DataPoint: Is FunPlus’ Family Farm Zynga’s Next Rival?

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This week brought news that the social gaming company DianDian Interactive, otherwise known as FunPlus, raised $74 million in a Series B round. It’s the largest funding round for a social gaming company in nearly a decade.

FunPlus board member Richard Lim told The Wall Street Journal that the company did not want to do an IPO, choosing instead to remain private. The funds will be used to launch more games, and to expand its offices in Beijing, San Francisco and Vancouver. Although the company is based in China, most of its revenue comes from players in North America and Europe.

The developer’s success is in large part due to its “Family Farm” franchise. According to Mediabistro’s research tool AppData, Family Farm on Facebook has seen about 20 percent growth in both monthly active users (MAUs) and daily active users (DAUs) this year alone. Even though Zynga’s Farmville dwarfs the Family Farm games in terms of users, Farmville’s MAU and DAU have declined 66 percent and 60 percent, respectively. Farmville 2, which has more users than Farmville, has also declined this year: MAUs are down 42 percent and DAUs are down 38 percent.

The games from FunPlus are showing high engagement as well. Family Farm Seaside has a DAU/MAU engagement of over 35 percent, compared to 18 percent for Farmville, and 20 percent for Farmville 2. Family Farm, another game from FunPlus, has a DAU/MAU engagement of 19 percent this year.

Will FunPlus be able to ride its farming game wave to the top like Zynga? Having raised $87 million so far, it certainly seems possible.

For more information about AppData click here, or call 415-230-2558.

Endless running with violence in Punch Quest

Punch Quest is a new iOS release from Rocketcat Games. It was developed in collaboration with Paul “Madgarden” Pridham, who was previously responsible for the quality dungeon crawler Sword of Fargoal, which recently successfully mounted a Kickstarter campaign to develop a sequel. Punch Quest is available now as a free download with additional in-app purchases of in-game currency.

Punch Quest shares many traits in common with the “endless running” genre but focuses more on arcade-style violence rather than avoiding obstacles. The player character automatically runs from right to left; tapping on the left side of the screen unleashes a jumping uppercut move, while tapping the right side causes a punching attack that temporarily accelerates the player forwards. Connecting attacks in rapid succession without taking damage builds up a combo meter; allowing this to expire over time or taking a hit causes it to be reset and a score bonus being received according to how big the combo was.

As the player progresses, a “level” counter in the upper-left corner of the screen gradually increases, with the game becoming increasingly challenging the longer it continues. Tougher enemies appear, more traps show themselves and more intricate “platforming” segments start to tax the player’s reflexes. Sometimes, the player can discover special “Egg” items which, when broken, unlock a temporary twist on the game’s usual formula, perhaps by transforming the player into a somersaulting gnome or allowing them to ride a laser-spitting dinosaur. These interludes are only temporary, however, for taking any damage causes the player’s transformation to end and a return to the usual gameplay.

Progression through the game is measured in a couple of ways. Firstly, the player earns “Punchos” through normal play (or through in-app purchase), which can be spent on various special abilities and visual customizations. Secondly, the game incorporates a Jetpack Joyride- style “Quest” system, whereby three objectives are active at any one time, with large Puncho rewards on offer for their successful completion. These objectives cover a wide variety of possibilities besides simply surviving a certain amount of time or defeating a certain number of enemies — many of them are specifically designed to introduce the player to how the various special moves work, and indeed when a new objective that requires the use of a special ability shows up, the player is walked through the purchasing process via a trail left by the game’s garden gnome mascot.

The game’s social features include the ability to tweet one’s final score upon completion of a run, a facility which uses iOS 5+’s built-in Twitter functionality and one of a randomly-chosen bank of preset messages, and Game Center compatibility. If the player is using iOS 6, they are able to make use of Game Center’s new direct challenge facility, whereby they can send a high score challenge to a friend, even if that friend does not yet own the game. It’s an effective means of viral promotion, and of placing a greater emphasis on Game Center’s often-overlooked leaderboards.

