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Carter Dotson

Stateside columnist | 148Apps

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!

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Olloclip Announces 4-in-1 iPad Photo Lens for Better iPad Photography

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 21st, 2014

Like to take photos with your iPad? Olloclip finally has a product for you. The Olloclip 4-in-1 iPad Photo Lens clips on to the iPad and its camera lens, offering fisheye, wide-angle, and 10x & 15x macro lenses for zoom.

The clip-on lens supports iPad Mini (original and Retina) and iPad Air, and will be available for $69.99 - expected to ship on June 2. Now, you can buck the absurd social stigma against iPad photography by taking much better photos than those who would dare mock you.

New Free-to-Play Peggle Soft-Launches in New Zealand, with Original Paid Version Removed

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 21st, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: PRICEY FAMILIARITY :: Read Review »

EA has soft-launched a free-to-play version of Peggle in the New Zealand App Store, our sister site Pocket Gamer reports. But this appears to be a similar situation as to Tetris a few years ago: EA has removed the original Peggle from the App Store in that territory, making this quite likely the one version of Peggle that will be available in the future. This version features boosts, a level progression similar to Candy Crush Saga, and is optimized for portrait displays.

Time will tell if this is a portent of things to come, but it might be a good idea to keep a backup with the original version of the game and of the game's IPA file in iTunes handy.

It Came From Canada: Forge of Empires, InnoGames' Turn-Based Strategy Take on Clash of Clans

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 21st, 2014

InnoGames, fresh off announcing Rising Generals, has an iPad strategy game currently soft-launched in Canada. Forge of Empires has players building a town, so I grabbed my sword and hammer and set off for the land of maple syrup for this edition of It Came From Canada!

The main phase of the game is town-building: creating new buildings in order to earn more money, or items that can generate more resources such as building points, villagers, gold, and even happiness. There's a lot to keep track of here. This is all in service of becoming the most powerful town in the world. There's a leaderboard of players that one can peruse, with guilds that can be joined for cooperative purposes.

Okay, it sounds a bit like Clash of Clans so far. The key difference is that players don't just send off enemy hordes to battle: they enter a turn-based strategy game with them.

Battles take place on a hexagonal grid, where players can move their units about within their specified range, and can attack enemies within their attack range. There are also defense bonuses for certain terrain types. It's very basic strategy gameplay, but it's definitely deeper, even in its simplicity, than most Clash of Clans-esque games. Units start out as Bronze Age soldiers and eventually get up to modern era ones, though this will likely take a long time to get going. Those who check in often and spend their forge points regularly will get to the later eras first.

While there is a campaign against computerized enemies, it's also possible to interact with other players. These can be in friendly ways: motivation and polishing will help resource generation and production happen at a faster rate. As well, it's possible to attack other players and plunder one of their buildings. It appears that all battling is asynchronous for now against human opponents.

Players can research new units and types by spending forge points. These recharge over time (or can be bought with gold or diamonds) and by researching new tech trees, new unit types can be had. The tech trees are deep, so people who come back often will be the first to unlock later portions of the game.

While the town-building is very familiar - and the strategy very basic - for this oft-imitated genre spearheaded by Clash of Clans, the relatively-deeper (yet still approachable) combat might be worth checking out once it launches worldwide.

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign Episode 5, The Prodigal Sun, Now Available, Adding New Characters and Events

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

D3 Entertainment and Demiurge's Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign keeps chugging along, with Episode 5 of the match-3 RPG now available. The story of this episode has players trying to convince Marvel character The Sentry to join SHIELD before Norman Osborn can get him to join the creatively-named Dark Avengers.

The episode 5 update, entitled The Prodigal Sun, is available now.

Chasing Yello Makes it Easier to Get Continues and Boosts Without Spending Money

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

Chasing Yello has had a new update released on the App Store that makes it easier for players to get boosts and continues. Now instead of having to spend coins and buy boosts, players can watch video ads to save their money and get what they want. Along with the Everyplay and gamepad support added in the previous update, Chasing Yello continues to be an evolving and improving product, even two years after release.

Space Hulk for iPad Gets Cross-Platform Multiplayer and a 50% Discount

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 20th, 2014
iPad App - Designed for iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: LET THEM COME :: Read Review »

Space Hulk just got more hulking. Full Control has updated the app with a new cross-platform multiplayer mode, where three players team up as Terminators in order to take on one player who controls the Genestealers.

