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Posts tagged with "games"

Game Day: Minit

Minit is a new-to-iOS indie adventure game by Jan Willem Nijman, the co-founder of Vlambeer, Kitty Calis, Jukio Kallio, and Dominik Johann. The game, which was brought to iOS a little over one week ago by Devolver Digital, first debuted in April 2018 and is now available on all major consoles, PCs, and mobile platforms. It’s a fantastic game that benefits from the high-resolution screens and excellent sound available on iOS devices but also suffers a little from onscreen joystick controls. That issue can be remedied with an MFi controller, but even playing with the onscreen controls, Minit has quickly become one of my favorite iOS games of 2019.

Minit's hook is that the hero you control only has a minute to live, a mechanic that's perfect for a mobile game. As you race around the game's map, solving puzzles and discovering items, you have to move fast because when the minute is up, you die and have to start over again.

If that sounds frustrating, it really isn't. You have to start over after you die, but not entirely from the beginning. The ticking clock certainly makes Minit challenging, but it cleverly avoids becoming frustrating by letting your character retain items, powers, and locations even after you die. For example, one of the first items you discover in the game is a cursed sword that is central to the game's story. When you inevitably die and respawn to continue exploring, you don’t need to grab the sword again because it will already be at your side. The same holds true of powers like pushing objects and locations that become your new home, which avoids the monotony of having to restart the game from the same point over and over.

Minit strikes a careful balance with its core mechanic, allowing just enough progress to be made each time you play to keep you coming back for more. It also helps that no matter where I’ve been on the game’s map, I’ve always felt that I had multiple options each time I restarted. That’s an essential element of avoiding frustration because even when I've gotten stuck on a particular quest, I've had the option to set out in a different direction and make progress elsewhere.

The game’s art and sound design are top-notch too. The artwork is entirely black and white with chunky pixel characters and environments that convey a sense of whimsy and fun. Coupled with an excellent soundtrack and sound effects, Minit imbues its world with a personality that brings its simple environment to life in a way that transcends any one aspect of the game.

Minit's controls are just as simple as its artwork. There’s a virtual joystick in the lower left corner of the screen for moving your character and an attack button in the opposite corner. The gameplay is simple enough that the onscreen joystick works reasonably well, but it’s still not as good as a controller with a dedicated thumbstick, especially when lining up your character to attack an enemy. Relatively few iOS gamers have MFi controllers now, but iOS 13 should give games like Minit a boost in the fall when the OS adds support for Bluetooth-based PS4 and Xbox controllers that far more people already own.

Even relying on the onscreen controls though, I've had a blast playing Minit. It took the game with me on a short 4th of July road trip, and it was the perfect companion for the long drive and when I had some time to myself in the evenings. Minit treads some of the same ground as similar retro-style adventure games I've played before, but the combination of the timer mechanic and unique black-and-white world make it stand head and shoulders above similar games.

Minit is available on the App Store for $4.99.


Apple Brings Back Texas Hold’em

When the App Store opened for business in 2008, Apple released Texas Hold'em, the company's first and only iOS game and successor to an iPod version that debuted in 2006. The game, which Stephen Hackett profiled for MacStories last year was short-lived, disappearing from the App Store in 2011.

In the eight years since the game's release, Apple has left the iOS game market to third-party developers, with the exception of Warren Buffett's Paper Wizard. Today, however, the company released an updated version, which was spotted by an eagle-eyed 9to5Mac reader. Strangely, the game's description says the release is meant to celebrate the App Store's 10th Anniversary, which occurred last July 10th, not quite 11 years ago today.

In any event, Texas Hold'em is back with new graphics to support the resolution and screen sizes of modern iPhones along with new characters and 'more challenging gameplay.' The app, which originally sold for $4.99, is now free too.

Launching the game for the first time in many years, brought an instant wave of early App Store nostalgia. Even if card games aren't your thing, Texas Hold'em is worth a look because so much of the original feel of one of the earliest iPhone games is preserved in this update.

Texas Hold'em is available as a free download on the App Store.


Game Day: Worse Than Death

Worse Than Death is a narrative-driven horror game from Toronto-based Benjamin Rivers, the developer of Home. The two games share some similarities. Both games feature creepy, small-town mysteries where you play as a pixelated protagonist in a chunky-pixel world. What’s different about Worse Than Death is that it interweaves comic book-style, hand-drawn art throughout the story including cut scenes, when examining objects, and for dialogue. It’s a unique style that helps bring the characters and their surroundings to life in a way that pixel art alone can’t.

