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Category: First Looks »

Popcap's Solitaire Blitz Hitting iOS Soon

Posted by Jeff Scott on March 14th, 2013

Solitaire Blitz was a pretty big hit on Facebook when it debuted there last year. That game is now coming to iOS and is currently live in the Canadian App Store.

Here's an video of the game being played on the iPad. We play through a couple hands and it is enjoyable though not as good as the similarly-playing Fairway Solitaire from Big Fish Games in the current version.

Solitaire Blitz seems to be set up to be as a free to play game and it'll be interesting to see how aggressive the monitization of Solitaire Blitz will be. As of now, you can play 5 times for free with one more free game coming every ten minutes.

It should be launched globally soon. We'll let you know as soon as it's live.

Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet Hits the App Store this Week

Posted by Jeff Scott on March 12th, 2013

We showed you a little bit about Magicka for the iPad earlier this year. We just got the word that it will be hitting the App Store this week.

This casual and very funny multiplayer RPG will certainly entertain with both the single player campaign and the amazing multiplayer party mode. Here's a quick look at the beginning of the single player campaign mode.

We'll have a review for you later this week.

Small Impact Games Needs Your Help Bringing Giant Robots to the App Store with M3CH

Posted by Rob Rich on March 6th, 2013

I freaking love mech games. It’s just a shame that this is a largely ignored genre on the App Store. Or at least it was, until Small Impact Games took it upon themselves to show it some love.

M3CH looks to be the answer to iOS mech combat fans’ prayers. Of course showing a little love yourself on the developer’s Kickstarter page might speed things up a bit. It evokes a similar feeling to other gritty/semi-realistic mech piloting titles and sports some pretty impressive production values. I had to pry myself away to ask M3CH’s animator, James Rowbotham, about Small Impact Games’ baby.


Were there any particularly major influences in the design of M3CH's world? I know it's not exactly the same but I'm getting a pretty strong Steel Battalion vibe from it.

At the time 3D iOS games exploded, we were playing a very mixed bag of games but fortunately they were all with the same genre, Mechs! We just loved the direction the iOS store was heading, it was screaming for a game with user-friendly touch-screen controls but with the in depth details you get in our favourite mech games.

Surprisingly however, Killzone 2 was a big inspiration in terms of AI and cover based action. What some mech games lack is the use of buildings as cover and enemy’s that work together to out flank you, something we saw that had been untapped in the genre (a lot of open spaces/terrain), so we looked at the great AI in Killzone and their behaviour and found a way to work it into our game.

You folks have done a bang-up job with the control scheme. Was it the product of rigorous testing and polishing or did you know right from the start how you wanted to handle it?

The aim with M3CH since the beginning has been to try and create an iOS game that doesn't feel like it’s an iOS game, and more like a console experience. Touchscreen controls are notorious for being hard to use and something that we really wanted to nail. We went through a lot of different iterations to get to where we are now; having both shoot buttons on one side, holding down shoot instead of the auto toggle system, putting the shoot buttons on the thumbsticks and a lot more. We are keeping open minded about it and although we are getting later into development if we have an idea for an even better control set then we will be sure to test it out!

Were there any mech designs you wanted to include that ended up being scrapped?

There are quite a few that didn't make it into the game (we already have 40 different mechs in the game). At the moment we have a mix of legs styles such as reversed legs in the game but [an] animalistic style is something we are keen on in terms of animation and how the mechs behave.

What exactly are your plans for the multiplayer?

We are hitting some technical limitations which means it most likely be 1-on-1 to start with. We would love to get a larger number of players battling at the same time (8v8 is the dream!), especially where the winning players get new weapons unlocked and credits to spend. At the moment its deathmatch style gameplay but we have plans set for objective based multiplayer.

Are you allowed to talk pricing?
It’s still early days but we are hoping for around the £1.99 [$2.99] price range. One thing we are certain of however is that we don't want pushy monetization and in-app purchasing interrupting your gameplay experience, all mechs and weapons are attainable without too much grinding and we reward dedicated hard working players with big payouts.

How about a release date?
As for a released date, a lot of that depends on the kickstarter campaign, if we are successful then we are aiming for an April release this year.

