Monthly Archive: September 2011

“Minions App Review” Destruction, Evil and Minions?

You know that
awkward moment when you are happily taking over the world with hundreds of
thousands minions that you created. Then they decide they should be in control
and try to overthrow you? Well the developers at Villain LLC have. AppStore
company Villain LLC  sprung onto the
market with their success of the highly acclaimed  iPhone and iPad app Archetype. Archetype an
Fps featuring things never featured on iOS shooters such as Capture the Flag
and downloadable content took hours upon hours of over 1.5 million players.
Villain has been silent ever since the release of Archetype and presto! We now
have our gaming fingers on Minions.
      Minions relies on it’s whimsical cartoon
characters, seemingly a breed between the minions in Despicable Me and Rayman’s
raving rabbids. These quirky creatures are equipped with much more than your
standard plunger. They support the whole arsenal of sound guns to wooden
hammers to bird launchers.    
     You play as a mad scientists trying to
destroy the minions that once served you. This game relies on a level based
system in which minions spawn from spawn points that can be destroyed. At the
end of the level you are judged by your time, score and amount of minions
killed. When you achieve a perfect 3 stars you will be able to boost the speed,
health and power of your character adding an rpg element to this Fps.
       If you are familiar with Archetypes
controls don’t expect anything to change. At all. A dual stick control system
is set along with an auto shoot feature in which you just aim and little tiny
robots in your Idevice fire away. On screen radar shows the minions while UI at
the top shows health, score and time remaining. While no changes to the
controls or UI are apparent, it’s simple, if it ain’t broke, use it in your
next iOS release.  
     As you blast through 8 levels and
increasing difficulties Villain delivers promises of new levels and guns to wet
your minion killing whistle. As this does not support online multiplayer the
developers focused on delivering a fun, unrealistic, quirky Fps for hardcore
and casual fans of the genre. At 99c this will not burn a hole in your wallet,
but these minions will try to burn a whole in your heart.  

by Gabriel Ruiz

Stardash out for iPhone/iPod Touch this wednesday 21st

From the developer behind the excellent and varied platformer Meganoid, OrangePixel, comes a new game called Stardash, a game boy inspired platformer that will hit the AppStore this wednesday 21st. The game will come with 40 levels divided into 4 different worlds and 4 temple levels for you to unlock. And knowing OrangePixels support and love for their own games, I can bet there will be many new levels to come in future updates. Here is a video of the game running on an Android phone (its identical according to the dev). We will have a review for you once its released!

QuBIT Gets a Major Update and Goes Free!

QuBIT, a crystal smashing, color matching racer from Secret Sauce Studios, just got it’s 1.2.0 update, and it’s a big one! This debut release from the UK company caught my attention the moment I saw the release trailer. I ended up staying up the night of it’s release to check it out, and even ended up updating my iPod from iOS 4.0 to iOS 4.3, which I previously swore I would never do for any game. But boy was I so happy that I finally did.

QuBIT turned out to be one of the best and most original racing games I had ever experienced. Everything from the graphics to the gameplay, scoring to the matching, down to the racing, I was completely hooked, and found it hard to play anything else for the first two weeks I had the game on my device. Then the obsession faded, like it does, until last Friday, the 16th, when Secret Sauce released it’s version 1.2.0 update, and the love affair was re-kindled.
Here’s a list of the new features;
–Retina Display Support
–New game mode, Surge
–2 new QuBOTs, QuBYT, and QuTI
–Solid Gold Plated Bot for those who bought the game before it went free back in July

and of course
–QuBIT is now FREE, with the new Surge Mode, and two new characters available through IAP.
Secret Sauce’s decision to make the previously $0.99 app, free, was not one that was taken lightly. Within the first week of the release, 50% of the activity on the leaderboards was from pirated copies. Cracked software has, is, and will always, be a problem for game developers, but it’s especially sad when it happens to such a great game made by such a great development team. With every issue brought up on the Touch Arcade and Secret Sauce Forums, the team has been there to swiftly and quickly address the issue, sending out a fix as soon as possible, and listening to what the gamers had to say.
So here’s hoping that the change to go free does help fight the onslaught of cracked copies, and those of you who bought QuBIT before it went free back in July, or even after it went free, only to see the part of the game that you paid for go free, will be glad to know that your money went back into the development of the game, and the in app purchase of the new Surge Mode, new characters, and unlockables, along with the Retina Display addition, is well worth another $0.99. Especially when coming from such a dedicated developer, who’s sure to put that money back into amazing, mind-bending games for it’s fans, and new-customers.
Be sure and check out QuBIT, now that’s free, you’ve got nothing to loose, except of course, for a buck that you’ll most likely end up spending on the Surge Mode once you get hooked on the Classic Mode that’s, to say the least, VERY addicting. We here at The App Shack wish Secret Sauce the best of luck with this new pricing set-up, and with the game, as it’s one of our favorites.
You can also check out the Secret Sauce team’s blog/forum/webpage at

