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Mobile Tomb Raider Lara Croft GO feels lovely

Jun 18 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]294301:59143:0[/embed] At first glance, Lara Croft GO bears a strikingly close resemblance to Square Enix Montréal's first effort. It echoes the quiet, clean aesthetic of Hitman GO, while featuring similar turn-based puzzle design, but pushes the concepts further. Fresh elements like verticality quite literally add new dimensions to the experience, and go a long way to making this feel like a legitimate Tomb Raider. The characters are no longer static figurines, as the designers felt it wouldn't be natural for Lara, a character known for her athleticism, to be portrayed in such a rigid fashion. So while our heroine is still navigating an on-rails obstacle course, she's fully animated, looking very much at home as she climbs and scrambles around ancient, subterranean ruins. Perspective is also used to great effect, with the isometric camera allowing the developers to add little flourishes like a silhouetted beetle crawling along a tree branch in the foreground, or see a bridge appear in the distance when Lara toggles a switch. Square Enix Montréal is also keen on avoiding unnecessary hand-holding. The title's 40 levels (which are quite a bit larger than those found in Hitman GO) are based around trial and error. With each stage now divided into segments with checkpoints, new mechanics can be introduced and then used in rather sophisticated ways in short order without a loss of progress.  One example of this is terrain that will fall away when walked over or climbed across twice. Shortly after being introduced to this by falling to my death, I was using it to evade an enemy. Knowing a certain surface would crumble away, I used it to lay a trap for the giant lizard nipping at my heels.  Not all of the obstacles I saw were quite that compelling, though. While it was a rush to see an Indiana Jones-style boulder trap, the turn-based nature of the game makes this sort of scene less compelling than if were to play out in real time. Still, what I've witnessed thus far has me eager to see what else awaits in the full game. Lara Croft GO is coming to iOS and Android devices sometime later this year.
Lara Croft GO photo
Small in scale, but no less impressive
Square Enix Montréal possesses a genuine talent for artfully distilling series down to their essence. In 2014, the developer released Hitman GO, a turn-based deconstruction of IO Interactive's stealth franchise, w...

Disney Infinity Star Wars photo
Check and check
If you're making a Star Wars game with pilotable ships, I'm going to want to zip around Hoth in a snowspeeder and tie knots around some AT-ATs. I'll also want to shoot down a bunch of TIE Fighters on my path to destroy the De...

The first three rounds of Sid Meier's Starships are not enough

Feb 24 // Darren Nakamura
Sid Meier's Starships (iPad, Mac, PC [previewed])Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: March 12, 2015MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit I don't mean to hate on Starships just yet. In fact, a lot of the design decisions make perfect sense from a gameplay perspective. It makes sense for a tactical combat game to begin with only a few units rather than an army. It makes sense to enclose arenas for the combatants to actually encounter one another. These elements make for a good game, but they run counter to the narrative of taking control of the Milky Way. Starships is broken up into two distinct sections that affect one another. Resource management and area control take place on the galaxy map, while combat occurs zoomed in to a piece of a solar system within that galaxy. By influencing planets on the galaxy map, players gather resources and eventually take control of sectors. The resources are similar to those found in Civilization: Beyond Earth, but with a few tweaks to their functions. Food is still used to increase population, which raises the overall resource output of a planet. Science is used to upgrade technologies to buff starship systems. Metal (formerly production) is used to construct buildings on planets, providing specific resource increases and other effects. Energy is used to add ships to the fleet or to install new or upgraded systems onto existing ships. Credits are a new piece of the puzzle, used to convert to any of the other resources, or to buy influence on a planet. [embed]286382:56944:0[/embed] By moving the fleet around the galaxy map, the player can initiate combat encounters. These take place on a two-dimensional hex grid centered around the planet of interest, sometimes featuring moons and filled with an inordinate amount of asteroids. On a turn, players can activate their ships in any order. For each ship activation, it gets some amount of movement depending on its component makeup, and one action that can be executed before, during, or after movement. A major selling point of Starships is the customization of the titular vessels. Energy can be spent to upgrade weapons systems, armor, stealth, sensors, and more. The more stuff a ship has piled onto it, the slower it will move, so engine upgrades are key for tactical maneuverability. One neat thing: as the ships are tweaked with new parts, their stated classes automatically update. The basic corvettes can eventually become cruisers, destroyers, or battleships with the right gear. There is no strictly correct setup for a fleet. In my first run through the preview build, I engaged in a few battles that emphasized sensors, and a few others that allowed only my flagship. For my second playthrough, I beefed up my flagship and neglected my others, but came across a different set of encounters. The variety in combat missions is an unexpected treat. The objectives range from simple (destroy all enemy ships) to complex (control three outposts at once) to just strange (navigate through an asteroid maze in a set number of turns). Each round on the galaxy map, players have a certain amount of fatigue to spend before being forced to take shore leave and end the turn. This usually amounts to about three combat missions per player per round. Combat missions can run quickly, with some taking as few as five minutes, though I can imagine that when larger fleets clash, it could draw battles out. Although there is a resource management aspect, it doesn't require nearly as much micromanagement as a typical Civilization game does. There are only a few types of upgrades for a planet, a handful of technologies to research, and marginal differences between the three Affinities introduced in Beyond Earth. Upgrades are purchased instantaneously rather than built up over time. It has a certain rhythm to it. The galaxy map is a strategy exercise, where influence over certain planets and adjacency to other players is important. These strategy considerations are punctuated by the tactical battles around each planet. The constant switching between the big picture and several small theaters is a little tough to get a hang of at first, but it helps to inject some variety into the experience. After the third round, just as I felt like I was getting the hang of it, the preview build ended. Three rounds played in less than an hour, and on my second playthrough I had covered about 20% of the galaxy. Though I can't say for sure how long an average game would run, a full Starships game is definitely meant to be less of an undertaking than a run through Civilization. Therein stems the one concern I have for Starships. From a pure gameplay perspective, the board game-like combat and area control work well together. As a followup to Beyond Earth, where the playground now includes the entire galaxy rather than a single planet, the simpler scope is counter to the conceit. Conquering the Milky Way should be an enormous endeavor, but everything here just feels small.
Sid Meier's Starships photo
A taste of what's to come
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth released to mixed reactions. I loved how it took the took the classic gameplay to alien worlds, and I especially appreciated its underlying narrative about the future of the human race. ...


Adventure Time Game Wizard has a pretty cool level editor

Sep 11 // Abel Girmay
So the level editor sound cool, huh? Unfortunately, the rest of the game drops the ball. Adventure Time Game Wizard is a platformer with awful controls, and a platformer with awful controls cannot carry itself very far. Out of all the different ways we've seen platformers played on a touch display, Game Wizard opts for a virtual d-pad setup. Simple commands, like switching directions, felt needlessly janky. Didn't matter whether I slid my finger over the d-pad or tapped it -- there was a noticeable pause in the time between hitting a new directional button, making the experience frustrating when going through the story mode. You can just imagine how unforgiving it can feel when playing on amateur fan-made levels. I like Adventure Time and would really dig a good game based off the show, so it hurts that this handles the way it does. Despite the rather ingenious level editor, Game Wizard is just par for the course for licensed games.
Adventure Time photo
But terrible platforming
There's a new game coming out based on everybody's favorite television show, Adventure Time! You know what that means right? Go on and grab your friends, because we're going to some very distant la---actually, you might want ...

You’ll play Skullduggery greedily, whether fast or slow

Sep 10 // Brett Makedonski
Two things are certain in this world -- death and taxes. Skullduggery staunchly enforces the idea that even in the former, the latter’s still an inevitability. Dammit, maybe Wes Snipes was onto something, even if he’s spending some time in the clink as a result. Skullduggery’s titular skull (maybe he has a name; let’s call him Johnny Rotten because that sounds punk rock as H-E-double hockey sticks) is out to collect taxes in the afterlife, and even the post-alive like to keep what’s rightfully theirs. Rock, flag, eagle, and all. That’s where the flicking comes into play. Well, actually, that’s the whole game (pay attention!) Three-quarters action with maybe one-quarter puzzler dashed in, Skullduggery requires the player to constantly send Rotten flying through levels in search of more and more to claim in the name of the undead IRS. Each level features three artifacts that typically aren’t completely obvious as to where they are, and judging by my time with the demo, will get continually more difficult -- both with regard to skill required to obtain, and cleverness with which they’re hidden. The artifacts, just like the three objectives presented in each level, aren’t necessary for advancement, however. They’re just there for a sense of fulfillment. (Have you been the best little tax collector you can be? By the way, Rotten -- working for the man isn’t very punk rock.) Just getting through the levels might prove challenging at times; definitely in the instance of the boss that I encountered. Facing a skull about 30 times the size of my suddenly harmless-looking Rotten (so many skulls, it’s like an Affliction shirt up in here!) I was given no choice but to run away. Run away quickly, that is. This is where one of Skullyduggery’s more nuanced and handy mechanics come into play. While in the air, you can tap and hold the screen to slow down time considerably, giving temporary faux-pause to more selectively line up your next move. For a game that’s seemingly centered on the premise of speed and greed, this facet significantly changes the approach you’ll take to Skullduggery, as you now find yourself seamlessly shifting between quick and slow play. Given more time to analyze any given situation, the wise decision’s just a well-placed flick ahead, but gah, there’s more gold in that offshoot, and I can definitely snag it quick before this giant skull smashes me, right? Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t. But you’ll probably try. That’s because Skullduggery makes everything look so easy, so attainable -- even when crushing defeat is imminent. Who knows what damned you to an eternity of tax collecting, but your greed just damned you to the welcome mat of the after-afterlife. Change your fortunes by playing it slow and carefully considering your flicks next time. Things might work out better that way. But, whatever happens, never stop flicking.
Skullduggery preview photo
Turns out tax collectin’ is more fun than tax payin’
Flick, flick, flick. That’s all you’ll be doing in Skullduggery. Flicking to collect treasure. Flicking to outrun bosses. Flicking to line up stealthy headshots on unsuspecting enemies. You can play the game howe...

