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When the squirrel god – god of squirrels? I’m a little fuzzy on the specifics of this particular theology. No pun intended – sees a lone bushy-tailed critter dragging itself through the desert, he bestows it with a special acorn that creates a rather large tree. This tree becomes an oasis and eventual home to other wayward squirrels; constantly growing to make room for even more denizens. It’s similar to Tiny Tower, no doubt, but Chillingo‘s Happy Squirrels is much more than a simple re-skinning of a familiar concept.

As the tree grows and floors are added, players are able to choose what rooms they would like to create from a total of 25 different options. These rooms can earn nuts, the game’s main form of currency, at different rates and with different caps on how much they can hold. Each chamber can also be upgraded up to five times, with each iteration able to earn even more, faster. These munchies can be used to purchase new rooms and otherwise expand the tree. Potions, the other form of “kinda” currency, are needed to speed things up if players don’t feel like waiting X-number of hours for construction to finish. Or they can be exchanged for more nuts. Whatever the situation demands.

What really sets Happy Squirrels apart is its level of interactivity. At any time the iOS device can be jostled or titled in order to make the tree’s occupants jump or slide around, respectively. A number of other cosmetic interactive touches such as doorbells to ring, as well as a couple of acorn-earning mini-games, make it feel like there’s always something to do while waiting for the workers to finish their tasks.

Happy Squirrles will be setting up shop for free sometime this summer.

Scientists seem to love locking up tiny animals and experimenting on them. At least in video game fiction. The fortunate thing about this is that it makes for plenty of opportunities to create a game based around escaping the evil scientific facility. In this particular instance it’s the driving factor behind Chillingo and Kiz Studios’ new maze chase iOS title, Critter Escape!.

As is to be expected, players will have to guide a “so ugly it’s cute” critter through level after level of increasingly perplexing mazes full of enemies, obstacles, power-ups, and challenges. Simply completing a stage should be simple enough no matter the player’s gaming prowess, but getting the coveted three star rating will require some fairly significant skills. Especially in the latter half of the game’s 120 levels. This requires not only making it to the exit, but also grabbing the crystal hidden somewhere in the maze, as well as completing a specific challenge such as finishing without being seen or under a certain time limit.

Critter Escape! isn’t just “another” maze chase game, however. While it defaults to a line-drawing control scheme (other options are available, including a virtual stick), it’s a very smart line-drawing controls scheme that automatically finds its way around obstacles. It also features a wealth of customization options that can be cosmetic (i.e. a funny hat) or both cosmetic and game-changing (i.e. a ninja suit that makes it easier to avoid guards). There’s also plenty of hidden content (bonus levels, etc) to encourage repeat play.

Keep an eye out for on-the-lamb potato monsters at the end of the summer, when Critter Escape! will be available to the masses for $0.99.


I first got a glimpse of Joe Danger on iOS at PAX Prime in Seattle last year. While it was early in the development stage and very rough, it had promise. When Sean Murray from Hello Games contacted me, wanting to show something off at E3 this year, I was pretty sure what that was.

Joe Danger for iOS is a casual, trials-racing, puzzle game that feels like a cross between Excitebike from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Angry Birds, and Dance Dance Revolution. I mean that in the best way possible – what you get out of this unholy union is a unique and supremely fun game. I got a chance to play through the first few levels at E3 and thoroughly enjoyed what I saw.

Joe Danger was released in 2009 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as a downloadable title. As soon as Hello Games’s founder Sean Murray (a former Criterion and Electronic Arts employee) got his first iOS device, he wanted to port Joe Danger to Apple’s new device. What started out as a fun experiment quickly became the pet project of the whole team. They took the core arcade game mechanic of Joe Danger and pretty much re-wrote it to better fit the touch interface. In doing so, they came up with the puzzle and timing aspects that define the iOS version.

Joe Danger is an exciting character to have on iOS, and the game is looking better and better each time I see it – it’s hard to wait for the final version. Joe Danger for iOS will be released later this year, and we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s out. It’s definitely one to watch for.

I’m not being sarcastic when I say that I wish more browser-based games made their way onto iOS. A lot of them are fantastic, but due to various software/hardware constraints they typically don’t function on handheld Apple devices. It’s a shame, really. But what isn’t a shame is that another browser MMO is coming to iOS. And it’s going to be playable across all (read: iOS, Android, HTML 5) platforms.

Dragon Eternity affords players many of the luxuries they expect in their MMOs; more than 1,000 quests, loot drops, 200+ crafting recipes, mounts, powerful bosses, crafting professions, pets, over 500 monsters to fight, custom character development, and five different PvP modes. So yeah, there’s a lot on offer here. The beta version is already sporting over a million registered users, so I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be one of those Massively Multiplayer Ghost Towns that some of these games tend to be when they first launch.

It’s still in open beta via the browser version, but once Dragon Eternity is complete it will be available for iOS (most likely iPad) and Android devices as well. It’s also going to be free-to-play so there’s no need to start saving up for the eventual release.

