App of the Week – Fiz: The Brewery Management Game

Developer: Bit By Bit Studios

Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Requires: iOS 4.3

Price: $1.99

Available: Here

While every man has no doubt entertained the thought of brewing their own beer at some point, the incredibly pricey and unappealing process of actually doing so tends to successfully deter all but the most die hard of brewmeisters.

Instead of lamenting another goal tossed by the wayside, though, why not download “Fiz: The Brewery Management Game” and put those ale ambitions and distillery dreams to the test?

“Fiz” is another in a line of micromanagement games that have have thus far covered everything from restaurants to the death star. The objective here, as you no doubt guessed, is to start a brewery in your garage and turn it into a world wide name in fine beer.

As you also probably guessed, it takes a lot of work to get there. On the road to success you’ll have to perfect your recipe, craft it, sell it, keep an eye on the market place, hire and fire employees with various skills, upgrade your equipment, compete with rival breweries, compete in beer challenges, kill rodents, complete special assignments, and much, much more.

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If it sounds like a lot of work that’s because it is. This is a game that asks a lot out of you and, no matter how successful of a brewery you may be running, is constantly giving you something to do.

While that could be a bad thing, somehow the developers managed to present all of this information and all of these tasks to you in a very gradual way that makes it so you may always be busy, but you’ll never be lost. This philosophy extends to the controls as well, as everything is handled through  just a few taps.

You can’t overstate how important that balance is to the fun factor of this game. Too often this genre produces titles that are either too simple to last, or too complex to be enjoyable. That “Fiz” so expertly gives you so much to do, and presents it in a way so that the instant you’re asked to do more is the moment you’re ready for it, is a true accomplishment in game design.

It also doesn’t hurt that the game doesn’t take itself seriously at all from an aesthetic standpoint. Everything from the writing, to the sounds, to the character designs have been expertly crafted to infuse a level of fun into all the game’s various proceedings, and they go a long way to keeping the proceedings light when they could otherwise so easily become hectic and aggravating.

Another in a strand of Kickstarter success stories, “Fiz” is simply a highly enjoyable game that takes some already intriguing subject matter, and bolsters its appeal with airtight game design. I never realized how little I was enjoying other micromanagement titles, until I started to spend some real time with “Fiz.” It’s such a marvel of the genre that that you’ll want to buy the developers a beer after just a little time with it.

With no micro-transactions to its name and hours upon hours of content to explore, “Fiz” is a prime example of mobile gaming done right. Take a break from all your worries, crack open a cold one, and be sure to spend some time with this lovingly brewed app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: Joust Legend

Developer: Rebellion Games

Compatible with: iPad 2 and up,  iPod Touch 5th Gen, iPhone 4S and up

Requires: iOS 4.3

Price: $1.99

Available: here

I think I would have liked to have been a jouster. Sure I can’t ride a horse and am lacking in upper body strength, but my enthusiasm for wearing battle armor and charging at people full speed with vicious intent is second to none.

Sadly since jousting has gone out of fashion in the last several centuries or so, my passion for the sport is relegated to watching “A Knight’s Tale” far too often (it’s both the “Varsity Blues” and “Citizen Kane” of jousting movies), or trying to drunkenly recreate the activity at the pool to mixed (ok, just horrible and awkward) results.

Luckily a new app called “Joust Legend” has come along, and provides me the chance to test my skill on the field of joust, that up until now has been so cruelly withheld.

“Joust Legend” isn’t actually the first jousting game ever, but I can tell you it is the best playing, and by far best looking. The graphics on this app are some of the best the mobile world has ever seen, and are sure to turn heads wherever you take it, as well as constantly surprise you not just with the visual pop they provide, but with the well thought out and executed artistic design that enhances their appeal far beyond the initial wow factor.

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As for the gameplay, it’s as simple as can be. There’s really only three parts to the jousting mechanics (the take-off, lowering your lance, and hitting your target) and all of them are executed with very basic timed swipes and presses. As such you pretty much learn all there is to know about the core game on the first few goes, but really for such a concept, you don’t need anything more than that. The elements of timed control that are present fit perfectly within the basic set up of a joust, and though you may repeat the same movements over and over, the satisfaction of executing them perfectly never really goes away.

