Dec 28, 2010


I guess it's classics week here at Me And My Droid and today it's time to review Tetris. Back in May of this year the Tetris Company send a cease and desist letter to Google requesting demanding that all Tetris games be pulled from the Android Market. And so they were. Do a search on Tetris today and you'll see that it hasn't stuck. In fact, Google is a bit of a copyright enigma to me will all of the blatant and not so blatant infringement that goes on in the Android Market (and on other Google owned 'properties' like YouTube!). Google seems pretty good about taking action with cease and desist letters, but nobody wants to fight Google and their deep pockets in court and so would be infringers seem to like to hide in the shadow of Google. And so after my review of Androtris a year or so ago today we'll look at the officially licensed Tetris for Android which is published by EA and is a part of their nice $.99 holiday sale.

I won't spend any time talking about what Tetris is as I don't think there's a game alive (and not too many non-gamers) that aren't familiar with the basics. On these basics Tetris delivers well. It features two modes of play. First there's the traditional play until you drop 'marathon mode'. Next there an 'magic mode' that adds special abilities via tool icons on the left of the screen that you earn. You can use these tools to do things like turn the bricks at the bottom into bubble wrap allowing you to pop them to get rid of them. Magic mode is a nice addition to the game.

Tetris' graphics and sound are done well enough and the game doesn't make the same mistakes that so many other arcade ports do. For a start, there's no real issue with slow downs. Next, the controls are done very well. Swipes are used to drag the falling blocks left, right, or even down and taps are used to rotate the falling bricks. The controls are easy to get used to and fit a touch screen device perfectly. This is just as addictive as it was 20+ years ago on the original Gameboy. The game even includes a nice, quick tutorial than can easily be turned off and you can start on harder levels if you so desire.

qrcodeThere's really not much to say in the negatives for this release. The only two things I can think of are that this needs to be $.99 all the time... not just as part of a sale. I can't imagine paying $4.99 for it and $2.99 even seems steep, but at $.99 this is a staple that all Android owners should have. The other, bigger issue (no pun intended) in that it's 8 meg with no App2SD. That's a lot of storage space for such a simple game even though it's well executed.

If you've got the space then get this while it's $.99. And I have to admit being pleasantly surprised that goliath has done such a nice job with this game. I have really come to expect disappointment in these ports from companies that just rely on their past reputation to get by. EA's Tetris stands tall on its own and fill up the storage on your Android to prove it. 4/5 stars.

Dec 27, 2010


I think it's a bit of a joke that classic arcade games like Pac Man, Arkandoid, and Frogger are being offered on the Android Market at top tier prices. Some of my problem with that revolves around the fact that I've purchased these games many times before on other platforms. I was there buying Pac Man on the Atari 2600 (although, was that really Pac Man?) the day J.C. Penny got their first shipment. Next, I bought it on my Atari 400... then NES... Playstation (as part of Namco Museum)... etc. You get the idea. The other part of it is that these are games being milked while other, more current games that take far better advantage of what my Android device is capable of are $.99. Which one is the better value?

So, I was please to see that Frogger finally hit my price point. Well, $.99 may have been my price point, but at free it is even better and a welcome surprise from Konami. Frogger's popularity stems from the fact that it, along with games like Pac Man, we friendly to the fairer sex. They weren't about blowing up anything that moves... and then, once that's done, every that doesn't move. It is also really simple... a 4 way joystick and no extra buttons. In Frogger you guide a frog across five lanes of traffic, a river, and into little frog beds on the other side. Fill up the frog beds and the next level is faster and more difficult. Add some nice, peppy music to the mix and it's a nice, simple, and cute little game.

Frogger on Android replicates most of this, but, in order to be a freebie, adds ads to the mix. Ads are placed at the top of the screen which is innoncent enough I suppose. The game is controlled via the touchscreen with swipes across the screen and that works just fine although it would be nice if I could use my familiar DPad. Unfortunately, the game plays in portrait mode so that wouldn't work too well. Ok, the swipes work well and are accurate enough such that it's not a problem. Musically the game is a step backwards from it's arcade parent. And would you believe this game consumes almost 10 meg of storage? What was the original... like 32k if that? But the biggest problem is speed. The game seems to suffer from the occasional stutter here and there and that means disaster for an arcade game that relies on twitch arcade reflexes. I guess my Android just isn't powerful enough to keep up with this complex game from 30 years ago? A deal breaker it is not... the game is playable on my Droid. I try to think of this as a feature that makes the game just that much more difficult.

qrcodeFrogger is worth trying now that it's $.00, but it could have been better. The upgraded graphics do little to improve the game and I really loved the original's music. At 10 meg (with no App2SD) this isn't going to earn a permanent place on my phone's storage. I suspect playing Frogger on my Nintendo emulator would be more satisfying as I would regain the comfort and familiarity of my trusty DPad controller and cut out the occasional slow down. Had I paid $2.99 or $4.99 I would have been upset, though and people that did pay that have reason to be disappointed. As for me I give this 3/5 stars and am grateful I'm not out any cash.

Android Market

My Android Market update arrived on Christmas Eve. Is this a Christmas gift from Google? After all, I know I and many others have been clamoring for many features that the Market should have already had. Let's take a look...

The first, and most obvious, feature is the new, prettier look. A nice, curvy green area descends from the top of the screen, but still contains the same old menu items... Apps, Games, and Verizon (guess which carrier I am on... at least for a little while longer?). I'm not really into cosmetics, but it's definitely nicer looking. It would be nice if they would tie this whole Market in with a desktop computer interface ala iTunes, but Google's web presence for Android continues to be feeble at best (with many app's screenshots not even being properly displayed).

They've also changed the screen for looking at an app and eliminated the tabs in favor of expandable areas. want more description? Click on 'More' and it grows. It looks nice, but I don't see this as much of a boon. In some ways I miss the old Market as tabs seemed more efficient.

Categories? No changes. The same old, basic categories persist to this day along with all of the junk that pollutes them. Filters? Not yet. They did increase the amount of screenshots that an app can have, though, and my understanding is new rules are coming that mandate at least one screenshot. Personally, if you're a developer that uploads software that you've spent longer than 15 minutes working on then you're an idiot. Can I be more blunt? You've spent all this time working on a program and can't even show me what it looks like. I know I don't even bother when I see (or, in this case, don't see?) such laziness.

