The Eyes of Ara, FRACTER, Isoland 2: Ashes of Time, Earth Atlantis, Darkness Rises, Wobble Frog Adventures, Bimbleborn, The Birdcage, Thirteen and Half Cats, Hags Castle, Escape Lala, Fairy Knights, Battleheart
Hi everyone and welcome to another massive installment of My Week Unwrapped, where I go into detail about all the iOS games I’ve been playing over the last 168 hours. There have been some strong releases this week, but also a few that were a bit of a let-down. In any case, I’m sure you don’t want to hear me ramble on about nothing, so let’s just get straight to the point.
The Eyes of Ara
I had 100 Stones Interactive’s 3D puzzle adventure, The Eyes of Ara, a week or so before release, but got stuck and then distracted by other games until it released this week. I was a little frustrated with it until I figured out what I needed to do, and once I did I learned how the game thinks. Until that point, I didn’t realize how important the in-game journals are. Besides telling the story of the family that lived in the castle you’re exploring, they include clues for solving puzzles and finding secret passages. Once I learned that and really started paying attention to every little detail, I fell in love with the game. If I were to pick a game of the week, this would definitely be it, and it’s high up on my list for Game of the Year at this point. And I still have a third of it left. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I want to write a proper review when I finish. But I’m seriously impressed that this was made by one man. What started off seeming like just another cross between Myst and The Room took on a personality of its own. It’s exactly what I imagine an old castle filled with puzzles and secret passages would be like. I love finding some small detail I missed earlier that unlocks a whole new area. That said, there is a good deal of pixel hunting and backtracking involved if you want to find every last secret without resorting to any walkthroughs. There have been a couple of things that people offered a hint for that I’m not sure I would have gotten on my own. But I’ve been able to figure out almost everything myself without using any help and it’s been such a rewarding experience. I actually wish I could get back to playing instead of writing this roundup piece. Anyway, check out my video below if you don’t mind spoilers, and if you’re already playing and need help, try my walkthrough guide.
I was looking forward to 4L Games’ FRACTER ever since the developer emailed me to announce the release date. It gives off vibes of Monument Valley and Starman, two of my favorite exploration puzzle games. And I do still love the atmosphere and soundtrack. But unfortunately, I find the game too clunky to be enjoyable. There are three different control options available, but none of them feel tight enough to me. You can either use a fixed joystick in the corner, a floating joystick, or tap-and-hold to move. The fixed joystick is too hard to use comfortably on my iPad, and the tap-to-move meant I constantly had my hand covering the middle of the screen. So the floating joystick makes the most sense. Unfortunately, there are other interactive elements, such as lights and mirrors to rotate. Often, I’d try to grab one and the joystick would kick in instead. I’d also get stuck next to staircases because it just feels too loose. It would be one thing if it was just a straight relaxed puzzles game, though. It’s not, as you have to avoid zombie-like versions of yourself at times. Doing that while battling the controls made for a frustrating experience instead of an enjoyable one. Also, it felt like too much of my time was spent running down narrow paths or staircases, or just waiting for zombies to move. I think there’s a lot of potential here, and the puzzles can be interesting. But the combined elements make for an uncomfortable experience that I dread instead of looking forward to. I’ve played through five of the seven levels and I’m not sure yet if I’ll finish it when I have so many great games fighting for my attention. But definitely check out my videos below to see if it’s something you might like. The second video shows the floating joystick, as I didn’t know about it in the first video. I also have more videos here if you want to see later gameplay.
Isoland 2: Ashes of Time
I already wrote a bit last week about COTTONGAME’s Isoland 2: Ashes of Time, but this week I finished it, along with my walkthrough guide. The game really picks up once you fix the time machine, and the puzzles offered just enough challenge so they weren’t boring but also not too frustrating. I had a good time with it and am looking forward to the third game. I also still have to finish the first one! Anyway, if you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures, this is a solid choice.
I had nothing but good things to say about Earth Atlantis last week, but unfortunately I have to change my tune this week. I had thought the game saved my exact spot so I could pick up where I left off. But when I went back in to play, it remembered which bosses I defeated, but set me back to a checkpoint all the way at the beginning and stripped me of all my power-ups. So I had to find my way back to where I was and also waste time killing things and building up my weapons again. Unfortunately, I can’t play the entire game in one sitting, and being forced to waste this time whenever I take a break has ruined the game for me. I think it could have been a perfect game to play for ten to twenty minutes at a time, but now I see it’s not really. I would love to revisit the game if they ever offer a way to just save exactly where you are. But until then, I fear I’m done with this one. You can see my frustration in the video below.
Darkness Rises is full of surprises (hey, that rhymes!) as they recently added raid fights where you join a team and take on a huge beast together. Considering the single-player campaign has been super easy so far, I wasn’t really prepared for it and ended up dying right before the beast was defeated. Still, I went back later when I wasn’t recording and did better. I also got further along in the story and learned to fish! I’m still only playing the game once in a while, as I don’t find it fun for long sessions. Anyway, you can see my latest experience with it in the video below and all my other videos here.
