21st April 2011

New In The App Store

Here are some recent and new releases from a few of our fine Canadian studios:

skymodoSkyModo has released free and paid versions of Dog Pile on the iTunes App Store and Android Market. dog pileThe free version gives a bonus of 50 dog bones for the customization of your dog pack and comes with the Easter Pack that is also available in the full 99 cent version. The paid version of Dog Pile starts gamers off with a 250 dog bone bonus. Players can spend the dog bones in the store, purchasing items with which to dress up your Dog. I have not yet played this game, but it appears to use a combination of tilt physics, pachinko-styled levels and power-ups to match your Dog to the ones in the pile – in a match 3+ kind of way. Dog Pile is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later. I have downloaded the free version of Dog Pile, but it will not load on my 2nd gen iPod touch, so I’ll have to get Scott to try it on his iPhone.

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endloopChicken Balls (99 cents USD) by Endloop Systems has taken to the skies. You play as Crash, the bravest chicken this side of New Mexico. It’s the summer of 1947, you’ve just come back from chicken balls HDthe war and had hoped to hang up your flight cap for good. When a UFO crash lands just outside the nearby town of Roswell you knew you’d have to take to the skies – one more time. At launch, Chicken Balls features 50 levels of physics puzzles, with more levels in coming updates. The game makes use of an innovative mix of slingshot physics destruction and pachinko/breakout styled play, with the Farmaggedon power-up achieved by collecting all of the eggs on each level. Crash can also harness the power of alien technology to make himself bigger, faster and stronger. Chicken Balls is OpenFeint and GameCentre enabled. Future updates will offer more levels, more power-ups and more unlockable animals. Chicken Balls is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.1 or later.

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Loud Crow InteractiveLoud Crow Interactive has a new children’s book out on the market. The studio has released its second Sandra Boynton book, Moo Baa La La La to the iTunes Store. This interactive version of Ms. Boynton’sMoo Baa La La La best selling book “will intrigue and amuse little kids and big people alike, and perhaps even elicit an appreciative snort from the occasional uninvited rhinoceros.”

Moo Baa La La La is narrated by Keith Boynton and includes Country Air, an original instrumental soundtrack composed by Michael Ford. Each of the illustrations, which have been redrawn and recoloured by Ms. Boynton allows young readers to interact with the animals through touch and sound. This young reader app also features “The Big Guy Reads It” with word highlighting to help improve reading skills or the “I want to read it myself” mode which allows children to hear individual words pronounced with the tap of a finger. Moo Baa La La La is $1.99 USD for the iPhone or iPod Touch version while the iPad version is $2.99 USD. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.

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Silicon Sisters InteractiveThe debut title from Silicon Sisters Interactive, School 26, is available now for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. School 26 takes a less-trodden path in game play and is aimed at the female tween school 26market, although some older gamers may find this title engaging as well. I do have a copy of the game and will be sharing my thoughts on this new title with you over the weekend.

School 26 follows the efforts of a female student named Kate, who, due to having nomadic parents, is now in her 26th school. Her parents have struck a deal with her, and if she can forge new and lasting friendships with people at the school, they won’t move. School 26 makes use of conversation, mini-games, puzzles and choosing the correct most appropriate emotional responses in advancing players through the game.

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The iPad version is $4.99 USD while the iPhone version is $2.99 USD. School 26 requires iOS 3.1.3 or later and does have a content warning with a 12+ age rating for:

  • Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes
  • Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity
  • Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References

GamerizonGamerizon’s newest title is Chop Chop Rocket, a 99 cent (USD) game that features the adventures chop chop rocketof lost space explorer Alexis Rocket. This fast-paced one finger tilt and play game features 18 achievements to unlock with GameCentre and OpenFeint leaderboards on which to compete for space supremacy. Chop Chop Rocket is rated 9+ for Infrequent/Mild Cartoon or Fantasy Violence and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later. This colourful, cartoon-styled game is the 8th title in Gamerizon’s Chop Chop franchise and requires some pretty fast reflexes to use the power-ups, change your speed and navigate through space to make it through the game.

