Posts byJeremy Wood

    Slide To Play – Podcast #42: A Voyage of Discovery to the Horizon

    This week Andrew Podolsky is on vacation, so our producer Jeremy Wood guest hosts. We also had a special guest, Steve Palley co-founder and CEO of Slide To Play.

    We started out by talking about some of the news of the week. The App Store is now on Facebook, and iPad games are coming out of the woodwork.

    Next, we covered some of the games we’ve been playing. Jeremy has been playing Dawn of Discovery – Harbor, Chris has been playing Bit Pilot, and Steve has been playing too many to list. (more…)

    Reviews

    Geared Review

    As most people know, giant clockwork gears turn beneath the bottom of the ocean, determining the course of human events. These gears are controlled by the Illuminati from their many secret control rooms (mostly in Elk lodges). Geared, a puzzle game by Bryan Mitchell, gives you a similar experience on your iPhone or iPod Touch. (more…)

    Previews

    NFL 2010 Hands On, With Video

    When Gameloft said that NFL 2010 would launch “later in August” they we thought they meant the typical “late August”. Probably they hadn’t submitted it to Apple.

    Well, we were surprised to find it had been released, and we have some great hands-on footage for you to look at.

    So far we can say the title has great graphics, and the power of a real sports franchise can’t be underestimated.

    We’ll have a full review of this title up soon. In the meantime, check this gameplay footage’¦

      Rejected iPhone 3GS Logos Revealed

      Perhaps Steve Jobs isn’t keeping such a tight grip on things at Apple these days. Our dumpster-diving sources were able to uncover documents that show some of the rejected logos for the new iPhone 3GS. (more…)

        iPhone OS 3.0 Brings Big Wins for Users, Game Devs

        Apple’s Big Event today, the iPhone Software 3.0 Preview is really a big deal for game players and game developers.

        We’ll leave the talk about new user features to other outlets (OMG copy and paste’”finally!) and get right to what matters to us: Games. Game developers are going to be all over this new release, and we think we’re going to see some really fantastic stuff come out of it.

        (more…)

        Reviews

        Uno Review

        Uno is another highly polished offering from Gameloft. The game is a faithful interpretation of one of our favorite childhood card games’”for better and for worse. Although this is undoubtedly Uno, we didn’t find it to be anywhere near as fun as the original game. (more…)

        Reviews

        X-Plane Extreme Review

        Ever since X-Plane first came out on the iDevices, we’ve been waiting to fly fighter planes really fast. Happily, with the release of X-Plane Extreme, it’s time to take it into the danger zone in some sweet, high-performance hardware. This version brings the kind of energy-drink-swilling adrenaline rush we’ve been waiting for in iDevice aviation… but it’ll cost you. (more…)

        News

        X-Plane Extreme coming soon, X-Plane Helicopter Updated

        X-Plane Helicopter has received a much-needed update, version 9.0.7, which purports to improve/ease control of the helicopters in the simulator.

        We had a really hard time flying these beasts, and we’ll be looking at this update closely to see if it makes a sufficient improvement to make the program flyable.

        What’s more exciting, however, was the note in the update which made reference to a yet another new version of X-Plane for the iPhone. (more…)

        Reviews

        X-Plane-Helicopter Review

        X-Plane whet our appetite for flight simulators on the iPhone, with an impressive showing of accuracy in simulation, coupled with first-rate graphics. The feeling of flight that the sim provided was impressive, but the limited choices available in terms of planes to fly and places to fly them disappointed us. Laminar Research, the developer behind X-Plane, has set out to address that situation with two new releases: X-Plane-Airliner and X-Plane-Helicopter. We’ll look at both titles, starting with X-Plane-Helicopter. (more…)

          More Sneaky App Store Tactics

          Developers on the App Store have reinvented a search engine optimization from the early days of the web. Remember those pages full of keywords?

          Paul Haddad over at Tapbots has posted about an “optimization” he’s noticed recently in the App Store.

