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Hands-On With Raceline CC

Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 1st, 2015

Set for release soon, Rebellion’s motorbike racing game, Raceline CC certainly looks stylish. But how does it play? I got my hands on a preview build to answer exactly that.

More like a drag racer than a conventional racing game, Raceline CC is going to be quite familiar to some. You play your way through various races, using up fuel before eventually having to wait for it to regenerate. Where Raceline CC grabs you a bit more noticeably is with its sense of speed.

Each race only takes around 30 seconds to complete. A quick and steady tap on the revs counter, and the rest is a matter of dodging around traffic. The key to reaching high speeds is to draft behind vehicles. There’s a visual indicator telling you when is best to pull around them, and there’s a real sense of satisfaction when you repeatedly dodge around cars. Do it just right and the race can be constantly frantic but ultimately very fast. Do it wrong, and you get stuck behind a vehicle and all the rhythm immediately vanishes.

One thing that stood out as a little different from the norm is a grid-based challenge, whereby you partake in a series of challenges for an ultimately good prize at the end. It at least feels more organized than some races.

It could turn tedious, though. All the areas I’ve seen so far look very similar, with the level of competition being the only thing really that distinguishes stages. There’s a plentiful supply of races to compete in with the usual bevy of daily challenges in there too, plus plenty of upgrades to pursue, but time will tell how enticing that will be after extended play.

We’ll be sure to let you know more about it when Raceline CC released on the App Store, later this summer.

Oh My Pixel! We Go Hands-on With The Knights of Pen & Paper 2nd Edition

Posted by Jessica Fisher on April 30th, 2015

I recently had a chance to play around with the upcoming Knights of Pen & Paper 2 from Paradox Interactive. I was a huge fan of the first game, so I had a lot of expectations going into it - and I wasn't disappointed. The game has gotten some serious upgrades including a sweet jump to 16bit graphics, new dynamically generated dungeons, and expanded crafting systems for equipment.

If You’re Getting an Apple Watch, Get SPY_WATCH, Too

Posted by Rob Rich on April 22nd, 2015

There was mention of the existence and upcoming release of Bossa Studios’ (Surgeon Simulator, I Am Bread) SPY_WATCH, but now things are different. Now it’s something I’m super-anxious to get my hands on when it releases tomorrow - and I don’t think I should be the only one.

Take a Look at The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land Coming This Fall.

Posted by Jessica Fisher on April 10th, 2015

Next Games has released some new details and visuals for its upcoming gameThe Walking Dead: No Man’s Land. The game will revolve around a group of people as they struggle to survive the walker apocalypse. There are not many details about the game yet, but Next says it will be more open and less story driven, giving you a continuing experience without a set end.

While there is no set release date, Next Games and AMC have decided to launchThe Walking Dead: No Man’s Landaround the beginning of season 6 this fall. We'll just have to wait a bit longer to sate our zombie hunger.

N-Fusion and 505's Ember is Totally Going to be the Next Ultima

Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 29th, 2015

Recently, I was invited to check out N-Fusion and 505's upcoming RPG title, Ember. Set in the land of Domus, you'll be embroiled in a rich story with over 70 quests, a ridiculously expansive skill tree, and gorgeous landscapes. You play as aLightbringer who is trying to save the embers - which the world covets to the point of war, of course.Jeff Birns, CEO of N-fusion, walked me though his work and it was obvious that this was truly a labor of love. And he was happy to answer a few questions on his beloved game.

Hands-On With Allstar Heroes - A Promising Casual RPG

Posted by Jennifer Allen on March 27th, 2015

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Allstar Heroes looks a lot like a certain other recent action RPG release, but it turns out that while it’s not yet available here, Allstar Heroes has been around for much longer than that other title. Now that copyright row is out of the way, I can say that Allstar Heroes seems pretty fun.

It’s not out here yet, with a release date being vaguely hinted at sometime next month, but it’s shaping up to be a fairly solid release.

You gather a team of fighters, then go from stage to stage taking out the enemies in your wake. It’s a simple take on an RPG really, as it can be fairly hands-off if you want. Combat is conducted automatically with you able to cast special attacks as and when the power bar builds up. There’s a campaign mode as well as PvP options, giving you plenty to do.

The fun, as always with these kind of games, stems from developing your team. You can do a lot in terms of helping your team level-up, with equipment playing a valuable role in helping your party out. Fill all the equipment slots on one character and these can be combined to make the character more powerful, starting back at the beginning equipment wise but with a considerable stats boost.

