Posts Tagged soft launch

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may still be a few months away, but very soon players will be able to get a new taste of the acclaimed Polish RPG on their mobile devices with The Witcher Battle Arena. While it trades open-world exploration for compact multiplayer brawls, we see how much of that old Witcher charm remains in this edition of It Came From Canada!

The Witcher Battle Arena definitely has a lot of MOBA elements, but its changes are significant enough to keep it from fitting squarely into that genre. Players choose from a handful of characters from Witcher lore, like lumbering trolls or agile archers, each with their own skills to master like giant arrows or fire storms. From there they team up with two other players to fight another team of three, whether it’s online humans or bots, to the death.

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But instead of using typical MOBA ideas like creeps or lanes or turrets or crystals, here battles boil down to direct confrontations and capturing outposts. To whittle their opponents’ health to zero, players kill their foes as well as maintain control over the three outposts as long as possible. Conquering a neutral outpost takes just a few moments, but once they are all quickly snapped up, players must last long enough to completely steal control points for their team. This back and forth makes up much of the game. Although the limited arenas are compact to the point of claustrophobic, teams must still make sure not to spread themselves too thin as they try to take enemy territory while simultaneously protecting the base. The variety of skills and shop upgrades add to the tactics, and just one well-executed surge can move a match from a stalemate to a decisive victory in minutes. It’s about being in the thick of constant carnage instead of sneakily circumventing it looking for the last kill. Compared to most MOBAs, it’s less detached.

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It also looks pretty good considering its unenviable position of being compared to a gorgeous AAA console cousin. The smaller maps allow for more details and the grim fantasy aesthetic of The Witcher shines through. It may not surpass Vainglory’s visuals, which are a graphical showcase for iOS MOBAs and iOS games (period), but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Just as The Witcher refuses to be like all other RPGs, The Witcher Battle Arena rejects rigid MOBA conventions. We’ll see how well that pays off when the game fully launches soon.

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.

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: Pokémon TCG Online

Nintendo characters on the App Store? Have they really gotten that desperate? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. While it may be strange and novel seeing Pikachu and company running around on an Apple product, the fact is the Pokémon Company has always had some degree of autonomy from its Mario masters. And now they’ve used that independence to bring the wildly popular Pokémon Trading Card Game to the iPad. We catch ‘em all in this edition of It Came From Canada!

If the smash success of Hearthstone has taught us anything it’s that card games work great on the iPad, and Pokémon Trading Card Game Online is no different. Dealing with digital decks is just so much more convenient than laying out physical spaces, shuffling cards, and keeping track of various pieces. Plus, having a computer present to teach and reinforce the rules is a lot more reliable than leaving it up to human error.

pokemon tgc online (2)However, this really is just a straightforward virtual translation of the Black and White starter editions of the actual trading card game. Battle animations aren’t flashy and graphics are kind of flat in general; they’re not even as stylish as the beloved anime. Meanwhile, online is used for simple stat-tracking and basic multiplayer matches. Players should also make sure to register an account, because otherwise they’ll be forced to sit through the lengthy tutorial each time they launch the game.

pokemon tgc online (4)But modest production values aside, there’s a reason why this game has been so popular for so long, and it’s not just marketing. It simply does a great job at capturing what’s fun about Pokémon RPGs in card game form. Arranging teams of monsters, evolving starters you’ve grown particularly fond of, and strategically unleashing powerful elemental attacks is just as satisfying here as it is on the screen of a Nintendo handheld.

Since Pokémon is a worldwide phenomenon, expect Pokémon Trading Card Game Online to launch everywhere soon. And while it’s not totally fair to use it as a litmus test for Nintendo’s future on the App Store, it’s at least interesting to think about.

I’m going to be straight you with folks. I don’t know much about MOBAs, and I’m certainly no professional. That means I don’t know how well Vainglory, the upcoming multiplayer online battle arena showcased in the most recent Apple keynote, compares to titans like League of Legends or DotA 2 in terms of depth and control. However, in this edition of It Came From Canada – Philippines Edition, what I can say is that it certainly has the ambition to be king of the mobile MOBAs.

