Mike Schramm

    Mike Schramm

    Mike has worked in the Joystiq Network since 2006, as lead blogger and senior editor on WoW.com and one of the founding editors on Massively.com. Currently, he is a contributing editor on Joystiq, and also writes and podcasts for various outlets, including The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

  • Limbo now available on the App Store

    As expected, the creepy but excellent Limbo is now available on the iOS App Store, and playable on your iPhone or iPad. Playdead won a lot of awards and critical acclaim with this title, which takes a mysterious young boy on a journey to save his sister through several environments. The game is an excellently designed platformer with interesting physics puzzles that get increasingly complex. The overall feel of the game can be a little spooky (especially that giant spider), but even scaredy cats will appreciate the craft of it. Limbo is US$4.99 on the App Store, which may sound expensive, but the same game is still $9.99 on Steam, so we're getting it for half price right away. If you haven't sat down to play it on a PC or console yet, definitely consider picking it up.

  • Daily iPhone App: Ending is an excellently pure gaming experience

    Ending is one of my favorite kinds of games. It's an almost language-free experience. When the game starts, all you're given is a few arrows and a hammer as icons on the screen. That's it. The two arrows lead to the game's two different modes. The first is a puzzle mode, where you have a series of levels to navigate through. The way the game works is that you can move your little protagonist (represented by a stylized "@" symbol, in reference to the great roguelike genre) around by swiping, and you can conquer any of your "enemies" on the screen by swiping into them. The problem is that those enemies can also defeat you with one hit, so you need to make sure that whenever you move, you're not sliding into a square in danger. The second mode is an endless version of the puzzle stages, where all of the enemies that you gradually find in the puzzle game run after you right away. It's a wild take on the roguelike genre that doesn't use any words to teach you what to do: It's just a very pure game. The hammer launches a level-creation mode, which was cool, but confusing. Some things might require a little bit of language. Still, fans of the game probably won't need anything more than that mass of buttons, and the rest of us have plenty to play with in the other modes anyway. Ending is a terrific title, and it's one of those games that does a whole lot with very little. Developer Aaron Steed has put together a really interesting take on what's essentially dungeon exploration, and at a universal price of just US$0.99, this one is a must try.

  • Foxconn applies for license, aiming to get into wireless service

    Apple's parts manufacturer of choice, Foxconn, doesn't seem very happy with its current industry. The company recently made its own iPhone-compatible smartwatch (in order to show off that it could design its own devices), and now the Wall Street Journal reports that Foxconn's parent company, Hon Hai, has applied for a high-speed wireless broadband license in Taiwan. An auction for the frequency will happen in September of this year, with bidders being announced in August. This move certainly makes it seem like the company is aiming to provide wireless service, which is a nice industry jump from where it's at right now. Foxconn doesn't seem content with assembling parts for Apple lately, and could be in a few different industries by the end of this year. We'll have to wait and see if that affects Apple's production line at all. It doesn't seem like Foxconn would want to hurt its relationship with Apple, but if it would rather sell products directly to consumers, then it's possible the core business could falter a bit. [via BGR]

  • Badland gets new levels in Day 2 update

    Badland is a wild little platformer from Finnish developer Frogmind, and it now boasts 10 new levels thanks to a new update. The developers have been working on delivering a set of content they call Day 2, with 10 levels of "Dawn" released about a month ago. Now, they've added the "Noon" levels for Day 2, which adds 10 new areas for you to explore with the game's little flapping hero. There are also 30 new missions and five new achievements to try and conquer. Frogmind has even released a new trailer for the additional content, so you can see it in action. Badland is an excellent little game that's US$3.99 right now, and with new content like this coming all the time, that price just keeps getting more worth it.

