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Posts tagged with "games"

Game Day: Trick Shot 2

Trick Shot 2 is a physics puzzle game from Jonathan Topf, the lead designer of Monument Valley 2. This isn’t a game that breaks new ground, but it’s one that is executed wonderfully on all levels and has some great extras, instantly endearing itself as a fun diversion.

The goal is simple: shoot a ball into a box. You launch the ball by sliding your finger back inside an outlined launch area and releasing. The action is similar to the slingshot mechanic used in Angry Birds. The trick is to get the perfect angle, velocity, and timing to land the ball in the box. The process is complicated by the fact that the ball is incredibly bouncy and there is often a maze of household and other objects between you and the ball’s destination.

Trick Shot 2 is one of those casual games that works extremely well on a mobile device. The game is easy to play in short spurts, and it can serve as a way to pass idle time, like a sort of digital fidget spinner. However, that sells Trick Shot short because it has more to offer than similar games.

First, Trick Shot looks and sounds fantastic. Everything from the beautifully rendered 3D obstacles and smooth animations to the jazzy soundtrack is top notch. The game is split across 9 chapters each of which are made up of multiple levels. As the chapters unfold, the game introduces new mechanics like switches and teleportation machines that keep the gameplay challenging. If you get stuck, you can spend coins to get a hint from a helpful robot. When you run out of the coins that come with the game, you can purchase more as an In-App Purchase, but they aren’t necessary to complete the game.

Second, and most critical, is that you can build your own levels. The level builder drops you into a blueprint-style view where you can place, move, and rotate all 48 game elements into your own Rube Goldberg creation. If starting with a blank slate is too intimidating, you can copy and adapt an existing level. It’s a wonderful addition that creates an extra dimension and sophistication to the game.

I imagine that almost anyone who’s played iOS games has tried physics-based games like Trick Shot 2, but not all such games are created equal. The trouble is finding the best examples of the genre. Trick Shot 2 qualifies hands down as one of my favorites and one I recommend to anyone looking for a new low-key iOS game to try.

Trick Shot 2 is available on the App Store.


iOS Plays a Big Role at the Game Developers Conference without Apple’s Direct Participation

Just before the annual Game Developers Conference began in San Francisco, Epic Games released its hit game Fortnite on iOS. In the first four days as an invitation-only game, it made over $1.5 million. As the conference got into full swing this week, PUBG was released. Both games are full versions of their PC and console counterparts and support cross-platform play, which is an impressive accomplishment.

Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch interviewed Apple Vice President Greg Joswiak about the ramifications for mobile gaming:

“They’re bringing the current generation of console games to iOS,” Joswiak says, of launches like Fortnite and PUBG and notes that he believes we’re at a tipping point when it comes to mobile gaming, because mobile platforms like the iPhone and iOS offer completely unique combinations of hardware and software features that are iterated on quickly.

“Every year we are able to amp up the tech that we bring to developers,” he says, comparing it to the 4-5 year cycle in console gaming hardware. “Before the industry knew it, we were blowing people away [with the tech]. The full gameplay of these titles has woken a lot of people up.”

Ryan Cash of Snowman, part of the team that recently released Alto’s Odyssey agreed:

“We have a few die-hard Fortnite players on the team, and the mobile version has them extremely excited,” says Cash. “I think more than the completeness of these games (which is in of itself a technical feat worth celebrating!), things like Epic’s dedication to cross-platform play are massive. Creating these linked ecosystems where players who prefer gaming on their iPhones can enjoy huge cultural touchstone titles like Fortnite alongside console players is massive. That brings us one step closer to an industry attitude which focuses more on accessibility, and less on siloing off experiences and separating them into tiers of perceived quality.”

There’s a lot to like about iOS if you’re a game developer. The hardware is iterated on faster than consoles, a high percentage of users are on the latest version of the operating system, the device is always with players, and the install base is enormous. Those are all factors that have led iOS devices to succeed as gaming platforms, even though it sometimes feels as if Apple doesn’t quite understand the industry. The fact that Greg Joswiak comprehends the importance of full console games coming to iOS gives me a little hope that we may see better support for games on platforms like the Apple TV in the future.

For more from Ryan Cash about the state of gaming on iOS and a look behind the scenes at the making of Alto’s Odyssey, check out Episode 45 of AppStories.

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New Google Maps APIs Empowering Game Developers to Create Premium AR Experiences

Andrew Webster, writing for The Verge:

There’s been a wave of location-based mobile games announced recently, based on everything from The Walking Dead to Jurassic World. It turns out these games have more in common than just timing: they’re all powered by Google Maps. Today Google is announcing that it’s opening up its ubiquitous mapping platform to allow game developers to more easily create real-world games. The next Pokémon Go might finally be on the way.

