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Electronic Arts unveiled a bunch of games at its EA Summer Showcase yesterday, and a quite a few were iPhone titles.
That’s no surprise, considering EA and its Chillingo division are huge publishers of mobile games for iOS (Apple’s iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch) and Android. EA Mobile, Chillingo, and EA’s PopCap division are slugging it out with the likes of Zynga, Gameloft, Glu Mobile, Playfirst and a bunch of startups. We got a look at some of the titles at EA’s event, where the company highlighted a mix of games that are already published, still to come, or being relaunched. The mobile game world is fragmented and unpredictable, so EA’s strategy is to throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Orc: Vengeance, pictured at top, lets you play as Rok, an orc war chief on a quest for vengeance in a fantasy role-playing adventure. For once, after years of defamation at the hands of J.R.R. Tolkien, the humble orc gets to be the good guy. The Dark Lord has risen and enslaved your orc brothers. You have to defeat him and restore balance to the world. EA’s Chillingo published the Big Cave Games-developed title on July 26 for iOS devices. The adventure-action game features cool visuals for a mobile game, intense combat, dynamic controls, and a bunch of boss battles. The game also has a story campaign, lots of loot, and dynamic touch controls.
Happy Squirrels is on the other end of the spectrum. Players keep their squirrel population happy in a time management game. You can upgrade and add rooms to your giant oak tree, collect nuts and potions, and customize your squirrel foreman. The game features minigames, hidden items, and a cutesy art style. You can build saunas or night clubs for your squirrels, customize your characters, and compete against other tree-house builders. It’s targeted at kids ages 4 and up and is coming out on iOS this summer. Ipanema Games is developing the title, and Chillingo is publishing it. If you’re dying from too much cuteness, you better go play Orc: Vengeance instead.
PopCap, meanwhile, showed off its Talking Zombatar free-to-play app for iOS and Android. The app is a cute derivative of the Talking Friends series from Outfit7, but it uses the zombies from the wildly popular Plants vs. Zombies franchise. You can dress your zombie up in funny clothes and make it do all sorts of dance moves, from ballet to disco. Choose from accessories like shoes and hats and give your Zombatar its own brainless personality. Then you can make it say things that come out in a zombie voice. You have to figure someone is going to think this is a great idea, and it’s one way to make the franchise more fun. The game was developed by PopCap’s team in Beijing. It will release in the fourth quarter.
I had a lukewarm reaction to Word Derby. In this game, you play against three other friends in an asynchronous word challenge (where one player takes two turns at a time, one to catch your opponents and your next turn). You all start with a set of letters and then try to form the longest word you can from the set. It’s a test of your vocabulary under the duress of a timer (you get more bonus points if you beat the timer). The person who scores the best word moves the farthest on a cute little carnival-like race track. Power-ups and bonuses add another layer to the competition. You can play up to 20 games simultaneously and even more if others invite you.
I didn’t look at Word Derby for a long time, but it seemed to move a little too slowly for my fancy. Hopefully, the developers will speed up play by the time the game launches. It has a unique cross-device style going for it, so you can see what your fellow web-connected players are doing at the same time you’re taking a turn. The developer is Mention Mobile, and EA Chillingo is publishing. It will be out this summer on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
Commando Jack is an action-packed twist on tower defense games. You are Earth’s best soldier, and you have to save the world from aliens. Players place towers to stop the hordes and then climb into a turret to take them down in first-person mode. Commando Jack contains tons of tower types, different kinds of enemies, and a campaign. Colossal Games created the game, and Chillingo published it. It has already debuted and is targeted at ages 8 and up.
Rounding out the collect was Chimpact, a “flinging” game where you toss your chimpanzee at different targets. Players explore luscious rainforest environments with a bunch of animal characters, collecting bunches of bananas and finding hidden gems. Part of the goal is to find secret paths, avoid obstacles, and time your jumps exactly. Chimpact features one-touch gameplay, nice jungle visuals, and three worlds to explore with 12 levels each. You can unlock four chimps and eight abilities. The game will be out on iOS in August. The developer is Yippee Entertainment and the publisher is Chillingo.
One of the relaunch games is Surviving High School, which has been on the charts for a few years. My kids still play this game all the time, and they like getting the weekly installments that take the story further. It’s an interactive story where you play a student at Twin Branches High. As a boy, you get into fights and have to make choices; as a girl, you navigate the social structure. The series has had more than 300 episodes over three years. The game is relaunching on iOS with an all-new version in September.
The cool thing that my kids will get excited about is the novel. M. Doty, the original writer of the game, also penned the book version, which expands the social world of the high school and deepens the fans’ understanding of central characters in the game. The story follows the adventures of Emily Kessler, who is trying to achieve perfect grades and record-breaking swim times. A sequel to the book with follow in May 2013. The novel will be published in September by Little, Brown’s Poppy label. That’s an example of a transmedia strategy: A company takes a property that is popular in one entertainment medium and moves it to another.