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

[youtube id=”B1FUcNkaLPU” width=”633″ height=”356″]

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.

Dominique Vial: Domsware

domsware

Name: Dominique Vial

Company: Domsware

Position/Title: indie iOS developer

Favorite Classic game: Dungeon Master

Why is this game your favorite: The answer is not easy! But each time someone asked me this question it’s always Dungeon Master on top. I was 17 years old and I spend my days and night playing with DM with a friend: one playing and the other managing a map. My friend’s bedroom was full of DM maps pinned on the wall. We played on a cracked version of DM — sorry we were young — and from time to time there was a reset and we must start back from zero! And each tim we updated DM, the reset point was a little bit later in the game but still exits. I wonder if someone succeeded in cracking DM 100% !

We were on our final “lycée” studies and we needed to prepare THE french exam named “baccalauréat”. It’s very important to make a big score to this exam because it’s the passcard to university and High Schools. Anyway. We spend a lot of time playing DM instead of working our final exams. Locked on my friend’s bedroom, our parents believed we were working on our studies! Ah ah ah! It was a really immersive and addictive game. And, for the story purpose, a friend of my elder brother was working on some computer science laboratory on some kind of “network”. He was helping us by providing us printed listings containing the precious answers to hard DM’s issues: these was from this mysterious “network”. Later and later I found the name of this guy on a W3C document: I then understood he was one of the first working on the internet and that was the mysterious network. He was a pioneer while we were exploring dungeons !

novae

Check out his latest iOS game, Novae!

Sonic 1 Coming to the 3DS

sonic-1-sonic-the-hedgehog

Sonic 1 Coming to the 3DS

Hey, if you haven’t gotten your Sonic 1 fix on every other platform coming in about a week you will be able to get the classic game on your 3DS. Now this is considered a remake, but for the most part everything will stay the same except changes in the games background thanks to the features of the 3DS. If this isn’t enough Sonic news, Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead and Stealth are working on a Sonic 1 remake for Sega. Those of you who played Sonic CD on your smart phone should know about that team. Either way, soon there will be no place you cannot find a Sonic game to play.

Sonic the Hedgehog Remastered

sonic-the-hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog Remastered

Coming in April the remastered version of Sonic the Hedgehog arranged by Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead will be available for the Android and iOS platforms. The cost will be three dollars and you can expect it to be a lot like Whitehead’s last release of Sonic CD. In addition, Sonic 2 will also be getting the remastered treatment soon.

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.

Sword of Fargoal 2 Revamps Classic c64 game

Sword of Fargoal 2 has got a kickstarter. Although the game is almost 80% complete they just need a little help to finished the game off. The Kickstarter campaign is there to help that last 20% run as smoothly as possible, adding new animation, music, graphics and features to the game.

Sword of Fargoal 2

It is a sequel to the original Sword of Fargoal which was as a dungeon crawler for the Commodore 64. It featured random dungeon generation, permadeath and an absolutely monstrous challenge for players to take on. It has been listed as one of the top 8-bit games of all time.

Sword of Fargoal was remade for iOS and Mac OS by developer Paul Pridham (who created Saucelifter and the upcoming Punch Quest), Emmy award-winning animator Charlie Canfield, and noted British composer Daniel Pemberton (LittleBIGPlanet) to bring the game back. The remake won numerous awards, including “Best Retro Game (iPad division)” for the “2010 Best App Ever Awards” (“Sword of Fargoal Legends,” published by Chillingo/EA). Fargoal has even been recognized by the Guinness World Records 2012, Gamer’s Edition as “Most critically acclaimed ‘Roguelike’ for iOS”.

Sword of Fargoal 2 screenshot

Sword of Fargoal 2 will be for Mac/PC/Linux/iOS (and Android of they make enough money). It will have all new level types and dungeon textures with more spells. More monsters. More traps. Better graphics. More music. Animation. New characters types. New quests. A new dungeon-generation system, and much more.

Funding ends Oct 13, 2012 so go and fund their kickstarter now.

