I recently had a chance to play around with the upcoming Knights of Pen & Paper 2 from Paradox Interactive. I was a huge fan of the first game, so I had a lot of expectations going into it - and I wasn't disappointed. The game has gotten some serious upgrades including a sweet jump to 16bit graphics, new dynamically generated dungeons, and expanded crafting systems for equipment.
Produced by Yoshinori Kitase, director of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger (among others),Final Fantasy Mobius is the next mobile game from the epic Final Fantasy series set to release on iOS. There is no word from Square Enix if there will be a US release, but we're crossing our fingers because the graphics look like they rival most console Final Fantasysand the fight scenes look pretty slick.
You can take a look at Final Fantasy Mobius in the video below.
Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Allstar Heroes looks a lot like a certain other recent action RPG release, but it turns out that while it’s not yet available here, Allstar Heroes has been around for much longer than that other title. Now that copyright row is out of the way, I can say that Allstar Heroes seems pretty fun.
It’s not out here yet, with a release date being vaguely hinted at sometime next month, but it’s shaping up to be a fairly solid release.
You gather a team of fighters, then go from stage to stage taking out the enemies in your wake. It’s a simple take on an RPG really, as it can be fairly hands-off if you want. Combat is conducted automatically with you able to cast special attacks as and when the power bar builds up. There’s a campaign mode as well as PvP options, giving you plenty to do.
The fun, as always with these kind of games, stems from developing your team. You can do a lot in terms of helping your team level-up, with equipment playing a valuable role in helping your party out. Fill all the equipment slots on one character and these can be combined to make the character more powerful, starting back at the beginning equipment wise but with a considerable stats boost.
And that’s where Allstar Heroes should keep you interested. Evolving your characters and watching as they steadily develop is always a satisfying thing to see. While it would have been good to be able to manipulate the characters more in battle, it’s the kind of lightweight RPG experience that lends itself well to mobile gaming. You can get a lot done in the space of a few minutes, with the only restriction being having an internet connection available to you.
Given its lengthy release in China (it was released there in February, 2014), Allstar Heroes'US release can't be far off. I’ve got a good feeling that it’s going to be a pretty fun timesink when it does come out. We’ll be sure to keep you in the know.
Due for release sometime in May, Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been in soft launch on the Canadian and Danish App Stores for a while now. A fair bit of effort is clearly being put into ensuring that everything about Earthcore: Shattered Elements is polished. It’s showing too, with this game steadily shaping up to be something quit special for CCG fans.
You’ll immediately notice that Earthcore: Shattered Elements looks quite gorgeous. Each card is attractively designed, easily rivalling the likes of Hearthstone in terms of looks. It’s an ideal way to encourage you to want to collect them all, not just for the sake of progression, but because of how they look.
Each match involves taking it in turns placing cards down, with you not able to initially place a card directly opposite your opponent’s, until the second turn. Besides elemental values at play here, with the usual fire beating water, and fire beating earth, there are also skills to use. These can make all the difference, so it’s important to note that you can only use one skill per turn. Some skills are simply a matter of inflicting extra damage to your opponent, but they can also be used to change elements and more.
There’s an extensive card crafting side of things too, which soon opens up. Earthcore: Shattered Elements promises that you can create over 500,000+ unique card combinations and I can see that being likely. There’s a plentiful supply of depth here.
That’s perhaps where the longevity for it will lie - enticing you into creating the ultimate deck to defeat others through PvP. In which case, it makes sense that Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been in soft launch for so long with balancing issues being ironed out.
As it stands, Earthcore: Shattered Elements already seems pretty appealing and potentially quite challenging, even for experienced CCG players. With further refinements planned for its already seemingly extensive campaign mode, as well as some tweaks to balancing, it can surely only get better. Earthcore: Shattered Elements is due for release sometime in May. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.
Marking quite a departure from ZeptoLab’s past successes, namely the Cut The Rope series, King of Thieves is shaping up to be quite promising. Due for release in February, we were lucky enough to have some time with a preview build to see exactly what it’s all about.