At events like the WWDC keynote from earlier this month, Apple is fond of throwing up a slide touting how many new features a product has. At WWDC, we saw that iOS 6 has 200 new features. But the event itself is limited and not all of those features can be listed and even fewer can be talked about in the keynote itself. We took the list presented at the keynote and listed the ones not talked about and present a hefty does of informed speculation about what the new features mean.

 

Game Center Features

 

Game Groups – This one is really unknown right now. But I read one thing into it, gaming clans. At least that’s what I hope it is. The ability to create Game Center based clans, that can persist between games, would be fantastic.
Game Center Friends from Facebook – You can find Game Center friends from your Facebook friends. When a Game Center user signs up their Facebook account in iOS 6, it links their Game Center account allowing you to find each other.
Game Center Challenges – When you hit a high score, it will now be easier to challenge your friends to beat that score.
Game Center in-app experience – More of Game Center will be exposed directly in the game, no need to go to the Game Center app to perform some functions.

 

New Maps App

 

Transit Apps – How this will function is unknown. Apple chose to leave out transit info in their new Maps app and instead look to third party app developers to provide that feature. To what extent that data will be present in the Maps app is a big unknown. At the keynote it was mentioned that Apple would “integrate, promote, and feature” transit apps within the Maps app.
Map Kit – this is the API that developer use to integrate the new Maps into their applications.

 

Camera Changes

 

Lots of interesting changes to the Camera APIs should allow for even greater manual control of the camera from third-party apps.

Control Camera Focus and Exposure – The ability to control the focus and exposure without just point to spots on the screen will go a long way to giving developers the ability to provide full manual controls in their camera apps.
Video Stabilization – Video stabilization was only available in the built-in Camera app. It will now be available to third party apps.
Face Detection API – The face detection feature used in the Camera app will now be available in third party apps as well. Might make for some interesting app usage even outside camera apps.
Read and write image metadata – The metadata of an image contain things like when and where the image was taken and loads of info on what settings were used to capture the image. It also contains info on the photographer and copyright. This new API for developers will allow them to read that metadata and write it back out much more quickly.
HDR Improvements – The HDR mode is an interesting and misunderstood mode in the camera. Any improvements are greatly anticipated.


Continue reading The Rest of the New Features of iOS 6 »

Get Ready to Start Bumpin’ Uglies

Ham in the Fridge, those responsible for the well received if a bit disturbing 5 Minutes to Kill (Yourself), have been up to something. They’ve been lurking in the shadows, left to their own devices, doing something altogether unseemly. They’ve been Bumpin’ Uglies. I’ve recently had the chance to talk a bit with Brett Hummel (Creative Director) and Drew Pearson (Director, Business Development) about their odd little creation and have come away from the discussion feeling more than a little excited. Not that kind of excited.

Bumpin’ Uglies isn’t quite the depiction of debauchery that many would expect given the (awesome) title. Uglies are, in fact, these small lima bean-looking critters who are about as smart as a sack of dirt and can only get around by way of being flung. Players have to guide their ugly through a given level (32 total at the moment), gathering shinys and coins along the way, until they manage to collide with the ugly waiting at the other end. Hence the bumping. This creates a temporary whirlwind of activity, followed by the production of a number of “bumplings” possessing traits from both parent uglies. And some recessive genes, naturally. Coins gathered throughout each level can be used to unlock new level packs (3 available at launch with more to follow), more ugly parts for further customization, and special boosts (4 types available at launch) that can be used to make getting around a bit easier.

Bumpin’ Uglies is slated to release later this summer for free. If it sounds like a game worth playing (and it should), head on over to the Kickstarter page to lend a financial hand. Come on, you know you want to.


Apple on Monday unveiled their all new Maps app, dumping Google as a maps provider and utilizing their own internal assets and apparently some data from Tom Tom. The problem with this is that while the new Maps app is beautiful, it loses some key features that made the previous version far superior.

The one big step forward was the addition of voice enabled turn by turn directions. A great addition and one that will save many people lots of money on third party GPS apps.

The steps backward are odd as some would seem to be small features to implement, but a huge impact for many users.

I, like many, use the Maps app all the time in urban areas. The absence of transit directions built in is a huge loss to me and any other city dweller. Apple have announced that they are looking to app developers to provide Transit Apps, but the integration of those apps remains unknown (under NDA). Having it all in one place just makes sense. Putting this in the hands of third parties will likely lead to just too much instability. For one thing, you’ll likely need a new app/data provider for each city you visit. Under iOS 5 and before, it’s one maps app that covered the world. Via Grist we learn that the new Maps app will have walking directions, but routing for transit will be offloaded to third party apps.

The ability to go to an address on a map and then look at what that location looks like is a very useful feature. Street View as Google named it is a feature that will be missed.

Readability of the maps seems to be degraded a considerably. I can only judge from the posted screens, but the street and business names in the previous version seemed easier on the eyes for straight map reading. In addition, the different road types stood out considerably more than they do under the new Maps app.

