Smartphone Fun Cutting Button

buttons_and_scissorsWhen you think of fun smartphone or tablet games, you think about launching ill-tempered birds or slicing ropes to feed candy to monsters.  What you don’t usually think about is taking a pair of scissors and cutting some buttons off of a piece of fabric.  So when I saw a game called Buttons and Scissors listed as Amazon’s Free App of the Day, I was skeptical.  By all rights, this should be one of the most boring games around.  However, it not only works, but is fun, challenging, and highly addictive.

The basic premise is that there are a series of buttons in various colors on a piece of fabric (as I said before).  As you match up two or more buttons horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, a pair of scissors appears to cut them off.  You can’t match up buttons in a string if other buttons, of different colors, are blocking the path.  As you clear some buttons, other possible button clearances emerge.

You need to be careful, though.  To win each round, you need to clear all of the buttons.  One wrong move can easily lead you with buttons remaining and no way to clear them out.  This means that the obvious clearing might not be the one you have to take.  The game forces you to think out every move.

buttons_and_scissors2Don’t worry about getting bored with the game either.  Each game package includes 100 levels and there are 16 packages.  That’s 1,600 different levels to puzzle out.  More than enough to keep you cutting off buttons for a long time to come.

After trying this game out, I found it so much fun that I gave it to my kids as well on their Galaxy tablets.  They loved it too.  Finally, B tried it and, before she knew it, she was addicted to cutting buttons off of a simple piece of fabric.

This is a wonderfully addicting game that challenges players of all ages to think out each move.  I definitely recommend it.  Buttons and Scissors is free from Amazon and Google Play.  There’s also a pro version available from Amazon for  $1.99.

NOTE: I received Buttons and Scissors as part of Amazon’s Free App of the Day program.  There was no requirement to blog about it.  I simply wanted to share a game that I loved playing.

Like Bow Ties, Doctor Who Legacy Is Cool

doctor_who_legacyWhat do you get when you combine Doctor Who, a gem matching game, and a role playing game?   If you package it all into a cool mobile app with nicely drawn images of the Doctors and his various companions, you get Doctor Who: Legacy.

The story is simple.  The Doctor is taking a trip with Madame Vastra (a reptile-lady from a species that pre-dated humans on Earth) when they meet up with some Sontarans (a clone race of warriors that bear a striking resemblance to potato-men).  You help the Doctor and Vastra fight them off, but the bigger problem is that the Sontarans shouldn’t be there.  They’ve figured out time travel and are messing around with history – trying to make every war a Sontaran victory.  The Doctor sets off to stop the Sontarans by visiting points along his timeline in reverse order.

doctor_who_legacy_2As each battle unfolds, you assist the Doctor and his companions by matching three or more gems of the same color.  These enable the Doctor and his companions to attack their enemies to heal from attacks they suffered from.  Sometimes, your matches will cause more gems to match which will enable more characters to join the fight.  Along the way, you can collect "time crystals" which can be used to buy new characters or upgrade existing ones,

The best part of the game, though, are the graphics and layout.  The games levels ("episodes") go in reverse order from more recent Doctor Who episodes to less recent ones – with a few additional confrontations tossed in for good measure.  Fans of the series will be treated to familiar scenes as whole episodes are reenacted in a turn-based RPG/puzzle game format.  Daleks from Asylum Of The Daleks must be fought against in "human-turned-into-Dalek-zombie" form, "broken down insane Dalek" form, and fully functioning Dalek form.  Cybermen from Nightmare in Silver appear in "Chess playing Cyberman", Cyberman, Cyber-mite, and even Cyberman-Doctor (aka "Mr. Clever") forms.

Many enemies will have unique attacks such as locking out gems (preventing you from moving them for a few turns), altering gem colors, or stealing all gems of a certain color.  Enemies also attack at different rates.  Some will attack every turn, others every two or three turns.  In addition, different companions can be more or less effective against certain enemies.  This leads to certain strategies as to which gems to match up and when or which companions to add to or remove from your party depending on the enemies you will be facing.

