Hands-On With Chillingo’s Summer Line-Up

EA’s Summer Showcase yesterday introduced us to plenty of intriguing new games and apps, like Real Racing 3, WordSmack, and PvZ Talking Zombatar. But equally deserving of our attention is the upcoming lineup from Chillingo, EA Mobile’s third-party publishing division. We went hands-on with Word Derby, Chimpact, Happy Squirrels, Critter Escape, and Puzzle Craft, so read on for our impressions.

Word Derby

Like EA Mobile’s WordSmack, Word Derby is a free, ad-supported download that lets you play asynchronously with your Facebook friends. The goal is to make words out of a jumble of letters. Each letter is worth a certain amount of points, like in Scrabble, and the first player to reach 200 points wins the race. However, if you pick the same word as your opponent, you’ll both wipe out and get no points.

Up to four players at a time can play Word Derby, and the more you play, the more tickets you’ll receive. Tickets can unlock new characters and rides, like a fighter jet, mermaid, or samurai. Word Derby seems fairly polished, with a visual aesthetic that reminded us of a carnival game. It’ll be available in mid-September.

Chimpact

Chimpact is a platformer where you fling a monkey from branch to branch, collecting bananas. The gameplay is very similar to Parachute Ninja– you just pull back on each platform to launch your chimp to the next destination. The focus of this game seems to be on the graphics– it looks great on the new iPad, with Retina-detailed leaves that look incredibly sharp. It’ll be out next week.

Happy Squirrels

Everyone seems to be getting in on the tower-building craze started by Tiny Tower, and Chillingo is no exception. Happy Squirrels lets you build up a tree with additional rooms, where squirrels can play in an arcade or style their hair. The in-game currency, nuts, can be collected by tapping them on the side of your tree when you check in. Happy Squirrels will cost nothing to download, and it’ll be out next week as well.

Critter Escape

Critter Escape is a pretty clever stealth game that uses a line-drawing mechanic to help you evade guards. You play as a monster who is trying to escape from a laboratory. In the early levels, it appears that the enemies only move when you do, which makes it feel a bit like a turn-based game. But later on, they’ll keep moving even if you’re standing still. Our favorite part of this game was the potion power-up, which lets your creature turn into a beastly hulk that can pummel guards.

Puzzle Craft

A 2D town-building sim, Puzzle Craft stands out from Farmville-style games by letting you combine resources into new buildings. You’ll have to harvest food and mine ore in matching minigames, which play a bit like Dungeon Raid. These minigames cost some in-game currency to activate, but they’re quite a bit of simple fun. Puzzle Craft will hit the App Store the week of Gamescom, in about two weeks.