Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (iOS) Hands-On/Interview – NYCC 2014

Pac-Man CE DX

At the Namco booth over at NYCC, I had the opportunity to interview Benjamin Acevedo, the producer for the upcoming Pac-Man Championship Edition DX for iOS and Android. During my time checking out the hands-on demo he showcased, he showed that everything fans loved about the console edition released back in 2010 would translate perfectly to iOS. All the original game and audio files are 100% intact, assuring fans won’t get a gimped out version of the game.

While showing the demo, there were some notable additions that add to the quicker pickup-and-play nature of the game while on-the-go. There is an entire world map, filled with specific stipulations that must be completed to advance to the next level. Within those are also Challenge Stages that will provide much more difficult objectives to complete for a level. When the game was running on-screen (displayed on an iPad mini), it looked stunning. The visuals are just as smooth and vibrant as they are on consoles and the swipe controls look incredibly responsive.

The big surprise about the upcoming release was the fact that it’s going to be a free-to-play title for everyone. Pac-Man is approaching his 35th anniversary this March and the folks over at Namco wanted to really get the ball rolling by starting to celebrate the iconic video game character’s history. Naturally, with it being free-to-play, you can expect the fact that you have a set amount of lives to play and once you’re out, you’ll have to wait a bit before you can play again, unless of course you buy the “premium version” which Ben mentioned as an option. You could even use in-game coins to purchase higher capacities for lives and bombs (which were used to clear ghosts away from you if things got out of control). The game will have all the original modes and levels from the console edition, aside from the additions mentioned.

Ben also showed off a fun little Pac-Man title which recently released on iOS called Pac-Man Friends. This puts a fun twist on the Pac-Man formula having you control both Pac-Man and one of his friends simultaneously in a small stage where you must guide them both to safety. The interesting element was that every one of Pac-Man’s friends has a unique ability, whether it be one that’s invisible to ghosts, while another grows bigger after each pellet eaten. Each stage has 3 objectives to aim for, some of which will really challenge players tremendously.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is slated for release on the iOS and Android this December, so stay tuned! In the meantime, those who are interested in Pac-Man Friends can check that out on both iOS and Android devices right now. Feel free to also check the video showing off both games below.

Developer Interview with Zordix’s CEO: “Aqua Moto Racing 3D”, iOS and 3DS Differences, Wii U Development

Aqua Moto Racing 3D

It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen a great jet-ski game, Nintendo’s Wave Race series being the most notable. However, developer Zordix, known for their iOS title “Aqua Moto Racing”, is looking to fill the gap by bring their latest racing game to the 3DS eShop, Aqua Moto Racing 3D. I caught up with Zordix’s CEO, Matti Larsson, to discuss their upcoming title, the differences on developing for iOS and 3DS, and if there’s any possibility we will see their titles hit the Wii U.

Marcello: First off, thank you for taking the time to provide an interview for the upcoming 3DS eShop title, Aqua Moto Racing 3D. How did this project come about for the 3DS?

Matti: Thank you for both a great site and interest in our new game.

I think this project started the minute we realized that our games, and new games we want to make, are perfectly suited for both the 3DS and the Wii U. When Nintendo opened up the eShop we decided to focus wholeheartedly on the Nintendo platforms. That way we can make even better games, and reach a quality gamer audience.

Marcello: The Aqua Moto Racing series is very well received for the iOS devices. I’ve actually been playing Aqua Moto Racing 2 for my iPhone 4S and have to say I’ve been really enjoying it (and I normally can’t get into iOS games)! What differences will there be for the 3DS installment? Any advantages you were able to harness with the 3DS over the iOS versions?

Matti: There are some really big advantages with the 3DS version like:
1. The analogue control stick that makes all the difference in feeling.
2. A lower screen for a map with race overview.
3. The 3D view is fantastic and I use it myself all the time in a game like this.
4. Making a new version means improvements on all aspects including rider looks and the extreme stunts you can perform and control (again the controls) by using the buttons of a real gaming device.

Marcello: Personally, the game caught my attention immediately upon seeing how it was similar to Wave Race 64. Was that an inspiration for you guys?

Matti: Wave Race has been a huge inspiration and we realized there was a gap to fill in the need for this type of game. I’m not sure it’s fair to compare to an iconic Nintendo TV console launch title with a big budget, but we’re very happy with the result in how fun the game is to play. It should stand its ground well.

A difference worth mentioning is that you get bigger, more varied waves to enjoy in Aqua Moto Racing 3D, which just adds to the fun.

Marcello: Will the game feature local and/or online multiplayer? If so, how many players? Also, will the game utilize the Download Play feature at all?

Matti: It supports up to 6 players, and you can use both the Download Play feature and Street Pass.

Marcello: Now for a non-3DS related question, what do you think of Nintendo’s latest console, Wii U? Would you consider developing any game(s) for it in the near future? If so, any ideas you could share?

Matti: I can’t deny that it would be a dream to realize the Aqua Moto Racing game in a larger format. Possibly with online tournaments, ranking and all that goes with that. Wii U is a natural next step for us and if we decide to do it, I’ll make sure to share some information early on about development.

Marcello: Aqua Moto Racing 3D is out today in Europe. Any ETA for release in North America? Also, what’s the price tag you guys are aiming for?

Matti: A release in North America should be just a month away. We’re looking at a price of around 10 euro in Europe; and we’ll see what that becomes in North America. Not more than 10 USD I think, so a lot cheaper than the boxed games; but with all the fun you might expect.

Marcello: Anything else you’d like to add for our readers?

Matti: We paid attention to all of the important details and it is easy to forget to mention some of them, such as calibration of Sound FX and the original game soundtrack with lots of different songs that give an exciting and varied total experience.

Marcello: Thanks again for your time Matti. I look forward to playing Aqua Moto Racing 3D and other futures titles your studio releases.

Matti: Thank you for the interview.

Enjoy the interview? Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @GamersXTREME and Facebook!

