21st June 2011

Indie Ink Releases Challenge to Find Tayna

Indie Ink Publishing announced an unusual contest today as part of the launch of its new young adult contemporary fantasy novel release, Strange Places, by Saskatoon’s Jefferson Smith.

Raised as a modern-day kitchen slave in an orphanage run by child-loathing nuns, and now stalked by disturbing strangers, the novel’s 13-year-old heroine Tayna gambles everything on a desperate journey to discover her origins that will lead her to the far corners of two strange worlds: one filled with shopping malls and televisions, the other with Gnomes, Djin and magic.Strange Places

One part book launch, one part community celebration, and with a healthy dollop of strange, the launch promises to be memorable. How else would you describe a night that goes beyond plain readings, and includes a dramatic interpretation by school kids, an original musical score, an original pop song about events in the book (written by Jefferson and his daughters), and even an original new drink recipe from the book called boh-cho?

“We’re so proud to launch this amazing book and series,” said Indie Ink founder Suzanne Paschall, “Not to mention this bizarre contest Jefferson has dreamed up.” The series is called Finding Tayna, so readers are encouraged to follow Jeff online and at appearances, where he’ll be giving out clues throughout the year. All you have to do is find Tayna. What makes the contest so unusual is the prize: In addition to traditional prize packages, two winners will be immortalized as non-trivial characters in the second book of the series (planned for 2012 release).

“Jefferson’s wonderful sense of fun and magic has involved young people from the beginning,” Paschall says. “His eldest daughter was the inspiration for the protagonist, and all three daughters formed the dinner-table editorial committee, reacting to each chapter as it was written. When a fourth daughter was born, the family decided that there could only be one name for her: Tayna, the book’s heroine.”

Jefferson, a creativity theorist at the University of Saskatchewan, carried this inclusive style of creation into local schools, too, workshopping scenes with classes and inviting students to critique the book in advance, resulting in writing that captures an authentic youth voice, making it unique among the plethora of other young adult fantasy books written by adults.

Advance praise from independent readers is already coming in. Agnitha, 12, from Saskatoon says, “Holy crap, this book freaking powns!” Connor, 11, from Austin, Texas adds, “A strong beginning with powerful, flowing ideas. Exciting and suspenseful throughout…a wonderful novel for experienced young readers.”

The book officially launches tonight, June 21 (7:30 p.m.) at McNally Robinson and Friday, June 25 (9:00 a.m.) at Caswell Community School.  A list of sales outlets can be found on findingtayna.com. The hard cover book retails for $22.95. Strange Places will also be available in e-book format in all major online e-book stores.

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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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8th April 2011

Swarm Review – Momma knows best

Hothead GamesLet the heavens rejoice after 5 years in development  Hothead Games has released Swarm. Swarm is a amazing downloadable action platformer game for  XBLA and PSN.

It’s about a gigantic blue worm that lands on a nasty planet and it’s up to you to control a team of 50 little “Swarmites” at once through 11 levels, collecting points and DNA to help grow “Momma”, get her a new hat and leave the planet. There is one catch though; this path is full of things that burn, trap, electrify and decapitate your swarmiteswarm at every point and you get glorious points added to your score for it. All you have to do is make it through the level with at least one Swarmite in order  to return to Momma. Momma has lots of  Swarmites spawn points throughout the levels so if they die, Momma spawns more. This can be helpful because there are points in the game that require you to have a certain number in order for the higher point value orbs to appear.

You are rewarded in this game for the collection of things that look like nucleus and DNA. The more you collect in swarma row helps fill a multiplier which can greatly add to your score, but in a cruel twist, deaths of your Swarmites also add to it. So if your multiplier looks like it’s running out you can just kill off some of your swarm to keep it up. This is the game’s primary mechanic, as you find that most obstacles you encounter or crates to open just happen to kill off some of your happy blue buddies. At the end of the level your amount of Swarmite deaths are calculated up and put towards progressive death medals and the worldwide death total. Deaths in the level also have death medals but are only rewarded when the last 10 of your Swarm encounter the same deadly fate.

