Spencer Hayes and Steven Hansen are doomed
In this interview recorded at GDC 2013, Spencer Hayes talks with game designer Henry Smith while simultaneously playing his game, Spaceteam. Seeing as Spaceteam primarily consists of yelling at other people and tel...
Apr 04 //
Edge of Twilight: Athyr Above (iOS)Developer: Fuzzyeyes EntertainmentPublisher: Fuzzyeyes EntertainmentReleased: March 28, 2013MSRP: $4.99
Quite what Athyr Above is supposed to be in relation to the rest of the planned series is unclear, as the lengthy opening cinematic feels like we've been introduced to a conversation halfway finished. We get a vague sense of a world split into day and night, and each half's distinctive races -- the Athern and Lithern -- are namechecked. Our hero is revealed to be a blend of both races, but beyond that, characters may as well be speaking a different language.
Either way, it doesn't matter, since the game abandons any attempted narrative as soon as the first level kicks into gear. Played as a simple hack n' slash RPG, each stage involves brief jaunts through linear stages, interrupted frequently by waves of enemies. Every now and then there'll be a switch, or some absolutely terrible platforming sections, but more on those later.
Athyr Above goes with a unique control scheme that, far from feeling suited to the touch interface, comes off more awkward than most comparable third-person iOS releases. Touching the screen prompts the hero to walk in the direction of impact, while tapping with another finger makes him jump. To attack enemies, a finger must be placed directly on opponents until a ring encircles them. The protagonist then moves toward and attacks the monster every time the finger is swiped.
Combat is, essentially, a case of touching monsters and rubbing them furiously until they're dead. While the game tries to make this more interesting by claiming attacks do more damage if the finger is lifted and replaced, the monsters move too frequently and the input is too laggy for this feature to ever be considered useful.
Every time the hero is hit, he'll fall to the ground and the circle will be broken. To attack again, you need to touch the monster and start rubbing once more, a problem made all the more troublesome by the fact that combat just isn't responsive and often fails to register one's commands. To avoid taking damage, players can double tap anywhere on the screen to roll -- which again only works occasionally, and is generally so slow it does a pitiful job of actually escaping an enemy blow.
Outside of this, combat in general is clunky and dull. Enemies barely attack to cover the player's lack of input options, and telegraph their moves loudly to make up for the combat roll's inadequacies. Athyr's few bosses are insufferable atrocities, with attack patterns that make no sense and are almost impossible to avoid. One boss in particular is able to perform an instant-kill move the second you get close enough to attack it. It is at this point, ten stages in, I personally threw in the towel.
That said, I came close to tossing my iPad away at many points before then, most notably thanks to horrifically broken platforming sections. The game is littered with deadly chasms that, once fallen into, end the game session unless players pay an excessive toll of 1,000 experience points. When one isn't fighting enemies, one is wrestling with an unintuitive two-finger control scheme to try and make jumps across large gaps while hoping against hope the skewed camera angles don't cause the "hero" to leap fifty yards wide of the destination. Even in combat, there are usually death-drops that can be fallen into simply by running or dodging in the wrong direction. As a small consolation, at least enemies are equally as likely to fall to their deaths, given their total lack of intelligence.
The camera's a mess, often switching angles when players are trying to climb up ladders, and causing the character to enter a seizure as he hops on and off the rungs. Levers have a tiny invisible hit detection box that requires an exact press of the finger before they'll work. Eventually, you'll have access to ranged weapons and special moves that suffer from the same sluggish performance as the rest of the controls, and are generally a deathtrap to use.
What really makes this crushingly disappointing is the fact that, under the rubble of failure, there's a genuinely promising game. The general hack n' slash combat would have been pretty decent if it could be controlled in a far less convoluted way, and the general idea of a protagonist that can switch between two forms in order to navigate the environment is a good one. I also really like the leveling system, in which players use "ether" to flip switches on a character sheet, turning various stats and upgrades on and off. These switches can be flipped at any leveling station, and managing ether levels allows a greater flexibility of customization. It's a really neat idea, and one I'd like to see in a better game.
