Posts Tagged hands-on

It is a beautiful thing when bite-sized games from the console space transition to iOS successfully. A perfect example of this phenomena at work was Hello Games’ fantastic reinvention of the Joe Danger series last year. Now it seems that Zen Studios wants to get in on the action, as they’ve put the finishing touches on a port of their console and PC tower-defense/action hybrid title, Castlestorm. They were kind enough to give us an early look at the game, and much to my shock I learned that not only is it great fun, but it may actually prove to be better than its console predecessor.

IMG_0365Everything you loved about the original game is back again, and this time it’s being aided by an extremely intuitive touch interface. The previously arduous process of twiddling control sticks to try and line up a headshot is a nightmare that can be left in the past. Launching projectiles are now as simple as tapping on the screen where the shot should land. But sometimes a catapult just isn’t enough to fend off the enemy’s attacks on the castle. In these cases, you have the option of spawning defensive ground troops or jumping into the fray yourself in the form of super-powered hero characters. These death-dealing beasts specialize in hand-to-hand combat, with a side of magical abilities mixed in for good measure. Anyone who is familiar with the control scheme of a traditional 2D brawler will feel right at home showing these “Knights of the Square Table” the error of their ways.

Though some may sink hours into the actual combat component of Castlestorm, others may find it just as enjoyable to custom design their own fortress. The easy to grasp quasi-drafting tool makes tweaking and tinkering with the perfect blueprint just as fulfilling as topping the adversary on the field of battle.

IMG_0364While the previously released Castlestorm console outing clocked in at a reasonable $9.99 purchase price, the iOS iteration implements an entirely free-to-play monetization structure. Both coins and crystals can be purchased using real cash, earned through normal gameplay or awarded for logging in to play on a consistent basis. Coins are used to level-up the abilities and stats of either the hero characters or each type of projectile in your quiver. Crystals are used to unlock more substantial elements, such as entire campaigns.

What I’ve played was a very solid sneak peak of things to come. Hopefully the final product lives up to the promise of this preview. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for our full review.

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.

DeadTrigger2-Preview-11The 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.

DeadTrigger2-Preview-1The 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.

DeadTrigger2-Preview-6Dead 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.


Way back in 2009, Crescent Moon Games released an open-world RPG named Ravensword: The Fallen King. After years of titles developed and/or published by the studio, including various other RPGs, it’s returning to its big original hit, and it’s promising to be bigger and better than ever. Meet Ravensword: Shadowlands. Releasing on December 20th, it’s not only going to contain a massive open world, with numerous quests and things to discover, rivaling even console and PC open-world games, but it could be one of the best-looking games on the platform, as evidenced with my time on a near-final build.

The first hours of the game set the tone that this is an open world, and once the opening tutorial scene is finished, it’s open season. A town with dozens of buildings and giant detailed landscapes are immediately available. Want to go on the main quest, to discover what happened to the main character after the battle of Heronmar? Sure, do it. Want to mess around and join a guild, and help random citizens, affecting the character’s reputation? Do that, too. The game won’t say anything about it. In fact, doing a lot of side quests and exploring is highly recommended, because there’s plenty of tough foes that will come in the way, and the game prefers trial by fire. Spoiler alert: trolls and bears are a lot tougher than goblins and deer.

Weapon-based combat is simple: tap the attack button to use a weapon, tap on an enemy to target it, and hold down on attack to raise the shield. It does mean that shielding is not necessarily the most intuitive thing, but it does keep the controls from being overly-complicated. Magical items can add a third button for special attacks, and weapons and items can be set as quick use buttons at the bottom of the screen. In general, the best way to raise a stat like shielding or a weaponry type is to use it, or train it at a guild.

The game is going to be absolutely packed with content, if the sense of scale is anything to be believe: anywhere visible on land may actually be accessible in the game. Even many of the NPCs feature voice acting (usually for their first line), and a voice actor who worked on the Elder Scrolls series provides many of the NPC voices.

iPhone 5 owners are in for a treat: the game looks absolutely stunning, and only stutters occasionally in towns, for example. The build I have is “near-final” so it may or may not be sorted out, though the game is generally quite smooth. The draw distance is unparalleled as well.

