In Monument Valley, ustwo's Apple Design Award winner for 2014, you are Princess Ida exploring the gorgeous world and doing your best to outsmart the Crow People. In the game's newest update, Forgotten Shores, you can play through eight new chapters with even more illusions and graphical beauty.
You can download Monument Valley for $3.99 on the App Store, and the update is available as a separate in-app purchase for $1.99.
A few months ago, I took a look at 1849 from SomaSim. This Gold Rush-themed city builder for iPad had a fair bit going for it, but lacked in a few crucial areas to make it a true stand-out on the App Store. SomaSim has since added in a sandbox mode, and just last week the first content expansion, entitled Nevada Silver, went live.
Set in the wake of the discovery of major silver deposits that came to be known as the Comstock Lode, the expansion shifts focus eastward into the mountains and hills of Nevada. Available via in-app purchase for $1.99, a campaign of six new cities awaits returning prospectors, as well as a sandbox mode for the Nevada mapset.
The core of 1849 hasn’t changed with the coming of Nevada Silver, but it has thrown a few small tweaks into the mix. The trading interface, for instance, is now governed by the comings and goings of the railroad. Trains arrive in the player’s town on a regular schedule from nearby settlements, each of which is looking to buy and sell specific goods. Each train has a set number of cargo slots and while they can be switched up at any time, only a set amount of goods can flow in or out during each visit. It adds a pacing to the buildup of resources that can make seemingly innocuous tasks like “Sell 300 silver to Carson City” take forever when you can only send out three 15 unit loads per visit. And since almost all of the mission objectives in 1849: Nevada Silver require some degree of buying or selling goods, players will need to get familiar and comfortable with the rail trading system pretty quickly.
While it isn’t a part of the expansion per se, the sandbox mode bears mention as it is one of the issues I touched on the game needing during my initial review. Players pick a location for their settlement on the map, which generates size, resources, and the like based on data of the geography of the region they picked. The plot sizes run from “Large” to “Huge” to “Boundless,” which is, contrary to the name, quite bounded. Admittedly, the boundary is fully to the edges of the game’s visual layout, which is a fair sight larger than the maps one encounters in the missions, but it’s still constrained - I would assume due to some sort of technical limitations.
And speaking of technical issues, why on Earth are the tree textures still super-blurry when I zoom in to the game’s tightest camera setting? I know it’s not early onset glaucoma on my part, as everything else is still crisp and clean. It just seems very odd to leave something like this unfixed for a game that’s iPad only, where you know players are going to notice every flaw in your visuals.
The new content in Nevada Silver will take a few hours to get through (mainly due to the whims of the train-based trade economy mentioned above) and if you truly enjoyed the gameplay of the original 1849 then you’ll clearly have a good time with it. I felt the iteration and additions, while welcome, were too minor to substantially change my feelings on the product as a whole. It continues, as before, to teeter on the edge of being truly compelling, without ever fully making the plunge.
The fifth expansion for Carcassonne has arrived, bringing with it 'The Phantom.' This new add-on includes a ghostly-transparent game piece that can be played in addition to a regular one during the players turn. If you want to learn how to use the Phantom to its fullest, the developers have also released a short strategy guide on its use.
Carcassonne is available on the App Store now for $9.99, with “The Phantom” available as an in-app purchase for $0.99.
Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulus has received its very first content update!
The tilt-happy arcade survival game from One Man Left Studios is now offering Brimstone Pinball DLC. You'll have to use finesse if you're going to survive inside this pinball machine of horrors. This new mode adds more types of enemies, more achievements, and new leaderboards.
You can grab Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulus off the App Store for $2.99, and the Brimstone Pinball DLC is available for $0.99.
Warhammer Quest has been updated with new content that's available through in-app purchase. The Undead Horde DLC comes with new monsters featuring their own unique abilities that can change the tactics on the battle. Players can purchase the new content for $1.99 each, including the Witch Hunter Hero pack, Skeletons and Necromancers Enemy pack, Zombies and Vampires pack, and Undead Castle Tileset pack.
Zen Studios have been at this pinball thing for quite some time now. Between the console and iOS platforms they have become the undisputed champion of the digitalized steel ball. Their most recent offering, Star Wars Pinball, garnered an Editor’s Choice rating from this very site. So you can only imagine the excitement when they announced the game’s first batch of DLC, entitled Balance of the Force. Calling upon their veteran stable of developers, the trio of new tables look to put the initial collection to shame. Thankfully, the team over at Zen has the Force on their side!