Punch Quest is an excellent, well-designed and highly-playable mobile game, but it has a couple of flaws which mar the experience a little. Firstly, the game’s “platforming” sections are, at times, a little too intricate to be navigated with the game’s imprecise “jumping” (or, more accurately, uppercutting) controls, occasionally leading to seemingly unavoidable deaths. Secondly, and perhaps more seriously, a bug in the game’s menu interface means that navigating away from the end-game statistics screen (to the in-game shop, for example) and back again causes the player’s score to be forgotten. It’s still recorded on the Game Center leaderboards, but so far as the statistics screen in concerned, the player scored zero points for their last run, making it impossible to tweet their achievement if they got a particularly impressive score. This will hopefully be fixed promptly in an update.

These issues aside, however, Punch Quest is one of the best titles on iOS. Its individual play sessions are short and snappy; its monetization is solid but unobtrusive; its social features are optional but encourage both friendly competition and viral promotion; its presentation is excellent, with an endearing “retro” aesthetic; and it doesn’t limit the player’s enjoyment through heavy-handed mechanics such as energy systems. It’s a fine example of how to handle free-to-play mobile gaming extremely well, and serves as an excellent example for future developers to follow.

Get on down with Funky Smugglers

Funky Smugglers is a new iOS and Android game from 11 Bit Studios, a Polish developer best known for its “tower offense” game Anomaly: Warzone Earth. It’s available now as a paid download from the App Store and Google Play. There’s also a Mac version available from the Mac App Store for the same price. This review is based on the iOS version, tested on an iPhone 4S.

Funky Smugglers is a simple swipe-based game of reflexes, somewhat similar to Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja but with its own twist. Players are tasked with removing contraband items from a series of colorful characters who wander past an on-screen airport X-Ray scanner, and must do so without accidentally removing any permitted items. Contraband items are marked in red and permitted items in green — not ideal for color-blind players, but the objects are also visually distinctive from one another. To remove items, the player must simply “flick” them off the screen.

The player has three lives with which to score as many points as possible. A life is lost every time a contraband item is allowed through or a permitted item is removed — at this stage, all the items from the next few passengers disappear to give the player a momentary reprieve. Occasionaly, remote-control helicopters carrying powerups fly through the scanner — some of these allow the player to recover lost lives, while others provide other gameplay benefits.

The key to attaining high scores in Funky Smugglers is its “combo” system — by tapping and holding rather than flicking items off the screen one at a time, the player can collect several at once. There is a time limit preventing the player from doing this for too long, however — allowing this to expire will lose the player the combo bonus they have acquired by collecting the items. The timer may be reset by throwing and catching the items without flicking them off the screen. It is possible to upgrade the amount of time the player has available to complete a combo in a single touch by expending in-game currency, which is earned at a good rate through play and may also be acquired via in-app purchase.

The game is built for social play. The iOS version has Game Center compatibility and supports iOS 6′s Challenge feature directly from within the app. “Team Battles” are also scheduled regularly, allowing players to pledge allegiance to one of two humorously-named teams and contribute their score to the global totals. These also serve as a means of viral promotion — the player has the option of posting Team Battle information to Facebook and Twitter, and friends liking or retweeting the post in question earns the player’s team additional points.

All in all, Funky Smugglers is an excellent mobile game. It’s simple to understand and quick to play but enormously addictive in the same way that established classics like Fruit Ninja are. Its mechanics are recognizable and understandable but have their own original twist, and the presentation is exemplary. Couple this with the solid social features and unobtrusive additional monetization and you have a package that will hopefully see some success both critically and commercially.

Funky Smugglers is currently ranked at No. 367 in Top Paid Apps and No. 174 on the iOS App Store. On Android it is ranked at No. 234 in the Paid Games chart. Follow its progress on both platforms with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social appps and developers.