Interview with Llamasoft (The maker of Retro-styled games you’ll go apeshit over)

I sat down with Jeff Minter the developer of many retro iOS games to ask him a few questions regarding his studio and future steps. Some of the games he has developed include: Deflex [1.99]Minotron 2112 [1.99]Minotaur Rescue [0.99] and his latest game GoatUp [1.99] which we are giving away a few codes of on our twitter channel.!/TheAppShack

1. How successful do you think your brand image and games are on the AppStore market?

Not hugely, largely because not enough people are aware of what we do.  In the app store it seems that marketing and generating visibility is pretty much more important than actual game design, and we don’t have a marketing person at Llamasoft.  And without that I doubt we’ll ever “get lucky” and have some huge hit.  All I can do is try my best to make good games with good controls and hope that enough people find out about them to make it worthwhile.  It’s kinda frustrating to be honest.

2. How do you compare yourself to the hordes of casual and 0.99 games?

Well, we’re more about providing an updated version of oldschool gaming, something that brings back some of the fun of that style of gaming but with less of the limitations – that’s what the Minotaur Project is all about.  And I have game design experience going back nearly 30 years, so I know how to make a game that plays well and has good controls.  I think that’s worth tier 2.

3. What message do you want to pass on to aspiring game developers?

Make the games you want to play.  When you still play your own game after you’ve finished it just because you enjoy it, then you’re doing it right.

4. Can we get an idea on what your next game will be like?

I’ve got several ideas I’m choosing between – I’ve the skeleton of a Defender game already started, I’d like to do a classic Star Force style scrolly shooter one day, likewise a Time Pilot style game because I do love TP.  I’ve also half a mind to make an unholy union between Caverns of Mars and Lunar Lander.  There’s my Scientology game I want to do as well, but that’ll probably be a longer project that I’ll do in two or three games’ time.

5. How long did it take for Goat up or Minotron 2112 to be created?

Each of those games took a month.  They were pretty straightforward as the basic idea was clear and simple to get up and running quickly.  For most iOS games I really don’t want to be taking more than a month or two on them.

6. What role do you play in the company?

I design and program the games and do my not particularly brilliant programmer art sprites.

7. How many employees do you have or is it a one man operation?

There’s just two of us here, me and Giles.

8. How did you get the idea to name your company “llamasoft”?

It came from a certain fascination for South American camelids that I developed at 6th form college, whilst learning to program on the Commodore PET. 

9. Will you be sticking to the arcade graphics or gradually maturing to some other form?

I’d like to do some more algorithmically generated stuff one day but I don’t know if I’ll ever get the time, at least while working tier 2 on iOS.  You simply don’t have a lot of time to explore or be experimental.  Keeping it retro at least fits in with the theme of the Minotaur Project games and allows me to handle most of the “artwork” myself, although some people do moan about that.  Haven’t noticed any of them coming to offer me better graphics though :).
The Scientology game will likely be more polygonal than sprite-y…

10. What is the one most important thing that should be in a game?

Fun, no doubt.  Too many games take themselves too seriously.  And good controls.  Why people release games with bad controls is beyond me.  Take the time to do it properly, or don’t bother at all, I reckon :).

Devourer – 0.99 (Li Min)

Devourer is a new drag-collect-dodge arcade game from Li Min, in the same vein as Bit Pilot and Runaway UFO, but with more emphasis on collecting objects than dodging them, though the dodging element is still there. In Devourer, you’ll drag a black hole around the screen, sucking up all the green, blue, and yellow invaders, while avoiding the red ones. It’s a very simple game, but once you get into it, and understand the scoring, and start using the items in the shop, it becomes very addicting, and really, a very nice little arcade game.

