Senior Writer with the 148Apps Network since June 5, 2010
I'm Carter Dotson, freelance writer based out of Chicago. I've been a fan of portable gaming since the days of the black-and-white Game Boy, but now mobile gaming consumes my life. Along with writing about mobile gaming. Which is why you see all these posts below. Also, check out The Portable Podcast, every Tuesday here on 148Apps.
For the first episode, which we worked hard to get off the ground and figure out the various technical problems, I, Carter Dotson, interview Trent Polack of Team Chaos, who just released the online multiplayer dragon battler Dragon Trials. Trent and I discuss the genesis of the game, including the connection with long-time iOS developer Pangea Software, and chat about what went into Dragon Trials‘ various elements to try and make it special.
Watch the recap of the Twitch stream on YouTube below, and please subscribe to our Twitch channel to be notified of when we go live! The show will be evolving over the coming days, weeks, and months, and your feedback will be vital to make the show be perfect.
I have a reputation for being able to go toe-to-toe with developers at their own games, beating their best times and high scores. This is Carter vs. the Developer.
Christian Whitehead, aka “Taxman,” did not work on the original version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but through years of research as a die-hard Sonic fan and from his work on the remastered edition of Sonic 2, he might know the game better than anybody. I, however, spent some of my formative years behind the wheel of the Sonic series, so I decided to challenge Christian to a couple matches of Sonic 2 through the online multiplayer he added to the mobile port. Who will win? Watch and find out.
Castaway Paradise was first mentioned to me as Animal Crossing but for iPhone, though I played the iPad version because I’m a rebel. And really, that just about nails it on the head – except Stolen Couch Games have done what Nintendo has yet to do, and that is make it free-to-play. Castaway Paradise is currently soft-launched in the tropical paradise of Canada, and I take it for a spin in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Players control a person who washes up on shore, and finds themselves in a land of fellow castaways who washed up on shore. However, no one really seems to be all that set on getting home – there’s an entire village that’s popped up, even with a mail delivery boat! So, the player is made to build a new life here, because who knows; maybe this is all the dream of the Wind Fish and leaving would be disastrous.
So players then just do tasks for the various residents, like building fences and harvesting crops. The early missions are structured to introduce players to the things they need to know to live their island experience and to see more of the village. Menial tasks to earn currency to buy more supplies and customizations is the name of the game here.
Players have the ability to customize the look of their dwelling and of their character, but the intro to the game provides one moment regarding this that needs to change. See, the game starts off with the player being just a walking glob of seaweed washed ashore, immediately forced to do chores by Viktoria, one of the villagers. Then, for some reason, she asks which binary gender the player is. This choice is the sole determining factor in how the player first appears: typically male or female.
This is incongruent with the customization options provided, because male characters can wear dresses and traditionally feminine hairstyles without anyone saying anything about it. The character’s gender doesn’t seem to play much of a role, so why is it the very first thing that players are asked to choose as far as customization goes? Why not instead let players determine their initial design based on how they want to look from a set of basic customizations, and make gender an entirely irrelevant factor in how the player wishes to present themselves in this world?
While the free-to-play elements perhaps take away some of the innocence of Animal Crossing, where everything must be earned, there’s also no Mr. Resetti here – so, win some lose some. Time will tell if this is successful, or if this is the Pepsi to Animal Crossing‘s Coke – or if it’s just store-brand cola.
Ido Yeheli’s Cardinal Questwas notable for not just being a fast-paced Roguelike, but also for having made more money than, well, Rogue, the progenitor of the Roguelike genre. After a failed Indiegogo campaign, the sequel, Cardinal Quest 2, nonetheless lives a year and a half later. There’s a mobile version being published by Kongregate, and it’s currently soft launched in Canada. So, we prepared to live only once and set off for adventure in this edition of It Came From Canada.
This is a turn-based Roguelike; meaning that players move their character one tile at a time, with enemies moving as well. The original game was posited as being more fast-paced than the standard Roguelike would be, and even in the sequel it feels a lot more combat-oriented with enemy encounters occurring frequently, even after starting. Players can use skills that they can find laying about to help turn the tides, collecting gold to spend on items at the scavenger when they’re about, and just generally trying to survive in an unpredictable environment. Of course, being a Roguelike, it’s procedurally generated. So while an overarching scenario will use similar elements, the level layouts, ability pickups, enemy placements, and just about everything else is different every time.
Interestingly, the game is going for a free-to-play model this time, and is doing so by making characters and permanent stat modifiers before the start of a game un-lockable through Morale, which is earned by completing achievements at the end of a run or by being purchased. Thus, those who want to play as a class besides the default fighter class will need to pony up right away. Otherwise, this does feel a lot different from how other free-to-play games monetize. Likewise, another Kongregate-published title, Endless Boss Fight, had a two-currency system but also was rather generous about that second one. Here, the free-to-play aspects are almost entirely structural – once in-game, they don’t play much of a role.
