Archive | April, 2010

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Pocket Legends

Posted on 23 April 2010 by TBS

**** 1vote

Space Time Studios
App Store: Pocket Legends FREE

Finally an MMO that has me excited. This review is for the iPhone version. The differences between the iPad and iPhone are minimal. You choose from three different classes to play the game. The game is in 3D and offers some good camera control with zooming and rotating. The three classes are an archer eagle, bear warrior and an elven mage. It is not an open world type MMO, my first disappointment, and you are forever stuck to play instance after instance. There isn’t much of a story line, but what is there ties itself to the action. With it not being an open world I found it to be a fun and addicting MMO. There are plenty of players as I have yet to play an instance alone which is nice. Having other group members to help makes it fun.

The game is free to download, but after level 13 it will require you to purchase packs to advance in level. The price for the packs are reasonable ranging from .99 to 1.99. You can still play without purchasing the packs you will just not be able to level and acquire weapons.

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Solomon’s Keep

Posted on 22 April 2010 by TBS

*****1vote

Raptisoft
App Store: Solomon’s Keep $0.99*

This has got to be my most favorite game right now. I cannot put my iPhone down. Snatch this up while it is still .99 cents. *I can guarantee you that it will not be this price for much longer. You take on the roll of an apprentice magician. It is time for you to shed yours robes of an apprentice and become a full fledged wizard. Your teachers will not bestow the title upon you until you have proven yourself outside of the school of wizardry. You must go to Solomon’s keep and defeat the evil wizard. You must make your way up to the very top of the keep and face Solomon Dark. You will encounter all sorts of evils. You control the apprentice with your left thumb and fire your offensive spells with your right. Leveling up lets you choose what to upgrade. I haven’t figured out how to see the complete list to upgrade. As of right now it will only show me three skills to upgrade. Besides the controls there are four small icons on the screen that serves as your menu: Help, skill change, inventory and overhead map. This game is a cross between Diablo and Zelda.

I am thoroughly enjoying this game. The graphics are very good. The sound effects and music really add to the game play. I am keeping my fingers crossed for an iPad version.

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Jimmy Pataya

Posted on 17 April 2010 by Todd

     0votes

Paladin Studios
App Store: Jimmy Pataya $0.99

Jimmy Pataya is an adrineline junkie that decided he couldn’t wait to strap on a parachute and would worry about that later, it was time to jump out of an airplane! You control Jimmy as he is free falling to Earth and you tilt your device left or right to rotate Jimmy around a pole that goes down to the ground. There are various platforms attached to the pole that you have to avoid as you fall and see how far you can make it!

The graphics are awesome and there is an effect that really makes it feel like you are rushing towards the ground. The game also has great sound effects and music.The controls really work well for this game and are easy to pickup. There are high scores and you can Tweet your score. Paladin Studios created Jimmy Pataya in just two weeks, so there are no achievements or other challenges other than trying to see how far you can make it before hitting one of the platforms. This is a fun game for $0.99 and hopefully the developer will release an update that adds more challenges or something along those lines.

[youtube Wf642aaxARM]

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Indie Interview: FaceFighter

Posted on 16 April 2010 by Todd

****½2votes

Today we bring you an indie interview with Paul O’ Connor from the team that brought us FaceFighter.

Company: Appy Entertainment, Inc.
App Store: FaceFighter $1.99 | Lite

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
Appy Entertainment was born on Halloween 2008 to develop games for iPhone and iPod/touch. Prior to founding Appy, we were mostly VP-level guys at High Moon Studios, a developer we helped to found and guide through acquisition with Vivendi. While at High Moon we developed next gen console games like Darkwarch and The Bourne Conspiracy.

How long did it take you to develop FaceFighter and how many people were involved?
The FaceFighter core team was our CTO Marc-Antoine Argenton and Project Director Emmanuel Valdez, with Farzad Varahramyan, our Creative Visual Director, also devoting significant time to the project. Steve Sargent was Executive Producer.  At various times about a half-dozen other folks were on the project in full or part time capacities. Total development time was in the neighborhood of five months.

How did you come up with the idea for FaceFighter?
Em had a background in fighting games, and we wanted to do something game-based with our face and photo tech from our first app (Appy Newz), so FaceFighter was a natural choice.

