All Posts By Jennifer Allen
Freemium city-building games have been hugely popular on the App Store for nearly as long as the App Store has been around. With their trickle feeding approach to progress, and that temptation to spend real money to expand one’s virtual empire, it’s no wonder that everyone ends up intrigued. Like any genre, though, there are good and bad examples. I take a look at four of my favorite city or village builders.
The mighty behemoth of Zynga starts us off, courtesy of the rather charming CityVille Hometown. Players focus on building up their town, keeping the residents happy and getting new people involved. There’s a little bit of everything here with decorating, farming and business growth all playing a part. Keeping things focused on the residents gives the game a suitably homely feel.
Released: 2011-06-29 :: Category: Games
When I was a child, I adored playing with Playmobil, creating stories with the constantly happy, plastic people. PLAYMOBIL Pirates brings such fun to iOS with players able to develop their own pirate camp, recruit new members of the crew and complete a variety of fun missions. Yes, it’s not city building in the conventional sense, but it’s charming and cute. The allure of in-app purchases isn’t too strong either, with patience fixing that problem.
Released: 2012-12-13 :: Category: Games
My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic
A series that has benefited from quite a resurgence in recent times, My Little Pony transfers the city building motif to Ponyville. Usual village building techniques play a role here, but it’s all backed up by a selection of mini-games which keep things more interactive than most. The cute factor is off the scale, too!
Released: 2012-11-08 :: Category: Games
Quite different from the others in the list, Pixel People is more focused on the genetic splicing of people rather than village building, but it’s still an important part of progression. There’s charm aplenty here, plus immediately accessible yet addictive gameplay, with players combining characters to create new ones. It’ll take quite a while to collect every single one of the over 200 characters, as well as some careful thought, but it’s terrific fun along the way.
Isla Dorada - Episode 1 isn't the greatest example of the Hidden Object genre. It'll pass the time but remain quite forgettable.
Read The Full Review »
Demon Chic‘s storytelling impressed us so much that we came up with a whole new scoring category just for it: Story Quality. So, in order to learn more about just how the wholly unique title came to be, I chatted with one half of Beret Applications, Michael Frauenhofer, about the inspiration and creative process behind it.
148apps: Demon Chic is hugely different from anything else on the App Store, what inspired you guys to make it?
Michael Frauenhofer (MF): I was planning on making something more traditionally “video game”-y, with stuff like fights to the death against robot soldiers and mind control chips in it. But, I’d just finished a novel for my undergraduate fiction thesis about a bunch of broke college kids doing drugs and getting in trouble, and then shortly before we kicked into full gear working on the project…I had a dream about a man in a dress with a big furry boa and a tasseled hat burning spiders with a magic cigarette. That dream’s atmosphere sounded way cooler than the, admittedly, generic sci-fi we’d been planning on pursuing, so we switched…and ended up combining the novel with the vibe of the funky spider dream.
We don’t have the budget or skills to compete graphically with something like Infinity Blade so we figured we might as well make the kind of game that probably only we would ever come up with.
148apps: What research was conducted in terms of the mental illness issues dealt with in the game?
MF: The characters’ experiences with mental illness reflect a varied portion – but still, by necessity of scale, only a small portion – of the broad range of experiences someone diagnosed with schizophrenia might have. It’s a tricky diagnosis because there is so much variation within it that there really is no one experience a person with schizophrenia will face. It’s more of a symptom class – diagnosed based on what the person experiences rather than any one cause.
So a lot of the “meat” of the way that the game deals with the subject of living with schizophrenia comes from my own experience – the way that it talks about adjusting to life with hallucinations, trying to make decisions about medication, things like that [which] are…more universal experiences of trying to deal with the situations it creates.
As for the characters’ various coping strategies, they…reflect the variety of experience rather than propagate any specific viewpoint. Just as one protagonist identifies as straight, one identifies as gay, and one identifies as bi [and] they are, respectively, an atheist, an agnostic, and a devoutly religious person, the characters make different decisions about whether or not to seek treatment within the medical establishment or even how openly to define themselves.
I was very frustrated with how most of the media I saw dealing with schizophrenia seemed to either take a very strong hardline tack where the only acceptable way to handle it was through a doctor, and anything else was reckless or dangerous. I think [this] can be a damagingly closed-minded viewpoint, or alternatively romanticize being “free” and living off medication on principle, which I can see being just as or even more damagingly closed-minded. Some people are really helped, some people are really hurt.
I think it is important for art to take a stance when an issue requires it, but in this case I felt the most accurate and best stance to take was “different things work for different people and it’s critical to let people have the ability to make their own choices.” Once you’re open about having an experience of your own with mental illness, a lot more people open up to you about their own, and you end up realizing a way huger percentage of the people you know than you would ever have imagined have some form of “mental illness.” All of the people I’ve known have had wildly different experiences dealing with it, and used very different strategies, so it only really felt honest for the game to reflect that multiplicity.
