• 8-Bit is Back, Baby! Part 2 of 2

    Fix-it Felix and League of Evil may be two of the best ‘bit’ game examples on the App Store, if only because Fix-it Felix is an 8-Bit game and League of Evil keeps the controls very limited. If you want a little bit more freedom when it comes to the genre, you’ve still got quite a few more options out there. If you want to be really lose with the classification, Zookeeper treads the line between classic bit-game and modern matching puzzler.


    This game is a bit more polished than the others, not truly being a ‘bit’ game at all. You’ll see nice, smooth edges and the graphics are much more refined than the old NES/SNES game ancestors, but the idea is there: block/pixel style art graphics where gameplay is king.

    In Zookeeper, you have to match animals to clear them off the board. It’s something we’ve seen before, but this particular match 3 game puts a nice little spin on it: versus gameplay. That’s right, beat your friends (and random, online strangers) at matching cute little animal heads in Zookeeper Battle.

    There are three types of attack animal and three of defence, each match of each subsequent type adding up to your final score which is pitte against your opponent at the end of each round. Your defence is subtracted for their attack and vice versa, the excess then being used to attack their health directly. You’ll also have one special animal each round that acts as both attack and defence, along with a few special squares that will clear a whole species off the board or highlight where possible matches are.

    If you choose to play the game alone, you’ll be introduced to new animals that make the matching process harder and slow your progress.

    The last two games didn’t really have a social interaction element to them, but Zookeper VS is all about the social - you’ll build up your profile by getting backgrounds and what not to define your in-game status, as well as keeping your win-ratio high. It’s a game that you can keep coming back to for casual matches, or a game that you can really sink hours into trying to beat your way to the top.

    It works on a freemium model, the amount of matches you can play being limited, a restriction you can bypass by purchasing the in-game currency or waiting it out.

    The key to most of the games on this list is their simplicity, Zookeeper most of all. You will find hundreds of matching games on the App Store, but a lot of you will be drawn to the cute and quirky Zookeeper, proving that plain graphics can beat out 3D renders with astounding visuals, so long as your concept is appealing.

    Tiny Tower

    The most popular pixel-based game on this list, Tiny Tower has been a consistent member of the top free apps list for quite some time. The popularity of this app spawned the company to making another, Pocket Planes, that did well (albeit not as well) too. Chances are, if you have an iPhone, you’ve probably had this game on your phone at some point, or maybe even still do.

    You’re given a tower to populate and run, building it up with residencies and commercial levels, your citizens finding jobs and propelling the economy of your tower forward. You’ll earn coins for each purchase made in your tower, each day from taxes and if you act as the elevator operator, taking visitors and prospective residents to their desired floor. You can use those coins to build new levels and to purchase more stock for your existing stores.

    Occasionally you’ll be given a chance to earn bux, the real currency used in game to purchase premium products (like speeding up restocks, building of new floors or importing residents). Some elevator riders will tip you in bux or you’ll be asked to find a resident in your tower for some reason and the reward will be bux. Every floor you build will also give you bux and rarely, a resident in your tower will have a birthday, giving you bux (for some reason). You can also use bux to buy new elevators that are faster.

    It doesn’t sound all that compelling, but once your tower gets into the 30 - 40 levels, you start getting attached to it. It takes two minutes to restock your levels so the amount of input into the game isn’t too high. You’ve also got little fringe add-ons like your tower residents’ facebook statuses - oops, I mean ‘BitBook’ - “Sometimes I wish I had more resolution”.

    Tiny Tower redecorated for Valentine's Day - isn't it lovely?

    If you like Tiny Tower, you’ll likely like NimbleBit’s Pocket Planes too - made by the same company, it’s got the same zany factor that makes Tiny Tower so likeable (that’s a lot of like for one sentence) . It actually features one of the best social models of this entire list in that you can create teams to complete time sensitive challenges, sort of like guilds in traditional MMOs. Tiny Tower has a share feature, but it's limited to just comparing your tower to your friends'.

    If social gaming is your thing, this whole list is likely to disappoint, but that holds true with the genre. In traditional gaming, consoles did not have wifi capabilities. Still, it would be nice for some richer communal interaction with these games - humanity as a whole is nostalgic and I think these would all be strengthened by basic social sharing features.

    Pixel People

    Pixel People is the most complex of all the apps on this list. The gameplay is somewhat convoluted and can take a while to fully grasp: I’ve been playing it for a week and I still don’t know all that much about it.

    From what I can gather, you are the mayor of a floating city in space where ‘land’ has to be imported to expand your city limits. You can pay in gold or in ‘Utopium’ to get that ‘land’ on which you can build houses or career-specific buildings. Each residential building will then give you access to clones which you splice in order to generate workers, each splicing giving you a unique career-oriented citizen. Each new career that you unlock can then be used to generate new careers, and so on. Also, each time you splice a new career-clone, you’ll get a new building. Each building will generate gold at a certain rate (dependent on how many workers are in there and the type of work done there, also on if you have a bank or not) and will then become idle after a predetermined period of time (also dependent on the type of building).

    There’s a lot more to it than that, ranging from collecting Utopium daily from your mine, creating decor lan pieces to up your city Spirit to then get discounts and looking out for love hearts from your residential buildings to collect animals (geez, this is a weird game). It’s all a little much, but it’s so endearing and charming that you sort of get swept up in it all.

    The experience curve is a little steep, the first few levels being relatively easy, while nearer to 10 or up the costs skyrocket and it becomes much harder to get land which is necessary to development in the game.

    Pixel People’s true strength lies in it’s humour. Each time you splice a new clone, you’ll be shown a card for that career with the clone’s name and a short description: my favourites so far are the architect, Bill Ding (I will never tell you how I met your mother) and Dan D’Lyons, the Florist (Roses are #FF0000, Violets are #0000FF).

    Some buildings will also have secret features, like the Astronomy centre letting you change the background (altering what part of space your city is found in) or the Sheriff's Office doubling up as the game’s credits (taking a look at some shifty ‘suspects’). You can even get Utopium from some buildings, if you’re willing to scrounge around for it. If you’re the kind of person who likes finding easter eggs in games, this is definitely up your alley.

    Can you believe that none of these games made MobilePhoneFinder’s essential apps list? If you think they’ve missed a vital app, petition @_kellycvieira to get it included.
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