Cubemen 2 Review (iOS): “Block Battling on the Go”

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Developer 3 Sprockets released an awesome sleeper indie hit last year with their RTS / TD hybrid Cubemen. After giving the game a try and writing my review (which you can read here – if you want all the details on which Cubemen 2 was built on, give it a read!), I knew that 3 Sprockets was on to something big. Cubemen was a fresh take on the TD genre, replacing static towers with movable soldiers that can be placed around a 3D map. Cubemen also included a multitude of play modes, limiting the number of resources or soldiers you could have at a time, or even a crazy rockets vs. crossbows mode. Cubemen is great, so here we have another case of 3 Sprockets having to out-do itself with Cubemen 2. The game was a hit on PC, but does the iOS version stand toe to toe with its computer counterpart? Read on and find out.

Cubemen 2′s gameplay doesn’t deviate terribly from the first when it comes down to it – you and your opponents have a base from which you can spend credits – called “cubes” – to spawn soldiers to attack your enemy’s units. Depending on the game type you’re playing, you may also spawn AI-controlled mobs from your base, making their way to your enemies and taking off a life if they reach their base. Cubemen set itself apart from other TD games in several ways; first, instead of planting static towers, you purchase and deploy units with unique weapons, with the option of moving them to different locations as the situation changes. Players battle it out in fully-3D environments, and weapons obey full line of sight physics, opening up new strategies, like placing flamethrowers behind corners and perching snipers on high ground for superior offensive and defensive positioning.

All of the core gameplay has made its way into Cubemen 2, with some added tweaks and improvements. First and foremost, the list of units has been modified to replace some under-used or under-powered soldiers with more useful ones. Both games feature Grill, a speedy pistolero with low health, Flint, a short-ranged flamethrower, Moty, a fire-support unit with a long-ranged AoE attack, Ricky, armed with a heat-seeking rocket launcher, Lazlo, a laser-firing death machine, and Sid, a sniper armed with a powerful long-ranged rifle, perfect for picking off units at a distance. Two units from the original were removed – Fred, an ice-based version of Flint who deals less damage but slows units hit by its attack, and Mike, a medic who can restore the health of your units. Fred was replaced with Larry, a low-cost unit that can slow enemies in an area around him with ice lightning. Mike is no longer a unit in Cubemen 2, but his function was brought over as regen squares present on the map, which players on either side can move their units onto to heal. Cubemen 2 also sees the introduction of two new units that completely change the gameplay dynamic. Milo turns into a mine when he reaches his destination, exploding for huge damage when an enemy passes near it. Waly brings a traditional TD element to Cubemen 2, turning into an impassable wall when he reaches his destination to close off paths or create choke points. Both of these new units are single-use and will disappear when they reach their destination, but are also extremely tough to kill, but a new “Engineer” unit will be implemented soon which can dislodge these powerful area-denial units. This is a nice balancing factor, as the gameplay previously allowed players to permanently change the playing field with walls, a potentially game-breaking situation. All of these units can be upgraded for a variable Cube cost, upping their damage, range, and fire rate, as well as fully restoring their health. 3 Sprockets has done a great job of streamlining the unit selection in Cubemen 2, making every purchase purposeful and allowing for a lot of strategic options.

Finally, the long-standing feud between Knights and Luchadores is settled.

Finally, the long-standing feud between Knights and Luchadores is settled.

Players can get acclimated to the game through the two included Defensive Campaigns (one of which is new from the computer version of the game), which sees the player go through traditional tower defense scenarios on several unique maps. Each stage records your score on a playthrough, allowing you to go back and play the campaign again if you want to try to improve on your score. However, there’s plenty of alternative content included in Cubemen 2 to keep you busy. The game comes with additional maps which can be played on a multitude of game modes. The single-player offerings include Defense (your traditional TD game type) and Rescue, which has your AI mobs trying to rescue allied NPCs from enemy bases, requiring you to build units to protect them. Three additional modes can be played single-player against bots, in multi-player against other human players, or any mix of the two, and include: Skirmish, which is similar to Defense mode but requires players to attack as well as defend, sending out units to destroy their enemies and guard their mobs toward their bases; Territories, a spin on King of the Hill which requires players to send out units to capture most of the stage for their side; and a traditional Capture the Flag mode. Skirmish and CTF are tons of fun, but Territories is definitely the most exciting addition to the game with a ton of depth. The winner is only declared once the timer runs down, so players can either expand outward early and blitz the board, or bide their time, build up their forces, and steamroll their opponents closer to the timer. All game modes are highly configurable with options such as time limit, number of waves and opponents, solo or team options, and more.

The game’s AI is certainly competent and will put up a fair fight, but even on the highest difficulty, players will eventually find their skills are no longer up to snuff, so eventually you’ll want to spend more time in Cubemen 2′s multiplayer mode. Up to six players can face off solo or in teams on any of the 3 multiplayer modes. This is truly the way the game is meant to be played, and other players will put up a nice challenge and use tactics that the AI simply can’t do. Glacier928 and I had an awesome time facing off against each other and in teams, and even though I’m more of the strategy buff (while he goes more for action games), he found Cubemen 2 to be a beginner-friendly yet exciting game. Latency wasn’t an issue and our games ran smooth as butter, even with six players throwing down in intense battles with cubes flying everywhere.

The excellent level editor featured in the PC version of Cubemen 2 has made its way to the iPad version of the game; unfortunately, iPhone and iPod Touch users will be out of luck here. If you’re playing from an iPad, you’ll find every bit of functionality featured in the PC version of the game. Tons of options are available here, from raising and lowering terrain and creating floating tiles, adding in spawn points, teleporters, and regenerator squares, and even setting the recommended texture for the level are all options available. Once a level is finished, you can upload it to 3 Sprockets’ public server for other players to try. A rating system helps players gauge if a map they’re about to download is fun or not. As a side note, if you happen to own the PC/Mac version of the game but don’t own an iPad to play on, you can create a level there, upload it to 3 Sprockets’ server, and download it to your iPhone or iPod Touch.

The level editor gives players a lot of freedom, even allowing for the remake of this N64 classic.

The level editor gives players a lot of freedom and creativity, allowing for the remake of this N64 classic.

Cubemen 2 has taken cues from the original in terms of visual and sound design, and while there haven’t been any major leaps forward in the game’s engine, it still runs at a brisk pace on every modern iDevice, and features plenty of pleasing, block-based visual effects, including ambient lighting around players’ bases and light flashes when weapons are fired which help to spice up the action a bit. As an important note, the game is only supported on the latest Apple devices, including the iPhone 4S and up, iPad Mini, iPad 2 and up, and the iPod Touch 5 and up. The game does run on older devices, but is a much more stripped-down experience, including poorer performance, some audio and video stutter, and the complete removal of all multiplayer modes. Buyer beware, trying to play on an older system is not the way Cubemen 2 is meant to be played.

