Feb 26, 2010


When I first saw Pokanoid in the Android Market I thought it had something to do with Pokemon... thus no interest. However the developer emailed me earlier in the week asking if I would review it and telling me that it's actually a cross between Arkanoid and Poker. I really like Arkanoid and don't mind poker so I'm giving it a go.

As stated the game is a cross between Arkanoid where you have a paddle at the bottom of the screen and have to bounce a ball off of bricks until you hit them all. As you hit them they are destroyed, but some bricks reveal special powers. The poker potion of the game adds a twist on this such that each brick is actually a playing card. The first hit reveals the card and the second one causes it to drop giving you a chance to catch it and add it to a poker hand that you're building. For example, in the screenshot a 9 of hearts is the only card in the current player's hand. The better poker hand you build the more points. Some cards are special... and do things such as multiply your score, reveal all cards of a given suit immediately, and so forth...

The game plays well. I did experience some slow down here and there when presumably a background task consumed some CPU time, but unfortunately if that slow down comes at the wrong time it can be costly to your score. The interesting aspect of this game comes from the whole juggling in your head of what poker hand is going to be best based on all revealed cards, trying to knock the ball in the needed direction, and then when you accidentally hit some other card trying to keep the ball in play while NOT catching said card otherwise you ruin your hand. I, personally, haven't earned anything better than a two pair so far.

The graphics and nice and the sound is fine... nothing exemplary about either, but this isn't a game that relies on graphics and sound. The controls are the standard move your finger back and forth on the touch screen to move the paddle. The interesting revelation I had with this was that I can instantly move from one side of the screen to the other by not dragging, but pointing at the spot that I want the paddle to move to. Sliding my finger back and forth with any of these games makes me feel like I'm going to eventually rub the tip off so that knowledge helped me in playing this game.

In summary I give this one 4/5 stars. I like the somewhat different concept and the game certainly held my interest and offers a lot of challenge. The game includes playing through 1-3 decks of cards (so it's not play until you die by default) or unlimited decks. Oh, and thank God this didn't have anything to do with Pokemon... I'm sure it's much better that way.

Feb 25, 2010

Winter Game Fantasy

Winter Game Fantasy from OmniGSoft made its debut in the Market a few days ago at a price of $6.99. I've never paid that much for an Android game before so it must be good right? To tell the truth, one of the other reasons I was attracted to this was the price coupled with the two star (out of five) rating. What's going on here? Is this another case of a popular game maker trying to bilk money out of Android owners desperate for new games? Or rather a case of reviewers that don't give the game a fair shake. Let's take a look...

First, Winter Game Fantasy is three games in one... kind of. It features skiing, snowmobile racing, and the ever popular orca race. The reality is that this is a racing game package with all three games being very similar in nature. In skiing the player moves left and right and tries to ski between the flags, in snowmobile racing it's left and right around the race course, and in orca racing you're navigating through the rings in water with an added up/down element.

Control is one complaint I read and it's true... the games do NOT use the accelerometer which is a pity as that was made for this kind of action. Instead they use the DPad (on my Droid) and I presume the trackball on other Android devices. One initial issue was playing the games in portrait move and having the snap the keyboard out to the side while I play creating an awkward experience, but the pros at OmniGSoft did, at least, think of that and allow the games to be played in landscape mode like on a Nintendo DS. Hopefully an update might add accelerometer support.

The graphics and sounds on these games are great! I love winter and consequently love the snowy scenes. The screen shot to the right is from the snowmobile racing potion of the game. And once you recover from the disappointment of no accelerometer support you realize the controls work just fine.

Of the three games I like skiing the best. A ski lasts a minute or two and finally provides a quality arcade skiing experience. The snowmobile race actually grated on me. As much as I enjoyed the scenery the race was way too long... to the point that I never actually completed one because I got a bit bored. I do appreciate that it provides some nice snowy scenery for me to turn to in the summer months, though. Finally, I found the orca a challenge to control, but I always seem to have challenge with these 'fly through the rings games' so I'll take the blame there. The game did add an interesting aspect of having to monitor oxygen levels and the occasional need to surface for air.