Even to someone like me, the specifics of this gigantic genre have become pretty well-known by now. Two teams, in this case with three members each, attempt to destroy their opponents’ home base by making it through lanes full of powerful turrets and endless waves of disposable grunt soldiers. Players choose from a handful of heroes with their own personalities and moves to master – like the sadistic sword wielder Catherine, rambunctious catgirl Koshka, and shambling Monty Python-quoting zombie warrior Krul. Fast melee-focused characters obviously require different strategies compared to slow spellcasters, and forming those plans is where much of the tactical depth comes from.

vainglory (3)Fortunately, the game is very accommodating to newcomers. The extensive tutorial goes over basics like what to buy at the shop and why it’s important to not die and give your foes a bonus. It also familiarizes players with the single map and important sites to capture like special monsters that strengthen minions once defeated. It’s a lot to take in, from knowing when to hide in the bushes to the concept of “the jungle,” and that’s before it even gets to character-specific traits. But since this is all the game is, it’s good that there’s a lot to it. Players can also practice at any time and discover how surprisingly nuanced the touch controls are – letting them set waypoints, launch strings of attacks, and tell heroes what spots to avoid.

vainglory (7)Vainglory also just looks fantastic thanks to the new “Metal” iOS 8 API. Yeah, the art style still betrays the fact that this entire sub-genre descends from a mod of a Blizzard game, but the details, effects, animations, and smoothness of play actually do resemble a higher-end PC release from a developer of that caliber. Along with giving players new options to explore, unlocking characters from the marketplace also provides something new and pleasant to look at for a match.

Since Vainglory isn’t out in most territories yet, so finding a match was a little difficult. Although once it fully launches soon, that shouldn’t be a problem. Again, I’m not the one who can tell if it will succeed in the highly profitable but contentious MOBA space, but it’s definitely an impressive attempt.

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.

It Came From Canada: Terra Battle

In some way or another, most Japanese RPGs owe something to Final Fantasy. But with Terra Battle, the now-common mix of Western medieval fantasy with Eastern anime aesthetic feels earned. After all, its developer, Mistwalker, was founded by the Final Fantasy mastermind himself, Hironobu Sakaguchi. While this upcoming strategy game is definitely more modest than its ancestors, it’s still worth noticing when a company with this pedigree flexes its muscles. So that’s what we did in this latest edition of It Came From Canada!

As modern RPG plots become as integral to their respective games as they are incomprehensible, Terra Battle harkens back to an earlier time when fighting monsters was as good a reason as any to recruit tavern patrons to your party. There is a story, but those who choose to skip it can still find the game worthwhile.

terra battle (1)terra battle (2)And besides, the vast majority of the time is spent in the battlefield brawls that make up each chapter. Terra Battle‘s take on turn-based strategy feels like a cross between Fire Emblem and a board game like Reversi. Enemies and party members appear as squares on a grid. During each turn, players can move one square wherever they like while they still have time. To attack, players simply flank an enemy with two units.

The game also uses a weapon triangle system where certain attacks trump others, like rock-paper-scissors. However, proper positioning is the real focus. Beyond basic movement, players can explore other tactical options and quirks like passing units through each other to shift their locations or creating larger support clusters to attack multiple foes at once. Occasionally, powerful orbs will materialize on the grid, and by working those into their formations players can unleash even more devastating attacks perfect for boss fights.

terra battle (3)terra battle (4)To improve their party, players can also participate in daily challenges in special zones to earn more experience or loot. But really, the deep, intense, and highly strategic combat is the draw. It’s so good players may not even notice or care how lovely but generic the illustrated artwork is or how dull the barren grid itself becomes after staring at it for countless hours.

Terra Battle may not be some endless epic about saving the world from calamity, but it is a tight little test of wits. And it’s coming to the App Store soon, so be on the lookout.

It Came From Canada: Might & Mayhem

Of all the “hardcore” game genres that have had recent new life as more casual mobile games, RPGs might be one of the most surprising. With their focus on numbers, organization, and slow, patient play, you wouldn’t expect them to fit in with quick, flashy distractions. However, the upcoming Might & Mayhem offers a pretty clear explanation for this phenomenon. While it has many trappings of a dense role-playing adventure, playing it is a much more straightforward, and arguably stripped-down affair. We find out if it still has enough of the goods in this edition of It Came From Canada!

In Might & Mayhem players build a three-person team of fantasy warriors – from dashing but weak sword fighters to mysterious and buff spell casters – and fight a series of turn-based battles. There’s no real overworld to explore, not much grinding, and little emphasis on loot. Rather, players just take on battle after battle in kingdoms full of enemy robots and goblins before reaching a boss. Fortunately, the combat has some depth to justify its prominence. As each match goes on, players accrue more action points. With more action points, they can launch stronger attacks or multiple attacks at once. However, skills still have limits, so balance and strategy is crucial. Go for the strongest foe or take out the weak healer first? Smart tactics become especially necessary in online battles.

might and mayhem 8There is some customization to be had outside of battle, though. Players can upgrade their castle home base along with their fighters. While manually reviving fallen units costs precious diamonds, other upgrades are refreshingly freemium-free. Before quests, players can equip special single-use abilities like massive lightning strikes or health waves that can really turn the tide of battle. And more bonuses of all kinds unlock as players progress.

might and mayhem 9Since Might & Mayhem focuses mostly on its battles, it puts a lot of effort into their visual presentation. Everything is brought to life in colorful 3D environments with great, dynamic animations. Players can even rotate the camera whenever they choose to get a different view of the action. However, even if it is well made, the artwork itself is still fairly generic. Plus battles will glitch out and freeze a little too often, requiring a soft reset.

