Tag Archives: Android

Dragon Quest Review for iOS/Android

Dragon Quest (Available on Android and iOS)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Square-Enix
Release Date: September 11th, 2014

Parent Talk: Like the original NES version of Dragon Warrior, there is absolutely nothing damaging to children in this release. It’s fit for a five year old, or the ten year old at heart. There isn’t even direct action in the game, just static pictures that shake when your character ‘attacks’.

Plays Like: Dragon Quest is the game that laid the foundation for all other JRPGs to come, so you can expect lots of grinding, turn-based combat, and a simple magic and leveling system. Don’t expect anything robust or deep, this is the one that started it all, not a modern day RPGs with countless options and level trees.

Review Basis: Not only did I complete the original Dragon Warrior on the NES when it was originally released, but I took the time to play through the Super Famicom remake, and again on my iPhone 5. This is a fantastic port of a legendary game.

Wizardry and Ultima may have been the forefathers of RPGs on home computers, but it wasn’t until Enix’s Dragon Quest that RPGs literally exploded, especially in Japan. Sure it took a while before North Americans and Europeans warmed up to what we now call JRPGs, but in the East, Dragon Quest ushered in an entirely new way of playing videogames, and to this very day the series continues to dominate the Japanese sales charts. Sadly Dragon Quest has never been super popular outside of Japan, and because of that we have missed a truckload of fantastic remakes, side games, and even some of the coolest action figures and statues you could possibly imagine. Square-Enix has now decided to test the waters by releasing the series on mobile platforms running on Android and iOS, so let’s see how the very first console RPG stacks up several decades after its original release, being played on a touch screen no less.

DQ_iOS1The Great:

I cannot believe I am actually writing these words down, but the absolute best version of Dragon Quest ever released outside Japan is on iOS and Android. Did you honestly ever think that would happen?!?! The graphics and sound are fantastic, and have all been updated from the Super Famicom remaster. While I still prefer that version, it never officially saw the light of day outside Japan. Several years back Square-Enix released a mobile version of the Super Famicom port, albeit greatly tweaked for the cellphones and this version is based on that version that was only released in Japan. Boy what a mouthful. The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter where the game comes from, this is absolutely the best way to experience the original Dragon Quest outside Japan. Simple as that. The graphics and audio are leagues better than the NES original or the Game Boy Color port. So if you’re curious about where the series started, play this one. Nuff said.

DQ_iOS2The Good:

  • The gameplay might be incredibly simple by today’s standards, but it holds up perfectly, and dare I say it, but feels completely natural on a mobile device. The interface has been completely streamlined for single hand use. To walk around you simply move your thumb anywhere on the screen, or on the visible track pad. Simply tap a command to execute an attack, or check your inventory, equip a weapon, etc. It can take some getting used to since there is no tactile feedback, but it works far better than I thought it would.
  • You play as a descendant of Erdrick out to stop the evil Dragonlord. That’s it, the story never gets deeper than that, and you know what, it doesn’t need to. You only have one party member for the duration of this six to seven hour game. Like the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and that is so true here. What’s interesting though is that Square-Enix decided to stick closely to the original translation of the NES version, known as Dragon Warrior. That means Erdrick replaces Loto, and some of the original old English also makes a return, although it has been streamlined and isn’t featured in the battle screens thankfully.

  • Like the original game there is lots and lots of grinding to be had here, however I don’t look at it as a negative since the game is on your mobile device. Think about it, grinding while sitting in front of your TV gets old really quickly, but while you’re on the bus, train, or elsewhere it makes time fly for some reason. I found myself playing for five or ten minutes, and before I knew it I had gained a level. While on the bus I was grinding before tackling the Dragonlord and I almost missed my stop because I was so into what I was doing. That’s a great sign, and perhaps I was wrong to be so worried about the series going mobile-only outside Japan.

  • The price is right! Coming in at only $2.99, that is an absolute steal for the original Dragon Quest. Seriously, if you enjoy RPGs and own an Android or iOS compatible device, give this one a purchase. For $3 it’s a perfect impulse buy and I think you’ll be surprised.

DQ_iOS3The Bad:

  • I really would have liked to have the option to play the game with a landscape mode instead of being forced to play only in portrait. I suppose it’s not the end of the world, but it would have been good to at least have the option.

DQ_iOS4The Lowdown:

The original Dragon Quest might seem archaic by today’s standards, but it holds up well, and this port is the best one we’ve ever had in North America and Europe. I can’t stress this enough but if you’re a fan of the series, support it by purchasing this game. Yes the controls will take some time to adapt to, but damn is it pretty and it sounds fantastic too. The translation is perfect, and the gameplay remains fun, grinding including. I will be purchasing the entire series on my iPhone 5 because I adore this series and part of me hopes if we all show enough support that Square-Enix just might release the next numbered entry on a home console here too. Let’s make this happen Dragon Quest fans!

Final Score: 8/10

Why Nostalgia Can Be A Dangerous Thing

Nostalgia is awesome, it allows long-time videogame fans such as myself to go back and play through some excellent retro games. Take Earthbound as a recent example of nostalgia working in my favor. Game companies like Nintendo have been making millions off of gamers’ nostalgia for retro games. It’s one of the main reasons why the Virtual Console has been such an international hit, because people always hold certain vintage games in a certain light because of the nostalgia associated. This article isn’t about the pros of nostalgia though, no instead this article looks at how certain publishers are using nostalgia to cash in, when in fact their product is actually garbage. Case in point…

Say hello to Contra: Evolution, which is a complete reworking of the original NES classic by Punchbox and Konami. This is a perfect example of a publisher simply cashing in on players’ nostalgia of one of the best NES games ever released. This game is absolutely horrible as it is, yet looks awesome and is currently one of the highest selling apps on Apple’s App Store. It has sold well over 2 million units already, since being released in late June. So what gives?

For one thing, Konami knows if they price this thing at $0.99 people will buy it based purely on nostalgia, and that’s exactly what people are doing. The comments say it all.

“This game plays like complete crap, but for a buck why the F not.”

“I can’t even survive the first minute, but come on its an NES classic!”

Doesn't this look awesome?  Shame it plays so awful that you won't want to play for more than five seconds after purchasing it.
Doesn’t this look awesome? Shame it plays so awful that you won’t want to play for more than five seconds after purchasing it.

The list of comments like these go on and on for pages. So what kind of a message are gamers telling publishers when they purchase games like this? Well for one, that there’s no real point to put any effort into making a videogame based on an existing property. To make matters worse the in-app purchases are a complete joke. You can pay real-world money to purchase extra lives, continues, and even weapons. I mean, really?!?! What’s sickening is that the game is making millions for Konami!

Don’t think for a minute it’s just Konami either, oh no, all the big console and PC publishers have learned that people buying these games are completely clueless. Capcom released an all but unplayable version of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, EA released Battlefield 3: Aftershock which just might be the worst app ever released on the App Store, and the list goes on and on. So why are these smart AAA publishers doing this, because people are buying these dollar games like wildfire, which constantly pushes them to the top of the charts and as a result gives these companies no incentive whatsoever to try and make better products. In the end, they’re using our very memories of these classic experiences, or famed franchises against us.

