App of the Week: Ridiculous Fishing

Developer: Vlambeer

Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android Devices

Requires: iOS 5.0, Android 2.3

Price: $2.99 (or on Android for $5.21 as part of the Humble Bundle)

Available: here (for iOS) and here (for Android)

You don’t often get a second chance in life.

For instance, earlier this year when I missed the debut of “Ridiculous Fishing” on iOS, I thought I’d missed my chance to cover what may just be the most entertaining gaming app of the year. As luck would have it, though, the fine folks at Vlambeer have finally released the game for Android, and given me a chance to let anyone who may not know in on one of the best gaming apps you can buy.

As you may have gathered from the title, this is a game about fishing. Specifically it’s about a simplified arcade style of fishing and as such gameplay boils down to little more than casting your line, tilting your device left and right to avoid as many fish as possible, and then waiting until your line runs out so you can grab as many fish as possible on your way back up. Touching a fish on the way down will result in your line being pulled in early, and therefore a smaller catch. To help you make bigger and better catches are a variety of upgrades that provide special items, better lures, longer lines and a host of other benefits.

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Sound simple? It is. However, as you no doubt also gathered from the title, besides being about fishing this game is also ridiculous. This changes things quite a bit.

For instance once you bring the fish to the surface, instead of putting them in the boat and maybe cooking a nice dinner with them later, you throw them in the air as high as you can and pull out a gun to blast them to hell with for money. With that money you buy those aforementioned upgrades. Only, since these upgrades are ridiculous, they include things like chainsaw lures which can slice through any fish in your way along with better and more powerful guns that allow you to shoot more airborne fish when the time comes.

It’s quite simply arcade perfection. There is an appeal in trying to catch new species in order to move on to the next area or to top your high score, but the real pleasure here is a visceral one that isn’t easily described and is better to experience. It’s a game in three parts (avoidance, catching, shooting as many airborne sea creatures as possible) and all three are tightly design and work together to create one of the most entertaining time killers that mobile gaming has produced yet.

“Ridiculous Fishing” defines pick up and play perfection. With its seamless gameplay and surprisingly appealing visuals, it’s a rare kind of title that is insanely addictive while you are playing it, yet can be put down in an instant when you have to only to be right where you left it when you get back. I’ll never know how I missed “Ridiculous Fishing” the first time around, but make sure you don’t make the same mistake and pick up this very belated app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: Stealth Inc.


Developer: Curve Digital Games

Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Requires: iOS 4.3

Price: $4.99

Available: here

There are two types of games that get ported from other platforms to mobile devices. Those which the developers struggle to adapt to the new platform and often end up feeling like a “good enough” effort, and those that fit into the mobile scene like a glove, and sometimes end up being better than their original incarnations.

Consider “Stealth Inc.” to not only be a member of the latter party, but a candidate for its poster child.

Originally known as “Stealth Bastard,” when it debuted on the PC and Mac, “Stealth Inc.” may have undergone a PR friendly name change, but still maintains the incredible challenge that made the original title so apt. Yes, “Stealth Inc.” is one of those games that punishes you over and over again in your pursuit of victory. It’s often compared to the indie sensation “Super Meat Boy,” which is fitting consdiering both games force you to navigate an increasingly difficult series of levels in the pursuit of making that one perfect run which will see you proceed to your next little slice of hell.

The greatest difference between the two is  “Stealth Inc.’s,” use of its titular stealth elements. Whereas “Super Meat Boy” used a variety of old school gaming traps to help you meet your demise (fire, spikes, etc.), “Stealth” borrows more from games like “Splinter Cell” and “Metal Gear Solid” as many of your traps include security cameras, spotlights, and good old fashioned guards. For the most part, the shift in style is largely a cosmetic one as in the case of both games regardless of what the trap is your entire purpose is still to avoid them. However, there is a slight gameplay benefit to this seemingly minor change of obstacle, as there are the occasional moments where you are actually able to stop and formulate a plan, rather than just rush in and hope for better results through trial and error.

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However, even on an aesthetic level the shift to stealth does the game an incredible benefit, as the art style and game world are all deeply committed to the stealth genre and help to really lend an enjoyable sense of environment to the game. It’s refreshing that in a game as big as this one (over 80 levels, before the optional community map pack), that such an effort was put into keeping things visually fresh throughout.

The appeal of these types of games from person to person are always based off the question of whether or not you are prepared to handle the challenge they throw at you. However, unlike other similar games which are all difficulty and little else, “Stealth Inc.” proposes a challenge that is often frustrating, but is never caused by bad controls or cheap tactics. Instead this is a test of your mettle and reflexes that may ask of all that you have to best it, but dangles that carrot of victory just far enough in front of you that you are rightfully convinced that with enough determination above all, you can reach it.

“Stealth Inc.” is another in a thankfully long line of examples that the 2D platformer is as alive and well on the mobile scene. However, there is a sense of style and cleverness about it that immediately sets it apart from some admirable competition, and makes it worthy of your consideration first above all others. “Stealth Inc.” recognizes that the value of a reward increases as the difficulty of obtaining it does, and doles out brutal challenges and great rewards in equal, generous measure throughout its considerable length. “Stealth Inc.” may not appeal to everyone, but it’s hard to not see it as the app of the week.

