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Hands-On With Allstar Heroes - A Promising Casual RPG

Posted by Jennifer Allen on March 27th, 2015

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Allstar Heroes looks a lot like a certain other recent action RPG release, but it turns out that while it’s not yet available here, Allstar Heroes has been around for much longer than that other title. Now that copyright row is out of the way, I can say that Allstar Heroes seems pretty fun.

It’s not out here yet, with a release date being vaguely hinted at sometime next month, but it’s shaping up to be a fairly solid release.

You gather a team of fighters, then go from stage to stage taking out the enemies in your wake. It’s a simple take on an RPG really, as it can be fairly hands-off if you want. Combat is conducted automatically with you able to cast special attacks as and when the power bar builds up. There’s a campaign mode as well as PvP options, giving you plenty to do.

The fun, as always with these kind of games, stems from developing your team. You can do a lot in terms of helping your team level-up, with equipment playing a valuable role in helping your party out. Fill all the equipment slots on one character and these can be combined to make the character more powerful, starting back at the beginning equipment wise but with a considerable stats boost.

And that’s where Allstar Heroes should keep you interested. Evolving your characters and watching as they steadily develop is always a satisfying thing to see. While it would have been good to be able to manipulate the characters more in battle, it’s the kind of lightweight RPG experience that lends itself well to mobile gaming. You can get a lot done in the space of a few minutes, with the only restriction being having an internet connection available to you.

Given its lengthy release in China (it was released there in February, 2014), Allstar Heroes'US release can't be far off. I’ve got a good feeling that it’s going to be a pretty fun timesink when it does come out. We’ll be sure to keep you in the know.

Fearless Fantasy is Fantastic for the iFone (it was worth a shot)

Posted by Rob Rich on March 27th, 2015

I actually had my first look at Fearless Fantasy last year at E3, but it was on a PC so there wasn't much for me to talk about. But now that I've been able to play with a pre-release version of the iOS build, there's quite a bit for me to talk about.

The story so far has been every bit as weird and it seems on the surface, thanks almost entirely to the oddball characters. What's impressive is that it all works. It's not just silly for the sake of silliness. Okay, well, it might be but it's actually pretty funny, and not in a "so awful it's good" sort of way, either.

The incredibly weird visuals struck me as a little off-putting at first, but once I got to see everything in motion it became very endearing. A lot of these enemies behave in extremely strage ways that you might not expect, and many of the combat animations are a combination of cool and surreal.

Combat mechanics and overall sructure are what really make Fearless Fantasy stand out on iOS, though. The story is broken up into several individuals levels, which are themselves made up of a set number of encounters. These encounters can be played (and replayed) on one of three different difficulties, and as you'd expect the rewards go up as the challenge increases. It's not just that enemies absorb and deal more damage, though - as you move from Casual through Normal and eventually on to Veteran the combat itself will get harder, with more complicated inputs required for both attacking and defending.

But oh, the combat. It's easily my favorite part of Fearless Fantasy so far and almost as easily my favorite approach to combat out of any iOS RPG I've played. When an enemy attacks, you'll have to perform a sort of mini-game where you'll be tapping on circles as the rings surrounding them close in or swiping through arrows in a specific pattern. The thing is, the harder the difficulty the more mobile these symbols are - to the point where you'll need to start familirizing yourself with the types of attacks most enemies like to use if you want to avoid failing to block.

Attacking works much the same way as defending, only if you mess up you deal less (or no) damage. What's great is that as each of the three characters gains more powerful abilities, they'll be able to string together longer chains of attacks for even greater potential damage. It also means that the mini-games get more complex, creating a cool synergy between a character's actions on-screen and your actions... on-screen. Whatever, it works really well and it's cool.

Fearless Fantasy hasn't graced the App Store with its presence yet, but you can be certain we'll let you know when it does. This is definitely a mobile RPG to keep an eye on.

Norsfell's New Cyclical Strategy Builder, Ragna Cycle, is in the Works

Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 24th, 2015

Norsfell, makers of WinterForts and FromPulse, are working on a newstrategy builder calledRagna Cycle. The game aims to do away with palying fatigue that comes with neverending building games by using timedsocial events.

