Digital Chocolate’s catch phrase is “Seize the Minute” and I find it quite fitting. Their games are great when you just have a few minutes to play, as their typically shorter waves let you grab a quick play anytime. But most of their games also have good depth and play well for the long term too, and get difficult enough to keep the challenge going through to the end.
Digital Chocolate, created and run by Trip Hawkins, the founder and previous CEO of Electronic Arts, understand games!. And he seems to have a reasonably good system for cranking out top placing games for the iphone as well, pushing its games in the top 25 over and over again. And just about every Digital Chocolate game has a free version in the store so you can try the game before you buy the full priced version. Most of their games have many short waves, so they are perfect for grabbing a quick play when you only have a few minutes, but will keep you happy for many hours over the long run.
Here is a look at a few of their games I played:
3D Rollercoaster Rush
3D Rollercoaster Rush is based on Rollercoaster Rush, an earlier game also by Digital Chocolate. The game play is similar to the original, but shown now in a 3D format, with a tracking camera to follow the train. Players ride on one of 40 different tracks set in cartoon backgrounds of the Wild West, adjusting the speed of their coster to overcome loops, jumps, tunnels, and bumps in the track. The goal is to get to the finish as fast as possible without loosing all the riders or all parts of the coaster. Earlier waves are fairly easy as you can just go flat out, but later waves require significant speed adjustments to overcome difficult areas of the track. As the train makes jumps and gets “air time”, or moves faster through loops and turns, the “excitement meter” goes up, multiplying your score. But hit the track wrong after a jump, and you loose players and parts of the train. Loosing players costs you score, loosing all of them all makes you start over. And if you loose parts of the train, you will have less parts on the next wave.
Your goals is to reach three stars on the excitement meter, and the highest possible score, without loosing all the riders or cars. Frankly, the score seems rather meaningless to me, as it is really not clear why you care, and just goes up with the excitement meter anyway. To get that last star for each track wave, you must play it again, but this time against yourself! You are challenged to beat your own best time by racing against a “ghost” coaster recording of your personal best on that track. Better your own best time, and win the last start per track. Usually this is easy, as you only need to win the race, so loosing almost all the riders and cars is not an issue here. But there have been some tracks that required pushing hard to make the three initial stars, and beating that time again can be difficult.
While this game is fun to play, some players say it is fairly easy to finish it in just a few hours of non-stop playing. It has some cute animations, like the players jumping from the car with parachutes when their cars cash, but the effects do get old, fast. That said, I tend to play iPhone games only a few minutes at a time, so this game has had much longer staying power for me, including a few good challenges to get all 4 stars on some tracks.
Pros: Simple game play, easy controls, and a reasonable number of waves, good graphics over previous version.
Cons: No new tracks in updates. Instead, Digital Chocolate came out with new versions of the same game with new backgrounds, costing more money. Score does not mean much.
Apple Store rating: 4
MyMac rating: 7 out of 10.
Jurassic 3D Rollercoaster Rush
Well, as stated in the “Cons” above, here is the update to 3D Rollercoaster Rush released as a new, $2.99 game. Yes, this is basically the same game as above and is sold as a sequel. But this time with cartoon backgrounds of the supposed Jurassic era, and the introduction of 40 new tracks with Dinosaurs, Viking Ships, and even tracks that go under water. In addition, this game allows for head to head competition over Bluetooth.
Gameplay is basically the same as above, but the 3D effects are much improved, and the new setting for the game creates a much better backdrop for the 3D graphics effects. Some of the tracks are a bit more difficult as well.
But the biggest reason for recommending this version over the original is the price. You will not miss anything if you skip the first version and go straight to the sequel, and you can do so for $2 less!
Also note that Digital Chocolate now offers 3 different 3D Rollercoaster Rush games, and offers a $5.99 3-in-one pack if you want all three. For $1 over the original game price, you get 120 tracks and all three themes.
Pros: Better 3D, better tracks, $2 less than the original, multilayer game.
Cons: Updates still have not included new levels. Score does not mean much.
