You don’t get the show #4: I got your Pokemon right here


Pokemon Go has taken over and we discuss the dangers of it happening in Miami.

We also talk about the guy who impersonated an Apple employee and stole 19 Iphones, how the surrender button in League of Legends is driving J.A. crazy, how Katsuhiro Harada of Tekken 7 summoned a horde of SJW’s and a parrot that makes sex noises.

Oh, we also talk about games including Evolve going free to play, Final Fantasy getting released on Android and iOS and Starbound finally getting a release date!

Organ Trail: Director’s Cut (Multi-Platform)

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Just like in Oregon trail, things break on your station wagon, friends get hurt. They may get bit by a zombie and you may be forced to put them down, or they may get dysentary, or one of 9 other diseases, and if you don’t heal them with medkits they eventually die. ~Grace Snoke

Organ Trail: Director’s Cut

Published by: The Men Who Wear Many Hats

Available for: iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux and Steam

Reviews on: PC and Android Genre: Choose-your-own-adventure Zombie survival

Released: Jan. 10, 2013

Depending on your age, you may remember playing the Sierra Games classic, Oregon Trail, at school. If you were really lucky, and your parents had a lot of money, you got to play it on an Apple II at home. Personally, I remember playing the game a lot at school and only getting to the end once. It was a hard game filled with a lot of hard choices for a 10-year-old. But it’s a game we look back on fondly.

“NAME died of dysentery” is probably one of the most common quotes people give from the game.

If you miss the game, or just want to revisit the classic, you can download it and play it through Chrome here:http://www.virtualapple.org/oregontraildisk.html

Organ-trail

But if you want to see the modern take on the game, which is what this article is about, check out Organ Trail – a morbid twist on the iconic Oregon Trail game. Produced by The Men Who Wear Many Hats and released Jan. 10, 2013, the game is available for purchase, download and play via iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux and Steam. You can play a flash version of their game, for free, here:http://hatsproductions.com/organtrail.html

They describe the game as “a retro zombie survival game. Travel westward in a station wagon with 4 of your friends, scavenging for supplies and fending off the undead; Faithfully recreated it as if it were on the Apple 2. Packed full of zombie mechanics, themes and references; this is a must have for any zombie survival fans.”

I first encountered Organ Trail at PAX East 2012 when it was still in development and was enamoured with the idea and kept an eye on it as it developed. When Humble Bundle had it as a part of one of their Android bundles, I immediately picked up the bundle so i could play and test the game on multiple platforms. It’s rare that I get the opportunity to play games on more than one platform and see how they compare to each other.

Organ-trail

You start the game learning there has been a zombie apocalypse. You have to fight your way to safety. As you are fighting, you are joined by a priest named Clements. He rescues you and asks you if you know of anyone who would be handy in this situation. You and him talk and head to D.C. to pick up your friends…in a station wagon.

I won’t spoil the story too much, but Clements isn’t with you for long, but gives you his diary to help you out, explaining how much of what things you need. You and your party leave D.C. to head cross country with the supplies you’ve scavenged thus far. Just like in Oregon trail, things break on your station wagon, friends get hurt. They may get bit by a zombie and you may be forced to put them down, or they may get dysentary, or one of 9 other diseases, and if you don’t heal them with medkits they eventually die. As you travel from city to city, you have to scavenge for supplies such as food, ammo, fuel, money, medkits and car scraps and upgrades to survive. You can also buy, sell or trade for items at each town or rest stop. Pay close attention to the health of your car and your party members. Rest to heal, but know for each hour you rest you consume food. Repair your car when needed. You can even take on jobs at towns to earn money or parts.

Organ-trail

As you travel, you have to survive driving through a horde of zombies, being chased by zombie dogs and other animals or fighting off bikers and bandits. Factor in a day and night cycle and a weather system and the game becomes very interesting and challenging.

I have yet to reach the final location of the game on the West Coast on either PC or Android, but I have made it decently far before I died. The game creates a custom tombstone with a phrase of your choice when you die and your score can be posted to the leaderboards.

Gameplay: 8/10 for PC; 5 of 10 for Android
There is a huge difference in controls for this game depending on the platform it’s played on. For PC, the controls were great. You were able to aim your rifle with your mouse and move around better than when playing on Android. With Android, you can try to aim the rifle, but unless you are very accurate with your fingers and you don’t slip up, it’s hard to aim and hit the zombies coming after you.

Organ-trail

 

Graphics: 9/10 for both
If you keep in mind that the game is 16-bit and still looks good while being a stylized-retro game, you’ll understand why I rate the graphics 9/10. It’s not designed to look like a modern game. It’s designed to look like a late 80’s game and in that aspect they did extremely well.

Sound: 9/10
Also created in classic, retro tradition, the music fits the 16-bit game. If you’re interested in the game’s soundtrack, you can download all of the tracks, for free from here:http://hatsproductions.com/organtrailsoundtrack.html

Story: 8/10
The story is very simple, very easy to follow and in the same mindset of Oregon Trail. Long story short, you’re traveling West to escape the zombie apocalypse with your friends in a Station Wagon.

Organ-trail

 

Overall: 8.5/10
Packed full of zombie mechanics, themes, references and challenges, this is an extremely fun and frustrating retro zombie survival game. If you liked Oregon Trail as a kid, this is another game you would enjoy on any platform. If you want to test it out before you buy it, play the flash version linked above.

Disclaimer:  Author purchased the games through Humble Bundle and chose to review the game with her purchase.  No codes were given in exchange for review.

Samurai Shodown 2: Coming to Apple and Android Devices

samurai shodown 2 logo

Loved the series and love this announcement. Fans of the SNK classic fighter, Samurai Shodown 2 will now be able to play hit game on their Apple and Android devices. The game will feature all the weapon fighting fun you remember from the 90’s and will include support for Bluetooth controllers which is really good considering I never liked fighting games with the on screen directional pad. As of now there is no online play, but at least you do not have to wait long, the game will be released later this month.

Jet Set Radio

jet set radio

The beautifully designed, awesomely soundtracked game from the Sega Dreamcast is now only 99 cents on Google Play.  Originally released by Sega in 2000 the game features a gang of rebellious teens who skated around a beautifully cartoonish cell shaded town collecting spray cans to paint designated targets all while jamming to impressive beats.

jet set radio

All this holds up in the Android port however, what does not is the controls. Back on the Dreamcast it still took many a while to get used to the controls especially when preforming tricks to get to those hard to reach places. On the screen pad it is nearly impossible. Perhaps mobile gaming pros will have no issues, but if any game was made to go with a Bluetooth controller it is this one.

jet set radio

Another complaint is its size. At 1.3GB’s it can be a lot for people with smaller storage spaces and if your phone is kind of old there have been reports of crashes. If you have a newer phone then it isn’t an issue and with an external controller the game is just as fun as I remember.

So check it out for only 99 cents on Google play and rejoice in retro and classic gaming having a home on mobile devices.

Twonky Beam app review

Twonky beam app

Digital content can now be seamlessly streamed to your television set through your XBox 360 console using the Twonky Beam app for iOS and Android devices.

While the XBox 360 already has a variety of video and entertainment applications available, the Twonky Beam app provides the user a greater variety of options as easily as pressing the touch screen on their smartphone or tablet.

For this review the Twonky app was tested on an XBox 360 using a Samsung Galaxy tablet 10.1.

Twonky beam app

Using the Twonky app proved quick and easy, with nothing to press on the XBox 360 itself other than the power button. Upon opening the app, a menu with a variety of available content choices including YouTube, ESPN, Funny or Die, NASA, the White House and Vimeo came right up. No clutter or ads got in the way of simply clicking one of the many choices and getting straight to the content. Simply click the Beam button on your choice and it will begin play on the XBox 360 within one second.

In addition, users can surf other websites while using the app and also gain the option to beam video content embedded within those sites. This is an awesome concept for those times where you choose to surf the net from your smartphone or tablet and find an interesting piece of video content. A simple press of the beam button can send the video to that big television screen in your living room to enjoy in style.

Twonky beam app

The video quality of the beamed content was just as good as the content appears within the websites themselves. While using the app only a little buffering was apparent early on in some higher quality videos, but at a level far less than often encountered when playing content straight from the built-in XBox 360 applications. Each HD video used to test the application, once streaming on the television, was indistinguishable from broadcast quality programming.

