Tag Archives: I Dig It Expeditions

Mole – Quest for the Terracore Gem Review: How Deep can You Go?

In the spirit of other underground dig it up yourself games like I Dig It Explorations, Dig Dug, and California Gold Rush, Mole – Quest for the Terracore Gem by Roo Games brings a new entry into that genre. The game is perfectly designed for the iDevices and the developers have seemed to think of every detail to make your playing experience very enjoyable.

There is a very brief story line and basically you need to control Mark the mole in his digging device to find the infamous, but lost fabled Terracore Gem. Problem is, the Terracore gem is buried under 6 layers of the earth within the Terracore Level. When you first start the game, Mark will have very basic equipment in terms of oxygen level, drilling ability, radar, and explosives. So for your first few digs you will have to stick around the soil level collected gems and metal pieces, and if you are lucky, air bubbles to help make your dig longer.

You start with a limited supply of air and therefore must watch your meter before a rescue is needed. If you are rescued you lose whatever you collected that dig, so watch that air supply. Along the way you will be able to upgrade your equipment with the metal you find. As you pass through each level of the soil, you will find that each has their own unique problems to work around, for example, in the Rubbis level there are no air pockets.

Be on the lookout for the special drilling ship on each level of the soil. This will allow you to transport directly to that level of soil – for a fee of metal of course – without the use of oxygen. This comes in very handy as you travel deeper and each of your drill ships lines the surface ready for you voyages. Since using the benefits of these ships requires a fare of metal, you must decide if the benefits outweigh the cost, as the metal is what you will need for your upgrades.


Controls: The game is tap and go to its very core. Tap a spot and off Mark will go digging. Backtrack if you find gems or metal, but it’s quite easy to explore a level of the soil with this method. It allows for one handed play if that is what you wish and is quite responsive. This method of control is also very adaptable for left or right handed players, something missing in many games.

Random Level Generator: Pick a spot, any spot, dig there three times in a row and you won’t find the same gems or metal. Same with the mining ships. Spot one but run out of air and get transported to the surface, when you go back to find it, it will be in a different spot. So make the ships your priority because once you use them they will always be on the surface waiting to transport you. Miss it while you are digging in that level though and you will have to find it all over again. This random placement of metal and gems makes for high replay value and never will any dig be the same twice.


Load times: Seems like there is a loading screen for everything you need to do so there is a lot of waiting involved. The game oozes casual pick up and play for a minute but if during that minute you are merely awaiting the load screen to finish, it won’t be that game you want to play while waiting in line or during a spare moment. Luckily the game auto-saves the moment you exit so if you don’t have a chance to finish a dig, you can pick up where you left off the next time.

Balance of the upgrade shop: I like a challenge just as much as anyone else, but the upgrades seem very unbalanced from one level to the next. The first set of upgrades are fine enough, but they jump from around 15 pieces of metal to around 100-150 and then to around 1,000! Given that the transport drill ships also cost metal to use, you will either find your self digging in the first soil level a lot to gain some metal, or you will try to find the fabled gem without many upgrades. Each is not a great option and neither will allow you to accomplish your goal.

One map: Despite the randomly placed gems and metal, and the six levels you must get through, the one map gets old fast. Yes there is a lot to explore at each level, but with the current costs for equipment upgrades, it feels more like RPG grinding to get more metal than fun.

Mole – Quest for the Terracore Gem is a cute and casual pick up and play game. There are 10 medals to earn and 4 ranks to earn based on how much you collect, and it has a unique RPG upgrade system in the equipment shop. If you can ignore the slight flaws (none should be a deal breaker for fans of this genre) you will enjoy digging deeper to blast away the final goal of the Terracore Gem.


Mole – Quest for the Terracore Gem is developed by Roo Games and normally sells for $1.99. Version 1.1 was reviewed on 2g iPod Touch with 3.x OS.

Special Note: Roo Games is running a promotion March 5th through the 14th called “Mole is free at GDC.” This is in anticipation of a “special announcement” to be made at GDC about new game play and content updates that are in the works for Mole. (per Chris Watts, Game Designer, Roo Games)

Catacombs Review: Valkyrie, oh Valkyrie! Wherefore art thou Valkyrie?