Tharsis: Commit cannibalism, save humanity

Sep 09 // Kyle MacGregor
That's the goal, anyway. More immediate concerns include not dying as the ship slowly edges toward to Mars. Some members of the crew are dead. Others are injured. Supplies are low. And all sorts of things need fixing. You know, things that threaten the crew's continued survival. To remedy these issues, players will need to send astronauts to deal with hazards as they arise. This is done by rolling dice and allocating the numbers to the myriad of problems before you. Tharsis is a game of damage control. It's about knowing when to play it safe, when to put it all on the line, and praying you get lucky enough to scrape by. One way to make do with dwindling rations is to cannibalize the corpses of your fallen comrades. Sure it's a little unsavory, but you're eating people for humanity, dammit! My experiences with this worked out okay, well, except for the part where my crew went insane. Look forward to seeing how that turns out when Tharsis launches on iOS and Steam in early 2015.
Tharsis preview photo
Eat folks for the greater good
Destructoid recently caught up with the folks at Gaijin Games Choice Provisions to check out the studio's next Bit.Trip game completely new project, Tharsis. The turn-based strategy game follows a team of astro...

Mistwalker's new RPG is unlike anything we've seen before

Sep 07 // Kyle MacGregor
Terra Battle is an upcoming strategy role-playing game for mobile and tablet devices, but it doesn't bear much resemblance to Final Fantasy Tactics and the like. Actually, the battlefield looks more like a chessboard than anything, which Sakaguchi tells us is by design. It takes inspiration from shogi, a popular board game, otherwise known as Japanese chess and the general's game. One way of playing shogi involves capturing stones by flanking them on both sides, a concept developer Mistwalker is incorporating as the centerpiece of Terra Battle's combat system. In order to attack enemies in Terra Battle, players will need to make quick and purposeful finger-swipes to position their units on the battlefield. However, since characters cannot fight alone, players will need to bump into and corral their allies into formations around monsters. That's the only way to vanquish your foes and emerge victorious.  [embed]280518:55533:0[/embed] In some small way, Mistwalker is also taking notes from Puzzle & Dragons. Sakaguchi told us a story about how we went drinking one night with the team behind GungHo Online's incredibly successful mobile game, and how it helped spur him to create Terra Battle. Sakaguchi gleaned insights on how to build an experience for a vertical screen from swapping stories with these folks. The conversations helped him address challenges like how to condense a rewarding experience into something easily enjoyed here and there while on the go. These types of problems seem to genuinely excite Sakaguchi, who wishes to use his forays into the mobile world to explore new ideas in the medium. Part of that involves a more fluid development process, where, unlike console games, the developers can continue to add content long after the game first ships. Mistwalker is using a "download starter" model with Terra Battle, which means the developer plans to add new content upon the achievement of certain milestones. These upgrades include new music courtesy of famed composer Nobuo Uematsu, co-op and versus battle modes, and even a console game based on the world and characters in Terra Battle. Mistwalker seems concerned with the stigma attached to mobile games, and hopes to ensure Terra Battle is not overly simplistic. Something we were more anxious about was how the developer plans to monetize the game. Terra Battle will be free-to-play and uses a stamina mechanic that limits the number of battles players can engage in quick succession. Energy regenerates over time, but impatient players will always have the option to pay. This shouldn't be overly alarming, as the title is designed to be played in short spurts, but it's something to keep in mind. Sakaguchi assured us players will never feel forced to part with their money. We were excited by what we saw of Terra Battle and are eager to give this unique take on tactical role-playing games a try when it arrives on iOS and Android devices this October.
Mistwalker's new RPG photo
Terra Battle is something else
Hironobu Sakaguchi is best known as the creator of Final Fantasy; a man responsible for some of the most influential and well-respected role-playing games of our time. His sprawling worlds and epic adventures have touched mil...

That BioShock teaser was an iOS port and it plays well (sort of)

Aug 04 // Steven Hansen
Now that Apple has gone ahead with some controller support, you can play BioShock with any compatible unit. I did so as I waded through the intro (and waded through freezing plane crash water), but I figured playing with the touch controls might prove a bit more informative. Not everyone has one of those pricey controllers.   After getting through the lengthy establishing bits and exposition and finding a plumber's discarded wrench, I finally got to smash some Splicer faces. Virtual joysticks will appear wherever you rest either thumb. I still managed to drift too far off sometimes, but I only felt mildly hampered. I moved less smoothly than I might with a controller, but it worked well. It's an option, anyway, leaving you stuck between it and expensive controllers.  The interface is pretty slick. On the right side, there's a big virtual button to use either your equipped weapon or plasmid (no dual wielding yet, remember). You can also switch between plasmids and weapons and search through trash cans for cigarettes and bodies for money. It all works well enough, retooled as it is. The problem with the touch controls comes in combat. You might adapt and get better at them. You might already be better at them than I am. But I had some difficulty in my right thumb being needed to both a) line up the shooting reticle and b) tap the big old "shoot" button. That bit of time in between is troublesome. If this were all puzzle solving, exploration, and Pipe Mania hacking, the touch controls would be a completely viable option for the iOS port. However, in the hour I played, I struggled shooting things accurately, which is a big deal for a shooter. I killed things good, thanks in part to some bullet magnetism that took shots over the shoulder and counted them a couple inches left or right, but the precise tactility of first-person shooting is lost here. It just feels a little less good when the game rewards you for being in the vicinity. It's a necessary change, though, because otherwise you would line up shots and lose them in the split second you stopped aiming to tap "kill," assuming you didn't move the reticle in that motion. Good thing targets are generally running at you, too, because keeping up with lateral movement isn't easy.  The port is novel (it's on my phone!), it's perfunctory, it's a reminder that BioShock was pretty cool, and with a controller you can basically match the original experience. The touch controls work about as well as they could, but can't overcome losing the precision in first-person shooting.
BiOShock photo
BiOShock
That BioShock teaser from 2K? It's not a new BioShock game. It's the first one, but on Apple devices. Hence the apple in the tease. Clever. Who called it? This is basically a full port of the PC version of BioShock,...

Go on a sniping rampage in Hitman Sniper

Jun 13 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Your objective in the game is to take out a target on any given level. In the one I was playing, I was able to take my target out the second the sniper scope came up to my face at the start of the level. Sure you can just shoot your target right there and then, but you’d be missing the point. Really what you’re trying to do is kill as many bad guys as possible in creative ways to score as many points as you can. Hitman Sniper is emphasizing competitive play through a leaderboard system. You’ll see in real time as you’ve scored more points/money than your friends, and you’ll also see as they pass you up.  So you’ll need to get creative with how you kill others, as the more creative the kill the more points you get. Thankfully creative killing is something that Hitman has always been good at. One example involved me shooting at the front of a parked car. This set off the car alarm, which caused two nearby guards to come investigate the noise. One was near the car already, and another guard was a couple of stories above in the house, looking down to see the fuss. As soon as that guard leaned over the railing, I shot out the glass that was a part of the railing, and this caused him to fall over and land right on top of the guard on the ground. Double kill!  What you’ll have to be careful of is that the main target will eventually start to notice that his guards are going missing. Plus, other guards can potentially find the dead bodies if they’re simply just taken out where they stand. Eventually this will scare the main target, causing him to flee the scene and you’ll fail the mission. It starts off with how much do you really want to risk, but as you replay scenarios and understand the layouts better you’ll find yourself really cleaning up house. There will be multiple goals and missions you can take on a level too, so it’s not always going to be same thing if you don’t want it to be.  Along with your main sniper you’ll be able to equip perks and the like. A couple I saw included a super sonic round which removed the need for lead time, and another that made my bolt-action rifle fire rounds off like a semi-automatic. You’ll be able to earn a variety of perks, plus improvements and additions to the rifle itself. And that in turn will help in scoring more points in the game.  The developers behind are looking to have a variety of locations available for players, and they’re looking to develop the game along with the community. If there’s a demand for classic hits, or say certain places from around the world the team will work something out.  Hitman Sniper will be out this fall, and it will be a free-to-play title. Players will be able to unlock everything without ever having to pay, but those that just want to get to the good stuff as fast as possible will have the option to put some money down.  Nothing too complicated, but it’s easily going to be one of those games I will enjoy playing while on a flight or looking to pass the time. 
Hitman photo
A fun, simple little game in the Hitman universe
Square hasn’t been afraid to use the Hitman IP in fun and creative ways. Hitman GO was a critical success for doing something unique, and while Hitman Sniper isn’t on that same scale, it is still at least a ton of fun.