One thing to note is that what was shown at the keynote is the first public beta version. It will most certainly be refined over the coming months before final release. Well at least we can hope so.

Everyone’s messed around with building bocks in some form or another at some point in their life. Everyone. It’s kind of a universal thing. Which is a big reason as to why I’m somewhat amazed that very few people have attempted to merge the concept with interactive design. It’s one of those ideas that doesn’t seem obvious until someone comes up with it. And Boldai came up with it.

Blocksworld is, in essence, a set of virtual building blocks. Structures can be cobbled together, tiny people can be crafted, and all manner of impossible creations can appear with a few taps and flicks. But simply creating a thing is only the beginning. Once that mutant frog or towering skyscraper is complete, it can be brought to life or used as an asset in an animated movie or even video game. This is because it’s more than just a sandbox, it’s an incredibly easy to use toolset for creative types.

Any iOS user can open up Blocksworld and create whatever their imagination can come up with. Then they can use it to create their own action movie or turn it into a game, then they can share it with the world on the official website. Or Twitter and Facebook, of course. The tools are rudimentary but the sky is indeed the limit.

Blocksworld is still in beta but is expected to release later this summer. There’s no official word on pricing yet but users will be able to purchase additional content packs (prices also TBD) in order to bolster their creative arsenal.


At the Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) today, CEO Tim Cook started with a quick recap of some really impressive numbers. 400 Million App Store user accounts have been created. This is the largest known retail ecosystem. By the end of the month the App Store will expand to over 150 countries and will have 650,000 apps for iOS in the App Store with over 225,000 created specifically for the iPad. We also learned that there have been 365 million iOS devices sold and that 80% of those devices are running iOS 5.

To date, Apple has paid app developers over $5 billion on over 30 billion app downloads. Speaking directly to developers at the WWDC keynote, Tim Cook showed a video showing the changes that apps have made in people’s lives, like accessibility for blind users, anatomy being taught from an iPad in India, Airbnb connecting people and spare rooms, and speech therapy benefits using Toca Boca apps – all solid, heartwarming examples of how iOS app developers are changing the world.

After going over some impressive changes to the MacBook line (I really want that new Retina MacBook, BTW), and Mac OS X Mountain Lion, we got into the main event, the reveal of iOS 6.


Continue reading Apple Unveils iOS 6, Our Thoughts on The Next iOS »

When a super nova threatens a planet full of cats (multiple planets, actually), the self-appointed task of saving them falls on a pair of big-hearted extraterrestrials. The duo will have to hop from world to world, gathering as many kitties as they can before the time limit runs out. Then doing it again, of course. Because CATS, people. Because cats.

The gameplay functions as a sort of weird combination of gravity-based claw machine meets incremental in-game improvements found in titles like Katamari Damacy. The ship’s tractor beam can only pick up the smaller felines at first, but after enough of them are carried off it gains strength and can be used to lift much larger targets. Coins earned through play can be used to buy new ships or upgrade a specific one, while stars acquired through achievement-like progress will unlock new worlds. And there are always special hidden kitties to find and (hopefully) rescue.

The US release of Cats Away should be out sometime around the end of June/beginning of July and $0.99 is all that’s needed to secure this universal iOS cat carrier.


Need for Speed Most Wanted for iOS shows promise of being a great racing game. While EA wouldn’t comment beyond it was developed by EA Australia, I think we can assume that it is running on the Real Racing core. No wonder it’s so fantastic. All the clues were there — including the dangling bumper. The acquisition of Firemint was a damn smart one for EA.

There are no reported features or release date, though I think we can assume it will be around the October timeframe of the console version. The game will have the Autolog feature from the console version, but EA wouldn’t comment on if it would be connect with the console version. It’s assumed that they will both run under Origin – so we can hope there will be some sort of interaction.

Did we mention it’s early in development? We won’t even show you the screen shots they gave us as they were clearly renders and not actual game screens. Touch Arcade did get some video of the game in action – take a look below.

I love race games, and the Need For Speed franchise is one of my favorites. Throw in the best in mobile Real Racing engine and I’ll be tracking this one closely.

[ video source: Touch Arcade ]

Personae Studios has announced that it is bringing a strategic version of Mech Warrior to iOS.

Licensed from Microsoft, of all places, this Mech Warrior game is a bit more strategy than shooter as some of the recent ones have been. It’s a game of resource and time management where your mechs are assigned missions and you must manage their energy and arms to succeed in the tasks.

Targeted at hard core strategy game fans, this Mech Warrior game will hit the App Store later this year.

We sat down with WeMade CEO Kisung Kim at E3 to discuss their push into mobile and tablet gaming and to get a look at the games they are announcing now.