The games don't appear to feature much in the way of depth. Each one features 3 different courses so that might keep you busy for a little bit, but they are the kinds of games I can see coming back to again. On the other hand, OmniGSoft has two other racing games for the Android and it would be a hard sell if you owned either Snow Rally Canada (replaced by snowmobile racing) or Super-G Stunt (replaced by orca racing).

My conclusion... 4 out of 5 stars. This is a quality title that despite the lack of any real depth and being clearly on the pricey side for the Android Market is still enjoyable (and cute) to play.

Feb 23, 2010

The Inferno Reprise

In thinking about it I've upped my rating for The Inferno from 3 stars to 4. The game is so professionally done that it's clearly not average.

Feb 22, 2010

From Below

I saw this game on the Market today and it had zombies in it and they're running a promotion on it at the low price of $.99. Furthermore, it is Droid only so surely it must be good by taking advantage of all of the things that make a Droid great? Wrong.

Upon first running this game it immediately crashed on me. Oh, boy! So being the diligent reviewer that I am I tried again and it worked. Go figure. The main screen uses the camera to display your surroundings in the background so I thought maybe that was going to be used in the game. Nope. I guess the developer was just showing off that he could access the camera hardware. Click on the menu button and choose 'Fight Zombies' and you're then treated to a menu of options... a slowly performing menu of options. I selected the default and it's off to the snore fest.

I can tilt my phone back and forth and use my radar to find the zombies and click on them to shoot and hopefully kill them. The background is bland and devoid of personality. The zombies aren't much better. And other than the gun that sounds like a snare drum there's not much in the way of sound.

I don't know why the developer is doing a promotion. Perhaps it's an "I'm sick of coding this game and want to make some money off of it" promotion. Never mind $.99... this isn't worth the space it consumes on my phone. Back to playing iDemolished... blowing up stuff is really fun!

Feb 21, 2010

Final Flight

I've apparently hit a downward spiral with regard to Android gaming. I've taken a look at 3 games (the 3rd coming tomorrow) that just aren't good. Today it's Final Flight. Once again a game with 5 stars such that I can't understand how someone could have awarded such a high rating (there was just one rating so there's no great conspiracy).

Final Flight is a vertical scrolling shooter in the same vein as Xevious. Once again no fire button... your ship just auto blasts away. The controls, however, aren't very good. Touch a spot on the screen and your ship moves towards it. It just doesn't have a good feel to it and I felt very much so that sometimes my touches would be ignored. I  think that may be my fault because I was touch dragging, but then again I'd really expect my ship to head toward the last spot my finger was on if that's going to be the control mechanism.

The game promises lots of power ups and upgrades. Unfortunately it was so boring that I never got there. It didn't feel much different from XGalaxy except there are scrolling mountains in the background. If you really want a vertical scrolling shooter get the previously reviewed Sky Force. It's a heck of a lot better in all dimensions despite the core game being created 4 years ago with the Android port coming just recently.

Enough said.

Feb 20, 2010


Back in the early 80s my first arcade game was Space Invaders. Next it was Galaxian. Then came Galaga... it wasn't a breakthrough concept, but it was so beautifully done that it became my favorite classic arcade game of all time. Blasting away at aliens as they dance on the screen into formation... trying to get the dual canons... and the catchy intro music made it a memorable game to play. XGalaxy tries to recreate that experience and fails miserably. How this game has 4/5 stars in the Android Market is a mystery that I'll never solve.

I've mentioned in the past that I'm a fan of emulators and preserving the past's arcade goodness. One of the big reasons I steered clear of an iPhone was the lack of freedom to run emulators on the device without Apple's blessing. A benefit of emulation is that it creates a base standard for games and this game is one that is clearly put to the test against Galaga for the NES from the late 1980s. A test that it does not pass.

First, everything is so incredibly small on the screen. I feel like I'm shooting at dots and not aliens. I have to squint while I play this game. Fortunately the squinting didn't last long before the Application Uninstall tool came to the rescue.

