Ham in the Fridge, those responsible for the well received if a bit disturbing 5 Minutes to Kill (Yourself), have been up to something. They’ve been lurking in the shadows, left to their own devices, doing something altogether unseemly. They’ve been Bumpin’ Uglies. I’ve recently had the chance to talk a bit with Brett Hummel (Creative Director) and Drew Pearson (Director, Business Development) about their odd little creation and have come away from the discussion feeling more than a little excited. Not that kind of excited.
Bumpin’ Uglies isn’t quite the depiction of debauchery that many would expect given the (awesome) title. Uglies are, in fact, these small lima bean-looking critters who are about as smart as a sack of dirt and can only get around by way of being flung. Players have to guide their ugly through a given level (32 total at the moment), gathering shinys and coins along the way, until they manage to collide with the ugly waiting at the other end. Hence the bumping. This creates a temporary whirlwind of activity, followed by the production of a number of “bumplings” possessing traits from both parent uglies. And some recessive genes, naturally. Coins gathered throughout each level can be used to unlock new level packs (3 available at launch with more to follow), more ugly parts for further customization, and special boosts (4 types available at launch) that can be used to make getting around a bit easier.
Bumpin’ Uglies is slated to release later this summer for free. If it sounds like a game worth playing (and it should), head on over to the Kickstarter page to lend a financial hand. Come on, you know you want to.
Bouncy Mouse is a physics game where players fling a mouse — which is actually much more like a rubber ball than a rodent — around obstacles and through traps collecting bits of cheese on the way. All of the mouse’s cheese has been stolen by a dastardly cat and the mouse needs to get all his cheese back so he and his friends can enjoy it together.
The slingshot-like pull and release mechanics of the game are very similar to those found in other physics based flinging games like Angry Birds. The difference here is that players aren’t trying to knock anything down or destroy any structures, they are just trying to traverse an environment while avoiding obstacles and collecting cheese. The goal is to bounce the mouse off of the cat in each level and retrieve the cat’s stolen cheese.
To traverse each level the mouse is flung from one anchor point or peg to the next. When the mouse gets close enough to an anchor point he will latch on with what might be his super elastic tail and players can then pull him back and release him in any direction to get to the next peg. Progressing from peg to peg and bouncing the mouse off of different parts of the environment will get him to the cat, and finally to his cheese. More points and unlocks like costumes and visual effects can also unlocked by collecting all the cheese in a level.
Touch screen gaming will always be looking for ways to best offer controls that are as close to physical controls as possible – look at the Xperia Play, which is all about offering physical game controls on a phone. We’ve seen devices like the Joystick-It pop up recently, and another similar mechanism for physical controls on a touch screen is the Fling Joystick from Ten One Design. The Fling works by way of having 2 suction cups that stick to the bezel of the iPad, and a joystick mechanism in the middle. It is slightly raised, so touching it presses it against the screen. This is what makes it more useful than the Joystick-It – this registers a center point on the screen, which properly allows virtual floating joysticks to work, as you can move from a consistent center point defined by the joystick, and you get analog movement.
The Fling design is great – the mechanism is transparent, so you can see around where you have placed the joystick. Tons of games work great with the Fling as well – Super Mega Worm‘s d-pad works wonderfully with the Fling – about as well as one could hope. Archetype HD‘s movement controls work great, making you feel like you’re playing an actual console game about as much as possible. Dual-stick shooters are incredible – you move and fire with remarkable precision. Your high scores on Age of Zombies are no longer safe if I’m your Game Center friend. Max Adventure is a revelation with the Fling, feeling smoother than the game has any right to be. Red Nova’s movement is great with the Fling, as well. Also, it’s easier to stick the Fling and get it stable on the iPad thanks to the Fling’s bag that also serves as a microfiber cloth to clean the screen. It is exceptionally convenient, and helps make the Fling remarkably stable.
Not all games will work perfectly with the Fling – some games’ joysticks will be too large, so you may not move as fast as you want in some games. Games with swiping controls won’t work with the Fling – because of the way the joystick works, it snaps back to the center point, so moving the joystick in a direction returns it to the center, so it registers as a swipe in the direction you swiped in, and then in the reverse direction, so it won’t work properly. If you want to play Silverfish with the Fling, use the d-pad controls. Aiming in Archetype HD didn’t quite work properly due to this mechanism as well. Fixed controls are a trickier proposition, as you have to position them exactly correctly to play them properly, so Gun Bros. might be a challenge. The joysticks also have very stiff resistance – this may be part of the engineering of the device, but it is stiffer than most controllers’ joysticks.
Is the Fling useful? Yes, very. It makes playing games with virtual joysticks much easier, and the games that work properly with it are wonderful. Is it necessary? Maybe not, and there are a few problems with it, so it’s not perfect. However, there’s plenty of times when the Fling just feels like an ingenious solution, and well worth checking out. If you play a lot of games with virtual joysticks, this may be what you’ve been looking for.
