Extra Lives

Extra Lives (book cover)

Extra Lives

From a recent book review at The New York Times:

If photographs are “experience captured,” in Susan Sontag’s phrase, then video games are experience created. The medium can be so engaging, so addictive — Bissell compares playing games to his time using cocaine — that many game makers get away with fiction that makes Stephenie Meyer “look like Ibsen.” A novel or a movie that is poorly written is relatively easy to abandon. Well-designed games that feature bad writing “do not have this problem,” Bissell notes. “Or rather, their problem is not having this problem.”

The book in question is “Extra Lives” by Tom Bissel. It’s an interesting thought – that games can be so engaging, even when some elements of them are lacking. What’s more interesting – the thought of what games will eventually become – an experience so engaging and immersive that “escape” from them won’t be possible. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

“Crooked House” Review @ iPhone Life

American McGee's Crooked App

Crooked House Screen

Nate Adcock over at iPhone Life Magazine was kind enough to post a review of “American McGee’s Crooked House“. Though admittedly not a typical fan of puzzle game apps, Nate still manages to find some compelling elements inside our wicked little house. From the review:

“Bottom line, the crooked little mouse is caught in the weird crooked house, and your job is to help it escape the various crooked rooms without dying. The death is typically a shredding by cat claws, smashed into pulp, or similar gory ending. The puzzles amount to sliding objects around until your mouse can run unmolested through to the goal.”

Read the full review here.

Nate makes a few suggestions for improvements, like more randomized death events (cool!) and a visible cat paw when the mouse is killed after running out of time (yay!) – both of these I think are great, so we’ll add them into the next release, which will hit the streets alongside the iPad version. Keep your eyes open for that – I’ll alert you here.

Driven by recent reviews and customer word-of-mouth both “Crooked House” and our previously released IQ challenger “DexIQ” have both been selling like hotcakes. If this keeps up we might just have to release another game app – question is… what should it be? Another fairytale-inspired title, IQ challenge, or ??? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Crooked House on the App Store
DexIQ on the App Store
Spicy Pony Home

148apps Reviews Crooked House

Spicy Pony Poster

Spicy Pony Poster

Spicy Pony‘s latest iPhone game “Crooked House” has, since launch, received praise and attention beyond expectation – but the just-posted review over at 148apps.com cements for me the success of the concept with gamers and critics alike. From the review:

I’m always impressed when a game can really make good use of the unique functionality available to the iDevice lineup. American McGee’s Crooked House does just that. This puzzle based game uses an Aurora Feint approach to moving items around by shifting the orientation of the iDevice.

Read the entire review: www.148apps.com

I’m really happy to read that Spicy Pony has impressed with their latest game. The team put a lot of creativity and love into “Crooked” and their previous title “DexIQ“. Both apps are now selling at a volume that convinces us of the validity of the iPhone development and distribution model. Rapid development, small teams, digital distribution and a closeness with critics and audiences all feel *right* – and capture so much of what’s been lost with “big” game development, titanic publishers and overblown marketing campaigns.

If you’ve not done so already, maybe now’s the time to join the fun?

Spicy Pony Home
Crooked House on App Store
DexIQ on App Store

“Crooked House” Review @ Techland

Crooked Screen 2

The Crooked House

Peter Ha over at Techland has posted a mini-review of “American McGee’s Crooked House” inside a feature on “Top 10 Hottest iPhone Games Right Meow“.

The latest from American McGee’s Spicy Pony is dark, vile and wicked fun for a puzzle game. It’s simple, really. Help your little mouse friend escape the Crooked House. A handful of the puzzles (there are 72) are difficult to solve but I’d rather be challenged then waste $2 on a mindless game.

Speaking of Crooked House, our iPhone dev team Spicy Pony is putting the finishing touches on an iPad version of the game. It’ll feature higher-res graphics and a number of improvements suggested by users like yourself. The iPhone version will receive an update at release of the iPad version. More reasons to get crooked now!

