Duck, Duck, BOOM: DUCK GAME Announced for Ouya on May 13th, Sure to Ruffle Feathers Amongst Friends

Duck, Duck, BOOM: DUCK GAME Announced for Ouya on May 13th, Sure to Ruffle Feathers Amongst Friends

Apr 30, 2014

Ouya has announced that DUCK GAME will be released on May 13th. What is DUCK GAME and why is it in all caps? Well, it’s a local multiplayer combat game where players must use a variety of weapons in a 2D pixel-art environment to ruffle some feathers and be the last duck standing. Aggressive ducks deserve all caps. Check out the trailer below.

NimbleBit’s Next Game: Tiny Tower Vegas?

NimbleBit’s Next Game: Tiny Tower Vegas?

Apr 30, 2014

Ian Marsh of NimbleBit, creators of Tiny Tower, Pocket Frogs, and more, has been tweeting out screens from a game called Tiny Tower Vegas. It appears that this is a casino version of Tiny Tower, featuring casino games for players to spend their coins on. Oh, and BitBook is back. Details are limited beyond what’s been publicly revealed, but we’ll have more on this as it is revealed.

Nitako Releases Jetpack Impossible, a Free Arcade Game That’s Rather Difficult

Nitako Releases Jetpack Impossible, a Free Arcade Game That’s Rather Difficult

Apr 30, 2014

Long-time mobile developer Nitako has jumped into the “uber-challenging arcade game” genre with their latest game, Jetpack Impossible! Players tap and hold on either side of the screen to fire their jetpack off in either direction, trying to collect glowing green orbs that appear, while simultaneously avoiding asteroids. The game is free and ad-supported, with IAP to remove them. Check it out on Google Play.

Tamagotchi Life: Tap and Hatch Review

Tamagotchi Life: Tap and Hatch Review

Apr 30, 2014

Tamagotchi Life: Tap and Hatch is a puzzle game best described as a mix up between the world and gameplay mechanics of the populair Tamagotchi virtual pets and the insanely beloved Candy Crush Saga type of games.

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In this game the goal is to score a set amount of points by clearing blocks of randomly generated colors, so the Tamagotchi on the top of the screen will hatch from its egg. After that, you have to help the little bugger grow up, just like we all did in the nineties. Players clear the screen by swiping away a set of three or more of the same color blocks. They don’t have to be all horizontal of vertical; the game let’s you go diagonal as well, which is cool.

But the game is fundamentally flawed. Its gameplay is focused on getting enough points to clear the level, but players are extremely dependent on the randomly generated colors of the blocks. If the don’t fall down in you favor and can’t clear the level, than it presents a dilemma: do I start over or buy extra turns? In both cases, the problem of the randomly generated colors of the blocks remains, so, later on, a lot of time is spent at retrying stages, which is very unpleasant.

In total there are more than hundred stages to play and it’s possible to complete them without paying anything, but it takes a strong mind or a big fan to do so. Because of it’s random nature, I felt the urge to do something else instead, something that is relied on skill and not a big portion of luck. Sometimes it gives you exactly what is needed, but there are also times I felt pushed at buying something I didn’t want to.

And that’s a shame. The game plays and looks really well and it’s definitely visible the developer spend a lot of time achieving that. Because of the Tamagotchi theme, Namco Bandai accessed it’s huge library of Tamagotchi creatures, so fans of the series will feel right at home. Furthermore, the graphics look really slick and neat, building upon the foundation its initial developer made with the Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop on Nintendo DS. Tamagotchi Life: Tap and Hatch is a nice game with well-known gameplay mechanics, but sometimes forces the player to buy stuff. And that’s not cool.

Astro Emporia Review

Astro Emporia Review

Apr 30, 2014

Astro Emporia makes a bold move, taking the least-interesting part of any open-world simulation, and releasing as a separate game. At least for me, trading in any game, especially space-oriented, was always the dumbest thing to do. I didn’t train spacecraft piloting for half of my (imaginary) life, and exchange my (imaginary) life on some planet, just to become a space haggler! The outcome is predictable: the game is unusual, but rather boring.