          (more…)

          Reviews

          i Love Katamari Review

          Katamari Damacy, a cult hit on the PlayStation 2, and has grown into a whole series of titles spanning the PS2, XBox360, PSP, and mobile phones. I Love Katamari has rolled its way onto the iPhone, looking to snatch up some new fans on Apple’s platform. Though the same great Katamari style is recognizable in this game, bad controls and performance problems kill most of the fun. (more…)

            Moto Racer On the Big Screen

            We’ve been watching the exploration that Erica Sadun and others have been doing with some undocumented video-out features in the iPhone 2.2 SDK.

            The potential for playing iPhone games on the big screen is pretty compelling. The mockups and test apps so far haven’t been too exciting, but we’ve seen the gleam of potential.

            Well, the folks at Ars must have thought so too, but they managed to get somebody to do something about it.

            Freeverse, known for some of the most visually impressive iPhone games, has gotten into the experimental spirit, hacking up a proof of concept version of their hit Moto Racer game.

            Unfortunately, there are a couple of stumbling blocks to seeing this in your own living room.

            First, this functionality is undocumented and not part of the official SDK which developers are required to conform to for publishing through the App Store. Whether or not this capability is given to developers is up to Apple.

            The second issue is a technical one’”it takes a lot of horsepower to run these games out to video. The television output is higher resolution (and possibly less accelerated, although it’s unclear) than the internal display, which of course means higher processor and GPU load.

            Regardless, it’s great to see a glimpse at what might be the next big technical advancement in iPhone/iPod Touch gaming.

            Reviews

            Frenzic Review

            Frenzied Panic is the state that we found ourselves in while playing this challenging puzzle game from The Icon Factory and ARTIS Software. Frenzic came out on the Mac around the same time the iPhone was announced. Now that Frenzic is finally out for the device it always seemed most suited for, how does it measure up? Incredibly well. (more…)

            News

            Frenzic First Look

            One of the games that first made us jones for third party iPhone apps has just been released onto the App Store.

            Craig Hockenberry (noted iPhone pugilist, iconographer, and Mac Developer) has just announced that Frenzic is now (finally) available on the iPhone. (more…)

            Reviews

            Flick Fishing Review

            Flick Fishing is the second game in Freeverse software’s “Flick Sports” series. Freeverse is a well-known publisher on the Mac games scene, and is becoming a powerhouse in the iPhone space as well. The previous “Flick” title brought the world of competitive bowling to the iPhone; Flick Fishing brings the same motion-controlled concept to angling. While we’re a bit unimpressed by the casting mechanics, this elegant game gets practically everything else right, from the rocking of a fishing boat to the pull of a fish on the line. (more…)

            News

            Puzzllotto Has A Winner!

            United Lemur has reported via twitter that their puzzle/lottery/contest game Puzzllotto has a winner.

            United Lemur – Congratulations to Dave H. from Portland, the new Puzzllotto Champion ‘” subject to third-party verification, as per the official rules.

            Dave H. is a smarter fellow than any of us’”we found Puzzllotto to be a big headache inducer’”Congratulations Dave H.! Enjoy that $8,000 prize (we have some iPhone games to recommend you spend the prize on’¦).

            We’re curious to hear how this unique gambit has played out for United Lemur. Was this an effective way to promote an iPhone game, and will we see future contests like it? Did any of you, our readers, take a shot at the PUzzllotto prize? Let us know what you think, in the comments.

            Reviews

            Wurdle Review

            “Wurdle” isn’t a real word, so it won’t get you any points in this word puzzle game from Semi Secret Software. Luckily, an awesome game by any other name is still awesome; this engaging and addictive take on the Boggle-like word jumble genre earns our highest recommendation.

            Wurdle presents you with a grid of familiar letter-squares. Your goal is to find as many words as you can in the grid before time runs out. (more…)

            News

            Puzzllotto to Launch Today

            Mike Lee, famed Mac and iPhone developer, has another revolution up his sleeve. Lee was a founder of Tapulous, a iPhone development house, which created Tap Tap Revenge as well as some great iPhone applications.

