Blog Archive

Harmonix, creators of the Rock Band series, have soft-launched Record Run on to the Canadian App Store. You will likely not be surprised to learn that it’s a rhythm-based game, but in a mobile-friendly endless runner format. So, I put on my athletic boogie shoes for this edition of It Came From Canada!

The gist of the game is to dodge obstacles and make it to the end of each level, but that’s oversimplifying things. See, each obstacle is meant to be dodged in time, with more points scored and more of a multiplier boost for timing the jumps, slides, and sideways movements properly. Of course everything is set to music, and players can import their own music to listen to while they play, with the game’s levels synchronized to the music. This does tend to work better with tracks that have a consistent tempo to them: the Animals as Leaders tracks I tried didn’t work so well, but electronic tracks worked a lot better.

RecordRun-2Essentially, much like Rock Band, Record Run becomes about maintaining success in order to get high scores and the elusive five-star rating. In particular, continued success is necessary: getting and maintaining high multipliers is key. And they can get really high, I’ve seen as high as 10x, so repetition becomes important. Figuring out when to make swipes is harder once the 3x multiplier is reached, because that’s when the world shifts to its extremely-colorful mode – where the main character transforms into a creature of some sort (the first one available transforms into a flaming skeleton), and the world dances to the music. But most importantly, the indicators for when to swipe go away, and players are on their own as for when they have to.

RecordRun-3Record Run is monetized through the standard two-tier currency, with records being used for upgrades, and backstage passes as the hard currency used for unlocking additional song slots and additional characters. It will be interesting to see how well the game monetizes: when I spoke with Harmonix at GDC, they gave off the attitude that they were just jumping in feet-first with this sort of free-to-play game, so balancing everything could take some time. I expect some sort of daily challenge incentive to be added as well, along with perhaps an energy system – the game is fairly simple and would be most rewarding perhaps through a system that conditions the game to be played in short bursts. So, before it launches worldwide, it could have a long way to go, and could still change a lot.


Gear Jack: Black Hole, the endless runner follow-up to 2012′s Gear Jack, is coming to iOS this Thursday, May 1. Published by Crescent Moon Games, players will control the eponymous Jack as he travels through portals, endlessly running forward trying to stay alive through the myriad hazards his alien opponents have laid out. There will be all the standard bullet list features that you expect from an endless runner: missions, power-ups, multiple worlds, even video sharing.

For more on Gear Jack: Black Hole, check out the hands-on video from GDC 2014 below.

Forever Entertainment is resurrecting their presumably-fictional Frederic Chopin with Frederic – Evil Strikes Back. This sequel to 2012′s Best App Ever nominee in the Music Game category, Frederic – Resurrection of Music, has players tapping out tunes on Frederic’s powerful keytar in order to defeat the forces of evil who want to commercialize music. Also, he has a sports car now.

Frederic – Evil Strikes Back releases on May 8 exclusively on the App Store, with other platforms coming later. Check out the teaser trailer.

Sega’s Crazy Taxi City Rush is an interesting game: it takes Crazy Taxi and manages to turn it into a more casual-friendly lane-based auto-runner, akin to Subway Surfers, or even Sonic Dash, developed by the same team. The game is currently out in Canada, and we grabbed our keys and set out to make some crazy money in this edition of It Came From Canada!

CrazyTaxiICFC-11While the game is more of an auto-runner now, it still has that Crazy Taxi spirit, and it’s not just straightforward. Players swipe between different lanes, collecting Crazy Throughs for close calls with traffic, drifting around corners and into turns, and even side-swiping cars at high speed. The gear-shifting and braking is gone, as is picking up passengers, which all happens automatically. It rally does manage to feel like a more casual Crazy Taxi while still feeling like, well, Crazy Taxi. There’s even a punk soundtrack, but no Offspring or Bad Religion.

The thing that is a bit concerning with the game is the rigidity. The original game played things very fast and loose, and that was part of the fun. The lane-based gameplay makes weaving in and out of traffic in two lanes a lot harder, and makes more slow-down crashes happen at a much higher rate. Certainly the spirit of chaotic driving is still there, but it isn’t perfectly represented. I certainly understand the simplification, though.

