Pivvot for iPad Video Review – Stayin’ Alive

Surrounded by a groovy, neon-covered world pulsing with a rhythmic beat, there’s just one question on my mind: can I survive 100 seconds? This is one of the challenges that Pivvot presents. In this game, the controls are pretty simple: you are a circle moving along a twisting roller coaster track with the ability to rotate (or, if you will, pivot) around a smaller circle. The one rule: don’t touch anything.

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Pivvot is an everything-is-dangerous survival game with five increasingly difficult gameplay modes. The first mode is voyager, which serves as a sort of tutorial/adventure mode for teaching you about the different obstacles you will encounter in the second mode, endless. In endless, your goal is pretty straightforward: survive for 100 seconds, and you win. It’s a lot harder than you’d think. From there, you can unlock expert versions of both voyager and endless, and the unspeakably difficult berserk mode.

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Sky Gamblers: Cold War for iPad Review – Flying High

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For a while now, the dogfighting genre has been a staple of console gaming. Whether it’s Star Fox or Warhawk, battles in the sky have often been some of the best gaming experiences on home systems. These games demand cutting-edge graphics, tight controls, and lots of action on screen. So what happens when you bring all of this to the iPad? Can a game genre that has been refined on controllers and big screens be translated to a touch screen? There are a few hiccups in the translation, but for the most part, the answer is a resounding yes.

A large part of Sky Gamblers: Cold War’s success derives from the fact that this isn’t the first Sky Gamblers–the developer has had lots of practice to refine the experience. I had a blast playing Cold War all the way through its meaty campaign and its robust online multiplayer. There’s no shortage of content here, with dozens of planes and nine gameplay modes that can be played solo and seven that can be played either through local wifi or online. Whether you happen to be in the mood for a game of capture the flag or team deathmatch, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

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Kingdom Rush: Frontiers For iPad – This Is One Frontier That You’ll Want to Explore

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Tower defense games are an always-popular gaming sub-genre on the iPad. Kingdom Rush, the original game, was always a cut above the tower defense pack. Stellar graphics, great soundtrack, tough (some might argue torturous) levels and bosses, all combined to make Kingdom Rush a triple-A tower-defense game.

The recently released sequel Kingdom Rush: Frontiers HD cements Kingdom Rush again as “the” tower defense game for iPad. Yet, the word sequel is the key to the only drawback for Kingdom Rush: Frontiers. It’s truly a sequel – more of the same.

For the un-initiated, Kingdom Rush: Frontiers allows players to build 4 basic towers: militia barracks, archer towers, dwarven mechanical bomb throwers, or mage towers. Once you spend your introductory budget for each level and build your first towers, you battle waves of enemies and bosses. If 20 enemies escape your towers unharmed, you lose the level and start all over again.

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Artistico for iPad Review: a Journey Through Art History

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I’ll preface this review with a frank confession: I love art history, and I also know way less about it than I’d like. One of the greatest experiences of my life was having the opportunity to spend a month in London studying Western Civilization history and art. It was a pleasant surprise then, to stumble across Artistico, a quirky puzzle game all about art and art history.

The game’s premise is as odd as the game itself. As explained by the game’s intro video, the story is about a man who drifts off to sleep while contemplating his favorite art pieces. While he dreams, his pet bird finds itself lost inside his dreams. It is then up to the player to guide the bird back to his owner by piecing together famous works of art.

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It’s all right if I lost you there, as the game’s story is as dreamy and open to interpretation as some of the art you encounter along your journey. Each stage plays somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle: you’ll be presented with a faded outline of a famous work of art, and as you restore the pieces to their rightful spots, the surrounding area becomes flooded with color, bringing the art back to life. It’s quite nice to see the finished art at the end of each stage (on retina devices the pieces look really fantastic!), though a gallery feature to see completed works would have been a nice inclusion.

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You’ll earn points (and up to three stars on a stage) for speed, but as I played through the game, I found that I paid very little attention to that. Instead, I found that the reward came from seeing the works come alive–and finding the place for that last tricky piece just in the nick of time! A giant clock sits in the upper right-hand corner, urging you to finish the puzzle quickly before time runs out. There are also powerups to use, such as a magnet that places one piece for you, or ice that freezes the clock. The game also has a beautiful original soundtrack that compliments the art nicely.

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At the end of each stage, you’ll be rewarded with some interesting trivia about the work you’ve completed. There’s some good stuff in there–I found myself learning a thing or two about Cezanne style, and what “christomimesis” means. I even recognized a few pieces from my travels in London. There’s a good selection of artwork on display in this game, and it will take some time to see it all. The developer has also promised more stages will come in future updates via in-app purchases.

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The biggest drawback for this game is simply the lack of variety in gameplay. As the game progressed, I found that it rarely introduced new gameplay mechanics. The stages got harder by introducing more pieces and smaller fragments, but this only served to increase the difficulty. This is very disappointing, because the game really has a lot going for it, and with a new gameplay mode or two, it could really be a notable game.