The controls are set up nicely, using relative touch to control the black hole, meaning you can place your finger anywhere on the screen in order to drag the black hole around the screen. This makes it easier to see all the invaders around your black hole, and a whole lot more comfortable.
There are two different game modes in Devourer, Classic, and Survival. In Classic Mode, you’ll drag your black hole around the screen collecting the “normal”, or blue, invaders, which there are two different kinds, a regular invader, worth 20 points, and a type of super invader, worth 80 points, “bonus”, or green, invaders, which add 1 to your multiplier, and “bomb”, or yellow, invaders, that blow up everything on the screen. There’s also red, or “toxic” invaders. If you hit one of these, they will reset your multiplier, and drop you 100 points, along with coins that randomly appear on the screen, and give you 5 gold points. You’ll have 2 minutes to try and get the highest score you can, and can not die before the 2 minutes is up.
In Survival Mode, you’ll have all the same types of invaders, along with the random coins, and the goal is to not let any blue invaders escape the screen, and to not hit any red invaders. If you hit a red invader, or miss a blue invader before it disappears off the side of the screen, you’ll loose a life, and have 3 lives total. The amount of time you survive is your high score.
Both Modes let you use spells. Within the store, you can buy these spells, which can be equipped in the hotspots on the right side of the screen. Some of these include Shrink, which makes all of the invaders 30% smaller, Freeze, which slows down all the invaders, Slack, which reduces the rate of invaders by half, and many more. These power-up type spells will help out greatly when trying to achieve a high-score, though there are only a couple that will really, really get that high-score up when combined. For instance, I like to use Burst, which doubles the amount of invaders, Bless, which destroys all Toxic invaders, and prevents more from being spawned, and Double, which doubles the points. Using all 3 of these together will usually shoot your score up about 250,000 points, or more depending on when you use them. Each of the spells has a set amount of time that it will last, and you can only use the spells once after you buy them. This adds quite a bit of strategy to the gameplay, as you’ll need to find out what spells work best for your style of play, and when to use them.
The graphics in Devourer are done pretty well. There are movement animations for each of the invaders, making it look like they’re swimming through space. Along with the rock type soundtrack, it’s all got a pretty nice atmosphere. Considering this game comes from the same developer of Tap Burst, I’d say it’s quite a step up from the previous game, and has given me pretty high hopes for the future of Li Min.
With GameCenter and OpenFeint support, 2 leader boards, and 21 achievements that will take you quite a bit of time to unlock, and the two different game modes, Devourer has endless replay ability. The scoring system is set up very nicely, and the addition of the shop and toxic invaders add quite a bit of strategy to the game. It could use a bit more polish, and maybe more items in the shop, along with more enemy types, but for $0.99, it’s a great buy, packed with loads of action, and will give you hours upon hours of addictive gameplay.
Devourer is getting a score of 8 out of 10.

HECTOR: Ep2 – Senseless Acts of Justice – 4.99 (Telltale Inc)

The long awaited sequel to HECTOR: Badge of Carnage Ep1 [$3.99] is finally upon us! HECTOR: Ep2 – Senseless Acts of Justice [$4.99] is the second episode of the humorous trilogy. I’ve actually never gotten the chance to play the first episode, shocker right! Since I haven’t played the first episode I can’t really compare them to which one’s the best. If you’re new to the series like me then you ought to know who the main characters are. The game follows Detective Hector and his assistant Lambert throughout the series. The Hector: Badge of Carnage series is a point-and-click adventure game where you have to interact with people and objects to complete your tasks. There’s a lot of silly crude humor, so this game isn’t for the young. It’s also not for people who don’t have a sense of humor. So, if you were born without that then you should probably stay far away from this game. I mean it. Even though this is a funny game it’ll require you

