Watch CastleStorm: Free to Siege’s Beta Test Version in Action Now

Watch CastleStorm: Free to Siege’s Beta Test Version in Action Now

Feb 27, 2014

CastleStorm: Free to Siege is the upcoming mobile version of Zen Studios’ 2013 game about destroying castles, and destroying those who would dare destroy castles besides one’s own self, because only one person can really destroy castles. Only one.

While the game released as a premium title for consoles, the mobile version will be free-to-play. While Zen Pinball uses a free model, it’s about content unlocks, not consumable IAP. Thus, Zen is doing something smart: a soft launch of the game that will allow them to sort out how their game will monetize and any of the technical issues that arise.

Interestingly, Zen Studios has decided to eschew the regional soft-launch that many companies prefer, and have gone with an open beta test through Google Play’s tester services. This means that anyone can sign up and play, and since the game’s not yet publicly available on Google Play, it still manages to limit the audience in a good way.

Want to check out what’s up with the beta for yourself? Sign up here, or watch our gameplay footage below.

Dungeon Nightmares Review

Dungeon Nightmares Review

Feb 27, 2014

Screw that – I didn’t get this job to get a heart attack. Generally, I have a love-hate relationship with horror games. I like horrors because of the atmosphere and feeling of abandonment and solitariness. What I hate them for is when some monster jumps right at you and your heart goes through your digestive system and escapes from below, buys ticket to Hawaii and lives there, hourly taking Prozac. Dungeon Nightmares is a great combination of both, and I already place it among the best mobile horrors, but if I knock out the next person who pats me from behind with my heels, as I’ll be starting off in an opposite direction, I know what to put my blame on.

Dungeon Nightmares will feel familiar to people who played mobile horror games like Slender and SCP-173 and the like. Player needs to go through a lengthy dungeon that consists of various barely-lit rooms and passages and collect an artifact. Then he needs to get to an exit. There are other things that can be collected, like gold bars and creepy notes that try to warn the hero of an impeding doom, but they’re not necessary to complete a level. Just find an artifact and get to an exit. I think it’s obvious that there’s something in the dungeon that doesn’t really want ourDungeon Nightmares 4 quick departure from the dungeons. I won’t indulge in details because spoiling the mood is the one thing you don’t want to do with a horror game.

But I can say that unlike previous horror games that consist of nothing but walking around an empty area and waiting for the enemy to jump at you at any second, Dungeon Nightmares holds suspension with more than that. Also, it looks really great. It’s not the most beautiful game on Android, but it feels like a proper game, instead of a prolonged screamer with cheap textures. Another great thing about it is the big, changing levels. When the hero gets to an exit and the next night starts, dungeon layout is completely changed. I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that the objects’ whereabouts in the dungeon are also shuffled each time you play. By the way, there’s a handy map that even keeps track of your steps, although it doesn’t show any objects or exit.

Wrapping up, I can’t really think of significant flaws in Dungeon Nightmares. Maybe the graphics could be a bit better and the dungeon rooms could have more variety with more objects of interest, and the story could be richer, but really, it’s fine the way it is. I want to say that it’s a great “screamer”, but I really think that it would be a bit insulting, because Dungeon Nightmares is a great horror game.

Eventseeker Finds Events That Are Relevant To Your Interests

Eventseeker Finds Events That Are Relevant To Your Interests

Feb 27, 2014

eventseeker 4

Eventseeker is just what it says: an event seeker. It finds various concerts, exhibitions, sport events and more, across more than 200 cities. Its main feature is that it doesn’t just show every concert in the area, but taps into the user’s social site history and interests, to bring events that might be more interesting. It can be downloaded for free from here: Eventseeker on Google Play. And here’s Eventseeker Website.

Fashion Star Designer Review

Fashion Star Designer Review

Feb 27, 2014

Fashion Star Designer gives the player control of their own fashion label. Everything from leather trench coats to chainmail sleeved shirts can be made and sold to clients for cash.

Fashion Star Designer features mission style play. A client gives a vague design of what they want and the player makes it for them, using whatever materials and design they see fit. Each client has different preferences, such as the use of a certain material or design, such as floral print. Matching these traits grants additional cash. Traits are discovered by simply making clothes for that client through trial and error. Once all of a client’s traits are discovered, a new piece of clothing is unlocked.

Screenshot_2014-02-19-04-26-27Besides dealing with clients, players can also just make clothes at random and sell them in their boutique. As expected, each design fetches a different price depending on what it is and takes a time to sell. The longer the time selected, the higher the amount of money earned, like most freemium games. Super annoyingly only three designs can be sold at once without paying a lot of premium currency for boutique space, greatly limiting income.

