Features & News

Hands On: Chillingo’s iPhone Line-up and Chat

October 13, 2011, Author: Ray Willmott

The mobile gaming market continues to thrive and prosper; anyone who disregards that is completely naïve. It’s not all Angry Birds, either. Other enormously successful games have materialised over the last few years, and one of the main figureheads for iOS publishing success has been Chillingo PR. Throughout their tenure, they’ve handled games such as Spider Jack, Cut the Rope, Blobster, Infinity Field, and most recently, Pixel Ranger, Roll in the Hole and Saloon Poker.

Last month, James O’Leary and myself met with Chillingo in the Earls Court arena, overlooking the Eurogamer show floor from a small bar up in the rafters. We were there to see their next batch of games which included Super Crossfire, Hank Hazard and Little Lost Chick.

In between the time James and I could draw our attention away from playing the games, and drinking our pints, we also got to chat to Dan Tausney and Jan Day about Chillingo’s exciting line-up and the future of mobile gaming.

Super Crossfire
The first game on tap was Super Crossfire, which we played on an iPad. Without question, this was the crown jewel of Chillingo’s line-up. Initially, Crossfire seems like another Space Invaders clone, with a lick of Geometry Wars paint. However, once you start playing, you’ll soon understand there is something much more intricate underneath the surface. Players start at the bottom of an angled screen, moving a small ship from side to side, firing lasers at enemies of various shapes and sizes in the centre. The enemy types are quite diverse, and vary from small purple crosses, to space vehicles, larger in size than your own.

Essentially, it’s you and your lasers against an alien invasion, and to make matters worse, these enemies move in response to your firepower, displaying an uncanny will to survive, effectively adapting to your techniques. However, you have a secret weapon that they won’t know about until it’s too late, and it’s all thanks to the magic of multi-touch.

At any time in the game, you can teleport your ship between the bottom and the top rail of the screen, and shoot down at your enemies, as well as shooting up at them. Instantly, this adds a whole new strategic element to a formula that has been around since the 70’s. Just as simple as Space Invaders was when it launched all those years ago, Crossfire introduces something that seems equally straightforward, yet manages to make the whole experience seem fresh and magical. It also means that, essentially, there is no right or wrong way to play Super Crossfire; whichever style feels most natural to you, the game gives you the freedom to embrace it.

The game’s graphical style is just as captivating, proudly parading psychedelic imagery that leaves a deep imprint on your brain. The screen just continues to explode with the elegance of fireworks and strobe lights, bedazzling you with its delightful charms. Even after a short time of playing, I could still visualise Super Crossfire pixel perfectly several hours later and after having played several other games.

Colourful and an interesting spin on the scrolling shooter!

The game also has its own in-built pulse-pounding soundtrack which perfectly suits the look and style of the game. Although, if that’s not good enough for you, Dan said that Crossfire allows you to use your own music in the game should you prefer.

In the full-game, you’ll also be able to upgrade your weapons, use power-ups and work your way through over 150 different waves. While we were shown the iPad version of the game, Super Crossfire will also launch later this month on iPhone and iPod Touch.

Words can barely do it justice, but Super Crossfire is as mesmerising as it is addictive; Radian Games have a certifiable hit on their hands, one that drags an old-school game-type kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and is sure to wow audiences around the world later this month.

Hank Hazard: The Stunt Hamster
Next up was Hank Hazard. We played this on an iPhone, and man, was it a serious change in pace.

Like most Hamsters, Hank is a bit of a thrill-seeker, and he likes to do a bit of exploring. Well, in Hank Hazard, he can experience all the thrills he wants, and he can even do that while exploring, he’ll just have to do it while stuck in the confines of an itty-bitty Hamster Ball.

Each level represents a different stunt course for Hank to traverse, and in order to get to the exit (represented by a red target board), Hank will need to figure out how to navigate a series of obstacles. Some may be as simple as jumping on one end of a see-saw, then allowing a weight to drop on the other end to launch Hank to the exit. Others are more complicated.

