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It Came From Canada: Heavenstrike Rivals

Over their long history, Square Enix has become synonymous with big, epic, blockbuster Japanese RPGs. But while mobile may be a great place for ports of classics like Chrono Trigger, when crafting a new game the company has to make something a little more modest than Final Fantasy XII 3. Heavenstrike Rivals is that new game, and we see how well it lives up to its pedigree in this edition of It Came From Canada!

While the game was made in collaboration with English studio Mediatonic, it’s hard not to notice the Final Fantasy style all over it. From the exciting but ultimately nonsensical name, to the plot involving brave youths rescuing a quaint and vaguely European world from a rising darkness, it’s pretty obvious where this game comes from. Fortunately it also has production values that rival its AAA cousins. The illustrated artwork is luscious and detailed, battle animations for the chibi characters are a delight, and the jaunty music sets the mood for adventure.

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And players will need to be in the mood because Heavenstrike Rivals‘ strategic gameplay will demand a lot of their time, even if it is broken up into chunks via energy meters. Using units they’ve gathered, players face off against opponents on a board game-like grid. The goal is to have their army reach the end and begin attacking the other player directly. However, this requires fighting through the enemy units coming after them. It’s a straightforward idea, and the compact arena limits more extravagant strategies, but the game does offer depth through its unit variety.

Players gain access to more of their forces over the course of the round, and knowing all their quirks is where the fun begins. From the fighters’ increasing strength, to the scouts’ multiple hits, to the defenders’ shields, to the gunners’ range, effectively combining these abilities is the key to an effective squad. Plus it’s just satisfying to watch an enemy fall for your carefully planned trap. Outside of battle players can improve their squad even more by leveling-up stats, modifying magic users, and recruiting special vanguards to lead the assault.

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A few years ago, Square Enix released a little strategy game for DSiWare called Dragon Quest Wars that entertained in a way similar to Heavenstrike Rivals. We’ll see if the larger App Store audience will be as receptive when the new game launches worldwide soon.

It Came From Canada – Moonrise

I think by now we all know that when pocket-sized elemental creatures with awesome powers are afoot, there’s really no other choice than to try and collect all of them. And in case that last sentence wasn’t clear enough, yes, Moonrise is a lot like Pokémon. But it does put its own spin on monster battling, and we find out just how original it is in this edition of It Came From Canada!

When a peaceful race of creatures known as the Solari is corrupted into bestial Lunari through “Moonrise,” it’s up to the player to tame and purify them. But Moonrise‘s world isn’t all dark and foreboding. The game opens with the player graduating into a Warden, and it feels like a friendly martial arts exam. Still, the mood is oddly dour for such a kid-friendly genre, and part of that is due to the aesthetic. Instead of the expressive and cutesy anime characters one might expect, people look weirdly old and realistic, wearing contemporary clothing while exploring ancient ruins. The monsters themselves are more stylized, which is a given considering names like Snaptrap and Buzzle, but they also have a strange, earthy edge that tips over into almost frightening. But style aside, when it comes to visuals, what the game should focus on before launch is fixing its erratic frame rate and overall sluggish feel.

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Players can take on quests and visit side towns, but monster battles are where it’s really at. In the wild, players encounter savage Lunari and can either defeat them outright or trap and train them with their limited Warden keys. Elemental match-ups follow the typical rock-paper-scissors formula where water beats fire, fire beats grass, and so on. Players can also challenge rival Wardens. Once the fighting starts, players launch their attacks in real-time. However, different attacks have different recharge periods, so players must juggle between different skills to keep up the offensive. They can use two Solari at a time and swap between them at will. Players can even use lengthy but powerful attacks of their own to give their team an extra push. It’s hard to say if this system is any better than a standard turn-based one, but at least it is different.

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History has shown that the only things people “gotta catch” all of are these monster battling games themselves. Players will get their chance to snag Moonrise when the game launches worldwide soon.

It Came From Canada: Blades of Brim

It’s easy to want to write off Blades of Brim as a gimmick. You could look at its swordplay as a cheap attempt to distinguish itself from every other endless runner out there. But the combat actually is an integral part of the game, giving it a distinct identity. Is that enough to overcome endless runner fatigue? Decide for yourself in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Blades of Brim uses the typical endless structure. Players try to dash as far as they can while dodging and defeating obstacles and enemies. There aren’t distinct environments per se, but as players level up they’ll unlock new parts of the map, granting them access to new areas during each trip. The worlds are diverse and the transitions between them are fairly seamless. The coolest touches are the little challenge rooms that give players some task to complete on a stretch of road seemingly existing in a pocket dimension. Meanwhile, the cartoon fantasy visuals have tons of colorful energy and, more importantly, run super smoothly.

