Friday £5 - Dark Incursion, Bring Me Sandwiches, and more
The week's best iPhone and iPad games for a fiver
Inspiration is a funny thing. When it comes to developing apps, the games you love and the games you remember from your childhood directly influence the style and design of what you eventually produce.
We see this time and again this week. RocketCat directly name-drops Zelda and Secret of Mana in its description of 16-bit dungeon crawl Mage Gauntlet. Dark Incursion, meanwhile, desperately wants to be a Metroidvania, like the Nintendo and Konami titles that are referenced in the genre's name.
Other games are less direct - Bike Baron is Joe Danger by any other name, but the developer would probably rather keep that quiet. Bring Me Sandwiches stinks of Katamari Damacy, but it's repackaged in such a unique way that it feels like evolution rather than revolution.
Anyway - enough jibber jabbering. This is Friday £5, where we try and squeeze as many apps as possible out of a five pound note. Wish us luck.
Universal - 69p - ustwo
Within minutes of loading it up, you can tell that Whale Trail - a trippy endless runner from London design studio ustwo - has some strong personalities behind it.
That's certainly true. It's the brainbaby of pink-wigged "Big Wonka" mills™, and the catchy soundtrack is by electro pop Welshman and ex-Super Furry Animals voice box Gruff Rhys. The whole set-up just screams out 'kooky'.
The actual gameplay is a little more predictable. Willow the Whale swims through the clouds, gobbling up colourful bubbles which he turns into fuel (by farting them out as rainbows contrails, natch).
You can also do loop-the-loops and get into an invincible frenzy, but its essentially about carefully guiding Willow away from nasty clouds, into rainbow fuel, and as far as possible before you finally fluff it up. It's casual but fun, and more than a little addictive.
It's also backed up by gorgeous cartoon visuals, a garish assault from the entire colour pallette, and that brain-rotting background bop that you'll be humming for weeks.
iPhone - £1.49 - RocketCat Games
RocketCat Games - it of HookChamp, Super QuickHook, and Hook Worlds fame - has finally hung up its hook. But, in Mage Gauntlet, the indie firm's debut in a post-hook world, the studio's sharp wit, top visuals, and bizarre obsession with hats is retained.
It's a dungeon-crawling, loot-grabbing, monster-mashing action-RPG, influenced by a pixel-heavy generation of Super Nintendo classics like Secret of Mana and Zelda. It's a fast-paced affair, and, in the developer's own words, "doesn't waste your time with fetch quests".
When you're not yapping to an ensemble cast of wacky fantasy tropes, you'll spend much of your time in dungeons - ones that are filled to the brim with equal parts monsters and loot. These bits and bobs upgrade your character, and there are a whopping 110 hats to find, too.
Universal - 69p - Mountain Sheep
Bike Baron, from Mountain Sheep, is another title from that growing lineage of rock-hard stunt bike sims that have you carefully twisting and levelling and accelerating and braking to bound over obstacles.
There's no doubt about it: Bike Baron takes more than a little influence from a certain dangerous bloke named Joe. But, then again, nut-crushingly difficult motorbike time wasters have existed for aeons, so who's counting?
You'll need the patience of a monk and the dexterity of a prostrate surgeon to keep the Baron level and on track, while simultaneously collecting monster gold coins and avoiding explosive barrels. It's a hard game to master, but there's a serious sense of reward when you finally overcome the monster learning curve.
You've got over 100 challenges to sink your teeth into (played out on 40 different tracks), but the fun doesn't stop there. A built-in level editor lets you make even more death-defying fun runs, which you can then share online.
Bring Me Sandwiches
iPhone - 69p - Adult Swim
Twisted game studio Adult Swim is back once again, with another inspired collaboration. We last saw the team hook up with Kiwi creator PikPok for the excellent Monsters Ate My Condo, and now the developer has got into bed with Wispin-maker Grumpyface Studios.
This is the sordid love spawn that was produced. It's called Bring Me Sandwiches, and it's a bonkers take on Katamari Damacy. You play as fast food dude Jimmy Nugget, who's commissioned - by the President, of course - to make sarnies and deliver them to aliens.
In each of this platform game's stages, you'll need to pick up a slice of bread and then fill it to bursting point with all manner of garbage (milkshake cups, flowers, fruit, soccer balls) until it's big enough to satisfy. Then, you have to find the exit point and deliver that monster sanger to that monster alien.
In true Katamari style, you'll soon be wielding bigger slices of bread that let you carry bigger items - trash cans, TV sets, wooden boxes, watermelons, and the like - plus nuisance protestors who will try to topple your towering trash-filled skyscraper. Fast, funny, and cute.
Universal - £1.49 - Big Blue Bubble
Dark Incursion is sort of a Metroidvania. That's an awkward genre name used to describe games that ape Metroid and Castlevania's open-world, exploration-heavy majesty. Dark Incursion sort of does. A bit.
What it definitely is, however, is a side-scrolling shooter with different areas to explore, items to pick up, special powers to find, and keys to hunt down. It's not linear, and it encourages you to pick your own style of play. So, it's a bit of a Metroidvania. In some ways.
You play as Anya, a red-haired lass in a steampunk Victorian era, in a country wrapped in industrial revolution, but drenched in a violent world war. You've got to cut down endless trench coat-wearing troops on your way towards a secret bunker.
You've got a gun and a sword and a pair of pins for jumping, but a system of fuses gives you the ability to upgrade your skills - for a short time. Pick up these glass tubes of juice and you can enhance your abilities (make you run faster, build platforms out of ice, take less damage) for as long as the fuse lasts. It encourages exploration.
Dark Incursion doesn't quite have the intimidatingly monstrous world of Metroid. Nor does it have a ruddy map. The controls aren't perfect, either, but it's a fun take on the genre for iOS fans, and certainly offers up a stonking big bit of game for a cheap price. It's certainly worth further investigation.Total spent: £5.05 Gack! 5p over! That's going to come off my wages...