3 Sprockets has greatly expanded on the options presented to the user to customize the game their way as well; while players could originally choose a color for the levels and Cubemen, as well as a basic skin for the latter, Cubemen 2 has greatly expanded on this, offering all of the classic color options as well as full-fledged skins for units and levels. There’s a pretty expansive offering here – from soldiers, orcs, and ninjas for Cubemen, to Minecraft, lunar, Egyptian, and a Tron Grid-like look for levels (just to name a few), it’s easy to customize the look of the game to your liking. There are many more skins to choose from through downloadable content, and 3 Sprockets intends to add even more to the game over time. The game also features a more varied soundtrack compared to the original score, sporting a different theme for the title screen and most of your units. These songs are essentially different takes on the same basic melody, but with different tonality and feel to suit each character they’re named after. Ricky’s Theme is a personal favorite of mine, but you may choose not to use it everywhere like I did and instead take advantage of the game’s sound options, letting you play a separate theme for the title screen and each gameplay mode. These songs have taken a step up since the first game too, sounding a bit more grand and dramatic, which really helps the immersion factor during a game. It’s nice to see 3 Sprockets listening to their fans and incorporating some of their suggestions into Cubemen 2′s initial release.

So, is there anywhere Cubemen 2 falls flat? Honestly, not in a lot of places. You can’t pick campaign stages to play on, requiring you to replay the whole thing if you want to get to a specific stage. The game does have a couple of minor bugs and kinks to work out as well, such as incorrect information in some in-game menus. It would have also been nice to be able to re-name or delete maps you’ve published online. And of course, 3 Sprockets will be looking into keeping the game balanced so that cheap strategies don’t reign supreme. The upcoming Engineer unit is sure proof of this. If you happen to be playing from an iPhone or iPod, the lack of a level editor will be sorely missed.

A friendly game of Territory in the medieval countryside.

A friendly game of Territory in the medieval countryside.

Cubemen 2 for iOS does a very good job of bringing the desktop experience to a portable platform, and in the case of the iPad version, doesn’t sacrifice anything for it. Cubemen 2 doesn’t do anything radical to change the formula, but instead makes the game fresh through a tweak in the gameplay dynamics, improvements to user customization, and by featuring an excellent online mode and level editor. With plenty of updates and patches in the pipe, Cubemen 2 will only get better over time, and is sure to be a long-standing member of your iDevice’s home screen.

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

Special thanks to 3 Sprockets for providing us with a review copy of Cubemen 2 for iOS!

Terraria Creator Andrew Spinks Talks Vita, Future Content

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We recently had the chance to talk with Terraria creator Andrew Spinks in advance of the impending Vita port of his wildly-popular side-scrolling adventure game. Terraria has seen a hugely-successful launch on PC and its Xbox 360 / PS3 following is quite strong as well, so it’s only natural that the game makes the leap to mobile platforms next. While we were certainly excited to find out more about the mobile version, Andrew was also gracious enough to give us some insight into Terraria’s origins and where it’s going from here. Check out the interview below!

Jonathan: First off, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us, Andrew. I’m a big fan of Terraria, both for its 2D action-explorable style as well as the crafting options it features. It’s a really unique experience. What was your inspiration to combine these playstyles into Terraria?

Andrew: My goal with Terraria has always been to make a game that I personally enjoy playing.  Along with that “unique experience” you mentioned, combining these and other styles is just part of what helped me reach that goal!

Jonathan: No doubt that there will be inevitable comparisons between Terraria and Minecraft, both for their explorable worlds and crafting features. Did you come up with the idea for Terraria before Minecraft went public? Was it an inspiration for Terraria? What do you think sets your game apart?

Andrew: Minecraft was a definite inspiration for Terraria.  Starting out, Terraria looks very similar to Minecraft, but as you progress, the differences become more apparent in terms of exploration, combat, and game progression as a whole!  Terraria has its own personality as well that comes to life through the dialog, the soundtrack, as well as the graphics.

Jonathan: Terraria’s been a huge hit on PC, and you’ve said that it’s fan feedback that prompted you to work on a PS Vita version of the game. Did the majority of this feedback come about after Terraria’s release on Xbox 360 and PS3, or was it mostly due to the initial feedback from the PC crowd?

Andrew: I’d say it was initial feedback that prompted the port to the Vita, but there was more and more demand for it after the release of the console versions too.

Jonathan: The Vita sports some unique features not available on other portable platforms, like its rear touch pad and Near social features. What sorts of technologies are you looking to leverage in the Vita version of Terraria? Will the Vita version be an adaptation of the PC/Console version, or are you looking to add some new features to the game that take advantage of the Vita’s unique technology?

Andrew: We’ll have more information for you as we get closer to launch, but I will say that we are going to do our best to take advantage of the system’s unique qualities to make sure the game stays intuitive in this new environment!

Jonathan: Finally, what does the future of Terraria look like? Are you planning to work on a version of the game for iOS and Android platforms, or even other consoles like the DS / 3DS and Wii U? Are there any major additions to the game in the pipe?

Andrew: iOS will be coming out this summer, and we hope to have it for Android devices soon after that!  I’ve also been personally working a great deal on the 1.2 update for PC that will also be ported to XBLA and PSN!  We haven’t made any concrete decisions about Nintendo yet, but we’ll see what happens!

Jonathan: Thanks again for your time Andrew. It’s been great talking to you, and we’re looking forward to playing Terraria on the go on our Vitas!

Andrew: Thanks for the interview and for the kind words!  It’s been fun!

Be sure to look out for Terraria on the Playstation Vita and iOS devices this summer!

“Kung Fu Rabbit” Developer Interview with Neko Entertainment

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A few weeks ago, European Wii U owners were able to check out Neko Entertainment’s latest release, Kung Fu Rabbit. This Thursday (May 2nd), North American Wii U owners will be able to do the same (our review coming soon). We reached out to Neko Entertainment’s QA Manager, Sébastien Chipot, to provide us an interview about their latest release:

Marcello: First off, thanks for taking the time to provide us this interview. Kung Fu Rabbit was first released by CTools, Cazap and Bulkypix for the iOS and Android devices. How did you guys go about getting the backing to provide a Wii U version to the game?