In each event, players have just 14 days to survive the end of the world. You'll be racing against the clock in these apocalypic scenarios to see if you can build a rocket in time to escape your fate. The art looks bright and cartoonish, but that doesn't mean it will be a walk in the park. You'll have to survive attacks and natural disasters as you frantically build your salvation.

Ragna Cycleis set to be released sometime in spring of 2016

inkle's Sorcery! 3 is Coming Soon

Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 23rd, 2015

inkle is releasing Sorcery! 3 in April.

If you're not sure why that's exciting, it's becauseSorcery! is a four-part narrative adventure based off the adventure books written by Steve Jackson back in the 80s. The game has you exploring a huge 3d world map full of quests, monsters, and treasure. You have thousands of choices and the story changes based on your decisions. In this part you will be fighting seven deadly serpents as you adventure across the cursed wasteland of Kakhabad. The game boasts a day/night cycle, the ability to rewind time and see how other choices play out, beautiful hand-drawn illustrations, and turn-based combat.

inkle has not announced how muchSorcery! 3 will cost, but the previous two games have been priced at $4.99 so we can guess it will be probably the same. You can check out this epic tale when it's released next month.

Drifter is Still Bound for iOS, and it’s Looking Great

Posted by Rob Rich on March 22nd, 2015

Drifter is a pretty cool-looking space adventure that’s currently in Steam Early Access, but Celsius Game Studios has teased an iOS version before. A couple of weeks ago I was able to see it running on an iPad, so I can definitely say that the iOS version is still a thing.

It’s looking really nice, too. I didn’t play it myself but the controls seem to be simple and responsive, and the visuals are pretty darn... pretty. Of course since it’s still in Early Access there are lots more features in the works that haven’t been implemented yet, so it’s bound to be even more interesting once it’s officially released.

Since the App Store doesn’t actually have anything comparable to Early Access we’re going to have to wait a bit for the iOS version, but that’s understandable given how - let’s go with “finicky” - App Store reviews can be. But I’ve been assured that the iOS release should be right behind the Steam release, so we won’t have to wait too terribly long to get our hands on Drifter in its final form.

I think it’s going to be worth the wait.

Earthcore: Shattered Elements Could be the Next Hearthstone

Posted by Jennifer Allen on March 20th, 2015

Due for release sometime in May, Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been in soft launch on the Canadian and Danish App Stores for a while now. A fair bit of effort is clearly being put into ensuring that everything about Earthcore: Shattered Elements is polished. It’s showing too, with this game steadily shaping up to be something quit special for CCG fans.

You’ll immediately notice that Earthcore: Shattered Elements looks quite gorgeous. Each card is attractively designed, easily rivalling the likes of Hearthstone in terms of looks. It’s an ideal way to encourage you to want to collect them all, not just for the sake of progression, but because of how they look.

Each match involves taking it in turns placing cards down, with you not able to initially place a card directly opposite your opponent’s, until the second turn. Besides elemental values at play here, with the usual fire beating water, and fire beating earth, there are also skills to use. These can make all the difference, so it’s important to note that you can only use one skill per turn. Some skills are simply a matter of inflicting extra damage to your opponent, but they can also be used to change elements and more.

There’s an extensive card crafting side of things too, which soon opens up. Earthcore: Shattered Elements promises that you can create over 500,000+ unique card combinations and I can see that being likely. There’s a plentiful supply of depth here.

That’s perhaps where the longevity for it will lie - enticing you into creating the ultimate deck to defeat others through PvP. In which case, it makes sense that Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been in soft launch for so long with balancing issues being ironed out.

As it stands, Earthcore: Shattered Elements already seems pretty appealing and potentially quite challenging, even for experienced CCG players. With further refinements planned for its already seemingly extensive campaign mode, as well as some tweaks to balancing, it can surely only get better. Earthcore: Shattered Elements is due for release sometime in May. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.