Playing Ravensword: Shadowlands for several hours already, it feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this game, and there’s still mountains of content to discover. Between the vast landscape to uncover, and stories to unfold, this game could take a long time to truly discover all it holds.

VS. Racing 2 Hands-On Preview

The sequel to popular top down arcade racer VS. Racing is set for release soon and we got our hands on a preview build to see exactly what to expect in the full release.

VS. Racing 2 looks set to build on the success of its predecessor rather than revolutionize the genre but that’s nothing to complain about given how much fun the title is.

The top down racer has always lent itself to short bursts of fun and VS. Racing 2 is no different. A series of 36 different tracks ensures there’s plenty to do with it only ever taking a few minutes to complete a track. Controlling the car is conducted through a virtual steering wheel on the side of the screen. There’s an option to change this to tilt based controls but there’s really no need. The virtual steering wheel does a fine job of offering responsive controls that can be relatively easily mastered. Although, one tip worth pointing out, stick to using your thumb to steer rather than another finger. It’s geared towards thumb steering and it’s much more intuitive that way.

VS. Racing 2‘s focus is very much on speed and fun here with impressive drifts achievable in hardly any time at all. Action gets pretty challenging in later stages but consistently enjoyable. A series of upgradeables and new cars to buy ensure the learning curve is pretty smooth and satisfying.

The real stand out feature here, however, is the Race A Friend mode. It’s this that I suspect will keep players coming back for more. Supplementing the local multiplayer, players can challenge friends from any location, providing they have their email address. Players take it in turns to beat their opponent’s fastest time. A ghost car demonstrates where the competition lays at all times, providing some memorable thrills and spills. It’s great fun to play and I can see this being the ideal mode to dive into throughout the day. The preview build I checked out didn’t include Game Center integration but that’s set to be included in the full release, so I’m hopeful that this will boost multiplayer play dramatically.

VS. Racing 2 is shaping up to be a highly enjoyable top down racer. Its arcade spirit won’t beguile more serious racing fans but everyone else should be excited. The asynchronous multiplayer should cement its popularity all the more.

VS. Racing 2 is set for release in the near future. We’ll be sure to let you know when it hits the App Store.

Ever wonder what to do in case of a zombie outbreak? I know I have. I’ve got the plan all lined up, ready in case of attack. Living in a country where guns aren’t easily accessible limits my options but I have backup ideas, even if they are rather inspired by Dead Rising. Even better, soon there’ll be a way to simulate what would happen during such an outbreak.

Zombie Outbreak Simulator is the app I’m talking about. Previously a website, its aim is to track just what would happen if zombies emerged and started attacking humans.

As it’s a simulation, interaction is quite limited. Like on the website, users can adjust certain parameters then it’s just a matter of watching to see the action unfold. The preview build I checked out seems pretty complete and offers plenty of variables. Civilian numbers can be adjusted between 100 and 4000, with up to 1000 zombies available to unleash. Armed civilians can be assigned, along with police numbers. In both cases, accuracy can also play a vital role in their chance for survival so that can be adjusted. Any fan of zombie films knows that zombies react differently so infection time and speed can also be changed.

Together, this makes a pretty comprehensive spectrum of situations. The red dots representing zombies and green dots of humanity then descend upon the Google Map image, with users able to zoom in a bit further to see some of the action. Only one map was available in the preview build but I’m hopeful that the full release will enable Location Services so that players can check out how things work out in their local area. The website offers similar and it’s fun to see what happens.

No one would expect just watching action unfold to be quite so entertaining, but it is. I’m not sure how long the novelty will last but for now, it’s fun to see how adjusting certain numbers can change things so drastically. Even if, all too often, humanity appears to be doomed in this scenario.

Zombie Outbreak Simulator is set for release next week. We’ll be sure to give it the full review treatment nearer the time.

ZombieSmash is getting its second major content expansion this Thursday. Multiplayer is coming to this zombie-flinging castle defense game, and we have early hands-on impressions of the game’s new update.

