Tag Archives: simple yet challenging

Good Games Buried Deep #4 – Lunar Mission

This one really surprised me because I typically don’t like these kinds of games.  However, I enjoyed Lunar Mission (by Puppet Box) so much that I beat all the levels… and then went back and perfected them!

Lunar Mission Title

What mysteries await in the depths of space?

Quick Description:

A well-polished and modern “lunar lander” style game.  Explore beautiful sections of space as you carefully navigate treacherous caverns looking for a safe place to land.  Encounter unexpected challenges as you progress deeper through the caves.  Keep your ship intact for a four-star landing!

Lunar Mission in Action

You’ll have to be a skilled pilot to navigate some of these caves.

Why this game is worth playing:

The atmosphere.  This game is just gripping.  Though you likely can’t tell from the tiny screenshots, the art design for these levels is quite beautiful.  The camera work is also excellent; it is used to both heighten the feeling of danger and to increase the sense of mystery as you travel through this unknown world.  All of this combined makes you want to keep playing because the game becomes more about exploration than just landing safely.

The controls.  The low-gravity physics are done well, and it really feels like you’re piloting this spacecraft.  The gameplay is also very balanced.  While it is certainly tricky to master, the game is fair.  If you’ve gone hurtling into the nearest wall, it’s most likely because you mistimed or misgauged your approach.  It may take you a few tries, but you’ll soon be able to pass through the more difficult areas.  And then after a few more tries, you’ll be able to do it without even a scratch!

Some advice:

Though by no means easy, this game is somewhat forgiving.  If you’re trying to perfect a level, you have some leeway as long as that you’re not traveling that fast.  The 4 key parts of your ship are the legs and the thrusters on the sides.  The top of your ship can therefore act somewhat like a shield as you try to squeeze through tight corridors.

Lunar Mission Crash

To boldly go… smashing into a cave!

Other goodies:

I don’t want to spoil anything, but as you progress through the game, different elements get added to the gameplay to keep things fresh.  These elements will likely force you to play in a different way, so they also add to the challenge.  Best of luck perfecting some of these later levels!

Lunar Mission 4-Star Landing

Yeah, but it’s hard to get a four-star landing when you’re missing both legs…

Try it out:

Lunar Mission (by Puppet Box) is available for free on iOS.

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Good Games Buried Deep #3 – Knights & Snails

This next game gets a thumbs-up from me and not just because it has snails in it! Knights and Snails (by Knights Digital) is a creative and intricate strategy game.

Knights & Snails Title

I wonder how a ThumbSnail would fare against a Knight Snail?

Quick description:

Wisely split your team of knights into defenders and attackers.  Lead them to victory in individual jousting battles.  Grab enough points to win tournaments and acquire new knights to strengthen your team.

Why this game is worth playing:

The depth of strategy.  Every decision you make is influenced by the overarching goal:  to obtain enough points to take first in tournaments.  This is no small feat because the number of points won in a joust increases after each round; some of the final battles will be worth a dozen points or more, the loss (or victory!) of which can swing the entire tournament.  This leads to some very interesting choices:

-Should you sacrifice a weaker knight early on since the round isn’t worth as much to you?
-Do you trust your jousting skills enough to save an average knight for a later round?
-Can you save your best knight until the very end?  Or will you be forced to act sooner than you wanted?

There’s another key aspect you need to factor into your strategy as well:  having the initiative versus being on the defensive.  If you have the initiative, you select which knight in a row will fight.  However, your opponent chooses which knight of his in that same row will defend.  Thus, the match-ups you want to occur may not actually happen, and all your plans could go awry.  This makes the choices above all the more complicated and results in some interesting situations where you may actually want to secede control of a round.

And there’s yet more to consider:  special abilities, temporary bonuses, and some randomness.  Oh, and swapping the row a specific knight is in to setup a more favorable match-up.  Oh!  And, well… I’ll let you discover some of the finer details on your own.

Knights & Snails Puzzle

Plan your match-ups carefully. And then have a backup plan when Quinevere lets you down…

Some advice:

-When you unlock the ability to move your knights into different rows, think far ahead! You only get three moves per tournament, and there is no “undo action” button if you move the wrong knight into the wrong row.

-Read all the character descriptions. This game is hilarious. Take time to appreciate its humor and enjoy the funny writing.

Knights & Snails Humor

…and where snails rule us all.  Wow, that’s gonna be sticky.

Other goodies:

The jousting portion of the game is actually pretty fun.  It’s simple on the surface, but, no surprise, there’s some strategy involved here, too.  Your goal is to raise the jousting pointer (on the right side of the screen) up the vertical bar into the green portion to land the best hit.  However, you don’t know how far or fast the bar will rise when you tap because each joust is different.  So do you tap right away when the joust starts, hoping it settles down into the green in time?  Or do you hold out as long as you can, thinking you can time it just right at the end?  Or can you pull off a fancy double tap?