blades of brim (1)blades of brim (2)But obviously Blades of Brim‘s big hook is its prominent combat system. By swiping the screen, players will slash their sword. Fortunately, it’s a lot more robust than just a single, glorified defensive option. Players can use slashes to stylishly hop between lanes and fling themselves skyward, all while taking down enemies in their path. They can also take advantage of the branching level design for moves like wall runs and flying ground pounds. Successfully and fluidly chaining attacks together, while constantly propelling forward, makes players feel like a force of nature. And the game’s forgiving health system, allowing players to take one hit and recharge health from there, prevents needlessly frustrating roadblocks. Rounding out the system are unlockable weapons like axes with different stats, along with new characters. And if players are really in a pinch, they can sacrifice some magic to summon a double-jumping dog to ride, complete with a handy projectile attack.

blades of brim (3)blades of brim (4)Blades of Brim looks like it could carve out a nice little niche for itself in the expansive endless runner landscape. Players can see if that niche is right for them when the game launches globally, soon.

Call of Duty makes a lot of money, and Clash of Clans makes a lot of money. So, logically, Activision thinks they can make a lot of money by putting those two things together. With Call of Duty: Heroes, that’s exactly what they’ve done. But will fans of bombastic shooters enjoy a tiny freemium tactics game and vice-versa? We go Oscar Mike to find out in this New Zealand edition of It Came From Canada!

While Call of Duty has gone everywhere from World War II to Vietnam to the near future, Call of Duty: Heroes takes place during the popular “Modern Warfare” era of the series. As the leader of a military base, players fortify their surroundings using the latest and greatest army toys. Bunkers, turrets, and thick walls defend HQ from roaming insurgents as well as other players in online battles. But as you’d expect from a game like this, there’s also a substantial offensive campaign as players engage in real-time strategy missions all over the globe. Successful assaults typically boil down to effective unit composition. Normal soldiers are cheap and easy to mass produce, but only armored soldiers can withstand heavy fire long enough to actually accomplish anything.

call of duty heroes (1)However, all of that is just the Clash of Clans formula that has now proven its success countless times. What does the Call of Duty license bring to the table? Well first off it actually creates this weird incongruous feeling. The detached, rational perspective of an omniscient commander in the sky doesn’t quite gel with the fast, visceral, and up-close cinematic action the series banks on with its tagline, “There’s a soldier in all of us.” Beyond that though, there are times when the game is more than just Call of Duty in name only. The leveling system works as a fine Prestige Mode substitute. The top-notch production values, with detailed visuals and an excellent frame rate, match the franchise’s high standards. Killstreaks and air strikes put players behind a turret and have them mow down targets from a familiar first-person perspective, and players can even enlist heroes from past games like John Price and his famous mustache.

call of duty heroes (2)Even if we have reached peak Call of Duty, the franchise still carries plenty of cache. We’ll see if that carries over to this new mobile spinoff when Call of Duty: Heroes launches everywhere soon.

It Came From Canada: Creature Academy

Creature Academy doesn’t have time for your slow-paced, grandparents’ RPGs. In the span of a few minutes, it has players slicing down monsters, toppling a boss, improving their party, and repeating the whole cycle all over again. But while role-playing this quickly may work during a bus ride, does it sacrifice depth in the process? Find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Structurally, Creature Academy is a fairly rote action-RPG. With their three-person party, players venture out into various environments, like meadows or volcanoes, looking for monsters to slay. They’ll encounter everything from Hackits, little burlap sack creatures that recall Dragon Quest’s iconic Slimes, to towering goblins and mushrooms that serve as the bosses of each area. Players can then customize their party between skirmishes by giving them better weapons and gear along with limited-use boosters like extra speed or strength. However, while party leaders will typically be heroic human characters, players can also recruit fallen foes to their squad like the trident-wielding, amphibious Fischenchips. Furthermore, players can evolve and combine captured monsters to create even more powerful allies. Beyond the main campaign, players can also test out their team in a wave-based survival mode.

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But what stands out so much about Creature Academy is how it takes those standard tropes and plays them at what feels like double speed, after a painfully, and ironically, slow initial install. The game is divided into dozens of separate levels and, at least initially, players will just cruise through them crushing monsters in seconds. This isn’t to say that the game is mindless. It’s good to know when to use a ranged weapon vs. a sword or when to swap out a weak character because one death equals game over. But the game just moves so freaking fast that everything kind of becomes a blur, especially once screen-clearing special attacks and overpowered online helpers enter the fray. It’s not bad, just chaotic, and at least the graphics keep up.

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Hyperactivity isn’t historically a hallmark of RPGs, but maybe that will give Creature Academy its own identity. Players can see if this whirlwind of level grinding and monster battling is right for them when the game fully launches soon.

