Developer interviews, Fun Stuff

July Rockstar – Čeněk Štrichel

This time around we’re going to the Czech Republic in Europe. There sits Čeněk Štrichel, developing games for both Android and iOS. He’s a enthusiastic developer, an active member of the Soomla forums, and a passionate gamer.548891_10201428524462429_1896629100_n

What is your favorite game and why?
I like many games, but for me, the best games are Mirror’s Edge and Starcraft. Mirror’s Edge was the first game I played immediately after I finished it, but on higher difficulty, of course. I’ve been playing Starcraft for the past 14 years. I first played Starcraft with my friends on LAN and then online. If you fight against a protoss named “Cenda” it’s me.

What motivates you to participate in the SOOMLA forums? And in the Open Source community in general?
First of all I didn’t know SOOMLA was open source. I kept seeing it on the Asset Store, but I was afraid that it would be too complicated for me to add to my games. I am not big programmer, but more of a 3D generalist. I was surprised to see how easy it was to use the Soomla framework. I am glad that I can use the system for social sharing and in-app purchases, so I wanted to give something back. As I mentioned I am not big programmer, therefore I am helping with another project of creating a 3D Soombot mascot.soomlabot

I really started using open source about two years ago. I used to use commercial software, so I was shocked to see how great open source software is. For example, I changed my Softimage for Blender and I will soon switch from Photoshop to Krita.

froggieHow are you incorporating SOOMLA into your game?
I am not using all SOOMLA features yet. For now, I use Store and Profile and I cannot imagine how I would have done this alone. I am very happy that the good guys of SOOMLA do it for me. And I’m also appreciative of the amazing SOOMLA community that helps as well.

What do you think is missing in today’s mobile game industry?
My games, I hope! :) But in fact there are many great games. So the only thing missing piece is another way to play. I think that Oculus or similar virtual reality can help fill this gap. I really believe in projects like Google Cardboard. Everybody has a smartphone and if it will be some cheap device for virtual reality with a phone, it has big potential.

What are your plans for the future?labyrinth_shadow
I have many ideas for new games. I am currently working on a simple first person shooter. Later, I want to do a massive update for my first published and most successful game Froggie Jump. When I say massive update I mean total rewriting, better level design, and a lot more. Maybe it will be better to do Froggie Jump 2 :) I want to also add multiplayer to my games, Labyrinth Trap and Voxel Fly. But I really cannot wait to start working on my first game ever. I had to stop development because I still had a lot of ideas for this game, but not enough experience to finish it in high quality. I made a promise to myself that I would finish it one day. It is survivor horror game (it’s a theme I just love). I hope that it will be done during next year.

A big thanks to Cenda for helping the SOOMLA community. Make sure to check out Cenda Games online and on Facebook, and don’t forget to try some of his games!

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Game design, Game Reviews

iconIf you like word games and your English is good enough to play them in that language, you’re going to love Letter Farm.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesamazon-1It’s a mobile game for Android, iOS and Amazon platforms built by Bundy Games. It combines classic crossword puzzles with a few advanced crossword features and tops it all with some digital sweetness.

The Premise

The game’s premise is fairly simple – on a board of tiles, in which each tile represents a letter, you must find and form words. It differs from the classic crossword puzzles in a way that you don’t need to guess a specific term. Instead, all you need to do is form a word, any word you can think of, by switching the tiles between them until you get the desired word.

Yet, similar to the classic, you can only form words horizontally or vertically. You submit your word by swiping it, from the beginning to the end. You can also string multiple words together. For example, the word GAME is spelled horizontally, but the word ENDING is spelled vertically, with the letter E, as the last letter of the first word, is also the first letter of the second word.

In order to beat a level you must achieve a certain number of points in a set amount of swipes. If a level requires you to reach 25 points in one swipe, it means you must create one word which will give you 25 points.

The Digital Goodness

ss1Having a simple crossword game would suffice for all crossword lovers out there, but adding additional features that you can’t have on a piece of paper is what separates this game from the classic and adds a solid layer of gameplay. Aside from the option of shuffling letters around until one gets the desired word, the player can also earn specific in-game currency to buy special power-ups.

