Gaming without your brother

Category Archives: iOS

Time to move over the top-loader and bury that emulator deep in a folder somewhere, because your favorite old-fashioned games have (for the most part) gone mobile!

Classic games still available today for mobile devices have been re-mastered and partially expanded, leaving gameplay and core mechanics widely untouched. But what are the hardware advantages to players using the most current mobile devices?

Check out the specs on the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5 and you’ll see:

iPhone 5S*

  • Display: 4″ IPS LCD
  • Resolution: 640×1136
  • Pixel Density: 326ppi
  • Processor: Dual-Core Apple A7

*specs courtesy of PhoneArena.

Galaxy S5*

  • Display: 5.1″ AMOLED
  • Resolution: 1080×1920
  • Pixel Density: ~432ppi
  • Processor:  Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801

*specs courtesy of Verizon Wireless and GSMArena.

Immediately obvious are the combined capabilities of the processor and impressive display of each flagship smartphone. While these systems support wildly more mechanic- and graphic-heavy titles, they’ll prove more than optimal for your retro gaming experience.

If you miss that 8- or 16-bit style of gaming, isometric player viewpoints, total heads-up display, and super-pixelated graphics (which have seen a huge return), look no further for your next mobile gaming experience than these time-tested classics.

Ms. Pacman

While her spouse may have dominated arcade and early console play in the ’80s, Namco‘s Ms. Pacman has held on as valiantly as her iconic husband. The proof is in her game’s availability for iPhone and Android.

Graphics here are left mostly untouched, but more vibrant and noticeable colors go a long way for the vertical display. Ms. Pacman also features a rendered joystick to turn and guide Ms. Pacman’s sprite through the sea of turns and Power Pellets in the game’s D-Pad Mode. Changing to Swipe Mode will allow you to turn the running PacLass with the swipe of a finger. Collect familiar food items and dots without losing all your lives or it’s game over for you!

Tetris

While there is certainly a wide array of available ports for the classic Tetris game, I recommend going with EA‘s app. This recommendation comes partially from the app’s availability for both iPhone and Android devices and also because it offers options and supports online leader boards through Facebook.

For gameplay, the app offers classic swipe controls that emulate the original GameBoy Tetris in addition to a One-Touch feature for fast stacking and a Drag-and-Place feature for a more strategic approach involving speed. Riddled with new power-ups and gameplay modes, Tetris deserves a spot in your games folder as an old-yet-new classic!

Frogger Free

Konami‘s Frogger Free app is available for iPhone and Android devices and is a graphically impressive re-master of the original game, fresh out of the arcade era into your smartphone.

The control scheme has stayed classic but now offers options. The player may choose from swipe, touch, or tilt modes of control over the froggy to guide him through the classic road-and-pond level complete with cars, logs, alligators, and other timeless Frogger friends.

Final Fantasy VI

One of the most beloved of the franchise pre-3D processors, Square Enix‘s Final Fantasy VI is newly available to iPhone and Android gamers.

All of the game’s original content is available in the mobile port, and the character sprites have all been given a re-master—to mixed reviews. Battle and dungeon backgrounds have been enhanced and look absolutely beautiful. The control scheme has been altered, giving a hexagonal D-pad at any location on the screen that initializes with every touch from the player. Specific battle commands like Sabin’s Blitz technique have been given special controls and the soundtrack has been re-recorded. The player has the option to listen to the soundtrack at any time from the main menu. Let’s just call it a masterpiece of a masterpiece.

With mobile technology seeing continued development, we are sure to see more available retro titles on the mobile platform. Be sure to keep your eyes open for further mobile comings from your childhood favorites.

Written by Blaine Kelton, who can be reached at BLKelton [at] outlook [dot] com. Blaine is a freelance writer with an interest in mobile gaming currently focusing on portability as it relates to control schemes and the remastering of 8- and 16-bit art styles.