The $503 iOS Racing Game: The Expensive Reality of the IAP Economics in Real Racing 3

Posted by Jeff Scott on February 25th, 2013

Here's a quick rundown on how earning in-game money in Real Racing 3 relates to real dollars and time and what it would take to finish the game. What we found is rather shocking, doubly so if compared to current day console racing games.

Before we get to the details, we should note that these numbers are current at the time of writing. But like most free to play games the in-app purchase prices, timers, and values can change at any time the developer wishes. In the two weeks I've been playing, changes have already happened twice. So, the numbers reported could be different than they are when this is read.

In Real Racing 3, to get to 100% a player needs to win every one of the 961 current events. As there are races restricted to each one of the 46 cars in the game, to enter those races the related car must be owned. So to get to 100% in Real Racing 3 players must buy every car and win every race. What will it take to do that?

Also take note that like many free to play games, Real Racing 3 is tuned to allow players to earn everything without paying. But a player really has to want to put the time in to earn it. The developer doesn't charge anything for the game with the hope that players will spend some money in the game to speed up their progress.

To earn enough money to buy every car in Real Racing 3, what would it take? Our numbers show that it would take over 472 hours to earn enough money to buy all of the cars in the game. Or to purchase all of the cars with real money via in-app purchase, it would cost $503.22 at the current best rate.

To earn all of the cars in the game rather that buy them with real money, a player would need to finish 6,801 races with an average (per our RR3 stats) of 4:10 per race earning R$3,700 per race. That would equal 472 hours to earn the R$25,163,573 it would cost in the in-game currency to buy all 46 cars. That does not include the cost for repairs, maintenance, or upgrades which can be rather expensive.

If a player wanted to take the shortcut and buy all of the cars in the game with real money, that would cost $503.22 in in-app purchases. That's assuming the current best rate of R$50,005 per US$1 when buying R$5,000,000 at a time.

Let's compare the cost for Real Racing 3 to modern day console games, what could be purchased for that $503.22. For one example, a player could get a 4GB XBox 360, Forza Horizon (one of the newest racing sims on the 360), all of it's DLC including over 127 cars, and a 22" Vizio flatscreen LED TV. And still have $17.22 left over.

I think I can safely say that the way that the cars and the in-app currency are currently structured in Real Racing 3 right now seems a bit out of whack. It seems extreme to think that players have the choice of playing for well over 400 hours or paying over $500 to unlock everything to complete the game. Or most likely, some combination of the two.

And these numbers are not counting any of the promised expansions that will deliver new events and new cars. Those will increase the time and money required to get to 100% complete.

Nor are these numbers including upgrades that could be required to win races. It is very unlikely that any player can win all races without upgrading at least one car in each series. And those upgrades can get pricey as fully upgrading a car can cost more than the base cost of a car. So while on paper it could take 472 hours to earn enough in game currency to buy all of the cars. In practice that number could be as much as doubled to pay for upgrades that would be required to win each race.

Free to play games are tuned to balance the fun a player has vs. the developers need to get earn money to pay for the game development via in-app purchases, that's just the way free to play works. I'm not going to say it's wrong, but it at times like this it just doesn't feel quite right.

For players that feel the need to get to 100% in games, take caution with Real Racing 3. It will take a lot of time, or money to make it to 100%.

Travel the Winding Roads of Britannia Once More in Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar

Posted by Rob Rich on February 19th, 2013

I’ve only ever positively associated two franchises with the word “Avatar.” The first is the fantastic animated series on Nickelodean (watch it if you haven’t yet, seriously), and the second is Ultima. It was never quite as huge an RPG franchise as Final Fantasy, but it’s got more than enough die-hard fans to justify an iOS rekindling. Hence the upcoming Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar.

For those unfamiliar with the series it’s essentially a fantasy action RPG set in the same world (Britannia) but with ever changing threats. Each game also stars a legendary hero known as The Avatar. Hence the title. Ultima Foraver is set over twenty years after the events of Ultima IV with Lord British stepping down from the throne and his progeny, Lady British, taking over. The land is once again in peril and once again in need of The Avatar. A horrible disease referred to as “the Black Weep” is slowly consuming the land; turning people into monsters, ugly-ing up the countryside, and generally being a nuisance. Players must combat the Weep while also conditioning their character to become the next Avatar if Britannia is to have any hope of survival (Spoiler Alert: the series has currently already crossed into double-digits).