These power-ups include spellchecking (very useful), doubling the points earned from a word, tripling the points earned from a word, etc. The player can earn the in-game currency, the kiwi, by playing a particular mini-game.

I’m not sure if the currency is a tomato because the game is called Letter Farm, or the game is called Letter Farm because its currency is a tomato. Be it as it may, the mini-game is called The Harvest, and it has a specific set of rules. Winning the mini-game brings the player kiwis, which he can later use in the shop.

Questionable Choices

There really isn’t that much to say about the game, as it has no plot, no characters, and no need for advanced graphics. But you know what they say about great ideas – they’re nothing more but old ideas with a new twist, and this one is exactly that.

ss2

Why a farm?

There is however something strange about the game. Once you start it, you’re presented with a top-down view of a farm, with levels spread along a curved path. As you move along the road, you’re offered new, tougher levels. I’m not sure why the game’s topic is a farm, and what letters have to do with farming. I would even go as far as to question the general idea of the game being on a farm. Maybe the developer wanted to tap into the Farmville gaming community? I’m clueless and can’t find any connection.

But what I do know is that this is a good crossword puzzle game. It has an interesting concept and sets up the game nicely, with the ability to swap letters around, blocked tiles, ability to change letters, spellchecking and whatnot. Every crossword fan out there will enjoy it, for sure.

I’m not really sure about the whole farm idea, as it’s confusing and might even scare away someone who’s been harassed into oblivion by Facebook Farmville farmers and their annoying notifications. Why not go for a simple, newspaper crossword puzzle look? It would strike the nostalgia chord with older crossword fans, looking for a quick fix while they’re commuting or waiting somewhere in a line.

P.S.

I’d also suggest the developers use the spellcheck power-up on the game, as it has a few spelling errors.

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Game design, Game Reviews, Open Souce, Tips and Advice

 SurfBot and Jake
Subway Surfers – A Familiar Game With No Killer Monkeys

Subway Surfers is an endless runner type game produced by the Danish development company, Kiloo. The game features Jake, a young mischievous kid that is running away from law enforcement. The game has impressive graphics, a wide selection of character options, and is quite addicting – perfect for those who want to pass the time.

Kiloo Should Ride the SOOMLA Subway

Subway Surfers includes all the features that are provided by SOOMLA’s LevelUp, Profile, and Store. These features are clearly seen through missions (LevelUp), Facebook connectivity (Profile), and the in-game store (Store).

Bottom line, Subway Surfers could have utilized SOOMLA’s open source SDK, saved some cash, time, participated in the ever-growing SOOMLA community, and still reached the 15 million downloads on Google Play. Developers don’t need large budgets to take care of the nitty gritty of creating a game – once again, open-source is the way to go. Still have doubts? Let’s take an in-depth view of Subway Surfers and how SOOMLA could have provided the resources to create features used in the game.

Subway Surfers Missions

MissionsMissions in Subway Surfers is a perfect place for SOOMLA’s LevelUp SDK. LevelUp provides developers the opportunity to make life easy when creating tasks, levels, missions, and the sequential movement from one level to the next in a game. Specifically for Subway Surfers, each goal such as “Collect 200 coins” or “Jump 20 times” is an example of a gate, a condition that must be met in order to move to a new level, or in the case of Subway Surfers, for a new “mission” to be unlocked. When a “mission” is completed the user will receive a reward. A reward can be any virtual item including a Single Use or Life Time Good – in the case of the mission displayed here the reward would be a x3 Score Multiplier – a Life Time Good.

Depending on the goals of the developer, there are multiple ways to implement LevelUp. Here is a chart illustrating one way a developer can choose to design a functionality like the one used for Subway Surfers missions.

LevelUp

Even though the name LevelUp may imply that a game must have multiple levels, LevelUp is still relevant to games such as Subway Surfers that seem to have only one level and world. The use of multiple missions makes Subway Surfers a perfect candidate for LevelUp. The missions on Subway Surfers become more difficult as the game is played because trains move faster and more obstacles obstruct Jake’s path. SOOMLA’s SDK could be effectively applied in Subway Surfers. More information on LevelUp can be found in SOOMLA’s Knowledge Base.

