Indie game news, reviews, previews and everything else concerning indie game development.

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Halfbrick Updates ‘Monster Dash’ – Awesomeness Ensues [iOS]

monsterdash2If you’ve read our review (or any review, for that matter) of Halfbrick’s newest iOS hit, Monster Dash, then you’ve learned that the game is incredibly addictive but unfortunately lacking. Well, good news is on the horizon as Halfbrick brings version 1.10 of Monster Dash — a free content update complete with a new achievement, new stats, and even a new bike for you to ride as Barry Steakfries.

The first in a planned series of free additions to Monster Dash, Halfbrick promises new weapons, levels, and monsters in the coming weeks. You can be sure we’ll keep you up to date, but check out the full list of features for the new update and some comments from Halfbrick themselves:

INTRODUCING THE BADASS HOG – BARRY’S NEW MOTORBIKE!

First of all, a massive thanks to everyone out there who has purchased Monster Dash and supported Halfbrick! We are truly grateful to have Monster Dash as a top seller around the world, and to give back to the community we are kicking off the first free content update with a big bang!

BADASS HOG – Look out for this high-powered beast along the way to do some serious damage! You’re invincible while riding, so feel free to mow down any monster in your path. Better yet, the Badass Hog comes fully equipped with a high powered pump-action shotgun. If blasting while riding in your thing, we have you covered!

NEW ACHIEVEMENT – The Badass Hog has your hookup with this!

NEW STATS – Monsters run down and blasted by the Hog!

HEART FIXES – Improved heart placement for easier collection!

BUG FIXES – Minor stats, achievement and rare crash fixes.

This is just the first taste of free additions to Monster Dash, you can look forward to new weapons, levels and monsters as we continue to work on Monster Dash in the weeks to come!

Do the Dash!

The Halfbrick Team

[Halfbrick Studios]


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You Little Rascals… Raskulls [PAX]

Raskulls001

While wondering around the PAX floor this afternoon I stumbled upon our friends over at Halfbrick Studios. While I’ve played plenty of their PSP/iOS games, I’d yet had the chance to play their upcoming platformer meets Mario Kart XBLA game, Raskulls.

Raskulls is a unique game that takes the best about platforming games and the best about racing games and combine them into a single game. the premise is simple, you are racing against either the computer or against your friends. Along the way you’ll get various upgrades that will either make you faster, or slow your friends down. The first person to the finish line wins.

The game is actually really simple, but it also has a lot of depth to it. For instance, in each level there are multiple paths. This means that the way you take  might be different than a path your friend takes.

While Raskulls is shipping with both a single player and multiplayer game modes, I was unable to get a solid preview of the single player. All I can say about it is that there will be about 70 levels for you to parade through.

The multiplayer, however, was where I got to spend most of my time. Luckily for me, it was a blast. Multiplayer is Raskulls is basically how you would expect it to be. It can either be online mutliplayer or four player splitscreen and then you guys simply race. Along the way you’ll be blasting through objects and picking up items to slow your friends down.

From a personal perspective, four player local multiplayer is where Raskulls is really going to shine, for the exact same reason as why a game like Mario Kart is so much better locally than online. For one, you’ll get to see your friends’ reactions to what you are doing. Second, the game is very fast paced, so sitting next to your friends while playing simply makes the game that much better.

Raskulls is scheduled to be out by the end of the year with a currently exclusive XBLA release. Although, that’s not through any deals with Microsoft. Should the game be received well Halfbrick plans on porting the game over to other digital distributors, namely PSN.

PAX Multiplayer Video


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Fruit Ninja HD Slashes iPad Tomorrow

Fruit_Ninja_HDFor those looking for a more robust experience slashing pixelated flowering plant products, Halfbrick passes along good news. The dev has prepped an enhanced version of their popular iPhone/iPad Touch game Fruit Ninja for the iPad set to arrive tomorrow.