Focused on multiplayer, King of Thieves is best described as part tower defense, part platformer. Your mission is to break into dungeons and steal the opposition’s treasure chest. This requires a certain amount of finesse when it comes to your platforming skills. Controls are fairly simple here, with a series of taps and double-taps being pivotal. You automatically run, with a change of direction only possible when you bounce away from a wall. At first it seems a little awkward, but it turns out to be reasonably effective.
As you’d expect, levels steadily get trickier the further you progress, with up to three stars for the taking depending on how well you perform. There’s a PvP side to things too, with you able to tackle other players' dungeons as well as needing to protect your own. The latter is where things turn more tower defense-like, with it being possible to place turrets and spikes around your dungeon in order to ward off attack. To save your creation, you have to be able to complete it twice to prove it’s possible. Something that may end up testing your own skills as well as other players’ abilities.
So far, King of Thieves is shaping up to be an interesting mixture of puzzle style elements and platforming that’s sure to test your reflexes. My only concern is whether or not it will be able to keep everyone hooked for an extended period of time. There’s the race to be top of the leaderboard and to have the most intricate dungeon, but it’s hard to say just yet whether or not that will keep people hooked for a long time to come.
We’ll be able to see how things unfold once the game goes live worldwide. For now, it’s certainly an interesting combination of genres.
King of Thieves is set for release in February. Of course, we’ll let you know when.
Seriously has brought together some amazing talent for Best Fiends, part one of a series of games about the adorably fiendish creatures of Minutia as they become heroes and fight the insatiable Slugs of Mount Boom. The game will include music from composer Heitor Pereira ('Despicable Me' and 'Minion Movie'), level designs by Samuli Viikinen (Max Payne and Alan Wake), and character designs by Miguel Fransisco (Angry Birds).
Petri Järvilehto, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Seriously said, “This is a game and a world that I have wanted to build for a long time, and it’s a dream to be working with the incredible talent we have at Seriously to develop Best Fiends together. We are thrilled to be revealing a first look at Best Fiends today and can’t wait to share more ahead of our worldwide release in October.”
Seriously is also launching the Best Fiendswebsite today, which will give us a peek at the game's story, character designs, and will eventually offer animated shorts, original music, making of videos, and stickers for messenger apps in partnership Swyft Media.
Best Fiends will be available in October as a free download with in-app purchases.
Skylanders has always been a bit polarizing among gamers. Some see it as a glorified (and expensive) kids’ toy. Others see it as a somewhat ingenious combination of toys and video games. It’s a bit less of a toss-up with kids, though - kids adore it. And they’re undoubtedly excited about Skylanders Trap Team.
The Skylanders series has been broughttoiOS before, but Trap Team is a first. It isn’t just a port that’s been cut back to fit or a completely different sort of game that uses the license: it’s Skylanders Trap Team. You can swap between characters by switching out figures (including all the characters from previous console-only versions), capture enemies in special Trap Crystals, and otherwise do all that Skylanders-y stuff you’d expect. It’s the same game console players will be experiencing, only on a presumably smaller screen. The touch controls work quite well too, although they aren’t entirely necessary (I’ll explain in a minute).
The portal that’s included with the mobile Trap Team starter set is quite nifty. It uses bluetooth to connect to tablets wirelessly, has a simple but brilliant little notch in the side so that you can prop up your tablet (just about any tablet, no less) while you play, and comes with its own bluetooth controller that easily tucks into the bottom of the portal. Perhaps the most impressive thing about all this is that it’s incredibly easy to pair the portal and the controller with your device. If you’d rather not use the included controller, Trap Team also supports third-party mobile controllers. Or, if you find yourself with a surplus, you can also pair two different controllers and play co-op.
“It just works” has been the mantra for Vicarious Visions as they worked on the hardware for the mobile version, and it’s something they’ve pulled-off extremely well. So long as you have bluetooth enabled on your tablet all you’ll have to do is press and hold a button on the portal and/or controller and they’ll simply connect. Disconnecting them is just as easy of course, and if the controller becomes disconnected at any point during play (either on purpose or because it’s run out of batteries or something) the touch controls will pop up and you can keep playing. And if, for whatever reason, you either don’t have the portal or don’t have access to one you’re still covered. When Trap Team isn’t connected to a portal it’s still possible to play through the game using two special digital-only characters (each with their own levels, stats, and abilities).