Second, I have to almost cover my canon with my finger as I move it back and forth. I like to be able to see what my enemy is shooting at. Yes, I can place my finger slightly below the canon. But then there's the autofire that I so loathe in games like this. I've rarely seen that done well. Autofire makes me feel like the game is playing me. All I do is drag back and forth trying to get under the oncoming invaders.

I don't think this game would have been enjoyable even if I didn't have Galaga already, but when pitted against this game that's over 20 years old it falls flat. Apparently there's an XGalaxy 2. Maybe that's better... a lot better... one can only hope as the original isn't even worth a dollar.

Feb 19, 2010

The Inferno

The Inferno from Xpressed Mobile Games is a game dripping with theme. The setting is hell and you're goal is to recue your girl from its grasp. It is currently available solely for the Droid so other Android users are out of luck with this one.

So what does it play like? Well, after working my way through 3 or so levels (and I ended up playing about 20 of the 121) it all started feeling familiar... I was playing 'Advanced Frogger in Hell'. Instead of cars and trucks there are ghosts... instead of lilly pads there are flaming balls of fire... I say that half-heartedly. This game is much more sophisticated than Frogger, and given that Frogger IS available for the Android and is almost twice the price this may be taken as a compliment. The Inferno is MUCH better than simple Frogger. But it all comes down to the same style of gameplay... avoid the obstacles with left/right/up/down movement to reach predefined locations to clear the level. Perhaps Sokoban would be a better game to compare it with as that introduces a puzzle element. Even better, a hybrid of the two as The Inferno requires good timing with button presses (no time to think in some situations) along with a puzzle element.

My personal disappointment with the game came from its attempt to advertise itself as an adventure with riddles. Granted I didn't play to the end... I played for about 45 minutes and through about 20 levels and it's possible those last levels are riddle packed. I see the puzzle... but not the adventure nor the riddles. The game does have some on screen dialog to read between levels and one of the more amusing things it did (note: this is a spoiler for those wanting to start playing so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to know) is one of the screens says to touch a ghost and see what happens. I die. Like an idiot I try it again. I die. Ha ha. I did think that was cute.

Graphically the game is well done and the accompanying music is also quality. I didn't care for the on screen touch controls, but was grateful that the game allowed for the use of the DPad instead. The game feels very much like a premium title and $2.99 is a very fair price for it.

In summary, I personally didn't care for the game. If there was nothing else like it I would probably have been on board, but as it is it's a puzzle game with an arcade element. I can see that this game will have its crowd... it's not a bad game and for what it is it's well implemented and earns 4/5 stars. It just doesn't do anything new, cool, or interesting. It's Arcade Sokoban or Advanced Frogger. Take a look at the video below if you'd like to see the game in action...

Feb 17, 2010


Back when I was a kid I had a bit of pyromaniac in me. We lived near a forest preserve and it was fun to go gather some dead brush in one of those under the road storm drains and have a little fire... or a big fire. I remember when my brother and I broke one of my Mom's plastic cleaning brushes and the pyro in me (and my brother) came to life. We decided to try and fuse the broken handle back together using the flame from the gas range. It didn't work out... the flame turned the green plastic and nice, dark black and we suspected that Mom might notice so we trashed it. And then she found it. Good times!

So who can resist a step up to a game like iDemolished? No more matches... on to the high explosives! In iDemolished it's your job to bring down old buildings by cleverly placing different types of explosives along the frame of the structure. The game has a nice three part tutorial to explain all of the controls and they're pretty simple. There's a selector for the type of explosive and in the early going all you have is basic dynamite. Then you can click to place or remove explosives. There's a reset button to start over. There's also a zoom in/out slider and you can drag on the sky to adjust your view. And, of course, there's the detonate button.

If it was just a matter of blowing things up that would get boring pretty fast, but in this game it matters in which order you place your explosives. You can even set delays. And you can tilt your device to gain some benefit from gravitational forces. On each level you have a certain amount of cash to use which limits the amount of bombs you can purchase, and different types of bombs cost different amounts of money.

