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This Week at 148Apps: December 30-January 3, 2014

Posted by Chris Kirby on January 4th, 2014

Happy New Year from 148Apps!

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.

2013 wrAPP-Up: Simogo's Twin Masterpieces

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

2013 wrAPP-Up: Developers, Hardware, and Carter

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

2013 wrAPP-Up: Most Distinct Apps and Games of the Year

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

2013 wrAPP-Up: Why Candy Crush Saga was the Biggest Game of the Year

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

2013 wrAPP-up: Happy New Year's Resolution: Fitness Apps for All

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

2013 wrAPP-Up: The App Store's Experimental Games of the Year

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:


Top 10 Kickstarter Spotlights of 2013

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

Fleet of One

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.

Developer Spotlight: Eccentricity Games

Posted by Jennifer Allen on August 2nd, 2013

Dive For Treasures was quite the delight when we reviewed it earlier this month, so we decided to find out more about its developer, Eccentricity Games, and the team's plans for the future.

Who is Eccentricity Games?
Founded in 2010, the team is made up of a handful of industry veterans who came from a number of Poland's major game development companies. With the help of a producer, Hubert Bibrowski, based in Canada, the team has steadily grown ever since.

What is Eccentricity Games most famous for?
Besides Dive for Treasures (pictured below), the team has also worked on the Android and Windows Phone 8 versions of Puzzle Craft, along with cutesy title, Roll in the Hole. The team has also dabbled in children's apps such as Yawnie and 4 Kids Colors

What's next on the horizon?
Over to Hubert Bibrowski to explain more here: "Right now we're just coming out of launch mode. Dive for Treasures made the AppStore's New and Noteworthy list in the U.S. marketplace so we are very excited. The feedback was great, we're so happy to hear the game is well received as it was a bit of a gamble. There aren't many games like this out there. Right now we are busy working on an update to the game. The main feedback we received was that people wish the game were longer so I'm happy to announce we will be updating the game with more levels soon. It goes without saying that these updates are going to be distributed free of charge to all existing customers. We'd like to send a big THANK YOU to all the game's fans."

Hubert also explained that there are more titles to come from the developer, too, with the first set to be presented in August. As he put it, "It is going to be a big one too...I'd say it is the biggest and most polished game in the history of our studio," although he's not yet able to reveal all. We'll be sure to press him for more information when the time comes!

Anything else I should know about the developers?
All too happy to help, Hubert answered a few of our questions.

148apps: What was the inspiration behind Dive for Treasures?
Hubert: Not sure...Maybe this thing I drive by every day?

Seriously though, we wanted to make a game focused on exploration, with a unique twist. We didn't want to make another "runner" game, we wanted something fresh. When the submarine idea came up, we knew we had something that was fun and challenging in a new way. Sometimes, I think we gamers forget how nice it is to play something relaxing. We all agreed that there wasn't enough of these types of games in the marketplace so we went ahead and made one.

148apps: You've tackled some very varied titles. Is there a particular genre that the team prefer to work on?
Hubert: We like all sorts of games. Working on smaller projects, as opposed to large AAA titles, gives us room to experiment, explore and take risks. We always make the games that we ourselves would like to play instead of focusing on the flavor of the week that happens to be top on the app store. We really like tower defense games - I have a feeling one of our next titles will fall into that category.

Yawnie - encouraging kids to sleep.

148apps: What are the team's favorite apps or games?
Hubert: We like so many games that no one here can agree on just one title. We play our fair share of Starcraft, Gran Turismo and Left 4 Dead and of course we play a lot of mobile games: Sailboat Championship, Tiny Wings, King of Opera and Bike Baron are some of the office favorites.

Where can I find out more about Eccentricity Games?
We'll be keeping a close eye on the new title set to be released in August, but there are plenty of other sources to learn more. There's the Eccentricity Games website, Twitter account and Facebook page.

Thanks to Hubert and the rest of the team for taking the time to answer our questions. Dive for Treasures is out now, priced at $1.99.

Developer Spotlight: Hyperbolic Magnetism

Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 26th, 2013

With Lums being the latest title to gain an esteemed Editor's Choice award, we took some time to get to know more about its developer, Hyperbolic Magnetism, and find out exactly what makes the team tick.

Who is Hyperbolic Magnetism?
Primarily a team of two in terms of the development side of things, the team is based in Prague, Czech Republic, with Vladimir Hrincar and Jan Split Ilavsky at the helm. Having worked together on creating games since the ZX Spectrum days during Elementary school, the pair continued their working partnership throughout University, which eventually lead them to develop via the App Store. Alongside that, Filip Kuna has also helped them with non-development tasks.

The Hyperbolic Magnetism team.

What is Hyperbolic Magnetism most famous for?
The team has worked on particle system simulator, Midnight HD, puzzle game Escapology and arcade smash-em-up, Oh My Heart. I think it's safe to say that Lums is the title that's about to propel the team's fortunes skyward, though.

What's next on the horizon?
The team explained to us that their hope is to deliver more content for Lums, providing they are financially able to: "Our future depends a lot on the success of Lums. If we don't make enough money to cover for the two years long development, we will have to make a compromise."

Besides experimenting with various other prototypes and considering some very cool sounding ideas (a turn based multiplayer endless runner is one such idea that they told us about), the team has also just finished a side project title called I'm the Game. An iPad-only release, it's set to hit the App Store next month, and combines Space Chem and Trainyard. The studio promises that it'll be great for "crazy people who love extremely hard, mind-bending puzzles."

The first screenshot of Lums

Anything else I should know about the developer?
Always! We had a more in-depth chat with the team to see just where the idea for Lums came from, and more.

