Monthly Archive: April 2012

Spellsword by Everplay Games ($0.99) [Universal]

Everplay Games and FireFruitForge have teamed up to bring us an adrenaline fueled game with interesting mechanics that will keep you coming back for more.

Basically your goal in either of the game modes is to survive and either complete the mission available in the main career mode or get a new high score in the endless mode.  At your disposal is your trusty sword which you learn early wont do it when your up against a lot of enemies. The main power force in the game is magical cards which you can use when you walk over them. Once you do so the magical power inside of it unleashes and creates a differing effect based on the card. Think of it like Super Crate Box except with a fantasy setting and cards instead of crates. Dont get me wrong though, this is in no way a rip off of SCB.

Controls: 4/5
The controls on the iPad I used to play it on were sufficient and the only real problems that I had with them were mainly my fault. The game utilizes the generic platformer set up with left/right arrows in the left corner and jump/attack buttons in the right corner with the pause button in the upper right corner.

Really nothing to complain about here, fast paced gameplay, an endless mode, and a neat item shop where you can buy helmets and other assorted items that improve your game. The career mode has you doing missions, in areas that you unlock by obviously completing more missions. There are 20 missions contained in each area and they can range from survinvg a heavy onslaught of enemies for a certain period of time or collecting a certain number of magic cards. The missions are balanced nicely and present a good sized challenge to the seasoned platformer expert. 

Graphics: 4/5
The graphics have a really nice look to them. Pixeled except not in a retro way. Though the graphics are extremely similiar to Terra Noctis’ (most likely because it was made by the same company) the areas are all different than the aforementioned game.

Overall: 4.5/5
Overall this is a great game with fast paced gameplay that is extremely addicting. And yes I know addicting is one of those buzz words that you shouldn’t use in a review as it can cheapen it, but this game truly deserves that title. Splendid graphics and music along with overall good design makes this a must have. 

Pick it up in the AppStore while it’s still $0.99

FDG’s Clear Vision surpasses 1 million downloads! Plus Cover Orange and Mahjong Elements get iPad Retina Updates!

It’s not too often an AppStore game hits the 1 million downloads mark, especially for a paid app. But today, FDG, developer of Blueprint 3D, Tentacle Wars, Cover Orange, Blosics, Bobby Carrot, Beyond Ynth, Across Age and more has just announced that their paid app, Clear Vision (17+) has just surpassed that 1 million downloads mark. Along with the 1 million downloads, Clear Vision (17+) has received over 110,000 ratings, with over 60,000 of them being written iTunes reviews, and averaging out to 5 stars!

For those of you wondering, or thinking that you may have heard about Clear Vision elsewhere, it is a fairly popular flash game. I know I personally had the SWF file for a couple of Clear Vision games on my PC long before it hit the AppStore, and it got tons of gameplay out of me. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can always Google ‘Clear Vision Flash Game’, or, FDG also has a (12+) version of the game in the AppStore that’s free, but also censored quite a bit.

The controls are spot on, and the cut-scenes are pretty entertaining. Not to mention the kick-ass stick figure graphics! But with both a paid and full free version available, it’s worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of sniper games.  

While we’re on the subject of FDG games, they have just recently released updates for both Cover Orange HD and Mahjong Elements HD giving them the special iPad 3 Retina Screen enhancement love that so many iPad owners are enjoying these days. So if you’re looking for some more iPad Retina enabled titles to pick up, or already have either of these, get the update and check out the fantastic new crisp & clear graphics!  