The Twonky Beam app is free for download and when tested for this review did as advertised, managing to seamlessly stream quality video content from the tablet device to the television screen by way of the XBox 360 console. A highly recommended download to your smartphone or tablet, especially if you use them to surf the web and view video content.

Metal Slug 3

metal slug 3

Metal Slug 3 is at first deceptively slow but by no means easy. Certain levels have multiple paths you can take, affecting your mid-stage gameplay, though both paths lead to the same boss. Blasting through hoards of puking zombies makes the second mission particularly charming . If they land a hit you’re transformed into a slow-moving zombie yourself, reminiscent of the mummy affliction from MS2/X. Unlike the mummy, there is a definite upside to the zombie state. You maintain the use of your handgun and in lieu of bombs possess a graphic blood-vomit attack that spans the majority of the screen. Your movement is significantly affected however, so it isn’t prudent to intentionally afflict yourself with the zombie status…at least more than once.

metal slug 3
The third mission begins in a janky underwater area and the entire stage exemplifies the initial slow pace of MS3 in comparison to other titles in the series. The third mission’s boss is very easy and very generic, which does nothing to prepare you for the little stage of horrors that is the fourth mission. Our zombie friends are back, newly equipped with their own blood-vomit attack, along with Audrey-esque cannibalistic plants. This stage is hard, bloody, and will leave you begging for more.

Many people say Metal Slug 3 is the best game in the series, and I’d bet this is because of the final mission. Your initial character is kidnapped and you are automatically given the next in line from the Player Select Screen. You begin the stage in a vertical shmup setting, flying through asteroids and gunning down aliens. The 5th mission is the longest, most satisfying orgy of missiles and explosions this side of DoDonPachi. This stage feels like real Metal Slug with its fast-moving and detailed landscapes. Overall, MS3 epitomizes quarter-munching arcade fun, if you’re patient enough to hang on past the build-up of the first few levels.

Chrono Trigger comes to Android

Chrono Trigger - Android

Chrono Trigger comes to Android

The classic RPG Chrono Trigger is available now for the Android on the Google Play store for $9.99. Originally created by Yuji Horii and Akira Toriyama creators of Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball, this version will contain two additional areas found in the Nintendo DS version of the game.

Chrono Trigger - Android - Gameplay screenshot

Developed and published by Sqaure the story features a chance encounter amid the festivities of Guardia’s Millennial Fair in Leene Square and introduces our young hero, Crono, to a girl by the name of Marle.

Deciding to explore the fair together, the two soon find themselves at an exhibition of the Telepod, the latest invention by Crono’s longtime friend Lucca.

Chrono Trigger - Android - Gameplay screenshot

Marle, fearless and brimming with curiosity, volunteers to assist in a demonstration. An unanticipated malfunction, however, sends her hurtling through a rift in the dimensions.

Taking hold of the girl’s pendant, Crono bravely follows in pursuit. But the world into which he emerges is the one of four centuries before…

Journey to the forgotten past, the distant future, and even to the very End of Time. The epic quest to save a planet’s future makes history once again.

Chrono Trigger - Android - Gameplay screenshot

Game features include:

The Dimensional Vortex: A mysterious, ever-changing dungeon existing outside of space and time.

The Lost Sanctum: Enigmatic gates in prehistoric and medieval times will lead you to these forgotten chambers.

Intuitive touch screen controls make it easier than ever to navigate this vast world of adventure.

Chrono Trigger - Android - Gameplay screenshot

Graphics optimized especially for Android.

Combine the powers of your party members to unleash two- and three-person combos.

Over fifty combinations in all offer players numerous options and in-depth combat!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMy3M_vgDt4[/youtube]

Sonic CD

Sonic CD - Main Screen

Of course, this should’ve happened months ago but there are always things that come and go with our lives and other things. It’s finally here though and what better way to reach the one hundred mark than with an incredible game. A personal favorite if you ask me! Lets check Sonic CD out!

Sonic CD - Main Screen

The music of Sonic CD is something to admire. Not even the Sonic 3 soundtrack which was directed by Michael Jackson was good enough to surpass this. There might be different opinions on this matter but the fact is that this game has an incredible soundtrack! Don’t believe me? Just try it out for yourself!!

Sonic CD - Main Screen

The graphics are top notch for a 16 bit Sonic game. The game not only looks beautiful but it also has a 3D view at times especially when Sonic runs through some ramps. The angle switches and almost gives it a 3D look. There is plenty of color to see and lots of graphical beauties to admire. Well done Sega.

Sonic CD - Main Screen

What can you expect from a real good Sonic game? Great gameplay of course. The levels get challenging along the way but not too challenging to make you throw your controller against the wall. The levels stay fresh and offer new ideas which is why this has been one of the more enjoyable Sonic games ever released. You have to search for all the secrets and even try to acquire all the stones. Can you accomplish such tasks?

Sonic CD - Main Screen

The game has a great replay value. You can pick this game and beat it from start to finish and enjoy it every time. This is an example of why these games are referred to as “classics”. They are always a great experience to come back and challenge yourself over and over. Keep this one in your collection for sure!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDuk-wsY0rA[/youtube]

To conclude, the game is just a gem and probably one of the best Sonic games ever. After years of mediocre Sonic releases, we can always go back to this one and enjoy what Sonic was. Thank goodness for Sonic Generations reviving the franchise! Be sure to pick up Sonic CD to battle against Metal Sonic whenever you get a chance!! A must have!!

SNK Playmore releases the classic NeoGeo game Metal Slug 3 onto Android

metal slug 3

One of the most awesome series on the NeoGeo, Metal Slug now has one if it’s best sequels on the Android platform. A lot of us are excited to try out the classic shooter where you go up again evil armies of man and alien.

Here is the scoop on the release:

– 2 game modes to choose from: Mission and Arcade

– A whole lot more Slug vehicles to command. More than the original game had.

– Multiple paths and routes to the end of the game with the branching map system.

– Co-op gameplay available via Bluetooth

– Comes with OpenFeint Achievements and Player ranking

There is much more coming from SNK regarding the Metal Slug series so stay tuned. For now, you can pick this up for 6.99 on the Google Play Store.

X-Men for Android

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Right off the bat I loved that the game was polished a little extra for the HD screens found on many android phones. The game looks clean and clear while staying true to its classic roots. You can select from the same six members of the X-Men and their controls, moves and powers are all the same. ~J.A. Laraque

X-Men for Android

If you were an arcade gamer in the 90’s there is no doubt you played the awesome X-Men game by Konami. Released in 1992 there were two main versions of the arcade cabinet, the small two-player version and the massive six-player version. Obviously, the six-player version was the best allowing the full team to battle against Magneto and his evil mutants.

X-Men-Android-Gameplay-screenshot

Now you can play this classic on your android. Here is the official description from Google Play:

Experience the classic 1992 X-Men arcade game on the go! Choose from some of your favorite classic X-Men characters including Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, or Dazzler. Fight your way through hundreds of Sentinels and battle classic super villains such as Pyro, The Blob, Wendigo, Nimrod, The White Queen, Juggernaut, Mystique and the Master of Magnetism himself, Magneto!

-Battle evil with up to 4 of your friends using the multi-player feature over WiFi!!

-Open Feint integrated with both leaderboards and achievements! Challenge your friends!

X-Men-Android-Gameplay-screenshot

Right off the bat I loved that the game was polished a little extra for the HD screens found on many android phones. The game looks clean and clear while staying true to its classic roots. You can select from the same six members of the X-Men and their controls, moves and powers are all the same.

X-Men-Android-Gameplay-screenshot

The joystick is not as good as I would like, but those used to playing with touch pad controls will not have too much of an issue. The video and sound is the same as the arcade cabinet and there is Wi-Fi multiplayer as well as leaderboards, however, you have to use Open Feint, which I do not care for. In addition, there is no cross-platform multiplayer so no playing with your Apple friends.

Overall, for only 99 cents on Google Play, X-Men is worth a pick up for any retro gaming fan.

Thanks to Pixel Freak for the video review.