148apps: Did any specific games or artwork influence the look and feel of Demon Chic?
MF: The main story art’s style was largely defined by the artists we worked with for that – Marika Cowan, Julie Chien, and Elizabeth Gearreald – while the art style for the interludes, that I made, was mostly defined by my exploration of the limits of my own artistic ability. I…grew to appreciate the more hand-made-looking aspects of that…but to be totally honest, everything would look photo-realistically detailed in those sections if I’d had the capability to make it look that way.
In the end I was glad I wasn’t the best at drawing. The feel of the game was very heavily inspired by No More Heroes, Suda 51’s game for the Wii, which I’d been playing a lot of and really loving for its pacing. It experimented a lot with its structure and form, and wove rapidly between high- to low- concept and humor, but still retained a really jittery and frenetic energy with its quick cuts and rock guitars that I wanted to take inspiration from.
When I was growing up, my friends’ parents never really got gaming. Some might have appreciated that their kids loved playing games, and would still buy them the relevant equipment, but they never really understood why it excited us so much. I happened to be part of a, then, very select group. I had parents who figured it out perfectly. My Dad was never any good at playing any games but he enjoyed talking about them because he was forever fascinated by the progression of technology. It was my Mum, however, that turned into a major rival. In the good sense, of course.
One of the most important things I believe I’ve ever been given is a set of parents that were constantly supportive and encouraging of what I set out to achieve. That’s continued right up until today.
With my father sadly no longer with us, my relationship with my mother is even stronger than it was before. Having pursued a potentially risky path of freelance writing, she’s always been there fully supportive. Whether it be by accepting that money is a little tight this month, or by making sure I’ve got a sandwich by my side while I struggle to meet a tight deadline. Of course, I do the same for her, but Sunday isn’t about me, it’s about her!
Crucially, she’s quite the solo gamer and tech enthusiast now. In recent years, she spent a few hundred hours playing through Dragon Quest VIII on the Playstation 2. Something that I’m rather proud of telling other gamers. More relevantly for readers of 148apps, perhaps, she’s unlocked and at least two-starred every single level of Angry Birds imaginable, and I don’t mean just standard Angry Birds. I’m talking standard, Space, Star Wars, Seasons and Rio. She’s a machine when it comes to flicking birds towards pigs.
We’ve got the one iPad between us which luckily isn’t too much of an issue, although it never stops either of us flocking to the Apple Store together to gaze at the new specimens. Sure, we both know that the iPad 2 is a very fine device in its own right but that doesn’t stop either of us eyeing up the size of the iPad Mini or pondering just how much faster the iPad 4 might seem. She’s got her own iPhone now too, having been given my “old” iPhone 4. It’s the perfect tool for her to play SpellTower while on the move, her language skills being far superior to mine.
She hasn’t quite delved into the apps world as much yet. She reckons it’s because she’s too busy. I reckon it’s because there’s always “just one more” level of Angry Birds to conquer.
I’m an extremely lucky person to have not only such a supportive mother, but one that is just as excited as me about new technology, gadgets and the wonders of the App Store.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. [And from all of us at 148Apps, too, Jen's mum! --Ed.]
In the midst of planning a vacation for the near-future? You lucky person, you. There are plenty of apps keen to help people along their way, but I take a look at four of my favorites for taking some of the effort out of the experience. In exchange, all I ask is to be able to sneak into someone’s suitcase for the trip. No? OK then, just enjoy the read instead then!
Aiming to be the Swiss Army Knife of travel organization, TripDeck is an itinerary planner, allowing users to manage their hotel reservations, car rentals, flights, cruises, restaurants and meetings, all in one place. Early access is offered for details such as check-in times and baggage claim information, amongst many other things. Plenty of contact numbers and maps are easily accessible too, for the easily worried. Best of all, for those travelling with others, it’s easy to share all this information.
Released: 2009-11-11 :: Category: Travel
Packing is often a much bigger task than anyone anticipates, especially if there are children or other dependents that need to be organized. Suitcases is one handy app for such a task. It’s a very simple list based app, dividing items into categories right down to reminders of things to do before leaving, as well as the all important stuff that needs to be packed. Being able to split suitcases up according to the type of trip proves particularly useful for regular visits.
Released: 2013-02-21 :: Category: Travel
The other ideal packing app is a little more expensive but it’s also more featured packed, encouraging users to figure out what they need by asking them a series of questions. A customized packing list is offered once some answers have been supplied, giving users a great starting point for what they need to do next. It’s just as easy to add extra information, too.