And that’s where Allstar Heroes should keep you interested. Evolving your characters and watching as they steadily develop is always a satisfying thing to see. While it would have been good to be able to manipulate the characters more in battle, it’s the kind of lightweight RPG experience that lends itself well to mobile gaming. You can get a lot done in the space of a few minutes, with the only restriction being having an internet connection available to you.

Given its lengthy release in China (it was released there in February, 2014), Allstar Heroes'US release can't be far off. I’ve got a good feeling that it’s going to be a pretty fun timesink when it does come out. We’ll be sure to keep you in the know.

Fearless Fantasy is Fantastic for the iFone (it was worth a shot)

Posted by Rob Rich on March 27th, 2015

I actually had my first look at Fearless Fantasy last year at E3, but it was on a PC so there wasn't much for me to talk about. But now that I've been able to play with a pre-release version of the iOS build, there's quite a bit for me to talk about.

The story so far has been every bit as weird and it seems on the surface, thanks almost entirely to the oddball characters. What's impressive is that it all works. It's not just silly for the sake of silliness. Okay, well, it might be but it's actually pretty funny, and not in a "so awful it's good" sort of way, either.

The incredibly weird visuals struck me as a little off-putting at first, but once I got to see everything in motion it became very endearing. A lot of these enemies behave in extremely strage ways that you might not expect, and many of the combat animations are a combination of cool and surreal.

Combat mechanics and overall sructure are what really make Fearless Fantasy stand out on iOS, though. The story is broken up into several individuals levels, which are themselves made up of a set number of encounters. These encounters can be played (and replayed) on one of three different difficulties, and as you'd expect the rewards go up as the challenge increases. It's not just that enemies absorb and deal more damage, though - as you move from Casual through Normal and eventually on to Veteran the combat itself will get harder, with more complicated inputs required for both attacking and defending.

But oh, the combat. It's easily my favorite part of Fearless Fantasy so far and almost as easily my favorite approach to combat out of any iOS RPG I've played. When an enemy attacks, you'll have to perform a sort of mini-game where you'll be tapping on circles as the rings surrounding them close in or swiping through arrows in a specific pattern. The thing is, the harder the difficulty the more mobile these symbols are - to the point where you'll need to start familirizing yourself with the types of attacks most enemies like to use if you want to avoid failing to block.

Attacking works much the same way as defending, only if you mess up you deal less (or no) damage. What's great is that as each of the three characters gains more powerful abilities, they'll be able to string together longer chains of attacks for even greater potential damage. It also means that the mini-games get more complex, creating a cool synergy between a character's actions on-screen and your actions... on-screen. Whatever, it works really well and it's cool.

Fearless Fantasy hasn't graced the App Store with its presence yet, but you can be certain we'll let you know when it does. This is definitely a mobile RPG to keep an eye on.

Drifter is Still Bound for iOS, and it’s Looking Great

Posted by Rob Rich on March 22nd, 2015

Drifter is a pretty cool-looking space adventure that’s currently in Steam Early Access, but Celsius Game Studios has teased an iOS version before. A couple of weeks ago I was able to see it running on an iPad, so I can definitely say that the iOS version is still a thing.

It’s looking really nice, too. I didn’t play it myself but the controls seem to be simple and responsive, and the visuals are pretty darn... pretty. Of course since it’s still in Early Access there are lots more features in the works that haven’t been implemented yet, so it’s bound to be even more interesting once it’s officially released.

Since the App Store doesn’t actually have anything comparable to Early Access we’re going to have to wait a bit for the iOS version, but that’s understandable given how - let’s go with “finicky” - App Store reviews can be. But I’ve been assured that the iOS release should be right behind the Steam release, so we won’t have to wait too terribly long to get our hands on Drifter in its final form.

I think it’s going to be worth the wait.

Earthcore: Shattered Elements Could be the Next Hearthstone

Posted by Jennifer Allen on March 20th, 2015

Due for release sometime in May, Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been in soft launch on the Canadian and Danish App Stores for a while now. A fair bit of effort is clearly being put into ensuring that everything about Earthcore: Shattered Elements is polished. It’s showing too, with this game steadily shaping up to be something quit special for CCG fans.

You’ll immediately notice that Earthcore: Shattered Elements looks quite gorgeous. Each card is attractively designed, easily rivalling the likes of Hearthstone in terms of looks. It’s an ideal way to encourage you to want to collect them all, not just for the sake of progression, but because of how they look.