to use your brain every now and then to complete the task on hand. The controls are very simple. Just tap anywhere to move around. To interact with objects and people just tap once to do so. If you need to use an item then just double tap to use it. You can gather objects and store them into your inventory. Sometimes you’ll have to combine objects that you’re carrying to get the job done. Throughout the game you can switch back and forth between Hector and Lambert to perform the various duties. If you’re ever stuck, then you can use the hint menu, but I’m afraid to use it… it makes me feel dumb, because of how easy some of the tasks are. There’s not much more I can say about the game without spoiling the story. After playing HECTOR: Ep2 – Senseless Acts of Justice, I’ve found myself to truly love the series. I definitely need to go pick up the first game ASAP! If you’re new to the Badge of Carnage series like me then I suggest you go play the first one 
before you play this one. You don’t really have to though. You’ll be fine by just hopping into episode 2, but if you would like to know the main plot then you should just start of at #1. Also, if you’ve played the first one before then there’s no way in the world that you can’t pick up this one. Come on for Pete’s sake! It’s Hector!!!! Overall, the dialogue in this game is fantastic and it’s hilarious. The graphics are nicely done and everything seems to flow very well. HECTOR: Ep2 – Senseless Acts of Justice is definitely worth $5… probably more! My final rating is 5 out of 5 stars. If your looking for a great puzzle adventure game and a nice long game then HECTOR: Ep2 – Senseless Acts of Justice for [$4.99] is definitely worth your time and hard earned money. Have an iPad? Well don’t worry! You can pick up the HD version for iPad for just $6.99 by clicking here

Xurge – 0.99 (Paul Bryant)

Xurge is a new arcade tap shooter from Paul Bryant. In Xurge, you’ll be able to play through two different modes, Endurance, and Kamikaze, each having 5 different difficulty levels, Casual, Easy, Medium, Hard, and Extreme. The game brings back a lot of memories of playing arcade games, back when I was a kid, at the local bowling ally down the street from where I grew up. The graphics, gameplay, even down to the demo/tutorial that you’ll need to watch (instead of read) before playing the game in order to know how the game mechanics work.

In Endurance Mode, you’ll go through wave after wave of enemies, increasing in speed, amount, and difficulty. There are three different colors of enemies, blue, grey, and red. Blue and Red enemies need different types of shots in order for them to be killed, while Grey enemies can be hit with either type of shot and be taken down. To change the shot type, you’ll need to select the cannon you want to use, and then tap on it, then hit the fire button when the correct mode for the cannon is chosen. Red enemies can be killed using the default mode of the cannons, a grey outfit, while Blue enemies will need the blue shot, shown on the cannon by two blue stripes.
Each of the enemies will come at you through one of four tracks, each leading down to one of your four cannons. To kill them, you’ll need to pick the correct cannon, and fire at them, hopefully before they fire down at you, damaging your cannon. You can repair your cannons by tapping on their health bars, but only at a slow rate, making it impossible to repair your cannons if they’re taking constant damage.
In Kamikaze Mode, you’ll need to destroy each of the enemies before they crash into your cannons. You are aloud to take a certain amount of damage, and repair your cannons, just like Endurance Mode, but instead of stopping the enemies before they shoot at you, you’ll try and stop them before they run into you.
The controls are nice and responsive, though they are timed. You can not just double tap on a cannon to activate it and change it’s shot type, you’ll need to tap on the cannon, and wait for it to activate, and then tap on it, and wait for it to change it’s shot type before you can make it fire. This added timed tapping mechanic adds quite a bit of action to the gameplay, as you’ll be trying to get each cannon active and changed to the desired shot as fast as you can, racing the clock before enemies shoot at or crash into you.
The scoring system in Xurge is done quite well, as each ship will give you a set number of points, and if you hit enemies without missing a shot, you’ll add to your chain. Every multiple of 10 on your chain number will add an extra bonus set of points, going up as your chain goes up. So you’ll get bonus points on your 10th, 20th, 30th, ect consecutive hits, with the bonus going up about 100 points each time. Games that add scoring mechanics like this are great, and I just go nut-so over them. They add depth to the scoring, and drive gamers to play better, and score higher. Xurge is no exception. Constantly giving players that ‘one more time’ feeling each time they hit the game over screen, it’s sure to eat up hours and hours of your free-time. There are also quite a few different power-ups that you will get when destroying ships that are carrying them. Full health upgrades, special shot types, invincibility, and more help add to the gameplay quite a bit.
The retro graphics and soundtrack also add to the feeling of the game, and are sure to bring back memories of childhood play for gamers in their 20’s and 30’s. There are GameCenter and OpenFeint leader boards for both modes, and for each of the different difficulties, giving players a total of 12 global leader boards total. There’s also 17 achievements to keep achievement hunters busy for some time. For this small 2 person developing team, Xurge is a great game, and one that’s sure to nab them a few well deserved fans. For $0.99, there’s enough content, and replay ability to keep any retro gamer fan happy for quite some time.
Xurge gets a score of 8 out of 10.