The game gets progressively harder and (easier if you replay earlier levels) as you get better at controlling your swarm and there are even two boss battles that are unlocked by collecting enough DNA.

Some of the awesome things you can get your swarm to do include moves such as jump, dash, huddle together and stack on each other as well as pick up and throw explosives. Sometimes your Swarmites will pick each other up when picking up explosives, leading to some hilarious deaths.Swarm Level

The game’s length is 6-8 hours but with the leaderboards, achievements and the constant questioning of Momma asking “Why can’t you be more like (Insert friend’s gamer tag here)”  the replay value is high. Here’s hoping there is more Swarm content coming.

Hothead Games has taken an old convention that games punish you if you die, turning it around so that death is rewarding. Congratulations to Hothead for taking an original idea and making it shine. If you’re looking for a fun, original type of game don’t let this one pass you by cause you wouldn’t want to disappoint Momma – plus it would make a great gift for any video game loving mom (Mother’s Day is coming up) and you know that would score some serious points.

Swarm is on  XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade) for 1200 MS Points and PSN (Playstation Network store) for $14.99 Released on March 22nd 2011 by Hothead Games, Swarm is rated T for Teen by the ESRB.

Review by: Twisted Majic

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13th March 2011

Get Set For Some Galactic Puzzle Solving With Galaxy Express

arctic empireI gained early access to Arctic Empire’s latest game, Galaxy Express, which has now launched in the iTunes App Store. This latest release is a puzzle game that features main character Jonathan Rowe, whose task is to deliver Galaxy Express Title Screenpackages to the many planets sprinkled throughout the galaxy. He has a cranky boss named Mr. Bluckerman and a cheeky robotic assistant named Kim-Bot. As the game progresses, you are introduced to enemies who are trying to interfere with the smooth flow of courier activities in outer space. First you encounter a former childhood acquaintance who has embraced the pirating way of life – hopefully you are able to successfully fend him off this time, but you know he’ll be back for more, because pirates don’t like to admit defeat, and he’s going to bring friends.

You will also need to out-maneuver The Enemy – nasty little spaceships that will cause your ship to blow up on impact. Some puzzles require that you alter your own course, while others require altering that of The Enemy and still others require a combined solution. As the levels get progressively harder and you run into little obstacles like cannons, you will be thankful that there is no instant death time-limit nor a limit on the number of lives you have. Some puzzles will take a lot of hit and miss (remember, in the case of The Enemy, miss is a good thing) in order to figure out their solutions. I’ve also discovered that even though some puzzles seem really complicated, the solution is usually very, very simple – these will often bring on a *facepalm* moment Galaxy Express Puzzleswhen you realize how simple that particular puzzle really was. Well you might not, but I have.

The first 30 levels of the game are available for free, but you can unlock a further 75 levels with a $2.99 USD in-app purchase, and I recommend unlocking the additional levels if you are a puzzle addict, because they will challenge you right to the end. Upgrading to the full version also means you will receive all future game updates and any new puzzles the studio creates. On the start screen you will also see that the studio is planning on giving players the ability to build their own levels with an in-game level builder, as well as bonus levels.

Galaxy Express is compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch (it works well on my 2nd gen model) and the iPad, providing you are running iOS 4.1 or newer. The graphics are of good quality, and you do have the option of skipping the 2D retro-styled story screens, not that I would recommend this as several of them contain important information on how to combat the enemies. If you do need to look for a tutorial, all of those levels are marked with a “T” which makes things a tad easier as they explain the new game mechanics you will encounter.