Blocks Hurt! (Luca Giusti) – $1.99

With the insane amount of games released every week in the AppStore, it’s not too surprising that a few great ones get overlooked every now and again. December of last year was a crazy time for the AppStore, with the onslaught of sales along with all the developers trying to get their apps in before the week off that the AppStore would take, not allowing any updates or releases. Well, during this time, Luca Giusti happened to release a little game called Blocks Hurt! Just now finding out about the game, even after a couple sales and freebie give-aways, I’m kicking myself for not finding out about it sooner. 
Blocks Hurt! has you going up against various monsters that are coming after you. Your job is to stop them (surprise surprise!). But how you do it is what really makes this game stand out. You’re given a chain at the top of the screen which will carry blocks from the left to the right. Tapping on them results in them dropping straight down. You’re also able to tilt your iDevice to the left to slow down the chain, offering more precise block drops. 
Hitting enemies will injure them, but usually require more than one block to kill them. There are also special blocks, some giving you a special power-up, while others are attack blocks, and either blow up, shoot out projectiles, fling fire balls, ect. Getting power-up blocks really comes in handy, but in order to use the power-up, you need to fill up your power gauge, which is done by killing enemies, so you’ll need to make sure that you don’t just waste your power-ups on small groups of enemies. 
There’s only one game mode, but each level has a different objective. Surviving a certain amount of time, building a certain structure, or matching a certain number of blocks. There are also boss battles at the end of the 3 separate worlds, with 30 stages each, for a total of 90 levels. Each stage has a 5 star rating, and once you get past the first couple of levels, the challenge immediately starts to show itself. However, it’s not difficult in a frustrating way. There’s always a decent amount of time to complete the objectives, and every time you don’t 5 star a level will be because of your own screw-ups. But with tight controls, and the game always giving you exactly what you need in order to complete the objective at hand, it always winds up giving you more drive to complete a level perfectly if you don’t’ get it right the first couple times around. 
Blocks Hurt! is supported by GameCenter, and has 4 different leader boards, one for each world, and a total score board, along with 36 hard to unlock achievements. That, coupled with the 90 levels offers up tons of replayability and tons of challenge. The game is so wacky and fun, it’s feels like a weird brother of Riverman’s Pizza Vs. Skeletons. Priced at $1.99, it’s a fantastic buy. The developer is also extremely supportive. In an AppStore full of developers who either pull their games and re-release them or throw ads into their paid games when they don’t sell as good as they were hoping, or even just abandon their games all-together, Luca Giusti has stuck with it, which is extremely rare, and commendable these days. An HD version is planned for release this summer, along with an Endless Survival Mode. If you’re looking for a hidden gem that offers up fantastic gameplay from a developer that deserves to be supported, Blocks Hurt! is definitely a game to check out. 

