Seems like ten is the magic number this year. The International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA) has announced the nominees for their 10th annual awards, and have spread them out across ten different categories. Some nominees and categories include Type:Rider for Best Serious Game, Year Walk and LIMBO for Excellence in Art Design, Papa Sangre II for Excellence in Sound Design, Republique for Excellence in Storytelling, and a whole lot more.
You can find the full list of categories and nominees on the official IMGA website, and the winners will be announced on March 20, 2014.
It’s a new year and, as always, an exciting one for all of us here at 148Apps. Take a look at what we’ve reviewed this week, as well as our end-of-year lists, and find even more in our Reviews Archive.
Most developers get one masterpiece. One magnum opus that they get to unleash on to the world. Simogo released two in 2013 alone. Both Year Walk and Device 6 were absolutely amazing experiences, not just games, and so different from almost everything else this year. –Carter Dotson
Sure 148Apps is known far and wide for its diverse array of app reviews, but we also love to spotlight some lesser-known developers, review the occasional piece of useful hardware, and challenge developers to duke it out in their own games. –Chris Kirby
Every year, with thousands more apps and games being released on the App Store, it becomes increasingly difficult to single-out just which are the crème de la crème of this ever-growing iOS market – and more specifically, which of them truly set a higher standard in terms of innovation, uniqueness, and individuality. Be it a game designed for the iPhone or iPad, anything developed and released on the iOS market in this day and age has to have that special something to grab our interest and retain it for months to come. In no particular order, here are a selection of the most notable games and apps of 2013 that raised the bar in one way or another. –Lucy Ingram
Candy Crush Saga would be perhaps an ill-fitting choice for the game of 2013: it was hardly the “best” game of the year by traditional “Game of the Year” metrics, and it didn’t even release in 2013. But Candy Crush Saga was still the game that defined mobile gaming in 2013…The thing that was most fascinating about Candy Crush Saga, though? Did anyone really have an unequivocal, gushing love for it? Whenever the game would be brought up, there was always some degree of resentment toward it for being so addictive, in the sense that people just could not stop playing, paying, and bugging their Facebook friends with requests. The thing that was most fascinating about Candy Crush Saga, though? Did anyone really have an unequivocal, gushing love for it? Whenever the game would be brought up, there was always some degree of resentment toward it for being so addictive, in the sense that people just could not stop playing, paying, and bugging their Facebook friends with requests. –Carter Dotson
It’s the same story every year: not long after the ball drops in Times Square and the champagne runs out, people all over the world face the dreaded New Year’s Resolution. After all the eggnog, fudge, and candy canes, it’s no surprise that losing weight and getting fit tops the list. And these days there are a plethora of digital goodies out there making anyone’s quest for fitness that much easier. Many of these apps even throw the motivation and inspiration in for free. In other words, you’re running out of excuses. You can thank me later. –Stacy Barnes
Cynics would have you believe that the App Store is full of Match-3 puzzle games, Endless Runners, and attempts at stealing money through a multitude of in-app purchases. OK, so the App Store isn’t perfect and those games are certainly out there (and a plentiful amount of them are still fun!), but that’s far from all that’s available. In the spirit of it being the end of the year and the ideal time to look back at what the App Store does so well, I took a look at some of the best experimental delights out there. These are titles that are a little bit different from the norm, either in terms of having a very open ended storyline or through offering a way to interact that’s unconventional. As many of us wind down for the Christmas and New Years break, it’s the perfect time to relax and try something a little different. –Jennifer Allen
Other 148Apps Network Sites
If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:
It’s the end of the year and everyone knows what that means: Top Ten Lists. There are lists for every possible subject, and I figured that it was only appropriate if I looked back and chose ten of my favorite KickStarter projects. All of these projects were successfully funded, and were just a handful of the great KickStarter projects that I had the pleasure of choosing from during 2013. So, as they say, theres no better place to start than the beginning. –Joseph Bertolini
This is a phrase I didn’t expect to say today, but Fleet Of One is a top-down shoot-em-up that’s quite different from the other space shmups. It also looks quite a bit more logical. If the player is supposed to save the galaxy, as is usually the case, then the least you can do is give him a nice ship. Rather than piloting a flying version of a hybrid compact, the player controls a giant flying saucer with more guns than an army parade. But only two of them can be active at the same time. Oops. –Tony Kuzmin
And finally, this week Pocket Gamer looked back at 2013 with the best games of the year, interviews with Simogo and Fireproof, and looked ahead to 2014 with a massive list of 50 upcoming iOS games. They also reviewed Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, handed out top tips for new iPhone and iPad owners, played the best iOS games of the week, and even chose the best app icons of 2013. See the full week in review here.
