Taptiles Saga is a Facebook game from Arkadium. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is receiving regular promotion via sidebar ads in App Center.
Taptiles Saga is essentially a three-dimensional take on mahjong solitaire, with cubic tiles stacked in a tower-like arrangement rather than a flat design with tiles stacked atop each other as in conventional mahjong solitaire. This means that the arrangement can be rotated and viewed from four different angles rather than the top-down view of regular mahjong solitaire. This would actually be a pretty original concept for a puzzle game were it not for the fact that this is now the seventh time Arkadium has used this exact game mechanic across all platforms, and the second time it has used it on Facebook. Still, in a world drowning in Bejeweled-inspired match-3 games and bubble shooters, any game that breaks from the “norm” is worthy of note, regardless of whether the developer has done it before.
Basic gameplay in Taptiles Saga requires players to match pairs of cubic tiles that bear the same symbol. Like in mahjong solitaire, tiles may only be removed if they are free to slide out of their arrangement and are not “blocked in” on two sides. As the player progresses through the game, additional types of tile start to show themselves, including dark magic blocks, which must be matched to clear chains off other blocks, and stone blocks which are unmovable except through use of a “pickaxe” powerup that costs soft currency to use.
The social gaming giant’s nonprofit organization Zynga.org and venture philanthropy firm NewSchools Venture Fund will create an “ed tech” accelerator focused on enhancing the quality and reach of learning games and apps designed to improve education outcomes.
Zynga and NewSchool selected ed tech companies Kidaptive, LocoMotiveLabs, and Motion Math for the program, which will officially start this summer. Edmodo, the world’s largest social learning platform for education, will also join the accelerator as a charter partner. Zynga will provide the companies with work space at its San Francisco headquarters and encourage Zynga employees to volunteer their expertise in game design, testing, analytics, product marketing and distribution. Zynga.org has also agreed to commit $1 million in funding for the accelerator’s first year.
Some of Zynga.org’s previous initiatives allowed players to donate to charitable organizations like Toys for Tots and FATEM by purchasing special in-game items. To date, Zynga.org raised more than $13 million for its non-profit partners.
NewSchools Venture Fund, which is focused on improving public education for low-income children, has invested in many for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Its portfolio of more than 100 organizations includes technology-focused solutions like Engrade, eSpark and GreatSchools.
Social game developer Disrupter Beam, known for its Game of Thrones Ascent title based on the hit HBO TV show, today announced it has joined the Zynga Partners programs.
Game of Thrones Ascent is a city building and management sim adaptation of the TV series of the same name, originally based on George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire.
Game of Thrones Ascent launched on Facebook as an open beta back in February and was recently made available on Kongergate. AppData estimates that the game currently has 295,107 monthly active users, down from its April 26 peak of 397,421 MAU.
The partnership with Zynga is bound to increase the number of players thanks to social gaming giant’s powerful cross-promotion tools. On its recent Q1 2013 earnings call, CEO Mark Pincus revealed that Zynga’s network consists of 253 million MAU across all platforms, 65 million of which are on mobile. The partnership will also bring the game to Zynga.com.
“One thing that I’ve learned in my years of starting and building companies is that gaming companies cannot always be solely responsible for 100 percent of their ‘hits.’” CEO and Founder of Disruptor Beam Jon Radoff said in a statement. “Partnerships are integral to the success of any game company and any game, so we are thrilled to now be working with the amazing team at Zynga to move into the next phase for Game of Thrones Ascent!”
Check in with our weekly posts on the fastest-growing Facebook games by MAU, DAU and top emerging games posts to track the effect of the partnership and see if moves up the charts.
You can also read our full review of Game of Thrones Ascent here.
Bubble Loop is a new Facebook game from Royal Cactus. It’s available now for anyone to play, and is currently being advertised in the sidebar module in Facebook’s App Center.
It’s not difficult to work out what kind of game Bubble Loop is from its rather literal title — with a name like that it’s either going to be a bubble shooter or a Zuma/Puzz Loop clone, and in this case it’s the latter. This is somewhat better than contributing to the oversaturation of genres such as Bejeweled- and Diamond Dash-style “match-3″ puzzlers and traditional bubble shooters, but it’s still an unoriginal concept at its core. That said, Bubble Loop does provide a couple of interesting twists on the usual formula that make it mildly worthy of note — but ultimately it’s still an inferior knockoff of Zuma.
For those unfamiliar with the Zuma/Puzz Loop formula, it is similar to other match-3 genres in that players shoot out colored objects and must form groups of three or more of the same color. Here, though, rather than swapping gems around on a grid or shooting bubbles at a predefined arrangement, the colored orbs here roll slowly around a predefined track on their way to dropping down a hole. If the pearls drop down the hole before the level’s objective has been completed, the player fails. If the player runs out of time, the pearls immediately rush forward and drop down the hole, failing the level if they have not completed the objective by this point. The one interesting twist on the usual formula that Bubble Loop provides is the facility to end a level early — if the player completes all of the objectives for a level and does not wish to continue playing until time expires or the pearls fall down the hole, they can simply click an “End Game” button to prematurely end the level. This is obviously not the best way to get high scores, but for those primarily playing solo and attempting to “beat” the game, it is an efficient means of making rapid progress.
