Category Archives: Featured

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.

Crooked House iPhone Game

Crooked Screen 1

Crooked House

Spicy Pony is proud to announce the release of their second game app for iPhone: American McGee’s Crooked House. It’s a puzzle game so devious it’ll make you squeak with fright. Based on one of the best loved nursery rhymes of all time, “There Was a Crooked Man”:

There was a crooked man,
He went a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence beside a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat,
Which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together —
in a little crooked house.

But finally,
It was the crooked mouse,
First lost his crooked smile,
Weary of the crooked nonsense beside the crooked stile;
He shred the crooked cat,
He fled the crooked man,
And he might live forever —
If you help him in his plan.

About the Game
Help the Crooked Mouse escape the Crooked House!
A dizzying array of macabre objects fill the crooked house.
Arrange the objects by to create a safe route for the mouse.
Fail and the mouse dies a gruesome death. Eek!
● 2 control methods (tilt or tap)
● 3 distinct areas of the house
● 44 types of macabre objects
● 72 individual puzzles
● Plus+ Awards and leader boards
● American McGee’s style of twisted fairytale

Check out more posters and screenshots on flickr
Or head straight to the app store and get Crooked

Also, be sure to check out the new iPad version!

Red & Social Media

Red Concept Painting

Red Fighting the Wolves

Yesterday saw a huge flood of online news generated by the posting of an image and a single tweet. The image represented some recent thinking on a game concept being evolved at Spicy Horse – based on “Red Riding Hood”. In my tweet I mentioned the image and the fact I’d be talking about the project with publishers at next week’s GDC event in San Francisco. With a little luck the project will find a publisher and Spicy can start on a 2nd big project (Alice 2 being the first of course).

Here’s a list of links from major sites that carried the news.

Game Set Watch
Super Punch
Fear Net
Video Gamer
Strategy Informer
Game Planet
Gay Gamer
Big Download
Platform Nation
Computer and Video Games

No denying: social media is a powerful thing. Here’s a graph depicting traffic driven to my flickr account by the news.

Red Traffic

Red Traffic from Social Media

That’s a single day of traffic equivalent to what was generated when we announced the new “Alice” project. Seems the world really loves “Red” – glad to hear it! What I really love is the tremendous power of people to directly support things they like in an immediate and genuine way. Reminds me of the waves of interest Wolfenstien and DOOM created – even before there was traditional marketing behind them. Direct communication with fans and direct sales to consumers drove many successful products back in those days. With the re-emergence of pure digital distribution and social networks (Facebook’s just IRC, twitter’s just .plan files in a shiny new package, right?) developers and publishers have another shot at making games for and with the people that consume them – not just for the sake of giving marketing departments something to justify their existence.

Power to the people 😉

iPhone Developer “Spicy Pony” Launched

Spicy Pony Logo

Spicy Pony Logo

Quick on the heels of news that the iPhone is gaining traction in China, Shanghai-based Spicy Horse gives birth to a mobile division aptly named “Spicy Pony“. Last week the Pony quietly released its first app – the unique brain trainer “DexIQ“. This week it makes official its entry into the iPhone arena with an eye towards developing entertainment, game and social apps for the Asian and Western markets.

To celebrate we’re making DexIQ FREE for a limited time (weekend of the 18th, December ’09).

Like many others, I was using an iPhone in China long before China Unicom’s official launch of the handset (October 30, ’09). Before the launch, conservative estimates put iPhone penetration in China around 1.5 million – some say as many as 3 million. But these are “gray market” phones, meaning they were sold in Hong Kong then brought into China, jail-broken and resold.

China Unicom iPhone sales hit 100,000 as of last week (December 11th, ’09). At that rate they’ll sell over 600,000 phones per year – and that’s without added momentum from price reductions, new features, killer apps, and the diminishing appeal of gray market phones. I’m going to be non-conservative here and guess that official iPhone sales will have surpassed 1 million units by this time next year. Things that will help drive iPhone sales for China Unicom:

* Young Chinese see cell phones as fashion accessories and love to update every 3 to 6 months.
* Most high-end cell phones here are the price of the iPhone (Chinese youth and professionals have been spending 300-800USD on phones for several years).
* Unicom is offering amnesty for gray market phone owners – allowing them to switch to legit accounts while gaining access to 3G.
* Better and faster network performance from anywhere will gain importance as people see their friends leveraging such access.
* Rumors abound that Unicom will unlock WiFi before long, when that happens watch out!
* More and cooler China-specific apps will drive interest in the device (as happened in the US).

For me, the biggest hurdle in switching was that I had to change my cell phone number. In China numbers are a big deal – everyone loves 8’s (very auspicious) – so phone numbers, license plate numbers and the like are chosen carefully and coveted. Fortunately, there’s little interest in 6’s, so I was able to secure a sweet ‘666’ number. Now that I’m on the new network I couldn’t be happier. It’s fast, reliable and price competitive – especially when compared to the so-so performance I was getting with my iPhone on China Mobile’s GPRS network.

For Spicy Pony, the rapidly expanding Chinese iPhone market is a phenomenal boon. Our studio and expertise are perfectly aligned to address the new Chinese and existing Western markets. It’s an exciting time to jump into the fray. We’re going to leverage our talents against development of original concepts for China and the West – and we’re cooking up a big license-based game I’m sure everyone will find quite wonderful.

Keep an eye on the Spicy Pony site for details and updates.

Check out the new Spicy Pony Website!
Check out the latest Spicy Pony game DexIQ!

And remember, DexIQ is FREE for a limited time. Enjoy!

DexIQ – Launched!

DexIQ Poster

DexIQ Poster

Spicy Horse Games has just launched its first iphone app “DexIQ”. Head over to the iPhone App Store now and BUY IT! You can also read more about it on or take a gander at this informative product description:

Think you’re smart?

Think you have quick reflexes?

Your brain has two halves, shouldn’t your IQ test?

Presenting DexIQ, the first app designed to challenge your dexterity and IQ at the SAME TIME!

Two screens of independent game action unfolding simultaneously

Tests designed to challenge your reflexes paired with ones designed to test your IQ

32 individual mini-games combined into 8 levels of spasm-inducing cognitive battery
Compete against your friends to see just how dumb and slow they really are!

Compete against yourself to see which side of your brain is dominant!

Share your unique DexIQ score and achievements on the Plus+ Network!

So stop wasting time on games that only challenge half your brain. Take the DexIQ challenge NOW!


Just a little back story for those interested: This is actually the 2nd iPhone title built at Spicy Horse, but the first to be released. The concept was created by Ken Wong, our Art Director and built by “Spicy Pony”, our little internal iPhone development team. DexIQ represents our first attempt at becoming a serious iPhone developer of fun games and entertainment apps. We’re hoping our unique location in Shanghai, China will also allow us to build apps specific for China.

If you enjoy DexIQ please take a moment to rank it (5 stars!?) and write something nice about it. If you do it’ll make my day 🙂