148apps: What was the inspiration behind Lums and its unique look?
Hyperbolic Magnetism: When we started to think about Lums for the first time, we wanted to create something with unique graphics. We knew that we could achieve that only by doing something technically challenging. We spent hours and days watching amazing non-gaming videos, trying to get inspiration. We played a few games like Limbo and Twilight Golf, [as well as] read articles about 2D soft shadows implementation. Thus, we decided to make a game with light and shadows. The original idea was to use a grayscale palette only. It had an even more intense atmosphere, but it was hard to distinguish the background from the foreground.

Lums's level editor.

148apps:What challenges did you encounter?
HM: There were many challenges. [Performance wise], we wanted the game to be 60 FPS smooth on iPhone 4, [so] we decided to write our own custom engine…and made it as fast as possible. In the end, it was much more work than just picking up 3rd party engine and working with it, but it was worth it – we would never be able to create such dynamic environment running 60 FPS.

[The] whole control system in Lums is quite innovative and we spent months tweaking it. We'd make something and one month later found that we didn't like it. So we just deleted the whole control system and made another one. Right now the…magic consists of about 10 variables and there is a lot of mathematics. Quite funny considering how simple this thing looks.

Last but not least, the level design was not easy either. Fortunately, we made [an] in-game level editor which allowed us to work anywhere…it was quite normal that some levels were edited more than 1000 times.

Where the magic happens.

148apps: What's your favorite thing about iOS development?
HM We love the fact that you work for the specific devices only. When you make a game which runs without any problem on iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, you are sure it will run smoothly on all the other iPhones, iPods and iPads out there.

Where can I find out more about Hyperbolic Magnetism?
We'll be keeping a very close eye on the team given the tremendous promise that Lums has demonstrated, but there's plenty of other sources to learn more. There's the developer's website, Twitter account, Facebook page and YouTube channel. Jan, Vladimir and Filip also have their own respective Twitter accounts for the more personal touch.

Lums is out now, priced at $0.99, but surely you've already bought it, right?

Developer Spotlight: One Side Software

Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 15th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

With the recent release of mini-golf/billiards hybrid, Super Paper Pool, we thought we'd take the time to get to know more about developer, One Side Software.

Who is One Side Software?
For the most part, One Side Software is the brainchild of Billy Pilger, an Atlanta based developer. Having started four years ago by creating a physics engine which formed the basis for both of his titles, so far, Billy conducts the game design and programming, while the artwork is completed by Blake Clem.

What is One Side Software most famous for?
Primarily, Super Paper Pool. Billy has also completed work on Drawdle, a drawing-based puzzle game, requiring creative problem-solving skills and a certain amount of lateral thinking. It can be pretty tough!

What's next on the horizon?
Billy told us that the focus is on continuing to support Super Paper Pool, with a promise of "new levels and worlds" in the future. He also told us about his plans for a future title, which he'd "like to be simpler and more character-driven" than his previous titles. "I think game developers have not yet fully realized the potential of the touchscreen interface, so I’d like to experiment with making a great touchscreen game first and foremost," he explained.

Super Paper Pool went from this to...

Anything else I should know about the developer?
Yup! Always keen to know more, I checked in with Billy to learn about how One Side Software's work came to be.

148apps: What was the inspiration behind Super Paper Pool?
Billy Pilger: At the very beginning, I wanted to capture the experience of watching day turn to night and seeing the stars come out. I grew up in or near major cities and could not usually see many stars at night, so when I did get the chance to see them it felt special. It was an experience I wanted to impart to the player.

The game’s difficulty curve - challenging yet easier with practice - was inspired by Super Stickman Golf by Noodlecake Studios. The game’s pacing and cadence, especially the way the levels flow together, was inspired by the Quell series by Fallen Tree Games.

...to this!

148apps: What's your favourite thing about iOS development?
BP: The ability to self-publish. The App Store allows just about everyone to make the apps and games they want, they way they want, without having to go through a publisher. Now using a publisher isn’t a bad thing - I’ve done it before and would gladly go that route again in the future - but it is comforting knowing that I’m never dependent on one to get my game out there in front of the players.

Where can I find out more about One Side Software?
Besides our fine site keeping you up to date on all the latest developments, there's also the One Side Software blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter account.


Developer Spotlight: Little Bit Games

Posted by Jennifer Allen on April 24th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PLANT A SEED :: Read Review »

With the release of Little Bit Games' first title, The Seed, we thought it was time to get to know more about these up and coming Canadian developers.

Jennifer Vogt, Curtis Vogt and Cody Lee
Who is Little Bit Games?
The team is made up of developers/founders Cody Lee and Curtis Vogt, musicians Eric Cassell and Jennifer Vogt, as well as artist Jeffrey Taniguchi. Based out of Winnipeg, Canada, the team have been together since 2011 having been previously inspired courtesy of Ron Gilbert's keynote speech at PAX 2009.

What is Little Bit Games most famous for?
Currently, its sole release: The Seed. It's a physics puzzle game in which players must guide the Seed to the end of the level using droplets to manipulate its path. Minimalist in appearance, David Rabinowitz gave it 4 stars when he reviewed it earlier this month.

What's next on the horizon?
We checked in with Cody Lee about the team's plans. "The current version of The Seed in the App Store is part 1. We have plans to release part 2 as a free update later in the year, but we are planning for a quick project in between. We aren't ready to announce anything yet, but we are currently experimenting with some really exciting and unique ideas that can only be accomplished on the mobile platform."

Anything else I should know about Little Bit Games?
Having been intrigued as to just what makes the team tick, I checked in with Cody for a few answers.