Crooked House on the App Store [iTunes]

Sleep is Death

Sleep is Death (screenshot)

Sleep is Death

The first time I heard of “Sleep is Death” was :30 minutes before the pre-order window for it closed. If you’ve played Jason Rohrer‘s other games you might understand why I wondered if this was perhaps a psychological trick played on everyone who visited the site – to entice them into ordering before the window closed… Turns out the countdown was real – and the game was in fact just released shortly after my order.

Though it was difficult to tell from the description and screenshots what exactly “Sleep is Death” would be like – it was based on my experience with Jason’s previous games that I was willing to risk a “blind” purchase to find out. “Passage“, one of his previous titles, brought tears to my eyes – a rare experience that left me wondering what was next.

Now having spent some time (with my girlfriend – you need 2 to play) with “Sleep” – all I can say is how impressed I am. The concept, execution and play experience are all exceptional and unique. As a computer game it has managed to capture so many elements of what make “play” in real life (between real people) fun. Like “The Sims” when it was first released, “Sleep” taps into deceptively simple, yet thoroughly engaging instinctual interaction concepts – taking the “doll house” concept forward another step.

I’d like to describe the “what” of the game – but am afraid that’d be giving away something important. Something you should discover on your own. Suffice to say it is quite literally a toy box – made for two people to enjoy together. In my play testing (again, with my girlfriend) the toy box transformed into a dizzying array of scenarios, interactions and fun. Hours can be spent with this toy – unfolding the possibilities.

Outside the box… another thing I really like about “Sleep” is the publishing model behind it. Jason’s a one-man developer and self-publisher. It’s a pure and simple model which works as a function of the quality of his products and the positive reactions they create in the people that play them. No fancy marketing, no retail supply chain, and no gimmicks – just a one-to-one relationship between you, a game and its developer. So here’s my part in the model – go buy “Sleep is Death”.

“Sleep is Death” Home
Jason’s Rohrer Homepage

Some video tutorials of “Sleep have been posted HERE
Along with a rapidly expanding community collection HERE

Crooked House Review

Spicy Pony Poster

Spicy Pony Poster

Matt over at no dpad has posted a review of Spicy Pony‘s latest iPhone release “American McGee’s Crooked House“. He’s got a lot of good stuff to say about our devious little puzzle game:

In the game, the mouse’s plan is simple: Escape the crooked house. But as you might expect, this is easier said than done. Standing between the mouse and his freedom are an increasingly mischievous series of crooked puzzles.

Puzzling involves sliding blocks in order to make a path for your mouse to the exit of each level. This is accomplished using either tilt or swipe controls. All blocks move in the same direction, and so the difficulty comes in manipulating the blocks in such a way that they all fall into proper place. Environmental obstacles both help and hinder your progress. Throwing blocks into grinders destroys them, and striking your mouse with a block ends him in bloodiness. Each stage also has a time limit for completion; if not met, your mouse will be eviscerated by the house’s crooked cat.

94 on to Top 100

#94 on Top 100

This being the iPhone app after DexIQ we decided to try a couple of “new” things – like presenting the game in an art style more closely associated with my previous projects, injecting a bit more gore, and adding my “brand name” to the title. This last idea was difficult for me to approach – I’ve always felt conflicted about use of my name in association with projects that are built by multi-person teams. “Crooked” is no different – a team of 5 people devoted creative energy and smart thinking to its development. So why brand it?

The primary reason for using the “brand” was to determine if it would help the app rise above the noise. DexIQ, though it’s a solid game and has been well reviewed, has yet to gain real traction. So has the branding helped “Crooked House“? Looks that way – though the reviews have been positive, there have been fewer of them, and less “noise” in general – but the app has quickly made its way to the Top #100 on the App Store.

How much of this can be attributed to the branding – hard to say. But it’s good to see the efforts of the Spicy Pony team being rewarded with strong sales.

If you’ve not checked out their two games, please take a moment to do so:
American McGee’s Crooked House

If you like what you see, have thoughts on the branding, or suggestions for improvements – please leave comments on the App Store.