This mode is online and supports play with Windows/Mac/Linux/iPad players. Plus, for those who haven't picked up the game yet, it's on sale until the 27th for half-off ($4.99 or local equivalent).

It Came From Canada: Super Monkey Ball Bounce, Sega's Take on Peggle

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 20th, 2014

Just announced on Monday, May 19, Super Monkey Ball Bounce also showed its face in the Canadian App Store. This free-to-play game puts a Pachinko and Peggle spin on the game of monkeys in spheres. So, I sealed by plastic ball up tight and crossed the border for this edition of It Came From Canada!

This game is very Peggle-like. It uses many of the same tropes and gameplay setups as Peggle does. The general mission is to pop the various star pegs, with other pegs existing as opportunities to get bonus points, including randomly-placed multiplier pegs. Power-up pegs also exist, which grant an ability based on the selected character, though ones beyond AiAi require playing the game to certain levels to unlock. AiAi's is a guided line, which is pretty much identical to the first character in Peggle, though other power-ups start to show some variety. Still, this skews closer to the Peggle formula than even what Papa Pear Saga did - though the physics feel a lot more consistent than King's take on the genre.

How does Super Monkey Ball Bounce operate within the confines of its monetization? The game uses a currency of gold bars, which come with a free supply at the start but are either not earned or only infrequently so. What can be bought with them? Well, there are boost power-ups that players can take into levels with them, including the power-ups of other characters. Also, a slot machine that can be played for every ten spins can get guaranteed win spins for the cost of a few gold bars.

As well, continues can be had for gold bars. That's likely where the money-making comes in: levels can start to ramp up in difficulty, and the temptation to spend real-world money on gold may just set in. As well, there's a lives system like Candy Crush Saga (with a level progression map just like it as well), and these run out whenever the player fails a level, though connecting with Facebook friends can earn more lives.

The monetization might be an interesting thing to track at the final release. Super Monkey Ball Bounce is a slow burn early on so it might not make money for a while, or the early part of the game might get a bump up in difficulty. It'll be interesting to see how Sega approaches this once it releases worldwide.

Addappt Launches Big Update, Revamping the Contact-Managment App

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 20th, 2014
iPhone & Apple Watch App - Designed for iPhone and Apple Watch, compatible with iPad

Addappt has launched a new update on iOS. There's a brand new UI and iconography, totally revamping the way that users use this contact management app. As well, organization has become better with easier group creation, and an improved search functionality. Using the app for the first time? The first-time user experience is much improved now. The update is live on the App Store now.

Oh, and if you're in the US, you can get a free t-shirt from this link, because hey, free t-shirt.

Hands-On with VVVVVV for iOS, the Mobile Version of Super Hexagon Creator Terry Cavanagh's Gravity-Flipping Platformer

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 20th, 2014

Mobile gamers know Terry Cavanagh for Super Hexagon, the challenging minimalist arcade game that seemingly begat a hundred more challenging minimalist arcade games. But before that, Terry Cavanagh's big game was VVVVVV, a gravity-flipping open-world platformer that was also very difficult. A mobile version, while discussed before, may have seemed impossible: after all, being a platformer built around precision, virtual controls aren't the friendliest situation for this game. But Terry Cavanagh's taking a stab at it, and the mobile version is nearing completion. And it just might surprise some folks who thought VVVVVV was practically impossible on mobile.

For the uninitiated, VVVVVV takes place in a universe where the player, controlling Captain Viridian, can flip gravity to run along the ceiling as well as the floor. Players have to use Viridian's abilities to rescue five other missing crew members, along with discovering the "shinies" that are hidden throughout the world.

VVVVVV is a non-linear game, and players can discover it as they so choose. There are no additional abilities to unlock, so unlike a Metroidvania game where progression is hindered until a certain item is obtained anything can be seen and any challenge conquered with one's own skill. Just be prepared to die a lot. Thankfully, checkpoints are abundant.