The audio and soundtrack for the game are of good quality and not the least bit irritating. That said, you do not need the sound enabled to play the game, and while Galaxy Express has been configured for low battery usage, being able to turn off the audio eases battery use just a little bit more. The controls for the game are very easy to understand and use. You can also set the speed with which your ship will move through the puzzle – just Galaxy Express Charactersremember that all of The Enemy ships, cannonballs and other interferences will move at the same speed as you – so other than navigating the puzzle faster, there isn’t really any advantage.

The developers have also added the ability to share puzzle solutions via email, Facebook and Twitter, and you can also ask for help via this same method if you’re really, really stuck. I personally haven’t used these options for sharing or asking for help, but they are nice additional features for the game. There is no scoring system, so you are not competing for ownership of a leaderboard, however if you’re playing against friends, you can always see who can solve the puzzle first simply by solving, sharing the solution and see who posted it first. The only challenge feature I’d like to see added is a time-keeper – not to penalize a player for not solving a puzzle in time, but to keep track of how quickly the player can solve the puzzle, thereby opening the challenge of beating one’s personal times.  That said, even if you’ve solved the puzzles, Galaxy Express does have a good replayability factor.

Overall, I give Galaxy Express a 9.5 out of 10 – if there had been a personal timekeeper and if the toolbar were movable (for those of us who are left-handed), it would have earned a full 10 – although these two features are not game-breakers for me.  I can still easily access the toolbar for what I need to do in order to play the game, it’s a personal preference.

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10th February 2011

The Krabbitworld Conundrum

Editor pre-amble: First, let me clarify that I was asked to review Krabbitworld: Origins last year, and as of yet haven’t done so. I have apologized in the past to its creators, and I will do so again now. I try to approach every game objectively and as though I have little to no gaming experience, except for franchises like Mass Effect or Assassin’s Creed, where I’ve played all of the titles. I have always openly stated that the PC is not my gaming platform of choice, I prefer console, and probably always will. I also try to find positive aspects in every product I look at; the Cavechild has no such compunction. He says what he thinks, and I guess, to an extent, that is also a commendable quality.

Krabbit OnlineMy initial experience with Krabbitworld: Origins was not a positive one, as I had problems with the game’s default command settings, and I honestly was not compelled to try the game again. I was not drawn in by the characters nor by the graphics. I’m not new to the RPG genre, I do play Guild Wars, but Krabbitworld just wasn’t doing it for me. Perhaps I didn’t give the game enough of a chance, I can consider that to be a possibility and easily admit that may be so. Perhaps I should have let the developers know at that time how I felt, and rightly so, but I kept hoping that I would get back to it, and it did cross my mind several times, and as my daughter so often points out, I have little concept of time, and all of a sudden it’s months later.

So why is the review being posted now, and why is the Cavechild doing it? Well, yesterday I posted a small rant on my personal Facebook page about Activision’s decision to shelve True Crime: Hong Kong, and basically stating that I will no longer be supporting the Call of Duty franchise with game purchases, and that no one here has ever liked any Halo title. (yes, I hear your collective gasps over that one). I further stated that we would no longer purchase any Activision title unless it was made in Canada, and that they’d better not be planning on putting the brakes on Prototype 2.

Understand that I personally know people who work at United Front, along with pretty well all of the local game studios including Radical, which experienced downsizing last year. They are “in real life” friends, and I am concerned for them and those who work at other studios, as one would be about friends in any other situation. The reply on that rant by one of the two developers considered my opinion laughable and called into question my support of local industry. I will not go into details, and I do thank other friends in the industry who have replied with positive messages in my defense.

That said, and as I stated above, I am remiss in not giving Krabbitworld: Origins a review, and I am willing to own that. I have two other game reviews also outstanding – one just because I haven’t completed the story, the other because I’m conducting experiments with it (which I have discussed with one of the creators, and he’s good with that). That said – all of these titles have been given promo in earlier posts, so it’s not like I am completely ignoring them, I just haven’t given them as much blog time as I should have.