What inspired you for FaceFighter from initial concept to formalized game?
We knew FaceFighter would be funny, that it would make people laugh, that it would compel them to share the game with each other — we knew if we made a game that created a picture of your friend all beaten up that it would have a viral component to inspire word-of-mouth, which is critical to continues sales of any app.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
All of our games come from the same place — our games need to be something that will use the unique elements of the iPhone, whether that’s Multitouch, or the camera, or connectivity. Games also need to be strong in key areas — they need to have a social dimension, they need someplace to grow through continuing sales and updates, they need to create something players will feel compelled to share with each other. Not every game hits every one of these elements to the same degree but they’re all viewed and evaluated through this lens.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Fear of the unknown. Everything we do is entirely on our own dime, without any kind of publisher-level access to Apple, so margins for error are slimmer and capacity for disaster is greater than if we were doing projects for an established publisher. At the same time, we have greater freedom and the upside is considerably greater. Being an Indie is like being on a pirate ship, while a publisher gig is more like an ocean liner. Both are ships, both do essentially the same thing, but they get there different ways and with different attitudes. One isn’t better than the other — it’s really more a matter of deciding where your individual temperament will give you the greatest happiness and satisfaction.

Can you describe your development process?
We’ve got seven full-time guys inside Appy, we all suggest ideas and kick things around. Some of us do it more than others, but we’re all part of the process. Once every several weeks we have a day where we head up to the loft and cull our idea file (thirty or forty pages long by now) and get a few of the most promising ideas onto the whiteboard. Then we fight with each other a bit about what idea has the most merit.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Coming out of the whiteboard session an idea will be “green lit” for further development. At this point we’ll document the design a bit and try to get a clearer idea of what tools and code will be required to bring the idea to market. We’ll trim scope at this point and try to get a schedule. Then we work toward first prototype, which is proof-of-concept, and that’s kind of the time we need to put our hands on a rock and decide we’re really going to make this idea work. Not every game survives this step and we have spiked games that got to prototype when we decided that the game just wasn’t going to prove viable.

Did you do any pre-marketing before FaceFighter was released?
No … we kept everything dark right up until the game came out. We didn’t have a big customer base for promotion at that point, and there didn’t seem any point in promoting the game through the press until the game was actually available for download.

What are you working on now?
Continuing development of FaceFighter is our first priority — we have 3 million downloads of the game out there in all of its forms and the game continues to sell well. We just released FaceFighter Face2Face for iPad, and we have iPad versions of Tune Runner and Zombie Pizza on the way. We’re doing new fighters, weapons, and finishing moves as downloadable content for FaceFighter on iPhone and iPod touch. We have continuing plans for FaceFighter that we’re not ready to reveal right now. We have two new original projects in development for release later this year, and we’re looking at a couple licensed properties in entirely new areas for us. We’re also continually tweaking our existing games, adding new content (we just added email, Facebook, and Twitter connectivity to our free FaceFighter Lite), improving our ad networks, adding OpenFeint, that kind of stuff … it’s largely invisible to our fans but these adjustments are important to the long-term success of our apps and they cost real money and schedule time.

Any plans for updates to FaceFighter?
Yep — two or three new weapon/foe/finishing packs should be out by mid-year.

What was your most frustrating task while developing FaceFighter?
There were a whole host of things, but connecting to Facebook and dealing with that system was probably the most frustrating.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market FaceFighter?
Word-of-mouth … nothing counts more than getting the game into someone’s hands. They always laugh and they always show the game to their friends. So getting the game into the hands of people who will write about it and show it around has been critical. That’s why our game really took off after we were free for a week — we shipped a million free copies of FaceFighter in six days and we’re still riding the wave of sales from that event thanks to customer referrals.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
We take it seriously. We answer all of our email. We keep an eye on App Store reviews. We try to figure what will get us another star or half star on the App Store.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
We’ve concentrated entirely on original and wholly-owned projects at Appy but would consider outside development if the deal made sense for everyone.

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
We look at our bank balance.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
I think we’ve ended up updating and tweaking stuff in smaller chunks than we anticipated. We’re more likely to do two small updates in six weeks than one big update in four.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
We’re above a pub so there is plenty of noise and music and drunkenness down in the parking lot. Inside the office we watch a lot of Team America: World Police.

What was a must have during the development process of FaceFighter?
Time. Time time time. A lot of lost weekends and nights on that project.

