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Phosphor Games Studio

Heroes Reborn photo
Heroes Reborn

Heroes Reborn gets two games, Gemini and Enigma

Throw cheerleaders at everyone
Jul 13
// Joe Parlock
I’d forgotten Heroes was even a thing. The first series was great, but then I remember Netflix had problems with the subtitles in the second season so I stopped watching. Apparently that was a good idea, as no one like...
Project Awakend photo
Project Awakend

Project Awakened on hold, backers receiving refunds

Alternative funding options have been found
May 05
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Project Awakened failed to meet its Kickstarter goal, but that didn't stop the team from pursuing their dreams and opening up donations via PayPal or credit cards. Well now all those folks that continued to support the projec...

Project Awakened is down, but not out!

Fans asked to decide the game's fate
Mar 08
// Jim Sterling
Project Awakened unfortunately failed to meet its Kickstarter goal, despite an intensely promising concept. However, Phosphor Games is keeping its spirits high and is still determined to find a way to dedicate itself fully to...
Project Awakened photo
Project Awakened

Project Awakened shows off Unreal Engine 4

Tech demonstration video
Mar 01
// Jordan Devore
In an attempt to drum up more interest for the Project Awakened Kickstarter, Phosphor Games has released an Unreal Engine 4 tech demonstration. The campaign ends in four days and has managed to pull in over $200,000 which is...


Phosphor: PC gamers more willing to embrace new ideas

Awakened dev talks to benefits of PC development
Feb 04
// Jim Sterling
Phosphor Games' Project Awakened may, at one point, have been viable for the console market, but the studio is now looking to exclusively target the PC crowd. This seems true of a lot of gaming's best new projects lately, and...

Phosphor: Unreal Engine 4 'the best engine available'

Awakened dev bigs up Epic's next-gen engine
Feb 04
// Jim Sterling
In our exclusive look at the reawakened Project Awakened, Phosphor Games revealed the Kickstarter-backed sandbox game will rock Unreal Engine 4 in its final build. It already looked promising in UE3, but the team hopes to be ...

Phosphor: Influence of major publishers is waning

Awakened developer believes the 'AAA' scene is losing its power
Feb 04
// Jim Sterling
Awakened is one of many projects turning to crowd funding after dealing with fearful and unreceptive publishers. The independent scene is only growing as major "AAA" creators shy away from new ideas, and according to Phosphor...