So far only seasons 7 and 6 of the new Doctor Who are included.  However, there are still many levels to play, many enemies to battle, many companions to collect, and even many different costumes for the companions and the Doctor to unlock.  (For example, I now have Doctor eleven in a Stetson because Stetsons are cool.  I can’t wait to unlock the fez, though.)  The developers have stated that they won’t be satisfied until they release a level for An Unearthly Child (the first Doctor Who episode that aired 50 years ago).  This means that there should be plenty of levels coming up.

Given the amount of new levels there are (either included in the game now or promised for later) and the fact that old levels can be replayed again and again (to help level up new characters or just to relive favorite battles), I don’t see this game getting old anytime soon.  This is a must-play for any Doctor Who fan, especially when the next episode seems oh so far away.

Doctor Who: Legacy is made by Tiny Rebel Games and is available for free on Android or iOS.  It is released under a freemium model:  It is free to play, but you can purchase time crystals using real money instead of waiting for them to randomly drop during battle.  One last tip:  Be sure to visit the Doctor Who: Legacy Facebook Page for some promo codes that unlock new characters and costumes.

NOTE: I did not receive compensation for this review.  In fact, I was not asked in any way to review this game.  I only reviewed this as a Doctor Who fan who loved playing the game.

Paid App Do’s and Don’ts

smartphone_smallWhen someone makes a smartphone or tablet app, there is no doubt that they deserve the chance to make money from it.  If that app becomes wildly popular, even a $0.99 per person fee can rake in a decent amount of cash.  However, monetizing can be tricky.  Do it the wrong way and you can turn off your audience.  This is especially true if your app is competing with other apps that are offered free of charge.

What follows are three apps.  Two of these, I believe, missed their monetization mark and the third hit it square on.

Where’s My Water 2

This was the long awaited sequel to the wildly popular Where’s My Water.  The original Where’s My Water was released under a simple “freemium” model.  There was a free version and a paid version.  The free version got you a sampling of the levels.  There were plenty in there to play but also left you wanting more and itching to fork over $0.99 for the paid version with more levels.

wheres_my_water_2The new version, however, wasn’t released quite in this manner.  Instead, after you completed the “Sewer” and “Soap Factory” levels you are presented with a gate.  Now players, by this point, would have encountered similar gates before.  Those gates unlocked when the player had collected enough “rubber ducks.”  This gate, however, needed three keys.  There are two ways to collect keys.  The first is to link the game with your Facebook account, bug your friends, and hope they they “send” you keys.  The second is to purchase some keys for $0.99.

Normally, I wouldn’t begrudge them this.  It definitely is easier to develop one version instead of maintaining two different versions.  However, their Google Play page indicates that there are “100+ levels and challenges” and that “the puzzles are all free.”  It also heavily implies that the Beach level comes free along with the Sewer and Soap Factory levels.

When you combine all levels and challenges in the free Sewer and Soap Factory levels, though, you only get 71.  To unlock the rest (and get to 100+), you need to either spam your Facebook friends (or, if you are like me and are NOT on Facebook, sign up for Facebook and get friends to spam) or pay money.  This doesn’t seem – to me – to be free.

I would recommend that they fix this with some verbiage changes on their Google Play (and any other app store) page.  Change “100+” to “70+ free levels and challenges,”  Change “the puzzles are all free” to “the Sewer and Soap Factory levels are all free.”  Note that you can unlock the Beach level by either paying or with your Facebook friends’ help.  I might even recommend allowing users another way into this level (such as getting all ducks in all other levels or playing for a certain amount of time), but I understand that this would cut into their payments.

This way they would make sure that people who installed their app would know what was coming and wouldn’t be surprised when they reached the “key gate.”

Juice Cubes

This one isn’t as popular as Where’s My Water, but it published by Rovio – makers of Angry Birds.  Therefore, these developers are obviously no strangers to popular apps.  In Juice Cubes, you are presented with a screen of cube-shaped fruit.  You trace paths between matching fruit which removes them from the board and allows more fruit to move into the now-unoccupied spaces.  The level ends when either an objective has been reached (usually clearing certain objects or reaching a certain score) or when the number of moves you’ve been given runs out.