Each match involves taking it in turns placing cards down, with you not able to initially place a card directly opposite your opponent’s, until the second turn. Besides elemental values at play here, with the usual fire beating water, and fire beating earth, there are also skills to use. These can make all the difference, so it’s important to note that you can only use one skill per turn. Some skills are simply a matter of inflicting extra damage to your opponent, but they can also be used to change elements and more.

There’s an extensive card crafting side of things too, which soon opens up. Earthcore: Shattered Elements promises that you can create over 500,000+ unique card combinations and I can see that being likely. There’s a plentiful supply of depth here.

That’s perhaps where the longevity for it will lie - enticing you into creating the ultimate deck to defeat others through PvP. In which case, it makes sense that Earthcore: Shattered Elements has been in soft launch for so long with balancing issues being ironed out.

As it stands, Earthcore: Shattered Elements already seems pretty appealing and potentially quite challenging, even for experienced CCG players. With further refinements planned for its already seemingly extensive campaign mode, as well as some tweaks to balancing, it can surely only get better. Earthcore: Shattered Elements is due for release sometime in May. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.


It Came From Canada: Nightmare Guardians

Posted by Jordan Minor on March 19th, 2015

Nightmare Guardians is a game riding several big trends in the medium right now. Because all of those trends don’t necessarily align, the end result is a weird, curious experience that’s hard to precisely pin down. However, that doesn’t mean we still can’t try in this edition of It Came From Canada!

So what are those trends exactly? Well for starters Nightmare Guardians feels like an interactive history lesson for a certain strain of Blizzard Entertainment’s evolving catalog. Players join a band of elite warriors to fend of waves of encroaching evil forces, and the dark fantasy atmosphere is just the beginning of the Diablo comparisons. The semi-automated gameplay has players tapping the screen to move their character who will then automatically wail on whatever is nearby that needs wailing on. From there it’s up to players to prioritize threats and protect the wall behind them from succumbing to enemy attacks. That means managing loot and experience and other action-RPG staples, as opposed to technical skill, is the best way to become powerful and succeed.

However, players aren’t exploring dungeons - they’re just surviving horde after horde of foes in a box. This structure makes Nightmare Guardians even harder to categorize. Later levels introduce shields and buildings to protect, giving the game a tower defense twist, but really it ends up turning into a single-player/co-op MOBA. Learning the different hero-specific spells like quick dashes or zombie-killing fire blasts, and more generic debuffs like spells that cripple enemy healers, is essential. Coordinating and strategizing with your partners, whether it’s a computer or another player online, also adds to the DotA vibe, as do little touches like “last hit” and “kill steal” bonuses.

But even that classification still doesn’t feel entirely complete because, for all that it borrows from these intensely complex and competitive genres, Nightmare Guardians is actually surprisingly approachable. Easily killing countless foes with flashy finishing moves feels like Dynasty Warriors of all things. The quick-hit, mobile-friendly framework could easily be called a wave-based shooter with swords and spells swapped in for guns. Based on my earlier online encounters it’s not hard to get into at all, which could be good or bad, depending on how elitist your perspective is.

If this preview sounds a little confusing, if the more you read it the less you understood about the game, well that’s just what playing Nightmare Guardians is like. But if you’ve been left intrigued as well, like I still am, you can check out when it launches everywhere soon.

It Came From Canada: Compass Point: West

Posted by Jordan Minor on March 18th, 2015

If developers insist on making even more Clash of Clans clones, they’d better gin up a better excuse than “we just want a lot of money.” Fortunately for Compass Point: West, the Wild West setting actually proves to be pretty thematically appropriate for the genre. But is that a good enough reason to continue the gold rush? Find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Like I said, Compass Point: West's biggest coup is that the Clash of Clans template of building a town from scratch, populating it, defending it from invaders, and exploring uncharted parts of the map is basically the western cowboy pioneer spirit in a nutshell. So while the gameplay remains virtually unchanged, unlike other clones, it rarely feels like a nonsensical chore. Plus, the lush 3D graphics really sell players on the organic world. The texture of the ground, the swaying of the trees, and the flashes of the guns give the game that crucial, if cartoonish, frontier feel. True grit.