Project Awakened REawakens courtesy of Kickstarter

Feb 04 // Jim Sterling
[embed]243714:46747[/embed] For those unaware of Awakened, here's a quick rundown. It's a game about creating your perfect videogame protagonist, essentially. A huge range of abilities lets you customize your power fantasy, from rock-hard skin, to super speed, to teleportation, to the summoning of whirlwinds, as well as proficiency with all manner of weapons. The early test footage revealed an unparalleled level of personalization, promising a game that speaks to me so precisely, I almost suspect Phosphor's been walking in my dreams.  Phosphor's Chip Sineni explained to us that, despite publisher interest in Awakened, nobody was willing to bite in an industry ruled by sequels and big franchise names. The developer found itself in a market of extremes, with publishers viewing games as all-or-nothing gambles. Either they're going to bet the farm on a game and sink obscene amounts of marketing dollars into it, or they'll provide zero promotion and send it out to die. There's no middle ground anymore.  "We shopped Project Awakened to every major publisher, and had a pitch meeting with most of them," Sineni told Destructoid. "Everyone we personally talked to loved the idea, and each of them would say 'we should do this game together,' and ask us for all this documentation and material so they could pitch it to the executives. Then a couple months later they'd have long faces and tell us the same thing we heard from every other publisher -- that the company was only investing in sequels or similar games to well known IPs ... 'tweaks' of  ideas already in the market. "From a publisher's standpoint, games are a big risk. They are beholden to shareholders. They really can’t do any games that don’t have 'metrics" or 'comparables,' which is why you just don’t see much innovation in the retail boxed game space, which is where all their big plays still are. The problem might be alleviated by digital download and less middlemen (console manufacturers, retail shops, cost of goods, shipping) getting a cut of a game, if publishers committed a lot more big budgets to digital, but I don’t know how their culture would work in publishing more innovative games -- it is still money going towards a unknown risk." This fear of new ideas is what painted Phosphor into the corner it now inhabits. The company needs to make money, and so has been doing contract work for other studios' projects. Of course, doing this means it can't dedicate its time and resources to Awakened. Despite plenty of headway made on the game, it's reached a point where the project is treading water, risking abandonment as Phosphor tries to keep itself profitable.  This is where Kickstarter comes in. Armed with a stable foundation of funding, Phosphor will be able to dedicate itself fully to Awakened, finally getting the game's launch closer to reality. Powered by Unreal Engine 4 (note: our screens are from the UE3 version), Awakened is shaping up to be something gorgeous, and intends to make maximum use of the PC format. The team plans to heavily support the modding community, providing simple tools at first, and hopefully releasing expanded features as the project goes on. "Project Awakened is an ambitious game and is still early in development," revealed Chip. "As an independent developer, we always have to find work that can pay our bills, which means our longer term game Project Awakened always gets staff diverted from it to help on projects that are closer to getting out the door. Kickstarter will make sure we can dedicate a team to shipping the game. "The funny thing about Kickstarter in general is people always told us we should try, and we had all these excuses why we shouldn't -- that it was a fad, or you had to be a big famous designer or IP to pull off a successful campaign. But it still seems like it is going strong and working for a variety of different cases. In hindsight, Project Awakened is such an ideal project for kickstarter because it is much more of a 'gamer's game' than something that would get approved on a corporate level." Another major benefit with Kickstarter, Phosphor believes, is the ability to directly evolve the game based on community feedback. The game will include cooperative and multiplayer modes depending on how much money it can make, and also hopes to include advanced modding tools and other neat, PC-centric features, provided the market shows an interest.  "When it was planned to be a retail box console game, there really was only so much you could do after launch -- the game pretty much is what it released with. On PC, you really can roll out betas earlier, and the fans can start making suggestions and help you hone in on a good game before you go in directions people aren't asking for. It is crazy when you think of what Minecraft is today vs what it first released as. "We'll be more polling for what features people are asking for -- the pledges for the kickstarter are to get it existing at all vs. specific features. Of course, the more we raise, the more of these features we can make available when it first launches. It is an interesting  idea for a major new feature addition to the game connected with a pledge level or something, but after that it's way too early to tell what our community will be asking for until it is funded and then in their hands." The aforementioned modding tools are one of the features Awakened originally wasn't going to have, but Sineni and his team are incredibly excited for now. The team hopes players will take the game's city setting and be able to change everything about it, adding swords, armor, skeletons, whatever they want. The goal is to "make it as moddable as the community wants it," and the initial release aims to have a pro-level tool set allowing users to fiddle with the A.I. and even craft their own superhero abilities. If the game is a success, Phosphor will roll out more user-friendly tools.  That's in the future, though. Right now, the game has $500,000 to raise, and a whole lot of heart to back it up. Various pledge rewards are in place, with high tiers allowing you to create your own in-game taunt, or getting a character modeled after you. The $1,000 reward -- an actual statue of a character you create using Awakened's tools -- is by far the most interesting to me, though I'd have to dig deep for a spare grand.  I'll definitely be tossing some money Phosphor's way, though. The team's history with Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy demonstrates it knows a thing or two about player empowerment, and I just really want to see Awakened in the flesh, after years of patient waiting. This is one Kickstarter drive I am emphatically behind, and I urge you, if nothing else, to at least check it out. Check out Awakened's Kickstarter page!
Awakened photo
Here's the lowdown on Phosphor's promising sandbox game
It's been a long time since Destructoid last got to speak with Phosphor Games about Awakened, the incredibly promising superhero sandbox game that caught our eye nearly two years ago. In that time, Phosphor's made a living wi...