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Not from lack of games. In that department, I’m actually drowning. I should rather say my gaming writing well is running dry. I haven’t played games in so long! LIIIIIFE. WHY HAST THOU FLOODED ME!? It’s a great thing, really, but seriously, the best gaming experience I’ve had in the past week was playing Fruit Ninja in the bathroom at work. How do you guys do it? How do you carve out time to prioritize games in your life? Teach me your ways!

In lieu of being able to talk at length about one or more games, I’ll just highlight some flash/mobile games that I’ve gotten a chance to check out in the past little while:

Disclaimer: I’m not an iPhone hater, but I do have an Android phone, so all the app links are to the Google Play store. ALSO! Lots of these cost money, but there are really awesome free apps everyday in the Amazon App Store so be sure to check that to pick up some of these for free, like I did!

Pixel Dungeon – My brother put me on to this game a while back (for the subtitle of this site, “Gaming without your brother,” he certainly does come up a lot . . .). It’s a randomly generated dungeon crawler; find the next set of stairs down, go down the stairs, try to find the ultimate artifact, the Amulet of Yendor.

It’s still in beta, but that also means it’s free for the moment! There’s 20 levels at the moment, with more coming in the next update says the dev. It’s difficult! Which makes it fun, but there is perma-death which is heartbreaking. Three classes (warrior, rogue, mage), potions and enemies and weapons and armor and items – all the needed elements for a fun action RPG. And the pixel art . . . gets me right in the nostalgia every time. Well done pixel art is my jam.

Candy box ! – Automated ASCII art?! Get out of town! The key in this game is to just wait until you have more than two options. Then it becomes seriously exciting/addicting because you wonder “WHAT COULD HAPPEN NEXT!?” You can also “save” which is nice for a browser-based game. Shoutout to friend and reader Susan for putting me on to this super fun game.

Robot Unicorn Attack – Super old, but I figure it’s mildly relevant because RUA 2 just came out, AND, I really am playing this game a lot. Something about endless runners . . . I just want to beat my old high score! I would’ve been hopeless in the 80s, all those arcades around. I also can’t try RUA 2 until I feel like I’ve sufficiently used the original app approximately $2 worth (for the app, free online though). Anyway, an oldie but a goodie!

Continuity 2 – Another oldie but goodie that again my brother put me on to. I had never heard of it, but this a puzzle game I can really get behind. You move around tiles that are snapshots of the actual level to facilitate the character you’re controlling to be able to move through, collecting the key to the last door, as well other little tokens. ALL AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Three factors rank your level success: time taken to complete, how many tokens collected, and . . . moves maybe? I forget, and to find out and tell me how stupid I am, download Continuity 2!

Osmos HD – This game. YEESH this game. I mean that in the best possible way. It’s so good! So addicting! Such a great soundtrack! So hard for me! In general, the object of every level is to become the biggest cannibalistic blob. You can only absorb blobs you’re bigger than, and you die by bumping into blobs bigger than you, which then absorb you. There are some different types of blobs that attract things, and move faster. A cool mechanic is being able to slow down time in the level which gives you a little bit of reaction time buffer. And fo’ real, the soundtrack. Dat soundtrack. Check out the game!

Temple Run 2 – I wasn’t going to include this game because I am a little embarrassed that I play it so often instead of playing some of the other critically acclaimed games in my library, but what can I say? I just love unlocking stuff and endlessly running (virtually that is, never in real life. Have you seen me?) It’s a good game! If you want something mindless that’s easy to play while you’re going to the bathroom at work, this would be my top recommendation.

I enjoy these games that have depth, that I can spend an hour or more on (equivalent to how much time I would spend playing a console or PC game) but can do out and about, away from my TV or monitor. Ya hoo for the increasing caliber of mobile gaming!

What about you guys, what games do you love on your phone, or tablet, or browser? Let me know in the comments!