CrazyTaxiICFC-4As far as the free-to-play aspects go, there is an energy system and the standard two-tier currency: coins for buying common upgrades, rarer gems for things like energy refills. The energy system feels a bit short, allowing for six level plays before having to spend gems. As well, energy seems silly when one could pass the time by going and playing the original Crazy Taxi. But I imagine this is meant to appeal to more of a casual crowd that might find Crazy Taxi hard to pick up. Sonic Dash launched at a premium price point, and I don’t think that it’s a guarantee that Crazy Taxi City Rush will be free-to-play when it goes worldwide, because it certainly feels like it could stand as a ‘paymium’ game. Of course, time will tell just what gets tweaked and what the final decision for the game’s release is.

It’ll be interesting to see what the reaction from the gaming public will be, at least. Dungeon Keeper certainly made people angry, and as a Dreamcast game, Crazy Taxi has a cult fanbase too. A free-to-play game might not go over well, even though the game itself is more a casualification than anything else.


Cipher Prime’s Inake is coming to iPad on May 1, as exclusively revealed yesterday on our Twitch channel.

IntakeForiPadThis dubstep-fueled action-puzzle game is, according to William Stallwood of Cipher Prime, who joined up for the stream, pretty much a straight-up port of the PC version – in a sense. Some tweaks have been made to the game that will come to the PC version on May 1 as well, but ultimately it’s the same game with the same content. The difference is in the way it’s played: the game supports full multitouch controls on the iPad, so it’s a new approach to a familiar game.

Check out the video below of me going through the first 25 levels, which took some practice to get that far:

Watch some of the special levels, available in Challenge Modes:

Watch the whole broadcast here:

Follow us on Twitch to know when we go live next!

At their recent Global Gamers’ Day event, Bandai Namco was largely focused on their console and PC offerings for the upcoming year. However mobile still had a small presence, with some upcoming titles revealed by the company – though few were in a playable state at this time.

Windows screenshot, may not be representative of iOS gameplay

Windows screenshot, may not be representative of iOS gameplay

The biggest announcement might just be Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ coming to mobile later this year. The follow-up to the popular take on Pac-Man, which features dynamic levels that change every time a fruit is collected, will feature new game modes, characters, and level designs to try and survive. But it’s still an eat or get eaten world. Expect this one this fall, though it was not playable at the event. Still, the game’s set up for touch controls already on Windows, so it should be a similar experience.

Outcast Odyssey is another upcoming game, though shown only in trailer form. This one resembles Evilibrium‘s tile-uncovering gameplay, and dungeon-crawling is promised, but few details are known beyond that.

Project Unstoppable (working title) is another game that Namco announced with few details available. Check out the teaser trailer below.

Also on tap for the future from Namco include a game called Soul Calibur: Unbreakable Soul, though no details are available for it at all beyond the name. TNA 2, a head-to-head wrestling game based on the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling organization, is expected later this year.

Additionally, Namco is working with Invictus to bring some casual games to mobile under Namco’s label. Froggy Jump 2, already released, is part of this. Froggy Splash 2, a game similar to Burrito Bison and Jumping Finn Turbo is also in the works. A puzzle-RPG called Jewel Fight is also being created by Invictus for publication by Namco, though this one won’t involve cute frogs but rather warriors battling it out by matching gems by twisting around blocks of four gems, similar to Bejeweled Twist.

While details and playable gameplay were sparse at the event, Namco does appear to have a variety of titles planned, and this may not be all – these titles are under the wing of Namco’s American mobile studios, and other international branches may have their own worldwide releases down the road as well.

Rocketcat Games joined our Twitch channel late last week to stream Wayward Souls with us. For the first time, see the first boss of the game defeated, and see large chunks of the second area of the game, the Tower, with a couple of the game’s characters. The game releases on April 24.

