What We’re Playing This Week on Inside Social Games

[Editor’s Note: We’re trying something new on Inside Social Games with weekly social game review roundups. Quite apart from our standard reviews format and our weekly AppData rankings charts, this post is intended to share an opinion-based viewpoint of the games we play with scores out of a 10-point scale assigned for emphasis. Certain titles may be re-reviewed repeatedly on this list with different scores as the game matures, appears on new social game platforms, or changes in fundamental ways with the addition of new content or sequels.]

Bubble Witch Saga — King.com’s latest title to get a standalone app broken off from its games portal is a bubble shooter with a twist on score multipliers where players earn and lose multipliers based on how well they can navigate obstacles within a level. The difficulty increases sharply between each level, with new configurations of bubbles and obstacles challenging the player’s sense of physics. The music and audio effects sound a bit cheap and the animation is nothing special, but the gameplay is simple enough to pick and play at any time and challenging enough to keep you coming back.
Score: 8
Play it here.

Fruit Ninja Frenzy — Halfbrick’s popular fruit-slicing mobile game migrates to Facebook with a virtual goods model based around Smoothie powerups that boost scores. The slicing of fruit doesn’t feel quite the same with a mouse interface as it does with a touch interface, but the game is still compelling, especially with a prominently-displayed friends leaderboard tracking high scores.
Score: 7
Play it here.

 

Mafia Wars 2 — Zynga’s sequel to its text-based 2008 role-playing game introduces a fully animated setting in Las Vegas and player-versus-player combat. The core gameplay concept is almost the same as the original Mafia Wars where players recruit gang members and do battle with other gangs, but the visual environment and rap music soundtrack make Mafia Wars 2 feel like a complete departure. These features also make the game feel like a lot of other Facebook games with crime-themed citybuilding elements and PvP modes. So if you’re into Crime City, you’ll probably like it — but if you liked the original Mafia Wars, this might be too much of a change up.
Score: 7
Play it here.

PixelJunk Monsters Online — Q-Games’ hit PlayStation Network tower defense game makes the jump to Facebook with cosmetic improvements and microtransactions based around unlocking new areas on a world map. Like all tower defense games, the goal is to stop a horde of enemies advancing toward a base by placing defensive towers along their path. The gameplay is every bit as fun as it was the first time around, but the art style really pops on the Facebook platform. Here’s hoping future monetization features don’t upset the overall quality.
Score: 8
Play it here.

Ravenskye City — 6waves Lolapps’ second installment in the Raven franchise of social games brings the art and sound quality to the new level. The gameplay, however, is mostly frozen right where it was in Ravewood Fair — maybe even with a few downgrades. For example, Ravenwood Fair rewards you with mushrooms for chopping down trees and clearing debris, which you can then spend on energy powerups when you run out. In Ravenskye, the only way to buy energy powerups is with premium currency.
Score: 7
Play it here.

Triple Town — Spry Fox’s free-to-play puzzle game for Facebook and G+ started as a one-time download Kindle game that you can still buy for $3.99. Players try to match three or more of any item along a grid to form a larger item (e.g. three bushes make a tree, three trees make a house, etc.) and thereby fill up the grid to complete a town. It’s a cute and compelling game that’s easy to learn and difficult to master, but the monetization feels a little unnatural because the move counter doesn’t reset with each new level, forcing the player to shell out for additional moves usually in the middle of their second or third puzzle. Players can also just wait for moves to accumulate over time.
Score: 9
Play it here.

Zombiees! — Team Vienna Games’ turn-based strategy game has great art and a solid gameplay concept where players battle the undead in a college setting using various weapons they purchase or earn. As funny as the concept is and as much as we like the comic book art style, the balance could use a little work. As it stands, it’s easy to wind up in a situation where you run out of energy after just two minutes of play. This gets really frustrating when two encounters completely drain your stamina, but you need to complete 10 encounters just to unlock the next quests.
Score: 6
Play it here.

Zombie Misfits — Nexon’s newest game is a tower defense title where players place different types of combat units between a horde of zombies and a hideout filled with survivors. The gameplay is pretty demanding compared to most other Facebook games that could be played idly during a coffee break and matches can take up to 20 minutes, but the art and sound quality make it worth setting aside an entire lunch break to play. It’s not very needy on the monetization, so you can play as much as you’d like — but the viral sharing pop-ups are frequent enough to be distracting.
Score: 9
Play it here.