Concept Art for The Seed
148apps: What was the inspiration behind The Seed?
Cody: The original inspiration for the basic physics based puzzle mechanic of The Seed was an old PC game called The Incredible Machine. The game involved creating elaborate Rube-Golderg contraptions for each level and featured a very addictive tweaking trial-and-error type gameplay. Overall though, The Seed has taken a much different tone than its inspiration. We've noticed that most physics-based puzzle games on mobile platforms these days look and feel the same. Quite frankly, many feel like they're trying to capture the Angry Birds "feel." They're colorful, and childlike and try very overtly to appeal to the casual audience. With The Seed, we really wanted to do something different and decided to take a much more mature and minimalistic tone which is what every detail [of The Seed] strives for. There's very little text in the game, and the music and art are designed to give a zen-like experience, to offset what can often times be a very challenging game.

148apps: What's your favorite thing about iOS development?
Cody: Developing for iOS (and mobile in general) offers many constraints when it comes to screen real-estate and memory concerns, but it opens up a whole world of exciting game design possibilities you just can't get on traditional video game platforms. The tools available and popularity of iOS development also make it super easy to get up and running and find documentation and open source libraries when you need it. Above all though, my favorite thing is probably how easy it is for indie developers to distribute their games. Digital distribution such as the App Store has made it super easy for up and coming game developers to get their games out to the public, and as a result the indie game development scene has been stronger than ever. It's a very exciting time for indie games and iOS is definitely part of the reason why. This easy distribution is of course a blessing and a curse, as it also means a lot of noise in the App Store, making it difficult to get noticed!

Where can I find out more about Little Bit Games?
Plenty of places. While we'll be keeping an eye out for the next update to The Seed, you can also check out the developers' website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

The Seed is out now, priced at $0.99.

Developer Spotlight: Shortbreak Studios

Posted by Jennifer Allen on April 3rd, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

As its latest title comes with the unique proposition of helping a children's charity, we thought it time to learn more about Polish iOS developer, Shortbreak Studios.

Who is Shortbreak Studios?
Part of Techland, one of the biggest Polish game developers out there thanks to its work on titles such as the Call of Juarez games, Shortbreak Studios is made up of a core team of 9 passionate developers. A mixture of programmers, designers, level designers, artists and a producer, the company benefits from relying on Techland to work out the finances and allowing the team to focus on the creative side of things. As explained by producer, Pawel Rohleder, it means the combination of "the flexibility and creativity of a small independent development studio with the experience and knowledge of an established player in the gaming industry!"

Why should I remember the Shortbreak Studios name?
There are a couple of good reasons, so far. First of all, they made Sugar High, a game that perhaps owed a little too much to Tiny Wings but still proved to be great fun. More importantly, Shortbreak Studios has worked in conjunction with the Cape of Hope Foundation in order to create oncology clinic for children with Cancer.

How did Heal Them All come about?
Pawel Rohleder explains, "We have been supporting Cape of Hope for some time and it was our mutual idea to create a game about defending the organisms for mobile devices. We thought that fighting microbes inside the human body would be [a] very nice setting for a tower defense game as this genre is very popular on mobile patforms. Another idea was the freemium business model as we wanted to reach as many users as possible by offering a part of our game for free." Notably, Heal Them All is entirely free to try out with the full campaign unlocked for $1.99.

What's next on the horizon?
The team has lofty plans, with Pawel happily declaring the ambition that many hold, "Our main goal is to conquer the whole world with our mobile games!" At the moment, though, the firm is mostly working on two different projects that they aren't able to discuss just yet, as well as porting to other devices. Possible updates for their current titles are also in the works and currently being brainstormed.

Anything else I should know about Shortbreak Studios?
Pawel was all too keen to tell us just what he and the rest of the team love about iOS development.

Pawel: Everything! We enjoy every aspect of mobile game development and we put a lot of effort and passion into every step of [the] production process. We believe this is the only way to make high quality games. One of the most important…[parts] in efficient mobile development is rapid prototyping. Each prototype must convince us that this could be a GREAT game. We cancel the project if we do not believe in its playable demo. And the sooner, the better. The development process itself is also very interesting because of tons of small decisions that the team needs to make in [terms] of hard negotiations or just [our] gut feeling ;). Personally, I love the final stage of the development where all individual assets turn into a working product and our vision materializes into a real game. This…shows us that it was all worth the effort but…it always makes us come up with a lot of new ideas and changes that we could make to improve the final quality.

Where can I find out more about Shortbreak Studios?
We'll be keeping an eye on the company's progress. There's also its website, Facebook page, Google+ page and Twitter account.

Heal Them All is available now, for free. But do consider paying towards the full unlock, given where the profits are going.

Developer Spotlight: Laser Dog Games

Posted by Jennifer Allen on March 26th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SHOOT THE PUCKS :: Read Review »

With the firm's first release, PUK, hitting the App Store this week, we thought it was the perfect time to get to know more about the folks at up and coming UK based developers, Laser Dog Games. Here's what we've learned.

Who is Laser Dog Games?
Based in Manchester, UK, Laser Dog is a three man team made up of Simon Renshaw, Mike Milner and Rob Allison. Simon and Mike, previously, worked in creating user experiences and digital branding through web apps, which made games the "natural progression." Rob works on the code side of development, while Mike deals with the visual design as a conceptual artist. Simon deals with animation, production and game mechanics.

How did the Laser Dog name come about?
Simon explained to us, "We throw around ridiculous fictional brand concepts and ideas regularly, Laser Dog was one such example, originally the name of our '80's inspired electronica band'…[which] was never going to work as I can't play music for toffee. We were playing with ideas on a train back from a client meeting in London and I think it was me that remembered the name Laser Dog. We both debated whether we could seriously use it, laughed a bit, then agreed that it was perfect. Mike mocked up the brand the following day and Laser Dog became final."