InMotion Software is seemingly obsessed with underground tunnels. Catacombs is the latest release from the developer of such subterranean titles as Dungeon Defense, I Dig It and I Dig It Expeditions. And with the massive success of the latter two titles, Catacombs has big shoes tunnels to fill. Unfortunately, much like the bodies there entombed, Catacombs is lacking in soul.

Catacombs seems a near relative to the arcade classic Gauntlet. Players select a character class from amongst Warrior, Mage and Archer, then go dungeon crawling through a series of subterranean labyrinths, battling skeletons and other creatures while gathering keys and treasure, destroying monster spawning portals and seeking the exit to each floor of the dungeon. Gauntlet offered players the choice of Warrior, Wizard, Elf (Archer) and Valkyrie, with goals and gameplay amounting to basically the same.

The Warrior is the slowest character, but has the highest defense. He throws axes in combat, and pounds the ground as his special attack damaging nearby foes. His special attack is slow to recharge.

The Mage has the weakest defense of all characters, but moves more quickly than the Warrior while dealing equal damage with his magic. The Mage’s special attack is a chain lightning spell which arcs between nearby enemies, and his special attack recycles faster than the other characters. The Mage is my personal favorite of Catacombs’ characters.

The Archer moves faster than the other characters and has the fastest rate of fire, though his arrows inflict lesser damage than either the Warrior’s axes or the Mage’s spells. He has middling defensive capabilities. His special attack fires arrows in all directions.

For control scheme, Catacombs adopts the dual-stick shooter model. Unlike most dual-stick shooters, however, the battle is waged not in open arenas, but within narrow corridors and confined spaces against a finite number of opponents. And by “finite” I mean that enemies stop spawning into the level when their portals are destroyed.


Concurrent Character Progress: The game keeps track of your progress with each individual character, meaning that you can flop between characters at any time without resetting your progress with the others.

Progressive, Labyrinthine Stages: The majority of dual-stick shooters task you to wage combat in an open arena. Far fewer offer progressive stages requiring exploration, and it’s a key difference that makes Catacombs stand out from the pack. The layouts of stages become progressively more complex as you push deeper into the dungeons.

Interface: InMotion has designed a beautiful dual-stick interface. The control areas are large and easily identifiable, but also attractive, unobtrusive and functional.


Uninspired Art Direction: Character and creature designs are bland caricatures of archetypal heroes and monsters, generic, uninspired and familiar. The designs are not bad, but merely functional.

Repetitive Scenics & Enemies: Each floor of the dungeon looks exactly the same as every other. Different layout, same tile set. Over the course of some 20+ levels, the constant barrage of muted browns and grays becomes tiresome to look at. Nor do the enemies offer any great variety. You will find yourself fighting the same handful of creatures for the full duration of the game, long past they become tiresome.

Lack of Incentives/Rewards: The only reason the game gives you to explore its dungeons is because they’re there. There are no objectives, no goals, no achievements. As you explore, you will accumulate loot, but you have no place to spend it; it increases your score, but there are no leader boards on which to post that score, nor even local high score boards to track your personal accomplishments. There are no items to be found in the dungeons save keys, and therefore no reason to fully explore the levels. When a map is cleared entirely of enemies, you receive a “Map Cleared” notification, but the game doesn’t keep track of your cleared maps, doesn’t award you in any way for clearing them, and doesn’t even allow you to return to previously completed maps to clear them fully if you didn’t the first time — presumably because there’s no incentive to do so. Catacombs is all mechanics, and no purpose.

DLC: Additional levels can be purchased in-app. At present, only the Forest is available as DLC, though the in-game map displays several locations not yet available, hinting at things to come. The Forest area costs $0.99 and gives you 24 additional levels with new enemies. The problem is that the Forest doesn’t do anything more than provide an alternate skin for the same gameplay experience. Instead of brown, the mazes are green. You will skill fight skeletons in the woods, but now you will also fight goblins (which behave exactly as the skeletons, but which must be shot twice to kill rather than once). Neither does your character’s growth carry over from location-to-location. Upon starting the Forest, your character will be returned to experience level one.