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We’ve shared YouTube videos of some of the highlights, along with a recap of the entire stream, containing information on the process of the game’s development and what players can expect when it releases.

See the first area of the game defeated with Renee the Rogue:

Renee the Rogue running through the Tower, the second area of the game:

As well, Blythe the Warrior makes a lengthy run through the Tower, but can it be successful? As well, check out some of Wayward Souls‘ hats that will be available, including some of the early adopter hats:

Blizzard’s free-to-play online collectible card game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, left beta not long ago. Now its mobile days begin, as they have soft-launched their online card-battling game in Canada ahead of its global launch. So I grabbed my deck and chatted up some pandaren for this edition of It Came From Canada!

The core gameplay of Hearthstone has players using an increasing supply of mana to play cards they’ve drawn: most are creatures that can be put into the arena, and only played on the next turn, though some have instant effects such as attacking immediately. Players also have hero attacks that cost mana but can be used to attack the other player or their creatures, with the ultimate goal being to take the opponent’s hero down to zero health. Players can battle online with others via Battle.net, take on computer opponents in Practice Mode, and spend their winnings (or currency purchased via in-app purchases) on cards to outfit their deck. It’s fast-paced, but easy to get into.

Hearthstone-7The game is simple enough that anyone can get into it after the first six tutorial missions, which cover the gamut of battling. Of course, this is where the game shows its origins as a non-mobile title: the tutorials take about 20 minutes or so to get through them before players can even battle online. In a mobile-first world this would likely be a lot shorter, but the slow pace does a great job at getting players to know how to play the game.

After the tutorial is finished players must register for a Battle.net account in order to play online, with this account usable cross-platform. Deck creation isn’t explicitly covered, but it’s possible to just go out with a default deck. Custom decks can be created as well, and there’s a handy guided tutorial for creating a well-balanced deck, where the game recommends three cards of a kind – so players can choose and understand how to build a deck, versus the game just automatically making one.

Hearthstone-2Once into the online battles, the process is similar to the tutorial missions, except slower. Some players online can be slow to decide their moves, though there’s only so much time that a player has before the game passes it along. Note that unlike mobile-designed titles like Ascension, players must stay in the battle; there’s no jumping to other games.

And really, that will be the interesting thing to see as Hearthstone nears its global release. This is a game that isn’t necessarily unfriendly to mobile, but many of the patterns that have defined mobile card battlers are clearly defied here. And the longer pacing could lead to more drop-outs during matches, which would not be ideal for the PC userbase. But still, this is Hearthstone on an iPad and that should excite many people.

One of the problems with the trend of free-to-play games lately is that many games have been merely facsimiles of great ideas. RPG battling without any actual control over the combat. Build an empire and attack other empires, but without much control of attacking or defending. PlunderNauts does not have this problem: it’s a game about being a space pirate where players actually have a lot of control over the space piracy! Backflip Studios currently is testing the game in Canada, so I put on my pirate hat and sailed to the great northern seas for this edition of It Came From Canada!

Players hop from planet to planet, trying to become the galaxy’s top space pirate by defeating other pirates and plundering their planets for gold and antimatter – the soft and hard currencies, respectively. Antimatter can advance wait timers, refill energy, and buy new starships.

PlunderNautsICFC-04However, the bulk of the actual gameplay is real-time spaceship battling. Players tap and drag to move their spaceship around, which is equipped with multiple turrets. When enemies get in range of the turret, players can select them and attack, with turrets having varying restart times depending on their stats. Players and enemies can summon fighters that not only can attack, but also serve as distractions as the turrets must focus on them instead of the enemy. However, players can only summon their fleets of fighters once per match: other abilities that can be equipped to provide in-game boosts can be used multiple times as they recharge. Combat is a game of positioning: getting out of the way of enemy turrets yet keeping them in range for one’s own turrets is key, and early on the ships are often close, doing their awkward dance with each other.

