Every year, with thousands more apps and games being released on the App Store, it becomes increasingly difficult to single-out just which are the crème de la crème of this ever-growing iOS market – and more specifically, which of them truly set a higher standard in terms of innovation, uniqueness, and individuality. Be it a game designed for the iPhone or iPad, anything developed and released on the iOS market in this day and age has to have that special something to grab our interest and retain it for months to come. In no particular order, here are a selection of the most notable games and apps of 2013 that raised the bar in one way or another.
Morphopolis – Quite possibly one of the most visually stunning games I’ve seen all year, Morphopolis‘ astounding presentation and imaginative world designs are what truly sets this hidden object puzzle game apart from those of a similar style. The beautiful hand-drawn watercolor hues bring every aspect of the game’s artwork to life, while the folksy ambient soundtrack sets a beautiful and warm tone to suit the mellow and relaxing pace. What is so immensely likeable about the puzzles in Morphopolis is that each of them is original, unique, stylish, and distinctive in nature, with every single one utilizing the environment in some manner to build upon the atmosphere.
An insect’s life is harsh and dangerous. However it can also be quite beautiful, as is evidenced by the upcoming bug-riddled hidden object adventure, Morphopolis. This gorgeous looking story of an aphid grub trying to rescue its friend has been in development since July of last year, and it’s still in early alpha, but things looking really nice already. We were able to talk with Dan Walters and Ceri Williams, the game’s authors, about what to expect when we visit this lovely/brutal world.
148Apps: Morphopolis is certainly gorgeous. Where did you get your visual inspiration from? Dan Walters (DW): The art style emerged over a five week workshop during which we experimented with different techniques alongside developing the game narrative. We aimed for a hand-drawn aesthetic using rich, saturated scenery that suits the genre of game. Intricate line drawings and ink wash techniques had been used previously by Ceri while producing architectural drawings and we wanted to see how they would suit a more organic subject. Ceri Williams (CW): We used macro photographs that we took to build up a catalog of source images and investigate the depth of field effects seen at that scale. The content was drawn from these photographs and was heavily inspired by watching old David Attenborough documentaries on plants and insects.
148Apps: Aside from the “painting come to life” quality of the graphics, what do you think will set Morphopolis apart from other hidden object games? DW: The game is all about metamorphosis. Between each chapter you change through metamorphosis or inhabiting the bodies of larger insects. In each chapter, as you grow in size, the scale of the world you are in shrinks so that more becomes visible.
Taking narrative from the environment, creating places through the division space, and evolving this world as your awareness of scale, mechanics, and inhabitants change. These are concepts we discovered in architecture school, but they can be handled so much more playfully in an illustrated world. CW: The tone of the game aims to strike a balance between the beauty of the close-up natural world with the captivating visceral qualities of the insect kingdom. Familiar, but increasingly alien as you peer closer; we want Morphopolis to appeal to the inquisitive. We are trying to tap into the almost universal experience of being toddler/child and peering closely in the grass or plant pots and seeing a tiny world of insects and plants. This experience is both fascinating and beautiful and also slightly scary and gross which is the balance we are trying to strike with the game.
148Apps: I’m a little afraid to ask, but what do you mean by “a parasitic crusade?” DW: You’re right to be slightly afraid! In Morphopolis you will take the role of an aphid grub and as part of the gameplay you parasitically inhabit larger insects. This metamorphosis allows the narrative and complexity of the world to develop as the game progresses. In each Chapter the new body that you occupy allows you to interact with the world in a new way and gets you closer to achieving your goal of rescuing your companion. CW: There is nothing gratuitous about this metamorphosis as the game is designed to be accessible to all ages but we want to capture that sense of fascination and discovery found in nature documentaries that show the realities of the world.
148Apps: About how many different kinds of bugs do you think will be in the final build? Do you have a particular favorite as far as artistic rendition or just general species goes? CW: There will be about 20 types of creature in the game with the players’ character also changing between each of the chapters. I’m personally a fan of the stag beetle but this is possibly because this piece of artwork has remained almost unchanged from the very first test illustrations. DW: Without revealing too much, some of the bugs in the later chapters are quite amazing. By this point in the game it becomes apparent that perhaps this organic world is not quite as natural as it seems and the bugs begin to reflect this sense that there is a greater intelligence to the Morphopolis world. CW: I’d love it if players chose to keep the game on their screens as a kind of insect vivarium screen-saver. I’m a fan of bugs and insects but I’d like to categorically say that no spiders will feature in Morphopolis!
148Apps: How long do you think it may take the average player to complete Morphopolis? Will there be any incentives for players to jump back in once they’re finished? DW: The time to complete the full game will vary greatly but we expect an average of 5-6 hours with players able to easily dip in and out if they choose. CW: We hope that players will enjoy the experience and not feel that they have to rush through the game. Hidden object sets and puzzles overlap one another in a way that allows the player to progress at their own pace and in the order that their exploration leads them. Because of this we expect that replaying the game will not result in repeating an identical process. DW: There are some features that we are exploring at the moment such as a system of randomizing the positions of certain hidden objects. We don’t feel that this will be necessary given the type of experience we are aiming to get across with the game however.
Thank you very much, Dan and Ceri, for taking the time to talk with us. If Morphopolis sounds like the kind of thing you’d like to play, you can sign up for early Mac/PC access or preorder all versions at once right here on the official website. Otherwise you can wait until later this summer when Micro Macro Games brings the iPad version to the App Store.