Posts by tag: nintendo
Despite having access to just about any tablet game via the Google Play Store and an iPad, there are still some games, great ones, that slip past me. I try to get to everything that looks as if it has potential, on top of everything people are talking about, but usually it’s games from this second group that makes my ‘pile of shame’ a high-quality one. This week, I was reminded that the critically-acclaimed iOS game Badland is (eventually) coming to Android, so I decided to finally make time for it, after moths of it sitting on the iPad, waiting for me. The most addictive and exciting few hours of gaming I’ve ever had on a tablet followed that wonderful decision. Badland is a 2D, side-scrolling adventure game- an oddly beautiful and extremely inventive one. This is the kind of game I would tell people to buy a tablet for.
From the silhouetted, dangerous objects that make up the foreground to the Burton-esque story-book backgrounds, the world doesn’t make that much sense, but you’re mostly running through the beautiful environments, anyway. In Badland, you guide a black ball of fluff with wings that changes in size, shape, speed, stickiness and other attributes depending on what power-ups it grabs. Some of these modifiers even make it spin quickly in one direction, completely changing how it moves, while others create a bunch of clones, so that many of the little creature can do what one could not. At times, you need to tap the screen (yes, it’s a one button game) to make all your creatures fly up and avoid the deadly obstacles below, while other times you’ll have to resist touching anything so the fast-spinning fluff can roll on through an area quickly. Quick decisions must be made depending on the current surroundings as powerups are constantly changing everything from the speed of the game to the capabilities of the character.
This isn’t a review, or preview, but just know that Badland is awesome. Its inventive design in the classic 2D side-scroller (almost platformer) genre is an important step for tablet gaming. The care that clearly went into every aspect of the game from the physics to the art are second to none on mobile hardware. I don’t hesitate at all in saying that Badland is so excellently crafted, and so much fun, that it is a game as quintesential to tablets as the original Mario was to the NES, not mention their mechanical similarities. Unfortunately, it won’t mean anything to mobile gaming in comparison to what Nintendo’s flagship series meant for their consoles.
Back in the day, you either spent a lot of time at arcades or you didn’t. You either had a PC powerful enough to handle some really obscure games or you didn’t. You either had a home console or you didn’t. Three yes or no questions decided whether you were a ‘gamer’ or not and the few options you had if you were trying to get into video games were clear. The definition of both ‘game’ and ‘gamer’ have widened by now, allowing everyone to decide what level of time, money, and commitment they want to put into the hobby. A ton of content is available to consumers with every level of involvement in gaming. In the mid-to-late 80′s, if you played games, you didn’t miss Super Mario Bros.. Today, you might just play whatever Facebook time-sink your friends are into or your Xbox might only ever contain the disc of the newest Call of Duty. Or you might grab everything thing you have time for on a tablet, spending only a few dollars and a few hours at a time. If you’re reading this, you probably cast a wider net than that, but no matter how much you love gaming, you no longer play everything. A game like Badland could easily fly under the radar of anyone anywhere along the scale of casual to hardcore.
Roughly 40 million copies of Super Mario bros have been sold world-wide. That was bundled with the NES itself, so let’s use Super Mario Bros. 3 as an example. Never packed in with any hardware, it sold over 17 million cartridges. Granted, it has had a long time to hit that number, but that makes Badland’s 7 million players (some of which received the game for free) seem like a small club. More to the point, there are a lot more iPads out there than there ever were NES or SNES systems, and there are a lot more people playing games now than there were in the eighties, so the percentage of the potential market that’s downloading this game is pretty small in comparison. Even as the amount of content in the game grows post-release, and even with it hitting Android soon, it seems unlikely it will sell as well as a game of its importance should. As crazy as it is to pit Nintendo numbers against an indie game, I don’t feel bad about comparing these two. I honestly think that, with Badland, Frogmind have created a gaming experience on par with some of the greatest this medium has ever seen. Supply is higher than demand, so some great games have to suffer at least a little bit. Unfortunately, no matter how much praise critics (or Apple themselves, for that matter) give to Badland, it can’t possibly be as big as it deserves, and it can’t assist the growth of tablet gaming as much as it should.