It Came From Canada: Power Rangers: UNITE

Posted by Jordan Minor on March 16th, 2015

With the Pokémon trading card game finally bringing those precocious pocket monsters to the App Store, it was only a matter of time before that other 90s, vaguely Japanese, childhood nostalgia hot property Power Rangers tried to get in on the action. Yes, Power Rangers: UNITE is a Power Rangers collectible card game. But is it as mighty as the morphing rangers themselves? Find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Obviously you should have a lot of reverence for the Power Rangers franchise to get the most out of Power Rangers: UNITE. But we should also examine its merits as a card game, too. Perhaps given its young target audience, the systems are actually pretty simple. Both players face each other and lay cards on their five-by-two grid. Unit cards placed on the front row, like rangers and powerful Zord robots, provide defense against enemy units directly opposite them. If there is no enemy, the card can target the opponent's health directly. The game ends when one player runs out of health or cards. Meanwhile, players use the back row to activate various spells like drawing from the enemy’s discard pile or increasing a unit’s likelihood of scoring a critical hit. One particularly neat mechanic has players placing a ranger on the board in their civilian form only to then morph them into their Power Ranger form on the next turn. Strategy ultimately boils down to effectively managing your offensive units. You have to know who to pit against who, who to power up and when, and when to tag someone out or sacrifice them.

But really, Power Rangers: UNITE wisely places its focus on copious amounts of Power Rangers fan service. As players build their deck they can choose from over 20 years’ worth of heroes, villains, and giant robots. The artwork is clean and high-res, the sound and music samples are exciting and numerous, and the original Mighty Morphin' series is, deservedly, over-represented. The limited animations somewhat bring down the production value - images just slide around - but the volume of content is still impressive and especially noticeable when encountering new challengers online.

While it may not be as provocative as the recent POWER/RANGERS short film, at least Power Rangers: UNITE won’t subtly mock fans for still enjoying the franchise. It should be launching everywhere soon.

X-Mercs: Invasion Hands-On Preview - Extraterrestrial Combat Gone Free

Posted by Rob Rich on March 11th, 2015

X-Mercs: Invasion is a game about saving the world from evil aliens. And from evil mercenaries. You shoot lots of evil stuff in the face, really. You’ll slowly start to unlock new things to do as you progress, but your activities are mostly divided between four tasks: sending squads on missions, researching new technologies, manufacturing items and equipment, and building up your base of operations. If you’re looking around and thinking this sounds like a free-to-play XCOM, well, you’re not wrong. That’s totally what it is. Don’t write it off yet, however.

What really struck me is how much thought was put into these tasks and wait timers - yes, there are wait timers. Manufacturing items takes varying amounts of time, resources, and money, depending on what you’re putting together. Research follows a similar pattern, although you can only ever research something once so the initial cost is a bit higher. Of course building new structures and clearing out space also takes a certain amount of real time to finish, and should be familiar to anyone who’s played a free town builder before. Lastly there are the soldiers, who will take time to heal up if they’re wounded in combat.

I found that I really didn’t mind the waiting in this case. It’s not all that far removed from having to wait for wounded soldiers to heal or for new tech to be researched in XCOM, and in an weird way it actually works really well on a thematic level. I mean, if my shotgunner was inches from death when I extracted the team, it kind of makes sense that he’d need some time to get back into fighting shape. Severity is a factor, but in my experience heal times can take anywhere from a minute to 20. Fortunately you can also have soldiers waiting in the barracks, then put them on the team to fill any gaps and get back to fighting.

The tactical combat is also reminiscent of that other game I keep referencing, however there are only three main soldier classes and you won’t have to deal with figuring out what the rookies will eventually specialize in (although there’s technically a fourth class since any soldiers that have been KIA can be brought back as a cyborg, complete with a unique skill tree). Another key difference is that the items (just items, not equipment) you manufacture are consumable, so any one of your soldiers can chuck a grenade or two during a mission but you’ll need to remember to make more. Or you could just stockpile them like I tend to do, sine they’re really cheap to make. What’s also really interesting is that the items you need to speed up production (nanites) can be purchased using in-game currency. I’m curious to see how people will respond to such an approach.