Sébastien: When we saw the game, the first time, we found it to be great! The graphics are really cute, but the game is not that easy. It is a mix between beauty/fun and skills. The only thing we did not like was the controls (the virtual pad is not the best control to fit with this kind of game). So if could have the same game, but with a classic controller, it would be perfect! We realized the Wii U was the perfect platform!

Marcello: What changes (if any) were made to the Wii U version from the original mobile version?

Sébastien: We did not made a lot of changes. As I said, the game was already really enjoyable. We changed some Achievements, we added different controls (Wii U GamePad, Classic controller, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote…) to be sure anyone would enjoy the game as they prefer, and fixed some issues already present in the iOS version.

Marcello: This is now your second title available for the Wii U via eShop. How was the conversion process for you guys to bring a game that was originally designed for the mobile devices to the Wii U? Was it fairly simple or was the Wii U architecture vastly different to adapt to?

Sébastien: It is never easy to bring a mobile game to a platform like the Wii U. But we have a strong experience now, and that’s true, developing Puddle on the Wii U first, helped us to know more about that console. So we did not have to face so many problems during Kung Fu Rabbit’s Project. The only main change was the interface, as we had to change some things, especially avoiding to touch the screen of the GamePad (the touch is a nice thing, but your hands hide a part of the screen, so we preferred to focus on simple but efficient controls : the Buttons and Control pad).

Marcello: It’s a fair assumption to believe you guys are finding the Wii U to be a strong platform to develop for, as this is already your second title for it within a few months. Are there any other projects in the pipeline for the Wii U?

Sébastien: We are waiting for the final approval from Nintendo for our game Cocoto Magic Circus 2. We also have other projects on the Wii U, but it is too early to talk about it. I will contact you later when we will have more information to share about it.

Marcello: The Miiverse has really taken off as an integral element to the Wii U. What has it been like for you guys, the developers, to be in tune with fellow gamers, seeing what they think of your games, as well as seeing fan art (I believe you caught my drawing of Kung Fu Rabbit the other day)?

Sébastien: Yeah I noticed your drawing (nice one). We really think it is a great “plus” for everyone. We, as developers, can see what players think about the game (not always nice things, but we have to listen everyone, every complaint to increase our game, and bring more and more quality in our future projects). But I guess it is most of all a nice reward, because you are directly in contact with players, and so you can feel their joy about what we work on: when you see a lot of posts telling people “buy this game, it definitely worth it!”, that’s the best reward you could get !

Marcello: Kung Fu Rabbit is an undeniably cute game, between it’s visual and audio representation, to the characters themselves. Any chance we could see you guys working with CTools, Cazap and Bulkypix to provide a sequel? Also, is there any chance the game could come to the 3DS?

Sébastien: For the moment we are focusing on Kung Fu Rabbit. But I can tell you we are already working on the PS Vita to port the game on that console. But definitely, depending on the success of the game, we would love to work on a sequel, with our partner and developer CTools !

Marcello: Any other info you would like to add for the fans and readers?

Sébastien: We really hope a lot of players will enjoy our games! The more they are, the more new games we will release, trying always to satisfy them!

Marcello: Thanks again for your time Sébastien. I look forward to hearing from you and your team in the near future.

Cubemen 2 Review (PC): “Thinking Outside the Blocks”

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Developer 3 Sprockets released an awesome sleeper indie hit last year with their RTS / TD hybrid Cubemen. After giving the game a try and writing my review (which you can read here – if you want all the details on which Cubemen 2 was built on, give it a read!), I knew that 3 Sprockets was on to something big. Cubemen was a fresh take on the TD genre, replacing static towers with movable soldiers that can be placed around a 3D map. Cubemen also included a multitude of play modes, limiting the number of resources or soldiers you could have at a time, or even a crazy rockets vs. crossbows mode. Cubemen is great, so here we have another case of 3 Sprockets having to out-do itself with Cubemen 2. Do they succeed? Read on and find out.

Cubemen 2’s gameplay doesn’t deviate terribly from the first when it comes down to it – you and your opponents have a base from which you can spend credits – called “cubes” – to spawn soldiers to attack your enemy’s units. Depending on the game type you’re playing, you may also spawn AI-controlled mobs from your base, making their way to your enemies and taking off a life if they reach their base. Cubemen set itself apart from other TD games in several ways; first, instead of planting static towers, you purchase and deploy units with unique weapons, with the option of moving them to different locations as the situation changes. Players battle it out in fully-3D environments, and weapons obey full line of sight physics, opening up new strategies, like placing flamethrowers behind corners and perching snipers on high ground for superior offensive and defensive positioning.

All of the core gameplay has made its way into Cubemen 2, with some added tweaks and improvements. First and foremost, the list of units has been modified to replace some under-used or under-powered soldiers with more useful ones. Both games feature Grill, a speedy pistolero with low health, Flint, a short-ranged flamethrower, Moty, a fire-support unit with a long-ranged AoE attack, Ricky, armed with a heat-seeking rocket launcher, Lazlo, a laser-firing death machine, and Sid, a sniper armed with a powerful long-ranged rifle, perfect for picking off units at a distance. Two units from the original were removed – Fred, an ice-based version of Flint who deals less damage but slows units hit by its attack, and Mike, a medic who can restore the health of your units. Fred was replaced with Larry, a low-cost unit that can slow enemies in an area around him with ice lightning. Mike is no longer a unit in Cubemen 2, but his function was brought over as regen squares present on the map, which players on either side can move their units onto to heal. Cubemen 2 also sees the introduction of two new units that completely change the gameplay dynamic. Milo turns into a mine when he reaches his destination, exploding for huge damage when an enemy passes near it. Waly brings a traditional TD element to Cubemen 2, turning into an impassable wall when he reaches his destination to close off paths or create choke points. Both of these new units are single-use and will disappear when they reach their destination, but are also extremely tough to kill and cannot be removed by any means once they reach their destination. All of these units can be upgraded for a variable Cube cost, upping their damage, range, and fire rate, as well as fully restoring their health. 3 Sprockets has done a great job of streamlining the unit selection in Cubemen 2, making every purchase purposeful and allowing for a lot of strategic options.

