Archive | February, 2010

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Titanic Rescue

Posted on 28 February 2010 by TBS

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Donut Games
App Store: Titanic Rescue $0.99
Pretty much self explanatory according to the title. The Titanic is sinking! Your job is to save the passengers. The tools at your disposal are life rafts and other flotation devices. The passengers will be at their windows waiting for you to “flick” them to safety. If you wait too long the passengers begin to jump ship. When you flick a passenger into the air you must grab the raft and make sure you catch them. If your boat is full or no flotation device is available you will lose a splash. You only have so many splashes before you lose. Think of a splash as a life. To top it all off the passengers are color coded. If you can match the passenger color to the same color flotation device you gain more points.

The game is challenging. Remember, there are no save points or levels to choose from. You need to last as long as possible. Once you lose you start from the beginning again.

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Cows In Space

Posted on 27 February 2010 by TBS

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Donut Games
App Store: Cows In Space $0.99

A very simple game that can get tricky really quick. Cows space is an interesting game where cows in bubbles float in space. You are a spaceship and your job is to get the cows to make contact with the floating stars in space. Sounds easy enough, but you only get three shots. Make them count! You will score higher if you can save the cows in the fastest amount of time without using too many shots. The level ends once everything becomes still. Throughout the levels you will encounter objects that will hinder your progress. Calculate your shots; there are gravity zones that will suck or repel your shots. Make sure to avoid the floating skulls. Nothing good comes of them. There are plenty of levels to keep you entertained.

I really enjoyed the user interface. The game is well polished, and I like how they keep the same menus for other games. A tid bit that I found out by accident is the ability to keep the level going by using your ship to interact with cows, stars or even bullets. I had gotten a little frustraded with a certain level. I then began to swipe the ship back and forth accidentally banging into a few objects causing them to ricochet wildly. I was able to beat the level, and end my frustration. A fun game that kept me entertained to beat all the levels in one sitting.

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Tractor Beam

Posted on 26 February 2010 by Todd

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Manufacturing Content
App Store: Tractor Beam $0.99

Tractor Beam looks like the classic Asteroids game, but you have no engine and no weapons other than your trusty tractor beam! This is a distance game and you move by touching asteroids to engage your tractor beam. You can use your tractor beam ahead and behind your ship to gain speed or reduce your speed as needed. You can also use double touch to use two tractor beams simultaneously for some complex strategies. The game starts of simple, but then quickly becomes much more challenging!

The graphics are perfect for the game and you can play the game in portrait or landscape mode. The music is created dynamically and adds a lot to the gameplay. This game is worth checking out for anyone that likes the classic look and enjoys a good distance game!

[youtube Scok2QNzwTE]

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Block Fall Tilt

Posted on 25 February 2010 by Todd

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Mophy Software
App Store: Block Fall Tilt $0.99

Block Fall Tilt is a block matching game that is simply amazing! This is the most fun block matching game that I have played since Bejeweled. The gameplay is simple, but very addictive. You tap on a block to destroy it and any other adjacent blocks that are of the same color. If you only destroy 2 or less of a single color with a tap then you loose a life. Once you loose all of your lives, a new row of tiles will be dropped down onto your existing pile. Once an entire color of blocks is removed from the screen, they will never return if new blocks are dropped into the pile. You loose if a new row of blocks is dropped, but there isn’t room vertically to accommodate the new blocks.

Where things start to get interesting is the “Tilt” part of the game’s name. You can tilt the device to the left or right and all of the blocks that can slide will slide to the far left or right. This helps you continue to match 3 or more blocks at a time. There are also some zig zag levels that also keep things interesting (see screenshot).

I just can’t say enough good things about this game. The graphics are awesome, the controls are well done, and everything is very well polished. My only complaint is that there are not more or unlimited levels! If you don’t already own Block Fall Tilt then I highly recommend that you get it immediately!

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Rudolph’s Kick n’ Fly

Posted on 25 February 2010 by TBS

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Donut Games
App Store: Rudolph’s Kick n’ Fly $0.99
Oh man, where do I start? First off let us clear up the fact that this is a holiday game. I don’t care. I found this gem searching for games a week ago. A little late, I know. Why am I reviewing a holiday game this late? A game that can make me laugh every level I play deserves to be reviewed any day of the week. On to the review.