Along with improved graphics, Fruit Ninja HD will bring input for up to eight fingers and introduces head-to-head multiplayer battles in Classic Attack and Zen Duel modes. Given the apparent heroin-like properties the game oozes, multiplayer and the ability to swing eight swords all at once certainly can’t help the addicts.

Fruit Ninja HD will run $4.99 and arrives tomorrow–Wednesday, July 14–on the App Store. The launch trailer:


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Fruit Ninja Sneaks Passed the 1,000,000 Sales Mark, iPad Version Coming Soon

FruitNinja001

Hats off to the fine developers at Halfbrick Studios, as it would seem their oddly addictive and refreshing iOS game, Fruit Ninja, has been sold to one million incredibly wasteful ninjas — they better be making smoothies out of all that used fruit, dammit!

Seriously, it’s a remarkable achievement to all those involved. As many know, breaking into the iOS marketplace isn’t easy, especially with all the crap that litters the App Store. Fruit Ninja was truly one of the brightest spots there and I feel good in that my review may have helped them reach this astounding number. So, once again, congratulations to Halfbrick Studios.

For those curious, Fruit Ninja HD is being submitted to the iPad App Store today for release sometime around July 11th. The iPad version will have high resolution graphics as well as two multiplayer split screen modes. No price has been announced.

[Buy]


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Fruit Ninja Gets Even Fruitier!

FruitNinja000Halfbrick Studios has dropped a little press release to inform everybody that their latest, and quite possibly greatest, game has received a rather large update. In fact, it’s so large that they claim it actually doubles the current amount of gameplay you get with the $1 game.

For those that don’t remember, Fruit Ninja is a simplistic iDevice game where you have to slice fruit as they are thrown up from the bottom of the screen while avoiding bombs. While that may sound a bit too “easy” for you, the game is actually incredibly satisfying and has become one of my most played iDevice games yet. Don’t believe me? Go on read my own review of it!

Anyway, back to the update. Halfbrick have included these fine additions to the game:

ZEN MODE! This is a brand new way to play Fruit Ninja. No bombs, no lives – just fruit! You have 90 seconds in each game to slash to your heart’s content, mastering swiping and ending the journey of many juicy opponents. Better yet, there is a little something extra to help rack up even higher scores…

COMBO ATTACKS! If three fruit are launched into the air, simply slash them all in one swipe for a +3 point bonus! Four fruit scores a +4 bonus, and the combos increase with more fruit slashed in each swipe! Combo attacks are now featured in both Classic mode and Zen mode.

COMBO AWARDS! At the end of each Zen mode game, your best fruit slash combo will be displayed on screen and you will receive an awesome award for your Fruit Ninja prowess!

NEW FRUIT! Delicious limes and red apples!

Sound exciting enough? Good, update 1.2 is available right now and, if you haven’t yet bought the game, it automatically comes with any new purchase. So enjoy!

[buy from Apple]

Trailer:


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Indie Links Round-Up: Show & Tell

Indie_Links_May_18Indie links are back yet again.

Plenty to share this week, with some really solid help and advice for aspiring developers, a list of previews and impressions and a trio of interviews including a hilarious RPS exclusive with Zombie Cow on their upcoming title Privates. Quite a few to get through so let’s dive in.

How to make interesting games by accident (Wolfire)
“The blank page, is one of the greatest things ever, as well as one of the most irritating; it can become anything you imagine, the trouble is your imagination is pretty crap. Don’t get me wrong, it does some amazing things, but to most of us, sooner or later those amazing things start to get repetitive, you wonder if you are really as creative as you once thought you were, when all your ideas turn out to be more or less along the same lines.”

Three More Tips For Getting Started In the Indie Gaming Biz (The Bottom Feeder)
“In February, I wrote my first three tips for getting started in the Indie gaming biz. I am starting to feel old and outdated in this business, so I feel like I’d probably be better off not trying to act wise. Sometimes I get e-mails from successful Indie developers, telling me what an inspiration I was to them when they were young. And then my skin starts to peel off in sheets and my hip spontaneously breaks. And yet, there are still several more bits of advice that I think are genuinely helpful.”