            After leaving Tapulous, Lee has started a new project, United Lemur. Their very first piece of software, as well as the company itself, are to be launched today at 1PM (PST) in an event in Palo Alto.

            All we know right now about United Lemur’s first project is its name, “Puzzllotto”. Judging from the name, we hope that it is an awesome game, but judging from Mike Lee’s revolutionary spirit, who knows.

              Nintendo Announces New DSi, with App Store-Like Feature

              Gizmodo reports that Nintendo has introduced a new member of the DS family, the DSi, which will bring several hardware advancements, as well as a new “DSi Shop”.

              This peaked our interest, as it seems like every new mobile device now has to include a company store.

              The DSi Store will use a similar pricing/purchasing scheme to that used on the Wii, with purchases denominated in scrip points rather than currency. Price points will range from free to 800 points, which, if the same USD to WiiPoint exchange rates hold, will be from $0 to $8 USD.

              It’s not clear from the announcement so far where Nintendo’s store will fall in comparison to the App Store. However, given Nintendo’s track record with the WiiWare store, we doubt that the DSi will be the hotbed of innovation that the App Store has been. While Apple has been criticized for keeping the iPhone/iPod Touch a somewhat sandboxed platform, the strict controls on access to Nintendo platforms makes Apple’s policies look incredibly transparent and open.

              Reviews

              X-Plane 9 Review

              X-Plane has a long history of providing some of the most realistic and detailed flight simulation available on desktop computers, on over a thousand different aircraft–both real and imagined (Drawing from the vast user-community at www.x-plane.org and elsewhere.) . When bringing the simulator to the iPhone, the developers had to scale things down a bit. There are only four aircraft in this version, and the ability to design your own aircraft is absent. While the iPhone’s accelerometer controls are a natural fit for flying aircraft, and the graphics and sound are fantastic, X-Plane 9 doesn’t quite have enough content to merit a full recommendation.

              The simulator starts with you in a Cirrus Jet, lined up for takeoff from LOWI field in Innsbruck, Austria. The default view is straight forward, with a superimposed heads-up display, which will be familiar to anyone who has played with a flight simulator. On the right side of the screen is a slider which controls your throttle, on the left a slider for flaps. At the bottom there are two buttons, one for brakes and the other for your landing gear. Tapping elsewhere on the screen brings up a menu of five different icons; these switch views, and give you access to the settings. The most impressive views of your flight are from the outside of the plane, which highlight the great aircraft graphics, but make it a bit tricky to fly. In any of the outside views, you can swipe your finger around the screen to move the camera, and pinch in or out to zoom.

              After you swipe the throttle up to full, and start to accelerate down the runway, you’ll see that X-Plane has one of the very best implementations of the “iPhone as controller” setups that we’ve seen so far. You hold the your iPhone or iPod Touch in landscape orientation, just like a pilot holding the yoke of an airplane. Tilting backwards and forwards moves the elevator, and tilting the device left and right moves the ailerons. X-Plane 9 uses something called “blade element theory” to simulate the performance of an aircraft from first principles, rather than the fixed models that most flight simulators use. This endows your aircraft with highly realistic physics and controls.

              The graphics in X-Plane are impressive both technically and artistically. The aircraft have a large amount of geometric and textured detail’”while they don’t look quite as real as the desktop incarnation, they are far beyond anything else we’ve seen to date on the iPhone. The only nit to pick about the aircraft graphics are the propellers, which seem to flutter and spasm, where they should be making a transparent disc.

              The terrain, however, is not as impressive. The single region provided, modeled on Innsbruck, Austria, is definitely topographically interesting, with lots of peaks and valleys to fly in and around. Unfortunately, these textured environs are a bit plain and repetitive’”if that’s because Innsbruck is bland, we apologize to Austria, but the developer should consider some other locations. One of the greatest attributes of the desktop version of X-Plane is that you can fly anywhere in the world. It’s probably not realistic to expect worldwide travel on your handheld, but a few other environments to fly in would add depth to the experience.