PlunderNautsICFC-08While antimatter can be earned through completing planets, it feels like many of the battleships will require spending money in order to unlock them; especially as it’s difficult to earn antimatter through grinding like you do for gold. There is an energy system, with 5 bars that refill at 20 minutes per bar. This is kind of a shame as while it does make it so that players are compelled to come back, it doesn’t feel particularly necessary – because, hey, buying items to get better does require grinding. As well, the amount of energy players are given is rather small; I’d prefer longer play sessions even with longer recharge times. But of course, as a soft launched game, this could change at any point.

Still, PlunderNauts has a lot intriguing ideas to it that will be interesting to see as it gets balanced and fully-formed for its final release.


Coatsink demoed a pair of their upcoming games at the UK Interactive Entertainment booth at GDC: one coming to mobile now, another more likely for the future. Chip is a puzzle game where players must redirect electricity in order to succeed. Expect this one on iOS and Android relatively soon.

As well, they demoed Shu, a floaty platformer where players must outrun the end of the world by controlling a variety of characters floating and using their various abilities throughout a wide array of worlds. A PC/console release is planned for this with mobile down the road. As well, Superglad, an adventure game based on characters first seen in Fatty, was demoed and likely coming to mobile at some point in the future.

Sets & Settings’ Trestle takes the core combat of Mega Man Battle Network (the Game Boy Advance series of card-battling RPGs), gets rid of the cards, and mixes in some Super Crate Box elements. The game, still in development and planned for mobile down the road, presents fast-paced action built around surviving enemy waves to collect the crates and use a variety of weapons to manage the enemy threats. The game is still well in development, with enemies still being added, and release planned for “when it’s done.”

Fixer Studios is formed of veterans of PopCap Games, a studio that has become prominent because of games that appeal to a very wide demographic. Sinster Dexter, Fixer’s first game, will not be anything like that – and they know this game will only appeal to a certain segment of gamers.

Built around gameplay inspired by multi-user dungeons of the 80s created by Richard Bartle, players will trade spells with players online, comprised of various in-game hand signals. Multiplayer will be asynchronous, and there will be detailed information on how players have acted before, so serious players can study how their opponents have reacted in similar situations before. Sinister Dexter is still early along in development, with some public testing planned soon.

Madgarden, the solo developer label of Paul Pridham, is hard at work on Death Road to Canada, his second collaboration with Rocketcat Games after Punch Quest. According to him, the game’s not really ready to show off quite yet – much of the work being done is under-the-hood stuff that will form much of what will be the actual game. But Madgarden doesn’t just stick to one thing: between quickie projects like Chillaxian and Flapthulhu, he also has a variety of prototypes he works with occasionally.

The unreleased RogueBot.
He showed off a couple of them at GDC: Roguebot, a dual-stick shooter with hacking elements and a chill-out pace. As well, there’s Mars Brutalis, an arena-combat game where players must swing around their fists and sacrifice their weapons to advance. The final existence of the games isn’t a known quantity at this point – he jumps around a variety of projects – but there’s something quite compelling about just what could be.

Crescent Moon Games has a big 2014 and beyond ahead of them, as always: a large slate of releases is planned for the coming month and year across many genres. Josh Presseisen, founder and head of the unique outfit that serves both as a publisher of third-party titles and also develops its own, demoed many of these upcoming titles to us during GDC 2014, including commenting on early footage of some of the games recorded at the show.

Exiles: While still not too far along, Exiles (an in-house title) promises to be an open-world action RPG on an alien planet, mixing elements of titles like Ravensword with Fallout and Mass Effect. Players will have a strange world to explore, and plenty of baddies to shoot – and the twist as to just why is revealed in this video, though it’s planned to be revealed early on in the final game.

Gear Jack Black Hole: This sequel to Gear Jack takes the original’s auto-runner concept and makes it a full-blown endless runner. Players will still jump and roll through levels, but now in a high-scoring context while warping through various environments.

TheDeerGodThe Deer God: This game is still so early that its gameplay hasn’t even been finalized, but its look is rather intriguing: it mixes the pixel art that Superbrothers made famous in Sword & Sworcery in a 3D environment. While there’s still a lot to be locked down with the game, its concepts sound intriguing, as discussed in the video.