  • Daily iPhone App: League of Evil 3 stays on the high-quality path

    When it comes to virtual controls on a touchscreen, it's hard for developers to pull them off right. Either they're just not responsive enough, or they block the touchscreen, or your finger ends up sliding off of the "touchable" area at just the wrong second. The League of Evil is an example of touch screen controls done right. This game started out as one of the best platformers on the iOS App Store, and it's only gotten better. The latest version, League of Evil 3, just arrived last week. Unfortunately, it doesn't really offer any new moves. You can still jump, wall-jump and double jump as before, and each level has plenty of obstacles to sneak past and a special briefcase to collect. But the graphics have been updated to look better than ever, and if nothing else, this sequel offers over 80 new levels to play through. There are also new ways to watch replays, including ghosts and an Everyplay tie-in. This release also comes with iCloud saves (to track your progress across multiple devices) and a new bit of story told with hand-drawn cutscenes. Plus, the controls are smooth as silk, as you'd imagine. League of Evil 3 is yet another excellent platformer by Ravenous Games, and you can grab it right now for US$1.99.

  • The Walking Dead's '400 Days' episode comes to Mac this week, iOS on July 11

    IGN reports that the new, extra episode of Telltale's The Walking Dead series will be arriving on both Mac and iOS very soon. And by "soon," we mean this week for the Mac (on Steam and Telltale's site), and July 11 for iOS. The episode, first revealed back at E3, is called "400 Days," and is supposed to serve as a halfway step between the game's first season and the upcoming second. The Walking Dead game is critically acclaimed as one of the best games of last year, and while I played (and enjoyed) it on the Xbox 360, it also earned a lot of praise on iOS as well. If you've played the first series already, you'll want to try and play this episode on the same platform, because your choices should carry over in the storyline. I don't want to know anything about the episode before I play it, but in case you do, here's a launch trailer from Telltale that you can watch now. I'm going to pass, though -- this game and this series are so great that I know I'll play this episode no matter what. We look forward to continuing this very gripping story.

  • Phil Libin shares some insight on Evernote's future

    Fortune has had a quick chat with our friend Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote, a company that has grown by leaps and bounds since we last talked. Evernote was popular back when it simply tracked notes and photos. Today the company has acquired Skitch and a few other companies, and is making inroads with services like Evernote for Business. Evernote claims 66 million users at the moment, and says that over 2 million of them are paying customers.The company is basically a software provider, but Libin says there are lots of other ideas in the works. He's got an idea for an encryption format of some kind, to be announced later this year. He sees possibilities for hardware products, too. Evernote recently released a notebook designed for easy scanning, and it's not hard to imagine other kinds of projects that would make uploading and browsing stored notes even easier. Libin also doesn't deny that going public is an option for Evernote, though the Fortune piece says it won't happen for another few years. Evernote has grown a lot in its short life (the service originally launched in 2008), and it sounds like there's a lot more growing to do.

  • Comixology adds options for subscriptions and bundles (update: Web app only)

    Comixology is, as we've discussed here before, basically the premiere app for comic books on Apple's iPad. And now, the app (well, the web app at least) is adding one more feature to its already long list. Starting today, you can subscribe to your favorite comics right inside the app's web store, which means that instead of going in every week to buy the comics you want, you can tap one button, and you'll automatically pick up a comic when it arrives. That's pretty handy if you buy a lot of comics -- it's like having your own personal comic book store pulling issues as you need them. The company has also added support for buying comics in bundles, which means those deals we occasionally see come out of Comixology's offices will probably be a lot better (it's much easier to buy a bunch of comics at a time for cheap, rather than a ton of issues individually on sale). This also means that the company can bundle up storylines and back issues, so finding what you want to read and purchasing it all in one go should be a piece of cake. Update: Bundles and subscriptions are only available on the web app, we're told. But you can definitely buy comics on the web, and then browse them on your iPad.

  • Daily iPhone App: Clone Booth is wacky, but simple

    We reported last month that the makers of You Don't Know Jack, formerly called Jellyvision, had changed its name to Jackbox Software. Now, Clone Booth is the very first release under the new brand. Unfortunately, this isn't a game at all. It's a utility of sorts that lets you insert your face into a number of different old-timey pictures, "cloning" yourself in wacky ways. You can see an example of how it works above -- you snap a picture on one face, and then you can fix or adjust the other faces as needed. Unfortunately, it's all just for one face, so you can't snap a few different faces and insert them into the photos as needed. That seems like it would have been a fun option, and added a little more functionality to the app. When you're done, you can share your photos off to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the other standard services you see above. Clone Booth is simple and it's only US$0.99. If the photo above makes you giggle and the prospect of making your own seems like it's worth a buck, go nuts. The rest of us will probably wait and see what Jackbox is working on next.