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20th April 2011

News Bytes For A Quick Snack

igdaThe IGDA has put out a Call for Speakers for its two Leadership Forums. Qualified individuals are being sought who can provide insightful leadership and production-related sessions for the 5th Annual IGDA Leadership Forum US and new this year, the First Annual IGDA Leadership Forum EU, focused on advancing the state of the art in game production and management. Both forums will take place this fall, with the European forum being held in Copenhagen on October 20th and 21st. IGDA Leadership Forum US is taking place at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles on October 27th and 28th.

Toon BoomToon Boom Animation Inc. has release of its initial line up of fun apps for the Apple community, from mobile devices to Mac computers. Each app has several entertaining features, these vary depending on the app and device used. The Mac AppStore now offers Flip Boom Cartoon and Flip Boom Doodle which are available internationally.

On the mobile devices front, Toon Boom has launched Flip Boom Lite for the iPhone and iPod, a free app that lets your fingertips doodle, scribble or draw fun animations. Flip Boom Lite is already available for the iPad and has received rave reviews.

“A natural synergy exists between Apple and Toon Boom Animation, as our award-winning applications are used by the largest animation studios in the world, while Apple products are the most popular devices in the world,” said Joan Vogelesang, President and Chief Executive Officer of Toon Boom Animation. “Toon Boom is an amazing example of the potential that can be unlocked by applications that can run smoothly on any Apple platform.”

kids anatomy puzzleVancouver-based JAH App Development is pleased to announce the release of the fun, interactive Kids Anatomy Puzzle iPhone App is available through iTunes App Store. The Kids Anatomy Puzzle is a series (16 in Total) of kids anatomy puzzlebody part puzzles with easy tap and swipe controls that lets your child learn the anatomy of his or her body by building each puzzle. Upon completion of each puzzle your child will see and hear the body part they have just completed.

Starting with a basic Boy or Girl head, kids can can choose a part of the face and create a puzzle to complete the face. There are audio and visual rewards upon completion of each puzzle. This game is recommended for kids aged 2 – 10.

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20th April 2011

No Gravity Now On iOS Android and HP webOS

realtech-vrMontreal’s realtech VR has launched its No Gravity application for iOS, Android users and is now extending the offer for iPad 2, taking advantage of the power of the new tablet from Apple, extending its support for more Android devices and adding availability for HP WebOS devices. No Gravity, originally released as a PSP game on the Playstation network, is now available for iOS and Android operating system. Players will love the fast action as they work their way through thirty-one dangerous missions in a spaceship, in an attempt to save their people. No Gravity has a history of being a popular favorite with PSP players.

PSP players will recognize the name of one of the Android Market and iTunes App Store’s newest additions. No Gravity has already been a very popular game on the Playstation Network for some time. Realtech VR has been busy, adapting this space/action game to take advantage of HD display and open the world of No Gravity to iOS and Android users. The game pits the player against evil forces who have unleashed a mind-altering sickness across thousands of colonies. It’s up to the player to try and save people, or at least prevent more damage.

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Players have thirty-one mission levels to play, can choose from six different spaceships and two levels of difficulty. To help in the fight, each ship comes equipped with six weapons, everything from lasers to ion blasters. Along the way, players will enjoy the massive explosions, first or third person views and rewards for a job well done. No Gravity is a very fast-paced, action packed game that is not for the weak at heart. Good reflexes and a calm hand go a long way to helping the player succeed.

These are some of the features offered in No Gravity:

* Incredible, fast-paced, non-stop action
* This is the iOS and Android version of the PSP for Playstation favorite
* Full frame rate
* Massive explosions and damages
* Play in first or third person viewno gravity
* Select from 5 characters and 5 space ships
* Each ship available in 4 different colours
* Choose from 6 different, awesome weapons
* 31 mission levels to play
* 2 difficulty modes to test a player’s skills
* Reward system with achievements to unlock
* Multitouch and Accelerometer
* iOS Game Center (requires iOS 4.1 or better)
* Google Backup Service for ‘on the cloud’ save games
* Support for phone and tablets (Android 2.2 support for PowerVR, Tegra GPU and Adrenon GPUS including Android 3.0 support – including Motorola Xoom )
* Support for the iPad 2 new graphical processing power.

With the popularity of this game already established on the Playstation Network, No Gravity is being featured on the iTunes App Store in more than 500 places while still being a brand new launch. This should help players find yet another way to enjoy the nail-biting action offered in this all-time favorite.