One thing the game really has going for it is a nice design. While graphics aren't the most intensive, character and environment designs really nail that steampunk aesthetic, and some of the monsters on offer are delightfully gruesome. Of special note is the gorgeous soundtrack, providing a range of beautiful tunes that deserve to be in a game far more complementary to its quality than this.
All it would take to cut this game's failings in half would be a virtual movement stick and buttons, allowing for more direct input that would give combat a greater sense of dynamism and would likely lead to more responsive commands. The attempt to make a control scheme designed to work fluidly on an iPad has, in this case, absolutely failed. Sticking to a traditional method would have helped the game in spades, though it likely wouldn't have solved all the issues.
Athyr Above comes across predominantly as a game on the wrong system. With some design tweaks, it may have enjoyed a far better time on something like the PlayStation Vita, which can handle a game clearly more suited to physical buttons. I've got nothing against the touch interface, and enjoy quite a few iOS games, but Edge of Twilight clearly has no place using it, not if this is the best it can do.
I hate having to do this. I've been rooting for Edge of Twilight for years, and I want to see the real game come to fruition. More importantly, I want it to be good, and I was hoping Athyr Above would set my mind at ease. Sadly, this game seems just so woefully misguided, though I take comfort from the fact I can at least see a solid game attempting to happen. Athyr's heart is in the right place, but its body is a total shambles.
I'll keep rooting for better.
Not Litherning to reason I've been looking forward to Edge of Twilight for years. Following the game from its early promises, through to its legal troubles with original publisher Southpeak, its worrisome postponement, and eventual return to the publ...
The guys behind Monday Night Combat have just put out a new iPhone and iPad game called Outland. I have yet to play it but based on the trailer it looks to echo games like Jetpack Joyride, Robot Unicorn Attack, and the like....
Jan 13 //
Final Fantasy All the Bravest (iOS)Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixReleased: January 17, 2013MSRP: $3.99, $3.99, $3.99, $3.99, $1.99, $2.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99, $0.99
Final Fantasy All the Bravest promises the return of the Active Time Battle system, boasts combat parties of up to forty heroes plucked from the series' history, and seduces fans with its nostalgic graphics and music. All the Bravest is not, however, the reminiscent tour de force it could have been. It is, instead, an exercise in providing as little entertainment as possible for the maximum financial return.
It is an idea of a videogame, expecting money from consumers in exchange for memories they could have had by watching YouTube videos. Gameplay is practically non-existent, the software merely a conduit through which you directly deposit your dollars into Square Enix's bank account. It's a service that you both work for and pay for, while the company in charge does nothing but rake in the loot.
The game is essentially a series of "battles" in which all you need to do is wipe your finger across the screen. Swiping or tapping on a party member causes it to launch an attack, after which a timer appears above its head to indicate when it can attack again. To win a battle, you rub furiously at the screen until the monsters are dead, then move onto the next fight. No thought required, no strategy, no alternative methods of attack. You rub, rinse, and repeat, until everything is dead. Along the way, you level up, gain items to boost attacks, acquire new heroes, and earn Gil, but everything is handled automatically, allowing you to continue rubbing with brainless abandon.
Every three hours (in real-time), you can activate a "Fever" mode which eliminates the "Active Time" portion of the battle and allows characters to attack freely. This equates to more rubbing, requiring no extra thought or impetus from the player.
That, literally, is Final Fantasy All the Bravest. That is the gameplay, described in its entirety. You smear your hand across your iOS device's screen until you hear the victory theme, then do it again. And again. And again. And again. Square Enix honestly could have eliminated the swiping process to make characters attack automatically, and it would have equated to the same experience, albeit with less wrist strain. Something is wrong when you could remove any form of player input without it negatively impacting your game.
Of course, All the Bravest does not exist to be played. That's not the goal. The goal is for its publisher to make more money beyond the $3.99 asking price. You see, in order to get a party that will decently stand up to the game's boss monsters, you're expected to spend more real-world cash to acquire powerful heroes. Spending $0.99 allows you to summon a famous hero from the Final Fantasy series, selected at random. This hero will then join the party and launch attacks the same way as any other character. Being randomized, players looking for a particular character will need to spend anywhere up to 35 dollars in order to get the right one.