  • Apple's French offices raided by competition authorities

    Apple's French headquarters was raided recently. Over a 24-hour period, French competition authorities entered Apple's offices and went through documents involving Apple and the distributors it works with, looking for some sign of impropriety. The raid was reportedly brought on by a French company called eBizcuss, which went to the French authorities to complain that Apple (whose products eBizcuss sells exclusively) was holding back stock for its own stores rather than sharing new products with distributors. eBizcuss filed a complaint, and that led to the investigation. The French government has bumped up against Apple on competition before, first in its iOS App Store and then regarding the price of digital downloads. But so far, no charges have been brought forward, so we'll have to see what becomes of whatever information was found during this raid.

  • Daily iPhone App: Home is a creepy but well-constructed tale

    Home probably isn't for everyone, but a certain type of audience will really love it. The game is an indie title originally put together for the PC by a developer named Benjamin Rivers, and it's in the horror-adventure genre. The controls are very simple: You walk left and right by tapping on either side of the screen. You can look up by tapping up, and you can interact with objects in the environment by double-tapping on them when you're close. That's it. But Home works its magic in other, weirder ways. Early in the game, your character finds a flashlight, and most of the game just involved wandering around a creepy house, slowly finding photos and items that reveal just what the experience is all about. Text appears when you interact with items, but it's all in the past tense, so you're playing out a story that has already happened, and the choices you make are part of the story being told. It's a fascinating experiment in storytelling, and while it can get a bit macabre at times, this is an indie experience that does a whole lot with relatively little. Home is available for US$2.99 on the App Store now, and though the award-winning indie title already has its fans on the PC, it's a solid addition to Apple's iOS lineup.

  • Strange Flavour previews new iOS games

    Strange Flavour is an iOS app developer (founded back in 2000) with a long history behind it. Coder Aaron Fothergill used to program games for Mac and consoles, until he switched over to iOS, and made apps for the old dev/publisher Freeverse. Freeverse was later bought by Ngmoco, and now Fothergill is on his own, getting a few games together under the banner of Strange Flavour (the "u" needs to be there: he's English). In this video from WWDC over at iMore, Fothergill talks about a few of the games the company is working on. There's a new version of Slotz Racer, which will send the game over to your Apple TV via AirPlay. The company is also getting into publishing, and Fothergill seems excited to work with other developers. There's a game called Apple Bash coming soon that's sort of a Donkey Kong-style platforming challenge with a cool parallax background trick, and another game called Any Landing, which lets you crash airplanes. Fothergill seems excited about his work lately, and he's certainly got the developer creds to make some great games. We'll look forward to seeing what Strange Flavour puts out in the future.

  • Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers available now on iOS

    I got to see Magic 2014 in action back in May of this year, but the game is now available both on the iOS App Store and on Steam for both Mac and PC. (Update: Turns out it's not available for the Mac. Last year's version wasn't either, unfortunately.) The biggest new feature of this year's go-round is the "sealed play" mode, which allows players to build a deck using cards from a set of sealed random booster packs. Usually in these games, you have to use one of the prebuilt decks, but the sealed play mode provides another option for experienced players (or anyone looking ot mix things up). Unfortunately, you only get a couple of deck slots to build in, and you can't reset them, so you have to buy more if you need them. Kind of a cheap move on Wizards of the Coast's part. There are also brand-new cards in this game, and in fact some of the cards are available to play here even before they arrive in the paper game later on this year. Magic 2014 is a free download on the iPad, and then you can buy the whole game (or separate decks) via in-app purchase for $9.99.

