SpellRush is a new iOS game from Tappily. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries a single optional in-app purchase to unlock the game’s “premium” features.
SpellRush is a simple word game that gives players a grid of letters and then challenges them to find as many words as possible before time expires. Successfully making words causes their component letters to disappear, and more letters will fall from the top of the screen to take their place. Creating words worth more than 10 points rewards the player with a “star,” and collecting three stars causes a multiplier to appear on the board, allowing the player to earn significantly higher scores with careful construction of words.
The game has two modes of play — Quick Play is a single-player mode in which the player takes on a single round by themselves and tries to score as many points as possible, while Challenge Friends mode allows players to compete against their Game Center friends in one-on-one, best of five battles to see who is the best at the game. Game Center integration with the game is good, as it allows challenges to be issued from the game’s own interface rather than having to pull up the jarring, skeuomorphic “casino-style” Game Center interface. There is one odd little quirk, however — the list of Game Center friends presented to the player to issue a challenge does not appear to be organized in anything even resembling a logical order. They’re not alphabetized by first name, last name or username — and the latter is not visible. There’s no search function, either, so players hoping to challenge a specific player will have to scroll through this disorganized list until they find the person they’re looking for. It’s a relatively minor issue, but for those with a bulging friends list it is an annoyance that doesn’t need to exist.
Taptiles Saga is a Facebook game from Arkadium. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is receiving regular promotion via sidebar ads in App Center.
Taptiles Saga is essentially a three-dimensional take on mahjong solitaire, with cubic tiles stacked in a tower-like arrangement rather than a flat design with tiles stacked atop each other as in conventional mahjong solitaire. This means that the arrangement can be rotated and viewed from four different angles rather than the top-down view of regular mahjong solitaire. This would actually be a pretty original concept for a puzzle game were it not for the fact that this is now the seventh time Arkadium has used this exact game mechanic across all platforms, and the second time it has used it on Facebook. Still, in a world drowning in Bejeweled-inspired match-3 games and bubble shooters, any game that breaks from the “norm” is worthy of note, regardless of whether the developer has done it before.
Basic gameplay in Taptiles Saga requires players to match pairs of cubic tiles that bear the same symbol. Like in mahjong solitaire, tiles may only be removed if they are free to slide out of their arrangement and are not “blocked in” on two sides. As the player progresses through the game, additional types of tile start to show themselves, including dark magic blocks, which must be matched to clear chains off other blocks, and stone blocks which are unmovable except through use of a “pickaxe” powerup that costs soft currency to use.
Bubble Loop is a new Facebook game from Royal Cactus. It’s available now for anyone to play, and is currently being advertised in the sidebar module in Facebook’s App Center.
It’s not difficult to work out what kind of game Bubble Loop is from its rather literal title — with a name like that it’s either going to be a bubble shooter or a Zuma/Puzz Loop clone, and in this case it’s the latter. This is somewhat better than contributing to the oversaturation of genres such as Bejeweled- and Diamond Dash-style “match-3″ puzzlers and traditional bubble shooters, but it’s still an unoriginal concept at its core. That said, Bubble Loop does provide a couple of interesting twists on the usual formula that make it mildly worthy of note — but ultimately it’s still an inferior knockoff of Zuma.
For those unfamiliar with the Zuma/Puzz Loop formula, it is similar to other match-3 genres in that players shoot out colored objects and must form groups of three or more of the same color. Here, though, rather than swapping gems around on a grid or shooting bubbles at a predefined arrangement, the colored orbs here roll slowly around a predefined track on their way to dropping down a hole. If the pearls drop down the hole before the level’s objective has been completed, the player fails. If the player runs out of time, the pearls immediately rush forward and drop down the hole, failing the level if they have not completed the objective by this point. The one interesting twist on the usual formula that Bubble Loop provides is the facility to end a level early — if the player completes all of the objectives for a level and does not wish to continue playing until time expires or the pearls fall down the hole, they can simply click an “End Game” button to prematurely end the level. This is obviously not the best way to get high scores, but for those primarily playing solo and attempting to “beat” the game, it is an efficient means of making rapid progress.
Draw Something 2 is a new release from Zynga, currently available as both free and paid downloads for iOS and coming soon to Android. The game is featured in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store front page, but is not an Editor’s Choice app.
OMGPOP’s Draw Something became something of a phenomenon when it was originally released, capturing the public’s imagination with its simple asynchronous gameplay and wide variety of words to guess. The game’s immense success, of course, led Zynga to acquire OMGPOP for an astonishing $180 million, after which the game gradually started to decline in popularity. A number of reasons were cited for this — firstly, people were simply getting bored with it; secondly, Zynga’s involvement had led the game to become very obviously “sponsored,” with a variety of brand names starting to show their faces in the word lists; thirdly, there were players out there who simply disliked Zynga and no longer wanted to support the game now it wasn’t the work of a plucky independent developer.
The original Draw Something’s gameplay had one big flaw in terms of gameplay: it didn’t really have a “point.” It wasn’t competitive at all, unlike many other asynchronous mobile games; there was no way to “win” or “lose” — all you could do was try and get as long a streak of correct guesses as possible when playing with a friend. There was no real reward for getting a long streak, however, just as there was no punishment for breaking one. This lack of tension and competition doubtless also played a role in the game’s gradual decline.
Bookworm Heroes is a new iOS release from PopCap. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.