You are Santa, and your job is to collect all the ornaments possible in any given level. The problem is that you can’t fly and most of the ornaments are out of jumping distance. Anyways, Santa is to fat to jump. So, enter Rudolph, it is his job to get Santa airborne, but not in the way you would expect. Rudolph has been waiting for this since having to carry such a heavy load every Christmas. We are talking about Santa. Santa takes his position and bends over. Rudolph then gives one good back kick to Santa. Initially, you are able to have control of the angle and strength of the kick. Once airborne it is your job to keep him up there. There two objects to help you. The first is a giant mushroom and the second is a cloud floating in the air. The third item to help you is Santa’s gas movements. You only get, umm…, two farts. Make sure to avoid the snowman and wells. If Santa makes contact with them it will end his run effectively. I did find that if you bit the edge of a well it will bounce you. Should Santa not be able to make contact with the objects that cause him to soar then he will come to a sliding stop.

Let’s talk about sound effects. Hilarious!  This game will stay on my iPhone for a long time.

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Alien Swing

Posted on 24 February 2010 by Todd

*****1vote

Mr Jack Games
App Store: Alien Swing $1.99

Alien Swing is a swinging game where you play a purple space alien chameleon. You use your tong to grab onto various objects by simply tapping on the object. To help the alien swing you tilt the device left/right and allow physics to do the rest. The primary objective is to swing the alien past the right side of the screen, but there are various items that you can also collect as you move from level to level.

The art style is really funky and ties in well with the alien theme. The controls work pretty well and there isn’t much you have to learn after passing the first level. There is a distance game mode that allows you to see how far you can swing without hitting the ground. Alient Swing also uses OpenFeint for leaderboards and achievements.

I think that this game is more interesting than most of the basic swinging type games and I am sure the art style will really appeal to some. You should give Alien Swing a try if you are into swinging games or if you really like the art style.

[youtube mI0s2MTeqCE]

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Arukone

Posted on 23 February 2010 by Todd

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Planet Blue Art
App Store: Arukone Free

Arukone is a classic Japanese game where the objective is to connect similar shapes. This sounds more simple than it is in practice! You cannot have any connecting lines overlap and to complete a level you must draw lines on all of the open paths. There is a hint button that will show you what move you should make next, but the hint button will disappear if used to much. The interface is what you would expect for this type of game. The puzzles are quite challenging and not meant for the faint of heart (or small children).

This free version of the game comes with 10 levels that give you a really good taste of what Arukone has to offer. Arukone is a great game for anyone that loves matching and path finding puzzles. The full version of the game contains 200 levels and a bunch of level packs that can each be purchased for $0.99 and include 100 levels each. I had fun playing through all 10 of the levels in the free version and could see myself playing through more. This is a great game to pickup and play when you have time.

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Flower Garden

Posted on 22 February 2010 by Todd

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Snappy Touch
App Store: Flower Garden $2.99 | Free

Flower Garden is an interactive flower gardening application that has lots to offer to those with and without a green thumb. Everything in Flower Garden is very well polished and makes great use of the device. You start off with several empty pots, seed varieties, and some fertilizer. You plant seeds into the available pots and then you can either water or apply some fertilizer. A dose of fertilizer will make the plant grow a full day’s worth immediately, or the other option is to water your plants and take a more organic approach. The plans grow faster than a real plant would grow, so it keeps you engaged. Once you have fully grown flowers you have the option to cut flowers to create bouquets. Once you have created a bouquet that you are satisfied with you can share the bouquet  by sending it via email or Facebook.

There is also a Flower Shop that allows you to purchase new seeds, fertilizer, pots, and a greenhouse to keep things interesting. You can either start with the full version or the free and purchase your way to all of the things that the full version offers by default. The application is very well done and the developer is constantly adding new features and items to the Flower Shop. Flower Garden is very forgiving for those that forget to water for a few days and you can always plant new seeds if you completely neglected any flowers for too long. I would highly recommend Flower Garden to anyone that needs a peaceful experience or enjoys gardening.

[youtube 0nM_5nxFSUM]

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Indie Interview: Flower Garden

Posted on 08 February 2010 by Todd

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Today we bring you an indie interview with Noel Llopis, the creator of Flower Garden!

Company: Snappy Touch
Games: Flower Garden | Free

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
I started doing iPhone development in the fall of 2008. I had spent many years in the games industry making PC and console games, so the iPhone was a breath of fresh air. I could still do all the cool game development bits on a great platform, with great tools, and with a very small team.

How long did it take you to develop Flower Garden and how many people were involved?
The most accurate answer is “it took me too long!”. Seriously. From the first line of code until submission it was 6 months (!!). Since then, I’ve probably put an additional couple of months worth of work in updates, PR, and support. It was all done by me with some help from a friend of mine and terrific graphic designer, David Fennema, for most of the graphic design elements.