Speaking of 15 minutes, you now have 15 minutes to try out a download before the time period in which you can request a refund expires. This is probably causing the biggest stir. On one hand, other app stores don't let you get a refund... period. One the other hand, for some of these apps that take 10 minutes in which to download their data packs a 15 minutes refund period is a joke. I'm mixed on this. On Android we've got a degree of fragmentation that can make a game work great on one device and fail on another, and indie developers can't possibly test them all. There needs to be a refund policy. One the other hand, I am sickened when I see someone post that they 'beat all the levels' in 6 hours and got a refund. Asking for a refund of a $.99 game that you've derived 6 hours of enjoyment from just because you can is sleazy. You can thank that guy for the new policy. As for me, personally, having a 15 minute policy reduces my ability to try and review games without racking up quite a bill so I'm not really happy about this, but I do understand it.

There is one biggie in here, though, and that's the new 'My Apps' section that shows the latest downloadable updates. This section now lists ALL of the apps you have ever purchased which is quite the boon to people like me that have been forced to shuffle apps around due to limited memory. Now I can easily see all of the games that I own without slogging through my email archives looking for receipts.

Lastly, I continue to be disappointed in the lack of any gift card support. I had heard rumblings that Google might accept PayPal as a payment method to assist in opening Android up in other countries, and that would help a bit. It would also be nice if they allowed for the download codes so a developer could easily provide demo copies of their games to would be reviewers.

All in all, any updates and improvements are welcome. I still long for more categories and filters that would let me banish the makers of 'Up Her Skirt CXVII' from my world, but there's always next Christmas.

Dec 23, 2010

Rocket Bunnies

Rocket Bunnies is a unique take on the physics puzzler that uses planets and their gravitational pull rather than the more traditional 'everything sinks to the bottom of the screen' approach. Actually, the misnomer of using a planet's pull is probably better explained by treating the planets as gears that can rotate back and forth, if that makes any sense. No? Ok, let's try this is more clear terms. You're a bunny with a jet pack strapped on your back. A jet pack so insanely powerful that it can easily break free of the pull of any planet. You start in orbit around a planet and have to zip on around several other planets in the system collecting the Mario equivalent of gold coins. To change planets you just click and off you head. When you arrive you orbit in a preset direction, but later in the game you find that you can tap on the planet again to change directions. What's the benefit? Well, this is a game all about time... completing the levels as fast as possible. You'll be graded on that with a rating from one to three stars (or failure). Sounds easy enough, right? But wait, there's more... some planets have obstacles like mines orbiting them. At first you can skip by these, but later you'll have to sync up with them to grab food off of those planets, too.

Rocket Bunnies sports solid graphics and good audio accompaniment. Once again, controls are 100% touch screen based and are very simple... just touch the planets and you're set. The game plays very smoothly. I find it interesting to see that this game arrives on Android before it does on the iPhone, but the developer, presumably in an attempt to be hilarious, says "By testing Rocket Bunnies with the common hordes of Android users, we’ll be able to smooth out every rough edge to ensure no imperfection mars your delicate sensibilities." So we're the common hordes? The guinea pigs of the development world existing solely to make for a solid iExperience. I know I'm hypersensitive, but why say that? Ah, humor.

Rocket Bunnies is very well done... clearly a professional title. The game itself is good... but not great. I can't complain as this is a free, ad supported game. Anyone can pull it on down and choose to take it or leave it without risk of any finances. My take on the game is more that of trying to figure out what this is. It's got a twitch element as, for example, leaving a planet at just the right time offers a critical speed boost both in terms of avoiding obstacles and meeting your timed goal for completing a level. At the same time, there is a puzzle element of trying to figure out the best path between the planets both for avoiding peril and, once again, your goal of a best time. When these two desirable elements meet, however, the end result just isn't as superb as I might expect it to be.

I'll also note that I found the game's interface for getting started to be a little confusing. The first screen is clear enough with a great, big 'Start' button, but then the next screen has a back button and, well didn't feel like I had started much of anything. There's another planet with no text on it and in taking a second look I think that's where the confusion is as there's another planet that's almost hidden because it's so transparent that is the other option. As is there's just one option and this screen could be eliminated until that's available. Click on the planet and you'll be at the Carrot Galaxy screen and ready to click on a sector which contains several levels. You can also easily go back and replay and level that you earned fewer than three stars on in an effort to improve your score. And as you get better you'll unlock other sectors.

In conclusion, I'm just left with a feeling that things just don't fit together as well as they should. A year ago this would have been a game that was 6/5 stars based on quality alone. Now that we've got a selection of games despite being the "common hordes" I can be picky and Rocket Bunnies isn't going to make my 'frequently played' list. It also consumes almost 10 meg of my phone's precious internal storage despite supporting App2SD (and I though Flick Kick Football was bad with it's 5 meg requirement). 4/5 stars.

Dec 20, 2010

Gish Reloaded

Gish Reloaded is a reprise of a game called Gish in which you are a giant, black ball of tar moving from level to level. It's a recent release from HandyGames, a favorite publisher of mine, as an ad supported game with a paid version available as well. The basic plot starts with Gimp tar-knapping Gish's tar kiddies. Rescue is the name of the game. Gish, as a ball of tar, also has several 'abilities' such as becoming more liquidic (making it easier to slide through smaller holes) and excessive stickiness (allowing him to more readily climb walls). So, you're goal is to work your way through the levels and rescue the family. And, as with all of these kinds of games, there's plenty of other stuff to accumulate along the way.

The graphics are certainly worthy and the sound effects and controls are all on par with a Handy release. Controls take full advantage of Android's accelerometer and will have you flipping your phone all around to navigate the levels of this game. The touch screen is used to toggle modes and make Gish stickier or what not. The game also allows you to download additional levels although I don't see a level editor. I suspect the bulk of your play will be with the Campaign mode.

