Testing Room - Game releases that almost go unnoticed

Showcasing the more obscure games we play

Struggling to keep up with the new game releases on the App Store? Some of the simpler indie games I get to play aren't meaty enough for the usual in-depth look of a full review. There are too many and too good to miss out. I'm opening the doors to my very own Testing Room, the folder on my iOS devices where I check out the new games and apps I have downloaded. Hopefully this will be a good way to share some first impressions on a handful of games that deserve your attention.

Fill More!

Classic games are remembered for a reason. Based on the puzzle game called Filler from the Soviet Union, Fill More! brings the success formula to the iOS platform. In a board split into hundreds of tiles, two opponents compete to conquer the majority of the space in a race against the clock. Each player — either AI or a friend on the same device or Game Center — will take turns and decide what is the best course of expansion. This is done by selecting the colour of the tile adjacent to your territory, automatically extending your frontiers as further as you can.

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While the presentation is a bit crude, the gameplay is absolutely fantastic. The bite-sized levels introduce you to the mechanics to what seems very overwhelming, but it's actually not. Not every game with hexagons is hardcore, you know? The outcome of every run is completely unexpected so you might find yourself completing a level winning by a very narrow margin. Once you have experimented with different strategies, the tournament mode gives you more options for customisation and a competitive edge introducing leaderboards.

The developer Alois Holub says he was inspired by the classic Filler and decided to come up with his own version not satisfied with the level of some clones available on the App Store. Some work has gone into creating three differentiated AIs, which is a good thing as it can be tricky to find Game Center opponents. The quick fiery gameplay is also slowed down waiting for moves in asynchronous multiplayer style. A good idea would be to recognise the defeat or victory when it's impossible for the other party to conquer more tiles to defeat you, like an auto-surrender option. Overall very good fun and could do even better for a wider audience with friendlier graphics.

Attack of the Spooklings

Presented as a resistance exercise to protect a village from endless waves of awful creatures, Attack of the Spooklings throws enemies from the top of the screen for you to swipe and slash before they get to the bottom. In what appear at first randomly generated waves, the immediate goal is to stop the invasion. Simply swipe your finger on the screen in any fashion to dismember the spooklings. The second objective, which brings life the the game, is chaining combos by destroying whole packs of enemies with the same swipe.

Hectic as no other, the game begins at a high pace allowing for little planning or preparation. In fact, the panic of the situation is the one driving you to swipe randomly and miss the valuable combos. The villagers aren't lovers of risk so they'll reward you for near-miss hits close to the defence walls that unlock more score multipliers.

Quick and easy to pick up, Attack of the Spooklings is crying for an extra layer of complexity using things like power ups, quick-time events or some bonuses to strengthen your walls. The simplicity of the gameplay is just asking for more things to do other than swiping. Otherwise, the presentation is superb, boasting very charming pixel art style along a chiptune theme song to get you in the mood. Small details like the way the hordes move in groups will touch some nostalgic part of your brain.

By the way, the creators Picaro Game Studio could also be a good example of the indie game dev scene in Barcelona I wrote about before.

Iron Sky Invasion

Based on the 2012 movie of the same name, Iron Sky Invasion brings to iOS the whacky sci-fi story that puts Nazis in the moon. Seeing the special effects and design put into those spaceship designs you wouldn't say they don't take themselves too seriously. What we get today is the mobile version of the movie tie-in previously released for consoles and PCs in the same of a space gallery shooter under a Nazi futuristic theme. Being such a fan of the space trader and galactic dogfight Galaxy on Fire, I couldn't miss this one.

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Topware Interactive and Reality Pump Studios have put together a level-based space combat simulator with a strong arcade feel well suited to the naturally shorter mobile experience. Iron Sky Invasion really shines in the visual department with fantastically rendered ships and environmental effects — those explosions are some of the best I've seen on the App Store. The controls are very fluid and the action fantastically smooth on Apple's latest devices.

Reduced to 18 missions with a variety of seven Earth ships with their own twists and crannies, the game focuses on the dogfighting, playing on your own agains a set amount of enemies and varied objectives. These range from defending a ship, investigating new enemy units and spoil Nazi attacks to launch a meteor to Earth but are always boiled down to the same: coordinate the assault to a heavy armoured objective while dealing with the smaller faster enemy pilots.

For my taste the game leans too much on the arcade action and misses is the story elements that I believe are present on the console titles. Having accomplished such great performance, the shooting is fun, but without any background or plot to conduct the progression, you'll feel like you're completing three-star Angry Bird levels rather than the epic defence of Earth from the Moon Nazis.