I know it’s not easy to run a small company or to develop an original IP, let alone grow it; I have lots of experience in that department – however I also try to constantly research and learn, as well as connect with people who may be able to offer some form of advice. I also am able to take other people’s opinions and look at them from both sides and try to maintain an open mind on many issues, whether I agree with them or not. I imagine that there will be backlash to do with this whole issue, but I don’t care for drama, so won’t be going there. As an aside, here is one other review of the game which I found via Google, so you as a reader can easily find another opinion on Krabbitworld Origins.

As many of you already know, The Cavechild is a hardcore gamer – he will take on pretty well any type of game at least once, and has been successful on the competitive level at tournaments, to which James, one of our other reviewers, can attest. He is well-versed in the RPG, FPS and RTS genres and openly very opinionated (and stubborn), so without further preamble and heavy editing, here are the Cavechild’s honest thoughts on being tossed into Krabbitworld: Origins with no background on the game, its lore or much else other than it was an RPG-styled title. I did not tell him why the characters have big ears (as you’ll see), or what type of world the game was set in. I sent him the extra key and the download link and told him to play. He played it for about 30 minutes, which probably isn’t long enough for some circles, but if a game fails to engage quickly, chances are it will not easily make it in the open market.

On Playing Krabbitworld: Origins –

Well, let’s get this review on the way. First thought of playing Krabbit online was “Why the hell does everyone have giant ears?” and I thought this looked like a really bad rip-off of World of Warcraft, though I was wrong. This is worse than WoW, far worse. World of Warcraft looks better than Krabbit, plays better too and also lags less.
KrabbitWorld Ogre
The customization of this game is the worst I’ve ever had to deal with. The colours are messed up and when you choose your character’s colours, they lag like hell while applying the scheme you chose. I made my giant-eared ogre a crimson reddish-looking colour and gave him a dark green vest and ice blue shoes. Now keep in mind I didn’t think I’d be getting a neon coloured ogre on an acid trip from hell, though.. guess what happened? I GOT A RAVE OGRE! BRIGHT COLOURS! Minus the techno music. The graphics however don’t mean much to me, if there is a good community and high player base to do co-op or fight against, then by all means I will play regardless, others should as well. Another thing that bugged me a little bit is that some of the animations are not complete, such as rolling, doing a side flip and such, it was quiet annoying but at the same time, laughable. Read the rest of this entry »

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5th January 2011

The Cavechild Previews Garage Inc From Transgaming Studios

Editor’s Note: The Cavechild does not believe in standard game reviews, and I try not to cramp his style. This review has been altered to correct his Cavechild English. 😉

Garage IncLast night I received an advance copy of Garage Inc., which I immediately took for a spin. This is a new title from TransGaming Studios that officially launches for the rest of you tomorrow, January 6th. Garage Inc. will be playable on the PC,  Mac and GameTreeTV as well as Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.TransGaming

First Impression: When starting up the game I had my doubts but I was slapped in the face right away by how visually awesome the game is, how classy the music sounds and how awesome the cutscenes are and how they describe the story.

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The story for Garage Inc is pretty awesome, opening up your own car shop in a mob filled city, trying to make an honest living, although being in a city of mobsters makes things quite difficult for your character, which makes things more and more interesting to me as a player. Also, I personally love it already and I’ve only gotten to the part where your cousin “Sal” is saying “Angelo, my cousin. Any luck on the job front?”

Personal Thoughts: Just completed the tutorial stage, was easy to learn and see how things are done, the game is Garage Incrunning VERY smooth and the graphics may seem cartoonish, but it is still a very fun game and I’ve only just finished the tutorial.

Just got my first worker in my Garage which I decided to call “Olde Iron” and the game got a bit more challenging by trying to throw in a second worker, but after a few cars I was able to keep a some what steady pace going and production became a little less intense.

Oh boy! A new type of customer! The old guy! It makes things a little more interesting, not as challenging but more coordination is needed. Adding this new type of customer is quite the change, because you need to think a little more on the pattern of how you get things done.