              Meanwhile, the simulator’s sound effects shine, especially the sound of the engine, which ramps up as you increase the throttle, and the sound of the wind rushing past the plane as you hurtle towards the ground. It adds a lot to the feeling of flight. The simulator does not have a soundtrack, but we would much rather provide our own’”perhaps “Flight of the Valkyries.” X-Plane is a good iPod audio citizen, turning off its sound when you flip the mute switch.

              You might have noticed that we haven’t mentioned any sort of scores, challenges, or competitions yet. X-Plane doesn’t have any of those things, because it’s not really a game, but a simulator. It offers a pure sandbox style of entertainment, where you can experiment and challenge your skills.

              To put yourself to the test, you can use the settings menu to change the time of day; wind speed and direction; amount of turbulence; cloud type and coverage; plane type; and even load up your plane with extra cargo. For a challenging takeoff, weight down the little Cessna 172 and crank up the wind. Or work on your night landings in the Cirrus Jet with heavy turbulence. These options provide a lot of replay value which isn’t immediately apparent. Still, the range of aircraft available is severely limited’”the contrast between the smallest and largest, and the fastest and slowest, isn’t that great. We’d really like to see a more diverse fleet of airplanes and more flying locations, as well as more airports in those locations.

              X-Plane is not for everyone. Those hankering for competitive play should look elsewhere. However, if you’re interested in flight, or want to see a technically impressive simulator, X-Plane 9 may fit the ball, although we can’t entirely recommend the program until more aircraft and locations are added.

              News

              “Galcon Prize” Coding Competition

              Galcon developer Phil Hassey has just announced a coding challenge to improve the Galcon rating system.

              “The Galcon Prize is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to improve the Galcon rankings system! Galcon is a winner-takes-all multi-player game for 2-4 players. Entries are to be written in python. The prize is an 8GB iPod Touch. Entries must be uploaded by Oct 5.”

              The functionality of this system, and how it worked on the iPhone, was one of our few complaints about Galcon and hopefully this competition will make the game even better.

              For competition details, see the Galcon Prize page.

              Checkout what we had to say about Galcon in our review.

              News

              X-Plane 9 Developed in Only 14 Days

              Laminar research has recently posted a dedicated page about X-Plane 9 for iPhone on their site.

              The basics are covered at the top of the page, with some screenshots and a link to the App Store.

              Next, is the announcement that X-Plane 9.0.1 should be out shortly, bringing enhanced frame rates (25% improvement!) and some more detailed settings.

              The best part, however, is towards the bottom of the page, where Austin Meyer, chief developer at Laminar tells the development story behind X-Plane 9. In it, he tells how X-Plane 9 for the iPhone went from idle speculation to release in less than a month.

              Further, we learn that the development of X-Plane was directly aided by Apple, that Austin and one of his coders went to the Apple campus where they were “cranking away madly on X-Plane for about 12 hours a day” for nearly a week to do the bulk of the development. Apple had initially planned to feature X-Plane in the Let’s Rock event, but decided that the sim “is not fast-paced enough for a keynote demo.”

              It doesn’t look like the game has suffered from lack of exposure, as it climbs the charts and “selling like hotcakes” according to Austin.

              News

              Developer Q&A: Austin Meyer on X-Plane 9

              We’ve been covering the launch of X-Plane 9 since it made its surprise debut on the App Store late last week.

              X-Plane 9 is the first flight simulator for the iPhone/iPod Touch, bringing a degree of realism not yet seen in other games for the platform. We’ve been fans of the desktop version of X-Plane for years, and had some questions for Austin Meyer, the chief developer at Laminar Research, the company behind X-Plane.

              Slide to Play: You’ve been making X-Plane on the desktop for a long time. What has it been like to move from that environment onto the iPhone platform?

