Posts by: Sean Clancy

New deal: Card Dungeon updates on Android, and soon on iOS

"Of course, some people do go both ways."

“Of course, some people do go both ways.”

Sometimes I wonder just how far we’ll go into the recursive, navel-gazing abyss of games concerning–and styled after–older games. “In Merlin’s Adventure of the Schoolyard Heroes you play one of several fantasy archetypes (represented by digital HeroClix miniatures) reliving a game of tag during recess at their childhood village’s daycare–narrative psychotherapy by the great wizard, Merlin. Hiding is accomplished by angrily throwing dice around Merlin’s office. For each other player your character recalls finding, you engage in a dungeon raid with small dolls, both in your memories and with Merlin, using action figures holding other, smaller action figures.”

More often, though, I just think about the promising line-up of reasonably themed digital “tabletop” games we have now (and that I can always call up my local Dungeon Master if I ever get too close to ludic Limbo). Playtap Games have just released their first update for procedurally generated dungeon crawler Card Dungeon, and it looks to fix many of the quibbles that Owen brought up in his review.

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Some much needed R&R: American Revolution wargame Rebels & Redcoats out on iOS next week

The whites of their hexes.

The whites of their hexes.

Just last month we heard that Hunted Cow Studios were partnering up with tabletop wargaming company Decision Games, and developing some of latter’s numerous titles for iOS. It appears now that we’ll be enjoying the fruits of that union sooner rather than later.

Hunted Cow have informed us that Decision Games’ Rebels & Redcoats will be available for iPad on November 6th. The game promises to be a largely faithful adaptation of the source boardgames, hex-based and with all the period flair one expects of a Hunted Cow joint, with a robust tutorial and two five-mission campaigns playable as either the American colonies or the British Empire.

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Get shmup with the getshdown: Bullet Hell Infinite coming to iOS

"Hello boys! I'm... back!"

“Hello boys! I’m… back!”

The panic-inducing bullet hell (or danmaku) shooter is–despite apparent successes like Danmaku Unlimited 2–bound to be a tough sell on mobile devices. Bullet hell games scoff at the structural integrity of both human fingers and joystick controllers, and at their most difficult require of players zen-like focus–perfect coordination of mind and body hands. Just how well that hardest of hardcore twitch-shooting can work on a touchscreen is unclear.

None of that prevailing apprehension is going to stop Bullet Hell Infinite from trying, of course. With mucho club kid wubs this danmaku by developer Nicolas Bevillard (NB Games) is set to arrive on iOS soon.

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Beowulf in first round, to Vikings: Epic Manager launches Kickstarter drive

We live in a cynical world. And we work in a business of tough, often magical, competitors.

We live in a cynical world. And we work in a business of tough, often magical, competitors.

So, here’s the thing: nobody actually likes heroes. I don’t mean the real sort who extinguish fires and provide stable infrastructure for a community–I’m talking about sword-slinging, spell-blasting a-holes that occupy much of fantasy gaming. “Hey, dude, thanks and all for killing that ghoul in the crypt, but… did you really need to crack open each and every coffin to check for spare change? And, like, you’re just sort of going around asking every person you meet if they have a quest. Is this a moral obligation thing for you or- oh he’s left for the next dungeon.”

Epic Manager, from developers ManaVoid Entertainment, looks to be the next in an increasingly long line of management sims which take a wider look at the high-fantasy adventuring lifestyle. Unlike obvious contemporary Adventurer Manager, Epic Manager casts you as more of a sports agent looking for prime talent, rather than a bureaucrat contracting out to some heroes in order to focus on balancing your hamlet’s budget. Scouts find warriors, thieves, and mages you can bring onto your team, and who can then in turn raid dungeons and add to the agency’s coffers. The developers promise a fairly dynamic world, and combat affected by the composition and temperament of your line-up (though if the battles end up not quite as engaging as your managerial tasks, well, that’s the point).

The Epic Manager Kickstarter goes live on October 27th. Take heed, this one is still early on, and iOS and Android versions are stretch goals, which means they may as well be written in invisible ink on a ghost’s skin.

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Of beanstalks, frost, and lanterns: Junk Jack X goes full Halloween

Well, at least this neighborhood is well lit.

Well, at least this neighborhood is well lit.

The Terraria-inspired mine-a-lot Junk Jack X was one of our runners-up for Action Game of the Year 2013 (losing out to Tilt to Live 2), and it looks like the game’s still going relatively strong with the recent version 2.2.3 update. It’s all Halloween-y, naturally.