Catacombs is solidly built, but utterly lacking inspiration. The game feels incredibly generic and, despite its solid foundations, quickly becomes tedious to play due to its lack of incentive. In writing this review, I constantly had to nag myself to go play the game some more. Comparatively, when I first played I Dig It, I kept going out of my way to find time to play. In creating Catacombs, InMotion seems to have forgotten what made I Dig It so much fun. The constant upgrades that enabled you to delve deeper into the earth, the sense of discovery that came with finding new treasures, the in-game achievements and records kept of your findings … none of this is to be found in Catacombs. Instead, dungeon level one looks just like dungeon level ten, looks just like dungeon level 14 … and you will be fighting the same monsters, collecting the same keys, doing and finding the same things, and the only difference is there might be a larger number of enemies and a larger area to explore (and yet, no greater reason to explore it).

Catacombs may have been more fun to play had their been more variety in foes, or had character development been handled differently. Instead of experience levels, players should have to seek character upgrades in the dungeons, finding health, defense and attack upgrades through exploration. It would serve to make the game more interesting, give players a reason to scour each floor for loot. InMotion should have included achievements, records of enemies killed and loot discovered. There should have been different types of loot, rather than collecting the same generic treasure pile again and again. Collectibles would have given players something to strive for. There should be something to spend loot on — new characters, new weapons or spells. But alas, there is none of this.

As a dual-stick shooter, Catacombs fails because it’s not frantic enough. As an action game, it fails because the combat isn’t very interesting. As an RPG, it fails because it’s not deep enough. As an adventure and a game of exploration, it fails because there’s no incentive to progress and nothing new to discover as you go. Catacombs seems as if it tries to be several things at once, but being pulled in so many directions accomplishes none of them. There’s nothing inherently broken about the game; the controls work, the concept is sound and it’s definitely a dungeon crawler. It’s just not much fun to play and gives you no reason to play it.

Sometimes you dig and come back with a gem; sometimes you dig and find Catacombs.

Catacombs is developed by InMotion Software. The base application sells for $0.99 and includes additional downloadable content for purchase. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G.

Our 2009 Games of the Year Revealed: Gaming Overload!

Wow.  What a year it’s been for the app store.  This was the first full calendar year that the store has been open for business, and we’ve been treated to a countless amount of games.  Now, all of us have attempted to give a summary of some of our favourite games from the year.  We’re about to list a lot of great games, so sit back and see if you’ve missed any gems from last year or disagree with any of our choices.

Matt: Overall, 2009 was a great year for iPhone gaming. My personal favorite release of the year was the re-imagined classic Space Invaders Infinity Gene, easily the iPhone’s best shoot’em-up. The stages, visual presentation, sound and gameplay combined to make this a game I found impossible to put down. The inclusion of music stages, generated from songs in your music library, make this a game with an infinite amount of new challenges, and the recent update made things even better. Space Invaders Infinity Gene is the best example I can think of of a major game publisher simultaneously revitalizing a classic franchise while doing right on the iPhone platform. Kudos to Taito for a job well done.