How did you come up with the idea for Flower Garden?
I was looking for a good idea that met three requirements: I wanted something that was fairly unique, that involved creating or caring for something (instead of shooting or destroying things), and that could be shared with other people. Then one day, it hit me in the middle of a long run. I ran home even faster and jumped on the App Store to see if there was anything like that available.

What inspired you for Flower Garden from initial concept to formalized game?
Before inspiration came a lot of research. I got out the library every book I could get my hands on flower morphology and procedural plant creation. I devoured them in a few days and stripped it down to the bare minimum (good thing otherwise I would still be making it!).

As for the design, I was mostly inspired by other Apple UI. I really tried to keep things smooth, simple, and minimalistic. You won’t see lots of buttons in Flower Garden.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
Clearly, other games are an influence on me. I see something I like and I want to make something at least as good. But most of my inspiration comes from other, totally unrelated sources. I’ve always believed that people should have as varied interests and hobbies as possible to come up with the best ideas. Sometimes it’s the combination of two obvious concepts in two very different fields that creates something very new and original.

In any case, I usually have my best, most creative ideas while running or cycling. There’s something about the mind wandering in different ways than normal that causes all sorts of creative ideas.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
That’s easy: Making money 🙂 Apart from that, it’s really a dream come true. I’m going to have a really hard time if I ever go back and work for a company.

Can you describe your development process?
I’m a big fan of iterative and agile development. I really believe in making very small prototypes early on and nailing what’s unique about a game. After that, it’s a matter of refining and refining until it’s ready to go.

As far as actual development practices, even working by myself, I still do short sprint/iterations (usually a week or so) and I do test-driven development for almost everything. Totally worth it.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
I try to prototype several ideas, even if I think I found the right one from the beginning. Then I pick the best of those and run with it. I try to get feedback as early as possible in the development cycle.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Flower Garden was released?
Pre-marketing? Not really. I released a teaser video, but probably only a few hundred people ever saw it. I definitely learned how to do a better pre-launch campaign since then.

What are you working on now?
I just started a new project, but it’s unannounced. It will be something much shorter this time though, just under two months. After that, I already have a couple ideas I’m itching to do. Shortage of ideas is not the problem. It’s time and manpower! 🙂

Any plans for updates to Flower Garden?
I just finished a big update for Valentine’s Day, which includes a greenhouse garden and a new set of seeds (both available as in-app purchases) as well as a bunch of UI improvements. People have been loving all the new content provided through in-app purchases, so I plan on continuing to make new seeds and other features in the upcoming months. Expect another one at around Mother’s Day.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Flower Garden?
How long it took for sure. Looking at it it’s hard to think why it took so long, but there are so many things that are easy to take for granted. I even ended up cutting the whole cross-polination aspect (which was a good call in retrospect).

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Flower Garden?
This post tells all the story with sales numbers to back it up: http://gamesfromwithin.com/making-a-living-barely-on-the-iphone-app-store Basically, I tried just about everything and it wasn’t making much of a difference. Then I hit on in-app purchases and things really took off. I’m not saying that IAP are the magic bullet for everybody because I think they’re very dependent on the nature of the game and what you’re selling, but they seem to be a perfect fit for Flower Garden.

As you can expect, not everybody loved it though. A lot of people on the App Store left comments complaining about IAP maybe not realizing they were totally optional, or expecting they would get all of that for free. I don’t know. I have been extremely sensitive to that and always made sure I never crippled the game in any way and every update added something new even if you don’t buy it. Most people voted with their money and the sales numbers really show that it was the right thing to do.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
It definitely plays a big part! The feedback I got through email and the Facebook group helped me choose the priority of the features to be added. For example, as soon as Flower Garden was released, people were begging to have tags in the pots so they could tell what seeds were planted there, so that made it in the first update.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
I’ve spent too many years writing games for other people. Now I’m making the games I want to make. And one of the things that means is that I’m not going to make any violent games. I have nothing against them, and even right now I’m playing Fallout 3 (which is ultra-violent), but it’s not something I want to make myself anymore. I’d rather appeal to different emotions in the players.

What process do you go through to overcome coder’s block or even a creative block?
Test-driven development totally gets rid of coder’s block. Seriously, I haven’t had a case of that in many years. There’s always a small step you can take, and after that things become easier.

