Welcome to this week’s second gaming edition of iPhone + iPad Gems, featuring two universal games, one that has separate versions for iPad and iPhone/iPod touch, and an iPhone-only title.
Of the bunch, Mega Mall Story is our favorite; it’s an addicting simulation game with pixel art. Read on for all the details.
Of the four games being reviewed here today, Cado ($1, version 1.0) from ClearCut Games is the most basic in terms of visual appearance and controls. It’s also the only title that has separate paid versions for the iPhone and iPad; the latter will cost you $3. A gravity puzzler, the game requires you to move a ball called Cado to a portal, while grabbing a star along the way. There are 40 levels, with the promise of 20 more coming soon as a free update. To move Cado, you use the left and right arrows at the bottom of the screen. They don’t specifically move the ball, but rather, the entire world. You must use gravity and momentum to your advantage and avoid falling off into the abyss. It’s imprecise, but that’s the idea. As you progress, objects like keys and spikes make the task even more difficult.
Cado is presented in the style of a doodled-in notebook. The background is made to look like lined paper, and the controls, platform, and Cado itself are all shaded-in sketches. For a simple game like this, the simple design works. In terms of sound, the game is a bit lacking; a bass guitar-heavy soundtrack repeats throughout the game and is fine, but we would have preferred some variety. There are only a handful of sound effects otherwise. Once you’ve beaten the levels, there’s no compelling reason to go back and play them again. While Cado is fun enough to warrant a dollar; three for the iPad version is too much, and the fact they’re separate downloads definitely takes away from the value. It’s worthy of a limited recommendation. iLounge Rating: B-.
To say Finnish developer’s Ookoohko’s Get Outta My Galaxy! HD ($3, version 1.0.0) is odd would probably be an understatement. The universal version of the previously iPhone-only title Get Outta My Galaxy! is a unique game that puts you in control of the often-napping, rock-eating Waka. When his planet is invaded by Wikus—aliens who look like they’re straight out of Nintendo’s Pikmin—he sets out to eliminate them and get back to his old lifestyle. The Wikus come in a variety of colors, and each has a different ability. Get Outta My Galaxy! has the feel of a game from Japan, even down to Japanese characters on the menus.
As Waka, you move across 48 planets in four galaxies using one of three control schemes: a virtual joystick, tilting, or touching where you want to move. We found the joystick to be the best option. The planets and characters are in full 3-D, with the camera behind Waka’s back. To slap away the Wikus with your four arms, simply tap on them. Defeat all of them and a portal appears to take you to next level. Along the way, you can collect the three gems on each planet to unlock bonus levels. There are plenty of obstacles to make it more difficult, as well as power-ups that give you a bit of an edge.
Without a doubt, graphics are the most impressive component of the game: they’re simply beautiful and it’s clear that quite a bit of work went into them. The novelty didn’t wear off as we continued to play. And the soundtrack, while not as impressive, is pretty good too. There are a number of different audio tracks, including special ones for the level select screen and the bonus world. Unfortunately, what we found most lacking is fun. Constantly tapping away at the screen gets old pretty quickly, and while the Wikus’ different characteristics do add a bit of flavor, it’s simply not that rewarding. Consequently, we felt no real desire to advance past the first few levels. We’d love to see the developer take its obvious design talent and bring it to some even better games. Because it does look so good, and because it’s a reasonable price for a universal title, we offer a limited recommendation; check it out for the Japanese-inspired charm if you don’t mind spending a few bucks. iLounge Rating: B-.
When we first launched Kairosoft’s Mega Mall Story ($4, version 1.0.0), Tiny Tower immediately came to mind. Yet while the appearance and theme of this iPhone-only title are kind of similar, the gameplay and feel are quite different: it’s much closer to the developer’s previous titles: Game Dev Story, Hot Springs Story, and Pocket Academy. As the proprietor of a brand-new mall, you must build it into a five-star shopping center within 15 years by meeting certain economic metrics. The balancing act isn’t easy, but it is rewarding.
From the beginning, you have to choose which stores you’d like to move into your mall, and where you’d like them to go. As customers continue to shop at them, the stores level up, increasing their quality, reputation, and the price they can charge, among other factors. In addition, you can invest in things such as the mall itself and the local community—parks, business, and residential areas. These investments cost money, but can end up increasing the number of customers through your doors. Certain times of the year will be better than others. When you reach levels of popularity, the game enters Fever Mode, where the customers will shop even more and you’ll earn more hearts, the game’s secondary form of currency. It’s important to balance upkeep costs against your income.
Mega Mall Story works in both landscape and portrait orientation. We prefer the former, although neither lets you zoom out to see the whole mall at once. The pixelated sprites scale pretty well to the iPad’s screen, but it would still be nice to have a universal version of the title. Music and sounds are probably the game’s biggest downfall: they’re repetitive and boring, so there’s no reason to keep them on.
While it may seem overwhelming at first, Mega Mall Story actually has very well-balanced gameplay. Unlock Tiny Tower, there are no nagging push notifications urging you to play constantly. The game freezes when you’re away, and you come right back to it when you’re ready. That being said, don’t be surprised to find yourself in marathon gaming sessions. With each month lasting about a minute and a half and the game pausing while you navigate through the menus, you’re looking at about five hours of gameplay for the first time through, with rewards for repeated play. If you’re unsure if you want to make the investment, there’s a “Lite” version that allows you to play the first two years for free. If you’re a fan of simulation games, chances are you’ll want to go for the full thing: we highly recommend it. iLounge Rating: A-.
Right off the bat, if you’re considering Loopycube’s Pickpawcket ($1, version 1.1) you must know that it’s absolutely full of cat and dog puns, so a high tolerance for ridiculousness is required. If you can get past that, then what you have is a top-down, line-of-sight dodging game that puts you in control of a “cat” burglar. Dogs have stolen cat art from across the world, and it’s your job to retrieve it—as well as valuable gems—from their museums without getting caught.
The game is composed of 60 levels that are split between three museums. In each level, you must sneak past guard dogs by avoiding their visible lines-of-sight to collect a cat-themed painting—think Cata Lisa, Brown Cat with a Pearl Earring—as well as three cat-shaped gems. Your score for each level is based on your time of completion. As you progress throughout the game, different kinds of guard dogs and new abilities spice up gameplay a bit.
While they’re not bad, the graphics and animation aren’t that impressive. Pickpawcket is full of cartoony solid colors; the most detail is seen in the paintings themselves. The game’s soundtrack is very basic, with seven looping song and minimal sound effects. Some younger puzzle gamers will enjoy this game, but we weren’t huge fans. The gameplay isn’t original, and the theme won’t appeal to most adults. iLounge Rating: C+.