Ultima Forever is going to be an online RPG, but without all the rampant ganking found in Ultima Online (thank goodness). The focus this time is on co-op, with up to four players able to team up to take on an assortment of the game’s dungeons. Dungeons that scale in difficulty, depending on the number of participants of course. The number of players can also have an effect on what areas can be accessed as certain locks and other puzzles require a specific number of people present to interact with them. Combat itself is also a bit more involved with position playing a key role. Attacking from the sides and especially the back will typically do more damage, and many enemies incorporate attacks with specific hit zones that can be avoided with enough practice. And as one would expect there’s going to be loot aplenty. But this is looking to be more than a mere dungeon crawler, however.

As I’ve mentioned, there’s an emphasis on turning each player’s character into The Avatar, and to do that they need to master the Eight Virtues. Each Virtue has its own meter that fills up based on the dialog choices a player makes as well as some of the quests they complete. Once they’ve mastered all eight (no easy task as it requires building up a good reputation in all of Britannia’s many towns, among other things) they can throw their own little Avatar parade.

Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is still a few months away with a predicted Spring release, but it’s already looking pretty sharp. And it’s going to be free-to-play, so I expect to see a lot of would-be Avatars running around Britannia when I load it up.

Command and Conquer Tiberium Alliances Will Eat your Life

Posted by Rob Rich on February 19th, 2013

A number of players have been able to enjoy Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances in all its meticulously strategic glory for almost a full year now, but the experience has been tied specifically to web browsers. That’s a problem that will cease to exist in the near future.

Fans of the series should note that this isn’t a typical C&C. It’s not real-time strategy and its not divided into small half-hour long skirmishes. Each of the game’s 50,000 (that’s “fifty-thousand”) player servers houses a gigantic circular world map. Players begin on the outside and attempt to fight their way to the middle, which is far easier said than done. Simply reaching the center of the map can take months of planning and teamwork, and then there’s the matter of holding on to the bases that sit within those areas. Comparing this to the original series is sort of like comparing checkers to chess.

Tiberium Alliances is an incredibly player-driven experience. Hence the “Alliances.” NOD and GDI exist pretty much in name only here as player-formed groups can and will consist of both. Once these alliances have been established it’s up to the participants to figure everything out. Who wants to play the heavy hitter? Who wants to act as support? When will so-and-so be on so that you can coordinate an attack against a nearby enemy outpost in order to take it over and gain its bonuses for your alliance? There’s a ridiculous amount of strategy to be found if players are willing to travel deep enough into the rabbit hole.

Combat is also a rather involved affair with specific units gaining an automatic advantage over specific defenses and vice-versa. By the same token, different buildings within a base have different levels of importance in a fight. The Defense Facility, for example, will repair other buildings over time. Take it out and the base will take a while to get back to full strength. Or there’s always the Construction Yard. Kill that and the base is toast regardless. Of course not all bases can be overrun in a single attack, which is why it’s vital to communicate with other alliance members and really plan complex maneuvers ahead of time.

The overall experience is largely unchanged from the browser-based version, with the exception of a new touch-based interface. However, once the iOS version is released Tiberium Alliances will be totally cross-platform with players able to manage their bases and assemble armies on their computer, then immediately jump in where they left off on their mobile devices if need be. Which will be a boon for any serious players as the community is looking pretty intense and involved. In a good way.

Anyone interested in checking out Tiberium Alliances can do so right now through their web browser, of course. But in another month or so the entire life devouring, free-to-play strategy monster will go cross platform. And then there won’t be anywhere left to hide.

More Hands-On Video of Real Racing 3, Cars, Tracks, and More

Posted by Jeff Scott on February 12th, 2013

I feel lucky that I got a lot of time to play Real Racing 3. With well over an hour of playtime with Firemonkeys community manager Sam Mayo walking me through the game, I think I got a fairly good feel for Real Racing 3. That time with the game has just made my anticipation for the release greater.

I also got the opportunity to record a ton of video. Of the cars, some of the tracks and race types, the repair system, and more.

Late last night we brought you a 4:26 video walking through of Real Racing 3 that covered most aspects. We also detailed the energy system used in this free to play title. Today, let's go a little more in depth.


All 46 Cars in Real Racing 3

Wonder what the 46 cars are in Real Racing and wanted to see them? This video is for you. Here's a parade of all 46 cars where you can see their specs at the bottom of the screen.

