Castaway Paradise was first mentioned to me as Animal Crossing but for iPhone, though I played the iPad version because I’m a rebel. And really, that just about nails it on the head – except Stolen Couch Games have done what Nintendo has yet to do, and that is make it free-to-play. Castaway Paradise is currently soft-launched in the tropical paradise of Canada, and I take it for a spin in this edition of It Came From Canada!
Players control a person who washes up on shore, and finds themselves in a land of fellow castaways who washed up on shore. However, no one really seems to be all that set on getting home – there’s an entire village that’s popped up, even with a mail delivery boat! So, the player is made to build a new life here, because who knows; maybe this is all the dream of the Wind Fish and leaving would be disastrous.
So players then just do tasks for the various residents, like building fences and harvesting crops. The early missions are structured to introduce players to the things they need to know to live their island experience and to see more of the village. Menial tasks to earn currency to buy more supplies and customizations is the name of the game here.
Players have the ability to customize the look of their dwelling and of their character, but the intro to the game provides one moment regarding this that needs to change. See, the game starts off with the player being just a walking glob of seaweed washed ashore, immediately forced to do chores by Viktoria, one of the villagers. Then, for some reason, she asks which binary gender the player is. This choice is the sole determining factor in how the player first appears: typically male or female.
This is incongruent with the customization options provided, because male characters can wear dresses and traditionally feminine hairstyles without anyone saying anything about it. The character’s gender doesn’t seem to play much of a role, so why is it the very first thing that players are asked to choose as far as customization goes? Why not instead let players determine their initial design based on how they want to look from a set of basic customizations, and make gender an entirely irrelevant factor in how the player wishes to present themselves in this world?
While the free-to-play elements perhaps take away some of the innocence of Animal Crossing, where everything must be earned, there’s also no Mr. Resetti here – so, win some lose some. Time will tell if this is successful, or if this is the Pepsi to Animal Crossing‘s Coke – or if it’s just store-brand cola.
Ido Yeheli’s Cardinal Questwas notable for not just being a fast-paced Roguelike, but also for having made more money than, well, Rogue, the progenitor of the Roguelike genre. After a failed Indiegogo campaign, the sequel, Cardinal Quest 2, nonetheless lives a year and a half later. There’s a mobile version being published by Kongregate, and it’s currently soft launched in Canada. So, we prepared to live only once and set off for adventure in this edition of It Came From Canada.
This is a turn-based Roguelike; meaning that players move their character one tile at a time, with enemies moving as well. The original game was posited as being more fast-paced than the standard Roguelike would be, and even in the sequel it feels a lot more combat-oriented with enemy encounters occurring frequently, even after starting. Players can use skills that they can find laying about to help turn the tides, collecting gold to spend on items at the scavenger when they’re about, and just generally trying to survive in an unpredictable environment. Of course, being a Roguelike, it’s procedurally generated. So while an overarching scenario will use similar elements, the level layouts, ability pickups, enemy placements, and just about everything else is different every time.
Interestingly, the game is going for a free-to-play model this time, and is doing so by making characters and permanent stat modifiers before the start of a game un-lockable through Morale, which is earned by completing achievements at the end of a run or by being purchased. Thus, those who want to play as a class besides the default fighter class will need to pony up right away. Otherwise, this does feel a lot different from how other free-to-play games monetize. Likewise, another Kongregate-published title, Endless Boss Fight, had a two-currency system but also was rather generous about that second one. Here, the free-to-play aspects are almost entirely structural – once in-game, they don’t play much of a role.
The game is a bit unstable at the moment, at least on the iPad Mini Retina while recording – the game crashed during the middle of levels at least twice, so there’s definite issues to sort out technically, but that’s why this isn’t a global launch yet, eh? How well this business model will perform has yet to be seen as well. Still, Cardinal Quest 2 could prove to be a rather interesting take on not just free-to-play, but the Roguelike genre as a whole.
Codemasters is the developer of numerous Formula 1 games, but what they’re looking to put out on mobile with F1 Race Stars is something of an entirely different beast. Currently soft-launched in Singapore, even it couldn’t escape the clutches of 148Apps’ global reach. This is It Came From Canada: Singapore Edition!
F1 games are usually known for being intense simulations, but if F1 Race Stars is real, I need to pay more attention to F1. In reality, this is a kart racer, one very similar to the recent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed in style and in gameplay: there’s of course power-ups to use for boosts and taking out other racers, but there’s also a heavy emphasis on drifting to develop a turbo meter. Maintain drifts for a long amount of time and longer boosts can be had. Catching airtime will also increase the drift meter. Each game has a very similar heart.
While Danica Patrick in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was a very strange addition, having this be an F1 game means that actual racers, none of whom I have any knowledge of because I’m an American and we prefer stock cars to drift leftward, are playable. Each driver has their own Sessions energy bar that depletes with each race, so like Angry Birds Go, switching racers can be used to extend play sessions.