  

App of the Week – Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies


Developer: Fireaxis Games

Compatible with: iPhone, iPad 2 , iPod Touch

Requires: iOS 6.0

Price: $4.99

Available: here

There’s just something about strategy games on touch screen platforms that’s so satisfying. Controlling armies or deciding the fate of civilizations in this genre is always a good time to be sure, but when you add the touch element it makes you feel the role of commander or leader like no other game on any other format possibly can.

It’s an advantage that can lend a critical entertainment boost to even the most mediocre of mobile strategy games, which unfortunately many strategy app developers seem to be increasingly aware of. As much as I love the average mobile strategy game, there does seem to be a complacency sinking into the genre that makes every new encounter with one of these games increasingly less and less thrilling.

Into that scenario enters the legendary Sid Meier (the man behind the “Civilization” series) and Fireaxis Games who’ve not only developed many of those “Civilization” titles, but the recent strategy phenomenon known as “XCOM: Enemy Unknown.” With them, comes “Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies,” the follow up to the successful “Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol.”

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Moving the game’s venue from WWI to WWII, “Pacific Skies” gives you the option of choosing either the American Navy and Army, or the Japanese Navy and Army to command. In either case, the actual gameplay works largely the same, as you try to wipe the enemy off the map, while leveling up your soldiers and avoiding enemy encampment trap areas. Breaking down every in and out of the gameplay would be a lengthy exercise in tedium, but basically as far as general objective goes, little more is asked than to successfully command your troops in combat using a pretty versatile, largely grid based troop movement system

What’s more important than what’s in the game, though, are the various things that aren’t. By removing many resource gathering and base building elements from the average strategy game and focusing solely on the command of troops and vehicles, Fireaxis has stumbled upon the perfect formula for a mobile strategy game. Whereas removing those traditional elements could have made the game feel overly simplified, here there is so much creativity put into the ins and outs of the combat system, and so much work put into making the enemy A.I. a genuine challenge, that all the strategy you could ever want comes through the action and the action alone. It’s incredibly rewarding to play a strategy game that cuts right to the action, but doesn’t feel watered down in the slightest by doing so.

Rewarding is overall the best way to describe “Pacific Skies.” There are no easily won battles here, yet the game so expertly manages all of the elements that go into a combat scenario that you never once feel burdened or overwhelmed by what’s happening. Instead you are given just the right level of challenge to compel you to keep going at all times. You can’t understate how importance that balance of difficulty v.s. reward is in these types of games, nor can you understate the level of satisfaction that comes from experiencing a game that gets it right like “Pacific Skies” does.

“Pacific Skies” may be most easy to recommend to strategy fans and those that have lost weekends absorbed in the History channel, but honestly everyone who enjoys mobile gaming should have at least one strategy game on their device, and considering the absolutely perfect balance of brain teasing and instant gratification “Pacific Skies” off, it’s the one to get even if you usually shy away from these types of games. This is quite honestly one of the most complete app games out there, and the clear app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Aereo

Developer: Aereo

Compatible with: Android Devices

Requires: Android 4.2

Price: Free ($8 a month subscription fee for service required)

Available: here

It’s not a huge surprise that one of the more popular demands in the world of technology is for people to have easier access to their favorite content for far less money, but it is interesting that there are a number of programs and companies out there providing just that. Steam does it for games, Spotify does it for songs, Netflix does it for DVD’s, and a growing company called Aereo is proposing to do it for live TV.

Of those Aereo is by far the least established, but among the most desired. More and more people are ditching their cable services, but there is still a strong desire to have access to basic television content (like sports) that keep a large number of subscribers paying more than they should for the content they actually watch. Aereo proposes, as an alternative, that you pay them $8 a month to have both live and DVR access to all the major basic cable networks, along with a growing number of preminum cable channels online. Available only in America, and largely on the East Coast, they might not have the coverage they’ll need to accomplish that goal quite yet, but the service they offer is very legitimate, and quite effective.

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And now thanks to a public beta, you can download Aereo and have access to it on your android mobile device.  It’s the same service as you get through the Aereo website (and there is no additional fee to use the app), but it’s easy to see how the ability to stream live TV legally and for extremely cheap is much more appealing on the go than it is in the home. That’s especially true once you factor in the DVR capabilities the app retains, as you can pause, record, and save programs from your device as well.

A perfect companion to Netflix and Spotify, Aereo may just find its calling on the mobile market, especially for football fans who can never find themselves at home on a Sunday. While it needs a lot more channels to be considered a real threat to cable, the fact that you are able to get the most basic channels plus a few more for a cost that is more in-line with the content you’ll actually use than cable, suggests that this is a program that is on to something big, and might soon become the best friend to the growing number of people who’ve cancelled their cable and occasionally lament the decision.