Battle Squadron ONE

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot - Cover

Mobile gaming has not only added new gamers to our world, but also allowed classic games to have yet another platform to be played one. When I first began playing mobile games, I always thought it would be the perfect place for retro games to be played since it would not require much in the way of system resources. Battle Squadron ONE is one of those games that translates well onto the mobile platform giving gamers a great classic game to enjoy on their Apple or Android device.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v22jB0l1osY[/youtube]

Battle Squadron was a top down shooter developed by Cope-Com and published by Innerprise and EA for the Amiga computer and later for the Sega Genesis. This version stays true to the retro feel of the game with its classic sound and graphics, but it looks very good and clean on a mobile phone, which is important since you have so much going on and various attacks being flung at you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v22jB0l1osY

The plot and gameplay is classic greatness, your commanders were kidnapped and you have to rescue them by going into the enemy’s base and destroying everything. Oh, did I mention the base is the size of a planet?  The game starts off by tossing you right into the fray and you soon realize you need more than your standard gun to take out the hordes of enemies on the screen. You can upgrade your weapon by collecting the cubes dropped by defeated enemies which makes the game much easier especially with the spread shot and if all else fails you have your bombs which creates an area effect pulse of destruction that takes all enemies near you out.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot - 2

Level design stays true to its retro roots where instead of having a stage and a boss and then a new level you instead have a “master stage” where you take out the enemy and then come upon a large crater in the planet. It is at this point you can enter the next stage, or you can continue on. Now if you did not purchase all the levels you will not be able to continue, but you can play the master level over and over. There are also bosses in the game and some levels have two bosses.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot

The graphics as said feel like the classic version of the game and the sound is direct from the Amiga version. The controls are easy to use and can be switched between the standard touch and drag controls with onscreen buttons or an analog slider, you can even use motion controls, but I liked those the least. In multiplayer mode, you play using a split screen, which on smaller phones can be a bit difficult, but on a larger device, like the iPad, it works very well.

Overall, Battle Squadron One brings true classic gaming to smart phones and should be in any retro gamers collection. We give this game a 9 out of 10. You can find the App Store and Android version of the game here.

iCade 8-Bitty

iCade 8-Bitty

ICade has been pretty awesome at creating retro gaming hardware that you can use in conjunction with your iPad, iPhone and Android device to play retro video games pretty much anywhere. Check out our first look at the iCade arcade cabinet from CES 2011.

Recently iCade released their 8-Bitty, a retro gamepad that looks and feels like the classic NES game pad. The device is wireless and uses blue-tooth connectivity allowing you to pair your pad with your Apple or Android device. The pad features four buttons and the classic D-Pad and it fits in your pocket. The 8-bitty runs on two AAA batteries and has a power saver mode so you are not always replacing them.

Now the pad will work with all iCade games and comes with the Atari Greatest Hits app, which features over 100 games, however you only get Missile Command for free, but can purchase all 100 games for $14.99.

We hope to bring you a hands on review soon, in the meantime check out the product page here.

King of Fighters on the Android

Fans of the classic SNK fighting game, King of Fighters will not be able to take the battle mobile with the release of the Android version of the classic arcade hit. Here is the scoop from the official press release.

King of Fighters - Android

Game features

Enjoy the complete KOF experience on your Android devices!

From art direction to gameplay, THE KING OF FIGHTERS Android brings the complete KOF experience to the Android platforms. The gorgeous graphics of the world-famous fighting series have been faithfully recreated, taking full advantage of the latest Android hardware. The use of the Virtual Pad/Joystick perfectly reproduces KOF’s controls, creating a simple, user-friendly play-style to easily perform special moves and combinations.

Five modes of gameplay!

“THE KING OF FIGHTERS Android” features five game modes: “Team Battle” for classic KOF 3-on-3 battles, “Single Battle” for 1-on-1 fights, “Endless” mode for an endurance challenge with just one life, “Challenge” mode where players needs to complete a variety of character-specific tasks, and “Training” mode where players can practice the Virtual Pad-based controls and learn combos.

20 legendary fighters battle for glory!

The formidable roster of “THE KING OF FIGHTERS Android” features 20 classic characters, including Kyo Kusanagi, K’, Ash Crimson, and Billy Kane!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1AzHC_PO1k[/youtube]

Unlock trading cards, illustrations and other bonus content!

Various bonus content can be unlocked during gameplay and viewed within the game’s “Gallery” mode. Here players will find premium trading cards based on original SNK PLAYMORE illustrations, various art and rough sketches of KOF characters, KOF Team novel stories from the THE KING OF FIGHTERS XIII and many more hidden treasures that fans can’t afford to miss!

The game can be downloaded through the Android™ Game Platform G-Gee at

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ggee.vividruntime.gg_1403

Angry Birds

Angry Birds - Mobile Games - Gameplay Screenshot

Angry Birds (2010)
By: Rovio  Genre: Puzzle  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android  First Day Score: 108,400 (single stage best)
Also Available For: PC (forthcoming), iPhone/iPod, Symbian

You know, the progress of mobile communication technology really has been remarkable. After many years of refusal to conform, I finally had to yield and buy my first mobile phone, and even to this day I’m only on my third phone. I had no intention of ever using any of them to play videogames and, were it not for a quirk of fate, I’d still be using my second phone and continuing to not play games on it! Through much of this time, however, I had been watching, with a certain degree of envy, admittedly, the evolution of the iPhone as a legitimate gaming platform, yet no single game tempted me enough to take the plunge. Until this one.

Angry Birds - Mobile Games - Gameplay Screenshot

Actually that’s not true. I still don’t own an iPhone, despite trying to get one almost purely to play this. I knew from the first moment I saw a shot of this that I wanted to play it, so I found it frustrating that I was apparently unable to. Then, with the aforementioned quirk of fate, my phone was broken. Since it was too old to be fixed or replaced, I was instead given a state-of-the-art (for about five minutes) Android phone for which I found out Angry Birds was due for release. Hooray! Even better, when I was finally able to download it, it was free! This in itself made me very happy, but after all this waiting, was the game actually any good, or had I built it up so much for myself that I was in for a disappointment?
Like most puzzle games, the concept behind Angry Birds is a simple one which doesn’t really need a detailed backstory. Suffice to say, some evil (and for some reason, green) pigs have stolen the eggs belonging to a group of birds. This has understandably made the birds angry who have decided to channel their anger into a direct assault on the pigs who have barricaded themselves in and around various strongholds. It is then your job to launch the birds at the pigs using a large slingshot with the eventual aim of defeating them and reclaiming the treasured eggs. This is achieved either by direct contact, or by causing nearby structures to collapse onto them. Those pesky pigs have built some elaborate defenses though, so it won’t be easy!

Angry Birds - Mobile Games - Gameplay Screenshot
According to the walkthough on the Rovio website, the game consists of five ‘themes’ each comprising of twenty-one levels, but there have been other sets of levels made available to download so the exact number is hard to say, but it’s a lot! Each one features a pig, or pigs, on the right of the level and your slingshot and quota of birds on the left, and there’s usually various obstacles between the two. The structures the pigs are usually protected by are made of glass, wood, or stone, each of which is obviously progressively harder to break through, and are more often than not made of strategic combinations of several materials. To break down/through these structures you have six different types of bird at your disposal.

Angry Birds - Mobile Games - Gameplay Screenshot
The first bird you’ll use is the red one which is a tough sonuvvabitch but doesn’t really do much beyond collide with whatever you fire it at. Next up is the smaller blue bird which will split into three separate birds in mid-air when you touch the screen. After this helpful fellow you’ll encounter the yellow, and possibly angriest of all the birds. A tap of the screen while he’s in flight will see him increase in speed and plummet kamikaze-style in a straight line, causing greater damage. Next is the heavy black bird who self-destructs in a powerful explosion after he makes contact with any structure. Soon after him you’ll meet the white bird who, with a tap of the screen, will drop an egg bomb. Last but not least is the green bird who can reverse his course in mid-air. Each level gives you a pre-set quota of these birds that you can use to defeat all the pigs on that level, and careful planning is needed to make best use of their abilities.

Angry Birds - Mobile Games - Gameplay Screenshot

The pigs have a few tricks up their sleeves too though. The smaller ones barely need a touch to be defeated, but the larger ones are tougher, some of whom are equipped with helmets and armour! Some are so tough you’ll need help to best them. There are often strategically positioned rocks or other objects, for example, which, with a well-placed bird strike, can fall and cause an extensive chain-reaction of destruction. Some levels even have carefully placed boxes of TNT which can be ignited with the strike of either a bird or object of any other kind. The pigs don’t seem to care though, and sit there looking at you, blinking, sometimes grunting, and laughing when your attempts to reach them fail! Completed levels will give you a Star Rating out of three depending on your points, which can be earned for destruction of structures as well as a 10,000 point bonus for any unused birds.