So, level editor? The level editor can be downloaded as a standalone program from What I can't easily tell is what platform it's for. My guess is Windows as it's a .zip file with an .exe file in, but there's also a .jar file in there so maybe it's done in Java and is consequently cross-platform. The rest will be left as an exercise for the budding level editor. What's nice is that there are also MANY levels already available for download on Whether they're any good is another question.

qrcodeAll isn't peaches and cream, though. From my experience with the first few levels from the included campaign my general feeling was more so that the game was playing me. Sure, I was moving my device around and changing modes to scale walls and such, but never did I get that "a-ha" moment that turns a decent game into a gem. This is no Super Mario Brothers 3. It felt much more like I was just following along selecting the correct, obvious mode to do what I needed to do while occasionally falling into a secret door. If I'm going to invest time in working my way through a series of levels then I was to feel like I'm actually accomplishing something. As is, despite the solid game engine I can't give this one more than 4/5 stars. I'm also left unsure as to whether better level design would fix things, or is the slow moving tar ball that grates on me making is less desirable to continue play.

Dec 14, 2010

Slice It!

I don't get invited to many parties. Maybe that's because I'm not fun. Maybe it's because I don't like to mingle and make idle small talk. Maybe it's because I generally don't enjoy parties. Maybe it's because I stand around checking my phone and playing games in the corner while everyone else is doing whatever it is they do at a party.

So I tried Slice It! the other day. Slice It!, in my book, is an attempt to create a game to piggyback on all of the fruit and vegetable slicing games in the Market, but by extending the genre into something different. Instead of being another "me too" arcade game, it's a game in which you slice objects with a preset number of lines into a predetermined number of (hopefully) equal parts. Slice It! comes to us from Com2Us and is a free, ad supported game (which seems to be the hot trend lately). I guess I can't blame them as Android owners are proving to be frugal (or maybe just plain cheap) when it comes to buying games, and Rovio is claiming a million a month in ad revenue from their red hot Angry Birds game.

Slice It! offers decent graphics with line art shapes drawn on a sheet of virtual graph paper. When a shape is displayed you'll be given a number of slice (aka lines) to use as well as the target number of pieces. You then drag from one side to the other to create a line that will slice the object into parts. The game starts off with a basic square being cut into two, but gradually evolves into more complex shapes that have to be more than just bisected. When you succeed you'll get to see the actual percentage sizes that you divided the supplied object into, but when you fair it's just lights out with a chance at a redo. And that's it... shape after shape and slice after slice of cutting objects into equal sized pieces.

qrcodeSlice It! gets rave reviews in the Android Market from most folk, but I just don't get it. This is another party that apparently I'm missing as I don't feel the fun when I play. It feels more like work and it gets old fast. The game itself is well executed on all fronts. No problems in the quality department. I just don't find the concept entertaining and isn't that why I game in the first place? 3/5 stars for a game that just don't feel like a game. In the meantime I need to get back to creating my new "Sock Sorter" game... that oughta be a total blast to play.

Dec 8, 2010

Press Release: Can Knockdown by Infinite Dreams Hits the Android Market

Infinite Dreams proved that 24 hour projects can successfully compete against other games on the market. iDreams previous quick app – Plasma Globe – has been downloaded over one million times in just seven days! Now “Can Knockdown” will try to copy this huge success on the Android Market.

Gliwice, Poland - Infinite Dreams, award-winning mobile games publisher informed today about the release of its new project for the Android Market (iPhone version coming soon). "Can Knockdown!" is an addictive and 100% FREE game which gives players the possibility to become cold blood snipers while aiming at and knocking down piles and pyramids of cans! Start playing and you just won't put down this marvelous title till you drain your battery empty!

"Can Knockdown!" includes many astonishing features which will amaze your friends and make you come back for more! Online leaderboards (coming with OpenFeint update), absolutely gorgeous high-res graphics, unique and realistic physics engine, multipliers, explosive action and so much more! Can Knockdown is like a miraculous carnival fun fair - only better!

Press Release: Casino Crime from HandyGames

Giebelstadt/Germany, 7th of December 2010. Build your own gambling empire! With the release of Casino Crime, HandyGames™, the leading German publisher of mobile games, is starting a new era of casino games on the Android platform and places the power of “La Familia” firmly in the hands if its fans.

"Games like Casino Crime are a rarity in the Android Market! Casino Crime offers many hours of gaming entertainment for all fans of complex tycoon-type sims and casino games.", comments Markus Kassulke, CEO of HandyGames™.

Start your criminal career in the glamorous world of gambling! Help luck along a little in your own casino and take your guests to the cleaners! Whether it's easy pick pocketing or elaborate card tricks: the only good guest is a fleeced guest! With your foot on the brake of the roulette wheel and an ace up your sleeve, you're ready for anything. Welcome to the family!

Casino Crime is now available for free in the Android Market for all Android devices.

Features of Casino Crime:
  • Exciting casino manager game with Mafia connections
  • Slot machines, Blackjack and Roulette
  • Use dirty tricks to cheat your punters
  • Pick pockets to earn some quick money
  • Unscrupulous croupiers with a talent for crime
  • Gambling addicts with their individual needs
Features may vary depending on the device


Dec 7, 2010

Spot the Difference

When I was a wee lad, I used to really dig those puzzles in Highlights magazine when there was a line drawing and you had to find all of the objects hidden in the picture. Since then it's become more common to see puzzles with two images where you have to find the differences. Nowadays they're showing up in the magazines my children read, but with Spot the Difference I have more such puzzles than I could possibly need.

Spot the Difference turns this experience digital on Android and shows you two colorful photos that are ever so slightly different and adds the pressure of a timer to the challenge. You will frantically search the images for the five differences. Not to be cliché, but this is another ideal mobile game... quick, simple, and fun (or maybe torture to the visually imperceptive). In the graphics and sound department there's really nothing to say. The color photos are nice and there isn't anything much in the way of sound that would even be necessary. Sure, they could have added annoying timer sounds or something, but fortunately they did not. When you find a difference you just touch the screen wherever said difference is noticed. If you're wrong then you suffer a penalty and are buzzed, but if you're right a friendly, green circle appears and one of the five notches in the upper right is filled in.

What this game feeds on, though, are the puzzles and the interface for adding and managing puzzle packs is quite nice. You can view available packs and download them from within the game. Furthermore, you can disable them if you're sick of solving fish puzzles and even delete them to free up space so that you don't have to have all of the artwork ever created for this game stored on your phone. The game also offers leader boards so that you can become the best of the best when it comes to being observant.

qrcodeAbout the only thing I didn't like was that some of the puzzles seem quite hard... I'd find three or four of the difference, but just not be able to find the last one. The timer would run out and it would quickly flash where the difference was, but not give me enough time to really see it before returning to the menu. It would have been nice had I been given control to decide when I'm done looking at the solution.