The player’s task is to exchange goods between different planets of a randomly generated solar system. There’s absolutely no other business for player to take, so the game is really simple. Buy material on a planet that’s overproducing it, travel to another planet, and sell it for profit elsewhere. The kicker is that planets randomly change their imports, so player needs to calculate which planet buys the material at a high price, and sells at a low one, before traveling. Another problem is that player owns bank a hefty sum at the start, so he needs to pay it all, including interest, before making his own capital. There are different game modes, for different scopes of the game, but apart from that, every replay is Astro Emporia 2almost exactly the same.

While I agree that market economy is underrepresented in videogames, Astro Emporia makes little effort to change that. The rules are incredibly simple, and although the bank and resource managing are an interesting concept, it doesn’t help the fact that there’s little to no variety in the game, and unless you are excited about reaching the best possible high-score, the first time you get “successful” in Astro Emporia is going to be the point at which you will probably get bored of it.

The bigger problem is that the game randomly and completely unexpectedly freezes my phone – and I mean, completely: only restarting brings it to life. It’s completely unexplainable, since Astro Emporia is a simple game with just a bit of graphics, and doesn’t eat any resources. Still, it’s a problem for me.

In conclusion, Astro Emporia is too simple, but I don’t think it would be a serious problem if it didn’t have strange freezes every once in a while. Apart from that, it’s a simple puzzle with a core mechanic, somewhat unusual for a mobile game.

Pathogen Review

Pathogen Review

Apr 30, 2014

Pathogen is a puzzle board game – and I mean it in the strictest sense. It’s similar to Japanese Go, both in form, and in a facade of simplicity that hides a mind-crippling difficulty inside, like a Trojan horse full of challenges and frustration. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that I’m bad at it, but I don’t get to say this about many mobile board games. There’s no story in Pathogen, because stories are for children, while we’re here to kick ass and capture territory – and we’re almost out of ass.

In Pathogen, the player can compete against AI or other players, locally, or online. The goal is to capture more territory than the enemy, before you both run our of land. Similarly to Go, the main mechanics are an ability to place your pieces on any part of the field, capturing it, and an ability to capture enemy’s resources with careful planning, although the process is different. The player has several kinds of pieces he can place, with more advanced pieces requiring several turns to recharge. When the player puts a piece on the board near existing ones of the same kind, they form a connection. Then, if the player puts a more advanced piece on, or near any of them, they all get advanced to the next Pathogen 2level and start belonging to the player – even if they originally belonged to the enemy. The connections never break, meaning that at the end of the game, large portions of the game field get to change hands every turn, as players race to advance them to the last stage that turns all connected pieces into a wall, solidifying them. After this, they can’t change hands, and the area completely goes under one of the player’s control.

There’s an insane level of possible customization, including different AI strengths, special “infection” mode, free choice of multiplayer options, but they’re all icing on the cake that is insane depth of Pathogen. Not only do you need to plan where to place the next piece, but also what kind it should be, and if it puts you at risk of the whole chain being completely captured – or if this can actually be of an advantage. AI is damn good, so don’t expect that single player campaign will be a cakewalk, either. I can already hear muffled scoffing from the masters of Go, as they go through the levels like a katana sword through a leaf of sakura, but I do think that Pathogen is one of the most challenging board games I’ve ever played on the mobiles.

Tilt to Live 2: Freedonkulous Offers Lots of Tilting Action for Free

Tilt to Live 2: Freedonkulous Offers Lots of Tilting Action for Free

Apr 30, 2014

Tilt to Live 2: Freedonkulous is now out on Android. This free version of One Man Left’s arena survival game features the full version’s Classic mode in both traditional and old-school flavors (the latter featuring no bosses). What’s missing are half of the weapons, Code Red, and access to Brimstone Pinball mode. This free version is out now.

