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.
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.
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.
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.
Really, 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:
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The 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.”
The 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.”
One 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.”
The 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.
Interestingly, 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.
That 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.
So 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.
This 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.
Ido Yeheli’s Cardinal Questwas notable for not just being a fast-paced Roguelike, but also for having made more money than, well, Rogue, the progenitor of the Roguelike genre. After a failed Indiegogo campaign, the sequel, Cardinal Quest 2, nonetheless lives a year and a half later. There’s a mobile version being published by Kongregate, and it’s currently soft launched in Canada. So, we prepared to live only once and set off for adventure in this edition of It Came From Canada.
This is a turn-based Roguelike; meaning that players move their character one tile at a time, with enemies moving as well. The original game was posited as being more fast-paced than the standard Roguelike would be, and even in the sequel it feels a lot more combat-oriented with enemy encounters occurring frequently, even after starting. Players can use skills that they can find laying about to help turn the tides, collecting gold to spend on items at the scavenger when they’re about, and just generally trying to survive in an unpredictable environment. Of course, being a Roguelike, it’s procedurally generated. So while an overarching scenario will use similar elements, the level layouts, ability pickups, enemy placements, and just about everything else is different every time.
Interestingly, the game is going for a free-to-play model this time, and is doing so by making characters and permanent stat modifiers before the start of a game un-lockable through Morale, which is earned by completing achievements at the end of a run or by being purchased. Thus, those who want to play as a class besides the default fighter class will need to pony up right away. Otherwise, this does feel a lot different from how other free-to-play games monetize. Likewise, another Kongregate-published title, Endless Boss Fight, had a two-currency system but also was rather generous about that second one. Here, the free-to-play aspects are almost entirely structural – once in-game, they don’t play much of a role.
The game is a bit unstable at the moment, at least on the iPad Mini Retina while recording – the game crashed during the middle of levels at least twice, so there’s definite issues to sort out technically, but that’s why this isn’t a global launch yet, eh? How well this business model will perform has yet to be seen as well. Still, Cardinal Quest 2 could prove to be a rather interesting take on not just free-to-play, but the Roguelike genre as a whole.
Codemasters is the developer of numerous Formula 1 games, but what they’re looking to put out on mobile with F1 Race Stars is something of an entirely different beast. Currently soft-launched in Singapore, even it couldn’t escape the clutches of 148Apps’ global reach. This is It Came From Canada: Singapore Edition!
F1 games are usually known for being intense simulations, but if F1 Race Stars is real, I need to pay more attention to F1. In reality, this is a kart racer, one very similar to the recent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed in style and in gameplay: there’s of course power-ups to use for boosts and taking out other racers, but there’s also a heavy emphasis on drifting to develop a turbo meter. Maintain drifts for a long amount of time and longer boosts can be had. Catching airtime will also increase the drift meter. Each game has a very similar heart.
While Danica Patrick in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was a very strange addition, having this be an F1 game means that actual racers, none of whom I have any knowledge of because I’m an American and we prefer stock cars to drift leftward, are playable. Each driver has their own Sessions energy bar that depletes with each race, so like Angry Birds Go, switching racers can be used to extend play sessions.
As I use an HDMI output device to capture game footage, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the game is TV-ready: it supports widescreen output on TVs, and the game’s controls are built to not require looking at the screen in order to play. TV support is something of a lost feature, and I’m interested to see it added in here. There’s real-time multiplayer available as well, but just as a local mode, not online.
While there’s the standard two-tier currency system – with coins used to buy boosts, and gems for more permanent features like perks and new driver unlocks – there’s one particular way that coins are used that is interesting. See, there are coin gates while racing that grant power-ups right away. These naturally grant an advantage that costs currency, but it’s also possible to accidentally trigger them. Then again, boosts are what the coins are there for. Still, seeing this as a potentially-accidental feature is odd.
F1 Race Stars feels very polished, like it’s just undergoing monetization testing to see if the business model is working, along with the last checks before they’re ready to race around the world. Whether this kart racer can stand out among the others out there will be seen when it rolls out worldwide.