The game is a bit unstable at the moment, at least on the iPad Mini Retina while recording – the game crashed during the middle of levels at least twice, so there’s definite issues to sort out technically, but that’s why this isn’t a global launch yet, eh? How well this business model will perform has yet to be seen as well. Still, Cardinal Quest 2 could prove to be a rather interesting take on not just free-to-play, but the Roguelike genre as a whole.
Codemasters is the developer of numerous Formula 1 games, but what they’re looking to put out on mobile with F1 Race Stars is something of an entirely different beast. Currently soft-launched in Singapore, even it couldn’t escape the clutches of 148Apps’ global reach. This is It Came From Canada: Singapore Edition!
F1 games are usually known for being intense simulations, but if F1 Race Stars is real, I need to pay more attention to F1. In reality, this is a kart racer, one very similar to the recent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed in style and in gameplay: there’s of course power-ups to use for boosts and taking out other racers, but there’s also a heavy emphasis on drifting to develop a turbo meter. Maintain drifts for a long amount of time and longer boosts can be had. Catching airtime will also increase the drift meter. Each game has a very similar heart.
While Danica Patrick in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was a very strange addition, having this be an F1 game means that actual racers, none of whom I have any knowledge of because I’m an American and we prefer stock cars to drift leftward, are playable. Each driver has their own Sessions energy bar that depletes with each race, so like Angry Birds Go, switching racers can be used to extend play sessions.
As I use an HDMI output device to capture game footage, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the game is TV-ready: it supports widescreen output on TVs, and the game’s controls are built to not require looking at the screen in order to play. TV support is something of a lost feature, and I’m interested to see it added in here. There’s real-time multiplayer available as well, but just as a local mode, not online.
While there’s the standard two-tier currency system – with coins used to buy boosts, and gems for more permanent features like perks and new driver unlocks – there’s one particular way that coins are used that is interesting. See, there are coin gates while racing that grant power-ups right away. These naturally grant an advantage that costs currency, but it’s also possible to accidentally trigger them. Then again, boosts are what the coins are there for. Still, seeing this as a potentially-accidental feature is odd.
F1 Race Stars feels very polished, like it’s just undergoing monetization testing to see if the business model is working, along with the last checks before they’re ready to race around the world. Whether this kart racer can stand out among the others out there will be seen when it rolls out worldwide.
Toy Rush is really an amalgamation of many different games. It’s tower defense meets Clash of Clans in the middle of a card game. See, the goal is to be the top toy rusher in the world. To do that, it requires being able to mount assaults on other toy bases while having a formidable base of one’s own. Players call in their attack units from a path at the top of the screen, and if they make it past the entrenched turrets their units attack the enemy base and collect their tickets, which are used to buy new attack units. Destroying the base entirely nets bonus rewards as well.
The rub is that the units are all disposable cards. Playing a card summons that unit, and unless it’s the hero card that recharges over time, it’s gone forever. Cards regulate the entirety of the game: cards are used to summon all sorts of units, but also for base upgrades. Players can customize the tower path of their base and lay down new defenses using cards. Buildings can be upgraded or sped up using cards.
In order to buy new cards, one of two currencies is necessary. Tickets can be collected from enemy bases and manufactured on the base, and these are used primarily to buy new attack card packs. Bottle caps are less frequent, usually earned for completing missions and as rewards for completely destroying a base, and are used to buy defense cards; including speed-ups and building upgrade cards. The tickets being rechargeable means that getting decent sets of attack cards is often just a matter of time, at least in the early game. It’s a fairly interesting currency system, and I’d be interested to see how it evolves over time.
Toy Rush features both a single-player campaign against computerized opponents, and the ability to attack random players for their loot and for pride. It’s possible to join guilds as well. All-in-all, it’s a mix of familiar elements, but in an interesting package. No real clue when this one could be coming out – it could be days, weeks, or months. Still, in a crowded free-to-play market, this game has some interesting elements to it.
Most developers get one masterpiece. One magnum opus that they get to unleash on to the world.
Simogo released two in 2013 alone.
Both Year Walk and Device 6 were absolutely amazing experiences, not just games, and so different from almost everything else this year.
Part of what made them stand out was just how emotional they were: Year Walk used limited dialogue and details to make players care about what was happening in the world by experiencing and being frightened by it for themselves. Device 6 was a lot more wordy as a very book-esque experience, sure, but it managed to get players engrossed in a mysterious universe while slowly unwrapping everything that was going on.