Angry Birds - Mobile Games - Gameplay Screenshot
The first thing I noticed about Angry Birds is how slickly presented everything is. You can breeze through all the menu screens and suchlike in a flash, which might not sound like much but it really is a breath of fresh air, with many games these days, mobile or otherwise, having clumsy interfaces and long loading times. Here, if you fluff up a level, two touches of the screen and a similar number of seconds later and you’ll have restarted it! The visual style used here appeals to me a great deal too. Whilst obviously far from the pinnacle of modern technology, it suits the game perfectly and is very easy on the eye. There’s even some amusing cut-scenes! Whilst there’s no in-game music, the sound is also of a decent quality, with many amusing sound effects befitting the style of the game, and several catchy tunes and ditties on the various screens between levels. All the flashy front-ends in the world can’t disguise a sucky game, but luckily Angry Birds is anything but that.

Angry Birds - Mobile Games - Gameplay Screenshot
The best games on a platform as limited as a mobile phone are ones creatively programmed to make the best use of its unique features, and it’s here that Angry Birds excels. The game was created originally for the iPhone but, since Android devices use near-enough identical technology, it works just as well here. The touch-screen controls are simple and precise and I don’t think it’s possible for the game to work any better. The physics are spot-on too, with partial destruction of some structures leaving the remains teetering and swaying, sometimes taking thirty seconds or more to finally collapse. This is one of those games that you can play for five minutes but often end up playing for hours on end, constantly adjusting your birds trajectory until you get exactly the shot (and ensuing destruction) you want! Even if you manage to finish all the levels on offer, there’s still the challenge of achieving a three star rating for each of them. Angry Birds is such a simple concept but it’s supremely playable and unbelievably addictive. I guess I’m a bit of a sucker for these silly games – I was exactly the same with LocoRoco for the PSP – but everyone should at least give this one a try. Android owners don’t even need to pay for the privilege. Ready. Aim. Fire!

Angry Birds - Mobile Games - Gameplay Screenshot -

RKS Score: 9/10

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNNzRyd1xz0[/youtube]

Retro King Simon is a 36 year old guy from England, and likes lots of stuff, including retro videogames, movies, and anime. You can check out his blog here – Red Parsley.

Evolution: Indie development in Russia and one company’s transition to the U.S.

The year 2011 – the year of hopes – is coming to its end and it is time to sum up the results. It is about six years of own game projects’ development and 11 years in the gaming industry. Next year means new goals!  For sure, they will be more ambitious than those in 2007, when the idea of Deep Black project was only emerging.

deep black

What was it like?

In the far 1997, when I was 18, I first saw PlayStation console.  I worked for a company that was doing semi-legal localisation of gaming software at those “wild” times in Russia. Working for the company was something beyond description – there were not more than 3 similar companies in whole Russia at that time.  I was very interested in software development and it took me three months to do first “game” that would successfully run on a modded PS1 console. That game earned me 1000 USD, which was very decent pay at that time in Russia – taking into account that I did both programming and drawing.

Starting with 1999, I worked as a producer of western products in the Russian market. It was easier, than developing games myself. My core tasks were to find indie games developed on GNU and buy them to publish in Russia. Indie developers were surprised, that they could earn some money in Russia.  Later there were Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox and much more game systems.  Semi-legal companies would become legal or disappear, owners of companies would change, but the localisation issue was still important. A DVD-format came to Russia.

biart_logo

It was in 2002 when I decided to set up my own company – Biart.  A first version of the company’s logo was introduced and then changed in 5 years’ time.  We were a young team and didn’t think about business-strategies – things were going well anyway. So we started experiments with design, internet services, opened three sound-recording studios and two authoring studios.  And  I hoped  that one day we would  have enough potential to develop own gaming project. So why didn’t we start developing our own game at that time? It was because we understood that we didn’t know the market well.  Besides, we felt that everything had its time. You cannot force yourself.

In 2005, I met an indie developer with an interesting concept and as I also had similar ideas, I decided to make it a commercial project.  So I made up my mind to go into the project and started searching for a script writer, team, and product placement partners etc. We had a small office and some money to finance the development. The development took us a year. We worked hard and devoted our souls and hearts to our work.

So in 2007 Diver: Deep Water Adventures appeared on PC platform. Deals were good at that time and we decided not to play with royalties and prefer a flat fee scheme. Publishers were more adequate then compared to the period after the economic crisis. Publishers were hungry for games.

But our German publisher cheated us and we did not get the last payment from them. It was a guy from Gost Publishing who sold rights to Frogster without paying to the U.S. No need to say that Frogster assured us that they had paid it all. Stephane Gonod – the guy from Gost Publishing – disappeared and half a year later announced himself bankrupt. It is funny that a year ago he set up a new company in cooperation with an ex-Frogster employee and when we accidentally met at a conference, his only words were “Shit happens”. God will judge him.

So the project was released and there was a question – what’s next? I always strive to set new, more complicated goals, so development for PC was not so challenging for me anymore. Everybody was talking about game consoles and I realized that we should slow down with Diver 2 for a few years and devote ourselves to own multiple platform technology’s development.  And accordingly, our new goal was now to create own engine for next-gen titles. I sent an inquiry to Microsoft and a miracle happened – we got a status of an official developer! Thank you guys, if not for you, we would most definitely remain one of those numerous PC-only developers from Russia. So I was one of the first who brought Xbox 360 devkit to Moscow. It was not easy at all to deal with the Russian customs, but once again, thank you to our account manager – Alistair, you are the best!

There was another challenging task – where do we get people and how do we get a team if nobody in Russia can program for consoles, optimise the code and – most crucial – artists do content of very low quality level.  But as they say, believe and love what you do and you will find people who will believe in you and in your project.  Another hint – feel and understand who you are going to employ, for someone without experience is able to learn and the other is only going to “eat” your budget.  Speaking of numbers – it took us a year to experiment with staff and content. The real development itself started in late 2008 – 2009, when the team got skilled enough.

PS3-Deep-Black

The project’s original title was U-Wars. Later we renamed it to Deep Black. Platforms – PC and Xbox 360. It is a third-person shooter with key moments being fought onshore and underwater. Special underwater mechanics, jet pack etc.  The idea of the game appeared after I read various articles about special underwater operation forces. We started doing a game about these Special Forces but then I changed my mind and we did it in the sci-fi genre, abandoning the previous script.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FPSF8-d28Q[/youtube]

The period of active development of the game was 2010. At the same time, we went into agreements with publishers and started working on PlayStation 3 version of the game. It was not easy, but for sure it was a challenge for the team!

2011 is a year of the technology’s optimisation and content polishing. And now I am going to tell you about all drawbacks we had. I think this may be interesting.

  1. Content

We replaced our game designer three times. There are no experienced game designers in Russia, who know how to do shooters. In 2011, I took over and we spent the entire summer polishing and balancing the game.

We should have done feature cuts earlier. It hurt to cut when we had to do it later. Still even after the cut there were 10 hours of gameplay there. We also cut some game mechanics. Gradually you come to understand that it is better to do less but in decent quality.

The pipeline settled by the development’s final stage. I relied upon level designers’ common sense and some of them were wrong when incorrectly putting emphasis in level design.  For instance, level designers used to pay too much attention to places; a regular player would run by within three seconds and would not notice.

Our major problem was that we lacked experience. As a result, too many iterations.  If I started the project now, I could economize not less than 1.5M USD (total to-date budget 4.2M). The pipeline and exact task setting – this is what counts. When you feel that your ship is going in the wrong direction, do not be afraid to change your staff. I said good-bye to those who didn’t match our dream team in 2011. If you are an indie, fire those who only work for their salaries and who do not go with the level of your team.

  1. Technology

First, there was weak understanding of the architecture and some mistakes of the lead programmer.  Let me put it like this: we were unlucky with our technical architect and had to re-do the technology three times before we dismissed him.  Integration of new features to the render was changing the pipeline in terms of art. As said above, it took us one year to experiment with the technology and develop first toolset. To me, it was like a joker in the pack – the arts and programming departments would set some terms, but in reality it appeared that nobody had control of the situation. Difficult? It was. Especially when you invest your own money. And your employees do like to experiment 🙂 As a result – we finally got a working technology for Xbox 360 and PC in 2010… But our publisher then wanted PlayStation 3. I have to admit that we were afraid of it. And not in vain.

At that moment we had strong guys in our team and decided that we could do it. We got the hardware in August. And we realized that we had to do the impossible – once again re-write the whole architecture of the render and do refactoring of the engine, as our engine was not ready for PS3 architecture. And in October we had to show the Playable to the publisher.

