Which way is up?

February 26th, 2015

Yet it moves is briefly available free, a month after its debut on the App Store.

Originally titled “And Yet It Moves”, a nod to a quote from Galileo, it was released in 2009 for PC, Mac and Linux and follows a character navigating through a series of stylised worlds created from ripped paper.

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The game’s central mechanic is a literal twist on conventional platforming games – the player rotates the entire world, shifting the direction of gravity. Walls become ceilings, ceilings become floors, and new routes are suddenly accessible. Some puzzles have the kind of brain-melting impact familiar to fans of Portal, especially when it starts playing tricks with momentum.

The shift to touch screen controls has been largely successful, although it takes a little getting used to.

Grab it quickly while it’s free, or if you’re late reading this article, buy it anyway and reward the developers for their hard work!

Surf the snow and alarm a llama

February 21st, 2015

As a former Ski Safari addict, I found Alto’s Adventure, an artistic reimagining of the endless skier concept hard to resist.

The graphics are gorgeous, stylish lightly-shaded landscapes that look like paper cutouts form the backdrop to your gentle glide down the slopes herding llamas*.

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There are plenty of subtle touches ; the llamas’ graceful gait and endearing sledging** on steeper slopes, a day and cycle that regularly refreshes the vistas and the occasional storm make the game easy to return to.

Be warned that it’s a slow builder and can initially feel underwhelming. Stick with it though, and you’ll soon find its secrets revealing themselves as you keep returning for “just one more go.”

* I have to be honest, I’m not sure if llamas are usually rounded up by skiers, but somehow I don’t think this was ever intended to be a documentary.

** Again, not a documentary.

Odd Bot Out

February 21st, 2015

Odd Bot Out is a physics-based puzzler from Swedish developer Martin Magni. The goal is to guide your hapless robot companion over assorted blocks and slopes to an exit on the right of the screen.

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The app’s greatest strength is its physics engine, which is extremely intuitive, flexible and believable. Blocks can be stacked, pushed over or joined together with a satisfying click, switches can be wired to motors to build levers and crude vehicles. Above all, the physics makes the robot all the more real and engaging ; its attempts to regain its balance give it the air of a drunk puppy trying to balance on a beach ball, and the effect is utterly charming.

After playing through the first forty levels, it feels to me that there’s much greater potential to be tapped here. That’s saying something when the app presently has exclusively 5 star reviews on the UK app store. Although it’s incredibly impressive that Odd Bot Out was created by a single developer, I could imagine that a set of levels from an experienced level designer with a fresh perspective would make a worthwhile in-app purchase that would greatly boost the app’s longevity.

A not-so-brief hiatus…

February 21st, 2015

I started Unworldly back in 2012 with good intentions of writing regular reviews of the many beautiful apps that fascinated me. That all ground to a halt when I was given the unexpected opportunity to spend a year travelling around the world as a trainee rock star playing keyboards live with Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde. That was fun.

After spending the following six months recovering, I then had a bit of a backlog of work on my own apps. First, an update to Scape, my most recent iPad app with Brian Eno, followed by Bloom, the app we first released back in 2008. I’m still working on updating the remaining apps, as well as two new apps that are close to completion.

So now Unworldly is back… as I still have plenty of other projects ongoing, I’m going to learn from past lessons and keep reviews shorter.

If you’ve developed an app that you think would be of interest to me, I’d love to hear from you… and if you’re in need of an ambient soundtrack, I’m rather in the mood to write one.

The Room

October 13th, 2012

The Room, from Fireproof Games, may be one of the most well thought out apps I’ve yet encountered on the iPad. Playing out through an enigmatic series of puzzles within puzzles, every stage has been polished to perfection.

The easiest way to describe this title is “Myst in a box”, although this doesn’t quite do it justice. The influence of Myst seems visible throughout, from the beautifully textured surfaces and the subtle atmospheric soundtrack to the mysterious handwritten notes scattered throughout, hinting at the arcane science of game’s universe.

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Vote for Nihilumbra on Steam

October 8th, 2012

Nihilumbra, the beautifully melancholy adventure I reviewed recently has been ported for release on Steam. However,  the Steam Greenlight system is quite strict and requires sufficient votes before the game will be available. If you’d like to support this wonderful app, please vote for it.

Please excuse the lack of new reviews lately. It’s been quite busy here these last few weeks! I’ll be posting reviews of The Room and Splice shortly.

Nihilumbra review and related posts

September 17th, 2012

I’ve added a review to the haunting platform game Nihilumbra, one of the more absorbing and distinctive adventures I’ve come across on iOs.

I had a very positive reaction from the developers included in the first batch of reviews. I uncovered several interesting things: many of the developers were familiar with the other titles I’d reviewed (and also my own, which was pleasing.) Eddy Boxerman (Osmos) had even written a series of blog posts on the subject of ambient and zen games, which are well worth a read. It feels as if there is a ‘scene’ building in the quiet spaces.

I also discovered that three of the five titles came from Germany, which I hadn’t been aware of when I made the initial selection.

Nihilumbra

September 17th, 2012

With so many television channels in the United Kingdom now dedicated purely to childrens’ viewing, it’s surprising to remember that back in the 1970s, cartoons on TV were strictly rationed. Typically there would be an occasional episode of Tom and Jerry, or if you were lucky, Scooby Doo. Once in a while, there would be very strange Czech cartoons depicting melancholy, dream like worlds which followed their own bizarre logic. Nihilumbra feels like being immersed in one of those cartoons.

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First batch of reviews

September 11th, 2012

Here’s my opening selection of apps, mostly favourites from the last few years of the App Store. One game, one not-quite-game, an art package and two music apps.

I’ll continue in this vein for a while, mixing past and present apps. The App Store has a long history!

If you have any recommendations, new or old, please let me know.

Osmos

September 11th, 2012

Osmos has the most perfect blend of visuals, music and gameplay that I’ve come across so far, and is one of the best examples of a game as an art form that I can think of.  Although not originally an iOS title, it works so well with a touch screen that it’s hard to imagine playing it on another platform.

When people talk about games as an art form, there can be a knee jerk reaction from hard core gamers as they worry they’ll have to float through a forest lighting fragments of poems with a magic twig*. Osmos is not that kind of game.

It stands up on gameplay alone. Like many of the best iOS games, it has a very simple, mathematically balanced mechanic which allows a great deal of subtlety and nuance from a single touch.

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