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I enjoyed Artistico for what it is: a relaxing, casual experience that just might teach you a thing or two about art. No, it’s not Infinity Blade–and it doesn’t have to be. One of the things I’ve grown to love about the iPad is that it allows for some games to flourish that just wouldn’t work on other platforms. Artistico is not a game designed to be played aggressively in an attempt to achieve a high score; it’s a game meant to be played by the fireplace, preferably with a cup of hot tea.

Here’s an App Store link for Artistico; it’s a free app with additional stages purchasable via in-app purchases as mentioned above.

Disclosure: The post author was provided with a promo code for Artistico. For information on our review policies please see our About page.

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Tiny Thief for iPad Review: Small Hero, Big Charm

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Rob? Tsk tsk tsk. That’s a naughty word. We never rob. We just sort of borrow a bit from those who can afford it.” – Robin Hood (film), 1973

It’s hard to innovate in the puzzle genre these days. In an app store filled with all kinds of frustrated fowl and candy-gobbling aliens, it can be a challenge to find a puzzler that stands out from the rest. While Tiny Thief has certainly “borrowed” some inspiration from the games that have come before it, this game manages to stand out with its slick gameplay mechanics as well as its vibrant and charming presentation.

The game plays like a point and click adventure/puzzler mashup, with a series of levels designed to be played in short bursts. Tiny Thief pits you as a bowlcut-brandishing, Robin-Hood-esque hero who has set out to restore misplaced goods to their rightful owners. You will tap around the game world and solve puzzles by collecting items and using them in creative ways to get to the object you need to steal–all while making sure not to get caught! Along the way you will save villagers from a corrupt sheriff, follow a mysterious treasure map on the high seas, and even encounter a giant robot.

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In keeping with the mobile puzzle game trend firmly established by games such as Angry Birds, Tiny Thief allows you to earn up to three stars when you complete a level. However, the way you earn those stars varies from stage to stage. While each level will net you one star for completing the main objective, you’ll have to explore every nook and cranny of the stage to collect every treasure and secret, which is the only way to earn all three stars. After you complete the stage, your hero will do a celebratory dance (he may even breakdance or steal a move from PSY’s Gangam Style) and you will unlock the next level.

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Something that I found very clever was the game’s inclusion of a hint book, which you can tap if you find yourself really stuck on a level. When activated, the game will give you a step-by-step guide on how to unlock every star in the level–but use it carefully, as you can only open the book once every four hours. The inclusion of this mechanic is very helpful for beginners who might need a little help, but it is tucked away and can be completely ignored by puzzle veterans and perfectionists.

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None of the characters in Tiny Thief will say a single word, but that’s not to say that they are silent. Instead, you’ll find that all the various citizens of the Tiny Thief world express their personality through their actions. From the cantankerous grandmother who hits the sheriff with her cane, to the angry baker who just can’t seem to understand why his cakes keep disappearing, each character you encounter is lively and entertaining. As their stories unfolded, I found myself laughing out loud at some of their interactions with the main hero.

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Because the game is so charming, I was sad to find that it ended quite quickly. The game has only 30 levels in all, and while they do get much lengthier towards the end, I still would have enjoyed a longer campaign. That being said, it’s a far better tradeoff to have quality prioritized over quantity.

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Tiny Thief was developed by 5 Ants and is the second title being published under the Rovio Stars publishing venture. About two months ago, the house of Angry Birds announced that as a powerhouse of mobile entertainment, the next logical step would be getting into the publishing business. If this is the caliber of content that they intend to push, iPad owners have some great games to look forward to.

All throughout my time with it, I found this game to be a delight to play. This is a game that you can tell that the developers put their whole effort into, as each stage tells a unique story and every corner is polished. Charming, clever, and addictive, if you are a fan of classic point and click games, or simply looking for something new and different to play on your iPad, this game will keep you tapping, experimenting, and grinning to the very end.

Here’s an App Store link for Tiny Thief; it’s priced at $2.99.

Disclosure: This app was independently purchased by the post author. For information on our review policies please see our About page.

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Review — The Silent Age: Episode One for iPad

Most modern games can no longer afford to think one-dimensionly. It’s not enough to have a princess trapped in a castle with a giant lizard king; nowadays it’s about creating something complex, meaningful and different. That’s why indie games like Braid, Limbo and even Amnesia: The Dark Descent (as horror-inducing as that game is) have [...]

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Today’s Best iPad App Ever: Petting Zoo

Petting Zoo is a fantastic storybook app for the iPad and iPhone. It features beautiful, fun, interactive animations of over 20 animals, and it’s bound to be a big favorite for kids and animal lovers of all ages. Here’s a slice of its App Store intro: From acclaimed author and illustrator Christoph Niemann comes this [...]

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Quick Look: Mini Golf Matchup for iPad

I received a promo email about Mini Golf Matchup for iPad yesterday and the game’s description interested me enough to say yes to a promo code for it. I always have fun when my family and I play an occasional game of mini golf in real life, and this iPad game sounded fun so I [...]

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Review — Wheel of Fortune for iPad

Wheel of Fortune was a family tradition growing up. Every weeknight, my family would tune in to watch Pat Sajak and Vanna White turn letters on a giant wall. It was awesome. Each one of us would try and see who could guess the puzzles first — my sisters and I got pretty good at [...]

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