Tagged: iPad

Done Playing: Prope Discoverer (iOS)

Interesting enough of a place to start

I am not your typical App Store consumer. I weigh a $0.99 purchase with the same careful consideration as a $60 investment. It takes something entirely special to move my hand for anything higher than that which is why I put off Prope Discoverer for so long. One day not long ago, though, it was briefly marked down for sale and I finally got to discover(er) the game for myself.

I was originally intrigued by the game because so many sites were having a hard time conveying just what it was. Clearly this was more than another ‘Angry Farmville HD Defense‘, one of the overworked genres that everyone seems to get stuck in on iOS. No, this looked more like Epic’s Unreal tech demo, Epic Citadel, with a mysterious 3D world to explore. I’m all about exploration at this point in my gaming life cycle and so I put it on my short list of iOS games to price watch.

Straight away I got a Myst vibe from the otherworldly contraptions I first saw from my spherical cage. Using a pair of virtual sticks to move and look around, I found and tapped on a small tarot-like card which served as the requirement to escape. But was I really free or simply let loose into a larger cage? This is the kind of poetic musing the game initially inspired. The courtyard you step into looks pleasant enough with bright clouds, butterflies flitting around in the air and manicured topiaries. But at the center is a large opening that lets you gaze down into the darkness below where torches light up a peculiar zodiac clock. It’s whimsical, but only just.

Not exactly poetic... or memorable... or fun

To reach this subterranean area you have to find three more cards scattered around the courtyard. They’re not big enough to simply pick out by running in circles so three podiums guide you with cryptic hand drawn clues. This is the gimmick to get to each of the three areas in the game, culminating in a romp around a quaint (though vacant) medieval village that reminded me a little too much of Epic Citadel. You ultimately have to figure out a cryptic steampunk computer puzzle in order to fire up a dirigible and then it’s over. You fly away into the distance, free… or something. Figuring out that last puzzle has remained a game of trial and error for me but whether you succeed or fail it always ends the same by dumping you back to the title screen.

It turns out that there are multiple hiding places and corresponding clues for the cards in each area so repeat playthroughs are supposed to be totally unique. The problem turned out to be that after my first time through — which amounted to about thirty minutes — I didn’t really care to ever go back. Some of the clues are frustratingly vague and there isn’t very much to see. No little notes to pick up for backstory, no secret lizards to find. In fact, the free Epic Citadel demo is probably twice as large in size and much more interesting to walk around in than what I paid for in Prope Discoverer.

Prope Discoverer is different, something that’s getting harder and harder to say about iOS games in general. As one of the first 3D games built on Epic’s iOS engine I suppose it may be worth a look if it ever hits $0.99 again but there are much more interesting and atmospheric (not to mention lengthier) experiences out there. With new titles piling features on top of Prope Discoverer’s meager offerings it won’t be long before it’s lost to the dark annals of the App Store.



Tiny (Nakatomi) Tower

I was a little wary of NimbleBit‘s Tiny Tower when I first saw it previewed on Touch Arcade back in March. Cute pixel art wins me over every time but to date I haven’t really enjoyed the freemium style, time management, ‘ville-like gameplay. That’s largely because we have the wifi-only iPad and my job is geographically situated in a perfect faraday cage. So I always wind up coming home to a game that’s screaming for my attention and winds up falling apart by the same time the next day.

Regardless, I decided to give Tiny Tower a shot over the long holiday weekend and it’s developed quite the grasp on me and Katy. Because we share the same iTunes account and the game synched to her iPod she wound up giving it a try too and is planning her own obsessive artistic tribute. Mine is a lot simpler and sillier. See, every time I’ve got a few floors under construction at the top of my tower I always picture scenes from ‘Die Hard‘, with John McClane yelling wildly over the radio for help and Hans Gruber’s goons, led by Karl, closing in. And now you too can see what’s in my mind’s eye after a few haphazard hours with Photoshop!

*Over the course of writing this post I generated, like, 8,000 coins and 15 Tower Bux. Now I just need a construction worker VIP to show up and help with the 24th floor!



Hands-on with Toytek’s Filth Fair (iOS)

Last September I was still getting into the App Store experience on our iPad, exploring the games I’d heard so much hype about since the iPhone’s earliest days. But what I found when I finally got my hands on them was that they were cool for a few days but were quickly replaced by the next cheap, shiny app that did something clever with the touchscreen. Only a few games have managed to stay in my personal, perennial favorites folder and Toytek’s The Ultimate Alphabet is definitely one of them.

Now a spiritual spin-off is on its way as part of The Wellcome Trust’s months-long exhibition ‘Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life‘. While the showings, events and music festivals in the United Kingdom celebrate and explore humankind’s history with dirt, the rest of us can join in with Filth Fair. The game is coming to iOS devices and the web in early March for free so if the Lite version of The Ultimate Alphabet wasn’t enough to entice you to buy (for shame!) then here’s your chance for some more free brain busting, word hunting fun.

I managed to get my hands on a preview copy and am thrilled to see an exclusive new painting of Mike Wilks’ given the touchscreen treatment. Filth Fair plays just like The Ultimate Alphabet and benefits from the gracious tweaks that Toytek have added since its debut. Like a photo hunt in reverse, it’s your job to poke on things in this jam-packed painting and tell the game what you see. It gets much deeper as objects have multiple meanings and the cryptic clues that accompany them can practically melt your brain. Honest, I’ve had to stop myself from going all Scanners-like with The Ultimate Alphabet. Thankfully there are plenty of hints, clues and word scrambles for all 331 “dirty” words along with a welcomed tutorial on just what those cryptic clues are trying to say.

Not only is it a great free game that features the work of Mike Wilks and could actually expand your vocabulary, I love how Filth Fair is tied to the Dirt Season exhibition. I stand no chance of crossing an ocean to see it in person but through the game’s connection to it (from in-app links right down to the delft pottery) I feel like I’m a little part of it.

Now Playing: The Ultimate Alphabet (iOS)

Just take this all in for a minute

Unaffectionately coined as Find the Shit games by Katy, you could immediately write off The Ultimate Alphabet as another of those photo hunt/hidden object games that are increasingly popular these days, but you’d be missing out. Sort of an intelligent photo hunt in reverse, The Ultimate Alphabet presents you with an image of hundreds of things that all begin with the same letter and lets you tell it what you see. And though it may seem like a perfect educational game for little learners, The Ultimate Alphabet is definitely an app for adults. The clues are horrendously cryptic, many of the words are esoteric or simply extinct and some of the imagery is borderline erotic or at least potentially disturbing to younger viewers.

The Ultimate Alphabet by Toytek is a collaboration with Mike Wilks, the Englishman who first created the illustrated book of the same name in 1986. For those who missed it 24 years ago (myself included), it was a coffee table fad that was later followed by books like Where’s Waldo? and The Magic Eye. What the app may lack in oversized, hardback appeal, it more than makes up for in simple interactivity and general gaminess while retaining the same smirk-inducing satisfaction of the original format. (more…)