It was just a couple of years back that pirates were all the rage, right? There was The Pirates of the Carribean trilogy, which consequently got worse with each installment in my opinion outside of the sexy Naomie Harris, who played the character of Tia Dalma as well as the strong willed Selena in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later… What else was there? Oh yeah, Russell Crowe in Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the updated Sid Meier’s Pirates, and then came casual games, such as Sandlot Games’ Tradewinds franchise, and mobile games from Nokia in High Seize and High Seize: Sea of Fortune. But this was about 5-6 years ago. Now, all we have left is Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean Online and ultra-Christian Veggie Tales: The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. What’s a fan of pirates to do? First, check out Famous Pirates and the History of Pirates and Piracy at www.piratesinfo.com. Next, after getting into a daring mood, check out Goorusoft’s WarShip for the iPhone and prepare to lose hours out of the day. Quite possibly, you may even lose sleep since the game is really well-made with crisp epic-themed graphics, easy tilt and tap controls, ship upgrades, power-ups, and a simple overall objective: survive and conquer. For gamers of all levels, this is one to keep archived for any occasion. Price: $1.99.
It’s been six years since the release of one of my favorite games on the original Microsoft Xbox. Developed by Microsoft’s FASA Studio, Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge had everything that you would want in a game at the time: highly stylized graphics, an epic setting, a sandbox gameplay environment, easy pick-up and play controls, and online gameplay through Xbox Live, which was still relatively novel for consoles at the time. However, since then, we haven’t heard anything in regards to a sequel and while FASA Studio has closed its doors, the original creators are working on the next Mechwarrior installment as Smith & Tinker in conjunction with Piranha Games. They’ve said they will turn their attention to a Crimson Skies sequel next, but c’mon, really? I mean it’s almost the end of the current generation’s console lifecycle. Therefore, it sounds like we won’t see a sequel until the next generation systems come out. So what should we do until then? I recommend checking out iChrome’s Aera, a simplified flight simulator that features a hybrid 3D/2D side-scrolling gameplay in exceptional retro 1950′s style graphics much like Crimson Skies. Supplemented with 3 types of game modes, such as Aerobatic/Solo, Dog Fight, and Racing, expand your repetoire of moves as you master more advanced controls. Most impressive is the ‘Time Back’ feature which allows you to return to the spot before a crash rather than restarting. Highly recommended as a brief respite from your desire for a Crimson Skies sequel. Price: $2.99.
While Marbles wasn’t the most popular game when I was a kid (for some reason, I remember Jacks), we did play it to the point of collecting individual marbles and even used them as antes to enhance the competitive zeal during gameplay. Basically, looking back at it now, Marbles was our Magic: The Gathering, but with zero role-playing, marbles for cards, and a little more physical activity than just drinking a Big Gulp. With Play Marbles, Darkside Entertainment now allows you to relive this small part of your childhood on the iPhone. In a nutshell, it’s a 3D marble game with 3 difficulty levels, 5 game types, 3 game modes (Quickplay, League, and Tournament) and 6 different environments, in which you can use dozens and dozens of different default marbles. However, if you want to spice it up a little, create new marbles using your own existing pictures and if you get tired of playing the improved AI, play against others via the multiplayer mode. Overall, it’s a great facsimile of the classic kid’s game, but without the mess. With solid controls, it’s very recommended for all players, new and old. If you’re still not sold, check out their YouTube demo. Price: $1.99.
When I first saw this game a couple of years back on a BREW device (yes, believe it), I thought it was one of the best games you could hope to play on mobile. Back then, Darkest Fear by Finnish developer, Rovio Mobile, had a light, yet compelling story, the graphics were excellent and added to the overall horror-survival motif, and the puzzles were pretty challenging. But the question is: does it translate well to the iPhone? Well, since FISHLABS was able to take what I thought was THE best game on mobile in Galaxy On Fire 5-6 years ago and bring a perfect translation with some added bells and whistles to the iPhone, then there should be no doubt that Rovio Mobile can do the same… And they did! The technical capabilities of the iPhone obviously improve the graphics of the game, which makes an already eerie game even more eerie as the shading for the shadows perfectly adds to the heart-thumping excitement. On top of all that, considering it is set in a hospital, the glow of the lights reminds one of The Shining or even Saw. As one colleague put it years ago, “It’s one of the scariest mobile games I’ve played because of the sheer anticipation alone.” It’s true now on the iPhone as it was back then. Check it out! Price: $3.99.
