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.
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.
For years, Ubisoft and RedLynx have taunted mobile gamers with physics-based racers that have been sorta similar to the acclaimed Trials series on console and PC, but not quite the same. But now there’s a mobile Trials game in Trials Frontier. Designed as a free-to-play game, it’s currently undergoing a soft launch in Canada. So I strapped on my helmet, revved up my motorbike’s engine, and prepared to defy death for this edition of It Came From Canada!
Trials Frontier does not dawdle. Tired of games that keep away from the action for too long? So is this game. Trials Frontier gets players going right from the initial launch, eschewing even a title screen, as it sends players through a few levels and introduces the story’s antagonist, Butch, that players (as the anonymous Rider) must race against because Butch is a huge jerk. Like, he almost kills the Rider in a rock cave-in. That’s good enough motivation to help the people of the dusty village, as they too have been terrorized by Butch. Help them by riding a motorbike through various levels, completing different objectives like performing a certain number of backflips to impress a fan, and earn rewards to upgrade and buy new bikes.
Yes, there is a two-tiered currency here: coins earned for doing well and performing stunts, which can be used to buy bikes, and gems, which can be bought or earned and are used to skip upgrade wait timers and buy certain upgrade items without getting them as a reward for completing levels. Discovery of new levels is mission-based, though any level can be repeated at any point.
There is an energy mechanic, but it largely regulates the initial playing of levels, not restarting them while in the level. So yes, restart to your heart’s content, even complete a level. On the final screen where it shows the postcard with the final time and crashes, just hit the restart button again. This isn’t necessarily a way to grind for coins while cheating the energy system, but it is a way to repeat levels to get better times and better medals without having to use energy, necessarily. It’s easy to be critical of energy systems, but this seems to be an implementation that doesn’t get too much in the way of actually playing the game. As well, gems can be earned through in-game actions and as end of race rewards, so a relative free-to-play fairness, without impeding the core game too much, seems to be the order of the day here.
With this game soft-launching so close to Christmas, I almost wonder if this is an emergency test of the monetization just to make sure that everything is hunky-dory before a likely launch before the holiday iTunes freeze. So for non-Canadians and non-“Canadians”, this one might be in the hands of the general public sooner than later.
Cornfox & Bros. and publisher FDG Entertainment’s Oceanhorn has been an anomaly in the rise of free-to-play games on the App Store: it’s one of the few attempts at making a grand-scale game on iOS and priced at an $8.99 cost that few others have dared to try. The game’s launch saw it rocket to #1 in the paid app charts and in the top 10 of the top grossing apps, bolstered not just by its App Store Editor’s Choice but by a pre-release hype cycle that’s rarely seen for mobile games.
Oceanhorn‘s price risk has paid off: the game recouped its production cost in less than a week, seemingly showing that the kind of games with high production values and premium price points can succeed on the App Store. Thomas Kern, Executive Producer of Oceanhorn at FDG Entertainment, spoke to me about the game’s success at its price point.
148Apps: Why launch at $8.99, and that price point specifically? $6.99 has been a more typical “high” price for games on the App Store, and $9.99 is a more “round” number – so why $8.99? Was launching at a premium price point the plan all throughout development? Thomas Kern (TK): We’re not setting prices on trends or from a psychological “round number” point of view. The launch price is related to the production cost and quality of the game. We got lots of emails and feedback about the price and it was all positive. People felt it was the right price and the game has done tremendously well at $8.99. We’re very happy about the success of the game.
148Apps: Was there ever any thought to making the game free-to-play, or incorporating a hybrid model like what Infinity Blade uses? TK:The plan for this game was always to go the traditional premium route, something players are used to from game consoles or handhelds. Oceanhorn is a loving tribute to games we enjoyed in our childhood and we see it as a fan-service to offer the full experience without additional costs.
148Apps: The game was bolstered by Apple’s featuring of Oceanhorn as an Editor’s Choice – do you feel like the game would have done as well without this? TK: When we launched the game it immediately shot up the charts, before Apple even featured it. It was great to see that Apple agreed with many happy users that this game is a milestone in iOS gaming so they featured it very prominently and supported the game’s launch the best way they could. It seems Apple really appreciates efforts like this, after all, Oceanhorn‘s development time was over 2 years!
148Apps: What about the long-term prospects of the game? Can the game continue to succeed at $8.99? TK: It does! We see very healthy sales and we’ve recouped the investment in less than a week. For us and the development team, the game is already a great success.
There is no sale to be expected, Oceanhorn will stay at $8.99 but we’ll add more content to it in 2014 so the value will become even better.
148Apps: Do you think that other games can succeed at high price points? Do you believe that Oceanhorn changed anything with the market? TK: We’ve been contacted by many people in the industry and they’ve been surprised about the success despite the high price point. Especially because the production cost was recouped really quickly. Oceanhorn definitely proves that premium games are not dead and it’s a viable business. We can’t beat some insanely successful Free2Play game revenues, but that was not our plan. Healthy revenues don’t require a position in Top 10 Grossing.