I do have a few concerns about repetitive missions, PvP elements (I haven’t been able to try it out yet), tiny text, having trouble telling what can be tapped on in the menu and what’s just set dressing (it took me days to figure out what to tap on to access the Shop), and the ridiculous outfits and physical dimensions of the female characters, but I am currently messing around with a beta build. So who knows how much any of that may change for the final release?

Space is Full of Zombies in Dead Effect 2

Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 10th, 2015

Dead Effect 2, BadFly Interactive's sequel to their popular sci-fi zombie zombie shooter, is coming soon to iOS. The game will be released for free in the third quarter of 2015.

In Dead Effect 2 you're an engineered killing machine on a spaceship full of the undead. The game looks like it will have a whole bunch of new deadly weapons to play with, including some that were designed by fans during BadFly's Weapon Contests.

You can take a look at some of the exquisite visuals of Dead Effect 2 in the teaser trailer below.

GDC 2015 - Highlights from Pocket Gamer's Big Indie Pitch

Posted by Rob Rich on March 9th, 2015
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Amidst all the meetings and events and talks and panels at this year's Game Developers Conference, there was also Pocket Gamer's Big Indie Pitch. The Big Indie Pitch is a way for indie developers to get their games in front of several eyes (media, PR, publishers, etc) in a short span of time, and it's a great way for those of us who write about the industry to get a quick glimpse into the future.

That, and sometimes there are some really cool and interesting games on display.

Which is why we've put together a short list of the most notable entries in this year's Big Indie Pitch. In no particular order, of course.

GDC 2015 - Sick Bricks is What Would Happen if Skylanders and LEGO had a Baby

Posted by Rob Rich on March 9th, 2015

Games like Skylanders have some pretty intense appeal for kids, and they cater to the toy market quite nicely as well. The LEGO games also have a pretty good handle on that section of the market. Sick Bricks from Spin Master takes the madcap weirdness and love of building blocks from LEGO, and fuses it with the real world-meets-toy world concept behind Skylanders to an impressive degree.

The game itself uses simple but seemingly intuitive and responsive touch controls to let you wander around the world of Sick Bricks. Of course by "wander" I really mean "fight badguys and explore various locations for goodies."

What's cool is that you can find (i.e. purchase separately) all sorts of toys, then scan them into the game using your device's built-in camera. Admittedly this method can run into problems when the lighting is a bit dim, but I was seriously impressed with just how well it worked even in semi-dusky conditions. It also works extremely fast. You just line the character up to the wireframe and a couple seconds later you've got them in the game. Character parts like heads, bodies, and hats are interchangeable, so you can mix and match all your real world toys for some truly bizarre (and powerful) creations.

You can also build and scan vehicles, but I didn't get to see this particular feature in action so I can't be sure if it's as simple and quick as character scanning. It's certainly a neat idea, though.

If any of this sounds like your kind of thing, you won't have long to wait for it. Sick Bricks will be coming to the App Store this Thursday (3/12) as a free download.

GDC 2015 - Biba's Upcoming Series Encourages Both Kids and Their Parents to Get Active

Posted by Rob Rich on March 9th, 2015

Biba's upcoming series of children's games is doing things a little differently. They're going to try to get kids (and their parents) back in the habit of playing outside again.

The theory is that, since kids these days (yeah, I totally went there) spend so much time on mobile devices, they'd have an easier time being more active if it involved using those same mobile devices. And so, Biba's games will give them a reason to run around the playground.

Parents are meant to hang onto the mobile device while they play with their kids (don't want any accidents, right?). These games are already pretty varied and include things like using a swing to scoop fuel into a robot's mouth or managing an obstacle course/footrace - complete with pitstops.

Initially you'll be able to input information regarding the equipment that's available at your park and the app will suggest the appropriate games, but the plan is to work with Play Power to start rolling out special signs with QR codes that you can scan at any given playground area. These codes will then help the app make suggestions based on the available equipment, local weather conditions, and so on.

Biba's games are still in the testing phase but the app will definitely be launching this year, both as a free and a premium (no ads, more options, etc) download.

