Not Just Another Zombie Apocalypse

north-interview-featured (1)New interview with Sarah Northway from Northway Games.

I asked Sarah about the growing freemium trend. “I’ve been hearing some real cautionary tales of indie games releasing only a free version with IAP.” Sarah says, “Free-to-play is territory best left to unscrupulous optimizers like Zynga.” Zynga, the producers behind scores of derivative freemum social games, is unfortunately why most of us shudder when a game ends in -Ville.  Although she sees a potential for a well-balanced free-to-play MMORPG to actually be free to play, Sarah plans to steer clear of designing for freemium and “making people pay because they don’t want to wait all day for some plant to grow or because they’re out of “energy” and not allowed to play the game anymore. That’s the worst.” (We couldn’t agree more.)

This was a great interview, I loved hearing about the next Rebuild, and snarking about bad freemium design. I’m so very impressed that Sarah and Colin Northway manage to travel the world together AND work developing interesting games, which makes me feel that it’s totally possible to combine the two things I love best.

Via Not Just Another Zombie Apocalypse: An Interview With Sarah Northway on Hardcore Droid.

The Time Tribe

My friend Jerry wrote to tell me he’s working with a new game, and he thought it might be a good fit for me.

“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”

Because it’s a point-and-click adventure game, with historically accurate game settings, edu components, independently produced, with a female CEO, using the Harry Potter Alliance for real-world social relevance.” he said.

“It’s kind of like you guys made that whole game that for me, isn’t it?”

(They say it’s for kids, but that’s only because the 30+, female, relevant adventure gaming demographic just doesn’t get the respect it deserves.)

Text-Based Space Opera in ‘Choice of the Star Captain’

I’ve talked a lot about text-based games like Heroes RiseTo The City of the CloudsChoice of RomanceChoice of The VampireChoice of the Dragon, and now, I’ve got a new piece on Geek talking about Star Captain.

Choice of the Star Captain is a new text-based adventure for iOs, Android or web browsers. In this ChoiceScript game, players take on the role of a young pilot, recruited for a special secret mission for StratComm in the space battle of humans versus Blob.

The player is almost immediately recruited by Salazar, an agent at StratComm who has some, uh, unique recruiting methods. After taking a crazy aptitude test, with questions like how gravity smells or how many fuzzy Thursdays are purple, your player is recruited to join the war against  the evil alien Blobs! Salazar doesn’t seem surprised, but everyone else in StratComm find the player is an unusual rookie.

Via Text-Based Space Opera in ‘Choice of the Star Captain’ on Geek Magazine.

Kara Rokblade

I wrote about QuestLord over at Hardcore Droid.

QuestLord, from Eric Kinkead, is an accessible – but not necessarily lite – retro role-playing adventure.  The game opens with the sweet RPG classics. Your character is a human, elf or dwarf, and you set out to save the realm from certain destruction, with nothing more than a basic sword and simple adventurer’s gear. Depending on character choice, players begin with a simple weapon or a single spell but all characters soon improve their gear by finding new loot. Players find random drops of armor, weaponry, money, and consumables, all presented as simple icons in that familiar and charming 8-bit style.

QuestLord also offers a quick game option, in which players can choose one of three pre-generated characters for a shortened adventure. One of these playable characters is Kara Rokblade. Kara’s as retro cute as the rest of the game, with solid starting stats, and she’s a stocky dwarf in full armor, not a busty hourglass in a battle bikini. I was so delighted to see a female PC in logical armor.

Read the full QuestLord review at Hardcore Droid.

Dungelot: Amazing Dungeon-sweeper


New article on Hardcore Droid, talking about lite roguelike dungeon-crawler Dungelot:

Since Dungelot is described as a roguelike, I’d expected the usual endless player deaths, punishing difficulty (especially through bad luck), and a lot of mind-numbingly repetitive replay. The game opens with a warning about just how often players will meet death in the dungeons, and, yes, there is a certain amount of hero death in the dungeons, but I was pleasantly surprised with how delightfully replayable Dungelot was. Was it the cute monsters? Goofy distilled missions? The addiction of finding magical items? I kept promising myself I’d start taking some notes after just one more run.