However, there is an added incentive of Stars and Secret Nuts scattered through each level to prevent a player from just rushing through. Undoubtedly, this will be both a wet dream and a curse for completionists, who will want to make sure they get all 400 across the game’s 100 levels. No mean feat…

Don't let the cutesy eyes fool you, this is challenging...

To look at, you’d probably think Hazard is a kiddie fest, with Hank’s big gooey eyes and buck-teeth all squished together in his little ball. That’s the beauty of the game though, it’s extremely accessible to all audiences, and, as Dan said, ‘it’s the type of game that mum will start playing, then refuse to give back to junior because she’s become addicted..’

Of course, in a game like Hazard where trajectory and precision are imperative, the physics need to be spot-on. Fortunately, that seems to be an area Red Rocket Games focused on a great deal, as the physics throughout the demonstration always seemed fair and accurate.

Hank Hazard was a real joy to play, and definitely seems like a game that will offer a considerable amount of content for a very measly sum. Basically, if Super Monkey Ball rolled into bed with Joe Danger, and one was able to conceive from the zest of that passionate affair, you would get Hank Hazard…

It’s not just me who feels really disturbed by that image, is it?

Hank Hazard launches on all iOS formats this November.

Little Lost Chick
The final game we were shown by Chillingo was called Little Lost Chick from Kylinworks.

Before we get into the meaty mechanics and technicalities, though, I have to tell you a sad story. A little blue chick has managed to lose his mother, and can’t find a way back to the nest. The world is a big and scary place and Bruce… yes, Bruce, is right smack-bang in the middle of it. It’s up to the player to help get him to safety, avoiding all of the perils and pitfalls along the way. Of course, as irresistible as the chick is, nobody in their right mind would be able to refuse such a challenge, and thus, Kylinworks has their hook.

Although, perhaps giving such a cute, little imp a name like Bruce may split opinion.

Anyway, the game starts you off easily, introducing you to the formula of level progression, with each level harder than the previous. A good balance seems to have been struck here, and I don’t think players will ever find themselves getting overcome by difficulties without being suitably prepared.

Bruce automatically starts walking the path set out in front of him at the beginning of each level. In most cases, the player will be required to protect him so he doesn’t fall on spikes, or get burned by hot coals, or even licked up by a patient frog. It’s all about getting him to the exit, and collecting golden eggs along the way.

One of the great and unique vibes the game gives off is the sense of attachment you start to harbour for the innocent chick. The game already has a ‘one more go’ quality about it, but it also ignites an odd paternal instinct, one that can make you feel quite protective of Bruce, and even force you to go that extra mile to ensure you get him to safety.

Enough with the cuteness!

That’s mostly down to the game’s striking visuals. LLC has been custom-built to draw in all audiences, and for an iOS game, the game is quite glorious. It’s an extremely colourful, vibrant game that is very catching to the eye, and is set against a variety of different backdrops, such as underground caves, wintery forests and even farm-yards. It’s a testament to what iOS games are capable of, and how attractive they can be, even when compared against other mobile platforms.

LLC reminded me a lot of Ivy the Kiwi from Yuji Naka, except that LLC has not been designed in an old storybook style. Regardless, the gameplay mechanics are very similar.

I would have to say, that, of all three games we sampled, this was the weakest, but it is still a very charming and entertaining project that you can definitely find yourself getting attached to.

Little Lost Chick launches on all iOS platforms later this month.

Dan was eager to tell us how the mobile market has continued to grow. He said that on average, two new games are released from Chillingo each week on the Apple Store, which is a startling growth in a very short space and time. He said that phones are capable of more now than they’ve ever been, and are just as suited to playing games as any other handheld system on the market today.

Chillingo are definitely at the forefront of quality mobile games, and if these three games are any indication of the future, the best seems as if it has yet to come.

On behalf of This Is My Joystick, we’d like to thank Dan and Jan for taking the time to see us, and for showing us their latest games.

Coming over the next few weeks, we will be reviewing all three of these games individually, going into greater detail than we have here. Stay tuned!