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.
We kick the Twitch channel back up again with a word game showdown in Team Chaos’ new title, Cross Wars. Trent Polack of Team Chaos will come on to try and match wordy wits with me, Carter Dotson – and you can join up to chat about the game in our Twitch chat. The show goes live at about 4:15 PM EDT (3:15 PM CDT, 1:15 PM PDT, 9:15 PM BST). Click here to watch and chat on our Twitch page, or watch the embedded stream below. As well, highlights will be available after the show airs.
Update: The show has ended. Catch the recorded version below!
Posted by Carter Dotson on April 7th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Adult Swim Games’ take on tower defense, Castle Doombad, has gotten a major content update, as originally demoed at GDC. This “Slaycation” update takes Doctor Lord Evilstein’s princess-nabbing and hero-exterminating antics to a tropical locale, where he must now protect two princesses from heroes who dare to trifle with him.
There are fifteen new stages, along with three new power-ups, one of which being the giant boulder of death from, well, Giant Boulder of Death. Summon this trap and tilt horizontally to roll over those pesky invading heroes. The free update is available now.
Blizzard’s free-to-play online collectible card game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, left beta not long ago. Now its mobile days begin, as they have soft-launched their online card-battling game in Canada ahead of its global launch. So I grabbed my deck and chatted up some pandaren for this edition of It Came From Canada!
The core gameplay of Hearthstone has players using an increasing supply of mana to play cards they’ve drawn: most are creatures that can be put into the arena, and only played on the next turn, though some have instant effects such as attacking immediately. Players also have hero attacks that cost mana but can be used to attack the other player or their creatures, with the ultimate goal being to take the opponent’s hero down to zero health. Players can battle online with others via Battle.net, take on computer opponents in Practice Mode, and spend their winnings (or currency purchased via in-app purchases) on cards to outfit their deck. It’s fast-paced, but easy to get into.
The game is simple enough that anyone can get into it after the first six tutorial missions, which cover the gamut of battling. Of course, this is where the game shows its origins as a non-mobile title: the tutorials take about 20 minutes or so to get through them before players can even battle online. In a mobile-first world this would likely be a lot shorter, but the slow pace does a great job at getting players to know how to play the game.
After the tutorial is finished players must register for a Battle.net account in order to play online, with this account usable cross-platform. Deck creation isn’t explicitly covered, but it’s possible to just go out with a default deck. Custom decks can be created as well, and there’s a handy guided tutorial for creating a well-balanced deck, where the game recommends three cards of a kind – so players can choose and understand how to build a deck, versus the game just automatically making one.
Once into the online battles, the process is similar to the tutorial missions, except slower. Some players online can be slow to decide their moves, though there’s only so much time that a player has before the game passes it along. Note that unlike mobile-designed titles like Ascension, players must stay in the battle; there’s no jumping to other games.
And really, that will be the interesting thing to see as Hearthstone nears its global release. This is a game that isn’t necessarily unfriendly to mobile, but many of the patterns that have defined mobile card battlers are clearly defied here. And the longer pacing could lead to more drop-outs during matches, which would not be ideal for the PC userbase. But still, this is Hearthstone on an iPad and that should excite many people.
Monument Valley can be a confusing game at first glance: its worlds are built to mess with players’ perceptions of them. However, by keeping a few good tips in mind, it’s possible to master Monument Valley. And if not – we have playthrough videos of the entire game to help you out.
The trick the game pulls, similar to an M.C. Escher painting, is that real-world perspective is essentially useless. Mainly, if a place looks like it can be traveled to, then it can. So when manipulating objects, don’t consider their absolute position, consider where they are relative to Ida. This is often the key to many puzzles: moving an object in one spot where according to its perspective, Ida can reach it, then moving it with Ida on the object, to where she needs to go. This is the backbone to the majority of the game’s puzzles.
Remember that the key rule to interacting with Ida is that she can only move where you can see her, so if a path is hidden to you, it’s likely that it is not the right path – at least for this perspective. Maybe a quick rotation will do the trick? Don’t be afraid to experiment – there’s no way to die or otherwise fail at the game.
If a location can be traveled to, it will illuminate with a circle around it. This doesn’t mean that Ida will travel to it, just that it’s actually possible to go there. This is worth keeping in mind if one gets stuck.
The crows can be tricky, but it’s often just a matter of timing to get out of their way to let them pass. Remember that objects can be moved while the crows are on them. Ida is the only character in the game who can cause parts of the level to be non-manipulatable. If the mechanism doesn’t change into an unworkable state (the handles on cranks will retract if Ida is on their manipulatable portions) then it can be manipulated.
Keep these tips in mind, and the world of Monument Valley can be explored in all its glory.