Assassin’s Creed Pirates is not the Assassin’s Creed game you’d expected to come to mobile, as it’s more of a straight-up pirate adventure with boats than any kind of character-based action game. Of course, the recent console release kind of took its own path by shifting to a piracy theme, and the mobile game goes whole hog into the concept. Players take command of their own pirate ship, starting off with a small schooner but eventually make their way to becoming a pirate king while wreaking havoc all over the Caribbean.
Gameplay consists of several different phases: there’s a top-down navigation mode, where players can sail around looking for treasure and to take on other captains on the high seas. It’s possible to go into a 3D view of the action, and is necessary for some events, to try and chase down other ships. Then there’s combat, which involves trading cannon volleys, trying to dodge enemy attacks, and exploit their weaknesses.
The connection to the traditions of Assassin’s Creed seems tenuous at best, at least initially: there’s the famous iconography of the series but Edward Kenway, the protagonist of the console game, isn’t anywhere to be seen – at least early on. This is an entirely separate experience, though the game certainly could link up to AC4’s narrative at some point later on (I won’t give away any secrets). In reality, it gives off the appearance of trying to fit in thematically with the game, but in my playing of it, it seems to stand up well on its own.
As a whole, it gives off the vibe of being like Infinity Blade in a fleeting sense. A large part of it is the combat being based off of dodging enemy attacks, and then delivering timing and precision-based weapon strikes from one’s boat back at the enemy – or enemies! The ability to level up and get upgrades for the boat and crew feels like a familiar aspect too, but that’s true of most any iOS game nowadays. But really, it feels like the developers paid attention to making a game in the same sort of vein – of exploring and becoming stronger – but decided to use the concept to fit in with what the piratical theme.
Assassin’s Creed Pirates releases on iOS on December 5, and even for people who aren’t too exposed to the series this shows some promise as a high-seas adventure.
Often, incoming emails can feel like things to do – important items just kind of floating around the inbox until they’re finished. Want to add these emails to the iOS Reminders app so that they can be dealt with in an important place? Well, this is possible by using IFTTT. Here’s how to do just that.
First off, download IFTTT and register an account with the email address that you primarily want to forward items from. Now create a new recipe, which is what IFTTT calls the actions that it executes.
For starters, let’s choose the Mail option. You can choose to forward all mail from your registered email address to the IFTTT trigger email address, or only emails tagged with a certain hashtag.
For the second part of the recipe, choose iOS Reminders. By default, this will add the email subject as a reminder to a list called IFTTT. However, that is an option that can be changed from the IFTTT recipes menu.
Tap on the recipe to open up its options, then tap Edit Recipe. From here you can configure what the reminder title will be, which list it will be added to by manually entering the name of the list, and what, if any, priority the reminder will have. Tap the blue plus sign next to an option to add in specific dynamic text like sender, body text, and more.
Now, if you use Gmail you should use the Gmail channel when setting up your recipe. This adds more options for what can trigger the IFTTT recipe. This can include emails from certain senders, emails with certain labels, starred emails, and more.
What the label trigger can do is make it easy to manage emails using Mailbox. Create a list in Mailbox with the title of your choice. Let’s say it’s Reminders. In IFTTT, have the label that the recipe is added to be [Mailbox]/Reminders. Now, whenever you add an email to that list in Mailbox, that will trigger IFTTT to add it to Reminders.
Now, you have a convenient spot to do things like send replies to emails once they are cleared from reminders. You can create a recipe in IFTTT to send emails when a reminder is completed in that list, but you might want to send more personal replies. Still, it is an option.
Hopefully this helps you get your inbox under a bit more control by utilizing IFTTT’s powers of automation!
One of iOS 7′s new features is the iCloud Keychain. What this allows is for passwords and credit cards stored in AutoFill to be shared between iOS devices and Safari on Mavericks so that you can easily retrieve them without needing to type them in again. It is also engineered to protect your data through an additional security key and two-factor authentication. Here’s how to set it up, use it, and protect yourself.
iCloud Keychain can be set up when setting up a new device, when updating to a new iOS version, or from the iCloud menu in Settings. When setting up for the first time you’ll be asked if you want to enable iCloud Keychain and to create a security code. By creating a security code, this will store the data in iCloud; if you don’t create one it will still allow for data to be shared between devices, but it will not be stored in iCloud and you will need to authenticate a new device from another device with iCloud Keychain enabled on it. Authenticating from another device requires putting in the password to the iCloud account and choosing “Allow” on the dialog that appears.
To save a password or credit card to iCloud Keychain, just log in to a site or use a credit card in Safari. A dialog will pop up asking if you wish to save to the iCloud Keychain. Now, when you try to use a saved login or credit card from another device, Safari can automatically fill it in no matter where it was originally saved from.