What games influenced you in your decision to make FaceFighter?
The greatest influence was probably Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, which was also created by Em … that game was kind of the touchstone for our FaceFighter mechanics, in as much as we compared everything to that game in terms of execution and difficulty levels.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
The game took a casual turn during development. It started off as a more serious and “gamerly” game but we realized that FaceFighter would enjoy greater success if we guided it more toward a pick-up-and-play audience.

Before the release of FaceFighter were there any huge last minute changes?
The “Immortal Judgment” finishing move — at first just dropping a rock on your enemy, but later a whole range of goofy finishes — that went in very late. Basically, Em just announced that he’d come up with the idea and was putting it in, I think he came up with it entirely on his own and basically sprung it on the rest of us. And he was right — the game needed a comical climax and that’s exactly what the Judgments provide. But it was a pretty major addition for the home stretch of the project.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
We’ve burned our boats. There is no sailing back to where we came from. We make this work, or we fail. That’s all the motivation we require.

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?
Art is one of the strong suits of Appy Entertainment — we have monstrously-talented artists in-house to drive our animation, production design, and look and feel of our games. If we can’t make it look great, we don’t do it.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
Heavy use of green screen for our animation and image capture. Other than that, the usual stuff.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
No apps. We’d unplug, watch the waves, get some sleep.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Thanks for thinking of us. Go buy our games so we can keep doing this!

We want to thank Paul for his time!

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Steam Wars

Posted on 15 April 2010 by TBS

*****2votes

Illogika
App Store: Steam Wars $1.99

Steam Wars is a 3D game between two steamed powered robots battleing it out. Your objective is to destroy the enemy robot on the other side of the planet. Remember, each move will cost you some steam power. Each weapon consumes a certain amount of steam. So choose your strategy wisely. You have three weapons at your disposal. Each weapon can be upgraded during your game play. Your trusty go to weapon is the cannonball. Does the least amount of damage, but requires the least amount of steam power. The steam propelled rocket is the next best weapon you can use. The final weapon is the satellite. Nuke’em from space just to be safe. During game play you will able to move around for strategic positioning. Moving around also takes steam, so be careful.

The graphics are awesome. Game play is a lot of fun. Multiplayer would have propelled this game to the top, but it was never included. Lack of story and some sort of campaign mode would have made this a polished game front to back. Repitition does make the game short lived. Despite all that, the game is still fun to play and look at.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji3Ggr_K62Y

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Ground Effect

Posted on 14 April 2010 by Todd

***  5votes

Glenn Corpes
App Store: Ground Effect $2.99

Ground Effect is really fun racing game that is similar to whip’Eout”, but more realistic! This game is simply awesome with incredible 3D graphics, challenging tracks, and is very smooth. If you are not familiar with the concept of ground effect vehicles then you should read up about them on Wikipedia here. This is not sci-fi and this game does a great job of bringing this really cool vehicle to the iPhone.

You have the option of selecting from many really well designed 3D crafts with various paint jobs. There are 14 levels and they get challenging really quickly and offer a lot of replay as you try to get the best time possible. You must place in one of the top three finishing spots to unlock the next level. You use the accelerometer to turn left and right, while using two peddle buttons as boost and brakes. The sensitivity of the controls takes a little getting use to, but the controls work great once you get use to them. You gain more boost over time or by passing through gates (between two flags). If you miss a gate then boost is taken from your meter, so be careful!

The tracks are really well done and offer awesome terrain. The jumps are amazing and really add a lot to the gameplay. There are three modes of gameplay: Race, Ghost Race, and Just Cruise. Ground Effect uses OpenFeint achievements and leaderboards. The music and sound effects are great. There is also the option to play your own music, which is always nice.

This is one of the best racing games that I have played on the iPhone and I would highly recommend giving this one a try. There is a lot of gameplay here and as Glenn mentioned, in our interview with him, more levels are on their way!

[youtube 30UBj6vfshU]

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Mad’O’Ball 3D

Posted on 13 April 2010 by Todd

*****6votes

Tommaso Lintrami
App Store: Mad’O’Ball 3D $3.99

Mad’O’Ball 3D is a really nice marble game with lots to offer. There are 32 levels in 4 different locations and each location includes a new theme and challenges. The accelerometer controls work great and there are also jump buttons which are used at various places to jump across gaps in the track and reach higher locations. The ball and tracks are 3D and the track overview when you start a level is a really nice touch that shows of the 3D environment.