Surfing the Store

Many games monetize through in-app purchases and Subway Surfers is no exception. It therefore requires a virtual store in the game. Subway Surfer’s store works the same as any store using the SOOMLA SDK.

Many developers using SOOMLA will recognize this diagram for SOOMLA Store.
Economy ModelLet’s take a look as to how this relates to Subway Surfers.

First, we have Currency – the primary currency in Subway Surfers are Coins; however since both Coins and Keys can be purchased from the market with real life money, and because they can both be used to purchase goods, we will consider the currency both Coins and Keys.

Coins and Keys

Coins are collected throughout the game and can purchase Characters, Boards, Mystery Boxes, Score Boosts, Mega Headstarts, Skip Missions and Upgrades.

Each of these goods fall into different categories in the SOOMLA Economy Model.Single Use Goods

Characters can be classified as Lifetime Goods – once purchased they belong to the user forever. Boards, Mystery Boxes, Score Boosts, Mega Headstarts, and Skip Missions would fall under Single Use Goods – goods that can only be used once.

Upgrades, as implied by the name, are Upgradeable Goods or goods that can be improved for a cost. In Subway Surfers, users can upgrade Jetpacks, Super Sneakers, Magnets, and 2x Multipliers.

Upgradeable Goods

Keys are more difficult to find in the game and can purchase other goods such as “Save Me”s and Outfits for the characters. A Save Me is a Single Use Good. Once it is purchased and used, it is gone. Outfits are Equippable Goods because characters can be equipped and wear them.

Facebook Connectivity

Facebook Connectivity At 11 million likes on Facebook, Subway Surfers has a substantial amount of social media users connecting their profile to the game. Seeing where your score falls in comparison to those of your friends definitely adds a solid sense of competition – a quality that makes Subway Surfers that much more addicting.

With the use of SOOMLA Profile, users are able to share their progress in the game, showoff specific benchmarks, like the game on Facebook and even see which of their friends is playing the game. For select studios, we even offer leaderboard options. The Profile SDK can also connect your game to Twitter and Google.

Surfs Up

All of SOOMLA’s SDKs work well with each other, so connecting a user to a social media account can be used to reward a user, unlock a gate, access an exclusive feature and so on. Moreover, a purchase from a store can unlock a mission or open a gate. When you integrate SOOMLA, you’ll save time and create the game you’ve been dreaming of.

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Game design, Game Reviews

LtwhEuSfRarely do I come across a mobile game which goes in depth to such extent like Runemals. Built by JanduSoft, Runemals is a turn-based strategy game which combines colour matching mini-games to Pokemon-style games, and tops it off with a large world ready to be explored.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesamazon-1It offers players countless hours of playtime, and the isometric combat element ensures the player never ends up in the same place twice. The graphics seem hand-drawn and digitally edited, and the lack of animation and voiceovers gives the game a comic-book feel.

Overall, I’d say Runemals is a well-built, huge mobile game which will give other developers a run for their money, and Pokemon-loving players tons of fun.

The gameplay

First things first – the gameplay. Runemals combines Pokemon-style turn-based fights and colour matching mini-games. The player follows the story of a young boy who suddenly becomes an owner of a Runemal (a fighting animal) and who wants to become one of the greats. He then goes through a series of fights, which give his fighters experience and coins to help him progress further. Fighting is where the game combines colour-matching. Before each move, a mini-game is activated, which requires the player to match three (or more) jewels of the same colour on a board. The more colours he matches, more energy he has for his next turn.

Although this is an interesting approach and differs from the well-established mana/energy/hitpoint paradigm, it feels extremely slow. You have ten seconds to play the mini-game, and then you get to hit your opponent once. Once his move is finished, it’s back to the mini-game. Rinse and repeat until someone wins.

runemals ss1The fights are enriched with special moves, both offensive and defensive, as well as pots and elixirs you can buy with the in-game currency. As the player progresses, he will create a larger collection of Runemals capable of fighting multiple enemies. He will also have the option of choosing the best Runemal for each fight.