For me, the year held a number of other highlights. Meteor Blitz is the best dual-stick shooter I’ve ever played, with sumptuous visuals and perfect controls. Flatspace delivered the most open-ended space role-playing experience on the platform; how you outfit your ship plays a huge role in how you play the game, and you’re welcome to play in any way you like, as law-enforcement or pirate, trader or bounty-hunter, good guy or bad guy. Chronicles of Inotia: Wanderer of Luone and Dungeon Hunter offered up the platform’s best fantasy RPGs, while Rogue Planet delivered an SRPG to rival those on major consoles. Robocalypse, ported to the iPhone from the Nintendo DS, was the year’s best RTS, and IUGO’s Star Hogs was an artillery game not to be missed. GeoDefense and GeoDefense Swarm were the year’s best tower defense games. Chillingo‘s Defender Chronicles effectively tipped the tower defense genre on its side, imbuing it with RPG qualities along the way and cementing it as one of the deepest and most rewarding alternative takes on tower defense yet seen. In addition, the developer has set a new paradigm for the support of existing properties with constant and hearty updates in content. Knights Onrush is the App Store’s best castle-defense game, even beating out Gameloft‘s take on the genre. But it’s Gameloft’s NOVA that takes the crown for the year’s best FPS, highly polished with a robust single player campaign and an excellent multiplayer mode. My favorite retro fixes were the addictive Hook Champ and the lite roguelike The Isle of 8-bit Treasures. For casual games, KarmaStar was a favorite for cramming incredible depth into bite-sized portions, and Canabalt for incredible atmosphere and short, but addictive gameplay sessions. My list is long, but the last games I absolutely must mention are Rolando 2 and I Dig It 2, incredible sequels to their equally incredible predecessors. Damn, what a year!

Daniel: My game of the year would have to go to NOVA from Gameloft. Call me a first-person shooter junkie, but Gameloft did an amazing job with both the campaign and online multiplayer. There have been tons of other games that have come quite close to taking home the award though, from ngmoco’s Rolando 2 to Illusion Labs’ Sway. Com2uS also came out of the box after releasing Homerun Battle 3D along with Inotia  2: Wanderer of Luone, both of which were definite must have titles for me. Chillingo‘s Ravensword was yet another title that I was overly impressed with, along with their fun Speed Forge Extreme.

The list goes on and on, including Firemint‘s Real Racing and Flight Control, Illusion Labs’ Labyrinth 2 and Touchgrind, Gameloft’s Modern Combat: Sandstorm and Gangstar, Godzilab’s iBlast Moki, and much, much more. 2009 was a year quite improved from the initial release of firmware 2.0, and I’ll be surprised if developers keep up the same pace. I’m sure there are games that were forgotten, but either way, let’s say hello to 2010.

Nick: Going back a full year and trying to figure out the best games launched on the app store is definitely a tough task.  Choosing a single game of the year though is easy.  The game I have in mind had an impressive graphical upgrade from its predecessor, and the gameplay’s tweaked difficulty and rolling variations kept me fully interested throughout.  Yes, the game I’m thinking of is Ngmoco and Hand Circus’ Rolando 2.  After replaying levels just to grab all the items I missed on the first time through, I realized the game was something special because replaying is something I rarely do.  I initially opened this site to try and cover games that push forward the idea that the iPhone is a legimitate gaming platform, and Rolando 2 fits the bill perfectly. In trying to list other favourites from the year, I’m sure I’m going to forget many great games.  Here’s a quick attempt at other standout titles I really enjoyed: Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, Sway, Let’s Golf, Peggle, geoDefense, 2XL ATV Offroad, and Hook Champ.

Chris: 2009 was certainly a banner year for the iPhone and its gamers. In 2008 we witnessed the birth of the app store. In 2009 we witnessed it grow into something akin to a child: both awkward and wonderful; sometimes gawky, sometimes menacing, but always full of promise. This year we’ve seen everything from the great Halo clone N.O.V.A. to truly unique puzzlers like Labyrinth 2 and Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. But for every geoDefense we also had an onslaught of forgettable tower defense games that simply were a recycled waste of time. The still incomplete Minigore gave us a good laugh while Samurai: Way of the Warrior showed us that 3-D wasn’t always needed. At the beginning of the year, who would’ve thought a simple running game like Backbreaker Football could bring so much more life to football than the iconic Madden? That’s what makes the iPhone as a gaming device so special: it surprises us. This little machine somehow manages to bring a decoupage of gaming experiences that no other device seems to match. Gamers everywhere have to agree there’s nothing quite like Zen Bound for the console. As for the best of 2009, that’s tough. The Wing Commander-esque Galaxy on Fire comes close, but ultimately I’m a sucker for the well-rendered RPG; Ravensword: The Fallen King is certainly not without its flaws, but it is the first iPhone game I found truly amazing… utterly escapist. What can we anticipate in 2010 now that the iPhone’s proverbial childhood is over? The fast track into adulthood. With Apple’s newfound success in the gaming world comes a new set responsibilities… and new competition. Also, we all have bigger expectations for this little device than we did a year ago. Things could get really interesting. So, here’s to a new and even better year of gaming in 2010. Good luck, Apple, and keep on gaming!