Might & Mayhem demonstrates how RPGs adapt themselves to mobile by becoming super straightforward. Players can decide from themselves whether or not that’s cool with them when it launches worldwide soon.

With a brand new Star Wars trilogy on the horizon, prepare yourselves for Disney and George Lucas’s space fantasy throwback to be more omnipresent than ever before. So it should come as no surprise that new adventures in that galaxy far, far away are coming to mobile as well. The latest example? Star Wars: Commander. We check to see how strong the Force is with this upcoming strategy game in this edition of It Came From Canada!

As much as its creators try to deny it, Star Wars: Commander is Clash of Clans with the Star Wars license. Players begin as independent Tatooine mercenaries who have unfortunately gotten on the bad side of powerful gangster Jabba the Hutt. So to survive, players can either join the Empire as it continues conquering the galaxy or make friends with the Rebels heroically struggling for freedom. Whatever they choose, players then begin building their base and taking on missions.

star wars commander 6At their headquarters, players can upgrade new structures and droids to help bolster their forces. Depending on what faction they choose, hero units like Han Solo or giant death machines like AT-ATs will be at their command. With these units, players take on the light real-time strategy missions that make up the game’s single-player campaign. They can also ally with other players or launch offensives against them. However, that means they must remember to keep their own base safe as well by constructing defensive walls and turrets along with deploying strategic air strikes. The missions themselves are brief, easy, and mostly just focus on destruction, but it’s lame how any units brought in can never be used again even if they survive. It leads to needlessly conservative play.

star wars commander 8But again, all of this will be familiar to Clash of Clans players. This is mostly just an elaborate Star Wars skin. However, it is hard to deny how great a skin that is. The character models, sound effects, and musical cues are not only fantastic, but almost overwhelmingly nostalgic for the original trilogy.

If this is all part of the master plan to get people excited about Star Wars again, it’s working. Star Wars: Commander is currently in a soft launch phase and will coming to a galaxy near you very soon.

It Came from Canada: Galaxy Dash

With its use of well-established tropes like endless flying and sci-fi space shooting, the upcoming Galaxy Dash: Race to the Outer Run most likely won’t confound expectations. However, with its robust amount of opportunities for fun player interactions it might just exceed them. We check out this new great space coaster in the latest edition of It Came From Canada!

Galaxy Dash has the typical infinite runner set-up: players control a ship and try to fly out as far as possible, hopping between the three lanes to avoid enemies and obstacles. But from that familiar framework, the game then introduces a lot of interesting small details that add up to something greater. For starters, players can shoot lasers to bring down bogeys or bust open gem-filled asteroids. However, the weapons need recharging so players must plan their shots carefully. Part of that includes paying attention to the snaking nature of the lanes. Shots always go out straight, but players themselves will be at the whim of their looping path. The way larger deadly asteroids casually intersect also adds to the cool feeling of naturalism.

galaxy dash 1galaxy dash 2But players’ options aren’t limited to pure offense. In between rounds, they can upgrade various aspects of their ship or purchase new models. One upgrade path lets players increase the speed of their shield, which charges throughout each run and can soak up a single hit. Or players can choose to upgrade their cargo. Each run is littered with crates – some lying out in the open and others attached to special enemies. Depending on their capacity, players can pick up these boxes and earn extra points by carrying them to the checkpoint outpost separating each section. Finally, players can recruit allies who leave special power-ups for them to find, like deadly double lasers. Tying Galaxy Dash‘s surprising amount of gameplay choices together is the clean, colorful art style. What looks to be cel-shading gives beautiful depth to images that could’ve seemed flat otherwise.

galaxy dash 3galaxy dash 4Again, Galaxy Dash won’t feel like some radically innovative experience once it fully launches – it does things players have seen before. However, it’s hard not to appreciate how well and how intelligently it executes those familiar ideas.

It Came From Canada: Scrap Force

When the evil alien invaders inevitably come, it’s pretty much guaranteed that only the pure innocent hearts of children can save us – or at least children as well-armed as the cast of “Attack the Block.” So we might as well start preparing now with Scrap Force, an upcoming turn-based strategy game where children use alien power to protect the planet with homemade weaponry. We find out just how much kids rule in this latest edition of It Came From Canada!

