Posts Tagged It Came From Canada

Blizzard’s free-to-play online collectible card game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, left beta not long ago. Now its mobile days begin, as they have soft-launched their online card-battling game in Canada ahead of its global launch. So I grabbed my deck and chatted up some pandaren for this edition of It Came From Canada!

The core gameplay of Hearthstone has players using an increasing supply of mana to play cards they’ve drawn: most are creatures that can be put into the arena, and only played on the next turn, though some have instant effects such as attacking immediately. Players also have hero attacks that cost mana but can be used to attack the other player or their creatures, with the ultimate goal being to take the opponent’s hero down to zero health. Players can battle online with others via Battle.net, take on computer opponents in Practice Mode, and spend their winnings (or currency purchased via in-app purchases) on cards to outfit their deck. It’s fast-paced, but easy to get into.

Hearthstone-7The game is simple enough that anyone can get into it after the first six tutorial missions, which cover the gamut of battling. Of course, this is where the game shows its origins as a non-mobile title: the tutorials take about 20 minutes or so to get through them before players can even battle online. In a mobile-first world this would likely be a lot shorter, but the slow pace does a great job at getting players to know how to play the game.

After the tutorial is finished players must register for a Battle.net account in order to play online, with this account usable cross-platform. Deck creation isn’t explicitly covered, but it’s possible to just go out with a default deck. Custom decks can be created as well, and there’s a handy guided tutorial for creating a well-balanced deck, where the game recommends three cards of a kind – so players can choose and understand how to build a deck, versus the game just automatically making one.

Hearthstone-2Once into the online battles, the process is similar to the tutorial missions, except slower. Some players online can be slow to decide their moves, though there’s only so much time that a player has before the game passes it along. Note that unlike mobile-designed titles like Ascension, players must stay in the battle; there’s no jumping to other games.

And really, that will be the interesting thing to see as Hearthstone nears its global release. This is a game that isn’t necessarily unfriendly to mobile, but many of the patterns that have defined mobile card battlers are clearly defied here. And the longer pacing could lead to more drop-outs during matches, which would not be ideal for the PC userbase. But still, this is Hearthstone on an iPad and that should excite many people.

One of the problems with the trend of free-to-play games lately is that many games have been merely facsimiles of great ideas. RPG battling without any actual control over the combat. Build an empire and attack other empires, but without much control of attacking or defending. PlunderNauts does not have this problem: it’s a game about being a space pirate where players actually have a lot of control over the space piracy! Backflip Studios currently is testing the game in Canada, so I put on my pirate hat and sailed to the great northern seas for this edition of It Came From Canada!

Players hop from planet to planet, trying to become the galaxy’s top space pirate by defeating other pirates and plundering their planets for gold and antimatter – the soft and hard currencies, respectively. Antimatter can advance wait timers, refill energy, and buy new starships.

PlunderNautsICFC-04However, the bulk of the actual gameplay is real-time spaceship battling. Players tap and drag to move their spaceship around, which is equipped with multiple turrets. When enemies get in range of the turret, players can select them and attack, with turrets having varying restart times depending on their stats. Players and enemies can summon fighters that not only can attack, but also serve as distractions as the turrets must focus on them instead of the enemy. However, players can only summon their fleets of fighters once per match: other abilities that can be equipped to provide in-game boosts can be used multiple times as they recharge. Combat is a game of positioning: getting out of the way of enemy turrets yet keeping them in range for one’s own turrets is key, and early on the ships are often close, doing their awkward dance with each other.

PlunderNautsICFC-08While antimatter can be earned through completing planets, it feels like many of the battleships will require spending money in order to unlock them; especially as it’s difficult to earn antimatter through grinding like you do for gold. There is an energy system, with 5 bars that refill at 20 minutes per bar. This is kind of a shame as while it does make it so that players are compelled to come back, it doesn’t feel particularly necessary – because, hey, buying items to get better does require grinding. As well, the amount of energy players are given is rather small; I’d prefer longer play sessions even with longer recharge times. But of course, as a soft launched game, this could change at any point.

Still, PlunderNauts has a lot intriguing ideas to it that will be interesting to see as it gets balanced and fully-formed for its final release.


After their smash debut, the Angry Birds have gone from physics-based puzzle games to space adventures to kart racers. Angry Birds Epic, the newest entry in the series currently in a soft launch phase, continues the franchise’s evolution into the Mario of mobile by casting the birds as heroes in a turn-based roleplaying game. We grind through this ambitious spin-off for the latest edition of It Came From Canada!

When the dastardly Prince Porky and the rest of his pig army steal innocent eggs, it’s up to a brave band of birds to stop him. Starting out with a lone red warrior bird, the player’s party soon sees new recruits like a yellow wizard and white healer. There’s no real overworld to explore in Angry Birds Epic. Instead, the party travels from battle to battle on a linear map, occasionally coming across treasure chests or resource deposits. The fights themselves play out like simplified, turn-based, JRPG battles in the vein of Paper Mario or the more recent South Park: The Stick of Truth, albeit without the cursing or focus on timed button presses.