The first table of the set follows the trend of the first outing by adapting one of the classic films, which in this case is the original trilogy finale "Return of the Jedi." Building upon lessons learned last time out, the table once again breaks up the plot points into a collection of checkpointed missions. When playing through the stages in Jedi, players will encounter countless interactive objects and fantastical extra-curricular activities that force them outside of the traditional confines of the bumpers. How exactly does one take part in a speeder race through the forests of Endor, without ever breaking the immersion of a pinball experience? Trust us, somehow they have managed to pull it off seamlessly. And how could you ever forget the epic showdown between Luke and Vader? This time the player gets to determine the outcome.
Next up, Starfighter Assault comes aboard to provide the parallel experience of piloting for either the Empire or Rebellion. Depending upon the ethical allegiances of whomever is behind the paddles, the player is placed in the role of tipping the balance of battle one way or another. The table has a light RPG system of sorts that rewards mission completions with upgrades to their fleet, which may very well turn the tide of conflict. Once again, certain missions will involve leaving the table and jumping into the cockpit of signature fighters made famous by the series or competing in third person shootouts, somewhat in the vein of Galaga. There is more than enough variety and fan service to go around, regardless of which side of the battle is embarked upon. Thankfully this also lends itself well to replayability, because why settle for only one side of the story?
Darth Vader rounds out the trio, with his own signature table. It only makes sense that a character as iconic as Vader would receive the same treatment afforded to Boba Fett in the initial offering. As one of a select few characters that spans the trilogies, there is quite a deep pool of subject matter to pull from; starting at the beginning of each game, when the player has the opportunity to actually participate in his transformation from Anakin Skywalker to the hulking “mandroid.” From that point on, the table covers notable occurrences from the original films including the hunt for rebel bases, a Death Star trench run, and his battles with the likes of both Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is a tour-de-Force, (sorry, I had to…) that should not be missed.
This time around it feels like the team at Zen was given free range to really “go nuts” in respect to table design. Each playscape feels more complex than the base set, while still not being off-putting to newcomers. Everything from tricky ramp positions to the new multi-shot goals all play like evolutions to a formula as well as the culmination of mechanic refinement that has been in progress since their immensely popular Marvel line. Regardless, the result is a breath of fresh air for pinball enthusiasts who have been eagerly awaiting their next challenge.
Balance of the Force is scheduled to launch on iOS as downloadable content for both Star Wars Pinball and Zen Pinball on October 16. It is also worth noting that while the tables will be available for purchase from within Zen Pinball, players will not get the benefit of Star Wars Pinball’s additional leaderboards and Force rating system; so choose platforms wisely. Really, no matter what the choice the player will still be treated to a nostalgia-drenched adventure in a galaxy far, far away. They may have once been but a learner, now Zen Studios has become the master.
Oh my Glob! It's finally happened: Legends of Ooo - Adventure Time (no longer "Big Hollow Princess") has received a new episode titled "The Library of Doom." Lumpy Space Princess' secrets have been stolen, and it's up to Finn and Jake to recover them in an all new adventure featuring new original voicework for BMO, Finn, Jake, Flame Princess, and LSP. This is exciting news, especially since the only real problem people had with the original release was its length.
It's made all the more exciting when you consider that "The Library of Doom" is currently free for a limited time. That's right, if you already own Legends of Ooo and have beaten it to the Nightosphere and back, you can get your hands on the latest installment for free. If you don't already own it, it's $0.99. Stop stalling.
One of Playdek's most popular iOS card games, Summoner Wars, is going through a few changes this Monday (8/5).
The most immediately noticeable difference will be the price; or rather the inclusion of one. Playdek is removing the freemium model and making the base game $0.99, with online play available right out of the box, so to speak. A "Lore" menu is also being added so that players can look up background and strategy information, and a new AI opponent is being included for those more interested in solo play.
The expansion will be available through an in-app purchase of $2.99 and includes two new armies: the Benders (pyromancers) and the Mountain Vargath (goatmen). The former focuses on controlling the actions of their rivals, while the latter is all about brute strength.
Both factions and new base game features will be available on Monday.
We got a chance to take a look at off of the 5 story arcs included in the Walking Dead DLC to be released next month, 400 Days. The expansion to season one of The Walking Dead contains the stories of 5 new characters taking place during the first 400 days of the zombie apocalypse. The setting is in and around a truck stop in Georgia near where the events of season one take place.