Growing up a couple of blocks away from Candlestick Park, I’m obviously first and foremost a San Francisco 49ers fan, but I’m also a fan of all Bay Area teams, which includes the Oakland Raiders. As long as they aren’t playing the Niners, I always cheer for the Raiders and yesterday was no exception against the San Diego Chargers. I was hoping to see one of the Raiders defenders break through the Chargers offensive line and re-create the infamous Joe Theismann leg injury on Philip Rivers, whose smarmy face just annoys the crap out of me. Instead, I begin to see there might be some truth to those conspiracy theories by Raiders fans that the NFL really wants to keep the organization down. There’s no doubt that Louis Murphy had a TD. I mean, I knew it. My mom knew it. My 2-year old son knew it. There are probably tribes in the Amazon untouched by modern civilization, who knew it as well. Anyway, to get over such a despicable loss, I turned to my iPhone and played this gem of an app, Jebudas Communications’ Play Football, which helped me ease the pain. With three difficulty levels (high school, college and pro), play as the head coach trying to call the right plays at the right time. Before selecting among the over 130 plays, first start customizing your team name, colors, and field type. Listen to the on-going commentary in the game and follow the tracked stats for each indiviual player. Lead your team to victory while unlocking more plays in the process. Overall, this excellent head coaching sim game is a nice compliment to those immersed in all things football (fantasy league and latest Madden) during this time of year. Highly recommended. Price: $2.99.
Growing up in culturally diverse San Francisco has its privileges, one of which is the available programming that we were exposed to, especially on Saturdays. Of course, I personally kicked it off right with a little cartoon time: some Shirt Tales, a little Thundarr the Barbarian (Ookla the Mok, baby!), and finally Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. But eventually, after a Ma and Pa Kettle flick or a Shirley Temple vehicle on Channel 44, I would turn to Channel 2, Channel 20 and/or Channel 26 as one or all would show martial arts movies from midday through the afternoon. This is when I remember seeing Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance for the first time and being amazed by the violence and just the relationship between father, a ronin, and his toddler son. While it did not exactly rival Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, it nevertheless was unforgettable then as it is now almost 25 years later, especially when reminded by games like Mad Finger Games’ Samurai: Way of the Warrior. This game is quite literally a ‘bloody’ tribute to those movies as well as recent samurai-inspired game franchises like Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden and Koei’s Dynasty Warriors. Visually stunning, Samurai: Way of the Warrior plays wonderfully with great controls cleverly using the touchscreen for combos. Plus, unlike most games in the App Store, this game has nice polish from solid gameplay testing as it automates movement right when you want it and not before or after. Presented in comic style, the storyline is easily digestable, while simply framing objectives. Although, in its most basic form, it’s a hack and slash game, it never feels repeative or gets boring. Highly recommended. Price: $2.99.
Don’t be misled by the title: there are no clowns in this game. Well, at least not the type of clowns that you remember as a kid. You know what I’m talking about: those velvet paintings your mom and dad used to buy from the mall, which all had clowns that looked like demonic versions of Red Skelton‘s famous alter ego stolen from Rod Serling‘s Night Gallery. Their effect on you was so severe that each time you did go to a real circus you had the same feeling come over you as you do now watching Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator. No amount of cotton candy and snow cones could ever calm you down. Not that it should since they contain more sugar than sugar. Anyway, so what can you expect from iCircus Robot if not scary clowns? How about a smooth highly-stylized 2D side-scrolling game the likes of which is rarely seen in the App Store? Very much paying tribute to arcade games of old, you play as a robot that needs to jump through or over obstacles. Using the accelerometer, tilt to one side or the other to move, while timing finger taps on the screen to perform the jumps. Kinda reminiscent of Nintendo‘s Donkey Kong in some ways, my only criticism of this game is that it currently only has four missions. But considering the quick increase in difficulty as you do progress, it lasts a lot longer than you think. Plus, there is the promise of more to come. Price: 99¢.