Tentacle Wars HD (FDG Entertainment) – $2.99

Strategy titles have found a new home, it seems, on the touch screen of the iDevice. More and more real time, turn based, and 4X strategy titles, along with board games are finding their way into the AppStore, taking full advantage of the multitouch screen. FDG has brought Tentacle Wars, the Flash game available from Lumarama, to the iPad, and it feels like the game was specifically made to be played on the touch screen platform. 
Tentacle Wars looks a lot like a Galcon clone on the surface, but once you get into it, the depth starts to show. You’ll need to take control of cells inside an infected alien organism by branching out, and using tentacles to connect from cell to cell. Each cell that you have control of is only allowed a certain number of tentacles, so deciding which cells to attach to is very important. 
To connect to another cell, you need to make sure you have enough energy in your starting cell. Each link in your tentacle requires energy, so if you don’t have enough, you won’t be able to make a tentacle long enough to connect. Once you do connect, depending on your situation, you can either sit there and feed energy into the cell, or cut your tentacle and send all of the links, and their energy into the cell, which is much quicker. 
Connecting to an enemy cell will start feeding energy into it right away. If you have enough links and the enemy cell is low enough on energy, you can cut the tentacle, and send all of the links into the cell, taking it over. If the enemy cell has enough energy to make a tentacle, it will almost always battle it out by sending a tentacle back towards you. This sends half of your tentacle back to your cell, and you’ll send energy through the tentacle until either cell runs out of energy. The cell left wins, and gets both cells. To complete each mission, you will need to form a strategy and pull it off fairly quickly, or else you’ll be overrun by the invading cell in no time. You should be able to complete each mission with plenty of time left. If you’re cutting it close, chances are you should rethink your strategy. As you progress through the game, you’ll come across different enemies which are more intelligent, but the rise in difficulty is handled very well. There are no crazy difficulty spikes. 
Throughout the 40 campaign missions, there are some stages with empty cells that you’ll be fighting to take over, barriers blocking your way so that you can’t connect directly with another cell, and multiple infections fighting for control of the area. Each mission has a 3 star rating system based on how much energy you have at the end of the stage, and how quickly you complete the mission. The number of swipes you make is listed as well, but has no effect on how many stars you receive. 
There are two organisms to try and save, each having 20 missions. The mission selection screen shows a path of cells, with some branching off to other areas. This opens up two or three different missions, so if you’re having trouble with one mission, you almost always have the option to play others, and come back to missions you’re having a hard time with later on.  
There’s also a Multiplayer Mode, which matches you up through GameCenter, and has you battle over an arena. It’s just like completing a mission level, with the objective being to take over all of the enemy’s cells. I was really surprised at how many people were playing online. It only took between 5 and 10 seconds to be matched up every time I went looking for a match. 
The controls in Tentacle Wars are flawless. To connect two cells, you just draw a path from one to the other. Tentacles are cut by swiping a line through them, and will be cut right where you swipe. Since those are the only controls you have, keeping an eye on all of the cells, and quickly deciding what to do next is never hindered by imprecise or unresponsive controls. 
To further draw you in, the graphics, animations, and environments are fantastic. Graphics wise, it does look a lot like Galcon, but under the cells, there’s a black and white background with various moving cells and other objects, which definitely gives the feeling of being deep inside an organism. Completing the atmosphere is the music. Taken from, it’s some of the best background music I’ve heard in an iOS game, and fits perfectly with the game’s graphics and feeling. 
Tentacle Wars is only available for the iPad, but FDG is working on making an iPhone version as well. Priced at $2.99, having a great challenging campaign mode, with more organisms to save coming in future updates, and a multiplayer mode that gives the game endless replay value, it’s a great buy for fans of strategy games. There’s also GameCenter support with two leader boards, one for your total campaign score, and another for the total number of multiplayer wins, and 11 achievements most of which having to do with multiplayer battles. This also offers up quite a bit of replay value even if you’re not too keen on playing online. FDG has done a wonderful job porting this flash game to the iOS. I’m pretty excited to get into the future levels, and sink more time into the multiplayer battles. Tentacle Wars is definitely a game that will be staying on my iPad for a long, long time.

MacGuffin’s Curse $1.99 Launching Sale!

Brawsome’s unique Universal puzzle game, MacGuffin’s Curse, published by Ayopa, launched this Thursday. If you haven’t decided wether or not to pick it up, head on over to our review, and get a better idea of what the game is about and how it plays. You can also check out the Ayopa and Brawsome sites to get even more info. If you’re a puzzle fan, you really should check this one out. Especially while it’s on sale for $1.99, because soon, it’s going to go up to it’s regular $4.99 price-tag.

Ayopa has also put up a new trailer for MacGuffin’s Curse, which had me genuinely laughing. Check it out;

Madfinger Games is holding a Shadowgun T-Shirt contest

The Madfinger Games team is inviting fans of their game Shadowgun to influence future events of it’s storyline. In order to do this you have to enter in their Facebook contest which you can win by making up a new arch enemy of John Slade. The authors of the three best ideas will win the original Shadowgun T-Shirt.
Here are the steps required to enter the contest as described on their Facebook page here.

1.(a) Write the name of the arch enemy you invented.   (b) State three powers or abilities your enemy possesses.   (c) Write down a short history of your badass enemy in 100 words.2. Don’t forget to provide your full name, age, and email.3. Enter the contest by submitting the form. Good luck coming up with creative names and backstories! Check out some of the T-Shirt designs below.