I quickly became hooked on this app which is touted on Google Play as free.  The Google Play page touts “165+ deliciously fruity levels.”  It also declares that “Juice Cubes is completely free to play, but some in-game items can be purchased for real money.”   This is no problem for me as I actually like this monetization concept: Make the game challenging but doable for free but allow users to buy additional items/power-ups/etc. that allow them to do get out of tricky situations easier.  (More on this later.)

juice_cubesJuice Cubes fails, however, because right after level 20 you reach a roadblock.  You are required to bug your Facebook friends for three map pieces or pay 8 “gold bars.”  Gold bars are usually purchased but thankfully the app gives you some gold bars for free to use.  So far, so good, right?


After level 35 – a mere 15 levels more – you reach another roadblock.  Again you must bug your Facebook friends or pay 8 bars of gold.  Unfortunately, before the first roadblock, I had used some gold trying out one of the “special powers.”  Now I was left without any gold and – given my not-on-Facebook status – unable to continue.  I fell short of the 165+ levels by 130 or so levels.  Even had I saved my gold, how many more levels would I have obtained with it?  Another 15?  20?  That game-given gold wouldn’t have brought me close to the promised number of levels.

Far from the “completely free to play” with some “in-game items” to be purchased, Juice Cubes actually REQUIRES that you pay at least $1.99 for 15 bars of gold.  In fact, if that first gate is any indication (and assuming the player didn’t waste any gold on power ups), you would need 24 additional gold bars to be able to play all of the levels.  In other words, to get your 165+ levels, you would need to pay $3.98.  Not a lot, but much more than the “free” that was advertised.

Just like with Where’s My Water 2, I would recommend changing the language on the Juice Cubes app page.  Make sure that users know that they would be required to pay to get all of the 165 levels.  I would also recommend giving users another method for earning gold.  Even if it is something they need to work at.  For example, give the user a gold bar for every day in a row they play Juice Cubes – over one day, of course.  This would keep making the user come back to your app.

NOTE: After writing this, I noticed there was an update to the Juice Cubes app.  Upon installing this update, I was given the ability to “search” for map pieces.  Each search takes 8 hours meaning that, in around 24 hours’ time, you can proceed on with the game.  I don’t, at this time, know if every search is successful or not, but my first one was.  This is a definite improvement over the Pay Or Bug Your Friends model and I thank the developer, though I still think some verbiage updates might be needed.

Speaking of coming back to your app…

My Muppets Show

I wrote about My Muppets Show before.  In short: You get Muppets on a series of digital stages, collect money as they perform, and buy items for the stage or food to level them up.

This is where My Muppets Show gets it right.  There are two forms of currency: coins and diamonds.  Coins are earned from the Muppets as they perform.  Diamonds are earned either (in small amounts) when hit certain achievements or if you purchase them with real money.  Obtaining Muppets to perform either means paying a high price in diamonds or using a robot who doesn’t always get your requests right.  This means you can try a dozen times to get Kermit onto your stage or you could pay for a few hundred diamonds to speed the process along.


The same is true of the normal currency and food.  Saving for some big in-game purchase?  You can wait for the Muppets to earn you that much or you can use real money to buy enough in-game money for your purchase.  Trying to level your Muppets up?  You can wait to earn enough currency to buy enough food (and wait for that to get made) to level up your Muppets, or you can just use real-money to buy all the food your Muppets need.  The game is completely playable without paying a dime and yet it is much easier to play if you are willing to open your real-world wallet.

By all rights, I should have gotten tired of this game by now.  I’ve obtained all of the Muppets characters, stages, and items.  I’ve reached the highest player level there is at the moment.  About the only thing I have left to do is level my Muppets up to their highest levels.  This is a simple, but time consuming, matter of “harvesting” money from them (which they earn automatically from performing), using that money to buy food, and feeding my Muppets until they level up until they can’t level up anymore.  Already, about a third of my Muppets are fully leveled.  The monotony of harvest, buy food, feed Muppet, repeat should have gotten to me.