As awesome as it sounds to play a classic game completely remastered, without having proper and precise controls there’s no way these games can hold a candle to their original versions, however people overlook these “minor inconveniences” thanks to the incredibly low asking price. This is one of the major reasons why dedicated portable gaming devices like the 3DS have been so successful, because publishers know they have to put a thoughtful product out there or no one will pay $40 or more for it. Dedicated gamers know this, and as a result are playing significantly better games.

At the end of the day people are to blame for what’s currently happening to the mobile gaming market, and I fear that one day this could spread to the rest of the industry. Once prices go low enough, and people start buying games without even thinking about what they’re buying, publishers stop caring about releasing a quality product. As it is now, I’ll gladly go buy Contra Rebirth on the Wii eShop for a few bucks more, knowing at the very least I’m getting a much better product in the end.

It’s Time For You to Order The OUYA

Ok so let’s get this out of the way right now.  A few days ago the OUYA Kickstarter made history by becoming the fastest to achieve its goal ever.  Within mere hours the Kickstarter had generated hundreds of thousands of dollars and within the first day easily surpassed two million dollars.  Justin’s going to do a COE Mobility podcast explaining what OUYA is all about, but I wanted you guys to get in early before the console sells out, which looks like will happen very soon.  So here’s the official Kickstarter pitch video.

If you are interested in giving the company your hard-earned cash, visit this link here.  Currently you have to pledge at least $100 to get yourself the console and one controller.  An extra $30 will net you an additional controller.  Naturally there are also shipping fees for those outside the US, which are $20.  So all around the price is extremely fair for what you’re getting.

So let’s answer that question, what is OUYA all about? In short, it’s an Android-based open-source console that’s directly aimed at the indie developer out there.  Not only that, but it harkens back to the days of the Apple ][ where you could build your own games and release them to the community to enjoy.  While we don’t know everything about OUYA right now, the idea is to allow anyone in the world to develop games so long as there is some free-to-play element to it.  That could be a demo, or the entire game itself with micro-transactions built-in.

This is the OUYA console. If it looks like a modified PC, that’s because technically that’s what it is.

 

The Kickstarter says the OUYA will be released around March 2013, and if this campaign continues to bring in so much public interest (it’s already earned $4.4 million with 26 days to go), I fully expect the company to team up with other manufacturers to get more consoles made.  Currently there are only about 30,000 consoles left to pre-order before you need to spend real cash, as in $225 or more to get your hands on one of these devices.

So have any of you pre-ordered this indie console?  Are any of you interested in what it offers and how this could change the way console games are delivered in the future?  I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this.

N.O.V.A. 3 Review

N.O.V.A. 3 (Android/iOS)
Players: 1-12
Genre: FPS
Developer: Gameloft
Marketplace/Apple Store Price: $6.99 ($4.99 through Gameloft’s website)
Release Date: May 31, 2012

Played on ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 w/Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Sampled on HTC Rezound running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: N.O.V.A. 3, with its technical polish, is unsurprisingly the most explicit installment of Gameloft’s sci-fi franchise. Kal Wardin swears, the combat is more visceral, and there are suggestive themes. The game overall is the most ‘mature’ of the series.

Review Basis: Finished campaign on Normal; participated in several online (wi-fi) competitive matches.

Our old A.I. friend Yelena has beckoned N.O.V.A. hero Kal Wardin back to Earth. He doesn’t know what for on the way in, but it doesn’t take long for him to discover that Volterites have assaulted his home planet. Why? There’s supposed to be a ceasefire between humanity and the alien race. That matters not however, as Kal quickly joins a ragtag N.O.V.A. team working to repel the invasion. He ultimately learns that the humans have done something very foolish, and Prometheus steps in to force our hero into his final mission. Let’s just say things don’t look good for humans or Volterites.

The Great:

Eye-popping! When N.O.V.A. 3’s teaser trailers emerged, everyone agreed that Gameloft was once again raising the bar for visual polish in a mobile game. That’s what N3 has done. Our Executive Director Jarrod and I agree that the game could easily pass as a first-generation Xbox 360 or PS3 title. It’s not exactly shocking given the ongoing technological evolution of mobile devices, but I don’t think anyone anticipated a game like N3 arriving so soon. I can only imagine what it looks like first-hand on the iPad’s retina display. Yet no matter your device, the N.O.V.A. and Volterite models, environments, and effects are second-to-none. N.O.V.A. 3 is in the top three prettiest mobile games.

The Good:

+ The cast. Kal Wardin, Yelena, Prometheus, and a couple newcomers come together to deliver the most enjoyable and emotional plot in this sci-fi series. I cared more about each than in the previous two installments. That’s always good.

+ The weapons. Kal’s arsenal is fun to play with. I’m sad that the dual-wield pistols and auto-shotgun were given the boot, but the rest of Wardin’s toys are entertaining.

+ More skills, again. Melee has been inexplicably removed, but at least replaced and supplemented with ‘slow motion’ and ‘repel’ abilities. Thus, you can either send enemies flying (a la Jean Grey), or enter what is unaffectionately known as bullet time. Both are fun and useful, along with the mainstay freeze power.

+ Piloting a mech. It’s more or less identical to doing so in N.O.V.A. 2, except flashier.

+ Grenades. I’m often unimpressed with the results of explosives in games, especially shooters. Yet N.O.V.A. 3 makes every grenade toss a wonderful anticipation of a loud and pretty boom, not to mention a dramatic scattering of any Volterites caught in the blast.

+ Flamethrower! OK, I suppose I can forgive the omission of an auto-shotgun. It may not arrive until later in the campaign, but you can’t help but smile while burning Volterites to a crisp.

The So-So:

+/- Gyroscope controls. N.O.V.A. 3 is the first mobile game where I’ve given gyro control a spin. It’s an aid and a pain at the same time. Gyro doesn’t replace a second analog stick, but still allows you to not have to swipe across the screen to aim in battle. However, it can easily disorient you when enemies move around around a lot. You can only twist a tablet so far, thus trying to move, fire and use the gyro function in a way that feels natural is next to impossible. Where’s my Android gamepad?

+/- Voice acting. The voices sound great; the script is written well, and the dialogue is convincing. It’s too bad then, that the mouth syncing is hit-or-miss. You should never see a character’s mouth still moving when his/her lines are finished being spoken.

+/- Multiplayer. The overall structure is very well-done. There’s a healthy selection of enjoyable maps; you can customize your warrior to a great degree; you can participate in tournaments; the modes you expect are there, etc. The big problems are lag and players infrequently joining matches in progress. Lag isn’t prevalent in every match I’ve played, but very noticeable when it occurs. I wish that those who pay for 3G or 4G service could take advantage of that for online play. It’s also not fun to be consistently outnumbered…

The Bad:

–  Let me customize! I don’t understand why Gameloft’s older Modern Combat 3 allows you to choose where to place every input icon, and choose the size of each, but N.O.V.A. 3 doesn’t. You can shift everything but the reload function, which is the most important to be able to! This isn’t so bad for smartphone users, but you must completely move your hand on a 10.1″ tablet to manually replenish your weapon’s magazine. That’s unintuitive.