-Sal Vists-

Sal seems to have got his ass kicked and needs money back.. apparently Angie needs to help his cousin out of a jam.

Garage IncSecond service bay.. Oh boy. This adds more challenge, which I enjoy.

A new worker! These people are starting to love me! Except some customers, which I don’t fully understand yet as to why they get mad at me and next thing you know I”ve lost a customer.

WOO! Reputation! Yeah.. that’s right, Olde Iron is getting its name out there! So by fixing cars and being awesome like me, you get reputation. With this new reputation you get special guests which take a little longer to fix up and get them on their way.

Yay! A police officer stopped by and needed some work done.. no pressure.. right?

When you’ve completed each level, you then have a clipboard with paper that tells you:

1. Successful repais
2. Overtime Repairs
3. Missed Repairs
4. Sales

and deductibles such asGarage Inc

1. Parts
2. Labour
3. Overtime

and the best part


You get money for your hard work but you also get things, I suppose they’re reward type achievements and unlocks such as Goal Reached, Perfect Day, New Worker and Reputation.

Hint! Apparently making people wait brings rep and sales down.. I wish this happened in real life so bad companies would close up.

CUTSCENE! -The Pitbull-

Yay the Mafia showed up.. *Gets my baseball bat* Im’a show them who the REAL king of auto repairs is!

Bloody Mafioso… think they own me! They want me to make their cars bulletproof and they will cut my debt down some.

The side jobs for the mafia guys are quite fun, I just did the first one to install the bulletproofing for the doors. Interesting stuff it is! It’s a step by step to make your own!

Garage IncNEW WORKER! Electrical worker dude works only with electrical stuff which is indicated by RED so this adds a whole new twist to what I am able to do. OH YEAH! MORE CHALLENGES!

Final Thoughts: This game is extremely addicting. Transgaming approached a different style of play and it has worked out really, really well in their favour! If anyone likes games like Bejeweled, Tetris, and other puzzle games where they build up in challenge then this is a game you will most definitely want to check out. This is a MUST BUY for everybody in my opinion, even hardcore gamers such as myself can sit down and enjoy this game. For those of you with iOS devices, Garage Inc. is definitely an entertaining way to pass the time on journeys.

Voice Acting: From the first cutscene I was pleased to hear how wonderful the voice acting is and how clear it sounded.

Graphics: Though they are cartoonish, I think the cutscenes make the game appealing to all ages, and they still look very 1920s and 1930s. When playing the game itself, the graphics may seem a little less cartoony but none the less the way it looks is definitely worthy of the game play.

Audio: The music is pleasant to listen to as you play this wonderful game – the sounds of the cars, the repairs , customers, bells and so on are all very authentic.Garage Inc

Gameplay: The gameplay is like a new form of RTS from what Im used to, as I usually play games such as Dawn of War or Dawn of War II or even Medieval II: Total War. For a switch like this it’s quite empowering.

Replay Value: Very replayable!

Suggestions: Multiplayer? It would be interesting to see how that could be intigrated into this type of game, where one person could possibly compete against another in a race to earn more money than the other, and the one with the least amount of money gets hammered by the mob? Other than that this game is perfect.

So… When can we expect Garage Inc. 2? 😀

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13th November 2010

Budge Studios To Produce Mobile iOS Titles For Nickelodeon

Budge StudiosBudge Studios and Nickelodeon have announced a partnership to develop and publish interactive story book iPhone and iPad applications based on some of the Nick’s most popular shows, including Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. Dora the Explorer recently celebrated its landmark 10th anniversary and still ranks as one of the top preschool shows on TV. SpongeBob SquarePants has been the No. 1 animated program among kids ages 2 to 11 for more than seven consecutive years.

