Week in Mobile: Tabletop Defense, Solitaire Blitz, and better mobile advertising

Solitaire Blitz Screenshot - Tabletop Defense

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.

Previously, we spoke with former Call of Duty creative strategist Robert Bowling about his upcoming multiplatform game, The Adventures of Dash.

Earlier this week, Ron Gilbert showed off screens for the upcoming iOS game he’s making with Deathspank co-creator Clayton Kauzlaric, and Ridiculous Fishing developer Vlambeer spoke out against the freemium model. We also interviewed Tapjoy about the changing landscape of mobile advertising. (See our news roundup below.)

Now we’re waging war on our kitchen tables, fighting kid-friendly ninjas, and playing cards with the fishes.

What was your favorite mobile discovery of the week? Share in the comments or tweet your experiences to @wita and @GameZoneOnline!

Tabletop Defense

Tabletop Defense

Underpinning the design of Immanitas Entertainment’s (developer of Dracula’s Castle) new Tabletop Defense ($1.99 for iOS) is a kind of meta-logic. Players can unfold a battlefield on a virtual kitchen table and, if they want, set the whole construction — iOS device and all — down on the same surface in their own homes.

This map resembles a board game layout, with markings for where players should set down different types of defenses: a handful of variations on air-seeking and ground-targeting turrets. Once the first wave starts, enemies stream out onto the map, mostly in tanks or planes. They follow a set course, and gameplay continues until either the player survives the incoming forces or 10 units manage to sneak past the guard lines.

Players can speed up the pace, which eases the slog of the 10-wave battle. Units can be swapped out at will, but most of the strategy lies in determining where to place which types and then accruing enough money from kills to upgrade them. Later levels do increase in difficulty, but once you figure out the best possible arrangement, winning the war is relatively simple.

download yesTactics here don’t involve too much thinking, which makes Tabletop Defense a somewhat relaxing, low-pressure game. Hardcore strategy enthusiasts might disapprove, but the title seems geared at more casual players. However, the dearth of different “towers” and the lack of diversity in the maps might tire even that audience. Overall, though, it’s not a bad investment if you’re looking for some light real-time strategy.

Lego Ninjago - The Final Battle

Lego Ninjago

Legos can make anything fun — or at least that’s the idea behind the countless Lego video games that adapt movies, cartoons, and more. Watching huge objects shatter into tiny bricks or punching enemies into flurries of colored pieces is fun.

The nature of Legos also removes the concern of gore. Now even kids can smash the arms off people without throwing a crying fit or worrying their overprotective parents. As long as the little Lego people are smiling, right?

Well, ninjas don’t smile, and they’re often depicted as ruthless assassins in Hollywood movies, but they’re not decapitating heads in torrents of blood in this game. Lego Ninjago – The Final Battle (free for iOS) is one of a few in a high-rated series on the App Store. It will entertain mostly kids as — while the virtual directional, jump, and attack controls work well enough — gameplay consists of very little depth or variation.

The measly six stages look appropriately ninja, but they all present the same style of arena, with a few levels of platforms and various types of enemies that spawn endlessly until they whittle down your character’s health. Even the goal remains consistent: collect the four elementals (lightning, fire, earth, and ice) that change the green ninja Lloyd into one of his superpowered buddies, and then reach the golden bell to transform into the extremely powerful, invincible Golden Lloyd, who demolishes anyone who gets near him in a single stroke.

That’s the best part.

Advancing to the next stage requires players to kill so many foes, but they don’t have to fulfill this quota all at once. You can die, use any earned skill points to level up Lloyd in three basic areas, and then continue increasing the counter until the next stage unlocks.

I do think kids might be let down (as I was) at seeing the huge, awesome robots in the background of some levels and never getting a showdown, but that’s a minor gripe.

download yesThe biggest issue, where all progress disappears when you close the app, seems to be fixed now, too — not that making it back up was ever too taxing.

Solitaire Blitz

Solitaire Blitz

Solitaire is a boring, slow-paced card game that people usually play by themselves. PopCap has upended that idea by favoring quick sessions, applying a fun underwater theme, and introducing a new spin on basic matching.

Suits and color don’t matter in Solitaire Blitz, which has migrated from Facebook to the App Store, where integration with the social network enables users to see their friends’ high scores and try to beat them as they play. That’s only a small incentive. Until you get good, you’ll probably lose a lot more than you’ll win, and overcoming that challenge is what makes the game so addictive.

Learn the fundamental order and rules of the cards (Jokers lay on anything, Kings and Aces pair together, and so forth), and you can dive right in to Solitaire Blitz, which uses a helpful and unobtrusive tutorial to teach players the game. Silver, the in-game currency, is earned by collecting treasure from the sea floor after losing or winning a round. It buys special boosts, like extra time.

Players must match consecutive cards on a single build pile; tapping a “key card” starts an additional pile, which increases the pace by allowing for more cards to be used at any time. Activate cards overlapping a yellow line, and you'll gain bonus time on the clock, which is set to 60 seconds. It creates pressure in a smart, fresh twist on solitaire.

A little cartoon worm next to the timer acts as a guide during play: Miss a card or make a mistake, and he’ll make a cringing noise. He starts to panic when the timer is running low, and he’ll cheer when you achieve a bonus. You don’t need to look at him to know if you’re doing well or failing fast.

download yesSolitaire Blitz doesn’t feature a campaign or multiple modes, which lessens its value somewhat, but it manages well with what it has. Players can only try so many times, though, before the play counter needs to reset — either by you taking a short break or by paying a minimum fee — but it’s lenient and generous with its allotment. Plus, the game is free upfront.

These games were reviewed on an iPad Mini.

News Highlights

Scurvy ScallywagsRon Gilbert, formerly of Double Fine Productions, has revealed his new game. It’s a match-three game for iOS, and it’s called Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG.

The massively multiplayer online game Legacy of a Thousand Suns is coming to the App Store soon.

Vlambeer, the developer of recent hit Ridiculous Fishing, is encouraging fellow gamemakers to ditch the freemium model and charge an upfront fee.

Strategy-storytelling title King of Dragon Pass has achieved 30,000 downloads on iOS, and it celebrated with a three-day sale.

Tapjoy is redefining the ad experience on mobile. Learn about the crossover between console and mobile and about how mobile advertising is changing for the better in our interview.

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Stephanie Carmichael Twitter: @wita
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