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Glorious gifts for the gamer in your life

Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Gamers need gifts! Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Shopping for the gamer in your life can be more difficult than beating your way to the end of Battletoads or collecting all 121 stars in Super Mario Galaxy.

To make the holiday shopping season a little simpler, Cult of Mac searched far and wide for the best gaming gear, trying out all the major platforms and accessories.

What follows is our roundup of the finest gamer gifts, from consoles and handhelds to peripherals. And we’ve even tossed in a few must-play game recommendations.

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This addictive iOS game is made entirely of emoji

What it says on the tin. Photo: Ivan Grachyov

What it says on the tin. Photo: Ivan Grachyov

Many would-be game designers never make their games a reality because they don’t possess the artistic chops to create the graphics their game depends upon. But not being able to draw didn’t stop Ivan Grachyov, a computer science student at Moscow State University, and the resulting game might just be the next Flappy Bird.

The Russian designer’s creation? Emoji Cosmos, a game made of nothing but emoji!

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How a group of Pixar employees created gaming’s hottest startup

The Steel Wool Games team. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The Steel Wool Games team is studded with Pixar talent. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

With a cutesy, one-eyed protagonist named Zak and colorful graphics aplenty, upcoming game Flyhunter Origins looks like it could be a big-screen animated movie.

That’s not too shocking, since the game was developed by Steel Wool Games, a San Francisco Bay Area-based startup composed of Pixar employees past and present. But while the story of a space janitor who becomes wrapped up in an intergalactic insect-catching adventure sounds like it could come from the next Brad Bird movie, what the team has crafted is a compelling 2-D platformer that owes as much to Super Mario Bros. as it does to Toy Story.

“What we admired about those early games is what they did with very limited technology,” says Andrew Dayton, a 20-year veteran of computer visual effects, whose day job sees him working as senior technical director at Pixar. “Back then you couldn’t hide bad gameplay with pretty pictures. Playability was everything for us.”

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Innovative mobile game will get you stabbing buddies in the back

Both scheming and strategy will help you win in this game. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Both scheming and strategy will help you win in this game. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Remember when you’d hang out with your pals all night long, scheming and swearing and stabbing each other in the back as you played board games like Monopoly, Axis & Allies or Risk for hours on end?

The developers of upcoming mobile strategy game Subterfuge want to recapture that competitive and fun gaming magic on the iOS era’s platform of choice.

“We started with the idea of making a game that would give you a shared, epic experience with your friends,” designer Noel Llopis told Cult of Mac. “We’re hoping Subterfuge provides something like that,” Llopis says, “but in a way that meshes with people’s real lives.”

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Save the world from invading aliens (again) with XCOM: Enemy Within

Manage your troops, destroy all aliens, save the world. Again. Photo: 2K Games/Firaxis Games

Manage your troops, destroy all aliens, save the world. Again. Photo: 2K Games

The excellent strategy game, XCOM: Enemy Within, is out now for mobile devices as an entirely new standalone game for $12.99. If you haven’t played an XCOM game yet, this is a fantastic place to jump in – the graphics are stunning and the gameplay is addictive; like Civilization, you’ll battle it out with alien invaders in turn-based, tactical maps that offer some thrilling alien-busting fun.

In the new game from developer Firaxis and publisher 2K Games you’ll manage the XCOM global headquarters and send your troops out to fight, dealing with both battle mechanics as well as resource allocation and research into new weapons and gear for your soldiers. The new game adds a “rogue” human faction, EXALT, that will offer even more battles and maps.

“XCOM: Enemy Unknown for Mobile proved that turn-based strategy games are a natural fit for touch interfaces,” said lead designer, Firaxis Games’ Ananda Gupta in a statement. “In XCOM: Enemy Within, players can return to the XCOM universe, where they’ll encounter an assortment of new content including powerful new weapons, abilities and strategies, and confront a host of dangerous new alien threats.”

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Rooster Teeth crew faces alien zombies in boy genius’ next act

Zombie. Aliens. Zombiens. Duh. Photo: Team Chaos

Zombie. Aliens. Zombiens. Duh. Photo: Team Chaos

What were you doing when you were 17? Probably not publishing a book on how to program 3-D terrain in video games.

Game developer Trent Polack did just that. He’s been playing games since, well, forever.