So how is success measured? Essentially there's a height line drawn across the screen that appears when you detonate your explosives. If all pieces of the imploded building are below this line then you've succeeded and can move on... otherwise it's a do over. The further below this line the more successful you have been in leveling the structure and you earn medals based on this success. Unfortunately you are forced to work through each level to get to the end of the game's 60 levels. And from what I can see (you can look... you just can't touch) the end buildings such as the stadium look interesting. In the game's defense there is the aspect of acquiring more munitions along the way to maybe that's why they don't let you jump right to the end.

The game plays well and is heavily reliant on its physics engine. The graphics are good and even enhanced on devices that support it such as my Droid. There's not much to talk about regarding audio. And really... the controls are just clicking on various areas of the touch screen so not much to say there. The physics engine does a good job of collapsing structures.

My overall feeling for this game is that it isn't so much about the challenge... I haven't really felt that it's "hard" even playing on the highest of the three difficulty levels. It's more about the fun of blowing stuff up and that's surprisingly addictive. At present I don't really feel like I'm being too strategic in the placement of my explosives and it almost seems like trial and error when I fail. Perhaps in time that will change and I'll start gathering the nuances of building demolition. In summary, I'd give this a 4 out of 5... it's good and perhaps very good. It's just not great, but it is a keeper for me. Fortunately there's a free trial of the game available too and a video (below) to help you decide if this sounds like it's for you.

Shoot U!

Back when I used to do a lot of gaming on my iPod Touch (something I've barely touched since getting my Droid... TOUCHED! Get it? HAHA!) I had a neat puzzle game called Ragdoll Blaster. I was reminded of it because Ragdoll Blaster 2 was just released. In it you have a canon and have to shoot ragdolls in an effort to hit a star with one of them. While it has a puzzle element to it, it also couples that with a shooter element and they combine for a neat mix.
So today I'm looking to try something new and I download Shoot U! from Camel Games because it's pretty highly rated. Now, with a description of "hand drawn styled physics game" and no screenshots I really didn't know what to expect so I was quite surprised that it's Ragdoll Blaster for the Android. Fortunately that's a good thing as Ragdoll Blaster is one of about three games I played almost through the end because it's so much fun.

In Shoot U! your goal is to shoot ragdolls out of your canon and to hit the red star with them. For example, take a look at the screenshot. There's a boulder on a green rope and I'm trying to shoot the star. This is one of the early levels in the game and you need to shoot at the rope to move the boulder so that it knocks the star off AND then you have to shoot the star before it disappears off of the bottom of the screen. The levels (and there are 80 of them) show some great creativity and even when you think you've solved some of the latter ones there's the arcade element of getting the timing right with your shots.

The graphics are hand drawn, but that seems to have developed into a style of its own with mobile games although it's pretty basic artwork here. There's not much in the way of audio to talk about. The core of this game it the physics engine plus its associated animation and they works great. Firing the cannon is done by tapping on the screen. Tapping moves the blue site and fires the canon at it. The distance from the canon determines the shots power and the location determines the angle. The ragdolls then flop around as they fly through the air on what is hopefully on a trip to their intended target.

This is a fun game and perfect for a mobile device where it can be played for minutes at a time. I've come to the recent conclusion that I don't really want games that take hours to play on my phone because if I'm playing for that long then I'll probably visit my Xbox 360 instead. The game also doesn't make the mistake of forcing me to trudge through each level to get to the hard ones... I can skip right to them. I'm going to be looking for that now that I've become so aware of it.

Finally, I saw a comment from some guy saying he'd buy this if it were $1 cheaper. Give me a break! The game is $2.99 and it's great and is a great entertainment value. It'll take at least a couple hours to complete. In response to that I say "Stop being so bloody cheap Android owners!". You really need to check out the Windows Mobile world where games like this cost $10-$20. We have it pretty good because the iPhone lowered the bar on pricing and now everyone thinks all games should be $1. Rant over. Go play Shoot U!

What's Up?