Review: Horn

Sep 09 // Jim Sterling
Horn (iOS [reviewed], Android)Developer: Phosphor Games StudioPublisher: ZyngaReleased: August 16, 2012 MSRP: $6.99 As it did with Dark Meadow, Phosphor has performed an excellent job of making a mobile title with a real narrative and memorable characters. The primary antagonist of Horn and the beheaded enemy he carries around his belt provide endearing banter, as players sympathize both with the hero and his opponents, the Pygon -- stone creatures that used to be living creatures but have been made to enjoy their new immortal, soulless state. With humor and solid storytelling, Horn continues to demonstrate that iOS/Android games needn't just be physics puzzles and thoughtless distractions. It's not the most amazing tale ever weaved, but it's a huge step up from almost any other mobile game, and even manages to be more engaging than a lot of big-budget console narratives these days. If anything, the body-less Gourd and his constant attempts to convince Horn to kill himself or abandon the journey are worth the ride.  Horn navigates the world in a manner similar to traditional point-and-click adventure games. You simply tap anywhere on the ground to have the protagonist run to that location. Levers, collectibles, and other objects can be interacted with by directly touching them, while a separate virtual button is used to arm Horn's crossbow. In crossbow mode, the player simply drags a finger to aim and then pulls back on the bow itself to fire.  [embed]234647:45001[/embed] The bow can act as a grappling hook, pulling Horn to higher ground or across chasms. Additionally, Horn also has a ... horn ... that he can blow at specific locations after learning songs. These songs enable him to turn back time to change environments, demolish buildings, or summon creatures that build new paths.  If all this is sounding suspiciously similar to The Legend of Zelda, that's because it is. Phosphor has not been shy about its influences, the similarities to Nintendo's action-adventure series being deliberate and guiltlessly unmasked. Even the combat has been purposefully likened to Zelda's -- Horn attacks Pygon opponents with circular dodges based on the famous "Z-Targeting" established in Ocarina of Time. At various points in the adventure, Horn will encounter Pygon blocking his way and enter combat mode. Combat, for all its visual uniqueness, is still very similar to the Infinity Blade/Dark Meadow concept, as Horn rolls around enemies, waits for a weakness in their attack, and then hits back using a range of finger-swipes. The main difference is that each Pygon has a specific weak spot somewhere on its body, and by rolling to the front, back, or sides of a creature, Horn can locate it for a damage bonus. At times, the Pygon will also launch a large attack, which is countered by pressing a QTE-style button.  Horn has all the makings of a great game. Not highly original, but possessed of undoubted quality when compared to competing titles. It looks pretty, it's fully voiced, and there's a lot of ambition at play. Unfortunately, it seems that Phosphor's preoccupation with making Horn better than the average iOS games has seen it run headlong into familiar mobile gaming problems with greater impact than its peers.  First of all, touching the ground in a fully 3D world is about as clumsy as you might expect. Between Horn not responding to input, getting stuck on corners, and running further along a path than intended, controlling the hero feels crude and awkward. I regularly found myself intently prodding my iPad's screen until Horn got his arse in gear, and there are even moments where objects can't be interacted with because the camera is placed in such a position that the interface stops working for no good reason.  While I commend Phosphor for wanting a game with a greater sense of freedom, the simple fact is that Horn would be a much better game if it were on rails. I'd even have taken a virtual thumbstick over the solution found here, or happily done without navigation altogether and focused entirely on combat. Compounding the control issue is the fact that there's simply no tangible point to exploration. Sure, there are gems scattered around the map that can be spent on upgrades and new gear, but outside of that, it feels like little more than a waste of time. The "puzzles" blocking Horn's way aren't puzzles at all. Whenever there's a problem to be solved, you're instantly shown the solution. Bricks blocking a path? Just walk to the big trumpet and watch Horn instantly play the brick-smashing song. Impassable chasm? Hit the machine that makes an automatic zipwire and cross it. Essentially, Horn solves its own puzzles in advance, and you're left with the humdrum task of doing the legwork. There are even icons on the floor telling you exactly where to stand to perform the next part of each "challenge." Things pick up considerably with combat, which is mostly enjoyable in the same way Dark Meadow was. It's satisfying to learn an enemy's patterns, escape their blows, and smash them to pieces, though the enemy attacks can be so varied that it's often hard to work out a pattern before it's never seen again. Upgrading weapons could be a compelling reason to keep playing, though that's undermined by how expensive it is to do so -- a problem I feel is inspired by the option to purchase additional in-game currency for real money.  It's upsetting that Horn constantly lets itself down because it has the heart of a fantastic game. Even with the game's interface problems and the fact that, deep down, it's just another Infinity Blade, Horn still manages to be intensely likable. Between the solid combat, interesting enemies, and affable characters, Horn has plenty of positives going for it, and I'd even go so far as to say that it's still worth playing for iOS/Android gamers in need of a deeper experience. Still, any recommendation comes with a litany of caveats and an acceptance that, for all the good Horn does, it makes a lot of pretty disappointing mistakes.  After all the good Phosphor did with Dark Meadow, it's sad that Horn will likely be used by detractors as proof that mobile gaming just doesn't work. It does. It's just that Phosphor went too far trying to prove it this time, and Horn is a worse game because of it.
This horn has no point
Phosphor Games knocked it out of the park with The Dark Meadow, providing a genuinely enthralling mobile game that had an interesting story and one Hell of a primary antagonist. Nevertheless, the Unreal-powered combat crawler...