Run Fox Run – 0.99 (Icewire)

Run Fox Run is a new endless runner by Icewire. In the game, you’ll be able to go through 3 different modes of play, Story, Endless, and Coin Mode. In Story Mode, you’ll be able to run through 24 levels spread up across 4 different environments, each with different enemies, and progressing difficulty. Endless Mode lets you face all of the 40 different enemies while running through environments from all 4 different worlds in Story Mode, while Coin Mode lets you run from the main menu. You’re able to hit an arrow up on the menu selection area so that the ‘Story” and “Endless” mode selections are not blocking up the screen, and then you can run as far as you can while collecting as many coins as possible.

Each mode has different mechanics, and different ways of dealing with enemies. A lot of thought was put into the scoring of Run Fox Run, which is always nice to see no matter what genre you’re dealing with. In Story Mode, there is no score, but instead, you’re given 3 hearts to start out with, and have the option of trying to pick up more, up to 5, as they’re scattered throughout the level as item pick-ups. There’s a little gauge on the top right corner that lets you know how far you’ve gone in the level, and how far you have until the end. Jumping on enemies isn’t necessary, as there is no score, but if you run into or hit one of them, you’ll loose a heart. Loose all your hearts, and you’ll need to start over. Making it to the end of the level without loosing a heart, and you’ll get a C Star, that stands for Cunning. Collecting these perfect stars, along with progressing through the levels are the main points of playing in this mode.
Endless Mode has some more complex scoring, as you’re scored on distance. But jumping on enemies gives you a multiplier, increasing your distance score. A little 2x or 3x will stay above your fox for as long as the multiplier is active, while jumping on more enemies while the multiplier is shown above your head will add to it. You’re given 3 hearts, as well as heart pick-ups throughout the levels, to use before you die, and need to start from the beginning. There are level changes within Endless Mode, as the levels are about as long as Story Mode levels, but your score carries over from level to level.
In both Story and Endless Modes, there’s also power-ups. Many are scattered throughout the levels, and one is a power-up that keeps recharging after you use it. The rechargeable power-up, shown at the bottom of the screen, is a speed booster that leaves you invincible while it’s active. You can quickly run through groups of enemies very easily with this power-up enabled, and it keeps charging while you run. If you get hit by an enemy, the gauge will drop back about half way, and you’ll need to re-charge it again in order to use it. Some of the power-ups are a shield, a jump booster, a speed power-up booster which gives you a full speed gauge, and a power-up that kills all enemies on two platforms.
Coin Mode, played at the main menu, is more basic with it’s scoring, and doesn‘t use any power-ups or the speed ability. There’s two types of coins, one worth 1 point, and coins with silver around them, worth 5 points. The goal is to collect as many coins before you hit 1 enemy. Hitting an enemy automatically resets the coin counter back to zero, and you’ll keep running, trying to collect as many coins as you can all over again.
GameCenter and OpenFeint have two leader boards, one for Endless Mode, and one for Coin Mode, along with 27 achievements. The online support is a great addition, and adds a lot to the replay value of the game, even after finishing the Story Mode, and playing around with the other modes. There’s also a Credits Mode, where you can run and jump on enemies while the credits are playing. Jumping on an enemy shows you the name in the credits in a darker color, and is not scored, and has no real purpose other than to give you something to do while reading the credits. It is, however, a very nice addition, as no other game that I’ve seen lets you actually play through the credits.
The graphics in Run Fox Run are done extremely well, with great environments, and painted backgrounds, the game is extremely vibrant, and professional looking. The animations are also very well done, from the running of the fox to the movement of the enemies, especially in the later levels with Abstract World. The music goes along fairly well with the game, and doesn’t get annoying at all. The effects also add quite a bit to the game, and it all creates quite a nice atmosphere. The controls in Run Fox Run are also very well done, having the fox’s jumping height dependant on how long you hold down on the screen, and never struggling for timing with unresponsive or laggy control.
Icewire has done an amazing job creating their first iOS game, and has shown that they know exactly what it takes to break into a genre already overflowing with great games and make their mark. Run Fox Run has more than enough content, and incredible replay value, with online support, and very responsive developers behind it all. For $0.99, it’s a great buy, and one that will end up staying on your device for a long, long time. I, for one, and very excited to see what the future holds for the new development company, and can’t wait to find out what they have in store for their next game.
Run Fox Run gets a perfect score of 10 out of 10, and is recommended to all fans of the endless runner genre.