Gritting their teeth, guys got down to work and analysed the entire code in every detail.  The publisher waited patiently for something playable for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I, as a producer, had to look into it too – it was a serious step to do considerable refactoring of the code. But I trusted the guys and they did it.

biengine

At the same time, we provided for the possibility of the engine to easily add new platforms, as well as mobile platforms. The previous code was designed for Xbox 360 and DirectX. The new one became a real engine. Within three months a playable for PS3 was available. …. But how slow it was! 🙂

In 2011, while doing a team test and fixing multiplayer for Xbox Live and PSN, programmers were focused on optimisation of the engine code and PS3 render. Numbers? Ok! We raised these two-three times for Xbox and four times for PSP! We had 25-35 fps on PS3 without Cell optimisation.   At the final stage of development. We even used to joke about Stereo, but had already dealt with feature cut and knew the importance of total concentration on our tasks.

We reduced our staff by middle of 2011 and left only key people. It was clear now that it was not enough to do a game and fix critical bugs. One has to pass certification! And, let me tell you, this depends on the quality of testing. It is tough, as you start finding weak points in the code, when something hasn’t been considered well.  And at the same time, you keep on spending your money… And you do postpone your other projects. We had a three month delay and moved release date. Very hard times…

On the whole, the project lasted a year longer than planned. On the one hand, it was due to PlayStations 3 porting, on the other though, because of overestimation  of own abilities.

What now?

We started developing concepts of two new projects in mid-2011 and are planning to release Depth Hunter game about underwater hunting and treasure hunting  by December, 2011.  It will be released for mobile platforms later. Yes! We are indeed developing a version of our technology for mobile platforms – IOS, Android.

And Deep Black is going to become MMOTPS. We are going to launch it as a Free-to-Play by the end of next year. Depth Hunter for mobile is going to be Free-to-Play too. We are eager to work on free-to-play for consoles. I do believe that this is going to be of top interest in 2012-2013.

We have registered an office in the USA (Delaware) this year. So far it is our legal HQ, but we are looking forward to getting money for Deep Black to move to the USA. Unfortunately our business is in Russia and it is getting more difficult to search for investments here, in Russia. Unreasonable loan terms and local investors who are eager to get a controlling interest at once make it challenging to do business in Russia.

The political situation in Russia is not predictable too. People talk a lot about it and do not trust the government. Guys, we do want to work and develop games, rather than wait for another revolution!

A Russian Association of Game Developers and Publishers of Game Industry and Interactive Technologies (http://www.radit.ru/) was set up in 2010 by a number of Russian companies. We were trying to promote development of simulator games and gain support to develop an equivalent of, for example, “Canada” in Russia.  But in our country you can only do business if you pay bribes. I spent two years and a lot of money trying to change things. I have held two conferences ACGI (2009, 2010, http://www.acgirussia.com/), but soon realised that they do not need us. I have no intention to have anything in common with the current authorities any more.

So at the moment I am busy transferring our contracts and licenses to the US, dealing with registration issues and searching for investors/ partners for a long-term cooperation.

We have always tried to develop not only original and quality games, but also high-tech games. I think that we have coped with our task in 2011. I am sure that we will cope with our new challenge – move to the US – in 2012.

Six years after the company set-up, we are facing a new stage of the company development. I am sure that the upcoming 2012 will bring success to all our games!

Konstantin Popov

Founder & CEO of Biart Company

R-Type available today for Android devices

r-type

Fans of classic space shooters rejoice because R-Type is coming to your Android phone starting today from DotEmu.

Pilot the R-9a Arrowhead, the last hope of human race in its war against alien invader! Your mission is clear but not so easy: blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire!

Initially developed and published by Irem in 1987, R-Type has become an essential game on arcade cabinet, Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Commodore 64 and PC. Today this masterpiece is ported and published for Android devices by DotEmu SAS.

R-Type for Android is a real diving in your youth and will include all the features you enjoyed in the original game:

  • A large amount of items and powers-up to collect through various and sharpened sets.
  • Strong enemies and bosses at the end of each level (8 altogether).
  • The famous « charge shot » for more power!
  • Share your results with your friends with OpenFeint!

R-Type for Android will come along two difficulty modes and a new intuitive control system – full touch mode – to directly control your spaceship. Get your hand on a real blast from the past and (re)discover all the hype from the 80’s!

R-Type for Android is compatible with devices running on OS 2.1+ and with a screen resolution of 480×320 HVGA or above. Supported devices will include Samsung Galaxy S / Google Nexus S, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.

Also great news for fans, R-Type Android is officially Xperia PLAY optimized providing the best user experience!

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMlrLbxywGU[/youtube]

R-Type Android is now available for $2.99
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.dotemu.rtype
And soon for Amazon Appstore.

Sonic CD: Coming Soon

sonic cd logo

Fans of the classic Sega CD game will soon have the chance to play Sonic CD on Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network, iPhone and iPod touch, iPad, PC Digital Download, Android, and Windows Phone. The release will feature the original Japanese soundtrack and is set to be released in late 2011, most likely right in time for the holidays.

sonic cd

Following the classic story of the original, Sonic CD sees Dr Eggman plan to cause chaos and take control of the future by stealing Time Stones from the Little Planet. Sonic must speed through levels and travel through time while fending off Eggman’s robots to recover the Time Stones, and save Amy Rose from his mechanical twin, Metal Sonic! This fast-paced game will return with brand new features including enhanced widescreen graphics, special iOS features, Xbox LIVE Achievements, PSN Trophies, PC Achievements and more.

POD: Crystal Defenders

Crystal Defenders Logo
Crystal Defenders Logo

Crystal Defenders is the tower defense game based on the Final Fantasy Tactics series from Square Enix. The game is very fun and easy to learn. In a nutshell, monsters will come in through one area and make their way down a set path. You job is to place characters along the side of the path to kill the monsters before they reach your crystal. You can place characters that do damage or slow the monsters among other things and you can pause the game in order to plan your defense.

The game itself has been on mobile phones for a few years now and was ported over to the PS3 and Xbox 360. Now the game is available for Android users. CRYSTAL DEFENDERS for Android will have two versions: W1, an introduction of the game, and W2, in which players can utilize the Power Crystal feature to play more strategically.

The cost of the game will be between seven and ten dollars. The pictures below are from the Ps3.

Ten Questions with Envizions

Gamebox logo
Gamebox logo

Envizions

If you need more proof that mobile gaming is becoming a large part of the gaming industry, look no further than all the innovations being released for the Android mobile platform. Gamebox is one of those newest innovations, created by Envizions it allows gamers to back-up and store their games. Not only can you store you mobile gaming save states, but you can also back-up documents, videos and music.

In order to bring you more information on this new product Obsolete Gamer conducted an interview for our Ten Questions segment.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you start with telling us a little bit about Envizions as a company?

I started Envizions in 2004. I along with four co-workers pooled our money together to self fund the company. The EVO console created such an amazing buzz that it excited new co-workers and each person pooled $5 per week to fund the company.

Obsolete Gamer: In a nutshell what is the Gamebox?

GameBox is a back-up storage for games, but can also be used to back-up documents, videos, and music.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the EVO beta market study and what did you learn from it?

We learned that we were ahead of our time with in terms of utilizing technology like voice recognition, PC, DVR, content, social and convergence and being that these advance were being presented by a startup company hurt us a bit. We constantly see things from recent consoles that our CES 2007 EVO already employed. Our testers gave us great feedback on what they liked about the system and what needed to be improved on. We sold all of our initial systems and now everyone is requesting one? Go figure (Lol)

Obsolete Gamer: For those that don’t know can you tell us about cloud and cloud-based games and storage?

The cloud has many meanings but our meaning is storing important and valuable data in secure locations. GameBox will also employ some basic game streaming similar to concepts your readers have seen from current companies.

Obsolete Gamer: So gamers will be able to save their game data including saved states like is done on some console emulators?

Yes.

Obsolete Gamer: Give us some more information on the cross-device usage and how it will apply to high definition televisions and networked-based games?

We want to take that approach we did with the first EVO with convergence, but expand on that concept further with mobile, tablets, and television. Once we are closer to finishing, we’ll have a few more secrets to share.

Obsolete Gamer: You will also offer Gesture Controlled Gaming; can you tell us more about that?

Not much. We have something very special planned. And I mean special. “We want this system to come alive…literally!”

Obsolete Gamer: Now developers will be able to sign-up and receive unlimited storage and access to tools for only $9.95 per month?

