Mar 29, 2010

Missile Command

Missile Command is an 80s arcade game from Atari. Search for it in the Android Market and you'll come up empty. Fortunately there are several clones of this great, retro arcade game for the Android and here we'll take a look at not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of them.

Ok, what would you think it would take to make a good Missile Command clone? Obviously the spirit of the game has to be faithfully recreated. Perhaps a graphics enhancement. Similar or improved sound effects. Maybe even some new challenges that add to the original in a preferably good way...

The four games I'm going to look at are Armageddonoid, Ballistic Defense, Missile Intercept, and Missile Shield and they are all freebies.

Leading off is Armageddonoid which upon loading starts off with some seemingly out of place dance music. The graphics are retro and similar to the original game, and the sound is basic. Actually the sound in all four of these games is basic to non-existent. The most distinguishing feature of Armageddonoid is its control scheme... all of the other games rely of touching the screen to launch a missile whereas this game has a targeting sight that you have to move by sliding on the touch screen, using the DPad, or using a trackball so if your device has a trackball this may actually be the most faithful to the original. One thing I found mildly distracting is how launched missiles don't travel in a line... they travel on a diagonal and complete their journey by travelling on a straight, vertical line, but that's a minor detail that perhaps just I find annoying.

Next, is Ballistic Defense. Ballistic Defense includes both updated artwork and classic artwork that faithfully resembles the original's graphics. It's also the only game that graphically fires missiles like the original game with a line (of smoke?) extending from your missile silo to the target that disappears on impact. Sound is absent in this game, but given the lack of anything terribly impressive in any of these games I'm not sure I miss it. Still it would be a nice enhancement should an update be made for this game. Firing is done by simply touching the screen. At first I thought that would make for an incredibly easy Missile Command clone, but it doesn't... especially when you still have to lead the enemy's missiles and time your shots correctly. Ballistic Defense is certainly among the better of these four games... all of which have their own redeeming features.

Missile Intercept is perhaps the worst of the lot. First, it deviates from the original by giving you only three cities to defend. Next, touching the screen IMMEDIATELY detonates a bomb taking the whole timing element of the original game away. Then they decided that destroying an enemy missile should sound a lot like someone firing a shotgun. I know it's free so there's not much to knock... but with the other three choices available I think you can safely skip this one and not miss much.

Rounding out the lot is Missile Shield. Missile Shield has similar, odd sound effects as Missile Intercept... a minor irritation, but gives you the original six cities to defense and the need to time your shots. It also adds a nice, starry backdrop to the play area. It's a solid effort.

If I had to pick one for my Droid it would be Ballistic Defense. I really like how touching to launch missiles works as it's much better than I imagined and enough missiles raining down on me creates some pretty hectic action. For purists I can see Armageddonoid getting the nod especially if you have a trackball on your Android phone. None of these games does anything to enhance the game that I can see, but then again there's no real need to tamper with a classic.

Mar 27, 2010


I've reviewed a few games like this including Mini Shot Basketball, but this game is different in that it's actually good. Other games seem to rely too much on muscle memory where after playing for a while (a very short while) you can get into the groove and rack up really high scores which in turn makes the game no longer fun. A major case in point is Skee Ball on the iPhone... I can not comprehend how it's still (never mind about how it ever became) a top fifty (top ten?) game. It's basic, boring, and winning a virtual teddy bear doesn't do it for me. Anyhow, back to this game...

The plainly named BasketBall offers three timed modes and two shot modes where you're simply try to make baskets. The ball is placed somewhere on a side view of a basketball court and you have to drag to create the appropriate shot arc that will sink the basket. And you have to do it quickly and/or accurately. The physics work well... the variety in shots make the game not subject to muscle memory burnout... and all in all it's an enjoyable diversion.

The game isn't without flaws and there are two that really bug me. The first is that while I'm positioning my show my finger blocks a good portion of the screen making is hard to see what I'm doing. I had hoped that finger placement would solve that issue (i.e. where I first place my finger is an imaginary ball and we work from there), but the game doesn't work that way... your finger relative to the ball is what makes the shot arc. Second, the game has a Type 1, 2, and 3 trajectory precision on the option screen, but I can't see an explanation of what that means anywhere. But then the game comes through with some surprising detail such as how the net moves as the ball flows through it.