Scrap Force consists of a lengthy series of turn-based battles between plucky neighborhood kids and evil alien Obliteroids. Each match is one-on-one with two teams of six facing each other using three lanes that are two-units long. Players don’t create units, but rather draw from a shuffled group of heroes to place on the battlefield. At the start of each round, players and enemies are given an increasing amount of power shards. With more shards, stronger heroes can be summoned, so the match escalates no matter what.

scrap force 3The hero variety is really what gives Scrap Force its depth. Every new warrior has his or her own quirks to learn. Some can attack as soon as they are placed. Others steal power shards with each hit. Some kids can move in more directions while others just have more sheer strength. There are tons of strategies and counter-strategies to form using these unique abilities in concert. Skillfully balance these fighters to defeat alien foes and topple their base. Using items like bowling balls and hot dog dynamite helps, too. And with its simple 3D playground characters and environments, the whole thing has a neat Backyards Sports vibe. Except it’s galactic warfare instead of football.

scrap force 4In between rounds, players can summon new heroes and upgrade old ones with the scrap they’ve collected. Downtime isn’t optional either, since the game’s freemium timers keep players from just blasting through the campaign. That means players will be spending a lot of time with these child soldiers. But given what we’ve played so far, that might not be such a bad thing.

So be on the lookout for Scrap Force once it fully launches soon.

If you go to a casino, you might make a lot of money. If you run a casino, you’re guaranteed to make a lot of money. The choice seems pretty obvious. So while waiting for your shady real estate deals to move forward, get prepared with Tiny Tower Vegas, the latest follow-up to the smash hit sim Tiny Tower. We become mini casino moguls in this latest edition of It Came From Canada!

Tiny Tower Vegas will feel instantly familiar to fans of the original. Players build their gambling empire floor by floor while keeping customers happy and business flowing. New floors need new employees, and players can choose between who the best person for the job is and who is the most affordable. Customize the tower by putting pyramids or Greek statues on the roof, changing interior décor, and even sprucing up the elevator design. Players can also upgrade the elevator’s speed since they’ll be operating it by hand quite often to get guests where they want to go. And it’s all presented in the same great, low-key pixel art style.

tiny tower vegas 1tiny tower vegas 2But of course, the Las Vegas setting comes with its own demands – even if this seems based on new, classy, family friendly Vegas instead of old, seedy, good Vegas. While some new floors will be the occasional taco bar in need of restocking, the gambling is where the real action lives. Players can try their luck on slot machines and earn extra cash alongside customer revenue. Once the hot streak ends, would-be pit bosses can check up on how their “bitizen” guests are doing by reading the “BitBook” social network, or just sit back and watch the fireworks – the only things brighter than the massive glowing signs.

tiny tower vegas 3tiny tower vegas 4Current Tiny Tower players shouldn’t expect Tiny Tower Vegas to completely reinvent the wheel after its soft launch phase. It’s got some new ideas, so it’s not just a reskin, but it’s so close to the original it’s more spin-off or expansion pack than sequel. But you can decide for yourself once it fully launches.

It Came From Canada: Epic Skater

For all the hate that it gets for being a pastime for slackers, skateboarding really does require a lot of skill. All those flips and spins take real athleticism, and there’s all the jargon to memorize. Fortunately for us less extreme individuals, Epic Skater makes things a lot simpler by handling all that pesky “moving” business. We check out this upcoming endless runner – or skater, rather – in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Epic Skater always starts with its kid hero bursting out of a dusty old classroom to go skate in the big city. But from there, the game randomly strings together its environments to create a slightly different experience each time. Certain sections will become familiar, but changing the order keeps players on their toes, and their toes on the board. The different backdrops are also lovingly detailed, whether it’s the giant “Epicwood” sign or the various restaurants players skate by after emerging from the sewers. And it’s all brought to life in a colorful, fast-paced, 3D cartoon world.

epic skater 1As an endless runner, the only goal is to make it as far as possible without stumbling over an obstacle. But what’s the fun in that? The real goal is to get as high a score as possible using the game’s fairly robust, Tony Hawk-style trick system. Swiping or holding down on the screen in various ways will trigger all kinds of unique flips, spins, and jumps. Players can chain moves together through manuals, or if their timing is really precise, hop right onto a grind rail in the background. The game gets quicker the longer it goes on, and soon players will be leaping over massive gaps at breakneck speeds. They might even start to worry for the kid – especially after watching some of the gnarly failure animations.

epic skater 2Between runs players can use the coins they’ve gathered to upgrade their board, or buy boosters at the start of each round. With real money they can also buy energy drinks to continue a failed run without losing any points. But as far as freemium elements go, that’s pretty inoffensive. Plus, by paying attention to the achievement system players can earn most of the experience they need to take their skater to the next level without crutches.

Currently, Epic Skater is only available in countries like New Zealand as part of its soft launch phase. But expect it to shred its way onto App Stores everywhere soon.

It Came From Canada: Bio Inc.

