Macworld Expo 2011: Trouble Brothers' Sword of Fargoal 2 and other titles

Mike Schramm
M. Schramm|02.03.11

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Macworld Expo 2011: Trouble Brothers' Sword of Fargoal 2 and other titles

Jeff McCord and Steve Shippert head up a Seattle-based company called Trouble Brothers, and while I visited their booth at Macworld to talk about iOS games, the two have quite a gaming history. They met while playing trivia games in Seattle, and they have worked on real-life board games in the past. They've also done some educational game titles and even a city-wide treasure hunt in their hometown. So these guys know gaming, and the games they've produced for iOS make that very clear.

First up, I got to see Sword of Fargoal 2. Sword of Fargoal is one of the most popular RPG titles on the App Store -- it's a retro title that is based on an old roguelike game that's actually run by another company -- Fargoal, LLC -- of which McCord is a part. With his partners Elias Pshernig and Lead Designer Paul Pridham, McCord was showing the game at the same booth, even though it's not technically a Trouble Brothers title.

Sword of Fargoal 2 keeps that basic idea, but updates the aesthetic quite a bit. In addition to new music and new dungeon types, there will also be new classes to play via in-app purchase (Thief, Magic user, Ranger and Fighter) as well as male and female versions of each. I also got to see some new animated openings for the game, and they look terrific.

The game looks great and plays well, so if you're a fan of the first version, you'll probably love the second. And you'll love the model they've chosen as well -- Sword of Fargoal 2 will be a free update for owners of Sword of Fargoal, and it will be universal on the iPhone and the iPad. Sword of Fargoal Legends, now only available on the iPad, will become universal and remain on the App Store as the "classic version." That's nice -- it allows new players to explore both versions, while current fans get the sequel for free.

That game will be available later on this month, but the Mac version of Sword of Fargoal will be out soon. That's right -- Trouble Brothers has also updated the first app for Mac, and it will be on sale for US$4.99. Again, the game runs well -- it can be played full screen or just in a window, so it'll be perfect for just pulling up and dungeon crawling for a few minutes (probably while you're meant to be working).

Trouble Brothers also have a few other games they're working on. Wizard Hex is the first -- the idea here was that they wanted to make a simple token-based multiplayer game (think Chess or Checkers) for the iOS interface, and Wizard Hex is what they came up with. The game's somewhat simple to learn (you can move tiles out onto the board one at a time, and you just move your tile over another player's tile to attack it, with the winner remaining), but tough to master, as certain various elements can ally together, meaning you sometimes won't be able to attack your opponent directly, or you can sometimes move his pieces as your own.

Unfortunately, because the game ends when all the pieces are one color or when the relatively small gameboard is full, the games tend to be short, only about five minutes each. The Brothers say if people want to play a longer game, they can just play a few matches at a time, but if you're looking for a long-term style board game, you'll have to look elsewhere. Still, Wizard Hex seems really fun for a quick multiplayer strategy game -- it's on the App Store now and will be coming soon to the Mac App Store as well.

Finally, I got to see two other unreleased games. Cargo Runners is probably the biggest game Trouble Brothers is working on -- it's a European-style board game (that they're also working to publish in real-life) where little cargo ships travel the world, picking up and delivering various types of cargo. While the version I saw was still in progress, it looked like a lot of fun -- there's a world map with various cargo routes, and players can move around by rolling dice and using cards to do their transporting. The real-life version of the game will be released in 2012 and will take a little longer than the iPad version to play, though the iPad version will be around 30 minutes of playtime per session, so it's a nice solid strategy experience. They're expecting to price it at $7.99 and have it out later on this month as well, with updates coming after that.

Match-o-Matic is the last title, though it was the least finished of the three. Since the Trouble Brothers first met while playing trivia in a Seattle bar, they thought it only fitting that they actually make a trivia game for iOS. Match-o-Matic looks like a fun one -- the interface is super mechanical and designed to look like an old jukebox at a bar. Little panels flip around on screen to show various pictures as part of a category, and then players can bet points and choose questions as they play. It looked like fun and should move fast, and I was told that it, too, would be out later this month for the iPad ($2.99 -- they weren't sure about an iPhone release yet).

All of the Trouble Brothers titles are great games. McCord and Shippert have definitely brought their publishing experience to bear on these titles -- they're all well polished and really ingenious. They also told me they've got three contracted teams of developers working on games, and most of those guys are talented iOS devs in their own right. This will definitely be a company to watch over the next year of iOS gaming.

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