Bookworm Heroes is an adaptation of one of PopCap’s older games, Bookworm, which has been around in one form or another since 2003. In practice, however, it’s not all that similar to the original Bookworm at all, save for the fact that it involves building words, and that it features the titular Bookworm named Lex as a mascot character.
Ugly Animals is a new iOS game from Cerasus Media. It’s available now as a free download for iPhone and iPad, and is currently featured as a New & Noteworthy app on the App Store’s front page. The game carries a single in-app purchase to unlock its full content and remove advertising.
Ugly Animals is a physics-based puzzle game in which the titular ugly animals (actually more monsters in most cases) must woo the ladies of their dreams by putting gift boxes in specific locations. Gift boxes, like most other objects in the game, are affected by the laws of gravity and physics, and thus must be sitting on something stable when placed on the marker in order to register as a success for the level.
Jelly Glutton is a Facebook game from Royal Cactus. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is currently showing up in the Trending section of the Games category on App Center.
Jelly Glutton is a match-3 puzzle game that takes very strong cues from King’s immensely popular Candy Crush Saga. In other words, it takes a linear level-based structure with a variety of different objectives to complete, ranging from attaining a specific score in a set number of moves to clearing all of the “jelly” from a stage by making matches atop it. As the player progresses through the levels, they proceed through a number of different visual themes, all of which are food-based. This gives a degree of variety to the game’s aesthetic, if not the gameplay.
Take It Easy is an iOS game from Ravensburger Digital. It’s available now from the App Store — its regular price is $1.99, but at the time of writing it is available for free as Apple’s App of the Week. The game has no additional in-app purchases.
Take It Easy is an adaptation of a board game that has been around since 1983, and has subsequently been expanded on by two slightly more complex quasi-sequels known as Take It Higher and Take It To The Limit. At heart, it is a simple mathematical puzzle game that can be played quickly by any number of players including solitaire, making it ideal for adaptation to mobile gaming.
The basic gameplay of Take It Easy involves randomly drawing hexagonal tiles and placing them on a hexagonal grid made up of 19 smaller hexes. There are 27 different tiles available to the player, so not all of them will be used in a single game. Each tile features three colored lines, each of which is marked with a number. Vertical lines may have a value of 1, 5 or 9; diagonal lines running top-left to bottom-right may have a value of 3, 4 or 8; diagonal lines running bottom-left to top-right may have a value of 2, 6 or 7. The aim of the game is to score as many points as possible by laying tiles in such a manner as to create unbroken lines across the entire board. If a line is unbroken, it scores the number of points of all its constituent parts added together — for example, a five-tile vertical line made up of 9s will score a total of 45 points. The key to success is in placing tiles that will allow multiple lines in different directions to be completed simultaneously — there is a degree of luck in terms of the tiles that are drawn, but for the most part the game is a strategic, skilful one that rewards careful planning.
Dragon King Mahjong is a Facebook game from the Texas-based Simply Good Games. It’s been showing activity since January of this year, but has recently been appearing in the Trending section of Facebook’s App Center.
Like most other “mahjong” games on Facebook, Dragon King Mahjong is not actually a digital version of the rather complex multiplayer mahjong game. Instead, it is an adaptation of mahjong solitaire, also known as Shanghai solitaire. In this single-player game, a set of mahjong tiles are laid out in an aesthetically-pleasing or symbolic pattern, and the player must remove as many of the tiles as possible by matching “open” tiles — those which are free to move horizontally in one or both directions — into pairs.
In regular mahjong solitaire, tiles may not be removed until they have been incorporated into a pair; in Dragon King Mahjong, however, clicking on a single open tile places it in a “select slot” ready for later matching. As the player gains experience levels through playing the game, they open up additional select slots, allowing them to complete a particular arrangement more easily by having several half-finished pairs on the go at once. This is a subtle change to the basic mahjong solitaire rules, but it actually has quite a large impact on the gameplay, as removing an open tile and placing it in the select slot will usually cause another tile to become open, which can subsequently be incorporated into the pair.
Fruit Blast Mania (known as Fruit Mania in the U.K.) is a new iOS game from TeamLava and Storm8. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.
Fruit Blast Mania is a color-matching puzzler in the Diamond Dash mold — that is, its basic mechanic requires the player to spot groups of two or more like-colored objects that are orthogonally adjacent to each other, then click on them to make them disappear. Making larger groups disappear at once scores more points, and leaving gaps in the arrangement will cause objects to “fall” down from above to fill the gap — or, in the case of gaps of a column or more in width, to “fall” sideways to ensure the remaining objects continue to be arranged in a single group.
Rather than taking the “blitz” approach as in Diamond Dash and many of its ilk, however, Fruit Blast Mania is based around a linear series of objective-based levels. In some levels, you’ll have to drop baby animals down to the bottom of the screen by clearing objects out from underneath them. In others you’ll have to fill a meter by clearing specific colors in groups as large as possible. In some you’ll have a move limit; in others the level will be taller than the screen. Later levels include optional “challenges” that can earn players additional rewards if they are completed in addition to the level’s usual objectives. If you run out of moves or get yourself into a situation where the objective has not been completed and there are no more available matches, the level is failed, though this being a free-to-play game there is, of course, a means of attempting to buy your way out of failure either with additional moves or dropping new objects into the arrangement. This is not a guarantee of success, however.