I've been spending a bit less time doing Android game reviews lately and just wanted to post about what's going on...
  • First, my hope that this blog would make me independently wealthy through people clicking on ads hasn't happened. Generally my hope is to make about a penny per visitor and that's become more like a third of a cent if that... which isn't even enough to pay for the games I review. And, as stated, my goal is to keep paying so that I don't have to worry about handing out good reviews to anyone in particular.
  • Second, because of that I've had to put a lot more time into the business that actually puts food on the table which is a product called CompuAgent. It's a web content management system that we initially used for doing real estate websites (our primary market), but is starting to grow beyond that. It will also soon be used to host this site.
  • And third, my wife's grandmother passed away late last week at the age of 92.
Thanks for everyone's continued support,


Feb 15, 2010

infeCCt Recap

I've been playing A LOT of the recently reviewed infeCCT lately and have discovered one thing that drives me nuts about this game or ANY puzzle game for that matter. If I decide I want to do the last level (or any level) then I should be able to skip all of the easier levels and jump right to it. InfeCCt insists I work my way through 38 pages of levels before I get to the last one and I'd really like to ramp up the difficulty NOW. I've done well over 100 of the roughly 300 levels and perhaps two have taken longer than a minute to figure out. I really want to see what's in store without having to spend hours working through these less interesting levels. Rush Hour did it right by letting me CHOOSE whatever level I want to play.

Feb 14, 2010


I reviewed Cavedroid in the past as a footnote on one of my Freebie Friday sessions and expressed disappointment. At the time the game featured a 3D perspective, but only allowed up/down movement. I preferred the side scrolling SFCave (and knockoffs) over this 3D cousin. The author has since been hard at work and has added 2D movement making the game far more interesting and separating it from games like SFCave in play. This in turn has made the game much more interesting and enjoyable and it is now a recommended title especially because it's free. Well, not entirely free... the author is taking donations on his website so it's up to you to pay if you enjoy the game and find yourself playing it a lot.

Feb 13, 2010


I like sniper games. The first one I recall playing is Silent Scope which had the novelty of having a rifle with a scope that had its own little screen inside so that it simulated a real scope. I actually played the DreamCast version more so than the arcade version, but it was a great port. I also tend to play games like Unreal as a sniper trying to find that elusive hiding place. It turns a button fest into a more strategic game and I'm more into strategy than seeing how quickly I can hit the spacebar. Nonetheless, iCommando had great appeal... the operative word being 'had' as I didn't keep this game.

First, it's not really a sniper game... ok, *I* might be a sniper, but apparently I'm standing in the middle of a big field with my trusty sniper rifle while the countless enemies approach with semi-automatic weapons. It apparently takes a lot of shots to penetrate my armor, but aside from that this is a suicide mission. Where's my hiding place? Where's my brain?

The graphics are good... specifically the scenery (just take a look). The animations aren't so good. When I shoot someone they sometimes just disappear. That's not usually the case... sometimes I'm treated to a frame or two of animation as they drop, but suffice it to say that this animation isn't smooth. The sound of gunfire works fine for the game and the audio is on cue. Likewise the controls work well... click on an area to zoom in, click on the rifle (lower right) to fire, and click on the lower left to zoom back out. Once you've zoomed in you can tilt your phone to move your sight.

This game is one of the more challenging games to review because it's not great and it's not bad... it's right there in the middle as a mediocre title. I'm sure some will enjoy it, but as for me... there are better games out there and I can only hope a better sniper game comes along. Maybe I'm a traditionalist, but I really like sniper games where it took awhile for the enemy to find me because I'm HIDING and there was pressure to find and pick them off before they noticed me. This game doesn't stress me out at all like it should and becomes somewhat monotonous after killing my 20th enemy (and they just keep a coming). But the ultimate reason it didn't make it for me was the above coupled with its giant 13 meg size... way too much space consumed for way too little fun.

Feb 10, 2010


This game was released last Friday after I posted the video for it earlier in the week. I seem to have trouble with this game's name, though... I keep wanting to type ExZues (as I did for my preview announcement last week) or EzZeus. So if you're hunting for it in the Android Market pay careful attention to its spelling.

ExZeus is a 3D shooter. Essentially you control left/right/up/down movement and firing, but the game controls the forward movement as you travel through the levels towards an eventual boss encounter. The game bleeds action and firepower. The game also offers a lot of options allowing you to adjust the controls (tilting moves you around) both in terms of reversing the axis as well as sensitivity.