A special note here. Some of the cars don't look perfect. The reason for that is the damage system in the game. If you damage the car while racing, that damage is persistent, much like it would be in real life. Your car will be represented as damaged anywhere in the game you see it. You can still race it, upgrade it, paint it, etc. But it will remain damaged, with it's performance reduced, until you spend the in game currency to repair it and wait the time it takes.

Now, back to that video.


Customize and Upgrades in Real Racing 3

Like most racing games, Real Racing 3 has upgrade and customization options. For Real Racing 3 you can make a variety of tiered upgrades to the Engine, Drivetrain, Suspension, Brakes, and the Wheels. Under each section there are from two to four tiered upgrades you can do. Meaning that you need tier 1 to apply tier 2, and so on. Each of these upgrades applied to a single car and has the possibility to increase the top speed, acceleration, braking, or traction of the vehicle. Each one should decrease your lap times by some amount.


Mount Panorama Track - Time Trial in Real Racing 3

Mount Panorama is aptly named. You race up this steep track on a mountain that never seems to end, crest the top to a beautiful panorama, and plunge right back down the other side. Awesomely rendered vistas, but better keep your eye on the road. I did make more than a few mistakes on this time trial / Autocross race while looking around the beautifully rendered track.


Head to Head - Circuit de Spa-Francordchamps in Real Racing 3

We also did a head to head race on the long and very fast Circuit de Spa, or just Spa. It's a great track and racer "drollted" provided a worthy challenge, until he made a mistake near the end of the first lap. It was bye bye from then on out as he had to take second place and I got the win!


Full 22 Car Race on Southbank, Melbourne in Real Racing 3

Real Racing 2 was amazing with up to 16 cars in a single race. Real Racing 3 has bumped that up to 22 cars. In this Southbank race you'll see all 22 cars squeeze through a very narrow course. Southbank is the course through the streets of Melbourne. It's a track that doesn't exist and was just a fun experiment by the Firemonkeys team to add a brand new course. And a challenging one at that! This race gets a little dirty with lots of bumping and wall grinding in the narrow turns. I couldn't pull out a win on this one. It was my first drive on the track and I made too many mistakes. Those walls just jump right out at you! The best I could do was to climb from 22nd to a disappointing 6th. Even dirty driving can't win every time.

That's all we have right now. You can tell from all of the coverage we've been giving Real Racing 3 that we are anxiously awaiting it. Real Racing 3 comes out as a Universal build on iOS on February 28th. It also realeases for Android at the same time.

Note that this is a preview of Real Racing 3, not a review. We can never review an app when it's presented by people related to the app. The reason is that we have no idea how the game is tuned for that demo. We need to reserve judgement for the final release of the game, downloaded from the App Store, and set up just like it is for everyone else.

Real Racing 3 First Hands On Video - 4:26 of Mobile Racing Bliss

Posted by Jeff Scott on February 12th, 2013

We got a chance to grab some quality hands on time with Real Racing 3 today. We got about thirty minutes of video we'll be posting over the coming days. The game, much as we expected, it's pretty amazing! It looks great, it plays great, and our concerns about the free to play model were somewhat assuaged.

We'll have more on the free to play model once we get more time with it. But you can at least rest assured it's not super intrusive. It exists pretty much as we guessed last week, but with less friction and fewer pay walls than I anticipated.

The free to play energy system in Real Racing 3 works like this. You earn cash when racing. When you race, and damage your car, you have to pay for those repairs. The better you are, the less damage you do to your car. To fix you car, you have to use the cash you earn. You also have to pay for upgrades and new cars. While the damage to your car does affect the power of it, you can chose to not repair it and keep racing.

Also, typical to most free to play games there are two currencies included. Dollars and gold coins. Dollars pay for repairs, upgrades, etc., the gold coins speed things up, reducing your wait time.

Repairs and upgrades take time to complete. How long depends on how much damage or how big of an upgrade it is. You can speed them up by using gold coins. You only earn gold coins by leveling up in the game or by buying them with real money via in-app purchase.

All in all, not that intrusive for free to play games. But I can't totally give it a pass as the device I was playing on had millions in cash and thousands of gold coins. That doesn't give me a good feel for how fast you earn money or how fast you are forced to spend it. We'll have more when we get a chance to try it on our devices.