In Worse Than Death you play as Holly, who has returned home from the city to attend her high school reunion. When she arrives in town, she stops by the local bar where she meets with Flynn, an old friend who we learn was engaged to a woman named Grace before she died in an accident.

I don’t want to spoil the story, but what seems like a typical reunion when Holly and Flynn arrive turns out to be anything but ‘typical.’ Soon you’re racing around town faced with a growing number of gruesome deaths and chased by unseen monsters from whom you need to hide to survive.

The game does an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension as it progresses. I found myself jumping more than once as unexpected things happened during the game. As you make your way through the town trying to solve the mystery of what has happened, you face a series of puzzles that get progressively harder to solve, but clues are everywhere, so be sure to examine everything.

The gameplay is simple. Tap the left and right sides of the screen to walk that direction and double tap to run. Examining objects and interacting with other elements of the game is as simple as tapping icons that appear around Holly.

Worse than Death also supports MFi controllers. The onscreen controls aren’t difficult to use, but with a narrative game like Worse Than Death, I like to lean back with a controller with my iPad Pro in the Brydge Pro Keyboard so I can get the angle just right and relax. The SteelSeries Nimbus’ thumbstick and buttons were perfect for exploring the game.

I also highly recommend playing while listening with headphones. The sound design is fantastic and an integral part of the tension built by the story. Sounds come at you from every direction thanks to a 3D audio track that’s a perfect match to the game.

I also love the hand-drawn art and the way it contrasts with the pixelated gameplay. It’s a combination that makes Worse Than Death stand out from other action adventure games and succeeds in conveying strong character emotions, which adds to the tension that builds through the game. What’s more, the many hand-drawn images used in the game were drawn entirely on an iPad Pro using the app Procreate. Here’s a time-lapse that developer Benjamin Rivers posted on Twitter of the art being created:

It’s a testament to the iPad Pro and Procreate that such a large part of this game’s artwork could be done using the combination.

The hand-drawn artwork in Worse Than Death was created on an iPad Pro using Procreate.

The hand-drawn artwork in Worse Than Death was created on an iPad Pro using Procreate.

I’m not usually a fan of horror games, but I love a good mystery and puzzles, which Worse Than Death delivers on. With simple gameplay and story-driven action, Worse Than Death is like a creepy mystery you take with you on summer vacation. Wrapped in terrific artwork and absorbing sound design, Worse Than Death is a game that shouldn’t be missed.

Worse Than Death is available on the App Store for $3.99.


Harry Potter: Wizards Unite AR Game Launches on iOS

It was the summer of 2016 when Pokémon GO took the world by storm, and now, almost exactly three years to the day later, there’s a new AR game trying to capture the same magic. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite launched today in the US, UK, and select other countries from the same studio behind Pokémon GO, Niantic.

At the core of Wizards Unite is the same AR-based system employed in Pokémon GO, whereby you can explore a digital world that’s mapped to the real world around you, where different real-life locations are mapped to in-game hot spots for engaging with certain game elements. Special locations in the game, such as fortresses, are designed for teams of players to conquer together; combined with the AR world exploration mechanic, this encourages strong community engagement in the game. If Wizards Unite takes off in any way like Pokémon GO, expect to see bands of players roaming the streets with their phones at the ready.

Chronologically, Wizards Unite takes place following the original seven book Harry Potter series but still includes many of those original characters. In the game’s tutorial, for example, a slightly aged Harry Potter, now working as an auror, instructs you regarding a crisis the Ministry of Magic is currently facing that needs your assistance. This sort of tight integration with the world and characters Harry Potter fans know and love, combined with the community-centric element found in games like Pokémon GO, could make Wizards Unite a really special experience for anyone who loves J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. As one of those people myself, even though I never got into Pokémon GO, I’m excited to spend some quality time trying out Wizards Unite.

You can download Harry Potter: Wizards Unite on the App Store now.


Nintendo Announces Dr. Mario World Coming to iOS July 10

Today Nintendo announced its latest mobile venture coming to iPhone and iPad: Dr. Mario World, which is available to pre-order now and will launch July 10th.

Dr. Mario World is a match 3-style game in the vein of Candy Crush, whereby you try to match your limited quantity of colored capsules with the various virus creatures on-screen to clear the game board. Fitting the Mario theme, the board in each stage will feature not just viruses, but also fan favorite power-ups such as a red shell or bomb that can knock out more viruses at once when activated. Based on early details, the game appears to stray very little from the classic match 3 formula, complete with hearts that determine whether you can start a stage, and diamonds that enable things like extending your turns. Match 3 games are a guilty pleasure for me, and I love Nintendo, so while some may prefer more originality, I’m excited to try a Mario-themed spin on a classic game mechanic.