Car chaos returns with Carmageddon for iOS

Carmageddon is a new iOS release from Stainless Games. It’s a port of a PC game from the late ’90s, which has itself been recently been rereleased on digital distribution platform GOG.com, and which has a Kickstarter-funded official sequel on the way. Carmageddon for iOS, referred to as “Carmageddon funsize” by the developer, is available now from the App Store and is free for a single day in appreciation of the many Kickstarter backers’ generosity, after which it will become a paid app with additional in-app purchases to unlock content early.

Carmageddon is ostensibly a racing game, but the reality is a little more complex. Players drive cars, yes, and it is possible to progress through the game by simply completing laps of various courses, but this is actively discouraged at every opportunity. It is also possible to win each of the game’s 36 different events by destroying all of the opposing cars or running over every pedestrian on the map. These latter two options are actively encouraged through time and in-game currency bonuses — and in fact it is almost impossible to complete most of the races in a traditional lap-based manner without causing at least a little chaos along the way to build up a bank of time.

Carmageddon’s 36 events take place across 11 different environments, each of which is a large, “open world” themed map which players may drive around freely. The “course,” such as it is, is clearly marked via both road signs and an in-game map, but the player has absolutely no obligation to follow this and may instead wreak havoc wherever they wish. The computer-controlled opponents will generally gravitate towards the area the player is in, and there is no way to “lose” the race — the only means of failure is through either running out of time or having one’s car destroyed.

Carmageddon makes use of a semi-realistic physics-based driving model. Cars have a realistic feeling of “weight” about them, and much like a real car, when driving flat out at top speed they do not go around corners very well. The player has several different control schemes at their disposal to attempt to tame the various drivable beasts in the game, ranging from digital left/right and accelerate/decelerate controls to analog and tilt variations. Controls may be mixed and matched between analog, digital and tilt for steering and acceleration separately, and any selected on-screen controls may be freely repositioned to fit the player’s needs.

Additional gestures provide access to specific functions — tapping the car damage icon in the corner of the screen repairs the vehicle using earned currency, for example, while a two-finger tap on a car that has got itself stuck or landed on its roof recovers it, again using in-game currency. Swiping from the left of the screen brings up the map, while swiping from the right brings up the Instant Replay interface, from which players may edit a short movie of their most recent carnage and then either save it or upload it to YouTube. In all cases, a promotional splash screen is added to the end of the video.

Carmageddon’s visuals have been significantly improved from the PC original. Car models appear to have higher polygon counts, the screen resolution is higher, the frame rate is smoother and the lighting is considerably better. Backgrounds and environments still look rather dated, meaning this isn’t the best looking game on iOS by any means, but the speed and fluidity more than make up for that. The menu interface between races has also been completely redesigned for touch controls rather than simply adapting the PC original’s mouse-driven menus.

While the iOS version does not feature the multiplayer modes of the PC original, a swathe of Game Center features allow players to compete in an asynchronous manner — particularly if  both players have upgraded to iOS 6 with its new Challenge and Share features in Game Center. Several leaderboards track player performance both in terms of overall career performance and in terms of biggest/fastest wins in an individual event. A series of achievements also provide specific challenges for players to take on as well as encouraging them to try out all the features the game has to offer.

Carmageddon has been extremely well adapted to the iOS platform. The flexible controls coupled with the gameplay that is just as solid as it was back in the late ’90s make it an immensely entertaining — if gratuitously violent — game, and as a happy side-effect for Stainless Software, people playing this version will keep the brand visible and prominent as they continue to work on the upcoming sequel.

Carmageddon is not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards due to its recent release. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Catch ‘em all (again) with Mo’Monsters

Mo’Monsters is yet another entry into the quickly growing sub-category of Pokémon inspired monster-capturing games. Developed by San Francisco-based startup Rumpus, the title is available now from the iTunes App Store as a free download with a wide variety of additional in-app purchases.

Much like Pokémon, in Mo’Monsters players travel the world in an attempt to collect a varied team of monsters, each of whom is based around a particular element. Combat unfolds in a turn-based manner, with various monster elements being weak and strong against others in a “rock, paper, scissors” fashion.