Most developers get one masterpiece. One magnum opus that they get to unleash on to the world.
Simogo released two in 2013 alone.
Both Year Walk and Device 6 were absolutely amazing experiences, not just games, and so different from almost everything else this year.
Part of what made them stand out was just how emotional they were: Year Walk used limited dialogue and details to make players care about what was happening in the world by experiencing and being frightened by it for themselves. Device 6 was a lot more wordy as a very book-esque experience, sure, but it managed to get players engrossed in a mysterious universe while slowly unwrapping everything that was going on.
Both games played with their fictional aspects: Year Walk made full use of its companion app to complement the game and eventually have a profound effect on it. Its metafiction proved to be just as much of a psychological dance as the game itself. Device 6 had direct commentary on games, rating systems, and trying to get currency to buy things that served as the overlay to the experience. But it also tried and succeeded at being like reading a book that played with the very nature of text layouts and reading to create an unsettling universe. Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – Simogo’s Twin Masterpieces, Year Walk and Device 6 »
Whoever said perfection is overrated obviously never got a five-star review on 148Apps. It doesn’t happen often. Just take a quick look through our reviews and you’ll see lots of well-deserving Editor’s Choice winners, but most only reach four-and-a-half stars. In fact, in all of 2013 there have only been ten five-star reviews. Take a look at some of what we considered the best of the best this year.
It’s easy to look at mobile and see it as a wasteland for content; particularly with all the casual, free-to-play games, and especially the ones that seem to de-emphasize actual gameplay in favor of stronger monetization. That’s only if you’re not paying attention. Serious, core games – some even free-to-play – had a great year on iOS.
Oceanhorn was hyped for a good reason: it was beautiful and ambitious. That ambition didn’t entirely pay off in my opinion, but for the game to have succeeded financially is a huge step forward for gaming on mobile.
It also felt like the barriers between mobile and PC/console games started to blur a bit. Frozen Synapse, Mode 7′s highly acclaimed PC strategy game, landed on iPad at last. Limbo received an excellent port. Leviathan: Warships brought cross-platform online play – and the best trailer of the year. Space Hulk was not perfect, but it made for an exceptional transition.
But perhaps few did it as spectacularly as XCOM: Enemy Unknown. That game proved that it was possible to take a massive console and PC title – a fantastic modern take on one of the greatest strategy games of all time – and put it on mobile without losing any of the experience. Firaxis also absolutely stuck the landing with Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol and its Pacific Skies followup; original games that went to PC later.
Over the past five years, many thousands of developers have tried their luck in creating the next big hit for iOS gamers. While some were there right from the beginning, others have found success in only the last couple of years. I took the time to chat to four relatively recently successful developers to find out exactly why they were so interested in pursuing the App Store route, and how they’ve found the experience so far.
“First and foremost it was the ease of development and getting things…running quickly, with no development kits and long processes of approval,” explained Simon Flesser of Simogo (most famous for the rather exceptionally spooky Year Walk). “That coupled with us being interested in the iPhone as a gaming platform and the different features it provides, touchscreen interaction, motion controls, constant internet connection…”
Simogo’s Year Walk
Barry Meade of Fireproof Studios (makers of BAFTA award winning The Room) had similar views: “As a small team with little resources to draw on, the fact you could self-publish on the App Store was a huge enabler for us…The Room might never have been made if we’d had to rely on a publisher as it was a bit too unusual…they would not have believed in the game like we did.” As he pointed out, “the App Store allowed a team from nowhere to make a small game and see big success.”
