Fresh iPhone Games for Jan. 19: Esfera, Helmet Hero: Head Trauma, Minotaur Rescue

Jan 19, 2011
Games

Ever played chess on a sphere? Physics might make the premise of such a game difficult, but the iPhone doesn’t, and you can experience a game of chess on a spherical board with Esfera, the front-runner in today’s Fresh Apps list. There’s also the challenging, but casual, side-scrolling runner Helmet Hero, in which you control […]

Ever played chess on a sphere? Physics might make the premise of such a game difficult, but the iPhone doesn’t, and you can experience a game of chess on a spherical board with Esfera, the front-runner in today’s Fresh Apps list. There’s also the challenging, but casual, side-scrolling runner Helmet Hero, in which you control the speed of your run and plow through obstacles, and the throwback Minotaur Rescue, which will remind very old-school gamers of the days before the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Esfera (iPhone, iPad) $2.99

Take a chess board and instead of having a flat plane, turn it into a globe — with no beginning or end and composed of hexagons rather than squares. That’s Esfera, an interesting take on the classic game of strategy that removes lots of the aspects of safety from the game, forcing you to always be aware of your flanks and options.

While Esfera is challenging to play, it makes things easier by allowing you to see valid moves by tapping any piece you have. The rules have you pursuing the enemy king for a checkmate, just like in chess, or taking your own king around to the other side of the globe to capture your enemy’s home — adding a little defensive strategy to the mix. You can play against an AI-controlled opponent, or add in a second human player in a multiplayer mode that works by passing your device back and forth.

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Helmet Hero: Head Trauma (iPhone) $0.99

A side-scrolling running game, Helmet Hero mixes up the action by adding a new wrinkle to the standard play of dodging objects as you move from left to right. Rather than jump and slide to get past obstacles, you have to go through them, using your head. The game equips you with various different helmets, each one specially equipped to get through a certain kind of obstacle. You’re tasked with switching between them as necessary, but you’re scored by how fast you plow through objects, so the challenge comes from trying to juggle helmets as you rapidly change which one you need, while controlling your speed to give you time to react.

Game Center support gives you access to achievements and online leaderboards as you play, which is a welcome addition to this casual game. It also was recently updated to add a survival mode, in which you plow through endless obstacles and score as many points as possible before being killed from crashing.

Minotaur Rescue (iPhone, iPad) $0.99

This 8-bit classic space shooter developed by Jeff Minter is by no means easy — even controlling it takes a few seconds to fully understand and master. Once you do, however, Minotaur becomes a frantic and challenging battle against a constantly hungry gravitational force in the center of the screen, and flying asteroids and enemy ships that need to be destroyed everywhere else.

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Your ship, guided by sliding your thumb around the touchscreen, is constantly firing around the stationary screen. At the center of the screen is a point that draws you in with its gravity and if you touch it, crash too often or get shot by enemies, you die. Your goal is to hammer through enemy ships and flying asteroids to score points, and occasionally fly over and capture one of the minotaurs that appears in the place of a destroyed asteroid. Old-school gaming fans who remember the glory days of the Commodore 64 and Atari 2600 will have a lot of fun with this humorous take on some early games.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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