I don't know why making this type of game has proven so challenging. SimbSoft did a great Pocket PC version of basketball ages ago where quick dragson the touch screen were used to take shots. I know that doesn't make much sense without seeing it (and is a dead site right now with a database error message appearing in its place), but it and several of their other sports games worked well. How I'd love to see Android ports of their games. In the meantime Basketball is a good, solid game in this genre and I'm glad it's available. 4/5 stars. You can see the (left side of the) game in action in the video below:

Mar 22, 2010


LogicPic is a logic puzzle in the same vein as Sudoku. It always amazes me how many people view Sudoku as having something to do with math when the numbers are easily replaced by letters, colors, or other symbols without changing the game. And the same kind of thinking applies to LogicPic. With LogicPic you have a grid with numbers on each row/column indicating groupings of dots. For example, you might have a 2 3 1 meaning 2 dots are adjacent followed by 3 dots being adjacent and then a lone dot. None of these groupings can be adjacent, but the amount of space between them is unknown. Another example might be a row of ten cells with a 7 as the 'clue'. You don't know if it's the first 7 or last 7 or somewhere in between that are filled, but you do know that the middle 4 are. If you understand that and think understanding that was fun then you'll like this game.

LogicPic is nothing new... the paper version has been out for ages and PicCross is available on the Nintendo DS. This Android version features over two hundred puzzles categorized in four levels of difficulty which basically translates to larger grids/larger puzzles. Graphics and sound aren't at issue with a title like this and won't wow you, but the user interface works and the game is an enjoyable diversion. I also appreciate that the developers do update the app... in the couple of weeks after having purchased it I've seen an update and there have been a couple of others.

Don't expect to be impressed by the images revealed when you solve a puzzle... they are very basic and blocky, but there's not much you can do with a 10 x 10 grid. If you like these kinds of puzzles then this one is a pleaser and at only $.99 it is also most certainly a good deal. 4/5 stars.

Mar 19, 2010

Alien Defender

Holy toledo, Bat Man... it's another Space Invaders clone. That could always be a good thing if it was something special, but this one isn't. It's the some old song and dance... aliens appear, you move back and forth while your gun autofires, shoot some aliens.... score some points... been there, done that... blah, blah...

Ok, in all fairness this game has powerups... never heard of those before. Brilliant! And audio... pop, pop, pop... The only redemption I can find is that the game isn't that expensive at .89 UK pounds or about US $1.50. If you don't have a space shoot 'em up and you feel that it's a gaping hole in your Android game library then maybe you've found a match, but I'm just not seeing it. 3/5 stars... an average score for an average game.

Mar 16, 2010


ScratchDown is a simple, but interesting little game. Essentially there's a hidden photograph and you can scratch off a predetermined amount to reveal a small portion of it. Then you have to guess, from four multiple choice answers, what the picture is. The less you reveal the more points you get. It's that simple and it's a freebie courtesy of the ad revenue model of pricing.

There's really not much more to say and given that it won't cost you a cent to try I'm not sure there needs to be. This is a game that anyone can play. I'm sure it's the type of game that isn't going to appeal to everyone... but it did appeal to me and seems to be a good social game so that's why I recommend taking a look at it. 4/5 stars because it works well and is free.

Mar 15, 2010

Carrom 3D Pro

Carrom is a game that has been around now for over a hundred years. It was invented to keep young boys out of seedy pool halls in order to help them avoid the bad influences that congregated in such undesirable places. The Carrom Company itself is based in Ludingotn, MI and has gone through many ownerships and names over the years, but still survives to this day. I should know... I was fortunate enough to pick up a Carrom board at a thrift store last year, but it was missing the parts so I had to order them direct.

Carrom 3D bring this game and another, similar game called Crokinole to the Android. Carrom, as you can guess from its history, is similar to pool. Crokinole is different, but still involves making precision shots to place your pieces and knock your opponent's piece off of the board. I won't delve into the rules... you can read those here.

The game, as pictured, displays a nice, 3D representation of the table that you can easily move around to position yourself for the perfect shot. The game plays well, bar one exception and it's a biggie. I found that whether I used the touch screen or the DPad on my Droid to control my shots it was VERY difficult and annoying to set up shots quickly. I could fiddle with it until I got it right, but that was quite tedious... especially with the touch screen where I could easily line up a perfect shot, but once I lifted my finger the shot changed to one I sure didn't want to take. The DPad has its own challenges as because pressing it in the middle is also a DPad press I'd accidentally take shots I didn't want to. I plodded through trying to adapt to this, but could not compensate with experience. If only the control was better this would be a much better game, and I do NOT fault the developers for this... I'm sure they're just processing the input my Droid provides to the program, but because of this it was a very frustrating game to play.