Unlike Pokémon however, which is a traditional Japanese-style role-playing game at its core, Mo’Monsters takes a much simpler approach, with players progressing through a linear series of challenges that are unlocked one at a time. Each challenge tasks players with battling against — and possibly capturing — a variety of different monsters. The eventual aim of the game is to capture all of the “dark monsters” that are terrorizing the land.

In battle, the player’s team of monsters lines up on the left side of the screen and the enemies on the right. Combatants take it in turns to unleash attacks of various types. Using basic attacks builds up action points, which may be used to unleash more powerful special abilities. It’s also possible to make use of items, mostly for healing purposes. Successfully unleashing attacks often causes collectible items to pop out of enemies, rewarding the player with experience, coins or health bonuses that must be tapped on in order to claim. Defeating a monster rewards the player’s team with additional collectibles, while knocking a monster’s health down opens up the possibility of capturing it and adding it to the player’s team — though this requires that the player have some “Fluxboxes” in their possession. Different types of Fluxbox are available, with those that cost hard currency offering a higher chance of successful capture.

Between battle, the player may make use of the in-game shop to purchase various items to improve their chances. A “Starter Bundle” provides the player with a package of gems, soft currency and an exclusive monster. Individual “dark monsters” may also be acquired via in-app purchase if the player desires, and real money may be spent on acquiring either soft or hard currency. Small quantities of hard currency may also be exchanged for soft currency and in fact this represents better value for the player than the equivalent soft currency package — though the inconvenience of having to perform this action in such small quantities may convince the player to just go for the more expensive packages up front.

Mo’Monsters is clearly designed primarily to extract as much money from its players as possible by making everything just slightly too expensive to be practical if playing for free. While this is a strategy that has worked for many mobile developers recently, players are starting to get wise to it, and it often draws criticism from App Store reviewers. Moreover, it’s simply a rather manipulative means of monetizing the game that isn’t very friendly to the player and doesn’t do much to build up goodwill. The game is, at least, up-front about its desire for the player’s cash — even before the actual gameplay has started, the player has the option of spending $1.99 on a more powerful starter monster without any indication of the benefits this will provide aside from the fact it’s more visually striking than the other two options.

Technical issues also blight the game throughout — it suffers from lengthy loading breaks, even on high-performance hardware such as the iPhone 4S, and it frequently freezes. In one tutorial battle, the game froze for a full ten seconds before continuing for no apparent reason. It does not appear to be streaming data from the Internet, as these issues persisted even with the device in airplane mode — the only difference was an on-screen popup saying “you should really find the nearest Wi-Fi spot.” These issues can destroy the pacing of a game, so it should be a priority for Rumpus to fix whatever is causing these problems as soon as possible if they would like to retain players.

Ultimately, Mo’Monsters has some nice ideas but is rather too obvious about its desire to get into the player’s wallet to be truly enjoyable. It has an appealing visual style and good presentation, but the technical and monetization issues mean that its future is, at present, somewhat questionable. With some solid updates to make the game perform better and be more friendly to players, there could be a good game here — as of now, however, it’s one to skip past.

Due to its recent release, Mo’Monsters is not yet ranked on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Fight to become Lord of the Dragons on iOS

Lord of the Dragons is a new card battle-style RPG for iOS devices from KLab Global. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store.

Card battle RPGs are typically highly successful, highly profitable titles for their developers, but also often severely lacking on the gameplay front. Lord of the Dragons is certainly no exception in that regard, but it’s worth noting that it does feature significantly better presentation than many other examples of this genre. The impressive introduction sequence followed by the stirring (if repetitive) orchestral soundtrack and the striking Retina-display graphics certainly give the game a significant degree of audio-visual polish. Unfortunately, great visuals and sound are not enough to disguise the fact that this is yet another game where the player’s sole interaction involves repeatedly tapping on the screen until something happens or they run out of energy.