Both games played with their fictional aspects: Year Walk made full use of its companion app to complement the game and eventually have a profound effect on it. Its metafiction proved to be just as much of a psychological dance as the game itself. Device 6 had direct commentary on games, rating systems, and trying to get currency to buy things that served as the overlay to the experience. But it also tried and succeeded at being like reading a book that played with the very nature of text layouts and reading to create an unsettling universe. Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – Simogo’s Twin Masterpieces, Year Walk and Device 6 »
There are a lot of apps that were released in 2013, and it’s easy for some of the great ones to fall through the cracks. 148Apps’ staff has gotten together to discuss some of our favorite apps of the past year that you might not have heard of. These are our favorite underappreciated apps of 2013.
The tagline for Heyday is “Journaling Reimagined,” and that’s pretty apt. The app will run in the background on iOS 7 devices and track where you go; matching those GPS coordinates up with business locations and with photos you take. The app then presents you with a detailed map and list of locations you have been each day. After a couple weeks of use, it’s fun to look back and see where you’ve been and what you’ve done; all gathered automatically. – Jeff Scott
Rando is the photo sharing app that wanted to do everything different than Instagram, to even having circular photos rather than square ones. It was the anti-social network, but there was something cool about getting a photo that no one else got, and sharing photos just for the sake of sharing a cool, random photo; not to try and get likes for it. – Carter Dotson
Candy Crush Saga would be perhaps an ill-fitting choice for the game of 2013: it was hardly the “best” game of the year by traditional “Game of the Year” metrics, and it didn’t even release in 2013. But Candy Crush Saga was still the game that defined mobile gaming in 2013.
There weren’t many games that were the cultural phenomenon that Candy Crush Saga was: walk down the aisle of an airplane and there was always someone on a tablet or phone matching fruits around. It was the one mobile game that friends who never talked about mobile gaming would talk about. And it wasn’t just casual gamers: anyone who’s friends with Touch Arcade editor Eli Hodapp on Facebook suffered the wrath of his lives requests for a while there.
It’s easy to look at mobile and see it as a wasteland for content; particularly with all the casual, free-to-play games, and especially the ones that seem to de-emphasize actual gameplay in favor of stronger monetization. That’s only if you’re not paying attention. Serious, core games – some even free-to-play – had a great year on iOS.
Oceanhorn was hyped for a good reason: it was beautiful and ambitious. That ambition didn’t entirely pay off in my opinion, but for the game to have succeeded financially is a huge step forward for gaming on mobile.
It also felt like the barriers between mobile and PC/console games started to blur a bit. Frozen Synapse, Mode 7′s highly acclaimed PC strategy game, landed on iPad at last. Limbo received an excellent port. Leviathan: Warships brought cross-platform online play – and the best trailer of the year. Space Hulk was not perfect, but it made for an exceptional transition.
But perhaps few did it as spectacularly as XCOM: Enemy Unknown. That game proved that it was possible to take a massive console and PC title – a fantastic modern take on one of the greatest strategy games of all time – and put it on mobile without losing any of the experience. Firaxis also absolutely stuck the landing with Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol and its Pacific Skies followup; original games that went to PC later.
It’s easy to list off the best games of 2013, and often such lists contain a lot of crosstalk between different publications. So this year, instead of just giving off another similar list of the best games of the year, our staff has decided to talk about their favorite games of the year that might not have been the best sellers or the most popular. In no particular order, this is our list of some of our favorite under-appreciated games of 2013.
This was the one game that I kept coming back to on a nearly-daily basis. The mix of addition and Scrabble is something that appeals to my former life when I studied mathematics. It rewards pattern recognition, and smart play, rather than cheap obscure word usage. That I’m also really good at it doesn’t hurt. – Carter Dotson
Space Agency is an amazingly fun game for those of us who have watched the space program since, well, forever. While it’s a very lightweight simulation of a space program, it does require a fair bit of strategy, timing, and even a bit of luck. The challenges it presents have players going from the extremes of keeping a spacecraft in the air for a few seconds to multi-planet orbit missions where space station pieces are swapped out. All presented in bite-sized, mobile-optimized gameplay for space geeks like me. – Jeff Scott Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – 148Apps’ Staff Discusses Their Favorite Underappreciated Games »
Ever watch your favorite sports team’s season go down the drain due to injuries? What if I told you a video-editing app for iPad could someday be the reason why your team wins a championship? That’s just what Spark Motion Pro could do, if Dave Gottfeld has his way.
See, what Spark Motion Pro does functionally is to allow its users to shoot videos, then easily annotate them and add commentary. In this case the annotations can include things like stopwatches, a ruler to measure lengths of objects, set to the scale of a control object, an angle measurement tool, and even transparent overlays of another video. Users can easily import videos, rearrange clips, and add their commentary to them, then uploading them to a cloud-based service for others to view. It’s all functionality that – by itself – is perhaps technically solid, but not necessarily revolutionary in and of itself.
