Week in Mobile: Butterfly Sanctuary, Penumbear, and a story of surviving piracy
Every Saturday here on GameZone, we’ll feature a handful of new titles released for iOS/Android and update you on the biggest news we covered that week.
Last time, we spotlighted some new endless runners that hit the app stores, and Zynga’s Draw Something surpassed 100 million downloads.
Now, Battle Dungeon is coming back to iOS after severe troubles with piracy (check our news highlights for the story). We’re also relaxing with butterflies, playing with teddy bears, and renovating Dracula’s castle.
Flutter: Butterfly Sanctuary
A low-stress, colorful app has migrated from DeNA’s Mobage social-game network to iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Flutter: Butterfly Sanctuary (free) from New Zealand-based developer Runaway is all about raising and collecting butterflies. It’s supposed to act as a break away from the busyness of daily life as you watch them hatch from eggs and morph from larvae into pupa and finally into adults, which level up and fuse with other butterflies of the same type.
If thinking about winged insects flapping around makes you shiver uncomfortably, don’t worry. The art is cute, and hearing little bugs pop up in the forest overgrowth (click them to earn bonus honeydew, the in-game currency, which unlocks pollen from flowers and strengthens butterflies) or baby butterflies cry out for another bite of food is adorable.
The game almost forces players to relax because of the amount of waiting involved: waiting for butterflies to generate more honeydew, waiting to accumulate enough honeydew to clear more space in the forest habitat, waiting for eggs to hatch and larvae to mature, and so on. Each task requires patience, but they also involve a certain level of participation as players steer butterflies into a cloud of pollen or tear down a leaf for a young larvae to munch on.
Attracting more eggs can mean discovering new species and completing more pages in the Flutterpedia. The more time you spend with these creatures, the more data gets added to this archive, and the more goals you complete (which award bonus honeydew allotments).
The possibilities increase as you play, opening up different features, like the ability for butterflies to lay eggs or the option to try to attract specific types of butterflies. You do a lot of standing still, but that’s part of the allure: to sit back and watch this virtual world thrive.
Despite its name, Penumbear ($1.99 on the App Store) isn’t about a bear — not a real one, anyway. Rather, you play as a koala that walks lines between shadow and light, collecting abandoned teddy bears and overcoming a number of perilous enemies and platforming death traps.
Bulkypix published the puzzle-platformer from indie studio Taco Graveyard, for which Penumbear is its third iOS title. Gameplay revolves around manipulating different colored lights and turning them off or on to change the way light and shadow display on the screen. A block of shadow against the light might prevent you from accessing a door in the darkness or acquiring a firefly, which acts as a key (one of several you might need to advance). On the other hand, jumping onto a shadow beam’s edge can enable you to reach new places.
This is an interesting and addictive concept, and thanks to the Brag mode, I was able to easily record one level’s playthrough and upload it to give you an idea of how the game looks and works. (Watch the video here.) The controls do take a little time to master, and until you do, leaping onto centimeter-wide ledges or evading nasty foes might cause you nervous palms and plenty of distress. But this is a game that contains a huge amount of content and challenge for a very accessible price. (It tracks your completion percentage rate, with breakdowns of progress by level.)
I only wish the koala was always running; double-tapping the left or right directional arrows (the only virtual movement buttons, thankfully) sets him into a sprint, but he slows to a walk that’s far too sluggish to be useful for platforming.
Just don’t expect any cheer. Penumbear is gloomy, and players start in the lowest region of a dark castle — deep in its basement. It’s well worth the climb.
The vampire of all vampires, Dracula, could suck the blood dry from your veins and make you his evil minion, but that’s not what Dracula’s Castle, a new iOS and Android title from developer Fortuna Lion Game Studio and publisher Immanitas Entertainment, has in store. Instead, the sliding-puzzle game gives players a tour of the night creature’s living room.
Dracula himself has vacated the castle, leaving players with moody music and puzzles they have to solve one object at a time. Interestingly, I found the first picture the hardest, but perhaps that’s only because the overall challenge gets easier once you figure out how to approach it.
Players tap one tile and then another to switch their locations and reassemble parts of a single image, such as a door and wall tapestry, a candelabra, or fine art paintings. These differ in size, though. Some are small or thin — more rectangular than square — while others are big. As you move a piece to a different slot, its image changes in resolution. That’s the biggest clue: If a tile looks stretched out or too tiny, you probably put it in the wrong space.
This actually becomes kind of fun, but the real surprise is how little the game has to offer. After 10 puzzles and maybe 20 minutes of my time, I had cleared Dracula’s Castle with no explanation, no reward, and no extra content.
Recommending the app on such little substance, especially when it costs 99 cents, is a hard sell. Ultimately, it’s probably one game you can live without. Dracula didn’t stick around for it, either.
The Ouya microconsole is shipping out to Kickstarter backers in March with hundreds of Android games.
Read the story of one iOS game that’s coming back after recovering from the piracy that killed it and its multiplayer mode.
Roll: Boulder Smash is an upcoming game that plays like it sounds: with plenty of boulder-smashing action.
The tower-defense game Yet Another Zombie Defense is out now on the App Store.