Candy Crush studio's next game, Bubble Witch Saga 2

May 22 // Dale North
Bubble Witch Saga 2 is a bubble shooter, like Taito's Bubble Bobble, or popular mobile game Snood. King says that they wanted take advantage of the ripe market as well as create a bubble shooter with new gameplay elements. There's every type of match-three game out there now, but not much in the way of bubble shooters. I got a good look at the upcoming title during a recent King studio visit. Playable in both portrait and landscape mode, shooting bubbles at the play board requires only a tap. Aiming is done by holding and sliding a finger, with a release sending the bubble flying. The primary goal is to match three or more bubbles to clear them from the game board, with the hopes of clearing the entire board with the allotted number of bubbles.  Beyond this mode, a couple more additions mix up the standard action. Rescue maps have you shooting bubbles that surround captured animals to free them. In Wheel Mode, rather than clearing the top row of bubbles, you'll shoot at a formation that spins from the force of your shots. With the latter, you'll try to aim your shots to control the spin and take out the bubbles surrounding a captured ghost, with the goal of freeing it. This is a new new...spin on the old formula, and requires some patience at first. King has taken the bubble shooter and applied their own tried and true mobile games formula, so expect the same leveling structure as Candy Crush or Farm Heroes Saga as well as the same dedication to regular content updates. Also expect the same time-based play limitations and prompts selling you additional turns (in this case, five more bubble shots) as their other titles. For the latter point, it should be noted that I was able to complete more than 20 levels without needing to have to buy turns. Bubble Witch Saga 2 is easy to get into, but after the first dozen levels I found that you really have to be strategy minded to clear the maps using only the allotted shots. Simply matching colors isn't going to cut it -- I had to maximize every shot to make each one count. Strategies like aiming from the top and using bouncing trick shots helped a bit. I felt I would have had a bit easier of a time with a longer bounce trajectory line, but even that wouldn't have made some of the later levels (beyond level 50) any easier. The later maps are huge and their challenge level is pretty high. King says that a worldwide launch for Bubble Witch Saga 2 is planned, and that we should see it very soon on mobile platforms as well as Facebook.
 photo
Burst your bubble
What's next for the studio that bagged mountains of cash on games like Candy Crush Saga and Farm Heroes Saga? It's Bubble Witch Saga 2. I never knew there was a first game, but seeing as how the Facebook page for Bubble ...

Extrasolar does exoplanet exploration, but it is more than meets the eye

Apr 22 // Darren Nakamura
Extrasolar (Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, PC)Developer: Lazy 8 StudiosReleased: February 18, 2014 One of the draws of Extrasolar is its attention to scientific detail. It takes place on a world that could plausibly exist, orbiting Epsilon Eridani, the closest star with a known planet orbiting it. The development team consists of several science advisers in addition to traditional game designers. The world itself is fictional, but it behaves as a real planet would. It has a set day/night cycle that does not match our own. It has two moons, each with its own orbit and resulting phases. It has water and islands, and our rover's journey begins on one particular island called Artocos. On the surface, Extrasolar is as advertised. Most of the active playing involves scheduling a path for a rover, choosing its direction and basic lighting options, and taking a photo. The servers take in all of the variables (position, direction, time of day, et cetera) and produce a high resolution image. Indeed, every picture in this post is taken from my profile, and no photos taken by other players are identical. [embed]273615:53539:0[/embed] However, right from the beginning, Extrasolar makes it clear that it is not as cut and dried as it outwardly admits. Upon activating an account, the player is initially denied access, with the head of the fictional space exploration company XRI citing a large volume of volunteers and a shortage of available rovers. Shortly afterward, an email shows up from an unknown hacker who gets you into the program. This hacker's motivations are unclear at the outset, but it sets the stage for Extrasolar being something more than just a browser-based photo simulator. There is a narrative coursing through the entire experience, and it is divided into two threads: what they want you to know and what they do not want you to know. What is really special about the narrative is that it transcends the browser, presenting information via live action video, audio files, PDF, and email. The result is an experience that facilitates the suspension of disbelief. Rather than pretending to physically be on another planet, the player only has to pretend that he is sitting at his computer, directing a rover and uncovering secrets as the story unfolds. It feels more real than almost anything else out there. One thing that some players might not be able to get over is the pricing structure. Extrasolar is free to play, but it does not exploit that as severely as many other games in that space. For free, the player can schedule two photos ahead, has to wait four hours for each photo, and has limited uses for the panorama and infrared options. For a one-time purchase at ten dollars, the wait for each picture is reduced to one hour and the player is given unlimited uses of the options. Even more money can go toward a type of season pass, which covers future missions off Artocos Island. Outside of those payment options, there are no microtransactions or other sinister money-grubbing tactics. It makes sense to treat the free version as a sort of demo (though one could technically play through the story entirely without paying), and to buy it if the demo pleases. For me, it has been an immensely cool experience. Of all the games I got to see at PAX East, Extrasolar is one of the few that has invaded my psyche so completely. I make sure to schedule photos before I go to sleep, and I check them right when I wake up. Heck, I am playing the game right now, eagerly looking forward to what my next photo will turn up, and what revelations will arise from that within its hidden narrative.
Extrasolar photo
Come for the control of a rover on an alien planet, stay for the [REDACTED]
When I was talking to one of the developers of Extrasolar on the show floor at PAX East, I said something that I now regret. "This looks like something I would really like, but might not appeal to a ton of other people." He r...

Preview: Armello combines board games, trading card games, strategy RPG play

Apr 08 // Dale North
[embed]273021:53321:0[/embed] Armello takes the challenge and deck building you'd find in a trading card game and puts it on a game board where movement is something like you'd find in a strategy role-playing game. Four clans, represented by animals, move across the hex game board to conquer the board and take the castle. The story has you representing one of these clan -- Rabbit, Bear, Wolf, and Rat -- as their hero, working to save the land and take over following the death of the King. I was shown a stunning cinematic built by League of Geeks to bring players into Armello's world. It was of the quality you'd expect to see in a high-profile console RPG, set to some very nice music. You'll see some of that in the trailer above. Armello is a digital board game, which means you'll be rolling virtual dice and moving digital pawns. But movement across its hex game board can lead to encounters, which brings players into the RPG side of things, as does the ability to progress through skill trees and modify loadouts.  Die rolls play into the combat system -- they determine how you'll be able to attack or defend in each encounter. And for the card side, skills and other modifiers can be played from a deck during battle.  This combo battle system may sound complicated, but it flowed well in the time I spent with an early build. Flicks and taps have you moving through battles in a way that's easy to understand; it only took a few rounds before I felt like I was getting into Armello's groove. While I didn't have time to delve into the cards' text and abilities, trying out a few showed that they were at least easy to use in battle. Armello seems to be the type of game that is really easy to get into, but has plenty of depth to keep you tuned in. A day/night cycle changes strategy, keeping players on their toes. The night brings out the baddies in the forests, while day has the castle guard on defense. Each of the game boards' hexes are filled with different types of terrain that change with the day cycle, which makes careful navigation important. It'll take more time with the game to make a call on how successful League of Geeks has been with their mashup battle system, but I can at least say for now that it mixes together some of my favorite types of games, and that I'm excited to spend some time with it on my own. Or with a friend: Armello supports both local and online multiplayer as well as single player. I can also say that Armello is stunning. League of Geeks is a collective of talent, staffed with veterans from popular board and video games. What's interesting is that they're all paid according to their level of contribution to the project. Staff working on Armello also worked on games like Darksiders, Bioshock, Puzzle Quest, Pokemon, Warhammer, and more. They've created a world and characters that are very easy on the eyes. Expect lush greenery, striking lighting, and detailed animations -- this is a very pretty game. And keep in mind that I saw it on an iPad. Imagine how much better the PC version might be. [embed]273021:53323:0[/embed] League of Geeks has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring their core team in on full-time work, as well as bring the game beyond the planned iPad release to PC, Mac, and Linux. They're also looking to bring singer-songwriter Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) on as a second composer, working alongside Michael Allen. They're hoping to raise $200,000 AUD to get this going. Armello's Kickstarter is live now and will run for 30 days.
Armello photo
Kickstarter launched
I met League of Geeks' Trent Kusters at GDC a few weeks back. We just missed each other at Bitsummit just a week before, but I'm glad we were able to finally meet up as I would have missed seeing a really cool game.  Kus...