Everything in the game is carefully designed to pressure you into buying things. The boss "difficulty" spikes are used to convince you that you really need a new hero. The inability to directly control the battle places the emphasis on purchasing more power rather than developing skills or tactics to surpass an obstacle. When you die, your party revives by one character every three minutes, in a bid to bore you into purchasing an instant-revival item. Despite being sold on nostalgia, the truly memorable Final Fantasy content is locked behind expansion packs, each costing a further $3.99.
Make no mistake -- Final Fantasy All the Bravest did not come about through lazy design. While the mindless battles may look like the result of a total lack of effort, it was a coldly calculated, meticulously developed system crafted to draw out your wallet. It's as intricately designed a game as any other Final Fantasy installment -- the design simply wasn't used to enhance the gameplay this time around.
In a way, I'm almost impressed. This is a game that you don't really play while it demands money for no good reason. The nerve, the sheer rotten gall of that is almost laudable. Despicable, intellectually offensive, and grotesque, most certainly -- but still deviously magnificent. What really hammers it home is the fact that, during the course of the game, you acquire masses and masses of Gil -- in-game currency that has absolutely no in-game use. It's almost as if Square Enix is gleefully mocking its users by showering them with useless coins as it vacuums up the real ones.
Final Fantasy All the Bravest is not really a game. It's a cash delivery system, with you playing as the courier, your money the cargo, and Square Enix the unpaying recipient. After years of trying to monetize videogames, Square Enix has now moved on to monetizing customers themselves. It's cut out the irritating middle man that is the videogame, and found a way to simply get people to hand over money in exchange for nothing. That is what All the Bravest is. It's nothing. It's air. It's a thought. You're buying a concept in order to keep buying concepts.
Final Fantasy All the Bravest is fucking disgusting.
All the Basest Final Fantasy is close to being the Star Wars of the videogame industry, and not in a positive way. Square Enix, the George Lucas of this particularly scenario, has done a fine job exploiting its brand to almost damaging prop...
The last thing I was expecting during CES week is that I'd be so excited over two retro re-releases of some classic Windows games from 1991 on the Apple App Store. Go figure.
Yup, SkiFree and Rodent's Revenge have just been r...
Dec 11 //
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: 10 Year Anniversary (iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 4], Android)Developer: Rockstar NorthPublisher: Rockstar GamesReleased: December 6, 2012MSRP: $4.99
Yep, Vice City is back. This new mobile version still features the same sexy 1980s veneer, and still features the wise-cracking mob scumbag Tommy Vercetti (Ray Liotta).
Visually, the game has been updated a bit, and the new look suits the neon and bright pastel veneer quite well. Draw-distance issues while driving aside, the new lighting effects and smoothed-out engine really allow the game to pop like it never has before.
Like the scheme used in the mobile version of GTA III, the controls for Vice City are a little better than you would expect, but still have the standard touch-precision issues. Movement is done by way of a virtual analog stick that appears wherever you put your left thumb. While it might sound great on paper, I've had instances numerous times where I've attempted to run away, only to have the d-pad shift to another spot on-screen.
Outside of movement though -- and barring one unfortunate virtual button placement (the handbrake is near the "exit vehicle button," which can make for some funny mission failures) -- everything pretty much works how you'd want it to, with on-screen buttons for each potential action. Considering everything except the movement button can be sized and placed anywhere on the screen, you should be able to find a comfortable medium.
Although there is controller support on the Android version of the game, the iOS version (which was reviewed here) had no such feature -- so if you're on an Apple device, you'll have to settle for touch controls.
Smaller bonuses are included in the mobile package, such as the ability to autosave (with iCloud save support on iOS devices), the aforementioned customizable layout, a tap-to-shoot targeting system, and the ability to create your own custom radio station using your iTunes playlist. The tap-to-shoot scheme takes some getting used to, but it does work, and everything else also works as advertised.