Jeff: What if iTunes didn’t exist? What if there wasn’t an App Store? What if the technological marvel known as the iDevice was never conceived? Each and every one of us would have missed out on something amazing and revolutionary.  It’s a worldwide store where you can buy all of the newest music of any nationality from anywhere in the world, and purchase multiple games that fit in your pocket starting as low as 99 cents and (almost) not going anywhere above 10 dollars. This universal store has brought many people happiness, and the offerings that you can choose from are astounding. Music will always be changing, and so will the future of gaming. However, I’ve never thought that gaming could change so suddenly or quickly. Five months ago, I would never have thought of the iPhone or iPod Touch as something I would play games on, much less play games on for hours on end. This year, and more specifically, these past few months, have changed the iPhone and iPod Touch into my main gaming platform. And why? Because iDevice games are the only ones that get updated, changed, and churned out so quickly, yet still maintaining the polish and quality we expect from all games.

Now that the iPhone and iPod Touch have been established as possible gaming devices, what are the best games for this “platform?” Or, what is the number one game that all iDevice owners should have? It’s a hard choice, but I have to go with N.O.V.A.. This game has the best graphics, best controls, and debatably due to multiplayer, the best replay value of any game on the App Store. It has all of Gameloft’s quality and polish, and it isn’t a game you just finish and forget; it’s an experience that you remember and keep coming back to, time and time again. On the other hand, there are many great offerings for the iDevice, including Jet Car Stunts, Asphalt 5, Need for Speed, FIFA, Inotia 2: A Wanderer of Luone and many more titles that deserve mentioning. Of course, if I mentioned all of them, the list would be too long since there are just so many different options. All in all, 2009 has been an awesome year both for myself personally and the App Store, and I can’t wait to see what new events and things are in store for me this year. Onwards, and let’s all have a great 2010!

Ryan: The app store has come a very long way in such a short time. I remember when I was impressed by the simplest of games on a mobile device like an iPod. The app store has become a whole new market now with ‘real’ games becoming more polished and fun. One signing example of this is Nova. Nova is a first-person shooter developed by Gameloft that somewhat resembles Halo (ring any bells?) Nova is the most complete, comprehensive game on the app store to date. Not only does it have an engaging single player mode, but it comes with surprisingly fun online multiplayer mode as well. It is no surprise to me that Gameloft is the company behind Nova. After all, they have proven to be strong players in the app store market and have developed a number of hits. Each game they release seems to push the envelope (and my expectations) just a little further. I now expect an iPod/iPhone game to deliver much more than I did even a few months ago. I am excited to see what the app store holds for 2010. I think Nova will be hard to top, but based on what I have seen so far, it is complely plausible.

And that wraps up the gaming year of 2009.  I’m sure 2010 will be bringing us even more impressive games from all the developers on the app store who will continue to push the limits of the platform.  We’ll see you the same time next year for another wrap up!

Lite Version Roundup: iBlast Moki, The Settlers, and More

Lite versions are definitely beneficial as seen from the success of iShoot and Assassin’s Creed; both of which boosted considerably in sales in correspondence with the lite version gaining popularity.  And with that said, Gameloft has been releasing lite free versions of all their games while other developers have been following the demo model.

Here’s a small roundup of the recently released lite versions, and almost all are worth a download.  If you’re too lazy (like me) to download the lite versions, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll enjoy all of these games.


Most should be worth your time and download.  If you don’t like it, there’s nothing really other than to delete it; and if you do, support the developer and buy the game.  Most of the games listed above are less than or equal to $4.99, a quite reasonable price.