There are other puzzles of this kind and even one with the same name. I haven't tried them all, but I can say that this is a quality job and a game I'd recommend to those that like this kind of game. 4.5/5 stars.

Dec 6, 2010

Office Rush

Office Rush is a cute little game that isn't going to cower in the face of political correctness. In Office Rush it's your job to climb the corporate ladder and advance to the position of CEO. Only then will you be able to stick it to the little guy and make far more than one person should ever be paid. No, this game isn't really about economics. It's actually got more of a puzzle slant to it than anything else.

When Office Rush first loads you'll be greeted by a title screen and some nice music. Then you'll get an error that tells you your license isn't valid and it'll close even though you just purchased it. Hopefully that's just me, but that's what did happen and I strive for accurate reporting. So I eventually reload, go through the tutorial which explains that your starting role with the firm is that of a security guard. And what's the biggest problem security guards in corporate America face today? Yes, indeed... ninjas! So you have to kill the ninja and get back to your office (and by 'kill the ninja' I mean 'touch the ninja'). So, on each screen there are some obstacles and you have to run and jump around to get over to the ninja and then back to your place, but wait there's more... each level is actually made up of several tiled screens that can be shifted around like a slide puzzle. You can only travel between these screens if you have them connected correctly (which seems to mean that connected edges look the same). This actually turns out to be a good recipe for a neat little puzzle game that will stop to make you think for a second or two, but, while I have not finished the game, hasn't really left me hanging for any length of time.

Eventually you graduate and make it to secretary. And what do secretaries do? Yes, indeed... they make coffee. So next you'll be getting water (and by 'getting water' I mean 'touching the water cooler') to make coffee and then delivering it to the boss on your knees begging for his approval. No, joke! And, naturally, the secretary is clearly female. Whether you're offended by that or think it's funny one thing is certain: it really wasn't necessary as the central concept of 'touch point A and go to point B' remains the same.

qrcodeThe graphics are basic, and while there a nice little bit of intro music, there really isn't much to the audio for this game. Controls work well and are responsive. Just press the on-screen left or right buttons to move and while moving press the other button to jump. Actually that's a pretty clever control scheme that keeps the on-screen buttons to a minimum. The only control issue I had was with the title screen and I just this moment figured it out. You have to slide to play and/or select a level and not just touch/press the arrows. That was driving me nuts!

Office Rush is a nice little game and is just $0.99 in the Android Market. If you like puzzle style games with a little bit of arcade action thrown in then this is a perfect fit. I'm wondering if later levels will have more than a 2 x 2 slide puzzle, because that would make for a series of much more challenging puzzles. As is, even if I don't see a solution I can easily play trial and error to find one. 4/5 stars for a game that really gets down to business.

Scooter Hero

Scooter Hero bills itself as "one of the most addicting games on the Android Market" and you all know that I'm a sucker for such claims. After all, if your Mom loves your game that much then it HAS to be good doesn't it? The premise is simple. You're controlling a scooter that apparently has the engine of a small delivery truck (based on how it sounds when you crank up the engine). Off you go then along a series of platforms while tapping the screen to jump. You can perform stunts or perhaps that should be singular as in 'a stunt' as the only thing I could find was landing with just my front wheel kind of drags me along under the platform.
The graphics are decent with a somewhat cartoony looking scooter and some background artwork although it probably would have been more impressive if the background scrolled instead of being a still image. Audio, likewise, is decent with the occasional 'great!' when I do something great. Controls are simple and responsive. Just touch the screen to jump or touch and hold to jump higher. You can also touch once while in midair to get a little extra boost.

When all is said and done this game really comes down to being a clone of those SFCave type games where you're moving through a cave and touch to rise and release to fall. It's got better graphics and a better theme than that game and even adds some extras like power ups such a bubble that turns this into an exact clone of the aforementioned game for a short while (i.e. you ride in the bubble and no longer need worry about falling off of the platforms). This game also features three modes of play: 1) You can collect medals, or 2) you can to collect fuel and must make sure you don't run out, or 3) you can deal with obstacles like orange traffic cones.

qrcodeThis is one of those simple games that needs to be in everyone's collection is some form or another. OrangePixel has a good one in their Mini Plane, and, if graphics aren't your thing, SFCave is another free alternative. Scooter Hero, likewise, does a good job of representing this style of game, but with the outrageous 'addiction' claim I had to poke fun at it in the beginning of this review. While I'm at it I also find it funny that the main picture on the developer's website is empty and instead of showing an actual screenshot of the game's play in the Android Market they show the title and instruction screens. That's not what people want to see, guys!? Fortunately there's a freebie demo available. 3.5/5 stars for an above average job.

Nov 23, 2010

The Brickening

The Brickening is another Arkanoid style game. I view it as a "no frills" version of the Android game Galaxy Breakout because it's just a plain and simple breakout game with power-ups. There's no story... there's not even any "flvaor text" like Arkanoid had. You're just pounding away at bricks in level after level, but that's ok because this game has a trick or two of its own up its sleeve.

First the basics. There's a paddle that you control at the bottom of the screen. There are four kinds of bricks: red, yellow, green, and steel. The steel ones can't be destroyed, but the red, yellow, and green ones take 1, 2 and 3 hits to destroy and as you hit them they color degrade so you can keep track of how many hits are left. I'm a bit intrigued by the color order as in the USA generally red means stop, yellow means yield, and green means go so I'd have expected green to be one hit and so forth.

The game includes 100 levels and a level editor so that you can upload/download levels with other users. Hopefully that will take off, but I suspect that will need to be more of an author supported thing. The graphics are basic and the sound adequate. The two real nice things about this game, though, are how smooth it plays (I have not seen a game where the paddle tracks as close to my finger as well as it does here and given the importance of control in a game that's a pretty big deal) and that the author was clever enough to provide some space where I can place my finger for moving the paddle BELOW the play area. No longer am I blocking my view of the game with my giant hand.

qrcodeThe game also features a full bevy of power-ups: +3 balls, laser cannon, sticky paddle, barricade (a layer of bricks below you paddle to make that extra save), ...etc. I was particularly impressed when I got a +3 balls power-up followed by another +3 balls so I had 7 or so balls on the screen at once for about a tenth of a second. Let's just say it's hard to keep track of that many balls and that it was quite a rush.