Phosphor talks Horn, mobile gaming, and touch controls

Aug 15 // Jim Sterling
Horn tells the tale of a young boy (called Horn, duh) who wakes up in a devastated and barely recognizable dystopian version of his home world. Living creatures have been replaced by the Pygon -- undying mechanical constructs that view their previous fleshy mortality as a curse. Our hero carries a decapitated Pygon's head around with him, and the two share much mean-spiritied banter as Horn attempts to undo whatever happened to the world.  With the apocalyptic imagery and mono-horned protagonist, there are more than a few visual shades of ICO to the whole thing. Audiences have been quick to point this out.  "We are big fans of Team ICO’s work, and like everyone we can’t wait for The Last Guardian," confessed Chip Sineni. "The antlers in Horn’s character design actually came pretty late in development -- originally we had a envisioned a 'wolf mane style' headgear, but he looked too much like a killer of animals, and that idea involved into the antler helmet he has now, which is a traditional headgear of his village.   "All of that was independent of the gameplay design though. The inspiration for Horn's gameplay just came from our love of action adventure games -- Zelda, Uncharted, Tomb Raider, even older stuff like Soul Reaver -- there just aren’t solid games like that on mobile." I've played some Horn already, and the named influences are very prevalent, especially Zelda. While players don't have a huge amount of 1:1 control over the hero, Horn is not on rails. Instead, players navigate the world using a point-and-click interface, while combat is focused on dodging around opponents and slashing at their weak spots.  "Something exciting about touch devices is that there is still room for innovation in controls," shared the director. "Like if you are making an FPS, there isn’t a lot you can do -- there are great standards with controllers or mouse and keyboards so you don’t really think about changing how you input. "As much as everyone here at Phosphor is a big gamer, we all have lots of friends and loved ones that just are excluded from some of the cooler aspects of gaming. While anyone can pick up and play stuff like Angry Birds or Draw with Friends, most people simply can’t participate in AAA games. They not only don’t have the system, they don’t have the finger memory or coordination required to play, and it makes these types of games exclusive to a select group. ICO is a great example -- the story, characters, world, and relationship between the characters is this amazing, poetic thing everyone should experience, but you can’t tell somebody who isn’t a gamer to pick it up because it has some of the most hardcore platforming around -- the last levels in particular are very hard.  They will never be able to experience it because of the requirements to play it. Forum posters clamor for Roger Ebert to acknowledge how great a game like ICO is, but he can’t even play it. "With Dark Meadow we really wanted to make it easy for anyone to navigate around via just click on nodes, and Horn is a big evolution from that," he continued. "Basically you just click anywhere on the ground you want to go, and the character will go there. Swipe anywhere and you will look around. It is about as easy as we can make it and still allow for free movement. Whenever you do a context sensitive interaction, like a ledge grab or sidle, we just automatically change how you interact, similar to Uncharted or Enslaved. Once you get into combat, we do an automatic 'Z targeting' like strafe circle around enemies so your swipes can be used for swords instead of looking around. It took us a lot of prototypes to get down the system to be as seamless and intuitive as possible without a lot of button fumbling." Personally, I've often found touch controls to be no more easy to grasp than buttons, which at least provide tactile feedback. I like touch interfaces, but they can be damn difficult to pull off in all but the simplest and most streamlined of games. Many gamers have similar concerns, and the most vocal have outright slammed the entire idea of touch input.  "I love physical controls, and I love touch controls done right," responded Chip, addressing such concerns. "You don’t have to pick one or the other, and one isn’t going to 'win' -- they both are appropriate for different experiences. Touch controls are a really great way to engage a new audience that might be uncomfortable with physical controllers, and are also really great for playing while laying down on a couch or in bed, which is where many people game. Physical controls are great for precision, manually managing a lot of different potential actions on a character, and rewarding players who are really skilled. "They are both awesome and lead to different kinds of game experiences. I've been playing games non-stop since the 2600, and I'm just excited there are all these options and more people than ever playing games. Games are now this huge thing that everyone gets and