MacGuffin’s Curse (Ayopa) – $4.99

Ayopa Games is definitely one of our favorite publishers here at TAS. Not only do they have fantastic customer service and release high-quality games, but they’re very interested in listening to the gaming community, and so are the games developers; always trying to make their games better by tweaking controls, squashing bugs, fixing issues, and just listening to the general feedback from the players. Almost every Ayopa release (W.E.L.D.E.R., Chicken Rescue, BigBot Smash, M.U.S.E., Dungeon Crawlers and Mailmen) has been quickly updated to fix any problems or issues gamers brought to attention. They are also still being updated with more content, iCloud support, more fixes, changes, optimizations, or in some cases, being made Universal. Well, Ayopa’s latest release, MacGuffin’s Curse, from developer Brawsome, who won Freeplay’s “Best Australian Game” in 2010 for the PC+Mac title Jolly Rover. It’s slated for release on the 19th of this month for the AppStore, MacStore, and Steam.
In MacGuffin’s Curse, you’ll be playing as Lucas MacGuffin, a magician-turned-thief who’s desperate to come up with the rent he needs to keep his daughter and mother under a roof. In this state of mind, he decides to rob the town’s museum of their ancient amulet. While trying to find a way into the building, an ex-detective stops MacGuffin, and forces him to agree to steal the amulet for him. After grabbing the amulet and putting it on, MacGuffin finds out that the amulet is cursed, turning him into a werewolf, and sealing itself to him, making it unable to be pried off by anyone.
Now, with the city in total lockdown mode, MacGuffin still needs to find a way to come up with the rent, figure out how to get the amulet unstuck, and stop a criminal mastermind in the process. Along his journey, MacGuffin is able to switch between wolf and man when in the moon-light, needing to switch between both to smash through rocks that are in the way and move around large batteries and crates, as well as slide through small holes, pick locks, and activate doorways.
Graphics-wise, MacGuffin’s Curse isn’t really anything that shows off the potential of the iDevice, but they’re far from cheesy. The environments are well detailed, and the animations for walking, and moving objects look great, and once you get into the game, the graphics really end up fitting the gameplay. The atmospheric BGM also helps add to the feeling of the game, as do the great sound effects. There’s not one point where I was caught off guard by an annoying sound effect that totally took me out of the mood the game put me in. The controls are decent enough to fit the gameplay, but a d-pad and action button would have been a nice addition as well. To move your character, you’ll need to swipe and hold in the direction you want to move. If you want to make single step moves, a short quick swipe will get it done. A single tap anywhere on the screen will activate buttons, view different objects or use doors, while using two fingers to swipe will push and pull larger objects.
You’ll move from room to room (or a screen sized section of the city), solving puzzles to move onto the next one. They will usually require you to find a way to a power button, which will give you access to a battery, which you’ll then need to find a way to drag to the battery holder, finally opening up a door that will lead to the next room. As you progress through the game, more features are added, like large buttons which you’ll need to hold down with crates, steel crates which can only be pushed and not pulled, piles of rocks that will block off areas, and more. There’s also safes which house gold, as well as bits and pieces of a comic which tells the story of MacGuffin.
Throughout the city, you’ll also run into some pretty interesting characters, some of which will get in your way, while others will have quests for you. You’re given a quest log which will help you keep track of them, and not too far into the game, you’ll come across a character which will give you the ability to jump to certain places on the world map that you’ve already visited. Most of these characters and the conversations that MacGuffin has throughout the game, as well as the little dialogue sections when you check out various objects in each of the rooms, can add quite a bit to the gameplay. Sometimes you’ll come across a helpful hint, while other times it’ll just be there to help add some humor to the gameplay. Either way, the writing is definitely something that sets this puzzler apart from the herd.
MacGuffin’s Curse will be available on the AppStore, MacStore and on Steam April 19th. At $4.99, being Universal, and including GameCenter support with 18 achievements that will require you to do quite a bit of exploration, it’s a puzzler that fans of the genre or tongue n cheek humor won’t want to pass up. I haven’t come across any issues as of yet, no problems with sound cutting out when coming back to the App from the multitasking bar, not one crash, and no glitches to speak of, but since it is published by Ayopa, I’m pretty sure you can bet that if any issues are found, the developers will be ready and willing to jump on fixing them ASAP.

