Obama vs. Romney: Take Your Policy into the Ring

Uncle Slam Election Pack: Put up your dukes for foreign policy!

The debates are over and talk is cheap! Time to take your thoughts on foreign policy into the ring and show us how you really feel. No, you won't use horses and bayonets to battle your opponent - just some some gloves in a good old fashioned match of gentleman's boxing - election style of course! 

Download the Uncle Slam Election Pack and have your candidate box their way to higher standings on uncleslam.comThe race is tight - so invite your friends to join in and push your candidate to the top! Uncle Slam's Tip: Punch and block to power up your star then unleash your Presidential Power to earn more votes and win! 

Download the Uncle Slam Election Pack before TuesdayNovember 6, 2012, because after the votes are in, the Election Pack will be gone forever. 

Show the country you mean business! Tweet or Facebook screenshots of your best policy punches!

The Uncle Slam Election Pack is available for FREE on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Uncle Slam is a satirical, president vs. president boxing game. Pick your leader (past or present) and battle it out in the ring. Play though a campaign or go head to head. The harder you fight and the more you win, the more votes your president receives so you can unlock gloves, stages, fun facts and more. There are three presidential expansion packs to choose from or if you have a favorite, you can choose to download individual presidents.  

Freedom Isn't FREE- But Uncle Slam is, today only!

While we had hoped to get the free Election 2012 Pack into your hands today, sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men and all that.However, we still felt that the only way to really celebrate freedom is to give SOMETHING away for free. So in lieu of the election pack, for today only, we've made the full version of Uncle Slam free to download! But fear not, the election pack is still coming in July. If you don't believe us, just take a look at this video. You'll be battling Obama vs Romney sooner than you think!


While you are waiting for that, tell your friends that even though freedom isn't free, on the 4th of July, Uncle Slam is!

Sentinels Sidekick now Available!

Sometimes it helps to have a sidekick. When you're battling supervillains in Sentinels of the Multiverse, there's a lot going on to keep track of. That's where Sentinels Sidekick comes in!Sentinels Sidekick keeps track of the hitpoints of all targets in the game, including Heroes, Villains, Minions, Environment cards, and more. You can even have it generate random games for you, for unexpected challenges!

The app is available right now for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch on the App Store for 99 cents. And here are some promo codes for the first lucky readers:


We came across Sentinels of the Multiverse at PAX Prime 2011, when our Uncle Slam booth was next door to Greater Than Games. After the first demo we were hooked! This spring they came out with the Rook City expansion, and we took it upon ourselves to build something cool related to the game. Sentinels Sidekick is the result, and only the beginning we hope!

My favorite Vice (President)

In recent months, many have played Uncle Slam's gentlemanly game of presidential boxing in hopes of becoming the leader of all leaders. But for those who favor the second in command, Handelabra Studio has now released Uncle Slam Vice Squad, which is available for free on the App Store.

With five fighters and stages such as the Number One Observatory Circle or Watergate Hotel, now players can not only select characters among former U.S. vice presidents, but they can also play as vice versions of former presidents – all with unique Vice Presidential Powers. Competitors will have their pick from characters including:

  • John Adams
  • Richard Nixon
  • John C. Calhoun
  • Dan Quayle
  • Al Gore

Uncle Slam is a touch-based boxing game that’s easy to pick up and play, but offers a challenge only for the strongest of heart. Universal since February, the app is playable on any iOS 5-capable device including iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPod Touch (3rd generation and later).

Take on the Vice Squad now by downloading the game in the App Store. Once you are victorious over the second bananas,take on all 16 currently available presidents and face Uncle Slam himself.

For more information or to schedule an interview with the brilliant minds behind Uncle Slam, contact Misty Fry via email or 888.321.8422.

In life, liberty and the pursuit of gaming,

What a difference a year makes - PAX East 2011-2012

A year ago, a smaller Handelabra team dipped it's first tentative toe into that whirling current known as PAX East. GAME.minder was just hitting 2.0 and to get the word out, we bought some ad space at the show. Most of the team had never been to a PAX before and, not knowing what to expect, we showed up with a stack of GAME.minder info sheets and a very rough playable prototype of Uncle Slam (née Presidential Pugilism).More than anything we learned one thing - THIS PLACE ROCKS!

