Link to Part One of My iPhone Reviews Omnibus

Jewel Quest II by iWin
Price: $1.99

As I mentioned previously, I am a Match-3 nut. I don’t have a logical explanation for it; I simply have an affinity for sliding tiles around, I guess. So I bought Jewel Quest II on a whim after having played a fair bit of Smiles (see previous review). I’ve never played Jewel Quest in it’s PC incarnation, so I didn’t know what to expect.

In Jewel Quest, you use the standard match-3 swapping mechanic and when you clear a group of three or more, the area behind those tiles lights up. Your objective is to light up the entire board. This becomes difficult when boards are oddly shaped as there will be spaces where you have no way of moving a tile out to clear up room to make a match there. To “fix” this issue, matching coin tiles can give you what amount to free spots where you can spend a coin to color any spot. You have a set amount of moves you can make before the level is over.

I didn’t find any changing of the mechanic to liven up the game. In my plays, it was the same thing over and over again with differently shaped levels. This would be fine if the gameplay itself was compelling. However, the issue of having hard-to-reach areas severly limits the progression through a level. It feels like a slog hoping and praying for coins that will never come just because you didn’t luck out with the initial setup.

Additionally, the game tries to force a stupid story for thematic purposes, but it adds nothing to the experience and makes no sense.

The interface is devoid of any flourishes in animation or effects and it is sometimes difficult to select the proper tile. As a result, the game feels like it was rushed, or a through-the-motions release to capitalize on the iPhone market with a game proven in the PC field. Unfortunately for the creators, there are probably a dozen other Match-3 titles on the service and most present themselves with more style and variety than Jewel Quest II.

Was it worth the time/money? No

Sol Free by Smallware
Price: Free

There’s little you can do with solitaire without really changing the rules/setting a la a Fairway Solitaire. Sol Free is a collection of five different solitaire types – including Deal 1 Klondike and Deal 3 Klondike – the most popular version for anyone who has used Windows since the early 90s. Sol Free is a responsive and intelligent little solitaire game. It provides simple stats and has a rudimentary auto-play feature. What makes me happiest about Sol Free is that it has no inconviences to play for its free status. No ads, no reminders, no limits on play. This is the demo version for a more expensive solitaire game that Smallware sells. However, I only play Klondike solitaire, so this free version is enough for me. They aren’t losing any money because I’d never have paid for solitaire in the first place. This ends up being one of the games I play most often.

Additionally, the game has almost ZERO loading time, unlike many other games of this level of complexity.

Was it worth the time/money? Yes

21 Pro (Sponsored) by Avanalix LLC
Price: Free

21 Pro, like Sol Free before, is a “lighter” free version of a pay app. In this case, you get a short annoying ad that pops up before your game. You can sit there forever waiting for the ad to go away, like I did. But the way to dismiss it is to actually click on it and then choose Skip. Once you do that, you are in the game, right? No, you actually have to do this for two ads. Is this really value-added for the companies involved? Once I learned that it is just a double tap to dismiss them, I never spent long enough looking at an ad for it to even sink in.

Now to the game. 21 Pro is a beautiful looking version of blackjack, but it still lacks the panache shown in Texas Hold ‘Em (see last review). But it does include a card counting feature that you can actually take to the casino and use on your lap (not advised) and a strategy section (with colorful chart) to teach you the correct use of the mechanics of the game. There are many options you can use to customize your game or you can just play the game as-is. The game would have been helped by adding AI tablemates so you could see how the AI plays and “compete” against them, but it is an allowable absence.

The game is competant and fine for a free game, but you would have to really love blackjack to want to shell money for the full version. The ads are an annoyance, but easily dismissed.

Was it worth the time/money? Yes

Dr. Awesome: Microsurgeon M.D. by ngmoco
Price: $1.99

 

So Neal Young’s post-EA gig is rolling and with the Big Name Publicity, ngmoco has trickled out a few games. Topple had a nice art style to it, but the mechanic didn’t sound interesting. Mazefinger (reviewed below) didn’t really seem to be as groundbreaking as the company’s mission suggested. Then came bubbling up from the Internet cauldron news about a game called Dr. Awesome Microsurgeon M.D. How can you not like a name with that much kitsch? To add to the over-the-top factor, the game puts you in the role of the titular hero surrounded by highly cariacturized doctors and nurses whose poses are ripped straight from the Phoenix Wright/Trauma Center games.

In Dr. Awesome, your job is to treat a number of patients by playing a simple minigame that is familiar to anyone who has played Qix or Jezzball. You control a charge that cuts through a cell in order to isolate virii or destroy 75% or more of the cell. Only instead of directing your charge with a joystick, you direct with the tilt sensor. What I was worried about was that the tilt controls wouldn’t have enough sensitivity, but that worry was unfounded. The game controls perfectly. Your charge cannot touch a virus and viruses cannot touch the tail of your incision until it is complete. Additionally, the game adds “bacterium” that float around the edges of the cell and are poisionous to ur charge.

The game is simply fun and addictive, if not a bit repetitive. The art style of the cutscenes is fun, but the polish of the gameplay is where the game is really impressive. The camera zooms in when cell pieces are cut off to better give the user a view of the field of play. The stages are colorful and vibrant.

But the real bonus that made me smile was something that could only be done on this platform: the names of your patients are populated by the names in your address book. It is silly, but its much more exciting when a really difficult level is framed as operating on your own mom rather than just calling it Level 16.

What keeps the game from being incessently repetitive is the difficulty of some levels. You can’t just randomly cut away from the edges and hope for 75% cell clearance. You must plan and manuever to eliminate viruses before the cell gets too small, otherwise you will have no room to operate.

Dr. Awesome includes achievements as well, which is always a win for me. Why they are celling this at a $2 price point escapes me. This has all the quality of a game at least three times the cost. It puts ngmoco on the map as a publisher of high-quality games. If they can keep this level up, I will be buying on brand recognition alone, which I imagine is the entire point of the company.

Was it worth the time/money? Yes

Mazefinger by ngmoco
Price: Free

The other ngmoco game I have is called Mazefinger. You run through a maze. Using your finger.

There are red blocks that appear to stop you periodically. Otherwise the game would have no challenge at all. But because the tactile nature of the device is one-way, you never know that you’ve hit a block until you have already hit it. Otherwise the game involves drawing simple lines with your finger from one point on the screen to another. The red blocks are frustrating more than an interesting antagonist seeing as (1) they are hard to see, (2) they seem to come up on a randomly defined interval and (3) restarting your point of light after it hits the wall is a little difficult almost like it doesn’t want to follow your finger after you ran him head first into the wall. I can’t say all the much about the game because I just didn’t find the premise very entertaining. I give kudos for the visual effects as they are very pretty, but beyond that I cannot reccomend the game. It’s no wonder they were giving it away.

It does use the word “Awesome” much more than their Doctor Awesome video game, which in of itself is impressive.

Was it worth the time/money? No