Boasting 100 levels in full 3D graphics, Alawar Entertainment’s Magic Ball 2 caught my eye for another reason. During the mad rush to celebrate birthdays last month, there was always a need to entertain kids. Whether it was my own child or someone else’s, something was always needed to quell the source of the loud ringing in my ears perpetrated by a pair of strong lungs and a pig-headed stubbornness not to give in. Unfortunately, just handing off my iPhone wasn’t nearly enough to provide me some semblance of peace. The reason? Most of the games I downloaded were of the Puzzle variety and, while they may be fun for adults, who pretend they’re brainiacs, it’s usually Yawn City for most kids between the ages of 5 through 10. On a whim, I downloaded this game on the fly and it has been pure magic ever since as a third-person 3D block-breaking game, which not only uses a ball and paddle, but also inventive power-ups to knock down blocks both at the ground floor and up high. Think EA’s Boom Blox meets Atari’s Breakout. Offering three different control schemes in tilt, touch and virtual buttons, you’re able to test out what works best for you to succeed. Definitely a winner for both adults and kids alike, especially considering how much gameplay you get for the price. Price: 99¢.
Just like me, Eliss has been celebrated as of late. However, unlike me, this extraordinary quasi-music puzzle game wasn’t the object of ridicule by relatives at his own birthday party because it gained a couple of pounds and added some gray hair. No, instead, Stephane Thirion’s micro masterpiece has gained worldwide accolades for its originality, accurate touch-sensitive control, and addictiveness. Proclaimed by some as the ‘killer app’ upon it’s release and therefore, further thrusting the iPhone into the spotlight as a viable gaming platform, Eliss showed us something different yet familiar simultaneously. Start off combining or splitting ’like’ planets (based on color) to fit different sized ’squeesars’, which then bloom like cosmic flowers that shoots off stardust you can wipe away. However, you have to be careful not to accidentally touch ‘unlike’ planets or the harmony of the universe becomes unstable and could eventually collapse. Makes sense? I didn’t think so too at first, but it starts making sense once you get into the game. Then, you will understand why, even in it’s visual simplicity, it has garnered a heaping helping of praise since its debut. For me, while it’s 25 levels have entertained me countless times, the game symbolizes that some things do get better with age. So, I can still hold out hope that the same can be said about me… until my next birthday! Price: $3.99.
Having put myself on a mental vacation recently, I’ve been sporadic with my updates to my beloved site, which I totally apologize for. Whether you call it a review site or a blog (personally, I would prefer everyone call it a referral site), App of My Eye (AoME) takes a lot of work ensuring we find apps not many other people may know about or care to report because they’re in the pockets of the bigger developers and publishers. As a self-proclaimed champion of the little guy developer and publisher, the AoME Staff continues to make strides by recommending apps, especially games, like J-Park’s All-UP, an odd, yet delightfully entertaining puzzle game, in which cute uniformed anime/manga-looking little girls (think of the Asian dolls in Disney‘s It’s A Small World attraction) are sitting down bunched together. Your objective is to have all of the little girls stand up by tapping on them individually. However, the problem is that if one girl is already standing up and you tap a girl next to her, she is bound to sit down again. Hence, a dilemma unfolds, which requires careful plotting prior to executing any action. Unfortunately, with a clock ticking down, you may not have the luxury of leisure and therefore must do the best that you can in the time allotted or otherwise fail. Addictive and consistently amusing. Price: 99¢.