Released: 2009-06-10 :: Category: Travel
Whether you’ve made it to your destination or you’re still figuring out where to go, Triposo is a handy app to consult. It offers a series of free travel guides to many different cities and countries. There’s an overview map for the country, along with detailed information for major cities, useful phrases, and even a currency convertor. It’s a great starting point for ideas of where to visit, places to dine at and places to stay.
With eight billion coins having been collected in-game since Joe Danger Touch’s release in January 2013, the adventures of the daredevil stuntman have proved to be quite the hit. We managed to drag Hello Games’s managing director, Sean Murray, away from work on the latest game update, in order to learn a little more about the game and its future direction.
148Apps: How hard was it to take such a successful console game (Joe Danger 1 and 2 on PS3 and Xbox 360) and convert it to iOS?
Sean: It was really hard! One of our weird little things we have at Hello Games is to never just port a game to a new platform without doing something special that fits it. We couldn’t just shunt Joe Danger over with virtual controls and the same set of levels because we knew it wouldn’t really work. Joe Danger on PS3 uses every single one of the pad’s buttons and sticks. So we went right back to scratch and thought about how a touchscreen can bring something new. We set ourselves two big goals – it was really important that it would feel like it could only work on iOS because we were building it specifically for iOS devices. And we wanted it to feel like nothing else you can play on iOS. No biggie We’ve designed lots of console games in the past, so it was really refreshing to get to think about touchscreens, and that meant the whole process was genuinely inspiring even while it was head-bangingly hard at times.
148Apps: What’s been the team’s reaction to the huge success on iOS?
Sean: I can’t tell you how excited it’s made us. It’s quite embarrassing, really. We always get really nervous launching a new game, and this one was for a platform we had never worked on before, so we were especially scared. We had good feedback from playtesters, though, so we were sort of confident, but that’s never going to prepare you for what actually happens when the public get their hands on the game. As I said, we were trying to make Joe Danger Touch feel new, so it justified the hard work that went into it, and showed us that we could be at home on iOS as we’ve been on console in the past.
148apps: Are you able to reveal any details regarding the next major update?
Sean: Yes! So, we’re working on more new characters – we’re planning on asking players to help design and choose them on our blog actually – and levels. We’ve got a nice idea coming that we hope will give players a reason to come back and play every day. And, this is probably saying too much, but we’re planning a massive set of cheat modes that are inspired by being obsessed with games like GoldenEye. That’s all coming in just a few weeks. On top of all that, and this is really is saying too much, but we had some ideas for a JDT update that have completely spiralled out of control into something else entirely. It’s super exciting and has got us all deep into learning new things on iOS, but it’s not quite ready yet for us to show off. I’m so excited about it though
148Apps: The Joe Danger series has always offered plenty of humour and personality, where does the inspiration for such level design come from?
Sean: That would be the contents of our art director Grant Duncan’s head. To be honest, sometimes it frightens me, but if we give him a bright enough theme it’s usually OK. It all actually came from our very earliest days as a team when we were trying to decide on what game we would make. Grant came in with some toys from when he was a kid and one of them was an Evel Knievel stunt cycle. Mix that with our love for Mario, Sonic, Paperboy and so on, and the style kind of flowed from there.
148Apps: Any more fun statistics gleaned from Joe Danger Touch?
Sean: Sure! So this morning we worked out from the total distance that Joe has ridden that, if we assume he’s 6 feet tall, he’s been the equivalent of to the moon and back three times. And he’s been in 5 million crashes. I think his insurance premiums are pretty high
Yes, we’d suggest avoiding ever riding pillion with Joe Danger!
Huge thanks to Sean for answering our questions.
Joe Danger Touch is out now, priced at $2.99.
Most famous for its work on fairly violent fare such as console game, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and, more recently, iOS title The Bowling Dead, Slant Six Games has experienced quite a change of pace lately. That change of pace has manifested itself in the form of Max’s Pirate Planet, an immediately adorable looking board game adventure for kids. With such a drastic change of focus, I thought I’d take the time to find out more about Slant Six’s thinking, courtesy of the game’s producer, Kelly Richard Fennig.148apps: Max’s Pirate Planet is quite a change of pace from other titles, what was the inspiration behind making a children’s app?
Kelly Richard Fennig (KRF): You are absolutely right there! We are creating lots of new “firsts” in our studio right now, and Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure is our first children’s game and our first self published title. The inspiration for the game, came from a studio game design jam. Last year, a small 6 person team pitched this board-game set on a globe, about pirates, to be played on a tablet. The concept was definitely different from what we historically developed, there wasn’t a zombie or US Navy Seal in sight!