It Came From Canada: Seabeard

Aside from a Pokémon spin-off or two, it doesn’t look like Nintendo will be putting out games on the App Store any time. However, that just leaves room for other companies to try to fill that void. Neither rip-off nor clone, Seabeard instead feels like an homage to several acclaimed titles from the House of Mario. But is that the best thing it has going for it? We set sail for these and other answers in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Although it’s not entirely obvious at first, Seabeard is essentially a town-building game. As a little monarch, players attempt to rebuild their lost island kingdom of Accordia. So, to get the necessary resources and manpower, players travel across an expanding ocean map doing odd jobs for people and recruiting them to the cause. Tasks range from feeding and milking cows, convincing some burly brothers to build new houses, scaring away pesky foxes, pulling out roots, and catching a variety of exotic fish. Players go at their own pace though, finishing jobs when they feel like it. There’s nothing stopping them from just sitting down by the water or trying on some new outfits. While traveling from island to island, players must also play a sailing minigame like avoiding obstacles or shooting down targets with their cannon.

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It’s relaxed, low-impact gameplay, and what really ties it all together is the equally mellow presentation. This is where the Nintendo feeling comes into play. The isometric perspective and cheery but not too energetic blocky, 3D, cartoon world recall Animal Crossing, as does the life-sim gameplay. However, with its whole nautical theme and big-eyed, pseudo-cel-shaded characters, there’s a lot of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in there too. But seeing as those are both beloved games, looking at them for inspiration was probably a smart move.

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Seabeard looks to be a pleasant place to drift off into, like sinking your feet into the pool. Players can decide for themselves if they want to dive in when the game fully launches soon.

It Came From Canada: Gems of War

With the original Puzzle Quest, developer Infinite Interactive showed that a genre as deep as RPGs could be married with one as seemingly shallow as match-3 puzzle games creating a match (3) made in heaven. With their point now proven, thanks to the continued success of that series, their new game, Gems of War, feels like another victory lap. We slay dark messiahs of might and matching yet again in this edition of It Came From Canada!

In the world of Krystara, all players need to start battling against hordes of monsters is a map to explore and some directions from their stern adviser. Gems of War’s centrepiece is, without a doubt, its numerous puzzle-driven enemy encounters. Players and their opponents share the same grid of gems and take turns matching with different gems causing different effects. Matching skull gems launches a basic attack while matching four of any gem gives another turn. And combo chains provide extra magical energy. From there though, benefits will vary. Most gems represent different elements like fire and water. Matching those gems charges up the special attacks of whatever team members specializes in those elements. Players might activate a solar-powered axe attack or defense-buffing howl driven by green energy.

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Managing parties to better adapt to the random nature of the puzzle board is a key component of Gems of War’s non-combat gameplay. Aside from messing around with the look of their main character, players can tweak their elemental affinity as well as equip them with new weapons built to use new elements. Players can also recruit monsters from victorious battles and create a four-person squad. Elemental diversity opens up strategic opportunities along with the ability to limit enemy options. A fair but steep difficulty curve, especially for those who choose to tackle the bonus challenges, will encourage players to constantly customize their party until it is as strong as it can be.

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Right now, the biggest barrier between players and the puzzle action is Gems of War’s curiously long and frequent load times. Hopefully that’s something they can fix before the official release. In any case, expect the game to fully launch everywhere soon.

CastSpellRemember Puzzle Quest? Just about everybody loved Puzzle Quest, and the team behind the match-3 game that made match-3 games interesting again is back with a sort of spiritual successor to their puzzle/RPG hybrid: Gems of War.

Gems of War has a lot in common with Infinite Interactive’s earlier game. You get to match colored runes to activate spells and skills, you can match skulls to damage your enemies, and there’s decidedly some leveling-up going on behind closed doors (note: the doors aren’t closed – they’re actually wide open). However, things have been streamlined a bit as well.

SpellAnimationRegrettably there’s no crafting in Gems of War, but you’ll be able to fight other players in asynchronous battles and can even join a guild with other players. Emphasis has also been placed on your characters this time around, with you being able to create a party using your chosen hero, a weapon, and three other characters to assist you in combat. Different characters (of which there are over 100 planned) require different runes to activate their abilities, and they can be leveled-up using materials taken from selling off the useless ones.

Another nice feature is that both iOS and Android users will be able to play with (or against) each other, and can even access their account across multiple platforms.

Gems of War will be hitting the App Store for free sometime before the holiday season.

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With the Apple Watch’s generic release date of, “early 2015” hovering on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before gamers begin to ask “What’s in it for us?” The obvious choice would be to place entire games directly on the face of the watch, but its limited form factor could prove to be a problem – to say the least. We’ve thought long and hard about the impending reality of wearable entertainment and decided to think outside of the box a bit. Here are just a few of the ideas of what developers might have waiting for us very soon.

Continue reading Here’s How the Apple Watch Could Transform iOS Gaming »

Ember_Logo_Small_505_Games_NFusion_MobileI’d like to think that we’re all familiar with N-Fusion Interactive, but for those of you who aren’t, I imagine you’ve at least heard of some of the games they’ve been involved with: Space Noir, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, and Deus Ex: The Fall to name a few. The studio has done some pretty impressive work on iOS over the years, and now they’re getting ready to release the RPG they’ve always wanted to make.