Via Dungeonsweeper!. Also on Hardcore Droid, I recently reviewed Dark Arcana, Zenonia 5, and Knights of Pen and Paper, and wrote a player guide for Rebuild.

Find The Lamp, The Oil, and The Wick

 I wrote about that adventure game with hidden object elements, Dark Arcana, for Hardcore Droid. I enjoyed playing it, and would recommend the game, but couldn’t resist a little snarking at hidden object cliches.


In a typical HO game, players need a pretty strong suspension of disbelief. Sure, clicking the number five on the wall or collecting eight clothespins will advance the plot. Whatever, just roll with it. Since adventure game Dark Arcana has a stronger narrative than the standard HO game, some of the typical HO silliness is more pronounced. Why did I throw the saw away after one use, forcing me to find an axe, shears, scissors, and a collection of other one-time-use cutters? Why does knife thrower Jim keep locking doors and chests but not so cleverly hiding the key in the next room? Sure, there are probably detective rules about not pocketing the suspects’ valuables, but did I really just use that giant diamond to cut glass, and then toss it away?

Via Dark Arcana: The Carnival on Hardcore Droid.


Zenonia Hates Me

New post on Zenonia 5 on Hardcore Droid:

Zenonia 5, Gamevil’s latest installment in the Zenonia series, is a fantasy action RPG for Droid.  Players enter an engaging fantasy world, with charming characters, oddly adorable monsters to fight, an epic destiny, and all the other J-RPG standards, but a frequent need to spend premium currency to progress, and storyline events that require familiarity with previous Zenonia make this delightful world very hard to access.


The story opens with a confusing argument between a king, a girl in a bikini, someone who seems to have killed a witch, and a dude who is becoming the devil because the wealthy have oppressed the poor. Then they battle! For folks unfamiliar with the previous Zenonia mythos, this is all pretty obscure, but in a moment, it seems that this sequence was all a dream! Your character is just as confused as you are! Phew! Your first action as a player is to have your crazy dream interpreted.

Via Love and Loathing in Las Zenonia on Hardcore Droid (No, I didn’t title it, I just wish I’d come up with that title myself.)

This was a fairly difficult review to write. I really wanted to enjoy a fantasy adventure, but I just felt like Zenonia hated me. There was too much — storyline, controls, etc. — that players were just expected to know going in, and while I usually prefer jumping in over a slow tutorial, the cost of that exploration was premium currency. I enjoy magic circle of exploration and interaction too much to love Z5.

Many thanks, and possibly many apologies, to Matt (of Matt Barth Sucks fame) for listening to my love/hate rantings and helping me refine it.

Phoenix Wright’s Nemesis

New review of Devil’s Attorney for Android is live on Hardcore Droid:

In Senri AB’s Devil’s Attorney, players take on the role of Max McMann, an ethically flexible defense attorney, tasked with keeping his unfortunate and misunderstood clients out of jail. Players aren’t solving the case — Max doesn’t ferret out evidence or pounce on contradictions to prove his clients are innocent. Instead, wily Max uses a collection of lawyerly tricks, like Patronizing witnesses or Tampering with evidence, that players use in a points-based strategy battle against a prosecutor. Each successful case earns money for Max with bonuses for proving the defendant’s innocence quickly.

Max’s clients each have a little story explaining the charges against them and why they are innocent. One explains that he totally wasn’t smuggling rare animals, not at all, in fact he has no idea how those lizards got in his underpants! Another one explains that he wasn’t running an illegal betting operation; instead some friends had gathered to watch sports programs and just happened to be counting their pocket change when police arrived.  And smooth Max defends them all! For a fee of course.

Via Devil’s Attorney Review | Hardcore Droid

Also added a segment on the new patch to my Knights of Pen & Paper review.

