madeinmastatewithgames28229Last Thursday night Kyle and I attended excellent MassTLC PAX East “Made in MA” Party. Every year there seems to be more and more of an iOS presence at the event, which is kind of ironic as it is held at Microsoft’s beautiful New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

We were able to speak with several iOS developers were also at PAX East and will be at GDC over the next week.


Tiny Tycoons
The Tap Lab, Inc.


mzl.xxlpjxfm.320x480-75The Tap Lab has become a regular fixture at the Made In MA event, and I never miss an opportunity to speak with the development team and Dave Bisceglia, CEO of the Cambridge, MA-based mobile game startup.

The studio’s first game in this space, TapCity, launched in the Fall of 2010 and last year The Tap Lab planned to take the game to the next level with TapCity 2, but despite having a PAX East booth, they decided to delay the release a year and over that time the game morphed into the charming, Tiny Tycoons that we were treated to last week.

The game might be most easily described as a more social mix of Monopoly, Life and resource management played out in the real world. Players can purchase locations like their favorite restaurant or business and then improve and upgrade them using the a mix of the game’s coin and bill currencies. At the same time you are working your way up the corporate ladder by mastering certain types of jobs to level up, accomplish a rolling set of goals and earn rewards.

mzl.feemuaqr.320x480-75The original TapCity suffered in part due to the limitation it put on players, forcing them to actually be physically located near the property which they wanted to purchase. As someone who lives in the more rural suburbs of Massachusetts, this is a constant issue for me with location-based games. The Tap Lab used lessons learned from their earlier effort to really improve the game play, allowing players to travel the world looking for properties to buy, with a focus on several major cities including Boston, New York City, San Francisco, London, Paris and Toronto. Unfortunately my town is still missing any purchasable locations, but hopefully this is something that will improve over time.

The points of interests are based on actual Foursquare data and property prices are calculated using a location’s Foursquare popularity data. To keep the clutter down, right now only certain categories have been enabled, but more will be added as the game matures. I probably just made it sound more confusing than it really is, but one thing is for sure it is REALLY FUN and rather addictive.

mzl.tepauxfs.320x480-75As is often the case, The Tap Lab ran the game through a Canada-only beta test to work out the balancing and find any pre-launch bugs. I’ve been playing with the game all weekend while waiting in line at PAX and I’ve gotta say…I’m hooked!

At the Made In MA event we met with Liz Cormack, The Tap Lab’s Product Evangelist. She was very enthusiastic about the launch and thrilled to give us tips and answer any questions about the game. If you have any specific questions about the game after you download it RIGHT NOW you can always reach out to her on twitter at @elizacormack and I’m sure she’ll be happy to help.

Feel free to add me to your in-game friends list, I’m ‘brett-nolan’.



Letter Rush / Hug The Sloth!
Proletariat Inc.


mzl.pqnluqpw.320x480-75Next up was a conversation with Proletariat’s CEO, Seth Sivak, (who spoke at several panels over the course of the PAX East weekend).

We discussed their recently released free and fun-to-play word game, Letter Rush in which players try to find specified words (in a four by four grid of letters) as quickly as possible as their target words slide across the four rows at the top of the screen. If a word makes it from one end of the screen to the other without being found and makes it through the barrier at the end, then the game is over.

It is a different approach to word games and one I hadn’t really seen before, a sort of hybrid between a word find and one of those spelling/typing games you played as a kid where you had to get the words before they reached the bottom of the screen. Before our meeting, I had played the single player version of the game, but hadn’t had an opportunity to check out the multiplayer modes yet. Kyle and I battled in the Head-to-head Multiplayer mode, which was not an easy task against your identical twin as we both were constantly trying to find the same words. In this mode, players are trying to find words before one another to get the points.

mzl.pqzfndnr.320x480-75However there is a little bit of a co-op element as well, because if a word breaks through one of your opponent’s barriers, then it is breaking through your’s as well, ending the game. So the strategy is to watch the points and try to force an end of game scenario once you are ahead in points.

We had a lot of fun (and laughs) while playing and I highly recommend checking out this free-to-play game.

Another free title that Proletariat was showing was Hug The Sloth!, which is an adorable virtual pet game where you can hug your very own pet sloth and dress him up in a variety of amusing hats.

Third Eye Crime
Moonshot Games


third-eye-crime_01Finally, we had a long talk with Moonshot Games’ Co-Founder & President, Damian Isla and Designer Christian Baekkelund about their upcoming (Indie Showcase featured) game Third Eye Crime.

A top-down, noir stealth / puzzle / path-drawing game, Third Eye Crime that puts players into the shoes of Rothko, an art thief with a special telepathic abilities that allow him to see what the security guards are thinking. Using this knowledge (represented by ever-changing red colored paths in each of the game’s maze-like levels, he knows where to move to successfully escape with the pilfered artwork. By drawing paths around the level you tell Rothko where (and when) you want him to move.

Unlike many stealth games (33rd Division and Dishonored comes to mind) this is a game of evasion rather than avoidance. Though the difference may sound subtle, there is a key distinction to be made. You see, in order to solve the game’s puzzles, players must engage with the enemy to get them to move where they need them to in order to safely reach the exit. Anyone who’s played a stealth game before knows that it’s those moments when you get spotted and have to race to find a new place to hide that really get the adrenaline pumping. This is a game that requires patience, planning, intuition, a keen eye and sometimes quick reflexes.

third-eye-crime_04As I already mentioned briefly, Rothko’s psychic ability manifests itself in a neat way visually. Red trails mark the areas of the maze-like levels where the guards think that Rothko is. These will change in both location and intensity as the level is played out. If you see a large dispersion of red (meaning it covers much of the level) then the guards don’t have a good idea of where you are hiding. However, if there are just one or two small patches of red and you are standing on one of them, then you’d better start working on an escape plan, because odds are the guards know exactly where you are.

In addition to using yourself as bait, there are other items like the Rumbler which creates a loud racket when dropped, which can be used to mislead and distract guards so that you can get around them. When utilized, you immediately see its effects in the form of the red visual cues showing where the guard(s) think you are. Steeped in strategy, each of the games levels has multiple solutions and over the course of the game you are introduced to a number environments (like water) and different guard types, each of who have their own unique characteristics which must be taken into careful consideration when planning your escape. Some guards will slow others down if walking in front, others will have guns, some (which have exposed brains) can even see in 360 degrees, really ramping up the difficulty.

third-eye-crime_03One interesting tidbit that came out of the discussion was that though the game is nothing like Cut The Rope, Isla credits that game with inspiring Third Eye Crime’a short two to three minute level design, which can be easily consumed by mobile players.

The game features a striking black and white (with injections of primary colors) art style which really adds to the game’s Dick Tracy-ish noir setting. Unfortunately one thing we couldn’t experience due to the noisiness of the event was the game’s original Jazz soundtrack composed by Duncan Watt (League of Legends).

The game is scheduled for a Spring release and I’ll certainly be picking this one up when it does.