Crow (Sunside Inc.) – $4.99

The amount of developers the AppStore has opened it’s arms to is pretty much unfathomable. With hundreds of releases every week, it’s really hard to wrap your head around how many apps the AppStore really has. This is both good and bad, as there’s loads of games that you might have to sift through before finding one that you’ll enjoy enough to play through til the end, but there’s also those rare occasions that you’ll be able to come across a game that totally blows you away, and you can’t help but feel lucky to be able to have such a wide range of games available to you. There’s also few games available in the AppStore that are described better as games you experience than games you play. Infinity Blade, Windosill, Waking Mars, Machinarium, Bumpy Road, and Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery all come to mind as being more games focusing on a mesh of musical and artistic expression. Sunside Inc., a small 2 man development team’s new release, Crow, is definitely a game to add to that list.

Crow is a unique adventure game that takes you through the story of a Crow facing off against different forces, deciding whether to take the path of good or evil. With each boss encounter you have, you’ll be able to choose between cursing the enemy, or letting them go, both having different outcomes throughout the game, including the appearance of your crow.
The game is split into two different gameplay modes, the world map, and dungeons. While on the world map, you’ll explore the scenery, looking for trinkets, challenge levels, story points, and enemy encounters. During this section of the game, the controls might take a little getting use to. To move around, you need to hold on the screen in the direction you want the crow to fly, and tap to stop and hover. As you uncover the various items and interesting points throughout the level, you’ll need to tap on them to pick them up, set off the cut-scene and dialogue for the story, or activate the enemy battle or challenge level. In the challenge levels and enemy fights, or, the dungeon areas, controlling is a bit different. You’ll need to slide your finger around anywhere on the screen to move your crow around while you’re taken through the stage on pre-set path (rail). To attack, you’ll need to collect the orbs of energy until the circle in the lower left portion of the screen lights up, then tap on it, and be taken to the attack screen. Here, you can either attack by swiping where you want to attack, or draw a circle, and activate a shield.
Once you complete the challenge level or enemy battle, you’re taken to a results screen, where you’re able to see if you collected all of the orbs, trinkets, lost any health, completed the level under the par time, and what difficulty you completed the level on, all adding up to your total score. If you’d like to try and do better, you can reset your score, and replay the level. This option is only available for the challenge and enemy levels, and does not extend to the boss battles.

Each world is split into separate levels, with the first level being the exploration you’ll do before the first enemy battle, then the second level being after with separate trinkets and challenge levels found in both. Once you collect enough trinkets, you’re given a skill point, which you can use to upgrade how long your shield lasts, how quickly you regenerate health and magical energy, and how much energy it takes to attack. As you progress through the game, and depending on how you deal with the bosses, you’ll be given options to upgrade different abilities as well.
The graphics in Crow are top notch. There’s actually very few games in the AppStore that even come close to looking as good as this title, which is very impressive considering the game was developed by 2 guys who made their own engine, Radiance, for the game to run in. The story is very engaging, and well written, with the voice acting above par as well. The music is also a high point within the game, and really brings the whole package together, making it an incredibly immersive and entertaining gaming experience.

Most of the replay value is in high-score chasing and achievements. To get perfect scores on the 2 Challenge Levels and Enemy Battles in each world, you need to collect all of the energy orbs, all of the trinkets, and not take any damage from the environmental hazards. Once you get further into the game, these challenge levels get tougher and tougher, requiring you to really pay attention to everything that you’re flying towards, and almost perfect timing. The Guardian and Boss Battles are scored on the trinkets, energy, and health as well, but also include finding all of the story points that are available before the enemy level, a time bonus if you can beat the enemy level under the par time and a difficulty level bonus.