Foxli Rush is a new Facebook game from NGames. It’s available now in open beta on Facebook, and is currently advertising heavily in the social network’s sidebar module.
Foxli Rush is a simple combination of citybuilder and role-playing game, in which players take on the role of either the male FoxLi or his female counterpart Peach, who is pretty much the same sprite but pink instead of red. Players must help train FoxLi or Peach by sending them on expeditions, equipping them with items, building an army for them and constructing buildings in their home town that help to power them up and provide them with income.
The flow of the game in its early stages is very heavily directed by quests, most of which hold the player’s hand a little too enthusiastically, initially pointing out every single button they need to click on and even where to place new buildings. As the player progresses, the game does start to relax a little, but the quest system is still a little stifling, railroading the player down a single path for far too long rather than allowing them to discover things for themselves — or even to present them with a choice of things to do at any one time.
Laboratz is a Facebook game from French developer Adictiz. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and showed up as the No. 2 emerging Facebook game last week.
Laboratz is a virtual card game based heavily on the “Triple Triad” minigame from Square Enix’s 1999 PlayStation role-playing game Final Fantasy VIII, though no acknowledgement is given to its obvious inspiration. The game sees players collecting a variety of cards that depict cartoonish mutated rats and then using these cards to battle against other players. As the player progresses through the game, they will be able to obtain new cards and upgrade their existing ones.
Jelly Glutton is a Facebook game from Royal Cactus. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is currently showing up in the Trending section of the Games category on App Center.
Jelly Glutton is a match-3 puzzle game that takes very strong cues from King’s immensely popular Candy Crush Saga. In other words, it takes a linear level-based structure with a variety of different objectives to complete, ranging from attaining a specific score in a set number of moves to clearing all of the “jelly” from a stage by making matches atop it. As the player progresses through the levels, they proceed through a number of different visual themes, all of which are food-based. This gives a degree of variety to the game’s aesthetic, if not the gameplay.
Forbidden Garden (also known simply as Evil Game) is a Facebook game from Russian developer RedSpell and published by 6waves. It’s the follow-up to the company’s previous title Astro Garden (also known as both Nano Farm and The Big Farm Theory), which we reviewed here. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is currently featured on the front page of the App Center.
Forbidden Garden is essentially the same game as Astro Garden, but with an “evil” twist. Players take on the role of a generic villain or villainess and must gradually build up their evil base to assert their dominance across the land while attempting to bring various evil schemes to fruition. This is achieved in largely the same way as in every other isometric-perspective building-centric social game out there — harvesting resources, constructing buildings to provide income, clearing garbage and gradually expanding across the land.
The core gameplay is not all that original or interesting, then, but like its predecessor, Forbidden Garden adds a few interesting twists to the mix. Once certain buildings have been constructed, for example, tedious tasks like harvesting resources can be automated, freeing up the player to go and do more exciting things. Other buildings open up new gameplay features — for example, constructing a library allows the player to research new technologies on a Civilization-style “tech tree” to improve their capabilities and capacity to do more things at once. Certain quests also advance the game’s unfolding story, which centers around the player character’s attempts to become a universally feared evil overlord.
SlotoLotto Slot Machines is a new Facebook game from Peak Games. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is currently featured on the front page of App Center.
SlotoLotto Slot Machines is a very conventional slot machine simulation that allows players to compete on a selection of 18 different virtual machines, though only one is available to begin with. The game opens with a completely unnecessary tutorial that simply points out things like the “spin” button and doesn’t really explain how the machine itself works — a simple help screen pointing out interface elements would have been better and got players into the game quicker.
Once past the initial tutorial, which is mercifully short, gameplay takes the form of some very straightforward multi-line slot machines. Players gain experience points for each spin, with more experience gained for larger bets. Leveling up sometimes unlocks new machines, and these later machines tend to offer a combination of more possible win lines and larger allowed bets per line. Leveling up also rewards the player with virtual currency bonuses — though as usual, virtual currency may also be purchased and acquired in small quantities through a regular timed bonus mechanic that counts down in the corner of the screen.
Dragon King Mahjong is a Facebook game from the Texas-based Simply Good Games. It’s been showing activity since January of this year, but has recently been appearing in the Trending section of Facebook’s App Center.
Like most other “mahjong” games on Facebook, Dragon King Mahjong is not actually a digital version of the rather complex multiplayer mahjong game. Instead, it is an adaptation of mahjong solitaire, also known as Shanghai solitaire. In this single-player game, a set of mahjong tiles are laid out in an aesthetically-pleasing or symbolic pattern, and the player must remove as many of the tiles as possible by matching “open” tiles — those which are free to move horizontally in one or both directions — into pairs.
In regular mahjong solitaire, tiles may not be removed until they have been incorporated into a pair; in Dragon King Mahjong, however, clicking on a single open tile places it in a “select slot” ready for later matching. As the player gains experience levels through playing the game, they open up additional select slots, allowing them to complete a particular arrangement more easily by having several half-finished pairs on the go at once. This is a subtle change to the basic mahjong solitaire rules, but it actually has quite a large impact on the gameplay, as removing an open tile and placing it in the select slot will usually cause another tile to become open, which can subsequently be incorporated into the pair.