WeMade is a Korean company established in 2000; they are well known in the PC gaming and free to play markets in Asia. With revenues of $120 million in 2011, and 20+ million users in over 200 countries, they are well established indeed. They saw the sea change coming and decided to start developing for mobile and tablets in addition to PCs. That development of small and large gaming projects for iOS and Android began stealthily around two years ago. Their mobile goal is to create games that core gamers will like in addition to social casual titles. These games will be tailored for the mobile experience, yet still have the gameplay that core gamers want.

At E3 they announced a few games and promised to release a total of 20 games for iOS and Android in 2012 alone. With the exception of the first game, all of their announced releases will be free to play. Let’s rundown some of the most interesting looking games they have in the pipeline.

Project Dragon
The first one, by far the most ambitious, is code-named Project Dragon. This Diablo-like 3D, third-person RPG hack and slash is already looking very impressive. It’s a full scale MMO with up to 5,000 users per server. It includes everything you’d expect, including a guild system, crafting, and quests. In a true example of tailoring the experience to mobile, this title has an optional and innovative control scheme that can be used to trigger seven different attacks. No release date is known yet, but expect it in the fall or late summer.

Chaos & Defense
Next up we have a player vs. player tower defense / castle defense type game. It’s an interesting mix of genres and finished right, it could be a big multiplayer hit.

Each player starts out with their own tower at one end of the play field. You then build defense unit creation towers. (Or are they creep creation towers?) There are four classes, each with 6 different units for a total of 24 upgradable towers/units. Once you have units created, you send them off to attack the castle of your opponent. First one to destroy the other players tower wins.

Initially this seems simple, but combine the complexity of which defense tower to build and what unit type to create and deploy and this could get really interesting. Considering my love for TD games, I’m really looking forward to this one, launching later this month.

Goblin Mobile
The 2D side scrolling fighting game is alive and well. Goblin Mobile is a sort of Final Fight / Double Dragon action game with some RPG elements thrown in. The addition of 4 player co-op quests doesn’t hurt either.

Social Games
In addition to the more core games above, WeMade also debuted some more social games including Vikings Online, Pet Island, Goblin Mobile, and more.

Social title Vikings Online, available in July, is a 3D adventure game where you can not only farm and craft, but you can also go on quests and boss fights with your friends’ characters.

Pet Island is a straigh-up cute island-based farming social game. With a strong teen and female focus, this title will be great for some, but not for me.

Friend Fighter is sort of a blend of core/social. It’s a Street Fighter / Tekken type button masher fighting game, but you have the ability to challenge your friends and fight them, even if they are offline.

Hero Square Online is sort of a social farming game with bits of RPG thrown in. One of the key differences, and one that makes this a bit more social than the usual, is that you can attack your friends’ “farms,” do damage, and even take over their land in the game.

Rhythm Scandal is a four player online rhythm game, which has party game written all over it.

Stay tuned for more details as we get them. WeMade may have come out of nowhere, but it certainly looks like it will be here for a while.

Apple to Unveil iOS 6 and More Today

What could be one of the biggest Apple reveals of the year is about to start and we’ll be there live tweeting the best of the best. We’ll also have a post up with our thoughts on the announcements after the announcement.

What will we see today? The only thing we know for sure is we will see iOS 6. Apple, rather uncharacteristically revealed that with a banner that greets everyone that enters Moscone West today.

If you want to follow along live, we suggest MacRumors and GDGT. They seem to have the most robust live blogs on a regular basis.

Then check back here for our analysis of the announcements later today.

Bring on iOS 6!

After a recent SHMUP release (okay, not so recent. And they pretty much do SHMUPs exclusively), Cave is poised to drop another one on us. Kind of. Bug Princess 2 Black Label is more like a Director’s Cut than a real sequel, but it might just be the be-all-end-all version for series fans to get.

The key story and gameplay elements are exactly the same as the original Bug Princess 2. Make no mistake, however, there’s new stuff to justify the purchase. Even more bullets are included in this version, which is something I would never have considered possible but there it is. Players can also recreate a near arcade-perfect experience by slowing down the action (i.e. simulating processor strain). But by far the most interesting addition is the new Boss Rush Mode. All of the massive bosses from the first and second game are here, and high scores can be posted for bragging rights. There was also mention of an option to save progress, but details are still a little scarce at this point.

Bug Princess 2 Black Label has no definitive release date or price at the moment. Presumably it should be out in the next few months, and most likely sell for anywhere between $5 and $15 using Cave’s previous titles as a guide, but that’s all speculation. It is coming, though. And it’s looking like it’ll be glorious.


$6.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-04-05 :: Category: Games

$4.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-12-15 :: Category: Games

Fans of Temple Run from Imangi will recognize the mobile game tie-in for the upcoming Pixar movie, Brave. It’s an enhanced version of Temple Run set in the Scottish lands represented in the movie. Instead of playing an Indiana Jones type character, you now play as Merida, the red-haired and firey tempered teenage heorine of the movie.

In addition to the character changes in Temple Run: Brave, you will also find a new gaming mechanic added. Archery has been added to increase the gameplay complexity and provide another way to earn bonuses. In testing it last week, the addition of archery does add complexity to the gameplay yet doesn’t distract from the fun of the original.