Needless to say, there’s quite a bit that you’ll need to do in order to maximize your score, which is also tracked by GameCenter, so if you’re a high-score chaser, you can compete for the best time with friends, and other players. Included with the GameCenter leaderboard are 18 achievements which will require multiple play-throughs, some of which will be very challenging to unlock, giving the game tons of replay value, which is a good thing, because completing the game only takes about 2 hours. There’s even an achievement for beating the game in under 35 minutes, so once you know your way around the worlds, you can complete the game fairly quickly. But being Universal, and only $5, you’ll definitely get your moneys worth. The gameplay is solid, the atmospheres, graphics, music, and story all blend together perfectly. However, if you’re looking for an adventure game with a long story that doesn’t focus on multiple play-throughs, chances are Crow will not be what you’re looking for. But if you’re trying to find a unique gameplay experience for your iDevice, Sunside Inc has definitely delivered a game with loads of depth below the surface. It’ll be hard for them to match this quality with future games, but they’ve, without question, made a solid name for themselves in the iOS development community, and I hope to see more games of this caliber hit the AppStore in the future.

New Ayopa release – MacGuffin’s Curse‏ – TBR April 19th

Ayopa Games has quickly become one of our favorite publishers here at The App Shack. Their first release, W.E.L.D.E.R. was a huge hit, getting named Apple’s Game Of The Week, along with loads of attention from iOS sites and gamers all over the world. Though this first release isn’t really what got our attention. Also released the same day as W.E.L.D.E.R. was Chicken Rescue, a game more directed at kids, but having quite a bit of issues relating to the controls, framerate, and some various other gameplay issues. Chicken Rescue quickly received multiple updates based on user feedback, becoming a very polished and entertaining title.
After that, Big Bot Smash was released, and it also had it’s share of issues, which again, were fixed very quickly based on user feedback. M.U.S.E., Mailmen, and Dungeon Crawlers pretty much all went through the same thing. Problems with controls, followed by quick updates after the developers of those titles got active within the gaming community, and listened to player feedback. This is why Ayopa has become one of our favorite publishers. Every single one of the games that they’ve published has had developers that have gotten their hands dirty, been able to admit that their game’s first version wasn’t perfect, listened to player feedback, and quickly fixed whatever issues were brought up. Ayopa also being very responsive in passing on user feedback to the developers also helps quite a bit. They’re a publishing company who’s very interested in user feedback, and also releases games from developers who feel the same. Not to mention, every single one of the releases that has gone through Ayopa has wound up being a top notch, highly entertaining gaming experience.
So when we got e-mails saying that their next title, MacGuffin’s Curse, was coming to the AppStore this Aril 19th, we got very excited. This time around, Australian developer Andrew Goulding’s company, Brawsome (who in 2010 won Freeplay’s “Best Australian Game” for the PC/Mac title Jolly Rover) is bringing unique puzzler, MacGuffin’s Curse to the iDevice, as well as Steam and the Mac Store.
MacGuffin’s Curse has you playing as a magician turned thief, MacGuffin, who winds up needing to steal a diamond to pay the rent. Things don’t go as planned, and MacGuffin winds up being forced to steal the diamond for an ex-detective. Putting the diamond around his neck, MacGuffin turns into a werewolf, capable of moving large objects, and smashing blockades along the citywide security system. You’re able to change between human and wolf forms whenever touching the moonlight, and will need to constantly switch between the two to make it through each of the puzzles, unravelling a witty and humorous plot.
This top-down adventure is full of fantastically hand-drawn art set up as a comic that you’ll be able to explore and find pieces of throughout the game, has simple swipe-drag-tap controls, hundreds of puzzles increasing in difficulty as you progress throughout the game, catchy music, a great cast of characters, and smooth, entertaining gameplay. Published by Ayopa, MacGuffin’s Curse will be available for purchase in the AppStore (for iPhone, iPod, and iPad), Mac Store, and Steam on Thursday, April 19th. Make sure to keep an eye open for it, and also check out some extra information, screens, and videos on both the Ayopa and Brawsome Websites.