The battles do have some depth, however. Using an intuitive touch system, each bird can either attack an enemy or use its special sub-skill. For example, the wizard’s lightning strike attack hits several foes at once. But it can also choose to create a lightning shield around itself or an ally that damages incoming foes. As the birds levels up, some skills can even be applied to the whole party.

ab epic 7Complimenting these strategies are the surprisingly complex skills of the enemy pigs. Some stronger pigs charge up attacks over time like meteor showers or taunts that cause all foes to target a specific vulnerable bird. Other enemies have more passive abilities like Prince Porky’s resistance to attacks above a certain damage level. When the red chili pepper at the bottom of the screen fills up, players can unleash a devastating special attack. However, it may be useless against bosses like Prince Porky or other shielded enemies so players still have to play smart.

These bite-sized battles make up the vast majority of the Angry Birds Epic experience, but there are a few things to do outside of combat. Players can forge stronger weapons, brew potions, and scrounge around for more loot. Aside from tackling the main campaign, players can also participate in daily dungeons and lottery spins for the chance to earn even more prizes. Partaking in these side activities strengthens the team and makes the story quest easier, but the fair yet steep difficulty curve definitely still feels designed to push players towards spending more money.

ab epic 3It’s hard to be too mad at the game though, because the world of Angry Birds Epic is so pleasing to take in. The colors are vibrant, the animation is exquisite, the music is joyfully rambunctious, and the whole presentation is so charming players will be reminded why so many people got hooked on this franchise to begin with. Like all things Angry Birds at this point, expect Angry Birds Epic to soar once it fully launches.

It Came From Canada: Dwarven Den

These days it’s super easy to be immediately cynical about freemium games on the App Store. Just the mere mention of energy systems or recharge times can cause players to roll their eyes. Considering Dwarven Den, the new game from Backflip Studios currently in a soft launch phase, is based entirely on these mechanics some might dismiss it out of principle. But the more open-minded will discover a shockingly fair dungeon exploration adventure. Get ready to dive deep in this edition of It Came From Canada!

dd 6In Dwarven Den players control a dwarf spelunker making his way through a series of caves. Each cave has a different objective, like find the lost dwarf or mine all of the gold, but efficient exploration is what everything ultimately comes down to. Pathways are blocked off by various types of rocks, and mining through them depletes the player’s energy. Run out of energy and either pay up or quit and wait for the dwarf to recharge. However, each cave is also littered with red gems that restore energy when mined. The tension comes from trying to make progress while keeping energy reserves high.

It would have been so easy for Dwarven Den to keep energy gems artificially scarce to encourage customers to pay. Fortunately, players can get through much of the game with intelligent play alone. By raiding treasure chests for loot, players can forge stronger weapons and armor. Rocks become easier to mine and sometimes even give back energy. By mining blue gems, players can also use a variety of Zelda-style tools like fog-clearing torches and rock-clearing bombs. Bombs are especially effective against energy-draining spider foes.

Using all of these tools in Dwarven Den‘s surprisingly non-linear dungeons makes for a satisfyingly cerebral experience. Each dungeon is basically a big environmental puzzle to solve, and there’s always more than one right answer. It’s not Dark Souls, but the combination of tense challenge and freedom for creative player experimentation works in a similar way. It avoids becoming the tedious loop of repeating an action, waiting, repeating the same action, and waiting again that it could have easily devolved into.

dd 7Things can get a little stressful, but that’s offset by Dwarven Dungeon‘s bright, chubby characters and cheery voice samples. The 3D visuals move smooth and fast. Meanwhile, each new item equipped shows up on the player character as a nice touch of customization.

There is the nagging fear though that Dwarven Den‘s freemium elements are so non-aggressive they might be too good to be true. Since the game is still in a soft launch phase, there’s still time for it to decide how money-hungry it wants to be. As it is now though, Dwarven Den rightly chooses to be a great game first and a cash magnet at a distant second.


Are the fine people at Halfbrick rather angry? Their last game, Colossatron, was about destroying humanity as a giant serpentine robot. Bears vs. Art can’t escalate on that concept, but it does try to go for something a bit higher-class: namely, destroying art as a rolling bear. The game’s currently in its soft launch phase, so I put on my monocle for this edition of It Came From Canada!

BearsVsArt-ICFC-7BearsVsArt-ICFC-4Players control a bear who hates art because museums wrecked his home, so he goes to various museums and wrecks up their paintings – and occasionally the snooty patrons there. Makes plenty of sense. This bear prefers to get around by rolling in the cardinal and ordinal directions, perhaps because he’s a big fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, and he can only roll in a straight line. There are also a number of parameters dictating just how many times the bear can roll in a level, or how much time there is to complete it. Okay, now we have stepped deep into video game logic.