– Ending. I’m disappointed with how lazy Gameloft is with concluding its games. After a brief final scene after defeating the last boss, N3 abruptly ends. No closing cutscene that clarifies plot elements, nothing. I’m interested in knowing what happened to these characters, and likely never will. This is worse than the pre-DLC Mass Effect 3!

– Renting weapons, seriously? It’s very strange that the sci-fi weapons are only accessible from the in-game store. You can’t acquire them by eliminating enemies. It’s further disconcerting that it isn’t a permanent purchase. I bought a fun, new gun the moment I had a chance, and it was gone the following mission. Eh?…

– Aiming on a jeep. I thought there was something horribly wrong with my game while manning a jeep during the second mission. I even restarted it multiple times. Several minutes later, I finally discovered that shifting your reticule around normally requires swiping from one side of the screen to the other. Well, that’s plain stupid. Does this affect phones too? I don’t know.

The Ugly:

Bugs galore! It’s very unfortunate that N3 looks so good and is fun, but filled to the brim with bugs. You name a glitch, and it’s probably able to happen. I fell through floors. Key game events failed to trigger. The game force-closed. The Volterites would stop moving. I would stop being able to move. And I’m sure others encountered glitches that I haven’t. I don’t know who was responsible for the game’s testing, but I strongly question the job they did for this experience. I hope Gameloft releases a big patch job soon.

The Lowdown:

Since its teaser trailers released, I rooted for N.O.V.A. 3 to be the best of the best in mobile gaming. In the looks department, Gameloft’s product has virtually no equal. Yet in so many areas, N3 reminds you that videogames will always be imperfect. To what extent is up to the developer and its QA staff, and the extent to which this title takes you out of the experience is discouraging. Of course Gameloft can issue updates in the future, and I believe they will. For now, Kal Wardin’s final mission may be fun romp, but it may leave you feeling a tad irked when all is said and done.

Final Score: 7/10

N.O.V.A. 2 Review

N.O.V.A. 2 (Android/iOS)
Players: 1-8
Genre: FPS
Developer: Gameloft
Marketplace/Apple Store Price: $6.99 ($4.99 through Gameloft’s website)
Release Date: December 16, 2010

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: If your child plays Halo, there’s no reason he/she can’t play N.O.V.A. as well. The violence and content overall is much milder.

Review Basis: Finished campaign onNormal; participated in an online (wi-fi) competitive match.

N.O.V.A. 2 is a sequel to N.O.V.A., or Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance. Six years have passed since Kal Wardin faced off with the Xenos aliens and encountered the Judges, and now humanity is at each other’s throats in a bloody civil war. You have the Terran Orbitals on one side, and the Human-Volterite Alliance on the other. Wardin tried to leave his N.O.V.A. service [again], but is thrust into the middle of this conflict when the peaceful planet of Scorpius that he retired to is attacked by the Volterites.

The Great:

Combat variety. Wardin of course fights most of this war on-foot, but also mans a jeep turret, pilots a giant mech, drives a speed bike (a la Star Wars), and has access to much more weaponry than the original N.O.V.A. provided. Kal has dual-wield pistols, a submachine gun, pump-action and auto-shotguns, grenade and rocket launchers, a slew of Volterite weapons, and explosives. You really can’t be bored using N.O.V.A. 2’s toys. Of course I’m partial to the auto-shotgun and always will be, and Kal’s didn’t disappoint.

The Good:

+ Much-improved visuals. Like the transition from Modern Combat: Sandstorm to Black Pegasus, N2’s improvement over N.O.V.A. is striking with its jump in polygons and overall greater detail.

+ The cast. I appreciated Kal’s personality much more than last time. His lines before sounded awkward, as though his voice actor was altogether uninterested. He offers more emotion and substance here, and it helps his relationship with Yelena. Neither is perfect, but the communication isn’t ever really annoying.

+ Upgrades. It’s pitiful how few hidden credits I found in the campaign, but I enjoyed using them nonetheless to improve Kal’s abilities and weapon attributes.

+ More skills. The freeze ability returns, but the same icon on the touch screen eventually can be switched to a disc attack. It’s fun to get up-close-and-personal to your enemies and issue an insta-kill. You simply have to be careful the opposite doesn’t happen.

+ Piloting a mech. (I wanted to offer more detail.) One mission places you in the body of a metal beast, sort of like an AT-AT. You get to fire a chain gun, let rockets loose, and cause a mess of chaos. Destroy the environment, other mechs, and a bunch of hostile ground troops. Very enjoyable!

+ Enemy AI. It’s fascinating, and somewhat sad, that N.O.V.A. offers fairly intelligent enemies. This is a mobile game with much more limited technology mind you. They try to dodge when it makes sense, band together, and use cover in a moderately wise fashion. I’m quite impressed.

The So-So:

+-  Music. It does the job, but is forgettable. The main menu theme is catchy though.

+- Multiplayer. Accuse me of not experiencing it enough by participating in only one match, but I could do nothing more. Just a few people were online, as obviously fans are playing N.O.V.A. 3 now, and I was lucky to even do that. It was a decent match. Nothing exciting, but I managed to land some kills.

The Bad:

–  Poor optimization. N.O.V.A 2 never played smoothly for me. I’m again sure iDevice users don’t experience this, and I still don’t know if other Android gamers do, but the game lagged and stuttered considerably across the board. It wasn’t enough to ruin the experience, but it certainly doesn’t add to it.

– Driving a speed bike. (I wanted to offer more detail.) A number of times you drive a speed bike. That’s not so bad; you tilt your mobile device to steer, and it works well enough. What I hated was shooting a gun at the same time. Why they decided to place the fire icon squarely in front of your view is beyond me. Plus, it’s not automatic, so you have to tap a million times. I died quite a bit. Not enjoyable…

– No level select? It’s not unreasonable to expect access to each level individually as you finish them, right? Apparently N.O.V.A. 2 thinks it is. After I finished the campaign, only starting a new game altogether was available.

– Too much! A virtual stick, fire icon, reload, weapon-switch, special ability, grenade, jump, pause; all these inputs are on your screen simultaneously. I don’t care if you’re playing on a smartphone or tablet; that’s a little much to keep track of all at once.

The Ugly:

Kill that b******! You hear this line over and over from the enemy. I was tired of it after a handful of times, and it didn’t stop there. Videogame dialogue overkill, to say the least.

The Lowdown:

It’s nice to see N.O.V.A. take on more of its own personality with this sequel, despite how obvious the franchise mimics Halo. Kal and Yelena are more enjoyable, and the offensive arsenal is exquisite. The story isn’t exactly riveting, but Gameloft has quite the above average shooter here. That’s impressive considering their AAA Modern Combat series. Maintaining two quality 3D FPS properties at once can’t be easy.