Apple Store rating: 4
MyMac rating: 8 out of 10
California Gold Rush
California Gold Rush is an original and addictive game that was fun to play, but difficult to master. A combination of puzzle and strategy, you take on the role of the novice miner Mandy, who’s job it is to dig for and find gold in gold mines full of traps and dangers, as well as finding jewels and treasure along the way. You dig through the mud left, right, or down, creating tunnels with your pitchfork, looking for the sparking hint of gold that indicates where to find the treasures. Each wave has a target amount of gold you need to find to earn 1, 2 or 3 stars. You have a limited number of moves (shown as stamina) in which to find that gold, and each movement or dig uses more of that stamina up. You must return the gold to the assay office to build up your bank and earn your stars.
As the game proceeds to harder levels, you will need to use explosives to move stubborn rocks, lumber to shore up collapsing mines, maps, and other items at the company store to get through each level. Each wave has its own new problems, and may take some trial and error to complete it. And if your like me, you know you can do better and may play then over again to better your own score, and try and get all three stars.
The game has a great “teaching” mode to get you started, and a very good ramp up in difficulty as the game proceeds. Control of Mandy is straight forward, simple touch the area of the screen where you want her to go or dig, and she digs that way. Tap your backpack when full of gold, and Mandy will find the quickest way back to the store to drop off the gold.
Like Rollercoaster Rush, you earn one, two or three stars long with your score for how well you do in each mine, and once again I found these stars much more compelling in driving game play than the score, which seemed meaningless again. Anytime I finished a mine with less than three stars, I wanted to go back and try again.
The game is designed well, and always leaves you wanting to do a little better, play a little more. I have yet to complete all 30 mines, HOWEVER….
With the latest release of this game, Digital Chocolate has entered into an area of iPhone gaming that I do not like, and drops my rating of this game significantly. In the original release, you used the gold you found in the game to buy items in the store to help with further mines. The items were needed to complete the waves, and were an excellent strategy part of the game. But, with the latest “update”, those items are now gone from the store. In their place, you are given a few items for “free” (eliminating a large strategy part of the game), BUT you can now spend real money to buy a “booster” kit. I think this is a very bad precedence, especially when the game play changes, strategy is different, and they make you pay more money to win a game you already bought. While it is only $1, why not just charge $1.99 for the game, and be done with this silly concept of ripping off players AFTER they have bought the game. My real concern is that this is a test to see what people will pay for inside a game, and could lead to other games with many, multiple pay as you go features. It is worth noting that this game WAS $1.99, and recently dropped to 99 cents, and added this feature. However, if you paid $1.99, well, you get to pay more now!
Additionally, with the latest update, they wiped out all my progress to date. While the update description did say this, I did not see it as I did not read the entire description, and lost all of my play to date, meaning that I have to start over. Given this new “purchase” mode, and loosing all my play to date, this game gets deleted from my iPhone and I cannot recommend it. This is one time that Digital Chocolate should have released a new version, leaving the original alone.
Pros:Great game play, good strategy, lasting power
Cons: The latest update throws away your progress, and charges you money to score higher. That is just wrong.
Apple Store Rating: 3.5
MyMac rating: 4 out of 10. Remove the buy feature, and this would be an easy 8 out of 10 game.
Crazy Penguin Catapult and Crazy Penguin Catapult 2
Here are two versions of the same game, one basically a sequel of the other, and after playing one, you will want to buy the next one. Once again, Digital Chocolate has released a sequel rather than update the original with new content, but here, the 99 cent price seems to make that OK for me. (On a $4.99+ game, updates should be frequent and free IMO!0)
This game will capture your imagination and heart right from the start. It is a silly concept to begin with, and that silliness continues throughout the amusing game play. You job, as the penguins, is to fend off the invading polar bears by “catapulting” some of your courageous fellow penguins at the bears. There are two play screens for each level. First, you need to time the release of the penguins from the catapult to avoid throwing them into a wall or celling, and additionally trying to fling them through the flaming hoop to give them more power (see, I said it was silly!)
