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Thanksgiving 2010: What We’re Thankful For

Thanksgiving was yesterday, we know, but we were so busy stuffing ourselves with turkey and food that we kind of fell into a food coma—not a good state to write in.  But now that we have our minds settled and sparked, we reflect upon what we’re thankful for for the year 2010.

Matt: The games I am most thankful for are the games I keep coming back to over time, those rare titles which exhibit excellent gameplay and incredible staying power in the face of a near constant stream of new releases. While most titles live their life like a candle in the wind, there are a few that continue to burn brightly in my heart. In no particular order, the iPhone games I am most thankful for are …

Space Invaders Infinity Gene, the brilliant evolution of one of the most important titles in video game history. A lengthy main game, unlockable extra levels I still haven’t seen the end of, additional DLC stages, and the ability to create randomized stages from your own library of music amount to an endless supply of fresh content. The way the game deploys its finite enemy types into seemingly infinite combinations of unique challenges is brilliant, and a variety of player-selectable ships allow you to experience played stages in new ways. SIIG is a masterpiece, one of those rare titles that never seems to overstay its welcome, and which constantly surprises and rewards the player with new content and new challenges.

Puzzle Quest has been released many times and on many devices over the years, but received its most definitive version only recently. Puzzle Quest HD for the iPad is this great game at its very best, and a release I am extremely thankful for. The game revolutionized the match-3 genre by incorporating RPG elements such as combat, character progression and skill use, offers a lengthy quest and a plethora of character classes with unique abilities and strategies all their own, and mixes up the match-3 action with plenty of variants and mini games. The amount of content is simply immense and has kept me coming back again and again for years. Now on the iPad, the game benefits all the more from the device’s large display and touch-screen interface.

And finally, I am thankful for the masterful, iPhone exclusive roguelike 100 Rogues. With its multiple character classes each having a unique skill tree, randomized maps, enemies and loot, deceptively strategic gameplay, excellent balance and steep difficulty, the game is never twice the same. Characters may be developed in any number of ways, leaving it up to the player to discover the best approach to any given situation. With the recent release of version 2.0, 100 Rogues has been renewed with a ton of additional content, and there is still more to come, the developers say, including two new character classes. With so much variety, strategy and new content, 100 Rogues is a game I can never put down for long, and one I am truly thankful for its having been made.

Happy thanksgiving, everyone.

Daniel: I’m thankful for any developer that goes out of their way to create a groundbreaking experience on the iPhone. The iPhone’s App Store would not have exploded like it has if it weren’t for people who exploited all of the iPhone’s capabilities. Heck, I doubt NoDPad would even exist if it weren’t for these type of people—the ones willing to create the next big thing, the next Must Have game.

Developers like Gameloft, while they have the capital, create some of the best games the iPhone has ever seen in Modern Combat 2 and NOVA. Firemint is yet another developer that goes all out, evidenced by their gorgeous and still-competing Real Racing and their casual Flight Control. Almost every game made by these two developers are absolutely the best; sure there are faults, but the goods almost always outweigh the bads.

And we’ve got to give some indie devs some love, my first nominee going to Halfbrick Studios (technically not indie, but not large either). Fruit Ninja really kicked things off for this game developer, leading to Monster Dash and Age of Zombies. All three have been solid and quite addictive in my books, and when it comes to casual games, Halfbrick usually provides the best.

Other indie devs include Rocketcat Games, the developers of Hook Champ and Super Quick Hook. Unique, beautiful, and most importantly, fun. I’ve probably got a lot of other devs/companies/people I’m forgetting, but thanks to all the devs out there who shoot high for groundbreaking, good-looking, and enjoyable games.

Travis: There are so many unique and wonderful experiences found on the iDevices to be thankful for. As a retro enthusiast my heart sings every time I boot up Hook Champ by Rocketcat Games. Time and time again I return to this love letter to both the aesthetic and sensibilities of the games of my youth. The brutal level design is as fun and addicting as it is rewarding. Leaderboard integration is some of the best available on the platform. Instant updates to your ranking as well as top scorers for the week can be readily seen when selecting a level. Challenges can also be issued and received with the greatest of ease. Collecting up all the hats is an incredible incentive to completionists such as myself. Did I mention that there are a number of secret hats to find? Hook Champ is simply a masterfully designed game. It’s clear that Rocketcat Games has a full understanding and appreciation for the games of yesteryear.

