App Diary: Leo’s Fortune, Minimize, Stagehand, Word Cookies

App Diary: Leo’s Fortune, Minimize, Stagehand, Word Cookies 1

App Diary: Leo’s Fortune, Minimize, Stagehand, Word Cookies 2

Leo’s Fortune ($5) — As much as I was impressed by 1337 & Senri’s award-winning platformer when it debuted three years ago, like many iOS games it was just one of those that I was never able to fully appreciate and get into with the iPhone’s smaller screen and more limited control interface. Therefore, it goes almost without saying that when I saw it show up on the Apple TV earlier this year, I was intrigued, and with the full TV presentation and proper game controller support, I was able to jump in with more enthusiasm than before. The premise of Leo’s Fortune hasn’t changed much from the original — in fact, the addition of Apple TV support represents the first update the game has seen in more than two years — but there’s also probably not much need to tweak a game that earned many honors when it was released back in 2014. Like a lot of iOS games, being able to bring an actual hardware game controller to the table changes the gameplay significantly for the better, and Leo’s movements throughout each level come are more fluid than ever before — not to mention that it looks and sounds fantastic on the big screen. Although not all iOS games translate ideally to the Apple TV, this is one that’s so much more fun and playable on the big screen that it’s worth playing through again even if you already finished it on your iPhone or iPad. Best of all, it’s an update to the prior version, so if you already bought it for your iPhone or iPad, you already own the Apple TV version — just look for it in your “Purchased Apps” section on the tvOS App Store.
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Minimize ($3) — I first stumbled across this game on the Apple TV — the smaller number of games on the tvOS App Store often makes it easier to find gems that might otherwise get lost among the much larger selection of iPhone and iPad games — but it’s also available and eminently playable on the iPhone and iPad platforms, as well. The game’s premise is simple enough: swipe to pull all of the colored tiles to one of four edges of the playing field in an attempt to match up blocks of like colors and eliminate them until no tiles remain. The catch, of course, is that each group of colors must be matched in sets of two or more to eliminate them; match two colors when three are on the board and you’ll be left with an orphaned tile that you have no way of removing. Like most puzzle games, it starts simple but ends up being trickier than it looks, with additional colors, fixed tiles, and obstacles that you have to work around to get the job done. The game was released in mid-December with 100 levels, and the developer has already released an update adding 40 more levels — a good sign that gives us hope that the updates will continue. Progress also syncs via iCloud between devices, so you can pick up where you left off between your iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. It’s also worth noting that Minimize has a nice, relaxing soundtrack, so I find it a great game for unwinding late at night.

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Stagehand ($2) — Big Bucket Software, known for its homages to the classic 8-bit gaming era, The Incident and Space Age: A Cosmic Adventure, is now back with a really fun and unique twist on classic platformers. Stagehand brings Frank, our hero from The Incident, into a game that looks like a typical run-and-jump game, but turns the entire premise on its ear by having you move the stage rather than the character. It’s an intriguing premise that sucked me right in, and it definitely delivers at being much harder than it looks. Basically, Frank is running across the screen and there’s nothing you can do to stop it — your goal is to move the various platforms up and down to ensure that Frank has a clear path to keep on running, while also collecting coins and avoiding ledges. It’s fast and fun while maintaining the sort of whimsy that Big Bucket is known for — there’s even a feature whereby you can share an animated GIF of Frank’s final moments — and it supports haptic feedback for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus users so you can “feel” when Frank runs into a cliff. It’s also got a great soundtrack and includes an iMessage sticker pack. Sadly, there’s no Apple TV version (yet).

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Word Cookies (free) — Being a writer, it’s not surprising that I have a thing for word puzzlers, so BitMango’s Word Cookies had a certain appeal right out of the gate. Of course, the biggest problem with puzzle games like this is not just the puzzles themselves, but the amount of content, and an engaging enough UI to keep you wanting to come back. I think BitMango has done this one right, though, as Word Cookies has become so difficult to put down that I found myself visualizing circular word patterns on the back of my eyelids the first couple of days I spent playing it. On the surface, it’s a basic word jumble game with an endearing and addictive play style — you form words of various lengths by arranging the letters given in as many valid combinations as possible — but there are a few other nice wrinkles added such as bonus levels and an extra word jar for all of those valid words that you’ll inevitably find that don’t form part of the puzzle. Word Cookies has that unique sort of puzzle game play style where you’ll find yourself immediately zipping through several “obvious” words in each puzzle and then remain scratching your head to find the last two or three, and then slapping your forehead once you figure them out. There’s a hint system in case you get stuck, but hints are paid for with coins earned from each level; while you can buy coins with real currency, I can’t see why most people would have any need to do so. There are over 40 stages that each include 20 puzzles, so this one will also keep you going for a while. Like many free apps, Word Cookies is ad-supported; an in-app purchase of $2 will remove the ads.

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