The world of Ember seems like a fascinating one. The game is titles after the world’s most valuable natural resource, which is used for all sorts of things from providing energy to a city to being set in jewelry. What’s more, it has intelligence. The larger the chunk of Ember, the smarter it is, to the point that you might find yourself squaring off against some rather (understandably) hostile giant crystals.

Ember_505_Games_Screen_19Ember also plays into your story, not just the over-arching story of the world. Throughout the game you’ll acquire Ember shards, which you can then decide to sell off for a tidy profit or set free – much like freeing or harvesting a Little Sister when you stop and think about it. Creepy.

Ember can best be compared to PC classics like Ultima and Baldur’s Gate. It uses a top-down isometric perspective, sure, but the similarities go a bit further than that. The world is also incredibly large, and will never need to load when traveling from one area to another. It has day/night cycles, weather, multiple homes to own, NPCs have their own schedules and behaviors that they keep to, and even the animals interact with each other (i.e. cats chase mice, wolves hunt deer, etc) on their own.

Items are also liberally sprinkled throughout the world (think just about anything Elder Scrolls) and all of them can be picked up. Or dropped, of course. There’s also a crafting system, so you’ll be able to turn ore you’ve mined into a new weapon or mix potions using materials gathered from the woods. And yes, there are readable books.

Ember_505_Games_Screen_20Combat is in real time, but you can pause the action at any point while you plan your tactics and activate skills. And speaking of skills, they’re tied to your equipment as opposed to being in some sort of tree. The reasoning behind this is simple: to prevent players from getting “stuck” playing a class they decide they don’t like. If you’re 12 hours in (the game touts 30 hours of gameplay, 180 quests, innumerable sidequests, etc) and decide focusing on melee combat isn’t doing it for you, it’ll be easy to start playing around with fireballs and lighting bolts instead. And of course when you put on new gear and equip new weapons they’ll all show up on your character.

There’s no official release date for Ember yet, but it’s coming along nicely and looks to be close to completion based on the build I was shown. Pricing is also still up in the air, but it’s definitely going to be a premium title – no ads, timers, etc. At the moment it’s being designed for the iPad, but I’ve been told there’s a chance we may see a separate iPhone version as well. Either way I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

On one hand it’s a bit depressing to see LittleBigPlanet (i.e. a PlayStation franchise adored for its abundant creativity) turn into an endless runner (i.e. one of the most overexposed mobile genres there are). However, maybe it’s better for a familiar formula to feature a familiar face. In any case, we’re checking out Run, Sackboy, Run!, LittleBigPlanet‘s iOS debut in this New Zealand edition of It Came From Canada!

Let’s not mince words. Run, Sackboy, Run! is totally just an endless runner with a LittleBigPlanet skin. Anyone looking for the robust platforming and level creation the series is known for will end up disappointed. But as far as skins go, it’s a pretty faithful recreation. The warm and fuzzy feel of the franchise looks just as great and tactile here as it does on Sony’s devices. As players progress they travel from earthbound environments to more futuristic areas, but the handcrafted aesthetic ties everything together. Like its siblings, the game also offers a plethora of costumes and collectibles. Players can gather stickers and outfit their Sackboy with new looks, like a kangaroo ensemble, to increase their score multiplier.

run sackboy run (3)Fortunately, beloved license aside, Run, Sackboy, Run! is a pretty good endless runner in its own right. The controls are floaty but still fluid – ironic, considering how poor the controls in console LittleBigPlanet games can be – letting players easily jump and squish enemies. Levels don’t feel procedurally generated, but they are so large and dense with multiple branching paths that each run can feel unique depending on where players decide to turn. Along the way, players find power-ups like magnets and jetpacks, and they can charge their own inner powers like a shield for walking right over sticky pink goo. But if players do get trapped, a simple dash will save them from the monster in hot pursuit. And beyond just looking cool, using these skills completes missions and causes Sackboy to slowly level-up.

run sackboy run (9)Again, as great as a proper LittleBigPlanet game could be on iOS, Run, Sackboy, Run! is not that game. It’s a simple spin-off. So potential players should make sure to keep that in mind when the game launches globally soon.

Through sheer force of will, along with a few legitimately great games, Ubisoft has turned their historical murder simulator Assassin’s Creed into one of the biggest franchises of the generation. But aside from a handful of questionable spin-offs, the series has never had a strong mobile presence – until now. We enter the Animus and check out Assassin’s Creed – Identity, the first “authentic” Assassin’s Creed experience for iOS, in this New Zealand Edition of It Came From Canada!

