Posts by: Owen Faraday

Buzz kill: Apple rejects Buzz Aldrin-designed game for featuring Buzz Aldrin

Touch-and-go landing.

Touch-and-go landing.

I was over at Slitherine yesterday talking to director Iain McNeil and–you’re gonna love this–he told me that Apple have rejected Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager because the game “contains well-known third parties”. Bwuh?

Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager has been in production at Polar Motion for a couple of years, with Slitherine publishing. The game is meant to be a spiritual successor to the classic space sim Race Into Space, and is being made with significant input from Buzz himself — America’s most storied (and pugilistic) living astronaut. So for maximum clarity: this is a Buzz Aldrin-endorsed game being made (in part) by Buzz Aldrin. How Aldrin can be considered a third party to a game he worked on (a fact that Slitherine’s App Store description trumpets all over the place) is beyond me. Meanwhile, just a week ago, Apple approved a game taking the mickey out of Kim Jong Un, so somebody tell me how this “well-known third parties” thing is supposed to work.

McNeil just sort of shrugged his shoulders about the whole thing. “We thought we were pretty safe this time,” he told me. “It’s one of the only Slitherine games I can think of with no violence or guns.” The game does feature flags, though — we know that Apple gets touchy about those sometimes.

After the “realistic violence” fiasco and the German/Soviet “enemies” affair, I feel bad for the Apple approvals people. They get mocked when they mess up and don’t get noticed at all when they do their jobs right. So let’s just thank them for giving Slitherine a reason to tell us that Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager will be out for iPad soon — assuming this nonsense gets cleared up.

Read my preview from last year to get a feel for what’s coming.

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Screenshots from Gambit, the first expansion for Star Realms, coming to iOS & Android later this week

Less than 12 parsecs?

Less than 12 parsecs?

The thing I get the most emails about is beard-grooming advice, followed closely by mewling requests to stop holding the world for ransom from my sinister lair high atop Mount Hexmap. But number 3 is definitely PT readers wondering what the heck is up with Star Realms.

The sci-fi flavoured deck-building card game got a good write-up from us last year and it did even better over at Board Game Geek, where it pulled down a fistful of Golden Geek Awards. It’s a nifty little card game that had some UI wonkiness in its iOS and Android incarnations, and it had a strong tang of “pre-expansion” gameplay — there were a lot of obvious open sockets waiting to be hooked up to more elaborate gameplay mechanics.

The Gambit expansion for the Star Realms base set came out on cardboard back in 2013, and it’ll hit desktops and mobile versions of Star Realms this Thursday, White Wizard Games told me this morning. Gambit cards are randomly dealt to the players at the beginning of the game and allow the player that holds them to bend certain rules, encouraging players to pursue different gameplay styles. It’s a neat idea and the expansion is generally well-reviewed on tabletop. Perhaps even better: there’s two new chapters included in the much-admired single-player campaign. Gambit will be available as a single in-app purchase for $4.

Besides the new cards, there’s been some welcome tweaks and additional functionality to the Star Realms app, and everybody will get these improvements when the game updates this week, whether or not you buy the new card set. There’s a new update feed which will help you stay on top of your asynchronous games (a big pain in the engines in 1.0), an option for faster card animations, online leaderboards, and new tips and hints to smooth out the learning curve for new players.

Lots more images from the expansion after the jump.

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The weekend that time forgot: The Curious Expedition is available to play until Monday

Edgar the pack mule has an astounding array of salty jokes.

Edgar the pack mule has an astounding array of salty jokes.

As you are all contractually obligated to follow us on Twitter (it’s in those iTunes terms & conditions you never read before agreeing to) it will be old news to you that The Curious Expedition is free to play on the web this weekend.

Now before you start clicking links from your iPad or Android tablet or Chumby — this current pre-release alpha build of The Curious Expedition is a weighty HTML 5 monster that runs best on a desktop browser. I got it running on my iPad once but the incantations required are much too dark to share on a public forum such as this. So take a break from House of Cards and play it on your computer for a bit this weekend. If you like it (and I reckon you will) you can shell out a few bucks to get early access.

The Curious Expedition is a crackerjack of a game we’ve talked about a couple of times before: you take on the role of one of the great names of the 19th and 20th centuries like Nicola Tesla and Amelia Earhart and lead expeditions into randomly-generated (and increasingly more dangerous) jungles, testing the patience of the indigenous folks and avoiding wild animals to find lost treasures. It’s actually even weirder than that: there’s Toltec gold and valleys full of dinosaurs and a lot of other stuff that might have been mined from a drunk Jules Verne/Arthur Conan-Doyle spitballing session. The Curious Expedition will get a native tablet app edition once development wraps on the web-based game, German devs Maschinen-Mensch tell us.