As I use an HDMI output device to capture game footage, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the game is TV-ready: it supports widescreen output on TVs, and the game’s controls are built to not require looking at the screen in order to play. TV support is something of a lost feature, and I’m interested to see it added in here. There’s real-time multiplayer available as well, but just as a local mode, not online.
While there’s the standard two-tier currency system – with coins used to buy boosts, and gems for more permanent features like perks and new driver unlocks – there’s one particular way that coins are used that is interesting. See, there are coin gates while racing that grant power-ups right away. These naturally grant an advantage that costs currency, but it’s also possible to accidentally trigger them. Then again, boosts are what the coins are there for. Still, seeing this as a potentially-accidental feature is odd.
F1 Race Stars feels very polished, like it’s just undergoing monetization testing to see if the business model is working, along with the last checks before they’re ready to race around the world. Whether this kart racer can stand out among the others out there will be seen when it rolls out worldwide.
Toy Rush is really an amalgamation of many different games. It’s tower defense meets Clash of Clans in the middle of a card game. See, the goal is to be the top toy rusher in the world. To do that, it requires being able to mount assaults on other toy bases while having a formidable base of one’s own. Players call in their attack units from a path at the top of the screen, and if they make it past the entrenched turrets their units attack the enemy base and collect their tickets, which are used to buy new attack units. Destroying the base entirely nets bonus rewards as well.
The rub is that the units are all disposable cards. Playing a card summons that unit, and unless it’s the hero card that recharges over time, it’s gone forever. Cards regulate the entirety of the game: cards are used to summon all sorts of units, but also for base upgrades. Players can customize the tower path of their base and lay down new defenses using cards. Buildings can be upgraded or sped up using cards.
In order to buy new cards, one of two currencies is necessary. Tickets can be collected from enemy bases and manufactured on the base, and these are used primarily to buy new attack card packs. Bottle caps are less frequent, usually earned for completing missions and as rewards for completely destroying a base, and are used to buy defense cards; including speed-ups and building upgrade cards. The tickets being rechargeable means that getting decent sets of attack cards is often just a matter of time, at least in the early game. It’s a fairly interesting currency system, and I’d be interested to see how it evolves over time.
Toy Rush features both a single-player campaign against computerized opponents, and the ability to attack random players for their loot and for pride. It’s possible to join guilds as well. All-in-all, it’s a mix of familiar elements, but in an interesting package. No real clue when this one could be coming out – it could be days, weeks, or months. Still, in a crowded free-to-play market, this game has some interesting elements to it.
For years, Ubisoft and RedLynx have taunted mobile gamers with physics-based racers that have been sorta similar to the acclaimed Trials series on console and PC, but not quite the same. But now there’s a mobile Trials game in Trials Frontier. Designed as a free-to-play game, it’s currently undergoing a soft launch in Canada. So I strapped on my helmet, revved up my motorbike’s engine, and prepared to defy death for this edition of It Came From Canada!
Trials Frontier does not dawdle. Tired of games that keep away from the action for too long? So is this game. Trials Frontier gets players going right from the initial launch, eschewing even a title screen, as it sends players through a few levels and introduces the story’s antagonist, Butch, that players (as the anonymous Rider) must race against because Butch is a huge jerk. Like, he almost kills the Rider in a rock cave-in. That’s good enough motivation to help the people of the dusty village, as they too have been terrorized by Butch. Help them by riding a motorbike through various levels, completing different objectives like performing a certain number of backflips to impress a fan, and earn rewards to upgrade and buy new bikes.
Yes, there is a two-tiered currency here: coins earned for doing well and performing stunts, which can be used to buy bikes, and gems, which can be bought or earned and are used to skip upgrade wait timers and buy certain upgrade items without getting them as a reward for completing levels. Discovery of new levels is mission-based, though any level can be repeated at any point.
There is an energy mechanic, but it largely regulates the initial playing of levels, not restarting them while in the level. So yes, restart to your heart’s content, even complete a level. On the final screen where it shows the postcard with the final time and crashes, just hit the restart button again. This isn’t necessarily a way to grind for coins while cheating the energy system, but it is a way to repeat levels to get better times and better medals without having to use energy, necessarily. It’s easy to be critical of energy systems, but this seems to be an implementation that doesn’t get too much in the way of actually playing the game. As well, gems can be earned through in-game actions and as end of race rewards, so a relative free-to-play fairness, without impeding the core game too much, seems to be the order of the day here.
With this game soft-launching so close to Christmas, I almost wonder if this is an emergency test of the monetization just to make sure that everything is hunky-dory before a likely launch before the holiday iTunes freeze. So for non-Canadians and non-“Canadians”, this one might be in the hands of the general public sooner than later.