If you can convince someone to spend a couple bucks on a game for the device that’s already with them all the time, it’s still going to be tough to get them to spend time playing it. Even if we only consider games, there’s so many different platforms offering so many possible experiences (and so many of high quality), that Badland alone will probably never sell an iPad, or Android tablet either, once it makes it onto the Google Play Store. Even gushing about how awesome it is to your friends who own tablets won’t sell that many on it, considering that mobile gamers tend to have an abundance of apps and don’t like to pay for any of them. As much as it moves one-touch gameplay forward, this 2D sidescrolling mix of Mario’s physics, Sonic’s speed, and Lemmings’ puzzles won’t turn Frogmind into a Nintendo-sized developer and it won’t make tablets as important to gaming as a hobby as the NES and SNES certainly were. However, the creativity of this game could similarly spawn decades of other amazing gaming experiences, the same way Mario did. Badland, and great tablet games like it, might even do that better. Next week, I’ll explain why it’s not so bad that such an amazing game can’t affect the landcape of gaming as much as game of similar quality would have thirty years ago.
When it comes to gaming, what is the distinction between a tablet and a handheld console? Nintendo’s 3DS has two screens and a few buttons, while Sony’s Vita has dual analogue sticks, and a tablet with its one big touchscreen is obviously a different beast, altogether. The hardware and control capabilities aren’t exactly one-to-one between all the gaming apparatus one could travel with, but the gulf seperating the most common types of game on each platform is still surprisingly large, even considering the difference in in hardware. What we usually call ‘mobile’ games are the simple, cheap, and short-and-sweet type, while the most popular games on Vita emulate console experiences and Nintendo’s best sellers deliver lengthy adventures through open worlds not found on their home consoles.
Bite-sized games have been hitting the Playstation Store more frequently these days and Nintendo’s E-Shop is delivering pocket games for pocket change, as well. So why haven’t we seen much growth in the other direction on the Google Play Store? Some recent titles have got me thinking more time-consuming, expensive experiences could thrive on tablets just as well as on any other handheld system. The game that got my mind going? Layton Brothers: Mystery Room. It’s not exactly a follow-up to the popular DS series by Level-5, but the transfer of the Layton IP from ‘handheld’ to ‘mobile’ pretty well proves that many games could easily cross the blurred lines between the two gaming landscapes.
Mystery Room doesn’t follow the same Layton as the adventurous, puzzle-solving professor that the DS games center around, just as it doesn’t share the traditional structure. Alfendi Layton, son of Hershel Layton, is a criminal investigator at Scotland Yard. He has a recently hired the player-controlled character and police rookie, Lucy Baker, as an assistant. Just as Alfendi has clearly taken on a lot of his father’s traits, he has also taken on a a similar cohort. Lucy’s demeanor copies little Luke’s to a tee. Just as Professor Layton always had the answers to the game’s many puzzles, but asked his young friend to come up with the correct conclusion, his son always seems to know the truth, but challenges Lucy, and the player, to keep up. Instead of encountering puzzle after puzzle and quickly piling up the Picarets (or points), this crime-solving adventure involves nine distinct murder cases, during which the larger mystery of Alfendi himself is also explored.
Though the characters and world are similar, the mood of Layton Brothers differs a lot from the other series. Obviously, murder is a constant focus and more adult themes are explored in all the involved character, as well. They don’t shy away from violence or sexual innuendo, though these things are always suggested more than they are put on display. All of this grown-up stuff isn’t to be taken all that seriously, either, since most side characters are jokes in everything from their dialogue to their names. Even when things seem like they should be serious, it all comes across pretty silly. I explain all these differences because it’s important to note that this isn’t just another Layton game, now appearing on one screen instead of a system with two. On top of all this other stuff, the modern setting, improved art, jazzy tunes and long-form puzzles make this work extremely well on a tablet.
What’s really interesting to consider is the history of Mystery Room. It was in development for years as an original series not involving any Layton characters at all. Not only that, but it was originally planned for release on DS. Almost exactly two years ago, after a long silence had made the game’s fate uncertain, the platform change and new title were announced. Of course, releasing on iOS and Android, especially at the low cost of $5, this was a bit of a risky move. Going for a known IP on new hardware asking for only a fraction of the usual money for something almost as long as the previous adventures isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success by any stretch of the imagination. Risks notwithstanding, I think this provides a good example for other devs making ‘handheld’ games who are unsure about working with tablets.
