Mobile Gaming

This Golden Arrow hits its Mark – Review and Developer Interview

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The mobile gaming space that was once dominated by Gameboys and Atari Lynxes (Ha!) has now been supplanted by iPhone and Android devices. Graphic advancements, miniaturization of  arcade classics and new twists on genres have made the mobile platform a force to be reckoned with. One of the most popular genres in “phone gaming” has been the “Endless Runner” one. Games like Canabalt, Temple Run, and Jetpack Joyride have been downloaded millions of times and have been on the top of numerous mobile “best-of” lists.

Their main objective is to jump or run through a space while collecting objects and avoiding falling or hitting obstacles. They are the best kinds of games for quick gaming sessions and scoreboard junkies because they scratch the “I don’t have lots of time to game” itch.  I can’t tell you how many countless hours I’ve eaten up trying to beat friends and family in my chase to be number one. For all that said, the runner grind of the collection can also be a bit boring at times. I’ve stopped playing just as many of these games because they don’t add anything to the experience besides the usual run, jump, rinse, and repeat.

Golden Arrow Runner

Luckily while at IndieCade East this year I came across a game that wanted to do something different with the runner genre. During the game slam, a young woman named Jenna walked up to the podium and gave a quick presentation about her game called “The Golden Arrow,” a game in which a bad-ass, monster-killing princess is the protagonist. My ears perked up and on screen was a retro, 8-bit-styled runner game that added a narrative to the timeless runner formula. I knew that I wanted to find out more about the game, and she said it would be hitting the iTunes store in the upcoming weeks.

I got my hands on the game and let me say, it really is a great game. Monster & Glitch, the one woman indie development studio headed by Jenna Hoffstein, makes a game that combines a fun, accessible playing foundation, delightful and propelling soundtrack with a charming narrative that both makes the game stand out and pushes the player forward.

The mechanics are straightforward: varying presses of the screen will determine height and duration of your jump over and across multiple platforms. Various objects will be put in your way to stop your journey, but through some quick responses and some help from smart game design you can extend your runs and get closer to your monster-killing goals.

Your score increases the longer you run but the twist is in how the story unfolds. After you run a certain distance you will receive a scroll that gives you another part of the narrative. In most runner games your progress resets after you die, but in Golden Arrow your runs are cumulative from one scroll to the next. So you will only have to travel the distance remaining after your last death. Being able to “pick up” from where you left off makes the game such a delight to play and keeps you engaged in the process. It totally removes the potential frustration that can happen in a game like this.

You can gain running speed by jumping into stars on the playfield. More important are the randomly placed rocks that you see in the world. I found that running into them slowed you down and gave you a little more control over jumping, especially if you need to make multiple jumps on a platform. Once I learned to slow down it exponentially lengthened my runs and thus my high scores. I was tops on the leaderboards for about ten minutes, until being dethroned. (Brianna, Jest, and Marmarh I’m coming for you!!)

Golden Arrow’s music also is a highlight. Wonderful vocals fill the start and story screens while pulsating chiptunes push you along your trek. Wait until you get to the 6,000 meter mark and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The story of the princess who finds her prince has been commonplace in many an enchanted tale, but there are a couple of poignant story bits there for discovery. I won’t spoil them but will say that some of them surprisingly touched me on a personal level. Once you finish the tale, you will appreciate the care with which Jenna weaves her story together.

Golden Arrow Story

Golden Arrow is great because it doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel, and in many respects it didn’t need to. What I believe sets this game apart from many of the games on the market is that it didn’t try to hook me with micro-transactions or time gates. It got me hooked by giving me addictive gameplay wrapped in a fun and engaging story. I suggest everyone pick up this game on the iTunes store for the low, low price of $.99.

Also I had the chance to sit down and chat with Jenna Hoffstein and talk about the game and how it was to develop The Golden Arrow. Check out our exclusive interview here:


Comedy Central’s Indecision: How Elections Should Be Done

In an effort to both get away from the 24-hour news cycle and prove my superior knowledge of random trivia, I downloaded the new iOS/Android game from Comedy Central and 2KPlay called “Indecision”.

The game starts with the three factions (Republicans, Democrats and Independents) on rising bars to show whose group is leading the race. This is determined by how many users have won their games based on which party they’ve chosen. You then choose your lovely avatar and customize them with all the adornments you have at your disposal. As you can see below my faux me looks amazing with his smart bowler hat and 500˚ suntan.

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Once your frankenyou is done, jumping into a game is super easy. You can play random people or, if you’ve connected your Facebook account, snagging a willing friend to play is a snap as well. Unlike many FB-connected games, this one is way less intrusive than most and will not bug you asking you multiple times for help. (Thank you 2K.)

The goal of the game is to answer questions so that you can collect “voters” to place upon a map of the United States. Each state has a number attributed to it, and the first person to 100 wins the game and helps their political party overall.

What I really like and appreciate about the game is that the questions aren’t just about recent politics. There have been questions that have gone as far back as the 60’s. This feels like it gives everyone a pretty fair playing field to work with when answering questions. I am no history buff but have done pretty well with trivia from the B.K. Era (Before Kahlief).

If you are having trouble figuring out which Vice President couldn’t spell “potato”, you have the option of using the game’s version of “life-lines”. Politically and aptly named the “Investigative Committee” and “Ballot Peek”.

You can use these as many times as you want as long as you have the money to spend on them. You can use money for life-lines and to purchase new wares for your avatar. You can earn in-game money by leveling up.

The best tactics you can use in your quest for continental domination are your “Political Aides”

These tools can be implemented to give your side a quick boost or turn the tide if you are down big.

