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The Sandbox: iGaming (and the 10 Indie iPhone Games You Need to Check Out Now)

The Sandbox: iGaming (and the 10 Indie iPhone Games You Need to Check Out Now) (photo)

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The iPhone will soon rule the world, and, thanks to the App Store, that goes for the gaming sphere as well. Apple’s venue for smartphone applications of every variety that now boasts upwards of 10,000 different games, many available for free and plenty of others for five bucks or less. Couple that range of choice with the iPhone’s impressive graphics capabilities and speed (especially in the new 3Gs) and its touchscreen and motion-detection interface, and the device is poised to make — and, really, is already making — enormous inroads in a mobile gaming market previously dominated by the Nintendo DSi and, to a far lesser extent, the Sony PSP. And in a welcome twist, much of that traction is thanks not to mainstream publishers, but to indie developers.

It’s easy to see why indie titles have flourished, at least in terms of accolades, if not always sales, on the iPhone. The iPhone allows for two main methods of interactivity: you can touch or swipe the screen, or you can shake or tilt the entire device. Because of this, it’s often not well-suited for direct ports of popular PC and console games which were been created with either a keyboard or multi-button handheld controller in mind. Playing something like the Xbox/PS3 smash “Assassin’s Creed” on the iPhone feels forced and unnatural, an experience that extends to many AAA titles that have been shrunk down to palm size.

Even the Babe Ruth of mobile games, “Tetris,” which addicted millions on the Nintendo Game Boy, has made what’s at best an uneasy transition to the iPhone, since spinning and dropping falling blocks is just less smooth when you have to do it by tapping the screen at the side of a block to turn it. Credit “Tetris” publisher EA Mobile with working with what they had, but it’s a far cry from ideal.

For the most part indie developers face no such hurdles, since so many have made games exclusively for the iPhone. And because of that, the results have often been fantastic, especially in genres — like strategy, card and puzzle games — that rely more on simple, precise mechanics than on lightning fast reflexes. Take “Trism,” a game developed by one man, Steve Demeter, that reportedly netted $250,000 in profits during its first two months of release. Similar to “Bejeweled,” the object of this excellent puzzler is to slide rows of multicolored triangles around a board (with your finger) to create matching-colored diamonds. When you makes a match, the diamonds disappear and the remaining pieces slide into place (in a direction that depends on the position you’re holding your phone). “Trism” throws in a variety of tough obstacles to make gameplay more complex, but its the game’s intuitive accessibility and addictive playability that continues to make it one of the budding system’s must-haves.

07312009_fieldrunners.jpgIf puzzle games aren’t your thing, the iPhone has countless other styles sure to suit your needs. For aficionados of “tower defense” — a genre in which you place defensive devices (guns, laser blasters, rockets, etc.) around a landscape in an attempt to protect a base from hordes of incoming enemies -0 there’s simply nothing better than “Fieldrunners.” a Subatomic Studios production (and winner of Best Mobile Game at this year’s prestigious Independent Games Festival) in which you strategically deploy Gatling guns, goo cannons, missile launchers and lightning zappers on a rectangular stretch of land to prevent adversaries from reaching a path. It’s a perfect example of how simplicity in premise and design figure in to the greatest iPhone games. Throw in sturdy graphics and a couldn’t-be-easier control scheme in which you drag weapons to desired locations (and click on them to upgrade their firepower capabilities), and “Fieldrunners” stands as the best effort yet in an increasingly overcrowded iPhone game category.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.