No Gravity is only $2.99 (USD)  and available worldwide through the iTunes App Store, Mac App Store, Android Market and HP WebOS Application Store in the Games category.

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20th April 2011

Relic Expands Dawn of War 2 Universe With Last Standalone

Relic EntertainmentRelic Entertainment has released it’s very popular Dawn of War II play mode The Last Stand as a new stand alone playable game. Dawn of War II Retribution: The Last Standalone is Dawn of War 2 Retribution The Last Standaloneavailable for purchase on Steam for $9.99 USD. This latest offering in the Dawn of War world is a cooperative survival mode where you control a single hero and face off against waves of enemies along with two other teammates. You can take on the enemy in two different co-op arenas with one of the six available heroes. Gain experience points to level up and unlock new war gear and abilities for your characters. Players can also customize their character’s abilities to create the ultimate build and fight off twenty waves of increasingly devastating enemies as well as track ratings against other gamers and see how your different builds match up.

The Vancouver studio has also released a slew of new screenshots for Space Marine. Head on over to the official Space Marine vs Orks on CrackFacebook Fan Page to check them all out. The intense 3rd person action shooter RPG Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine chapter takes place in the brutal, science fiction setting of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe. In the 41st Millennium, humanity faces extinction at the hands of horrific aliens and demonic hordes. Only one force can offer salvation: the superhuman Space Marines. Who will come out the victor as the Imperial Forces battle against feral Orks and the powers of Chaos? Will UltraMarine Captain Titus be able to hold back the Renegade Militia, Tainted Psykers and Bloodletter Daemons? The fate of the Universe will be in the hands of gamers this summer when Space Marine launches on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC this August.

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20th April 2011

Flurt Is The 21st Century Flirt App

tipping canoeFlirting entered the 21st century today with the launch of Winnipeg-based Tipping Canoe’s new mobile application, Flurt. With location-based applications surging in popularity and many people viewing their digital presence as an extension of themselves, Flurt helps avoid the awkwardness of a traditional pickup line by sending an anonymous flirt instead.

“Flurt is the digital version of passing notes during class or approaching someone at a bar,” said co-developer Varun Mehra, a 25-year-old computer science graduate from the University of Manitoba. “Flirting is an instinctual behaviour of verbal and physical cues, and this mobile app provides a new dimension to the art of flurtflirtation.”

With 2011 being billed as the year smartphones become mainstream, the International Data Corporation reports that the global smartphone market is expected to grow four times faster than the overall mobile phone market as customers switch from basic cell phones to devices that can download apps and connect to the Internet. According to IDC Canada, more than 50 per cent of smartphones in Canadians’ hands are Android phones or iPhones.

Once Android and iPhone users download the Flurt app, they can send anonymous flurts to anyone in their current location and see all flurts sent by others within 150 metres. As Flurt is a public application, anyone can be flirted with whether they have the app or not. However, to view or respond to a flurt, the mobile app needs to be installed.

“Flirting is universal and we’ve all been in situations where we wanted to compliment or flirt with someone, but have been shy,” said Jeff Friesen, 23, Flurt app developer. “For us, it was a logical leap to create a way for people to make that first introduction more easily and reduce the risk of something we all cringe at – embarrassment or rejection.”

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19th April 2011

iRok2 Introduces Next Generation Music Game With Playbook Debut

iRok2 mediaKelowna-based iRok2 Media Inc. has announced the Playbook App release of its iRok2 Online social music game. iRok2 for BlackBerry PlayBook, a free app available on BlackBerry App World, provides users with a new rhythm music game customized and synchronized to a YouTube music video every day.  As well, it serves as a gateway to the infinite choice of iRok2 Online – essentially all the world’s music, more than 16 million tracks.  The game is quickly gathering user acceptance, already logging over a quarter million play sessions with users from North America, Asia and Europe.  iRok2 is accessible from anywhere – home, office or remote connection and can be played through a computer keyboard or by plugging a Guitar Hero or Rock Band guitar into your computer. Online play is free as well.