On the complete opposite end of the scale I also have never been able to get over just how much fun Peggle is. This plinko style game is absolutely addicting and for good reason. The game’s objective is simple enough that everyone can grasp it: clear all the orange pegs with the minimal number of shots taken. Enhance this gameplay mechanic with skill based timing and aiming of shots and a whole lot of luck and you get a game that is every bit worthy of the phenomenon it is.

Finally I’ve become a fan of Solomon’s Keep/Boneyard by Raptisoft. These twin stick shooters diverge from the crowd by mixing up the gameplay a bit. Rather than simply shooting basic guns you are instead given a variety of magic powers to choose from. While the initial magic set is cut from the most basic formats, fireballs, magic missiles, and lightning; they later become combinable and produce much more original feeling powers. These skills are available as you gain levels, another distinctive feature of these games. There are levels to gain, items to find and buy, and even bosses to slay. A significant level of depth can be found in Solomon’s Keep/Boneyard that most of the competition simply does not have.

All of these games have been staples on my iPod since I first downloaded them and they will likely stay with me forever. I simply can’t get enough of these premier examples of iDevice gaming and cannot recommend them enough if you are a newcomer to the iDevices.

Hope: On this day of Thanksgiving, reflecting back on this past year, I find I am very thankful for a few great apps from the App Store.

Angry Birds came in silently and exploded into a huge success. A very simple physics puzzler has created a sensation with You Tube spoof videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMltvlqEM54), an upcoming line of plush toys, and even the celebration of Angry Birds Day. But for me the attraction is in the simplicity. Fling a bunch of birds at some pigs and break whatever you can in the process – how tough can that be? Well right away you realize that strategy is definitely needed to get those precious 3 stars. Just when you think you have conquered the game, Rovio Mobile throws a curve at you and releases more levels! And then came more! Then when you think you have seen it all, the hidden golden eggs appear. The content is astounding and the fun is addicting. Definitely a game that you can play for minutes or hours at a time. Thank you Rovio Mobile for creating a game I can go back to time and time again. And for holding the first spot on my first page for the absolute longest time ever!

The appstore had been deplete of original RPG’s for much of its young life. But then along came Chaos Rings. A turn based battle system highlighted this deep game. It was very easy to get sucked into the gameplay and it’s easy interaction and engrossing story brought you in even deeper. A remarkable amount of replay value was built in as the game is to be completed with several pairs of characters. The game raised the bar for the genre on the platform and soon every RPG that was released after it was compared to it. Published by Square Enix, Chaos Rings told every developer that the iOS was a serious platform that could appeal to more than just the casual gamer on the go. Gamers want content and Chaos Rings delivered. Thank you Square Enix and Media Vision for taking a risk and paving the way for the future of the platform. And for giving me such a great original RPG.

The year’s biggest trend has been the freemium model. There have been many approaches to this but Nimblebit released Pocket Frogs and I must say it is the perfect balance to the social gaming world. First of all who doesn’t enjoy frogs? Right, no one. But more to the point who even thought breeding them would be so fun! With a wealth of achievements, an active social system with Plus+ friends, variety of gaming styles, Pocket Frogs is a very well balanced social game that allows you to make purchases of stamps and potions optional. Unlike other freemium games that feel like you are feeding quarters into an arcade machine, Pocket Frogs allows you to play the game without spending a single cent if you so choose. But soon you find that you are having much too much fun for this to be free and you make a purchase of one kind or another. The addictive collecting certainly keeps you coming back for more and more. Thank you Nimblebit for putting a little bit of spark and fun in my day by giving me something to aim for, something to achieve, and something to conquer. Maybe I won’t ever fill my Froggydex, but I will certainly have fun trying, and it sure is fun scheduling a day around my frogs’ growth cycle!

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good night!



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