But Compass Point: West does offer slightly more than just a cowboy cover of Clash of Clans, even if all of its new ideas don’t exactly work. When enemies invade, players place hero units like the sheriff on top of buildings, which mixes up the standard tower defense and alters the nature of town design. To find new missions, players manually send out the Pony Express to reveal new parts of the map via charming animations. Finally, instead of recruiting offensive troops, players earn all their units - from cowboys to bankers - through a randomized playing card system. After completing missions, or by paying, players draw several cards and reap the rewards. On one hand this adds a neat element of chance, and units eventually revive after death so the stakes aren’t punishingly high. But taking away player choice also makes them more likely to depend on freemium currency, which is always dubious. At least players can choose to fuse units into stronger allies, so their strategic options aren’t entirely beyond their control.

At this point Clash of Clans clones are as ubiquitous as cowboy movies were in the 1950s. So if the idea of the two of them finally coming together sounds good to you, check out Compass Point: West when it launches everywhere soon.

It Came From Canada: Beast Quest

Posted by Jordan Minor on March 17th, 2015

Figuring out how to best preview Beast Quest, the upcoming action RPG from Miniclip, proved to be surprisingly difficulty. This isn’t a judgment on the game’s quality, but it really does feel like a bunch of pieces from other, more famous games stitched together. So in this edition of It Came From Canada!, I’m just going to describe those pieces and how they find a way to fit together.

Beast Quest's general structure resembles any other casual RPG on the App Store. Players complete various short quests like gathering X amount of treasures or killing X amounts of enemies to level-up and take on the next major story mission. Those story missions revolve around the overarching goal of killing the elusive boss monster, giving the game a Monster Hunter or even a Shadow of the Colossus vibe. The combat is straight out of Infinity Blade, except players just tap a button instead of swiping to attack. However, while that control choice is nicely streamlined, holding a run button and moving the camera to steer the character feels even clunkier by comparison. The impressively large, dense, and snowy initial open world is a like a very, very light version of Skyrim, and by climbing “eagle peaks,” players gain a cinematic panoramic view of the landscape to flesh out their map, Assassin’s Creed-style.

That’s a lot of disparate influences. So how well do they fit together? Let’s put it this way: while the game is full of many beastly creatures, Beast Quest itself most resembles is a successful Frankenstein's Monster. By taking all of these proven ideas and applying them in the places where they make the most sense, few parts of the game feel lazy or weaker than each other. The individually strong parts strengthen the whole. Even the vague fantasy setting is generic and receptive enough to include these nakedly obvious inspirations without suffering any kind of tonal or mechanical whiplash.

Beast Quest is currently in a soft launch phase and will be launching everywhere soon. So it won’t be too long before you can decide whether or not this surprisingly seamless hodgepodge works for you.

It Came From Canada: Power Rangers: UNITE

Posted by Jordan Minor on March 16th, 2015

With the Pokémon trading card game finally bringing those precocious pocket monsters to the App Store, it was only a matter of time before that other 90s, vaguely Japanese, childhood nostalgia hot property Power Rangers tried to get in on the action. Yes, Power Rangers: UNITE is a Power Rangers collectible card game. But is it as mighty as the morphing rangers themselves? Find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Obviously you should have a lot of reverence for the Power Rangers franchise to get the most out of Power Rangers: UNITE. But we should also examine its merits as a card game, too. Perhaps given its young target audience, the systems are actually pretty simple. Both players face each other and lay cards on their five-by-two grid. Unit cards placed on the front row, like rangers and powerful Zord robots, provide defense against enemy units directly opposite them. If there is no enemy, the card can target the opponent's health directly. The game ends when one player runs out of health or cards. Meanwhile, players use the back row to activate various spells like drawing from the enemy’s discard pile or increasing a unit’s likelihood of scoring a critical hit. One particularly neat mechanic has players placing a ranger on the board in their civilian form only to then morph them into their Power Ranger form on the next turn. Strategy ultimately boils down to effectively managing your offensive units. You have to know who to pit against who, who to power up and when, and when to tag someone out or sacrifice them.

But really, Power Rangers: UNITE wisely places its focus on copious amounts of Power Rangers fan service. As players build their deck they can choose from over 20 years’ worth of heroes, villains, and giant robots. The artwork is clean and high-res, the sound and music samples are exciting and numerous, and the original Mighty Morphin' series is, deservedly, over-represented. The limited animations somewhat bring down the production value - images just slide around - but the volume of content is still impressive and especially noticeable when encountering new challengers online.

While it may not be as provocative as the recent POWER/RANGERS short film, at least Power Rangers: UNITE won’t subtly mock fans for still enjoying the franchise. It should be launching everywhere soon.

