This week on the iOS roundup we explore the ocean, sewers and sky with a quartet of new iOS releases.
First up is Deep Sea Deli, (Free, with microtransactions) the newest game from PlayFirst, which takes the concepts of games like Diner Dash and Bejeweled and mashes them together in a hybrid that satisfies the hands and the mind.
The core gameplay involves serving fish their meal of choice using up to three ingredients as fast as possible in order to earn money. The catch, however, is that the items you’re using to make the meal have to be connected in some way, meaning that it’s entirely possible that you’ll be tasked with making a lettuce, cheese and bacon sandwich (because what fish doesn’t love bacon?) but you’ll be unable to because the lettuce is too far away from the bacon. It never feels unfair or random, which makes the player approach the match three elements in a strategic way. You can’t just match any ingredients as fast as possible without considering how the board will be laid out after that particular dish.
So far, the meal creation doesn’t seem as tasking as something like Cook, Serve, Delicious or more dedicated cooking sims, but that lack of depth is balanced by the strategic depth that, if not paid attention to, will rapidly derail any session of Deep Sea Deli.
Next is Fish Out of Water!, ($.99) a physics-based puzzler that involves throwing fish as far as possible while angling your throws to get them to skip along the water.
The primary twist to the mechanic is the way the game scores your progress. Instead of being scored on distance or raw skips, the game offers up 5 judges who score subjectively based on individual criteria. One judge, for example, might weigh the total number of skips higher than another, which might take into account distance more than anything else.
Also tweaking the concept are the fish themselves, which have different attributes and skills. There’s a fish shaped like an arrowhead, for example, which, when thrown at the right angle, might skip better than any other fish. Have it enter the water at the wrong angle, however, and it will dive straight down and not come back up. Experimenting with the different fish available to find the best combination of three to use for throws is fun, and maximizing the efficiency of your combination of fish is deep and rewarding.
Continuing on the theme of sea life is Ninja Turtles Rooftop Run, ($1.99) an endless-runner based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon airing on Nickelodeon right now (which is really good, actually). Players will take on the role of any one of the turtles or some other series’ mainstays as they run from rooftop to rooftop (surprise!), fighting foot soldiers and exploring New York City in order to fight off an alien invasion.
Unfortunately, Rooftop Run has a bit of an ugly reliance on microtransactions, especially for a game that isn’t free. Picking your first turtle is free (well, it isn’t considering the game costs money, but stay with me here), but each turtle thereafter costs a pretty heft sum of in-game currency to unlock, and it’s impossible to switch. The turtles themselves aren’t differentiated in any way that isn’t cosmetic, and the game also forces you to collect green orbs in order to continue running. It’s a jumble of mechanics that take away from what’s fun about endless runners, and the personality that could have been here just isn’t.
Finally, Tap Rocket ($.99) from Eye Interactive takes everything Rooftop Run does poorly and makes it great.
It’s a mix between a classic endless-runner and something like Tiny Wings, in that ostensibly players are tasked with running as far as possible, but there’s a jetpack strapped to the back of our runner that can be activated to make it over long jumps or fly great distances. Part of the fun of Tap Rocket is to try and craft the perfect run through its environment, hitting refueling powerups smoothly and getting as high as possible for as long as possible before floating back down to the uncertainly below.