Gaining access to a real-time mapping source like Google Maps is huge for developers, but the additional tools that go along with Google's newly announced game platform take that a step further. Google is also launching a Unity SDK to tie into its mapping data, and enabling gameplay experiences to be built around specific locations or location types.

Developers can do things like choose particular kinds of buildings or locations — say, all stores or restaurants — and transform each one. A fantasy realm could turn all hotels into restorative inns, for instance, or anything else.

This sounds like it could be a huge boon to the mobile game market, particularly when combined with tools like Apple's ARKit. Yes, it means we'll probably get tired of all the games trying to replicate Pokémon GO's success, but these new developer tools will also likely enable some truly immersive, exciting gaming experiences.

Google created a video that shows off just a glimpse of what's possible with its new Maps APIs.

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Game Day: Bring You Home

Earlier this month Alike Studio released Bring You Home, a charming puzzle game about a blue alien on a quest to save its pet from thieves. It’s a delightful game that showed up one day with little fanfare. The game, from the creators of Love You to Bits, was teased almost a year ago, but its sudden appearance on the App Store means it hasn’t gotten the coverage it deserves. That’s a shame because this is a low-key but captivating game that should appeal to a wide audience.

Exploration is at the core of Bring You Home. As soon as the alien’s pet is whisked away, it leaps out the window after the thieves landing face-first on the ground. Time rewinds, and you’re shown how to swipe panels up and down until there’s a cart of hay under the window to break the alien’s fall. It’s a simple mechanic similar to the hit game Framed but executed with a style and personality that fits Bring You Home.

The goal is just as simple. By manipulating the environment around the alien, you help steer it from scene to scene in pursuit of the thieves. As you move through Bring You Home, new layers are added to the gameplay. Instead of just cycling through panels vertically, you can swap their position horizontally too. Next, the game adds multi-step puzzles, which require you to rearrange the scene, pause, and make further adjustments. Along the way, there are also collectible photos featuring your alien and his pet, which is a nice touch suggesting that it’s ok to explore, fail, and explore some more.

There is an absurd logic to each of the nearly 50 levels of Bring You Home, which rewards thoughtful examination. There are no time limits or penalties for failure, which encourages a leisurely, calm approach. Sure, you can power through Bring You Home quickly, but that’s not the point. Trial and error is part of the fun. This is a game best-enjoyed at a pace at which you can absorb each scene’s brightly-colored, playful animations.

Bring You Home is a Universal app that’s also available on the Apple TV. The game looks great on a big screen TV, but the controls work better on an iOS device, so on balance, I prefer to play on my iPad. Also, achievements are tracked in Game Center, and your progress is synced between devices via iCloud, which I always appreciate.

Bring You Home is a relaxing game with a playful, sweet personality that will appeal to kids and adults alike. The puzzles range from easy to challenging without ever becoming frustrating, which makes it an excellent choice for relaxing on a quiet afternoon.

Bring You Home is available on the App Store.


The Evolution of Alto’s Odyssey

iMore's Serenity Caldwell and Luke Filipowicz put together a great Q&A with Team Alto to discuss the making of Alto's Odyssey.

Here's my favorite bit, which only adds to my love for this game:

One of the big breaks in the new game's theming came from the lives of Team Alto's members themselves. "Things really clicked when we reflected as a group on how much our lives had changed since the release of Alto's Adventure," wrote Cymet. "The team had grown, some of us had moved away from the homes we knew to live in other places, and we had all experienced big personal upheaval in different ways.

"What we arrived at was a desire to capture the feeling of going outside your comfort zone, exploring the unfamiliar, and accepting that the concept of 'home' is related to the people close to you, not any one place. In many ways, this is what led us to the grandeur of Alto's Odyssey's setting. This idea of a fantastical place far from what you know as home, where you learn to see the beauty in embracing the unknown."

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Alto’s Odyssey Review: Desert Tranquility

The sky above the desert has chosen a peculiar, almost plum-like shade of purple tonight as I’m nimbly moving past tall silhouettes of cacti and palm trees, when I see the black contours of a rock. My experience tells me that, in most cases, rocks have to be avoided, so I jump. While airborne, I glance at the dune ahead of me, and decide to attempt a backflip. The sky in the distance is a sight to behold – a full moon, barely visible among the clouds, faintly illuminates a panorama of ancient ruins left to age and crumble. In fact, the horizon is so beautiful, I don’t see another rock waiting just ahead of me as soon as I stick the landing. I hit the rock and fall face down in the sand. It’s game over.