Outside of these ancillary additions to the anniversary version, by far the best addition is the Mission Retry function that debuted in Chinatown Wars, and was cemented by The Ballad of Gay Tony. Straight-up, I think it's a required function that should be in every GTA going forward.
Nothing is worse than failing a mission a few seconds away from victory, only to start over at the hospital and have to find your way to the mission marker again. It absolutely killed the pacing in earlier games, and this addition alone is a great reason to visit Vice City again.
As far as the core game goes, everything is intact. The soundtrack, the quirky Rockstar charm, the Scarface-influenced setting -- it's all here. I really enjoyed replaying some of my favorite missions from the PS2 classic, and even rediscovered a few new scenarios that I didn't experience originally.
To be clear, there's nothing new content wise in this version, but the sheer scale of the GTA games makes it easy to come across a feeling of freshness. Although the game does show signs of aging even with the updated engine, fans of open-world games should still be able to enjoy Vice City with an open mind ten years later.
If you hate GTA games because you feel like they're too "bland," Vice City is your gateway drug. It oozes more charm than pretty much any game in the series outside of possibly San Andreas (provided you're a fan of hip-hop culture for that entry), and the smaller scale of the city makes it a much more manageable affair. If you're curious about the franchise, this is a great starting point before GTA V hits next year.
Wanna be startin' somethin' All this Grand Theft Auto anniversary talk makes me feel old. It feels like just yesterday I was listening to Michael Jackson, swerving around as Tommy Vercetti, and taking in the sights of Rockstar's faux-Miami setting.
The first episode of Telltale's The Walking Dead will be out on iOS devices this Thursday for $4.99. The studio stated in a blog posting that they've created a new interface to provide a "more intuitive experience with the to...
This is just too damn cute. Tiny Wings creator Andreas Illiger has just announced Tiny Wings 2 in probably the best teaser trailer ever created. Andreas uses a music box to play the theme song of Tiny Wings as the bird flies across the hand-drawn level. So cute!
You won't have to wait long for the sequel as Tiny Wings 2 will be out on July 12 for the iOS. That's next week!
Bulkypix has announced a new game for iOS devices, scheduled to launch on July 5. It's called Hasta La Muerte, and it's a billing itself as a unique "survival-platformer" with art game elements.
As an emissary of d...
On iOS, you've got your auto-scrolling runners, fairly straightforward affairs that require careful tapping to avoid oncoming obstacles. Decent enough in bursts, games in this genre tend to suffer from uniformity. You've als...
Just as the solar eclipse is peaking in Japan comes news that Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is set to be released in Japan! Superbrothers and Capybara Games will be releasing one my favorite iOS games of all time in...
"Shoot straight, conserve ammo, and never, ever, deal with a dragon." -- Street proverb
Legendary designer Jordan Weisman (under his new company Harebrained Schemes) has launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a new game b...
When I said, "Take my money Replay, take it now," in response to the announcement that Replay Entertainment had acquired the Leisure Suit Larry property for the purposes of remaking the series, I was being figurative. Replay...
In a conference call today, social gaming megalith Zynga has announced the acquisition of OMGPop, the developer responsible for the wildly popular Draw Something for iOS devices. According to a post at the Wall Street Jo...
Electronic Arts is closing down the servers for a number of games, including a few that required paid online passes to activate. A representative told Beefjack that dwindling activity on the games is the reason, and that "les...
Square Enix has revealed that iOS RPG sequel Chaos Rings II is launching worldwide on March 15. It's also got a launch trailer, which you can stare at above.
I shall certainly be looking forward to this. I really dug t...
SEGA Japan has opened up an official site for Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2, and filled it with juicy screenshots for you to gawp at like a big bloody idiot. If you hate official websites, however, don't worry. We have the ...
Yakuza and Binary Domain creator Toshihiro Nagoshi has made a bold claim -- stating that handheld and mobile systems will dominate the next generation of games. He also believes that the PC market will continue to grow and he...
Zynga appears to have given up on copying its own games over and over, and has moved on to the straightforward plagiarizing of other peoples' work. Dream Heights is Tiny Tower to the core, the only difference being Zynga's in...