What’s so striking about Identity is how it manages to feel like a real Assassin’s Creed game by only making a couple of small compromises for the platform. Instead of controlling one protagonist for a sprawling, story-heavy campaign, players create and customize their assassin and take on a series of self-contained missions. The franchise’s infamously bonkers conspiracy meta-narrative is still there for those who choose to read it, but it never gets in the way of the neck-stabbing. And along with outfitting their avatar with collected weapons and skills, like the ability to summon online recruits for assistance, the different classes freshen up play styles on a more fundamental level.

ac identity (1)The missions themselves are familiar fare – things like stealthily kill this one dude, deliver this item, or run across these rooftops – and the Renaissance city playgrounds do feel more compact than usual. But again, it’s a small price to pay for gameplay and visuals as fluid and detailed as the franchise’s high-end portable entries at least. Players swipe to fight, sneak, and parkour with ease, and as they reach the tops of buildings they’ll get amazing views of the vistas before them. Assassin’s Creed‘s smooth systems have always been criticized for feeling too automated, but here it’s the perfect fit.

ac identity (3)Right now levels are limited to adventures in 16th century Italy, but the game promises modern-day Montreal missions are coming as well. However, Assassin’s Creed – Identity presents such a promising framework the team should consider throwing in stages from however many eras as they can fit. For right now though, getting the game in shape for launch should be the top priority. As we played, the game would freeze and hard reboot the iPad after every completed mission while attempting to ping the server. But that’s why this is a soft launch.

Assassin’s Creed – Identity will be creeping onto iOS devices everywhere soon.

Anyone afraid that throwing Transformers into the Angry Birds mix would result in a Michael Bay-level of childhood pillaging can rest easy. While Rovio’s famous fowls may be a 21st century staple, Angry Birds: Transformers wears its affection for the 80s on its sleeve. But is mere retro reverence enough to justify this crossover? We find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!

The opening video reveals how the classic birds we all know and love have transformed into birds disguised as robots in disguise. But aside from establishing the story, the lavish animated intro’s attention to Saturday morning detail, right down to VHS scan lines, might be the best part of the game.

Fortunately the gameplay itself, while about as simple as a typical Transformers episode, is also about as action-packed. Plus the animation isn’t as cheap. Angry Birds: Transformers eschews the physics puzzles the series is known for in favor of something resembling an on-rails shooter. As avian Optimus Prime or beaked Bumblebee constantly run from left to right, and players tap to shoot down Decepticon pigs in the background. Targeting weak points on fortresses to squish enemies more efficiently is about as close as the game gets to traditional Angry Birds strategies. Of course, since this is a Transformers game, players will also occasionally need to change their robots into vehicles to speed past collapsing columns.

angry birds transformers (3)As players blast more pigs they’ll open up more parts of the map, unlocking new characters with unique weapons like lasers or missiles. However, we weren’t able to access special Jenga levels since we didn’t have the codes. Between battles players can also upgrade characters to increase their strength and durability. Doing so gives players a close-up look at the bird bots themselves, and their colorful boxy models amusingly marry the aesthetics of both franchises while still maintaining what separately makes them iconic. And even better, there are barely any hints of ugly, cluttered ‘Bayformers’ in their designs.

angry birds transformers (7)Apart, Angry Birds and Transformers have already made all the money in the world. So we can’t imagine what they can do together – especially with Skylanders-style toy integration. Expect Angry Birds: Transformers to transform and roll out everywhere soon.

It Came From Canada: Overkill 3

Overkill 3 is like every trope of big modern gaming rolled into one. It’s a sequel to an action-packed military shooter. It’s flashy and scripted and flaunts its sophisticated graphics. And it’s a mobile game with a heavy emphasis on in-app purchases. But does it still manage to forge its own identity within that sea of marketing points? We find out in this edition of It Came From Canada!

In its biggest break from past Overkill games, Overkill 3 is a third-person shooting gallery rather than a first-person one. Movement is automatic, so players just aim and decide when to pop in and out of cover. But now they can see their vulgar, macho, soldier hero with his scarred Mohawk head instead of just imagining him. The shift also provides a slew of new tactical options. Firing down the sights, from the hip, or from behind cover each has its own balance of safety and effectiveness. More indirect assaults, like grenades and explosive barrels, also take on new dimensions for players and their enemies alike.

overkill 3 2But the real benefit of the pulled out camera is the wider variety of moments it’s able to present. Players get a better look at the game’s graphically detailed and impressively lit environments from desert Shanty Towns with secret Windows 95 jokes to vaguely futuristic cities. Calling in airstrikes or firing off rocket launchers also becomes more exciting when seen in their full glory. The game’s levels bounce between standard missions, wave-based survival modes, and even turret sequences for those that miss the first-person feel. But nothing justifies the new perspective more than the occasional quick-time events where players swipe the screen, causing their hero to dramatically leap out of the way of sniper fire. It’s bombastic and ridiculous in the same blockbuster action movie way other AAA games are. And given its content and fall release, Overkill 3 definitely wants to be in that company.

overkill 3 3Developer Craneballs says the limited number of levels in this soft launch version will be expanded during later releases, but players can still get more from the experience by buying and experimenting with different tools. Equipping new armor, lovingly rendered guns, and side weapons can really change a fight, and players can level-up via repeated playthroughs to give them access to even more goodies.