Knights of Pen & Paper

New review of Knights of Pen & Paper up on Hardcore Droid:

Knights of Pen & Paper, from indie Behold Studios, simulates a D&D tabletop campaign, in which players encounter campy tabletop monsters and running dramatic rescues. From the beginning, the game tells a hilarious and engaging story. Players first select their players, blending a collection of personalities like Little Brother, pink-haired Flowers, a Hipster, and an Extraterrestrial with individual special powers and the usual character classes.

Players — that’s you, not the eight-bit Hipster Mage and Little Brother Warrior party members — then determine the campaign’s plot and plan battles for the players. Knights of Pen & Paper presents two interlocking and participatory narratives, with a campy fantasy adventure and a nerd gaming session.

via Knights of Pen and Paper Review – Android Game | Android Role-Playing Games Reviews | Hardcore Droid.


Al Jackson, the editor at the new Android gaming site Hardcore Droid, assigned me a review of “Rebuild”, an indie game about the zombie apocalypse. I’m not really a zombie fangirl, but I found a lot to like in this game:

I don’t do zombies. Sure, I have some affection for the novel World War Z, but zombie games are almost entirely tower defense with extra gore and body parts. Not appealing at all. But Rebuild, an Android game by Sarah Northway, is more of a post-apocalyptic city builder. Sure, there are zombies, and they attack survivors at night, but the overall objective is to build a thriving civilization, not to pop undead into ever-more-realistic piles of guts.

via Rebuild: Zombiepocolovely

Youda Survivor

Youda Survivor is a time-management adventure from G5 Entertainment. The story begins, as all good island survival games do, with the player washing up on the shore of a tropical island. An ancient prophesy tells the tribe of the arrival of a mysterious traveler, so when the player turns up, the island people want to know if the player is really as smart and powerful as the legend claims…

Of course, the player doesn’t actually need to follow that backstory to  gathers materials, and create valuable resources from them, and progress through the game’s levels.

Oddly, your first tasks are not so much gathering materials for a bed, building shelter, or improvising a lemon battery, but boiling gulls’ eggs and powdering them  in a powdered-egg machine…. Still, collecting island resources like shrimp and coconuts, fighting off crabs, collecting fresh water, and so forth was sufficiently island-y. And the time-management system, as found in G5’s other Youda games, is a perfect level of challenge, satisfying to complete without ever becoming too difficult.

Players will also use island magic, doing rain dances to create freshwater or mixing potions for health and stamina. This is a nice layer on the time management mechanic, especially the potion recipes. I’m not terribly motivated by unlocking achievements  or by cosmetic rewards in a single-player game, but I enjoyed crafting potions for my power-ups.

I played the Kindle Fire version, and it’s worth noting that it froze and required a restart several times. (It did not stop me from playing,  or from getting it for my dad, who loves island games as much as I do.)

Green Space

Green Space is a new Facebook game from RocketOwl Inc, in which players are presented with futuristic environmental challenges and an environmental message. I became interested in Green Space because I think the social connections through Facebook have the potential to spread messages and information very quickly, and so linking a social game to a social cause has the ability to bring issues onto thousands of  Facebook feeds. Sure, I usually associate “raising awareness” with those slactivist memes like posting your bra color for breast cancer,  but I also think a good social game could share information (and, yes, awareness) in a palatable way.

Instead of presenting users with a surprising stat or a video to share, RocketOwl envisions a sci-fi world where empty cartons and wrappers completely cover the ground. The player takes on the role of a Space Janitor, a low-level employee with the GreenSpace Corps, who’s been sent to clear away years of trash and find a viable, green planet underneath. The game drops a sci-fi world and a message of environmentalism over the usual Facebook game mechanics: Instead of plowing land, players need to clear trash to reclaim it. Reclaimed areas can be decorated, and gathered trash can be processed into usable materials like Oil or Metal.  Larger pieces of trash require more energy to clean up, but reward with more usable materials when it’s processed. Then, the reclaimed materials are used to build upgrades and spacey decor, improving your Space Janitor’s efficiency, and bringing the dirty planet to life.