Fashion Star Designer unfortunately fails to take notice of the player’s designs. Loading a bunch of designs haphazardly onto a shirt for example with some garish colors is just as effective as tasteful clothing. It is not possible to have a design rejected or even to receive meaningful feedback on a design. This makes designing good looking clothes rather pointless. Multiple colors also cannot be used on the same piece of clothing, except for belts and undershirts and the like. This makes most designs quite dull.

Screenshot_2014-02-19-04-24-00Fashion Star Designer is also full of in app purchases. For the vast majority of clothes, specifically anything cool or classy looking the game asks for large amounts of Gift Cards. They cannot be bought with in game Coins. While Gift Cards can be gained by leveling up, only minuscule amounts are awarded. This is compounded by the fact that leveling up often requires purchasing Gift Card only designs.

Graphically FSD features a confusing interface. With the pay store at the top of the menu and somewhat confusing creation controls there is much scope for improvement. Resizing items is especially slow and awkward. There are limited colours and styles on offer, which is surprising for a game about fashion. Very few accessories like bows and buttons are available as well. The sound is limited mostly to some inoffensive music, but it suits the tone of the game.

Fashion Star Designer purports to allow players to use their imagination and cater to client needs. But the large amount of in app purchases that greatly limit design choices and the lack of actual feedback on designs makes it little more than a glorified tap and wait simulator.

VSCO Cam Review

VSCO Cam Review

Feb 27, 2014

When it comes to image capture on mobile devices, competition is fierce. Better hardware, more megapixels, yes, but almost more importantly, better image manipulation tools. This is the space VSCO Cam is looking to fill.

Starting the app starts a device optimization sequence; after this, the app menu appears, and it gives us a clue as to the app’s core functionality. The app menu is rated in greys and blacks, besides the Camera button, there are tabs for Library, Store, Settings, Journal and VSCO Grid, and these tabs are set in a slide-out panel that can be hidden on the left.

The camera function is probably the most important, and selecting it opens up the shooting utility. This specific vsco1environment is minimalist in nature, with menu and sizing buttons. There is also a toggle to important pictures for manipulation. Taking a picture is as simple as it is on any smartphone camera (obviously); VSCO Cam‘s assumed value is mostly in its ability to tweak images.

And, at first blush, that value is high indeed. The option set is superb, allowing for the user to actually create pre-sets that can be applied to pictures. Further, there is a slider that can be utilized to perfect tat particular look. Picture tweaking utilizes elements like temperature and exposure to create balance, and the comparison feature is phenomenal, as it allows for before/after checks by long-pressing the edited image. For folks looking to get a hand in selecting the perfect combination of tweaks, there are preset packs available via in-app purchase.

The app also covers the social angle, allowing sharing via social networks and via its own aforementioned VSCO Grid. The latter is an interesting concept that makes sense, allowing folks to discover and be discovered. This is social aspect adds to the attraction of the app.

It’s a third-party app that is fluid and actually fun to use, and is great for all ages.

Presenting Timewinder – Interval Timer

Presenting Timewinder – Interval Timer

Feb 27, 2014

Timewinder - Interval Timer 3

Timewinder is essentially, a timer that allows the user to save the recorded intervals and organize them. While some people may wonder what good is a recording timer, I can think of several great uses for it – for example, trying to beat your own time for sports routine, or comparing different routes to different parts of town (what? Am I the only one who does this?) Timewinder is available now on Google Play.

GREE Slides into Spring, Showing Off Strategy Games, a Match-3 Slapfest, and a QWOP-Style Fighting Game?!

GREE Slides into Spring, Showing Off Strategy Games, a Match-3 Slapfest, and a QWOP-Style Fighting Game?!

Feb 27, 2014

GREE held their “Slide into Spring” event recently showing off some of their new and upcoming titles for the press. While they had a selection of titles that certainly fit into their free-to-play oeuvre, they also brought along a team doing some titles that are rather out of the ordinary for GREE.

G-Labs is a team meant to make experimental games from inside GREE’s US headquarters, which takes up the entire length of a street block. This small team makes games under the radar, without much of GREE’s marketing muscle, or even without being published by the mothership, as they publish under their own label.

Legend of Slap

And their games can be a bit wacky: Legends of Slap is a match-3 puzzler with a combat element: players must outscore their opponents in a best-of-three rounds system, with mechanics that work similarly to Bejeweled. But the game features animated characters that slap each other, and the winner gets to swipe the screen rapidly to slap the loser repeatedly. It’s available now on Google Play as well.

