Tiff Chow

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Following the release of their Star Defense alongside Apple’s WWDC keynote, iPhone publisher Ngmoco recently held a showcase of their upcoming games in the pipeline at the W’s XYZ bar, including Rolando 2, Touch Pets: Dogs, and their still-unnamed touch-and-shoot FPS.

Peering over Simon Oliver of Hand Circus’ shoulder, I watched as he demonstrated some of the newfangled treats coming to the much anticipated Rolando 2. Expanding upon its original cast to include a colorful bunch that range in character and physicality, the game has teamed up with writer Micah Wright (scriptwriter behind the Destroy All Humans series, and, interestingly enough, a handful of episodes of the 90’s Nickelodeon show The Angry Beavers) to bring a more developed narrative with quirkier character personalities.

Oliver simulated how girthier Rolandos will be of great use in some of the new water-oriented puzzles (whereas smaller Rolandos bob helplessly at the water’s surface) and gas-filled Rolandos take to the levels floating instead of rolling for a unique range of physic-based puzzles. New power-up fruits will provide a variety of abilities, and new vehicles like the revenge-fueled “Spikey Death Ball” will allow players to obliterate level enemies when they couldn’t do so before. Aside from the “Boom Finger”, which upon charging allows players to tap-bomb pathway obstructions, it would be a shame to spoil too many of the terrific goodies in Rolando 2, due for a release sometime soon this summer.

Next I sat down with Matthew Roberts of ngmoco, who let me swipe around with his virtual pup in Touch Pets: Dogs. After leveling up the pup’s happiness with a few loving taps on his head (followed by the expected happy aftermath of cleaning up a poop in the back yard), I dressed him up in a ball cap and took him over to the fire station, where he successfully completed a kitten rescuing “Puppy RPG” (while these side-quests aren’t player controlled, your success in them does depend on pet’s level).

Online socializing is important for virtual pets too, so sending your dog off to play with other players’ pets on their phones will increase their socialization levels (and perchance, even a budding romance level!). But despite the vast range of pet relationship building in Touch Pets, I have to admit that I was most thrilled by Stumptown Game Machine‘s Andrew Stern involvement with the game. This explained my tingling excitement when I recognized familiar character art, and even an identical water bowl sound effect from his desktop Petz series. It’s a stretch, but I can only hope that a Touch Pets: Oddballz will follow sometime in the future.

On the other side of the room, the still-unnamed shooter project LiveFire looked to pack plenty of handheld, multi-player fun, allowing players to compete against each other with the support of ngmoco’s servers. While I was a bit butter-fingered between attempts of hand-held pwning, on shooting an opponent I was quick to collect the experience points that were left behind.

As was hinted at a few weeks back, experience gained unlocks a wide lineup of power suits that signify expertise while enabling special abilities, and while I only had a few minutes to play before leaving, I would have stuck around to upgrade to something like a more hardcore (and hydrophilic) Amphibian suit to stylishly pummel around in between levels.

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