When I was first about to do this review I was left feeling like the game just wasn't my bag. It has too much going on too quickly for my taste and then I noticed something. A TUTORIAL? What the heck... as much as I don't like instructions maybe it has something interesting that I'm missing. After watching it all I can say is wow... this game has lots of options for firepower beyond the basic tap, tap to shoot bullets. First, you can lock on to enemies and fire missiles. Then you have a laser you can shoot with and bombs you can unleash. Furthermore, because the missiles feature a target locking system that takes some of the frustration away that I was experiencing when I was trying to operate exclusively with bullets. Bottom line... watch the tutorial FIRST.

As with HyperDevBox's other title, Love Catch, the graphics and sound are top notch. They also have developed the good habit of downloading all of the game's data files onto the storage card so that the game doesn't consume much of the Android's precious app storage space (how I wish everyone with a game over a meg would do that). The controls work well, too, and if you're into high speed, arcade titles this will be right up your alley.

As for me... not so much. It plays too fast for my old bones, but I'm not so blind as to see that this is a great game that will have its audience. I'm also appreciating that the developers included a Continue option so that those of us that don't have the arcade reflexes can, at least, work our way through the game's various boss robots. It takes someone like me an extra life or two... ok, 23... to get past that first level, but at least they allow me to see what's next. The game does feature online play as well and is a welcome addition to the Android Market. I'm looking forward to see what HyperDevBox's next creation is as they are clearly among the elite with their Android game development.

Feb 9, 2010

Rush Hour

Rush Hour clones are nothing new to the Android Market... from the glitchy Parking Droid to some basic freebies this genre is covered, or so I thought. I'm a fan of these games owning the Rush Hour board game and having a few of the clones on my Droid. Initially I hadn't planned to cover this one because it wasn't anything new, but author Mark Mainwood emailed me about it (he also wrote one of the Asteroids clones on the Android) and so I purchased a copy. Actually it's an odd story in that he's been the first author nice enough to send me a copy of the game, but I decided that one of the themes of this blog is that I don't get any special treatment that might taint my reviews and thus I went ahead and purchased it anyways prior to playing/reviewing it. I'm glad I did...

If you know how to play the game then skip this paragraph. If you don't here's a recap: There's a 6x6 grid (the parking lot) filled with cars (coveing 2 spots) and trucks (covering 3 spots). You want to be able to drive the red car straight our of the parking lot. Vehicles can only move in a line forward/backwards based on the direction they face. You need to move the cars around until the red car can get out (move it next to the red space on the board's perimeter).

The first thing that is great about this version is the 2500 puzzles broken evenly into four difficultly levels. That means if you spend a minute on each puzzle (and trust me... the hard one's will generally take longer than a minute) then you've got almost two days worth of continuous play here. That's a LOT of puzzles. But that's not all... each puzzle also include the best possible 'score' which is the total number of spaces that you move things. So once you complete a puzzle the game then tells you that there's a better way and it's back to the drawing board... at least if you're a perfectionist it is.

The graphics are nice and bright just like the Rush Hour board game and when you solve a puzzle it plays one musical score and if you solve it optimally there's another tune that it plays. The controls are a simple touching / dragging of the cars/trucks. At first I had a bit of difficulty with moving the vehicles as I was touch dragging a bit too fast, but the game has a little dingy sound when you connect with a car and slowing down a bit solved the problem perfectly. Another nice thing this game does is it lets you play ANY puzzle you want right away... no more working through countless easy puzzles to get to some hard ones.

Finally, I figured that with this being the official Think Fun endorsed game that it would cost $4-$5... nope... it's only $2. Move over Parking Droid... there's a new king of the Rush Hour hill and not surprisingly it's Rush Hour itself! This is a game I don't hesitate to recommend.