This game is well worth a buck. There are plenty of levels and the game plays so smoothly that I really enjoyed it. I've never been too big on story modes in these kids of games anyway... they always seem a bit convoluted. This game is all about the action and takes a step back towards the genre's successful roots in the game Breakout while leaving in the goodness that is power-ups. 4/5 stars. There is also a demo version in the Android Market that is available now.

Nov 22, 2010

Air Hockey

Air Hockey isn't exactly the cleverest name for a game that I've seen, but I guess it makes it easy to figure out what this game is. It's air hockey on your Android and features one or two player action and not much more. Loading Air Hockey brings you to a screen... 'one player', 'bonus two player', or 'visit our web site'.

First I tried the one player mode. The way this works is that you start off with a basic ranking and as you play against the AI opponent you'll either gain or lose ranking until you reach a point where the AI is challenging. The graphics are basic and the audio sounds like a real air hockey table does (but don't think the music in the video below is actually in the real game). You hold down on your paddle with a finger and drag it around the screen swatting and blocking the puck. Early advancement is pretty easy and one nice thing about computer Air Hockey is that it enforces the rule that says you can't move your paddle over the middle line.

Next, my youngster was bored in a restaurant the other night so I broke out Air Hockey to play. The controls were horrible on her side. Her paddle would frequently stick around the middle line and it would take many seconds for it to become free again. I have to think this has something to do with the game or my Droid not handling multi-touch very well, but, interestingly enough, my paddle had no issues... it was just hers. Needless to say the thrill wore off all too quickly and she was soon playing Care Bears Memory Match by herself.

qrcodeMy bigger problem with Air Hockey isn't even Air Hockey's fault. It's the simple fact that playing this with two players is a pain on such a tiny screen. Even with one player it's less than thrilling. This is a game born for the upcoming Android tablets.

Conclusion? This review feels short because there's not much to Air Hockey. It's only a buck so it won't break the bank, but at the same time I just don't see coming back to it. There are many other Air Hockey games in the Android Market and I'd love to hear feedback if you've found one you think stands out. As for this one, I'd give it a 3/5.

Nov 21, 2010

Island Settlers

The Settlers of Catan may be the premier of the so called EuroGames to make it big in the USA. It's actually been around for 15 years, but in reality that's nothing compared to a classic like Monopoly. Still, Settlers brought something to the table that Monopoly didn't and that's a game that has much more strategy and less luck than other more American fare. My first experience with Settlers was after I had gotten a new game called Puerto Rico and I was sharing about this amazing, new board game with a friend at work. He likewise had a game to share about and that was Settlers. Eventually I was able to play it with his group, purchased a copy for myself, and since then I'm sure I've played it at least a hundred times. (And I'm also good friends with the 2008 Settlers of Catan World Champion.)

If you don't know anything of this game then here it is a nutshell. You and up to 3 competitors are on an island made of hexagons. Each hexagon sports one of five resource types on it with the exception of a single, dormant desert hex. One the vertices you place settlements and cities. On the edges you place roads. Each hex also has a number from 2-12 placed on it. On each turn a pair of dice is rolled and any hex assigned that number produces its resource type. If you have a settlement next to it you produce one of that type of good and if you have a city you produce two of that resource. These resources are used to buy more things: settlements, cities, cards, and roads. The game ends when a player reaches 10 points which comes from settlements, cities, having the longest road, the largest army (cards), and extra points (cards).

Island Settlers (you were wondering if I was actually going to talk about it, weren't you?) brings this game to Android and allows you to play with several AI opponents or in hot seat mode where you pass you phone to the active player. It also includes a few variants such as allowing you to change how many points it takes to win. The graphics are passable look great with today's update and the sound is rarely worth talking about when it comes to board game conversions. The controls work well as the game gives you an overview of the entire island and allows you to easily zoom in for more precise placements of roads and structures. It also cleanly points out available locations which I guess I don't like as much as part of the game should be about spotting good locations without help. Perhaps that should be an option.

The game claims basic AI. The game is right. The AI just isn't very good, at all. My first game finished with me easily winning and two opponents left with 2 points (and you start the game with 2 points so that equates to no progress) and the third opponents with 5. I'm a pretty good, but not great, Catan player. The XBox 360 version of Catan provides me with a challenge. This AI is nothing more than training wheels for learning how to play.

qrcodeStill, the game is free and this isn't a bad way to learn. If you're going to play against a friend then go buy the real game (it's available at Target, now) after you've tried this and found out that you like it. Sure it'll set you back $40, but this game really is that good and just maybe it'll open you open you up to the massive world of games that exist outside of Target and WalMart. I'm sure the AI has to be on the short list for a future update and network play would be another means of addressing the lack of challenge. At least until the 'cease and desist' letter arrives and an official Catan game is released on Android. There was a Catan game in the Apple App Store until the 'real' Catan arrived so I'm fully expecting a repeat of that scenario. It's almost as if they waited to pull the clone so iPhone owners wouldn't be left without their Catan fix, though. 3.5/5 stars mainly because the AI provides little longevity for the solo experience.

Nov 14, 2010


It was initially billed as 'Secret Game X'. We can't tell you anything other than "it's great!" they'd say. I got my first taste of the game later to be called Dominion at Gen Con in 2008. It featured a novel deck-building mechanic and I enjoyed the game that later became the giant hit that it was and still is today. Dominion now since added four expansions and many copycat games that all great, new ideas "inspire". Androminion brings this and two of its expansions to your Android phone. Ah, a good day to be an Android owner...

Dominion in a nutshell is played as follows: There are 3 basic types of cards... money cards that let you buy other cards, point cards the dilute your deck as they don't do anything until scoring at the game's end, and other cards that you play in order to do more or better things during your turn. You start with 7 copper cards which are worth 1 money unit and 3 point cards. You shuffle your deck and on every turn you draw 5 cards. Can't draw? Shuffle your discards and continue. Your first hand will therefore have some money and some points in it. Once again... points are worthless until the game is over when they become the only thing that matters. So you'll use your money to buy a card. On your turn you get 1 action and 1 buy. Other cards can give you more actions, money, and buys (among other things) so you might buy a card that gives you an extra action and 2 more coppers. Purchased cards go into your discard pile as does your current hand and you draw for the next turn. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. If you want more detail than that click on the title to go to Andromion's website and you will find links to the full rules.