The Room‘s Fireproof Games is one such team made up of ex-AAA developers, with the studio formed by six ex-lead artists from Criterion Games’ Burnout franchise. Similarly, Warhammer Quest‘s Rodeo Games came from such a background. Formed from executives previously working for the likes of EA, Lionhead, Criterion and Codemasters, Rodeo Games were provided the opportunity to pursue something new, thanks to the App Store.
“Well, we’d been in the AAA games industry for many years and had been talking about how to take steps in setting up our own company. The App Store was just flourishing at the time. It was this awesome, new, bold place for smaller dev teams to put their games in-front of a huge audience. So we crafted a plan with the mindset of making the very best turn based strategy games on iOS, and Rodeo Games was the result,” Ben Murch, co-founder, explained.
Fireproof Games’s The Room
Neil Rennison of Fighting Fantasy developer, Tin Man Games, enjoyed a similar revelatory moment, after a move to Australia, gave him the chance of starting his own indie development studio, just as the iPhone and the App Store came to fruition: “I was originally running a small games art outsource company in the UK and then…I…moved to Australia with the dreams of starting my own indie and making my own titles instead of working on other people’s games.”
How different do they all think things would be if the App Store didn’t exist, though? “Very! Certain types of business models and certain types of games would probably not exist without the App Store,” Simon reckoned. Ben offered similar views, although noted the loss of the “middle tier” of gaming: “The gaming world would be a very different place right now. Just think about how many small companies and jobs have been created just from iOS gaming alone. Before the App Store, there was this surge towards “middle tier” gaming, i.e. titles coming out in the £10 – £20 bracket. I guess that market would have grown more and become an eco-system in itself. However, thanks to the App Store, creators who were interested in that model shifted into the mobile market, effectively crippling the whole “middle tier” gaming sector.”
Rodeo Games’s Warhammer Quest
Mention was also made, by Neil, of the fragmentation of the mobile phone operator universe, something that was a significant problem before the advent of the App Store. “Apple’s stock would be worth a lot less”, noted Barry. All quite rightly pointed out that none of them would be in the position they’re in today, if it wasn’t for the ease of the App Store.
For the most part, all four of our interviewees were very positive about the App Store’s impact. Each citing how it’s “paved the way for many small developers”, as Simon eloquently put it, and enabled them to try riskier material. As Ben pointed out, “Without the App Store, it would be nigh on impossible to get your strange little game idea in front of….well, thousands of people would be a struggle. Suddenly, anyone can release something that has exposure to HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of potential buyers. Just thinking about that blows my mind.”
Financial barriers are also lowered, as Barry explained: “The relative cheapness of mobile games development allows niche ideas to thrive.” Neil reinforced that point, citing how the games industry “was slowly becoming a bloated AAA only console game market and traditional game developers were beginning to struggle as the mid-point of the market was getting squeezed. The app revolution helped give developers options and in a way created its own new market in which everyone had the same opportunities from the big publishers to the lone bedroom coder…[it] was a perfect springboard for budding entrepreneurial devs like us.”
Tin Man Games’s Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom
Simon was slightly more cautious, enjoying the risks that were possible to take, but also citing how it’s “paved the way for some very questionable money-grabbing schemes… the market place has been somewhat flooded with low-quality software. It might have lowered the quality bar for what is considered to be a release-able piece software.”
That’s clearly a thought that runs through each of the developers’ minds, given that each recommends changes that make it easier to find good apps and games. Ben would appreciate a better quality Related Apps section and a twist on the Genius section, “Some form of “We recommend these Apps for you based on what you’ve downloaded already” type thing.” Discoverability is a big thing for Barry too, “There should be a lot more ways to format the lists of games when browsing the store. A chart by user rating is very needed for those smaller companies who make great games but get buried by the marketing clout of richer but arguably less skilful publishers.”
Higher “quality control” is an important wish for Simon, while Neil would appreciate a way to reply to App Store reviewers.