Toy Rush is really an amalgamation of many different games. It’s tower defense meets Clash of Clans in the middle of a card game. See, the goal is to be the top toy rusher in the world. To do that, it requires being able to mount assaults on other toy bases while having a formidable base of one’s own. Players call in their attack units from a path at the top of the screen, and if they make it past the entrenched turrets their units attack the enemy base and collect their tickets, which are used to buy new attack units. Destroying the base entirely nets bonus rewards as well.
The rub is that the units are all disposable cards. Playing a card summons that unit, and unless it’s the hero card that recharges over time, it’s gone forever. Cards regulate the entirety of the game: cards are used to summon all sorts of units, but also for base upgrades. Players can customize the tower path of their base and lay down new defenses using cards. Buildings can be upgraded or sped up using cards.
In order to buy new cards, one of two currencies is necessary. Tickets can be collected from enemy bases and manufactured on the base, and these are used primarily to buy new attack card packs. Bottle caps are less frequent, usually earned for completing missions and as rewards for completely destroying a base, and are used to buy defense cards; including speed-ups and building upgrade cards. The tickets being rechargeable means that getting decent sets of attack cards is often just a matter of time, at least in the early game. It’s a fairly interesting currency system, and I’d be interested to see how it evolves over time.
Toy Rush features both a single-player campaign against computerized opponents, and the ability to attack random players for their loot and for pride. It’s possible to join guilds as well. All-in-all, it’s a mix of familiar elements, but in an interesting package. No real clue when this one could be coming out – it could be days, weeks, or months. Still, in a crowded free-to-play market, this game has some interesting elements to it.
For years, Ubisoft and RedLynx have taunted mobile gamers with physics-based racers that have been sorta similar to the acclaimed Trials series on console and PC, but not quite the same. But now there’s a mobile Trials game in Trials Frontier. Designed as a free-to-play game, it’s currently undergoing a soft launch in Canada. So I strapped on my helmet, revved up my motorbike’s engine, and prepared to defy death for this edition of It Came From Canada!
Trials Frontier does not dawdle. Tired of games that keep away from the action for too long? So is this game. Trials Frontier gets players going right from the initial launch, eschewing even a title screen, as it sends players through a few levels and introduces the story’s antagonist, Butch, that players (as the anonymous Rider) must race against because Butch is a huge jerk. Like, he almost kills the Rider in a rock cave-in. That’s good enough motivation to help the people of the dusty village, as they too have been terrorized by Butch. Help them by riding a motorbike through various levels, completing different objectives like performing a certain number of backflips to impress a fan, and earn rewards to upgrade and buy new bikes.
Yes, there is a two-tiered currency here: coins earned for doing well and performing stunts, which can be used to buy bikes, and gems, which can be bought or earned and are used to skip upgrade wait timers and buy certain upgrade items without getting them as a reward for completing levels. Discovery of new levels is mission-based, though any level can be repeated at any point.
There is an energy mechanic, but it largely regulates the initial playing of levels, not restarting them while in the level. So yes, restart to your heart’s content, even complete a level. On the final screen where it shows the postcard with the final time and crashes, just hit the restart button again. This isn’t necessarily a way to grind for coins while cheating the energy system, but it is a way to repeat levels to get better times and better medals without having to use energy, necessarily. It’s easy to be critical of energy systems, but this seems to be an implementation that doesn’t get too much in the way of actually playing the game. As well, gems can be earned through in-game actions and as end of race rewards, so a relative free-to-play fairness, without impeding the core game too much, seems to be the order of the day here.
With this game soft-launching so close to Christmas, I almost wonder if this is an emergency test of the monetization just to make sure that everything is hunky-dory before a likely launch before the holiday iTunes freeze. So for non-Canadians and non-“Canadians”, this one might be in the hands of the general public sooner than later.
Assassin’s Creed Pirates is not the Assassin’s Creed game you’d expected to come to mobile, as it’s more of a straight-up pirate adventure with boats than any kind of character-based action game. Of course, the recent console release kind of took its own path by shifting to a piracy theme, and the mobile game goes whole hog into the concept. Players take command of their own pirate ship, starting off with a small schooner but eventually make their way to becoming a pirate king while wreaking havoc all over the Caribbean.
Gameplay consists of several different phases: there’s a top-down navigation mode, where players can sail around looking for treasure and to take on other captains on the high seas. It’s possible to go into a 3D view of the action, and is necessary for some events, to try and chase down other ships. Then there’s combat, which involves trading cannon volleys, trying to dodge enemy attacks, and exploit their weaknesses.