I try again.

An angry lemur is chasing me, probably because I, once a mountain shepherd and now a tourist with a sandboard and little knowledge of lemur manners, woke the creature who was resting in his hut. His only goal, apparently, is to attack me and stop my speedy exploration. But I just need to make it to the next chasm and leave him behind, shaking his tiny lemur fist at me as I backflip over the void. That shouldn't be too hard.

He’s fast though. Suddenly, I see a potential way out: a rushing water stream connects to a narrow wall, which I can vertically ride to hop onto a vine where I can grind, jump, and backflip to build up speed and escape the lemur. Seems easy enough. My jumps are precise and I elegantly make it onto the vine. But the lemur isn’t giving up – he’s right behind me. 10, 9, 7, 5 meters behind – he’s going to catch me. But we’re at the end of the vine now, and if I jump, I’m going to land and sprint. I take the leap and start my backflip. I think I made it. Except the lemur also jumps, grabs me, and I’m face down in the sand again. It's game over.

I keep trying.

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My Favorite iOS Games of 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we’ve seen what may prove to be a shift in iOS gaming. With the recent introduction of app pre-orders, iOS may attract more paid-up-front indie games and ports of console and PC titles than in the past. Pre-orders aren’t limited to games, but it’s no coincidence that the first batch of pre-orders released on the App Store were all successful indie titles.

It’s too early to tell if recent developments are the beginning of a trend towards a more diverse and interesting iOS game market or a one-off anomaly that will fizzle, but I hope it takes hold. The prospect of the App Store attracting new sorts of games could broaden the appeal of iOS as a gaming platform, which in turn, could change the dynamic of iOS gaming in 2018.

We’ll have to wait to see what 2018 has in store, but in the meantime, the end of the year is a good time to look back. It’s always hard to pick favorites. So many excellent games were released this year, and I didn’t have time to try them all, but here are my six favorites of the 37 that I covered in 2017 along with links to each of the reviews of them.

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Rainbrow, a Game Controlled by the iPhone X’s TrueDepth Camera

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors about Rainbrow, a free arcade game for the iPhone X that requires you to raise your eyebrows or frown to move the character on screen:

Simply raise your eyebrows to move the emoji up, frown to move the emoji down, or make a neutral expression and the emoji stays still. Note that if you raise your eyebrows, and keep them raised, the emoji will continue to move in an upwards direction, and vice verse when maintaining a frowning expression.

While there are no levels, the game gets increasingly difficult as more obstacles appear. The goal is simply to get the highest score possible, but players can only compete against themselves right now. Gitter told us that he plans to integrate Apple's Game Center for multiplayer competition in a future update.

Here's a video of the game in action:

I played this for 20 minutes last night. It's genius. Using the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X, Rainbrow can detect the movements of muscles around your eyes and thus ask you to raise or lower your eyebrows to move an emoji up and down to collect points. What makes this game feel like magic – as if the iPhone is reading your mind – is that there's no camera preview on screen and no buttons to press: you don't see your face in a corner; the game simply reacts to your expressions in real-time without an interface separating you from the actual gameplay. It's fun, and it's a good demonstration of the accuracy of the TrueDepth system.

Here's what I wrote two weeks ago in the TrueDepth section of my iPhone X story:

I've been asking myself which parts of iOS and the iPhone experience could be influenced by attention awareness and redesigned to intelligently fit our context and needs. I don’t think this idea will be limited to Face ID, timers, and auto-lock in the future. What happens, for example, if we take attention awareness farther and imagine how an iPhone X could capture user emotions and reactions? TrueDepth could turn into an attention and context layer that might be able to suggest certain emoji if we’re smiling or shaking our heads, or perhaps automatically zoom into parts of a game if we’re squinting and getting closer to the screen. A future, more sophisticated TrueDepth camera system might even be able to guess which region of the display we’re focusing on, and display contextual controls around it. Siri might decide in a fraction of a second to talk more or less if we’re looking at the screen or not. Lyrics might automatically appear in the Music app if we keep staring at the Now Playing view while listening to a song.

It might be a silly game, but Rainbrow is the kind of different application of TrueDepth I had in mind. The same goes for Nose Zone, a game that uses ARKit's TrueDepth-based face tracking to turn your nose into a cannon to shoot squares (I'm serious). While these first TrueDepth games are fun gimmicks, I believe we're going to see invisible, persistent attention awareness and expression tracking become embedded into more types of apps over the next year.

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