Skylanders Trap Team will be available in the App Store as a free download on October 5 for the iPad 3 and 4, iPad Mini Retina, and iPad Air. The Starter Pack (includes the portal, bluetooth controller, unlock for the full game, and two figures) will be available on the same date for $74.99.
Popular heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold has been working on their own dungeon crawler for the last couple of years, and the results are a lot more impressive than most would probably expect. No, seriously, this is actually a thing.
Hail to the King: Deathbat is the brainchild of lead singer, M. Shadows. This is no mere town builder or casual-friendly hack-n-slasher, however; it’s meant to be a throwback to a bygone era, when games didn’t coddle their players and the only way to advance was to get better at playing.
According to M. Shadows it’s been quite the experience to take the game from an idea to an almost ready to release product. The game has gone through several iterations for optimization and tweaking, but it’s finally nearing release and it’s looking pretty neat. The visual’s have a very ‘dark fantasy’ feel, and the music is appropriately moody but also carries just a hint of retro charm.
At first glance it looks similar to other action-adventure games like Diablo, but it’s far more ‘Classic’ than that. Players won’t be leveling-up or upgrading skill trees; instead they’ll be gathering and purchasing brutal weapons and unlocking powerful magic spells. In action it feels more like playing an older Castlevania, really. You’ll be dodging traps, timing your attacks against enemies, learning boss patterns, and all that other good stuff.
Perhaps the most promising thing about Hail to the King: Deathbat is that it’s obviously been a labor of love for M. Shadows. I’ve spoken to card-carrying game developers who weren’t as enthusiastic about their work as he is about this game.
Hail to the King: Deathbat should be coming to the App Store soon for $4.99. Additional in-app purchases are available to unlock members of the band as a sort of “easy” mode, but aren’t necessary to progress. Not unless you’re really bad at video games, anyway.
The original Bioshock is pretty much the greatest video game adaptation of an Ayn Rand novel in existence. It’s also a pretty darn awesome game in its own right. And it’s coming to iOS later this summer.
No joke: Bioshock on iOS is a direct port of the classic first-person adventure/shooter. The whole game - all the areas, enemies, dialogue, memorable moments, hidden cats, etc - has been made to work on the iPhone and iPad. There’s even that odd dip in the right-hand staircase in the lighthouse when you find the bathysphere.
The visuals have been scaled-back a bit, of course. Otherwise there’s no way it would clock in at just under Apple’s maximum download size of 2GB. That’s not to say it looks bad, though. There may not be dynamic shadows or fog effects, and the textures may be a lower resolution, but Rapture still the super-creepy underwater dystopia we’ve all come to know and love.
The port supports MFi and other bluetooth controllers, but also sports a set of touch controls that have been optimized for the experience. Naturally a controller is the more comfortable of the two options when it comes to a game like this, but the touch interface is about as accessible as I could’ve hoped for.
Bioshock doesn’t have a concrete release date or price just yet, but it will be available later this Summer as a premium release with no in-app purchases.
Set for release later this summer is Melissa K and the Heart of Gold, a casual adventure game that's hoping to be a cut above the rest. I was lucky enough to check out a preview build of it to see just what we should expect.
The team behind Melissa K and the Heart of Gold initially worked on mystery game, LA Noire, being responsible for the real-time animation system within it - and it shows. Melissa K and the Heart of Gold is immediately more attractive than many other adventure games of this type. It's the little things that shine through, such as how a small twitch of the iPad in any direction causes the game's screen to move a little, adding a nice sense of fluidity to things.
Such pleasantries continue, ensuring that Melissa K and the Heart of Gold feels a more interactive experience than the usual titles in the genre. Objects can be manipulated by twisting them around, treating them like real 3D objects, and it works well.
Of course, the real meat for such games comes from its puzzles. Melissa K and the Heart of Gold offers plenty of hidden object scenes, but also a number of puzzles. In my short time with it I wasn't overly challenged, but I was interested. The puzzles are clearly laid out and interesting enough. They're reasonably different too, such as one requiring you to move a flower from one side of the screen to the other, without knocking the other items down. Figuring out how to unclasp a gem from a dragon statue was also a highlight, requiring more tactile controls than most.