Final Score: 8/10

 

And while you wait for Justin to finish N.O.V.A. 3 on his Android tablet, please enjoy the trailers below for the game, straight from Gameloft!

iOS and Android get a new Final Fantasy

Some time ago, Square-Enix filed a trademark for the title “Final Fantasy Dimenions.” Now we finally know what that means. The Japanese site which just went live earlier has revealed that the game is for iOS and will be released in the summer as part of the series’ 25th anniversary. Special thanks to Siliconera for the information! Below is a statement from Square-Enix:

“Drawing upon the roots of the series with such features as beautiful 2D pixel art, job-driven character growth, additional scenarios in which to inherit the jobs of your adventuring companions, and a classic story of light, darkness, and crystals, Final Fantasy Dimensions delivers the best of Final Fantasy, retro and fresh alike, directly to your smartphone.”

So far, it’s assumed that Dimensions is a re-release or remake of Final Fantasy Legends, an episodic mobile game. This is very similar to how Final Fantasy IV: The After Years got its start, as well. Below is the official press release from Square-Enix.

SQUARE ENIX TO SHOWCASE POWERFUL AND DIVERSE LINEUP
AT E3 2012

Range of Titles Includes HITMAN: ABSOLUTION, TOMB RAIDER, Quantum Conundrum,
25 Years of FINAL FANTASY and More

LOS ANGELES (May 30, 2012) — Square Enix, Inc., the publishers of SQUARE ENIX® interactive entertainment products in the Americas, today announced its title lineup for E3 2012. With one of the most powerful and diverse lineups in company history, Square Enix will show off classic franchises and original titles with exclusive footage and hands-on demos including the return of Agent 47™ in HITMAN®: ABSOLUTION™, the engaging puzzle gameplay of Quantum Conundrum™, the open world action of Sleeping Dogs™, and a number of innovative mobile titles.

“At this year’s E3, Square Enix will have one of the most comprehensive and diverse portfolios of titles available in its history,” said Yoichi Wada, president and representative director of Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd. “Our mission is to entertain and engage a wide range of consumers with the best possible interactive experiences.”

“From fantasy worlds filled with some of the industry’s most identifiable characters to innovative, original content, the lineup from Square Enix at this year’s E3 is one of the strongest in the industry,” said Mike Fischer, president and chief executive officer of Square Enix, Inc.

To get a first-hand look at upcoming games from Square Enix, please visit booth 1647 in the South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. E3 attendees will be able to experience exclusive theater presentations for Quantum Conundrum, Sleeping Dogs and HITMAN: ABSOLUTION, and preview and play the following Square Enix titles:

HD Consoles and PC Lineup

Quantum Conundrum
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation®Network for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft
Developer: Airtight Games
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Available: June 21 for Windows PC, Summer for PlayStation 3 system and Xbox 360
From the mind of PORTAL™ co-creator Kim Swift, Quantum Conundrum features engaging puzzle gameplay with the introduction of the Inter-Dimensional Shift Device (IDS), an invention that gives players the ability to shift to and from various dimensions, manipulating the world around them in order to solve puzzles of ever-increasing difficulty.

American Mensa Academy™
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network, iOS, Android
Available: July
American Mensa Academy is a brain training game that will give player’s minds the ultimate cerebral workout. Created in direct collaboration with Mensa, American Mensa Academy is packed with 100+ replayable levels of fun and stimulating mini-games and challenges for everyone, plus for those really looking to test their grey matter, there is a rigorous test designed to calculate your Mensa score, directly inspired by questions faced by those attempting to join the renowned global high IQ society.

Sleeping Dogs
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 system, Windows PC
Developer: United Front Games
ESRB: Rating Pending (RP)
Available: August 14
Sleeping Dogs catapults players into the role of undercover cop Wei Shen, tasked with taking down one of the world’s most fearsome criminal organizations from the inside — the Hong Kong Triads. As players explore the bustling and crowded Hong Kong island, through its neon-lit side streets and sprawling street markets, an incredible story unfolds of loyalty and betrayal where Wei begins to question his own motives as he is sucked in deeper than he could ever imagine.

HITMAN: ABSOLUTION
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 system, Windows PC
Developer: IO INTERACTIVE (Square Enix Group)
ESRB: RP (Rating Pending)
Available: November 20
HITMAN: ABSOLUTION follows Agent 47, a cold-blooded assassin, who takes on his most dangerous contract to date. Betrayed by those he once trusted — and now hunted by the police — he suddenly finds himself at the center of a dark conspiracy and must embark on a personal journey through a corrupt and twisted world.

Gameglobe™
Platform: Online browser
Developer: Hapti.co (Square Enix Group)
Available: 2012
Gameglobe is a unique browser-based experience that allows players free access to endless game worlds and creative possibilities, all in HD quality. Players can choose to either create their own game or simply play the multitude of levels available at launch.

TOMB RAIDER®
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 system, Windows PC
Developer: Crystal Dynamics (Square Enix Group)
ESRB: RP (Rating Pending)
Available: Q1 2013
Armed with only the raw instincts and physical ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, TOMB RAIDER delivers an intense and gritty story into the origins of Lara Croft and her ascent from a frightened young woman to a hardened survivor.

Handheld and Mobile Lineup

DARIUSBURST™ SECOND PROLOGUE™
Platform: iOS
Available: Now
The shooting game hit has arrived! This stunning 3D iPhone game adapts elements from both the critically-acclaimed PlayStation Portable and arcade editions of DARIUSBURST, adding silky smooth touch screen controls and a host of exclusive new features. Climb aboard your sleek Silverhawk fighter and defend your home planet Darius against monstrous fishlike invaders!

RAYSTORM™
Platform: iOS
Available: June
The classic 1996 arcade shooter is back! After a brutal war with rebellious colony planets, Earth is on the brink of destruction. It’s up to you to take control of the experimental R-GRAY fighter and bring the fight to the enemy! To succeed in your mission you’ll need lightning-fast reflexes, advanced weaponry, and no small amount of luck!

GUARDIAN CROSS™
Platform: iOS, Android
Available: July (iOS), TBD (Android)
A creature-based card game that features a fully unique battle system in which players take on the role of “tamers” who capture, raise, and control powerful beasts known as “Guardians.” In addition to quests to unlock the secret of why the Guardians have woken after a millennium of slumber, other features include a coliseum system that allows players to challenge other tamers from around the world in head-to-head combat.

THEATRHYTHM™ FINAL FANTASY®
Developer: Square Enix/indieszero Co., Ltd.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS™ system
ESRB: E10+ (Everyone 10 or older)
Available: July 3
The first FINAL FANTASY rhythm game, THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY features more than 70 musical scores spanning entire 25 years of the franchise’s history. THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY features music from key events, lush field themes and decisive battle arrangements.