The Perils of Man brings an adventure across time to iOS

Mar 26 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]272436:53128:0[/embed] Developed by IF Games, The Perils of Man takes players on an adventure through time as Ana Eberling, who must uncover the mystery behind the disappearance of her father and other members of her family. While exploring her family mansion, she uncovers a secret lab possessing technology for time travel. Following clues left behind by her father, she travels to various areas in the past looking for answers. During your adventure, you'll collect clues, interact with the environment, and talk with NPC characters to uncover the mystery. With lead writer and designer for 1954: Alcatraz Gene Mocsy providing the story, IF Games wanted to illustrate the narrative's density while at the same time giving players the opportunity to find solutions to puzzles and other obstacles. "We wanted to convey depth and richness for the dialog," said producer Nathan Ornick. "There's a number of opportunities for investigation, and more dialog trees open up revealing more about the characters, and it shows just how much depth is there for interaction." Initially, players will explore the family mansion, using wits and other neat tricks to solve the mystery but, eventually, Ana and her clockwork bird companion will travel back in time to such locations as Chicago, London, and the South China Sea. With every new location, the investigation changes up and interactions with characters become more difficult, as Ana's modern-day personality doesn't necessarily mesh well with others in the past. The developers of The Perils of Man were keen on creating a game that was rich in story content, but also one that is accessible and intuitive to control. IF Games went with iOS, as it can provide both. "We knew this would be a game we wanted to release onto mobiles first -- it's been designed from the bottom up for touch interface," said Ornick. "The interface fits for point-and-click-style games, but also the way you interact with this narrative game. It's very much like a story book." I fancy myself an admirer of the adventure genre, and this title seems to channel much of the charm and magic from the past. One of the benefits of this adventure game renaissance we're in now is that we're seeing a lot of talent return to the genre, and The Perils of Man looks to be another charming, fun title for devotees of the genre. Currently, a demo of The Perils of Man is out now on the App Store for the iPad. The full game, clocking in at around 10-12 hours of length, is expected for release sometime this summer for the iPad and other Apple devices.
The Perils of Man photo
LucasArts veteran Bill Tiller brings new adventure title to mobile
The adventure genre has seen a bit of an upswing in recent times. With Telltale Games and Double Fine's recent efforts helping to revitalize the genre, a new generation of gamers are experiencing a type of game that was once ...

The offensive leads to the defensive in Toy Rush

Aug 31 // Brett Makedonski
These cards can probably be considered the crux of Toy Rush. The random packs give you different forces, traps, and occasionally, a rare (and very powerful) creature. These are now in your arsenal to complete the other levels. But, they serve a greater purpose, too. Apart from being used in single-player, they are also available permanently in your base for multiplayer. It feels like Uber structured Toy Rush so that everything eventually centers around multiplayer play. It wasn't on display at the show, but it seems that multiplayer will make the player strike a balance between defending their base and attacking their opponent's. I was under the impression that it might benefit the player to pay attention to taking care of home instead of being overly aggressive. While only a bit of the game was shown at PAX Prime, it was obvious that Toy Rush is shaping up to be a fun and competent title. The developers told me that they're developing for both iOS and Android, but they haven't decided which one they're going to release first. Regardless, Uber's attempt at a tower defense game looks like it's on track to do just fine.
Toy Rush preview photo
It's just so damn adorable
One of the cutest-looking games that I saw at PAX Prime was Uber Entertainment's Toy Rush. Don't let the cuteness deceive you, though. Toy Rush is shaping up to be a surprisingly deep and fun title.  The developers...

Blow's enigmatic The Witness is the highlight of the PS4

Jun 14 // Steven Hansen
[embed]256341:49199:0[/embed]The Witness (PS4 [timed exclusive], PC, iOS) Developer: Thekla, Inc. Publisher: Thekla, Inc. Release: 2013The Witness is a puzzle game couched in an explorable world, emphasis on exploration. It's "not about rushing through the environments as quickly as possible," Blow explained. Indeed, this isn't just a claim being made to encourage a meditative pace befitting of the atmosphere. The game's puzzles require some consideration and they are designed in such a way to slowly teach you how to solve them. The most consistent thing the game is about is nonverbal communication. You "build an explanation to yourself of what you're doing. The game never tells you." In fact, aside from some optional collectible audio logs that fill in the island's backstory, The Witness is almost entirely reticent. You start the game in a dark corridor and the only thing to do is go forward and begin opening doors with simple line puzzles through simple mazes, setting precedent for all the subsequent puzzles to come. In one of the early areas you will encounter, two rows of puzzles of increasing complexity sit near each other. Earlier still, there is a door with a nonsensical-seeming, incomprehensible lock barring you from entry. After you complete the first row of puzzles, and then the second, you'll find that, "nothing actually happened. Nothing obvious," Blow said. In the first set of puzzles, you try to guide a line through a maze while covering all the black blips o screen before getting to the end. You can't run into yourself, so this gets more challenging. In the second set, you intuitively begin to realize you have to separate blips of different colors on your way to the maze's exit. Each set of puzzle starts out simple and gets more challenging. You can theoretically blow by the first few quickly and by luck, but you've not gained any understanding of how they work and would subsequently be stuck when solutions become less clear and less prone to guesswork. You're tasked with figuring out the rules of the puzzle and then applying them. While it seems nothing obvious has resulted from solving those two sets of puzzles, you've actually organically learned how to operate those puzzles and then, eureka, you've developed the skill set necessary to solve the aforementioned, seemingly incomprehensible puzzle that locks the door. "The key was in my head the entire time," Blow explained. It's a fascinating concept. The Witness bears similarities to adventure games, but the differences are paramount. It is entirely open and explorable, rather than linear. The puzzles are obviously present and divided into palpable sections, keeping the logic from spiraling out of control. "As a game designer who was ideas about games I look at [adventure games] now and just think they're all bad," Blow explained. When I asked him how he felt about comparisons to the well-known Myst, Blow told me that his game bore important similarities to Myst, minus all of the things people -- or Blow himself -- dislike about the game. The idea that solving puzzles can give you actual intuition -- a metaphorical key inside your head -- rather than a throwaway inventory item is an interesting refutation of cliche game mechanics and systems. It also seems emblematic of the general theme of The Witness as a game that encourages more consideration than is typical. The Witness is not, however, arcane or intentional obfuscating. Puzzles and other elements in the environment are constantly linked through cables that light up when active, keeping you from circling areas trying to figure out what you're supposed to do. You know: you're supposed to do the puzzles, and the game teaches you to do them. You're free to wander the island, but there is a goal that reveals itself clearly upon clearing the first of ten areas. Within these areas, progress is relatively linear, making you feel forward momentum, yet not locking you into a certain area if you're stuck. In fact, only seven of the ten areas need to be cleared, though "something better happens" if you clear all ten, solving all the puzzles. Your level of engagement decides how much you understand the game and its underlying intent, but Blow is "preparing for variable levels of engagement," partially through intuitive design. "When you go in, if you just are interested in a puzzle game and you're not really looking at story or philosophy or anything like that, there is a really good puzzle game," Jonathan Blow said here in this developer video. "But if you want to read further than that, there's other layers." I believe it. The puzzles we were shown were varied and clever, though often mechanically simple. One segment that necessitated completing three similar puzzles to continue made you start from the first if you messed up on the second. "You can't brute force it or you end up having to keep walking back and forth like an idiot," Blow explained. Every element of the game's design seems intricately considered to serve Blow's intentions (Blow "designed 95% of the puzzles" in addition to programming for the game and serving as its figurehead) and through this fastidiousness a plainly interesting puzzle game was borne for those only in it for the surface level. And it's a damn fine surface level. Beyond the puzzles, the game looks absolutely stunning with it's almost 3D vector art aesthetic and gorgeous cherry blossom trees, among other geography -- I'm a sucker for cherry blossoms. And I can't wait for The Witness.
The Witness preview photo
Bear witness
Braid creator Jonathan Blow's The Witness is probably my most anticipated PS4 game -- almost definitely among games that are coming to the system this year. It, in its own way, stole the show at Sony's PlayStation 4 announcem...

Terraria looks lovely on iOS, plays pretty solid

Jun 11 // Steven Hansen
I'm not sure how Terraria's core audience will feel about this reduction in time, but I loved it. The game is clearly being re-tooled with aware of the mobile mindset and I don't think the game suffers for allowing you to chop down trees a bit more quickly. A touchscreen joystick mapped to the bottom left handles locomotion. There is also an auto-jump for smaller ledges, though holding up on the joystick will elicit a higher jump should you want or need more control. Interaction is handled either by taps and holds on screen, or with the aid of a sort of universal action button mapped on the bottom left, which will automatically activate things like tools and weapons to work on objects in your vicinity. While mining deep in the earth I found the action button a little lacking, as it kept leaving forehead-high blocks in my path that I'd then have to manually clear by selecting them on screen before I could progress -- but otherwise it handled well, though I didn't do much combat. As a sidenote, Terraria is coming is Vita soon, too. Sony's portable might be better suited for the game, but I suppose if you don't have a Vita and need Terraria everywhere, then iOS could prove a decent option.
Terraria iOS photo
Just in case you need to mine on the go...and don't have a Vita
Indie, exploration-based Terraria has developed quite a following since its release and now it's making its way to iOS courtesy of 505 games, which handled its recent console release. Ideally, 505 would have liked all three (...

Watch Dogs app photo
Watch Dogs app

The Watch Dogs mobile app is really cool


Well, as cool as a companion app can ever be
Jun 11
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
We've talked about the Watch Dogs companion app a couple of times before. Basically it's a way for mobile users to directly interact with folks that are playing Watch Dogs on the PC or consoles. Well I've finally seen a demo ...
 photo

Assassin's Creed IV's companion app is pretty rad


Earn money on the go
Jun 10
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Did you play the Outer Ops missions in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker? It was a little meta-game thing that let you send your soldiers to take on various conflicts around the world. It was a risk/reward system, as you could g...
Plants vs. Zombies 2 photo
Plants vs. Zombies 2

Plants vs. Zombies 2 is about eating the best taco ever


It's About Time is literally about time
Jun 10
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
So remember in the first Plants vs. Zombies when you randomly found a taco? Crazy Dave immediately bought it off of you for 1,000 coins, and then he pocketed the taco to eat later. Well in Plants vs. Zombies 2, Crazy Dave fin...