Here's a quick demo of Real Racing 3, featuring the first full race seen anywhere. We'll have more videos coming soon with more on the cars in the game, the repair and upgrade system, and more. But first, here's 4:26 of Real Racing 3 bliss.

Real Racing 3 launches as a Universal app on February 28th. We hope to have a promo code soon so we can start setting some hot laps. When we get one, we'll have more in-depth info.

Joe Danger Touch Coming This Month

Posted by Jeff Scott on January 7th, 2013

We've mentioned Joe Danger Touch to you before. This game that we first saw, in it's very early form, at PAX 2011 is now in the final stages and should be released as soon as this week. We got a full hands-on with the release candidate of Joe Danger Touch, and here's what you can expect.

Joe Danger isn't your average trials-type motorcycle game. If anything I'd say it's more of a rhythm/puzzle game with a motorcycle theme. Each level presents movements and tasks you have to complete to get a perfect score. Take a look at our video of the first few minutes of the game to get the idea.

Thusfar, in our time with Joe Danger, it's seems well-designed and well-tuned. The touch controls are well thought out, unique, but easy to pick up--especially with the progressive tutorial in the game. With a multitude of levels and an amazing variety of tasks to compete in those levels, this two finger game could be the next big hit.

Developer Hello Games has taken its time to make sure that it got everything right, and it shows in the game. Well done. We'll have a full review for Joe Danger Touch on release day, and we'll update this post with that release date when it's officially known.

Preview of Massive Damage's Please Stay Calm: Shadow Wars

Posted by Jeff Scott on December 10th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

We first saw Please Stay Calm, the zombie fighting RPG game, in 2011. It was a fairly well-received social game in the style of Mob Wars. It has maintained a healthy community since release.

Shadow Wars continues the style of game play, but with everything turned up a notch. For one, it's created using the Unity Engine. So it has gone from a flat 2D game to a beautiful 3D game. Here are a few of the other key features, direct from Massive Damage:


KEY FEATURES
• Real-time Tactical Combat – With over 150+ unique animated monsters and demons, players engage in intense, real-time tactical combat using an eclectic mix of modern and arcane weapons from runic daggers to sniper rifles.

• Location-based Persistent Online World – Experience real world locations and neighborhoods in a neon-drenched futuristic alternate reality.

• Epic Storyline with Shadow Factions – Can you stop the end of the world and solve the mystery of “The Gloom”? Explore the Shadow Wars world by completing missions for the order-obsessed Templars, the hedonistic Hellfire Society and the militant Umber Wulf.

• Dynamic Guild System – Build and upgrade havens and sanctums with other like-minded players. Align yourselves with one of the three shadow factions for special bonuses and vie for control of the world.

• Massive Cooperative and Competitive Events – Join in massive events and battle incredible boss demons to unlock unique titles, rare weapons, items and other prizes for yourself or for your team.

Look for Please Stay Calm: Shadow Wars early next year. Hit the jump for a few more early screen shots.

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DeNA / ngmoco Unveil Ben Cousins' First Game, The Drowning

Posted by Jeff Scott on December 6th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: BETTER THAN IT LOOKS :: Read Review »

While a few of the recent games from DeNA's US wing, formerly known as ngmoco have made a crap-ton of money, they have done little to interest core gamers. Just one example, Rage of Bahamut has kept a near constant top five residency in the top grossing list since release. That's meant millions in income, easily, for DeNA.. But for core gamers, it's been a bit... boring.

Well that's about to change. Ben Cousins has reveled the first game from the new DeNA Swedish studio, now known as Scattered Entertainment. The Drowning is a free to play first person shooter, rethought for the touch screen, and looking damn sexy.

The story is that mysterious underworld creatures have forced their way to the surface through a massive, global, catastrophic event. Unexplained oil spills have caused any creature that touches the oil to turn into a lifeless zombie bird-influenced creature.

As you work your what through this world, assumedly to safety, you craft weapons, trade supplies, and fight off countless of these bird-like creatures.

While the graphics look great, the story is interesting, and the anticipation for this game is huge, the really interesting part of this new game are the innovative controls that DeNA has come up with. While this is all possible to change before release, here's what we know so far.

