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All posts by Carter Dotson

Kiwanuka Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on June 16th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: STRIKE OF LIGHTNING
Kiwanuka takes a radical approach to how it is structured, but is it still worth checking out?
Read The Full Review »

It Came From Canada: Tony Hawk's Shred Session

Posted by Carter Dotson on June 13th, 2014

It's always easy to be way too cynical when it comes to free-to-play games, and when Tony Hawk's Shred Session was announced there was certainly some thought that it could be a cheap licensed affair. Well the game has soft-launched in New Zealand, so I put on my helmet, grabbed my board, and found out this is a more casual game - but not a cash-in.

The game is set up as a lane-based runner a la Subway Surfers, but it truly is just a Tony Hawk game set up in that vein of being friendly for mobile and casual play. Levels include ramps, rails, and even half pipes. Tricks can be strung together through the gesture-based system for grabs, flips, and grinds. Extended gestures exist for more complicated tricks. These complicated tricks can be unlocked and bought with coins over time as players level up, or unlocked instantly with bucks (the hard currency).

The game takes place in two modes: Shred Session and Survival. Shred Session is a level-based mode where each level tasks players with short-form goals to chase after. Some levels involve scoring a certain number of points before the timer or level runs out. Others involve collecting a certain number of orbs, collecting time tokens, and participating in trick-offs with other skaters where the prescribed tricks must be matched. All are managed by a three-star system, with higher scores or more collectibles necessary to get more stars.

While the game is free-to-play, and more advanced tricks will help with combos, it does a great job at not letting the monetization get in the way of playing the game. There are boosts to buy along with new boards and skaters, but purchases largely feel optional instead of necessary. Having no energy system helps out a lot, too. Given that style is a huge part of skating culture, I can see cosmetic upgrades contributing to the game's moneymaking - particularly as hard currency is needed to unlock many of the skaters and cooler tricks early on. But there's no replacement for skill.

While certainly the monetization could change, it seems as if there's a really interesting core here; one that could appeal to those who like skateboarding games, but want a mobile-friendly experience. We'll see how the world reacts when Tony Hawk's Shred Session eventually goes worldwide.

MLB Perfect Inning Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on May 30th, 2014
Our rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar :: RULED AN ERROR
MLB Perfect Inning has a few good ideas, but the implementation is severely flawed.
Read The Full Review »

Perfect Paths Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on May 29th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: WELL-WORN PATH
Like challenging puzzle games? Then Puzzle Paths is a must-have.
Read The Full Review »

Thomas Was Alone Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on May 28th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: THOMAS WAS EXCELLENT
Mike Bithell's creative platformer is a fantastic experience because of its writing.
Read The Full Review »

Order & Chaos Online from Gameloft Goes Free for Only the Second Time Ever

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 23rd, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: MASSIVE :: Read Review »

Gameloft's Order and Chaos Online, the MMORPG currently entering its fourth year of service, is available for free through June 2. This is only the second time that the game has gone free, though it does have in-app purchases for various forms of currency.

Read our review of the game for more, though plenty has been added and changed in the game since then!

Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork Gets Achievements and a New Control Scheme

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SHOOT EM UP DELIGHTS :: Read Review »

Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork, the Galaga-inspired shoot-em-up created as a collaboration between Pixeljam and James Kochalka, has been updated today. Want to play the game with tilt controls, eschewing those pesky virtual buttons? That's now an option! Want achievements to feel better about your accomplishments? Why, those are in the game now as well! Huzzah for feeling good about yourself while tilting about!

You can download Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork now for $2.99.

MacGyver Deadly Descent Drops in to the App Store, Solving Dangerous Problems Quickly!

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

FairPlay Media has launched a game based on everyone's favorite improvising crime-solver from the 8-s: MacGyver! In MacGyver Deadly Descent, players make a descent into a labyrinth of deadly puzzles in a laboratory that's quickly running out of air. They will have to act quickly and solve a variety of puzzles to save the day.

MacGyver Deadly Descent is available now for $2.99, with proceeds from sales of the game going toward the MacGyver Foundation, which "aims to encourage and support individuals and organizations throughout the world who utilize self-reliance, non-violence, and sustainability to improve people’s lives."