iRok2 CEO, Dr. Robert Arn, commented on the PlayBook introduction, “The unique rapid development capabilitities, high performance video streaming and support of Adobe Flash on the PlayBook platform have allowed us to create a Playbook App from elements of our online game – even before PlayBook hardware was available and our iRok2 Online game was still in Beta testing.”  Dr. Arn added, “Such speed and flexibility allow us to experiment with building synergy between pad, mobile and computer game versions in a totally new way.”irok2 media

iRok2 is based on new, patent-pending technology that automates the production of custom music games.  iRok2 servers analyze music videos as they stream from YouTube and create a unique custom game for each video.  If a user wants to play with a video that is not already in the catalog, it takes only a single click to request a new custom game which will appear in the catalog, available for everyone.  Users have already built up the iRok2 catalog to over ten thousand custom games and there is no barrier to it growing to match the scale of the tens of millions of available YouTube music videos – including the new ones that appear every day.  In play, the video streams to the player directly from YouTube and the custom game synchronizes to the video without storing or modifying the video or music in any way – in effect, an internet air guitar.

As well, iRok2 breaks down the barriers between players. iRok2 is a social game that allows players to connect to others of similar tastes around the world.  Players can issue direct challenges to other players or join in real-time multi-user tournaments.  A unique in-game scoring monitor allows players to directly see how their performance compares to others second-by-second, not just in final scores.

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19th April 2011

Burn The Rope On Your Mac

igdaThe IGDA has posted a response to Amazon’s clarification of seller terms for its digital marketplace, stating that the company’s policy is still unfair to developers and fails to fully address developer concerns. The article urges developers to join the conversation and let Amazon know that their policies need to be changed.

Big Blue BubbleBig Blue Bubble’s Burn the Rope has ignited puzzle gaming on the iPhone and iPad, and will soon be burn the rope for macdoing the same for the Mac OS. Wickman has been looking to make his next move, and with brand new cursor and keyboard-driven controls, Burn the Rope for Mac OS brings the original hit mobile gaming experience and proven flame-lighting fun to Mac gaming enthusiasts everywhere, now from the Mac App Store.

The goal of Burn the Rope is to burn as much rope as possible on each level. The fire only burns upwards, so the player must rotate the rope to keep the flame going – once all the flames are out, it’s game over. With clever puzzle designs for each level and rope-crawling insects that add to the game-play in unique and interesting ways, Burn the Rope is one of the hottest apps in the App Store. Burn the Rope is fast-paced addictive fun, and the Burn the Rope for Mac OS is sure to please puzzle game fans of any age.

EA Black BoxEA Black Box invites you to experience the white-hot intensity of illicit street racing in the all-new Team Escape mode in Need for Speed™ World, the Play4Free online PC action racing game from EA. Available now, players can team up with three friends to win the race while battling a determined police force. This is a race to the finish line using any means necessary including roadblocks, spike strips and deadly rhino SUVs. Players can also fight back with two brand new power-ups; Team Emergency Evade, which can be used to save friends from getting busted with a more powerful blast than regular evade, and Team Slingshot which gives one team a huge burst of speed. NFSW car customization

Need for Speed World players will be the world’s first game to use Dolby® Axon voice technology. This innovative new technology lets players stay in constant contact as they organize objectives, create race strategies and perfect escape tactics without requiring a separate application or any drain on bandwidth.

Additionally, Need for Speed World players can now further personalize their cars with an enhanced visual customization system featuring window tints, underbody neons, license plates, wheels, and lowering kits.

Need for Speed World brings together best-in-class action racing with an unparalleled social experience on the PC. Players can compete against their friends and family or pick from thousands of players to challenge in intense online battles and police pursuits. Gamers race the way they want in an ever-expanding world with a constant stream of new content, cars, and features.

Eidos MontrealSquare Enix Ltd. has announced that Deus Ex: Human Revolution™ Collector’s Edition, an extremely limited, exclusive product will be releasing in select European countries on August 26, 2011 and in Australia and New Zealand on August 25, 2011, snubbing the Deus Ex fans in the home country of developer Eidos Montreal – unless the publisher is being coy and simply not yet announcing something special for the NTSC zone gamers, but why do something that will blatantly alienate the gamer community the studio has worked very hard at engaging prior to the game’s release?

The Collector’s Edition will include some extras that can be purchased with one of the Augmented Reality versions or as a standard edition pre-order bonus (I’ve had an AR copy on pre-order since the title showed up in the GameStop computers), and while this newly announced edition will include all of the previously mentioned bonuses, it will also include the highly coveted and highly collectable Adam Jensen action figurine designed by Play Arts Kai – a Square Enix company.