Feb 8, 2010

3D Paddle Bounce

The concept behind 3D Paddle Bounce is easy. Control a ping pong paddle and move it to keep the ball in the air. And that is where the game goes awry:; the author's idea of moving a paddle is actually tilting a paddle... and not moving it around! So when playing the ball appears and if you don't start at a good angle the ball goes flying off of the screen. Adjust and repeat until the ball stays in the vicinity for a second hit and then maybe you have a chance. Actually if you get the right angle so that the ball goes straight up in the air I presume you can set your Android device down and go enjoy a drink or something while you rack up a nice, high score. Admittedly my high score is about 10, though, and I haven't done that. In summary, this game is pretty boring and aggravating all in one package. About the only positive thing I can say is that it is free and thus I don't have much to complain about other than my lost time. I have far more fun playing catch by myself...


Diaballik is a game I've been playing and have yet to beat it. It's a strategy game that looks a big rugbyish in nature... actually it reminds me of a board game I have called Street Soccer.

In this game you play on a 7x7 grid and each end is lined with 7 players (a team). The middle player starts with the ball and your objective is to march down the field and get one of your players on your opponent's starting line with the ball. A turn consists of one or both of the following in order:

a) Move two spaces. This means one player can move two spaces or two players can move one space. A move is always orthogonal (up/down/left/right) and not diagonal.

b) The player with the ball passes the ball to another player within line of sight orthogonally or diagnoally. Players block line of site (including your own). [Edit: Actually your own players do NOT block your line of sight... only your opponents do]

It's simple really, but the AI is quite good and has had me on the ropes since starting to play this game. The game offers two modes of play (minor rules difference). My only concern is that perhaps once I do win I'll have figured out how to beat the AI and that will be that, but that's speculation. You do always have the option of playing against another human in hot seat mode. Games that combine sports with strategy are difficult to do well. There's nothing fancy about the graphics or sound here... it's just good, strategic game play. If you like games that require thought instead of reflexes give this a shot. And did I mention it's free?

Feb 6, 2010

River Blast

River Blast from Gyco Productions has an accurate title. It's a blast to play and all for just $2. I really wasn't expecting much when I purchased it as the Android Market can be so hit and miss. Panzer Panic was the last game to make this kind of impression on me. And I'm not a big fan of race games, but I can be sold on them if some extra little twist is thrown in. For example, I wasn't much of a Need For Speed fan, but add being chased by cops that go as far as setting up blockades to stop me and suddenly racing becomes quite the rush. River Blast on the other hand can actually be relaxing... and frustrating... at the same time.

First things first, River Blast is a kayak racing game that offers 3 regions (plains, arctic, and rocky) with 5 rivers in each. I've been playing a lot since yesterday and I finally completed the first 'plains' river this afternoon. Once you get the hang of it things move quicker... I finished the first 'rocky' river shortly thereafter. What makes this game so cool is a combination of the tranquil sound, the great controls, the nifty rivers, and the global leader boards. The sound of paddling a kayak is great. With every paddle you hear the woosh of water. It's quite beautiful. The controls are where the game really shines... simply drag on the left side to use the left paddle and on the right side to use the right paddle. You can even drag backwards to paddle backwards. And there's no reward for furiously paddling away. This isn't a twitch fest. In fact, you're rewarded for nice, long, powerful strokes instead of quick ones and the instructions clearly spell this out (but with the typical game rewarding players for hammering away as quickly as possible that actually takes some getting use to). As stated it took me a day to get past the first river and get that concept through my head. Fortunately, while struggling away with failure you can turn off the timer and play in "Chill Mode" where you can paddle around wherever you want to your heart's content without fear of "Game Over". You can't advance to the next river in chill mode, but it was quite useful for practicing. Next, the rivers... each one is different. You might be paddling with the current or against it. Along the way there are various obstacles such as logs floating down the river, small islands, and even rapids to travel over that give you a speed boost. There are also checkpoints that give you extra time if you pass through them. And throughout this you'll be competing on a global scale which isn't anything new, but it's nice that this game includes that option. I'm using my real name of "Alan" on them if you want to see how well you can do against me.