It Came From Canada, Holland Edition: Bubble Witch Saga 2, Hands-On Video of the Super-Polished Sequel to King's Mobile Debut with

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014

King is releasing a sequel to the game that got them started on mobile, thus becoming the behemoths that they are today: Bubble Witch Saga 2. The game has soft-launched in the Netherlands, so I busted out my wooden shoes for this edition of our soft-launch series: It Came From Canada, Holland Edition!

If I were to sum up the experience of Bubble Witch Saga 2 in one word, it would be "polished." The visuals are shiny and detailed; the animations are fluid; even the controls are exceptional. This Bust-a-Move-esque bubble-bursting game's controls use a simple touch-and-drag method to aim upward from the bubble launcher, with tapping on the other bubble in the launcher to switch to that one. The aiming is accurate for even small movements, making it easy and pleasing to use - because the game will take a turn for the difficult.

There are a variety of levels to mix up the bubble-bursting: the primary ones are levels where players must use a limited supply of bubbles to pop six of the bubbles on the top-most row. These levels scroll, though there's no way to scroll upward to see which bubbles are off screen. There are similar levels with encased animals, who must be freed by having no bubbles above them. Finally, there are ghost levels where all the bubbles that encase a central ghost must be eliminated, with the twist that the level, well, twists around with each bubble hit.

There's the standard King array of midgame power-ups and lives that slowly recharge, with the ability to request more from friends on Facebook. The distribution of bubbles seems to be not particularly weighted around making sure players can beat a level: if a color gets eliminated, it won't appear any more, but don't assume that the game's going to ensure that you get all the bubbles you need; it won't necessarily be that generous. Any miss should be treated as a potentially grave sin - a damning step toward failure. Of course, there's the ability to buy more bubbles. This feeling kicks in after about ten levels or so. The game starts to mean business, and it punishes players who aren't very careful and calculating.

Of course, this is pretty much the formula for King's success so far: extremely playable games with a brutal streak that keeps players coming back, spending more money or spreading the word about the game for their personal benefit. Bubble Witch Saga 2 is expected worldwide soon.

LifeTrak Releases App for Their Bluetooth-Enabled Activity Trackers, Providing Graphs of One's Personal Fitness

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: :: Read Review »

Salutron today has released its new LifeTrak app for iOS, which syncs up with its LifeTrak activity monitor accessory. The app tracks and provides graphs on data such as sleep time & efficiency, heart rate & calorie burning, along with activity time, making it possible to get the discrete data to manage one's health. The free app is available now, and compatible with the Move C300 and Zone C410 activity trackers.

Scanbot, the iPhone App for Scanning Important Documents to the Cloud, is Free Today Only

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Scanbot, the app that makes it easy to scan receipts, documents, whatever else, and easily upload said documents to the cloud, has gone free for iOS for today only, after selling 50,000 copies. It's normally $1.99, but now those who need to scan their documents can do so for free if they act quickly. And there's no in-app purchases right now, so there's no catch, either. Act fast!

Osmo, a Set of Interactive Kids' Toys That Utilize the iPad, Announced with Discount Pre-Order Sale

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014

A team of former Google employees has announced Osmo, a set of creative-minded toys that interact with the iPad to try and give kids ages 6-12 richer play experiences. By using an accessory that connects to the top of an iPad, around the front-facing camera, kids can use a variety of pieces, including Tangram, Words, and Newton, to play games that stimulate the mind and use the real-world pieces to interact with what's on the iPad screen, such as using objects and drawn lines to interact with objects to create physics-interactive structures.

Osmo can be preordered from playosmo.com for $49, 50% off the regular price, until June 22.

Dynamite Jack Free: Why Phil Hassey Thinks This Free Version Could Change the Way Players Play His Game

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014

After Phil Hassey's release of BREAKFINITY, the fast-paced endless Breakout game, he's taking another stab at the world of free games: by releasing a free version of Dynamite Jack, his explosive 2012 action game - creatively entitled Dynamite Jack Free. While plenty of developers are starting to release free ad-supported games thanks to Flappy Bird's success, this is one of the bigger attempts at such a release. As such, I spoke to Phil Hassey about what he's doing with Dynamite Jack Free.