The Indie Game Doctor (formspring.me)
“All heavens and all earths. Your indie games. I will fix them. Ask me how to fix them. I am indie game guru and I can help you make indie game better. All solution applied.”

Independent Games Festival Names Boyer As Chairman (IndieGames)
“The UBM TechWeb Game Network, organizers of the yearly Independent Games Festival and Independent Games Summit has announced that scene notable Brandon Boyer has been named Chairman of the IGF, as it continues to expand its role in evangelizing and rewarding the best indie games.”

The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Rotor’scope (Joystiq)
“Being a giant, beloved video game blog has its downsides. For example, we sometimes neglect to give independent developers our coverage love (or loverage, if you will) as we get caught up in AAA, AAAA or the rare quintuple-A titles. To remedy that, we’re giving indies the chance to create their own loverage and sell you, the fans, on their studios and products. This week we talk with Mauricio Garcia, one of the programmers of Nivel21, about how their game Rotor’scope proves that nothing is impossible.”

The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Armor Games (Joystiq)
“This week we talk with Armor Games’ Daniel McNeely (Founder) and John Cooney (Head of Game Development), who converted a love of medieval Flash games into a full-on gaming hub.”

Xbox Live Indie Games: 10 Titles For 2010 (Gamasutra)
“With almost 1000 titles now available on Xbox Live Indie Games, what kind of games are breaking through from a quality — or quirkiness — point of view on the service? Gamasutra looks at 10 of the best new titles on the Xbox 360′s hobbyist and indie-contributed game service, from Mamotte Knight through Zombie Estate and beyond.”

No Longer A One-Button Game: Canabalt’s Typing Tutor Edition (GameSetWatch)
“If you’ve spent months playing Canabalt, mastering the one-button game to the point where you can vault across dozens of rooftops at breakneck speeds without increasing your heartrate or hit the 30,000 meter mark in every playthrough, developer Adam “Atomic” Saltsman has posted a slight variant of the game that adds some complexity (with a purpose!) to the simple title.”

Interviews

Exclusive: Getting Intimate With Privates (Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
“Upon hearing the news of Zombie Cow’s pee-pee and hoo-hah themed game, Privates, we clearly wanted to know more. What are these “vaginas” and “penises” they’re talking about? So we got ourselves a chat with project lead Dan Marshall to find out the details on their STI-busting project. We exclusively reveal what the game’s about, how it will play, and what disgusting items lie in Zombie Cow’s search history.”

Halfbrick shares Fruit Ninja sales numbers, how to succeed on the App store (Joystiq)
“iPhone and iPod Touch gamers have likely already heard of Fruit Ninja, a game where you coldly murder different offerings from nature’s bounty — by tapping and slicing across the screen, you cut down watermelons and the like. It’s a pretty simple game and at only $.99, it’s quickly climbed the charts of the most popular Apps in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Denmark and Sweden. So we decided to grill Halbrick’s creator and lead designer of Fruit Ninja, Luke Muscat, on all things iPhone.”

League Of Legends’ Merrill On Succeeding With Free-To-Play Core Games (GameSetWatch)
“Free-to-play games often associate with the social/casual market, but Riot Games’ neat, core gamer-centric League of Legends has topped 1 million downloads — Marc Merrill tells our own Chris Remo about growth and prospects for the DoTA-style game.”

Previews and Impressions

Impressions: Frozen Synapse Beta (Mode 7 Games) (IndieGames)
“Lagging behind with this one, but I’ve finally gotten around to giving the Frozen Synapse beta a playthrough. For those out of the loop, it’s an upcoming turn-based strategy with a Rainbow Six feel to it.”

Preview: Super Meat Boy (Team Meat) (IndieGames)
“Caution: loud music.”

Preview: Voyager (Big Block Games) (IndieGames)
“Voyager (currently in alpha) is a space trading game in which you play as the pilot of a spacecraft, transporting goods for a quick profit and earning the experience needed to access other planets around the system you’re in.”