Though they’ve clearly a missed opportunity in not calling this the “Jack-O’-Lantern X” update (or at least the “Junk-O-Ween” update), developer Pixbits have put together all the requisite spooky bits of digital bric-a-brac which are basically expected from games of Junk Jack’s stripe this time of year (and some bug fixes, too). Sure, witches and zombies are overused fantasy tropes, but now Junk Jack X has “Witch Zombies,” which one assumes are less Sabrina, more Henrietta. Acid pits are in too, so you can get your House on Haunted Hill… on. And–direct pull from the announcement–a “new rare placeable hanging skull,” which for some reason is a felony when I advertise on Craigslist but a plus here, so go figure.

Even having not played the game, holiday theming like this makes me grin. It’s extra work for, what, about a week or so of relevance? That’s some festive dedication right there. At the same time, I can’t imagine many jumping into the game for the first time on the strength of a holiday update alone–rather, this sort of decoration seems primarily a bonus for the faithful.

Junk Jack X is $4.99 on the App Store. Wholly unseasonal video after the jump.

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So runs Bartertown: This Is Not a Test patching iPad play, going freemium

Wow, an analog watch? This must be the end of the world.

Wow, an analog watch? This must be the end of the world.

Owen first mentioned doomsday gamebook This Is Not a Test just over a year ago, making special note of its zombie-free end of the world, Sorcery!-like blend of RPG elements with branching story paths, and its trailer’s, hmmm, questionable music. The thing looks–and plays, possibly–like it was pulled straight out of an old EC Comics horror title, enough that I’m close to breaking a self-imposed ban on Crypt Keeper puns.

Now, in the harsh light of the new world’s brutal economy of blood–wait, sorry, it’s just the App Store–developer Robot Monster Productions are changing This Is Not a Test’s pricing from upfront payments to free, with an in-app purchase to unlock the “premium” upgrade.

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1.13, the number of the beasts: Major patch for monster-bumping Auro

Story of my life, kid.

Story of my life, kid.

You’d think with all the digital ink we spilled over action-puzzle darling Hoplite, we’d have weighed in more definitively on Auro, Keith Burgun’s latest. Like Hoplite, Auro looks to be similarly focused on movement as the primary means of engaging enemies, with an aesthetic that’s equal parts weird fantasy and board game. Again, though, without an official spin through the Pocket Tactics Review and Candyfloss Centrifuge we’re not necessarily the ones to say.

You can lay part of the blame for that missing verdict on the fact that Auro still isn’t available on iOS, and part on the fact that, perhaps, a definitive version of the game hasn’t existed until recently. The version 1.13 patch is one of those great, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink patches which hazards to completely tear down a game in attempt to better highlight some core experience. Replacement of main abilities, matchmaking tweaks, all the way down to modification of AI movement code to remove randomness.

Regardless of whether or not you’re already playing Auro, or plan on it, you should check out Burgun’s detailed explanation for these recent changes on the Dinofarm Games blog. His breakdown is equal parts patch notes and design philosophy, and in describing not just what changes were made, but how those changes serve to make Auro more coherent, Burgun does an excellent job of communicating just what the game’s, like, about, man.

Here’s hoping Auro will make the jump to iOS soon. In the meantime: video after the jump.

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Clay anniversary: Golem Arcana hits one year since Kickstarter funding, grows

Prague has never had it so good.

Prague has never had it so good.

It was just over one year ago that Harebrained Schemes successfully reached and surpassed a $500,000 funding target for their ambitious, app-driven miniatures game Golem Arcana. While normally this wouldn’t be cause for any special alarm, Arcana stands out because A) it’s actually playable, now, with a box and everything, unlike far too many other ostensible KS successes, and B) the game is set for further scenario expansions which promise to deliver on the much-touted notion of a “living” Golem Arcana world.

Owen gave us a breakdown of how Arcana’s meant to work back when the Kickstarter went live. To recap: it’s an army-building game about big ol’ magic war machines (real figurines on a physical battle map) piloted by mages with special buffs (that exist only on the companion app), which aims to cut down on laborious in-game math-crunching and rules checks while still preserving what makes tabletop gaming special–pained expressions and an eventual attempt to flip the gaming table, basically.

In a recent blog post the team discuss rolling out new scenarios based on the outcomes of games played at GenCon. The goal, it seems, is to offer players choices during battles which can affect Arcana lore, not just the results of any one battle–though you’re right to be skeptical if hand-crafted scenarios based on a few specific matches isn’t quite as dynamic as the “Living World” pitch suggests. (Harebrained admits these scenarios are an “Alpha” for what one hopes is a greatly expanded system.) Still, even thinking about this sort of player-generated expansion–for a tabletop game–is tenable only because of the heavy-lifting that app is doing. For more on mixed-media board games, check out Neumann’s thoughts on the upcoming XCOM and Alchemists.

The Golem Arcana app is free on iOS and Android, naturally, with the base game running for $80 via the Harebrained Schemes store. Video after the break about 60/40 on “complicated story setup” vs. “how the game actually looks and plays”.

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