One of the main interface design goals is to be able to play with just two fingers. Using one finger or two, with gestures, you can aim, move, shoot, change weapons, and everything else you need to do in an FPS.

The main control element is the two finger aim/fire. The weapon will fire at the middle point between your two fingers. Stretching you two fingers will zoom, as we would expect. A single finger touch will mark a point in the world and your player will move there. It's innovative, you have to give it that. Virtual sticks just don't work that great, and this looks, at least in the demo, to be viable. It will take hours of gameplay to verify that, and I'm looking forward to it.

The Drowning is still a ways off. We can expect it in early 2013. Hopefully we'll get more info in the coming weeks. It's certainly one to watch.

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Anomaly Warzone Korea Preview

Posted by Jeff Scott on December 5th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: TOWER OFFENSE :: Read Review »

If you have played the first version of this game, Anomaly Warzone Earth you know that besides it's fantastic graphics it offered original gameplay dubbed a reverse-tower defense. While there is a light story, the focus is on the great gameplay.

While there is just a light storyline, it continues in this sequel that once you finish the first game, the war is not over. It has moved from Tokyo, the scene of the first game, to Korea. In this sequel, everything has been taken to the next level, especially the graphics. Pawel gives a few details.

"We have made slight changes to the interface. In the game there are a lot of visual improvements. Lens flare, particle effects, dynamic lighting. With the first Anomaly we were unable to do these things due to [hardware] limitations. Now with the iPads we are able to implement [these features]."

Changes in Anomaly Warzone Korea include a new vehicle, new powers, and new enemies to battle. The biggest change though are new gameplay modes. In the first version the gameplay was similar from level to level. Korea includes modes that require special strategies.

Anomaly Warzone Korea will be out before Christmas this year, if at all possible. Developed by 11Bit Studios from Poland, and published by Chillingo. Hit the jump for more screens from the game.

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Animal Legends from Appy Entertainment Coming This Week

Posted by Jeff Scott on November 13th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: MAGIC :: Read Review »

As Appy Entertainment sees 2 million SpellCraft School of Magic downloads, they prepare to release their next social game, Animal Legends. We spoke with Paul O'Connor, Brand Director at Appy about their new game and their experiences so far in the App Store.

Animal Legends is both a city builder, and an RPG battle game and has some amazing artwork and a huge number of character customization options. As you level up through the game, your animals gain special powers and equipment to help you fight through ever increasingly difficult levels in a Pokemon type battle arena.

Animal Legends will be released this week worldwide and Appy brings some new things to the social game scene. Not the least of which is a social game that is really social. The multiplayer is tuned for the mobile landscape where users play a bit here and there throughout the days. In Animal Legends, as you include your friends in your world you can use their built up creatures. Both sides get a little extra reward for doing so.

Paul O'Connor from Appy Entertainment gives us the background story of the game that revolves around the triumph over an evil Vampire Frog, Skulk. "In Animal Legends, the evil Vampire Frog, Skulk, has cast a blight upon the land, and you and your friends must defeat him by clearing back the poisoned forest, building up your fantasy kingdom, and questing for loot and glory in battle with Skulk's minions. The whole game is slightly unhinged, with rampaging Rhino Warriors, giant Ogre Bunnies, and other half-savage, half-funny animal opponents. The tone and story are light and the game is welcoming to casual players, but it is crunchy under the surface, allowing players to explore different towns and character builds, and to kit out parties with their friends taking advantage of the combos and special powers in the game's tactical battle system. Our motto at Appy is "Deadly Serious About Stupid Fun" and Animal Legends has the distinctive polish and sense of humor that we're known for. Our release video should give you a sugared-up taste of what the game is all about." Here's that video:

Interesting, an unhinged game about animals battling an evil vampire frog. Where did that come from? We asked Paul a little about the influences for Animal Legends to get some idea. "We are fantasy geeks of long standing, and the love of the genre that was poured into SpellCraft School of Magic is in Animal Legends. We have deep roots in creating fantasy worlds, reaching back to Oddworld and our own creation of Darkwatch in our High Moon Studios days, and our CEO used to be editor-in-chief of Malibu Comics, which brought all sorts of crazy original monsters and heroes to life. Animal Legends has been an opportunity for us to bring all these deep nerd obsessions together to brew up a new kind of RPG for this new touch-based, mobile computing generation." Deep nerd obsessions indeed, but the game still remains quite accessible. It's easy to get into and progress even if you aren't familiar with RPG games.

