GDC 2011: Halfbrick's Machine Gun Jetpack
Halfbrick Studios is one of my favorite developers on iOS. While they've released games on other platforms before (including the PS3 and the Nintendo DS), here at GDC 2011, they told me that "iOS development is always our focus." They've found a huge hit with Fruit Ninja, but they're not resting on their laurels. Fresh off Monster Dash (my favorite Canabalt-alike on the App Store) Halfbrick is going to return to the running genre with a new game called Machine Gun Jetpack.
If you've played Monster Dash, you'll know that's one of the special weapons from the game -- a machine gun pointed down that allows you to hover in the air. And the Machine Gun Jetpack game lets you do just that. As hero Barry Steakfries runs along, he has to jump up and hover past obstacles and enemies, adding a vertical component to the Canabalt setup. Just like Monster Dash, things get fast and furious, though unlike Monster Dash, you haven't got much room for error -- one hit and it's game over (unless you're lucky -- read on).
Along the way, you can pick up power-ups that let you do things like fly ahead and/or dodge the obstacles. The "Lil' Stomper" robot suit flings you along in a cyborg outfit, and the "Crazy Freakin' Teleporter" is a toy that lets you teleport a few yards ahead, according to a target that swings back and forth. The game is quite fun, and the power-ups all feel... powerful; they give Barry a lot of options to run with, and almost all of them last longer the better you get at the game.
As you move, you also collect coins, and at the end of your run, those coins go into a slot machine that can churn out various prizes. Some of those affect your current run (like giving you a second chance at life or just pushing your fallen corpse ahead a few more yards), while others affect your next run, like starting you off farther along or granting a speed bonus early. It's a fun mechanic, and it means that even when the main part of the game is over, the whole thing isn't quite done yet.
You can use the currency you earn to purchase special in-game upgrades, or you can spend money via in-app purchases on things like faster jumping or longer sliding. Because of that, the game will sell at just 99 cents. Halfbrick expects to have it ready by sometime this summer.
Halfbrick is growing -- the Australian company has about 50 people now, working across five teams for all of their games. Machine Gun Jetpack is the only iOS game they have planned (that they want to talk about), though a Facebook version of Fruit Ninja is also coming out this summer (with a long-awaited no-bombs option for Arcade mode). Other platforms are of interest to the company, but iOS is where they really want to be, and as customers of Apple's platform, we're glad to have them.
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