Another game, Flop Fu, which is still in the works, mixes the kind of impossible-to-control characters and dual-stick control scheme of mobile QWOP with an arena fighter. Limb movements that hit the opponent do damage, with headshots doing more damage. It has a lot of the wackiness of its inspirations, but with the new dynamic of it being a fighter. And it features online play. The game’s still in development, but should be out soon.

FlopFu

As well, there’s Coco Pets, a virtual pet simulator that is perhaps the most mainstream game that they’re working on, but it’s still just so different from the bulk of games that GREE traditionally publishes. And given just how goofy all of these games are, they definitely represent something out of the ordinary from the free-to-play giant.

While certainly the potential for future interesting gameplay styles for GREE games exists to come out of this team, it’s still just fascinating because it represents something so different for a free-to-play publisher. F2P games are very heavily refined and planned to be what they are, and here’s a company making a somewhat-crude slapping game and a goofy online fighting game. While the company is massive in terms of stature, revenues, and even just physically, it’s fascinating to see even just a small part of it make things that are just so relatively unrefined.

Of course, GREE is continuing on with the more traditional free-to-play releases as well. War of Nations from Funzio has made its way to Android. This strategy game has players raising armies, and taking over land in a game world, forming alliances to try to defeat other players and become the most powerful tactician in their world. There are a number of game servers for players to join up with and play on. The game is available now on Android.

Bases on world map

Rage of the Immortals, also out now, is developed by IUGO (known for Knights and Dragons with GREE), and features a King of Fighters-esque art style and team-based fighting, though all handled automatically. Players can also build up a base, collect resources, and upgrade fighters in a system similar to collectible card games.

ROTI_PVP

Finally, there’s League of Wars, developed by MunkyFun, and not out yet on Android. This strategy game interestingly brings in lane defense gameplay, albeit somewhat simplified: there’s no lanes for players to manually send their units to, they just send in their units strategically with their resources to attack the enemy, with units intelligently attacking the enemy and/or its base. Thus, automation is actually being used for good, rather than to just overly-simplify a game. This is likely a couple months out from Android release.

Battle

While certainly GREE has their fair share of expected games from them, it was the unexpected that proved to be some of the most fascinating things they had…

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Enfojer on IndieGogo

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Enfojer on IndieGogo

Feb 26, 2014

This week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight focuses on a project that, honestly, blew my mind. I have always been interested in film photography, and I recently started collecting old cameras, and something that has always eluded me about digital is the lack of that hands on, tactile nature of film. A design group from Croatia has created a way to develop real, black and white analog photographs from the snapshots saved on smartphones. Seeing as mobile camera technology has advanced so rapidly in recent years it really has become a viable way to take above average photographs, and what could be better than being able to go into a darkroom and make prints of those high quality photographs. What Enfojer is, essentially, is a stand that, when combined with the free app, turns most smartphones into an automatic exposure machine. Also included are trays, tongs, film, and a red darkroom light; everything needed to develop homemade prints save for the chemicals which are easy enough to find. The phone sits in the top of the stand and at the literal snap of fingers the screen turns off allowing for safe placing of the film. With another snap the screen turns on displaying the photo which is magnified via a lens to fill the size of the film and a timer configures the perfect exposure amount. When the screen again goes dark it is time to begin the three washes which are automatically timed as well.

The app gives full control over exposure settings while still offering assistance when needed. As someone who has spent time in a development lab, the addition of timing the ensuing steps is an much appreciated step that easily could have been overlooked. The entire package, including 100 pieces of Ilford quality photographic paper, was given for a $200 donation, and I can see that price rising, but not by much, and even then it would still be a tremendous deal considering all that is included.

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The bad news here is that this project was not successfully funded on IndieGoGo, but money has come into the project and they have stormed ahead nevertheless. Parts have been injection molded and final designs have been going out after initial delays due to some structure reinforcing due to a lens change. Their website is up and running, and with an email address one can leave an email to be notified when the final product will be ready for pre-ordering.

I hope that everyone who reads this goes and shows their support for this incredibly ambitious product, because this is the kind of project that is made possible only through crowdfunding. This is a product that will inspire creativity, and for those with younger children, introduce a whole new generation to the fading art of film photography.

Cross DJ Update Brings Lots Of New Features

Cross DJ Update Brings Lots Of New Features

Feb 26, 2014

Cross DJ - Mix your music 2

Cross DJ is a pretty feature-packed digital DJ for Android that acts as a real turntable with lots of features and effects. Now, it has gotten even better with the new update. The changes include: song navigation by folder, hardware mixer connection, advanced pitch control, autogain, History, new DJM EQs, and more. Purchase it from here: Cross DJ on Google Play.