The connection to the traditions of Assassin’s Creed seems tenuous at best, at least initially: there’s the famous iconography of the series but Edward Kenway, the protagonist of the console game, isn’t anywhere to be seen – at least early on. This is an entirely separate experience, though the game certainly could link up to AC4’s narrative at some point later on (I won’t give away any secrets). In reality, it gives off the appearance of trying to fit in thematically with the game, but in my playing of it, it seems to stand up well on its own.
As a whole, it gives off the vibe of being like Infinity Blade in a fleeting sense. A large part of it is the combat being based off of dodging enemy attacks, and then delivering timing and precision-based weapon strikes from one’s boat back at the enemy – or enemies! The ability to level up and get upgrades for the boat and crew feels like a familiar aspect too, but that’s true of most any iOS game nowadays. But really, it feels like the developers paid attention to making a game in the same sort of vein – of exploring and becoming stronger – but decided to use the concept to fit in with what the piratical theme.
Assassin’s Creed Pirates releases on iOS on December 5, and even for people who aren’t too exposed to the series this shows some promise as a high-seas adventure.
Rovio’s taking the Angry Birds out of the air and into… cars? Yes, it’s time for Rovio’s famous characters to make the natural leap for any popular character – star in a kart-racing game – with Angry Birds Go. While conceptually it makes perhaps a bit more sense than, say, Sonic the Hedgehog as the birds have generally needed the help of mechanical contraptions to get anywhere in the past, it’s still a bit silly on paper. However, what’s not silly business is that this is Rovio’s first free-to-play launch of an Angry Birds game, as this has been soft-launched in New Zealand ahead of a global launch. So, I take Angry Birds Go for a spin in this edition of It Came From New Zealand!
The racing has been tremendously simplified to where players really only need to concern themselves with steering, not even needing to brake, much less accelerate. Each racer has a special ability that helps them get to the finish line before their opponents, such as a floating bubble or a speed boost. Prepare to grind and become familiar with the game’s tracks. Each track has a variety of events to play on it, such as races, time trials, and a fruit smashing mode where points are earned for running into fruit strewn across the track. There goes the idea for a Fruit Ninja kart racing game, eh? Each event has a certain performance minimum, forcing players to upgrade and buy new cars.
The game steadily introduces the ways in which it intends on making money. First, there’s coins for upgrades. Then there are gems for boosts, though these can be collected in the game itself. There are IAP for better cars, including some rather expensive prices for the best ones. It’s possible to use Telepods to unlock cars, too. There’s an energy system where different racers must be used as their energies run low. Each racer has a different special ability, though the car stats remain the same.
Angry Birds Go feels like a highly-polished product right now, and it’s likely that how the game monetizes is what’s under major scrutiny here as it should be out in a couple of weeks. Just how free it is will take some time to see – and this game succeeding or failing could have a big impact on Rovio’s future releases as well. This should be an interesting one to keep an eye on.
Supercell has made an absolute killing over the past year with two colossal hits in Hay Day and Clash of Clans. The latter particularly has been a rather successful and influential game, spawning countless imitators but only in style, not in success: the game has duked it out with Candy Crush Saga for number one on the top grossing charts. But now, Supercell is ready to land on the beaches of the future with their latest game, Boom Beach. It’s currently seeing a soft launch in Canada, so we got on our boots and readied a dispatch on Supercell’s latest in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Boom Beach, like many other games including Clash of Clans, has two phases: building and combat. Building involves, well, building out a base. It’s very similar to other free-to-play building games: build resource stockades, material harvesters, and other handy buildings all set to wait timers that can be skipped with secondary currency. However, the interesting part begins with the combat.
The combat gameplay has players choosing which troops they want to launch onto the invading beach, with units like heavies able to withstand lots of blows on the front line while troopers hide safely behind them. From there on out the battles take place mostly automatically, but players can call in artillery strikes to help take out certain buildings so it’s not an entirely passive experience. Players spend gold to help uncover new parts of the world to go and attack – starting with CPU encounters before eventually getting to face other players by upgrading the radar to a higher level. Still, this is a strictly-solo affair for the early days of play.
