Week in Mobile: Badland, Deep Sea Deli, and Blendoku

Badland Screenshot - Badland small

Every Saturday here on GameZone, we’ll feature a handful of new titles released for iOS and Android and update you on the biggest news we covered that week.

This time we flew through the badlands (and lost a lot of friends), served lunch to fish, and proved we weren’t color-blind.

What mobile games did you play this week? Share in the comments or tweet your experiences to @wita and @GameZoneOnline. And be sure to check out our news roundup at the bottom.

Badland

Badland

All you have to do is hold your finger down.

That’s the extent of the controls in Badland ($3.99 on iOS) an atmospheric side-scrolling game from Helsinki, Finland-based studio Frogmind. It couldn’t be less complicated. Just press and release.

With so little required of the player, it’s amazing how immersive the game is. You control a black, furry critter that flaps his arms to fly, and placing or removing your finger from the screen makes him rise or fall like a hot-air balloon. Moving through the level involves careful manipulation of this press-and-release system as you navigate the eerie environment strewn with metal pipes, saw blades, fans, debris, and falling rocks. Shadows of creatures stare on from the lush, surreal wilderness in the background.

Think the mood and style of Limbo, only with color.

You smack your head off the tunnel ceiling, bounce around as whirling blades force you in every direction, and pop like a berry as you’re crushed, pricked, and sliced up. This is a normal occurrence in Badland, and it’s what makes the game so fun — you just go with it.

Collecting different power-ups will make you grow larger or smaller, giving you the power to dislodge objects or fit through tiny gaps. You can multiply, which keeps you safe from harm, like one fish in a school of many. (As long as one of you survives and reaches the exits, you’ll clear the stage.) And a glowing blue item speeds up time or slows it down, pressuring you to flap or roll as needed to outrun the auto-side-scrolling screen, which serves as another common cause of death as it pushes you forward or traps you against a wall.

One of my favorite power-ups is one that coats the character in a sticky substance, which can make progress difficult — but it also enables him to ride on the sharp edges of saw blades without tearing to papery shreds.

Although many of the levels look similar, Frogmind gives each a unique touch. No arrangement of obstacles is quite the same, or at least the way you interact with them changes. You trigger buttons, roll under heavy chains, grow to comical sizes, or shrink into a tiny dot all for different reasons.

There’s so much depth and experimentation with so little direct input from the player.

Checkpoints are generous although I did encounter a few agonizing levels where the challenge was a bit too steep. This isn’t a puzzle game; it’s more about the experience of moving through a world, of merging the organic with the mechanical and watching how one interacts with the other, than it is about testing the player.

download yesFor those who want to goof around, there’s a great multiplayer mode for 1-4 people that lets them all play on the same screen in different quadrants.

Deep Sea Deli

Deep Sea DeliEveryone loves a good sandwich — even the fish.

PlayFirst, the maker of Diner Dash and other titles, has released a new restaurant-management game set under the sea. With the help of Narly the Narwhal, players can serve hungry crab customers their sandwich of choice in a kind of match-three or two puzzle game called Deep Sea Deli.

Orders come in one of a several varieties, but mostly you’ll be slapping together sandwiches that consist of cheese, lettuce, and bacon (at least on the lower levels) — and, if you have a good combo going, special mystery meat. (We didn’t ask.) More items come into play as you progress further, complicating the possible combinations you can assemble.

The goal is to clear the board by drawing a line through the bubble-contained ingredients in any sequence. Working from the edges to the center helps make sure the remaining food stays packed together so that you’re able to keep connecting them. Isolate ingredients, and you won’t be able to chain them to make new sandwiches, which means you’ll have to call upon the fish Hoover to consume the leftovers and refresh the board.

Hoover can only hold so much before he tuckers out, though; the convenient counter next to him shows how many more ingredients he can eat, which adds a nice twist to the game. Players can use coins, which they earn from every session, to purchase undos (to go back on a move) or boosts that affect play. Combos might last a second longer, for example, or a giant whale named Monstro can wipe the board clean on command before any leftovers can have a negative effect on the score.

The social integration with Facebook and Game Center didn’t seem to be working properly during my playthrough, but PlayFirst will likely have that fixed with the first update.

download yesAlthough Deep Sea Deli isn’t as fast-paced as other games of its type, it’s surprisingly charming and fun — especially when successfully clearing a board (you continue on with new boards until Hoover’s worn out) causes Narly to shoot up a rainbow and cloud from his horn in celebration. Along with the mellow music, the visual style is cute enough to hook players, and the presentation looks a lot nicer than what you’d see from most other restaurant-management games.

Blendoku

Blendoku

When tasked with finding complementary colors, we all like to think we’re experts. After all, we dress ourselves every day, and we look good. Right?

A simple, crossword-puzzle-esque game from two former Pandemic and BioWare developers — who have formed a Los Angeles-based studio called Lonely Few — can prove how little or much you know about color theory.

Blendoku is a quiet game — something you could play on a Sunday morning when everyone else is reading the paper and doing word puzzles. It released for free on the App Store and Google Play and includes 150 simple levels, 150 medium levels, 100 hard levels, and 75 master levels (the final group is for tablet users only) — for a total of 475. That’s a ridiculous amount of free content for a mobile game, and more is available for those who don’t mind paying a little for 300 additional levels.

The game looks easy enough when you begin. All you have to do is arrange shades of colors, often from light to dark or vice versa. But as the blank tiles take on more complex arrangements, and as some colors are filled in for you, organizing the palette becomes more difficult. It’s not always as straightforward as you think, either.

I only completed the “simple levels” although I sampled the others for a solid overview. What’s fascinating about Blendoku is how you start to actually understand color theory better even though all you’re doing is playing around. The game teaches you by establishing different patterns, and once you figure out the “formula,” if you will, you can master any puzzle with that same design.

It’s a difficult process to explain, of course, as we’re dealing entirely with color, not words. But it makes a cool sort of sense when you play it.

The one drawback is that, at least among the basic levels, Blendoku is repetitive. I felt like I was redoing puzzles that I had long-past mastered.

download yesEither way, though, Blendoku is an addictive concept and a game that’s definitely worth keeping on your mobile device for months.

These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.

News Highlights

Hell Invaders

Hell Invaders from developer Spicy Horse will bring card battles to life on your tablet (or PC) screen.

A remix of House of the Dead: Overkill lets you obliterate zombies on your mobile phone.

Zynga takes a gamble and launches Draw Something 2.

Gz-av-2
Stephanie Carmichael Twitter: @wita
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