The levels can be very challenging since you are racing against the clock to complete a level. The game warns you when turns or areas that you should be cautious around are coming, but you still need to make good time so be careful! The levels start to offer some really interesting gameplay challenges as you progress through the game like moving platforms.

The game has good sound effects, but I was not a fan of the music. OpenFeint is used for achievements and is again a nice little carrot to keep you playing. The menus are a little lackluster after seeing the nice 3D graphics of the tracks, but that shouldn’t keep you from trying out this game.

I really enjoyed playing this game and there is a lot of content. This type of game is great on the iDevices and worth a look!

[youtube VDZSjzL7Iv8]

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5-in-1 Reflex Game: Super Reactor

Posted on 12 April 2010 by TBS

     0votes

Vee Games
App Store: 5-in-1 Reflex Game: Super Reactor $0.99

This game packages 5 games in 1. Each one is designed to test your concentration and eye to hand reflex actions. The following games included are:

1. Simple Test – There is a red button on the screen. As soon as the button turns green you must press it.
2. Duck Hunt – Quickly stop the ducks from running across the screen.
3. Sheep Catch – The same as duck hunt. You must stop the sheep from running from one end to the other.
4. Base Ball – A little bit more complicated. There is no visual of a baseball. The pitcher winds up and throws. You must start your swing at the first sign of the pitcher winding up.
5. Brake Test – This one is pretty tricky. There is a car on the road and you must apply the brakes before hitting any pedestrians. Remember to hit the brakes early or you will skid into the people on the crosswalk.

Each of these games are designed to test your reflex skills. I did start picking up a trend on time when it came between intervels of reflex action. Could be just me, and not the game being set to a certain amount of time between actions. Overall a good set of games to test one’s skills.

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OddBlob

Posted on 10 April 2010 by TBS

     0votes

Astraware
App Store: OddBlob $2.99

OddBlob is a claymation arcade game. The object of the game is to bounce from end of a tile map to the other. Along the way there will be fruit and slices of cake that you can pick up for extra points. When you land on a slice of cake you will be taken to “bonus” round. There you will have to strategize a way of getting a slice of cake with the most combo moves to it. Be careful while jumping your way across the tiles. Some tiles will disappear on you. There are other tiles that will help or hurt you during the process. Arrows will cause you to jump in the direction they are facing. Double arrows will cause you to jump two tiles in the direction it is pointing. The target looking tiles will cause you to jump in the direction you are pointing at the time of landing on it.

The game is neat. I like the concept, and the graphics are really good. The soundtrack gives a good feel to the game. I can’t say that about the sound effects. My only problem was the if I wasn’t precise in the direction of the jump I would accidentally jump to the side. I have big fingers. The game has an overall good feel to it, and I enjoyed my time playing it.

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Indie Interview: Chalkboard Stunts

Posted on 09 April 2010 by Todd

     0votes

Today we bring you an indie interview with Arshad Rahman and Rav Dhiraj, the creators of Chalkboard Stunts.

Company: Manta Research
App Store: Chalkboard Stunts Free | Chalkboard Stunts Pro $1.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
We actually started developing late 2007 with the reverse engineered frameworks, before an official SDK was even released.  We’ve always had a love for low level tinkering, and this seemed like the perfect platform for it.  In our day jobs, we both work at a company where we develop high-end 3D graphics/video hardware and associated drivers for the Apple platform.

How long did it take you to develop Chalkboard Stunts and how many people were involved?
The original proof of concept was actually developed in the fall of 2008, but it sat on the shelf for a long time as we worked on other projects.  We revived it again in November 2009, and we’ve been focused on it since then.

How did you come up with the idea for Chalkboard Stunts?
We started experimenting with in-game physics in late 2008, and as part of that experiment we put together a simple proof of concept vehicle and rudimentary level builder to see how well it worked.

What inspired you for Chalkboard Stunts from initial concept to formalized game?
We saw the success of some of the other racing titles on the platform in spite of what we felt were serious shortcomings in some of these other offerings.  We thought we could do a better job, so we decided that we had to create our own 2D physics based racing title.