One of the problems with the trend of free-to-play games lately is that many games have been merely facsimiles of great ideas. RPG battling without any actual control over the combat. Build an empire and attack other empires, but without much control of attacking or defending. PlunderNauts does not have this problem: it’s a game about being a space pirate where players actually have a lot of control over the space piracy! Backflip Studios currently is testing the game in Canada, so I put on my pirate hat and sailed to the great northern seas for this edition of It Came From Canada!
Players hop from planet to planet, trying to become the galaxy’s top space pirate by defeating other pirates and plundering their planets for gold and antimatter – the soft and hard currencies, respectively. Antimatter can advance wait timers, refill energy, and buy new starships.
However, the bulk of the actual gameplay is real-time spaceship battling. Players tap and drag to move their spaceship around, which is equipped with multiple turrets. When enemies get in range of the turret, players can select them and attack, with turrets having varying restart times depending on their stats. Players and enemies can summon fighters that not only can attack, but also serve as distractions as the turrets must focus on them instead of the enemy. However, players can only summon their fleets of fighters once per match: other abilities that can be equipped to provide in-game boosts can be used multiple times as they recharge. Combat is a game of positioning: getting out of the way of enemy turrets yet keeping them in range for one’s own turrets is key, and early on the ships are often close, doing their awkward dance with each other.
While antimatter can be earned through completing planets, it feels like many of the battleships will require spending money in order to unlock them; especially as it’s difficult to earn antimatter through grinding like you do for gold. There is an energy system, with 5 bars that refill at 20 minutes per bar. This is kind of a shame as while it does make it so that players are compelled to come back, it doesn’t feel particularly necessary – because, hey, buying items to get better does require grinding. As well, the amount of energy players are given is rather small; I’d prefer longer play sessions even with longer recharge times. But of course, as a soft launched game, this could change at any point.
Still, PlunderNauts has a lot intriguing ideas to it that will be interesting to see as it gets balanced and fully-formed for its final release.
Coatsink demoed a pair of their upcoming games at the UK Interactive Entertainment booth at GDC: one coming to mobile now, another more likely for the future. Chip is a puzzle game where players must redirect electricity in order to succeed. Expect this one on iOS and Android relatively soon.
As well, they demoed Shu, a floaty platformer where players must outrun the end of the world by controlling a variety of characters floating and using their various abilities throughout a wide array of worlds. A PC/console release is planned for this with mobile down the road. As well, Superglad, an adventure game based on characters first seen in Fatty, was demoed and likely coming to mobile at some point in the future.
Sets & Settings’ Trestle takes the core combat of Mega Man Battle Network (the Game Boy Advance series of card-battling RPGs), gets rid of the cards, and mixes in some Super Crate Box elements. The game, still in development and planned for mobile down the road, presents fast-paced action built around surviving enemy waves to collect the crates and use a variety of weapons to manage the enemy threats. The game is still well in development, with enemies still being added, and release planned for “when it’s done.”
Fixer Studios is formed of veterans of PopCap Games, a studio that has become prominent because of games that appeal to a very wide demographic. Sinster Dexter, Fixer’s first game, will not be anything like that – and they know this game will only appeal to a certain segment of gamers.
Built around gameplay inspired by multi-user dungeons of the 80s created by Richard Bartle, players will trade spells with players online, comprised of various in-game hand signals. Multiplayer will be asynchronous, and there will be detailed information on how players have acted before, so serious players can study how their opponents have reacted in similar situations before. Sinister Dexter is still early along in development, with some public testing planned soon.
Madgarden, the solo developer label of Paul Pridham, is hard at work on Death Road to Canada, his second collaboration with Rocketcat Games after Punch Quest. According to him, the game’s not really ready to show off quite yet – much of the work being done is under-the-hood stuff that will form much of what will be the actual game. But Madgarden doesn’t just stick to one thing: between quickie projects like Chillaxian and Flapthulhu, he also has a variety of prototypes he works with occasionally.
He showed off a couple of them at GDC: Roguebot, a dual-stick shooter with hacking elements and a chill-out pace. As well, there’s Mars Brutalis, an arena-combat game where players must swing around their fists and sacrifice their weapons to advance. The final existence of the games isn’t a known quantity at this point – he jumps around a variety of projects – but there’s something quite compelling about just what could be.
Crescent Moon Games has a big 2014 and beyond ahead of them, as always: a large slate of releases is planned for the coming month and year across many genres. Josh Presseisen, founder and head of the unique outfit that serves both as a publisher of third-party titles and also develops its own, demoed many of these upcoming titles to us during GDC 2014, including commenting on early footage of some of the games recorded at the show.