Androminion isn't going to win any beauty contests. The screen is plain with available cards listed in rectangles along the top of the screen. It does include help and you can touch and hold on any of the cards to see what they do. Still, I would prefer to play the real card game not only for the social element, but also so I can quickly scan what my cards say. I guess advanced players have many of these cards memorized, but I do not. Androminion randomly chooses the set of cards you'll be playing with and forces a 3 player game upon you with two AI players. AI? Yes, this free game has AI that is actually pretty good. The rules seem to be solidly implemented and the touch interface of tapping on cards works and is done well enough to avoid any accidental plays. In other words, when choosing a card you have to select and then click select once the card is 'highlighted'.

Androminion has plenty of opportunity for improvement as all of the hard work in terms of getting all of those pesky rules functioning is done. It would be nice to be able to play with 2 or 4 players, network play, the ability to choose which cards I'm going to play with, and, I'm obligated to say, a UI upgrade with pretty cards. I don't know the legality of this game, but I see the publisher (Rio Grande Games) is given full credit. Is it possible they'd allow for the actual card graphics to be used?

qrcodeThis is a dream come true for Dominion fans. If you enjoy Dominion then this won't let you down. It's probably not going to replace human competition, but it's nice to be able to practice and try out new stuff against competent AI. Likewise, if you like turn based, strategy games you really ought to check this out. Finally, if you like this game then please buy the original paper version. This is actually a really good family game, too. I've provided a link above that offers Dominion from at a pretty good price with free shipping. And what is there to prevent you from trying this game out on your phone? Nothing as it's free!! 4.5/5 stars.

Flight Control coming soon for Android

We've seen several of the Apple App Store's high profile games make the leap to Android recently. I'm talking about titles such as Angry Birds and Doodle Jump. Now it appears that FireMint's Flight Control will be making the jump. There are countless clones of this game in the Android Market already, but I'd be all over the original assuming the price is right.

Click on the heading to see the proof...

Nov 12, 2010

What's On Sale? - Nov 12, 2010

If you haven't heard, the acclaimed Doodle Jump is currently on sale in the Android Market for $.99. While there have been many solid clones of this kind of game you just can't pass up the original for a buck...

And, in case you're wondering what it takes to make this list the game has to, of course, be cheaper than it was since I last posted about sales and have a 3 or more star average rating in the Market. No junk allowed!

Spin Air Hockey - $.99 down from $2.99
Doodle Jump - $.99 down from $3.49 [Until Nov 17th]
iSpadez - $.99 down from $1.99
Dr. Droid - $.99 down from $1.49
Droids of the Dead - .69 euros down from .79 euros (massive price cut, I know)
Heli Rescue - $.99 down from $1.99
Gem Slinger - $.99 down from $1.99


Archmage has an immediate resemblance to Magic: The Gathering, and regardless of whether you like or hate the concept of a game with a principle business goal of making the cards you've already purchased obsolete you have to admire the core concept and influence that this game has had. The idea of a minimal set of rules in which each card breaks those rules and provides the owning player with an advantage has been used and reused. Archmage's similarity to Magic ends with two dueling forces competing in a turn based strategy card game as its cards don't really break rules. In fact, this game is much simpler and lighter than Magic.

Before we begin I'll need to cover the rules. No, not so you can understand the game, but because a lack of rules is a MAJOR deficiency in this game. The tutorial tells you that you have a wall and a tower. You win by growing your tower to a strength of 100 first or by destroying your enemies tower. It also explains that you alternate turns. What it fails to explain is:
  • On each side of the screen are three areas with a color, an icon, and two numbers in them. These areas are you quarries, your magic, and your dungeon. The big number is the number of units of each of these your earn per turn. The little number is how many of each of the associated resources (bricks, gems, and recruits) you currently have. You use these resources to pay for cards. A green card with a 15 in the lower right costs 15 green (recruits) to play.
  • Damage to you or your opponent's tower or wall are basically understood, but damage that doesn't specify a target is not. 'Damage' by itself simply means it hits the wall first and the tower second.
  • If you don't have enough resources to play ANY of your cards you are forced to discard a card. Discarding (which is covered) is done by dragging a card down instead of up the screen.
Ok, now that we've got that out of the way we can talk about game play. The core strategy behind this kind of game is maximizing your resources to get the most "bang for your buck" to be cliche. An example of that might be playing a card that does 8 damage to your opponent's tower and costs you 4 gems. If you play such a card when you only have 1 gem you can't lose what you don't have (and you don't go negative) so playing such a card when you have few gems is a good idea. Likewise, building your resources generators early so that you can play better cards later is a good thing, too (i.e. it would be better to add 1 to your quarry that gain 5 bricks as it will pay for itself in 5 turns).

The games graphics are pretty good and the audio is up to snuff for a card game. The controls are entirely touch screen based, and I did have the occasional issue with it not recognizing a card drag when it should. You'll want to make sure you understand the rules to the game as the game doesn't allow you to use cards you can't afford. You won't want to think that has happened when it's just that your touch was not recognized.

qrcodeI'm ultimately a bit disappointed with this game mostly because my expectations were so high as I hurried to download what I thought was a Magic: The Gathering like game. If you anticipate that then you'll be disappointed too. This is a light strategy game. I think often it's obvious what you'll want to do. In a nutshell, each card just changes a few numbers around until one of those numbers is either 100 or 0 in which case the game is over. The fantasy theme isn't necessary, but it's nice. And the game is a nice, light strategy card game with a fantasy theme. There is a 'lite' version in the Android Market to try before you buy which I'd recommend first. 3.5/5 stars.

Nov 11, 2010

Phoenix Spirit - Press Release

The game Phoenix Spirit is coming to Android soon. To quote directly from the horse's mouth:

The game can be summarized as being an action exploration game in the same manner as Metroid, Castevania or Aquaria. The true goal in the game is to uncover the cause of the disease which is plaguing the mother tree.

To progress through the forest you will need to collect new abilities, cure diseases that stands in your way as well as collect hidden powerups. The Gameplay is comparable to a traditional shooter but with the freedom of flying. Using your accelerometer or thumb to guide Spirit through the forest adds exciting new gameplay in a whole new dimension.

and here's the trailer with, unlike some trailers, actual game footage...