Melissa K and the Heart of Gold should be out later this summer. It's shaping up to be something that casual adventure gaming fans like myself should be anticipating. We'll have more on it when it's released.
For the first time since its release (which has thankfully been a much shorter window for iPad players than their PC counterparts), Blizzard’s wildly successful Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft CCG is sporting some brand new content: the single player “adventure” mode, Curse of Naxxramas. Based on the World of Warcraft raid dungeon of the same name, Naxxramas is divided up into various themed quarters: the Arachnid, Plague, Military, and Construct Quarters, and ending with the Frostwyrm Lair. Naxxramas’ Arachnid Quarter opened up this week and I brushed back the cobwebs to peek inside.
The three challenges of the Arachnid Quarter come in the forms of the Spider Lord Anub’Rekhan, Grand Widow Faerlina, and the giant spider Maexxna - sure to give anyone with arachnophobia a severe case of the creepy-crawlies. Each boss has their own special 2 mana “class” power, from summoning minions (Anub’Rekhan), to sending random minions back to a player’s hand (Maexxna), to firing randomly assigned magic damage based on how many cards the player is holding (Faerlina). There are also Heroic versions of the same fights, where the dungeon bosses start off with a massive 45 life to the player’s paltry 30 - while also sporting enhanced versions of their powers. Summoning a 4/4 minion for 2 mana? Yeah, that seems incredibly well-balanced. Good luck!
There are also two Class Challenges, where players are pitted against Naxxramas’ bosses with pre-built class-specific decks. Rogue and Druid are the two classes on offer this time, with the Rogue facing Faerlina while the Druid takes on Maexxna. Other Class Challenges will unlock as the weeks roll on, of course. It would be nice to see these with their own Heroic variants too, but in some cases that could get dangerously close to overkill.
All of the battles in this wing of Naxxramas feel fresh and interesting. The new graphics for the playing area feature fun little interactive elements and there's a ton of new voiceover work, including new lines for plenty of existing Hearthstone cards. In particular, the running commentary between matches from Naxxramas’ resident Lich Lord, Kel’Thuzad, is funny - almost at odds with the presumed tone of the new area. Then again, Hearthstone has never been afraid to be light and goofy. A lot of the new cards on display bank heavily on Battlecry and Deathrattle effects (SO many Deathrattles!). Also, with a number of new Beast subtype cards, Beast-themed Hunter decks have just received a huge boost.
The other wings of Curse of Naxxramas begin opening, one by one, starting next week with the Plague Quarter. Each wing costs $6.99 (with bundles available at a discounted price) or 700 in-game gold - but, sadly, no bundles), so you’d better start farming those daily Quests for gold now. However, keep in mind Quests only advance via Play or Arena mode - time spent in the depths of Naxxramas doesn’t count toward their completion. So what are you waiting for, adventurer? Get back out there and sling some cards!
Gamers from the 1990s should fondly remember Lemmings. Adorable yet dimwitted, they were a little too keen to jump off cliffs meaning it was down to you to figure out how to stop them doing exactly that. It was a fun puzzle game full of different tools to persuade the lemmings not to jump.
Kind of like that but with Meerkats, comes Meerkatz Challenge - a game set for release in a little over a week's time. The game will be immediately familiar to fans of Lemmings and in a very positive kind of way.
This time round, it's the meerkats that have a death wish and there's a different bevy of tools to keep them safe. There's the typical blocker tool but there's also the ability to use a mushroom as a giant trampoline, propelling the other meerkats skyward. A trainer meerkat encourages the others to run at speed, making it possible to get across huge gaps when combined with a mushroom spring. A blower type will keep meerkats in the air, safe from danger.
We got the chance to briefly check out Meerkatz Challenge and it's looking pretty entertaining. It offers the same vibe as Lemmings but with its own bunch of tools to keep things original. Controls are tight and effective with the option to speed things along as and when needed. Simple taps cause you to choose which tool to use and it takes seconds to master. Even in the early stages though, some careful thinking is required to get past the stage. Up to three stars can be gained depending on how successfully you completed the stage and how many meerkats you managed to save in the process.
