What I played this week - Draw the Line, InstaJam, Trailers, Ichi and Kitaru news!

Welcome to my somewhat weekly app review column (aka WIPTW), where I mostly review games and "play-oriented" apps and news. This week, have 3 apps to review (and another to preview), so won't waste any time with my usual blabbering. Draw the Line is a cute puzzler with physics aspects. Ichi is still under embargo, but can say it's another interesting puzzle game soon to be released. InstaJam is a basic drum machine app, and iTunes Movie Trailers though not a game, is an iTunes award-winning freebie vid player handy for finding all the latest movie previews. Last but certainly not least, I offer up a quick QA with some of the Aoineka folks about their coming Kitaru game, and you don't want to miss this iPhonelife exclusive about what could shape up to be one of the best iOS 3D gaming experiences ever!

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App Reviews

Draw the Line is a delightful puzzle game that requires you to draw obstacles, upon which to bounce a ball off of, and in such a way as to guide it through the various obstacles (and gather fireflies) to your green worm (which I guess eats it or something?). The worm then does a little dance and makes goofy noises (you can also scratch his belly to invoke a reaction which is almost as much fun). The game combines interesting physics variations--one level requires you to bounce and vector balls while another requires you to skillfully speed the ball through certain areas or otherwise cleverly manipulate it. The graphics are colorful and DTL also features enjoyable sounds (the worm laugh is infectious). This is a great kid's game! Portrait mode only on iPad.

InstaJam is a way to make drum noises with your iPhone. I've tried a few of these apps, and they are all similar, though some have a lot more features. This one is simple. 99 cents for 4 different pad layouts (and drum types). The tones are a little flat through my iPad speaker, and I found that some layouts seemed a little sluggish, but then it wasn't really designed for iPad. Still, the app worked to a pretty fair approximation of most drum sounds. If you want a simple drum simulator, or maybe just a way to keep your fingers occupied on a long trip, grab it.

If you haven't installed iTunes Movie Trailers, go get it! The app is more or less a YouTube app for movie trailers, but then again, it replaces like 3 other movie-related apps. A free app featured in the app store Hall of Fame, you can easily browse all the latest movie trailers in one place. Once you drill down to a particular movie, the app handily reveals related trailers.

Some really great filters and sorting options are baked in to the app to include views by calendar release date, top 25 trailers, and the top reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. You can also find/browse movie show times in your local theaters. All features are well conceived, though it would be nice if it was integrated with the iOS internal search and calendar. I would love to be able to simply start typing a movie name in the iOS search widget and get hits from the app, then add movie showtimes to my calendar. Maybe in the next release...


App News

Not really allowed to release specific app review information, but since I played it some this week on iOS (and am a blogger after all) it would be stupid not to mention it at least in passing. The game has been around for Mac and PC, though I admit I haven't played those versions. Ichi is simple in concept, an exercise in vector puzzle-solving: 

You control shaped/angled blocks that you can rotate in certain directions to bounce the moving object towards the final goal. If you like basic puzzle games, I think this will be an addictive one once it is released. I'll be sure to post up more info when it is available. You can grab PC or Mac versions here.


Designing a successful 3D game is much akin to the production of a major movie. There are so many game aspects to consider, prepare and implement that it requires resources beyond what many indie game studios can support. You also need the experienced team branding that is sure to make a new game a success. That's why it's refreshing to see a totally independent group make a run at this not-trivial undertaking. Ben Steele and his group at Aoineka are doing just that. I conducted some email QA with Brad Staib, Director of Marketing recently, since they have now navigated the kickstarter process. From the promotional material, the game looks to be off-the-charts awesome!! If you want to see what it takes to make a great game, check out the video on this effort after the QA below.

1. How long has this effort been underway? How many developers are working on the game and what game engine is involved?

...About six months now. This doesn’t seem like a very long time, but we’ve made some great strides in that short period. We credit the rapid development to the Unity3D engine, which is really user friendly and well-designed. We highly recommend either it or UDK to other indie developers.

2. What features of Kitaru will set it apart from similar game types?

..While we are certainly working hard to make the gameplay unique and compelling, the deep storyline that forms the basis of Kitaru and the high end visuals will likely be the main thing that sets it apart from a lot of other similar types of games. Additionally, we are planning to produce Kitaru in an episodic structure. The extensive story forms a foundation from which we have already plotted out around 12 episodes, and there is a lot of variety. Each episode takes the player somewhere new, and each episode has its own tone. Some are bright and others are very dark.

3. Tell me about Ben Steele and the team. Other successful development efforts they have been involved in, etc.

...Ben founded Aoineko originally for my production of digital interactives, art installations and so forth. He then moved onto animated films and started creating the art for Kitaru a few years ago. In 2005, his animated short, "Fragile Machine," was named by Cyberpunk Review the "Best Animated Film of the Year," and the film won awards at numerous international film festivals. Ben’s previous experience in the games industry was as art director at a little virtual world startup company. Ben also won the Rockstar Games Upload competition a few years back, which was quite an honor considering their pedigree. However, Kitaru is the first game for Aoineko. Many of our team members have worked on other indie projects (too many to count!). Our team is spread all over the world, so working together creates certain challenges but also a lot of cool opportunities.

4. Since we cover mainly iOS-based applications at iPhoneLife, what control aspects of the game are optimized for those platforms. How will you maximize the in-game experience in this regard?

...Kitaru has been designed, first and foremost, with iOS devices in mind. Our goal from the outset has been to create a compelling, narrative experience for Apple devices unlike anything its players have seen. To this end, our control scheme has been carefully tailored to suit its touch screen controls. The player navigation, active time battle queue, and minigame controls all share intuitive touch interfaces which we hope will be equally enticing on both smaller iPhone and iPod devices, as well as Kitaru's big screen iPad experience.


You can grab the apps above at the links in the opener. Stay tuned to our iPhonelife blogs in the future for more app news, reviews and tips on all things iOS!

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Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.tumblr.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.