I like how the in-game economy was implemented, however I feel it is a bit too complicated. There are two types of currencies you can find in the game – gold coins and purple crystals. Gold coins can be acquired by trading for crystals, while crystals can be bought for real money. Gold can then be traded for pots and elixirs, while crystals can also be used at The Fountain, for extra boosts. Why not just go for gold, or crystals for everything? I get the feeling it would simplify the gamers’ lives.

In-game currency aside, the game is also monetized through pop-up ads and video ads which sometimes appear after a fight. I don’t find it a particular problem as the game is very slow and turn-based, and having a pop-up every once in a while is something I’m willing to accept for a free-to-play game of this magnitude.

The graphics

Visually, I have to say the game is very beautiful. All the characters, maps and details seem to be hand-drawn (I’m not sure, they could have been digitally created too), and the accompanying audio background is slow and quite soothing.

However, the game lacks animations and voiceovers. Some would see it as a drawback, but honestly, I don’t. Having an almost static game with no voiceovers forces the player to put his imagination into overdrive, creating an experience unique to him. In a time where everything is being served to the player, where he need only take up the controller and let the game do the rest, actually needing to use your brain for any function is a plus. I liked it, and imagined what the main protagonist would sound like, and how each of the Runemals would actually behave in combat.

I would, though, use a bit more vivid set of colours.

Rich gaming experience

Overall, I’d give this game a solid 4/5. It has extreme depth, with lots of Runemals to capture, a huge map to explore and many items to purchase. It has a nice backstory, great graphics and sweet design. With lots of different animals with various skills and abilities, each fight can be different and entertaining. However, I can’t give it a 5/5 as it has its flaws.

The biggest one would be the game’s speed – it was designed to be slow and it kills it for me. Having to play the colour-matching mini-game after each move gets annoying quite fast. I couldn’t find the enemy’s hitpoint bar anywhere and was completely in the dark how long I had to fight to win. This also meant I couldn’t estimate when to attack and when to defend with my minions. Even though these flaws seem minimal, they’re fundamental to the game. In any case, if you’re not one for speed and don’t mind taking your time with a game, don’t hesitate to give Runemals a try, you’ll love it.

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Game design, Game Reviews

Bacu BacuIt’s Wednesday, and you know what that means – it’s time for another game review. However, this time I’ll be doing something a bit different and also quite challenging for me.

Today I’ll review a game that’s far from a finished project – a game in its beta phase. So I had to ask myself, how do I criticize something that’s obviously not done, and everyone knows it? The answer is fairly simple – I don’t.

Instead, I will try to use the experience I’ve collected from playing (safe to say) hundreds of games and reviewing as many to try and give the developers feedback on their project and advice to help them pull out their maximum. I will cover two basic aspects: Game mechanics and visuals. After that, I’m expecting to play the perfect game :)

So let’s get down to it. The game is called Yum Yum Yummy, and it’s a mobile puzzle game built by game studio Bacu-Bacu. Similar to Bejeweled and others in the genre, its goal is to match certain tiles on the field to win the game.

However, the game comes with a couple of interesting twists to the old idea that makes it refreshing and unique.

The mechanics

The game’s premise is simple: You are presented with a number of animals like dogs, rabbits, and pandas, as well as their designated food (bones for dogs, carrots for rabbits, bamboo for pandas, you get the picture). These two types of tiles are spread around the playing area, and you can move one (only one at a time) to try and match them. If you managed to match properly, the animal will move from its position and into the position of the food.

The game is won after you’ve allowed all animals to eat their designated food.

yum2

The pig in the middle must be contained as it eats everything. EVERYTHING

Like I said, it’s similar to Bejeweled and other tile-matching games, but it has a twist – once an animal eats its food and goes away, the remaining tiles fall vertically to the bottom until there’s no space left. But unlike Bejeweled where you match colours, and can only remove tiles in certain shapes, there are no such limitations here. If the animal can eat half of the game board, it will!