Spaceward Ho! (Ariton) – $4.99

There are some genres that have truly embraced the AppStore, using the iDevice’s unique touch screen capabilities, and basically feeling right at home on the platform. Puzzlers, Racers and Point n’ Click titles really make it feel like the iDevice was made to perfectly suit them. Strategy games are also definitely falling into this grouping of genres, and slowly, but surely, 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) titles are finding their way as well, and these are being sucked up by fans of this niche genre like an addicts choice substance. It also helps when these titles are ports of old-school titles, as a lot of iOS gamers are 30-40 year olds who found out they can fit gaming into their lives again by playing on their phones.
Spaceward Ho!, originally an Amiga and Mac title released in 1990 released by Delta Tao Software, has made its way into the AppStore, accompanying Ascendancy as two of the more notable old-school 4X games that have graced the iDevice, and the two man California based development team, Ariton (who also developed the Spaceward Ho! port for the Palm Pilot), has done a fantastic job transferring the game over to the touch screen.
Spaceward Ho! is not your typical depthy 4X Strategy game. Actually, on the surface, it’s very basic when compared to titles like Master of Orion or Starbase Orion, but underneath the surface, it does have quite a bit of depth. It’s probably better placed next to titles like 9 Colonies and Vincere Totus Astrum, offering up gameplay that can last an hour, or even play through as quick as 10 minutes.
When starting a game, you’re able to decide exactly what kind of game you’ll be playing. You’ll be able to choose what kind of system you’ll be thrown into; Thriving, Abundant, Advanced, Normal, Backward, Barren, or Outpost. How many other empires you want in the star system, choosing between 1 and 8, as well as their IQ, being able to pick between 50 and 200, in increments of 10. The enemies home system, like yours, Thriving, Abundant, ect… but you can also decide to have this be based on their IQ. How many years to advance with every turn, 10, 20, 30 or 50, whether or not to allow Best Buddies, and the Shape, size, and Density of the universe. All but the size influences the difficulty, which you’ll be able to see go up and down based on your choices.
Once you decide the settings, you’re taken to the Galaxy screen. Here, you can see your home planet, as well as all the other planets in the galaxy. To get started, you can double tap on your home planet, and be taken to the ship/satellite creation screen. Here, you can build various ships and satellites, adjusting their Range, Speed, Weapons, Shields, and Mini (amount of material used to build them). As you progress through the game, your researchers will automatically research different technologies, increasing what you can use as stats for your ships.
In the Info section, along the left side of the screen, you can adjust how much money you’ll spend on the different technologies by dragging the gauge’s. In this area, you can also view your entire list of planets that you’ve colonized, adjusting how much money you spend on the planet. You can adjust it so that you spend more on technologies, or put the money back into your savings. At the top of this bar you’ll find your total money and metal (the only resource that you’ll need to worry about in the game). The metal that you collect from around the galaxy is used to build your satellites and ships, so sometimes colonizing a planet just to take the metal from it, and then evacuating is a very good idea. At the bottom of the info section, you’re able to either hide the information or change to view your history, which is a list of every major event that has happened in the game. There is also a little box which tells you who the other players are, and if they’re an enemy or ally.
The game is complete when you either friend or defeat all of the other players. You can keep playing, colonizing the rest of the planets, or seeing how strong you can make your ships until you run out of metal, but it’ll be pretty boring since there won’t be any opponents. If you’re familiar with the original Spaceward Ho! this is basically an exact port. You can not view your technology level vs. the other players, there’s no ‘browse all fleets’ or ‘browse all planets’ and network play has not been implemented yet, but the developers have said that they are working hard on giving us GameCenter Support, Multiplayer features, and an iPhone build of the game. Being priced at $5, it’s a great title to pick up if you’re a fan of the 4X genre. It’s also one of the best 4X games you could pick up if you’re new to the genre. It’s very easy to learn, has a great ‘help’ section, which is also pretty short (unlike some other tutorial or help sections in other 4X games that are 50 pages long, and would take 2 hours to read through) because all of the unnecessary complexity that’s in other 4X games has either been weeded out, or is taken care of automatically. There is also an Auto-Play option, which lets you watch the game take over your decisions, which is a great way to learn how to play the game quickly. The developers are very active on the Touch Arcade Forums, and have an ‘Ask Us’ section on their website dedicated to answering questions. Having such active and supportive developers makes wanting to support them very easy.
[iPad Only]