Finally, the long-standing feud between Knights and Luchadores is settled.

Finally, the long-standing feud between Knights and Luchadores is settled.

Players can get acclimated to the game through the included Defensive Campaign, which sees the player go through traditional tower defense scenarios on 15 unique maps. Each stage records your score on a playthrough, allowing you to go back and play the campaign again if you want to try to improve on your score. However, there’s plenty of alternative content included in Cubemen 2 to keep you busy. The game comes with an additional 20 maps which can be played on a multitude of game modes. The single-player offerings include Defense (your traditional TD game type) and Rescue, which has your AI mobs trying to rescue allied NPCs from enemy bases, requiring you to build units to protect them. Three additional modes can be played single-player against bots, in multi-player against other human players, or any mix of the two, and include: Skirmish, which is similar to Defense mode but requires players to attack as well as defend, sending out units to destroy their enemies and guard their mobs toward their bases; Territories, a spin on King of the Hill which requires players to send out units to capture most of the stage for their side; and a traditional Capture the Flag mode. Skirmish and CTF are tons of fun, but Territories is definitely the most exciting addition to the game with a ton of depth. The winner is only declared once the timer runs down, so players can either expand outward early and blitz the board, or bide their time, build up their forces, and steamroll their opponents closer to the timer. All game modes are highly configurable with options such as time limit, number of waves and opponents, solo or team options, and more.

The game’s AI is certainly competent and will put up a fair fight, but even on the highest difficulty, players will eventually find their skills are no longer up to snuff, so eventually you’ll want to spend more time in Cubemen 2’s multiplayer mode. Up to six players can face off solo or in teams on any of the 3 multiplayer modes. This is truly the way the game is meant to be played, and other players will put up a nice challenge and use tactics that the AI simply can’t do. Glacier928 and I had an awesome time facing off against each other and in teams, and even though I’m more of the strategy buff (while he goes more for action games), he found Cubemen 2 to be a beginner-friendly yet exciting game. Latency wasn’t an issue and our games ran smooth as butter, even with six players throwing down in intense battles with cubes flying everywhere.

Just like in the original, Cubemen 2 features a simple yet robust level editor, though this time it’s included out of the box at launch. The editor gives players a lot of freedom to design the level of their dreams, allowing for multiple cube heights, walls, free-floating tiles, base location, and teleporter and regenerator placement. There are some constraints that the player needs to follow, such as a maximum of 1,500 tiles, placing all six bases on the map with at least 10 spaces between each other, as well as ensuring there is a path to and from each base. There’s still a lot of flexibility to be had while playing by these rules, and once finished, maps can be saved privately for testing or published to the internet on 3 Sprockets’ user map directory, where other players can download, play, and rate your map. Every map needs to be run through a rigorous test before publishing, so you can be sure that it will play in every game mode with any amount of human and bot participants. It’s pretty hard to get bored of Cubemen 2 with an endless supply of maps to play on, and you’d be surprised by some of the crazy ideas that can be had when the editor is fully-utilized.

The level editor gives players a lot of freedom, even allowing for the remake of this N64 classic.

The level editor gives players a lot of freedom and creativity, allowing for the remake of this N64 classic.

Cubemen 2 has taken cues from the original in terms of visual and sound design, and while there haven’t been any major leaps forward in the game’s engine, it still runs at a brisk pace even on more modest computers and features plenty of pleasing, block-based visual effects, including ambient lighting around players’ bases and light flashes when weapons are fired which help to spice up the action a bit. 3 Sprockets has greatly expanded on the options presented to the user to customize the game their way as well; while players could originally choose a color for the levels and Cubemen, as well as a basic skin for the latter, Cubemen 2 has greatly expanded on this, offering all of the classic color options as well as full-fledged skins for units and levels. There’s a pretty expansive offering here – from soldiers, orcs, and ninjas for Cubemen, to Minecraft, lunar, Egyptian, and a Tron Grid-like look for levels (just to name a few), it’s easy to customize the look of the game to your liking. There are many more skins to choose from through downloadable content, and 3 Sprockets intends to add even more to the game over time. The game also features a more varied soundtrack compared to the original score, sporting a different theme for the title screen and most of your units. These songs are essentially different takes on the same basic melody, but with different tonality and feel to suit each character they’re named after. Ricky’s Theme is a personal favorite of mine, but you may choose not to use it everywhere like I did and instead take advantage of the game’s sound options, letting you play a separate theme for the title screen and each gameplay mode. These songs have taken a step up since the first game too, sounding a bit more grand and dramatic, which really helps the immersion factor during a game. It’s nice to see 3 Sprockets listening to their fans and incorporating some of their suggestions into Cubemen 2’s initial release.

So, is there anywhere Cubemen 2 falls flat? Honestly, not in a lot of places. You can’t pick campaign stages to play on, requiring you to replay the whole thing if you want to get to a specific stage. The game does have a couple of minor bugs and kinks to work out as well, such as incorrect information in some in-game menus, and very rare occasions in the campaign where the next wave won’t start after finishing the current one, requiring you to restart the stage. Since most of these levels only take a few minutes to beat, it’s not a deal-breaker. It would have also been nice to be able to re-name or delete maps you’ve published online. There’s also no voice- or text-based chat in multiplayer, though this is something 3 Sprockets has said they’ll address in a future update. And of course, they’ll be looking into keeping the game balanced so that cheap strategies don’t reign supreme.

A friendly game of Territory in the medieval countryside.

A friendly game of Territory in the medieval countryside.

Cubemen 2 is another strong release for 3 Sprockets, and shows what a great developer can really do with a sequel. Cubemen 2 doesn’t do anything radical to change the formula, but instead makes the game fresh through a tweak in the gameplay dynamics, improvements to user customization, and by featuring an excellent online mode and level editor. With plenty of updates and patches in the pipe, Cubemen 2 will only get better over time, and is sure to be a long-standing member of your Steam Library’s Favorites section.

Cubemen 2 is currently available for PC on the Steam platform for $7.99, with Mac and iPad apps on the way.

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

Special thanks to 3 Sprockets for providing us with a review copy of Cubemen 2!

Mobile Spotlight 12/17/12: Sudoku App

Hello, this is Argus9, here with another installment of my Mobile Spotlight series.