participates in -- it is no longer a fringe 'nerd' thing, celebrities Tweet what they are playing, etc. People no longer look at you like they don’t understand what you are talking about when you say you play games. The Wii started that, and touch devices have taken the torch with taking games to the masses." The trouble is, however, that hardcore gamers -- the sort that appreciate storytelling in their games and tend to veer more toward the "games are art" sentiment -- seem yet to largely embrace mobile gaming, and as such I often fear that the work going into games like Dark Meadow or Horn is wasted. Dark Meadow had a fantastic antagonist who deserved to be remembered, but I have a feeling he will disappear into obscurity. Does Phosphor not feel that it's playing to an empty room at times?  "It is hard to say," Sineni admitted. "There is way more overlap in who plays games on mobile and other systems than what forum posters would lead you to believe, and that audience is already looking for deeper experiences. We had over one million downloads for Dark Meadow, so it is really cool to us that so many people got to experience our little creation. If we instead released it on XBLA or something, we'd probably have like under 250k or so downloads, so we are just happy more people have the opportunity to play it. "But there is definitely a lot of room for mobile to be recognized as a true game platform. We submitted Dark Meadow to the AIAS for 'Character Performance' and really, we didn’t think we’d beat stuff like Portal, we just wanted to get nominated. But we instead got nominated for 'Mobile Game of the Year,' which is of course a huge honor, but shows that mobile games are still put in their own little corner. I don’t think a mobile game was nominated for anything except that category, and it might be some time still before the industry just considers them as 'proper games; like PC and console. But we aren't really worried about labels or recognition or whatever, we just want to make cool games that people enjoy playing." For some, mobile gaming will never deserve that recognition, but Chip believes such people have their blinkers on.  "People can be a bit narrow-minded in their view of the future hardware for gaming. There is no reason to think that the eventual future console won’t be a tablet or phone that can be hooked up to your TV and has a standard controller you use. That is exactly what I would do if I was Microsoft or Sony -- make some kick-ass tablet that you can take anywhere in bed or on the road, but hook it up for that full experience.   "You can already see an 'early version' of this with Tegra or Onlive where a controller hooks up to the tablet and the device displays on a TV. I realize it would be hard to get power and battery life in a tablet for a true Next-Gen console, but they could start with it being a bit thicker and heavy and make it slim over time. Also there is no reason for future consoles to be static hardware experiences locked into 7 year cycles. Both Apple and PCs have shown consumers understand their hardware gets outdated and they can upgrade if they want. And actually if cloud gaming takes that over, it doesn’t even matter about power- you could have a crazy supercomputer render graphics no consumer PC could even render, but pipe it to your phone that then goes on your TV." With Dark Meadow already out and Horn due in the near future, it seems Phosphor is quite happy in the mobile space. Does that mean it's abandoned the realm of console and PC? Nope. It has some stuff in the works for the bigger boys.  "We love consoles and PCs. In fact, we are making a non-core Wii U title for a large publisher right now, and PC in particular is a very exciting space," replied the director. "How many times has PC gaming been declared dead, only to rise stronger? The diversity of successful games on PC is awesome. You've got your perennial stuff from Valve and Blizzard, you've got your console AAA games on PC, and then you also have all these oddities that shouldn’t be doing well but are -- stuff like League of Legends on the free side, stuff like Minecraft in this whole other direction. We are still working on a much bigger 'core' project that we have discussed before, we still can’t talk more about it at this time, but all of this is very interesting time to us." That "other" project is undoubtedly Awakened, a game we've extensively spoken to Phosphor about in the past. If anything, the studio's success on iOS can only help to fuel the success of titles like that in the console and PC arena, and I think that's ultimately the key to making everybody happy. In the meantime, I'm enjoying what Phosphor's putting out for phones and tablets, and I think it's pointing to very good things for future, larger projects down the road. 

While many "hardcore" gamers continue to look down on mobile gaming, there are a number of studios who view it as a legitimate gaming platform, capable of the kind of "AAA" experiences we're used to. Phosphor Games is one of ...