VVVVVV presents an interesting controls challenge for touchscreens, though. The game requires being able to swiftly move left then right, but with a third button for flipping. Thus, the game's default control scheme uses swiping horizontally on the left side of the screen to move Captain Viridian around, with tapping on the right side to flip gravity. As well, there's a virtual buttons option, and one where tapping on either side of the screen moves that way, and tapping on both flips gravity.

The controls are still very much being tweaked and perfected, but VVVVVV is perfectly playable, and at a skillful level, with these controls. Will this become the preferred version of speed runners? Most likely not, as precise movements are what suffer a bit here just by the nature of virtual controls, but for people enjoying this game for the first time - or once more - the experience should remain true.

VVVVVV itself is fully playable in its current form, with even the player worlds feature from the computer versions available for more challenges once the main game is completed. Various bug fixes and tweaks to make the mobile version work better are what stands between this and its eventual release.

Darkin Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on May 20th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: SUCKS SO GOOD
Darkin is a darn fine puzzle-RPG that will suck up all your free time.
Read The Full Review »

Hyper Square Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on May 20th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: A BIT TOO HYPER
Team Signal Games has made an arcade game that sits frustratingly close to greatness.
Read The Full Review »

I Dig It: Journey to the Core Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on May 20th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: DIGGING FOR GOLD
I Dig It: Journey to the Core is a free-to-play spin on the classic iOS digging game, and it's not the best expedition for the series.
Read The Full Review »

Run Run Super V Forms Plucky Team of Endlessly-Running Robot Pilots, Will Advance on the App Store Later This Year

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 19th, 2014

Manila-based Altitude Games has announced their upcoming Run Run Super V. Taking cues from sentai series such as Power Rangers, this game will be an auto-running action game where players form a ranger squad and fight evil without stopping. There are three modes planned: run mode, vehicle mode, and robot mode, with the latter involving one-on-one fights with giant enemies, all using one-finger controls with gestures.

Run Run Super V is expected during the 4th quarter of 2014.

It Came From Canada: Outlaw Delivery, Adult Swim Games' Upcoming Physics Trial Racer

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 19th, 2014

Adult Swim Games and Mediatonic have soft launched a new trial-racing game to the App Store in Canada and other territories: Outlaw Delivery. So, I strapped on my helmet and put some curds and gravy on fries for this edition of It Came From Canada!

Outlaw Delivery takes after titles like Trials, Extreme Road Trip, and Zombie Road Trip as a physics-centered trial-racing game where players must try to make it to the end as quickly as possible, but also in one piece. Players' health is regulated by the health of their cargo: rough landings and hard collisions will damage the cargo, and that's not gonna be good for anyone. Especially so if trying to get the gears, the game's star system. One requires players to stay above a certain health percentage, and three gold gears usually requires both a fast time and high health.

Controls are simple: there are gas and reverse buttons, which serve as spin forward and backward buttons respectively, while in mid-air. Players get extra gold for tricks like spins (which are very difficult to do), wheelies, perfect landings, and even just getting air time in the first place. Players have a limited amount of fuel to work with, though more can be collected mid-level, and just letting gravity and momentum keep oneself going is an option to conserve fuel.

As far as monetization goes, the game uses only one currency - gold - which is spent on buying new bikes, upgrades, and better parts. There's no secondary currency, and no energy mechanic at all, which is very good because there's a lot of retrying involved, and grinding to do better and get more money plays a significant part in the game. It's a lot quicker to just buy it outright of course, but hey, at least the option is there to try and earn it. While Adult Swim Games has been unafraid to use energy-type systems before, like in Amateur Surgeon 3 (though that only reduced players' lives when they die), this is definitely a much friendlier system than what most publishers implement. Of course, friendliness and free-to-play don't often mix, so whether this makes any money is a good question.

Outlaw Delivery should at least prove to be rather entertaining: it trods well-worn territory, but it has the production values and the base appeal that most Adult Swim Games' titles have. This should be one worth keeping an eye on when it launches worldwide.

Bonsai Slice Goes Free, and Swings a Bigger Sword with iPad Compatibility

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 16th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FINAL CUT :: Read Review »

Bonsai Slice has just started swinging a bigger sword. The game where players use their iPhone or iPod touch with a gyroscope to hack and slash at objects being tossed from all around them, is now universal for the iPod. Plus, the game now has a variety of new objects to cut into little pieces.

You can download Bonsai Slice off the App Store for free.