The system truly shows its value, however, once you take into account the multiple tournaments, challenges, modes, skills, and various unlockables there are in the game. Good mobile games usually provide you a simple, replayable, and addictive experience, but  the best ones always tack on another reason to keep coming back, and the torrent pace that you unlock new things to do in this game makes each already enjoyable session that much more rewarding.

This is one of those apps that may initially appear to appeal to a niche market, but deserves a download by anyone that appreciates well-made mobile action games that are easy to keep coming back to for short bursts of pure fun. Though the competition isn’t exactly fierce, “Joust Legend” stands alone at the end of the fight as the champion of jousting entertainment, and my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: ReRave

Developer: Step Evolution

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up, iPod Touch 3rd Gen and up, iPad

Requires: iOS 5.1

Price: $0.99

Available: here

While there are quite a few gaming franchises I want to come back (“Crimson Skies”!!!!!!), I think the one that I may be most personally nostalgic for is “Elite Beat Agents.”

Released around the height of music gaming’s popularity, “Elite Beat Agents” may have been based around a bizarre story (save the world with the power of dance, basically), but the gameplay couldn’t have been more simple, as you tapped various buttons in time with the beat of a song, en route to victory. Impossibly addictive and incredibly unique, this game wore down my stylus to a nub and stands amongst the crowded DS library as a true highlight.

The fact that talks of a sequel remain only rumors used to sadden me, but those feelings have been recently alleviated somewhat by the discovery that there is a spiritual successor to that experience by the name of “ReRave.”

Though it bears no official similarities to “EBA,” “ReRave” sports a similar concept that sees you tap circles in correct sequence to the beat of the songs. The difference is, that whereas “EBA” required a shrinking outer circle to reach the borders of your button before you could tap it, “ReRave” sees you manipulating circles that bear resemblance to the power button of many devices, and tapping them only when the line on the bottom reaches the 12 o’ clock position,until the song is done. While most are vanquished with a  simple touch, some require you to hold them until they finish a bath, some require multiple taps at 1/8th beat intervals, and the dreaded double circles appear that must be completed simultaneously.

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Like any good rhythm game, this is a system that allows for an “easy to learn, tough to master,” philosophy, and quickly pulls you into the overall experience. A big part of this has to go to the music which may not make my playlist in everyday life (it’s a lot of club like music), but works absolutely perfectly in a gaming environment such as this, as their unique beats and paces result in creative playgrounds of rhythm based tapping that will have your fingers dancing across the screen with maniacal precision. Thankfully multiple difficulty levels allow you to adjust as needed if things get too intense, or not near intense enough.

Now while it’s nice that the game features leaderboards, downloadable songs (both free and paid), and a ton of achievements, in truth if the game came with nothing but a few tracks and just the gameplay screen, I’d still be hopelessly addicted to it. This style of gameplay for a music game was flawless in “EBA,” and it maintains that untainted luster here as “ReRave” is one of the most engrossing games available in the music gaming genre, and in all of mobile gaming.

Normally I’d look down on a game for borrowing so liberally from another title, but it’s about time someone brought back this style of gameplay to mobile gaming, and the team behind “ReRave” have done so with near flawless execution. When you really think about it, gaming has long been pressing a series of buttons in proper order, so it really says something that the concept has almost never been as hopelessly addictive as it has in “ReRave,” a can’t miss app of the week.

  

App of the Week: “The Walking Dead: Assault”

Developer:
Skybound LLC.

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$1.99

Available here

Between the amazing 3rd season of the AMC show, and the groundbreaking, incredible, indescribably inventive Telltale Games adventure series, we’ve been treated to more “Walking Dead” goodness this year than anyone could have possible anticipated. Yet for mobile developer Skybound, it wasn’t quite enough as they now bring us yet another reason to celebrate the increasing influence of the Robert Kirkman comic series on the digital world with their gaming app, “The Walking Dead: Assault”.

The game, much like Telltale’s, is based off of the original comic, and not the TV show, which is immediately evident by the appealing visual style, where most everything in the game is smartly presented in black and white except for aspects of characters, items, and blood. It lends a very necessary immediate appeal, and produces that always appreciated (if unwelcome) “someone looking over your shoulder while you play” effect.