When I read the synopsis of Splice in the back of the PAX program, with the rest of the PAX10 games (ten indie games at PAX, highlighted by industry experts for how awesome they are), I was pretty sure it was going to be over my head. But I had made a goal to try and play all ten PAX10 games before the doors of the convention center closed two days later. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to play all ten games (I couldn’t find six of them whatsoever, so that’s on you, PAX), but I did get a chance to try out Splice and pick up a coupon code so I could buy it on the cheap after PAX, which I did.

Splice was made by Cipher Prime Studios and is currently available in the iTunes app store as well as on Steam for Mac and PC. The marketing copy boasts over seventy levels, and the company also offers a deluxe edition that comes with the soundtrack. That was my first tip off about the music. Just like Catch-22, in the exhibition hall at PAX I couldn’t hear the soundtrack but when a game starts offering their soundtrack along with the game, not as an afterthought months later, you know it’s going to be a good soundtrack.

I didn’t get to talk much to the Cipher Prime guys at the booth because some “big wig” who “voted for their game to be in the PAX10” or something lame like that walked up right when I did. Sheesh. The nerve, huh? /sarcasm. Anyway, I pieced together a little bit of the game play, got stuck on the seventh strand of the first sequence, congratulated them on the game, and left. I finally got around to buying, installing, and playing the game last night.

As for the actual game play, all the player has to do is move around microbial units (sure, that’s what we’re gonna call them) to fit in the frame that the level provides. But when you move one microbe, it effects where the others are and they move as well. You have a limited number of splices, or moves, to get all the microbes to match the shape of the frame. In later levels, microbes get special actions, such as splitting in two to make more microbes, and other actions that are harder to explain. I heard one YouTube reviewer compare the sequences to worlds in a platformer, and the individual strands of Splice to levels in a platformer. So when I say sequences and strands in the rest of this, think of it like that. Strands are levels essentially, and they’re grouped into sequences, which are pretty much only there for organizational purposes. The funniest phrase of this paragraph is “all the player has to do,” because for its simple objective, I found Splice stupidly hard.

My previous admission about how terrible I am at puzzlers still stands. So it shouldn’t be surprising when I got stuck on the same strand of the same sequence two weeks after I played it at PAX. I eventually got it on my own, but it took me so long, it wasn’t even gratifying. I was still shaking my head, like “Man, how could I have figured that out faster?” I got stuck again on sequence two, strand three but not wanting to waste more time (which is how I always view beating my head against puzzles, i.e. as a waste of time), I googled a solution. Thankfully (for my pride, anyway) the reviewer explained some more mechanics of the game so I didn’t have to watch the full solution; I realized the solution now that I understood what the new microbes actually did.

I haven't rage quit Splice . . . yet

I haven’t rage quit Splice . . . yet

I stopped my brief run through at sequence three, strand five. Like all puzzle games I play, it might be awhile before I actually finish this one because I am impatient and apparently an idiot. I recognize the deliberate choice to go minimalist on the game play by not explaining how to play the game, but at the same time, players get nothing to go on . . . For as much as I love progressive gaming, the lazy, puzzler-handicap in me shakes its head at setting up gamers to fail. And it’s more than others. Limbo, for instance, explains nothing. But it’s such a familiar backdrop (i.e. platformer) we instinctively figured out what to do. Splice is breaking boundaries all over the place, so our frame of reference is limited, if not gone entirely for those of us who don’t play puzzle games often enough. I think at the end of the day however, I’d rather developers assume I’m too smart than assume I’m too stupid. This rant is just because I’m mad that I’m really bad at this game.

Far and away though, this has got to be one of the most beautiful indie games I’ve ever played. There isn’t a ton to go on visually throughout the game, it’s true, but again the minimalist art style and controls, as well as a superb soundtrack (officially called Flight of Angels) that I’m going to buy off of Bandcamp in just a few minutes, creates an ephemeral place in which to ragequit. Ahh, how pleasant.

If you like puzzle games, you will love Splice and you should definitely spring the $10 to buy it. It’s only $4 for the iPad, and I don’t see anything telling me that it has any fewer levels, so if you have an iPad, save some dough and buy it in the app store. If you don’t like puzzle games, I think this is still a beautiful enough game that if you like being challenged in non-puzzle games, you’ll appreciate the experience in Splice. Just wait until it goes on sale.