Most levels just feature the bear and the paintings on the wall to destroy, but patrons are a frequent occurence. The patrons behave chaotically, though with certain rules: they always move if the bear gets near them. Thus, this requires an intelligent approach to taking them down; though if time and moves are a factor, this can be rather difficult. This is a system I’d be kind of wary of since it seems like it could be a real energy-drainer, but Halfbrick’s a reputable enough company that I would trust to not use this kind of system against players.

So, the levels become about figuring out the proper sequence to solve the various puzzles. Some paintings require rolling from a specific spot. Being able to roll diagonally really opens up the puzzle design. The introduction of timed levels, and ones where players must try to take out patrons and thieves (or even avoid them!), add even more variety, especially as levels start to blend each type together.

BearsVsArt-ICFC-12BearsVsArt-ICFC-9This game gets a lot of clever details right. For one, it’s legitimately pretty funny – from its rhyming storybook intro, to all the bear-themed art that can be destroyed. There are some art history students who made this game – perhaps disgruntled ones – because of all the parodies of real paintings and pretentiously-named modern art pieces that can be destroyed. Oh, and the destruction occurs by the player slicing up the paintings in a Fruit Ninja-esque way. The dialogue before some levels from the snooty patrons is often quite humorous and at one point self-aware that these museums were built without doors for some reason.

The game is ruled by an energy system, though energy gets refunded for completing a level successfully. There are coins to be earned and costumes with different effects to buy with them, along with extra turns and rage mode. There are permanent turn and time additions, but they come at rather expensive costs: $14.99 each as of the soft launch. The energy bar is lengthy, but later levels start to use more than one unit of energy and it refills very, very slowly. Like “16 hours of waiting didn’t refill it all the way” slow.

Of course, since it’s a soft launch these could all change as time goes on, and it’s quite possible they will. Free-to-play requires some exploration to see what works, and this game feels like it could be enjoyed long-term for free, so paying customers may need to shell out more for the game to be financially viable. Still, time will tell how players will take to it.


It might sound crazy to say, but Farmville is one of the most influential games of this millennium, being perhaps the popular spark for the simulation genre that has become wildly popular through the rise of Facebook gaming and on mobile. There’s probably no Clash of Clans without Farmville. While Zynga has seen better days, Farmville 2: Country Escape is still a big deal because it’s one of the few free-to-play games with history and a sort of gravitas. Well, as much gravitas as a free-to-play game about farming can have. Right now, Zynga’s soft-launched the game in Canada and we’ve gotten our straw hat and overalls on to lead a more rustic lifestyle on our non-rustic technology in this edition of It Came From Canada.

The game essentially follows a simple pattern: water crops and feed animals to get basic resources. Combine these resources into more complex resources and even specific products, and then sell them for gold and experience points in order to buy and unlock new crops and buildings, ultimately expanding one’s farm through buying new plots of land. Repeat until satisfied. It’s a classic formula, and one that Farmville 2 tries to set up early on with teases of online elements like selling to other players. Ultimately, it doesn’t really rock the boat too much.

Farmville2-ICFC-7Interestingly, FarmVille 2 gives players a lot of keys (the game’s hard currency), at least to start out with: a total of 90. Of course the game tries to get players to use them in a variety of fashions in small increments when starting out. Skip a pesky wait timer with a key? Well sure, why not, I have plenty of them! Be able to produce twice as much flour by paying five keys to unlock that option? Sure! It’s easy to see those keys running out at some point.

Farmville2-ICFC-2That should be one of the interesting things to keep an eye on as the game nears its worldwide release: the keys could definitely be tweaked to give out more or fewer when starting and while playing – leveling up and buying new plots of land gives out more keys, for example. Another unanswered question is just how this game will fare in a world where simulation games have grown up to become Clash of Clans and its similar ilk: will people be willing to jump back in to Zynga’s familiar rustic experience? We’ll find out soon enough.

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.

CastawayParadise-8So 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.

CastawayParadise-1This 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 Quest was 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.

CardinalQuest2-6CardinalQuest2-5Interestingly, 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.

F1RaceStars-3While 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.

F1RaceStars-10While 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.


Uber Entertainment, creators of the Monday Night Combat series and Planetary Annihilation on PC, are taking another spin at a free-to-play mobile game. After Outland Games, an endless runner based in the MNC universe, now Uber is trying something a little more original with Toy Rush. It’s currently in soft launch in Canada, and so while mourning the loss of the best poutine south of the Canadian border, I readied up my defenses for this edition of It Came From Canada!

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.

ToyRush-6The 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.

ToyRush-7Toy 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.

It Came From Canada: Trials Frontier

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.

TrialsFrontier-8Yes, 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.

TrialsFrontier-3With 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!

DungeonKeeperCan-6Dungeon 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.

DungeonKeeperCan-7The 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.


It Came From Canada: GT Racing 2

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!

GTRacing2-3

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.

GTRacing2-7

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!

CastleVilleLegendsThere’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.

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