The past generation of games proved people can’t get enough of modern military shooters, but will this generation prove that players have now had their fill even on mobile? Overkill 3 will have to find that out for itself when it fully launches later this year.

Be vewy, vewy qwiet. I’m hunting wunners featuwing wabbits, and luckily, it’s duck season wunner season. Zynga has unveiled Looney Tunes Dash!: a runner featuring Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Road Runner, and more.

Following on from fan feedback, the developers have aimed to give players a game that has a sense of progression – meaning that, unlike many runners, levels do have a completion point. By completing levels, players can unlock new characters and landscapes iconic to fans of the animation classics.

Looney Tunes Dash! is set to release in select countries (and Tazmania?) this week in Acme’s Apple’s App Store. For those asking “What’s up Doc?”, more details are set to be announced in the coming months. Hopefully in the form of a note attached to a falling anvil.

Th-th-th-that’s all folks!

source: Zynga

STT_Tablet_and_Portal_FINAL_HiResSkylanders has always been a bit polarizing among gamers. Some see it as a glorified (and expensive) kids’ toy. Others see it as a somewhat ingenious combination of toys and video games. It’s a bit less of a toss-up with kids, though – kids adore it. And they’re undoubtedly excited about Skylanders Trap Team.

The Skylanders series has been brought to iOS before, but Trap Team is a first. It isn’t just a port that’s been cut back to fit or a completely different sort of game that uses the license: it’s Skylanders Trap Team. You can swap between characters by switching out figures (including all the characters from previous console-only versions), capture enemies in special Trap Crystals, and otherwise do all that Skylanders-y stuff you’d expect. It’s the same game console players will be experiencing, only on a presumably smaller screen. The touch controls work quite well too, although they aren’t entirely necessary (I’ll explain in a minute).

STT_Tablet_Starter Pack ContentsThe portal that’s included with the mobile Trap Team starter set is quite nifty. It uses bluetooth to connect to tablets wirelessly, has a simple but brilliant little notch in the side so that you can prop up your tablet (just about any tablet, no less) while you play, and comes with its own bluetooth controller that easily tucks into the bottom of the portal. Perhaps the most impressive thing about all this is that it’s incredibly easy to pair the portal and the controller with your device. If you’d rather not use the included controller, Trap Team also supports third-party mobile controllers. Or, if you find yourself with a surplus, you can also pair two different controllers and play co-op.

“It just works” has been the mantra for Vicarious Visions as they worked on the hardware for the mobile version, and it’s something they’ve pulled-off extremely well. So long as you have bluetooth enabled on your tablet all you’ll have to do is press and hold a button on the portal and/or controller and they’ll simply connect. Disconnecting them is just as easy of course, and if the controller becomes disconnected at any point during play (either on purpose or because it’s run out of batteries or something) the touch controls will pop up and you can keep playing. And if, for whatever reason, you either don’t have the portal or don’t have access to one you’re still covered. When Trap Team isn’t connected to a portal it’s still possible to play through the game using two special digital-only characters (each with their own levels, stats, and abilities).

Skylanders Trap Team_Tablet_ChopperSkylanders Trap Team will be available in the App Store as a free download on October 5 for the iPad 3 and 4, iPad Mini Retina, and iPad Air. The Starter Pack (includes the portal, bluetooth controller, unlock for the full game, and two figures) will be available on the same date for $74.99.

Loqheart has unveiled a preview trailer for their upcoming free-to-play wizard academy management game (i.e. Hogwarts simulator), Wizards of Prestige. Your academy is the final hope against the forces of evil, so it’s up to you as Headmaster to ensure that your students train up, master their skills, and graduate to fight against the evil. Along the way they may even fall in love or find themselves having a fight in class.

It’s also up to you to pick the correct wizards and control them in real-time battles, with good timing and strategy critical to ensuring your wizards get the chance to heal up and fight again another time.

No release date has been announced for Wizards of Prestige as of yet, but you can sign up for the browser pre-alpha now.

Set for release later this summer is Melissa K and the Heart of Gold, a casual adventure game that’s hoping to be a cut above the rest. I was lucky enough to check out a preview build of it to see just what we should expect.

melissa4The team behind Melissa K and the Heart of Gold initially worked on mystery game, LA Noire, being responsible for the real-time animation system within it – and it shows. Melissa K and the Heart of Gold is immediately more attractive than many other adventure games of this type. It’s the little things that shine through, such as how a small twitch of the iPad in any direction causes the game’s screen to move a little, adding a nice sense of fluidity to things.

