These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.
For Moonbot Studios, the story is the most important part of any app this app developer releases. (And expectedly so. This team created the Academy Award-winning animated short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and expanded it into a successful iOS app.) But it also knows how to pull an audience in: All I heard was the phrase "Pegasus kitten" and I downloaded Lollipop 3: Eggs of Doom immediately.
Lollipop 3 is Moonbot's first dive into making an app focused on gameplay, with a background story that supports it. "There's a lot more story that we want to get out," said Bohdon Sayre, Moonbot's chief technical officer, "and you'll see more story vignettes unfold the more you play."
Before you begin with the app, it's crucial that you watch Lollipop 3's in-depth intro video to learn the whole backstory behind the game. To sum things up, two brothers--the good JoyJoy and the evil JonJon--are at odds with each other, and JonJon has turned all of Earth's good creatures (you know, like bubblegum piglets and panda centaurs) into evil ones, trapping them inside of eggs.
JoyJoy recruits three inherently good creatures to help him save the innocents from JonJon. In the game's first chapter, which is currently the only chapter available, you play as the Kitten of Splendor, and you need to hatch falling eggs before they hit the ground and unleash the bad guys within.
Yes, it sounds wacky--and it is--yet that is Lollipop 3's charm.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward: Just tap and hold the falling eggs until they hatch. Each level starts out pretty easy, with only one or two eggs falling at a time, but eggs will fall with more fervor as the level progresses. You'll need to cram as many fingers as you can onto your display to catch each egg. (That's why playing on the iPad is a somewhat more enjoyable experience than with a smartphone, as it's a bit easier to catch eggs on a device with more screen real estate.) You're given three lives per round, so dropping more than three eggs results in a fail.
Capsules occasionally drop down with the eggs; they contain power-ups to assist you along the way. The rainbow, for example, hatches all eggs that fall into its path, where the nest catches stray eggs for you to hatch later. Hold down on a capsule to activate the magic within, just as you would an egg. If you're not ready to use that capsule, feed it to Star Cloud, the fluffy cloud at the top of your screen who is in charge of dropping eggs and capsules.
Apart from just trying to catch as many eggs as you can, baddies explode from dropping bombs and pose a threat to the eggs as well. Destroy the baddies--which take on the form of angry vegetables, homework, and doctors with awful-looking shots (basically "going against the things you hated as kids," according to Sayre)--with a tap of your finger.
Lollipop 3 is a blast, but it stands out for a few reasons:
Everyone is a loser, and that's OK: There's no "winning" a level. The eggs will continue to fall at treacherous rates, and it will get to the point where you cannot hatch them all. Eggs will break, mustachioed tacos and unicorn puppies will perish. That's why each level has a challenge that you must complete before you can advance to the next stage. Stages are tracked on the app's main screen, where you'll see a nasty-looking lollipop. When you clear a challenge, part of your lollipop turns from gross to, well, edible. The Kitten of Splendor has three full lollipops full of challenges for you to complete, with 12 stages in each.
Because the gameplay within each stage is the same, the challenges keep things fresh. One challenge will ask you to fail the level in less than 10 seconds; the next will ask you to hold 25 eggs at a time. You can improve on your egg-hatching technique while trying to beat these specific challenges.
Mega design points: Lollipop 3 looks gorgeous, with stellar animation and a cast of characters that are a hoot to interact with. Its rich world keeps me coming back for more, and I'm seriously looking forward to the release of the next two installments. Plus, it is one of the few games I play with the sound on: Each capsule has its own little ditty produced by Blade Studios, and they're all pretty catchy. (The Slow Motion Capsule song is my jam.) You'll also hear helpful hints and words of encouragement from Star Cloud.
Pay with Joy, not money: Lollipop 3 is a free-to-play game with optional in-app purchases, but you don't have to spend a dime if you don't want to. Instead, you can spend JoyJoy, Lollipop 3's in-game currency. You earn JoyJoy with each egg you hatch and as you win challenges. Then, you can trade JoyJoy for capsules and power-ups in between rounds. Capsules are a must-have, but the other power-ups--like extra lives and faster hatching eggs--are truly optional. You can always play older levels to earn more JoyJoy, but if you can't wait that long, you can buy more with real money. And that fills me with actual joy.
Developer: Moonbot StudiosPlatforms:iOS (Universal)Price: Free with optional in-app purchases