Exiles: While still not too far along, Exiles (an in-house title) promises to be an open-world action RPG on an alien planet, mixing elements of titles like Ravensword with Fallout and Mass Effect. Players will have a strange world to explore, and plenty of baddies to shoot – and the twist as to just why is revealed in this video, though it’s planned to be revealed early on in the final game.
Gear Jack Black Hole: This sequel to Gear Jack takes the original’s auto-runner concept and makes it a full-blown endless runner. Players will still jump and roll through levels, but now in a high-scoring context while warping through various environments.
The Deer God: This game is still so early that its gameplay hasn’t even been finalized, but its look is rather intriguing: it mixes the pixel art that Superbrothers made famous in Sword & Sworcery in a 3D environment. While there’s still a lot to be locked down with the game, its concepts sound intriguing, as discussed in the video.
Almightree: This puzzle-platformer has players trying to survive a crumbling world by moving through puzzling layouts of blocks, and moving them around as necessary. Good luck.
Sky Story: Another game still very early in its development, this upcoming title is inspired by Kid Icarus, but going in a different direction from the recent 3DS title by trying to be more of an exploration-driven game. This one will be 3D, though: levels have 2D sections, but the ability to move into depth sections of levels will also be present.
This was only a selection of Crescent Moon’s upcoming titles: there were other titles Josh Presseisen demoed that are either still unsigned or not quite ready to be shown publicly. This could be another jam-packed year for the studio.
Tilting Point demoed several titles that they are helping to bring about and promote for iOS at GDC 2014, including a pair of games from big-name studios and an intriguing indie platformer.
Inspired by the Sonic series, Leo’s Fortune is an action-puzzler where players must navigate through hazardous environments utilizing jumps, and only the ability to puff out and float, or compress down to apply more gravitational force. With loop-de-loops and tricky platforming puzzles to solve, this should prove to be a challenge for core gamers, which is what this premium-with-no-IAP title is aiming for. There’s also iOS 7 gamepad support. Expect this one relatively soon.
As well, Toy Rush from Uber Entertainment is chugging along: new features have been added, monetization and IAP modified to be clearer, and just more polish added to the game. It’s nearing its eventual release likely at some point in May.
Signal Studios, creators of the Toy Soldiers series on PC also showed off their game The Sleeping Prince, which is currently in a soft launch phase. This game has players flinging a ragdoll prince around, trying to collect coins and stars, reaching the end of levels safely. There’s an interesting system where players can buy unlimited energy, referred to as magic in-game, in each level in order to bypass that. The aim is to release on iOS first by the end of April with Android down the road.
Chronology from Osao Games has seen a long and turbulent history, transferring from one company to another, but the game is now in stable hands and about to release on iOS and Android. This time-travelling platformer has players controlling a gnome who can switch between two different worlds, and a snail who can freeze time. Using the two characters’ abilities in concert effectively is the key to victory. The game releases later this year.
Like Dungeon Raid but believe it was highly lacking in vampires? Then Darkin might just be up your alley. While highly-familiar, the game adds in unique touches with buy-anytime upgrades, clans like assassins which make use of the position of tiles on the boards, and game modes that play with how health works. The game is coming soon, and we have lengthy direct-feed gameplay footage below.
After last year’s The Drowning promised big things but failed to live up to its potential, DeNA’s Scattered Entertainment has been quiet. Well, at least in the sense that the studio has been quiet about its work – Ben Cousins remains a very vocal personality on Twitter. But as far as their next game? It’s remained relatively unknown until now, when a new game called Isolani became unearthed in the Phillippines App Store. So, I brushed up on my Tagalog for this edition of It Came From Canada, Philippines Edition!
This is another first-person shooter, but it’s pretty much the opposite of what The Drowning was. Where that game was an earthbound mission-based zombie-killer, this is a level-progression-based (with story!) spacebound robot-killing FPS. Well, okay, it’s about as opposite as first-person shooters get. Players must navigate a hazardous space station environment with a hostile AI summoning robots to take players out. This is still built for mobile experiences: all the levels of the nine available early on take three-to-five minutes to play. Each level has a specific weapon selection, with upgraded weapons available for purchase later on, though effectively unavailable for the first chapter.
Interstingly, the touch-based control scheme of The Drowning has been abandoned in this early version of the game in favor of standard virtual dual-sticks with autofire enabled, with a manual fire button and a weapon switching and reloading buttons being the only other input. I’d be curious to try that control scheme with this game – the controls failed in The Drowning in large part due to the need to walk backwards, which was difficult to execute, but this game is a lot more built around forward momentum. Still, being able to move wherever necessary helps out a lot, and the auto-firing simplifies a lot of things.