Almightree: This puzzle-platformer has players trying to survive a crumbling world by moving through puzzling layouts of blocks, and moving them around as necessary. Good luck.

Sky Story: Another game still very early in its development, this upcoming title is inspired by Kid Icarus, but going in a different direction from the recent 3DS title by trying to be more of an exploration-driven game. This one will be 3D, though: levels have 2D sections, but the ability to move into depth sections of levels will also be present.

This was only a selection of Crescent Moon’s upcoming titles: there were other titles Josh Presseisen demoed that are either still unsigned or not quite ready to be shown publicly. This could be another jam-packed year for the studio.

Tilting Point demoed several titles that they are helping to bring about and promote for iOS at GDC 2014, including a pair of games from big-name studios and an intriguing indie platformer.

LeosFortune_Screenshot5

Inspired by the Sonic series, Leo’s Fortune is an action-puzzler where players must navigate through hazardous environments utilizing jumps, and only the ability to puff out and float, or compress down to apply more gravitational force. With loop-de-loops and tricky platforming puzzles to solve, this should prove to be a challenge for core gamers, which is what this premium-with-no-IAP title is aiming for. There’s also iOS 7 gamepad support. Expect this one relatively soon.

As well, Toy Rush from Uber Entertainment is chugging along: new features have been added, monetization and IAP modified to be clearer, and just more polish added to the game. It’s nearing its eventual release likely at some point in May.

Sleeping Prince Screenshot 5

Signal Studios, creators of the Toy Soldiers series on PC also showed off their game The Sleeping Prince, which is currently in a soft launch phase. This game has players flinging a ragdoll prince around, trying to collect coins and stars, reaching the end of levels safely. There’s an interesting system where players can buy unlimited energy, referred to as magic in-game, in each level in order to bypass that. The aim is to release on iOS first by the end of April with Android down the road.

Chronology from Osao Games has seen a long and turbulent history, transferring from one company to another, but the game is now in stable hands and about to release on iOS and Android. This time-travelling platformer has players controlling a gnome who can switch between two different worlds, and a snail who can freeze time. Using the two characters’ abilities in concert effectively is the key to victory. The game releases later this year.

Like Dungeon Raid but believe it was highly lacking in vampires? Then Darkin might just be up your alley. While highly-familiar, the game adds in unique touches with buy-anytime upgrades, clans like assassins which make use of the position of tiles on the boards, and game modes that play with how health works. The game is coming soon, and we have lengthy direct-feed gameplay footage below.

After last year’s The Drowning promised big things but failed to live up to its potential, DeNA’s Scattered Entertainment has been quiet. Well, at least in the sense that the studio has been quiet about its work – Ben Cousins remains a very vocal personality on Twitter. But as far as their next game? It’s remained relatively unknown until now, when a new game called Isolani became unearthed in the Phillippines App Store. So, I brushed up on my Tagalog for this edition of It Came From Canada, Philippines Edition!

This is another first-person shooter, but it’s pretty much the opposite of what The Drowning was. Where that game was an earthbound mission-based zombie-killer, this is a level-progression-based (with story!) spacebound robot-killing FPS. Well, okay, it’s about as opposite as first-person shooters get. Players must navigate a hazardous space station environment with a hostile AI summoning robots to take players out. This is still built for mobile experiences: all the levels of the nine available early on take three-to-five minutes to play. Each level has a specific weapon selection, with upgraded weapons available for purchase later on, though effectively unavailable for the first chapter.

Isolani10

Interstingly, the touch-based control scheme of The Drowning has been abandoned in this early version of the game in favor of standard virtual dual-sticks with autofire enabled, with a manual fire button and a weapon switching and reloading buttons being the only other input. I’d be curious to try that control scheme with this game – the controls failed in The Drowning in large part due to the need to walk backwards, which was difficult to execute, but this game is a lot more built around forward momentum. Still, being able to move wherever necessary helps out a lot, and the auto-firing simplifies a lot of things.