While Temple Run is free, Temple Run: Brave will be $0.99. To offset the cost, players of Temple Run: Brave will get 2,500 coins, the in game currency, for power ups and character extras.

Pixar’s Brave hits theaters on June 21st. But you only have to wait a few more days for Temple Run: Brave. It hits the App Store on June 14th.


While not a replacement for Instagram, Facebook Camera is a good first step in this month+ old union of the two companies. Released today, Facebook camera looks to streamline the viewing of photos and the uploading of them.

The app allows you to apply simple filters to images, tag people, upload multiple images at once, and post a note about the group of photos you are uploading to your timeline.

In quickly testing Facebook camera, it’s a very well made app. Much better and more reliable than the main Facebook app for uploading images. Perhaps that is their plan? The only feature I was left missing was the ability to specify an album to upload images into.

Worth checking out if you upload images to Facebook regularly.

FREE!
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2012-05-24 :: Category: Photography

Not too long ago, Zombie Smash developer Game Doctors was acquired by Zynga. Their next game, merging of Zombie Smash with the Zynga casual game machine, the Zyngification if you will, has been announced, Zombie Swipeout.

The good news? It’s an interesting game. In our few minutes with it earlier this week, it seemed very enjoyable. It borrows heavily from Fruit Ninja yet makes a few interesting twists on the swipe-things-thrown-into-the-air genre. Then there’s the aforementioned Zyngification of the game. You earn coins while playing the game to buy upgrades and progress in the game, yet your progress is limited by your energy level. All of that can, of course, be bypassed by buying in-game goods with cold hard cash.

Wether the game suffers from this paywall method is yet to be seen. Game developers are good, how much and how often you can play are dynamic — so they can change it at any time. Their goal, of course, is to tune it to maximize revenue. To do that, they need to make sure they don’t annoy too many players.

Off my soap box for a bit, the game is actually very well done and I look forward to spending too much time playing it. Unfortunately it’s only out in Canada for another week or so for some final testing. But it will be hitting the rest of the world soon enough. Keep an eye out for it.

TouchArcade App Now Available

For over four years, the crew at TouchArcade have provided a great place to go for iOS game lovers. Earlier this year they unveiled their mobile site and they are now following that up with a wonderfully designed native iOS app. We have been taking it for a spin for the last couple weeks, here’s a quick look.

The Touch Arcade iOS app gives you great mobile access to the TA site content in a very well designed native iOS app. The reviews and news are there for quick access and reading on the go. Also included is a great reference for the past reviews, sortable by category, price, and rating. For the app-crazed, you can also turn on notifications to be notified every time a new post is published.

There’s also mobile access to the forums, the liveliest past of the TouchArcade site.

But by far the best feature is the Hot New Games section. Both in a sidebar of the main screen and in it’s own section, you see the games that people are talking about most on the Touch Arcade forums. A great way to get a quick look at games that may be new to you.

The Touch Arcade app is out now. If you are a mobile game lover, grab it!

FREE!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-05-10 :: Category: Entertainment

Mini Motor Racing got a great four and a half stars in our review. And it’s just been updated to be even better with multiplayer support!

Take a killer top down racer with an extensive single player career mode and add in four player multiplayer and you end up with verison 1.5 of Mini Motor Racing. The great arcade racer from The Binary Mill. The multiplayer can be from 2 to 4 racers at a time and can include either your Gamce Center friends or random match-ups.

Not only has verison 1.5 added multiplayer, it’s also added a new circuit to the career mode with four new tracks and 12 new cars. That brings the total to 30 tracks and 18 different vehicles.

If you have the new iPad, the HD verison has been updated to support retina graphics in the game. A great top down racer is now even better. Grab it now if you haven’t tried it already.



$0.99
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2011-12-08 :: Category: Games
$1.99
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2011-12-08 :: Category: Games

Stitcher has always been a great app to go to for audio content. They have now implemented a new feature that allows then to create focus sections on a particular category. The first of these sections to launch will the a 2012 Presidential election that includes audio endorsed by the candidates themselves.

“The majority of Stitcher users listen to news and political content, so creating the Election Center was a natural step for us,” said Noah Shanok, CEO of Stitcher. “There’s an avalanche of coverage during election season and it can be tough to get the best information when you need it. We’re rolling out trending topics on demand, a first in the industry. We see this as part of our mission to further the evolution of radio by making it more relevant and accessible than ever.”

The new Election Center allows you to follow news about your candidate or candidates of choice. It also allows you to focus on particular sources or topics. Using transcription, Stitcher will allow you to search in the transcribed text of the audio features to find mentions of the topics you are interested in.

Election Center is just the first step. Expect to see Stitcher roll out the focus areas to other topics in the near future. But for now, the updated Stitcher with Election Center should be available now. Grab it at the link below.