Rayforce is now out on the App store for iPhone and iPod users. It's the classic shoot 'em up you remember, but there are some new features like the obvious touch controls. Additionally, you can view the game in the origin...
Jan 13 //
Regular Show: Nightmare-athon (iOS)Developer: Cartoon NetworkPublisher: Cartoon NetworkReleased: December 20, 2011MSRP: $0.99
Nightmare-athon is a relatively simple score attack game, based on the Halloween episode "Grave Sights." Zombies have taken over a live screening of Zombobcalypse, and it's up to slacker protagonists Mordecai and Rigby to fight them back and protect the audience.
Gameplay takes the basic form of a static arcade shooter, a'la Space Invaders. Mordecai and Rigby are positioned on the left hand side of the screen, while increasingly challenging waves of zombies stumble in from the right.
Holding a finger on the heroes allows one to slide them up and down, while tapping anywhere else on the screen will have Mordecai toss a bowling ball at the oncoming undead. During combat, a gauge will steadily fill, allowing players to unleash Rigby by swiping the screen. Rigby will run across the field along a diagonal course, taking down zombies with his stick for a limited period of time.
Pickups are dropped at random, allowing the temporary use of more powerful weapons such as discuses, javelins, or even a Skips-driven golf cart that smashes multiple zombies in a row. Outside of these powerups, there really isn't a whole lot more to the game. As waves are cleared, the zombies absorb more damage and grow increasingly numerous, but otherwise you can experience everything Nightmare-athon has to offer in one session.
Every now and then, Mordecai and Rigby may spout phrases from the show, but the use of such phrases feel cynical and forced, which is at odds with the fact that Regular Show is one of the more honest and genuine cartoons on TV. To hear the characters state quotes out of context for the sake of it is a little embarrassing, really. Still, the graphics are pretty nice, resembling the cartoon perfectly.
Regular Show: Nightmare-athon is what it is -- a quick little distraction cobbled together to promote the show and make a quick buck. With that in mind, it does its job well enough, and certainly isn't badly made. It's just rather flat, soulless, and incredibly repetitive. While it's a decent waste of five minutes, even the most hardcore fans of Regular Show can find something better to do with times.
The phrase, "not bad, but not good either" is a worn and tired cliche. Sometimes, however, it's the most pertinent thing to be said. Oh, that and the fact you can also just play it for free online.
Regular Show may very well be the best cartoon series on television right now, rivaled only by Adventure Time. Taking the "disguised adult jokes" ball from Rocko's Modern Life and running halfway around the world with it, the...
Ripoff games on iOS are nothing new, with no shortage of developers willing to trade their integrity for a handfull of dollars. Mole Kart is an almost beautiful in its utter, unapologetic, shamelessness.
As you can see...
It's been quite some time, but the second episode of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 has finally been unveiled. The first teaser trailer made an appearance on GameSpot (skip to 1:16 in the video above) and it's already announced some s...
Dec 27 //
Grand Theft Auto III 10 Year Anniversary (iOS, Android)Developer: Rockstar North, War Drum StudiosPublisher: Rockstar GamesReleased: December 15, 2011MSRP: $4.99
Grand Theft Auto III effectively defined an entire genre of game, one so popular that many games today still desperately attempt to ape its success. The open-world "sandbox" style of game may seem like a dime a dozen today, but back in 2001, the idea of a living, breathing, 3D city was staggering. We're used to it now, but opening up such a game on an iPhone or iPad goes some way toward bringing that magic back.
As the silent Claude, players are busted from a prison transport van and let loose into Liberty City. An increasing variety of missions unlock as players undertake jobs from a rogue's gallery of nefarious crooks, but they can always earn money by driving taxis, posing as paramedics, or just beating people to death and robbing them. Doing these things still carry that simple, often sadistic, satisfaction that it had a decade ago, with GTA III proving once again that being the bad guy is jolly good fun.
The 10 Year Anniversary edition of GTA III is more than a simple port. The game has been enhanced with fresh graphics, improving the look of characters and vehicles. While the game is still obviously dated in the visual department, the higher definition and richer textures make for a far more visually appealing game than fans are used to. Nothing has been skimped in the shrinking process either -- radio stations are all present and correct and cutscenes are fully voiced. This is Grand Theft Auto III in its entirety, only better looking, and tweaked to work with touchscreen controls.