When Dr. Mario World launches, it will be a free download with optional In-App Purchases for things like diamonds – a common business model for this type of game. There will be five worlds at launch, consisting of a variety of stages, and more worlds will be added over time. And following the tradition of other Nintendo titles such as Super Mario Run, gameplay will require a persistent Internet connection.

You can pre-order Dr. Mario World now.


Panic Reveals Plans to Sell a Handheld Gaming System Called Playdate in 2020

Panic, well-known for its thoughtfully-designed Mac and iOS apps, has announced that it's entering the hardware market with a portable gaming system called Playdate, which will ship in early 2020 and cost $149. This isn't Panic's first foray into the game industry. With the release of the hit indie game Firewatch in 2016, the company became a game publisher. Later this year, Panic will publish the highly-anticipated Untitled Goose Game on the Nintendo Switch. Still, creating hardware is something altogether different for Panic.

Playdate is a diminutive handheld device with hardware and software features that distinguish it from any other handheld on the market. The bright yellow handheld system is just 74mm  ×  76mm  ×  9mm, which is roughly three inches square and a little thicker than an iPhone XS.

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Game Day: Rolando Rolls Back Onto the App Store

Today, HandCircus, the creator of Rolando, has released an excellent remastered version of the classic iOS game called Rolando: Royal Edition.

If you were playing iOS games in the early days of the App Store, you are probably familiar with Rolando. The game wasn’t on the Store day one but came a few months later at the end of 2008.

Rolando was one of the early break-out hits on the App Store. The game was downloaded by millions of fans worldwide who loved its colorful, round characters. Rolando was also one of the first games to incorporate the iPhone’s accelerometer into its gameplay in a way that was tightly integrated with the game instead of feeling gimmicky.

However, the original game was a victim of Apple’s 2017 transition to a 64-bit architecture. Although many cherished classics were updated in time, a large number of games fell by the wayside. Until today, one of the most beloved of those titles was Rolando.

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Apple Arcade: Our Overview of Apple’s New Gaming Subscription Service

Today at the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple detailed a variety of services it plans to launch from now through the end of the year. In addition to the expected services for video, news, and an iOS-integrated credit card, perhaps the event's biggest surprise was Apple Arcade, a gaming subscription service debuting this fall. Apple Arcade will feature no games currently on the App Store, but will instead serve as the only way you can play 100+ new games on iOS.

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A Remastered Version of Rolando Is Returning to the App Store April 4th as Rolando: Royal Edition

Rolando was one of the earliest break-out games on the App Store when it debuted in 2008. Millions of fans downloaded the game, which featured colorful round characters that you maneuvered through four worlds with the help of the iPhone’s accelerometer. However, as Federico highlighted in his story on app preservation last summer, the ngmoco-published title disappeared in 2017 when it wasn’t updated to support Apple’s 64-bit architecture.

Today though, Rolando’s developer, HandCircus, announced that Rolando is coming back on April 4th as Rolando: Royal Edition. According to a report by TouchArcade, the game is a remaster of the original title:

…beyond a beautiful overhaul with the brilliant 2.5D aesthetic of the game’s sequel, as well as the expected graphical polish to seamlessly fit into the 2019 App Store, HandCircus have actually overhauled a lot of the levels, interactions and mechanics across the game.

Today’s news comes close on the heels of the launch of GameClub, a startup that plans to bring unavailable classic iOS games back to the platform starting with Hook Champ. TouchArcade’s former Editor-In-Chief Eli Hodapp is GameClub’s VP of Business Development.

Federico’s closing commentary from last summer’s story sums up the state of game and app preservation and his hopes for the future well:

It doesn't have to be this way. I want to believe that, over the next decade, Apple and third-party developers will learn to appreciate the history of the App Store. And that they will treat its back catalogue as something more than a nuisance with an expiration date. Because sometimes it can be useful, and perhaps even fun, to marvel at how far we've come by looking back at how it all began.

I couldn't agree more. So many classic iOS games have fallen by the wayside and are now unplayable that it was heartening to see that HandCircus is bringing back Rolando and learn more about GameClub’s efforts. Two announcements isn’t a trend, but I hope it’s a sign that momentum is building behind preservation in the iOS game and the broader app industry. The time feels right to revisit these classics.

Rolando: Royal Edition is available to pre-order on the App Store for $1.99 and comes with iMessage stickers that are available today.