As per usual for this style of game, Lord of the Dragons is split into a player vs environment Quest mode and a player vs player Battle mode. In Quest mode, players are given a linear series of quests to complete by repeatedly tapping to continue and occasionally tapping to fight a boss. As the player progresses through these quests, they collect additional warrior cards to add to their deck, which in turn may be used to increase their attack and defense statistics. In order to defeat bosses and other players in Battle mode, it is necessary to ensure these statistics are as high as possible, but this is about the extent of the strategy that the game incorporates — it is, as usual, no more than a numbers game. Incentive to remain competitive in Battle mode is provided by “collection items” — sets which may be stolen from other players by fighting them and which reward them with special bonuses when collected in their entirety.

One interesting twist on the usual formula in the Quest mode is that it’s possible to run in to other players along the way, making the experience feel a little less “lonely.” Upon encountering another player, it’s possible to join their guild, battle them or send them a message. It’s a good addition to the otherwise-stale formula that helps make the experience feel a lot more “massively multiplayer” than usual.

Despite its impressive presentation, Lord of the Dragons is prone to the same issues that its peers suffer from — besides the shallow, uninteresting gameplay, lengthy loading times and large use of data are a big issue. The game regularly pauses to stream data from the Internet, ranging from background images to icons for collectible items. The game would immediately look a lot more polished if this data were actually included in the app download itself rather than having to repeatedly break to load it during play.

Ultimately, Lord of the Dragons adds very little to the card battle RPG genre. While the good presentation and the addition of player encounters to the otherwise solo “Quest” experience are both good points, the fact that the rest of the game is just as shallow and tedious as its peers makes this one to skip past with confidence.

Lord of the Dragons is currently the No. 115 on the free iPhone games chart, No. 49 on the overall top grossing app chart and No. 39 in the top grossing games category. Readers can track its progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Tiliard brings innovative pool-style puzzling to iOS

Tiliard is a new iOS game from Slovakian developer 2 Key Players. It’s available now as a $0.99 Universal download from the App Store.

Tiliard’s core concept is similar to pool/billiards. Players are presented with a grid-based table atop which sit a number of colored, numbered “object tiles.” By tapping the screen to place a “cue tile” adjacent to one of these object tiles then tapping again, the player may move the tiles around. When struck by the cue tile, object tiles will move a number of squares equal to the number printed on them and will bounce off the cushions at the side of the screen. Like real billiard balls, if they strike each other they will also transfer force between them. Unlike real billiard balls, however, placing the cue tile between two object tiles will cause them both to shoot off in opposite directions, raising the possibility for some interesting trick shots.

The aim of the game is to pot all of the object tiles in as few moves as possible. Each level has a tiered rating system according to how many moves the player took to complete it — achieving “star” rating requires the player to find the “perfect” solution, using the absolute minimum number of moves to clear the table. Upon successfully completing a table, the player is able to share their achievement using iOS 5 and up’s built-in Twitter functionality, including a text-based representation of the solution they used.

Tiliard uses an attractive retro aesthetic, with sound effects reminiscent of 8-bit computers and simple but attractive Retina display graphics with clean, sharp edges. The look works well in the context of the game, which is also pleasingly old-school in its sensibilities — it’s a simple concept that is gradually developed over the course of the many and varied levels. As the player progresses and becomes more proficient in various techniques, the game introduces different types of tiles and more complex puzzles to provide an increasing level of challenge to the player.

The game features Game Center compatibility for achievements. Most of these are of the “complete [x] amount of game” variety, but there are a couple that carry intriguing cryptic clues, offering an additional layer of “meta-challenges” atop the base game.

2 Key Players clearly has a roadmap in mind for Tiliard’s future development. The level select screen shows that additional level sets are coming soon, and the game’s main menu carries a button for a table editor which is not yet implemented. It’s not yet clear whether this facility will allow players to share their creations online, but this would certainly be a good idea. Tapping the table editor button at this time prompts users to rate the game, which is a much less obtrusive method of soliciting feedback than uninvited popups or borderline “bribery” with in-game currency.

In its current state, Tiliard is an excellent puzzle game — a real hidden gem of the App Store that deserves to see some success, and one that will only improve over time with continued developer support. Whether or not it will find that success remains to be seen, as it is a title coming from an unknown developer into the fast-moving and highly competitive App Store market, but its originality, excellent and distinctive presentation, entertaining gameplay and respect for its players are all factors worthy of a considerable amount of praise.