EA Mobile has decided to revive the famous Bullfrog Dungeon Keeper intellectual property for a new free-to-play mobile game. It’s currently testing in Canada, so we hopped on a moose to bring you another episode of It Came From Canada with hands-on video below!
Dungeon Keeper is a two-fold game: one, there’s the dungeon keeping. This involves getting imps to mine for materials and build traps to help keep out invaders. Imps can help expand the dungeon, though certain spots take more time to open up. Of course, these waits can be skipped with gems. The other half of the game is raising units to go in and raid other dungeons, trying to survive the traps that the opposing Keeper has laid down in order to get their stuff. It’s a raid or get raided world.
Thus, in this modern incarnation, the game plays somewhat like a tower defense title: setting up a tricky dungeon with enough traps to keep invaders from getting much in the way of material is important, but so is amassing that army of creatures to go and get more gold and materials from opponents. There’s both campaign missions versus computerized opponents, and more interestingly, dungeons of other players to go raid.
The game does have a sense of humor to it, even to the free-to-play aspects: the demon guiding players jokes about how gems may be controversial. At least it’s somewhat self-aware for a game that would require a $99.99 in-app purchase to pay for three months of the game’s premium service. Of course, that could change before the game’s international launch. There’s also stat boosts and raid protections available to buy to help make surviving this tricky dungeon world a bit easier.
The game seems to be in a fairly polished state at the moment, and EA’s soft launches usually last less than a month, so there’s a good chance that you’ll have a fairly well-formed dungeon by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. Can’t wait till the international launch? Check out our hands-on video below.
GT Racing 2 is Gameloft’s first concerted take at entering the free-to-play racing simulation market, one notably established by Real Racing 3 earlier this year. Much like EA and Firemonkeys’ title, Gameloft is currently doing a limited-region test for the game. I practiced my “ehs” and “aboots” and got my hands on this game before its worldwide release, with hands-on video below in this edition of It Came From Canada!
This is a game that quite clearly lives in Real Racing 3’s shadow. This is first apparent visually: the game is going for a detailed, realistic look, and even just the color scheme seems to evoke what Firemonkeys tried to do earlier this year, though blue skies will always be blue skies. However, the game launches with courses that take place at night, including one that takes place on the roads around Mt. Rainier at night.
The game definitely feels much like a simulation: braking is very important so as to not skid out of control. There are braking assists enabled by default, but learning how to drive without them so as to take the proper racing line – which is an actual displayable line in this game – is clearly of great importance.
There’s an asynchronous multiplayer mode which puts players up against the times of other racers to compete for pride, handily quantified in RP, and in-game currency. It’s not apparent on first tests if players are racing against actual ghosts of racers, as Real Racing 3’s Time Shifted Multiplayer claimed to do, or if they’re just racing against their times, as Time Shifted Multiplayer seemed to be in practice. Still, it should be less confusing since it’s a segregated mode from the standard single-player progression, which is packed with a wide variety of race types to take part in. Real cars with some damage have made it in the game as well.
The game is free-to-play, and thankfully there’s no waiting to repair one’s car, just wait timers for upgrades. Of course there are cars and upgrades to buy with the two-tier upgrade system. How well it plays for those who don’t spend is yet to be seen.
GT Racing 2 does seem to borrow a lot from Real Racing 3 at a quick glance, but its little tweaks could make for it to be a satisfying contender for the checkered flag, if not at least finishing somewhere on the podium. No clue on when it leaves the Canadian garages, but it may be soon, if all the server work and monetization balance checks out for Gameloft.
Zynga’s back with another game in their series of -Ville titles. This time, it’s all about building a magical kingdom in CastleVille Legends, currently available in Canada and Australia. I take it for a run in this episode of It Came From Canada!
There’s plenty of the initial hand-holding that many of these building games are prone to have: it starts off by showing everything that’s possible, and giving helpful hints as to what exactly the premium currency, crowns, can be spent on. Because of course that’s necessary. Items that serve as resources can be farmed and used to craft new items which can be sold for gold coins, which help make the castle’s land bigger, which necessitates more gold and more resource farming, and so on ad infinitum. The timers are thankfully short early on, though it’s hard to imagine them staying that way – these games depend on lengthy timers!
Heroes play a key role: they can be sent off on ‘quests’, which means “their avatar disappears for a period of time, after which the player gets a reward.” It’s not a very creative system – signs that anything beyond the idea of questing are not exactly present.
While the game’s mechanics tick off a lot of the “free-to-play gaming by numbers” that many titles have, at least Zynga is focusing on production values here: the art is highly-detailed and everything is well-animated, so it’s one of the nicer-looking experiences of the sort.
The game is currently in testing in Canada and Australia, and it’s likely that its monetization in particular is being put to the test – will this game make any money over time? It’ll be up to how Canadians, Australians, and those pretending to be from there decide it to be. Get a taste of the game now with our video footage.