You might not realize it, but a lot of the tech industry’s best video games, apps and in some cases, even hardware, is created right here in Canada.
Just like MobileSyrup has in the past, below is a quick look at all of the best Canadian tech of 2019 that has ties to Canada.
If you’ve been dreaming of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series finally getting the revival it deserves, Skate City is the game you’ve been waiting for. Skate City, developed by Snowman — a studio with ties to Canada — and Agens, a Norway-based developer, manages to capture the spirit of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise, while still being built from the ground up for the iPhone and iPad.
That said, instead of a three-dimensional world, players kickflip, grind and 360 tailflip through 2D sidescrolling levels, all while accomplishing in-game goals and completing trick lists. Skate City is only available on the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac through Apple’s 5.99 per month Apple Arcade subscription service.
Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario-founded tech company North has undergone an interesting journey over the last few years. First, the company, then known as Thalmic Labs, released the Myo Gesture Arm Control Band that allows users to control devices with gestures and motion.
Then in 2018, Thalmic announced that it changed its name to North and that it was planning to release smart glasses called Focals. The company’s first-generation smart glasses finally hit the market in early 2019.
While North’s Focals have issues, including a display that is too tiny, unlike a lot of smart glasses from other manufacturers, they actually work. The glasses operate very similarly to a smartwatch in the way that they’re a smartphone companion that delivers the notifications that matter most to you in a less intrusive way — in this case, directly to your eyes.
North recently stopped selling its first Focals in preparation for the release Focals 2.0. The company says its next smart glasses will be released in 2020.
Xbox’s marquee exclusive game for the year comes from Vancouver-based The Coalition.
As a follow-up to the studio’s rock-solid Gears of War 4, Gears 5 puts players in the shoes of Kait as she tries to learn more about her mysterious past. Cleverly, The Coalition uses this plot to not only give Kait a compelling journey of self-discovery, but also to dive into the backstory of the Locust, the Gears of War franchise’s long-running alien threat.
Meanwhile, the studio reinvents the series’ linear third-person action formula with a more open-ended approach in certain levels that lets players explore and perform sidequests. While not a true open-world experience, these larger sandbox areas nonetheless help flesh out the world and characters through engaging dialogue and lore and offer worthwhile rewards, to boot.
When you are in a classic shootout, though, The Coalition still shakes things up through Jack, the Gears’ handy robot. This time around, Jack doesn’t simply hang back — he’s an active participant in battle, attacking enemies, providing Kait with support abilities and bringing her distant guns and ammo.
All in all, Gears 5 is a great game that makes meaningful changes to a long-running franchise and lays exciting groundwork for the future.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Interestingly, Gears 5 wasn’t the only exclusive from one of the three major platform holders this year to come from Vancouver. The second, Luigi’s Mansion 3 for the Nintendo Switch, was made by Next Level Games, which is, funnily enough, just down the street from The Coalition.
In the action-adventure game, Luigi gets invited to a luxurious high-rise hotel with his brother Mario and friends. However, Mario and the gang soon get captured by King Boo, forcing Luigi to conquer his fears and rescue them. From the get-go, Luigi’s Mansion 3 oozes charm thanks to its unwitting hero, who constantly gets spooked by everything. Beyond that, though, Next Level Games keeps the experience fresh and entertaining by offering new challenges on every floor of the hotel.
One of the game’s newest features, Gooigi, lets Luigi use a gooey doppelganger to help him complete puzzles. A second player can even hop in take control of Luigi’s humanoid counterpart, as part of the game’s suite of multiplayer options.
Ultimately, Luigi’s Mansion 3 proves successful thanks to clever, well-designed puzzles, ample humour and an interesting setting to explore.
Google Stadia’s Canadian presence
One of the most notable aspects of Stadia, Google’s foray into the AAA gaming space, is its employment of key Canadian talent.
To start, the tech giant has appointed Jade Raymond — the prolific Montreal producer behind such titles as Assassin’s Creed II and Splinter Cell: Blacklist — as head of its Stadia Games and Entertainment division.
Raymond, in turn, has opened up Stadia’s inaugural first-party production studio in Montreal, which has already begun tapping key developers from Ubisoft’s Canadian teams. Stadia has also grown its Montreal presence through the acquisition of Typhoon Studios, a relatively new studio that is currently working on its first game, Journey to the Savage Planet.
Finally, the excellent Google Stadia controller was primarily made by Google’s Kitchener-Waterloo team.
Unfortunately, distracted driving is an ever-present concern in modern society, especially with the advent of so many electronic devices. With that in mind, Toronto-based car insurance company Onlia released a new ‘Onlia Sense’ app that aims to reward people for not driving while distracted.
Specifically, the app uses GPS and motion-sensing to study your driving and tell you where you’re being safe and how you can improve. Overall, drivers are ranked based on distracted driving, speed, acceleration, braking, cornering and contextual data (such as time of day).
Completing safe-driving challenges every month will net you rewards like Cashback and Starbucks gift cards. Get a free coffee and help keep everyone safe on the road — not bad at all.
This year, Toronto-based Tru Luv — a new studio formed by veteran Ubisoft Montreal developer Brie Code and Montreal artist and magazine editor Eve Thomas — released a unique app/game hybrid of sorts that was all about relaxation.
In #SelfCare, you play as an unnamed character who’s tired and just wants to relax in bed by performing simple activities.
To be clear, this isn’t quite a game because it’s very light on gameplay in the traditional sense. Instead, #SelfCare presents a series of mini-games, like breathing exercises of folding laundry. The idea is you play these activities for a brief period to unwind. #SelfCare doesn’t present any particular objective so the player can engage at their leisure. #SelfCare is available on iOS and Android.