Though they can be played in any order, the paths of the 5 stories overlap and intermingle in ways that will be both apparent and subtle. Once the story of all five paths is complete, it will tie in to season one and give a good indication of where season two will take us.
The Walking Dead 400 Days will be released to the App Store as a $4.99 IAP in July.
Barely two weeks have passed since the release of 2K Games's Borderlands Legends. Things travel fast in the world of iOS gaming, however, and we checked in with James Lopez, associate producer at Gearbox, to see how he felt about Legends, as well as any plans for the future.
"We never really imagined [Borderlands Legends] being a FPS. It’s clearly possible, but we’re very happy with the FPS experience in Borderlands 1 and 2," explained James. "The goal of Legends was to try something different, something that explored other facets of Borderlands, untapped potential."
As anyone who's played Borderlands Legends can attest to, it's quite a change of pace to its older siblings, but it turns out that there are some significant similarities in its 4 player based squad combat. "Although you can play Borderlands 1 and 2 alone, we always intended the true experience to include all 4 characters at once. We wanted this to be the same for Legends." James Lopez elaborated to explain that, "...clearly, we can do missions with fewer characters (the tutorial starts off that way), so it might be something we revisit later."
Somewhat unusually for a game closely connected to a console or PC title, Borderlands Legends lacks any functionality directly tied into its bigger brothers. James told us that this was "never really considered...an option", citing that the team wants the fans "to be able to enjoy the full experience for whatever they buy."
What challenges were faced trying to convert a typically FPS title to the iOS screen, and implementing strategic elements, however? James explained, "We kept asking ourselves what the core ingredients of Borderlands are. Some things were obvious, but some were elusive and some were difficult to accomplish because of time constraints (like randomizing gear, UI tweaks, adding gameplay features)."
Despite such issues, James has been pleased with the response to Borderlands Legends. "We tried to put as much of the core formula of Borderlands in as we could, and we’re glad people are feeling like we accomplished that. That doesn’t mean we won’t try to squeeze in more, though!" It's worth noting that, at the time of writing, sales figures as well as critical reaction to its release, aren't as positive as Lopez and the team hoped. App Annie's listing demonstrates the progress sales wise, while an average Metacritic rating of 51 demonstrates that not everyone found it to their liking.
Improvement seems to be a common theme with 2K and Gearbox's future plans for Borderlands Legends, however. As James explained, 2K China's developers believe that "...there are some things we’d still like to revisit, and I believe they’ll knock it out of the park." and while he couldn't discuss any immediate plans for DLC or extra content, he did tell us that "...given the great response so far, I think we'd be crazy to stop here".
As 2K China finds its feet in the iOS world, it'll be interesting to see what they come up with next. As James explains, "Legends hasn't been out long, and this is somewhat of a new frontier for us". Discussing the recent announcement by Subatomic to include in-app purchases within Fieldrunners 2, he expanded upon that by explaining '...I think we’d like to explore any option that allows to create content of value for our fans."
While James Lopez and the team might be clutching their cards close to their hands for now in terms of DLC support, we'll be keeping a keen eye on any further developments for Borderlands Legends. For now, check out our review to learn more.
Tower defense fans rejoice! Origin8, makers of the rather popular and critically acclaimedSentinel 3: Homeworld have seen fit to drop the price for a limited time. Okay, it wasn't entirely their doing but rather Openfeint's FireSale promotion. Although technically it was the thousand Openfeint gamers who voted for the price drop, I suppose.
Regardless, Sentinel 3: Homeworld is temporarily marked down to a dollar. That's right, for an indeterminate about of time it's possible to get a hold of one of the App Store's most celebrated tower defense titles for next to nothing. Even better, as special "Thank You" for all the love, Origin8 has also temporarily dropped the price of the Campaign 2 DLC. So that's another dollar. Just in case anyone was wondering, that's $5 worth of some of the most highly regarded TD goodness for a mere $2.