Haraka – 0.99 (Studio Joho)

Haraka is a pong type game from Studio Joho. It is an interesting and modern take on the old classic, giving it a sci-fi style, super quick movement, a leveling up system, great graphics, and plenty of one and two player content.

In the game there’s 9 levels, each represented by a color, and progressing in difficulty. You control a character in a space age suit on a blocked in court, holding a big stick. The controls are simple, directional arrows on each side of the screen. You can move left and right, but also climb up the sides of the court, up to the center of the screen. To score a point, all you need to do is hit the ball, which is done automatically once you’re next to the ball, and have it hit the walls of the court on your opponents side. 10 points, and you win. Obviously, its ideal to try and hit all 3 edges of the other players section before the ball returns to you. If you were last to touch the ball, and the ball comes flying back to your side of the court, hitting the wall, it does not count against you. Only if the opposing player was the last one to touch the ball. Your player is also upgraded as you progress throughout the game, gaining speed, strength, and agility, which is a great addition to the pong type genre, giving it more replay value just for trying to get your character’s stats as high as they can go.
Power-ups have been included, and they all fit very well within the game. Strength increase, speed increase, agility increase, add 2 to your score, a deflector, and a 2x point multiplier. There’s also power-downs, including slowdown ball, decrease skills, remove deflector, and score – (minus) 2. Each of these power-pods can be used by touching and then dragging them onto the side of the player you want to use the ability. So you can decrease the opponents skills, and increase yours, making for some quick easy points. The power-ups are generally abundant, but you need to be careful and watch what you do with them. They can also be hit by the ball, which makes them active, so if you don’t move a power-down out of the way and over to your opponent, it could end up effecting you, which is a nice game mechanic, and adds some action to the already pretty hectic gameplay.
The two player content is a played the same way, but on the same screen. That’s right, no multiplayer online, but done on the same device. This can be kind of hard to get use to, as are most 2 player iPod games are that are played on the same device, but once you get use to it, it provides you with quite a bit of entertainment. Me and my wife have been playing this quite a bit over the last week, bringing back a lot of memories from when we first got together, and would play old arcade games at the bar up the street. So even though it might not be ideal, playing a game with two players on one little iPod, I can see it working pretty well on the iPad, which is kind of upsetting, because the game is not universal, and not retina, so I also imagine it looks kind of bad on larger screens. Though I could be totally wrong. Games with this much quick action, with gamers focusing on one little moving point on the screen, probably play well regardless of the stretched or slightly blurry graphics.
Right now, there isn’t any online support, no GameCenter or OpenFeint, but the developers have said that it’s coming soon. I doubt the inclusion of GC will include wi-fi multiplayer, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As with most GameCenter auto-matched multiplayer games, there would be no indication of what level the other player is, and soon after the update, a lot of players would be turned off of the wi-fi multiplayer because the players with their maxed stats would be constantly whooping up on the new-comers, and there wouldn’t be anything we could do about it. The main inclusion with GameCenter will be the achievements. This will add a decent amount of replay value, with having goals set, it should take a while to collect all of them. There is also no scoring system at the moment, and I’m not sure one will be added, so that means no online leader boards, unless it’s put up with how many total wins each player has got.
Studio Joho has done a very nice job here creating a modern sci-fi pong game. Being $0.99, it’s a great game, and offers quite a bit of content, even with only one playable mode, especially considering it’s essentially pong on steroids. I was pleasantly surprised while playing, and am finding it more and more enjoyable as I progress in the game. It’s actually turning into a pretty addictive game, and one that I’d recommend any fan of old-school, or quick moving arcade games gets, even with the non-retina non-universal graphics. It’s a game that will grow on you fairly quickly, and one that you can enjoy quite a bit with a friend.
Haraka gets a score of 8 out of 10.