Maybe making huge changes and trying something new is the best way to make a series work on a different platform. If this had been a traditional Layton experience, Level-5 might upset fans who feel the series is deeply connected to their dual-screen handheld. So, they branched off the story and gameplay a bit, and gave it a different mood, as well. The new platform meant the game was already going to serve a somewhat different audience, so they took this as an invitation to shun the kiddish coating, keeping this adventure light and fun but not shying away from darker subject matter. Regardless of the many other changes, Level-5 didn’t really shrink or dumb things down for the switch to ‘mobile’ and I think it’s better for it.
At about 10 hours for all the content currently available, Layton Brothers is still a larger experience than what post people think of as a tablet or phone game. The lack of a physical product going through the rigorous cert process, the ESRB, and retail stores means the cost to get such a game out there (to a larger install base, to boot) isn’t as high, so they don’t have to charge tablet gamers so much. If they wanted to ask more, I think Mystery Room could have easily gone for twice the price and still felt like a deal for this type of game, but the low cost does mean more people will pick it up and hopefully start to think of ‘mobile’ as a platform capable of much more than what we’ve seen up to this point.
I don’t mean to hate on handheld consoles at all; I still pull out my 3DS, even if it’s not as often as I do my Android devices. Playing the new Pokemon X and Y, for instance, now has me thinking about whether or not those games work without two screens. Hit indies like Hotline Miami and Proteus hitting the Vita have me wondering what kind of games could survive the loss of analog sticks and transfer to tablets. Other handhelds are powerful machines and some experiences would work on Android, but I think a lot more games could make it over to tablets, just another handheld console, without removing what makes them the ‘handheld’ games we think of them as.
The one question I hear over and over again, other than “Ian, when are you going to get your shit together?” is “when will I see my favorite Nintendo franchises on Android?” and really, there are two answers to that second question. The simple one is “right now” as you can, with the aid of some slightly flexible morals and a disregard for the law, enjoy nearly any Nintendo game from any system up to and including the Nintendo64 with the aid of emulators. If the question is “When will I see my favorite Nintendo franchises LEGALLY on Android?” the answer, like the answer to the first question, likely lies somewhere between “never” and “not for a very long time.”
I’ve noticed a trend as of late amongst both my Android gaming habits as well as the games developers are putting out. That is, both contain a lot of ports of games both older and more recent. Anything from Grand Theft Auto, to Magicka to even a game as old as Leisure Suit Larry have or are making their way to our beloved Android phones, tablets or other supported devices. However, my lust for ports is not completely satisfied. No, my friends. I long for more. So like any good game writer would do, I decided to come up with a list of some of the games I’d like to see ported over to Android capable devices, whether it be my tablet, an OUYA, a GameStick, my phone, or whatever device Google overtakes next.
While I could’ve picked any 1,000s of games I’ve played in my 30 years on this planet, I decided to stick with games that I felt would both make a seamless transition onto either a touch screen device or do well on any one of the Android consoles coming out, and were personal favorites of mine. Even from those parameters, this list was a difficult one to come up with; there are a Googleplex of games that I love that are well suited for a tablet, phone, OUYA or anything else with the Android stamp on them. So here is a list of 15 of them, old and new, that I’ve chosen.
A while back I wrote a story about emulation and the fact Nintendo and others are leaving money on the table by not adopting emulation or porting their retro library out to Android, iOS or other mobile devices. In a discussions I’ve had with a couple friends in colleagues I’ve begun to question this again. How difficult is it to get the port of your favorite retro games into the Google Play marketplace? Why are companies so willing to just leave money on the table, especially in a gaming industry where development companies are constantly accused of being “money hungry”? As Seinfeld would say “What’s the deal?”
Look on the Google Play store for emulators and I guarantee you will come across a whole cornucopia of them, both paid and unpaid. For reasons pretty obvious, I’m not going to tell you what they are, nor how to obtain games for them, but the fact so many exist is evidence enough that consumers want to see retro and classic games on their mobile devices? And why not?
Many gamers today, present party included, grew up with the Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Amiga, list of retro consoles, blah, blah, blah… (you get the point). Even those who haven’t may be interested in exploring the origins of some of their favorite games. I’m sure there are people who enjoyed New Super Mario World on the Wii but give you a blank stare when you ask their speed run time on Mario 1 on the NES. (Mine is about 10 mns if you were wondering, I believe the world record is like 4 or 5 mns.) If anyone remembers from last year, when someone put out a phony Pokemon Yellow game for the iOS, it quickly rose to #3 on the iOS charts, until Apple struck it down with the mighty hammer of Steve Jobs.