Brandon Boyer

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Having sated the core gamer demographic with the tilt-enabled Qix-meets-Trauma Center Dr. Awesome, the laser-line dual-analog shooter Dropship, physics stacker Topple, and, of course, strategic roller Rolando, publisher ngmoco is taking a much more casual bent with its next slate of games.

But first, a quick diversion: via its Twitter feed we learn that in addition to a free level-pack update to Rolando (which has also finally seen the addition of a free Lite version [App Store link]), Hand Circus is hard at work with a proper sequel to the game.

But back to the casuals: in addition to the previously covered Topple sequel and letter-battler Word Fu (from Cambridge studio Demiurge, who previously have played supportive roles in the development of games like Mass Effect and BioShock), ngmoco has announced Touch Pets Dogs, a virtual pet sim from Stumptown Game Machine.

Disappointingly, while Touch Pets is already being brushed off as “just” a Nintendogs clone (as Rolando was with Loco Roco), it’s well worth pointing out that Stumptown head Andrew Stern was well ahead of the pack as one of the designers behind PF.Magic’s original Petz series: specifically, the 1995 release of Dogz and Catz (a franchise now in the hands of Ubisoft).

Stern was also the man behind 2005’s groundbreaking interactive story Façade — which saw players take a third-wheel dinner-date role in the midst of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’-level marital tension. As it turns out, the AI development for Façade is a key part of what Stern is expanding upon for Touch Pets, as he explained to Gamasutra in an excellent recent interview, and promises to make interactions with the pets richer than competing pet sims, certainly those already on the iPhone.

That, in addition to its integrated social scene (players can meet with friend’s dogs, and the game generates a story-like “Dog Feed”) makes this, however casually aimed, another of my most anticipated iPhone titles.

Touch me I'm slick: ngmoco/Hand Circus's Rolando – Offworld
ngmoco shows off iPhone's Dr. Awesome, Dropship – Offworld
Ngmoco promise Word-Fu, more Topple by mid-February – Offworld
Rolando gets papered – Offworld
HandCircus preparing more Rolando for the iPhone, Lite version …

Ready for their closeup: Mikko Walamies’ Rolando art – Offworld

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