              Austin Meyer: Fun as heck! For the desktop sim, there are many thousands of lines of code and hundreds (thousands?) of image files from me, Ben, and Sergio. [STP Note: The other lead developers/artists at Laminar Reaseach] It is very difficult to make major changes to the simulator without re-writing LOTS of code to make the major changes possible, and without risking breaking something in the sim. As well, many customers get used to things working a certain way, and whenever you CHANGE things, many people just assume that the NEW way of doing this must be WRONG. This makes it a little difficult, sometimes, to get things changed in the sim. None of this is a factor with the iPhone, which is a clean-sheet design.

              Between the thousands of lines of code, and thousands of customers, it is about impossible to get anything big done.

              None of that is a factor with the iphone.

              At the moment, the program is more of a simulation than a game’”just like X-Plane on the desktop. Do you plan to change that with future updates?

              No, not at all. We will add a few features to the iphone version (map, for example, and maybe an instrument panel) but it will not get ‘game-y’.

              Do you plan to let users bring aircraft of their own design, or back-catalog planes, over from the desktop version?

              Nah’¦ It is not so easy to import stuff into the iphone. I can not see it being customized.

              What is the simulation accuracy of the iPhone version like in comparison to the desktop version?

              Within 5% or so. I managed to get ~95% of the accuracy of the big sim over the iphone without busting system requirements.

              More generally, what future plans do you have for expanding the application?

              You will know what I am doing next when I post an email to the newsgroup claiming what can NOT be done!

              News

              X-Plane 9 First Look

              X-Plane, one of the most powerful and realistic flight simulators on the desktop, which has been used to create actual airplanes, has come to the iPhone.

              Released to the App Store yesterday for $9.99, X-Plane is the first flight simulator on the platform.

              Players can choose from several different aircraft, view angles, and flight conditions. While the desktop version allows the player to fly around the world, or into space, in the iPhone release flight is limited to the area around Innsbruck, Austria’”where rugged terrain makes for some exciting flight.

              We spent many hours in X-Plane 7 on the desktop designing and flying aircraft, and look forward to looking at X-Plane on the iPhone.

              News

              New Release: Watermelons

              Galcon developer Phil Hassey sends word about his new iPhone game, Watermelons. It features watermelons falling from a tree, and a trampoline to catch them as they fall. Catching the watermelons can insure your continued employment as a “Melon Master”�”a lucrative position, we’re sure.

              Perhaps it would be best if we let Phil describe it in the video below.

              Watermelons is priced at $0.99 at the App Store.

              Reviews

              Galcon Review

              Independent developer Phil Hassey’s Galcon is a fast-paced game of galactic conquest. We mean really fast-paced, with a typical round lasting a couple of minutes–complete with fleet movements and multiple planetary takeovers, retreats and reinforcements. Galcon is well-designed for short play sessions on the iPhone, and strategy game fans will have a field day swapping planets back and forth over the Internet. The game could get even better with some moderate adjustments, though.

              Galcon distills the space strategy genre down to its basics: ships and planets. Planets serve as bases for your ships, as well as ship generators. The larger the planet, the faster it builds ships. Ships also have two functions: attacking and defending. To attack, you dispatch a fleet of ships, denoted by a swarm of triangles, from one (or several) of your planets towards a hostile world. If there are more ships in your fleet than there are defenders based on the planet, you gain sovereignty over the world and immediately commence building up a new fleet (you are also free to change the curtains). If you manage to take over all the planets in the galaxy, you win the game. There is no United Federation of Planets or diplomacy in Galcon; it’s all-out war, all the time.

              The galactic neighborhood is a relatively small place in Galcon, and it fits nicely on your iPhone or iTouch screen. You start each game with just a single small green planet. Neutral planets–apparently inhabited by hapless, planet-bound natives–are grey in color. Grey planets can defend themselves, but cannot attack you with their own fleets. More pressing are the planets of any other color, which belong to your enemies. On the lower difficult levels of solo play, each planet has a number inside it which represents the number of defending ships. On your planets, this number tells you how many ships you have ready to protect and serve, while on grey or enemy planets, it tells you what you’re up against. This nicety gets turned off on the higher solo difficulty levels, as well as during network play.