Preview: The Wretcher (Alan v. Drake) (IndieGames)
“Made with the AGS game creation engine, The Wretcher is a 2D adventure game about a writer named Keith Morrison and his girlfriend Aileen Hayward, both visiting a town called Crowhaven to investigate the mysterious circumstances that led to the death of Ms. Hayward’s uncle. The story begins with the couple arriving at her uncle’s manor, not knowing what horrors await for the two of them.”


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Can I Get a Smoothie? Fruit Ninja [Review]

FruitNinja000Seriously, after playing this game for the last hour or so, I am dying to get my hands on a smoothie. Mango, pears, strawberries, pineapple, apples, oranges… damn! And Jamba Juice doesn’t open for another couple hours either. I’m living in my own personal hell right now, brought on by the craving inducing, lip smacking Fruit Ninja, by Halfbick.

Fruit Ninja, which was released earlier this week, is a new iPhone/iPod Touch game where your entire goal is to slice and dice various fruits as they get thrown up onto your screen. There’s really not much more too it beyond that. However, I will say that what is there, is both incredibly satisfying and addictive. Given the right amount of media exposure I could see this game becoming the next “big thing” on the App Store.

Gameplay

FruitNinja001

As I mentioned above there’s really only one thing you do in Fruit Ninja, and that’s slice up fruit as they pop up over the games bottom portion. From there it’s a very simple swish with your finger — which was implemented really well, might I add — and the fruit goes “splish!” and falls in two pieces back from whence it came. This is incredibly satisfying to do. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it therapeutic, but coming home from a stressful day, popping open Fruit Ninja, and taking a swipe at various fruits really eases the tension y’know?

Of course it’s not really as simple as that. As much as I’d have liked a mode where I just got to slice fruit all day long, Halfbrick did build in some challenges (and rightfully so!). Every once in a while — sometimes more often than not — a bomb will be thrown up in the mix with all the fruit. Slice this and your done. Game over. It’s time to start over.

Additionally, if more than 3 fruit don’t get sliced then you are also finished. This makes it challenging enough so you can’t just completely ignore the game, but, at the same time, it’s not so challenging that you’ll be starting over every 30 seconds, one can easily last a few minutes each game.

That said, however, it’s not a total loss if you get two strikes. Unlike with many other games at that point you aren’t simply waiting for the inevitable. Given a little luck, you can get a “critical strike” which will give you 10 points and one of your strikes back. My only problem with this aspect is that it’s completely random. I’d have much rather seen it implemented where if you slice four fruits at once it would trigger the critical, or something like that. With it the way it is now, I’m basically left praying at the two strikes mark.

Style

FruitNinja002

.I wasn’t joking above when I said I want a smoothie. I really, really want one now. That’s because the way the fruit splatters just looks so damn tempting. I mean, you slice the fruit in half, and you actually get to see the fruit juice splatter all over the wall behind it. Mmmmm… delicious. If that’s not a testament to the game’s graphics then I don’t know what is.

As for the audio, the menu music is kind of forgettable, but the “splish” sounds from slicing up the fruit is really good. While I’ve never actually taken a katana and physically sliced up fruit in this manner with it, I’d have to say, I’m pretty sure that’s what it would sound like.

Story

Ninjas hate fruit.

Everything Else

FruitNinja003

Fruit Ninja uses Open Feint, which, for those who haven’t used it before, is a pretty amazing “game enhancer”. Think Xbox Live but for the iPhone. So with Open Feint, Fruit Ninja comes with achievements, leader boards, and all those other niceties we’ve come to expect out of our video games over the last couple years.

For $0.99 there’s so much your getting here with Fruit Ninja. While the basis for the game might seem really simplistic — and it really, kind of, is — the amount f addictiveness that’s contained within is easily enough to keep you coming back for a long time.