Hit the jump for more on Animal Legends, screenshots, and more from Paul from Appy on this new game.

Rage of the Gladiator Fights its Way from the Wii to iOS

Posted by Rob Rich on November 1st, 2012

I unfortunately missed out on the chance to play Rage of the Gladiator when it was originally released on the Wii, despite my legitimate interest. Luckily I’ve gotten a second chance because Gamelion is porting it over to iOS devices as a fully re-mastered and arguably definitive version.

The basic story is that Gracius, the main character and gladiator extraordinaire, is fighting for his freedom and for revenge against those who’ve slain his father. How? By cutting a swathe through a horde of inhuman bosses. Anyone who’s played Infinity Blade will be familiar with the adapted control scheme (tap arrows to dodge left/right, tap buttons to block, swipe to attack), but combat in Rage of the Gladiator feels decidedly more arcade-like than Epic’s, well, epic. Attack and response time is a bit faster, fights are broken up into three “rounds” much like a boxing match, and there are a number of weapons and skills to unlock and purchase as you progress.

Again, while Rage of the Gladiator is indeed similar to that other popular swipe fighter it’s not exactly a carbon copy. There’s a noticeable emphasis on giving each combatant their own personality, and with the addition of a jump button and some rather complex combo attacks it can be quite the ordeal to make it through a fight in decent shape. It‘s definitely a challenge but every pattern can be learned eventually and it can be exceedingly satisfying to knock a particularly bothersome foe in the jaw with a warhammer in slow motion.

Anyone interested in a first-person arcade-esque gladiatorial beat down should keep an eye on the App Store. There’s no official word on a price but Rage of the Gladiator is set to release sometime in November.

Microsoft Gives Mobile Another Go - Windows Phone 8 Detailed

Posted by Jeff Scott on October 31st, 2012

While this post has nothing directly to do with iOS, it is a pretty major story in the mobile world. One you are likely not going to hear the end of soon. Microsoft has just officially unveiled Windows Phone 8, the mobile version of their new Windows ecosystem.

While at first glance it looks like Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8 has matured nicely. The Windows Phone 7 interface, known previously as Metro, has become the basis for all Windows 8 devices, desktop, tablet, and mobile. Which is great for standardized usability, maybe. There are some really good things about Windows Phone 8, and some bad ones. The interface is great, the apps, not so much.


Windows Phone 8 - The Interface

When Joe Belfiore got on stage to introduce the final unknown features of Windows Phone 8, it seemed like a sigh of relief. Microsoft has been teasing this release for what seems like months, but it's finally here. However, it's not without some notable issues.

I must point out that the Windows Phone 8 OS interface is perfectly suited for mobile. It is the only mobile OS designed from the start for mobile and it shows that a lot of thought went into the design. In many ways it's a better interface for mobile than iOS or Android (which just copied iOS). It is focused on getting you the data you need quickly. The strength in iOS is with the apps. But that isolates that data inside the app and requires extra touches to get to it. Windows Phone is designed to surface the data from your apps onto your start screen. It's just there and it's really well done.

Some really good new features were presented, like Kid's Corner, a specially administered interface on your device for when your kids want to play. Deep integration of your social networks is also a huge plus--doubly so on the go. Rooms allow groups of people to share things like photos, calendars, and even group messages.


Windows Phone 8 - The Hardware

Microsoft has announced a range of devices that will run Windows Phone 8. Let's be honest: they are all pretty good but not amazing. None of them that I tried have the design and feel of the nearly perfect iPhone 5, but they are functional and fairly well done. Some corners were cut with most devices being all plastic, but that also keeps the retail prices down.

Some stand-outs include the Nokia 920, and the HTC 8X. Microsoft handed out HTC 8X devices as the unveiling this week and it's the device I've been using to test Windows Phone 8.


Microsoft asks for a third chance

Here's the really bad thing about Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is asking for yet another do-over in mobile. They messed it up, failed to build properly for the future, again, and need to start over. That means that the old stuff is deprecated and won't be upgraded.