Yes, but we plan to do other special things for our partner developers.

Obsolete Gamer: What does it mean to be the first crowd source and social participation console?

Users will have control on where we release the system first, the design, the color, the game controllers etc. When the Rock says “I’m the people’s champ.” GameBox is the people’s system with Envizions providing a small assist.

Obsolete Gamer: What is your personal view on mobile gaming now and in the near future?

I have loved gaming since the Nintendo era. I have beat several games on that system. Now we have mobile gaming and I love it also. I can see this being huge as we move forward.

Angry Birds review

Angry Birds title screen

The great thing about mobile and even flash gaming is that you can bring a dynamic that may not work in the console and PC world. Though there have been many successful puzzle games for console and computer systems, some of the most played have found their birthplace in the mobile world. One such game is Angry Birds, a game that has swept across the mobile gaming world with fun gameplay, level design and even music and sound effects that has captured the hearts of even the most hardcore gamer. You would be hard-pressed to find someone with an advanced mobile device that does not have this game on it.

The Breakdown

Angry Birds was published by Chilingo and developed by Rovio , a game maker out of Finland. The game in a nutshell is to fire different types of birds at pigs who surround themselves in various structures. It is almost a play on the three little pigs in that the pigs barricade themselves in structures made of wood, concrete, glass and other materials.

A group of pigs have stolen un-hatched eggs from the birds making them angry. The theft of the eggs begins a war between the birds and pigs. Each level has the pig’s setup in various positions with items such as wood planks, concrete beams, tnt and glass. Your task is to fire the birds via slingshot to take out all the pigs on the level. Sometimes the pigs are in the open and by hitting them directly with the bird takes them out. Other times the pigs are hidden beneath various objects and you need to either break through to hit them or cause the structure to collapse onto them. When you take out all of the pigs you advance to the next level.

Angry Birds bomb
Angry Birds bomb

Level Design

For the most part there is only one screen for each level of Angry Birds. What this means is you can view the entire playing field at once. However, to do this you have to zoom out in order to see the full screen, otherwise you begin from the left hand side with a view of the slingshot and the birds allotted to you for the specific stage.

The slingshot always stays the same, but the amount and type of birds you are given access to changes. The levels are made in a way that you can take out all the pigs without using all of your birds, but that takes planning, some skill and a bit of luck. Since the configuration of the structures the pigs surround or hide themselves in changes each level you need to know what type of bird to use and where to hit each part of the structure for maximum effect.

The Cast

Angry Birds is the war of birds versus pigs and there are different types of each. For the most part the pigs are the same as there are only a few size differences and what they might be wearing, but everything comes into play when deciding how to best take them out.

The Pigs

  • Small Pig – The small pig is your basic grunt, it is taken out pretty easily and does not get to wear any accessories. You can hit these directly for an instant kill or having almost anything fall on it will take it out, the same goes for it falling even a small distance.
  • Large Pig – The larger pig can take a bit of damage from a falling structure and is reflected by the appearance of black eyes.  However, a direct hit from any bird will take it out and a fall from most distances will kill it. The large pig can wear a helmet that gives it further protection from falling debris, but it does not really protect it from a direct hit from a bird or a fall.
  • Mustache and King Pigs – These pigs are pretty much like the large pigs except they may be a little more resistant to damage from a short fall or smaller debris.

The Birds

  • Red Bird – The red bird is your standard and starting bird, it is average against most structures, but is mainly for either knocking something over or a direct hit on a pig.
  • Blue Bird – The blue bird breaks into three small birds once you launch it and hit the button. These birds are great against glass.
  • Yellow Bird – The yellow bird has a speed burst if you hit the button after launch. These birds are great for wood.
  • White Bird – These drop one single bomb egg when you hit the button after launch. These birds themselves do little, but the egg bombs can destroy structures or take out pigs.
  • Black Bird – These overstuffed birds explode once launched and you hit the button or once they come in contact with any object they explode in a few seconds. These birds are pretty strong against anything, but they are really good against concrete.

Additional Birds

  • Boomerang Bird – Yes, it does what it sounds like it would do. This bird can curve once launched to come back and hit those hard to reach places.
  • Fat Bird – The fat version of the red bird, think wrecking ball.
Angry Birds bomb
Angry Birds bomb

The Strategy

When you start out each level you have a predetermined amount of birds and they will vary per level. So you may start out with three red birds, but there are six pigs to take out. You also get to use the birds in a specific order so you can’t pick the black bird first as an example. Keeping this in mind helps you plan for the best way to take out the pigs and the structures around them.

The slingshot is pretty simple. If you have ever used one as a kid the principle is the same. If not the idea is a rubber band around a curved tuning forked shaped stick. The more you pull back on the band the farther the object will fly. You can also adjust the band to fire the bird high or low and to create launching angles and bombing trajectories.

Sometimes the best way to think of each level is how much slash damage you can do. As an example, if you start with a black bird you might want to explode it in a place causing the most debris to fall that can not only fall on the pigs but cause the pigs themselves to fall over and die. However, you must know your enemy. If the pig has a helmet and you bury it under debris and it doesn’t die it can be very hard to get to it with the birds you have left.

Not only do you have to think about taking out the pigs, but there are hidden golden eggs and other things to hit and destroy. You earn points a number of ways.

  • Destroying structures
  • Killing pigs
  • Remaining birds

Sometimes causing a structure to collapse is the best move and other times you may want to cause a chain reaction as in the case of TNT. Sometimes there are boulders or other items that when you detonate the TNT can fly out and take out the structures or the pigs. Other times the pigs may build a structure you can weaken like a train out of glass or a boat of wood. If you take out its support structure you can win the day. The good thing is you can go back to any level once you complete it to earn a higher star rating, so you can go for the quick kill and then come back later to get fancy.

Platforms and Add-ons

Angry birds has five storylines with over 60 levels in each and that is before you add in the holiday add-ons for Halloween and Christmas. You can find Angry Birds on the Apple, Android, Palm and Maemo platforms.

Overall

Angry Birds is fun and addictive and can be frustrating so if you are the type of person prone to fits of anger then take a class before you play this game or you might end up destroying your phone. Personally the best thing about this game for me is seeing a chain reaction you did not expect. Sometimes I would be stumped on a level and then all the pieces would fall in place and I would win. I think that makes the game fun to play again even after you have beaten it.

If you have a phone that supports this game it is worth the price. It is a serious time killer and will make even a 14-hour ER wait bearable.

Nacho Pintos: Frugal Games

Frugal Games logo
Frugal Games logo

Name: Nacho Pintos

Company: Frugal Games

Profession: Game Designer / Developer

Favorite Classic Game: Pac-man

Quote: I’m not a person with ‘favorites’. It’s always hard for me to say which books, films, songs or people I like most, or have been the most influential, because their memory and my perception of them varies wildly over time.

However, I re-play Pac-Man every time I stumble upon a new version/clone/homage/reworking of it. I can’t help it, it’s so perfect, so seminal. All ‘collect-everything’ games started here. The setting is absurd: colored ghosts, yellow dots, a pizza-like avatar… That’s what I miss most in current games, and what keeps me going back to classics: no ‘realism’, just a different, weird gameworld, with different rules, set up with very scarce resources, and yet it works and is addictive, balanced, brilliant. Unique.


Bio: Frugal Games is me, doing design and programming, and Pedro Pacheco (http://unosetenta.com) doing all-things-visual. So with just two persons, we had but to turn resource scarcity into a virtue. Our mission is making small games filled with great ideas (a 120 hour epic FRPG in 4 DVDs wouldn’t be frugal, would it?) We both love how simple, small games from the past felt so big and vivid in our minds, and we want to recreate that feeling. It’s not about nostalgia or love for retro-things, but to bring back the imagination of the player into the equation of gaming.

Project: Flee, for Android devices

Project Info: Flee is an obsessive recreation of the LCD handhelds that were so popular in the 80’s, like the Game&Watch series from Nintendo: one game in one machine, in your hands. We’re both in our early thirties, so these devices were our first contact with portable digital videogames. That’s where our player days started, and that’s where our videogame-maker days begin.

For me the most crucial design target was to make the player feel that he’s holding in his hands one of those devices, forgetting that it is actually a state-of-the-art smartphone. This led to the two most-highlighted (by the press) features of the game: the device gets dirtier the more you play (you can clean it if you want), and the effect when pressing the screen (to reveal the hidden graphics behind) – I would like to develop on the concept of aging user interfaces in the future. But Flee is not just these two gimmicks, there’s actual gameplay inside.