This is not the first time Canadian gamers have been shut out of collectable extras sold by the publishers of Canadian-made titles. One of the most recent incidences was with Assassin’s Creed 2, when gamers in Canada (and the USA) could not purchase the AC2 CE with Ezio dressed in black Assassin’s garb, only white. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Canadian developers recognize their “hometown” supporters with a Canada-only special edition?

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18th April 2011

Game Prototype Challenge Five Is On

Wordcamp Montreal, which is taking place this July 9th and 10th at Coeur des Sciences, Agora Hydro-Québec – UQAM has put out a call for speakers. Early Bird tickets are also on sale now for $30.00.

Game Prototype ChallengeGame Prototype Challenge has announced its development theme for April – Companion and Rising. Participants have until 11:59pm on April 25th, 2011 to submit their game prototypes. That’s one week away, with a preview event known as Screenshot Saturday taking place on – you guessed it – this coming Saturday. This is the fifth round of prototype challenges, and if the previous four are anything to go by, this one will also see some awesome entries. You can check out all of the previous entries on the challenge’s web site.INplay 2011

The Early Bird registration rate for Interactive Ontario’s INplay 2011 conference has been extended until April 27th. Get your tickets now for what promises to be a great event. If you are a Canadian digital media designer, don’t forget to send in your submission for the CMF Canadian Interactive OntarioInteractive Showcase, the deadline is May 2nd.

Interactive Ontario has also released the results of its recent eLearning survey. Designed to examine the challenges faced by the province’s eLearning and cultural industry sectors, the 63 page PDF report (which I am still working my way through) looks at opportunities for growth and cross-pollination among all industry genres, including books, gaming, film, television and music.

OMDCSticking with Ontario for the moment, OMDC is now accepting applications for 2011/12 cycle of the OMDC Export Fund – Interactive Digital Media. This program provides eligible Ontario interactive digital media content producers with funding to participate in export development activities that correspond to a strategy for company growth. Primary activities supported are market event attendance and targeted sales trips that relate to the strategy.

In order to be eligible, all applications must be submitted electronically through the Online Application Portal (OAP.) Interested applicants must register their company’s corporate information here prior to commencing an application.

For technical assistance with registration or the application process send an email to OMDC. Applicants are encouraged to commence the application process well in advance of the deadline in case technical support is required. Complete Guidelines and the link to the OAP are posted on the OMDC website.

In lieu of an information session, applicants will have the opportunity to receive feedback on a first draft of their OMDC Export Fund application through a one-on-one pre-application meeting with an OMDC Consultant. Participation in pre-application meetings is not a requirement and is offered as a courtesy for applicants who may be unfamiliar with the program and/or require additional assistance. Applicants are also encouraged to contact OMDC at any time with questions regarding this program.

Pre-application meetings will take place on May 9 and 10, 2011. Please send in an email to schedule a meeting please email programs@omdc.on.ca. Once your email request has been received, OMDC will contact you to schedule a time on one of these two days.

Here is a look at Part Two of the EA Sports video series on re-launching the SSX franchise with SSX: Deadly Descents:

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mts-allstreamManitoba’s MTS has joined the “PVR from Anywhere” movement with the the launch of its My PVR (Personal Video Recorder) service which enables MTS Ultimate TV customers to add, change or delete their Whole Home PVR recordings using any computer with an Internet connection or from select mobile devices. This service is available free of charge to all MTS Ultimate TV Whole Home PVR subscribers.

“My PVR is a great addition to our MTS Ultimate TV service and will give customers the freedom to manage their Whole Home PVR from outside their home,” said Stan Kurtas, Vice President, Marketing, MTS. “We are always working to bring our customers the latest in technology in order to enhance, what we consider to be, the most feature rich television service in Canada.”

My PVR, which can be accessed through the customer’s MyAccount portal, offers customers the opportunity to browse through MTS’s online program guide to see what programs will be on in the next 12 days, search by title and create a shared login so anyone in the family can manage recordings over the Internet.

rabbleIndependent media site rabble.ca is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching Media Watch, an initiative committed to dispelling myths perpetrated by ideologically driven reporters and sensationalist media. “We don’t want people to be blinded by SunTV,” said rabble.ca Publisher, Kim Elliott. “Our new media watch blog will feature a media consumer Twitter feed #sunwatch and the keen eye of Alheli Picazo.”