Deus Ex: The Fall is a full-fledged experience

Jun 07 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Deus Ex: The Fall (Android, iOS)Developer: N-fusion, Square Enix Mobile EuropePublisher: Square EnixRelease: TBA (Android) / Summer 2013 (iOS) Storywise, The Fall picks up immediately after the events of the Deus Ex: Icarus Effect novel and continues the story of Ben Saxon, which is also taking place shortly after the attack on Sarif Industries during Human Revolution. Ben is part of the Tyrants initially, but doesn't stick with group for too long when he learns that they lied and tricked him into joining. Ben breaks away from them and hides out in Costa Rica to maintain a low cover. He's a cybernetically enhanced soldier though, and soon has to come out of hiding to find some neuropozyne as his body is rejecting the cyber implants. From here, Ben learns that there's a global shortage of the vital drug, and will go about unraveling the conspiracy surrounding all this that threatens the world over. [embed]255403:48955:0[/embed] The story should take you about five hours to complete from start to finish. Of course, this is a Deus Ex game and you'll want to replay thanks to all the options presented. You can play through the game action hero-like, or be a pacifistic throughout the entire thing and not kill a single person ever. Plus there's dialogue choices that opens and closes different paths of the branching story. There's up to 29 different weapons to find, with plenty of upgrades and attachments that can be placed on them. Plus of course you can upgrade Ben's skills, improving his combat, hacking, or stealth abilities. The inventory and store have been combined for mobile, so you can buy weapons, Praxis, and ammo whenever you want. While you will earn in-game credits, you can also spend real cash to accelerate your progress in purchasing weapons and the sort. That said, you never have to spend any cash outside the initial purchase of the game, and performing three playthroughs of the story (that features new game plus mode) will get you everything the game has to offer. As for the controls, given the limitations of touch screens. Movement happens via dual virtual thumbsticks (the virtual sticks can be shown or hidden) or you can use single and/or double tap to move through your environment. Tapping against walls will put you into cover, vaulting over objects replaces jumping, and you can either manually aim or tap to lock-on to targets to fire your weapons. Plus the takedowns -- lethal and non-lethal -- are all streamlined into the experience. Moving Ben around felt great, and the controls were very tight. At the end of the day, would I prefer a controller to play? Yes, of course, for any game. But for once I didn't mind using touch based inputs in an experience like this. The Fall really feels like it's capturing what we've come to expect out of the Deus Ex series. It looks great for being a mobile title (all things considered) and I was quite happy with the controls. The one thing that bugs me though is that you can't pick up a body after you've downed someone. Bodies will disappear after a while (GoldenEye 64 style), but guards and cameras can still see a body until it of course has finally vanished. I should note that this is the first installment of course, and the story will continue. Whether that means this is going to be episodic or a sequel will take place on a different platform remains to be seen though, as the developers were strictly focused on just talking about The Fall. Otherwise, this will be a nice treat for players on the mobile platform. I do hope the 3DS and PlayStation Vita will one day see The Fall as well. It would be great on those platforms, but I do also understand the reason for focusing on the mobile sector for now, as it reaches a humongous new userbase. 
Deus Ex: The Fall photo
Built from the ground up to be a true Deus Ex game
Deus Ex: The Fall is a the next entry to the much loved series, heading for iOS this summer, with an Android version coming sometime there after. This may not be what you asked for, but don't write it off either. Mobile games...

Watch Dogs multiplayer photo
Watch Dogs multiplayer

A little more on Watch Dogs' multiplayer offerings


Work with or against other players in Watch Dogs
May 10
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
First and foremost, Watch Dogs offers a full single-player experience that you can play offline. That said, I have no intentions of playing offline as the connected experience sounds very promising. Did you know we've actu...

Exploring the connected city of Chicago in Watch Dogs

May 10 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Watch_Dogs (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Next Xbox, PC, Wii U, iOS)Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft RomaniaPublisher: UbisoftRelease: November 19, 2013 (NA) / November 22, 2013 (EU) / November 21, 2013 (AUS) The team at Ubisoft started work on Watch Dogs over four years ago, and Dominic Guay, senior producer on the game, gave us some background info on how they came up with the concept. "We were inspired by how technology had changed the way we lived our lives," Dominic said. "How we were connecting with others -- with information, with work -- through computers but also smart phones. As we dug deeper into that vision we were interested in the vulnerabilities, the new types of flaws, and crimes, and hacks that were possible because of that. We continued to dig deeper and we finally discovered that we were gradually moving from smart phones, to smart cities. "Now smart cities are really happening in our world right now. Some are being built from the ground up in Asia, the Middle East, and in Europe. Even in established cities those technologies are being put in one step at a time, for good reasons. I mean if you think about it, city governments are the closest form of government for us to deliver most of the core services we need. Clean water, they gather our garbage, they give us electricity, transport systems, security -- all things we need and that we need to make efficient. Now they use technology and connectivity to do that, and in smart cities they start intertwining those networks to make them even more efficient." [embed]253434:48595:0[/embed] So with all that in mind, the developers wanted to ask players what if you had all of those systems right at your fingertips? What would you do with that sort of power? You as Aiden Pearce have access to such powers, and will use it get back at those that harmed his family. Aiden's number one goal is to get revenge, but Aiden will quickly find himself getting addicted to looking at people's life easily and covertly. You can spy on others via their webcam, listen in to people's phone calls, see text message conversations -- there is no such thing as privacy as far as Aiden is concerned. With such easy access then, the question becomes what do you do with these powers? You can help others in need, you can rob them blind, or you can even just ignore them completely. Watch Dogs is exploring morality here, but it's not just simply focusing on right and wrong. There's a lot of gray area too. "It's more your interpretation of the story that we want to change, then having like a black and a white ending," Dominic told me. "You know one is you become an angel, and the other one is you spend an eternity in hell [in other games]. That's interesting, possibly, but that's not really what we're exploring. "It's all going to be nuance, and how you perceive the story. Our creative director likes to say if you show a paining, two people can interpret it totally differently. Our hope is depending on how you play it and how we reflect your way of playing back to you, you will have a different interpretations of what just happened, and what was the actual story of Aiden Pierce. We think that's stronger than two different cinematics." In the demo, the player hacked into one of the free Wifi hotspots located around the city, and from there barged into someone's apartment via their laptop webcam. We could then see a guy and a woman sitting on a couch having a conversation. Aiden then jumped to a tablet nearer the couple for a better look, and from there you saw that the woman was actual a real doll. Something completely private was exposed to Aiden's prying eyes. It was here where the player could see the man's license plate info too, which you can take and trade to car robbers that would then allow you to get this guy's car for yourself. Later we saw Aiden intercept a text conversation where a guy was trying to track down someone that raped his wife. You go to where the rapist is in the city, and from a safe distance you can observe the two men have a confrontation. Do you interfere? The rapist is scum but does he deserve to die in a back-alley somewhere? It's up to you, and in this case you just sit back and watch the accused rapist get gunned down. Choices like this will be everywhere, and how you respond to them will actually affect your reputation with how the media and citizens of Chicago see you. You're a vigilante, and if the press and citizens are in favor of you, maybe they won't call the cops when they see you confront a target. Or maybe if they find your actions to be too violent then yeah, they'll probably call the cops. As a side note, if you see someone calling the cops you can totally go up to them, grab their phone, and smash it to the ground. Chicago is a smart, connected city in the world of Watch Dogs, and that's all thanks to ctOS, a computer system that controls and manages everything in the city. There are a number of ctOS operating centers that protect districts from hackers like Aiden, and while they're functioning you can't simply hack into systems or people's phones. You first need to infiltrate and insert a backdoor into the ctOS system before you can have fun with your abilities. Essentially, think of Far Cry 3's Outposts. You have to infiltrate your way into these buildings that are full of armed guards. You can go and take on guards with deadly force head on, or you can sneak your way in and avoid ever firing a bullet. You'll always have options when it comes to combat, but note there will be moments where you do have to kill others. These ctOS takeovers are all totally optional as well, as there are no specific missions telling you to take these over, but there are rewards for doing so. In the demo we saw Aiden hacks open the security gate, which lured a security guard out of view from other guards, thus letting you take him down with a quick choke hold. Later Aiden climbed to a roof, and opened fire onto guards on the ground. While the guards are shooting at you, you can jump into one of the cameras in the base and use it to see exactly where the enemy is positioned at, allowing you to then hop back to the action and throw a grenade with greater accuracy from cover. It's here we also saw that players can engage a meter that slows down the action, allowing you to lineup shots with greater accuracy. This can be employed while driving cars and boats as well. With the ctOS building taken over you now have everything under your control in the district. This opens various perks, including optional missions. ctOS can predict crimes, and you can go investigate suspicious events should you want to. All throughout the demo you can easily see people's private information as they pass by you. You can see people's names, their occupation, criminal records, income -- their lives are just as easy to access as everything else. It's quite eerie seeing such private info so easily, even if this is just a game. We passed one guy who had his bank account info tied to his phone, which Aiden promptly sucked away all his money for himself. Later in the demo Aiden is trying to buy some guns -- there's a wide variety of weapons from pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers, and more -- and while in the middle of purchasing a weapon the TV behind the counter lit up with a news alert warning citizens to look out for Aiden. The gunshop owner recognizes the photo on the screen, and immediately trips the silent alarm. Once the cops are called, they'll use the ctOS system to pinpoint the source of the crime in an area. You have a few moments to escape their search net, but if caught cops will be able to track you down. Like most other games, you'll lose the heat once you get far enough away from their search grid or break line of sight long enough. Your powers over the city work especially well in chase situations, as you can forcibly change traffic lighting, raise guards rails behind you, or enter private garages. You can easily take any car you want too as car locks are all electronic so no need to smash open windows. We didn't see a single mission from Watch Dogs yet there's so much to say. The overall mechanics from the cover system, to the climbing and free running look pretty fluid. There's an economy system where you can buy, sell and even craft items. You can acquire legal and illegal phone apps that allow you to do things like find out what song is playing that you can then add to your music player, to forcibly changing a song that's currently playing somewhere to something you enjoy instead. There's even augmented reality games you can play, with the one we saw having you shoot flying, retro looking alien bugs. Like real augmented games, the citizens of the world will look at you like you're crazy while you're shooting invisible things with your phone. There are leaderboards for these games where you can challenge your friends for the highest score too. There's so much to Watch Dogs, yet we've only scratched the surface. While I'm intrigued by the story, I think I'm looking more forward to just getting lost in this big brother take on Chicago. Check back later today for more coverage on how Ubisoft built a new game engine for Watch Dogs, and to get a taste of what they're planning for the multiplayer.
Explore in Watch Dogs photo
Everything can be hacked
Watch Dogs has been on everyone's radar ever since its surprise debut at E3 last year. It's an open world game, but what makes this one so unique is that you play as Aiden Pearce, an expert hacker who can control the connecte...