What is Laser Dog Games most famous for?
Currently, only PUK, a fast paced, minimalist action puzzler. It's a pretty entertaining Endless puzzler with 1000 unique levels testing players' ability to react quickly and think fast. It's certainly entertained me in recent days. We should have a full review shortly.

What's next on the horizon?
Still in the ideas phase, Simon told us that one possibility is a game focused "on the player having to destroy themselves" with the hope for a "deeper experience than PUK". There's also the possibility of expansion with the team's eyes closely on Ouya (a new type of games console) as well as working on mobile formats.

What else is there to know about Laser Dog Games?
Simon Renshaw was all too happy to answer a few burning questions I had about the developer and their latest title.

148apps: What was the inspiration behind PUK?
Simon: We wanted our first game to mess with our players' feelings of anxiety and stress so we started developing a simple concept about a fish repeatedly jumping out of a bowl, running out of air and having to be popped back in. [It] was nice but very limited...before we knew it, we were adding Super Meat Boy Saws and it became an all devouring mess! Scrapping this, but keeping with the fish theme led us to an idea about waves washing up on the beach and leaving pockets of water and fish in their wake. The basic game mechanic: to put the fish back in the pools before the pools dried up and the wave washed in again effectively clearing the screen…this was quite a nice idea, but fundamentally it didn't require the theme.

We stripped the idea down to the bare minimum, designed a set of simple and pure game rules with a single clear objective: shoot PUKs at Portals before the time runs out, PUK was formed. We wanted the game to have enough 'simulation' freedom to feel like throwing a tennis ball around a court or bouncing balls around a snooker table so physics were essential. After some external play testing, the only thing players weren't seeing were that the Portals (once puddles) were shrinking. This was replaced with fixed size portals and a timer…It didn't really change the overall mechanic of the game, it just forced us to rethink the level design a little. I think (after a huge amount of play testing) if you can honestly say you still like your game after playing it for this long, you have to be proud of it, and we are!

148apps: As a relatively new iOS developer, is there any advice you wish someone had given you beforehand?
Simon: Yes, I wish someone had said 'get going, you bloody idiots! It's great fun but it's gonna take you a lot longer than you think!'. Test your game idea in your mind for as long as you can, move up to a note pad, squeeze this, bang out a prototype (PUK was originally created with Game Maker in 3 hours, albeit terribly and with just a mouse touchpad to test) then do something pretty with it to inspire you to make it great. Be prepared to bin big chunks of work if you haven't thought it through, no matter how good. Allow plenty of time for testing and get involved with local Indie Dev meet ups. They proved invaluable for us as you can get genuine feedback (learn to read faces, not words!), advice and wisdom from people who genuinely want to help.

148apps: What’s your favourite thing about iOS development?
Simon: One of the greatest things about iOS development is that it's opened up a massive outlet for indie devs like us to showcase their work. It's great when you open up the App Store and see so many indie companies competing with the 'big dogs' and, in most cases, maintaining more integrity with less in app purchases and generally more. As visual designers, we've always been inspired by Apple and their commitment to quality. Designing primarily for their devices and for iOS is a real privilege and it's exciting.

Where can I find out more about Laser Dog Games?
As is customary, there's a few different places to learn more (besides here, of course!). There's Laser Dog Games's site, Facebook page and Twitter account.

We'll have a full review of PUK soon.

Developer Spotlight: Pixile Studios

Posted by Jennifer Allen on February 19th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: MULTIPLAYER TOWER DEFENSE :: Read Review »

When I was a student, I was too busy playing games into the small hours of the morning, let alone thinking about making them. Fortunately, the folks at Pixile Studios were a bit more studious than that, spending their time creating multiplayer tower defense game, Stratosphere: Multiplayer Defense. I took the time to learn a little more about the team.

Who is Pixile Studios?
Founded in January 2011 in Vancouver, Pixile Studios is made up of two University of British Columbia students, Michael Silverwood and Chris Clogg. With backgrounds in mobile, web and mod development, the team have just released their first title: Stratosphere: Multiplayer Defense.

What is Pixile Studios most famous for?
As mentioned, there's only the one title so far from the Studio, but with Michael graduating this year and Chris already having graduated, I suspect the work will be growing exponentially.

What's next on the horizon?
Michael explained to us that the main focus is continuing to support Stratosphere: "[we] are working on lots of new content for the coming weeks and months. The next big update will include new levels and modifiers, as well as a bunch of tweaks and improvements based on player feedback." It's not just evolution either, with Michael going on to tease us with the prospect of "a couple [of] pretty exciting new features…but they're still in the early stages". He was kind enough to offer us a sneak peek at one of the new levels, though.

Anything else I should know about Pixile Studios?
Michael was all too glad to talk with me about the company's plans and inspiration.

148apps: What inspired you to make Stratosphere?
Michael: We've been big fans of the tower defense genre ever since playing many of the early player created games in Starcraft and Warcraft 3, and even created some of our own that gained some popularity within the Battle.net community. It had always been a dream of ours to start our own game studio, so back in January 2011 we decided that we wanted to finally create our first full game.

We had been doing contract work building iOS apps at the time, and always had our iPhones and iPads loaded up with tons of new games, so we noticed that there was a bit of a gap in great multiplayer experiences. I'd be sitting at school studying and friends would always steal my iPad to play games, but there weren't many we could play together even though the iPad's large screen seemed perfectly suited for multiplayer. So we had the idea to design a tower defense game from the ground up for same device multiplayer. Even at that time the tower defense genre was starting to get crowded, but we thought that giving players the control of sending enemies, and designing the game around multiplayer would be something really unique and fun.