The multiplayer mode, played online through Game Center, pits two players on their own house defense points, trying to keep their house from being overrun. The two players don’t interact directly with each other, but both players will have to fight the same waves of zombies on their own screens. Powerups come up that allow players to send a large zombie that must be killed by special weapons directly to their opponent. Thus, the strategy becomes in using the special items (which aren’t necessarily the same for each player) carefully, so if any big zombies show up, they can be taken out. However, the regular zombies get stronger as the game goes on, so the longer a game goes, the more likely it will be that regular zombies will be the loser’s downfall, not necessarily the big zombies. The game randomly selects maps from both the original house and Camp Nowhere scenario released earlier this year, as well as having levels where the zombies all come from one side, as well as the notorious two-sided zombie assault levels.

The multiplayer is played via Game Center matchmaking, and doesn’t appear to suffer from any undue lag or other issues, so the play experience is smooth. Note that games can only be played between identical versions of the game, so the iPad version can’t play someone on the iPhone version of the game. This is a combination of both Game Center restrictions and because the mechanics of the two versions of the game are different to accommodate the differing screen sizes. The game supports optional voice chat between players; a headset is recommended if not required. The update will be available this Thursday, and will be free for both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad versions of the game.

$0.99
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-03-17 :: Category: Games

$3.99
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2010-12-16 :: Category: Games

Most media involving zombie apocalypses has people trying to survive the hordes of undead using any available weapon they can find, from sticks to rifles, along with what may be the most powerful weapon: the perseverance of the human spirit. Limbic’s new game Zombie Gunship surmises that there is a more powerful weapon in the fight against the undead hordes, however: a powerful gunship loaded to the teeth with deadly zombie-splattering ordinance.

That’s right, in the zombie apocalypse of Zombie Gunship, the player gets to protect a bunker of surviving humans, and the ones trying to get in, from a horde of oncoming zombies. The player sits behind the turret of a gunship circling the area around a bunker. The goal is to keep any zombies from getting in while trying not to kill the civilians getting in. Increasingly large waves of zombies start to attack, and eventually different types of zombies start to attack, including giant hulking zombie enemies. High scores are the name of the game here, as there’s currently just one map with one bunker to try to defend. The game could well use other maps with features like different paths for the zombies to try to advance down, and perhaps multiple bunker entry points to protect – perhaps in future updates?

While playing, the game alerts players as to when they exceed their Game Center friends’ high scores. Money is earned while playing, which can be used to the powerful 40mm Bofors Gun, and 105mm Howitzer, and upgrades to all the guns to improve damage radius, reloading speed, and firing rate. For players who despise waiting, additional coins can be purchased in the app to buy upgrades right away.

Zombie Gunship is an interesting new take on zombie survival, combining the latest in military destructive technology with the hordes of the undead. Check it out on the App Store starting July 21st.

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you were in a free fall, with nothing to stop your infinite drop into nothingness?  Well in our last game of E3 2011, we got the chance to relive just that experience, except we were blocks, roughly shaped as savannah creatures.  That’s right, I said SAVANNAH CREATURES!  TransGaming Studios were proud to show off their newest creation, KULA BLOX, and believe me when I say that it is far more fun then you could ever imagine from my lackluster description.

Players are put in control of a rapidly descending beast and burdened with the task of avoiding collisions with creatures that are a larger block size then themselves.  Animals that are smaller than you, however, are supposed to become a snack for your ever growing critter.  The more of these prey gobbled up, the larger your block becomes, allowing you to stalk even larger creatures.

Adding another level to the complexity, players get to choose their plummeting predatory avatar of choice, each of which has their own unique powers and abilities.  At launch there will even be a store available where you can purchase even more powers and upgrades to make your character the “King of the Animal Kingdom.”

Even from the limited time I was able to spend with the KULA BLOX, it was apparent that it will have a widespread appeal amongst the hardcore and casual alike.  Where the gameplay will get you hooked, but the leaderboards and built-in trash talking system that integrates with twitter will keep you coming back time and time again.  You can expect to see the game hit the App Store sometime in the next couple of months.  Until then, however, feast your eyes on these screenshots to satiate your hunger for jungle meat.  Enjoy the hunt!

Thanks to the invention of services like the PlayStation Minis, porting games from iOS to consoles has become a fairly common practice.  This process has primarily been a one way street until recently, when SEGA announced that they had plans to move their console title Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing to the iOS.  Everyone’s favorite hedgehog and his buddies should be invading your iOS device of choice very soon, but that didn’t stop us from taking it out for a spin at E3 2011.