After all your birds are in the air (or otherwise dispatched) the screen changes to the attack screen. Here, as the penguins fly over head, you tap to drop them downwards. Hitting a bear knocks him out. Some bears are hidden under ice walls, and some penguins may be needed to hit the ice walls to break them. If your penguin was shot through the flaming hoop, he arrives flaming and will easily melt his way through the ice walls to hit the bear. Other bears are hidden in lower levels, and careful timing is needs to drop the flying penguin into the proper tunnel to hit the bear.
There are two ways to play: Campaign mode walks you though a story arc to save a trapped friend. Strategy mode is a simple turn based play to take over bear territories. To add to the fun, the games includes some power ups and unique maps. I finished the first game and quickly got the second…these game will leave you wanting more.
Pros: Simple, fun, addictive, easy to play, difficult to master.
Cons: Once again, a new game rather than an update, but at 99 cents, this is not such a big deal. They both need more levels in an update.
Apple Store Rating: 4
Fantasy Warrior: Good & Evil
This recent release from Digital Chocolate immediately makes me think of the original Nintendo Zelda. This is a basic action adventure game with a leveling feature like seen on many Role Playing Games (RPG), where the main character walks about a map, interacting with characters, battling enemies, and trying to solve a quest. While this game is similar to Zenonia on the iPhone, it is much easier to play, with much easier controls.
Like the Original Zelda, this is a top down, orthogonal view of the play field, which scrolls left, right, up and down as the character moves around the screen. The controls are very simple with this game, simply touch in the general direction you want to move and the character moves that way. As you walk up to other characters, an icon will appear above their head if they have something to say, and taping the icon will display a dialog with the text. There are two large buttons at the bottom which change for each situation. For fighting, the one on the lower right shows your main weapon, and next to it two smaller buttons for extra weapons and potions. Simply tap the buttons to use the item in a fight. For other interactions, these two buttons will offer the options available.
Fighting is a bit odd for an RPG game. You will see only one enemy on the main screen. When you walk up to that object, the screen will change to a fighting screen where you will see multiple enemies you need to fight in a small, confined area. When you defeat all, you will return back to where you were. Also, fighting is played in real time, not the turn by turn rounds expected in an RPH game, so you can get multiple hits in right away. Extra weapons (like a bow and arrow) can be used, and require some “recharge” time before you can use them again.
Game play starts with a story about a young warrior who was tricked into releasing an ancient evil, the Demonlord, trapped beneath the land. He is, of course, threatening to take over the land by bringing cursed monsters to fight for him and take over all the land for evil. The warrior, wanting to make this right, will set off on a quest to find the one item that will defeat the evil lord. But the Demonlord has enlisted a beautiful but evil vampires to fight for him as well. You must decide which you wish to play, good or evil. Each game has its own skills and story line, but the stories do follow each other as well.
Each story is series of quests given to you by characters in the game. When you receive a quest, and a map will pop-up showing you where you need to go to solve that quest. Sub-quests may be given to solve the major quest, and some areas of the map will open for access only when on a particular quest. Solve the quest and you are rewarded with new weapons and money.
The game is designed for the casual game player, and hard core RPG or fantasy players might find the overall play a bit too simple. For example, once you kill a monster, they stay dead. If you die, you are resurrected to the beginning of the level with half your health missing, but no other penalties. And even when this happens, the monsters you killed are still dead. There is but a single potion, one that adds health, and if, during battle, you have one and your health drops to critical, the game will use it for you automatically, although you get a better recovery if you use it yourself while not in a fight.. When you level up, you do not get to pick which of your abilities will get stronger.
Pros: Great, simple controls. Good story. Easy to play. Two games in one. Good price.
Cons: Might be too simple for advanced RPG or Fantasy game players. Can’t just explore the map, the story drive the play.
Apple Store Rating: 4
Note: All hardware products reviewed by me are on loan for the review period only. In the event I am allowed to keep a product, such a decision is made by the company only after the review has been published, and thus has no baring on the review outcome. Most software products and books reviewed are not returned as per policies of these companies on returns. Under no circumstances am I paid by anyone to positively review any product, nor do I receive any other in-kind compensation to give a good review.