Such pleasantries continue, ensuring that Melissa K and the Heart of Gold feels a more interactive experience than the usual titles in the genre. Objects can be manipulated by twisting them around, treating them like real 3D objects, and it works well.

melissa7Of course, the real meat for such games comes from its puzzles. Melissa K and the Heart of Gold offers plenty of hidden object scenes, but also a number of puzzles. In my short time with it I wasn’t overly challenged, but I was interested. The puzzles are clearly laid out and interesting enough. They’re reasonably different too, such as one requiring you to move a flower from one side of the screen to the other, without knocking the other items down. Figuring out how to unclasp a gem from a dragon statue was also a highlight, requiring more tactile controls than most.

Melissa K and the Heart of Gold should be out later this summer. It’s shaping up to be something that casual adventure gaming fans like myself should be anticipating. We’ll have more on it when it’s released.


We hope you’re all ready for a firefight, because the Overkill franchise is coming back for a third dose of action this summer. Craneball Studios‘ new teaser trailer for the upcoming Overkill 3 features more of the futuristic shooting that fans have come to expect from the series, only this time in third-person.

Though details are scant as of yet, you can definitely spot appearances from drones, gun emplacements, and the remnants of toppling skyscrapers in the footage. So essentially it looks like business as usual, right? 

Start stockpiling your ammo now, because this is the kind of conflict that players won’t want to miss.

Chuck E. Cheese’s Skate Universe Skates its Way Onto the App Store

Posted by on July 7th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Everyone’s favorite pizza peddling rodent has managed to sneak out of the midway and invade an iOS device near you. In Chuck E. Cheese’s Skate Universe, the mousy mascot takes a Temple Run-esque skateboard ride while dodging, jumping, and ollie-ing his way to safety.

This free title not only acts as an advertisement for the popular food chain, but also allows players to rack up as many as 1,000 tickets in-game that can be redeemed toward actual midway prizes! Cue children pleading their parents to make a pizza run in 3… 2… 1…

Chuck E. Cheese’s Skate Universe is available for free as a universal app right now.

Chuck0Chuck1

DeNA Brings the Pain With Super Battle Tactics

Posted by on July 7th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Years after the Advanced War series successfully melded the world of heavy artillery combat with mobile gaming, DeNA is taking their own whack at the turn-based strategy genre. In their newly debuted game, Super Battle Tactics, players get to build up an impressive armory of tanks and then face off against the competition.

This free-to-play experience revolves around upgrading and purchasing new vehicles, while also performing well strategically in the arena of combat. Successful performances help to attract sponsors, which in-turn brings in the revenue necessary to build out an amazing arsenal. Mix in some social networking features just for good measure, and this may be a recipe for mayhem inducing success.

Super Battle Tactics is now available for free in the iOS App Store as a universal app.

Three years to the day, after it initially launched on the App Store, it was announced that the Editor’s Choice award winning Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer will be getting a brand new in-app expansion pack. As part of an extended partnership between Ascension creators Stone Blade Entertainment and publisher Playdek, the expansion Rise of Vigil is set to debut on iOS this summer.

As part of this agreement Playdek is committed to maintaining the current online infrastructure (no fretting over the possible loss of multiplayer anymore, yay!), including cross-platform multiplayer functionality. But wait, isn’t Ascension currently iOS-exclusive, you say? Well our friends over at AndroidRundown have plenty to be excited about too, because shortly after the new expansion lands on the App Store, the title will be launching on both PC and Android for the first time.

For now though, you can brush up on your deck building skills by downloading Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer for free on the App Store.

via: Our Review

There is nothing more irritating than when your phone runs out of juice. It is even worse when this happens while on the road. But what if there were a way to constantly have juice on-hand, without needing a handful of different charging devices? The over 6,000 people who Kickstarted the new product, Jump, have felt your pain and have the perfect solution.

Available for a mere $49.99 from BiteMyApple.co, the Jump is a hybrid battery pack/charger for iPhone 5/5S/5C that can either provide a pass-through charge from an electrical source or 3 hours of talk time from the on-board 800 mAh battery. This intelligent charger even waits until the iDevice’s battery is full before charging the booster.

Best of all, the product still performs perfectly as a sync cable as well. Move quick, because with impressive features like these, the Jump isn’t going to stay in stock for long.

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via: Jump Product Page on BiteMyApple

Turn Screenshots into a Shopping List with SnapUp

Posted by on July 1st, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Nowadays mobile shopping is becoming the norm. The problem is that there are too few websites that put a premium on a fantastic shopping experience on the phone. That is where the new app SnapUp comes into play.

Designed as the perfect way to quickly compile a list of products, SnapUp melds an iOS device’s screenshot functionality with a streamlined shopping interface. Users can even share and monitor products, all from the comfort of their iOS device.

Oh, and did we mention that SnapUp also has the ability to provide real-time price drop push notifications on “snapped” products? No wonder it was able to secure $600,000 in venture capital funding before the software even launched!