Coordinator of Media Watch and rabble.ca blogger, Alheli Picazo, wrote an expose in 2010 entitled “Ezra Levant vs Reality – A Prelude To Fox News North” in which she thoroughly challenged Levant’s characterization of George Soros. Following this piece Soros filed suit against Levant and Sun Media, resulting in a full retraction and apology printed in The Sun’s editorial section 13 short days after Levant’s original column ran.

“With the official launch of Sun TV News – featuring none other than Levant himself – there has never been a better time to establish a media accountability service,” said Picazo.

Though it’s starting off small, Media Watch aims to cover a wide range of media, from uninformed editorials and inaccurate reporting. rabble.ca’s team of dedicated spin decoders and lie detectors won’t just point out misinformation, but will provide readers with links to, and information about, the sources from which we cite accurate information. Be it scientific data, peer reviewed research, documented fact or expert analysis, we’ll share the tools you need to further investigate the issues.

Canadian voters are invited to tune in to rabbleTV on April 18 to watch special election coverage (“for the rest of us”) with the launch of the show Real Issues. Host Trish Hennessy (researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and author of the Hennessy Index) will be joined by guests Canadian Auto Workers economist Jim Stanford, Greg Elmer, Director, Infoscape Research Lab and Bell Globemedia Research Chair, and Atkinson Foundation’s Olivia Nuamah. This first panel responds to the leaders’ debates and the campaign so far, and will tackle the issue of strategic voting. 


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18th April 2011

Onestop launches fun Federal Election Game Ballot Blitz

onestop mediaBuilding on the wildly successful voter engagement game Mayor Munch, Onestop Media Group has launched Ballot Blitz – an online game starring animated versions of Canada’s top five party leaders: Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Elizabeth May.

Ballot Blitz is accessible online through Onestop’s consumer site and is promoted nationally to the millions of people viewing Onestop’s portfolio of  Digital Out-of-Home Networks across the country.ballot blitz Registration is required in order to play the game.

Ballot Blitz features Live poll results based on the animated candidates’ popularity.  Playonestop.com will also feature a series of fun election-specific polls and content. Over the next few weeks, Onestop will be using its digital media channels, PlayOnestop.com, Twitter, and Facebook, to promote several creative polls as an alternative to the dozens of scientific polls and ‘more-serious’ election media.

“History shows youth engagement leads to next generation voters. As a Canadian company immersed in the digital landscape, we have the mandate and social responsibility to do just that… help the communities in which we operate engage youth in this federal election in a fun fashion relevant to their generation,” says Michael Girgis, President and CEO, Onestop Media Group.

The digital and interactive campaign largely targets what is recognized as an untapped voting community of 18 – 34 year olds. As an incentive, Ballot Blitz players are eligible to win an Apple MacBook. The contest closes Friday, April 29th at 5:01pm.

 

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16th April 2011

Spring Bonus Available for PC and Mac

grey alien gamesGrey Alien Games has just announced that its latest casual puzzle title, Spring Bonus, has been released for the PC and Mac platforms. We saw this game demonstrated at last Monday’s Indie Dev Meetup, and I highly recommend this title for the whole family.

A very highly polished production, Spring Bonus is an Easter-themed game that offers very cute and well-drawn graphics, a Disney-esque soundtrack and non-irritating sound effects. While the soundtrack and sound effects are pleasant to listen to while playing the game, it is possible to adjust the volume or even turn it off. An important marker for me is if I can play through the game with no sound and still do well. I know that much effort goes into writing soundtracks and getting just the right sound effects, but being able to play a game without the sound a bonus point on development as far as I’m concerned. spring bonus level 15

Spring Bonus releases with 100 levels spread across a colourful map in a country setting, which pairs up nicely with the game’s pieces which feature spring flowers, bunnies, carrots and various Easter egg treats.  The first 18 levels of Spring Bonus are available in the game’s demo, which installs smoothly and easily.

There are a variety of board shapes, each of which with its own challenges. Some are filled with ice blocks that need to be broken either by matching the game pieces or using power-ups to break or melt them. Some levels only require the matching of a set number of pieces to advance to the next level, while others require a combination of pieces to be matched or removed. There are even some level with multiple mini boards to work through – and luckily for the player, the power-ups can cross board borders.

