Frank Condello is the solo developer behind Chaotic Box, now well-known for dEXTRIS, which has surpassed one million downloads and become one of his most popular games. Condello has been at work on the App Store for years now, but this stands as one of his biggest releases yet. Condello was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions about dEXTRIS, and what it means for him.
Posts Tagged Games
Craneballs is returning to the Overkill well that has helped put them on the map. Where previous games in the series were futuristic alien-shooters, this one takes place in a past version of Chicago, where violent, fedora-wearing, gun-toting criminals roamed the streets shooting at each other and innocents occasionally getting caught in the crossfire. Thankfully such a world no longer exists: there are far fewer fedoras now. So, with the game currently soft-launched in Canada, I made sure not to put ketchup on my hot dog for this edition of It Came From Canada!
As stated earlier, the setup is very similar to past entries in the series in that this is a shooting gallery game. Players are in a stationary position, trying to take out enemies as they come in. The left thumb is used to move the gun by dragging around the screen, and there are fire and reload buttons in the lower-right corner. This is a Prohibition-era setting, so all the weapons are based on that time period, like a Colt 1911. Don’t expect any high-powered assault rifles here, but perhaps a tommy gun or two.
The meat of the game is the level-based progression, where players must survive multiple waves of enemies without dying, earning cash along the way. There are hundreds of levels promised, and interestingly enough, no energy system. At least yet. Right now, it’s possible to play to one’s content.
Along with the fixed levels, there are also reputation battles – such as the game’s endless mode, which also serves as a kind of asynchronous play where players attempt to get higher scores by lasting as long as possible, with more powerful enemies coming in as time goes on. Leaderboards track who’s doing better than whom. This is where buying better clothes comes into play: they grant character upgrades but also reputation multiplier bonuses. These bonuses naturally make it easier to get higher scores. They also serve as lives since every time the player ‘dies’, their multiplier lowers.
Guns can be upgraded with cash, with wait timers for upgrades to be delivered that can be skipped by spending liquor. Liquor is earned occasionally through level-ups, though there’s plenty to spend it on – including health and power boosts in the game itself. The game steadily gets harder, and it’s easy to see where the desire can be cultivated to spend real-world money on more cash and liquor to be more powerful; at least to catch back up to the game’s increasing difficulty.
It will be interesting to see how well people take to another entry in this series, and to one with a different theme than the ever-popular “shoot aliens” motif. And of course, will this make money? Time will tell. I imagine this one will be available worldwide soon enough, but it’s difficult to tell sometimes with soft-launched games. Some take months despite feeling ready, others feel half-baked but are soon available everywhere.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Image & Form Games have unveiled the latest level pack for their strategy game Anthill, entitled Antology. This pack contains eight new levels and a new endless mode called Ceaseless Mayhem. The level pack is available for $0.99 as an in-app purchase, but the base game is currently on sale for free for those who haven’t checked it out yet.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Sega has announced their new game, Dragon Coins. This takes the coin-collecting gameplay popularized by titles such as Coin Dozer and mixes it with RPG battling. The coins that players drop onto a pile to try and collect go toward charging attacks to take out enemies, with upgrades for being a better battler. And of course, dragons are all throughout the game, because who doesn’t love dragons?
Dragon Coins is available now for free.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Team Chaos has released a big update for their “hatch-three” puzzle game, Dragon Academy. The “Path of the Elder Dragon” expansion brings 48 new levels inspired by ancient Greece in this new episode, with 24 new main campaign levels. As well, new items called Magic Vines and Magic Creep will add new dynamics to puzzle-solving. Finally, because this is a game about dragons, there can’t be an update without a new one: Bloo the Dragon is what Team Chaos claims is “the most adorable thing we’ve ever created.”
Okay, yeah, that’s pretty cute.
Retry, the latest game from the Angry Birds moguls at Rovio, apparently comes from the publisher’s new educational gaming branch. But if that’s the case, the only thing this game teaches is that life is nothing but unending punishment. Prepare for high-flying death over and over again in the latest edition of It Came From Canada!
Retry takes the brutally difficult flight controls of the infamous Flappy Bird but has players navigating finite, designed levels instead of endless rows of pipes. Pressing the screen boosts the player’s plane forward and also aims it up slightly. Meanwhile, letting go causes the plane to fall. With limited control over their speed and trajectory, players have to rely on careful yet confident taps to make it through these death traps. One brush against the environment, aside from water or wind currents, equals instant death. Sometimes the only way forward is a well-timed and skillfully executed loop-de-loop. The name Retry itself refers to how often players will be restarting the game. They’re even forced to look at the ghosts of their past selves, crashed against the walls, as their trial-and-error toils on.