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
All the good Apps that have found some success in the App Store.  It gives us hope that investing time to create a fun and polished game will be worthwhile.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Well both of us have full-time day jobs, so all of our iPhone development is done in the evenings and weekends.  There’s a tremendous amount of effort (over a thousand hours) that goes into putting out a game like Chalkbaord Stunts, and it means making a lot of personal sacrifices with our families so that we can pursue this.

Can you describe your development process?
Generally, it’s broken down into three stages: 1) prototyping and design discussions/notes 2) concentrated development of features 3) testing and iterating on design elements.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
We do a lot of brainstorming and playing around with different proof-of-concept experiments before we actually get down to writing a game like Chalkboard Stunts.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Chalkboard Stunts was released?
Not really.

What are you working on now?
We’re continuing to make improvements to Chalkboard Stunts, and are also working on another game that we hope to bring to market in the near future.  We also have a popular application called “AppSniper” which we’re also in the process of updating.

Any plans for updates to Chalkboard Stunts?
Absolutely.  We have a ton of ideas on how to improve the game, the level editor, offer additional in-app purchases, etc.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Chalkboard Stunts?
Balancing overall project development time with feature creep.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Chalkboard Stunts?
We tried a few different things without much success.  Sales were very poor, and it was a very frustrating experience for us because we genuinely felt that we had a good product that we had put a tremendous amount of effort into.  At the end of the day, what worked for us was to pay for a spot with FreeAppADay.com.  It was a big risk, and we ended up paying almost as much as we had made since launch (6 weeks worth), but we felt strongly that it could do well if it just had some visibility.

After the promotion, we shot up the charts and we kept gaining momentum all the way to the number 1 spot on the free list.  Of course we didn’t make any money from giving our product away, but we had over a million downloads in this period, and since then we’ve released a “pro” version which is selling reasonably well.

Since we never planned on making the game free, one of the problems we ran into was that our server did not scale well to suddenly having a million people trying to submit scores, vote on levels, and download new levels.  In fact, it completely flattened our server such that all requests were timing out.  We scrambled with our ISP to increase the resources, and make changes to our back-end server queries to help reduce the load, but this only helped a little bit.  We eventually ended up migrating to a MUCH more expensive load balanced dedicated server, but now things are zippy again.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
A lot.  We pride ourselves on our customer support and responsiveness to user feedback.  We are constantly evaluating the suggestions that people send us, and we always try to incorporate any good ideas that people send our way.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
A little bit of both.  We both love gaming, and we both love programming… and if we can make some extra cash doing it on the side, then it’s a win-win situation :)

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
Usually playing other games. :)

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
We spent a lot of time beta testing the game internally with a group of friends, but unfortunately all of them were hardcore gamers.  All of them loved it, and had no problems with the controls, but at launch the biggest complaints we got were on the control setup and the difficulty of the game.  If we could do things over again, we would have launched with the configurability and ease of driving that we have now.

The other thing is that we would have been better prepared for the sheer number of downloads and the server scaling required to handle that.  At the number one spot on the free list, we were getting over 200k downloads EVERY DAY!

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
Most of the development was done late at night, so dark and quiet (no music).

What was a must have during the development process of Chalkboard Stunts?
Support from our families!

What games influenced you in your decision to make Chalkboard Stunts?
We looked at all of the games in the same genre, and also games that offered in-game level creation and sharing.  This included games like Jelly Car 2, Monster Truck Nitro, Line Rider, MX Mayhem, iStunt, Labyrinth 2, and iBlast Moki to name a few.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
The basic premise was still the same, but we ended up adding a lot of things to the final game.

Before the release of Chalkboard Stunts were there any huge last minute changes?
Not really.  We actually spent the final few weeks fine-tuning the game physics and creating levels.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
Feedback from our beta testers and knowing that the core gameplay was fun.

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?
We had a few different ideas for the look of the game (including a doodle look which we will be releasing shortly as a new theme).  The art assets sort of fell into place as we went, and the chalkboard look just made a lot of sense.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
XCode, Photoshop, Fission, HTTPscoop, TextMate, Screenium, SoundTrack Pro.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
The “Message in a Bottle” App. 😉

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Thank you for the opportunity of letting us tell the world a little bit of the behind-the-scenes effort that went into making this game :)

We want to thank Arshad Rahman and Rav Dhiraj for their time!

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