              Galcon’s controls are very adept on the iPhone. To select your ships and set out for conquest, you simply tap one or more of your planets, and then drag onto or tap on your target. 50% of your garrison on the selected planet(s) will embark by default. You can change percentage by tapping on the indicated percent in the lower right-hand corner. Adjusting how many ships you send in an attack can help tune your strategy. Do you want to pick away at the enemy, or make an all-out gamble?

              The game has a handful of different modes in single-player, and a single multiplayer game type. The single-player modes change up the quantity, skill, and positioning of the computer-controlled enemies, but they are all variations on the same basic conquest theme. You can also control the AI’s skill with a sliding bar of different ranks from “Cabin Boy” to “Grand Admiral” on the home screen.

              No matter which variation you choose, the arrangement of the planets will be randomly generated. This boosts replay value, but it also means that there are no high scores or saved campaigns. Considering that the distribution of planets is so critical to the game, the results of this random generation can feel very uneven, especially at higher difficulty levels. A campaign mode with scores and designed levels would have provided a better single-player challenge.

              Happily, the most recent update to Galcon solved the limited novelty of the single-player game by adding local and Internet multiplayer. Up to four players can have it out at once, for some very frenetic action, with attacks from all sides. Learning the canned behaviors of the AI doesn’t prepare you for this at all, so expect your first few rounds to go quickly and unfavorably. Stats and rankings are all provided at www.galcon.com, to measure the depth of your defeat and the height of your triumph.

              There are some awkward flaws in the multiplayer features, however. For instance, you have to set up your account using a full browser, preferably on a computer. Furthermore, the player stats and profiles are only available via Safari, and you cannot get the player profiles of your opponents without memorizing or writing down their names. The multiplayer experience is still great, but it’s marred a bit by these shortcomings.

              Galcon’s graphics also fall a bit short. They’re simple and functional, but definitely amateurish. The production values just don’t measure up compared to other games at this price point. The game’s sounds are similarly rudimentary, with some minimalist whooshes and explosions as fleets launch and planets are attacked, respectively. On the other hand, Galcon is a good iPhone audio citizen, allowing you to provide your own soundtrack, or even talk on the phone while playing’”great for those boring conference call meetings with your editor. Also, unlike a few big-budget titles we could mention, Galcon honors the mute switch.

              All in all, Galcon is a great game with a few moderate shortcomings. We’re awarding it a 3 at present time, even with its limited solo play appeal, its relatively low-rent production values, and some hiccups in its multiplayer function taken into account. It’s not that far off from achieving ‘Must Have’ status, as long as the developer puts in a little more effort.

              News

              iSplume First Look

              Flashbang Studios has just released their first iPhone game, “iSplume”.

              Priced at $2.99, it’s an iPhone version of their popular flash game “Splume”. Apparently, a splume is “a strange creature with a wide emotional spectrum” and, somewhat unsurprisingly, matching some quantity together is advantageous.

              After just a couple minutes with the flash-based predecessor it’s clear that the game has an entertaining take on the “shoot things at thing to match colors” genre. The splumes appear to obey the laws of physics (maybe not our laws) as they stick and droop together.

              The developers have taken this to the next level on the iPhone, where moving the device will change the direction of gravity.

              We’ll have a review up before too long, but in the mean time, take a look at the gameplay with this video from the developer:

                We’ve Rocked: New iPod Touch, iPhone OS 2.1 Announced

                Kevin Rose is taking a lot of the fun out of Apple events. New iPod Nano in rainbow colors. iTunes 8 with “Genius” music sommelier. For all the details on those announcements, checkout the coverage at Ars Technica.

                What we were excited about going in was the potential for new offerings for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform’”and Apple has delivered.

                The highlight is a new iPod Touch, with more features and a lower price. The new features bring the Touch into parity with the iPhone (short of actually being a phone), which should be a boon to users and developers. Specifically, the new Touch has side-mounted volume controls, and a built-in speaker. These two additions will definitely make the Touch better for gaming.

                An interesting new feature is the inclusion of a Nike+ receiver. This is the first external input device for the platform.