Tiliard is not yet featured in any App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Murder Room gives players a horror-themed room escape challenge

Murder Room is a new iOS and Android game from Japanese developer Ateam Inc. The game is a first-person perspective “room escape” adventure game, and is set for release today on the App Store and Google Play.

In Murder Room, players are cast in the role of an anonymous character who finds themself trapped in a room with what appears to be a murderer defiling a body with a chainsaw. Through interacting with various elements around the game world, the player must do their best to escape from the dangerous situation.

Controlling Murder Room is similar to the many other Japanese “room escape” games available on mobile devices. Tapping on objects in the game world examines or interacts with them, and collectible items will be automatically picked up when tapped on. If an appropriate item is put “in hand” before interacting with something, the item will be used accordingly. Swiping left and right on the screen rotates the player’s viewpoint to different perspectives on the room, and swiping from top to bottom allows the player to leave any “zoomed in” views they may have triggered by tapping on an interactive item.

Puzzles vary from simply figuring out which items might be helpful in a given situation to elaborate cryptic clues that may be scattered across several objects. There is a set order in which the player is expected to complete the various tasks, and this can, at times, lead to confusion — for example, early in the game there is a newspaper article sitting atop a cooker, and examining it before one is “supposed to” it triggers the confusing comment “I don’t have time to read it now. I should give it a read.”

The game features a hint system whereby players may purchase clues for their given situation using in-game currency. The player is provided with a limited amount of these coins upon starting the game for the first time, and following the expenditure of this allowance they may get additional coins for free by downloading another Ateam game called Ellie, making use of a Tapjoy offer wall, downloading cross-promoted apps via Flurry, sharing a link to the game on Twitter or Liking it on Facebook. Coins may also be acquired through in-app purchase, as may an additional story once the player has completed the first challenge.

Murder Room is an atmospheric game with moody sound, impressive (though non-animated) graphic novel-style visuals and a palpable sense of menace. The game appears to use its supposed “extreme horror” as a selling point, which is arguably somewhat questionable, but its unabashed goriness will likely appeal to a particular demographic. As with most other Japanese-developed room escape games, it is enormously challenging and not always obvious exactly what the player is supposed to do, but for fans of the genre this is part of the charm. For those more used to getting helpful feedback from their adventure games, however, Murder Room may prove to be a little too obtuse.

Murder Room is set for release later today. Check back shortly to follow its progress through the App Store and Google Play charts with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Tiny stunt racing in Pocket Trucks

Pocket Trucks is a new iOS game from Ganymede. It’s available now as a $0.99 paid app from the App Store, and runs on pretty much everything from an iPhone 3GS upwards.

Pocket Trucks is a side-on perspective stunt racing game similar to popular titles like Trials HD on consoles and Bike Baron on mobile. In each of the game’s levels, players must successfully navigate their toy truck from the left side of the level to the right while attempting not to run afoul of the numerous traps scattered over the course, and simultaneously attempting to collect as many bolts as possible. At the end of each course, the player is rewarded with between one and three stars according to how quickly they completed the level.

The game’s controls are handled by four fixed on-screen buttons — two on the right of the screen allow for acceleration and braking/reversing, while two on the left allow the truck’s weight to be shifted and rotated while it is in the air. If the player collects a powerup while traversing the course, an additional button appears to trigger the powerup. Powerups vary in functionality from speed boosters to wings that allow the truck to “jump” over an obstacle. Most levels contain several possible routes, some of which require powerups to access.

Between levels, players are able to use their collected bolts to upgrade their vehicle. New vehicles may be unlocked either via leveling up through good performance in the races or by expending the game’s hard currency coins, available via in-app purchase. Users may also customize their existing vehicle by purchasing parts with either hard or soft currency.