Creative block is tough. Very tough. I can get very depressed if I’m stuck in a creative block, which makes things worse. Creating prototypes for ideas that you know are probably not going to make it is a great way to get out of it though. You’re doing something, and soon a bunch of other ideas come flooding. Bouncing ideas off other people really helps too.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
What would I do differently? I should have jumped on in-app purchases earlier, but I had no way to know. I’m glad I tried all the things I did (lite version, Facebook integration, etc). My pre and post-launch PR campaign could have been better. That’s something I’m really hoping to improve next time with all I know now.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
I work from home, from a dedicated room I made into my office. I need lots of light and constant access to tea and muchies 🙂

And yes, I’m listening to music all the time. I choose the music to fit the mood or what I have to do: there’s “getting things done” music, there’s “creative” music, there’s “this is great day music”, and “let’s power through this music”. I’m a huge music consumer because I end up listening to 10-12 albums per day. My tastes are very varied from current indie music (Metric, Vampire Weekend), singer-songwriters (Ingrid Michaelson), to more classic rock (Springsteen, Sheryl Crow), and even lots of classical music.

What was a must have during the development process of Flower Garden?
Probably the most crucial thing in the development of Flower Garden was the great community of other indie iPhone developers out there though. It was invaluable bouncing ideas off them, and being inspired by them. Couldn’t have done it in isolation, that’s for sure.

What games influenced you in your decision to make Flower Garden?
Nothing in particular. Even though people keep bringing up the similarities, I never played any Tamagotchi games.

To what do you attribute to Flower Garden success? Did you expect this level of success?
To be honest, until December Flower Garden reached exactly the worst-case scenario I had calculated before its launch. Since then things have really picked up and I’m much happier with how it’s doing now. I really didn’t expect in-app purchases to have this much of an effect considering the number of units that were there in the first place, but I guess the few people who were using Flower Garden were really enjoying it and ready for more content.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
Very, very close. I have some early sketches that show exactly the screens in the game as they are now. Fortunately the ones in the game are a lot prettier 🙂

Before the release of Flower Garden were there any huge last minute changes?
Yes! It was kind of crazy, but two days before submitting the game I decided to try a little PR trick. I added the option to download bonus flowers by entering a code. Then I offered web sites the possibility of having their own seed and having them announce the code to their readers. This was without any strings attached, certainly not expecting a more favorable review, but I think it helped get reviewer’s attention and there were more reviews because of it. It was kind of scary coming up with something pretty major like that a few days before submission though!

How did you keep yourself motivated? What tips do you have for people with AADD like me?
Getting on a regular schedule really helped. I usually go running early in the morning, and then I work at least from 8-9am until 6-7pm. Collaborating with other people is also a huge motivator, as is giving builds to friends. But mostly is enjoying what you’re doing, and I enjoyed every minute of it, even the crazy crunch leading to the first release.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
I’m usually a very visual person, and art plays a huge role in my project. Flower Garden was different though because all the flowers are procedurally generated, so there wasn’t a really strong visual theme. It definitely help set the tone of the graphics though, going for a non-ultra realistic look. Maybe more like very detailed hand-drawn style.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
I always say I can do iPhone development with my Macbook Pro, the SDK, an iPod Touch, and an internet connection from anywhere in the world. That’s really a fantastic change from working with massive devkits for game consoles. But apart from that, I found Subversion, Photoshop, Audacity, and TextWrangler to be essential for development.

We want to thank Noel for his time and all of the great information that he shares with the indie community on his Games from Within blog!

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Addicus

Posted on 01 February 2010 by TBS

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Get Set Games
App Store: Addicus $1.99 | Lite

Questioning your ability = Simple Addition + (Colors * Time Limit). Welcome to Addicus. The game is extremely simple to play. The game gives you a number that is color coded to solve. Using the different colored mushrooms you must add up to the number given. You have a time limit in order to solve the addition problem. During game play there are various bonuses the player encounters. The bonuses depends on how fast you solve the addition problem and how many mushrooms you use. There is an Overdrive mode where you gain extra points. I have only done this three times. I think it is time to go back to school after failing to reach a certain point in the game, and lack of obtaining a certain amount of overdrive levels.

The graphics are fantastic and pleasing to the eye. The music to the main menu had me fooled. I first thought that the elevator music was going to be the main soundtrack to the game. I was wrong. The soundtrack is great. No learning curve, except for math 101, when it comes to the UI. There is the pause button at the top, and the rest is just tapping mushrooms to your heart’s content.

Current playability will keep you interested for only so long. Adding a different object that represents multiplication to the mix would really spice up the game. Another idea is to have the ability to play against a friend. Both players would see the same mushrooms, and must solve faster than the other. All in all, a great game to exercise our brains which we need more of.

[youtube dlT_NGGaL6E]

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