Despite finding a Carrom board last fall, I didn't actually play on one until two weeks ago at the Fire & Ice Game Convention in Manitowoc, WI. I  already knew it was hard to take a sports game and turn it into a board game... rolling dice to determine if a catch is made or a goal is scored just doesn't cut it. I think this suffers from some of these same issues... lining up a shot and flicking a disc with my hand is what Carrom is about. Dragging on the screen and SEEING actual vectors being drawn on a physically perfect board is not. It might satisfy those that don't actually play the real game or as a quick fix, but it's just not the same. So my first recommendation is to get a real board if you want to play this game... the computer version, while doing about as good of a job as it can, just isn't the same. 3/5 stars.

Edit: This game has been substantially improved since it was first reviewed and this about as good as it gets without playing the real thing. The control system is better among other things covered here... 5/5 stars.

Mar 14, 2010

Flight Frenzy Deluxe

Flight Control knockoffs seems to be becoming a dime a dozen. That shouldn't be surprising given that the original iPhone version of the game has netted developer Firemint over 2 million in gross sales (obviously the Apple AppStore gets some of that). Unfortunately they have chosen not to support the Android platform so far and with a giant hit game on the Android only selling 10,000 copies I'm not sure I blame them, but I digress. My current favorite Flight Control clone on the Android continues to be Heli Rescue, but that deviates from the original recipe. Flight Frenzy Deluxe stays true to that recipe and does it better.

A central selling point for this game is that it only costs half of a UK pound or about US $0.85. That's right... 85 cents for an AWESOME game. This is probably the biggest steal in the Android Market! But $0.85 for junk is money not well spent... fortunately this game is fantastic! Like its predecessor you'll be landing planes, but the bright, beautiful graphics and the precision at which this game tracks your line drawing is unparalleled. I had no problem dragging planes to their respective landing strips and the game illuminates valid landing strips once you start dragging making it an engaging process with little room for error. The game gets hard pretty fast and that's good, too. I always hated having to spend 5 minutes ramping up in Flight Control.

The graphics are nice and sharp and the game includes four different maps. The game's maps are beautiful and feature animation such as a spinning radar towers and the different levels feature different kinds of planes such as stealth bombers (on the second map, pictured). The musical soundtrack is nice and the audio cues are perfect so... Good graphics? Check! Good audio? Check! Good controls? Check! Fun to play? Check!

If I had to note deficiencies I'd list two, but I'm beiing ulta nitpicky. First, I don't get the one screeen tutorial? It could just have easily been incorporated into the loading screen. Drag and land planes on their runways. There, now you don't need to read it. Second, the planes fly under the clouds and disappear leading me to temporarily lose track of them and in some situations that really makes the game difficult... such as if a plane flys under a cloud as it enters the screen. Not impossible... just difficult.

But once again at the pocket change these guys are charging for this title they deserve to sell a million copies of this game. Go buy it if you have the money... and if you don't I'm sure you can muster it up by searching your couch cushions, outside on the ground, ...etc. 5/5 stars!

Mar 10, 2010

Mini Plane

Congratulations are in order... for me! This is my 100th post here at I always wondered if I could manage a blog after several failed attempts to write on a regular basis that usually culminated around day 3. Alas, hopefully this is just the start...

As for today's game... Mini Plane takes the old SFCave and slaps some pretty graphics, power ups, and a fuel tank on it along with a price tag. I like this style of game if only for the reason that it fits a touch screen device perfectly with its simplicity of control... touch to go up, release to go down, and tap at a constant pace to stay level (which can be pretty hard to do). In the original there were some basic obstacles to avoid. Mini Plane has buildings and other planes / helicopters you can collide with. Interestingly enough the very top of the screen is a safe haven so you can just hold down on the screen and so long as no enemies occupy the top row you're safe... until you run out of fuel. Fuel is the interesting twist in this variant... you are forced to surface for air now and again and pick up a fuel package. Otherwise, you die!

The game's parallax scrolling is pretty... certainly far, far superior to the bland graphics in SFCave. The game's audio is nothing to write home about (as can be experienced in the video below). And, as has become standard, the game has online leader boards so that I can feel embarrassed by the guy that has scored almost 90 times more points than I have.

At 2 euros (about $2.80 US) I have to question whether this game is worth a purchase with similar, yet inferior, offerings in the Android Market like the original SFCave and Throttle Copter. Once again it depends on how much you are into this type of game. If you're a big fan then you won't be disappointed, but if you're more or less indifferent then you'll probably be just as satisfied with either of the two, free aforementioned titles. As for the game itself I give it 4/5 stars.

Mar 9, 2010

Raging Thunder 2

I'm a fan of Polarbit as an Android game publisher and I loved the original Raging Thunder. It was among my first Android games that really showed that my phone was just as capable as my old iPod Touch given the right development talent. The upgrade, Raging Thunder 2, was recently released so needless to say it was a must download for me. In writing this it occurs to me that this is the first time I've reviewed a sequel on So how does it stack up?