“My mom says I’ve been playing games since I was 2,” he told Cult of Mac, “but I don’t think that’s possible.”

That lifetime of experience is paying off for Polack, creative director of Team Chaos, a small game studio based in Austin, Texas. His team’s latest project is a collaboration with Rooster Teeth, a video production house beloved by gamers for its hilarious machinima, or films created using video game engines (most notably Red vs. Blue, based on the best-selling Halo series).

In the Rooster Teeth vs. Zombiens, which should hit mobile devices in late November, the Rooster Teeth crew gets turned into cannon fodder as they face off against a swarm of zombie aliens. Cult of Mac talked with Polack about that noteworthy project, his gaming roots and his knack for crafting crazy publicity emails.

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Camp Pokemon puts monsters in your pocket

Gotta catch 'em all. Photo: The Pokémon Company International

Gotta catch ‘em all. Photo: The Pokémon Company International

The Pokémon Company International just took another step towards iOS domination with its free-to-play game, Camp Pokémon, now available on the App Store for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. This new game will let children of all ages explore Camp Pokémon, learning to become a Pokémon trainer.

This is a big step in the right direction for Pokémon video game players, since Nintendo has as yet refused to put it’s incredibly lucrative Pokémon RPG games on any platform besides its own. However, The Pokemon Company owns the rights to the card game; they can put it on any platform they choose.

“Kids will have a blast exploring Camp Pokémon as they immerse themselves in the Pokémon universe in a fun, interactive setting,” said The Pokémon Company’s J.C. Smith. “Parents will love watching their little campers participate in fun activities and create memories at the virtual Pokémon island.”

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How Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff keeps the laughs coming

Photo:

Exclusive behind-the-scenes sketches show Quahog destroyed by Peter’s fowl archnemesis. Photo: TinyCo/Fox

Hit TV show Family Guy followed a trajectory that’s very similar to Apple’s. The show appeared as a breath of fresh air early on, underwent a decline during which it almost vanished, then made a triumphant return.

In that way, Family Guy always seemed a perfect fit for iOS. Earlier this year, that pairing finally happened when developer TinyCo debuted Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, a mobile game that follows Peter Griffin and the rest of the Fox TV show’s colorful supporting cast as they rebuild the town of Quahog after it’s been destroyed.

Six months down the line — and with the game currently in the middle of a haunting, courtesy of its Halloween update — Cult of Mac spoke with the developers about Seth McFarlane, making games funny, and the perils of in-app purchases.

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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel blasts onto the Mac with more shootin’ and lootin’

Same-day release on Mac, PC, Linux, and console! Photo: Aspyr

Same-day release on Mac, PC, Linux, and console! Photo: Aspyr

Handsome Jack, the erstwhile villain of Borderlands 2, had to start somewhere. It’s not easy taking over an entire corporation, let alone a whole planet.

His story begins much more humbly, however, with Jack working as a programmer at Hyperion Corporation. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, in some part at least, aims to tell the story of this psychopath’s rise to power.

What’s even better is that this newly released game, available on all the consoles and PC on Steam, is also available for Mac thanks to the tireless efforts of the best Mac game publisher around, Aspyr.

That means that if you rock a Macintosh computer as your main gaming device (and why not, it’s a fantastic machine!), you’ll be able to shoot your way across the moon of Hyperion, floating through the air with every low gravity jump and using new awesome weapons like the ice and laser weapons.

Check out the trailer below, starring Mr. Torgue High-Five Flexington and Sir Hammerlock, for more hilariously over the top details.

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Skullduggery will turn you into a skull-flinging tax collector and you’ll like it

Flinging skulls, collecting taxes, like you do. Screengrab: Clutch Play Games

Flinging skulls, collecting taxes, like you do. Screengrab: Clutch Play Games

Picture this. You’re a disembodied skull with stretchy brain parts. You use this elasticity to fling yourself around the afterworld, Angry Birds-style, in order to collect taxes from the deadbeats who reside there.

Sound like fun? It is, oddly enough. While Skullduggery may be one of the odder platforming games you’ve played, it’s as challenging and action-packed as anything out there. Once you’ve wrapped your, ahem, head around the control scheme, you’ll find yourself flying through level after level with glee.

Check out the launch trailer below to get a sense of what we mean.

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