Hardy har har, what a clever title. I actually really enjoy the novel, Catch-22. But the point is that the game Catch-22, a puzzler that was one of the PAX10 (ten indie games selected by a panel as the best indie games at PAX), is truly delightful.

I am notoriously bad at puzzle games. I talk about how bad I am at them all the time. I googled my way through many spots of Portal, I watched a lot of YouTube videos for Braid levels, I am basically the worst. Hell, I even looked up how to get through a couple spots in the A Book of Unwritten Tales demo I played. Perhaps the worst part is that I don’t even feel bad about the internet searching I do for answers and experiences that aren’t my own. So for me to play a puzzle-type game (maybe more a strategy game? I’m not sure what genre to put it in exactly) and then get really hyped for it is notable.

Built by a three-man team that started the development company Mango Down, Catch-22 features a green ball and a blue ball circling a pink sphere in opposite directions. You first control the blue ball as you jump over the green ball to collect gold coins hovering above the pink sphere’s surface. Once you collect all the gold coins (which increase in number with every level you pass), you swap to controlling the green ball and have to collect the same gold coins which then reappear. The catch (HEY-O!) is that the blue ball remembers the exact trajectory it took while you tried to collect all the gold coins the first time. So you have to dodge its jumps, and collect coins. After you move back to the blue ball, the green ball remembers its most recent path, so on and so forth.

It’s a total brain bender for me. It’s so beyond the realm of my intelligence that I can still laugh every time the balls collide and I lose. For a brief moment after all the gold coins are collected, both balls look slightly shattered and if you can maneuver them to collide in that brief window of time, then both balls forget their past paths and you get a clean slate for the upcoming coin collection, which is a bigger bonus than you realize until you play the game. The video below is a demo of a slightly earlier build of the game, but the premise is the same.

The art is really simple, which I’m a sucker for. Warm tones and cartoon-y fonts give it all a whimsy feel, and I love that it doesn’t try to make it anything more than it is – a fun, simple game to play on your mobile device when you’re waiting in line. One piece of the puzzle I didn’t get at PAX due to the noisy exhibition hall was the music playing in the background. When I started playing it on my PC, I was pleasantly surprised by the warm strings and mid-range notes that guide you through the game. Very beautiful and soothing, a great addition to the experience.

And perhaps best of all, when I stopped by at PAX to play this, the guys were so incredibly nice. I’m not sure which one of the gentleman I talked to, but he answered all of my questions, didn’t laugh at my abysmal lack of skills, and just seemed genuinely happy and enjoying the spotlight of the PAX10 (which with the high caliber of indie games that were there, is a huge and well-deserved accomplishment for Catch-22). More than the gameplay, the artwork, or the music, that makes me root for Catch-22 to be a roaring success.

The game doesn’t have a release date yet (a couple of false dates are floating around on their Facebook page and website, but it is confirmed in Facebook comments that it isn’t available yet), but when it does come out it will be on iOS and Android platforms. To be even more awesome, the guys at Mango Down put out a completely free Facebook app version, found here! Great practice before the app officially releases for mobile devices. To play, just install the Unity web extension (which it will prompt you to do when you click the link) and wait for a not short amount of time for it to load.

My high score is level 8, 25,087, which I’m proud of now but I feel like once you all start playing and commenting your high scores I’m going to be severely disappointed. Leave a comment, what’s your high score? Better yet, are you hooked already?


I’m working on using really catchy titles so people are outraged and want to read, and then really the entire premise of my post is opposite to the perceived stance of the title. Slimey, huh?