Three titles and 30,000 polygons later with Real Racing 3

Feb 18 // Keith Swiader
Real Racing 3 (iOS [previewed], Android)Developer: FiremonkeysPublisher: Electronic ArtsRelease Date: February 28, 2013 It's kind of a cross between ghost data and real-time multiplayer There's no real-time multiplayer in Real Racing 3; instead, you'll be racing and potentially besting the records of both your friends and random drivers worldwide. Real Racing 3's Time-Shifted Multiplayer works like this: you compete in a race, the game records your time and racing style from that race, that record then gets uploaded to Real Racing 3's servers and it appears on the devices of racers across the world for them to beat, with your avatar displayed above the vehicle.  "With ghost racing, it's a bit dry," programmer Ptolemy Oebrin said to Destructoid during a hands-on event. "It's just one time and there's usually nobody else on the track. You're just trying to beat the time and that's it." "The other alternative is real-time multiplayer where they're actually driving, but then you have to organize for them to be there, and that can be a pain. So we tried to combine the two by recording and uploading your friends' statistics to our server, and we can have our A.I. act like them and you're in the race with them. So it's kind of a cross between ghost data and real-time multiplayer." The recorded data won't be allowed to follow a simple, pre-determined line, though, as is the case with typical ghost racing. Statistically, the game will match the other players' time, but Oebrin explains that knocking them off the track and crashing into them will ultimately have a negative effect on their time, allowing you to overtake them. Linking Real Racing 3 with your Facebook or iOS' GameCenter will allow the game to pull in the data of your friends, at which point their avatars will pop up on events where they've bested you. If you happen to return the favor, they'll receive a push-notification on their device telling them so. It's a constant struggle for first place in Real Racing 3, one which will seemingly provide endless replay value for enthusiasts. "It's more personal than a simple ghost," Oebrin said. It's astounding to know that Real Racing 3 runs on mobile hardware The cars in which you'll be racing in Real Racing 3 are made up of 30,000 polygons, Oebrin said, which is roughly six times the amount that was found in Real Racing 2, and the same polygon count found in games on current-generation consoles. This attention to detail is prominently shown when in-game and panning around the cars off the track, as everything from the treads on the tires to the in-vehicle cockpit view are extremely detailed. It's astounding to know that Real Racing 3 runs on mobile hardware. These extreme details also come into play when the vehicles take damage, and a vast amount of it will negatively impact the car's performance. While you can go a few races with a smashed headlight, taking a head-on crash into a wall could prove to be less than useful when taking your machine out in another race. You'll need to regularly repair your vehicle in order to keep it in tip-top condition, as having extravagant damage can lead to decreased acceleration time or less-than-stellar brakes. In addition to physical damage, services including oil changes and brake repairs will also need to take place to ensure you're getting every ounce of possible horsepower out of your ride. These services will take longer to complete, but they also take longer to build up when compared to the constant physical damage your car will endure. During repairs, you can either leave your vehicle in the shop and continue to race with another ride -- if the repair happens to require a long time -- or you can pay a little more for insta-repair.  Unlike past entries, Real Racing 3 is a free-to-play title, though those willing to shell out the real-world cash can pay for faster upgrades and things of that ilk -- the usual method found in "freemium" titles. You don't need to pay a dime to get that Shelby Mustang, it's just going to take a little while to obtain the old-fashioned way with in-game currency. Real Racing 3 will see a worldwide release on Apple's App Store, Google's Play Store, and Amazon Marketplace on February 28. It will run on iPhone 4 and up, iPad 2 and up and the most recent Android devices, though Firemonkeys didn't confirm exactly which. 
Real Racing 3 preview photo
Firemonkeys talks Time-Shifted Multiplayer and the horsepower behind the game
Firemonkeys' Real Racing series is synonymous with mobile racing games, and the studio is poised for the worldwide release of the third installment, Real Racing 3, on iOS and Android devices later this month. Real Racing 3 wi...

The next Magicka is coming to tablets, and it's fun

Feb 05 // Fraser Brown
[embed]243975:46749[/embed] Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet (Android, iOS)Developer: LudosityPublisher: Paradox InteractiveRelease: Q1, 2013MSRP: $1.99 The core Magicka experience of combining and experimenting with often highly destructive spells while in a four-player party has been left completely intact in this tablet spin-off. At first glance, it certainly doesn't look very much like its predecessor, with the somewhat uninspired 2D cartoon aesthetic and lack of levels ripe for exploration, but it very quickly starts to feel exceedingly similar. After running through the single-player tutorial, I quickly got to grips with the touch controls, and actually found firing off spells and combining them to create new, more potent, arcane weapons of mass destruction to actually be slightly more intuitive than in the original game. The seven base spells are one short of the PC forebear. The arcane spell is no longer present, but has actually just been combined with the life spell. So, if you want to annihilate a foe with a toasty beam of fire, you select the fire spell, then the life spell, and voilà -- you've melted a monster. All of these spells are presented as large, obvious buttons at the bottom of the screen. Pressing one adds that spell to your wizard's spell combo, shown just above the character, and by touching anywhere else on the screen the spell is activated. And by activated I mean that it usually kills something. Frequently a friend. Select the fire and earth spells, and both of those icons will appear above your character, so you always know what's in your immediate loadout. Upon completing a level, the psychopathic wizards are awarded coins which can in turn be spent on items such as new staffs, robes, scrolls, and even familiars. The item descriptions are appropriately amusing and irreverent, and sometimes lampoon other games. I couldn't help but want the grisly chainsaw staff wielded by hairy men who like to kill things. Gears of War could probably do with an injection of magic. With my new double staff (sticking two staffs together is the tried-and-tested method for making things more awesome) and weird-looking froggy familiar, I joined my three companions in a co-op level. All levels can be played with chums and feature two difficulty levels. When asked which difficulty we'd like to choose, I immediately said "hard." I mean, we play games for a living, surely we could handle it. We were beset by all manner of beasties the moment we started, and within 10 seconds, I was a red smear on the ground. Freshly resurrected by another player, I opted for a more cautious approach. Another writer decided to act as the healer, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. 15 seconds later our healer was dead because I threw a flaming rock at his face.  Not only has team-killing returned in Wizards of the Square Tablet, if anything it's going to be a lot more common. For every monster slain, there was a sheepish apology as yet another wizard was frozen, set on fire, electrocuted, or pelted with rocks by an ally. The small, linear areas mean that there will rarely be a time when players aren't getting in each other's way. This is very much a feature, rather than poor level design. That said, the three levels I played through (including the tutorial) were rather lackluster. They were just straight, unobstructed paths with nothing in front or behind other than more enemies. These wandering, ravenous, blood-thirsty horrors are rather splendid, though, and do go a long way to make up for the slightly ho-hum areas. They all look a bit dorky and kooky, until they open their jaws and devour a hapless wizard or squash them under a large boot. Likewise, the wizards themselves have some great designs once some of the more outrageous robes have been unlocked. I'm still not sold on the overall look, but within it I found plenty to like. Getting from one level to another requires traversing the overworld map. Here I saw more branching paths, though it seemed more like a pretense of openness, as it's still quite linear in practice. However, the levels (represented as wee nodes) can be repeated to try and get higher scores, play with more people, or attempt a different difficulty. These friend-slaying, monster-exploding, staff-waving adventures are about 5-10 minutes long, and so don't present a real time-sink. This is definitely something to be played with on the bus, or, indeed, between summoning demons or stirring cauldrons.  Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet will be maintained, unfortunately, through micro-transactions. It seems to be the sad truth of many tablet games that folk simply don't see the point in paying traditional prices for a title they may only play between what are perceived as more robust experiences. It looks like you'll be able to spend real cash to get currency to spend in the shop, so hopefully the micro-transactions will merely exist to speed up the process of kitting one's wizard out in all the latest fashions. No word yet on how the cost of such things, though. The latest Magicka romp releases in a few weeks, so keep your eyes open for the release date -- no doubt we'll have it soon. I was pleasantly surprised by my hands-on time with Wizards of the Square Tablet, and while I don't see it gripping people in the same way that the original has, I suspect that it will be a welcome experience in Magicka fans' tablet library.
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A great way to lose friends using good old-fashioned magic
When Paradox Interactive CEO Fredrik Wester revealed the company's plans to expand into cross-platform multiplayer experiences last week at the Paradox Convention, I was extremely interested to see what the Swedish publisher ...