Let me be clear... this game is an improvement over the original arcade style racer. But I have a hard time telling those that are anything less than die hard fans of the original to buy this if they own Raging Thunder. I think your money would be better spent on a different game... perhaps a different Polarbit title.

The graphics in Raging Thunder 2 are superb. The game itself is bigger and on top of that it downloads another pile of data to your SD card. It also adds more physics such as knocking those orange traffic cones out of the way as you run into them. And it doesn't have some of the slow background fill in problems that the original had... such fill in issues are at a minimum here as I only saw one. Furthermore, sliding against a wall or crashing into an opponent yields a plasma like 'explosion' (as visible in the screenshot). But the game itself doesn't really seem to have changed much... game play modes, power-ups, ...etc are all still here.

What has changed is the intensity. Switching back to Raging Thunder made me feel like grandma was driving me to the airport whereas I could feel my heart accelerate when playing the sequel. That feeling may be the biggest draw to this game... aside from cosmetics it really was the biggest difference.

I'm not a huge fan of racing games in general. I can appreciate the quality of this title, but I need something more... I need it to be a cat and mouse chase or a stunt race or, to deviate from racing altogether, a demolition derby. I guess that's the kind of change I was hoping for in a sequel.

One big annoyance with this title on my Droid is that I've been trained that the home button gets me out of any app and back to the home screen. I was surprised that if I do that during game play that I return to the home screen, but the game continues to play its music and reloading the game resumes my place. I guess some might consider that a feature... I found it to be a pain as I would have to reload the app and then go backwards through its menus to force it to do a clean exit.

Do you own the original and want to take that next step in intensity? If so then this game will not be wasted on you. And if you don't own the original this game will be a stunning addition to your collection of Android games. This is a five star title, but I just wish it could have had more substance. Want to see more? Check out the following video:

Mar 8, 2010


Pobs is a strategy game that is billed as mixing Checkers and Reversi. That's a pretty accurate description of this interesting little game... and it's free. At that price you can't afford to not download it.

The game is simple... on a hexagonal board you have tokens and so does your opponent. A move can be one of two choices... a) add a new piece to the board in an empty space that is adjacent to any of your existing pieces or b) use an existing piece and jump over a possibly occupied space to another empty space. In either case all opposing pieces adjacent to your newly captured space become yours. And so it flows back and forth until the board is full.

The AI seems strong and the game offers a variety of modes such as a Quick Play mode. The game also sports three difficulty levels. One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that there are different board configurations (aka levels) that add to the challenge. You might even be playing against more than one AI opponent on a given board.

My only irritant with the game is the annoying plink sound it uses universally when selecting a menu item or making a game move. I feel like the author auditioned a variety of possible noises and went the most obnoxious one he found. After hearing it twice you'll want to mute this game.

But all in all this game is a lot of fun to play and a solid challenge. It placed in the ADC2 competition and at a list price of $0 it's a title you can't afford to ignore. Take a look at the following video if you'd like to see the game in action, but for an unknown reason they've dubbed over the game's exciting plink sound...

Mar 5, 2010

Press Release: New Android Game Delivers 3D Graphics, Cash Prizes

Here's a news bit that arrived in my email this morning. Sorry for the lack of updates this week. I really haven't seen any new games that struck my eye. I have a few forthcoming reviews in the queue, though. Now, back to the news story:

MADISON, WI - March 4, 2010 - Today Door-6 unveils Vacuum, a fast-paced competition on the Android platform. The game blends classic arcade action with a dynamic 3D environment. Players must navigate a perilous, asteroid-filled obstacle course, competing for the top score and cash prizes. In this successor to the acclaimed, "Atmosphere: The Training Mission", a finalist in Google's Android Developer Challenge 21 , your phone becomes the joystick of an agile spaceship maneuvering to collect targets along the course.

Vacuum will be released into the Android Market by March 20th, and the first round of competition will begin April 1st. The details of the contest, and its prize amounts, will be announced soon.

Today, attached to this press release, you will find a fully functioning media-only preview of Vacuum. Any feedback you provide will be appreciated, so use the feedback button on the main screen of the game to let the team know what you think.

Vacuum is the latest release from game development studio Door-6. Founded in 2009 and based in Madison, Wisconsin, Door-6 focuses on delivering premium software to smartphone users. Development began initially on Google’s Android mobile operating system, but has grown to include others. Look for the great mobile games of tomorrow to come from Door-6.

Click here for the YouTube video