So the player must think long and hard, as well as think about three, four moves ahead if he wants to clear the board. I am warning you, even in such an early stage, this is not an easy game.

It gets even harder, as the developers did their best to make sure the game doesn’t get boring, really fast. With almost every new level it introduces a new element to the game, which is an approach I find perfect. So you’ll have animals eating other animals, balloons, animals in ice blocks and God knows what else they’ve thought of and haven’t implemented just yet.

The visuals

If I wasn’t told in advance that this was a work in progress, I’d say the graphics are good. I’ve played complete games with far, far worse graphics and they were just fine. It’s colourful, it’s sweetly animated, it’s simple and not too cluttered. However, there’s something that doesn’t quite hit the mark for me, and it’s a pretty big deal.

When playing this game, I can’t shake the feeling I’m playing a Candy Crush spin-off. Especially when going through the level picker, it seems the developers have looked to that particular game to use the same principle it uses.

yum1

This really reminds me of Candy Crush

The worst part is – the level picker’s design isn’t essential to the game. It could be anything: a list of levels, a horizontal swipe, vertical swipe, it could even have level packs themed by animals from the game (you could have a panda level set, dog level set, etc). Instead, it has the curvy road easily associated with Candy Crush.

I also liked the game’s interface, as well as the background music. The interface was nice and clean and follows the game’s theme. However, I’d love to see more music in the game, and perhaps link it with particular level sets mentioned earlier. So you could have a Panda set of levels, with graphics and music associated with the part of the world where pandas usually live. Same goes for dogs, rabbits and other animals. It really has a lot of room to make the game vivid and constantly on the move.

The conclusion

As you might have noticed, I avoided criticizing bad and unfinished aspects of the game, as it’s still in development. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any: the game moves fairly sluggish, it has a slow loading screen and it only has a handful of levels to go through. But none of that matters at this point – what matters is that it is original in its premise and that it has solid mechanics. Which it has, for the most part.

I’d just honestly change the level picker design. There’s no need for everyone to think of Yum Yum Yummy as a Candy Crush spin-off when it can easily surpass it. Keep in mind, Candy Crush has a huge studio behind it, this game was built by a total of four people.

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Announcement

The Whales Report

We’re excited to announce Soomla’s first data product, the Whales Report.  Powered by the SOOMLA GROW network, the report helps developers spot users who paid in other games (“whales”) and tells you which users are more likely to pay in your game.  With this knowledge, you can take immediate action on these players by sending them personal messages and in-game promotions for example. Also, if a whale starts to drift away, you can send them push notifications for special offers and sales to get them back in your game.

To join the GROW network developers just have to agree to share their data back with other developers in the network. If you’ve implemented any of our SDKs, then getting the Whales Report is a sinch! Just download the GROW bundle (Unity | Cocos2d-x) and you’re good to go. The more studios that join the network, the more payer data everyone gets.

Sign up today to know your whales!

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Tech Resources

This post is an update of an older post we had about how to set up shop on your mac: http://blog.soom.la/2014/04/setting-up-shop.html

Here we’ll describe the basic setup of every one of the engineers here in SOOMLA. This basic installation includes the basic essentials every full stack engineer needs.

Go through these stages to install the full stack

XCode installation

Using The OSX App Store, Install The Latest Version Of XCode, And Run It For The First Time

Command Line Tools

Next, Paste The Following Code In A New Terminal Window

xcode-select --install

Make your terminal work for you (dotfiles)

Everyone in SOOMLA works with the terminal. It’s the fastest and most efficient way to work as an engineer that needs to install things and run a lot of commands all the time.

dotfiles is a great project that incorporates many amazing people’s terminal configurations. We especially like mathiasbynens‘s stuff. It’s a great starting point to the perfect personal terminal configuration.

 Homebrew setup

Paste The Following Code In a Terminal Window

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"
  • Update via the brew update Command
  • Verify Successful Installation via The brew doctor Command

Install different packages

Now we’ll be installing various programs using brew, for each program enter the following command brew install xxx, replacing each time.
You can easily verify installation by running xxx --version after, where xxx is the name of the installed package.