It’s all a very familiar formula, but it’s one that’s certainly deeper than the average free-to-play game. It’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out in the coming weeks as it ramps up to a worldwide launch, and if long-term it winds up being much different from Clash of Clans. Still, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and Supercell is hardly going broke with their formula.
Heroes of Dragon Age sees EA taking the deep backstory of the Dragon Age series that BioWare helped to create and allowing players to create armies of characters throughout the series’ history, taking part in famous battles throughout the mythology. It’s a free-to-play game currently in testing in Canada, and we’re featuring impressions and a video of it in this latest edition of It Came From Canada!
All the combat is automatic, with players having no real say in what happens: just sit back and watch as everyone takes turns fighting. Players set up their lineup of fighters and then hope that they are advantageous in battle. Although there are strategy elements: using an army of the same type of character will give everyone a boost, and upgrading a character by consuming other ones can help turn even a poor fighter into someone who might help win some battles.
Yes, consuming other characters. Getting new characters is done through a card system, and consuming unused characters (really just a card system without much of the card metaphor) can upgrade a character’s stats. It’s kind of disturbing when it’s characters consuming other characters.
There’s an asynchronous battle element, too. Players can take on other players, or at least their current army, to get rewards. Of course there’s the lengthy campaign to take on as well, which takes players through various challenges with the ability to repeat them to get additional rewards, including premium currency. There’s energy systems for both multiplayer challenges and the singleplayer campaign.
Interestingly, for those who haven’t had much experience with the franchise the game’s language and characters are virtually indistinguishable from a brand new intellectual property, so don’t think that there’s a need to be previously exposed to the franchise to enjoy this one. The type of automatic combat is seemingly meant for a more casual, laid-back experience: it’s something seen in other mobile MMORPG type games as well.
Heroes of Dragon Age does have a high learning curve early on, though – there’s a lengthy tutorial section, which I explore in the video below. If all goes well this should be available internationally very soon, but soft launches are an art, not a science!
Making a first-person shooter with zombies is a safe bet for a game concept, and if Dead Trigger 2 promised to just be more of the same there’s certainly the possibility that it could do just as well as the original. After all, it has zombies and the series’ creator Madfinger is known for its gorgeous-looking games. But Marek Rabas, Co-Founder of Madfinger, says that for Dead Trigger 2, visuals were not the focus. “We didn’t focus on improving graphics quality this time around, instead, our main focus was on gameplay and other aspects of the game.”
This is the first thing that is apparent when playing Dead Trigger 2, perhaps after the still-impressive visuals: it’s a much better experience.
The core concept remains the same: players trying to survive an onslaught of the zombie apocalypse. But something just feels different. Early on, it’s a much more engaging experience. Rabas says “we have changed and enhanced [the] core gameplay. We are monitoring combat intensity and allowing gameplay to adapt to it. We have added bosses in the game and players have to change their behavior in the game when they spawn.” These include enemies like the Vomitron and Kamikaze, powerful enemies that require the player’s full attention as they can kill quickly.
The story missions feature more of a narrative backbone: there’s rudimentary interaction with other characters such as an escort mission early on, albeit with a character who knows how to handle his gun. They’re little things, but they make the game feel less like a soulless collection of missions and more like a game with actual progression. There’s still the assortment of side missions with their own challenges, but the main story mode should be more motivating.
The controls show great promise as well. It’s a version of the dual virtual stick control scheme, but set up with just swiping to move and to aim. Most importantly, aiming is incredibly accurate with the touchscreen to where I had no complaints early on. It’s a Halloween miracle!
Of course, with Apple’s MFi gamepad protocol on the horizon Dead Trigger 2 would be a natural fit. Madfinger loves their gamepads on Android – their games support them, and almost all of the controller manufacturers I met at GDC were demoing the original Dead Trigger on their controller – and Rabas says “Dead Trigger 2 supports MFi gamepads already. We haven’t tested it yet, because we don’t have MFi gamepads here. I hope we will get some before they will release them on the market.” However, the feature should be ready for when the dual-stick gamepads do come out. Until then, the touchscreen on iOS should do a bang-up job for most.
Dead Trigger 2 releases on October 23rd worldwide, and it’s showing great promise as a game that takes a familiar concept and iterates on it to make it possibly the most ideal version of what it could be.