148apps: How has it been juggling University work with iOS development?
Michael: It has been pretty crazy, and I've had to make some sacrifices to my social life at times, but it has definitely been worth it. The entire second year of development basically ended up turning into crunch time, and a couple of my less interesting courses suffered a bit, but overall I managed to keep on top of everything and survive on very little sleep. I'm finally graduating this May with a degree in Business and Computer Science, and Chris graduated back in May 2011, so I'm looking forward to spending even more time on Pixile and Stratosphere very soon!

148apps: What do you wish you'd known before you started?
Michael: I'm tempted to say I wish we'd known how much work goes into creating a game, and what we were getting into, but I'm so happy we didn't because it made us feel like launch was always just around the corner even though it took two years to complete!

148apps: What's your favourite thing about iOS development?
Michael: The level playing field of the App Store is pretty amazing for indie game developers. Ten years ago it would have been a lot harder if not impossible to build a game, self-publish it, and release it on a platform with players numbering in the tens of thousands. We're pretty lucky to be growing up during this time and be able to build something and launch it up against all of the big productions from established game studios.

Where can I find out more about Pixile Studios?
There's the developer's website which is regularly updated, as well as the Twitter account and Facebook page. We'll be keeping an eye on the team's progress, too!

Developer Spotlight: Dragonhead Games

Posted by Jennifer Allen on February 14th, 2013
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: GORY THRILLS :: Read Review »

With the studio's first release, Zombies & Trains, gaining a very respectable 4 stars out of 5 from us, we thought we'd take a little more time getting to know the ins and outs of Dragonhead Games, as well as find out a bit more about what makes the staff tick.

Who is Dragonhead Games?
Based in Norway, Dragonhead Games is a family operation, founded by brothers, Vidar and Tor Martin Kristiansen. Previously known as Kristanix Games, the pair have been regularly developing small games for a number of years now and covering a variety of different systems including the Mac and PC.

What is Dragonhead Games most famous for?
Zombies & Trains, the distinctly gory yet rather fun train based smash em up. The developer is fast to make improvements too, given that since our review earlier this week, a new version has already been submitted to Apple in order to improve upon what's already there!

What's next on the horizon?
Tor let us know that the brothers are currently in the "planning stage on a Tolkienesque fantasy strategy/management game". The game is set to allow players to "run [their] own guild of adventurers and heroes" with the ability to "create…heroes, train them up, craft weapons and armour for them, and send them out on quests and treasure hints…". Tentatively named Heroes Guild, the game is set for release sometime in 2013.

What else is there to know about Dragonhead Games?
Tor was all too happy to provide us with some interesting answers to our questions!

148apps: What was the inspiration behind Zombies & Trains?

Tor Martin Kristiansen: We actually weren't that interested in making a game about zombies, since it seemed like every other day, someone made a game about them. We were focusing on coming up with an idea that sounded cool when you shared it with other people. At some point, almost as a joke, we started discussing ways of disposing of zombies that hadn't been used in games or movies, and the idea of a train blasting through a zombie-horde came up. It immediately struck us as an idea that we just had to try, and we made a simple demo that was so much fun to play. And it was incredibly challenging, something we liked!

148apps: What's your favorite thing about iOS development?

Tor: I think it has to be just the fact that it's so much easier these days to actually get a game out to a lot of people, and the whole process is very streamlined. All from the development, to getting the game to work on different devices, to actually releasing it and for the customer to purchase it. Every part of this was a lot more difficult for smaller indie developers like us just 6 years ago. Today's smartphones are a lot easier to get it all up and running on than previous generations. And once you start thinking about features like online leaderboards, multiplayer, and all the fun stuff that make up the complete package of a game, and to make all that available to use for thousands of players at the same time. In the past that would have been very hard for someone like us to do, but now its possible.

148apps: Is there an iOS app or game that you wish you’d developed first? If so, what apps/games?

Tor: Oh, there's many! Who wouldn't want to have made one of the big top 10 sellers! But personally, one of the games I've spent a lot of time with, and enjoyed so much is Rovio's Bad Piggies. That idea and its execution were just excellent on so many levels, and was so much fun to play. Just experimenting with what you could create in that game was something I spent way too much time on!

Find out more about Dragonhead Games

For its older work, the Kristanix Games explains all. There's also the Dragonhead Games website, Facebook page and Twitter account. We will be keeping a very close eye on Heroes Guild's progress, too!

Developer Spotlight: Ham In The Fridge

Posted by Jennifer Allen on January 29th, 2013

We thought we'd learn more about the quirkily named developer, Ham in the Fridge, just in time for their latest release, adorably weird, Bumpin' Uglies.

Who is Ham in the Fridge?
Based out of an office in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, Ham in the Fridge is a small team of talented designers, illustrators, animators and developers, with Bret Hummel at the helm as President and Creative Director. The firm was founded in 1998 by Bret, and he was also the originator of the idea behind Bumpin' Uglies.

Where did the name come from?
It's certainly an odd one! So we asked Bret just why it's called that. "The name Ham in the Fridge came from something my brother Brady said once — actually over and over again — at the beginning of a family holiday weekend, which became an inside joke for over a year." As he explained, "people don't forget the name, and always remember it is some sort of meat in some sort of cooling device!". And, of course, as he told me "… as they say in the deep south, times are good when there's Ham in the Fridge."

What is Ham in the Fridge most famous for?
Besides offering such quirky names for things, quite a few things. Bumpin' Uglies is one such title (with its name origins stemming from a mixture of Bret seeing a commercial for an app involving bumping phones together to initiate a transaction, as well his "slightly sophomoric sense of humor". The developer has also worked on the slightly disturbing yet no less intriguing, 5 Minutes to Kill (Yourself): Reloaded, as well as a number of Flash based titles.