Pocket Trucks has an impressive amount of content on offer for its low price of admission — there are four “cups” for players to work through, each with at least 20 levels. As the player progresses through the game, new types of event open up, ranging from the simple time-trials the game opens with to races against computer-controlled opponents. There’s no live multiplayer mode, but achievement and leaderboard support via Game Center allows players to indirectly compete against one another — particularly now that iOS 6 has added the facility to share Game Center data via Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email or challenge opponents to complete a specific task. Unfortunately, the leaderboards have already fallen foul of hacking/cheating players, with the current No. 1 player listed as having 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 points, which is implausible if not completely impossible to attain.

Pocket Trucks is a decent game. While the concept of a stunt racer isn’t anything particularly new in the mobile space, it is executed well and the “toy truck” aesthetic puts an endearing “Micro Machines” twist on the gameplay. From the developers’ perspective, the game has strong monetization potential through its visual customization and upgrades, though dedicated players will not need to spend additional money on the game if they are willing to work at progressing. Overall, it’s a good quality package that fits in well with iOS growing game library, and will likely pick up a modest but dedicated following as time goes on — particularly if it is updated regularly with new content.

Pocket Trucks is currently ranked at No. 284 in the Top Paid iPad Games chart. It is not ranked in any other leaderboards at the time of writing. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.

Sneak and evade in Critter Escape

Critter Escape is a new mobile game from Kiz Studios. The game is available as a paid app on iOS, published by Chillingo, and an ad-supported free app on Android, self-published by the developers. This review is based on the Android version.

This game was tested on a Motorola Xoom running Android 4.0.4. No compatibility issues were encountered and the game’s polygonal 3D visuals ran extremely fluidly.

Critter Escape is a maze-based stealth game in which the player is tasked with helping one of the titular “Critters” — small, rubbery orange creatures who bear a slight resemblance to the “Starlings” from Digital Chocolate’s Galaxy Life — to escape from a scientific facility where it has been locked up. The game begins with an impressive animated sequence and then proceeds through a simple tutorial where the player is introduced to the basics of the game, and then the player is straight into a series of increasingly-difficult challenges. In each, the player has three tasks — escape from the level via the specially-marked door, find a hidden crystal, and complete a specific “challenge” such as remaining undetected by enemies or completing the level within a time limit. The player only has to complete the “escape” task to complete the level, but attaining the other goals rewards the player with additional stars, which are subsequently used to unlock later levels.

Critter Escape has two control schemes — a virtual on-screen joystick allows for players to take direct control of the Critter, while a “line-drawing” mode caters to those who prefer to plan their routes rather than control them directly. Both have their advantages and disadvantages — the joystick is accurate but demands players keep their finger on screen while moving; the line-drawing mode allows for planning an entire level’s movements in advance but is inaccurate, particularly when drawing at speed.

As the player progresses through the game, the complexity increases. Collectible items are introduced, allowing the Critter to turn itself invisible, engage in combat with enemies or run at double speed, and levels become increasingly labyrinthine. Optionally, the player may spend crystals they have acquired to immediately award themselves a powerup, regardless of whether it is present in the level. Crystals may also be spent on visual customization of the Critter, and form the backbone of the game’s monetization strategy. All levels can theoretically be completed without having to spend gems on powerups, but the ability to do so allows less skilled players to make constant progress if they’re willing to drop a bit of extra cash on the game.

The game features an impressive amount of content. The story unfolds across three main chapters, with each unlocked by earning a particular amount of stars in total. There is also a “bonus levels” pack which players can unlock a little at a time with various star milestones.

Critter Escape is an excellent game. Its polygonal 3D visuals are packed with character and it offers a strong, original challenge that will particularly appeal to fans of stealth-based core gamer franchises like Metal Gear Solid. It carries an impressive amount of content and monetizes in such a way that it will allow the developers to earn a decent income from virtual goods while not spoiling the experience for those who do not wish to make in-app purchases. It deserves to enjoy some success — all it needs to do now is to pick up some users.

The iOS version of Critter Escape is not yet ranked in the App Store leaderboards at the time of writing. The Android version, meanwhile, is ranked at No. 191 in the Arcade Game category. Follow both versions’ progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

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