Every few levels feature the elusive golden eggs, which must be moved down the board by eliminating the pieces below them until the golden eggs fall off the board. To add to the challenge, you can opt to play against the clock or play in relaxed mode, which is a great option for younger children to play, especially as they may get distracted simply by looking at the the puzzle pieces or they may want to play by their own methods, as children sometimes do. The only negative point of the entire game is that it lacks a keyboard lock-out to prevent children from exiting the game and accidentally accessing your files or the web. While I don’t condone using games as a babysitter, even those parents who are sitting with their children while playing a game get distracted – the phone rings, another child needs attention, dinner needs to be prepared, and it’s always nice to know that if you do have to leave the computer for a moment, your child cannot leave the game screen.

The instructions and tool tip windows are very easy to understand, but they will need to be explained to children who either can’t yet read or who are at the beginning stages of learning how to read. This is another opportunity for parents to work with their children in learning not only game play but also new words and meanings. The tool Spring Bonus Power Boosttip popups can also be turned off if they are not needed, plus they can either be left to fade from the screen or closed by clicking on the X. Another option is to play the game either in full screen or tiled mode, which is handy if you have other things going on such as chat windows.

If you have chosen to play in relaxed mode, you can easily up the ante by switching to timed mode with a click of the mouse, as there is a check box on the game screen to switch back and forth. Even relaxed mode gives you extra bonus points if you finish within the set limit, but does not penalize you for running out of time, other than to not give you the extra points. The time limits given for each level are realistic, and really won’t put you into panic mode unless you get sidetracked with just matching the pieces.

There are several power-ups available to help you advance faster through the levels- something which comes in handy not only in timed mode but also when you need to drop the golden eggs off the board or change up some pieces. You gain power-ups by matching 4 or more pieces, with bubbles being the first power-ups to appear. When you click on a bubble, it clears the blocks around it – but in order to really power-up your power-ups and spring bonus row cleargive them more range, you need to make matches with the glowing pieces. When you do this, your magic rainbow will fill up with colour, and once it’s bright and shiny, your power-ups will harness the power of the rainbow and clear even more tiles, columns or rows.

Power-ups come in the form of the aforementioned bubbles, birds in a nest, four-leaf clovers, storm clouds, hammers, magnifying glasses and the sun.  The nesting birds fly out horizontally when you click on them, clearing from one to three rows, depending on your shiny Rainbow power. Storm Clouds will clear one to three columns, while the Four Leaf Clovers clear a star-burst pattern vertically, horizontally and diagonally. The Hammer will break ice cubes, the Sun will melt a circle of ice cubes much the same way as the Bubble clears squares, and the Magnifying Glass will clear one tile of ice.  There are also Mystery Boxes which appear later in the game (beyond the 18 demo levels) that contain a surprise. I imagine there are power-ups hiding inside, but one never knows.

Spring Bonus is a very high quality casual game – the colours are bright and appealing, the characters and scenery are well-drawn, the menu is easy to use and understand, and you can even save the game’s background to your PC or Mac as desktop wallpaper. For those of you constantly on the go, Spring Bonus will also be available for iPad and Windows Phone 7 in the near future. The game has also been localized into 9 languages including English. Spring Bonus does not require the latest computing power to run on your PC or Mac, which is always a bonus, because not everyone has the latest high-powered gaming rig, and as it’s a downloadable title, I can even play it on my netbook.

PC Minimum System Requirements:

Operating System: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Windows 7
Processor Speed:1GHz
RAM: 512MB
Hard Drive Space: 27MB
Graphics Card: DirectX7 or OpenGL compatible 3D graphics cardspring bonus mystery box
DirectX Version: 7
Sound Card: Any

Mac Minimum System Requirements:

CPU: Intel or PowerPC
Operating System: OSX 10.3
Processor Speed: 800MHz
RAM: 512MB
Hard Drive Space: 32MB
Graphics Card: OpenGL 3D compatible graphics card
Sound Card: Any

Spring Bonus offers very good value for it’s price of $9.99, is DRM-free and also has a 60 day no quibble, money back guarantee. Overall, I give Spring Bonus a 9.5 out of 10 – if it had a keyboard lock-out option, it would be a 10.

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