IUGO is a developer to watch right now. Having won critical acclaim for the Boom Blox Java game it made for EA Mobile, the developer is now setting its sights on the iPhone.
So far, IUGO has announced three iPhone games: Toy Bot Diaries, Shaky Summit and Re-Volt.
Each is innovative in its own way, so we fired some questions at Sarah Thomson, IUGO's business development executive, to find out more.
We started with Toy Bot Diaries, which is an intriguing physics-based exploration game. Is the iPhone particularly suitable for this kind of title?
"It's an ideal device for developing a physics-based game like this," says Thomson. "The accelerometer and touchscreen provide very intuitive controls that make it possible to control the game in a very natural way."
However, she points out that the challenge is in using these controls in the most suitable way, so they don't get in the way of the gameplay itself. She reckons IUGO has nailed it with this game.
"We've had gamers of all experiences playing this game and thoroughly enjoying it," says Thomson. "We feel the touch screen and accelerometer connect players more deeply with the game and offer a richer, more interactive experience."
Another interesting aspect to Toy Bot Diaries is its planned episodic nature, with a series of instalments planned to hit the App Store. What's the thinking behind that?
"We really liked the idea of being able to develop a storyline over a period of time while allowing the team to give full attention to detail incrementally," she says. "It was a great way to get a really fun game up on the Apps Store relatively quickly without sacrificing on quality."
That said, Thomson admits that the episodic model is fairly risky, given that there's no history on iPhone to prove that it works. "This is all uncharted territory for every company involved with the Apps Store," she says.
"IUGO likes taking risks with cutting edge games, interesting new business models for mobile games, and other nascent concepts within the mobile space. That's what being a small independent developer is all about; no big bureaucracy to fight with and slow us down."
Thomson says IUGO will continue to develop games for publishers though, a la Boom Blox, as well as releasing its own games through the App Store.
So what about Shaky Summit? There weren't that many gameplay details when the iPhone title was announced, but the screenshots made it look interesting. What's the game about?
"It's a great little game that anyone can play," says Thomson. "It's set in high altitude amidst mountainous terrain at your fingertips. The casual game play, dead-easy controls and simplified HUD allows for a quick learning curve, while the vivid 3D graphics combine with an enthralling, interactive environment."
We're still intrigued, but we'll have to wait until the end of this summer to find out exactly how the game plays.
But it's IUGO's other iPhone game that's caused the biggest stir so far. Re-Volt was first shown off at the BREW conference in San Diego earlier this year, and had people gawping with its 3D first-person-shooter thrills.
Is there any news on an actual release for it though? "It's amazing how well-received Re-Volt has been," says Thomson. "What started out as simply a 3D tech demo for the iPhone has turned into our most highly anticipated iPhone game yet."
"We have big, big plans for Re-Volt," she continues, saying that IUGO wanted to ease its way into iPhone development with Toy Bot Diaries and Shaky Summit first.
"We hope to begin full development on Re-Volt soon, but are fully aware of the hefty ambition we have attached to this game. This will be no small development cycle and a sizable labour of love for our talented team."
That's good to hear. So when will that development cycle end? "I think it's safe to say you'll be able to get your hands on Re-Volt early next year," says Thomson.
"Rest assured that it's still alive and well. It'll be worth the wait!"