Welcome to this casual gaming edition of iPhone + iPad Gems! Today, we’re taking a look at four titles that are easy to jump right into, though most of them offer plenty of depth to keep you entertained for the low asking prices. Two are sequels to previously released games, one is a new take on retro gaming, and the last is a simple-looking puzzler that will keep you busy for hours.
Our top picks of the bunch are Popstar Physics (Save Toshi 2) and Qvoid, both of which are really fun puzzle games. We also liked Amateur Surgeon 2 HD quite a bit, although its lack of universal support is a shortcoming. Read on for our full reviews.
[adult swim]‘s Amateur Surgeon 2 HD ($1, version 1.0) is a port of the previously-released iPhone version, which itself is a port of a Flash-based game offered on the company’s web site; all of them copy the style of Atlus’ Trauma Center games for the Nintendo DS and Wii. Developed with a deliberately bizarre sense of humor, Amateur Surgeon 2 HD puts you in the shoes of Alan Probe, a pizza boy turned surgeon who must use his unconventional medical tools to save the lives of even more unconventional patients.
The game takes you through 30 different levels—the main game and the “Circus Freakout” bonus chapters—each of which involves an operation on a different patient. As Probe, you must get in and out of the patient without killing him or her, and before time runs out. For the most part, gameplay is straightforward: you follow instructions on the screen, such as cutting along dotted lines and pulling out things that really shouldn’t be in a human body. Successful moves rack up in a multiplier, which can be a factor of hundreds if no mistakes are made during the operation. In the end, a letter grade is assessed based on the overall score.
Amateur Surgeon 2 HD certainly has a style that is in sync with the rest of [adult swim]‘s games: pretty crass, and really funny. The cartoon graphics were a smart choice for this game, as the nauseating surgical procedures would not be well represented by more realistic art. We found the soundtrack to be repetitive, though, as there is only one song during the main game, and a second in the Circus levels. There are different sound effects for each of the surgical instruments, which add to the overall experience. Compared with the web-based mouse-dependent predecessor, touch controls are certainly ideal for this game, and they’re particularly well suited to the iPad’s large screen; using your finger to cut a patient open feels much better than dragging a mouse cursor along the body. We did notice a few small bugs throughout the game, including a level where a top rating was impossible to achieve, but nothing else seriously impacted our enjoyment level. Overall, the game is quite a bit of fun and except for the bosses, it’s not terribly difficult. A player with a few hours of free time could beat the whole thing in one sitting. It’s a shame that Amateur Surgeon 2 isn’t iOS-universal, but it’s worth the $1 asking price and a general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B.
Flick Rocket ($1, version 1.0) from Binary Square bills itself as a new take on old school games, and that’s exactly what it is: it combines gameplay elements and even characters from shooting game classics including Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Centipede, but uses a much different control scheme.
There’s not a lot of plot here; aliens are attacking, and you must defend Earth’s major cities from them by shooting rockets from your base on the planet’s surface. Every three levels, you cycle between Tokyo, Paris, or Los Angeles, and the developer promises more cities to come. Each has ten buildings to be defended, and with each visit you start off from the last time you were there. Rather than using a virtual joystick and buttons, missiles are fired by flicking them in the direction you want them to go. Certain bad guys drop power-ups such as shields. The controls aren’t very precise, so you’ll find yourself just swiping away in the general direction and hoping your missiles make contact.
Pretty much everything about the game is minimalist, in a retro style. The graphics are pixels, bright but not highly detailed. There’s no music, and the sound effects are pretty grating. While we know they match the spartan look, we preferred playing with the sound off. Since you play until you die, replay value only exists for people who like the action enough to persist though the similar stages; others will die once or twice and then move on. Some people will enjoy the throwback to old school games, but Flick Rocket just didn’t do it for us. In this age of truly awesome iOS games, it takes more than just a modest spin on classic titles to merit high ratings. iLounge Rating: C+.
The second sequel in this Gems piece is the universal title Popstar Physics (Save Toshi 2) (Free*, version 1.0) by Nitako, a followup to Save Toshi DX. These are puzzle games unlike any we have seen before, with a truly unique style and gameplay. Originally, your goal was to help popstar Toshi-San reach the dance floor. In this sequel, your goal is to crush her evil zombie clones.
Each level is rendered in fully rotatable 3-D, and you’re charged with the same task: knock over the various components in the environment to destroy the clones on the screen. To do this, you flick a set number of balls at the wood, stone, metal, and other structures, which then fall onto the characters. Although it starts off pretty easy, figuring out exactly what you need to hit—and where—gets to be pretty tough. Hints are available to help if you get stuck.
The pure strangeness of the story makes the game pretty appealing, and the gameplay is simply addictive. We found the graphics to be pretty good; they’re not the most complex or highest quality we’ve seen on Apple’s devices, but they’re acceptable for a puzzle game. Zooming in reveals the blockiness of the characters, which is somewhat similar to later PlayStation One games. In terms of sound, there’s mostly just the groaning of zombies and simple sound effects when you hit objects; some basic instrumental music plays between the levels. We don’t know how long this game will be free, but while it is, we recommend it. It’s just plain old fun, and offers plenty of replay value. iLounge Rating: B+.
The final title in this roundup is another puzzler, and also the most expensive: Qvoid ($2, version 1.0.0) from Gavina Games. Thankfully, the price buys an iPhone, iPod, and iPad universal game, which we always appreciate. And while Qvoid’s idea and look are simple, this game is definitely going to keep puzzle fans occupied for quite some time.
It starts off easy enough: you control a white cube with the ability to pick up different colors on its six sides. Each of the 96 levels is made up of a platform of cubes that you can move along. The idea is to pick up a color, and then match it to the same one somewhere else on the floor. Along the way, the levels get significantly more difficult, with increasingly complicated paths and all sorts of special squares that change how you play. Swiping with one finger moves the cube a square at a time, while twisting with two rotates the level. At the end of each, you receive up to three stars, depending on how many moves it took you to complete the level. Those stars are then used to unlock even more levels.
People who like puzzle games are certainly going to enjoy Qvoid, as the controls are easy, but the levels get pretty tough rather quickly. And while the screenshots may look simple, Gavina impresses with well-done 3-D graphics: the floating platform and objects are cartoony but look sharp, and the backgrounds resemble more colorful versions of Apple’s now omnipresent linen pattern. We did find the music to be quite repetitive; it’s the same continuously-looping track, with few sound effects to speak of. And while there’s not a lot of depth, between the multitude of levels and the goal of unlocking three stars on each, this game could have you hooked for hours. It’s fun enough to be worthy of a recommendation to even casual puzzle fans. iLounge Rating: B.