HEROES OF RUIN™
Developer: n-Space
Platform: Nintendo 3DS system
ESRB: T (Teen)
Available: July 17
HEROES OF RUIN challenges players to carve their own adventure, either venturing alone or joining forces with other heroes through seamless drop-in/drop-out co-op multiplayer. Players will enter an ever-changing world where danger waits around every corner. Heroes can explore and fight through wild, varied and dynamic environments, discovering new layouts and routes each time they play.

KINGDOM HEARTS 3D [Dream Drop Distance]
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo 3DS system
ESRB: E10+ (Everyone 10 or older)
Available: July 31
Celebrating the franchise’s 10th anniversary, KINGDOM HEARTS 3D [Dream Drop Distance] features a spectacular story that promises to be a fun backdrop to the colorful cast of Disney characters making their 3D debut on a handheld title. In addition to brand new worlds, KINGDOM HEARTS 3D [Dream Drop Distance] will also feature never before seen gameplay elements.

DEMONS’ SCORE™
Platform: iOS, Android
Available: Summer
Demons’ Score is a breakbeat action game that seamlessly fuses music and battles. The Unreal Engine 3 is used to deliver thrilling touch-based gameplay through a mind-blowing fusion of stunning graphics and music created by hit songwriters.

FINAL FANTASY® DIMENSIONS™
Platform: iOS, Andriod
Available: Summer
Drawing upon the roots of the series with such features as beautiful 2D pixel art, job-driven character growth, additional scenarios in which to inherit the jobs of your adventuring companions, and a classic story of light, darkness, and crystals, FINAL FANTASY DIMENSIONS delivers the best of FINAL FANTASY, retro and fresh alike, directly to your smartphone.

KooZac™
Platforms: iOS, Android
Available: Summer
KooZac, the award-winning number puzzler is coming to iOS and Android. Previously released online, the game has been played over 15 million times across 135 countries. KooZac offers three ways to play with the overall objective of positioning the falling blocks on top of each other to make a target number.

Motley Blocks™
Platforms: iOS, Android
Available: Summer
Motley Blocks is a fast-paced, 3D puzzle game. Drag your finger across the screen to connect blocks of the same color as they rotate in a cyclonic pattern. Release your touch to send the blocks to the center of the cyclone and reveal a fun image. Use power-ups to help complete harder levels. In addition to solving puzzles, make your own in the level creator and share them with friends!

Qwirkle™
Platforms: iOS, Android
Available: Summer
Qwirkle is a matching game requiring tactical maneuvers and well-planned strategy. Earn points by building rows and columns of tiles that share a common shape or color. Use power-ups and add an additional layer of strategy to the game! Play with multiple friends asynchronously in classic or arcade modes.

SolaRola™
Platforms: iOS, Android
Available: Summer
SolaRola stars Wiz and Waz, the game’s blob-like gung-ho duo, tasked with bouncing across a number of challenging planets with the ultimate aim of saving the galaxy. Using whatever comes to hand, the daring pairing must thwart the plans of their nemesis, Ping the Unmerciless who has kidnapped the six guardians of SolaRola’s universe. With each planet inhabited by all manner of enemies and hazards, the player must navigate Wiz and Waz across a number of ill-positioned obstacles including rocks, slime, bombs and trampolines.

Shadowgun: The Leftover Review

Shadowgun: The Leftover (v1.1) (Android/iOS)
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Madfinger
[Apple] Release Date: December 21, 2011
[Android] Release Date: January 30, 2012

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Note: Please read our full review for the original Shadowgun to learn the core details of the game. This follow-up covers the enhancements featured in The Leftover expansion.

Review Basis: Finished on Normal difficulty.

If you haven’t played or finished Shadowgun, don’t worry I won’t spoil anything. Just don’t take that to mean that the game’s story is some Pulitzer work. The Leftover picks up exactly where Shadowgun ends, seeing as Mr. Slade isn’t quite done with his mission. John has to…you know, leave? Trusty S.A.R.A. is fully aware of our bald friend’s situation, and most happy to lead him to the exit.

The Great:

Better than Shadowgun. The Leftover isn’t a giant improvement over the main campaign, but brings upgrades to the table. Four additional levels, a new weapon, original enemy type, fresh environment interaction, and soundtrack come with Madfinger’s. It’s also more fun, and I wish Shadowgun played this way in the first place.

The Good:

+ Affects Shadowgun campaign. I didn’t play Shadowgun before The Leftover was released for Android, and that’s probably a good thing. TL adds a roll function, camera shaking and bullet trails that wouldn’t have been there to spice up the action had I been an earlier customer. Where’s the ability to run though?

+ Over or under. Madfinger added finger-swiping to slide under and hop over obstacles in the environment.

+ New riffs. The music is the same rock motif, but it’s nice to hear new stuff.

+ Ends quicker. TL is a better experience than Shadowgun, but I’m glad it didn’t last longer. I was bored with the main game by the time I finished it, and I didn’t want that to be how I felt in the end about The Leftover.

+ Still fantastic visuals. Subtle improvements all-around make an already-impressive looker even better-looking.

The So-So:

+- Not exactly devastating. The plasma rifle is a neat toy; it looks and sounds cool. However, it doesn’t rip enemies apart like you’d hope. So much for that technology.

The Bad:

Overlapping inputs. With the plasma rifle providing a fifth weapon, it was occasionally a pain to select it. This probably doesn’t apply to tablet users, but I shouldn’t be compelled to move the action inputs around just because I’m playing on a phone. I liked where my main functions were, and shouldn’t be punished for that.

Why bother asking? You make a seemingly important decision after defeating the final boss of Shadowgun. Yet I think all it affects is the very brief conversation that ensues. When The Leftover ends, I couldn’t tell you what else that choice may have influenced.

The Ugly:

Still lags… I no longer expect the more sophisticated Android games to perform well on my Thunderbolt, which is sad. It’s a powerful device, so I don’t understand this problem.

The Lowdown:

It’s great that Android and iOS make it so easy for app developers to push out updates to their paying customers, but why not release Shadowgun without the need for a Leftover? I think it would’ve been a better product overall. I do understand Deadzone, the game’s upcoming multiplayer component, being released independently, but perhaps I’m alone here. Still, I don’t want to come off as having hated John Slade’s adventure; I didn’t. It’s a quality game that demolishes most efforts out there for Android and iOS gaming. If you’re a shooter aficionado, Shadowgun and its expansion would be a great investment.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: It’s better than Shadowgun.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: It may be better, but it’s not that exciting either.

Are Hardcore Gamers Ready to Embrace iOS and Android Gaming?

Something extremely interesting happened last week that made me question if Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms will ever be taken serious by hardcore gamers unless major changes are made. Every analyst in the planet is saying that dedicated portable gaming devices like the 3DS and Vita will be completely replaced by iPhones and Droids. These same people are also saying that tablets like the iPad will eventually replace console gaming, because inevitably they, along with smart TVs, will come with console-like technology built-in. That’s fine and dandy, but the events of last week have now made me question whether hardcore gamers actually want to use these devices over their Xboxs, Wiis and PlayStations, not to mention 3DSs and Vitas. Take a look at the following trailer.