148Apps: Many of the games that have gone with the free-with-ads route are simpler games: ones like Flappy Bird, and your own BREAKFINITY. Why take this route with a deeper game like Dynamite Jack? Was BREAKFINITY's performance a motivator in this regard?

Phil Hassey: Dynamite Jack came out almost two years ago, so it's sales have run down pretty thin at this point. Since I did all the work to set up ads in BREAKFINITY it was pretty trivial to set up Dynamite Jack with the same thing.

I am really curious how well it will do. It's definitely totally different from your typical ad supported game. I guess we'll find out soon enough if the free crowd is ready for this kind of experience or not!

148Apps: Why did you go with the continues-as-monetization IAP system?

Phil Hassey: I'm not really an ad monetization guru or anything, since BREAKFINITY is my first ad supported game, and it's only been out for over a month. Over the past year I had given thought to doing a F2P version of Dynamite Jack, with various ideas like "buying bombs" or whatever. However, changes like that would have seriously impacted the gameplay in ways I wasn't too excited about.

So doing the continues is nice, because it doesn't change the gameplay at all. If anything it makes the death experience sightly more intense because the penalty for death is greater than in the paid version of the game. I think the monetization will actually make the game have a slightly greater emphasis on stealth than the paid version.

148Apps: You have an IAP for unlimited continues for $4.99. Was there any thought given to making this a higher price than what the main game is available for?

Phil Hassey: About 6 months ago I changed the iOS price to $4.99 for the paid version. So the IAP for unlimited continues just matches that. I upped the price on Dynamite Jack because I think it's a solid game and people definitely get their $4.99 of entertainment out of it. Some of the players who have gotten into the game have played for hundreds of hours thanks to the community maps.

148Apps: Is there a particular threshold where you see this being worth the time and effort put into it?

Phil Hassey: I really only spent a couple days putting this together, so it doesn't need to do a whole lot to break even on my time. But really, in terms of being an experiment with how well a hard-core iOS game works in the ad supported market, the answer to the question "Will this work at all?" is going to be worth finding out.

If it's found that you can make more heavy games and support them through ads, we might see more games going that route. Or maybe we'll find out that this sort of game just works best as a paid-only title.

148Apps: If this is successful, do you fear that perhaps it could be part of a movement where players expect more free games, monetized primarily with ads? And if so, do you think that it is good for the App Store market?

Phil Hassey: I think anything that helps indies find new ways to support their art is great! The more avenues there are to being able to make games full-time the more chances there are that great games are going to be made. Another great thing about ad supported games is how they can reach a wider audience. People who don't have the means to purchase paid games can play free ad supported games.

148Apps: Depending on how this does, would you ever consider releasing a future game initially with a free version like this? Perhaps even one of the Galcon games?

Phil Hassey: I'm still working on Galcon 2, which is going to be F2P. I'm still working out the details, but my experiences with BREAKFINITY and Dynamite Jack FREE are certainly giving me more insight into how to make it work out. I expect Galcon 2 will contain "earn more Galcoins by watching videos" options for those who want more in game currency but don't have the means to pay for it.

Thanks to Phil Hassey for his time.


Triposo Updated for iOS, Revamps the App and Makes it Easier to Find Things to Do Locally or Anywhere in the World

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 22nd, 2014
+ Universal & Apple Watch App - Designed for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch

Triposo, having reached the 7 million downloads mark, has launched an update that overhauls the app's interface and the way people use it. It's designed with an iOS 7 friendly interface, and makes it easy to find things to do, food to eat, and drinks to drink in your city, or wherever you choose to search for around the world, with offline maps available for when internet signals aren't available.

You can download Triposo now for free.

Fire and Ice: Evolution Brings the Real-World Slot Machines to iOS as a Social Casino Game

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 21st, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Ruby Seven Studios has launched Fire and Ice: Evolution for iOS. This is a mobile version of the real-world slot machine manufactured by Grand Vision Gaming. Featuring six machines to play on, all centered around the "fire and ice" theme, players can try to win big with free daily spins and wildcard slots.

The only thing it doesn't come with is the real money payouts, sorry.