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Video Games

Open The Room on iOS

the roomCall me old fashioned, but my relationship with videogames has always been a tactile one. I was exposed to the comforting and empowering grip of the NES controller at an early age, and as I grew, I got my hands on a plethora of arcade sticks, keyboards, and other peripherals. These controllers acted as a link between my mind and body and the world of the game. It’s not like I really felt like I was Castlevania’s Simon Belmont, but the controller made me feel that much closer to him and made the gaming experience as a whole one that I feel a strong connection with.

Then the iPhone came along. Now having seen a good deal of change in gaming over the years, I was not exactly resistant towards the rise of this touch-based gaming, but I always felt disconnected from it or that it was just a novelty. Having been raised primarily on console gaming, the controller has always been omnipresent. So while I do play the occasional iOS game, they rarely ever engaged me. That is until The Room.

The Room, developed by Fireproof Games, is a puzzler set in a old dark house where cryptic notes instruct you to discover the eldritch secrets behind a series of puzzle boxes that are far more complex than your average Rubik’s Cube. The Room is comprised of four chapters, each with it’s own puzzle box, but o call them simply “boxes” doesn’t quite do them justice. Each box comprised of hidden compartments, complex machinery, and parts that completely change when seen through a special looking glass.

There is a cause-and-effect web that makes solving each conundrum exciting. A secret compartment houses a key, and that key opens a clock, and turning that clock to a certain time opens another compartment, and so on.

Even though the game is done with touch, there is almost a tactile feel to it since you have to perform motions to do things like unhook latches, turn screws, and examine objects for clues. I can honestly say this is the first iOS game I have played that has actively engaged me, rather than being a fun time-killer, because of the way it combines intuitive controls with clever problem solving. The moody atmosphere and spooky music reminded me of Myst or the first Resident Evil, and gives The Room an eerie sense of isolation.

I will say that this game is preferably played on an iPad, but with some squinting aside, I still found playing The Room on an iPhone 5 enjoyable. The game has some truly great graphics, but the downside to that is that it can only be played on the iPhone 4S and up and the iPad 2 and up.  Also, as a puzzle game, it does not have a super high replay value, but the initial experience and sense of discovery makes it worth the purchase. Fireproof has also announced that they will be adding more stages soon. This is an iOS game that is not to be missed.

Build-a-lot games coming to Android and iOS Platforms

 

build-a-lot thumb nailYour virtual world of real-estate empires is about to expand. G5 Entertainment has announced that it is teaming up with the well-known developers at HipSoft to bring the latest Build-a-lot games to both iOS and Android platforms.

 

Award winning Build-a-lot has become one of the most popular casual games on the market today, selling over one million copies on PC, and achieving tens of millions of downloads. It has spent more than 5,840 days (equaling more than 16 years) in the Top 10 Charts of leading portals.

 

build-a-lot1The Build-a-lot games are based upon the idea of creating, upgrading, and selling the houses of your dreams all while turning ever higher profits. The game's objectives are to meet a series of tasks on each level before advancing on to the next more complex one. The better you get, the more you can build with more options, resources, and ever more expansive houses, keeping players engaged and coming back to see what new mansion, castle, or homestead they can create.

 

The game will take advantage of the iOS and Android platforms, allowing the gameplay to be enjoyed by using simple on-screen touches and finger swipes - as well as their imagination. With dozens of levels, settings, and sizes of houses ranging from hovels to castles, this will no doubt set a new benchmark for creative gameplay, just as Build-a-lot has continued to do over the years on both PC and Mac.

 

"We're pleased to be teaming up with HipSoft on such a popular franchise, and are excited to bring it to iOS and Android," said Vlad Suglobov, CEO of G5 Entertainment. "HipSoft established the casual city builder genre with their Build-a-lot games, and we're thrilled to bring these games to the larger mobile audience."

 

"Our team is really proud of what the Build-a-lot franchise has done so far," said Bryan Bouwman at HipSoft, "We look forward to working alongside G5 Entertainment on bringing our games to new platforms and audiences."

 

Buid-a-lot is out now on the Android Market and iTunes.

Review: Camping Mama: Outdoor Adventures

 

camping mama logoCamping Mama: Outdoor Adventures for the Nintendo DS is a where Mama shows off her wilderness skills featuring 100 different stylus mini games set in an outdoor adventure theme. Throughout 38 levels, your character will have to complete different tasks for Camping Mama and Papa while unlocking the different mini games.

Outdoor environment in Camping MamaCamping Mama is setup similar to a top-down adventure game where you control a boy or girl character through each environment avoiding obstacles along the way such as bushes, trees and furry companions. These lovable creatures, depending on the motif of the level, range from all kinds of creatures like bears and monkeys.

As your adventurer wanders the different environments, he will encounter different touch screen mini games, of which most are classic puzzles games including matching, timing, and normal puzzle games. Mini game in Camping MamaThe majority of the advertised 100 mini games play similarly to one another with only slight environment changes differing between them. With the exception of the environments, each level plays like the last creating a repetitive gaming experience.