It seems like the Game Mechanic of the Year for 2015 is going to be sanity: keeping your characters in touch with reality figures prominently in The Curious Expedition, as it does in Darkest Dungeon and Sunless Sea. Is that a sign of our growing preoccupation with mental health as a new generation of combat veterans reintegrates into civilian life? Or a murmur in our collective subconscious as the Great Old Ones awaken in the black depths of the Pacific? It’s gotta be one of those two.

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New Release Appendix: Arnhem Airborne Assault and Blastball MAX

There's an option to play with counters or 3D busts of Gene Hackman.

If you want pretty, play Drive on Moscow.

Two new releases that are flaunting the usual Wednesday night release convention and just popped up on the app stores this morning. It’s anarchy, I tell you! Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.

The first is Arnhem: Airborne Assault, a scrappy little wargame from Richard Berger. It’s not going to win any beauty contests unless all of the other contestants are members of AC/DC but it seems like a pretty good little hex-and-counter wargame. It’s a WWII affair that puts you in charge of the Allied paratroopers making the ill-fated airborne assault on Holland in 1944. The combat model is big on fog-of-war, so considerations like moving your troops through forests and maintaining contact with the enemy are a big deal. There’s a couple of genuinely tough scenarios in there, but I haven’t spent enough time with the game to decide if it’s Clever Tough™ or Throw Your iPad in the Canal Tough™.  You can find out for yourself for two bucks: it’s available for iPad and for Android, too. This one’s got online multiplayer for up to four players, too.

A gameplay video of this, plus another new release below.

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Outwitness the fitness: Outwitters 2.0 brings Android, cross-platform play next month

Teenage dream.

Teenage dream.

One of the great App Store injustices of the last couple of years is that Outwitters didn’t become a Star Wars-sized global phenomenon. Children should be walking around with plush dolls of the weird cycloptic elephant. Libertarian subreddits should be extolling the BitWit virtual currency. At least the game’s bipedal sharks made it big.

But even if this fantastic turn-based arena combat game didn’t get quite the success it deserved, there’s a big enough base of core Outwitters diehards that developers One Man Left are still putting time into it, almost three years post-launch.

How many Outwitters heads are we talking about? “We average around 12k-15k monthly active users,” One Man Left‘s Alex Okafor told me yesterday. “Not a huge playerbase, but quite the dedicated one for a somewhat niche game.”

It’s for those folks–and hopefully some new fans, too–that OML are rolling out Outwitters 2.0 in March.

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Off to see the wizard: Sorcery 3 begins beta testing

Mandible about town.

Mandible about town.

After nearly dying in a sudden and tragic avalanche of Game of the Year trophies, 80 Days creators Inkle have recuperated enough to update us about the status of Sorcery 3, the penultimate chapter of the legendary interactive fiction series that started way back in 2013. Yesterday they put up a blog post stating that the game has gone into beta testing and that–for the first time in a Sorcery game–the title would be launching simultaneously for Android and for iOS.

I got in touch with Inkle co-founders Jon Ingold and Joe Humfrey this morning. What lessons from 80 Days will they be taking into Sorcery 3?

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Mush it real good: Sled Dog Saga in the works for iOS & Android

He's not husky, he's my brother.

He’s not husky, he’s my brother.

Why all the snow games?, I asked Dan FitzGerald. The maker of the wonderfully aggravating Dawn of the Plow has got another winter-themed game in the works called Dog Sled Saga. “The snow thing is mostly a coincidence[.] Dawn of the Plow was actually originally inspired by the sand-blowing mechanic in Forbidden Desert.”

Dawn of the Plow eventually departed from its board game roots and was an anxiety-inducing little high-score game when it was released — you had to do your best to control a wildly oversteering snowplow to keep the roads clear until you eventually ran over enough motorists that the city fired you. It was fun but about as relaxing as watching a Von Trier movie with your mom.

FitzGerald sent along a preview build of Dog Sled Saga and this is a game with a more relaxed vibe.

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‘Til the dice come back around: Sid Meier’s Starships hands-on preview

In through the nose, out through the mouth.

In through the nose, out through the mouth.

The surest tell that you’re playing a good turn-based game is how readily it induces Inter-Turn Apnea. You know what I’m talking about.

You spend your turn carefully laying down foundations for the table-flipping coup-de-main that you’ll spring the next time you get the dice. So with all in readiness, you pass the dice on to the next player and wait for them to come back around to you. You x-ray everyone else’s moves while trying to maintain a Moai-like poker face. You unspool contingency plans in your head. And when the dice get to the player who might unmake everything you’ve worked so hard to set up, you involuntarily hold your breath. Inter-Turn Apnea.

The press preview of Sid Meier’s Starships that I’ve been playing is so good at generating ITA that it’s almost turned me purple.

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