Posts byJeremy Wood

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…)

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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.

News

Puzzllotto coming Wednesday, with $30,000 Prize

United Lemur has made a press release announcing that Puzzllotto will be available on the App Store this coming Wednesday.

Mike Lee at United Lemur made a big deal about the contest that would be associated with Puzzllotto when he announced the game a couple weeks ago. At the time, he said that the the details of the contest hadn’t been nailed down. (more…)

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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.

Reviews

Wurdle Review

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    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.

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    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.

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      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.

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