Today’s subject isn’t going to be any particularly obscure game title or genre – in fact, it’s one that’s been popular among all audiences for the past decade, if not longer. Sudoku took its place among the top “brain games” right next to the crossword puzzle and word search, especially in the past ten years. Given that Sudoku is so wide-spread in its popularity, it’s safe to assume that there are literally tons of Sudoku copies available on the App Store or Google Play, and it can be hard to choose which one to spend your hard-earned bucks on.

Look no further than Intent Software’s aptly-named Sudoku App, available on the iOS App Store.

For the uninitiated, Sudoku is a logic game best explained by Wikipedia:

Sudoku (数独 sūdoku?, すうどく) i/suːˈdoʊkuː/soo-doh-koo is a logic-based,[1][2]combinatorial[3] number-placement puzzle. The objective is to fill a 9×9 grid with digits so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3×3 sub-grids that compose the grid (also called “boxes”, “blocks”, “regions”, or “sub-squares”) contains all of the digits from 1 to 9. The puzzle setter provides a partially completed grid, which typically has a unique solution.

Traditionally, like crosswords, Sudoku’s been the kind of game that’s played with pencil and paper, often found bound together in books and sold in convenience stores and truck stops. There’s limitations to this traditional method, however – puzzles were often more confusing and required a lot of doubling back upon realizing a number didn’t belong where you thought it did. Besides chewing through pencils and erasers, the fact is, you’ll eventually finish with a Sudoku book and will need to buy another one to keep playing. So for the price of one book and a pack of pencils, you can have an even better experience with Sudoku App – this is where it shines.

Rather than try to take a classic game and put a new, convoluted twist on it (I’m looking at you, Uno, and your many spin-off games), Sudoku App provides one of the best pure Sudoku experiences you can get. It’s Sudoku – no more and no less – but with five built-in difficulties and literally thousands of puzzles available, there’s tons of gameplay and replay value here. Each game starts with some of the numbers filled in, and it’s up to you to determine the right place to put each digit. The game’s controls are simple and intuitive, providing you with the full assortment of digits from 1-9 at the bottom of the screen; just touch the number you want and tap on the grid to place it there. The main advantage Sukodu App has over its paperback version is the game’s intelligence. Similar to Daily Crossword (featured in the first Mobile Spotlight), if you place a digit in the wrong place, the game will tell you right away, even highlighting any duplicate digits present. This is a great way to prevent backtracking and promote a constant sense of progression through each game. This dynamic also helps to contribute towards the game’s score system, as it will keep track of how many mistakes you make, as well as the time taken to complete a puzzle, so you’ll constantly drive yourself to improve these statistics to keep the top spot on each difficulty’s high score list. The game’s Options menu also presents several toggleable options to help you find hints and patterns more easily with no noticeable impact on scoring, so it’s pretty decently customizable as well.

There’s also a sense of showmanship in the game’s presentation. Sudoku App boasts a collection of three unique interface skins, including a tried-and-true paper and pencil theme, a wooden game board interface, and a truly unique Steampunk-inspired design. There’s fun quirks littered throughout each as well, such as doodles spontaneously appearing on the paper and pencil theme. Numbers will also animate as they flick onto the grid or are unceremoniously dropped in the case of an error. Sudoku App’s sound direction is simple, but clean and easy on the ears as well. Most presses, taps, and events are accompanied by glassy, almost fairy-like effects. Interacting with the game’s menu invokes wooden taps and thunks. Much like the game itself, it’s simple and no-frills, but enhances the experience without going over the top, and with a game like Sudoku App, that definitely plays to its strengths.

As good as Sudoku App is, there’s just a couple of gripes I had with it – neither are deal-breaking, but can be addressed down the line. First, the price – $4.99 – may alienate some players looking for their 99-cent fix. There’s no reason Intent Software can’t lower the price or put it on sale, though, and it’s likely you’ll find it in free-app-a-day programs (like App Gratis, my app of choice, and the one I downloaded Sudoku App from). Game Center support is also surprisingly absent, but if I had to guess, it’s because the game’s scoring system is so simple that a leaderboard system would eventually consist of top-10s full of similar times. If Intent Software devised a true scoring system for the game, I could see Game Center support following shortly.

All in all, if you’re looking for the hands-down best Sudoku experience on your iPhone or iPad, Sudoku App is the way to go. It does Sudoku right with simple game mechanics and a nice, clean audio-visual presentation. The $5 price tag may be a bit high for some, but if you’re a Sudoku junkie, hold back on that next book purchase, and put it towards this awesome app.

Thanks for reading this week’s edition of Mobile Spotlight. Join me next time as we continue to deliver the best experiences you can get on your mobile device.

Until then, game on!

Mobile Spotlight 12/03/12: An Introduction, Extreme Road Trip 2, and Daily Crossword

An Introduction

Here at Gamers XTREME, we love bringing our readers the most informative and entertaining game reviews possible. However, as we’ve been thinking on recently, mobile gaming is an entirely different beast. The iOS App Store and Google Play Marketplace are extremely vast, and contain so many titles from an unimaginable amount of developers, it can be hard to separate the very best games from the chaff. Console and handheld markets are considerably smaller, and make it much easier to report on a variety of games, giving you the scoop on the good, the bad, and the mediocre. So as we’ve come to conclude, reviews on mobile games should be done differently. To that end, we’re proud to announce the launch of a new regular column on the Gamers XTREME web site, the Mobile Spotlight.

The Mobile Spotlight aims to deliver more than just game reviews – we’ll pick out the best of the best from the Android and iOS app markets and deliver it to you, complete with a full analysis of why we think you should try it. In order to kick things off, we’re presenting two great mobile games to you today. Let’s begin with Extreme Road Trip 2.