Punch Quest

Punch Quest

Endless runner games are very popular at the moment, especially on mobile devices. As they seem to be very sutied to the format but still provide a fast arcade like gaming experience. Punch Quest is an Endless runner game, but with a twist. It dispenses with the simple run and jump format and adds punching, graphics that hark back to games like Double Dragon and Golden Axe, punching, explosion, punching, monsters and so much more punching.

Punch Quest

Punch Quest, is collaboration between RocketCat Games and Madgarden. It features varied, randomized dungeon with branching paths. customization unlockable special moves and abilities and Monsters. Take a look at the trailer to get a better look;

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxTYz8O2F7E[/youtube]

Punch Quest is slated to arrive this autumn on iOS. I can’t wait, but here’s the link to website in the meantime;  http://www.rocketcatgames.com/punchquest/

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land

Call of cthulhu wasted land
Sometimes the truths of the universe are too shocking for us to accept and some other times cosmic realities simply cannot be understood. Still, I just can’t comprehend why Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is the only (and thus first) Lovecraftian, turn-based, tactical game I’ve ever encountered; let alone one of the few games to use the trenches of WWI as a dark and desperate setting.
On the other hand, ignorance is bliss and creative people get strange dreams courtesy of the Outer Gods, who have been slumbering and waiting for an ambitious take on X-Com that will actually feature Dark Youngs, undead soldiers, mad mages, hints of Reanimator and the spawn of Cthulhu. Happily, said dreams spawned The Wasted Lands, which, as should have already been made blatantly obvious, is a lovely turn-based, tactical affair with a few RPG touches.

Call of cthulhu wasted land

You get your characters, your action points, your experience points, your oppressive 3D terrains, your campy but delightful plot, your spells, your otherworldly monstrosities, your cultists and your zombified soldiers in one of the most honest (and cheap) strategy games I’ve recently played. What you also get is a truly elegant adaptation of Chaosium‘s Call of Cthulhu rules, the first ever sanity mechanics to actually work in a wargame and a most successful atmosphere.
On the downside, this is a really short game sporting ten or so missions, that will last you for roughly ten hours, and, irritatingly, a game with a few control problems. Apparently, its iOS roots haven’t been ironed out, but trust me when I say that you’ll very soon be used to its, uhm, eccentricities. Oh, and you can only grab it over at the universally unknown Intel AppUp online store, meaning that more middleware will have to be installed on your ever-encumbered PC.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU_7aj1bp8g[/youtube]
Still though, hadn’t had this much fun with a turn-based strategy game, since, well, X-Com and that should be all you need to know.
Verdict: Cthulhu would smile and devise new tactics.

The beauty of their dreams

attollos technology logo

Hello, my name is Thomas Whitaker and I am the co-founder and director of Attollos Technology Ltd.  During the summer of 2011, myself and my business partner James Robinson worked on taking our first baby steps into game development. Both students at Universities in the United Kingdom, we wanted to stray away from the well trod path of attempting to gain internships and try and gain some industry experience first hand.

As a talented programmer, James took over the main coding responsibilities, whilst I was attempting to take on the most daunting task of all: making a small indie game have a voice in a market that is so quickly becoming overshadowed by multinational companies, who can afford to throw thousands of pounds into generating a download surge.  With this in mind, we decided we wanted to create a simple, addictive game, that would be a good time filler for the casual gaming community.  The concept of a fast paced tapping game emerged at the fore-front of our thoughts and our game – Screen Invaders began to take shape.

Invader

The concept:

With this challenge in mind and a notebook on my desk, I started to doodle out the characters and the storyline that would become the foundation behind our game. We wanted a simple, user-friendly interface that would allow the user to simply pick up and play. For me, there was nothing more aggravating with an iOS game than having to trawl through what seems like an eternity of menus in order to get to the actual gameplay.

This meant that the idea behind our game revolved around the notion of attempting to defend earth against hordes of alien invaders within a given time limit. As the levels progressed, the aliens became more and more numerous and difficult to destroy. James created a few prototype games without any of the graphics introduced and I soon became hooked on the concept.

