To say the App Store was a different place in 2008 is the understatement to end all understatements. But the arrival of the App Store meant that any old person with an idea, some game-making knowledge, and a hundred bucks in their pocket could get a developer's license and put their work out for the world to experience. It was pretty radical, and it has not only reshaped the gaming landscape in the last five years but the landscape of all digital media. We live in a world of apps and connected devices, and the future has been awesome.

Anyway, back in those early App Store days, John Kooistra was something of a model indie developer. His first title, Blue Defense! [$0.99], was just the sort of game that showcased the power of the iPhone as a gaming platform. Not power graphically, mind you, though the minimalist neon visuals of Blue Defense! are quite attractive. What I mean is that it was a simple idea honed to perfection, and it utilized the unique tilt-sensing capabilities of the iPhone to create a very enjoyable experience.

screen1136x1136-231To quickly summarize the game, Blue Defense! tasked you with protecting a blue planet from an onslaught of progressively more difficult and complex red enemies. You'd accomplish this with your massive cannon which fired out from the planet, always shooting "up" in a real-world sense based on the position of your device. The hook was that the red enemies would approach the planet from every angle, so you'd need to tilt your device back and forth, sometimes in complete circles, in order to align your shots and take out the enemies. It's so simple, yet executed so brilliantly, that Blue Defense! is still fun all these years later.

The success of Blue Defense! brought forth an offensive-focused spinoff in early 2009 called Blue Attack! [$1.99] which functioned more like a typical top-down space shooter. It, too was incredibly fun. Later in the year, Red Conquest! [$0.99] expanded on the whole Blue/Red universe that Kooistra had created with a real-time strategy game. Again, super fun. It was about this time, with three successful iOS releases under his belt, that Kooistra started his own development studio called Cat in a Box Games.

The first release under Cat in a Box was mid-2010's Fastar! [$1.99], a pretty massive departure from the previous Red/Blue games released thus far. It was a side-scrolling action RPG that actually poked fun at the oftentimes mindless repetition and grinding of the RPG genre. You'd run through each level destroying enemies, simple squares of various size and strength, and collect their dropped loot to then upgrade your heroes abilities and thus progress further and further. Even though it was sort of mocking RPG tropes, Fastar! was insanely fun, and was one of my favorite releases of the year.

Following the release of Fastar! was a sequel to Blue Defense!, titled Blue Defense: Second Wave! [$2.99], later in 2010. Second Wave expanded on the rock-solid foundation of the original in all the right ways, and proved that even the simplest of games could have deep layers hidden underneath. It was also the first Universal release from Cat in a Box, taking advantage of the then still pretty new iPad. With a series of awesome iOS releases to their name, and a planned 3rd Episode for Red Conquest! in the works, things were looking up for Cat in a Box Games.

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And then… they disappeared.

We've seen this many times before. Talented developers, whether they've achieved success or failure in the App Store, simply up and vanish. Well, in January of this year, John Kooistra returned to the TouchArcade community and started this thread explaining what happened. Long story short: despite making awesome games, Cat in a Box just wasn't pulling in enough money to keep things going full-time. Kooistra got a "real" job to make ends meet and support his family, and unfortunately that employer prohibited him from working on any extracarricular projects in his spare time. That put Cat in a Box on hiatus for the next few years. Now, after getting a new job that is more flexible with his personal projects, Kooistra and Co. are back at it.

While the three members of Cat in a Box still have full-time jobs, they've returned to iOS development in somewhat of a "hobby" capacity. The first fruits of this resurrection arrived this week with updates for every game in the Cat in a Box library. Blue Defense!, Blue Defense: Second Wave! and Blue Attack! have all received Retina and widescreen support, as well as various other bug fixes that have piled up over the past couple years. Fastar! and Red Conquest! were updated too, but not with Retina or widescreen, though they did get some bug fixes and all games were tested and approved for iOS 7.

So, yes this long story time was just to say that hey a bunch of old games have been updated, but really if you haven't experienced them before or loathed the fact that none had been updated in ages, you need to check these newly updated games out. There are some real App Store classics amongst them. More importantly, I hope we see more activity from Cat in a Box in the future, and there was even some brief discussion of revisiting Fastar! (possibly in the form of a sequel called Fastarar!, please make this happen) at some point in down the road. Let's hope for more great things from Cat in a Box, but let's also enjoy these oldies but goodies that have just received long-overdue updates.

  • HansKaosu

    None are Universal : may check some of them out anyways

    • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

      Blue Defense Second Wave is Universal, and probably my favorite out of the bunch.

      • HansKaosu

        You are correct. My bad.

      • John Kooistra

        Ha! Beat me to it. :) Second Wave was the last game I made before going off the grid, and I used everything I'd learned to make it.

        I've learned a lot since then though. :)

      • Exhumed91

        Red Attack was my favorite, I hope you make a sequel some day.

  • lr1919

    This brings back fond memories of my iPod 1st gen...

  • nini

    Extracurricular.

  • Dr T

    Any word on the last Red Conquest episode?

  • makitango

    Oh boy, how I loved them back in the day and how much more I can love them now!

  • DeInit

    Loved these games, very happy for the revival.

  • willisn

    Awesome!!! I got all these back in the day on my 3GS. Oh yeah...

  • C. Stubb

    "Making steps towards greatness" was the message they included in the Red Conquest update description. I can't tell you how mind-blowing it was to see all of my favorite games show up in the "updates" section of my App Store app. Hooray for Cat in a Box!

  • Dr T

    Great to see them updated, but any word on finishing red conquest ?

    • John Kooistra

      Again, no promises, but it is on my bucket list. :)

  • John Kooistra

    You're missing two episodes! We had four planned. No promises, but I'd love to come back to it.

    • Dr T

      That'd be great. And thanks for bringing back Blue Attack! One of my very favorite games

    • Dr T

      Hey, can you push the buttons on blue Attack out to the edge of the screen for the iphone 5 in the next update. The screen is wider, but the buttons didn't move out

      • John Kooistra

        What? On my local build, the buttons are at the side. I spent a lot of time hacking that in there. :(

        Maybe I submitted before I fixed that? I'll check and get that submitted right away. :)

      • John Kooistra

        Honestly, I'm a bit scatterbrained right now due to a 1-month-old beautiful baby girl running my house like a dictatorship. :p

        I apologize for anything I missed in the submission. :)

      • John Kooistra

        The update just got approved, it should be live in the App Store shortly. :)

        Happy gaming!

  • Nekizalb

    Didn't Cat in a Box also make the hacker RPG Nameless? Oh man, that was such an awesome game. Plenty of meta comedy too :)

    • Tomas Engström

      Close enough - that company was BoxCat ^^

  • araczynski

    Have all his games, they were all made much more enjoyable (to me) with touch to shoot rather than flipping around the device. I have always hated that gimmicky mechanic in every game.