The programs we’ll install using brew (click for further info):

$ git version
git version 2.3.0
$ openssl version
OpenSSL 0.9.8zd 8 Jan 2015
$ redis-cli --version
redis-cli 2.8.19
$ mongod --version
db version v2.6.7

Downloading JDK 1.6

Download And Install JDK 1.6 For OSX here

Installing the Android SDK

SDK
  • Enter brew install android-sdk into Terminal
  • Run The android Command From Terminal And Follow Instructions To Continue Installing
NDK

Enter brew install android-ndk into Terminal to install.

Setting up your IDEs

These are the IDEs we work with at SOOMLA

Rubymine

Download and install here

Android Studio

Download and install here

Text Editor

There’s a great debate which text editor is good for you. I guess it’s everyone’s choice. This is how we rank the test editors (from best to pretty good):

  1. Atom
  2. Sublime
  3. Textmate 2
  4. Brackets – especially for web development.

Additional utilities you will need

Robomongo – MongoDB Management

Download and install here

Skitch – Image Annotation

Download and install here

StackEdit – Markdown Editor

Get it here

Meld – Use it for git diffs

Follow instructions here

Gitx – Use it to see your git history

Download and install here

Sequel Pro – MySql client

Download and install here

Keep – For notes

You should really try it here

Git-ify your command line

Go over this great post by @gurdotan: http://rubyglazed.tumblr.com/post/15772234418/git-ify-your-command-line
Your command line should be your main tool when using git. Get ready to git in the speed of light.

Online Services Sign-Up

Every team member should be signed up to these services

  • Github
  • Trello

Done

Now you should be up and running, the SOOMLA way!

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Game design, Game Reviews

bees_iconBees vs Hornets is a mobile game which will have you furiously tapping and swiping across your screen and before you know it, you’ve been playing it for three hours straight.

Available on Google PlayPublished less than two weeks ago by LazyBeeLabs, this arcade game was built for the Android platform, and puts you (the bees) against the computer (the hornets).

The premise of the game is quite simple: you are presented with a playfield consisting of pentagonal areas, with bees starting at one end, and hornets at the other. The goal is to conquer as many fields as possible, and once you’ve conquered them all, you’ve finished a level and can progress further.

The game of conquest

Conquering a field is simple – you just drag your finger from one field under your ownership to an empty one, or one under the hornets’ control. If the field is empty you can conquer it, and the amount of bees used for the conquering stays on that field.

Your reinforcements are spawned on the fields you own, so the longer you own certain fields, the more bees you will produce. However, fighting against the opponent also means losing a number of your flying warriors.

This is actually a real-time strategy game, and with bees reproducing really fast, and your opponent charging everywhere with the idea of conquest, it gets hyperintensive really fast.

bees ss1

Hornets are a tough adversary

Not only must you employ quick thinking, but you must also be very strategic in knowing which fields are crucial to your victory and how to conquer them. In certain levels you will be fighting hornets on multiple fronts, so you have to be very careful in choosing how many bees you send to which front.

You will be furiously swiping in all directions as the computer tries his very best to take over the map.

I have to say, the game is really *really* entertaining. It’s simple yet has so many options and such a strategic depth that you can play it for hours without it being boring.

I guess any isometric game (non-linear one), such as any competitive shooter or sports game, which always produces a different outcome, is addictive and entertaining. Bees vs Hornets is no different.

A well-rounded game

But what I really like about this game is that it looks and feels like a finished product. It has solid graphics, sweet user interface, smooth animations, quality audio background and an extensive in-game economy.

The sharing option is also thorough, as you can choose not only to share to Facebook and Twitter, but you can also Direct Message someone on Twitter, you can use Viber, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, Dropbox, etc.