Horn's dev tackles the 'mobile replacing console' claims

Aug 14 // Jim Sterling
"The quotes on that video needs some context," argued the director. "First of all, it was all taken out of a Zynga PR video, not a proper game trailer for Horn. As much as I am a giant tool, I'd never put myself in a proper trailer. Second, the quotes I said were all cut out of larger interview and reordered for a sound bite." If it sounds like Sineni is trying to avoid responsibility for his statements, he made it clear that he stands by what he said. However, one important clarification is that he doesn't think consoles are going anywhere, and that his claims are about the mass market, as opposed to the core gamer demographic.  "I still stand by what is in there. The first quote that got people riled up was 'Mobile and tablet systems are quickly becoming the main way people play games, replacing consoles.' That is a fact, it isn’t an opinion." To back up the statement, Chip pointed us toward a recent study by Asymco where results had iOS emerging as the most popular gaming platform in the industry today. On the subject of consoles being replaced, it's Phosphor's belief that this is not necessarily true for gamers, but it is certainly the case with the less dedicated audience looking for a quick gaming fix.  "I also didn't say the mobile platform is replacing consoles for GAMERS, just people, and that context is missing from the small sound bite. To give an example of what I mean -- when the PS2 was out, if you were a 'sideline gamer' and had any interest in games, you had a PS2. Same thing with DS, then same thing with Wii. "People bought consoles because that was the main way to play games they were hearing about," he continued, "and you had massive hits like GTA3 because you had this huge gamer market and a huge curious casual gamer market all picking it up. Same thing with Wii Sports. Mobile is now that market for all non-gamers, which is why you are seeing slagging retail sales every month in NPD reports -- this is what the console market looks like with just core gamers supporting it. Meanwhile you have like one billion downloads of Temple Run vs people checking out what the latest console game is.   "None of this means console style games are going away or controllers suck, it just means mobile platforms are where the 'average person' now games." To be honest, I really see nothing contentious about this -- but then again, I'm a self-confessed fan of mobile games who is just as happy playing Infinity Blade as I am The Elder Scrolls, so I admit that iOS' popularity isn't quite so scary to me. Regardless of your thoughts on mobile gaming, the idea of iOS as the new PlayStation 2 is an interesting proposition, and something that I feel has merit, speaking purely in terms of mainstream audience perception. Where once everybody talked of GTA3, now indeed do they talk of Angry Birds. For better or worse.  We'll have a full interview with Phosphor Games on the subject of mobile gaming and Horn very soon.

Horn developer Phosphor Games won itself some enemies when it announced its new iOS game by saying mobile phones were "replacing" consoles. During an interview with game director Chip Sineni, we asked about the reaction to th...


Horn gets its first trailer, RAWR LET'S HATE IT RAWR!

Aug 03
// Jim Sterling
Ever since Phosphor Games announced that mobile gaming is replacing console gaming, it's become something of a villain. While its last game, Dark Meadow, was excellent, any talk of the upcoming Horn has been flavored with vi...