Rodeo Games’s Hunters 2
For the most part, though, all four developers were, understandably, happy with how the App Store is performing, both in terms of business and personal use.
“I think Apple does a marvellous job at finding and promoting good games. It’s so nice that they can give small developers, such as us, a big spotlight if they find something that is good…it’s almost…unbelievable that something as strange as Year Walk can get the same type of exposure as a mainstream game from a big publisher,” beamed Simon.
The “open territory” of the Store was appreciated by Barry, also, “You can upload a game to the store and be published in 150 countries within 24 hours – this is really quite incredible when you compare it with how difficult it was to get a game onto other platforms only a few years ago. It’s pretty much a revolution in terms of enabling creativity,” with Neil offering similar views.
Simogo’s Bumpy Road
As a consumer, it’s also proved quite the hit with Ben pointing out, “it’s that feeling of being able to browse a huge catalogue of games from your sofa, eventually finding something that’s right up your street. They have great landing pages in the App Store making it easy to find great games that you may not have heard of previously.” Neil appreciated the vast wealth of games, too, “it’s enabled me to play games that I haven’t played in over 20 years and also experience new innovative game designs from some truly talented people that wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to shine.”
While it’s clear that the App Store isn’t perfect, mostly in terms of offering great visibility to the titles that deserve it, these four developers have clearly found it an overwhelmingly useful experience. Each of them, from different backgrounds, have found great and deserved success, highlighting the best of what can come out of the App Store in terms of original efforts.
We’re certainly fascinated to see what will come next from these relatively new developers, part of the next generation of exciting game makers.
Every week, the experts here at 148Apps take on the hundreds of apps released weekly and take the time to sort through them, find the good ones, and write about them in depth. Isn’t that spectacular? A few lucky ones become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Here are a few excerpted notable reviews from this past week. Want to see all of them? Then be sure to hit our Reviews Archive.
Thanks to the advent of quality cameras on cellphones, we as a society take a heck of a lot more photos than we ever used to. The simplicity involved and the fact that everyone almost always has their phone on them, makes it all too easy to get very snap happy. What’s the best way of storing them, though? There’s so many different services, it can get complicated. Everpix aims to consolidate all the services together, enabling users to always be able to browse ALL their photos, not just certain groups of them. –Jennifer Allen
Major Magnet from PagodaWest Games is at once a celebration of the titles that influenced its creators, but it also exists as a fantastic original concept that works wonders on touchscreens. It’s simultaneously nostalgic, original, and fun, a winning combination. –Carter Dotson
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2013-02-21 :: Category: Games
Simogo has made a name on the App Store for themselves by creating stylish games that operate in a way that’s just a little bit different from the rest of the App Store. Year Walk is a haunting adventure that tells a strange story, seemingly influenced by Swedish folklore, that’s their best title yet. –Carter Dotson
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2013-02-21 :: Category: Games
Wrapcam is the newest photo editing app, but it’s not quite the same as the others. It does use a variety of filters, but these different filter options and effects are designed to let users wrap and roll pictures to create impressive photo art. It’s like taking a picture and wrapping it up in decorative paper or cloth. –Angela LaFollette
Within mere seconds of playing, Spunk and Moxie made me smile yet swear. Yes, it’s that kind of game. It’s entirely appropriate that cameos are made by characters from Spelunky, VVVVVV and Super Meat Boy, given they all share a similar level of difficulty. There’s even, currently, a $1,000 cash prize for unlocking all the stars! –Jennifer Allen
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2013-02-21 :: Category: Games
Other 148Apps Network Sites
If you are looking for the best reviews of kids’ apps and/or Android apps, just head right over to GiggleApps and AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews these sites served up this week:
I am excited to introduce readers to a new maze app by GiggleUp, Preschool Maze 123. As the name may imply, is a delightful maze app for preschool children – a lovely companion app to their other lovely maze app, Toddler Maze 123. –Amy Solomon
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2013-02-13 :: Category: Education