What's next on the horizon?
Bret kept his cards close to his chest when we enquired about this but he did go so far as to explain that they are in "development on a number of iOS titles for clients including Cartoon Network, WB, and KidsWB, due to release later this year. ", as well as working on an Android version of Bumpin' Uglies.

What else is there to know about the developer?
Oh, yes. Besides explaining to us the meaning behind the name, Bret was happy to answer an all important question from us.

148apps: What's your favorite thing about iOS development?
Bret: I really like the casual gaming aspect of iOS, and how the touch interface is very tactile and direct. Concepting and developing interactions for gamers with touch that are quick to grasp, but perhaps hard to master is the delicate balance we're always playing with to make our games great.

Where can I find out more about Ham in the Fridge?
We'll be sure to keep an eye on any new developments from Ham in the Fridge. You can also learn more through their stylish website, Twitter account and Facebook page.

Bumpin' Uglies is out now and free to download.

Developer Spotlight: BorderLeap

Posted by Jennifer Allen on January 22nd, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: COLOR ROLLING FUN :: Read Review »

Powering ahead with plenty of interesting updates for traditional yet challenging test of reflexes game, Blendamaze, we thought it was about time we got to know more about developer, BorderLeap.

Who makes up BorderLeap?
A one-man band, BorderLeap is solely Nate Dicken's work. A 15-year veteran of web and mobile site design and development, as well as work conducted on Flash games, Nate has been going it alone since the summer of 2012. He does, however, plan to partner with other developers this year.

What is BorderLeap most famous for?
Currently, Blendamaze. We reviewed it in October 2012 and admired its twist on an old classic. Players have to manipulate colorful marbles in order to cross over paint palettes and blend colors appropriately. It's a pretty challenging game but the tilt controls work well making it quite satisfying.

What's next on the horizon?
Nate explained to us that Blendamaze is just the beginning. While he plans to add new levels and features, with a free version offering a unique set of levels, there's also going to be a learning-focused version of the game, aimed at kids. Besides Blendamaze style games, there are also plans afoot for a multiplayer puzzle game, plus a few productivity apps, too. Looks like it's going to be a busy 2013 for BorderLeap!

Anything else I should know about BorderLeap?
You bet! We took some time to get to know more about Nate's plans for the company.

148apps: What was the inspiration behind Blendamaze?
Nate: When I was a kid I had one of those original wooden labyrinth marble games that we’d play often to see how far we could get. Early last year…I came across it in storage. With my love of drawing and painting, I’d been contemplating creating a color-theory game. Memories of playing the labyrinth game began to mix with ideas of how I could combine it this color theory component. In my dream to create something completely unique in the App Store, the idea behind Blendamaze was born - a unique combination of labyrinth board and artist’s paint palette. The difference with Blendamaze is that you actually want to drop your marble into the holes as each hole is filled with paint. Drop your marble into the hole and…whatever color was on your marble blends with the color in the hole. The concept is simple but the end result is a beautiful, yet challenging puzzle game that both adults and children enjoy.

148apps: What's your favorite thing about iOS development?
Nate: I love the ability to create whatever you want and see it come to life. There’s a smaller, more defined set of variables in designing for iOS/mobile rather than building for the web in general and this creates a unique challenge. The market, while crowded, has a massive potential customer base ready for you and it’s fairly simple to publish apps into the App Store. What is truly exciting is to see that really great apps and games are regularly featured, even those developed by small studios or individuals. This…creates a pretty exciting framework for someone like myself to develop in.

148apps: As a relatively new iOS developer, is there any advice you wish someone had given you beforehand?
Nate: I wish I had a better grasp earlier on how competitive the market is and how important it is to build your network well before launch. Long story short, after I left Modea to start BorderLeap, I needed to pick up consulting work to help pay the bills. This left little time to build the game, so I had to focus 100% on development and push off all marketing efforts to launch time. While this led to what I believe is a great game, it’s been a struggle to market it post-launch. Friends had told me that launch day was vital, yet to a degree it was too late - I had to launch and strive to build up marketing efforts after going live.

Secondly, I wish I had a better perspective of really how different releasing an app into the App Store is than releasing a web site…there’s such a tremendous emphasis placed on the first version of a game and especially launch day. With so many apps in the marketplace, your app or game must stand out so there…is little to no room for launching with an app that is not fully ready to make its debut…within the competitive iOS space an app or game must be as full-featured as possible as an app’s early presence in the App Store is so important. While I’ve been able to integrate features since the game went live in September, there are times I’d wished I’d pushed it out a few more weeks to bring the game farther along before launch. Good examples are upgrading the app to be universal for both iPhone and iPad, and adding a rewards system along with the Painter's Toolbox - items that help you solve tough levels. These have been time-consuming to add, but well worth it.

Where can I find out more about BorderLeap?
A few different places, besides here, of course. There's the BorderLeap website, the official Twitter account, as well as Nate's personal account where he keeps people up to date with developments.

Blendamaze is out now and is currently on sale at $0.99.

Developer Spotlight: Fat Pebble

Posted by Jennifer Allen on December 12th, 2012

We've been keeping an eye on Fat Pebble since its latest release, Clay Jam, was announced last year. Offering an innovative claymation visual style and encouraging community participation through its competition, finally Clay Jam is here. What better time to learn a little more about the folks behind the name?

Who is Fat Pebble?
Fat Pebble is a games studio, based in Brighton, UK. Having developed numerous titles for a variety of mobile formats, the firm caught the eye of publishing giant Zynga, leading to Clay Jam's release under that label. Combined, the team offers over 40 years of experience, having previously worked for companies such as Lionhead, Climax, Blitz and Zoë Mode.