Flick Kick Football

I was hesitant in writing this review as I'm trying to focus on games that offer something new. I've already reviewed Flick Kick Field Goal and elected against Flick Kick Rugby as, correct me if I'm wrong, it looked too similar to the aforementioned title. Enter Flick Kick Football, with that being football as in Europe, and maybe we've got something a little different. I was correct. And this is the best soccer shoot out style game I've seen, with that being soccer as in the USA, having tried several. I guess it makes sense when you've got a good graphics and physics engine for kicking a ball to milk it as much as you can. Although, at a dollar a game I suppose I can't make too much of an argument in terms of milking the title. Code reuse is good...

Flick Kick Football features three main modes of play in addition to a practice mode. They are arcade mode where you take shots until you miss, bullseye mode where you not only have to put the ball in the net you are also aiming at various bulls eye targets, and a time attack mode where you score as many goals as you can in a minute. Each of these modes has a bit more to it than that such as arcade mode allowing you to earn extra lives (i.e. misses) and having the goal potentially defended by several cardboard cutout soccer players. The cardboard cutout thing is actually kind of neat as when you plink one with the ball it gracefully topples. The game, as with other Pik Pok titles, features Open Feint support for sharing and comparing scores with other players.

The graphics are comparable to Flick Kick Field Goal and the sound is great with a crowd cheering, good 'ball contact' sounds, ..etc. There's plenty of similarity to the field goal version of the game so what's different? Well, obviously you're kicking into a net that has a top. You can overpower the ball and send it sailing too high. The big difference, though, is the kicking. There's no wind to worry about, but instead you have the ability to curve your flick and have the ball curve around any defending players. Don't pay attention to those negative app store reviews... this does work and I don't know if other users are having problems on low end hardware or what (and this review was done on a Motorola Droid so hardly top of the line hardware as of today). The curving is kind of interesting as it can be challenging to control. I will say that when I don't need it I avoid using it. A straight kick has proven far more reliable. However, as the game's difficulty progresses you'll need to weave a shot through some defenders here and there and thus learn to excel with those curve shots.

qrcodePik Pok has easily captured the crown respect to flick kicking games. Should I be expecting Flick Shot Hockey soon? That I don't know. Should you get this game? That depends on your love of flicking a ball at a goal. If you've got the field goal game and play it extensively (as I do) this will easily be a dollar well spent. If you don't yet own a Flick Kick game then I can't see too many people going wrong with such an addition. If you've got one of them and aren't totally enamored with the idea then you can probably skip acquiring more. This is a 5/5 star title that shares a substantial amount with its cousins, but not everything. And at the dollar price tag it's a winner.

And now for a video that has almost nothing to do with the game it advertises...

Nov 10, 2010

Reckless Racing

The bad news is that, after releasing some of the best games in the Android Market, Polarbit's quality has been a bit shaky. The good news is that Reckless Racing piggybacks on their initial trend of top notch games. I've tried a few top down race games on the Android and have never really come away as impressed. Reckless Racing changes that and is a keeper.

It's simple... Reckless Racing is a top down racing game (meaning that your perspective is as if you are flying overhead looking straight down at the track). The game features three modes of play in single player mode called Dirt Rally (a straight up race), Hot Lap (race solo for the fastest time possible), and Delivery (pickup and deliver). Once you've selected all of your options you start the race. The graphics are very pretty with dirt roads, bridges, puddles to splash through, cones to knock over, ...etc. The environment has lots of stuff to knock around. Couple this with some appropriate, deep south banjo music and, as much as I hate banjo music, the game sound great. When controlling your car you have three options... two touch screen layouts and a tilt option. I played mainly with the touch screen choices as that felt good and I'm already tilting my phone back and forth a bit as I wind around the tracks. The touch screen controls are tight and I didn't have any issues maneuvering around tight turns.

qrcodeThe game also features network play and leader boards along with a variety of cars and tracks. One thing that would have been cool, given the graphics and physics engines they have built this game around, would have been a demolition derby mode. I love demolition derbies and have to admit that it was almost as much fun ramming into the other cars and seeing the sparks fly as it was crossing the finish line first.

If you're interested in top down racing games and the southern theme isn't a turn off then I have no doubt that Reckless Racing is for you. At $2.99 it's a more than fairly priced game that I'm enjoying a lot. I wish I could direct those that are still questionable to a demo version, but there isn't one at present. However I do have a video of the game below. 4.5/5 stars for the best top down racer in the Android Market that I've played.

Nov 7, 2010

City Jump

Simplicity. Often the simple games can be the best. No complex rules... no complex controls... just challenging game play. A game in which you know you're improving even when your performance in each game isn't necessarily superior to the last is a key ingredient to addiction. I think City Jump hits much of this formula and that leads to a very satisfying gaming experience. And it's free.

City Jump's premise is simple. You're a super hero (with the original intent of being Superman based on various clues in the game) scaling the walls of buildings on your way to ward off danger. Several obstacles stand in your way. This is best illustrated in the screen shot. In essence there's a building on the left and on the right of the screen. You're on one of the two sides (on the left in the screen shot) and can jump back and forth between them. As you scale the walls you are vulnerable to enemies. When jumping you are also attacking and can smash through and eliminate enemies for points. Should you eliminate three identical enemies in a row you power up and become invulnerable for a short period of time racking up even more points. Sounds easy, but it's hard. This actually reminds me of a simplified Doodle Jump that doesn't lose any of the fun in the conversion.

qrcodeThe graphics are pretty good and the frantic music that plays along with the drop off upon your demise are excellent and really add to the mood of the game. Even better... controls consist of simply tapping the screen when you want to jump. This is a game you can play in one hand with your thumb. As stated the game is free as in 'ad supported'. There aren't a lot any options for customizing your experience in terms of difficulty or anything and no, this isn't a game I play for hours on end. But this is a game I've been coming back to several times a day for more abuse.

Conclusion? I love it. This would be well worth $.99, yet it doesn't cost a thing. The advertising that pays for it is unobtrusive, and it's an ideal mobile "pick up anytime you've got a minute or two to play" game. Go get it!