Be sure to check if you have access to the beta (not all devices are compatible at this time) and if you are in Aereo’s market, but if so then it’s pretty easy to recommend the service, especially since the first month is free. Even in it’s clearly un-finished state, it provides a desirable product in an effective manner and deserves to be given a shot by anyone who occasionally wishes to have access to television as they know it at home while on the go. It remains to be seen if it can join the ranks of similar services and re-shape how we watch TV, but even as it stands now Aereo is certainly the app of the week.

  

App(s) of the Week: Dead Trigger 2 and Indigo Lake

Dead Trigger 2

Developer: Madfinger Games

Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android Devices

Requires: iOS 7.0, Android 4.0

Price: Free

Available: here (for iOS) and here (for Android)

Indigo Lake

Developer: 3 Cubes Research

Compatible with: iPhone 4 and up, iPad 2 and up, iPod Touch 4th gen and up

Requires: iOS 5.0

Price: $1.99

Available: here

Perhaps it is my lifelong fondness for horror movies, or the strange joy of sharing scares with your fellow man, but I’ve always loved Halloween to the point where it runs neck and neck with Christmas for my favorite holiday of the year. Naturally then I sought out the best horror app I could find to honor the holiday, but ran into a bit of a problem when I ran across two worthy candidates. Rather than just give one a mention and highlight the other, I’ve decided to break the format a bit and present two horror gaming apps of different styles, but equal worth.

“Dead Trigger 2” is the sequel to the notorious mobile zombie FPS game “Dead Trigger,” and as the title may suggest, does little to stray from the template that series established. In other words, you’re still shooting a variety of zombies with a plethora of weapons, all while gawking at some of the best mobile graphics this side of “Infinity Blade.” There are some changes to be found here, including an optional button free control schematic (it works pretty well actually), and a much more varied mission structure, but for the most part you’re still just wandering around and mowing down zombies.

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That may sound like a knock, but it’s actually far from it. The original “Dead Trigger” found a niche in the mobile market by being a shooter that didn’t feel too far removed from its larger and more technically capable console brethren. It’s a role carried on by “Dead Trigger 2” which may make a host of technical and gameplay improvements implemented to make the game a smoother experience all around, but do nothing to hamper the core mechanics which made this game so much fun in the first place. The brilliant thing about the action in this game is that it’s the one place that actually acknowledges any sort of need to be limited by the mobile platform. It resorts, then, to a more classical style FPS which was all action, all the time, and feels like a breath of fresh air in a genre that’s becoming more and more tactical and cinematic based. There’s a cinematic quality to “Dead Trigger 2” to be sure, but it only serves to provide a loose justification and reasoning for shooting everything in sight.

“Dead Trigger 2” strikes a rare balance in mimicking the benefits of console gaming while taking advantage of mobile gaming’s capabilities to provide an experience that feels ambitious yet simple, and never fails to be fun. Fun is actually the key here, as while “Dead Trigger 2” makes some tremendous strides in giving the series depth, ultimately they’re really superfluous  when weighed against the game’s true job of throwing wave after wave of horror at you, and leting you shoot your way out of it, which it does with twisted levels of joy and ease.

“Indigo Lake” is a horror game of a different tune. While “Dead Trigger 2” used it’s horror as a backdrop for some classic shoot em’ up gameplay, “Indigo Lake” is a more pure horror game that ventures into the rarely successfully explored area of psychological horror. In it you play a paranormal investigator sent to solve a string of suicides in a small town. Fairly ambitiously, you do this in an open world setting which you’re able to explore on foot and in-vehicle. You’re objectives in this environment are pre-defined, but the manner and order in which you approach them is yours to decide.

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Many horror games require intense structure to place their scares in, which “Indigo Lake” abandons in favor of a more open, yet carefully restrained experience. While you do have a gun in the game, it’s used sparingly as instead you’ll spend most of your time solving puzzles and trying not to jump out of your skin as you slowly unravel the specifics of what is going on. The way the game never reveals it’s full hand at once turns out to be one of its great attributes, as you spend more time waiting on the big scares to happen, as opposed to experiencing them. This lends the rest of the game an intense feeling of dread and unease which is absolutely perfect for a murder mystery, as you never really feel comfortable or confident while playing until you reach your next big break (even then the empowerment is usually momentary). “Indigo Lake” is a horror game for the patient user then, making it the polar opposite of “Dead Trigger 2,” and an interesting companion piece as well.

To go much further into the game would run the risk of spoiling it, so I’ll stop by saying that those who are both patient and brave enough to stick with it despite the well played series of scares implemented to ward you off will find a game that manages to serve as a rare example of physiological horror done well, and therefore a unique horror game not just on the mobile scene, but in all of gaming.

There you have it. Two horror games which may take wildly different paths within the genre, but find an equal level of success in their endeavors. For the people that want to feel like Rambo in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, there is “Dead Trigger 2.” For those who want something closer to an episode of the “X-Files,” there is the brilliant “Indigo Lake.” If you’re a true horror fan though, I highly recommend both as they not only serve as the perfect primers for Halloween, but exhibit enough quality to be worth a play any time of the year, and are therefore equally worthy of being recognized as app of the week.

  

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