EA Mobile has decided to revive the famous Bullfrog Dungeon Keeper intellectual property for a new free-to-play mobile game. It’s currently testing in Canada, so we hopped on a moose to bring you another episode of It Came From Canada with hands-on video below!
Dungeon Keeper is a two-fold game: one, there’s the dungeon keeping. This involves getting imps to mine for materials and build traps to help keep out invaders. Imps can help expand the dungeon, though certain spots take more time to open up. Of course, these waits can be skipped with gems. The other half of the game is raising units to go in and raid other dungeons, trying to survive the traps that the opposing Keeper has laid down in order to get their stuff. It’s a raid or get raided world.
Thus, in this modern incarnation, the game plays somewhat like a tower defense title: setting up a tricky dungeon with enough traps to keep invaders from getting much in the way of material is important, but so is amassing that army of creatures to go and get more gold and materials from opponents. There’s both campaign missions versus computerized opponents, and more interestingly, dungeons of other players to go raid.
The game does have a sense of humor to it, even to the free-to-play aspects: the demon guiding players jokes about how gems may be controversial. At least it’s somewhat self-aware for a game that would require a $99.99 in-app purchase to pay for three months of the game’s premium service. Of course, that could change before the game’s international launch. There’s also stat boosts and raid protections available to buy to help make surviving this tricky dungeon world a bit easier.
The game seems to be in a fairly polished state at the moment, and EA’s soft launches usually last less than a month, so there’s a good chance that you’ll have a fairly well-formed dungeon by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. Can’t wait till the international launch? Check out our hands-on video below.
NimbleBit and Disney have teamed up to make Star Wars: Tiny Death Star, a Star Wars take on Tiny Tower. Right now, the game is in testing in Australia (you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy) but we were able to sneak past their defenses and get a shot at the exhaust port in this edition of It Came From Australia!
Now, the game at its heart is essentially Tiny Tower but with Star Wars, and that’s a-okay. The game’s formula hasn’t been changed: players build residential levels for new bitizens to live in, and businesses for them to work at. Each bitizen has certain stats for certain job types that makes them more effective at their job, allowing players to earn more credits. One of the key gameplay additions are new Imeperial levels that help to advance the story by collecting Imperial Officers. Otherwise not much has changed, which isn’t a bad thing: there’s the two-currency system, but Galactic Bux can still be earned through VIPs and by completing certain objectives like putting a bitizen in their dream job.
The Star Wars theme is well apparent. Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader have been brought to pixelly life as bitizens, and all the other recognizable Stormtroopers, Rebel soldiers, and much of the non-human life from the series make appearances. The music is all based off of the classic John Williams music but in a light, jazzy theme. That almost justifies the game’s existence alone. The whole game is light-hearted fan service for Star Wars fans who get to build levels of the Death Star after recognizable places and themes – the developers have clearly had fun trying to cram reference after reference into the game. The whole thing is just whimsical.
There’s no telling if the Tiny Death Star will ever be blown up by a plucky orphan from Tatooine, though. The game’s likely to come out soon: it works offline so it’s quite likely that this is just a monetization test, or to see if certain elements play well with a real-world audience. So soon the game should be fully armed and operational for the whole world. Until then, watch our video below.
GT Racing 2 is Gameloft’s first concerted take at entering the free-to-play racing simulation market, one notably established by Real Racing 3 earlier this year. Much like EA and Firemonkeys’ title, Gameloft is currently doing a limited-region test for the game. I practiced my “ehs” and “aboots” and got my hands on this game before its worldwide release, with hands-on video below in this edition of It Came From Canada!
This is a game that quite clearly lives in Real Racing 3’s shadow. This is first apparent visually: the game is going for a detailed, realistic look, and even just the color scheme seems to evoke what Firemonkeys tried to do earlier this year, though blue skies will always be blue skies. However, the game launches with courses that take place at night, including one that takes place on the roads around Mt. Rainier at night.
The game definitely feels much like a simulation: braking is very important so as to not skid out of control. There are braking assists enabled by default, but learning how to drive without them so as to take the proper racing line – which is an actual displayable line in this game – is clearly of great importance.