FREE!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2008-08-18 :: Category: News

It was a long wait but you can finally get your hands on it. Long after competitors Rdio, Mog, and Slacker released their iPad apps, nothing from Spotify. But it’s finally here, the Spotify iPad app, and it’s spectacular.

The iPad version of Spotify use the sliding panes interface that is becoming the defacto standard. If you have used Twitter for the iPad, you’ll be familiar with the style. The app is very well done providing easy access to all standard Spotify features. Looks like the wait was worth it.

If you are not familiar with Spotify, it’s an “All you can listen” music service. It gives you access to millions of tracks for a monthly fee of around $10. And much like any music player you can create playlists, repeat tracks, shuffle, etc. The one big feature that really sets Spotify apart from competitors is that you can integrate your music library with Spotify. So if there are tracks you have that they do not have the license to, you can still listen to them, all in the same place. It has, for me, pretty much taken the place of iTunes Music and iTunes Match.

Grab the new Spotify app at the link below. Do you use Spotify? What’s the feature that sets it apart from the others for you?

FREE!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-07-14 :: Category: Music

N.O.V.A. 3 Hands-on Preview

The first, and the most important thing to get out of the way is that N.O.V.A. 3 is NOT a freemium title. Gameloft have played the freemium waters, successfully at times, spectacular failures at other times. But let me repeat, N.O.V.A. 3 will not be a freemium title. There will be in-app purchases available for certain things, but they are not required to play or progress through the game. Whew. I know that takes a load off many core gamers minds.

N.O.V.A. 3 starts out with our hero, Kal Wardin, crash landing on Old Earth (in San Francisco no less), to find that the enemy Voltarites have invaded. In this first of 10 levels, you progress quickly, but as you’d expect building the game difficulty as you go. Starting out with just a pistol and gathering other weapons and equipment as you kill enemies and move through the level.

The story of what has happened builds as you move through the first level with very well done, fully voiced storyline played out in cutscenes. One difference noticed between this one and previous ones is that it just feels more natural. Even N.O.V.A. 2, as good as it was, felt way more contrived and scripted. N.O.V.A. 3 flows more naturally and just feels more professional. This installment is also has full retina support, even on the new iPad. That means it’s one gorgeous game.

To sum it up what you can expect in N.O.V.A. 3, it’s the great N.O.V.A. experience we expect, turned up to eleven. Better gameplay, better graphics, better script, and more of everything we have loved in the previous installments. Take a look at this teaser for a peak at what you can expect.

N.O.V.A. 3 also includes a 12 player multiplayer mode. The multiplayer is sure to be great with six different game modes. All of the weapons and vehicles are available in multiplayer.

While we weren’t able to test multiplayer in our preview time, it is a feature that I’m looking forward to as Gameloft has, in the past, done a good job with the multiplayer modes in their games.

N.O.V.A. 3 will be available in May. Check back and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.

Take a look at the following video for the first gameplay footage.

Hit the jump for a few more details on N.O.V.A. 3!


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In some ways the original Shadowrun was a little before my time. Only a little, though. I was actually just too young to appreciate tabletop role playing games when I was eight. But I did appreciate the kick-ass SNES video game spin-off, and I even managed to come back to (and run) the pen and paper original in high school. Like many people I have very fond memories of street samurai and wage mages, so the news that Jordan Weisman (the original creator) plans to bring it back to PC, Mac, and tablets fills me with glee and makes me squeal like an excited school girl. Complete with jumping up and down repeatedly.

As is the apparently very successful trend right now, Harebrained Schemes has taken their idea to the Kickstarter community instead of a publisher. Ordinarily I’d try to rally the troops in an attempt to ensure that they meet their goal but that’s already happened. Like, a while ago. The developer is already at three times their goal to start working on the turn-based, player-driven RPG. That’s not to say that people should stop donating, though. If they can make another 200K or so (reaching 1.75 million) then Physical Adepts will be added. As one of many who have “seen” what physical adepts are capable of, this excites me.

The project still has a little over two days before it’s finished so we all have time to make our pledges. Virtually all of the game is pure speculation at this point, but I have every confidence in Mr. Weisman and his team. And I could not be looking forward to raiding mega corporations more.

[Via Kickstarter]

Hearing about an adventure/music/rpg is enough to pique my interest, and that’s exactly what Arman Bohn‘s Arranger is setting out to be. However, reading over a few of the more descriptive elements has gotten me more than interested. It’s gotten me downright excited, actually.

“The game is an Adventure/RPG that combines elements from classics like The Legend of Zelda, WarioWare and the original Sierra adventure games,” according to the developer. Now if that doesn’t get people’s attention then I suppose there’s no hope for the world. The mini-game laden adventure is looking pretty fantastic in a simple, retro-esque sort of way. Players will be controlling the tiny musician as they attempt to save the world in a less-then-typical fashion. Rather than direct combat or level-grinding, they’ll be gathering a number of musical instruments in order to craft a tune that will avoid whatever this particular catastrophe entails.