Most of the space technology relies on power from the planet’s power grid. To gain more energy, spam all your friends with endless requests for gifts. JUST KIDDING! Build power nodes to harvest sustainable energy like Solar or Wind power.

The trash-gathering is hardly the subtlest metaphor ever, and with the slogan The Future is Tidy!, players won’t forget this is an edu game. Still, slowly watching your gamespace changes from trash heap to futuristic paradise is very effective. Like every other Facebook social game, players are rewarded for inviting friends, and need more friends for higher-level missions.  GreenSpace is RocketOwl’s first offering, coming out of beta this week, so we’ll soon see if GreenSpace can harness friend requests and feed posts for a cause.

Lil’ Birds

Cute and casually addictive Lil’ Birds, from Villain Games, is a free iOs game of players of all ages. This is one of those rare but wonderful times in which family friendly is not secret code for as engaging as endless rounds of Candy Land.  Lil’ Birds lets players of all ages care for adorable baby birds, pet them and breed them.

Players begin with a couple birds in a small aviary, and are quickly introduced to caring for their new pets. The goal in this cute aviary is to acquire certain color combinations and patterns. New feather colors can be acquired by buying new chicks (Before handing over the phone or iPad to a little one, though, it’s worth noting how easy it is to make an in-app purchase.) There’s also a simple minigame of searching a forest for new and unusual birds.  Once your aviary starts to fill up, these birds can collected or sold to loving families, just waiting for an adorable new pet. The themes make it a children’s game, not an adult game like World of WarCraft or PartyCasino, but it’s nice to know my cute birdies are going to good homes!

Cute lil’ birds, and their DNA of colors and feather patterns, can also be exchanged with friends. And social gifting in Lil’ Birds is done right.  Because players are giving a specific bird from their aviary — a red and yellow chickie called Rupert instead of an another anonymous and unseen instance of Cow — it feels more like trading than friendspamming. You might want to share a wing pattern or color combination you’ve developed. There are hundreds of combinations, so each player’s aviary tree can look quite different.

Birds are hatched with unique names, but can be renamed by the player. (I will not admit to having a birdhouse full of Roman emperors, with pink and lime-colored feathers, I’m just saying it’s possible.) This is the cuteness and pet care I liked in Tamagatchis, and the flurry of virtual pets, without cleaning up virtual litterboxes.
Lil’ Birds is definitely worth installing to play with young children, and the cute feathered pets may well keep adults playing, too.

I Heart Chaos: Cloud Assassin

From my newest piece on iheartchaos (Just a reminder,  my posts here are totally worksafe,  but this site is not entirely PG. Ahem.)

The new Cloud Assassin smartphone game makes the dorm (and boring workplace) game mobile and accessible. Playerscan challenge and invite players by phone number, and map their last known locations. In an awesome cyberpunk move, completely unimagined in my college water-pistol and rubber-snake assassin games, checking another player’s last known location also reveals your own. You make your kill by snapping a photo of your target’s back, and uploading it. And, yes, there’s a space for text-based trashtalking.

Ah, technology. Changing how we pretend to off our friends. Isn’t it great?

Via iheartchaos: Cloud

Socks, Inc.

Socks, Inc. was one of the local games demoed at last week’s NYGaming.

Socks, Inc. is a supercute AR game. Players create a sock puppet character, and set off to do real-world challenges, like snapping a picture of your sock out in nature, eating a snack or playing a sport. The uploaded pictures and videos are moderated and then shared with other users (answering the obvious questions about a children’s game and user-generated content). Check out the hilarious Alien Overload sock photostream for an example.

(This is an adorable and informative trailer, even though it includes my unfavorite games-related slogan. I admit to finding World of DateCraft pretty cute and clever in 2007, but I wish we could all lay off “World of ___Craft” in games journalism.)

Via Socks, Inc. | The Indie Game Magazine – Indie Game Reviews, Previews, News & Downloads