Browse the Solar System with Solar Walk

Browse the Solar System with Solar Walk

Apr 30, 2014

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Solar Walk is an educational app that lets users fly among the planets of our solar system and learn various interesting facts about it, visualized on their mobile screen. This incredibly useful and very beautiful app is available in paid and free versions on Google Play: Solar Walk Paid, and Solar Walk Free.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Codemancer on Kickstarter – Q&A with Developer Robert Lockhart About How the Game Will Try to Teach Kids to Code

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Codemancer on Kickstarter – Q&A with Developer Robert Lockhart About How the Game Will Try to Teach Kids to Code

Apr 30, 2014

Robert Lockhart and Important Little Games recently launched a Kickstarter for their game Codemancer, which is obliquely designed to teach players – particularly kids – to learn how coding works. It’s an ambitious objective for a game, and I spoke to Lockhart about why he’s making this game, why he chose Kickstarter, and how important Android is for this multiplatform project.

Android Rundown: What was the impetus behind creating Codemancer? Why is it so important to teach people how to code?

Robert Lockhart: Programming is a form of literacy. There was a time when reading was optional, because books were rare (pre-Gutenberg). Then the written word became more common, and now of course it’s hard to imagine getting through life without being able to read. Well, we’re getting to the point where software is as ubiquitous as books became after the printing press was invented, and yet most of us, essentially, cannot read code.

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With the coding the game teaches, how are you trying to make it applicable to situations outside of the game?

The design goals of the rune language that the player uses to write spells were: 1) That syntax errors will be impossible – things that don’t work together simply won’t fit 2) That it looks mystical and runic, rather than code-y and 3) That it translates easily to a real-world programming language.

I think that Codemancer actually does a better job than most learn-to-code games at #3. The syntax is pretty similar to what you’d see in a language like lua or python, but the tokens, the units of meaning within the language, are altered to feel more fantastical, and also to eliminate the need for reading a natural language like english. The truth is that most spells would translate 1-to-1 to a real-world language simply by replacing certain symbols with the appropriate words.

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The target for the game is children, but will this be a game enjoyable by adults as well?

I worry about that a lot – I’m definitely going for a tone that is inspired by young adult fiction like Harry Potter, Mistborn, Sabriel, and TV shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender. One of the great things about that flavor, if I can get it right, is that it appeals to both kids and adults. I just hope I get it right.

Why use crowdfunding to help fund the project? How will it help the project come to life?

Crowdfunding is really about accelerating the project. I plan to make Codemancer whether or not it gets funded, but without the support of backers, it would probably take me five years or more. With the help of people who care about the project and think it should exist, I can simply pay my artists, sound designer, composer, etc. instead of saving up for a few months, then paying for more assets, then repeating.

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Why is Android important for you to release Codemancer on?

There are a lot of reasons to release on Android tablets. One of the most important to me is that my Mom has one, and I like to be able to show her the games I make. Also, Android tablets are the most common kind of computer to be used in school 1-to-1 programs, where each student is given a computing device that they can use however they like. I’d really like whole groups of kids to play the game and swap spells with each other.

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Thanks to Robert for his time. Codemancer is now on Kickstarter.

Easily Automate Tasks and Services with IFTTT, Now Available as an Android App

Easily Automate Tasks and Services with IFTTT, Now Available as an Android App

Apr 30, 2014

The popular automation service IFTTT has at last released an app for Android. Short for “If This, Then That,” what this app does is make it so that if an event is captured by IFTTT, then it will automate a certain action. For example, if you update your Facebook profile picture, you can have IFTTT update your Twitter avatar by enabling that specific recipe. A wide variety of services are available, and the Android version of the app offers additional power over the iOS version, as the app can change certain settings and send notifications. The app is available now for free from Google Play.