There are a few oases in their desert however. Each level has a handful of permanent checkpoints, but in a devastating twist, they can only be activated if the player has a coin. Most sections between checkpoints have a coin somewhere in them, but they are usually in tough to reach spots – making the game even harder. If players can’t manage that, which is truly understandable, they can also just pay for coins. They can even earn them outside of gameplay by completing easy achievements like crashing a bunch. Overall, the checkpoint system is an intriguing compromise between being fair to the player while still honoring the game’s core commitment to hair-pulling challenge levels.
Sadism isn’t the only thing Retry shares with Flappy Bird. Both games use a chunky, pastel, pixelated art style and peppy music that belie their dark hearts and cruel, true natures. Retry has four worlds with various visual themes like “summer” and “the future.” Expect to see the same skies often though, because while the game has a decent amount of different levels, its difficulty and frequent restarts inevitably lead to repetition. Fortunately, that also means it will be a long time before players experience all the game has to offer.
Retry is currently in a soft launch phase, but once Rovio finishes toying with the Canadians, expect them to unleash their torture on the rest of the world soon enough. With the amount of effort this takes, it’s probably easier to just learn how to fly a real plane.
Wargaming has one of the biggest games on the planet right now, and it’s one you might not have played: World of Tanks. This free-to-play tank warfare game has had over a million concurrent players on PC, and it’s starting extend its tendrils out beyond the PC to include mobile. World of Tanks: Blitz takes the formula of putting tank-driving players on to the battlefield, with the objective of capturing points or wiping out the other team, in small maps with fast-paced gameplay. The game is in a soft-launch phase in Europe, including Denmark. So, I whipped up some frikadeller and rugbrød for this It Came From Canada: Denmark Edition!
Blitz is an apt subtitle for this, since it puts players into the game pretty much immediately. Once players register with either Game Center or a Wargaming.net account, the tutorial starts. This lets players get an idea of the movement, aiming, and firing controls, before players are set off into their first real battles.
The tutorial actually does a great job at briskly setting up the game and showing how the mechanics work: a single joystick controls movement, with buttons for turning in place and arrows around the tank indicating where it will move to.
Though players do start off playing in real battles, this doesn’t mean that the learning is over. As players progress, the game introduces ammo buying, tank upgrading, and more. It just does so in a way that is spread out over time, and doesn’t overwhelm players with information all at once. Importantly, it lets players actually play and learn for themselves.
Even playing with non-US players via both wi-fi and LTE the game has performed exceptionally well, with latency having little effect. While the game does manage to put players into games with more experienced and better-equipped opponents, I didn’t feel helpless. The game does require some intelligence built-in since there’s not really any voice chatting, and with such a diverse international audience playing, having just a text chat option might be better anyway.
There’s no actual energy mechanic, but tanks can’t be used until a battle ends – though players do have multiple tanks. Credits (the soft currency) can be spent on more ammunition, and gold (the hard currency) can be spent to buy different kinds of ammunition, additional tank slots, and more along with premium accounts, which grant more experience and credits for certain amounts of time. How well this model works on mobile as far as money-making remains to be seen. There are at least enough credits handed out to keep ammo supplied, but just how ‘free’ this game will be remains to be seen. As well, will the more casual market be willing to jump into such a gamer’s game, even if it’s fast-paced? These are interesting questions I’m curious to see the answers to when the game is eventually released worldwide.
iPad Only App - Designed for iPad
Shadowrun Returns has gotten a big update and its biggest sale yet. Version 1.2.6, just released, overhauls the combat (including auto-heal) and UI for a better experience. Save options are now much closer to what they are on the PC, with the ability to save during a turn and when in the PDA. A variety of other bugs and tweaks are here as well.
Shadowrun Returns is also on sale for $4.99 – its biggest sale from its $9.99 price on iPad.
Who Wore it Best? takes on its most puzzlingly high-profile case of cloning yet again with Threes! vs. 2048.
Another Week of Expert App Reviews
At 148Apps, we help you sort through the great ocean of apps to find the ones we think you’ll like and the ones you’ll need. Our top picks become Editor’s Choice, our stamp of approval for apps with that little extra something special. Want to see what we’ve been up to this week? Take a look below for a sampling of our latest reviews. And if you want more, be sure to hit our Reviews Archive.