What is Fat Pebble most famous for?
The Windows 7 port of MiniSquadron which is a pretty great claim to fame, and Kung Fu Touch. We reckon Clay Jam will propel Fat Pebble to more recognizable levels, though.

What's next on the horizon?
Fat Pebble's Michael Movel wasn't giving away too much about this when we asked, explaining that the team will be 'concentrating on updates to Clay Jam for the next few months'. Plans are there for prototyping a new game in 2013, with the hope that it'll be 'quirky and possibly hand-made again'.

What else is there to know about the developer?
Plenty! We took the time to learn more about them by chatting with Movel, art director Chris Roe and technical director Iain Gilfeather.

148apps: What's your favorite thing about iOS development?
Iain: I like the fact that most of the players are not traditional gamers. It's exciting to make games for an entirely new type of audience and explore new boundaries.

Chris: You don't need big teams for iOS and mobile development in general. This lets you experiment much more and means you can be much more creative.

Mike: I think it brings developers and players much closer together. Updates are a big part of mobile development and what that means is that players can have a very direct influence over what changes we make to Clay Jam. We've had a whole heap of emails with suggestions and feedback, and we also trawl the forums - all this very much drives what we put in any new updates.

148apps: Is there an iOS app or game that you wish you’d developed first? If so, what apps/games?

Iain: Tiny Wings. It's a really well-made game and great fun too. It all seems really well-thought out too. I would have liked to have made that.

Chris: Enviro Bear 2010! A physics-based, bear driving game! It's flawless! I wish I'd thought of it.

Mike: I'm still playing Temple Run. I want all those achievements. It's really nicely balanced. But I'd go for either (PC games) UFO: Enemy Unknown or Grim Fandango, for different reasons. They both really grabbed me when they first came out and I still play them today. I would be really proud to have written the script to Grim Fandango.

Where can I find out more about Fat Pebble?
There's the website, Facebook page, and Twitter. And, of course, we'll keep you up to date on all the latest about the colorful developer.

Clay Jam is out now and is free to download.

This Week at 148Apps: November 26-30

Posted by Chris Kirby on December 2nd, 2012

This week at 148Apps.com, we got to known iOS developer Lady Shotgun. Jennifer Allen writes, "Doing things a little differently from the rest, Lady Shotgun considers itself as a co-operative of freelance game developers, with the team working remotely from each other rather than through a central office. It might be unorthodox but this team is made up of folks with some extensive experience in the game industry. Uniqueness continues through the fact that Lady Shotgun is made up, predominantly, of female game designers and coders with men forming the minority here."

Read the full interview at 148Apps.

GiggleApps.com headed to work for a review of the unique Grandpa's Workshop. Amy Solomon says, "Grandpa’s Workshop is a fun interactive app which teaches about the tools found in a workshop as well as learning about simple math concepts.
I really enjoy how this app works, as a fun older gentleman walks children through workshop-related activities such as identifying tools, painting different projects or mending broken objects jigsaw style.

Simple math-related activities are also included such as using a tape measure to measure boards, cutting boards into fractions such as halves or quarters, choosing the correct number of screws or other parts grandpa needs as well as a spot-the-difference section involving tools that may be similar or different."

Read Amy's full review at GiggleApps.

Finally, AndroidRundown.com's KickStarter spotlight this week was for the BlueTube Amplifier. Joseph Bertolini writes, "Being a sort of audiophile I appreciate the sound of a classic tube amplifier and I recently just started re-downloading my favorite albums as lossless FLAC files to preserve that original sound quality. Looking around the market today, it is really a sad time for those who really care about the quality of their music as cheap parts are appearing from overseas and there is a resulting flood of bargain Bluetooth speakers and docks on the market. These sound terrible, and combined with the super-compressed audio files that the average user has in their music collection music really has taken a technological step backward at a time when there has been nothing but technological advances. Well, audiophiles and smartphone owners rejoice because I have discovered our savior and it does not come from the likes of Sony or any large corporation. Meet the BlueTube Bluetooth Tube Amplifier, and built out of solid cherry and walnut hardwood it promises to look as great as it sounds."

Read Joseph's full article at AndroidRundown.

Thus ends November, but that means December fun is just getting started. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and now on Pinterest for the latest news, reviews and more. See you next week, true believers.

Developer Spotlight: Lady Shotgun

Posted by Jennifer Allen on November 28th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: TAP :: Read Review »

Having recently released its first title, Buddha Finger, which gained a respectable 3.5 stars from us, we felt it was about time we got to know more about developer, Lady Shotgun.

Who is Lady Shotgun?
Doing things a little differently from the rest, Lady Shotgun considers itself as a co-operative of freelance game developers, with the team working remotely from each other rather than through a central office. It might be unorthodox but this team is made up of folks with some extensive experience in the game industry. Uniqueness continues through the fact that Lady Shotgun is made up, predominantly, of female game designers and coders with men forming the minority here.

What is Lady Shotgun most famous for?
Only the one game has come from them, so far: Buddha Finger, a rather crazy rhythm action game with a soundtrack inspired by the 1970s and 1980s. Rightly or wrongly, its female weighted team has also garnered Lady Shotgun some extra headlines, within an industry so well known for its gender divide.

What's next on the horizon?
Nothing has been officially announced but design director, Anna Marsh, did have some news to share with us, "…we’d still really like to bring Buddha Finger to other mobile platforms, and do a couple of updates." She also discussed plans to release a lite version of the game, ensuring that anyone can try it out without having to commit to a purchase.