I can't quite put my finger on what makes such a simple game so pleasing... it's just how well it all flows together (no pun intended). I've mentioned a few times how good audio really backs up a good game. Include some mesmerizing music and suddenly game play becomes more enjoyable... kind of like listing to music at work to make a job more palatable. The only flaw in the game I found... and it's kind of funny... is as if the proofreading staff got bored after page 6 of the instructions. The well written rules have typos galore in them after that. And the game actually acted really odd for me on my first play... the controls didn't respond at all. I don't know or understand what happened as it's worked just fine since then with zero glitches. And today an update was released, but without any info as to what was changed/fixed so who knows if any of that was fixed. All in all though this game is a gem. Get it!

Feb 2, 2010

ExZues - Coming Soon

From the makers of the impressive LoveCatch comes a new 3D shooter. You can check out a video in advance of its release below. From the looks of it I am reminded of Space Harrier...


As stated in the past, I'm tired of reviewing puzzle games on the Android platform because that genre is overrun. InfcCCt is a puzzle game from the same company that brought us Panzer Panic (one of the few Android games that still gets played on a regular basis such as last night) and was pointed out to me by one of my readers (thank you!). Given that I'm reviewing it you can guess that I like this game...

But first, what is it called? On my Droid, on Handy Game's website, and on the title screen it is called infeCCT so why in the Android Market is it called Snake infeCCt? Just an observation...

The game itself is simple and is a kind of maze game. You have a start point, a grid of spaces that might be empty or covered, and you have to navigate from the start space touching each empty space exactly once. The game has 300 levels and the first many are good confidence builders as they're very easy, but the game does get harder as the grids grow in size and new types of spaces are introduces such as a cross space that must be crossed twice.

The game has excellent graphics for a puzzle game and a nice, relaxing sound track that is probably a factor in me wanting to keep playing. The game's advertising compares it to Sudoku, and quite bluntly that is ridiculous. Sudoku is a puzzle where you apply logic to narrow down a cell's content to one possibility... this is a look ahead, maze game. The two are very different so if you like Sudoku I make no guarantees that you'll like this and vice versa. Ultimately, however, this game is a beauty and I'm happy to have it as a part of my collection!

Feb 1, 2010

Stereogram Riddle

When I saw this over the weekend it brought back memories of one of the bigger fads of the mid-90s. They used to appear in newspapers, there were calendars, and, of course, books. In fact, there was even a Seinfeld episode featuring a sterogram painting... that's how mainstream they got. The main brand was Magic Eye.

In essence a sterogram is an image such that if you can focus your eyes independent of one another at a perfect, magical angle then you'll see a 3D image on a 2D piece of paper. I never could do it until one day I was visiting my wife's grandma (may she rest in peace) in Aiken, SC and she was doing them. Not to be outdone by grandma I tried and tried and eventually the 3D image came in to focus. It was so cool! From then on I was able to participate in this elite club and decode these 3D images.

So I downloaded Stereogram Riddle hoping to relive some memories and have access to countless stereograms in my pocket at all times. Wrongo! I don't understand how this app has 4.5 stars unless a lot of the author's friends are rating it...

1) First there's glare... and obviously the developer of this app can do nothing about that. That's just an unfortunate side effect of trying to do this kind of thing on a screen versus paper. It was a real challenge trying to find a 'better', less glare environment to do these in, and I could never find a 'great' environment that would be glare free. Perhaps devices other than the Droid have a better screen for this, but I doubt it... as soon as there's a perfectly smooth, flat surface there's a reflection.

2) I'd be staring away trying to bring the image into focus... and my Droid would dim itself. VERY distracting. I presume the developer has different settings on his phone, but mine conserves power after 30 or so seconds and I don't have this problem with other games (and it could be that other games require more interaction with the touch screen). Nonetheless, a serious flaw!

3) After about 3 images it started repeating images... maybe that's bad luck, but #1 and #2 kept me from doing a detailed investigation.

4) Finally, all the images I saw are quite boring. A donut ring... a tea pot... I'll stick to my Magic Eye books, thank you!

Now there's another app called Stereograms, but after trying this I just don't think devices with screens are a good medium for these 'puzzles'. My advice... go check some Magic Eye books out at the library or buy them. It's much more satisfying and they make great coffee table books...