Everybody has that one iPhone game that just keeps them coming back. For a long time, for me, that game was Canabalt. Now, however, I’m pretty sure I’m moving on to fruitier pastures.

[buy from Apple's App Store]


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Fruit Ninja Now Available on the App Store

FruitNinja000Remember, a little while ago, when I first reported on Fruit Ninja, the hilarious dice-em-up game involving you and the vicious slashing and cutting of many an innocent fruit? Well it’s now available, via Apple’s App Store for a mere $0.99.

For those that don’t quite remember what it is, and don’t feel like clicking the link above:

Developed by Halfbrick, a development studio out of Australia, Fruit Ninja tells a simple story, one that hearkens back to the day when ninjas and fruit became mortal enemies. Today, that history is retold through the vast amount of video game lore, including the soon-to-be-released Fruit Ninja.

In Fruit Ninja you have one simple goal: slash and destroy as many fruit pieces as possible. You do so by swiping your finger across the screen as various fruits pop up. Slicing and dicing multiple fruits will allow for combo points, presumably from the trailer (below).

Sound interesting? Good, then you may have at it right now via your iPhone/iPod Touch.

[buy from iTunes]

Trailer:


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Independents in Australia: A GDC Crash Course

At GDC last week, a scheduled meeting with a single iPhone game spawned a crash course in the world of independent Australian game development. In a short span of time, I got my hands on a selection of choice titles that are in different stages of development arising from the land down under. Some projects spawned from government grants, others from their past successes, and all with bright ideas from this unique country.

howellJolly Rover

First up was the adventure game Jolly Rover from Brawsome Games. Andrew Goulding, Brawsome Game’s director, gave me a glimpse of the current build of the game. It’s a pirate themed adventure game that uses dogs as the main characters. It’s a four to eight hour experiences with around sixty scenes and twenty five characters. The art is cartoony and enjoyable and a callback to the adventure games of yore.

It’s got a great visual story with interesting characters, and Andrew played some audition clips from the voice actor’s submissions. The actors they’ve picked to voice the adventure are fantastic choices, and should add a lot to the story and it’s world.

To make the game unique, Andrew’s implemented some elements to add replayability and avoid the pixel hunt that ends up in a lot of adventure games. By tapping the space bar, the player is shown all the areas that the main character can interact with, and to further aid the quest, items are labelled in either blue or white text, depending on whether or not they have already been interacted with. It also includes a loot and achievement system, where the player collects crackers as they go. Once they start earning achievements for different actions in the games, they can unlock features such as a developer commentary to shed some light on the creation process.

The game is currently in an alpha state having started development in August 2009, with a beta scheduled for May and a release in June. All the elements I was shown indicate polish and a great-looking adventure, I’m looking forward to the completed product. We’ll be in touch with Andrew as the game nears release.

Train Conductor

Simon Joslin approached me with an iPhone in tow and and information on the game’s pending update. Arsen reviewed the original game extremely positively, even dubbing it his favorite iPhone game of 2009. Not being a mobile game myself, this was actually my first time playing Train Conductor.

For those not in the know like myself, the game is a puzzle game, involving directing trains across multiple tracks to reach their destination. For example, there are three tracks running horizontally across the playing field. A train will enter on the top track and have a number 3 posted, meaning you must drag your finger from the top track to the third track, creating a new path for the train to travel. Then multiple trains start arriving and you must direct each one to its destination without crashing into each other. Our review explains it in even more depth.

But after showing me the basics, Simon broke out the update. While the original game is set across three locations in Australia, the expansion is taking the title to the United States. There is now going to be a survival mode in which players need to last as long as possible, and there are two new playable levels: The Grand Canyon and the NYC Subway.