There’s an asynchronous multiplayer mode which puts players up against the times of other racers to compete for pride, handily quantified in RP, and in-game currency. It’s not apparent on first tests if players are racing against actual ghosts of racers, as Real Racing 3’s Time Shifted Multiplayer claimed to do, or if they’re just racing against their times, as Time Shifted Multiplayer seemed to be in practice. Still, it should be less confusing since it’s a segregated mode from the standard single-player progression, which is packed with a wide variety of race types to take part in. Real cars with some damage have made it in the game as well.
The game is free-to-play, and thankfully there’s no waiting to repair one’s car, just wait timers for upgrades. Of course there are cars and upgrades to buy with the two-tier upgrade system. How well it plays for those who don’t spend is yet to be seen.
GT Racing 2 does seem to borrow a lot from Real Racing 3 at a quick glance, but its little tweaks could make for it to be a satisfying contender for the checkered flag, if not at least finishing somewhere on the podium. No clue on when it leaves the Canadian garages, but it may be soon, if all the server work and monetization balance checks out for Gameloft.
NimbleBit is following up Pocket Planes with perhaps the next-best transportation option: trains. Yes, Pocket Trains is now a real thing coming very soon, and fans of NimbleBit’s simulation games should be at home here with a refreshed take on the Pocket Planes formula when it releases on September 26th.
This is another simulation game, very similar to Pocket Planes in that players must tote cargo around the world. But instead of flying around, they travel along rail lines. Players start on one continent and must earn money by delivering cargo to various destinations, building new rail lines to more cities, trying to become the head honcho among the world’s railroad tycoons. Oh, and there’s a giant underwater rail that goes from Europe to the United States in the Nimbleverse, apparently.
The game has become somewhat simplified versus Pocket Planes in two key ways: one, because trains only travel on rails, the trains can only travel on paths, and only the rails that they have claimed, so a particularly-colored track can only travel on those colored tracks. It makes managing where everything needs to go much simpler. Secondly, there’s no negative costs incurred through travel anymore, though trains do break down and need repairing with coins or parts from time to time.
New train acquisition has been changed as well, with new parts collected through crates that need to be opened by spending bux. The crates contain random parts, with rarer special crates providing rarer parts. This is the kind of system that some developers could make incredibly IAP-driven, but bux and crates appear commonly enough while playing that they actually feel like a part of the game rather than just a monetization tool.
The bitizens don’t play as much of a role in Pocket Trains: they’re mostly just set dressing, and there’s no customization of the conductors, yet. Still, they provide a flavor that makes the game feel quite familiar. As well, there’s plenty of goofy-looking cargo: why not transport giant platforms of balloons or a giant cola bottle?
But overall, it will be interesting to see how well the simplified take on Pocket Planes goes over: it does feel a bit less stressful while still having some strategy in how rail lines should be laid out. The world will see when the game releases on September 26th.
BitMonster, the creators of last year’s Lili, have a brand new game called Gunner Zthat they’ve just soft launched in Canada and three other countries. As such, I scarfed some poutine and readied myself to take down some zombies.
This is an on-rails shooter where players control a gunner who must take out waves of zombies and the occasional human zombie sympathizer driving weaponized vehicles. Why humans are sympathizing with the zombies is unexplained, but it’s rather progressive!
Visually, and in gameplay, there’s a large debt owed to Zombie Gunship and to a lesser extent, Razor: Salvation. The truck players fire from moves periodically between waves with occasional targets to hit while moving, but the majority of the game is fending off zombies from a static position; with the only movement coming from the ability to raise or lower the height of the gunner to get a better angle on the enemies. Lower heights make it easier to get headshots, but higher heights give splash damage weapons like rockets an aiming advantage.
The gunplay is important: the rockets are powerful but limited, and the standard gun has unlimited ammo but is generally only suitable for taking out single enemies at a time. Of course, there’s upgraded guns and rockets to take advantage of, too, along with different color schemes for the trucks. But considering everything’s seen through a monochromatic color scheme, it’s the ultimate cosmetic enhancement.
There’s a good chance that Gunner Z doesn’t see the light of day worldwide for a while. According to BitMonster’s announcement post, they’re not even sure if the game will be free, and they have a lot of tweaking to do with difficulty balance, in-game currency and how it’s handed out, and even how much content is in the game. This may be a longer testing session than some other soft launches, more akin to The Drowning’s several-month test than a server stress test like what Madden NFL 25 wound up doing. This should be an interesting game to follow.