Unlike the Telltale masterpiece though, this game is centered more on action than character interaction, as it employs a squad based  mechanic (think “X-Men Legends”) that feels right at home in this world. At its core, it doesn’t stray far from the usual tropes of the genre, as you select a group of 4 characters and take them through a series of levels completing mandatory and optional objectives, while fighting off waves of enemies. Along the way you can improve character and group attributes, acquire a range of supplies and weapons (melee and ranged) and take advantage of character’s unique abilities and group effects such as always hitting head shots for a short period of time, or increasing overall group damage. It makes the careful selection of your group vital and entertaining.

Outside of standard mechanics, the game incorporates some specific aspects of the zombie apocalypse nicely through elements like the sound detection system, which allows you to use environmental distractions to draw zombies (though too much noise will bring down the fury of the entire horde). It also does a nice job of compensating for the limits of the touch mechanics, and everything from managing the group, to managing the camera, is handled smoothly. Meanwhile, features like your group auto firing when enemies are in range help keep the action from being upset by poor design, and really show off the potential of this type of game on the mobile format when done well.

“The Walking Dead: Assault” is designed to perfection, which is great since underneath it all is an intensely fun adventure that’s multiple sections and objectives provide a lengthy experience that satisfies that immediate “kill all zombies” urge, but also lends some real substance to the proceedings with the leveling and ability functions. Thanks to the style and execution of the game, the constant bombardment of action never really feels repetitive, and the story of the comics is well implemented through comic book panel interludes.

Right now the game is only the first in a planned series of chapters, but even if more weren’t on the way, this title would be an easy recommendation. Zombie games are a dime a dozen, and mobile squad games rarely work out as they should, but of course it’s the “Walking Dead” series that again breaks new ground. Much like pulling the trigger on a walker, anyone with a slight interest in this game can’t afford to hesitate and should snatch this app up at the introductory $1.99 price.

It was Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” that theorized that when there is no more room left in hell, the dead will walk the Earth. While that was meant as a warning of the end of days, in this case it’s a welcome happenstance that lends us the chance to play “The Walking Dead: Assault”, a no-brainer (pun very much intended) app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Endless Road

Developer:
Chillingo Ltd.

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$0.99

Available here

With well over 20 million downloads, one of the biggest successes of the mobile gaming era has been “Temple Run”. It’s concept couldn’t be more simple as you control a man perpetually running and avoiding obstacles to escape from a temple. It’s a basic idea executed to perfection, and even helped to popularize its own genre of games in the “endless runner”, a genre that hasn’t exactly been prolific in terms of entries that don’t suck.

One very notable exception was recently released though in Chillingo Ltd’s “Endless Road”. Much like it’s forerunner, the idea is elementary, as you are tasked with driving an endless road and avoiding the obstacles in your path, all while gathering coins to purchase upgrades with that range from new vehicles to paint that trails your wake. Along the way are also various jumps and inlaid arrows that speed you up, and can slow you down.

It would be a very unremarkable and forgettable game if it weren’t for a couple of wrinkles in the formula that enhance the experience. The first is the actual road which is constantly folding in on itself as the section behind you falls in your wake, while the road ahead springs up as you progress. It lends a great visual cue that gives you a constant, and necessary, feeling of tension. This tension is only increased by the game’s expertly used soundtrack, that’s constant driving beats provide the perfect sense of urgency.

But what really sells the title is the amazing graphics. While not pushing any technical limitations, the fact that every stage presents a new theme, color pallet, and always tougher series of unique obstacles, means that you never really encounter a moment that takes you out of the game and makes you realize the basic monotony of what you are doing. Instead, it adds to the already impossible addictive nature of this type of game as you can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Is this another case of style over substance then? Oh most definitely. But that doesn’t mean the core gameplay concept of attempting to maintain a constant speed of 80 MPH or greater in order to not fall into oblivion isn’t absurdly fun on its own, but rather that even that just serves as a showcase to the abundance of creativity the development team has put into every visual. There’s not a millimeter of screen space that isn’t used to full effect, and little touches like a left and right path at the end of each level leading to different environments exemplify how much Chillingo was able to milk the concept for all of the addictiveness and replayability it is worth.

Much like tower defense titles and “Bejeweled” knock off puzzle games, endless runners should have worn their welcome out by now. However, it’s thanks to games like “Endless Road” that keep people coming back to the genres by providing perfect execution of the original ideas, and very fresh coats of paint.  With everything in this game’s arsenal it perfectly exemplifies the idea of the great Texas country singer Robert Earl Keen who said “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.”

And if you know me at all, you know any game that lets me quote Robert Earl Keen is going to earn the app of the week.

  

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