I usually see the in-game economy system as means of keeping a player interested in the game, but when it comes to Bees vs Hornets, it’s not really necessary. In such an environment, having a shop only adds another layer of complexity to the game, which is always a welcomed add-on.

cage 1

I’m sure Nicholas Cage would enjoy this game

The game features coins, which can be used to buy different power-ups for the game such as slowing down time, and coins can be acquired in many ways. You can either win them in-game, or earn some by watching video ads (a feature that’s becoming increasingly popular with indie developers).

When all other things fail, you can always use your credit card and buy a substantial amount of coins for real cash.

The game offers a bunch of levels (a total of 30 if I’m counting correctly) and some of them are extremely hard to finish, forcing you to buy power-ups to finish them.

Other than video ads, I haven’t seen any other ads, meaning the game won’t force you into watching or downloading anything, yet I’ve somehow ended up watching these ads as I really wanted extra coins to finish a level.

Enjoyable experience

All of this is topped by a well-built leaderboard of people with the highest score, most actions per minute (APM, or micro-management, as it’s known), most coins earned and most coins spent. There are also a bunch of achievements which you can collect to get extra experience, like chain-winning multiple levels and playing the game for a set amount of time.

All things considered, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed playing Bees vs Hornets. It’s a simple and fast-paced RTS game taking maximum advantage of the touchscreen interface. It looks nice, it’s fast and responsive and features cute soundtracks. With an extensive shop and rich leaderboards it gives the much needed replay value, and with multiple ways of earning coins, I can easily say it’s a finished, well-polished mobile product.

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Game design, Game Reviews

Poudiconini is a mobile game that takes maximum advantage of a handheld, touchscreen device to create a fun experience for everyone.

Available on Google PlayThe game is built on the Unity engine, for Android-powered devices, and features a tiny character called Poudini.

Poudini is a tiny character tasked with getting out of a moving maze alive. Considering what he must do to survive, and keeping in mind that he has striking similarities to Pou, the Tamagotchi-styled game protagonist, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Poudini was actually Houdini’s counterpart in the Pou universe.

That being said, let’s talk about what the game has to offer.

The gameplay

Like I said before, Poudini is tasked with getting out of a moving maze alive and reuniting with his lost princess at the other side. The game is a vertical, 2D bird-view platformer, and the maze moves slowly from the bottom up. You must navigate Poudini through the maze before he gets crushed by the wall behind him. However, guiding is not as easy as you would think.

poudini1

Navigating is easy, but also very demanding

Guiding Poudini is done by a finger. Move the finger in any direction and the character follows. However, once you press your finger against the screen of your device, you must not let go until Poudini is safe. This means that the entire level must be finished in one move.

To make things even harder, you are not allowed to touch any of the walls with your character. If you do – game over. Keep in mind that your character is tiny and that the maze is narrow and moving.

The premise of the game is great and shows much potential. But how interesting can it be, guiding a slimy ball through maze after maze?

The learning curve

Surprisingly, it can be very interesting. The developer might be a small indie studio, GoGameIndie, but they’ve invested a lot of thought into this game. First, you are presented with a number of tutorial levels, showing how to move, collect coins, various power-ups and how to stay alive.

Then, it throws you into the fire. The mazes are complex and fast moving. Sometimes you must stay at the top of the screen just to survive, and sometimes you have to wait for the maze to show you where to go next.

You have to collect coins and a clock power-up, which slows down the maze’s movement, and after finishing a bunch of mazes, you have a boss fight to complete the stage.

The replay value

However, where the game really strikes a chord is how it makes you want to play again. Dying in this game means losing a life, and at the start, you only have a handful of lives. There are a couple of ways to earn more coins and all are bloody brilliant.

First, you can collect coins in-game. The virtual currency is spread around the maze, and more often than not, you must go out of your way to collect it. You risk death, but the reward is an extra life, so it’s your choice.

The second way is to wait for your health to regenerate on its own. If you’re out of lives, come back in ten minutes for another one. It is those ten minutes, and the fact that the game doesn’t allow you to play when you want to, that really *really* makes you want to come back.

And the third (and most effective) way is to watch video ads. Watching a video ad gives you 100 coins, and for 200 coins you can buy five lives, so it’s definitely worth investing less than a minute to watch a few ads.