The first thing that stands out about the title is that you won’t be stuck buying separate copies for your iPad and iPod touch.  That’s right folks, it is a universal app!  All of that said, you don’t need to worry about a lackluster overblown version of the smaller devices on the iPad, because the visuals seem to pop on both.  While yes, the visuals are definitely more refined on the iPad, the amount of detail is scaled down to run on all of your other devices admirably well. In fact, SEGA’s representatives were quick to point out that the game will run on any devices that are iOS 4.0 compatible.

Once the green light flashed, we were off to the races using a select number of different characters that are included in the console iterations.  The tracks are also a sampling of what is found on the full game, but rest assured that there will likely be DLC expansions to the game that will add more content.  Whether these are free or paid for are still up in the air, but regardless, if what I played was any indication, players will want everything you can snag.  Oh, and did I mention multiplayer?  There will be both local and online multiplayer available at launch that will accommodate for matches between folks on both iPad and iPhone.

Look for Sonic and his high speed com padres to come racing onto the iOS very soon.



E3 Chillingo Hands-on: Blobster

For Chillingo’s final trick of E3 2011 they showed of the new puzzle platfomer Blobster.  As you can imagine with a name like Blobster you are placed in control of, guess what, A BLOB!  Your blob is trying to do its part to protect the environment from an evil corporation bent on polluting everything.  I bet you didn’t ever predict playing a game with hippie undertones…

Like any form of mutateable matter, this interesting creature has the ability to traverse right and left using tilt controls, or jump using an intriguing bungie mechanic.  The best way that this can be explained it to imagine your blob as a slingshot.  After pressing your finger on the screen in its relative position, you can slide your finger backwards and aim potential flight trajectory.  Once your finger is lifted off of the screen, the goo is slung in whatever direction selected.

Power ups can be collected throughout the navigation of the game’s four worlds, all of which have a different effect on how the blob interacts with the environment around them.  In addition, enemies can also be jumped on, Super Mario Bros. style, in an effort to clear your path.  The key to completing each stage is paying close attention to how Blobby (as I like to call him) can have different effects on the world around him.

If nothing else, the enchanting art direction of Blobster should have no trouble winning over audiences everywhere.  Its disarming appeal is both lighthearted and fun, while also having a challenging edge that will appeal to the hardcore masses everywhere.  Make no mistake, while this is a game for kids, there is more than enough substance to keep adults entranced for hours.  Pay close attention, because Blobster is scheduled to fling itself onto the App Store by the end of the month.



At this year’s E3 Chillingo had a very diverse offering including everything from zany fun to the downright visually striking. While there was plenty of the former on display, the upcoming Contre Jour definitely falls into the later category.  This unique and aesthetically pleasing platformer was just the tip of the iceberg for their 2011 lineup, but at the same time was one of their standout new titles.  The artistic and haunting visuals are very reminiscent of a hit or two from Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE Arcade, but more about that in a minute…

Taking place a world masked in shadows and darkness Contre Jour is the definition of an “artsy-fartsy” game.  Every bit as much about the gameplay as the aesthetic appeal, at it’s core, the game is primarily about getting the main character/blob/eyeball thingy from point A to point B.  Borrowing from a style that was proven successful in 2010 in Limbo on XBLA, this interested presentation is melded with a awesome navigation mechanic to create something truly special.

Utilizing a geographic manipulation control scheme that allow players to lift and kneed the ground under their character, they attempt to move their eyeball blob towards an exit portal, while trying to gather light orbs in the process.  Along the way several other obstacles come into the picture such as tentacles and warp zones, which are all key in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of escape.

Probably the feature that I enjoyed most was the zen-like soundtrack that lingers in the background.  This relaxing mix helps ease the frustration of trial and error, while still urging players to progress forward in the campaign.  While on its own the game may not sound like anything overly impresive it is very much a sum of its parts that we will keep our eyes peeled for when it hits the App Store soon.

Golf is one of the genres of sport that transcends the fairways of Augusta National and transitions well to a digital gaming format.  For this very reason golf titles have become increasingly popular on the App Store.  Never one to miss out on an opportunity to bring another game to market, Gameloft happily showed off the newest installment in their popular Let’s Golf franchise at this years E3.  148Apps were able to get exclusive hands on time with the upcoming game, but believe us when we say that if you have played one, you have played them all.