Isolani15Really, even Isolani‘s early setup seems to be just about establishing the very core of the game: most objectives are simple, like taking out a certain number of robots, shooting switches, or finding MacGuffins. So really, time will tell just how Isolani fares, but it’s a great fit for pick-up-and-play gameplay with its short levels, and the story-based structure could lend itself to some clever level design and combat situations. I’m intrigued – but it’s clear there’s a long way to ago and a high target to be reached for Scattered Entertainment.


Dutch studio Game Oven loves to make games that bring people together, with Fingle, Bam Fu, and Friendstrap. Their next game is a lot more elegant, though: Bounden is made in collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet, and has two people holding two sides of a phone in order to perform elegantly-choreographed moves. Anticipated for a May release with dances created both by the Dutch National Ballet’s choreographer and the team themselves, just watch this video to see how it works:

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11 bit Studios, who recently revealed their upcoming game This War of Mine, demoed it to us at GDC 2014. While much of the game is still secret as to how it plays, as they’re not ready to reveal exact gameplay footage, the game will have played managing their resources, the moods of the survivors, and foraging for materials. While the game is meant to be somewhat generic to let the player identify with the situation, much of the research around wartime situations was based around Sarajevo, according to 11 bit’s Pawel Miechowski. He also promises that despite the game’s theme and potentially-controversial content, that 11 bit will not cut any content for mobile stores, so while the game is planned for the App Store and Google Play, it might not actually release there if the platform holders don’t allow it, though Android will happen regardless thanks to the distribution channels open there. No release date has been confirmed for the game, but expect it later this year.

Rolocule, creators of Motion Tennis, are back with another motion-based game meant to be played on TVs: Dance Party TV. By using an iPhone with AirPlay output on an Apple TV, up to four iPhones can mimic the displayed dance moves, a la Just Dance and similar games. Of course, it just had to be tested out, so enjoy me awkwardly dancing to the beat, which you too can do in a few weeks.

Gamevil’s ringing in 2014 at GDC with the announcement of five new games to be released worldwide. Operating under the thought that hardcore online multiplayer games may be big in 2014, here are the new titles they announced at a press conference:

GamevilGDC-ZenoniaOnline

Zenonia Online: Gamevil’s popular action-RPG series goes online for the very first time this year. Already out in Korea, this entry will not skimp on the action-RPG gameplay, but will add in MMO features like lounges to meet with other players, eventually partying up to take on the game’s levels. As well, there are battle royale and PVP modes to participate in for competitive gameplay. This one will release worldwide later this year.

Dragon Blaze: This “simulation RPG” has players gathering a team of heroes, leveling them up and battling them out against other teams of heroes and villains, with the ability to participate with up to 3 other players in real-time. The global launch in the 3rd quarter of 2014 will debut the game’s online PVP mode as well. The game has been a hit in Asian territories where it reached #1 on the App Store top grossing charts according to Gamevil, so it could be an intriguing and very popular US release.

Dungeon Link: Built off of the popular “connect the dots” style of games, players build up a team of four heroes, and then battle enemies in an arena where they must try to connect as many tiles as possible between the four sets of color points in order to attack the enemies, with more tiles meaning more damage. Gamevil claims over 2000 dungeons will be available to fight in. Expect this one in the 3rd quarter of 2014.

Elements: Epic Heroes: Revealed for the first time at their GDC press conference, Gamevil showed off this 3D action-RPG for iOS and Android. Featuring online play with touchscreen-friendly controls, players will level their heroes and fight through various dangerous environments for glory when it releases later this year.

Mark of the Dragon: Gamevil finally revealed their take on the Clash of Clans genre of game that has become popular. Build defenses, train attackers, and go after enemies. Their game’s big difference is that players can summon dragons which they control to attack specific enemy structures, giving this well-worn genre a potential fresh take. This one is planned for summer 2014.

