Welcome to this week’s gaming edition of iOS Gems! Today we’re reviewing three games: one is a port of a title that’s previously been seen on Windows and the PlayStation Network, another is a sequel to a popular franchise, and the third is a brand new 8-bit-style platformer.
Eufloria HD and Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 are premium titles that command—and deserve—$5+ asking prices. They’re great games with broad appeal. By comparison, Mikey Short isn’t on quite the same level, but it’s much less expensive. Read on for all the details.
First released for the iPad in February 2012, Omni Systems Limited’s Eufloria HD ($5) has just been significantly updated as a universal build, alongside the launch of a standalone iPhone and iPod touch version that’s being sold for $3. While it can be defined as a realtime strategy game, it’s unique: the beautiful graphics and audio enhance fun gameplay, making this a standout title.
In Eufloria HD, you take on the role of a godlike master responsible for the survival of a race of plant-creature hybrids in space. By planting groups of these seedlings on asteroids, you can grow trees that produce more creatures, provide defenses, and create special characters. Early levels start off slow with colonization as the main goal, but quickly ramp up to full-on war. By using tap-based controls, you must decide how to explore and attack your enemies while defending your outposts. Eufloria isn’t as advanced as some more in-depth games, but definitely requires an increasing level of strategy as the levels progress. Three speeds allow players to go along at their own pace; we very much preferred the fastest of them. Your current level is saved to iCloud between devices, although specific progress within the level is not.
While the gameplay is solid, what really set Eufloria HD apart are its gorgeous graphics and beautiful instrumental soundtrack. The action is set against a solid-colored background with asteroids and their inhabitants as the only visual elements. Zoomed out, you’ll see a bustle of activity, but pinch gestures reveals an impressive level of close-up detail. Tress that are simple sticks from afar turn out to be multi-branched, and seedlings that seem to be just dots actually have character; we’re really impressed with how Omni Systems Limited handled the game’s art. The soundtrack is ethereal and befits the visual design. Eufloria HD is a truly standout game for the platform, and although it’s not an impulse buy by iOS standards, it’s certainly worth the price. iLounge Rating: A-.
In 2005, Lego released its first co-branded action-adventure game, Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, and since then has expanded the lineup with titles based on such properties as Batman, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean. These games have turned out to be shockingly fun, with rich worlds and plenty of fan service. Released by Warner Bros., Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 ($5) is no different. Taking you through the final books in J.K. Rowling’s incredibly popular series, this sequel will appeal to kids and adults alike: casual gamers will enjoy themselves, but it’s a completionist’s dream to be sure.
Lego Harry Potter closely follows the plot of the books starting with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It starts with one of many animated cut scenes used between gameplay to move the story along and add some humor—something the title is rich in. Actual play is presented in 3-D, with a three-quarter view of the Lego minifigure character you’re controlling. As you navigate through the numerous settings, you must cast spells by tapping on the screen to destroy sparse enemies and much more often build and tear apart pieces of the set to expose and collect studs. Navigation is controlled by a virtual joystick at the bottom left corner of the screen. Each level generally has a few simple puzzles that need to be solved before you can move onto the next. This sometimes involves switching between characters with different attributes such as super strength or specific spells.
The game plays well on iPhone and iPod touch screens and looks nice thanks to its Retina graphics, but is particularly well-suited to the larger display of the iPad. Unfortunately Warner Bros. hasn’t updated the game to support the higher resolution of the third-generation tablet, resulting in graphics that look good but not great like they could with extra pixel detail. There’s a full orchestral soundtrack that’s highly similar to John Williams’ music from the films, complemented by lots of whooshing and crashing sounds. Although the game’s not difficult, it’s a lot of fun and there’s plenty of content. Even after playing for a few hours, you’ll likely be less than 5% through the game, which is rare by iOS action game standards. There are lots of hidden elements to find, and some require playing through multiple times as you acquire new abilities. We’d like to see the graphics updated in the future and the addition of progress syncing between platforms, but otherwise there’s not much more we could ask from Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7. It’s a great title, and worthy of our high recommendation. iLounge Rating: A-.
While not quite up to the same level of quality, BeaverTap Games’ Mikey Shorts ($1) is a spiritual successor to early Nintendo Mario games and other similar platform titles. It successfully combines super simple controls, well-designed levels, fun gameplay modes, and character customization into a iPhone- and iPad-universal title that’s worth the asking price. As the title character, you’re tasked with running through 24 levels in story mode and another 48 in challenge mode in an attempt to free your friends who’ve been turned to stone. The key to success is doing so as quickly as possible.
The levels are split among six environments including gaming staples such as a cave and an ice world. As you run, jump, and slide through them using a left-right toggle and two virtual buttons, you must make contact with petrified characters to break them free; getting them all is the only requirement for beating each level. There are also coins to be collected, hidden golden shorts to be found, and time limits that can be achieved for full completion. In the challenge mode, time is your only concern; nice touches such as optional split time markers and ghosts that show previous runs help you beat your best times. We like that the multiple goals encourage replay, adding value to a game one might otherwise rush through. The coins can be used to buy different costumes that don’t affect gameplay but are still fun. Unlike many developers, BeaverTap left out in-app purchases as a way of making money from digital goods, which is frankly quite welcome.
Although the cartoony two-dimensional, 8-bit graphics don’t make full use of the iPad’s and iPhone’s power, they are quite colorful, and look nice; similarly, the upbeat soundtrack and sound effects are also comparable to those found on a 20-year old gaming system, by design. Universal iOS support is very much appreciated, and the game is well suited to both display sizes. We only wish there was iCloud syncing of game progress. Overall, Mikey Shorts is a fun casual game that anyone can pick up and enjoy. It’s not the most in-depth or challenging title, but if you’re a retro gaming fan, you’ll likely find that it’s worth the dollar. iLounge Rating: B+.
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