Knights & Snails Jousting

I’m betting he’s going to swerve first…

Try it out:

Knights & Snails (by Knights Digital) is available for free on iOS.

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Good Games Buried Deep #2 – Rotate Zen Journey

This next one is an all-around great game: Rotate – Zen Journey (by Lemon Jam Studio). It’s rare nowadays that I take the time to go back and perfect levels, but I eagerly did that with this one.

Rotate Zen Journey Red

Simple instructions for a very deep and complete game.


Quick description:

Shoot the yellow diamond from rotating bubble to rotating bubble, collecting dots along the way. Think fast before your bubble disappears or spins you off the screen. Time your shots well in order to perfect a level.

Why this game is worth playing:

The design. The developer made a lot of great choices in making this game really fun:

1. Forced to act: The game could give you an infinite amount of time to spin around on a bubble, letting you carefully plan and prepare your next shot. Instead, you’re faced with two additional challenges: bubbles disappear after a few full rotations and the rotation of some bubbles takes you offscreen. In both of these situations, you die. To finish a level, you must thus think fast and act quickly. Furthermore, you’ll have only a limited opportunity to backtrack to a disappearing bubble to pick up any dots you may have missed.

Rotate Zen Journey Disappearing Bubbles

Take note of the fading bubbles.  Think you’ve got enough time to safely navigate back to that missed dot?

2. Speed of rotation: A lot of the bubbles rotate at different speeds. I can’t stress enough how exciting this makes the game. You’ve successfully navigated a stream of fast bubbles. You’ve somehow collected all the dots, too. You are so close to perfection. But now you’ve landed on a bubble that’s spinning at half speed. Do you have the patience to successfully time your next shot? Or have you already twitched and misfired?

3. Balance of difficulty: You don’t have to be all that accurate with your shots to safely leap from bubble to bubble. This is great for users who just want to finish levels. But if you want to collect all of the dots, you have a much smaller window to hit. And based on the two factors discussed above, this becomes all the more intense.

Rotate Zen Journey Yellow

Oh, and those bubbles that look like buzzsaws? Yeah, they kill you instantly.

Some advice:

Perfect the levels. This is where Rotate – Zen Journey really shines. The game is already fun, but trying to ace a level is incredibly fun. And quite challenging.

A heads-up:

I’m not sure it’s possible to ace Level 16 in the Red (first) World. It seems like the first bubble rotates in the wrong direction, making it impossible to collect that first dot and stay alive. However, if anybody has found a solution, please let me know. I’d be interested in how you did it.

Other goodies:

The abstract look and feel of this game works really well, as do the colors.

Rotate Zen Journey Purple

A very fun and challenging game to master.

Try it out:

Highly recommended! Rotate – Zen Journey (by Lemon Jam Studio) is available for free on iOS.

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Good Games Buried Deep #1 – SWAY

The first game I’d like to highlight is SWAY – Red Box Gray Box (by Focal Point LLC).  This game intrigued me the first time I played it, and it’s continued to grow on me since.

Sway Title Screen

Don’t let the simple design fool you!

Quick description:

A side-scrolling endless “runner” with a very interesting gameplay mechanic.  The minimalistic art design may not catch your eye, but don’t let that keep you from experiencing a creative and rewarding challenge.

Why this game is worth playing:

The gameplay.  The controls are deceptively simple (all you gotta do is tap!), but there is some real complexity in how your sprite responds to your actions.  The red square you control has a gray weight attached to it.  As you float throughout the stages, the gray square swings along with you, weighing you down, affecting your momentum, and altering the direction your jumps will take you.  At times, it can be very hard to predict where your red square will end up after you tap.  However, this seeming randomness is part of what makes this game so deep and interesting.  Simple, mindless tapping will not make you successful.  You’ll have to be alert and ready to make quick adjustments when a jump doesn’t go quite as expected if you want to progress far into the stages.

Sway Screenshot

Think you’ll clear the saw blade with ease? Perhaps not with the ball and chain!  Er… square and chain.

Some advice:

Stick with it.  This game is punishingly hard at first as you try to get a grasp on how exactly the red square is going to travel according to your actions.  ANY black surface you touch kills you instantly, so it’s going to be frustrating.  You need to be willing to experiment with your approaches (quick taps, delayed taps, tap and holds, etc.) to better know how to deal with upcoming obstacles.  It’s tough, but once you get a rhythm going, it’s incredibly addicting.

Secret tip:

If you swipe backwards (to the left) with two fingers (such as your left thumb and your right thumb), the red square will actually bounce back.  This may give you a little extra time to respond to an approaching obstacle.

Other goodies:

Turn on the sound.  The music is good and very much adds to the atmosphere and feel of the game.

Sway Screenshot 2

I hope you have a plan in mind. And then I hope you’re ready to change it!

Try it out:

SWAY – Red Box Gray Box (by Focal Point LLC) is available for free on iOS.


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