Arranger is still a little ways out, being slated for a Summer 2012 release, but it definitely looks like something to keep an eye on. If the trailer below is any indication, it just might be worth the wait. It’s also apparently going to have some great music.

Ever wonder what to do in case of a zombie outbreak? I know I have. I’ve got the plan all lined up, ready in case of attack. Living in a country where guns aren’t easily accessible limits my options but I have backup ideas, even if they are rather inspired by Dead Rising. Even better, soon there’ll be a way to simulate what would happen during such an outbreak.

Zombie Outbreak Simulator is the app I’m talking about. Previously a website, its aim is to track just what would happen if zombies emerged and started attacking humans.

As it’s a simulation, interaction is quite limited. Like on the website, users can adjust certain parameters then it’s just a matter of watching to see the action unfold. The preview build I checked out seems pretty complete and offers plenty of variables. Civilian numbers can be adjusted between 100 and 4000, with up to 1000 zombies available to unleash. Armed civilians can be assigned, along with police numbers. In both cases, accuracy can also play a vital role in their chance for survival so that can be adjusted. Any fan of zombie films knows that zombies react differently so infection time and speed can also be changed.

Together, this makes a pretty comprehensive spectrum of situations. The red dots representing zombies and green dots of humanity then descend upon the Google Map image, with users able to zoom in a bit further to see some of the action. Only one map was available in the preview build but I’m hopeful that the full release will enable Location Services so that players can check out how things work out in their local area. The website offers similar and it’s fun to see what happens.

No one would expect just watching action unfold to be quite so entertaining, but it is. I’m not sure how long the novelty will last but for now, it’s fun to see how adjusting certain numbers can change things so drastically. Even if, all too often, humanity appears to be doomed in this scenario.

Zombie Outbreak Simulator is set for release next week. We’ll be sure to give it the full review treatment nearer the time.

Lots of independent games get shown off at the Games Developer Conference each year. Some of them are entered in the Independent Games Forum, a special competition for indie games releasing on console, Mac/PC, or iOS. We were able to visit a few of these, listed below, and wanted to tell you all about them.

Lume
While our reviewer enjoyed the look of this game, she also said it felt kind of short. When I mentioned this to the developer at the demo kiosk, he agreed. He then went on to show me how they put this game together, with hand built sets and hand-held cameras panning through each level to give it the unique visual style it has. In addition, the planned additional levels look nothing short of brilliant and expansive, so this should be one to keep an eye on.

$2.99
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2012-02-23 :: Category: Games

Pugs Luv Beats / Pug Synth
File this one under adorable, right next to hilarious. As a pug owner and fan myself, Pugs Luv Beats took my heart away. Each pug in the game represents a specific beat or musical motif, and adding hats and costumes changes the music and allows the pug to go farther and faster towards its goal. The game may be more about music performance with gaming elements, but it’s still a ton of fun to mess around with. Add the spin-off music app, Pug Synth, and I am sold.

$0.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-12-19 :: Category: Games

FREE!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-02-09 :: Category: Music

Fingle
One thing missing from modern games, say the developers of Fingle, is touching. And not in a weird way, either. Fingle tasks two players to place their fingers onto an iPad at the same time, and solve puzzles by cooperating and, yes, touching fingers. It’s a unique and real-life-inspired game that’s making lots of waves. Imagine taking this to a party where that cute boy or girl you want to meet is hanging out. Oh, yeah.

$1.99
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2012-01-12 :: Category: Games

Ridiculous Fishing
Developer Vlambeer (Super Crate Box) teamed up with Zach Gage (Bit Pilot) and artist Greg Wohlwend (Solipskier) to create this funky game where the goal is to avoid fish on the way down, and hook as many as possible on the way up, then shoot them all out of the sky. Yeah, it’s wacky. But super fun to play, of course. The couple of minutes I had to check it out made me glad I’d been able to stop by and play this all-star creation.

Faraway
I have to say that I wasn’t expecting to be emotionally invested in a game that looks like this, but the music and the loneliness of that poor star affected me in a fairly intense way. From Steph Thiron, the developer behind indie-darling Eliss, Faraway is a one-touch controlled, procedurally created game that puts players in the role of a lonely star in an empty universe, holding out hope that its quest will have meaning, in the end. Fantastic score, simple, elegant graphics define this one, and I can’t wait to play the whole thing.

ASYNC Corp
This one caught my eye as I walked by its kiosk at GDC. I was attracted to the clean lines, the happy little faces, and the puzzle look right from the start. Created by Powerhead Games, ASYNC Corp starts off a simple brain teaser, asking players to switch out and connect colored squares to create larger and larger rectangles. The conceit of the shipping center is a good one, and helps get the game idea across to the player fairly quickly.

$0.99
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2011-06-28 :: Category: Games

Waking Mars
What’s left to be said about this beautiful game from the makers of award-winning Spider, The Secret of Bryce Manor? Quite a bit, apparently, as I stood and talked with the lead art designer for the game. He made sure I knew that he created the concepts behind the art, but the actual paintings were done by “real artists.” Whatever, dude, the game is gorgeous. Also? this is the first time I’ve heard the term “action-gardening adventure.”