                Rounding out the new Touch was the announcement that it will start at $229 (8GB). This is a significant price drop, and should go a long way to building share for the platform.

                Phil Schiller demoed several high-profile games. He gave Spore Origins a spin, scored a goal in Real Soccer 2009, and showed off Need for Speed (the first public view of this upcoming game from EA).

                Steve said what we’ve been thinking, “[iPhone/iPod Touch] is the best portable device for playing games”. There is a new TV spot for the Touch, featuring game play videos of some of the top games for the platform. With this pricing and marketing effort, Nintendo had better watch out’”an iPod Touch costs less than an iPod and a DS combined and is about 300x cooler.

                Finally, Steve announced iPhone OS 2.1. He promises that it will fix the Game and App crashes that we’ve all been seeing, the painfully slow backups, improve battery life, and numerous other problems. It will also bring Genius on-the-go playlists. No mention of other anticipated features, such as the notification service or GPS improvements. New iPod Touches include the new software, but it should be available to the rest of us Friday.

                Previews

                Real Soccer 2009 First Look

                The world’s game is football soccer, and with the iPhone going world-wide, Gameloft is now prepared with Real Soccer 2009’”released today on the App Store at $9.99.

                This is Gameloft’s first sports title for the iPhone, but comes from a long lineage of mobile sports titles from other platforms.

                With nearly 200 licensed players and real team names, it promises to bring a great degree of detail and realism. Gameloft touts that players can “perform the most amazing soccer moves with the touch screen” as well as “play throw-ins and penalties by tilting your iPhone”.

                Further, Gameloft promises a future update that will provide WiFi-based multiplayer.

                We look forward to checking out Real Soccer 2009 shortly. If it’s anything like Asphalt 4 racing game we reviewed last week, we’re in for a treat.

                  Last Chance for Rockfall

                  Independent iPhone developer Jason Wright has decided to bow to legal pressure and remove his game, Rockfall, from the App Store. He informs STP that First Star Software, makers of Boulder Dash, found Rockfall to be too similar for comfort, and have demanded that he take his game down.

                  Wright admits that Rockfall is inspired by Boulder Dash, but points out that there are many games which are even closer. This situation is similar to that faced by developer Noah Witherspoon, who was also forced to remove his game Tris from the App Store.

                  While we’ve never been great fans of purely derivative games at Slide To Play, we do question the legal tactics involved, and the impact on innovation and entrepreneurship they might have. Where do you draw the lines between inspiration, emulation, and downright copying? A larger developer might fight this battle, but the independent developers that have flocked to the iPhone don’t have the resources for lengthy legal battles.

                  In the meantime, Wright is offering up a final version of Rockfall, which fixes some of the outstanding issues users had been having. You can get it while it lasts at the App Store.

                    September 9th iPod Event, New iPod Touch?

                    Ars Technica reports today that Apple has invited members of the press to a special event entitled “Let’s Rock” in San Francisco, on September 9th.

                    The consensus view is that this event will shepherd in a refresh of the iPod line. Specifically, there are pictures floating around of case designs which point to a new iPod Nano form factor.

                    Of more interest to us, however, is the potential for a new price-point for the iPod Touch, or even a new design. A decrease in price for the Touch could help move iPod Touch/iPhone gaming even further into the mainstream. There don’t appear to be any definitive rumors as to the price point, but with the iPhone going for $199, a price cut for the iPod Touch down to at least that level seems likely.

                      September 9th iPod Event, New iPod Touch? BROKEN

                      Ars Technica reports today that Apple has invited members of the press to a special event entitled “Let’s Rock” in San Francisco, on September 9th.

                      The consensus view is that this event will shepherd in a refresh of the iPod line. Specifically, there are pictures floating around of case designs which point to a new iPod Nano form factor.

                      Of more interest to us, however, is the potential for a new price-point for the iPod Touch, or even a new design. A decrease in price for the Touch could help move iPod Touch/iPhone gaming even further into the mainstream. There don’t appear to ben any definitive rumors as to the price point, but with the iPhone going for $199, a price cut for the iPod Touch down to at least that level seems likely.