Preview: Horn could be an admirable game

Jun 30 // Steven Hansen
[embed]230232:44197[/embed] Horn (iPad [previewed], iPhone) Developer: Phosphor Games Studio Publisher: Zynga Release: TBA 2012 Horn’s set up isn’t too dissimilar from a host of games that have been released. You wake up as an amnesiac, some bad stuff has gone down, and it’s up to you to fix it. In this instance, you wake up in your village after a thousand of years have passed and things are cursed, which has led to everything being turned into monsters. Of course, this won’t do, so you (Horn) set out to get things back to normal. Along with you on the journey is the decapitated head of a rock monster who is your reluctant guide that stays strapped to your waist, peppering you with a healthy mix of insults and aid. He could be a pretty cool guy and give the game a nice bit of charm and levity. In addition to this grumbling associate, the general art direction is what stood out to me most about Horn. The run down aesthetic looks less traditional medieval, which I find a bit dull as a setting, and more fantastical. I sort of sensed a dash of ICO and Enslaved, both of which are wonderful games to draw cues from. Speaking of Enslaved, the most direct parallel I saw to it was the enemy design. The enemies I fought appeared to be golems of sort, yet they were adorned with rusty metal armor, almost making them look like cutesy versions of Enslaved's robots. Their weak, azure, glowing magic underbellies sort of reminded me of electricity, as well. Unnecessary comparisons aside, the game looks pretty cool and is well served by some impressive technical work that make everything really pop on the iPad’s lovely screen. The bit of the game I played was brief, consisting of a couple of fights and some mild exploration. You move Horn around by touching bits on the floor you want him to move towards and by more contextual movements like swiping left or right to have him jump a gap or up to pull himself up onto a ledge. Battles will take place against one enemy at a time, with a sort of auto z-lock. When you encounter an enemy, your movement is restricted to a circular path around that enemy. Tapping left or right on the bottom corners of the screen causes Horn to dodge roll left or right in order to either evade enemy attacks (there is also a block button) or reposition himself in front of an enemies weak spot. The sword mechanics are still being tweaked so they were a little less one to one in my hands-on time, but you swipe the screen to slash your enemies appropriately. The first enemy I fought had a weak point hidden in his chest under some armor while the second had a weak point dangling dangerously from his tail, exposed, but required some deft dodge rolling to get into position to hit it. There are also going to be some giant boss fights -- the end of my demo was teased with the enormous golem from the above trailer waking up like me, most days (begrudgingly). The team doesn’t seem to be limiting itself in scope, though it remains to be seen how far they’ll push the platform. At the very least, they’re promising a “console length” single-player component (citing the more and more commonplace 8-10 hour average). While I’ve not played Infinity Blade (I barely own a competent computer, let alone a smart phone), the obvious comparison wasn’t lost on me, and so I asked Sineni about what sets their game apart. With Horn, Sineni is promising more puzzles and exploration, allowing you to play the game at your own pace, as opposed to Infinity Blade’s more linear, combat-focused structure. Accordingly, they’re still trying to strike a balance between glowing icons informing you of how to progress and letting the game be somewhat old school and let players wander about. If you think of Horn as a sort of “baby’s first action/adventure game,” I particularly dig it. As people who have grown up or with or are otherwise familiar with games, we forget that the barrier to entry to some of our favorite titles is sometimes high. Trying to do the whole gaming thing can be daunting for outsiders. Sure, we were largely thrown to the wolves, started without training wheels, or pushed into the deep end and told to sink or swim, but I’m not opposed to letting others get their feet wet in the shallow end a bit, splashing about and enjoying themselves. The game seems pretty sincere. That being said, if Horn lives up to its billing and promises -- the exploration, puzzle solving, potentially cool little narrative, etc. -- it could also prove a nice, surprisingly deep adventure for even the biggest anti-mobile gaming curmudgeon. Here’s hoping. We don’t have to wait too much longer to find out, as it’ll be releasing “soon.”

So, there certainly was a reaction to the newly announced Horn when Jim posted a little clip a few days ago in which the game was shown off and Phosphor Games’ Chip Sineni made some innocent claims about the mobile and ...


Horn announced for iOS, will prove consoles are DEAD

Jun 27
// Jim Sterling
The headline are the developer's words, not mine. Well, they're not even really the developer's words, but they've gotten at least three angry people reading, and that's the point. What Phosphor Games' Chip Sineni did say, h...

The Dark Meadow now on sale for one pathetic dollar!

Nov 23
// Jim Sterling
If you were interested in The Dark Meadow but felt its original asking price was a bit too steep, you've got no excuse now. Phosphor Games' darkly humorous slash 'em up is now a measly dollar on iTunes, so if you've got a buc...