Bio Inc. is an evil game. It can make players feel legitimately guilty. It’s not only about killing, but killing as subtly and fiendishly as possible. It’s about death as inevitability. After blackening our hearts and poisoning our souls, we’re here with the autopsy in this latest edition of It Came From Canada!

Remember the villainous virus from Osmosis Jones that took pride in killing people as fast as possible? That’s basically Bio Inc.’s premise. Players dive into the body of some unsuspecting sucker and try to end their life quickly and efficiently. It’s like Trauma Center in reverse. At the start of each round, players hop between different body systems, like the brain and the skeleton, harvesting minor bacteria like resources in a strategy game. From there, they use the points they’ve acquired to unleash new ailments like the flu and insomnia. As new symptoms take their toll, players can climb further up the tech tree discovering even stronger ways to cripple their victim’s heart or immune system defenses. They can even unlock bonus risk factors to buff their attacks like making the victim smoke or eat junk food.

bio inc 1

But as in real life, killing in Bio Inc. isn’t that simple. Eventually the victim will go to the doctor and start receiving care. Once that happens, their recovery meter will start to go up. As the player’s attacks become more vicious and more systems start to fail, the doctors start working even harder and recovery increases faster. The game then becomes a race against time to murder the mark before the doctors can save them. Players can even use downright abhorrent sneaky tricks like making the doctors go on strike and halt recovery.

What’s most diabolical about the game though is how its deep strategic elements make players thoughtfully plan out their dirty deeds. Target one system aggressively or spread out the infections? Pepper the body with little diseases or save up points and release The Big C? Each new victim also has specific traits like high stress or a family history of genetic deficiencies. Exploiting these facts is crucial, especially on higher difficulties. Players can even name their targets for maximum meta cruelty.

bio inc 2

The horror inherent to the premise is only slightly blunted by a few funny voice clips accompanying each new development. Upping the victim’s age to over 60 sounds especially, hilariously painful. But beyond that, the game pulls no punches while forcing players to watch their victim’s body slowly breakdown through the harsh, clinical interface.

Bio Inc. isn’t available yet, so fortunately we have some time to brace ourselves for the complete extent of its malice. Once it fully launches though, it just might spell the end for our current age of innocence.

King is releasing a sequel to the game that got them started on mobile, thus becoming the behemoths that they are today: Bubble Witch Saga 2. The game has soft-launched in the Netherlands, so I busted out my wooden shoes for this edition of our soft-launch series: It Came From Canada, Holland Edition!

If I were to sum up the experience of Bubble Witch Saga 2 in one word, it would be “polished.” The visuals are shiny and detailed; the animations are fluid; even the controls are exceptional. This Bust-a-Move-esque bubble-bursting game’s controls use a simple touch-and-drag method to aim upward from the bubble launcher, with tapping on the other bubble in the launcher to switch to that one. The aiming is accurate for even small movements, making it easy and pleasing to use – because the game will take a turn for the difficult.

BubbleWitchSaga2_ICFC-3There are a variety of levels to mix up the bubble-bursting: the primary ones are levels where players must use a limited supply of bubbles to pop six of the bubbles on the top-most row. These levels scroll, though there’s no way to scroll upward to see which bubbles are off screen. There are similar levels with encased animals, who must be freed by having no bubbles above them. Finally, there are ghost levels where all the bubbles that encase a central ghost must be eliminated, with the twist that the level, well, twists around with each bubble hit.

BubbleWitchSaga2_ICFC-11There’s the standard King array of midgame power-ups and lives that slowly recharge, with the ability to request more from friends on Facebook. The distribution of bubbles seems to be not particularly weighted around making sure players can beat a level: if a color gets eliminated, it won’t appear any more, but don’t assume that the game’s going to ensure that you get all the bubbles you need; it won’t necessarily be that generous. Any miss should be treated as a potentially grave sin – a damning step toward failure. Of course, there’s the ability to buy more bubbles. This feeling kicks in after about ten levels or so. The game starts to mean business, and it punishes players who aren’t very careful and calculating.

Of course, this is pretty much the formula for King’s success so far: extremely playable games with a brutal streak that keeps players coming back, spending more money or spreading the word about the game for their personal benefit. Bubble Witch Saga 2 is expected worldwide soon.


InnoGames, fresh off announcing Rising Generals, has an iPad strategy game currently soft-launched in Canada. Forge of Empires has players building a town, so I grabbed my sword and hammer and set off for the land of maple syrup for this edition of It Came From Canada!

ForgeOfEmpires-11The main phase of the game is town-building: creating new buildings in order to earn more money, or items that can generate more resources such as building points, villagers, gold, and even happiness. There’s a lot to keep track of here. This is all in service of becoming the most powerful town in the world. There’s a leaderboard of players that one can peruse, with guilds that can be joined for cooperative purposes.