Graphically, Meerkatz Challenge isn't going to wow audiences but it certainly offers a pleasant charm, ensuring you'll be attached to these cuddly critters.
With 4 different areas to explore and plenty of levels to negotiate, Meerkatz Challenge is shaping up to be pretty interesting.
We'll talk more about it next week, when it's released on July 24.
Being a pretty big fan of Mojang's Minecraft, I was very excited to hear that Minecraft – Pocket Edition (PE) was receiving a large update. The previous version, Minecraft PE 8.0, had seemed a bit claustrophobic to me. The edges of the world were clearly visible and one only had a space about the size of an island on which to play. I found that the lack of trees, paired with the flatness of the space made the oncoming night less scary. Creepers and spiders were visible from far enough off that I could keep a good distance and there were few enough of them that I could fight them without being overwhelmed. The size issue also made finding materials to work with frustrating. I was frequently crippled by a lack of coal. Lightless, bereft of any cooked meat, and unable to cobble together even a pair of leather shoes, I wandered my small island with nothing to do except contemplate its emptiness.
Like a light in the darkness, a town appears.
The Minecraft PE 9.0 Update is a significant upgrade. It is much more in-line with the PC version of Minecraft, with its infinite maps and more densely populated environments. The first time night fell, I was terrifyingly aware of the fact that I was standing in a forest and I could not see further than a few feet; the sound of hissing growing closer and closer. The landscape is certainly more robust. Where I spent an hour looking for coal in the previous release, in 9.0 I had no problem finding a bevy of ores, including newly-added blocks such as: Diorite, Granite, and Andesite. The variety of biomes that are now included also add to the feeling of wondrous exploration that the PC version captures so well, but which the 8.0 PE edition was lacking. I climbed a high hill one morning to find a small village just a short distance from where I was beginning to build a fort for myself. I ran towards the village and was delighted to find villagers. That moment of discovery was exciting, and speaks to the heart of the Minecraft experience.
It is amazing how much the presence of NPCs changes the feel of the game; no longer am I a stranger carving out a life in solitude. Unfortunately you cannot interact with them yet in any meaningful way except to attack; trading with villagers has yet to be implemented. However, to further banish loneliness, wolves can now be tamed; loyally following you through thick and thin.
A side by side comparison of 8.0 & 9.0
I am really happy that Mojang is continuing to make the app more robust. Minecraft – Pocket Edition 9.0 has come a long way from its alpha release back in 2011, and with all the new content that has been added, Minecraft PE is finally living up to its namesake.
iOS is yet to have its cornerstone first-person shooter franchise. While it has a couple of really good ones from Gameloft and a few good ports from older games, we have yet to see a truly deep and original mobile-first FPS franchise. Especially one that takes advantage of the touch screen and doesn't just try to adapt button controls to a screen. In short, iOS needs it's Halo. Industrial Toys might be the people to do it.
Let me clear this up. There is no shortage of first-person shooters on iOS. Gameloft has released some really good ones like NOVA 3 and Modern Combat. We've even seen classics like Doom and Call of Duty ported. But the fault these all have is they were conceived on or derived from controller-based shooters. This invariably leads to problems when playing, no matter how good the controls. Thumbs will always cover important parts of the screen, they will slip from the correct virtual control. And for FPS vets, the most important factor: touch controls are slower as it takes time to look at the virtual buttons.
Ben Cousin's Scattered Entertainment released The Drowning last year, which hoped to be exactly this. Tremendous amounts of thought went into the game and it's original control scheme, yes, and it was developed exclusively for touch screens. But it just didn't take. It was not well received by the press or users. There is still some hope for The Drowning as a franchise, but it seems unlikely at this point.
I'm also not saying that I want Halo on iOS. What I want is an original franchise, conceived for and developed for touch screens and connected devices. One with a deep original storyline, endless multiplayer capabilities, perfect controls for a touch device, and a future. No matter how how close others have come, we just don't have that. Yet.