Honestly tell me that doesn’t sound like an incredible concept. This is every hardcore iOS/Android gamer’s fantasy, isn’t it? A true hardcore experience being developed by people who know what it means to create a hardcore game. What’s not to like about that? Well, how about the platform it’s being developed for? After two weeks on Kickstarter Republique failed to capture the interest of the hardcore crowd, which seems all but impossible given how excellent the game looks.

On the Kickstarter message boards, the number one question being asked to the game’s developer, Camouflaj was “why are you releasing this on a phone and not on PC and Mac?” Realizing the Kickstarter deadline was quickly approaching the developer announced a PC/Mac version of the game in hopes of reaching their $500,000 goal. I’ll be honest; it’s not looking good. Republique has made almost $150,000 and has 11 days to go, that’s not much time to reach the $500,000 milestone.

The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx is the best hardware running Android right now, notice the lack of buttons...

Whatever happens with this Kickstarter it begs asking, are there enough hardcore gamers using iPhones and Droids to support the expenses hardcore games cost to develop? Even if there are, do these people even want these types of games on their mobile devices? To be fair Republique was only being made for the iPhone, which further limits the user base, but it’s still a fair question. The whole purpose behind Republique was to answer whether hardcore gamers were looking for top tier console-like experiences on their phone. The answer appears to be…no. Is it really that simple though?

Virtually every hardcore gamer out there has an iPhone or an Android smartphone if they’re old enough. For some reason the two seem to go hand in hand, but the problem isn’t one of userbase, it’s one of hardware limitations. Believe me when I say the hardcore gamers out there would love to be able to use their mobile devices to have experiences that match what’s offered on the 3DS and Vita. The problem is that without a d-pad, analog sticks, or actual buttons, there’s just no way to match the control these dedicated portable gaming devices have. So why would the hardcore community band together for one interesting-looking game on the iPhone, when it’s the iPhone itself that’s the problem.

Likely the world's most popular smartphone, the iPhone 4S is just like the Razr Maxx, where are the buttons?

Moving forward more analysts will say traditional gaming is dead, but I’d like to think that until these companies allow controllers or some other input devices to be used, the hardcore will never fully support these platforms. While there have been some incredible hits on both iOS and Android, the devices these operating systems are on need to be redesigned with the gamer in mind if they truly want be taken serious by the hardcore gaming community.

What’s your take on this? I’d love to hear what you think of mobile gaming today and where it’s going in the future. Do you think Apple, Google, and the others will eventually cater to the hardcore gamer in all of us by releasing controllers for their set-top boxes or are we going to have to make do with simplistic games for the rest of eternity? Remember the scary truth, the casual userbase is far greater than the hardcore so we might be fighting a losing battle…

Shadowgun Review

Shadowgun (v1.1) (Android/iOS)
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Madfinger
Google Play Price: $5.25
Apple Store Price: $2.99
[Apple] Release Date: September 28, 2011
[Android] Release Date: October 26, 2011

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: Shadowgun stars a sarcastic and occasionally potty-mouthed galactic bounty hunter. You shoot to kill genetically-engineered enemies in this third-person shooter, but the violence isn’t as pronounced as Gears of War or Call of Duty. Shadowgun is relatively mild compared to most of today’s popular shooters.

Plays Like: Gears of War, and any other third-person shooter that features cover.

Review Basis: Finished the game on Normal difficulty.

It’s a good thing Shadowgun is playable now, because none of us will be around in its year 2350 era of evil governments ruling the denizens of space and terrestrial bodies. John Slade, a galactic mercenary and protagonist of epic baldness, is contracted by the shady Toltech Corporation to capture one Dr. Edgar Simon. The former employee of the trans-galactic entity and renowned geneticist is wanted. Why? Well you’re not told of course, but Slade doesn’t care about anything but payday. Kindly bring the mad scientist out of hiding, and nevermind that the gentleman hiring you looks like a cross between Shredder and Baraka.

The Great:

This looks….great! If Modern Combat 3 is the visual benchmark for FPS titles, and Infinity Blade for RPGs on mobile devices, then Shadowgun is the same for third-person shooters. Powered by the Unity engine on iOS and Android platforms, Madfinger put together an amazing-looking product. John Slade looks like a perfect fit for the COGs, if you ignore his lack of tank armor, and the environments overflow with detail. The opening cinematic is especially striking, reminding me of the quality of Dead Space. If you like games that show off your phone or tablet’s horsepower, Shadowgun will do that.

The Good:

+ Set-piece bosses. You face off against a number of giant mechanical bosses. They’re appropriately challenging (meaning they hurt), and fun to eliminate.

+ Boomstick. Forget realism; whacking foes from yards away with your auto-shotty is a plus in my book.

+ S.A.R.A. Finish the analogy: Master Chief is to Cortana, as John Slade is to _____. If you answered S.A.R.A., have yourself a cookie. Anyway, I can’t believe Slade’s robotic mission support never annoyed me. She doesn’t speak too much or too little, and actually has a cool personality, occasionally even mimicking Slade’s wit. Madfinger designed a great companion for this ride.

+ Interaction. Piggy-backing the previous item, though Slade and S.A.R.A.’s relationship doesn’t avoid missteps, I thoroughly enjoyed their back-and-forth banter.

+ Hacking. Various weapon crates and locked door panels require you to watch the game highlight any of nine symbols in a random order and length on the input pad. You repeat it, and move on. It’s nothing extravagant, but a healthy distraction from all the fighting.

+ Cover. It works mostly well. When Slade approaches a barrier designated for cover, he auto-snaps to it. You can then pop out for some shots, or slide along left or right. Some cover degrades from enemy fire as well, forcing you to make another move.

+ Hidden cards. Shadowgun tucks away over 20 symbols that resemble the game’s app icon. Each unlocks relevant information about the campaign, which is interesting to glance at.

The So-So:

+- Music. Madfinger employs a handful of guitar-laden tracks to attempt to keep the action entertaining. It’s successful initially, but I was sick of hearing the same material the further I progressed.

+- No melee? Gears of War fans I’m sure would agree that the chainsaw bayonet spoils gamers. Such fun… With Shadowgun being so similar, it’s somewhat disappointing that you can’t even whack a guy with your gun.

+- Controls. They generally work well, but sometimes you’ll fumble looking around or something when your finger slips or is on the wrong part of the screen. Thankfully your gun always shoots, and shooting is fun.

+- Enemy tactics. At the beginning it appears that Slade’s opposition works to flank and out-muscle you, but it’s clear over time that Simon’s minions rely on generic path-finding that at times provokes odd decision-making. Why would a guy I’m shooting from a distance suddenly run right up to the other side of the barrier I’m using? They’re not completely stupid, but not smart either.