But see, sometimes the power of an app is not so much in what it does, but what it allows the user to do. And what it allows trainers and physicians to do is to be able to easily capture video of someone they’re working with, say, an athlete recovering from a knee injury, as Gottfeld demoed to me when I spoke to him. When one client he worked with who suffered an ACL injury, he was able to show using the app’s grid and transparent overlay how a one-leg balance test showed that the person’s non-injured leg was having balance issues during their recovery with the other leg. Using Spark Motion, Gottfeld could easily quantify to his client using the video overlay of the exact problem.
Baseball and golf are two extremely mechanical sports, and Spark Motion is perfect for them. The angle overlay can help a golfer analyze where the angle of their swing is, informing them of what they need to focus on to improve. Gottfeld in particular showed how he was able to detect how a certain hip movement was causing knee stress in a baseball batter’s swing. Pitchers are an obvious application for this app: delivery flaws could be detected and improvement over time could be shown as well.
Spark Motion Pro takes full advantage of the convenience of modern technology: as an iPad app, this means that its users can easily shoot and analyze video from wherever. The app’s subscription service comes with cloud storage (which is HIPAA compliant for patient confidentiality) that can allow trainers and practitioners to work remotely with clients who can shoot and upload their own video, which theSpark Motion user can then provide their analysis of and send back. Users can even link up a PayPal account and charge for their services in the app on a per-video basis. This can happen anywhere wi-fi is available.
The more powerful hardware of the latest iOS devices only makes Spark Motion better: the iPad Air can render video with annotations much faster than previous generations, at what Gottfeld reports as a 1:1 ratio of video time to rendering time. Videos can be imported from sources besides the iPad, so video could be shot with a high-end camera on a stable setup, for example. Or for those who want to shoot high framerate video with the iPhone 5s, that is compatible with Spark Motion Pro as well. Perhaps those additional frames could reveal information in the body’s movements that could help prevent a catastrophic injury, or provide dramatic performance improvements.
The app has tons of potential, but it’s already in use in some cases: Gottfeld reports working with the New England Patriots using Spark Motion, and former NFL kicker Matt Stover helps train kickers using the app. And at the recent MLB Winter Meetings, among the headlines of big deals and big fights, Gottfeld got to meet with all the teams in a speed-pitching scenario, and several teams were reportedly interested in the app. They might just be the ones that keep their players healthy on the field, or get the injured ones back sooner, and win more games.
Unlike Sonic CD and the original Sonic the Hedgehog, which were both games that only let players control Sonic in their original versions, Sonic 2 was much more comprehensive with its characters. Tails made his first appearance in Sonic 2. Knuckles showed up later, but was patched in to the game for people who locked-on Sonic 2 to Sonic & Knuckles. However, Tails has been given the ability to fly where users couldn’t control it in the Genesis original.
Thus, the big addition to this game is Hidden Palace. Sonic 2 is pretty well-known for having had a few levels left on the cutting room floor, discovered through leaked betas. One of the most intriguing pieces that was abandoned was a level called Hidden Palace. While the name and perhaps its giant emeralds were reused in Sonic 3, how it would fit into Sonic 2 was never quite known and this level in particular has only been found in an unfinished form. But now Christian Whitehead has gotten to add the level to the game, finished it up, and given it a proper conclusion – including a brand-new boss fight.
Finding the level isn’t too difficult: one particular quasi-bottomless pit near the middle of the game that would just kill players with spikes has become the entrance to Hidden Palace. You’ll probably discover it accidentally. Or, just watch the video below!
There’s still a good selection of secrets to be had. To access level select, go into No Save Mode, and tap on the letters S-E-G-A in order. Then, tap and hold with two fingers on the title screen to access the level select. Here you can select any level, including Hidden Palace.
You can use the Sound Test to put in cheats. Playing 4–1–2–6 will give you all 7 Chaos Emeralds. Playing 1–9–9–2–1–1–2–4 will unlock debug mode; tap in the upper left corner to turn into an item. Use the + and – icons that appear to cycle between icons. There’s some unused item boxes that can be placed, and ones that only appear in the two-player mode.
And oh, that’s been preserved too – and now the two-player race mode supports Game Center online multiplayer. There’s no iCade support, but MFi gamepads are supported.
Even beyond the new additions, considering that Sonic 2 is a game that holds up incredibly well to this day even without any additions, this is a must-have for fans and anyone who has yet to play this classic. The game is a free update to those who owned the previous original emulated version, and is available now.
Ubisoft has updated its iOS high seas adventure game, Assassin’s Creed Pirates, with some major additions. This refresh brings new maps, as well as one new campaign mission and three new secondary missions among other features. There are also new ships that are available for the all-new Survival Missions. According to the Ubisoft release, each […]