                      News

                      Galcon 1.2 Released, Includes Multiplayer

                      Galcon 1.2 was released on the App Store today. The 1.2 release brings online and offline multiplayer gaming to Galcon, the game of galactic conquest.

                      This is exciting news for anyone who has played and enjoyed the desktop version of Galcon, as well as for people who found the earlier versions of Galcon on the iPhone somewhat limited.

                      Reviews

                      De Blob Review

                      In THQ’s de Blob, agents of the INKT corporation have taken over the city of Chroma, and leeched it and its inhabitants of all color. Not to fear, though. The resistance forces have a new hero: a big squishy blob!

                      As the titular blob, you will roll around all of Chroma, redecorating buildings and leaving a splotchy trail of paint as you go.

                      The color revolution in de Blob is fought block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood, as one would expect in urban warfare. To complete a block, you will need to score a certain number of points and reach the level exit before your timer runs out.

                      However, there are higher rewards at stake for achieving more than the bare minimum for completion. In a nod to ideological purity, you are awarded a red star for completing all of the “resistance missions” available in a given block. ‘Resistance’ leaders, identified by blinking magenta circles, are stationed around each block. They assign you tasks when you bump into them.

                      Unfortunately, the game does not use this conceit to introduce much in the way of level specific challenges, instead relying on a repetitive series of point-to-point time-limited dashes, attack missions, and painting tasks. The developers wait until the very last level to use this mission system to advance the plot of the game. It’s a lost opportunity.

                      To go about painting stuff and defeating INKT, you need to move the blob around. In the default mode, you use the touch screen to direct your movement: the blob basically follows your finger around. The farther you move your finger towards the edge of the screen, the faster you move. In tilt mode, you control the blob by tilting your iPhone and making it roll accordingly. Tilt mode lets you move by touch as well, which allows for maximum flexibility of control.

                      Both of these schemes are flawed. In the purely touch-based control, your guiding finger tends to get in the way, obscuring potential enemies. By contrast, the tilt approach provides a clear field of view, but lacks precision, and can lead to viewing angle difficulties. To the developer’s credit, calibration and sensitivity controls are provided for the tilt mode, but no combination of settings produced satisfactory results.

                      The manner in which your blob interacts with the paint globes scattered around each level is much more satisfying. The basic primary colors are all present: red, blue, and yellow. These paints act just like they did back in preschool finger-painting, allowing you to mix up a full rainbow of colors. This comes in handy, because you are often required to use particular colors to paint certain buildings. You are also awarded bonus points for particularly colorful paint jobs.

                      De Blob is not just an extreme city makeover, however. You are also fighting INKT’s forces of greyscale. As you approach an INKT agent, a new control appears at the bottom of the screen, which will command the blob to attack. Tap the attack button and the blob will jump into the air, squashing the INKT agent with a satisfying splat.

                      If, however, the INKT agent gets to you first, you will be covered with a color-absorbing sludge, which robs anything you’ve previously painted of color and takes away your points. In this case, you must find your way to a water pool to wash off the slime of failure. These encounters can be quite frustrating, due to the game’s generally sloppy controls. In addition, INKT agents will sometimes appear to be open to an attack, but are in fact blocked by the edge of a building. Your blob will leap to attack, but jump right into harm’s way.

                      On the plus side, De Blob has a very strong presentation, highlighted by its consistently impressive art direction. The cheerful results of your haphazard painting across the city’s canvas are something to behold. Squishing enemies under your blob is also genuinely fun, and it produces some delightful sound effects. The included music is catchy, but you can’t provide your own soundtrack from your iPod.

                      To summarize, de Blob is a pretty uneven experience. The story seems incomplete and poorly integrated with the levels, which are themselves extremely repetitive. This damages the game’s replay value; yes, you can go back and try to collect all the stars, but you won’t really want to. Younger gamers or very casual gamers will likely enjoy this game more than others, but we can’t recommend it to a wider audience.