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Former Zynga Boston developers formed Proletariat Studios, and now they’re hard at work on their first game: World Zombination. This casual strategy title puts players in control of either zombies trying to destroy protected human safehouses, or the humans protecting the safehouses. Sounds bleak, sure, but the game is bright and colorful. As well, there’s online elements with other players planned, and plenty of new units to collect and deploy. Release is planned for later this year; check out gameplay video below, and check out their Twitch channel for regular livestreams of the game’s development.

TiltToLive2-BrimstonePinball

One Man Left is bringing the first new game mode to Tilt to Live 2: Brimstone Pinball. Based off of the brimstone ball powerup added to the game, this mode is based entirely around it, with a ball that stays in the arena. Bounce it off of enemies to take them out, bounce it off of the walls to activate a super laser, but be wary: the enemy spawners occasionally spawn chainsaws. Ouch. The update is coming soon to both iOS and Android.

Dragonwood Academy GDC

Dragonwood Academy from XMG is a casual collectible card game: players will build decks and battle various opponents, but without the need to do advanced deck optimizations like other games, hopefully reducing the barrier to entry for casual players. This project, which came together quickly according to Andy Smith of XMG, will be releasing worldwide in a couple months for iOS and Android, with full tablet support – not just a scaled up interface.

Framed GDC

Loveshack Entertainment demoed their upcoming puzzle game, Framed, at GDC 2014 today. Inspired by comic books, players must rearrange panels in order to get the protagonist through them without being detected by cops. The 50-or-so levels will require much thought and knowledge of perspective to figure out just how to navigate them. Look for this one in a few months.

Unpossible

Acceleroto, creators of Air Hockey, have a new game, Unpossible, inspired by games like Super Hexagon and Pivvot. From a first-person perspective, try to avoid oncoming obstacles in one of three difficulties, including daily challenge and a casual mode. The easy mode is designed for the less-skilled and for those just getting used to the game; the later ones will put skilled gamers to the test. Look for this one in a few weeks.

Game creation is not easy. Edmund Koh and Personae Studios want to change that with the upcoming PICS Tower of Defense – a way for players to make their own tower defense levels, and eventually their own tower defense games, as a way to lower the barrier that comes between having an idea for a game, and actually creating it.

PICSTD-Screenshot (6)-7The app’s concept was born from his studio’s previous game MechWarrior: Tactical Command. Koh says “People were asking for more missions after we released [the game]… so we realized that with all the suggestions on what we should do, we should just open it up and let people make their own games… basically facilitate people to make games in their own genres. The intention with PICS Towers of Defense is that it would be the first in a series of game creation tools.”

PICSTD-Screenshot (8)-9The plan for PICS Towers of Defense is to start the game off with level creation only, but eventually, the idea is to let people create full-fledged games with narratives and progression that they define. However, it will be possible to customize all sorts of details, such as attack power of towers and enemies, and even whether the game will be a standard mazing game or an open-field one like Fieldrunners.

Koh says that, “With game development, essentially what you’re doing, most of the time, you’re just guessing what the audience wants… the approach that we’re taking is that we’re gonna ask people what do you want, and let them do it.”

Tower_conceptsOne of the features for creation that they’re working on is to be able to modify levels that other players have created. Koh puts it like this: “If I gave you a clean sheet of paper and asked you to design a car, the chances are, very few people are able to do it. Whereas, if I ask you, what’s wrong with your car and what would you want to change on it, I’m sure you can come up with a lot of things.” So, powered by this philosophy, Personae is aiming to make attributable changes to levels, and to help make creation easier for people.

The way that PICS Towers of Defense intends on making money right now is through theme packs for levels and towers: the game is expected to be a free download, but additional theme packs will be available as in-app purchases, and there is talk of crossovers with other games to get theme packs into this creation tool. Koh says, “We want this to be more of a community-driven platform where people could write in suggestions on what kind of theme packs that they would want to see, and we’ll try to create it for them.”

art-nouveau_flyers_01The plan is for the game to release at some point in the second quarter of 2014, though the initial release will not be the be-all end-all of the game, with more features down the road. And perhaps if the game does well, then more genres could be added to the PICS brand. But for now, Koh and Personae have their hands full with this ambitious app, which in its current state definitely delivers on its promise. But making it widespread and accessible will be the key to the game’s success.