The Bad:

– Stuttering. I’ve learned it’s not necessarily your device’s fault when a game doesn’t run smoothly on it. I’ll probably never know for sure, but sadly Shadowgun was never silky on my Thunderbolt when blasting away Dr. Simon’s legion. Hiccups even occurred moving around. This tends to be discouraging, but I still enjoyed the game in spite.

– We meet again… Maybe I’m picky, but I think Shadowgun could’ve spared more enemy types, or at least balanced the encounter frequency. It wasn’t long before I started to wonder if our mad scientist’s army enlisted mostly Psycho Mantis wannabes, and I think it did. Yes you also battle tickers, grenade-launching space suits, and others, but they’re uncommon in comparison.

– Return to sender, please! Shadowgun didn’t seem interested in weapon variety. You start with a standard-issue SMG, and eventually acquire a shotgun, grenade launcher and rocket launcher. These instruments reside in distinct treasure chest-looking crates too, and the number of duplicates made me sad. Why bother leaving these all over the place when ammo is already aplenty? Think of it like opening one of your most anticipated games as a present on your birthday, only to do it again at Christmas. Um…

– Take a bullet, will ya?! It’s stupid that Shadowgun requires your targeting reticule to be red before an enemy receives damage. In other words, if you point at a creep and the reticule isn’t red, cover or no cover, damage won’t be done. Stupid, no? And worse, often half or more of your SMG clip is needed to down a single enemy.

The Ugly:

Final boss. If you learn the quick way to kill him like I did, after several tries that is, it’s not so frustrating. Otherwise, the battle is frustrating. The ending is also a purposeful cliffhanger that encourages you to play The Leftover expansion included, and plain uninteresting altogether. After about four or five hours, I was ready to put the game away.

The Lowdown:

Shadowgun’s problems damage the experience for me; I won’t lie. Of course you may not encounter everything I did either, which I would be happy for. Yet regardless of what issues affect who, Madfinger still produced a very good third-person shooter for phones and tablets that probably knows no equal right now. The action maintains your attention well enough, and Unity really makes the game beautiful on whatever your screen may be. The price is acceptable on both platforms, so by all means invest on the one you have.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 7.5/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Shadowgun doesn’t lag on your device.

AirAttack HD Review

AirAttack HD (v1.3) (Android/iOS)
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter (plane)
Developer: Art In Games
Google Play Price: $2.99
Apple Store Price: $.99
[Apple] Update Date: November 30, 2011
[Android] Update Date: July 28, 2011

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: AirAttack HD is a fighter plane shooter that tasks you with destroying aerial and terrestrial targets. You witness explosions left and right, but nothing that should harm a child.

Plays Like: Other plane/space shooters.

 

Review Basis: Finished the game on Easy andNormal difficulties.

AirAttack HD sounds awfully generic, but don’t let its unexciting name fool you. AA HD is one of the most polished, frantically fun and memorable smartphone/tablet plane shooters. Despite a completely non-existent story, you battle sky and land enemies in a fictional Nazi Germany WWII era, and the action happily keeps you on your toes.

The Great:

The orchestrated music. It isn’t often that a game’s sole standout attribute is its music, but I was enthralled by AirAttack HD’s the moments the menu theme began to play. The sound quality is amazing, and to this day I’m dumbfounded that a mobile game can bring audio like it to the table. The track list isn’t extensive, but what pours in through your earbuds as you’re playing sticks in the mind. The material is exactly fitting for an action game or movie. Art in Games’ efforts are commendable.

The Good:

+ Very challenging. No gamer wants to see ‘Game Over’ on his/her screen, but to avoid that here you must focus on hostiles in the air and on the ground across the eight missions that span four sets of ‘Operations’ (Green Fox, White Storm, Dark Sand, and Red Sea). Numerous enemy projectile types and the ominous bodies of unfriendly vessels constantly threaten your well-being, and dodging both is a must. You’ll pay the price for carelessness.

+ Work of art. Art In Games lives up to its group’s name with the visual presentation AirAttack HD brings. The action never slowed on my phone, a pleasant surprise, and I’ve no complains about what I saw. The environment terrain varies across the different missions; there are many enemy plane types; every boss is unique; the physics are perfectly convincing; there’s real-time shadowing; etc. This mobile title serves the eye candy.

+ Boss fights. Each stage sends you a unique major foe, and they’re all fun to fight. It’s a mix of logical and bizarre. You start off destroying a castle stronghold, and meet others later on such as a gigantic destroyer boat, a secret mech, and more.

+ Constant fire. The game fires your main weapon constantly; I appreciate that.

+ Two planes. Before each mission begins, you choose between the standard fighter and one that can switch between bullet fire and using a flamethrower. That’s quite a startling difference, but the options are welcome and shake up the gameplay a little bit.

+ Interesting upgrades. At pre-determined points of each mission, a giant aerial store swoops in to sell weapon upgrades and specials. You can soup up your main gun(s), purchase an auto-turret, equip a lightning beam, and more. It all costs money that can be tough to acquire, but it’s a guilty pleasure to possess a fully tricked-out fighter plane.

+ New Game+. AirAttack HD strangely doesn’t tell you that it can be replayed with all your purchased upgrades. Yet I figured out that if you play again on the same difficulty that you just finished, your upgrades and high score are preserved. It’s pretty sweet because the enemy basically takes a pounding at that point.

The So-So:

+- Finger obstruction. This may not be an issue if you play AA HD on a tablet, but I think it’s cheap to lose a life simply because you couldn’t see an enemy projectile or craft about to hit because your finger was in the way.

+- Distinguishing pickups. A Help section educates you about the different facets of the action, and the different pickups that appear after creating chaos. However, not only do most people not bother with those things, but its organization doesn’t encourage a proper study of the information. Why not give just a simple tutorial mission that explains the money, weapon upgrade and other awards left behind?

+- Dropping bombs. You can drop a bomb by double-tapping the screen, but it’s not consistent. There’s an independent icon in the bottom-left that’s specifically for it, but that amounts to nothing more than a distraction. Given that the majority of your cash is acquired by exploding ground structures, you’d want a reliable input method while still concentrating upon dodging enemies and attacking them.

The Bad:

– Too short! You might encounter a handful of Game Over screens because games like AirAttack HD don’t highlight your skills. However, that’s no substitute for a game to have an appropriate length. You can finish all four Operations within two or three hours, and less than an hour on New Game+. Art In Games didn’t commit a egregious offense with this, but an additional Operation or two, or even another mode would’ve been nice.

The Lowdown:

Regardless of your platform and associated cost, you can enjoy a very well-put-together plane shooter on your iOS or Android phone/tablet. I think the effort we see that AIG put into AirAttack HD is a step or two above most mobile games. Sure, it’s not very long and you can struggle controlling the game a bit, but those flaws are bunk considering the grand scheme. So if you’re tired of all the first-person shooters this generation, why don’t you hop into the cockpit of AirAttack HD and blow something up?

Average Score Scale: 8.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 9.0/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: It’s short, lacks a story, and not always easy to handle. Regardless, AirAttack HD is great fun.

