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There’s no two ways about it – gaming isn’t a cheap hobby. Luckily, the creeping rise of the digital distribution market is giving many budget-conscious gamers a break these days. XBLA, PSN, Wii-Ware, and others are all playing with how to offer alternatives to AAA titles, both in terms of content and cost. However, the pricing model for this market is still in an experimental, Wild West phase.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Apple App Store. There’s a ton of games out there, and separating the wheat from the chaff can be an arduous task. Even when you do find the good games, there’s no consistency with pricing versus quality. A poor game can run you upwards of ten dollars, but the good news is that you can often find extremely well-designed and fun games there for next to nothing.

If there’s one thing I like more than a good game, it’s a good game that’s also cheap. If you’re of like mind, then read on! Gamer Limit’s got your back with four great titles that will only cost you a buck.

Helsing’s Fire

One of the most interesting takes on the puzzle genre that works so well on the iPhone platform, Helsing’s Fire puts you in the shoes of the storied vampire slayer. Played from an overhead perspective, your job is to destroy monsters by considering obstacles and then placing a torch on the screen to ensure that the light covers the right monsters. Your assistant makes tonics which you apply to the torch; different colored tonics will kill different monsters.

This is a game which starts out very simple and takes a while for the difficulty to ramp up, but recent updates have added content which bumps up the challenge considerably. It’s a simple core concept that stays fun and interesting for a surprisingly long time due to it’s uniqueness and clever design. Also, when you beat a level, you’ll see Helsing and his assistant celebrate with a high-5, a six-shooter point, or my favorite, the brofist. That’s enough by itself to justify a buck to me.

DungeonCore

While “arcadey” experiences seem to be dying out on home-consoles and PC gaming, the portable world seems primed for the passing of the torch. The success of time-attack and score-attack games like Canabalt, Robot Unicorn Attack, and Pix ‘N Love Rush show that there’s a major interest for this genre. DungeonCore twists the Canabalt theme by making the traversal vertical instead of horizontal, and by giving a light sprinkling of RPG seasoning.

With simple tilt controls, the screen scrolls downward through a vast pit, and it’s up to you to navigate past obstacles to keep up with the screen. On the way down you’ll hit enemies for coins which you can spend periodically at stores on the way down. With an easy to learn base mechanic, and some depth in how you outfit yourself gearwise on the way down, this game keeps you coming back to see if you can get just a few meters deeper.

Fastar!

A clever acronym standing for Fight Angry Squares: The Action RPG, Fastar! is a great time-attack RPG with a very addictive quality to it. The art seems simple and it is, but it really works for the title and lends it a great deal of charm. You run back and forth by tilting, and you tap the screen to swing your sword. The goal is to reach a goal marker, and standing in your way are squares of varying sizes and colors.

You’d think that the lack of variety in the enemy design would be a huge drawback, and you’d also be utterly wrong. Each color and size of square has its own behavior, and you’ll begin to recognize them over time. The first time I caught myself thinking “Man, the purple one is a total dick!”, I realized that the developers had caught lightning in a bottle. Any game that can get you to successfully anthropomorphize a simple geometric shape has got to be doing something right. Easily worth a single green rectangle.

Babel Rising

If you’ve got a bit of a superiority complex, this is undoubtedly the game for you. Babel Rising turns the concept of tower defense on its ear; instead of using towers to defend against units, you use your powers to defend against units who are attempting to build a tower up to Heaven. Of course, as the vengeful god of the Old Testament, insolence of this nature can’t be tolerated – it’s time to do some touchscreen smiting!

With a wide variety of abilities to play with, Babel Rising will satisfy all your old-school power fantasies. You can tap a builder to kill them individually, drag a line from the sky to fry a group with a lightning bolt, fling builders off the tower with a gust of wind, summon tidal waves, trigger earthquakes, and my personal favorite, the ever-stylish raining of fire and brimstone. The only thing missing from this game is the ability to make the builders speak different languages so they can’t work together any longer!

  1. My wife LOVES Babel Rising.

    The iPhone has become my third favorite platform this generation behind the PS3 and Xbox, respectively.

    The funny thing is that these days, it’s more “Nintendo” than Nintendo. By that I mean the sheer amount of old school, simple fun it provides is second to none. These past six months, the App Store front has blown me away. Great article, Sean!

  2. avatar Zero

    Wow Fastar looks like the most blatant rip off of Half Minute Hero yet.

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