Review: The Dark Meadow

Oct 10 // Jim Sterling
The Dark Meadow (iOS)Developer: Phosphor GamesPublisher: Phosphor GamesReleased: October 6, 2011MSRP: $5.99 (standard) / $8.29 (HD) The Dark Meadow's similarities to Infinity Blade are numerous and obvious, needing to be mentioned. Like ChAIR's smash-hit iOS title, The Dark Meadow takes the form of a timed combat game in which players must dodge or block incoming enemy attacks and swipe the screen to hit back once the opponent's exhausted itself. It's a tested system, one that still works very well, although Phosphor doesn't include parry attacks as Infinity Blade does.  As well as melee combat, The Dark Meadow throws in ranged assaults. Each enemy starts at the end of a corridor and staggers toward the player. During this time, players must dodge incoming projectiles while aiming and firing a crossbow using very simple touch controls. Once the enemy gets close enough, the crossbow is automatically replaced with a sword for close quarter dueling to take place.  Obligatory role-playing elements are on offer, with experience earned at the end of each battle and forty levels to gain. With each level increase, stat points can be sunk into various attributes, improving ranged or melee damage, crossbow reload speed, defense or health. A huge variety of swords, crossbows, and health-augmenting amulets can also be bought with gold found scattered throughout the environment. Exploration is a big part of the experience. The Dark Meadow is set in an abandoned hospital consisting of rooms connected by corridors. Rooms contain loot and background story elements, while monsters spawn in the corridors. Pulsing green icons on the floor indicate the next position players will move to once touched. It's a very simple navigation system, and while some may not appreciate the on-rails nature of movement, I find it perfectly suited to the all-touch control scheme.  As stated, the game owes a lot to Infinity Blade, but where it really stands out is with its exemplary story and atmosphere. The game starts with players waking up in the ruined hospital and meeting a mysterious man in a wheelchair. This man becomes the only guiding voice in the game, constantly communicating with the player via loudspeakers set up in each room. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that he isn't all that he claims to be, and his increasingly mad commentary -- as well as his instructions that you are to kill the beautiful "witch" who barricades important sections of the hospital -- paints a picture of an insane and malicious individual.  However, he's also an incredibly funny character, one very reminiscent of Portal's GLaDOS. Each of his broadcasts is a treat, as he regularly struggles to win your trust while pathologically demonstrating just how untrustworthy he is. He'll thank you for being smart enough to invent the Internet before taunting you by claiming to have just found a huge amount of food. He'll claim the mysterious woman of the hospital is pure evil while admitting that half of what he's said about her is a lie. He is, at times, utterly hilarious, and sometimes he's rather creepy.  This focus on storytelling is the real drive of The Dark Meadow, making it something more than a slightly less polished Infinity Blade and giving it something truly special. As players uncover notes from torn diaries, newspaper clippings, or the insane doodles of madmen who seem to know what's going on, a very strange and eerie world is created. It's a funny game, but an altogether foreboding one. A mysterious world that never gets too convoluted or obtuse, and provides just enough information to keep one hungry for more.  There are definitely some issues that hold it back. Loading times can be lengthy and the frame rate sometimes gets spotty. The combat system isn't quite as refined as the game it's borrowed from, either. The dark visuals can make incoming attacks a little difficult to see and the dodge button seems incredibly forgiving, with attacks that should hit the player passing through so long as a dodge was activated at some point in the enemy's animation.  My other big problem with the game is the store. Every single item of equipment is available from the start, provided one has the gold for it, and it seems to defeat the object of collecting any loot. Furthermore, this seems designed to encourage in-app purchases of gold. Players can buy their way to the top with gold purchases starting at $0.99 and climbing to an outrageous $49.99! Of course, these purchases are totally voluntary and gold can be achieved through simple grinding, but it will take a lot of time to save up for the most powerful gear.  The best equipment isn't needed to experience the full game, and it's still a very fine game indeed. Designed very well around the limitations of iOS and featuring some of the most disturbing creature designs this side of Silent Hill, Phosphor has created a very atmospheric and engrossing game with a delicious streak of dark humor coursing through its veins. The Dark Meadow is worth picking up for anybody with an interest in iOS gaming.

Phosphor Games is a studio pulled together from the ashes of Midway. When the company went under, it left behind an open-world superhero game, one that the developers didn't want to see die. They reformed as Phosphor, and reb...


PSA: Dark Meadow out for iOS, it's good stuff!

Oct 06
// Jim Sterling
Phosphor Games' Dark Meadow released last night for iOS, and I'd like to remind you all of that. I played it extensively last night and was thoroughly absorbed. It has melee combat similar to Infinity Blade, but spices things...

The Dark Meadow gets spooky trailer, spooky screens

Aug 02
// Jim Sterling
Here's a slick little teaser trailer for Phosphor's The Dark Meadow, an iOS title I'm pretty excited about. The video is really nicely done, and seems to indicate that this will most certainly be a more involving type of mobile game.  We've also got some concept art in the gallery, and there's an official site for you to start gawping at. Good times!

The Dark Meadow screens are all spooky n' stuff

Jul 21
// Jim Sterling
Here's a gallery of creepy screenshots from Phosphor's The Dark Meadow, which was announced yesterday for iOS devices. It seems that more studios are getting confident enough to put what some would call "proper" games on iOS,...

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