Seriously, if you like games at all, and you've never been to PAX, you owe it to yourself to attend. It is such a great atmosphere to celebrate what we all love about playing.

So when PAX Prime rolled around in August, we knew we wanted to make a splash. Uncle Slam was under heavy development and what better way to see what was working and what wasn't than to get it in front of actual players. In addition, GAME.minder was chugging right along so why not keep it going?

I won't rehash the numbers or what we learned about Uncle Slam, but one major lesson learned was this - GAME.minder is much bigger than just an iOS app.

After what felt like the 90th "can I use it on Android" we realized we needed to reach outside our comfort zone to bring the GAME.minder concept to the world outside the walled garden. Enter - GAMEminder.com. We are iterating like crazy right now to bring it as close in functionality to the iOS app as possible and expect to have lots of great stuff to show off at PAX in just a week and a half. If you saw us in Seattle and wished you could use GAME.minder on your Android or Windows phone, the wait is over. Come see us at booth #254, we can't wait to show it to you.

As for Uncle Slam, what started life as a simple, iPad-only, playable prototype with only 2 presidents to choose from and very rough mechanics is now universal and on the app store with more than 15 playable presidents! If you've been enjoying Uncle Slam, come see us at booth #254 to check out some swag and maybe even pose for a photo with Uncle Slam himself.

It's been just over a year and we're packing our bags for PAX again. We hope you're doing the same, and we'll see you there!

The ins and outs of Uncle Slam

Uncle Slam has been a concept for more than a year and a half.It all began at WWDC (Worldwide Developer's Conference) 2010 when Pete Parisi (then of Apple, now of fuzzycubesoftware.com) made an off-hand comment in a game development session. He said, simply:

"If you're designing a history-based game starring Abraham Lincoln you probably don't want to render him looking like an anime character with a bazooka. You're going to alienate a large portion.. well maybe that's the greatest idea ever."

Anime? Let's try cartoon-painterly with a mohawk.

Bazooka? Maybe not, but only because we think we can do better.

Winners Don't Use Drugs


And so began the journey towards tomorrow, December 16th, 2011 and the official launch of Uncle Slam. But despite the journey having started - what exactly was Uncle Slam to become? We knew we wanted to use all the presidents and it was this idea that led us to the concept of a fighting game. In fairly short order, we settled on the somewhat obtuse name of "Presidential Pugilism" and began prototyping.

The fabulous early art tests from Brittney really began to inform what the game was to become. When you think "fighting game" (at least when I do), the first two that come to mind are Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. But as fun as those games are, the feel of Uncle Slam was to be a bit less severe. For one, Mortal Kombat fights end with the death of your opponent, so codified in the infamous "Fatality". This was clearly out of bounds for our subject matter.

Leaning away from mixed-martial-murder, we settled on "Gentleman's Boxing". This immediately narrowed the fighting itself (no kicks to worry about) and gave us a much more "Presidential" feel. What presidents would want to bare-knuckle box in the streets after all? A chief executive rises above such vulgarity. But one thing we didn't want to lose was the idea of "special moves". Everyone knows Sub-Zero's ice ball and Scorpion's "Get Over Here!" and we felt we wanted something similar. And so each president has a special move based on their history or folklore that can help to change the tide of a match in seconds. (We won't spoil them here as half the fun is seeing them for yourself).


The other really big challenge was control. Traditional fighting games all use simple button presses and distinct moves like high kick, low kick, high punch, low punch, block, etc. Looking at other fighting games for iOS, almost all of them have attempted to simply bring this idea directly over by using virtual buttons on screen. If you've spent any time at all using a multi-touch device, you know that this new interaction model can provide direct manipulation in a way that simple button presses simply can't, yet most fighting games seem to have taken the easy way out. The problem is that "virtual buttons" don't simply repeat what works with a physical controller, they are usually worse. Without a tactile sense of a button actually being pressed, it can be confusing whether you are doing what you want and your fingers can easily drift off them while playing.

Given this challenge, we decided to throw out and completely rethink the fighting game control model. Punches in Uncle Slam take their power and direction from a swipe gesture. No more high or low punch. No more fast-but-weak or slow-but strong punch. Punch anywhere, in any direction (but if you like the heavy punches, watch your stamina). The same goes for blocking. A drag-and-hold puts you in block mode but now, instead of a simple high or low block, you can directly manipulate your blocking gloves to anywhere you want.