The first of several iPhone and iPad apps to be released through the partnership is Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure, which is based on the TV special. The app will feature a fun holiday-themed story, original Dora's Christmas Carol Adventuresongs, and interactive mini-games. It will also teach Spanish, colors, reading and the value of sharing. Both the iPhone and iPad versions of the app are scheduled to launch on December 1, 2010.

“Both Nickelodeon and Budge Studios are dedicated to creating family-friendly products that encourage imagination and education in children, so this partnership was a perfect match,” says Noemie Dupuy, a Partner at Budge Studios. “The captivating personalities of Nickelodeon’s beloved characters, give Budge Studios the inspiration to create highly innovative and entertaining mobile applications that will appeal to a large, diverse range of consumers.”

“This collaboration with Budge Studios is part of our ongoing mission to provide kids and families with entertainment using the most current technology and platforms,” said Steve Youngwood, Executive Vice President for Digital, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids & Family Group. “Kids are embracing the iPhone and iPad as much as their parents and these new apps will allow them to interact with their favorite Nick characters on portable devices they can take almost anywhere.”

Budge Studios also developed Mega BrandsMegaBloks Playground, which I have tried out on my iTouch. Being an adult with no toddlers handy to give this game some hands-on experience, I found it very difficult to view this title as a toddler would. MegaBloks Playground is not a game, per se, as there are no points, timers or achievements. It is an app to amuse young children, a purpose for which I think it would be successful.

MegaBloks Playground features a choice between two characters, a boy and a girl. Your toddler can make megabloks playgroundtheir character move around the playground by swiping their finger across the screen, leaving footprints in the sand as their character walks from feature to the next. One drawback to the iTouch version of the game is that the entire playground is not readily visible, which I think detracts a bit from the experience. Obviously this would probably not be an issue with the iPad version (I don’t own an iPad, so I can’t confirm this for certain). The game’s objects are all cleanly drawn and brightly coloured, with the animations running smoothly, which would appeal to toddlers and keep their attention on the game.

The music and sound effects which accompany the game are in no way jarring or irritating, which makes MegaBloks Playground Mapthe music especially quite pleasant to listen to. The playground itself is populated with items one would expect to find in a real playground, which means the majority of toddlers would know that by tapping on the slide, swings and teeter-totter would allow their character to interact with them and listen to the unique sound effects assigned to each activity. Characters can also go for a short balloon ride across the playground.

Scattered around the playground are small piles of blocks, which the characters use to build items like airplanes. One drawback, however, is that once the item is assembled, there is no way to interact with it, and it eventually disappears from the screen. I would like to see a few more activities built into the app, which would make it a little more educational, such as perhaps finding a way to build in shape recognition or colour-matching, along with a way for players to make their own creations to interact with. Overall, though, I think this is a well-designed app that will do what it’s intended t0 do – stimulate and amuse sensory perception in toddlers, and I would give it a rating of 4/5.

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21st October 2010

Riese the game Preview

Last Friday I had the opportunity to go visit the headquarters of Genius Factor Games and sit down with the CEO Ted Nugent to talk about their new release “Riese” for the iOS platform. The game is based on “Riese The Series” web show, which has been picked up for digital broadcast by Syfy.com. Riese The Series will begin airing on October 26th under its new title, Riese: Kingdom Falling,  and Riese the Game will be launched in the App Store at the same time.

The game is a card based strategy game in which you play as one of three factions The Sect, The Eleysian’s or The Resistance with the goal to take over the world. As you try to gain control of the Riese world Riese Start Screenprovinces, for each province you try to take over you must battle the computer or online opponent and gain control of 75% of the game board by placing your troops and defeating the bad guys. As you progress you will unlock new cards for your battle and using open feint some nice achievements. Fans of the series will be glad to know that you can use the heroine Riese as a character and her trademark wolf Fenrir in battle.

The game looked really nice when I got to take a look at it, the graphics were polished and the audio sounded good.The controls were easy to pick up and learn. I will also mention I was surprised to learn that the narrator for the game is Felicia Day from The Guild.