  • Daily iPhone App: Where's My Mickey combines Disney's old with its new

    Disney has come up with yet another way to wring a new title out of its megahit Where's My Water. This time, it combines the "swipe to clean" gameplay with one of the company's oldest properties. Yes, they've pulled out Mickey Mouse for an iOS game, and Where's My Mickey? is available on the App Store right now. If you've played any of the other Where's My Water games, you'll know how this goes. Swipe across the screen to clear paths through dirt and funnel water into certain areas. In this case, you must direct water to Mickey (sporting his new retro look) so he can make lemonade. There are some new mechanics here as well, including clouds that can catch and drop water when tapped, and wind that can blow those clouds around the stage. Just like its sibling games, Where's My Mickey has lots of collectibles to find, and plenty of stages to go through. Despite this core game getting plenty old at this point (I know you've got another great original title in you somewhere, Disney -- please find it), Where's My Mickey is actually charming, both because it does bring new elements and new puzzles to the gameplay, and because it's got some very silly (and well-made) cutscenes telling the story of this new Mickey and his lemonade stand. Where's My Mickey is US$0.99 cents on the iPhone and $1.99 on the iPad, with an extra set of episodes available for another dollar. If you've had enough of drawing in the dirt via Where's My Water, this go-round probably won't convince you otherwise. But for those still interested in moving liquid around, bringing Mickey in was a good move on Disney's part. Hopefully the company will start up a whole new track soon, instead of treading over this gameplay yet again.

  • Plants vs. Zombies 2 gets delayed, now coming later this summer

    I got to see Plants vs. Zombies 2 running at E3, and the game looked essentially done. That's why this news is so surprising. PopCap has tweeted that the title has been delayed from its July 18 launch to "sometime later on this summer." Note that it will still premiere on iOS. There could be several reasons for this. PopCap is part of EA, so perhaps the title must go through extra quality reviews, or maybe July 18 conflicts with something else in EA's lineup. It's also possible that PopCap wants to leverage other additions to the Plants vs. Zombies empire (the company is working on a cheeky third-person shooter based on the popular franchise). There are also some concerns from E3 about the game's freemium elements. Unlike the original game, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is free to play, but dependent on in-app purchases for revenue. So it's possible that PopCap is reconsidering, or at least tweaking, those elements. We won't know for sure until we see the game again, which will hopefully be soon. Plants vs. Zombies 2 (which is somewhat ironically titled "It's About Time") is now set to arrive later this summer.

  • Who needs Apple? Foxconn makes an iPhone-friendly smartwatch

    Apple has not announced an iWatch, as many folks hoped it would, and that didn't bother Foxconn. The company that manufactures most of Apple's iPhones and iPads has made its own iPhone-compatible smartwatch, which it showed off earlier this week. The watch looks relatively simple, but it can check your pulse and respiration, as well as interact with Facebook and Messages, all while your phone is still in your pocket. There's no information about a launch just yet, but this basically sounds like a proof of concept, a sign that Foxconn is ready to create a device for the quickly growing wearable market. Apple hasn't announced anything yet (and may not ever), but given the rise of Google Glass and other iPhone-compatible wearable electronics, there's certainly a growing expectation that the biggest mobile device manufacturer in the world will eventually step into the wearable market. [via Engadget]

  • Retailers' growing relationship with Passbook

    Apple's Passbook has had a rocky road. When it was first introduced in iOS 6, it seemed like an excellent idea. You could store all of your loyalty cards, tickets, and other mobile payment items all in one place. But in practice, Passbook hasn't been all that helpful. Not many retailers' loyalty programs are included in the app, and getting information in there is harder than it has to be most of the time. But Apple isn't giving up, and neither are retailers. GigaOm has a few good examples of how certain retailers are using the app. Gift cards are now a big deal within the app, and CashStar (which sells digital gift cards for big brands) says one third of its cards are opened on a smartphone, usually an iPhone. The app is also easier to use, as more companies build an actual workflow into it. And customers are not only learning how Passbook can help them, but they're growing accustomed to the idea of digital gift cards and currency. Passbook is still around in the upcoming iOS 7, though it's only gotten a new icon and a barcode scanner (which itself might help with ease of use). The dream of keeping all of those loyalty cards, gift cards, and ticket stubs on your phone instead of in that drawer at home is still alive, and hopefully someday Apple will make it happen with Passbook.