On Mode A (most LCD handhelds had two game modes) you control the main car and have to avoid the obstacles, along 30 levels of devilish difficulty: cars that move at different speeds, rabbits that weave from lane to lane, almost impossible car-labyrinths… We wanted the game to be very, very difficult and fast. On Mode B, the player controls the hordes of rabbits that approach the main car, which now moves on its own, through 18 levels; there were many ideas for more game modes but these turned to be the most meaningful. Furthermore, you can play both modes at normal or Turbo speed. There’s also a game manual that meticulously mimics those of the 80’s.

We added features unseen in old LCDs: a game ending (on mode A, level 30) with a misteryous hidden message, a 20-song soundtrack that emulates the car’s radio (after finishing a level, you hear the radio tuning to a new station while a new song fades in) and a global Scoreboard using the Scoreloop service for Android.

My transition from the dark side (iPhone) to the light (Android)

say no to iphone
say no to iphone

Before I get into this whole mix, I want to point something out, something all of you know but somehow like to ignore or not admit. The iPhone as a cell phone is mediocre at best, the iPhone as a music player is great (I give it this, the iPod is great), the iPhone as a device to use and live with as a serious techie, nothing short of pathetic.

Any system that has 16gb+ of storage that does not allow you to save files onto it, is a piece of garbage. We are talking 1981 technology here, copy to the hard drive style, “copy a:\*.* c:\files\*.*” style here. I found myself in a hotel room armed with only an iPhone wanting to watch a video, I could not. I couldn’t stream it, I couldn’t download it, nothing. Next, I needed to get a zip off of one of my work websites, rarely do I travel without my laptop but this was an exception, I took a quick flight out for a funeral but no problem, I had my iPhone… wrong. I guess I knew all along it couldn’t do these things, but it didn’t become important to me until I actually had to, and could not. Then, in that brief moment of sorrow after researching and realizing I had to download a bunch of jailbreak apps, jump through hoops, section off some of the file system, and hope my phone didn’t crash through all of this that, maybe, I should just get an Android phone.

The next day I met up with a long time friend I had not seen in years, my family and his all went to dinner together. During dinner I noticed his phone, a Galaxy S. I said, “hey let me see that.” He did and I proceeded to play with it. It responded nice, not as smooth as the iPhone I will admit, but I wasn’t after a ball cupping, I was after the long stroke. I wanted to download files, copy them to the hard drive, access them via usb or wifi, play, edit, extract, run, upload, download… I wanted functionality. I got exactly what I wanted, after ignoring everyone at the dinner table for thirty minutes, I had decided, when I get home, my iPhone was going to ebay, and I am switching to Android.

On my island (I serously live on an island, go figure) we don’t have much choice other than AT&T, so we called them on the phone, got a Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S) for $200, and my journey into happiness began. The first thing I did was arm my Google muscle and look up switching from iPhone to Android tips. The most important thing on my mind was to save the contacts… this proved to be very easy. I synced my contacts to Windows Contacts, and proceeded to export the file. I uploaded the exported file into Google and bam, Google had all my contacts. This is important since the phone would log into Google and download all of my contacts, you can pick to save them on the sim, the phone, or Google. I’m happy living in the clouds so this worked out well for me. My work email has always been setup as IMAP so I had nothing to do with that. I use GMAIL as my primary personal email so there was no problem with that either, I quickly realized that aside from my contacts, I had nothing to change.

I figured the time had come so I called AT&T and had the new phone activated. I connected to my WiFi, got synced up with Google, and was quickly raping the android app store. I will admit openly, the app store was a bit of a let down. I also want to point out, it is not a reason to not get an Android phone. If you feel you can’t live without your apps please move to France because you aren’t tough enough to be American. The main app store is full of crap, 1 in 20 apps is worth downloading, some crash, some just don’t work at all. There is an app called “AppBrain” that sorts out the better apps and gives you access to them, so I got myself WinAMP, VLC, K9 Mail, YELP, AIM, Photoshop (you heard me correctly), Astro, Dropbox, Pandora, Websharing (wifi browser based file access upload/download from any pc on the network), MP3 Ringtone Creator, Facebook, and the all mighty One Click Lag Fix (OCLF).

Most of these apps are commonplace so I’m not really going to get into all of them. I will however give an explination of two that you may not know about being a poor lost iPhone user. Astro is a file explorer, it just gives you access to the basic file system on the phone so you can punch through the directories and see what you have, make new folders, delete junk files, you know, extremely basic functionality that you can’t have without jailbreaking your iphone. The second app that I will explain about is the One Click Lag Fix (OCLF). This created, from what I can tell (and I’m sure I will be corrected) a swap file of sorts on my phone, which made my already fast phone much faster. The app also rooted the phone and gave me superuser ability so that I can remove the stock AT&T bloatware, another great feature. This is the single most important app to get for your new Android phone, but not the first one you should get. Get used to the phone, how it functions, and how to get your things done, and then start hacking the crap out of it.

Now onto some of the bad I have discovered. The Android OS is not as user friendly as the iPhone, it is however fully functional. I would not give my mother an Android phone, she needs the training wheels, that is why the iPhone is good for her. This is phone specific and not Android specific, TBH when people have anything bad to say about Android, it’s normally in regards to the phone and not the platform. The Samsung Captivate has pretty shotty GPS. In urban city centers with clear view of the sky, I have no problem with it. On my island is a different story. It cannot find my location, and that would stink if I was just visiting and wanted to use Yelp. In addition to the GPS problems, and to my surprise, the navigation app isn’t very good as well. I’m sure this will change, and I rarely use it anyway since my car has amazing GPS built in, but I’m sure someone will use it, and I’m sure someone else will say that it sucks.

So in the end, I am a happier person, I have broke free of Apple’s death grip, and I have started down the path of my own choosing. I have had the phone for three weeks now, traveled to Vegas with it, taken pictures, video, loaded movies on it (native XVID support), purchased mp3’s from Amazon (did I mention no iTunes, seriously, this may be the best part), and added a 2nd 16gb MicroSD card for a total of 32GB storage. I can now carry around more than one battery so if I run out, I can actually swap another in and keep using my phone (interchangeable batteries, who would have thunk it, oh wait, everyone did, 30 years ago), and the best part, I don’t have to give Steve Jobs any more of my money. I suspect he doesn’t need it anyway.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1: A Mediocre Adventure Begins!

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 title
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 title

It has been sixteen dark years since the last true Sonic game made its debut. Sega ventured on towards 3D adventures with their signature Blue Flash and since then the fandom that followed Sonic slowly converted to Mario or lost interest in the platform genre as a whole. The masses cried out, their faces stained in the salt of dry tears for Sega to remember the past, remember their roots! After witnessing the success of Megaman 9 and 10, Sega’s minds opened up to hope and the prayers of their fans finally fell upon eager ears. Sonic the Hedgehog 4, the continuation of the main 2D adventure line was to be restored! Thousands upon thousands of loyalist creamed their pants at the mere thought of Sonic returning to his true form. Surely, Sega would remember what made Sonic great.

Unfortunately, they didn’t. The return of Sonic is anything but a sequel to Sonic and Knuckles. The developers of Sonic 4 didn’t seem to know what made Sonic 1, 2, 3, and Knuckles stand on their own as epic platforming adventures. All that they remembered was the formula of level design and loops. The game plays like a mix mashed combination of both Sonic 1 and 2.

The first thing I noticed about this game that bothered instantly once I noticed it, was Sonic’s amazing brakes. I remember in the old games that Sonic used to come to a skidding stop. In this iteration of our hero, he just stops. If you want Sonic to stop where you want, he will. Sometimes midair I could just stop moving forward during an initial jump and slide down an invisible wall when all I wanted to do was reduce my jumping speed. The biggest most daunting issue I had with this was when I’d complete a zone with 50 gold rings and attempted to jump into the bonus stage golden ring at the sign post. Most of the time, I’d run right past it and think “Crap!” and try to run back in time as Sonic zooms off screen. As I made the jump toward the ring, autopilot would kick in and Sonic would just collapse like a ragdoll to the ground in front of it and walk away off screen again.