I'm sure there are a fair number of people reading this who already own the game, but I also imagine a fair number of them have yet to get the DLC. No time like the present, right? And everyone else who loves tower defense games but still doesn't own it, wave those lame excuses bye-bye.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've likely heard that Apple is now allowing in-app purchases in free apps. Yes, this creates many possibilities including the extinction of lite versions and new app store charts, but I think that none of these possibilities will come to fruition, for one simple reason: DLC simply won't be widely implemented. One reason, and the reason I think developers have been loathe to implement DLC so far, is the public perception of DLC. The average app consumer is wary - perhaps rightfully so - of DLC, and automatically assumes DLC is there to rip off the customer. I think developers will even be aware of this when making free apps with DLC, as the fear of being nickeled and dimed could lead poor public perception, starting with bad iTunes reviews, which will be open to anyone who clicks the "Get App" button. In addition, I think consumers simply purchase less through in-app purchasing. Once you already have an app, that app can become boring quickly in this ADD app store, so instead of purchasing more content for that app, you are likely to impulsively buy a completely different and new one.
Rock Band released
Last night, EA mobile's Rock Band was released onto the App Store. Sure, it's got that EA polish, but is it really worth 10 times more than Tap Tap Revenge 3, its $.99 competitor. Early indication may be no. While Rock Band features four different instruments, they are all similarly tap-based. The gameplay is fairly unchallenging but fun, and the background graphics are very repetitive and there are no special backgrounds for songs as in TTR3. In addition, the game comes with an anemic set list of only 20 songs, compared to over 100 free songs for TTR3. DLC packs for Rock Band are scarce so far and come packaged as two songs for $.99, the same as TTR3. I think the Rock Band game itself is better than TTR3, just not ten times better.
Free ngmoco:) games!
Largely as a promotion for their Plus+ network, ngmoco:) has made three of their older games free. These are the full versions of the games, now including the excellend Plus+, and they're all worth checking out:
This week's upcoming app that looks freakin' sweet:
There are a few good turn based strategy games on the iPhone, but the Battle for Wesnoth could just blow them all away. Here are a few features:
Over 200 unit types in six major factions, all with distinctive abilities, weapons and spells
Experienced units gain powerful new abilities as they advance.
Bring your battle-hardened troops with you as you fight through campaigns
Hundreds of campaign scenarios available, easily download user-made content
Day/night cycles, fog of war, racial traits
The Battle for Wesnoth has not been submitted, but you can download a free PC/Mac/Linux demo here.
This week's sign of the apocalypse:
Ngmoco:) has recently been tweeting about, and advertising in their games, Epic Pet Wars, another dumb code-sharing text-based MMO. I thought you had high standards ngmoco:)...
App of the Week
Last week, I disappointedly reviewed Cocoto Kart Online, which simply wasn't up to snuff. Happily, Gameloft's Shrek Kart has provided a great karting experience. While the controls could still use some additional tuning, they aren't nearly as awful as those found in Cocoto. Though there is no online multiplayer, the single player mode has enough content. The graphics are unbelievably crisp, the track design is good, and the Shrek license is actually used pretty well. At $4.99, it's the best Mario Kart-esque game on the App Store.
Ngmoco will take advantage of Apple's reversal in decision on allowing DLC in free apps, and they will probably be among the first to do so.
First, In conjunction with Apple's announcement, Ngmoco announced that they will be making their upcoming FPS Eliminate free. The main draw of Eliminate is the thorough online component, with 4-player death match over Wifi or 3G. In the game, you have a certain amount of "energy." While you are energized, playing online earns you credits, which improve your online ranking and can be used to buy upgrades and armor. However, your energy runs out after a few online matches, and while you can still play online while de-energized, you won't earn credits. You can simply wait a certain amount of time (this has not been announced yet, but think somewhere from 1-2 hours), after which your energy will be refilled, or if you're really cutthroat, you can purchase more energy using DLC. This is the only as yet confirmed use of DLC in the game; upgrades and armor will still be bought exclusively using game credits, though extra maps may be available for purchase.
Overall, this looks to be a brilliant move on ngmoco:)'s part. I would be shocked if the game does not quickly climb the App Store charts and reach #1 on the top free games list. This popularity will ensure a huge online community, and there will likely rarely be a waiting time for a match. The downside, of course, is the stress on ngmoco:)'s servers, but with their infrastructure, I imagine they'll be able to handle it. Within the online community, there will almost certainly be an ultra-competitive subsection who will frequently purchase more energy, and this is how ngmoco:) plans to make money.
For more information on Eliminate, see our preview. The game was submitted to Apple about a week ago, and this new development will not affect its release.