The Fling Joystick is currently available for $19.95 for one unit, and $29.94 for two.
When it comes to iOS gaming, the biggest complaint that continues to come up is the lack of physical controls. While veteran iOS gamers have gotten used to virtual controls, games still often suffer from not having actual physical buttons and joysticks to use. While an iOS device that actually has physical gameplay buttons on it is unlikely to ever appear, some people and manufacturers are looking to provide physical controls to gamers on touchscreen devices, either by facsimile physical joysticks, or through external accessories to provide actual physical controls to games.
First up is the Fling Joystick from Ten One Design. Designed to simulate an analog joystick on a touch screen, primarily the iPad (it appears to be designed for the wider bezel of the iPad, and might not work as well on the iPhone and iPod touch), that you stick on the iPad screen, and works to simulate a physical controller’s analog joystick. The product claims to leave no residue on the iPad, and to increase your accuracy in games that simulate analog joysticks. You can buy both a single Fling joystick, or buy a 2-pack for dual-stick shooters. The joysticks appear to be designed for iPad-only games, but some games running in 2X mode appear to work, such as Secret of Mana, according to the publicly-edited compatibility list. Some games may not work as well due to the way their joysticks work or how they’re positioned, so it may be a bit of a crapshoot depending on the games you want to play. The Fling is available now, and it will run you $19.99 for a single unit, and $29.99 for a pair.
A second virtual joystick option is the JOYSTICK-IT, exclusively from ThinkGeek. It appears to work similarly to the Fling, simulating a joystick on a touch screen, but it has a different design, more similar to an arcade joystick than a controller thumbpad. However, it still appears to work as an analog joystick for 3D games and dual-stick shooters – it would be curious to see a joystick work to simulate a digital joystick, if it was at all possible. While the JOYSTICk-IT is more expensive than the Fling, running $24.99 for one and $39.99 for a set of two, the shape could be preferable for some people, and give a more arcade-like experience.
Also coming from ThinkGeek and ION Audio is the iCADE. This was originally a joke product from ThinkGeek on April Fool’s Day, but similar to products like the Tauntaun sleeping bag going from joke to real product, the iCADE is soon to be real as well. This lets you dock the iPad into a miniature arcade cabinet, that features an arcade-style joystick and 8 buttons, for any various configuration of games. The iCade connects to the iPad via Bluetooth, and claims to offer support via an API for other apps to support it. iCADE will support Asteroids and other Atari arcade games at launch, though. It will be interesting to see how Apple reacts to a device like this, and if it’s allowed, although external game controllers have been theoretically allowable since iOS 3.0, as long as they’re Apple-approved devices, but no company has gotten on releasing one. There’s theoretically no reason why a Bluetooth controller shouldn’t be allowed, as a dock accessory would have to work through its own API as well. The iCADE is still in development, and is “Coming Soon” – but here’s hoping for April 1st just for the sake of irony.
However, most of these control options are designed for the iPad and other tablet devices – for gamers on the iPhone and iPod touch, their physical control options are more limited. One of the most intriguing physical control options for these smaller devices is the iControlPad from Craig Rothwell, who has worked on the Open Pandora handheld. This device communicates over Bluetooth, and offers support with a variety of different protocols, though it will work as a Bluetooth keyboard in its most basic mode, with the d-pad, 4 face buttons, and 2 rear buttons each mapped to a keyboard keypress. The iControlPad isn’t just a gamepad either – it has a built-in 1350 mAh battery that supports a generic USB output so you can charge a variety of phones and devices with it. iControlPad is also future-proof, as it uses a clamp system to support a variety of phones – including iPhone and iPod touch sized devices, and smaller Android phones. A larger clamp set is in the works to support larger phones like the Samsung Galaxy S line.
Unfortunately, the iControlPad might be of limited use for non-jailbroken iOS users. According to Craig Rothwell, one of the designers of the iControlPad, the odds that Apple would allow support for the profiles that support the analog joysticks are low, though if apps can use keyboard input as game commands, the iControlPad could be supported through that. Considering that a device like the iCADE exists and offers similar Bluetooth control, there is a chance that games could actually support it in the legitimate App Store, if Apple approved it, though Craig Rothwell has said before that Apple would not approve apps that support the iControlPad’s API. He and the rest of the iControlPad team have been in touch with some iOS developers about implementing the iControlPad into their apps, though these would likely be jailbroken-only apps. Android apps are more in luck; due to the OS’s less restrictive policies, many apps already support Bluetooth gamepads, and so they would be able to easily support the iControlPad. The iControlPad is currently in production, and the first batch of units should be shipping out in the next month.
It will be interesting to see if any of these devices catch on in any meaningful way, or if they’ll just be devices for gaming enthusiasts looking to simulate the feel of gaming controls on their touch screen devices in any way. As some of these devices start to ship out to customers and as new controller solutions are potentially announced, we’ll have the latest news and impressions of these devices.