I could barely stop playing my own game and decided that this pick-up and play concept was one that we should try and stick to at all costs.  Taking inspiration from the dynamic art in games such as TinyWings, we decided that we would have a set background for only a few levels and try and keep changing everything round so that the gaming experience was not as monotonous as simply tapping away in a frenzy to try and destroy the last alien before time ran out.

stick sports

The launch:

After months of hard work and hours spent designing characters and icons, Screen Invaders version 1 was finally ready to be submitted to the AppStore.  As newbie developers, this was a proud moment for both of us and where our advanced planning and research became critical.  After recently completing an internship at Stick Sports ltd, the creators of the famous Stick Cricket series, I was able to gain advertising space on their website, a domain that attracts millions of hits a day.

Independent marketing schemes such as those created by Innovatty on twitter, involving all of the indie developers retweeting about each other’s ideas were also invaluable as well as the forums on sites such as TouchArcade.  The challenge was intimidating, attempting to do battle with companies such as EA, in an arena that they were swiftly trying to dominate.   Adverts such as the one above, were circulated across the globe in an attempt to build up a buzz before the game was released.  Finally, towards the end of August, we gained permission from Apple for the game to go live and after hours spent blogging, tweeting, face booking and you-tubing, all we could do was hope.  We averaged a respectable 50 downloads every few days and with the introduction of bonuses and power-ups, we hope the game can spread.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEFfkDfA1r0[/youtube]

Ultimately, we released our game at a very similar time to the day Contre-Jour was published by Chillingo.  Without the advertising power and established consumer base dying to download anything with a company stamp on it, we were never going to emerge as real contenders to top the Arcade genre.

However, we have lots of great ideas and with our base of existing customers all around the world, we are hopeful that our next release can really cause a stir and ruffle some angry feathers. Our company motto “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”, a famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote really sums up what we envisage we will one day accomplish.  We have taken our first baby steps and although we did not exceptionally flourish, you must first learn to walk before you can attempt to run.

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

Amiga Classic Battle Squadron now available for iOS

Cope-Com have releassed their classic Amiga hit Battle Squadron for iOS and it’s now now available on the App Store.

The original Amiga Game was very highly rated, with one magazine, Amiga Computing, rating it at 109%.

The game the developers converted the code from the game line by line from 68000 Assembler into C++. They had this to say

For the iOS version we have conserved the highly praised gameplay exactly like on the original, while at the same time adapting it to excellent play on mobile devices. Further improvements, not possible in the original, include Game Center to compete against your friends, and Daily Leaderboards updates with player comments.

The game plays, sounds and looks just like how I remember it on the Amiga, so it’s well worth checking out.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CIbwGrxegE[/youtube]

Street Fighter IV iOS sale: Proceeds to help Japan Earthquake Victims

Street Fighter Iphone App - Title Screen

By now everyone is aware of the horrible earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Japan. The devastation is affecting everyone across Japan from the loss of lives to the economic impact the disaster has caused.

As can be expected there are many organizations that have setup relief to go to the people of Japan and Capcom has joined that list by offering the Street Fighter IV iOs for only 99 cents. All proceeds from the sale will go toward the Japan earthquake relief effort.  Capcom did not stop there; the company also donated 100 million yen to help those affected by this disaster.

Capcom released this statement on the website:

“Thank you to everyone who has sent inquiries and wished us well during this crisis.  We want to reiterate that all of our employees in the Osaka and Toyko regions are safe and well, and we thank everyone for their support.

In response to recent events, Capcom will immediately donate 100 million yen to help victims of the earthquake and communities recover from this tragedy.

For one week from today, March 15, Street Fighter IV on the iPhone will be available for 99cents/115yen, and all sales of the title during this period will be donated to support earthquake relief activities.

Capcom will also suspend operations or shorten operating hours as necessary at amusement arcades and other business sites that are located in areas served by Tohoku Electric Power and Tokyo Electric Power. In addition, Capcom will refrain from holding special events.

Again, thanks to everyone who has supported Japan during this difficult time, and please help to spread the news about relief efforts.”

If you want to help, one way is to purchase the game on ITunes: Street Fighter IV

 

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.