Short of receiving a yearly refresh to a sports series, something akin to yearly updates to Madden, you would think that it might be difficult to find enough improvements to a game to justify a yearly update.  Defying this apparent misconception, Let’s Golf 3 is back for another round of Hot Shots Golf inspired trips to the links, with a much needed dash of originality thrown in for good measure.

As far as updates go, this title is primarily focused on tremendously augmenting the currently stagnating online gaming ecosystem within the franchise.  For example, now players can take part in matches with up to four people at one time via WiFi or Bluetooth.  Better yet, the team at Gameloft has responded to the cries of their fans and added in a “couch play” version of the multiplayer as well, that only requires the use of one iOS device. Going along the same line of game enhancements, players will now have the ability to create their own avatars, for use in the game.  You will even have the ability to level up your character’s skills and attributes using coins that can be earned throughout gameplay.

For more details on Let’s Golf 3, as well as more of the features to be revealed later this summer, be sure to keep an eye right here on 148Apps.



With popular developer, Gameloft, people seem to forget the developer and publisher’s humble first forays onto the iOS platform in the form of Block Breaker Deluxe 2.  Nearly three years later, the studio has decided to return their breakout gaming roots, debuting their newest installment in the franchise at E3 2011.  However, this time out busting bricks are just the beginning.

Remember the days of early iPhone gaming when everyone was rocking out to Block Breaker’s psychedelic visuals, purely because it was one of the only games on the plaftorm?  The game was in heavy rotation on my device, so you can just imagine my glee when during my meeting with Gameloft at E3, I was handed an iPhone equipped with the previously undisclosed iOS installment of Block Breaker 3 Unlimited.  From the word go it is very apparent that the franchise is back and better than ever, with a few much appreciated tweaks.

First off, instead of clearing each room and then waiting to have the screen rebuild the next map, now players actually have to navigate their ball into the next room through a doorway.  On the surface this may not seem like that big of a deal, but when there are branching rooms, this could lead to interesting new ways to traverse the title’s one hundred stages.  Also lets not forget about the power-ups, because there are going to be many returning favorites, along with a few newbies to mix up the already frantic action.

When you combine these features with a new map editor and eight different gameplay modes to complete each stage in, you can count on this package stealing quite a bit of your time when it launches later this year.



First Look: Volcano Escape

Two of iOS’ most prominent genres (that don’t involve matching together any number of gems) are vertical endless platformers, and dual-stick shooters. However, the paths of the two have rarely crossed…although the upcoming Volcano Escape from Bravo Game Studios is out to change this. In this game, you control the hapless Colonel Charlie Bravo, who went on a summer vacation…and then he got captured by some natives and chucked into a volcano. Oh no. However, not everything is as it seems, as apparently the natives have set up a labyrinth in the volcano to allow you to try and escape before the rising lava or one of the natives or strange creatures get to you. So, your goal is the same as in any endless vertical platformer: try to reach as great a height as possible before your eventual demise!

The controls interestingly take after dual-stick shooters more than vertical platformers. You have a joystick for movement, a joystick for firing in all directions around you, and a jump button. Along the way, you’ll pickup powerups like a shield, high jump, and jet pack, as well as additional weapons like a shotgun and grenade launcher, for taking out more of the enemies around you. You have a double jump and the ability to take up to 3 hits before dying, though lava and traps will kill you instantly. The game feels a bit like Contra’s vertical levels, with the mix of action gameplay and ascension-based platformers. The level designs are random, but tend to follow planned thematic shifts, like at a height of 700 (no unit is ever given), new types of enemies come into play and the levels start to involve more angled paths as well as platforms. When you kill enemies, they turn into molten rock, which can either serve as makeshift platforms, or as obstacles towards your further progress.

On the metagaming side, there’s Game Center support for achievements and leaderboards baked in, and you’ll see the names and scores of other players as you pass them. As well, you can challenge your Twitter followers and Facebook friends to play against you, and share your scores with them. You can unlock one of 5 characters, and an additional one will be available via in-app purchase. iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Generation owners will get to enjoy Retina Display support as well. Volcano Escape is releasing on February 17th, and we’ll have a full review of the game then.

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