SnapUp is available now on the App Store for free.

Duel Your Friends Soon With Dual

Posted by on June 26th, 2014

Sebastian Gosztyla, a programmer for such games as Guilty Party and Avengers Initiative, wanted to make games less escapist and more interactive with other human beings. After experimenting with different gameplay styles he has come up with Dual.

The game involves two players and each of their screens make up half of the play area. Players fling missiles at each other and attempt to doge them by physically moving and tilting their phones. The game communicates between phones using bluetooth or wifi on the iPhone and Android, which makes it a great play-anywhere-anytime game.

There is no set release date, but Sebastian Gosztyla is hoping to make Dual available sometime near the end of summer.

There are very few contenders left in the 2D fighting game arena. One of the last standing combatants are the beautifully hand-drawn sprites of the BlazBlue franchise. Recently it was announced that the series is going to be making its iOS debut this fall, in a form that you may not quite expect.

BlazBlue: Battle Cards aims to blur the lines between fast-paced combat and deliberate strategic card games, all the while revisiting characters that fans have come to know and love on their home consoles. Look for more information as the game nears launch in a few months. In the meantime, be sure to enjoy the little sneak peak, below.

German developer Headup Games recently announced that they are partnering with Funatics Software to bringing the studio’s browser-based MMORPG, Cultures to the iPad. But this isn’t just any run of the mill port: the iOS version of the game will be optimized to make best use of everything that a touch-based gaming platform has to offer. Take that, PC Master Race!

Featuring aspects of world-building, boss battles. and looting opportunities aplenty, Cultures is currently on schedule for a summer launch on the App Store. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.

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It’s always easy to be way too cynical when it comes to free-to-play games, and when Tony Hawk’s Shred Session was announced there was certainly some thought that it could be a cheap licensed affair. Well the game has soft-launched in New Zealand, so I put on my helmet, grabbed my board, and found out this is a more casual game – but not a cash-in.

The game is set up as a lane-based runner a la Subway Surfers, but it truly is just a Tony Hawk game set up in that vein of being friendly for mobile and casual play. Levels include ramps, rails, and even half pipes. Tricks can be strung together through the gesture-based system for grabs, flips, and grinds. Extended gestures exist for more complicated tricks. These complicated tricks can be unlocked and bought with coins over time as players level up, or unlocked instantly with bucks (the hard currency).

The game takes place in two modes: Shred Session and Survival. Shred Session is a level-based mode where each level tasks players with short-form goals to chase after. Some levels involve scoring a certain number of points before the timer or level runs out. Others involve collecting a certain number of orbs, collecting time tokens, and participating in trick-offs with other skaters where the prescribed tricks must be matched. All are managed by a three-star system, with higher scores or more collectibles necessary to get more stars.

THSS_ICFC-1THSS_ICFC-4While the game is free-to-play, and more advanced tricks will help with combos, it does a great job at not letting the monetization get in the way of playing the game. There are boosts to buy along with new boards and skaters, but purchases largely feel optional instead of necessary. Having no energy system helps out a lot, too. Given that style is a huge part of skating culture, I can see cosmetic upgrades contributing to the game’s moneymaking – particularly as hard currency is needed to unlock many of the skaters and cooler tricks early on. But there’s no replacement for skill.

While certainly the monetization could change, it seems as if there’s a really interesting core here; one that could appeal to those who like skateboarding games, but want a mobile-friendly experience. We’ll see how the world reacts when Tony Hawk’s Shred Session eventually goes worldwide.


Soccerinho Teaches Players to ‘Bend it Like Beckham’

Posted by on June 11th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

There was once a time in nearly every person’s life when they enjoyed partaking in childish shenanigans. A perfect example of these events include things like pickup games of football in the yard, involving all of the neighborhood kids. Well now, thanks to the new game Soccerinho, you can relive these childhood memories – only with a different kind of football.

Featuring a collection of soccer-centric mini-games, Soccerinho will take players on an atmospheric adventure back to the streets of Prague, long before the days of this World Cup madness. The title’s 84 levels should offer more than enough ball bending fun to keep players busy for the foreseeable future.

Soccerinho is available now as a Universal app for $4.99.

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It looks like Agent 47 is at it again. Fresh off of his Editor’s Choice garnering first iOS outing in Hitman GO, everyone’s favorite assassin is back for more bloodshed.

This time around the ubiquitous manslaughter machine is placed behind the scope of a sniper rifle in the aptly named Hitman: Sniper. Though the details are rather scant as of now, you can bet that we will be hear quite a bit more about the title over the span of E3 week. Oh, and spoiler alert: the game will probably feature players shooting a person or ten. But don’t worry, the targets have undoubtedly done something heinous to deserve their strategically-placed hot lead injection.

You can look forward to checking out Hitman: Sniper for yourself when it hits the App Store later this year.

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