GDC 2015 - Compass Point: West is a Rootin', Tootin', Shootin' Town Builder/Defender

Posted by Rob Rich on March 9th, 2015

Next Games' Compass Point: West is a town builder and town defender in the same wheelhouse as Clash of Clans. In the same wheelhouse, but mercifully still doing its own thing with the... I guess it's kind of a genre now?

Much like other similar games you'll be building up your own town - this time in the Wild West - and sending all sorts of characters out to attack other players' territory. Along with figuring out how best to defend your own, of course. There are also non-player bases to raid if you'd rather not stir up trouble with your neighbors.

One of the biggest differences with Compass Point: West is that the characters you get to use are represented by cards (much like an online CCG). These cards can be stockpiled, and multiples may be fused to create more powerful versions. Although, while I found the card elements interesting, I was even more interested in the lack of character death that's obnoxiously prevalent in other games of this type.

In similar titles, once you use a character to attack a base they're gone forever and you have to spend time and money training more. Some games will allow you to keep anybody that isn't killed during an attack, but Compass Point: West has an even more user-friendly approach: after a battle your characters simply rest up at the saloon. You might have to wait a little while before you can use them again, but they're never gone for good. And because battles only let you bring a handful of folks along, chances are you'll have more waiting in reserve and can go on the attack a few times before you'll have to wait it out.

Oh, and it actually looks really pretty. I forgot to mention that. Everything you see in those screenshots up above is in 3D, too.

Compass Point: West will be coming to the App Store as a free download soon. I can't say for certain when that will be, but you won't have to wait for very long.

GDC 2015 - I Kind of [REDACTED] The Westport Independent

Posted by Rob Rich on March 9th, 2015

I stumbled upon the weirdly fascinating newspaper censorship sim, The Westport Independent, on the show floor this past week and I'm very glad I did. I'd heard about Double Zero One Zero's project a while back but like most games that are still quite a ways off it sort of faded from my mind after that initial interest. And now that I've gotten some hands-on time with a still pre-release build, I'm interested again.

In The Westport Independent you act as the editor of a newspaper in a mid-20th century city that seems just a tad oppressed. Actually it seems like there's a totalitarian government in place, but your perception of the city and its citizens may change depending on how you write the news.

Your job as editor of The Westport Independent is to take a look at potential stories, decide how you'd like to phrase the headline, cherrypick important paragraphs to include (or cut out the ones you don't like), then pick a staff writer to put it all together. Different writers will have different thoughts on the politics involved, and sometimes they might not be happy about covering certain topics. They might get a little... suspicious.

You'll also be handling the distribution of your newspaper to the different districts of the city, but some will value one brand of news over another, which will mean that front page article on police brutality might not go over so well in the ritzy neighborhood. Your newspaper may start to sway the citizens' opinion of their city over time, though. And the types of stories that come up will occasionally tie into previously published articles, allowing you to follow along (and in some cases influence the outcome of) some small but significant goings on.

Of course as you start to get popular, you'll attract more attention. And the more attention you attract, the more likely you are to draw the eye of the police or even the government.

There's no definitive launch info on The Westport Independent yet, but it's going to make its way to the iPad sometime in the hopefully-near future. It's "probably" coming to the iPhone as well, although the smaller screen will require some interface tweaking.

GDC 2015 - Warfriends is Something Familiar That's Also a Little Different

Posted by Rob Rich on March 6th, 2015

About Fun's upcoming Warfriends is quite the interesting hybrid. It's a real-time, tactical, cover-based, multiplayer shooter.

The game centers around hiding your character behind one of four shields on the battlefield while occasionally popping out to fire one of your weapons. And fire your weapons you will, because your opponent will be trying to do the same while also summoning other soldiers or even armored vehicles. Fortunately you have your own small army at your disposal, and will be able to upgrade them along with your weapons as you progress.

The controls are pretty easy to grasp and it doesn't take long to start having fun. The real challenge is in not getting totally overwhelmed as helicopters, shotgunners, and snipers start taking shots at you.

Warfriends will be available for free later this summer.