Okay, it sounds a bit like Clash of Clans so far. The key difference is that players don’t just send off enemy hordes to battle: they enter a turn-based strategy game with them.

Battles take place on a hexagonal grid, where players can move their units about within their specified range, and can attack enemies within their attack range. There are also defense bonuses for certain terrain types. It’s very basic strategy gameplay, but it’s definitely deeper, even in its simplicity, than most Clash of Clans-esque games. Units start out as Bronze Age soldiers and eventually get up to modern era ones, though this will likely take a long time to get going. Those who check in often and spend their forge points regularly will get to the later eras first.

ForgeOfEmpires-05While there is a campaign against computerized enemies, it’s also possible to interact with other players. These can be in friendly ways: motivation and polishing will help resource generation and production happen at a faster rate. As well, it’s possible to attack other players and plunder one of their buildings. It appears that all battling is asynchronous for now against human opponents.

Players can research new units and types by spending forge points. These recharge over time (or can be bought with gold or diamonds) and by researching new tech trees, new unit types can be had. The tech trees are deep, so people who come back often will be the first to unlock later portions of the game.

While the town-building is very familiar – and the strategy very basic – for this oft-imitated genre spearheaded by Clash of Clans, the relatively-deeper (yet still approachable) combat might be worth checking out once it launches worldwide.


Just announced on Monday, May 19, Super Monkey Ball Bounce also showed its face in the Canadian App Store. This free-to-play game puts a Pachinko and Peggle spin on the game of monkeys in spheres. So, I sealed by plastic ball up tight and crossed the border for this edition of It Came From Canada!

This game is very Peggle-like. It uses many of the same tropes and gameplay setups as Peggle does. The general mission is to pop the various star pegs, with other pegs existing as opportunities to get bonus points, including randomly-placed multiplier pegs. Power-up pegs also exist, which grant an ability based on the selected character, though ones beyond AiAi require playing the game to certain levels to unlock. AiAi’s is a guided line, which is pretty much identical to the first character in Peggle, though other power-ups start to show some variety. Still, this skews closer to the Peggle formula than even what Papa Pear Saga did – though the physics feel a lot more consistent than King’s take on the genre.

SMB_Bounce_ICFC-04SMB_Bounce_ICFC-09How does Super Monkey Ball Bounce operate within the confines of its monetization? The game uses a currency of gold bars, which come with a free supply at the start but are either not earned or only infrequently so. What can be bought with them? Well, there are boost power-ups that players can take into levels with them, including the power-ups of other characters. Also, a slot machine that can be played for every ten spins can get guaranteed win spins for the cost of a few gold bars.

As well, continues can be had for gold bars. That’s likely where the money-making comes in: levels can start to ramp up in difficulty, and the temptation to spend real-world money on gold may just set in. As well, there’s a lives system like Candy Crush Saga (with a level progression map just like it as well), and these run out whenever the player fails a level, though connecting with Facebook friends can earn more lives.

The monetization might be an interesting thing to track at the final release. Super Monkey Ball Bounce is a slow burn early on so it might not make money for a while, or the early part of the game might get a bump up in difficulty. It’ll be interesting to see how Sega approaches this once it releases worldwide.


It Came From Canada: Godus

After messing around with giant cubes and social experiments, the famously eccentric game designer Peter Molyneux returns to the God game genre with Godus. This spiritual successor to Molyneux’s earlier game, Populous, is currently in beta on PC and has just soft launched on the New Zealand App Store. We let absolute power corrupt us absolutely in this edition of It Came From Canada!

Witness and shape the beginning of human history in Godus. As a benevolent deity, players will guide their followers from a single hut on a beach at the dawn of time up until around the Roman Empire, although the game could certainly continue from there. The main way to achieve this is by molding the Earth and allowing the population to expand. It’s almost sad mowing down thick forests to let humanity proliferate like a virus, but such is life. There don’t seem to be any threats to the tiny citizens, like predators or natural disasters, so players can just focus on reproduction. As the population grows, the player’s godly power increases – granting them new skills like the ability to shift oceans or terraform more parts of the single, continuous map.

godus 1The game unsurprisingly has numerous subsystems as well. More intense god powers, including burning bushes or controlling followers directly through “leashing,” draw from the belief of worshippers. Players naturally gain belief as their small world grows, but it can be purchased using the game’s real-money gem system as well. Players can also purchase sticker packs to activate the special cards they receive with each level up. These cards bestow various bonuses like faster building speeds or the ability to start settlements on different terrain. Fortunately, stickers appear naturally in the world too.