The lack of sharing

Poudini 2

Touch the wall too many times and off you go, watching ads

What strikes me as really odd in this game is the lack of sharing options. You can’t share your score with your friends, there is no leaderboard or Facebook, Twitter integration.

And to be honest, that’s the only criticism I have for this game. It’s lush, with vibrant colours and a great soundtrack. It has a cute main character which has the potential of becoming everyone’s sweetheart. The game’s learning curve is perfect, and its difficulty is just enough not to be too easy, yet tough enough to be challenging.

Its virtual currency is brought to perfection. With multiple ways of collecting, it’s easy to gather a decent amount of coins, and the idea of spending it on more game time is absolutely brilliant.

I just don’t see it going big without people talking about it, and that is why I’d make sharing as easy as everything else in the game.

Adding “post to Facebook” and “post to Twitter” buttons (which could also reward the player with some coins) would probably help the game a lot, as people are usually too lazy to go out of their way to share something from a game.

Other than that, Poudini will probably be one of my favourite mobile games.

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Game design, Game Reviews

String It! iconString It! is a mobile game that combines sharp reflexes, quick thinking and careful micromanagement on a mobile device screen to create a simple game that might not go down in history as the best game ever, but will definitely keep your kids entertained long enough for you to watch an episode of Seinfeld in peace.
The game wAvailable on iTunesas built by Vertical Depth Studios for iOS-powered devices. It is a vertical game, going from bottom to top, and the goal is to score as many points possible, by stringing balloons together. The game also has a horizontal mode, going from left to right, which it presents to the player as a “more challenging one.”

The balloons are floating up to the sky (or through it, if going horizontally), and the only way to convert them to points is to string them together, after which they move away from the screen. In order to string the balloons, the player must drag his fingers from one balloon to the other. Stringing balloons gives points: those of same colour add an additional bonus, as well as stringing multiple balloons together.

No learning curve

The more balloons you manage to string together, the more points you score. When a total of five balloons are missed and reach the top of the screen, the game is lost.

There is also another way to lose the game. The sky is sometimes chequered with dark, lightning clouds, and if you should, by accident, touch them you get electrocuted and the game is over.

String It!Even though it’s very simple, the game can be quite intense. As more balloons and more clouds pop up on the screen, you’re forced to think quickly and have sharp reflexes. Be careful not to touch the clouds while stringing your balloons together which is like two to three tenths of a second here.

And that’s basically it. You’re now ready to play and achieve a score as high as possible.

When I first played the game I used an Android version, which turned out to be outdated and discontinued. There were tons of features the game was missing and I was fairly disappointed.

Android vs iOS

However, playing the iOS version was very refreshing and a positive surprise.

The game offers all the additional features it needs to be a complete product. It has a virtual currency which can be used to buy various themes. These themes bring cosmetic changes to the game and are a nice add-on.

The virtual currency can be obtained by playing the game, as well as buying for real money. The transactions go from $0.99 to $3.99 for coins, as well as $1.99 to remove the ads.

The ads appear as a pop-up once a level is done – or when you lose the game. They cover the entire screen, but they’re not annoying as they only appear once the game is done.

While playing the game, you will encounter special balloons which have boxes attached to them. The boxes are filled with coins, thus rewarding the player for sticking around in the game.

The social aspect

The social aspect of the game has also been covered. After playing the game and achieving a score, you will be placed on a leaderboard which covers all the players playing the game. There is also the option of sharing your score on Facebook and Twitter, a move which the game rewards with five coins.

Playing the game on both Android (older version) and iOS (newer version) has given me insight on the game’s progress through time. As far as I can see, the developers have ticked all the boxes needed for the creation of a proper mobile game. It utilizes the touchscreen interface to its maximum potential and brings a gaming experience that’s simple, fun and engaging. The older version seemed crude and designed as means of keeping your toddlers busy while you watch a football game, but the final version is a complete, well-designed product with solid gameplay, well-implemented virtual currency and proper social integration.

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