So all the years of their rhetoric about Windows Mobile being the operating system of the future? False. Windows Phone 7 is the future? False. Have a Windows Phone 7 device? It's not upgradeable to Windows Phone 8, just a few short months later. Sorry, Microsoft needs to start over and create something new, so you are left with the short straw. If you have a recent Windows Phone 7 device it can be upgraded to 7.8, a subset of Windows Phone 8, but incompatible with WP8 apps, which is little consolation.

So even while Nokia was spending crazy ad dollars telling users that the "Smartphone beta test is over," they knew it was just a ruse. It's unforgivable to me that Nokia was selling devices it knew would not be upgradeable in just a few short months. Imagine if the iPhone 5 were not upgradeable to iOS 7 when that inevitably comes out next year. Oh, the fervor that would raise. But you see, hardly anyone bought Windows Phone 7 devices, so there's no outrage. There are good things about being on the low end of the list in smartphone production, huh, Nokia?

I think Microsoft should just buy every Windows Phone 7 user a new Windows Phone 8 device. Would be great PR, and probably more effective than some of the ads they will end up running.

The end result of this is that you should be at least a bit concerned that Windows 9 is right around the corner and could easily make any Windows Phone 8 device you buy obsolete and non-upgradeable.

So, that's a bit off my chest. But now here's the kicker. I really like Windows Phone 8, I do. I think it's innovative, pleasing to use, and all around well done. But the sad thing is, I won't use it regularly, because there are still too few good apps for it.


Right Achilles Heel: Where are the good apps?

While Microsoft touts 120,000 apps for Windows Phone, there's a real problem with those apps: a huge majority of them are just horrible crap. Most of them are way worse than the crappiest of apps on iOS. Many of the recognizable ones, the ones that Microsoft trumpets as being keystones on the platform, are just way behind compared to their iOS counterparts. Some are designed as feature sub-sets of their iOS versions, but others just haven't been updated in too long.

The good news is that this lack of good apps should start to be less of an issue. At the Windows Phone 8 event this week Microsoft said they would have 46 of the top 50 apps on Windows Phone. I don't know where that top 50 came from, but they did announce some good additions, like Pandora, Temple Run, and Angry Birds Space.

Microsoft will spend a ton of cash advertising Windows Phone 8; hopefully it will help. Flurry has already announced a huge uptick in new Windows Phone projects. Hopefully those new apps will be first class citizens, unlike some of the feature-lacking ones available now for Windows Phone.

But that's not all. There is yet another problem with the Windows Phone app marketplace: device-specific apps.


Left Achilles Heel: Manufacturer Specific Apps

Forget about the Windows Phone 8's (lack of) upgrade fiasco. Or even that the apps released for Windows Phone are sometimes generations behind other platforms. Here's another big problem: device-specific app markets.

It seems like every other platform tries to match the iTunes App Store, but none are able to do it. Microsoft has capitulated to the device manufacturers to allow them to place manufacturer-specific app market sections in the main marketplace leading to apps that not all users can get to. Of course, the device marketing wonks have run with it. Releasing apps for specific devices from one manufacturer instead of all devices on the platform is a weak marketing tactic. In the end, it's the whole of Windows Phone that will suffer for it.


Windows Phone 8 - Where does it fit in?

It's easy to categorize mobile users. This is a generalization, of course, but Android users tend to be the DIY types and the "I heard there's something called a smartphone and I want one for free" users. iOS users are the people the like it when their devices "just work." Those iOS and Android users have already invested time and money into their platform of choice and the apps there. They aren't likely to switch in large numbers to Windows Phone 8. So who's left for Microsoft?

Business users, perhaps. Those that work for companies heavily invested in Microsoft technology, maybe. The problem with this is it takes years for companies to upgrade this type of infrastructure.

People who don't already have a smartphone? These are the best candidates for Windows Phone 8. If you have a Windows 8 computer, it just makes sense to go with Windows Phone 8 if you aren't invested in something else.

Then there are those that just want something no one else has. It is different from iOS and Android, so perhaps a certain number of people will want it just because of that fact.


Summary

Windows Phone 8 is a great mobile OS with good hardware, but a lot of hurdles yet to clear. In spite of everything negative listed above, it is well thought out, very well implemented, and something to keep tracking. If it gains enough steam, and everything meshes perfectly, it could possibly be a top mobile OS. But the real problem is it just may be too late--5 years too late. We will see if Windows Phone 8 will be enough to win Microsoft more than just an honorable mention.