As more of the cold, unconquered North gives way to the player’s bright civilization, players will encounter ships and beacons allowing them to interact with other players online. In fact, the grand prize for finishing 22Can’s previous game Curiosity was becoming the God of Gods in Godus, along with a share of the profits. However, in many ways the game works best as an isolated experience, an entire little world unto itself.

godus 2That shoebox diorama quality is accentuated by the game’s almost paper cut-out art style. The solid colors and obvious layers of the landscape may not be realistic, but they’re charming. The same goes for the cute sound effects like the mysterious voices on the wind and the happy little tunes villagers whistle while they work. The distinct layers also make it easier for players to meticulously sculpt the land as they see fit. They can even make terraced steps out of the Earth for followers to climb to higher places, when their spotty path finding works that is. However, it is still a little too easy for fatter fingers to make unintended changes, which is especially annoying when those accidental changes waste precious belief.

Still, Godus successfully captures both the tedium and the power trip of what being an all-knowing, all-powerful force must feel like. Players can get their hands on a world of their own when the game fully launches.

In an App Store chock full of shameless clones, it’s always nice to see a game that expands on its influences instead of just copying them wholesale. Such is the case with Globber’s Escape, now in a soft launch phase, which clearly borrows its basic framework from the classic Pac-Man formula. But fortunately it doesn’t stop there, and we see just how far it goes in this edition of It Came From Canada!

In Globber’s Escape, players guide a circular creature around a 2D maze collecting tiny objects and avoiding patrolling enemies. However, if they collect the right power-up they can turn the tables on their foes and gobble them up, sending baddies back to the center to regenerate. Again, it sounds like Pac-Man. But from that familiar set-up, the game starts diverging in small but clever ways.

globber's escape 1globber's escape 2Instead of static dots, players devour little aliens that sporadically burst out of different containers on the map and mindlessly roam around the stage. This means players must always be ready to adjust their paths and strategies on the fly. Once all the critters are collected, instead of automatically starting the next round players must manually escape the room by reaching the closest open door. However, this makes them even more vulnerable to agitated enemies like evil mad scientists and almost unfairly unstoppable robots. If players do get caught, they can free Globber using the rare revive hammers sprinkled throughout each map. And when it’s game over for real, the final score goes towards increasing Globber’s level.

In an alternate universe, Globber’s Escape is one of the better arcade games made to capitalize on Pac-Man‘s success. Along with all the mechanical twists, the game has a less breakneck and more strategic pace overall. The control scheme has players creating waypoints for Globber to follow by touching the maze, which reduces the amount of mindless, frantic tapping while still allowing players to course correct easily.

globber's escape 3globber's escape 4However, for all of its gameplay creativity, Globber’s Escape‘s presentation sadly falls back on generic tropes. The cartoony sci-fi visuals, full of vibrant colors and angular designs, are pleasant but uninspired. The music might as well be non-existent. Some of the dialogue between the chatty tutorial robots is at least kind of amusing in a classic comedy duo way, but the game’s universe isn’t the reason to get invested.

Instead, players should get invested because Globber’s Escape is reassuring proof that cool, new games can still come from slight tweaks to old concepts once considered done to death. They can find out for themselves though when the game launches worldwide soon.

Craneballs is returning to the Overkill well that has helped put them on the map. Where previous games in the series were futuristic alien-shooters, this one takes place in a past version of Chicago, where violent, fedora-wearing, gun-toting criminals roamed the streets shooting at each other and innocents occasionally getting caught in the crossfire. Thankfully such a world no longer exists: there are far fewer fedoras now. So, with the game currently soft-launched in Canada, I made sure not to put ketchup on my hot dog for this edition of It Came From Canada!

As stated earlier, the setup is very similar to past entries in the series in that this is a shooting gallery game. Players are in a stationary position, trying to take out enemies as they come in. The left thumb is used to move the gun by dragging around the screen, and there are fire and reload buttons in the lower-right corner. This is a Prohibition-era setting, so all the weapons are based on that time period, like a Colt 1911. Don’t expect any high-powered assault rifles here, but perhaps a tommy gun or two.

OverkillMafia-ICFC-06The meat of the game is the level-based progression, where players must survive multiple waves of enemies without dying, earning cash along the way. There are hundreds of levels promised, and interestingly enough, no energy system. At least yet. Right now, it’s possible to play to one’s content.

Along with the fixed levels, there are also reputation battles – such as the game’s endless mode, which also serves as a kind of asynchronous play where players attempt to get higher scores by lasting as long as possible, with more powerful enemies coming in as time goes on. Leaderboards track who’s doing better than whom. This is where buying better clothes comes into play: they grant character upgrades but also reputation multiplier bonuses. These bonuses naturally make it easier to get higher scores. They also serve as lives since every time the player ‘dies’, their multiplier lowers.