All of this was made possible by building Uncle Slam with Cocos2D and Box2D. By using an easy to use framework with a robust physics engine, this helped us discover the "rock 'em, sock 'em" animation style we settled on. This was another departure from traditional 2D fighting games which are mostly sprite based. Some of our favorite moments while playing Uncle Slam arise from the times the gestural controls and physics-engine conspire to put our fighters in amusing positions. For instance, have you ever seen Richard Nixon standing on George Washington's head? What about Harry Truman giving Howard Taft a big bear-hug? We have, and soon you may too!

But is it hardcore?

You probably remember that we showed off Uncle Slam at PAX back in August. The response to the game was incredibly helpful to us. Who is the perfect Uncle Slam player?

We found that almost everyone who saw the art and heard the concept got an immediate smile on their face. This told us that our concept was a winner. Then people would sit down to play and this is where the opinions began to split. The problem with a huge show like PAX is that your  gameplay must be so simple to pick up and play that it can be hard to convey any depth and this is where we put most of our efforts following the show. How do we make sure we don't lose the simplicity but still have enough depth to keep people playing after the "gee-whiz" factor wears off? This problem was compounded by the fact that many fighting game fans were immediately faced with a complete re-imagining of how a fighting game is controlled.

But you know who got it right away? Gamers in their early teens. Unlike "core" gamers (among which I count myself), these young gamers don't have 20 years of controller-based gaming burned into their consciousness as "the one true way". In the immortal words of Yoda, "You must unlearn what you have learned". For those willing to "go with it" and work with the game, instead of against it, Uncle Slam offers more depth than I initially thought possible and you will really need to master it to beat the higher levels.

All in all, we couldn't be more excited right now. Uncle Slam is less than a day away and we can't wait for you to play it. Please don't hesitate to let us know what you think!

The Handelabra "Who will ship first?" contest

Sometimes in life, you have to make your own fun. And sometimes, that fun falls right in your lap. This week, while working out timelines and scope for Handelabra's next two projects under development, we discovered something fun - Couplett and Uncle Slam are scheduled to finish up right around the same time.Now in some circles, that would just be a happy accident and everyone would just move on. Not here. No sooner had this fact been unearthed than John started in with "Uncle Slam will totally beat Couplett's firm buttocks" (I'm paraphrasing). This lead to Aaron making comments about Uncle Slam being more of an auntie. And so, a wager was struck.

The Contenders:

Uncle Slam IconUncle Slam

In brief: Handelabra's Presidential Boxing game shown off at PAX Prime. You play as the Presidents of the United States and battle it out to take up the mantle of "Uncle Slam." Project lead: John Arnold Teammate: Jason Hoyt (development) Teammate: Brittney McIsaac (design) Teammate: Jim Paluf (research)

Couplett IconCouplett

In brief: Your device has two cameras but just one at a time? Isn't it time to correct this crime? Take picture from both and comp them together, pictures of friends or your cat or the weather. Project lead: Aaron London Teammate: Roben Kleene Teammate: designer to be named later

the wager

The Wager:

As I watched this friendly contest develop, I couldn't help but think that a new era was dawning at Handelabra. The era of late nights and empty bottles . But still, who was I to stand in the way? John and Aaron certainly seemed ready to go toe-to-toe, code-to-code, bundle-to-bundle.

But I also realized there was a need for some modicum of civility so the following rules were enacted governing the contest. To be crowned winner, the app must:

  • Be completed within the current scope
  • Be submitted to the App Store first
  • Not pulled back by us due to a bug discovered while awaiting review
  • Rejection by Apple will NOT disqualify the winning app as we have no control over the review process
  • This wager is between Aaron and John, if any other team members choose to make a side-bet, it is a separate wager.

The Stakes


Follow the contest

While it may not be shaping up as the "Bout heard round the world!", there is the potential for an upset here. Both projects are already under development, they are different in scope and have different sized teams. Both are scheduled to submit in early November. If you want to see the whole messy affair play out, you can:

May the best app fall on it's face allowing the fastest one to win!