Nov 4, 2010

Finger Dance Revolution

I'm a software developer by trade and when I worked my first job we'd always make fun of the marketing guys as "do nothings". We'd hear of them going golfing or out to nice dinners with clients and think "That's work?". Here I am 15 years later with a completely different understanding that marketing isn't just work... it's hard work! It's just different from what I was doing. And maybe that's why the marketing guys would make fun of us for sitting around playing with our computers while thinking thoughts similar to those that we had.

And now to change gears (don't worry as we'll come back to it)...

Finger Dance Devolution is Dance Dance Revolution for your finger. It's the second stop on my search for good music games on Android, but it won't be my last. Finger Dance Revolution is just what you'd expect. Arrows fly up the screen and you've got to tap them as they meet the arrows at the top with precise timing to score and nail the dance steps. The graphics are nice and the songs are generally pretty good. One disappointment is that the full $1.99 version has only 8 songs versus its lite (aka free) cousin's 4 and I'm not sure that's enough to warrant a purchase.

The graphics are good and the arrows move smoothly to the top of the screen. The touch controls execute well. And while this isn't nearly as satisfying as playing with my feet it is certainly a solid engine for this kind of game. Enter what I perceive as the big problem... the track data. Just like I didn't appreciate the marketing/sales department many years ago I think often we don't appreciate the intricacy of the skill a game level designer has to employ. And without good 'level data' a game can be left in shame. In the case of Finger Dance Revolution I just don't feel like the arrows match up to their songs very well. DDR always made me feel as if I was conducting the music. Repeated patterns in a song had the same dance steps and they were fun to repeat. I'd look forward to a particular song. It was a thing of beauty. Here, I don't feel like the arrows always match the beat of the song very well, and I certainly don't see that there are patterns used for similar musical sequences. Often I'll find myself adjusting to the beat only to realize I'm no longer tapping arrows. And I certainly don't see patterns matching up to the chorus of a song. It's almost as if the steps were randomly generated for each song and while I doubt it's that extreme, and I'm exaggerating this a little I do feel like this is the reason I won't be coming back to the game.
Conclusion? It's a shame to see a piece of software where the game engine is expertly developed, but that suffers from weak 'level data'. If you're looking for this style game, and there's no reason not to try out the lite version, then this isn't a horrible choice by any means. Actually it's quite good compared to what I've seen so far. Just not good enough for a 5 star review. I can only hope this gets fixed to make the game a 5 star title. For now it's 3.5 stars.

Edit: I'm more than interested in hearing from anyone that disagrees with my assessment of the level data.

Oct 29, 2010

Android Game Sales - Oct 29, 2010

There are some pretty hot game sales/price reductions in the Android Market right now. I've marked my stronger recommendations with a *.

Polarbit - $2 off these titles until November 3rd

Armageddon Squadron - review
Badaboo - review
*Fuzzies - review
Iron Sight - review
Raging Thunder - review
*Raging Thunder 2 - review
ToonWarz - review
Wave Blazer


Impossible Level Game (review) - half a pound (about $.80) down from a pound
MLB Power Pros 2010 - $1.99
*Legends Arcana (review) - $2.99 from $3.99
Mole Miner - 1.49 pound ($2.40ish) down from 2.49 pounds
*Tank Recon 3D (review) - $2.99 from $4.99
Syrious Blasts! Full - $.99 from $1.99
Zum-Zum - 1.49 pound (about $2.40) from 2.49 pound
Dr. Droid - $.99 down from $1.99
Yumsters - $.99 pound ($1.60) down from 1.99 pound
ConnecToo - .79 pound down from .99 pound
*Hungry Shark (review) - $1 US for 1 Euro depending on the version you get
          (down from $4.99 / 3.49 euros)
Magic Bowling (review) - 1.39 euros down from 1.59 euros
Never To Be Konquered (review imminent) - .99 euros down from 1.99 euros

Oct 27, 2010


OrangePixel has been making pretty, little Android games for quite some time. I still like their Mini Plane and haven't tried many of their other titles, but Gulp! looked interesting. And I like interesting.

In Gulp! you play the role of a little guy at the bottom of the screen with a really long tongue. Perhaps it's supposed to be a frog... that I don't know. Yummies (and bonus crates) fall from the sky and you have to zap them with that tongue of yours before they get to the bottom of the screen. The bottom of the screen is divided into pieces of flooring and if anything hits it then that segment is destroyed. If you eliminate the Yummy before it gets to the bottom then a piece of food falls and you can pick it up for points. Those crates I mentioned can also be caught with your tongue to activate various power-ups. Finally, should anything hit you then it's game over in the most immediate sense.

The graphics for the game are pretty good as is the audio. Nothing steller, but better than average. The controls are simple. Tilt left or right to move. Touch left or right of your little guy and out comes the tongue at roughly a 45 degree angle. The challenge is in lining up those shots as you have no control over the angle. Fortunately, as the tongue extends and retracts all that has to happen is for the end of the tongue to come in contact with an enemy.

At first I really didn't like this game. It felt clunky to control. After playing it and trying to give it a chance I've warmed up a bit and would say it's a little above average. First, my biggest issue is that I don't really like the controls. They feel awkward. But then, after playing for a little while coupled with the game using a portrait perspective I found that my wrist started to hurt. Most games that use the accelerometer for tilt control tend to take on a landscape perspective so that I use both hands to tilt. The portrait mode used here lends itself to having me hold my phone with one hand and use one wrist to tilt ultimately leading to discomfort. Keep a bottle of Tylenol on standby. I really think that using landscape mode (and yes, things wouldn't be able to fall as far visually) would have been a big improvement. Next, after playing for a bit and being annoyed with the angular firing mechanism I realized staying in one place and waiting for the enemies to come to me was a good strategy. It's not perfect as waiting in one place doesn't give you enough time to pick up much of the dropped food and sometimes a Yummy will descend in my column, but it improved my performance. Finally, I don't really feel like I'm playing for anything other than a number. Ok, there are different levels with different background and such, but I can't say that I'm motivated to advance. That said, playing for a number isn't all bad... it just classifies this as more of an old school arcade game.

In conclusion, Gulp! comes down to being a take on the Space Invaders/Galaxian genre with angular firing and the addition of picking up dropped objects. In fact, it reminded me of an old Atari computer game I wrote 25 years ago with the 45 degree shooting element where space birds would fall and the player would have to pick them up. My game stank, though. This one is good, just not great. 3.5/5 stars. Take a look at the video below for more details.