The Grand Canyon was a five track level split down the middle by the canyon itself with no tracks crossing over. It’s up to the player to connect the trains over the chasm while not crashing into each other and trying to wrack up the highest score for speed and efficiency. For a novice player like myself, this was no easy feat. Sure the trains stop at the gap on their own, but I was moving so slowly to get them to their proper exit point that I wasn’t scoring points successfully. Then moving on to NYC created a new game mechanic. The tracks weren’t broken in the middle, but cement columns blocked paths and tracks could only be crossed in between certain pillars which narrowed the window with which the game could be played. These levels are for a more advanced Train Conductor player and should make people very happy. Not only is the update due out next month, it’s going to be free.

While they weren’t being shown, the map of the USA had a few extra locations outside of Arizona and NY, but Simon indicated to me that these are still under construction. We’ll keep you posted as we find out more about the update and the game’s future.

Raskulls

Halfbrick Studios are no stranger to making games, as their main focus until this point has been working on licensed titles such as Sponge-Bob Squarepants and Avatar. But they have a new independently produced game coming to XBLA called Raskulls. While Halfbrick is much larger than the other developers I met with, I think they still have a place in this discussion of what’s coming out of Australia these days.

Phil Larsen showed off the game by taking me directly into the action. Raskulls is a well animated game in which all the characters have skulls for faces. It’s a racing platformer, in such that some levels you’re jumping and digging your way through the level and others you’re racing groups of NPC characters (or real players once it hits the marketplace). The action is quick and frantic, and you’ll find yourself digging through Tetris-like blocks and using items to boost your speed and efficiency through levels.

The game will feature over seventy levels across three chapters. This leaves a lot of variety for a simple XBLA game and with its fun factor and polish be quite a hit. The controls are tight, the characters memorable, and the action simply enjoyable. I played through the introductory story, the earliest platform levels, and my first race, getting a taste for the variety. You bust through multicolored blocks, you swim through floating chunks of water, and with power-ups you do everything it takes to win a race. All the elements that make a platform game fun, and then some. There’s no exact release date yet, but they’re hoping to launch it in early 2010. By my count…that’s soon.

Assassin_bookmockGamebook Adventures and Mole

Ben Britten, a figure from Escape Factory, partner at Tin Man Games and developer of the iPhone game Mole: Quest for the Terracore Gem showed me what he’s been working on.

Tin Man Games have created a series of Choose Your Own Adventure books for the iPhone. They’ve already released two titles An Assassin in Orlandes and The Siege of the Necromancer. They’re originally works written just for this series. The next book comes out in May and then they’re aiming to release new ones every four to six weeks. While you’re not directly flipping pages, the book leaves you choices just like the old fashioned books with a “If you want to Y turn to page X” choice structure. Conflicts and fights in the books actually turn into a minigame of dice rolls, which is a nice break from reading and should keep this new form of interactive fiction fresh. While the win or loss aspect doesn’t directly change things, just leave you another “turn to page x if you died” aspect, it does keep things interesting. The books are peppered with artwork and an interesting new application for the iPhone.

Then I got the game Mole in my hands, which is a fun digging game where you’re collecting precious gems and digging through different layers of earth on your quest to find the “Terracore Gem.” You must stay alive by finding pockets of air, and drills found throughout the playing field return you to the surface where you can purchase upgrades to help you on your journey of getting deeper and deeper. It’s a fun digging game that reminds me of a few different things I’ve played on Newgrounds, but fits in the palm of your hand.

steam_pilotSteam Pilot

Last up with a prototype build of a game John Lycette of the Lycette Bros. was working on. He’s a member of the Escape Factory, which is an indie game collective that help each other out on their projects.

Steam Pilot has you piloting a kind of blimp through the silhouetted skyline of an old-fashioned city. The whole game plays in black and white and you travel in a circular pattern around the city picking up pieces and putting them in their proper place, such as a weather vane or a missing ampersand.

The game had very little work put into it at this point, but it was just a glimpse at the art style the Lycette’s are capable of and what is to come. At this point there isn’t much to undertake, just floating up and down and positioning your blimp in the right place to grab things with your claw. There are also birds to avoid who will cause you to drop your cargo. There can never be too many stylish iPhone games, so I’m curious to see what this simple gameplay prototype evolves into.