X-Mercs: Invasion Hands-On Preview - Extraterrestrial Combat Gone Free

Posted by Rob Rich on March 11th, 2015

X-Mercs: Invasion is a game about saving the world from evil aliens. And from evil mercenaries. You shoot lots of evil stuff in the face, really. You’ll slowly start to unlock new things to do as you progress, but your activities are mostly divided between four tasks: sending squads on missions, researching new technologies, manufacturing items and equipment, and building up your base of operations. If you’re looking around and thinking this sounds like a free-to-play XCOM, well, you’re not wrong. That’s totally what it is. Don’t write it off yet, however.

What really struck me is how much thought was put into these tasks and wait timers - yes, there are wait timers. Manufacturing items takes varying amounts of time, resources, and money, depending on what you’re putting together. Research follows a similar pattern, although you can only ever research something once so the initial cost is a bit higher. Of course building new structures and clearing out space also takes a certain amount of real time to finish, and should be familiar to anyone who’s played a free town builder before. Lastly there are the soldiers, who will take time to heal up if they’re wounded in combat.

I found that I really didn’t mind the waiting in this case. It’s not all that far removed from having to wait for wounded soldiers to heal or for new tech to be researched in XCOM, and in an weird way it actually works really well on a thematic level. I mean, if my shotgunner was inches from death when I extracted the team, it kind of makes sense that he’d need some time to get back into fighting shape. Severity is a factor, but in my experience heal times can take anywhere from a minute to 20. Fortunately you can also have soldiers waiting in the barracks, then put them on the team to fill any gaps and get back to fighting.

The tactical combat is also reminiscent of that other game I keep referencing, however there are only three main soldier classes and you won’t have to deal with figuring out what the rookies will eventually specialize in (although there’s technically a fourth class since any soldiers that have been KIA can be brought back as a cyborg, complete with a unique skill tree). Another key difference is that the items (just items, not equipment) you manufacture are consumable, so any one of your soldiers can chuck a grenade or two during a mission but you’ll need to remember to make more. Or you could just stockpile them like I tend to do, sine they’re really cheap to make. What’s also really interesting is that the items you need to speed up production (nanites) can be purchased using in-game currency. I’m curious to see how people will respond to such an approach.

I do have a few concerns about repetitive missions, PvP elements (I haven’t been able to try it out yet), tiny text, having trouble telling what can be tapped on in the menu and what’s just set dressing (it took me days to figure out what to tap on to access the Shop), and the ridiculous outfits and physical dimensions of the female characters, but I am currently messing around with a beta build. So who knows how much any of that may change for the final release?

It Came From Canada: Jurojin: Immortal Ninja

Posted by Jordan Minor on March 3rd, 2015

At this point it’s pretty safe to say that no MOBA is going to dethrone Dota 2 and League of Legends anytime soon. After all, if Batman can’t do it, nobody can. However, with a genre as popular and profitable as this one, there’s still room for smaller games to carve out unique identities. Jurojin: Immortal Ninja opts for this path with its shinobi battle arena, and we see if it’s worthy in this edition of It Came From Canada!

What immediately sets Jurojin apart from its contemporaries is its theme. Ninjas are nothing new for video games, but in a MOBA landscape full of nothing but vague fantasy archetypes, it’s refreshing to see bamboo forests and stealth assassins instead of generic crystals and character designs two steps away from a Blizzard game. The smooth visuals and movement complement the elegance of the heroes and gives the game the precision the eSport-friendly genre demands.

Also aiding the precision are the controls that work around the limitations of a touch screen in some clever ways. Instead of controlling the character directly, players freely spin a flowing cursor/camera around and their ninja will follow. It’s quick and sharp and makes targeting opponents for melee or projectile attacks a breeze. Although there are paths to follow and enemy structures to take down, in general Jurojin’s environments are more open than the rigid lanes of other MOBAs, so the more open control scheme really shines.

Players put those controls to the test in typical multiplayer battles as well as some welcomed single player challenges. Kill waves of enemies to get the loot and cash necessary to upgrade elemental spells and skills for the next real challenge. Obviously these missions lack the depth of a true duel, but they still do a great job rounding out the package and making up for the lack of additional characters to master.


Ninja Gaiden meets Dota might be too much praise for Jurojin: Immortal Ninja, but that’s not the most inaccurate comparison either. See for yourself if this ninja way is right for you when the game launches everywhere soon.