This past G.I.JoeCon, 2015 proves that the franchise is alive and well. As such, Backflip Studios is working with Hasbro to bring a new game for our favorite ninja from the classic cartoon withG.I. JOE Strike. You'll play as Snake Eyes as he fights his way through enemy ninja to face off in the ultimate showdown against his rival, Storm Shadow.
“The G.I. JOE brand is a treasured gem. The adventures of G.I. Joe vs. Cobra has sparked the imaginations of generations of fans, whether they grew up on the G.I. Joe comics, the cartoons or the movies,” said Julian Farrior, CEO of Backflip Studios, in a press release. “G.I. JOE Strike blends the unforgettable environments of the original mini-series with the new-age reimagining of the beloved characters, giving players of all ages something to connect with.”
G.I. JOE Strike is set to be released early this summer. Go Joe!
Aside from a Pokémon spin-off or two, it doesn’t look like Nintendo will be putting out games on the App Store any time. However, that just leaves room for other companies to try to fill that void. Neither rip-off nor clone, Seabeard instead feels like an homage to several acclaimed titles from the House of Mario. But is that the best thing it has going for it? We set sail for these and other answers in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Although it’s not entirely obvious at first, Seabeard is essentially a town-building game. As a little monarch, players attempt to rebuild their lost island kingdom of Accordia. So, to get the necessary resources and manpower, players travel across an expanding ocean map doing odd jobs for people and recruiting them to the cause. Tasks range from feeding and milking cows, convincing some burly brothers to build new houses, scaring away pesky foxes, pulling out roots, and catching a variety of exotic fish. Players go at their own pace though, finishing jobs when they feel like it. There’s nothing stopping them from just sitting down by the water or trying on some new outfits. While traveling from island to island, players must also play a sailing minigame like avoiding obstacles or shooting down targets with their cannon.
It’s relaxed, low-impact gameplay, and what really ties it all together is the equally mellow presentation. This is where the Nintendo feeling comes into play. The isometric perspective and cheery but not too energetic blocky, 3D, cartoon world recall Animal Crossing, as does the life-sim gameplay. However, with its whole nautical theme and big-eyed, pseudo-cel-shaded characters, there’s a lot of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in there too. But seeing as those are both beloved games, looking at them for inspiration was probably a smart move.
Seabeard looks to be a pleasant place to drift off into, like sinking your feet into the pool. Players can decide for themselves if they want to dive in when the game fully launches soon.
Backflip Studios, makers of DragonVale, Paper Toss, and NinJump, are introducing their newest game, Epic Island. Players form a team of five heroes to fight the forces of the evil sorcerer, Cedric Sparklehands, for control of the island.
Each of the heroes will have unique combat and magical skills and can be equipped with weapons and armor that you forge and upgrade to your heart's content. They can even adopt pets as companions for the perilous journey ahead.
Players will also be able to go head-to-head to see who the best hero really is when they challenge their friends and other players from around the world in the Battle Arena.
You can check out Epic Island for free on the App Store on September 25.
NERF Hoops, by Backflip Studios, is a flick it to win it style game. It harkens back to days gone by as a teenager, tossing a NERF ball into the hoop stuck to the back of your door.
Swipe your finger to make a shot and and become the NERF Hoops champion on the leader boards. Just be careful - you will have to adjust for wind, cars, and sometimes even zombies! Players can challenge friends or practice by themselves.
You can pick up NERF Hoops for free on the App Store.
Backflip Studios will be releasing their new match-3 puzzler, Spellfall, next Thursday, August 14.
Spellfall puts players in the role of a powerful wizard who uses their elemental spells to fight monsters and save the world from destruction. As with many match-3 games, in order to cast spells players must match up 3 tiles of the same element. Matching four or more increases the power of the spell being cast.
Spellfall will be available for free on the App Store, with optional in-app purchases.
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.
However, 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.
While 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.
These days it’s super easy to be immediately cynical about freemium games on the App Store. Just the mere mention of energy systems or recharge times can cause players to roll their eyes. Considering Dwarven Den, the new game from Backflip Studios currently in a soft launch phase, is based entirely on these mechanics some might dismiss it out of principle. But the more open-minded will discover a shockingly fair dungeon exploration adventure. Get ready to dive deep in this edition of It Came From Canada!
In Dwarven Den players control a dwarf spelunker making his way through a series of caves. Each cave has a different objective, like find the lost dwarf or mine all of the gold, but efficient exploration is what everything ultimately comes down to. Pathways are blocked off by various types of rocks, and mining through them depletes the player’s energy. Run out of energy and either pay up or quit and wait for the dwarf to recharge. However, each cave is also littered with red gems that restore energy when mined. The tension comes from trying to make progress while keeping energy reserves high.
It would have been so easy for Dwarven Den to keep energy gems artificially scarce to encourage customers to pay. Fortunately, players can get through much of the game with intelligent play alone. By raiding treasure chests for loot, players can forge stronger weapons and armor. Rocks become easier to mine and sometimes even give back energy. By mining blue gems, players can also use a variety of Zelda-style tools like fog-clearing torches and rock-clearing bombs. Bombs are especially effective against energy-draining spider foes.
Using all of these tools in Dwarven Den's surprisingly non-linear dungeons makes for a satisfyingly cerebral experience. Each dungeon is basically a big environmental puzzle to solve, and there’s always more than one right answer. It’s not Dark Souls, but the combination of tense challenge and freedom for creative player experimentation works in a similar way. It avoids becoming the tedious loop of repeating an action, waiting, repeating the same action, and waiting again that it could have easily devolved into.
Things can get a little stressful, but that’s offset by Dwarven Dungeon's bright, chubby characters and cheery voice samples. The 3D visuals move smooth and fast. Meanwhile, each new item equipped shows up on the player character as a nice touch of customization.
There is the nagging fear though that Dwarven Den's freemium elements are so non-aggressive they might be too good to be true. Since the game is still in a soft launch phase, there’s still time for it to decide how money-hungry it wants to be. As it is now though, Dwarven Den rightly chooses to be a great game first and a cash magnet at a distant second.