Ridge Racing to the Extreme

Cars with stuck gas pedals; normally a scary predicament in real life, it’s the central element to Roofdog Games’ Extreme Road Trip 2. Part 2D racer, part stunt simulator, the game sees you pulling off turbo boosts and flips to keep it in overdrive without crashing. A simple but thoroughly addictive concept, Extreme Road Trip 2 is the perfect game to set a few minutes aside for, or a few hours of boosting, crashing fun. The game’s controls are simple, and a quick tutorial runs you through them when you start up the game for the first time. Pressing the lower-left or -right of the screen will rotate your car counter-clockwise and clockwise respectively, allowing you to perform flips and ready your landing after a big jump. Performing stunts and getting a smooth landing will earn you Boost, allowing you to conserve your fuel and increase your speed for as long as it holds out. You can also hold down both controls to slam, causing your car to fall rapidly but granting extra Boost if you stick the landing. This is the key to filling up your Boost meter and achieving Overdrive, a high-powered Boost mode that only lasts a few seconds but can give your car some serious air time if you hit a jump. You can also use a selection of power-ups at the beginning of a game, allowing you to start off with a brief speed boost, collect pick-ups in a wider area, and even gain double coins for each one you pick up.

Just a small slice of the cars you can unlock through play.

One of Extreme Road Trip 2’s hooks is the drive to unlock more and more cars to add to your collection. You start out with a basic red Compact, aptly dubbed “Almost Reliable”, but can unlock many, many more vehicles through the game’s currency, coming in two forms: coins, which can be collected during a game, or cash, a premium currency used for higher-end unlocks, acquirable randomly through level-ups and bonus crates (more on these later). Either can be purchased using real money, but Road Trip 2 does a good job of limiting the need. Premium cars aren’t prohibitively expensive, and cash can be acquired at a fair pace. Every car has a series of challenges that can be completed as well, ranging from crashing at a specific distance to traveling upside down for a period of time. Each completed challenge grants a star, and collecting five stars will earn you a pair of bonus crates, which can contain coins, cash, and power-ups given at random. In fact, there’s really little to no feeling of stagnation, as you’ll always be doing something new in Road Trip 2, whether it’s completing car challenges, upgrading your ride, or saving up to purchase something new. You can even post your best distances to social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and iOS players can post challenges to their friends using Game Center. It’s always satisfying receiving a challenge from a buddy and crush it, knowing a message will be sent to them saying their record’s been beaten.

Aside from being an awesome gameplay experience, Road Trip 2 boasts an excellent audio-visual presentation. The game’s 2D sprites are well-detailed and are very reminiscent of Hot Wheels or Micro Machines toy cars. Each stage is littered with scenery and random objects (like beach balls) that can be tossed around by driving through them. Even better, you’ll see road signs representing your friends’ best scores, and you can smash through those as well, literally demolishing their record. Land mines also litter the map and can launch your car extremely far, but can be unpredictable as well, sometimes sending you straight into an oncoming hill. The game’s cute graphics are accentuated by a downright bumping soundtrack. Mixing classic 80’s rock and roll synth with 8-bit sweetness, the game’s music will have you rocking along. There’s only three songs at present (the main menu and the two stage themes), but really, it’s all Road Trip 2 needs. For proof, listen to one of the in-game tracks below.

Extreme Road Trip 2 is one of the most surprising and enjoyable hits I’ve had the chance to play this year, offering addictive gameplay, great social tie-ins, and an awesome presesentation. Best of all, it’s free to play, and comes with a very player-friendly microtransaction model. There’s no carrot on a stick here. Download it today and give it a spin!

An Old-School Mental Workout

On the other end of the spectrum we have Daily Crossword by Blue Wind Studio. Now I know what you might be thinking – crossword apps are a dime a dozen on the app markets. What makes this one so special? A few things, but the main draw is the constant support from the developer. Blue Wind puts out new crossword puzzles constantly, easily downloadable through the app’s main menu screen through a helpful pop-up alert. This alone makes Daily Crossword the app to beat, but it boasts some great features as well. Unlike traditional pencil-and-paper crosswords, after entering a word, you’ll know right away if it’s right or wrong, eliminating a ton of confusion. If you get stuck, however, you can get some help with a word using the game’s hint system. You start off with a few right from the beginning, and can earn more in several ways, including daily app launches, Liking the game on Facebook, and of course, in-app purchases.

It’s a shame there really isn’t more to say about Daily Crossword, but given its nature, there isn’t much to tell that most readers don’t already know. However, I’ve tried quite a few crossword apps and this, by far, is the best you can get for free. It’s gone so far as to change my nightly routine – rather than watching TV until I fall asleep, I find myself firing up Daily Crossword to try to beat a puzzle or two before bed. Given the proven fun factor of crosswords, the excellent feature set Daily Crossword boasts, and its low, low price of FREE, you really owe it to yourself to give it a go.

In Closing

Thanks for reading, and I hope you discovered a couple more apps to add to your collection on your mobile device. Keep checking in at GamersXTREME.org for more Mobile Spotlight and other great reads. To the hardcore and casual alike: game on!

Tower Defense: Lost Earth Review (iOS / Android)

Tower Defense is a popular app genre on the mobile platform, and for good reason – quick games with a lot of depth and strategy are a great platform for a game to go. A lot of the TD games available now are a simple variation on the basic formula, offering a different theme on a typically identical system. So it’s always worth mentioning when something comes along that shakes things up and introduces us to a new gameplay style. Tower Defense: Lost Earth, from com2us, is just such a game, bringing beautiful graphics and a whole slew of enemies and towers to combat them with. Is this enough to make a great game, or does it simply complicate things?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at the basics that Lost Earth brings to the table. The basic gameplay is there – you have waves of enemies trying to move on your base structure and destroy it, and you can purchase stationary defense towers to repel them. Killing enemies awards you with credits with which you can buy more towers or upgrade the ones you have, making them stronger.

However, Lost Earth isn’t content to rest on the genre’s laurels, and what’s been mentioned so far is just about all it has in common with every other game in the Tower Defense category.

For starters, the game has a great selection of game modes to try. There’s a full-featured campaign, spanning 40 levels and actually featuring some semblance of a story. In the future, Earth’s natural resources are dwindling close to nothing, and you are part of an exploration team sent to examine and colonize a new planet. However, this entails establishing bases across the planet’s surface and fending off the natural wildlife with – what else – towers. The campaign does a great job of showing you the ropes, teaching you something new every step of the way while avoiding the feeling of hand-holding. The gradual unlocking of additional tower types also keeps the entire campaign feeling fresh, and it never drags.