This is where the team from Industrial Toys comes in. This LA-based company certainly has the chops to make a killer FPS franchise for iOS. The company was founded by Bungie co-founder/co-creator of Halo Alex Seropian and Tim Harris (Denuo, Alley Cat Comics). Their team for this project includes superstars of music, art, and story; including comic artist Mike Choi (Marvel/DC) and author John Scalzi (Old Man’s War, Redshirts). Seems like they have the talent they need and our first look at their upcoming Midnight Star game shows great promise.
The first experience most will have with the game will be through the interactive comic, Midnight Rises. This comic ties in with two-way communication to Midnight Star. The story, set 120 years from now, starts when first contact is made from outer space. The interactive comic will lead the reader through the build up to the launch of the USSM Joplin, the craft fitted to communicate and intercept the source of the signal. Along the way the story will introduce the characters in the game and provide backstory.
The comic app will also provide potential players the ability to pick up items that can be used in the game. And this is just the tip of what make this dual app approach so interesting. The choices made in the story app influence the characters in the game. And progress in the game unlocks new parts of the story in the comic app. It will be interesting to see how such an integrated dual app approach works out.
Midnight Star starts off after something has gone wrong and the crew of the Joplin is fighting an alien force, as the story of what happened unfolds. The game features a new take on touch controls for a first-person shooter that looks quite good, even in the pre-release build I saw. It also features nearly endless multiplayer capabilities both in the form of friend challenges and leaderboard type challenges.
In one of the most original forms of asynchronous multiplayer, a player can create a challenge for other players - either friends or open to all. That challenge can be a speed run, high score, accuracy, or other challenge on a particular level in the game that lasts for a set amount of time. Each player that accepts the challenge enters an amount of in-game currency set by the originator into the pot with the top players in the challenge splitting the winnings.
Melee type combat has been a sticking point for touch games. How to accurately and quickly they make the player react has generally been less than perfect. With Midnight Star, melee will take for form of quick reactionary tapping of on screen symbols. Each symbol will need to be touched a designated number of times in a certain amount of time to ward off the attack.
Progressing will provide new weapons and parts to upgrade current weapons. The game is clearly set up to be a free to play game, but at least in my limited experience with it this doesn't seem to get in the way of the gameplay.
Looking at the screenshots included with this post doesn't really do it justice. Industrial Toys are not ready to release in-game video just yet, but this Unreal built game looks amazing with very smooth gameplay. Here's the previously released teaser trailer.
Is Midnight Star the Halo-like franchise I think iOS so desperately needs? It would be presumptuous to say yes at this point, but I have hope. It will certainly be a huge step in the right direction. The guys at Industrial Toys are very experienced in the area and committed to the idea of bringing a Halo-like experience to touch screens.
Look for Midnight Rises (the interactive story) in the spring, and the game Midnight Star soon after. We'll have more news on Midnight Star as it develops.
Yesterday, Disney announced the official support for mobile platforms for their ambitious open world / sandbox game Infinity. And that includes the iPhone and iPad. Two apps were announced, one a creative video app, the other the mobile version of the sandbox mode from the larger Infinity product.
Disney Infinity: Toy Box App
The Toy Box app is a full blown, console-like experience for the toy box feature of Disney Infinity. In the Toy Box app players can create, download, and play various games within the Infinity world. Think of it as a super Minecraft for the Disney universe. The game is tied to the player's Disney ID to share both owned characters and created worlds with all connected platforms like XBox, PS/3, and Wii U -- and now the iPad.
The Toy Box app will allow players to create virtual worlds, from cities to play fields, even race tracks all with a Disney flair. Players can then take to the Toy Box and play in the virtual worlds with the included characters.
No release date is yet known for the Toy Box app, just that it's coming soon. It will be available free and use any characters or toys purchased or earned in the Infinity universe for consoles. This is one to watch for.
Disney Infinity: Action! App
The second app announced is one that allows the user to film themselves with overlays of Infinity characters Sully, Mr. Incredible, and Jack Sparrow. It's a fun little app that lets players interact with the characters and film them in various short movies. Those movies can then be shared to Facebook, YouTube, or saved to the camera roll. Take a look at the video below for an idea of what can be achieved with the Action app.
While Disney Infinity: Action isn't really tied into the Infinity world, it uses characters from the Infinity world, and it's a fun little free app. The Action app will be available this Thursday on the App Store.