iOS

Blast boats out of the water in Rovio's raucous Battle Bay

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).

Rovio is best known for Angry Birds, but that franchise falls deeper into irrelevance with each passing entry. The latest, Angry Birds Evolution, is an almost impressively misguided attempt to give the brand a gritty makeover… because what’s been missing from the pull-and-fling franchise is surely a harder edge and 100-plus new characters, right?

Luckily, the company is starting to look past its fading cash cow, as well, and Battle Bay is a much more appealing iOS debut: it’s a five-on-five boat brawler, in which you’ll navigate choppy waves alongside real online allies to try and sink your opponents. Battle Bay is slick and easy to understand, and it makes a strong impression—but it also has a lot of freemium elements in play. Does Rovio’s new experience remain satisfying after the first few matches pass?

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iOS

You might flip for Flipping Legend's free, frenzied fun

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). 

There were plenty of endless arcade-style games before Crossy Road, but Hipster Whale’s game was so wildly fun, so vibrantly styled, and so pure and friendly in its freemium approach that it seemed to create a whole new genre of descendants.

Flipping Legend feels like one of those followers, but its big tweak is right there in the name: rather than hop forward a spot with each tap, you’ll fling either left or right on the grid as you attempt to smash enemies, avoid deadly hazards, and collect coins as you try to stay alive. It’s fast and frenzied, and works really well for quick iPhone play sessions—and while the free-to-play model is a lot different than Crossy Road’s, it’s not harsh at all.

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iOS

Disney meets Final Fantasy (and tedium) in Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross]

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).

The Kingdom Hearts franchise has a wonderfully captivating premise: it’s a mash-up of the Disney film catalog and the Final Fantasy gaming universe, letting you embark on charming quests across worlds inspired by everything from Aladdin to The Little Mermaid to Tron.

The only problem is that it has become nigh-impossible to follow. After the first two PlayStation 2 entries from more than a decade ago, the series splintered into an array of spin-offs with oft-incomprehensible titles (like Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days) and even more convoluted plot points. And now you can play the series on your iPhone or iPad with Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross], another game with a quirky title. Does it at least have a clearer narrative arc? 

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iOS

Pokémon: Magikarp Jump doesn't do enough with its fun premise

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).

Of all the many hundreds of Pokémon available in the monster-catching franchise today, the lowly Magikarp remains one of the least appreciated. The dopey-looking orange fish have bulging eyes and slacked jaws, and really can’t do a whole lot. But they can jump, apparently, and it’s enough to earn the creatures their very own iOS game.

Pokémon: Magikarp Jump is in on the joke, clearly acknowledging how goofy it is that such a useless monster would have its own competitive game—but the competition isn’t very active. You’ll train the fish to jump and then watch the proceedings unfold after a tap, but even training requires zero interaction. It’s like a super-streamlined version of a “clicker” game, but even as a Pokémon fan, I found it overly simplified to the point of tedium. 

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iOS

Injustice 2 does right by DC's heroes with its frenzied comic brawls

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).

DC Comics is on an impressive stretch of adaptations of its top heroes: Wonder Woman is the best part of the current DC cinematic universe to date, while Injustice 2 for consoles is even better than the excellent original. The glossy, heroes-and-villains fighting game builds off of NetherRealm Studios’ Mortal Kombat game engine with even bigger special moves than before and an even more fascinating story mode. 

And just like with the first game, Injustice 2 has also made a big splash on the App Store. The free-to-play mobile version of Injustice 2 isn’t exactly like its $60 console counterpart, but it maintains quite a lot of the experience while delivering some seriously impressive graphics and quite of bit of gameplay to enjoy.

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iOS

Puzzle Droids proves Candy Crush is better with a sweet Star Wars coating

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).

With past games like Angry Birds: Star Wars and the Tiny Tower-based Tiny Death Star, we’ve seen the beloved sci-fi franchise merged with proven iOS game experiences—and the results were pretty positive in both of those cases. Star Wars: Puzzle Droids is the latest such amalgamation, and while it’s not legally Candy Crush Saga: Star Wars, that’s exactly what you get. 

This “tribute” to the mobile puzzle phenomenon doesn’t deviate much from King’s money-printing design, but it does implement the Star Wars license in entertaining ways, plus the challenge rises at a more reasonable and predictable rate. The result, while not original in any way, is an enjoyable, on-the-go diversion that you shouldn’t feel pressured to spend money for.

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