Star Champion Review

Star Champion Review

Apr 30, 2014

Star Champion is old school. 2D, pixel art, insert coin, AWESOME old school.

The game wears the retro tag well. Looks-wise, it uses the simplest of colors and animations on a black background to convey the desired persona of an old-school arcade classic. The game uses up the entire screen, and the blots of color are differentiated to show power-ups and enemy craft.

Actual gameplay boils down to a war of attrition. Using a choice of craft with different attributes (single shooters, double shooters, side shooters, rapid fire, etc.), there is a spread virtual dual stick control method that manages the flight of the spacecraft and shooting at enemy ships; there is a small direction joystick to the left and a shooting button to the right. The enemy ships appear randomly with a simple warning, and then commencestar1 to fire on our protagonist ship. The basic concept is to avoid enemy fire and destroy as many ships as possible, to make it easy to monitor the health of the ship, there is a percentage health gauge at the bottom.

To add to the fun factor, there are few elements that come to bear. One is the transitive nature of the barriers of the playing area; they work like the portals in Pac-man. When our craft goes “out” the left side of the playing area, it seamlessly reappears on the right; similarly, if it goes through the top, the spacecraft pops out a the bottom, and vice versa. This creates strategic opportunities to flip on attacking ships. Another elements are the power-ups, which an arcade game is useless without. There’s stuff like limited helpers like better weaponry to take ships down with. Staying alive and destroying the enemy yields points.

I am not a fan of the controls, even though there is a little bit of choice available. I think the joystick could be a bit more intuitive. A better reward system would probably work too.

Whines aside, it is a pleasant game that is hard not to enjoy, even if one didn’t grow up in the arcade rooms of the 80s.

Ace Fishing: Wild Catch Review

Ace Fishing: Wild Catch Review

Apr 30, 2014

I must say, I am quite impressed. Although Ace Fishing: Wild Catch has a pretty standard gameplay value for a free-to-play simulator, it’s definitely noticeable that the developers have tried to make it as diverse as possible. Hell, actually talking about any kind of realism in a free-to-play simulator is a strange thing, and Ace Fishing: Wild Catch is rather realistic. For a game, of course.

The player travels between different exotic places and tries to catch all kinds of fish that live in there. The fish can then be sold, or Ace Fishing 3put in the tank to grow and be sold later. Rarer and heavier fish can be sold for more, but requires better equipment and a lot of luck to be caught, of course. The gold is spent on getting new and improved equipment, and get it you will. There is an endless amount of different baits, fishing lines, and other supports, some of which are expendable, and some of which require repairing. There’s so much to buy that it all feels pretty unfair – and it is, kinda, especially considering the energy bar that won’t let you play for longer than half an hour at a time, but the problem is – it’s fun. I mean, I played it for several hours in total, and I hate fishing.

The actual fishing process is relatively simple, but has enough depth to require some skills, along with good equipment. The player needs to tap at just the right moments to pull and tire the fish by bringing its endurance bar to zero, using a couple of techniques that take a surprising amount of time to master. This is the only real gameplay there is, so you can say that there’s really not that much of game in the game, but there is just enough of interaction. It’s also accompanied by the excitement of catching a rare or big fishy, so it didn’t feel like a repeatable waste of time to me – not more so than actual fishing, at least. By the way, I have an issue with the fact that there’s absolutely no time between throwing the line and the fish biting, so if you just want to relax and listen to the waves, this is the wrong game to do that.

Ace Fishing: Wild Catch‘s biggest advantage, though, is how great it looks. Seriously, from the backgrounds to the fish animations to the lots of equipment to the chests, everything looks realistic, and is a pleasant departure from the sloppily thrown together beginner-level models. I probably like how great it looks even more than the rest of it, I guess – but it does look amazing, so if you’re a fishing enthusiast, but don’t have an option to experience the fish weight yourself, this is a bearable substitute.