Orbinaut – Sonic the Hedgehog
Orbinaut – Sonic the Hedgehog

Our hero also seems to enjoy walking like a robot because his running animation from start to finish is one of the least inspiring displays of speed picking up I’ve ever witnessed in a game before. His legs stiff up like Al Gore as he slowly walks forward. I seemed to be in top speed during this ridiculous take off as Sonic trudged off with an ungraceful motion due to his lack of kneecaps. Suddenly, his legs would turn into red blurs as he ran at what was supposed to depict top speeds. Regrettably, the robotic movement lacking any fluid shift was already top speed so this animation lacked any real dramatic achievement.

An inclusion to the core game play is a homing missile aerial dash which was introduced in Sonic Adventures. While this attack was a welcome addition to the 3D adventure, its transition to 2D is rather obnoxious. The difficulty of calculated attacks and hitting small openings on enemies vanishes with this ability and takes away from the nostalgia of Sonic. Many menacing old school villains which took clean precision and timing to kill, such as Orbinaut, become trivial obstacles in Sonic’s path with the addition of the aerial assault.

Super Sonic by MRi
Super Sonic by MRi

The tracks in the zone Sonic robotically glides through are lacking any real enemies. Sure a villain shows up every now and then but they are easily bypassed with the homing attack. Most of the perils in the levels are spikes and pitfalls but the track you go by makes these traps seem more like scenery than anything else as most ramps toss you over spikes. Pitfalls can be easily avoided since the levels are set up in multiple tiers and you can go cascading through the air and end up landing on a lower section of the zone. When you do die though from pitfalls, it is a surprise as there are no real warning signs of its upcoming occurrence. 90% of the time you land on something when you fall. 10% of the time there just isn’t anything and the plummet is so stretched you don’t even realize it’s a pitfall until you hear the reminiscent Sonic fatality sound.

Super Sonic makes a return once you manage to collect all the Chaos Emerald in their tilt-a-whirl secret zones. I did mention earlier how the game is mostly comprised of traps, remember? Super Sonic doesn’t seem to really run faster than his blue form and there aren’t many enemies in the way to pummel through. What you end up having is useless invincibility that slowly eats away at your life force. I didn’t find any use for Super Sonic in this game at all since most deaths were instant kills anyway.

Another thing that peeved me about the game was the music. Sonic is known for its memorable songs. I can still remember a few and hum them every now and then when I sit on the toilet seat while reading a book. The musical director for this installment must have been Keyboard Cat as all of the songs use and abuse repetitive keys with a trumpet blaring every so often. I can’t recall a single song in my head right now despite how hard I may try.

The art style in the game lacks any inspiration at all. In fact, most of the zones are just rehashed models of zones from Sonic 1. The backgrounds in the game are bland and look like something found in a free game application on the Android Market. I was reminded of games with a smaller budget and less gameplay like Totemo as I ventured further through the game’s uninspiring scenery. Some of the cogs you were supposed to interact with in Dr.Robotnik’s Lair (Yeah, I said it. Eggman sounds stupid.) seemed to be part of the background because of their dull color and slow almost shuddering movement. There were times I’d be standing around a level wondering what I am supposed to be doing only to realize that the background was actually part of the foreground.

Robotnik – Sonic the Hedgehog
Robotnik – Sonic the Hedgehog

Speaking of the good doctor, he seems to have lost that knack for creativity we had come to know his boss battles for. In each of the four zones, you fight a familiar nostalgic battle with Robotnik. As your heart flutters from your excitement of revisiting these famous bouts, half way through the battle Robotnik changes gears and gets a bit more hardcore. Each of the initial four encounters are pretty easy and Robotnik does his usual fleeing as you free your bunny friends. When you finally reach Robotnik’s space station, Sega decided to pull a Mega Man and have you fight Robotnik again in each of his four forms you battled him in throughout the campaign. The only difference in these battles from the previous skirmishes is that the doctor kicks up his rage a notch. None of his geared up antics were too difficult and are unbelievably forgettable. I just beat the game two hours ago and I can barely remember any of his new antics. To top off the insult of mutilating old battles, they decided to change one of the greatest fights with Robotnik at the end of the game. Robotnik jumps into the colossal robotic version of himself with a jetpack from Sonic 2. The major difference between that battle and this one is that you have a homing jump and there are a ton of openings to hit the suit this time. To say the least possible without ruining the tactics involved in this battle, I didn’t have to think or struggle too hard to end the game.

The game doesn’t stand on its own in the series. Fans who may run for this installment of Sonic’s latest and greatest adventure for scraps of nostalgia will be sorely disappointed and only the most hardcore of Hedgehog fans (Laraque) could find any real entertainment in this game. I, on the other hand, wish I played Comic Jumper instead. It is only the first episode of the Sonic 4 series, and more episodes may add more features but the lackluster experience of Episode 1 has left me with the taste of duran fruit in my mouth, something I never want to taste again regardless of presentation.

If you were stuck in a waiting room for hours and had to choose one game to play which one would it be?

Waiting Room
Waiting Room

Everyone has been through it, at one time or another you have had to wait in a small, cramped and completely boring waiting room. It really doesn’t matter what you were waiting for though waiting for a car repair or doctor’s appointment can be the worse. Let’s face it, you don’t want to read those crappy magazines they have from six months ago and the television channel is showing The View. Back in the day you would have to just tough it out, drink some awful coffee and maybe strike up a conversation, but thanks to portable gaming that has all changed.

Now you can play a ton of games across many platforms from console handhelds to the iPad. Today you are not even stuck playing simple flash games, with systems like the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable you can play brand new high graphic games anywhere. So that leads us to this week’s Insider Discussion; If you were stuck in a waiting room for hours and had to choose one game to play which one would it be?

For me it would be puzzle games. For some reason I just can’t enjoy games like Tetris and Super Puzzle Fighter at home on my 51 inch HDTV. However, when I am waiting for someone or something to get done I love to break out a good puzzle game and watch the time fly by. You can find so many great puzzle games no matter what platform you play on and once you get into it that hefty repair bill or super long doctor’s needle won’t seem so painful.

Now let’s see what our panel of insiders said:

Mathew Anderson from Petroglyphgames wrote:

“World of Warcraft (or any other similar MMORPG). Why? Because you can easily spend hours in the game on a variety of tasks, many of which can take hours to complete in and of themselves. Or simply chat with others around you. I mean, who wants to talk to real people in a waiting room when you have an entire virtual world to explore, right?! Games within games, “virtual” persons instead of real ones… do those count? :)”

Chris Skaggs from Soma Games wrote:

If that happened today, it’d be Mirrors Edge – which I’m absolutely loving.

Justin Melendez from Lan Slide PC’s wrote:

A few months ago I was stuck in an airport for about 12 hours during which time I played a fair amount of Starcraft, Aion and Borderlands. Had Starcraft 2 been out I probably would have queued up for some multilayer matches to pass the time.

Aaron Hunter from Playtechtonics Inc wrote:

Civilization 4 is a good for me, a real time-killer!

Josiah Pisciotta from Chronic Logic wrote:

Right now I would say Civilization IV, nothing makes time fly by like that game.  Plus if the wait turned into days instead of hours not only would I still be playing but I probably wouldn’t even notice 🙂

Corey Dangel from Detonator Games wrote:

Getting stuck in a waiting room for hours happens to me more often than I’d care to admit! Typically I just play a version of Spider Solitaire on my Android. I’m on a quest to break the 4 minute barrier (I’ve only gotta shave off 3 seconds so I know i can do it) so it actually can entertain me for quite some time. But if I was thinking ahead, or had the ability to manifest a game + device out of thin air, I’d play Scribblenauts for the DS. It’s such a creative game with so many ways to enjoy it.

Danny Greig from XGEN Studios wrote:

Street Fighter 2 or Super Mario Kart.  Both can be played for hours on a portable device without getting old. However if a console is an option, the choice would be Super Smash Bros (Any of them).

David Warhol from Realtime Associates wrote:

I actually found myself in this situation, and it was when Wario: Touched! for the Nintendo DS came out.  It is both very light-hearted which was helpful, and the game sessions were so quick you can pause & put it away at any time.  Plus of course it’s portable.

Grace Snoke from EOGamer wrote:

I love puzzle games and tower games.  Games like Bejeweled, Jewels, Collapse, things like that always eat up my time. I get involved in them and hours disappear because I’m constantly trying to beat my best score.  Or, if all else fails, Plants vs. Zombies, which is a tower game.  Best time waster ever.

Jacob Stevens from Riverman Media wrote:

Right now that would have to be Super Mario Galaxy 2. SMG2 is a textbook on excellent game design. Every mission of every level is different, it’s tough but never frustrating, and there are all sorts of surprises from beginning to end.