Creating such an entirely different game genre for a new audience was a welcome challenge for the team, and we wanted to see if we could successfully create an app kids would love…honestly it was way too fun of an idea to not make it. We enjoyed being able to step back in time and reminisce on our experiences playing classic board games with our families and the simple treasured moments they provide. As luck would have it, one of our artists has a brother who is a child psychologist, and his insights helped tremendously. We also did many play tests to see firsthand what the response was…So when the timing was right, we assembled a very small team to make the game…and 15 weeks later, Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure was born!
“If you’re going to try something so left-field of the norm, might as keep going left as possible and eventually it feels right.” (Some advice Slant Six’s Producer’s father told him as he was growing up)
148apps: It’s only just been released, but will there be any additional content for Max’s Pirate Planet in the future?
KRF: We do have some content planned, but we are keeping this in our back pockets as further bonus material once the game has had a chance to gain popularity. As a product targeted at young children and also a board game, we wanted to avoid adding content via in-app purchases. This was a comfortable decision for us, as we know it will appeal to parents with young children. Our goal was to keep it very much like the experience families have when they buy a physical board game so all the pieces are complete. However, Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure has been designed to easily add more content if our customers are demanding it. We have already thought of additional characters, mini-games, and possibly even a new globe. In short, the more popular the game becomes, the more content we’ll keep adding to keep it exciting for players!
KRF: Simply put, we are masters of our own destiny! It was a very empowering process for the team to make design decisions, influenced by having our game play tested by our target audience (children 6-10 years, and their parents). Our goal now is to get as much awareness for the app as we can.
As an independent studio, we don’t have the financial backing of a large publisher driving the publicity and user acquisition for this game. Our biggest challenge, which is the same for any independent developer, is getting our app discovered without a pre-existing user base. We had extensive play-test sessions prior to launch and the response was overwhelmingly popular. Our team couldn’t quite believe it until we saw the reactions of the kids, including a group of cub scouts going absolutely nuts over the game! Simply put: If children play this game, THEY WILL LOVE THIS GAME (this may sound like a bold claim, but this is our truthful experience). Another “first” for our studio is that this isn’t a free-to-play app, therein lies the challenge. It is a matter of informing people and getting it in as many influential hands as possible to see for themselves.
148apps: What’s next for the team? Will we continue to see this new, light-hearted Slant Six or will there be a return to more serious fare?
KRF: To answer your question: we do have some large core multiplayer tablet games in the works that will appeal to our traditional gaming audience and we are looking at some potential next-gen console opportunities. That being said, we had so much fun making Max’s Pirate Planet – A Board Game Adventure, it’s been a breath of fresh air for the team to try something new, and if our customers tell us they want to see more light hearted family friendly product, we will gladly oblige. In fact we’ve got a few ideas up our sleeve already!
Thanks to Slant Six and Kelly Richard Fennig for taking the time to answer our questions.
Max’s Pirate Planet is available now as an Universal app, priced at $2.99.
Taking photos with your iOS device is immensely useful and often produces good results. Nothing can quite beat the power of a DSLR camera, however, as much as many apps try. Switching to a full DSLR camera doesn’t mean having to leave iOS devices alone, though, as there are plenty of great apps to make taking good photos even easier. We take a look at four apps ideally suited for helping photographers.
It’s not quite as free as the price suggests, given users need to buy a separate Mobile Dongle, but for those with a compatible camera, Triggertrap is an ideal tool for activating one’s DSLR camera remotely. Even better, it offers plenty of options so that it’s simple to initialize a long-exposure HDR shot, adjust the time-lapse or distance-lapse, as well as even trigger at the sound of a handclap. It’s a very effective app.
Released: 2012-04-29 :: Category: Photography
Master Your DSLR Camera
Learning all about how to use a DSLR camera is an important part of capturing great images. Master Your DSLR Camera is a great, coffee-table-esque app with plenty of advice. With a mixture of text based advice, HD video tutorials and great imagery, there’s a lot to take in. Fortunately, it’s all clearly explained and easy to browse. Plenty of situational advice is offered too, courtesy of 25 common shooting scenarios via the app’s cheat sheet section.
Released: 2011-12-16 :: Category: Photography
Besides offering similar remote triggering facilities to TriggerTrap, SetMyCamera Pro also comes with plenty of ways to figure out the Depth of Field calculations required to take a great photo. Alongside that, it offers Shutter Speed recommendations, Field of View assistance and a distance unit conversion calculator. With plenty of functionality, it should make photographic calculations a lot simpler.
Released: 2012-07-25 :: Category: Photography
A little like Master Your DSLR Camera, Photo Academy lends itself to quick consultations while out and about. There’s plenty of detailed advice on how to achieve the best composition, as well as tips on specific subjects. Alongside that is a great guide to the best settings according to each topic, plus a glossary of important terms. Users wanting to track their experience can record their expeditions in the Shoot Diary, while also recording notes on how they feel they did and what settings worked best for them.