iOS

Wibble Wobble puts a speedy puzzle twist on Yo-Kai Watch

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it’s difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we’ll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it’s really worth your time (and money).

If you need a break from Pokémon Go, there’s a new franchise in town that’s taking strong cues from its playbook: Yo-Kai Watch. The Japanese series, created by Level-5, has a Nintendo-published 3DS game, a colorful animated series, a couple of manga runs, and plenty of merchandise. Most crucially, it revolves around the same kind of “Gotta catch ‘em all” mentality based around accumulating and battling cute creatures. 

And just like Pokémon tested the mobile waters before Go, Yo-Kai Watch has made the transition to smartphones in the form of a puzzle game rather than a role-playing quest. Here, Yo-Kai Watch: Wibble Wobble blends the freeform, icon-connecting design of Disney Tsum Tsum with the kind of team-based battles seen in Puzzle & Dragons… and indeed, Pokémon Shuffle too.

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iOS

Dots & Co is a stylish puzzler that's chiller than most

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it’s difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we’ll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it’s really worth your time (and money).

Feeling overwhelmed by garish, freemium-fueled puzzle games like Candy Crush Saga and its successors? Two Dots is a favorite here at Macworld, as the beautifully minimal puzzler sets a chill tone while still offering a challenge, and doesn’t feel like it was designed and balanced specifically to sell in-app purchases.

And if you dig Two Dots, then you’ll definitely want to give a look to Dots & Co, the new follow-up that puts a few fresh twists on the dot-clearing formula. While you’ll still link together like-colored dots to clear them from view, Dots & Co introduces new companion characters that shake up the matching gameplay—and there are tweaks to the free-to-play model, as well.

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iOS

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger can't pump up the dull Mobile Strike

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it’s difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we’ll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it’s really worth your time (and money). 

I’ll admit, I put this particular Freemium Field Test entry off for a while. Mobile Strike has all the red flags: an utterly generic name, a reputation as a mindless free-to-play grind, and a big-budget ad campaign starring a celebrity—in this case, Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s the exact same playbook employed by Game of War: Fire Age, probably the least entertaining game I’ve covered in this column over the last year and a half.

fft mobilestrike main

The main map screen is hilariously cluttered, not only with mission timers but also constant ads for in-app purchases.

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iOS

Super Stickman Golf 3 is another winner, and worth the paid upgrade

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it’s difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we’ll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it’s really worth your time (and money).

Super Stickman Golf is one of the all-time iOS classics in my book, delivering a fun and fast-paced twist on the sport that makes perfect sense for mobile. By transforming the game into a streamlined side-scrolling experience, Noodlecake Studios one-upped the likes of EA’s old Tiger Woods series, which inelegantly squeezed a more traditional 3D simulation onto touch screens. 

The 2011 original was followed by an even larger sequel in 2013—and then the delightful Flappy Golf, a silly-yet-amazing Flappy Bird riff—and now we’ve arrived at Super Stickman Golf 3. No surprise here: It’s fantastic fun, lightly enhancing and expanding upon the familiar formula. But unlike the first two games, it’s a free-to-play game from day one, which means it’s up to you whether you swing open your wallet to drop some cash into the game.

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iOS

Rodeo Stampede is a rollicking romp with a fine freemium model

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it’s difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we’ll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it’s really worth your time (and money). 

Two intense animal stampedes have weighed heavily on my mind of late. The first is from The Lion King, and in case you somehow haven’t seen the 22-year-old Disney animated classic, I won’t spoil the moment for you—but it packs an emotional wallop. My kid is three years old and loves the music, but I’m agonizing over how long I need to keep the actual film from him because of that scene above all.

fft rodeo stampede savannah

Don’t count on being atop that elephant for long—he’ll stop and launch you once he gets a little steamed.

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iOS

Sky Force Reloaded scores a hit with its freebie blasting

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it’s difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun-ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we’ll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it’s really worth your time (and money). 

Many free-to-play games are laid-back, casual affairs meant to fill small moments during your days—including recent Freemium Field Test picks like Uncharted: Fortune Hunter and Bejeweled Stars. But occasionally, you’ll find something a bit livelier and action-packed; the kind of game that pulls more inspiration from classic console and arcade games than the App Store.

fft skyforce action

Laser bursts, enemy attack planes, and plenty of glossy scenery to take in.

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Clash Royale is even more addictive than Clash of Clans

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it’s difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we’ll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it’s really worth your time (and money).

I’ve played a lot of free-to-play mobile games in my time, not only during the lifespan of this column but also in the years prior, and I honestly can’t recall a game that has completely enraptured me quite like Clash Royale. Truth be told, I didn’t believe the hype around it and I got blindsided.

During my first week and a half with the game, I logged more than 100 victories—and that didn’t account for my losses (thankfully less than the wins) and all the time I spent unlocking chests, upgrading cards, playing with my deck, and interacting with my clan. True, the few-minute matches are short, and playing this one-on-one strategy game for 15 minutes at a time isn’t too crazy.

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