In addition, ngmoco has just released a free version of the incredible Rolando 2. This free version includes chapter 1 of the saga, and essentially serves as a lite version of the game with the full version built in. After finishing chapter 1, you can purchase additional chapters for $.99, with the exception of the last two chapters, which come bundled together for $1.99. Strangely, the total price of all the DLC is $4.98, making it cheaper than the standalone version of Rolando 2 which retails at $5.99. With Apple's former restrictions lifted, these "hybrid" lite versions could become commonplace.
Last week, as most of you know, Rockstar Games announced that it was porting its critically acclaimed GTA: Chinatown Wars to the iPhone. Not only is this great news for fans of the game, though we do already have the superb Gangstar, but it also shows how seriously the iPhone is taken as a gaming platform. Rockstar is not a company to make gratuitous ports for every platform available (I don't think the Wii will be getting GTA anytime soon), so this upcoming port shows that Rockstar believes in the power of the iPhone. If Rockstar will port GTA for the iPhone, what other big-name developers will follow? The days of the iPhone being a phone that you could play some gimmicky accelerometer games on are over. Sony, I would be afraid.
New ngmoco FPS trailer, now called Eliminate, reveals the use of micro-transactions
Ngmoco has released a new trailer for their upcoming Eliminate, and while the game is looking awesome, most people are fixating on another detail: you will only be able to play so many matches online for credits in one day, and if you want to play for credits again without waiting a day, you have to buy an "energy pack" using real money. So what's the big deal? Well if you ask me, as long as ngmoco doesn't abuse this, nothing. Here's the kicker: if you run out of energy, you can still play online, you just won't win credits. So the only people who will buy extra energy are the perfectionists who have to show how good they are. For people like me, who just want to play a game to have fun (isn't that what a game is for), you can play however much you want and still have fun. So really, this is a great idea as long as two things hold true: the game is not originally priced above $6.99 and the amount of energy you get per day is reasonable. What do you guys think? Sound off in our comments below.
C64 Emulator finally approved by Apple
After months of back room deals, Apple rejections, and Apple non-communication, Manomio has finally gotten their superb C64 emulator has been approved! Obviously this won't appeal to everyone, but if you're one for nostalgia, at $4.99, it's worth picking up because of the high level of polish and solid controls. The emulator comes with five fully licensed games, but no BASIC emulator as was originally included, though it's apparently suspiciously easy to enable the BASIC if you're SSH savvy. Future games will be available via DLC at prices to be determined by the original IP holders. Next up, Manomio, a legal Atari emulator (I wish)!
This week's sign of the apocalypse
Smule's "I Am T-Pain" is the number one paid app in the entire app store. Enough said.
Contest! This, week, as a first for MMAHQ, we're holding a contest where you can be the lucky winner of a $15 iTunes gift card! To enter, simply comment on this article with your prediction for what will happen at the 9.9.09 Apple event on Wednesday. What will the new iPod Touch look like? Will any huge games come out (like Madden)? Will Steve Jobs be there? The winner will be the person who has the most accurate or funniest prediction will be deemed the winner (that's right, this is completely arbitrary)! Hopefully we can get some good participation, and if all goes well, we might have some more contests later on.
Apps of the Week
Modern Combat: Sandstorm
Modern Combat is the most visually impressive title on the iPhone to date, bar none. Models are good, textures are sharp, and everything is fully and accurately 3D. Not only this, but Gameloft actually nailed the controls, a first for an FPS on the iPhone. The gameplay, specifically the AI and level structure leave something to be desired, but Sandstorm remains a great accomplishment nonetheless, and it comes with a solid recommendation at the low price of $6.99.
Samurai: Way of the Warrior
Samurai is one of the coolest games I've played on the iPhone. It's a hack-and-slasher with great graphics, perfect controls, and gratuitous blood! Controls involve different combinations of swipes, and the gameplay is actually somewhat strategic - you have to balance small attacks with huge combos, because if you miss a huge combo, you leave yourself very prone to an attack. Execute moves correctly, and you might be lucky enough to see the body of the opponent samurai stop, then fall on the ground in two pieces, with blood squirting across the screen. Samurai comes with both a story mode and an endless or "dojo" mode. My only complaints about this game are that once you figure out the controls, it's too easy - there's an uneven difficulty curve, and that it does get repetitive at times. Still, I found myself playing this $2.99 gem much more than Sandstorm. Expect a full review soon, but until then, you really have to see a video to appreciate the awesomeness of this game.
That's it for this week, tune back in next week for the winner of the contest and some more MMAHQ. Have a great week!