It might sound crazy to say, but Farmville is one of the most influential games of this millennium, being perhaps the popular spark for the simulation genre that has become wildly popular through the rise of Facebook gaming and on mobile. There’s probably no Clash of Clans without Farmville. While Zynga has seen better days, Farmville 2: Country Escape is still a big deal because it’s one of the few free-to-play games with history and a sort of gravitas. Well, as much gravitas as a free-to-play game about farming can have. Right now, Zynga’s soft-launched the game in Canada and we’ve gotten our straw hat and overalls on to lead a more rustic lifestyle on our non-rustic technology in this edition of It Came From Canada.

The game essentially follows a simple pattern: water crops and feed animals to get basic resources. Combine these resources into more complex resources and even specific products, and then sell them for gold and experience points in order to buy and unlock new crops and buildings, ultimately expanding one’s farm through buying new plots of land. Repeat until satisfied. It’s a classic formula, and one that Farmville 2 tries to set up early on with teases of online elements like selling to other players. Ultimately, it doesn’t really rock the boat too much.

Farmville2-ICFC-7Interestingly, FarmVille 2 gives players a lot of keys (the game’s hard currency), at least to start out with: a total of 90. Of course the game tries to get players to use them in a variety of fashions in small increments when starting out. Skip a pesky wait timer with a key? Well sure, why not, I have plenty of them! Be able to produce twice as much flour by paying five keys to unlock that option? Sure! It’s easy to see those keys running out at some point.

Farmville2-ICFC-2That should be one of the interesting things to keep an eye on as the game nears its worldwide release: the keys could definitely be tweaked to give out more or fewer when starting and while playing – leveling up and buying new plots of land gives out more keys, for example. Another unanswered question is just how this game will fare in a world where simulation games have grown up to become Clash of Clans and its similar ilk: will people be willing to jump back in to Zynga’s familiar rustic experience? We’ll find out soon enough.

Castaway Paradise was first mentioned to me as Animal Crossing but for iPhone, though I played the iPad version because I’m a rebel. And really, that just about nails it on the head – except Stolen Couch Games have done what Nintendo has yet to do, and that is make it free-to-play. Castaway Paradise is currently soft-launched in the tropical paradise of Canada, and I take it for a spin in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Players control a person who washes up on shore, and finds themselves in a land of fellow castaways who washed up on shore. However, no one really seems to be all that set on getting home – there’s an entire village that’s popped up, even with a mail delivery boat! So, the player is made to build a new life here, because who knows; maybe this is all the dream of the Wind Fish and leaving would be disastrous.

CastawayParadise-8So players then just do tasks for the various residents, like building fences and harvesting crops. The early missions are structured to introduce players to the things they need to know to live their island experience and to see more of the village. Menial tasks to earn currency to buy more supplies and customizations is the name of the game here.

Players have the ability to customize the look of their dwelling and of their character, but the intro to the game provides one moment regarding this that needs to change. See, the game starts off with the player being just a walking glob of seaweed washed ashore, immediately forced to do chores by Viktoria, one of the villagers. Then, for some reason, she asks which binary gender the player is. This choice is the sole determining factor in how the player first appears: typically male or female.

CastawayParadise-1This is incongruent with the customization options provided, because male characters can wear dresses and traditionally feminine hairstyles without anyone saying anything about it. The character’s gender doesn’t seem to play much of a role, so why is it the very first thing that players are asked to choose as far as customization goes? Why not instead let players determine their initial design based on how they want to look from a set of basic customizations, and make gender an entirely irrelevant factor in how the player wishes to present themselves in this world?

While the free-to-play elements perhaps take away some of the innocence of Animal Crossing, where everything must be earned, there’s also no Mr. Resetti here – so, win some lose some. Time will tell if this is successful, or if this is the Pepsi to Animal Crossing‘s Coke – or if it’s just store-brand cola.


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