When the game launches it will have 3 difficulty settings for you to choose from. In the version 1.1 release local multiplayer will be added so you can battle your friends. The group at Genius Factor Games is optimistic that the game will be enjoyed by the Series’ fans as well as gamers who enjoy strategy card games.

Riese The Series Backgrounder:

Riese tells the story of a banished princess on the run from a dangerous religious sect in a steampunk inspired world. It stars Allison Mack (Smallville), Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary), Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar Gallactica), Patrick Gilmore (Stargate Universe), Emilie Ullerup (Sanctuary), Sharon Taylor (Stargate Atlantis), Ben Cotton (Harper’s Island), and in the title role, Christine Chatelain (Sanctuary). Read the rest of this entry »

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13th September 2010

Unity 3D Book for Beginners Penned by Toronto Developer Ryan Creighton

Untold EntertainmentIf you have been considering switching to Unity 3D for game development but are unsure of where or how to start, Ryan Henson Creighton, founder of Untold Entertainment, has written a book just for you. Available now for pre-order, Unity 3D Game Development by Example Beginner’s Guide is due out later this month.

Overview of Unity 3D Game Development by Example Beginner’s Guide:

* Build fun, simple games using the free Unity 3D game engine even if you’ve never coded before
* Learn how to “skin” projects to make totally different games from the same file – more games, less effort!
* Deploy your games to the Internet so that your friends and family can play them
* Packed with ideas, inspiration, and advice for your own game design and development
* Stay engaged with fresh, fun writing that keeps you awake as you learn

What you will learn from this book:

* Find out how people are using the amazing new Unity 3D game engine
* Develop and customize four fun game projects, including a frantic race through hospital hallways with a still-beating human heart and a catch game with a jilted lover that morphs into a space shooter!
* Create both 2D and 3D games using free software and supplied artwork
* Add motion, gravity, collisions, and animation to your game objects using Unity 3D’s built-in systems
* Learn how to use code to control your game objects
* Create particle systems like shattering glass, sparks, and explosions
* Add sound effects to make your games more exciting
* Create static and animated backdrops using multiple cameras
* Build crucial elements you’ll use again and again, like timers, status bars, title screens, win/lose conditions, and buttons to link game screens together
* Deploy your games to the Web to share them with friends, family, and adoring fans
* Discover the difference between game skins and mechanics, to earn more money from your games

PadWorx Digital Mpadworxedia, Inc., an independent developer of a new category of interactive eBooks for tablet PCs, today announced that it is set to debut a series of eBooks on September 15th that combine text, gameplay and interactive touch screen technology to create a new digital book experience completely controlled by the reader. The series of interactive eBooks will be released on Apple®iPadTM in Fall 2010. There will be two debut titles, the first of which is for teens and adults, with the second title being suitable for families.

“With user interaction on almost every page, our books put the power to bring stories to life into the hands of the reader,” said Jeffery Alan Schechter, director and producer of Padworx Digital Media, Inc. “This is not your typical passive eBook experience. Because we develop our eBooks on our own game engine, our readers get engaged not only with the text of the story, but also with the interactive graphics and the gameplay elements. The reader, the graphics and the text form a partnership to create the ultimate reading experience.”

Schechter, a two-time Emmy-nominated writer and producer who is well-known for creating Contour, Mariner Software’s award-winning story development software system, founded PadWorx Digital Media in 2010 with his partner, Tod Baudais, a game programmer and the head of software for a feature animation film studio. PadWorx Digital Media is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of tablet PC capabilities in order to create unique ways for readers of all ages to experience both literature and entertainment.

Desire2LearnDesire2Learn Incorporated (Desire2Learn), a leading provider of mission-critical enterprise eLearning solutions, is the recipient of a Best in Category Award for Learning Management based on the results of the 2010 IMS Learning and Education Technology Satisfaction and Trends (LearnSAT) survey.