But it hasn’t.  Not yet.

While I admit I haven’t paid anything for it, that’s more a function of the state of my bank account than the app’s mechanics.  Had I the real world funds to spend, I would have purchased a few diamonds or food items here and there to help speed me along the way.  (Especially when limited-time-only characters proved difficult to procure via the free methods.)  I’ve been willing to stick with this game while other games have dropped by the wayside.

If I had any complaints about My Muppet Show’s model, it would only be that the real-world prices of the diamonds/food/currency are too high.  $1.99 only buys you 40 diamonds – enough for some of the smaller items but nowhere near enough for the bigger Muppets.  You would need to spend over $10 to get enough diamonds for Kermit.  Similar pricing issues plague the currency and food sections.  Then again, I suppose they wouldn’t make much money if they offered you a huge amount of diamonds for $1.  And at least the My Muppets Show Google Play page doesn’t have any misleading text.

Beware: App developers.  Players are a finicky lot.  There are tons of smartphone/tablet games not to mention lots of other content competing for our attention.  If you make misleading claims hoping to hook us on your app and then pry open our wallet, you’re more likely to find us hitting uninstall and heading over to someone who was at least up front about their app’s requirements.

NOTE: The “smartphone” icon above is by zorro and is available from

Granny Smith: A Tale of Stolen Apples, Roller Skates, And An Indestructible Granny

granny-smith1I’ve become quite a fan of Amazon’s Free App Of The Day.  Many days, the app will be something that I’m not interested in or that doesn’t seem that good.  Other days, though, a gem will pop up that I would have never considered buying but that I enjoy nonetheless.  Granny Smith is the latter.

The story is simple.  A thief has stolen Granny’s apples.  Granny straps on her roller skates, grabs her cane, and tries to get her apples back.  The good news is that the apples have gotten away from the thief.  The bad news is that the thief is trying to get the apples back too.

Every level has varying obstacles you need to jump over, swing across (using Granny’s cane), or burst through.  Yes, Granny appears to be indestructible.  If a house is in her way, she doesn’t go around it, she goes through it!  As a bonus, when the level is over, you can watch it again as if it were an old-time television show.


The game is quite enjoyable, but can be very difficult.  When you jump, you turn around and need to stop your motion in just the right position otherwise you’ll fall, lose coins you’ve collected, and (more importantly) can fall behind the thief who will grab the apples first.  Worse, if you time a jump or a swing wrong, you can land in a spot that you can’t get out of and be forced to run the level again.  Thankfully, you don’t need to actually collect any apples to proceed to the next level.  Just making it to the finish line qualifies you to move on.  You can also re-run any level you’ve completed at any time to either try to grab more apples or more coins.


NHL and JSL both liked the game, but JSL has found it very frustrating.  He’s persisted at it, but he frequently cries out when his Granny crashes yet again.  I have a feeling that it’s just too difficult a game for him, but as long as he’s willing to keep trying, I won’t dissuade him from it.

Granny Smith is available for $1.99 from the Amazon App Store as well as from Google Play.  There’s also a free version on Google Play (this one might contain ads or might not have the full game).

NOTE: I wasn’t asked to write this review by anyone and received no compensation.  I merely tried a game, liked it, and wanted to spread the word about it.

Backgammon: The Next Generation

backgammonGrowing up, I always looked forward to my grandparents coming over for a visit.  Among other things, it meant that our backgammon board would be taken out.  My grandmother and I would place our pieces, roll the dice, and have a great time.

When I saw that Amazon’s Free App Of The Day was a backgammon game, I was intrigued.  The reviews seemed good, so I got it.  (It’s no longer free, but you can either get the free version or a $0.99 version).  After trying it out, I put it on the kids’ tablets.  After a little instruction on the rules of the game, they were off and running.  Now they love playing.  For now, they’ve played only single player games, but the game supports two players as well.  It’s only a matter of time before the boys play each other or B or me.

What games from your youth have you introduced to your kids?

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