The touchscreen controls, however, are something of an issue, providing by far the biggest barrier toward enjoying this updated release. Despite a range of control options that make use of both the screen and the iOS device's accelerometer, there's no comfortable way to play the game. Be it walking or driving, every control scheme has its own set of unique problems, contributing to a more difficult and frustrating experience.
There's no fixed virtual movement pad while walking, the screen instead placing one where you put your thumb. While such input can work in certain titles, I feel this particular game would have benefited more from a definitively placed pad, as allowing it to appear anywhere in such a densely packed screen often leads to one's thumb dragging off the device while trying to walk. The camera is also unhelpful, wildly swinging to accommodating the player's awkward movements. Manipulating the camera means placing a finger on Claude and dragging in a desired direction. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess how much the interface can get confused between walking and camera controls.
While driving, one can either use virtual direction buttons to steer, or physically tilt the device, but either choice will be problematic. The buttons are too sensitive, causing vehicles to swerve violently left or right, while the accelerometer isn't sensitive enough, requiring exaggerated tilts in order to turn a corner effectively. Coupled with the game's already hyperactive and unrefined physics, this can lead to some annoying driving indeed, especially when racing against the clock.
Grand Theft Auto III requires a lot of patience and practice to play on an iOS device, because despite claims of optimized controls, there are similar games on the iPhone with far more effective interfaces than the one presented here. However, those games lack the one trump card Grand Theft Auto III has that cannot be beat -- it's Grand Theft Auto III. Despite the dodgy controls and the very real frustrations present, this is still one of the most outrageous and entertaining games ever developed, and the sheer novelty of carrying it around inside a phone is worth the price of admission alone.
Once you get used to the annoyances, all the fun of GTA III is still in place. You have to work a little harder for it, but it's all there. All except for cheat codes, unfortunately, which means that you can't spawn a rocket launcher and go crazy like you used to. With a little luck, future updates may bring these back, because let's face it, one of the best things about GTA III is dropping a tank from out of the sky and crushing cop cars.
For a mere three bucks (Edit: This is a current sale price, regular price is $4.99. Sorry!), Grand Theft Auto III 10 Year Anniversary is very much worth picking up, even if its controls could use an overhaul. Once you get used to its awkward input, the sheer joy of riding through Liberty City is nigh impossible to deny, and the improved visuals certainly help. At the end of the day, few games are as iconic and amusing as this one, and to carry it in your pocket is something truly quite special.
We live in a privileged age indeed. Less than years ago, something like Grand Theft Auto III was amazing to behold on a home console. Its size, sense of freedom, and explosive production values were so amazing, one ...
This hot looking iOS game was released earlier in the month and I can't believe I missed it until someone showed me a link. It's called Battleduty Modernfield 3 and, despite 2/5 average user rating, it looks pretty awesome.&n...
Jetpack Joyride is free for a limited time right for the iPod, iPhone and iPad! The runner style game sees you avoiding obstacles and collecting coins through the use of a jetpack that happens to be a freaking chain gun.
Seriously, Jetpack Joyride is stupidly addictive and you're a horrible stupid face if you don't even try the game. You jerks.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Grand Theft Auto III is now available on iOS for $4.99. The game that popularized the sandbox craze is regarded as a classic these days, and while later GTA games would replace the silent Cl...
If you're finished with Batman: Arkham City and sad that you've got no more bat-themed gaming to do, fret not. Batman: Arkham City Lockdown appeared on iTunes last night without herald, and is yours to download for $5.99.
Those wondering what Electronic Arts' acquisition of Popcap means for the studio's stable of popular games have had their questions answered today. Bejeweled 2 + Blitz will be swiped from iTunes and its two modes split into t...
[Every week (until I get bored), Art Juice takes a recent videogame story and provides an unremittingly artistic slant, telling us a little something about ourselves in the process ... whether we want to know the truth or not...