Wobble Frog Adventures
Wobble Frog Adventures, based on the old toy, might be the hardest platformer ever just because of how it controls. I don’t even really know how to explain it. I spent the entire first level going one step forward, five steps back. Oddly, the game doesn’t teach you how to jump until the second level. I don’t know if it’s just sadistic, watching you fumble your way through the first level trying to figure it out? I still had fun, though. I’m not sure yet if I’ll pay to remove the ads, as I really suck at this game. But I appreciate the fair business model that lets anyone play for free with the occasional ad or lets you remove them if you find them annoying. And I appreciate that the ad removal IAP removes opt-in ads as well. Too often, those are left in even after someone pays to remove ads. Anyway, check it out as it’s quite a unique game. And watch my video below if you want a good laugh.
BimbleBorn just released tonight, but I had it a few days early and spend some time with it. It’s basically a super chill, relaxing adventure game where you roam around, break jars, push buttons, talk to other characters, kill monsters, and complete quests. You tap to move wherever you want to go and the pathfinding mechanic will take you there automatically. You also tap on NPCs, items, and enemies to interact with or attack them. So, even though it’s in landscape mode, you can essentially play with one hand. I’m not sure yet how much I’ll stick with it, as it feels maybe too much on the easy side. I’m not even sure that monsters can harm me. I would like to at least work on finding a cool hat, maybe a dragon helmet? Anyway, I don’t really have any complaints about the controls or overall feel of the game. If you’re looking for something relaxing where you can just explore at your own pace, this seems like a good choice. But if you’re looking for a challenge, you might be disappointed. In any case, check out my video below to see what it plays like.
I wrote about Pine Studio’s 3D room escape game, The Birdcage, last week, but I had only played the first ten free levels. Although I found them too easy, I decided to give the first paid pack a try. Unfortunately, it didn’t offer much more of a challenge and I got through all five levels in a few minutes. It’s still an impressive-looking game, but the puzzles offer no challenge and I think most people would feel like they wasted their money on it. Still, if you decide to play, I have a walkthrough guide here.
Thirteen and Half Cats
LaTorri Lindsay’s “story-rich exploration game,” Thirteen and Half Cats, releases a couple of months ago, but I only just learned about it today. It’s incredibly short, as I completed it in less than ten minutes. But it’s also completely free, involves thirteen (and a half) cats that follow you around. That alone makes it worth a download. The puzzles are simple and shouldn’t offer too much of a challenge, but I still recommend playing it. I would also love to see it expanded into a full-length game one day. Anyway, if you’re a cat lover, check it out!
Hags Castle is a modern version of the old dungeon crawler genre. It plays in portrait mode with one hand and you move using arrow buttons just like in olden days. There’s also some weird camera you can use to look at your surroundings and even at yourself. It’s like an out-of-body experience! It seems to be all level, based, as you choose the next spot on the map and then make your way through that dungeons. I haven’t seen any equipment yet, only food, accidental poison, and health potions. And lots of bats and warrior frogs and want to kill me. There’s apparently a baby dragon I can befriend, and I hope that happens sooner than later. I did die once and just got sent back to the beginning of the dungeon with my health fully restored. That made me wonder why my health isn’t just always restored when j start a new dungeon, instead of entering it all injured already. I do hope there’s some equipment to loot and other secrets to uncover. I’ll likely play some more over the next week and report back. But until then, check out my video below.
Unfortunately, Duckbear’s pixel art point-and-click adventure, Escape Lala, is too buggy to play at the moment on an iPad. Apparently the resolution cuts off the sides that allow you to move to different rooms. So for now, I can’t recommend it if you plan to play on an iPad, but the developer said they’re working on a fix for it. I’ll report back next week if that happens.
Fairy Knights is a puzzle action RPG that uses a unique mechanic for battles. Instead of tapping or swiping on enemies or matching gems to do damage, you solve pipe puzzles. The bigger the section of pipes you create, the more damage you’ll do. It’s very heavy on dialogue, so I haven’t spent enough time battling to see how much depth there is to the puzzles. But it is an interesting idea with cute characters and even a pet kitty that fights alongside you. I’d like to spend more time win it before recommending it, but check out my video below to see the game in action and decide for yourself. I should mention that it’s not optimized for iPad and it’s stuck in the orientation with the Home button on the right.
And last, I finally decided to give the original Battleheart at try after Mika Mobile released the sequel, Battleheart 2. I was a big fan of Battleheart Legacy, but was never sure if I would like the original game, as it’s very different. I did have it but never tried it, so I figured before buying the sequel I should try this one. It does seem well-made, and I can see why people like it. But I’m not sure the micromanagement is for me. I also kept having problems with characters ending up on top of each other, making it hard to select the right one. I stopped playing when I hit a difficult boss that killed me way too easily. I might continue playing, but not if it’s going to involve a lot of grinding of older levels. And unless I grow to love it, I probably won’t pick up the sequel. But I would love a Battleheart Legacy 2!
Wow, I actually got through them all! I started to doubt myself about halfway through. As you can see, there are still plenty of great iOS games releasing, even if you don’t like Fortnite or Pokemon Quest or Clash Royale. I can’t even get through each week’s releases, much less my huge backlog. But I pride myself on bringing you coverage of games I believe in, and not those that are designed around milking players for money instead of creating an enjoyable experience. So I’d like to take this moment to remind you that I do have a Patreon account and any donations help me keep this site going and in the same quality you’ve come to expect from it. So please, if you value my work, consider supporting me through Patreon or a Paypal donation. Every little bit helps. And with that, I bid you good night and will see you back here next week with more of My Week Unwrapped!