I would never expect or encourage the iMarker and the Crayola Color Studio HD to take the place of coloring by hand with crayons on paper, but my son is quite interested in digital toys and tools. I am happy that he can continue to work on his pencil grip now while using this app, but I would love more apps or more material to be developed that would also work with the iMarker. –Amy Solomon
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-11-02 :: Category: Education
AndroidRundown Rebuild is an interesting apocalyptic game from Sarah Northway that brings survival, end-times and zombies together in a fun, atypical way. It had the major zombie staples: zombies are running amuck, and I had to make it to a sealed off bastion of humanity, and guard against the undead that would just love to welcome us, uh, personally to their fold. Graphically, the developer did well to ensure that the zany artwork became a part of the gameplay, instead of distracting from it. There was a weird sort of bleakness to the abandoned All Mart that lent itself to the storyline. The hand-drawn art was from from unpleasant, and the game animations worked well. –Tre Lawrence
If I thought about some of the least sexy things that I could write this KickStarter Spotlight on, I would imagine that plastic screen protectors would be somewhere near the top. These are the things that nobody wants on their device and, in my opinion, something that really muddles the advantage in having a swift, crisp display. So, that aside, for me to take up an entire blog post about a screen cover it must be fairly incredible. All the latest advancements in Corning’s Gorilla Glass and similar products have ushered in a new wave of advanced smartphone screens capable of being ever sensitive as well as strong. Unfortunately, things do happen. Every smartphone owner, including your’s truly, has that story of the time that they dropped their phone a mere foot and ended up with that disheartening spider-webbed glass. While we might not be able to do anything about the glass in modern phones there is certain control over what goes on that screen. Enter Evolutive Lab’s Rhino Shield which, among carrying on the animal moniker trend, is by-far-and-away the most unbelievable protection that I have ever seen. –Joseph Bertolini
Vector is a side-scrolling running game based on the basics of parkour. It pitted me as an individual reluctant to conform to totalitarian regime in power, and with an understandable need to escape. I started by picking a location… the first of three (Downtown) was opened b default. Each level had its own appropriately named sublevels, which had to be unlocked. Actual gameplay jumped directly into the storyline, with a built-in tutorial (which is always a big plus for me). I had the bad guys after me as I jumped out of a building. Using swipes, I had to conform to my environment to elude an equally skilled establishment thug intent on preventing my escape. While running, there were goodies to collect, and tricks to learn. Prior to the action starting, I was given a trick or two to pull off, which determined moving on to higher levels. Coins collected could be used to open special moves, as could real cash. –Tre Lawrence
Who is Simogo?
Simogo is made up of Simon Flesser and Magnus ‘Gordon’ Gardebäck. Simon works on all things art and sound related, while Gordon is responsible for the code and eating any dutch chocolate that happens to be in their office in Malmö. Before working as Simogo, they both worked on downloadable console titles such as R-Type Dimensions, Lode Runner, Tecmo Bowl Throwback and Ilomilo.
What is Simogo most famous for?
Besides the above titles, Simogo has done a great job of mastering various different genres. Last year marked the release of charming Endless Runner Bumpy Road while earlier this year, we saw puzzle-platformer Beat Sneak Bandit. Both gained great scores from us at the time.
What’s next on the horizon?
A very intriguing and potentially creepy game by the name of Year Walk. It’s set for release this winter and is a first person 2D adventure set in the dark woods of 19th century Sweden. Simogo promises that it will combine adventure, mystery, horror, the occult, supernatural happenings and interactive art all in one intuitive package. Check out the trailer below to get a feel for it.
Anything else I should know about Simogo?
Of course! We had a word with Simon and Gordon regarding how they felt about iOS development.
148apps: You’ve worked on many different types of games over the years. Do you have a particular preference for a genre, either to play or create?
148apps: What’s your favorite thing about iOS development?
Simogo: The best thing is coming up with creative interactions. The iPhone has a lot of neat features, and I think the most interesting thing is coming up with new ways to use them.
The way we can self fund our games and publish them easily ourselves is, of course, another huge plus.
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, […]