Without context, it would be easy to think that Intake was designed from the ground up for the iPad. It’s the portrait orientation, and the game being so multitouch-friendly, being about frantically eliminating pills that drop from the sky by tapping on them, with the ability to pop multiple at a time by using multiple fingers. It actually wasn’t made specifically for iPad, though; it started as a PC game that used the mouse. Now that Intake is on the iPad, it’s at home and is a must-have for iPad owners who love fast-paced intense experiences. The best way to play the game is by laying it down flat on a table, using one’s thumb on each hand to switch pill colors in an Ikaruga-esque fashion, and then using other fingers to pop pills up and down the screen as necessary. It’s worth popping the same color pill as what is selected in order to extend out combos – not only for more points, but to get the power-ups that can help keep the board under control. This is especially necessary during the challenging levels that appear every five stages: they will often be the end of a run, but completing them means it will be even more lucrative. Checkpoints that new games can be started from are available every 25 stages. –Carter Dotson
There is no question that Lethal Lance swims in a big pool of old-school platformers, but LL Team and their publisher BulkyPix knew exactly how to make their title stand out. The game successfully (and almost immediately) plunges players into a lighthearted world that only jokingly ever takes itself too seriously (i.e. 2 star ratings come with the title of “Mr. Serious”). The objective (as one would expect from an intentionally old-school title) is for users to find their way to the other end of the level without losing all of their lives. Every level is packed with coins for players to collect in order to get a better rating. The rating system itself is pretty straightforward; in order to get all 3 stars, players must accomplish all of the 3 different objectives: they must finish the level without losing any lives, collect all of the coins, and reach the exit before the time expires. If the time does expire, they will simply lose one of the stars – as opposed to starting over. –Cata Modorcea
It’s funny how important comfort can be when it comes to a set of headphones, which is exactly why I’ve been enjoying Sharebrands’ Stereo Headphones as much as I have. It’s also rather funny how this $65 pair of headphones is actually more comfortable than some close to $200 pairs I’ve tried. And heck, some of that $65 isn’t even profit – Sharebrands donates 25% of the sale price of each pair to help the environment (Green), men and children’s health (Blue), women and children’s health (Pink), education (Yellow), or to help fight poverty (Red). Comfort isn’t the only thing these headphones have going for them, though; they also sound pretty good. I’m sure there are better pieces of audio headgear out there, but what I’ve been hearing is certainly not bad. None of that horrible “tinny” business, good balance, and the extra padding around the ears helps to block out a lot of background noise that could otherwise intrude on whatever the user might be listening to. –Rob Rich
Puzzle games and cars don’t exactly seem like the most logical combination on the planet. However, anyone who has ever played the classic quasi-board game “Parking Lot,” knows that that not only can the blend work, but also that it can actually be quite amusing. This is why it should come as no surprise 30-06 Studios would want to take advantage of this mix with their new title, Racer 8. Will it have players revving their engines or leave them running on fumes? Equal parts asset management, time trial and puzzle game, Racer 8 plays on several different mechanics to keep players’ heads constantly spinning. The core goal consists of navigating the car, which is constantly in motion, through a series of checkpoints and ultimately across the finish line. This is actually completed by revolving the square tiles in the map grid in order to form a track for the vehicle to follow. Throughout the process there are other concerns such as gas scarcity and target times, which both play secondary roles in determining how well the player performed on any given stage. –Blake Grundman
Sago Mini Monsters is a playful and creative app for toddlers and early preschool children that allows them to explore with color and other fun details as they create unique monsters that they need to take care of by feeding, primping with accessories, and attending to their personal needs such as teeth brushing. Each monster is met by dragging him or her from the green swampy area seen at the bottom of the page bubbling about adding a charmingly icky sense of style – especially as one will need to drag the monsters and their food up from this bog-like area as a tap will also make this fluid bubble. Children will enjoy decorating their at first detail-less monster with the use of five included colors. Simply draw and, when completed, a charming creature face will sprout giving personality to the character the young player has just decorated. Also fun is the ability to swap out different features to further customize the look of these monsters, complete with fun gooey details as one pulls off areas of the face, allowing new parts to sprout. –Amy Solomon
Other 148Apps Network Sites
If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:
In Greedy Dwarf you control a dwarf in a mine cart, collecting gold and surviving the inside of magma-filled cylindrical caverns. It’s a endless runner type of game, chopped into different levels. The controls of the cart are fairly easy to comprehend. By swiping left or right, the cart will go that direction respectively. The levels are mostly in the form of a cylinder, so the dwarf can ride not only on the ground, but also on the walls and the ceiling. By using two fingers or both thumbs, the mine cart jumps. The problem with these jumps that is difficult to see when to jump or where to land, because of the 3D environment. When dying often, this gets very frustrating. –Wesley Akkerman
Little known fact, but samurai warriors very rarely used their katana swords in battle. They mostly used pikes, like everyone else, because they had the farthest reach, meaning that you could deal a lot of nasty damage, while being on the safe distance yourself – and you didn’t have to worry about friendly “fire” as well! The reason that I speak about ancient Japanese military tactics is that I frankly don’t have much to say about Dancing Samurai – not because it’s bad, but because it’s so small – like a bonsai tree under mount Fuji. –Tony Kuzmin
The first thing that will most likely strike you about Brandnew Boy (apart from its odd title) is that it looks great. Brandnew Boy is built using the Unreal engine and even though I reviewed the game on a Nexus 4, it still managed to pack a graphical punch. The game itself revolves around you playing as a young man (or if you’d prefer, a young woman) who’s got a bad case of amnesia. What they (you) can remember though is how to kick and punch. This is handy as each level you complete is full of bizarre creatures, ranging from odd-looking ‘egg men’ to what can only be described as a demon with an umbrella. –Matt Parker
And finally, this week, the Pocket Gamer crew highlighted its most anticipated games for May, took an advanced look at the next game from Rock Band developer Harmonix, reviewed 3DS sport sim Mario Golf: World Tour and picked the three best iOS and Android games of the week. Have a read.