For the 2010 competition, only 12 awards were made for “Best in Category.” Recipients were honored at the awards ceremony and presentation held earlier this year during the Learning Impact Conference in Long Beach, CA. Jeremy Auger, COO, Desire2Learn was on-hand to receive the award.

“Congratulations is extended to Desire2Learn on receiving this unique and meaningful award,” says Dr. Rob Abel, Chief Executive of IMS Global Learning Consortium. “It is the only award we are aware of where the end-user institutions and school districts can express their satisfaction with the vendors.”

The survey, conducted by the IMS Global Learning Consortium, in cooperation with Campus Technology magazine, is unique, for an open web-based survey, in its qualification process of the respondents and cross-check to eliminate any vendor responses or “ballot box stuffing.”

The LearnSAT report, and underlying research, is conducted to provide level of satisfaction information in the use of technology to support teaching and learning to a new and rapidly evolving marketplace. Through the LearnSAT report, those responsible for implementing and supporting solutions in this new marketplace have additional information to supplement that supplied by vendors as to the level of satisfaction expressed by current clients.

“We are honored to be the recipient of this prestigious award from IMS,” states John Baker, President & CEO, Desire2Learn. “The award provides external verification of our continuous commitment to our mission of focusing on our clients and providing them with outstanding client service and support as they continue to strive to ensure program and service excellence to their learning communities.”

A unique aspect of this research is that it also looks at trends in how these technologies are being used and supported, as well as the technologies themselves. It is based on over two years of research uncovering best practices for success in Internet-Supported learning. The IMS Global Learning Consortium LearnSAT is the learning community’s number one source for satisfaction and trends in the use of technology to support learning. Further information on the survey can be found online.

Desire2Learn was also the first LMS provider to have attained the IMS Basic Learning Tools Interoperability (IMS Basic LTI) standard. LTI is a standard developed by IMS Global Learning Consortium to allow Tool Consumers (Learning Management Systems primarily) to easily link to and pass user / organization / course information to Tool Providers (other online applications for eLearning such as wikis, simulations, protected content, assessment tools, etc.).

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2nd September 2010

New Instructional Book For Stock Photographers

iStockphotoStock photography is more popular with designers, businesses, web developers, publishers and artists than ever before, and the number of photographers who have found microstock to be a great source of part- or full-time income has increased steadily in the last few years. A new book, Taking Stock: Make Money in Microstock Creating Photos That Sell by veteran stock photographer Rob Sylvan, provides valuable insights into maximizing profit in this increasingly competitive industry.
Taking Stock
An iStockphoto inspector since 2002, Sylvan helps determine which photos qualify to be sold on the most selective microstock site in the business. He has also had tremendous commercial success selling his own stock images privately. Sylvan writes the Under the Loupe column for Photoshop User magazine, and blogs about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom® at Lightroomers.com. In Taking Stock, he shares his hard-earned insider knowledge on how to shoot, edit and keyword photos that sell in this growing high-volume, cost-conscious market.

“I’ve been helping new members get started selling stock for years, and this book contains everything they’d need to know to hit the ground running,” said Sylvan. “Beyond sharing the fundamental information needed for creating and selling stock imagery, I’ve included over 50 great examples of successful stock photos along with tips from many of their creators.”

Taking Stock helps readers look at their photos through the eyes of designers, photo editors, and other frequent buyers. It explains how to set up an effective digital workflow and, perhaps most importantly, how to focus on creating truly evocative imagery. It also covers:

* How to license photos as stock
* What type of images are in demand
* Effective use of titles, descriptions and keywords
* Tips on shooting food, people, places, nature, objects, and animals
* Editing techniques to maximize sales

Taking Stock retails for $35.99 (CAD) and is available at Chapters-Indigo, Amazon.ca, Black Bond Books and other retailers worldwide or directly via the publisher, Peachpit Press.

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