Other plans are slightly more secretive, but certainly varied: "There’s 3 projects…we're…considering for [the] future, one is a very slow paced “transmedia” thing, very narrative led and totally different to Buddha Finger, one is another crazy action title and one is a children’s game"

What else is there to know about the developer?
We love to get to know more about interesting developers, and Anna was all too happy to oblige!

148apps: What's your favorite thing about iOS development?
Anna Marsh: I love the touchscreen. I love the immediateness of it, that the player doesn’t have to learn the connection between a controller and the game but can just touch the game elements directly. We’ve given Buddha Finger to someone who literally has never played any game before but in 30 seconds they got it, and love it! That’s what I wanted to do, something completely different from the console, Triple A stuff I’d been working on. Of course there’s other devices with touchscreens, focusing on iOS was really just so that we didn’t stretch ourselves too far by trying to tackle multiple platforms with our first game. The coders who worked on the game all had a lot of iOS experience so we plumped for Apple. We’re looking at moving onto other platforms now.

148apps: Lady Shotgun is known for working remotely from each other. What challenges have you faced by not being in the same office?

Anna: Well not too many actually, and that’s largely because the bulk of us all had a fair amount of freelance experience prior to doing this. We’re all comfortable with working this way, in fact, we prefer working this way which was the whole impetus for starting up the company really. We didn’t want standard office jobs. Some of us have kids, some of us have other personal projects, some are studying – some of us are just plain misanthropes who prefer being alone, ha ha :) We use online tools like Assembla and Dropbox to co-ordinate, and we’re pretty organised. I guess that’s our strength really. Myself, Sarah (Executive Producer) and Derek, our lead coder, can break down the game into its smallest components which can then be easily tasked to the team. I suppose that’s the challenge - but we’re all fairly persnickety people who like doing that kind of thing!

148apps: How much of a change of pace is it going from working for major developers to working in a smaller, and virtual, environment?
Anna: Things go much faster if you want them to! We don’t have the many different meetings to attend and approval processes to get through which slows down a big console project. Plus of course, creating the tech for a mobile project is much less time consuming than for a big console or PC game. We got a game done in 10 months, even with us all being part time, whereas a console project it’s not unusual for it to take 3, 4 years or more. Its refreshing :)

Where can I find out more about Lady Shotgun?
Lady Shotgun are no strangers to social media! There are plenty of places to learn more. There's the official site, Twitter account, Facebook page, YouTube channel and Flickr account.

We'll also be keeping a keen eye on any further developments.

Developer Spotlight: 11 Bit Studios

Posted by Jennifer Allen on November 20th, 2012

Having won two Editor's Choice awards and a 2011 Best Apps Ever Award, it was about time we took a few moments to find out more about Polish developer, 11 Bit Studios.

Who is 11 Bit Studios?
Based in Warsaw, Poland, 11 Bit Studios is made up of experienced game industry professionals, with many of the team having worked in the industry since the 1990s. With 20 years of experience under his belt, Grzegorz Miechowski is the CEO alongside directors Bartosz Brzostek, Przemysław Marszał, Michał Drozdowski and the rest of the team.

What is 11 Bit Studios most famous for?
Most recently, Sleepwalker's Journey, a fantastic environmental puzzler that richly deserved its Editor's Choice award last week. Fast paced and topical title, Funky Smugglers and Tower Offense game, Anomaly: Warzone Earth have proven to be similarly high quality.

What's next on the horizon?
As announced earlier this year, Anomaly Korea is in the works and 11 Bit Studios reckons that they are "squeezing as much as possible from iPads and iPhones with this one and the graphics looks stunning." The developer also promises to be "putting more emphasis on [the] game's dynamics" with "more explosion effects". Next year promises the announcement of 11 Bit Studio's "biggest project" yet, but that's as much as were able to gleam from them.

What else is there to know about 11 Bit Studios?
We took some time to chat to senior writer, Pawel Miechowski, about just what makes the studio tick when it comes to iOS development.

148apps:What’s your favorite thing about iOS development?
11 Bit Studios: We are producers of PC and console games too, and iOS development is pretty different. The entire design process begins (after typical dev brainstorm for game's main theme is over, hehe) with thinking about how to make touchscreen gameplay enjoyable in the project. At least that's our way. We believe this particular gaming platform is based on the controls in the first place. PC games may be pad-controlled, keyboard-controlled, mouse-controlled or even be turn-based in a model where controls are totally less important comparing to story. That, of course, does not mean we are not putting attention to story, visuals et cetera, but there's something in the statement, that iOS development is very controls-oriented. And those controls are all about tapping and finger-swiping.

148apps: What do you enjoy most about making iOS games?
11 Bit Studios: I think I can say it for all of us, but this is my personal opinion that I find it quite enjoyable [to] bring ideas for nice gameplay when you just tap here and swipe there. I know it sounds obvious, but look at how games do that in many different ways and how many different things you can experience in gaming just by tapping. From Halfbrick's Fruit Ninja (oh mama what a game!), through Flight Control to Real Boxing, where you can feel how to be a boxer. When we were developing Sleepwalker's Journey the fun was coming up with ideas for different mechanics, implementing them, giving the build to our family members and then listening to their feedback. Feedback from kids is total fun! :)

Pawel explained to us the story behind the visuals of Sleepwalker's Journey, which was particularly charming. "I was given some drawings and early concepts from the main artist...our wives, sisters and daughters were involved in [this] design process…not full-time, but we purposely involved them in gameplay, audio and visual design by making them first critics and trying to be responsive as possible to their feedback."

Where can I find out more about 11 Bit Studios?
There are plenty of places to learn more, besides this very site. There's the developer's website, Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel and the developers' official forums, also.