$4.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-03-01 :: Category: Games

Beat Sneak Bandit – Winner of Best Mobile Game
Rhythm games are super fun. Stealth games are, too. Put them together, and you’ve got Beat Sneak Bandit, from Simogo. Our reviewer dug this one, so I gave it a quick try at the conference. Whoo, boy it IS fun. The artwork is stylish and cute, and the music is, obviously, beat heavy and catchy. Tapping to the beat to move my little guy to the clocks in the level was enjoyable and had me feeling pretty talented, two great ways to keep me playing a game.

$2.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-02-16 :: Category: Games

Two other games that I did NOT have a chance to play (I didn’t see them on the expo floor, really) are English Country Tune and Storyteller, the winner of the Nuovo prize. For more details on all the games entered into the contest, including the finalists and winners, see the main page here.

We had the chance to sit down with Adam Saltsman last week at GDC to ostensibly talk about The Hunger Games, the upcoming movie tie in game from Semi Secret Software`, the folks that brought us indie darling and commercial hit, Canabalt as well as Gravity Hook.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Lucky for us, Adam may be the nicest crazy-smart person around. He seemed genuinely upset that he wasn’t able to talk The Hunger Games (maybe next week, he promised us), but also equally enthusiastic about the game he’s currently developing with Greg Wohlwend, the developer behind Solipskier, another critical darling of the iOS gaming scene.

Currently named Hundreds, the game app is a mathematical, physics, puzzle…er…thing. It’s beautifully designed with lots of red and white, with levels chosen by swiping a finger across a matrix of white dots.

Once inside the chosen level, the player must figure out how to grow the number circles to add up to 100, without touching each other, obstacles, or more vicious extra pieces. Each level is a mini-education in itself, as Saltsman spends an inordinate amount of time creating each level so that it can be figured out without a tutorial or instructions. This has got to be difficult, especially when we’re talking about the hundred levels or so included in the game.

We played a few levels with Adam looking over our shoulder, and I remain impressed with the advanced level design and brilliant unspoken, unwritten pedagogy built into each one. Saltsman showed us his notebook full of illustrations and written notes about the levels to be included in Hundreds–this is a man who is at the top of his design game, and it shows.

While we learned nothing about The Hunger Games app on our visit, we came away with a new appreciation for game design and this genuine, kind human being with a notebook full of awesome and a new baby. Thanks again, Adam, for a lovely chat.

Even with all the praise the Infinity Blade series has gotten since its introduction, there’s usually one major complaint people have: there’s no freedom of movement. A rather silly gripe seeing as open-world style exploration isn’t the point (plus it would be ridiculously taxing on the hardware with those graphics), but it’s still probably the most common one seen in user reviews and the like. Infinity Blade: Dungeons has no such movement restrictions. It’s also a fairly major departure from the gameplay series fans are used to.

Infinity Blade: Dungeons takes place thousands of years before the events in the first game, with players taking control of a weaponsmith on a quest to forge the legendary sword that’s at the center of it all. At its core, it’s a dungeon crawler. No more tapping from point-to-point and watching cutscenes and no more one-on-one bouts. Enemies can and will swarm and the player character can and will destroy them mightily with plenty of fast-paced combat and AOE (area of effect) strikes. And of course, being a weaponsmith means there will also be crafting. No word yet on what that would entail, specifically, but it’s going to be in there.

Infinity Blade: Dungeons is due out later this year (no specific date or price, naturally). It’s looking like it’ll be available across most iOS platforms, but will look its best on the iPad 2 as expected.


$5.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-12-09 :: Category: Games

$6.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-12-01 :: Category: Games

Enter The SandBox Preview

Holy crap. No, seriously, holy crap. Pixowl Inc, in collaboration with Bulkypix, are poised to unleash something major on the App Store. It might look like a simple toy at first, but make no mistake: The SandBox is packing some seriously intense concepts behind that cute facade.

When The SandBox first caught my attention, I thought it looked like a nifty little pixelated world-building game. In a way, it kind of is. However, I was thoroughly unprepared for just how many different aspects of this created world could be manipulated. Water will flow down hills, erode stone into sand, turn dirt into fertile soil, evaporate in extreme heat and freeze in extreme cold. Flowers and trees can grow. Weather will develop based largely on the environment. Players can even make rudimentary circuits to do anything from heating to creating light.

The SandBox is still very much in beta at the moment, but that’s no reason not to get excited. What’s already implemented is pretty amazing, actually. A lot of specifics are still up in the air, such as the final number of “story” levels (currently around 20), price and release date. It’s kind of a shame because this is all so cool, but then again it’s probably best not to rush things. Although the super-curious or anxious can try to get in to the beta. No guarantees, though. Regardless, be sure to keep an eye out for The SandBox whenever it does hit the App Store.


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