Move your monkeys in time to the beat in this rhythm game/real-time strategy hybrid.
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+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Blowfish Meets Meteor, the brick-breaker our Jennifer Allen called “imaginative” and “charming,” has been updated with native iPad support.
Previously, the game only ran upscaled on the iPad – now iPad owners get native Retina Display support and no windowing. The game is still free of in-app purchases, but has been updated for all users with added sound and animations, and a rebuilt scoring system.
You can download the now-universal Blowfish Meets Meteor for $2.99.
Bush League is, on its surface, a curious game: it’s essentially a baseball take on Puzzle Quest, featuring crude parodies of famous players and figures around the sport, using performance-enhancing drugs that serve as the game’s special powers. But it’s the creator of the game that is particularly noteworthy. Dirk Hayhurst is a former baseball player who’s become an author of several best-selling books about his life in baseball and some of the things that fans don’t necessarily see about the culture. He’s also become a provocative analyst, and was part of the post-game show on TBS for the 2013 MLB playoffs. And now he’s a game developer, and he took the time to talk to me about this baseball parody he’s helped to create.
The genesis of Bush League came about when Hayhurst noticed that “There’s no good baseball game out there that kind of trolls baseball. You have all these scandals every year, but you never to seem to have a game that has all these players and all the drama they get into. And it’s such a big thing right now in Major League Baseball to get caught using steroids, right? I thought, why can’t we just make a game where you have to use steroids to win, and just troll the entire industry? I’m kind of like a black sheep of the baseball world anyways, and I always have kind of shown the other side of it, I thought, this is a great premise for a video game. Let’s make Candy Crush with steroids.”
The hook to Bush League is in the way that it tries to parody baseball. Famous players and other figures around the sport both past and present are the opponents that populate the game, and their personalities and dialogue make light of things that, say, MLB: The Show or RBI Baseball 14 would never touch.
Hayhurst’s unafraid to make fun of situations that he was involved in. There’s one character, Purcey Tweeps, who parodies David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Hayhurst criticized Price’s performance after a playoff game he lost, and Price insulted Hayhurst’s playing career and said “SAVE IT NERDS.”. Purcey in the game makes reference to social media and to the nerds comment. Everything is a bit crude and over-the-top, but meant to, as Hayhurst says, “troll baseball” and “[service] that idea that baseball takes itself too seriously and needs a good mocking every now and then just to keep things even.”
While Hayhurst financed the development of the game and his name is on it, he didn’t just slap his name on it – he played an active role in development. “I was in charge of the art direction, the music direction… all the powers, I had to nest all the AI development, I had to decide the way it was going to look, the way it was going to feel, I had a say in all of that. At times I frustrated the guy doing the code, but it was a learning experience. And so there were things that I learned taking a shot at making a game that I never would have learned had I pursued a degree.” Hayhurst says he realized his strengths were “the writing, and designing the characters and how the game should feel, and my coder had his strengths, which was taking all these wild ideas I had, parsing them down, teaching me the ropes, and making them work in the actual game.
Hayhurst doesn’t want Bush League to be a static product either: he wants to, over time, update the game to incorporate other notorious events and scandals as characters and powers. He says he would love to tackle other sports in a similar way.
But given that he’s created this media career for himself, is Hayhurst afraid of the blowback that could come from this parody of the sport and its players that he’s created? He says “I don’t think of the church of baseball as some holy sacrament that everyone has to be reverential to, especially guys like me that didn’t have long careers. This kind of stuff deserves to get picked on a little bit, because it’s quite ridiculous when you think about it. I have always done that. And I understand because I’m in the sports entertainment field, I’m criticizing the sports entertainment field. I’m not criticizing these individual players, I’m criticizing the Franken-player that we’ve made out of them by knowing very little about who they are and taking what we know publicly and hyping it up, and turning it into something it isn’t. That is what I’ve always done, and that’s what got me on TBS and ultimately keep it from it at some point, but that’s who I am, and that’s the style that I like to work in.”
Thanks to Dirk Hayhurst for his time. Bush League is available now.