The Filibuster: slows your opponent down when they are answering a question. This is super helpful in case of ties — the tie breaker is determined by who answered their questions the fastest.

The Recount: instantly gives you an extra three markers to place on the map.

The Smear Campaign: randomly will take a state away from your opponent.

I’ve come from behind a couple of rounds by using one or a combination of these. You have to choose wisely though because once you do they will not be available to you for a couple of rounds.

Indecision is really fun — asynchronous games like this are perfect for mobile devices. You will at some point find that you are running into repeat questions but at the end of the day you get an awesome experience that is totally free.


The BladePad-Virtual Sticks Might Have Met Their Match

While doing my usual morning websurfing I found a link to a awesome article about a new peripheral for your iPhone. The Bladepad from Bladepad LLC has started looking for funding via Kickstarter for their combo Bluetooth gamepad/case.

Their Kickstarter page lists some of the specs and features of the control pad, here are some of them below:

– Dual Analog Sticks

– Full Console Controller Button Layout (D-pad, ABXY buttons, Start, Select, L1, L2, R1, R2)

– Full Back-Lighting (D-pad, Analogs sticks, ABXY buttons) that can be turned on or off during gameplay

– Premium Protective Case, which features a completely smooth back (no awkward bumps or raises)

– Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy Connection

– Micro USB Charging Port

– Dual Charging Cable; Charge both your iPhone and Bladepad at the same time!  (Plug the standard USB end into a power source and the other end of the cord splits into a standard 30 pin charger for your iPhone and a micro USB for Bladepad)

As of  today they are at around 11k or their 55k goal. With a deadline of August 26th they are going to need a bunch of help getting the word out. Having harped on how awful virtual sticks are and how they are killing the viability of the mobile gaming space, I really hope they succeed in getting to their goals.

I also wonder how many devs will jump on board if they see this add-on gaining momentum. It would be great to see what they could do with a “real” way to control games.

What do you think of this project? Would you back it? Let us know in the comments below and spread the word. Here is there Twitter Account


Wizorb Makes Old School Cool Again

Retro games seem to be making quite the comeback these days; whether it be mechanically or graphically, the trend to go old school is everywhere. The lovely folks at Tribute Games not only went retro, they went retro mash-up.

Wizorb is an awesome mix of both RPG elements and a brick-breaker game. I know at first that might sound awkward but Tribute pulls it off without a hitch.

The game takes place in the magical land of Gorudo, where a unknown evil presence has invaded and demolished the village. You step in as the character Cyrus, a wizard who can control light, dark, and the mysterious magic called “Wizorb”.

The brick-breaker elements are pretty straightforward with a couple of subtle twists. The circle button will increase your side-to-side speed, helping you bounce back those obtuse angled returns while the square (light magic) and “x” button (dark magic) use your powers.

You will use them both a great deal, depending on how much magic you have left and what the situation is at the time. The way the developers integrated the use also added an awesome twist to the mechanics. If you time your button press when the orb hits your paddle you will get different results. For instance, if you hit the light magic button at the right time, the ball becomes a fireball that will demolish a bunch of blocks at once. With the X button the ball will stop in mid-flight and will be controllable with the D-Pad. This helps with trying to hit those hard to reach and out of the way blocks.

Check out this video for a better look:

Coupled with RPG elements like collecting power-ups, enemies, and boss battles, this game brings something new to both genres and makes it a total breath of fresh air to the mobile gaming space.

Here is an example of one of the earlier boss battles:

All this coupled with a lush and beautiful 8-bit graphical style and soundtrack makes this one of my favorite games of the year. There is enough of a challenge through the 5 areas to keep people busy while also not frustrating the player. I appreciate that especially because I play the game during my 20 minute commute. It seems like just enough time to get through a couple of stages and save my game.

Wizorb has cemented my want to see anything and everything that Tribute Games will do in the future. Thank you for making old school cool again.


Sound Shapes Is Coming NEXT WEEK!!

If you can’t tell by the headline that I am excited, let me just say…..I’M EXCITED!

Next Tuesday Sound Shapes comes out on the PlayStation Vita. If you have friends that have a Vita and love music, this might be the game that makes them love their handheld again. Made by Jonathan Mak of Queasy Games Studio (creator of Everyday Shooter) and renown musician Shaw-Han Liem (robotandproud.com) Sound Shapes combines platforming and music creation in a way I’ve never seen before. The essence of the game has you creating music within a level by platforming and “revealing” sounds in the gamespace. The sounds that you find can then be used to create your own levels and soundscapes.

From what I’ve heard in previews and promotional material the music in the game is both wide-ranging and offers lots of genres to choose from.  In addition to the music that Liem has constructed for the game, heavy hitters like Beck, Jim Guthrie and Deadmau5 have also contributed tracks.

If you’ve noticed, lately we have been profiling games with awesome music on SpawnPoint. Games that involve both using and creating music in new and innovative ways. Sound Shapes looks like it will be another game audiophiles and beatmakers will love! The music creation mechanics integrate so well with the platforming level creation that I can’t wait to see what people come up with. Let’s hope the ability to share your creations is somewhere in there as well.

Here is a video of Jonathan showing off just how easy it is to make not only a beautiful level but a great sounding one:

You can pre-order the game on PSN for $14.99 and download it when it drops on Tuesday.

We would love to do an interview on this game with Jonathan and Shaw-Han. If you would like to hear it, share the article and send them a tweet at.

https://twitter.com/robotandproud

https://twitter.com/queasy00