The game is easy. Every mini game can easily be completed to a 100% perfect rating with only a few being difficult enough to warrant a 90% completion. You would expect these mini games to be riveting since they are the heart of the franchise.

The health meter contains 8 hearts, but does it rarely ever come into play due to the fact health is given away like candy. Hearts can easily be found throughout the map as well as completing mini games successfully.

Collecting isn't very difficult either because each level is small enough to walk through every inch. There are no hidden passages or treasures to find and if one were to write a walkthrough, it would be a dry piece of literature.

With such a high standard set forth by its predecessor Cooking Mama, Camping Mama falls short of the mark. The mini games aren't unique with the DS Touchscreen only being used in a mundane manner with very little creative utilization. This title may be well suited for the younger gaming audience, but if you're looking for an expansion to the Cooking Mama experience, this isn't the game for you.

Camping Mama falls two graham crackers short of a full S'more.

Score 2/4

Opinion: What Happened to Next Generation Graphics?

Counter Strike Global Offensive is the newest game from Valve using the Source EngineWith the recent announcement about Counter Strike Global Offensive from Valve this past month, it has come to my realization that THERE HASN’T BEEN ANYTHING NEW IN YEARS!!! Okay, not new as in new games or concepts but new as in major graphical advances.

I remember the hay day in graphical gaming when the PC was ruler of the gaming world with new release always pushing the edge of home graphical technology. It was in this time that the main players, Nvidia and ATI, were at each other’s throat fighting for market share. In this past era, game announcements were more focused on graphical power rather than on their story or new game mechanics.

Let’s take a brief history into first-person shooter game engines to see how it all lead up to today. The first real engine came with the visually stunning game Doom and its self-entitled Doom Engine. The Doom was the first attempt at a fully modifiable 3D game engine, spawning other games like Heretic and Chex Quest.

Next, in 1996 the Quake Engine introduced the use of polygons into the mix, giving players a more realistic environment to roam around in. Multiple revisions of the Quake Engine have been introduced into the market and is still one of the leading graphical engines out there.

Unreal EngineClosely related to the Quake Engine is the Unreal Engine that debuted in 1998. It had the ability to integrate rendering, collision detection, AI, visibility, networking and file system management into one complete engine. Known for its ability to be modified without going deep into the engine internals, Unreal has become the other main player in the market today.

It wasn’t until 2004 where the next biggest leap came with Valve and their coveted Source Engine, reinvigorated the Half Life series. The game, originally released in 1998, took a six year hiatus to premier with the engine. Currently, the Source Engine is the staple for Valve in producing their other games like Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike Source, and their newest fist-person shooter aforementioned in this article.

Along with the Source Engine, a new competitor emerged with the CryENGINE introduced through the Far Cry Series. Since 2004, other engines have been produced to introduce different enhanced visuals for gaming like the RAGE Engine and the newest Unreal Engine. As it stands, the main players in the market are Valve’s Source Engine, CryENGINE, Unreal and Id Tech 5.

It may appear at first that the industry is on the up in terms of graphical advances, but the reality is that none of the engines really required huge hardware upgrades. A seven year break is too long! Why has the industry taken a back seat to innovation in the graphical realm and where have they gone?

Many have speculated that the PC is no longer becoming the primary video game console anymore due to the high maintenance cost required to keep up with those hardware advance prior to 2004. In addition, consoles have become more mainstream offering new games at a constant price for many years without the need for yearly upgrades.

The cost of producing technology breaking games have also increased with the introduction of devices like smart phones and the iOS devices. Gamers are now focusing on smaller, less hardware intensive games produced by independent companies. The whole industry is changing leaving graphics and game engines to the way side.

I guess the focus on gameplay and creativity is a good thing for games, but seven years is enough of a break. Games are starting to blend together with no real visual differences between them. Every Call of Duty game looks the same as its predecessor. Certain companies are creating games in their own style like Rockstar’s RAGE Enginewhich only exemplifies this fact. The market is stagnant and everything looks the same.

Why has television technology improved greatly while the consoles are lacking behind? PC games were playing at high-definition before that term was ever coined in the television market. Pixels were being crunched onto larger data storage devices which drove for better technology like SATA hard drive systems. PC enthusiasts had a smörgåsbord of toys to play with like liquid cooling systems, CPUs meant to be overclocked and rigs that, at one time, only NASA could dream of owning.

RageDespite this bleak outlook, the Id Tech 5 engine is proving to be the break we needed. First demonstrated at WWDC 2007, the engine is primed to be released with the game Rage and Doom 4. The engine has featured 20GB of texture data which supports resolutions up to 128,000 x 128,000 pixels. Textures can be streamed automatically into memory as needed which gets rid of any memory or texture limits experienced in previous engines. Shadows should also have softer edges featuring various other graphical advances.

The Id Tech 5 engine is the starting point for a reinvigorating of the industry. The current generation of consoles is showing their age and hints at the next is emerging with every month passing. The "Xbox 720" or the "PS4" may provide the needed kick in the pants for graphics. The next generation is forcing companies to revise or create new engines. We are going to see a big leap soon and I for on am on the edge of my seat waiting eagerly in anticipation.

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