Switch: Get Lucky Review

Switch: Get Lucky Review

Feb 26, 2014

I’ve been thinking for a while and I still can’t think of a definite opinion about Switch: Get Lucky, so this is going to be the case where I’ll write my thoughts about the game and try to find a point later. I can say or sure that it’s not as interesting, or artsy as it seems. Although the screenshots suggest something close to an indie masterpiece, like Badlands, the game is much more simple, both in terms of gameplay, and in terms of graphics.

Switch: Get Lucky doesn’t have any switches, or luck, for that matter, as it’s a slightly puzzly adventure game about some draconian-looking… thing that tries to return its bunny from a magician. I don’t follow the story quite well, but it’s not important for the gameplay. The levels consist of various platforms, pits, spikes and shiny balls. The creature we control has to traverse the dangerous terrain and get to the end of the level. By the way, there’s a really strange lives mechanic. If the player restarts a level, his lives stay at the same level they were, but if he has his thighs ripped off by giant buzz-saws, loses a life, starts from the beginning, and then attempts to restart a level, his lives are Switch 3not going to replenish themselves, a mechanic I like to call “bloody stupid”. Anyway, the player can’t control the hero’s direction and speed. The hero only changes his direction when he bounces off a wall. The only thing the player can make him do is jump. So, the whole game is the player trying to jump in all the right places, in order to get to the end and try to complete the mini-missions for the level. The mini-missions help to make the game more challenging, but there’s the question of whether anyone would want Switch: Get Lucky to be more challenging.

To be fair, I didn’t like the game, and found it pretty frustrating. Although I understand that it’s not really the game’s fault. Switch: Get Lucky has plenty of levels, enough small mechanics to keep it interesting and it mostly works fine – the problem lies in the core. Pretty lengthy levels, inability to really control the hero and complete unforgiveness for mistakes are supposed to make this game challenging, but the harder the game is, the more unique or captivating its formula must be, and it’s just not the case with the game. I don’t consider it a failure, but it’s just not very interesting, and very difficult.

Kinoma Connect Allows Streaming Content To DLNA Devices

Kinoma Connect Allows Streaming Content To DLNA Devices

Feb 26, 2014

Kinoma Connect 3

This free app can connect a tablet or phone with various smart devices like SmartTVs and connected speakers. You can listen to your music, look through photos, or watch movies on the big screen with just a few taps. The app is available for free from here: Kinoma Connect on Google Play.

Dungeon Creep Review

Dungeon Creep Review

Feb 26, 2014

Dungeon Creep is a unique mix of party based RPG and puzzle game. As a party of four intrepid warriors with varied skills a puzzle like interface is used to explore the dungeon, grab treasure and kill as many monsters, or “creeps” as possible on the way.

Screenshot_2014-02-22-08-19-26Each dungeon has different treasures, ranging from magical armour to premium items that are usually only available with real money. Getting enough of the treasure completes the dungeon successfully. Each creep in the dungeon is susceptible to one hero’s attacks, neutral to others and strong against one. Creeps that are strong against a hero cannot be attacked by that hero and serve to block their movements.

Thus the idea is to use the strongest heroes against weaker enemies, while protecting the weaker one in your party from enemies they can’t defeat. Grabbing magical armor removes this weakness and lets any hero attack any enemy, while magical swords destroy all creeps around a hero. Potions also kill everything round a hero. Using these items is essential to beat the dungeon in the limited amount of moves provided.

Screenshot_2014-02-21-09-51-50While this gameplay idea is sound, a few glaring problems really take the shine off of Dungeon Creep. For one the game lacks any sort of campaign or story. Each game is only a one off game and there are no overarching goals. This is a real disappointment as a decent story or some strong characters would really improve the game.

Dungeon Creep is also incredibly easy. Regardless of what monsters are fought, heroes seem to take next to no damage from enemies. The multitude of healing items in the game are never needed.

Dungeon Creep has a lot of ads. Besides a banner ad at the top of the screen that constantly flashes, after every game another ad pops up to be dismissed. Since every game is only a minute or two long this gets very frustrating.

Dungeon Creep looks very plain. Despite the game’s claim of tasty graphics, Dungeon Creep for the most part is comprised of small 2D sprites and uninteresting animation. Some neat looking magic effects add some flair, but there is nothing in Dungeon Creep that stands out.

Soundwise, the game has some decent music and the sound of combat is nice and loud. The clicky sound creeps make as they move suits the feel of the game and spells sound decent enough.

Dungeon Creep is a game with a solid idea, but poor execution. An extended campaign, fewer ads and ratcheting up the difficulty would improve the game immeasurably. Worth a look and maybe a second look after a few updates.