopefully reviewing) on http://www.undiscoveredapp.com. I’d love to hear what you think and with any luck you’ll enjoy it.


Penguin Pile Up screen shots

After having played it, we agree that it's a very polished piece of work. The interface was smooth, easy to use, and the game needed no explanation to figure out. Just pile on the penguins as high as you can until you reach the required threshold for the level, and then you move on. In the early stages, we'd have to say that the game was almost too easy, but future levels addressed that, as piling on became more difficult with the presence of more inclined surfaces and obstacles you need to build around. Kids would have a great time playing with this, so if you're in the market for a great family-friendly app, give Penguin Pile Up a try, especially since it's free to download.


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Undiscovered App #38: Word Mess - The Thinker's Word Search

Word Mess
Remember when you used to turn to the page in the newspaper where the word search was and just gave it a go? Well, there may be fewer and fewer of you who do since newspapers are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. But for those of you who did, today's Undiscovered App takes that old time favorite concept and gives it a great and updated twist.

Word Mess, by Masala Games, is not like your everyday word search. This one takes your standard word, dumps it in a pile of other words, then leaves it up to you to find it. To make things more difficult, the words aren't aligned in a standard grid, but can fall in a way that can leave it upside down, or the words can be shrunk down to be harder to see. Sometimes the colors are different, sometimes they're the same. And if you take too long, there's an occasional bomb that shakes up the board and rearranges all the words, so you have to reorient yourself and find the words in different locations.



For those who crave some more brain power, there are other different modes to play, in addition to the standard Find mode. There's Categories, which lets you find words that fall under a certain categoery. For example, you can have a Computer Equipment category, and then you'll have to find words like Monitor, Speaker, or Cord.

There's also Rhyme mode, which makes you find words that rhyme with the key word. For example, if you're given the word Hot, you could select words like Cot, Plot, or a trickier one like Thought.

We found Word Mess to be a ton of fun, and the expanded categories can really keep you mentally sharp. It's family friendly, and you can play for long stretches or if you only have a minute while waiting in line. Word Mess is currently free to download. It has an average rating of 4.5 stars from over 400 reviews. Definitely get this one and give it a try.



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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Undiscovered App #37: Wordly - Letterpress Revisited

WordlyI love word games, so when I came across today's Undiscovered App, I was excited to try it out. Wordly, by Scopely, is a lot like Letterpress (which I hadn't played until I discovered Wordly), where the objective is to create words and use as many tiles as possible in a fixed 5 x 5 board. Each tile used earns you one point, and additional points can be earned by using letters that were already claimed by your opponent. Once all the unused white tiles are gone, the game ends.

The interface is easy to use and was quite intuitive. Like other word games, there were many achievements to unlock. No friends were required, since there was a great system in place to match you up with random opponents. There were also some useful aids like "wild" tiles that gave you extra letters that couldn't be found on the board, which allowed you to create even more words that weren't previously possible.

Wordly screen shots

The app was rather ad-heavy; after every turn, there was something popping up in your face, whether it was a prompt to invite more friends, or to like them Facebook, or a full page ad. If you can get past this, you'll find a lot to enjoy. The good part is, Wordly is free to download. It has an average rating of 4.5 stars out of thousands of reviews. It's not really undiscovered at this point, but I thought it was worth mentioning since I'm a sucker for word games.



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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Undiscovered App #36: Bezier - A Beautiful Physics Puzzler

BezierImagine you're given a ball, and your objective is to get it from Point A to Point B by drawing a line through which it will roll. Sounds easy enough, right? Now, what if you had to destroy certain objects along the way, some that don't follow a linear path, and others that require you to double back from your original starting point? How would you manipulate the lines then?

That's part of the mind bending process you have to engage in with today's Undiscovered App. Bézier and Bézier Lite will test your spatial capabilities, doing so in a way that is both beautiful to see and wonderful to hear.

Along the way, you will be given special objects to manipulate to help you meet your increasingly difficult objectives. Some will help you accelerate the ball's speed, others will let you teleport it, like in Quell. Have a look at some of the screen shots below:

Bezier screen shots

Bezier is a Universal app, so one download will get iPad and iPhone users the chance to play this remarkable game. Bezier has an average rating of 5 stars from 29 reviews, and is available to download for $2.99. Those who want to dip their toes in the water for free can download Bezier Lite. We highly recommend this one for a download.



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Monday, September 9, 2013

Undiscovered App #35: Go Go Pixel - Retro Action

Go Go Pixel
Continuing with our recent retro theme, today's Undiscovered App is somewhat reminiscent of Super Mario Brothers and Ghosts 'n Goblins in terms of game play. Go Go Pixel by Oni Craft brings us back to the pixelated, sidescrolling, action platformer days, where you have to rescue the kidnapped princess from the clutches of the evil Bad Guy.

You start out with a brief cut scene where your gal gets kidnapped, and then you're pretty much left alone to figure out how things work. Thankfully, the interface is very intuitive: the first mini stage is basically a tutorial that shows you how to navigate your world, and there are on-screen buttons that make you move left, right, jump, or block, and through a combination of those buttons, you can do some extra actions to make your character more effective.

You have to travel through eight different worlds to rescue the princess, and along the way, you collect coins, hearts (for health), and an assortment of weapons, all while firing away at bad guys, jumping through a set of obstacles to reach the objective, and timing your moves so you don't get killed. Oh, and then there are boss fights too to make it even more challenging.

Go Go Pixel screen shots

We found the game very easy and enjoyable to play, but there were some subtle drawbacks from the controls: it can sometimes get a little "sticky" (which we noticed only in the fastest-paced parts of the game) where an action you're trying to perform doesn't get recognized, and you're still left doing the last action you were performing. You'll also probably want to turn off the background music, which can get a bit repetitive and maybe even annoying. Other than that, it was a great way to spend a half hour here and there to advance to the next world.

Check out the video of how the game looks and feels (note: the video has been overlaid with background music that is different from the game).



Go Go Pixel has an average rating of 4 stars from 8 reviews, and is currently available to download for $0.99.




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Monday, September 2, 2013

Undiscovered App #34 - The Quest: A Real Old School RPG

The QuestMy most favorite RPGs when I was growing up was Might and Magic, Pool of Radiance, and Ultima. If these ever get ported to the iPhone, you can bet I'd be throwing my money at it in a heartbeat. Until then, I was able to find a great app that reminded me of Might and Magic, and for others who grew up with Elder Scrolls, you'll also see a resemblance.

Today's Undiscovered App is an oldie: The Quest was released way back in 2009, practically the Stone Age in iPhone terms and has therefore likely been forgotten, but it has withstood the test of time, with additional updates continuing through the years. It's one of the few games that kept me engaged long enough to play it all the way through. It has a remarkably deep and customizable character development system, where you have a large range of skills to acquire and improve upon, and depending on what skills you choose, it will have an impact on how easy (or difficult) it will be able to accomplish your goals. Plus, combine that with its non-linearity, it might even remind you of Fallout's open world system.

It is set up in a first person, 3D format. The graphics are attractive in an old school kind of way, which definitely gives it a retro feel (see some of the screen shots below):

The Quest screen shots

There are endless quests, some that move you toward your overall goal, and some that don't affect the story line but give the world a greater personality (in addition to nice weapons, spells, armor, or experience). Like in the old days, leveling can be a little on the slow end, plus you actually have to read and figure things out; it's not always just sitting there on a silver platter for you. That's part of what made it enjoyable; for others, that's what made it unbearable. If you want a real game, then The Quest might be what you've been looking for. It has an average rating of 3.5 stars from over 2,800 reviews, and is available for $4.99.




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