Preview: Borderlands Legends

Oct 26 // Steven Hansen
Borderlands Legends (iOS) Developer: 2k China Publisher: 2k Games Release: October 31, 2012 2k Games is riding the Borderlands popularity dune buggy, and what better way to continue to cash in and grow the brand than with an iOS title? Seriously, if you have any idea, leave them in the comments section. Until then, you get an iOS title coming from 2K China, which worked under the supervision of Gearbox to ensure that Borderlands Legends feels like a Borderlands game despite the drastic departure in genre. As you no doubt have gathered from looking at this article’s accompanying images, Borderlands Legends is not a first-person shooter in the vein of the series’ first two titles, though it does hark back to the original game quite often. For one, it has you play as the four characters from the first -- Lilith, Mordecai, and the two boring ones. And I mean it has you play as all four simultaneously, because Legends is isometric and more akin to real-time strategy than solo, first-person shooter play. Which is fine because I still struggle trying to play first-person shooters on tablets. Legends sets you off on randomly generated, objective-based missions in either a distinctly indoor region or a distinctly outdoor region. More diversity shows up in the randomly generated levels and various positioning of cover and other impediments. Each screen of the level throws waves of familiar enemies at you -- skags, psycho bandits, butt-vulnerable spider ants, and so on -- and you don’t necessarily know how long a level is going to last, though you can be sure missions will end with some sort of decidedly more climactic encounter, like boss fights against the Skag Rider, Crimson Lance Devastator, or Hellhound (a Cthulhu-ish kin of the first game’s tentacled Vault monster). Occasionally, there will be objectives on top of killing all of the things, like keeping safe a precocious Claptrap or collecting magazine crates during the fight (a stipulation that I failed to notice while I was busy killing the Crimson Lance Devastator). The gameplay is simple enough. You can tap and drag any of your four team members to situate them on the cozy battlefield -- you get a defense bonus if you nestle them next to cover, too. You can also tap your characters and then tap an enemy, causing them to take aim at said enemy and kill them with reckless abandon. It’s simple enough and mostly works, save for a few instances of my puppets not going exactly where I wanted and instead wandering about a bit haplessly, often running around cover as opposed to behind it, though this less than elegant management never put me at too much of a disadvantage. Action skills are also making a return, this time in threes. While you begin with one action skill unlocked, accruing enough skill points can unlock two additional action skills that just might prove helpful on the battlefield, while you can also invest skill points in your typical, more passive abilities like ones that increase health or damage output. Tapping any of the characters opens up a small dialog where you can choose between one of their three action skills to use. Additionally, the characters each have their own utility (Brick’s repairs shields, Mordecai’s grants more damage) that can be use on the character themselves or on one of their teammates for brief fits of advantage. It would not be Borderlands without the ability to buy more and more absurd weapons, and Legends offers on that front as well. I only collected money during my shooty bits, but in transition screens between one set of enemy waves and another, I was frequently whisked away to Marcus’ shop where I could buy new gear. In Legends, the four party characters are restricted to the types of weapons they excelled with in the first game, so the shop does well to order weapons based on who you’re buying for at any given moment, and there are easy to use comparisons between what you have equipped and what the shop is offering. The desire to tinker with equips and find that gun that has just a couple more points of stats -- those sweet, sweet green arrows! -- remains strong, and there are thousands of randomly generated weapons of varying rarity. While you’ll likely have all of your characters fully upgraded around level 35, enemies will continue to scale proportional to your level. Couple this with randomly generated levels and missions and you can theoretically play Borderlands Legends for ages, or at least until you get tired of slaughtering waves of things. The missions are contextualized with brief paragraphs telling you what to do, but they’re largely in disconnect and there’s no canonical link between Legends and the two console titles. I enjoyed the almost clerical bits of outfitting my homies with the best equipment, and navigating through touch-based menus is a lot easier than dealing with the console games’ UI, but the idea of slaughtering wave after wave doesn’t have too much appeal to me. I suppose that in short bursts it could prove a decent distraction for big Borderlands fans, though you’ll likely want to turn the sound off to avoid repeated, shrill death screams. I also sort of appreciate the fact that Legends won’t be employing any sort of micro transactions; it launches next week for $4.99 on iPhone and $6.99 on iPad.
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I'm tappin', I'm tappin'
If you followed Destructoid at all last month, you know that the site was pretty collectively excited about Borderlands 2. Of course, in the fast cars, loose joysticks world of videogames, a month ago is practically forever a...

Preview: Wizardlings

Oct 25 // Dale North
When an enemy (or multiple enemies) pop out of the shadows, a battle kicks off. This is a turn-based encounter that makes use of your spellbook. With the treasures and supplies found during exploration, you're able to use the spellbook to combine them to create magic spells that can be used in battle. In battle, brewing up a spell is as easy as touching one of the icons at the base of the battle screen. If you have enough resources, the spell is created. Another tap puts the spell to use. These are all based on elements, giving the battle system a rock-paper-scissors kind of feel. Finding more wands through exploration gives you access to more spell types, letting you take on even more monsters. These supplies, like ingredients and gems, are finite sources, so you'll want to go into battle stocked up, which means that you'll want to poke all of the little dark tiles. I realize that this doesn't sound very exciting on paper, but it is fun randomly finding treasures and enemies. Along with these found supplies you'll also uncover things like armor and accessories during exploration. Like any good RPG, you can equip and customize your character with them. All of my enemy encounters were more entertaining than challenging, but I could see that changing as the game progresses. Too easy? Maybe, but this is a casual game. And it could be that tapping dark tiles to make them light might not engage more hardcore gamers. If that's the case, this game probably won't satisfy your RPG itch. But, if you go in looking for something cute and simple, you'll have a good time with Wizardlings. Either way, I'll say that this game features what are probably the cutest enemies in an RPG ever. Overall, Wizardlings is very cute game with its deformed characters, cuddly-mean baddies, and vibrant world art. The floating land masses and their strong colors seemed to pop right off the iPad I was using to test out the game.  Wizardlings is a free-to-play iOS title, which means that there's a pay element built in. Mind you, that was never apparent in the time I spent with the game. What it boils down to is that uou can pay to acquire more resources instead of hunting them down. Square Enix tells us that everything you can buy can also be found, which is nice to hear. Wizardlings is available for iOS now on the App Store. Square Enix says that it will come to other mobile devices soon. 
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A cute, casual, tap movement RPG
I had a chance to check out Square Enix's casual iOS (and soon Android) RPG Wizardlings at New York Comic-Con a week or so back. It's a cute little title that has your hero or heroine moving to lift the darkness and push back...

TGS: Professor Layton's iOS debut isn't what you'd expect

Sep 20 // Allistair Pinsof
For better or worse, Level-5 is choosing to make an original Layton game for iOS rather than port one from the DS. This may be a bit misleading, however, since Mystery Room began as its own series in 2009, only to be rebranded as a Layton game. Nevertheless, the game is sticking close to what the series does well with a European art style, a soothing jazz soundtrack, and puzzles that are way too tough to solve in a language you don’t understand. Instead of following Hershel Layton, Mystery Room follows his sons and their apprentice (whom you choose out of two possible choices). The puzzles also seem to take a different approach. The demo contained a lengthy explanation of a murder scene followed by an interactive set where you turn and zoom in a camera to pick-up clues. This all feels like a natural adoption of iOS’s touch controls, but it’s kind of gimmicky and not nearly as engaging as a good riddle. It’s kind of too CSI: Layton Edition for my taste. Once you’ve gathered enough clues, you must decide which of the three suspects is guilty. I couldn’t follow the Japanese text, but I chose the fat, old lady because this is a Layton game. Naturally, I was correct. Mystery Room looks pretty sharp, but you won’t mistake it for a main entry Layton game, especially the upcoming 3DS that look stunning (previews to come!). The game lacks that warm, hand-drawn look and the style and sound of the game feels closer to late ‘70s (if that makes any sense). Maybe it’s a good thing that Level-5 is trying to branch off and make something new in the Layton universe with its iOS debut, but it’s hard to get too excited when we have much better-looking, better-playing Layton games on the way for 3DS. Mystery Room will be available for download September 21 in Japan, but there are currently no plans for a US release.
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The idea of developers dedicating resources to mobile versions of franchises is something I’ve long been against, but have slowly been warming up to. So, they might as well make something good. Layton Brothers: Myster...