Unlike many other TD games available, there’s multiple ways for you to approach combat besides simply planting towers. Tapping on an enemy will have your towers focus on it; this is a great way to target down bigger, tougher enemies, and there are even some enemies that require this tactic, as towers won’t automatically fire on them. Most stages also include a super weapon you’re able to deploy once per mission. These weapons are usually tuned to the stage they’re on, such as a nuke for tightly-winding paths or carpet bombs for eradicating a group of enemies on a longer path. Used wisely, these weapons can turn the tide of a near-defeat.

There’s still plenty to do once you beat the Campaign. For starters, Challenge mode lets you compete on seven unique levels with the world, vying for the top spot on the global leaderboards. These levels are a cut above the Campaign in difficulty, and will definitely test your expertise with your full assortment of towers, as well as manipulating enemy movement with intelligent placement of your towers. Similar to Challenge mode is a selection of Special Missions that also support Leaderboards. There’s only two stages at time of writing, but more may be added later via in-app purchases.

TD:LE does a great job of showcasing the graphical power of mobile devices. The game’s graphics are all 2D sprites, but boast an incredible level of detail and some present the illusion of depth. Towers and enemies look unique and animate fluidly. Towers and special weapons unleash their firepower with spectacular intensity. All in all, Lost Earth is a treat to the eyes. However, its audio doesn’t quite live up to the same standard. The firing sound of each tower is appropriate to its level of power, and the main menu music is fantastically catchy, but otherwise, there isn’t much to speak of. The sound lacks punch, and enemies make generic snarling noises when defeated. The sound in-game serves a more functional role rather than contributing to the game’s aesthetic; if you don’t hear anything, it means nothing is happening. Otherwise, if a tower is firing, an enemy is dying, your base is getting destroyed, or a super weapon is inbound, you’ll know it.

Kudos to com2us for giving the game a semblance of a story and some great attention to detail.

Tower Defense: Lost Earth is an excellent example of where the Tower Defense genre can go. By taking the gameplay beyond the basic formula, Lost Earth injects a much-needed breath of fresh air into a genre generally lousy with carbon copies. With a generous campaign and loads of challenges to take on, Lost Earth is one of the best values you’ll find on the App Store or Google Play today.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5 / 10 = BUY IT!

Punch Quest Review (iOS / Android)

There’s a few household names in the mobile gaming market that have come out over the past few years – Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride, Monster Dash – most of these titles are instantly recognizable by anyone with a handheld device or smart phone. Whether it’s a certain aesthetic, a catchy game mechanic, or just that special something, these games have become hugely successful, and are invariably going to set standards in their genres. At face value, Rocketcat Games’ and Madgarden’s Punch Quest could appear to be based on many popular mechanics, like Monster Dash’s run-and-gun style of gameplay. However, after just a few minutes with the game, it’ll be plainly obvious that Punch Quest is a unique, innovative, and downright addicting game that’ll be more than just a passing entry on the Top 25 list.

The concept behind Punch Quest is pretty simple, and at its core not that new – you play as a muscle-bound Punchzerker on a VERY bad day. After busting through a castle door, your punching spree begins. Your character runs forward constantly, so all you need to worry about is how to pummel your opponents. This is done in two ways: a straight Dash Punch which can be mashed to increase your speed, and an uppercut / overhead smash combo that lets you soar into the air to deal with aerial threats or lay the smack down on your enemies’ heads. It’s a simple system on the surface but boasts surprising depth once you get to try it out. And you get plenty of opportunities to use your fighting skills, as just about everything can be punched – skeletons, zombies, orcs, bats, wraiths, torches, chests, vases, idols, and even food can be bashed around, among other surprises. Chaining strikes together and juggling enemies increases your combo, which is the key to racking up huge score combos. There’s a ton of surprises to be had too – branching paths, special mini-games with laser-shooting raptors, boss fights, traps, treasure troves, and more.

When the going gets tough, the tough punch things. A lot.

As you accumulate experience by pummeling enemies, a power meter on-screen will fill. As it reaches three milestones, you’ll unlock two Skills and a Super Move, in that order. These Skills passively enhance your skills, like making your uppercuts jump higher or improving damage of overhead slams, or give you entirely new moves to perform, like a block that reflects projectiles back at the attacker. Super Moves make you significantly more dangerous for a limited time and are potentially very over-the-top. Make your punches more damaging, literally throw punches, or even make defeated enemies explode. More and tougher enemies will start appearing as you gain experience, upping the challenge but also increasing the potential reward. Punching anything – enemies or otherwise – earns you Punchos, the game’s currency, which can be used to purchase a whole slew of upgrades and customization options. There’s a ton of stuff to purchase, so the game will keep you coming back again and again to grab as much as you can. There’s even achievements to be had on iOS for the completionist.

Punch Quest strikes a perfect middle-ground between the new and the old with its art and sound aesthetic, sporting an 8-bit visual and audio design highlighted by scintillating special effects and brass horn highlights. The game looks retro yet modern, sounds old-school yet delightful, and strikes every point just right. Anyone who’s played Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Street Fighter, or pretty much any old-school brawler will feel a sense of nostalgia from the get-go. The game can even be played in portrait or landscape perspective, and plays quite well in both, so it’s up to user preference which way to handle your device during play. Most importantly, though, the game has a unique charm that goes beyond the looks – the game’s quirky sense of humor is clever and cute, and despite being a somewhat inherently violent game, it’s got something for just about anyone, from the young to the not so much.

Need we say more?

Perhaps best of all, the game boasts a very consumer-friendly pricing model. The game itself is free, and Punchos are easy enough to come by through gameplay alone that most won’t feel the need to fork over real money to get some. The option is there, as well as a permanent upgrade that doubles all Punchos earned (not bought). It’s publically-known that Punch Quest isn’t earning Rocketcat a ton of revenue, but this leaves an interesting pivot point for players – the option of buying in-app content is more of a donation to the developers. Given the love and care Rocketcat has clearly put into Punch Quest, it’s a nice and very deserving gesture.

It’s very hard to find faults with Punch Quest because it’s a game that does so many things right – simple but engrossing gameplay with that “just one more” factor, an endearing and vivid aesthetic, tons of hooks and replayability, and best of all, provides the entire package in a no-strings-attached business model. If you enjoy the game (and you should – a lot), by all means, support the developer and make an in-app purchase! They’ve earned it, at least in this reviewer’s opinion. Punch Quest has earned its place in the mobile Pantheon right along Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride.

FINAL SCORE: 10 / 10 = GET IT! NOW!