OverkillMafia-ICFC-04Guns can be upgraded with cash, with wait timers for upgrades to be delivered that can be skipped by spending liquor. Liquor is earned occasionally through level-ups, though there’s plenty to spend it on – including health and power boosts in the game itself. The game steadily gets harder, and it’s easy to see where the desire can be cultivated to spend real-world money on more cash and liquor to be more powerful; at least to catch back up to the game’s increasing difficulty.

It will be interesting to see how well people take to another entry in this series, and to one with a different theme than the ever-popular “shoot aliens” motif. And of course, will this make money? Time will tell. I imagine this one will be available worldwide soon enough, but it’s difficult to tell sometimes with soft-launched games. Some take months despite feeling ready, others feel half-baked but are soon available everywhere.


It Came From Canada: Retry

Retry, the latest game from the Angry Birds moguls at Rovio, apparently comes from the publisher’s new educational gaming branch. But if that’s the case, the only thing this game teaches is that life is nothing but unending punishment. Prepare for high-flying death over and over again in the latest edition of It Came From Canada!

Retry takes the brutally difficult flight controls of the infamous Flappy Bird but has players navigating finite, designed levels instead of endless rows of pipes. Pressing the screen boosts the player’s plane forward and also aims it up slightly. Meanwhile, letting go causes the plane to fall. With limited control over their speed and trajectory, players have to rely on careful yet confident taps to make it through these death traps. One brush against the environment, aside from water or wind currents, equals instant death. Sometimes the only way forward is a well-timed and skillfully executed loop-de-loop. The name Retry itself refers to how often players will be restarting the game. They’re even forced to look at the ghosts of their past selves, crashed against the walls, as their trial-and-error toils on.

retry 1There are a few oases in their desert however. Each level has a handful of permanent checkpoints, but in a devastating twist, they can only be activated if the player has a coin. Most sections between checkpoints have a coin somewhere in them, but they are usually in tough to reach spots – making the game even harder. If players can’t manage that, which is truly understandable, they can also just pay for coins. They can even earn them outside of gameplay by completing easy achievements like crashing a bunch. Overall, the checkpoint system is an intriguing compromise between being fair to the player while still honoring the game’s core commitment to hair-pulling challenge levels.

retry 5Sadism isn’t the only thing Retry shares with Flappy Bird. Both games use a chunky, pastel, pixelated art style and peppy music that belie their dark hearts and cruel, true natures. Retry has four worlds with various visual themes like “summer” and “the future.” Expect to see the same skies often though, because while the game has a decent amount of different levels, its difficulty and frequent restarts inevitably lead to repetition. Fortunately, that also means it will be a long time before players experience all the game has to offer.

Retry is currently in a soft launch phase, but once Rovio finishes toying with the Canadians, expect them to unleash their torture on the rest of the world soon enough. With the amount of effort this takes, it’s probably easier to just learn how to fly a real plane.

Harmonix, creators of the Rock Band series, have soft-launched Record Run on to the Canadian App Store. You will likely not be surprised to learn that it’s a rhythm-based game, but in a mobile-friendly endless runner format. So, I put on my athletic boogie shoes for this edition of It Came From Canada!

The gist of the game is to dodge obstacles and make it to the end of each level, but that’s oversimplifying things. See, each obstacle is meant to be dodged in time, with more points scored and more of a multiplier boost for timing the jumps, slides, and sideways movements properly. Of course everything is set to music, and players can import their own music to listen to while they play, with the game’s levels synchronized to the music. This does tend to work better with tracks that have a consistent tempo to them: the Animals as Leaders tracks I tried didn’t work so well, but electronic tracks worked a lot better.

RecordRun-2Essentially, much like Rock Band, Record Run becomes about maintaining success in order to get high scores and the elusive five-star rating. In particular, continued success is necessary: getting and maintaining high multipliers is key. And they can get really high, I’ve seen as high as 10x, so repetition becomes important. Figuring out when to make swipes is harder once the 3x multiplier is reached, because that’s when the world shifts to its extremely-colorful mode – where the main character transforms into a creature of some sort (the first one available transforms into a flaming skeleton), and the world dances to the music. But most importantly, the indicators for when to swipe go away, and players are on their own as for when they have to.

RecordRun-3Record Run is monetized through the standard two-tier currency, with records being used for upgrades, and backstage passes as the hard currency used for unlocking additional song slots and additional characters. It will be interesting to see how well the game monetizes: when I spoke with Harmonix at GDC, they gave off the attitude that they were just jumping in feet-first with this sort of free-to-play game, so balancing everything could take some time. I expect some sort of daily challenge incentive to be added as well, along with perhaps an energy system – the game is fairly simple and would be most rewarding perhaps through a system that conditions the game to be played in short bursts. So, before it launches worldwide, it could have a long way to go, and could still change a lot.


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