  • Moody platformer Limbo coming to iOS next week

    Limbo is a critically acclaimed and very artistic platforming game that arrived on XBLA a few years ago, and has since arrived on PS3 and PC. It's by a company called Playdead, and it's a black-and-white short tale about a little boy in search of his sister. The game puts a series of physics-based jumping puzzles in a starkly threatening environment, as the little boy fights a big spider and makes his way through a crumbling world. And now, Playdead has announced that the game is coming to iOS. On July 3, it'll be available on the iPhone 4S, the iPad 2 and the latest iPod touch, and devices newer than those, for US$4.99. Playdead says it has been "rethinking the controls and performing extensive optimizations to ensure an amazing touch-based experience," but we'll have to see if the game uses virtual buttons, or goes for a more specifically touchscreen control scheme. There likely won't be any new content, but this is an excellent title, and should be a good addition to Apple's platforms.

  • Game updates today: The Blockheads, Heroes of Order and Chaos, and Borderlands 2 on Mac

    There are a number of big game updates today on both Mac and iOS that are worth picking up if you happen to have the apps installed. First up, the excellent The Blockheads has a big multiplayer update coming, which will allow players to host multiplayer worlds with up to 32 people (which means 128 possible blockheads) in a single world at a time. The update also comes with a free Mac-based server app, which can host worlds for various devices and save items, structures and even queued actions. There's also lots of new content to find, and a map view that provides a nice overview of everything. Developer David Frampton tells us that the server app is being developed for Windows and Linux, too, and the Android version of the app should be on that store soon. Gameloft's free iOS MOBA Heroes of Order and Chaos also has a big new update, with new heroes to play, and a new 5v5 steampunk-styled map. There's also a new matchmaking system, and the game has introduced weekly tournaments, so you can win some real prizes if you're good. And finally, Aspyr tells TUAW that it has released the latest Borderlands 2 DLC, called Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, day-and-date on the Mac along with the PC version. You can buy it for both PC and Mac through Steam for US$9.99. This is a long-awaited expansion for the popular open world shooter, and Aspyr has timed out the port exactly with the regular PC version, which is very impressive.

  • Daily iPhone App: Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage is a tasty cold cut from Rovio Stars

    Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage is the very first title from the Rovio Stars program, a publishing initiative from the makers of Angry Birds. The company has a whole lot of infrastructure and expertise, but not a lot of good new ideas flowing, so it's decided to publish other developers' titles, and if Icebreaker is any indication, they're going to make some good choices. Icebreaker is a really excellent puzzle game that has clearly been polished to a Rovio-level shine, and it's a perfect start for the publisher partnerships. Just like Angry Birds, Icebreaker is a casual, physics-based puzzle game, where you can cut various items in the environment by dragging your finger across them. Cut the Rope obviously used the idea of cutting in this way previously, but Icebreaker adds the ability to cut ice chunks, which then slide over each other in physics-based ways. Each level has a number of Vikings that you need to get sliding aboard a ship, and then your little hero on the ship can break up the ice (as long as it's cut small enough), free the Vikings and set sail in triumph. Icebreaker's super cute -- the little Vikings have some hilarious chatter, and sliding them around in the physics engine is tons of fun. The puzzles are clever, too: A few levels in, you'll be using the ice to create bridges, and going after optional coins to collect and treasure chests that also slide around. Despite being US$0.99 to download (or $2.99 for an HD version on the iPad), the game does have ads included in the pause screen, and there are powerups you can purchase via IAP, so Rovio isn't letting any opportunity to make money pass them by. Still, the game is great, and this is likely the start of a whole new industry for a company that's so far been propelled by what's essentially just one property. If all of the Rovio Stars title are of this quality, we'll look forward to playing all of them.