A few weeks ago my brother and sister-in-law sent me an old iPod Touch they had lying around and weren’t using any more. For someone as poor as me and as obsessed with gadgets and toys as I am, I was incredibly grateful and excited, despite it being a second generation iPod Touch that can only support iOS 4.2. I immediately downloaded apps I had played and loved before (Temple Run, Fruit Ninja) and downloaded the big name social games that people were playing (Words with Friends, Draw Something). And as I started playing these games, I started thinking a lot about casual gaming, and thus felt prompted to rant about it here.

SO SATISFYING.

SO SATISFYING.

Flashback: last Christmas, my parents got rooted Nooks with Android ported onto them so they could use them as tablets and not just e-readers. The backstory is that while both of my parents are savvy and intelligent, computers and technology in general aren’t really their thing. So, we thought this would keep them current and be useful for different things they like to do. Neither of my parents has ever really approved of any of their kids gaming, so when my mom started trying out Angry Birds on Christmas day, it was kind of surprising that she was enjoying herself.

Jump back to the present, where I find out my mom has graduated from Angry Birds and now plays Draw Something. We’ve been playing for a few dozen turns now and every time I see a push notification telling me that she’s sent me a drawing, I get excited. My brother articulated it well by pointing out the excitement comes from the fact that she gets it. I don’t mean to belittle her intelligence (my mom is a smart, smart cookie), but there’s a learning curve to touchscreens and gaming and she seems to have picked it right up.

The next milestone was that she had never played Words with Friends, but is a Scrabble champion and avid reader so I assumed she’d love to play the game. The catch was that she has always had my brother help her download apps (they live near each other; I am far away). Throwing caution to the wind, I told her via Facebook Messages that she should get the app and shortly thereafter she messaged me back and asked if it was the Zynga one. A few minutes later, I had a request from her to start our first game. Of course, I also received two other requests a few seconds afterwards, because she wasn’t sure if the other request had gone through, but these small steps were awesome to see.

Hey, Laurie, what’s the point? Great question! The point is that gaming is awesome. All gaming, is awesome. And I say death to the casual gamer because there should not be any kind of label on what kind of gamer you are. You know how many hours I’ve put into Bejeweled? TOO MANY. But you know how many hours I’ve also put into the entire Zelda series and the entire Final Fantasy series, and Team Fortress 2 and the Grand Theft Auto series and the Mass Effect series and many others? A LOT. I say too many hours into Bejeweled just because it’s not my favorite game but sometimes I want to veg out and play something really simple, and for that I turn to my casual games.

Damn this game.

Damn this game for it’s addictive properties. And at the same time? GOD BLESS IT.

Also, the label “casual gamer” detracts those who might be looking to get back into gaming. As people get older, unfortunately we just game less (although it might be a bell curve, because I gamed less during college, but have graduated and am going to town on gaming, but will probably game less once I get real responsibilities in life). If you played a lot of video games when you were younger, you know the label of “casual” is like the black spot, so you think “I used to game, but don’t any more” because no one wants to have to tell gamers “Oh, I game only every so often when I can.” That doesn’t deserve a label! That deserves a pat on the back to acknowledge the commitment to gaming even when free time is sparse. Good on ya, mate! We shouldn’t put you down, we should prop you up and let you know you’re welcome as a gamer and we don’t look at anything else like frequency of gaming; we only look at the fact that you game!

And finally, casual games bring people together in much better ways than more labor and time intensive games ever could, and that is undisputed fact. And isn’t that the goal? For the rest of non-gaming society to realize that gaming isn’t a waste of time and it isn’t the ultimate evil that turns your kids lazy or homicidal – it’s just an outlet that can be really challenging and really engaging and really cathartic and really special and most of all, really fun? So if my mom has started to realize that (and to her credit, she probably already did to an extent. My dad was the one who really hated video games) through her Sudoku, Mahjong, and Draw Something apps, then god bless those casual games.

There’s probably much more that could be said about this, but these are the main points I wanted to highlight. Based on some rumblings in the comments when I mentioned casual gaming in a previous post,  I think I have some reader support behind me, but for those of you who can’t stand casual games or casual gamers, leave a comment! I love the discussion and would be ecstatic to hear more from you.