It’s important while using iCloud Keychain to have a passcode of some sort on your device. This treats you physically using your device as secure, so make sure that there’s a security mechanism in place to ensure that your device is being used only by yourself or someone you trust. Otherwise someone can easily get access to your passwords and credit cards just by having your unprotected device.
What the security code for iCloud Keychain does is make it simple to sign in to the iCloud Keychain from a new device without needing to log in on that other device. This is a separate code or password from your login passcode, though it can be the same.
By default iCloud Keychain will prompt for a four-digit security key, though it’s possible to either have an advanced security key that can contain letters and numbers, and/or one that is randomly-generated for complexity. If you forget this key, then you can use a second device in order to approve it. It also provides security so that even if someone compromises your iCloud account and wants to set up iCloud Keychain, they still can’t get into your data unless they know the second password or if they have another device of yours that they also know the password to.
If you disable iCloud Keychain on a device by disabling it from the iCloud Settings, you can prompt to save the AutoFill data locally or erase it.
Hopefully this demystifies this very useful feature!
Rovio’s taking the Angry Birds out of the air and into… cars? Yes, it’s time for Rovio’s famous characters to make the natural leap for any popular character – star in a kart-racing game – with Angry Birds Go. While conceptually it makes perhaps a bit more sense than, say, Sonic the Hedgehog as the birds have generally needed the help of mechanical contraptions to get anywhere in the past, it’s still a bit silly on paper. However, what’s not silly business is that this is Rovio’s first free-to-play launch of an Angry Birds game, as this has been soft-launched in New Zealand ahead of a global launch. So, I take Angry Birds Go for a spin in this edition of It Came From New Zealand!
The racing has been tremendously simplified to where players really only need to concern themselves with steering, not even needing to brake, much less accelerate. Each racer has a special ability that helps them get to the finish line before their opponents, such as a floating bubble or a speed boost. Prepare to grind and become familiar with the game’s tracks. Each track has a variety of events to play on it, such as races, time trials, and a fruit smashing mode where points are earned for running into fruit strewn across the track. There goes the idea for a Fruit Ninja kart racing game, eh? Each event has a certain performance minimum, forcing players to upgrade and buy new cars.
The game steadily introduces the ways in which it intends on making money. First, there’s coins for upgrades. Then there are gems for boosts, though these can be collected in the game itself. There are IAP for better cars, including some rather expensive prices for the best ones. It’s possible to use Telepods to unlock cars, too. There’s an energy system where different racers must be used as their energies run low. Each racer has a different special ability, though the car stats remain the same.
Angry Birds Go feels like a highly-polished product right now, and it’s likely that how the game monetizes is what’s under major scrutiny here as it should be out in a couple of weeks. Just how free it is will take some time to see – and this game succeeding or failing could have a big impact on Rovio’s future releases as well. This should be an interesting one to keep an eye on.
Carter talks to Orian and Felix from Liv Games about the conclusion of the Wars trilogy, Stellar Wars, how they think this is the best one yet, the struggles of trying to succeed in the current market, and the struggles of working as a remote team.
Supercell has made an absolute killing over the past year with two colossal hits in Hay Day and Clash of Clans. The latter particularly has been a rather successful and influential game, spawning countless imitators but only in style, not in success: the game has duked it out with Candy Crush Saga for number one on the top grossing charts. But now, Supercell is ready to land on the beaches of the future with their latest game, Boom Beach. It’s currently seeing a soft launch in Canada, so we got on our boots and readied a dispatch on Supercell’s latest in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Boom Beach, like many other games including Clash of Clans, has two phases: building and combat. Building involves, well, building out a base. It’s very similar to other free-to-play building games: build resource stockades, material harvesters, and other handy buildings all set to wait timers that can be skipped with secondary currency. However, the interesting part begins with the combat.
The combat gameplay has players choosing which troops they want to launch onto the invading beach, with units like heavies able to withstand lots of blows on the front line while troopers hide safely behind them. From there on out the battles take place mostly automatically, but players can call in artillery strikes to help take out certain buildings so it’s not an entirely passive experience. Players spend gold to help uncover new parts of the world to go and attack – starting with CPU encounters before eventually getting to face other players by upgrading the radar to a higher level. Still, this is a strictly-solo affair for the early days of play.
It’s all a very familiar formula, but it’s one that’s certainly deeper than the average free-to-play game. It’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out in the coming weeks as it ramps up to a worldwide launch, and if long-term it winds up being much different from Clash of Clans. Still, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and Supercell is hardly going broke with their formula.
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.
On this edition, Carter takes on Michael Bean of Pixelocity Software at the classic turn-based racing game, Disc Drivin’. Squaring off on one of the game’s new mirrored tracks, the victory condition is simple: whoever crosses the finish line first wins. Game on, gentlemen!