Angry Birds Has Now Invaded Space!!!

This is likely going to be the biggest release of the entire year, yes bigger than Call of Duty, at least in terms of units sold.  The original Angry Birds has sold over 450 million units since it was originally released.  Angry Birds Space is now available on Apple’s App Store for both Mac and iOS devices, PC, and it’s also available on the Android Marketplace.

There’s little doubt this will be one of the biggest games of the entire year, and either Justin or I will get a review out for this bad boy shortly.  As of writing this news piece Angry Birds Space is already the number one selling paid app on the iPhone and on the iPad, and number two on the Mac App Store behind Mac OS X Lion, but I’m certain Lion will be dethroned within the hour.

Which format are you going to download it on?  I’ve already downloaded it three times on the three platforms I just mentioned.  :)  Let the fun begin!

Cut the Rope: Experiments Review

Cut the Rope: Experiments
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Chillingo
Developer: ZeptoLab
iOS Release Date: August 4, 2011
Android: TBA

Apple’s App Store has helped many small mobile developers gain popularity. One such company is ZeptoLab, a tiny Russian group that was virtually unknown before Cut the Rope.  For iOS alone, Cut the Rope has sold an astonishing three million units.  An Android release took place back in June 2011 and downloads continue every day.

While the stages may start off easy enough, before too long the difficulty increases significantly

So what is Cut the Rope?  It’s a physics-based puzzle series in which a candy is suspended on a rope, and it’s broken by swiping your finger across it.  The objective is to land the candy into Om Nom’s mouth, the tiny green creature you see.  It’s not as easy as it sounds; there are tons of obstacles in the way: spikes, electricity, and much more.  There are also several items to interact with by the touch screen in order to help move the candy to its desired location.  Let’s not forget about the three stars per level.  Collecting them and feeding the candy to Om Nom nets you a high score if you’re quick enough. Therein lies the replay value and addictive nature.  You have no idea how complex some of these puzzles become.

Experiments is ZeptoLab’s follow-up, and it doesn’t stray from the formula in the least.  Some might suggest it be released as a free update, but today the original game features 200 levels for $1.  That’s a ton of content, so who could blame ZeptoLab for wanting to rake in a little extra cash?

Experiments brings with it 75 stages, and a promise of future free updates for more. The first 25 stages serve as a refresher/tutorial for those unaccustomed to the gameplay.  The next 25 introduces the first new item, the ‘plunger shooter’ as I call it.  This item, once tapped, fires a rope that connects to the candy.  There’s no need to aim; it takes care of that for you.  The final levels makes use of the suction cup.  The candy is attached to the rope, which is wrapped to suction cup(s). Swipe it once and the entire contraception falls, press it again to reattach it.  You must be quick with this item or else the candy will fall into the endless void beneath the stage.

Touch the red suction cup and prepare for madness!

The two new items increase the difficulty, which is higher compared to the original.  While a few more gameplay twists would have been nice, no one can complain about another 75 stages and two new items for the low price of $1.  I strongly recommend you download this immediately.

 

Saudi Arabian Developer, Semaphore, Working On Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta

Take a look at the following image:

Doesn’t that look a bit like Uncharted, but with a distinct Middle Eastern flare?  That’s because that’s exactly what Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta is.  It’s a clone of the Naughty Dog classic, with a unique twist.  The Saudi Arabian developer, Semaphore, is using Uncharted as their inspiration for this game in virtually every way possible.  That’s not a bad thing, I mean honestly everyone has to start somewhere.  What’s so interesting is that this title will still skip the Xbox 360, instead being released on virtually every platform except the 360 including PC, Mac, iPad/iPhone, Android devices, PS3, etc.  Semaphore has released a pre-alpha video of the game which we have for you here.

We don’t have a lot of story details at the moment, but what we do know is that explorer Faris Jawad is searching for the hidden treasure of Ibn Battuta.  Obviously there will be tons of people who try to stop Faris along the way.

For those that don’t know the Saudi region is really starting to get into game development in a big way, and this looks to be one the highest profile games coming out of the region.

Sony Announces PlayStation Certified Tablets

In a not-so-surprising announcement made in Tokyo early this morning, Sony has announced two Android 3.0-powered tablets that will be able to play select PlayStation One games.  Why I say this isn’t so surprising is because Sony announced plans to release PlayStation-certified products back at GDC (Game Developers Conference) in January. 

The two models are codenamed the S1 and S2 respectively.  As you can see by the screenshots, the two models differ in their physical appearance.  The S1, which looks similar to the iPad sports a 9.4” touch screen, whereas the S2 features two 5.5” displays. 

For those following the tablet industry Sony is already a year behind the competition, but hoping that by allowing select PSOne games on the device that customers will be enticed to purchase one of these two products.  Sony also mentioned they plan to become the second largest producer of tablets within the next few years, behind only Apple. 

It’s very interesting how Sony is positioning themselves lately.  They’ve been more willing to release software on other devices than ever before.  I will not be surprised if the day arrives where you can grab virtually any phone or tablet and have a PS-branded store available.  After all, this would be to Sony’s benefit as they could make a small fortune from software sales.  They consider this software legacy software to begin with, and it’s not as if they’re suddenly going to port PS3 games over to these devices.  So the bottom line is this is a win-win situation for the company.

What do all of you think of this news?

App Store Now Features Over 300,000 Games

It’s true, more than half of the 300,000 videogames on the App Store are complete and utter garbage.  That said, 300,000 anything is quite an accomplishment.  Many hardcore gamers look at the App Store as “just another cell phone game shop,” but the truth of the matter is that Apple has become a serious contender in the videogame industry.  I can’t begin to tell you how many press releases I get on a daily basis from indie companies and major third parties that want us to highlight some new iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch game they have in production.    I’ve said this before, and I’ll be saying it again I’m sure, but the iOS platform has completely changed the videogame industry.  It has empowered the smallest developers in the world to release intuitive and sometimes great games for $0.99, often even being free.  Google’s Android operating system has followed suit, and combined these two platforms look to do something Nintendo and Sony could never dream of, allowing your average joe to release their creation for the whole world to enjoy all while making money in the process.  It’s quite something when you stop and think about it.

For years the portable market, including the cell market, was locked in position by the power players.  If you were on the traditional gaming front, you needed to get expensive software development kits from companies like Nintendo and Sony.  While on the cellphone market, you were almost always locked in with the carrier.  If they didn’t carry a game you wanted, you were completely shafted.  Now we have an alternative to this.  You can either download Android’s SDK for free or pay a measly $100 a year for access to Apple’s.  From there, you make your game, submit it for approval and that’s it.  Your game is up and running for the whole world to enjoy.  There have been several millionaires made from developing on the iPhone and soon for Android devices as well.  This is just not possible on the traditional platforms.

Lately it feels like we’re hearing about one major milestone after another in the mobile arena.  Who would have thought that the portable market would be so completely altered within only two years.  It makes you wonder what is going to happen in the next couple of years.