Really, even Isolani‘s early setup seems to be just about establishing the very core of the game: most objectives are simple, like taking out a certain number of robots, shooting switches, or finding MacGuffins. So really, time will tell just how Isolani fares, but it’s a great fit for pick-up-and-play gameplay with its short levels, and the story-based structure could lend itself to some clever level design and combat situations. I’m intrigued – but it’s clear there’s a long way to ago and a high target to be reached for Scattered Entertainment.
Dutch studio Game Oven loves to make games that bring people together, with Fingle, Bam Fu, and Friendstrap. Their next game is a lot more elegant, though: Bounden is made in collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet, and has two people holding two sides of a phone in order to perform elegantly-choreographed moves. Anticipated for a May release with dances created both by the Dutch National Ballet’s choreographer and the team themselves, just watch this video to see how it works:
11 bit Studios, who recently revealed their upcoming game This War of Mine, demoed it to us at GDC 2014. While much of the game is still secret as to how it plays, as they’re not ready to reveal exact gameplay footage, the game will have played managing their resources, the moods of the survivors, and foraging for materials. While the game is meant to be somewhat generic to let the player identify with the situation, much of the research around wartime situations was based around Sarajevo, according to 11 bit’s Pawel Miechowski. He also promises that despite the game’s theme and potentially-controversial content, that 11 bit will not cut any content for mobile stores, so while the game is planned for the App Store and Google Play, it might not actually release there if the platform holders don’t allow it, though Android will happen regardless thanks to the distribution channels open there. No release date has been confirmed for the game, but expect it later this year.
Rolocule, creators of Motion Tennis, are back with another motion-based game meant to be played on TVs: Dance Party TV. By using an iPhone with AirPlay output on an Apple TV, up to four iPhones can mimic the displayed dance moves, a la Just Dance and similar games. Of course, it just had to be tested out, so enjoy me awkwardly dancing to the beat, which you too can do in a few weeks.
Vivid Games has shown off Godfire: Rise of Prometheus for the first time. Built off of the combat in Real Boxing, players will enter into duels with groups of enemies, with dodging and blocking being the only movement in combat, with light and heavy attacks, along with special attacks that become available as the rage bar fills up. Plenty of large bosses inspired by Greek mythology will be available to fight throughout the game, which will be releasing in a few months.
13th Lab has launched a Kickstarter for their upcoming Rescape accessory for first-person shooters on iPhone. This rifle-esque accessory is built for quasi-ARG applications: the game uses the gyroscope and camera attachment, and the software can map out real world areas to be turned into game levels. As well, the software can be implemented into existing games – the prototype allowed players to play with a prototype of Quake at their GDC booth. The 3D printed prototype lacks the planned d-pad on the controller and the Kickstarter is looking for $150,000 at a $129 buy-in for the prototype and SDK access for developers with the demo Office Defender game.
Gamevil’s ringing in 2014 at GDC with the announcement of five new games to be released worldwide. Operating under the thought that hardcore online multiplayer games may be big in 2014, here are the new titles they announced at a press conference:
Zenonia Online: Gamevil’s popular action-RPG series goes online for the very first time this year. Already out in Korea, this entry will not skimp on the action-RPG gameplay, but will add in MMO features like lounges to meet with other players, eventually partying up to take on the game’s levels. As well, there are battle royale and PVP modes to participate in for competitive gameplay. This one will release worldwide later this year.
Dragon Blaze: This “simulation RPG” has players gathering a team of heroes, leveling them up and battling them out against other teams of heroes and villains, with the ability to participate with up to 3 other players in real-time. The global launch in the 3rd quarter of 2014 will debut the game’s online PVP mode as well. The game has been a hit in Asian territories where it reached #1 on the App Store top grossing charts according to Gamevil, so it could be an intriguing and very popular US release.
Dungeon Link: Built off of the popular “connect the dots” style of games, players build up a team of four heroes, and then battle enemies in an arena where they must try to connect as many tiles as possible between the four sets of color points in order to attack the enemies, with more tiles meaning more damage. Gamevil claims over 2000 dungeons will be available to fight in. Expect this one in the 3rd quarter of 2014.
Elements: Epic Heroes: Revealed for the first time at their GDC press conference, Gamevil showed off this 3D action-RPG for iOS and Android. Featuring online play with touchscreen-friendly controls, players will level their heroes and fight through various dangerous environments for glory when it releases later this year.
Mark of the Dragon: Gamevil finally revealed their take on the Clash of Clans genre of game that has become popular. Build defenses, train attackers, and go after enemies. Their game’s big difference is that players can summon dragons which they control to attack specific enemy structures, giving this well-worn genre a potential fresh take. This one is planned for summer 2014.
I am eager to let readers know about Oceanhouse Media’s annual app sale in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday from Wednesday, February 25 through Monday, March 9. During this time, five of their best-selling Seuss stories will be on sale for $0.99 each, and there will be discounts for other classic Dr. Seuss titles as […]