Preview: The Banner Saga Factions

Sep 19 // Allistair Pinsof
The Banner Saga Factions (PC [previewed], Mac, iPad, Ouya)Publisher: Stoic Developer: StoicRelease: Early November If you followed, or perhaps supported, The Banner Saga during its Kickstarter phase, you are likely familiar with its lush, early-Disney-looking rotoscoped animation that brings the world of Norse mythology to life in a way we haven’t seen done before. You can almost fool yourself into believing that cancelled Warcraft adventure game came out when you gaze at it. What you likely don’t know is how it plays. Not to be confused with the single-player narrative promoted in the Kickstarter video, Banner Saga Factions is the multiplayer component of that game stripped out and repurposed as a free-to-play multiplayer game. While easing me into the battle grid at its office, Stoic was throwing Chess and Magic the Gathering comparisons willy-nilly. During their Kickstarter phase, I ridiculed them for having the tenacity -- as if a first-person shooter developer could compare its game to basketball because you aim and toss a projectile. But, the shoe sure does fit ... Okay, let’s keep this simple because it’s not going to stay that way for long. You form a team of six members, chosen from 16 classes, and try to survive against your opponent’s six combatants. That’s the game at its core. But, gosh, if it doesn’t feel that simple when you have your hand on the clicker. Players of strategy role-playing games will be familiar with the move restriction, player initiation that dictates the turn of each party member, and post-match leveling ability. However, facing (à la Final Fantasy Tactics) doesn’t factor into combat. You better compose your team wisely because they will become your greatest asset, whether you level them through renown points earned from defeating enemy troops or purchased for money online. Stoic will not lock players out of content through the pay model. Instead, paying will only get you to where you were going to anyway more quickly. Each of the 16 character classes has its own animation, unique look, stats, and passive ability. For example, Shieldbangers are large, defensive troops with a passive ability that allows them to counter attack when their armor is attacked. Archers, while defensively weak, do extra damage through puncturing enemies with low armor. It may be a lot to keep up with, but the game will ease you into the character classes with a starter group. From there, you can add more to your roster, switch some out, and eventually level them up to an advanced class. As you acquire renown, you can invest it into a character’s individual stats. However, each class has guidelines that keep you from turning your archer into a walking tank. For example, you may have 50 renown, but you can’t put more than six into your archer’s strength. Once you spend a set amount of renown in a character and level up their rank (maxing at five), you’ll be given the choice of three advanced classes that each offer a different active ability that range from area-of-effect attacks to defensive buffs that can change the tide of battle. The above is pretty standard fare, but it makes for a solid game. However, I’ve left out the two most radical things about combat for the sake of not drowning you, dear reader, in information overload. The Magic the Gathering comparison rears its head again through the unique damage system that ties health points to strength. In other words, a warrior with 12 health points has 12 strength as well but if you knock those health points down to four, he won’t be much of a threat. Sometimes, you’ll want to knock out an enemy’s armor first. Armor dictates not only how much damage your attack against their health/strength will do but also how likely it is to land. If you knock an enemy’s armor down at the start of a match, they may not be such a threat at the end when you are outnumbered. Though it sounds complicated and will likely remain complicated until experienced through multiple (failed) matches, this system opens the door to a deep level of strategy built around risk and reward. Every day, the developer is improving balance through its dedicated QA staff member, beta testers, and consultation from their friends at BioWare they left to make Banner Saga happen. Their goal is to not have a single team build dominate all others.Okay, bear with me as we go deeper down the rabbit hole. There is one last feature I must mention: Willpower. Willpower is a stat specific to each character that lets the unit do extra damage or movement  (some classes can do both) in a turn. However, it is a finite resource that doesn’t refill until a battle is over. This is when the chess comparison feels apt, since top-tier players will need to be mindful of their opponents’ positioning and willpower.  Perhaps a warrior can’t hurt your axeman from that distance with that much strength, but if the other player tosses in one willpower to move an extra square on the grid and an extra willpower for more damage, you may just lose your burly, bearded companion. In a nice touch, all the corpses remain spread out on the ground, serving as a constant reminder of the bloodshed that transpired -- not that there is any blood in this decidedly PG, Disney-inspired world. In between matches, you’ll return to your gorgeously rendered hub town, complete with some very eye-catching parallax scrolling. Here you’ll be able to upgrade troops, see your achievements, buy characters, and eventually purchase items that will provide a secondary ability in combat (though this feature may come in post-release patch). All of Factions’ characters, boards (of which there will be around eight at release), and assets are being borrowed from the to-be-released single-player retail game. Though Factions’ players will be able to play against Banner Saga Chapter 1’s players in 2013, they won’t have access to the 16 new character classes that release will introduce. In one of the more inspired uses of the Kickstarter platform, Stoic is including 2,000 banners made by backers in the game. These crests will be ways that players can identify themselves, but they can further customize them by displaying earned trophies they are proud of stitched beside their chosen crest. It’s kind of like apparel in free-to-play games, but, instead of saying “I paid this much for this,” you are telling players, “I EARNED this trophy so watch out!” It’s a really nice touch that makes achievements mean something to more than just the player earning them. Though Factions is merely a multiplayer offshoot of the single-player epic Stoic is creating, it certainly feels like a full game and one that the developer is confident in supporting as it releases its trilogy to downloadable services. With sound by the guys behind L.A. Noire, music from the composer of Journey, and painstakingly hand-drawn art by Powerhouse Animation (Epic Mickey 2), Banner Saga Factions is a game that feels, looks, and plays like no other turn-based game, least of all Chess or Checkers. Though this bite-size sampling of what’s to come may not be what backers wanted, it should tide them over until they get the main course in early 2013. Factions will be released for PC and Mac in early November, followed by releases on Linux, iPad, and Ouya. However, you can play the game early at Fantastic Arcade this weekend. A beta for backers will roll out soon after. Stoic is also considering giving the free-to-play game its own story mode in an update, but one step at a time. Though biting off more than they can chew and still managing to swallow is slowly becoming the norm for this young, ambitious developer.
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Somewhere between checkers and chess, the contemporary turn-based strategy game resides. Advance Wars, X-Com, Heroes of Might & Magic, and Fire Emblem are known by many, loved by some, and mastered by very few. Their i...

Preview: A quick look at Rayman Jungle Run

Sep 07 // Abel Girmay
Rayman Jungle Run (iPad)Developer: Ubisoft MontpellierPublisher: UbisoftRelease: September 20, 2012 Jungle Run takes more than a few cues from last year's Origins. If you saw it being played with no prior knowledge of what it was, you could believe someone telling you that these were lost levels from Origins. That's not all bad, though -- Rayman Origins was beloved for a number of reasons, many of which are present here. Starting with the visuals, Jungle Run looks gorgeous on an iPad. The colors pop beautifully, and the animations are as smooth and clean as they were in Origins. The smooth sidescrolling action of Origins also remains similar, but with a redone control scheme to fit the touch screen. To start each level, you simply hit the go button on the bottom left part of the screen, and Rayman runs continuously towards the right. To jump, simply the tap anywhere, and hold down if you want to glide. What you get is almost a blend of traditional sidescrolling, and endless action games like Temple Run. That said, the levels themselves aren't endless; Rayman Jungle Run features four worlds, a little less than half of what was in Rayman Origins. Having no control over Rayman's movements actually works out pretty well here. The platforming feels very smooth, if a little too choreographed due to the limited control, but the levels seemed to be designed around this. There was one level in particular that started off with a pressure pad that, when hit, would send Rayman back to the start of the level. With exact timing, it was easy enough to get over that hurdle, until I found the whole level was littered with these things. During a successful run, I was treated to the pretty sight of Rayman swinging through vines, gliding over lava pits, and bouncing off walls to collect every lum along the way. While I was admittedly tempted to call Jungle Run a basic auto-runner game at first sight, I felt no discernible loss in accomplishment. Replaying levels is a big part of the game, too. Like Origins before it, Jungle Run allows you to replay levels to collect more lums, find all the gold coins, and otherwise boost your score. However, in the levels we played, there only really felt like there was one path to total success, but figuring out that perfect route was another matter entirely. It does help that the levels feel shorter than what was in Origins. Since you have limited control of Rayman, missing that one jump or the perfect glide didn't feel as frustrating to me, since there wasn't a lot to replay. And if you're the competitive type, you will probably be inclined to replay anyway since all your times and scores are tracked and posted to online leaderboards. Essentially, yeah, this is a Rayman game on iOS as expected. Rayman Jungle Run really doesn't take any real risk or liberties with what Rayman Origins established, and for some, that's perfectly fine. If you are one of those people, then by all means keep your ear to the ground for this one.
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With the success of Rayman Origins and the much-anticipated release of Rayman Legends, Ubisoft's limbless hero is back in a big way. If you're a fan in need of more, the newly announced Rayman Jungle Run could do just that for you.

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Let me preface this by saying that I'm not 100% sure if there are already Pokemon-like games available on iOS or Android devices. I'd love to be told differently, but for now I'll tell you about ngmoco's Monster Tracker, the ...


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