Apr 29, 2010

Flash Support

I just read Steve Job's memo with respect to the Adobe and Apple pissing war that is going on right now in which he tries to educate and elighten those that think this is entirely a power play. Click on the header for this article to read it yourself (although you'll have to scroll down a bit as the Nasdaq website apparently doesn't work right and hasn't for awhile).

In this article he claims
  • Flash is 100% proprietary
  • Flash's video format drains battery life at roughly 2x the speed of H.264 decoded in hardware
  • Flash is not secure
  • Flash is unstable (and is the #1 reason Macs crash)
  • Flash apps are written for desktop PCs with a mouse and not for touch based mobile devices (i.e. rollovers don't work on a touch device)
  • Adobe is slow to update Flash
Ok, suppose all of this is true (and much of it is)... so what? Apple sounds like government... they want to dictate how I use my stuff for me? Thanks, Apple, for looking out for me, but I don't need nor want your protection. If I do I know where to go. There are many game apps in the Apple AppStore that make me wish I had an iPhone, but these memos bring me back around to why I don't. Thanks for the reminder, Steve!


I'm a fan of classic arcade games, but the $7 price tag of Pac-Man in the Market has caused me to stop every time I've considered purchasing it, but tonight the desire to try it overcame me and I did so. Pac-Man is a simple game and its beauty is in its simplicity. All you need to play is a 4-way joystick. You control the 'pizza minus a slice' shaped Pac-Man around a maze gobbling up dots while being chased by 4 named and colored ghosts. However, in each of the four corners is a blinking power pill that turns the tables and allows Pac-Man to gobble down the ghosts, too. Oh, and there's fruit (and other treats) that occasionally appear to round out Pac-Man's diet.

I was preparing to lambast the game before trying it, but quite honestly this game is well done. The graphics and sounds are spot on. And instead of using a virtual joystick you swipe in the direction you want Pac-Man to move (and the on-screen joystick visual displays your input). If you have a D-Pad then it works with that too as is the case with my Droid... I was able to slide the keyboard out to the left and use it while remaining in portrait mode for the game's display. The game also offers 3 different difficulty levels although it's not clear on how difficult classic is when mixed with words like 'medium' in terms of challenge. You can also choose which level to start on and so forth. If you are dying for a spot on Pac-Man you have found it!

The game does have some slow down in it that seems to be a frequent issue with Android games presumably because the phone has a multi-tasking OS and some other apps needs a few extra CPU cycles, and in this kind of game that hurts. And if you're stuck using the swipe method of input I sympathize... while not horrible I have to say that I was much more comfortable once I starting using my DPad.

But all in all this kinds of game begs the difficulty in turning a game into a number of stars ranging from 1 to 5. Did the developers achieve their goal? Yes! Is this game overpriced for what it is? Yes! How to factor the latter answer into the former answer? I don't know! Personally I'm not going to keep this game as I can't justify the cost coupled with having purchased Pac-Man seemingly a zillion times including at J.C. Penny when the dismal Atari 2600 version was released. But that doesn't mean it's not a well done Pac-Man. 3/5 stars being knocked down mainly because of price.

Apr 28, 2010

Spitfire Squadron

Spitfire Squadron is another of the countless games in the Android Market that does not include a screenshot. Usually I'm critical of that, but in this case I think it's a wise move as it certainly wouldn't sell any more copies and would have steered me away from the game. As is, the description appealed and I had visions of Ace Combat on the Playstation. Sadly, those visions died a rather quick death.

First off, after downloading this $2 Netmite title I then had to download the J2ME Runner app they offer in order to run this game. Now, there's no charge for that, but it should tell you that the game is going to be a quick port from other, less capable phones. Once I was ready to go I got the title screen up with some music and had to figure out the controls. If you have a DPad in portrait mode that will work, but in landscape mode the screen becomes distorted (but it does still work). You can also swipe and double tap the touch screen to simulate the DPad to take control of the menu and the game.

The game launches your plane from an aircraft carrier in top down view as pictured (the screenshot is from another device, but is accurate) and essentially you'll be headed in one of the standard 8 directions featured on a DPad autofiring away and trying to shoot the enemy planes down before they get you. That's the game. And after the intro music the game basically plays in mute mode the entire time.

The only intriguing thing here is how Netmite has created their J2ME Runner so that Android owners can share in all of the free, second rate J2ME games available. And second rate isn't necessarily bad if you're talking about something like Battleship or Snake. However, at $2 your money is better spent elsewhere. Oh, and if you're looking for Ace Combat then check out Polarbit's Armageddon Squadron. As for Spitfire Squadron I give it 2/5 stars and use Netmite as a prime example of how quantity is not better than quality.

Apr 27, 2010

Hockey Nation 2010 First Impressions

As I see 'my' Washington Capitals continue their proud post-season tradition of losing games in which they can close out an opponent I was inspired to try Hockey Nations 2010. Ok, that has nothing to do with it as I've been looking forward to giving this a go all weekend. Hockey Nations 2010 is a big game with several features and I don't want to do a 'quick judgement' review, but I did spend some time with it and here are a few notes.

The game plays very smoothly on my Droid. I haven't seen any real slow down issues. Obviously the players are kind of tiny, but they're basically what I'd expect for a 6 on 6 hockey game on a 3.5 inch screen. It all looks good though (the screenshot is from the iPhone version, but it's pretty close... the Android version has letters on the virtual buttons on the lower right).

As for controls, it uses the infamous virtual DPad and I'm not a fan of that. One reason I got a Droid was because of the real DPad for gaming although I wish it was on the more traditional left side of the keyboard. I'm still trying to figure that one out knowing that Motorola is a US company (in my home state, too) creating a device for people raised on Nintendos.

Now you CAN use the keyboard for the shoot, pass, and 'speed burst' buttons via the 'I', 'O', and 'P' keys, but you MUST use a virtual DPad. They chose those keys because the virtual DPad is on the left side of the screen. And naturally the Pass key is the... yes, if you said 'I' and not 'P' you would be correct. Needless to say unless they allow for the DPad to be used I'm going to struggle with this one, but so far I've only fiddled with it and I don't want to rush to judgement. Maybe, just maybe if I play enough virtual DPad games I'll get used to it as I also wasn't a fan of the Nintendo style DPad after being used to an Atari 2600 style joystick.

I'm also curious if they used the AirPlay SDK to create this game. For those that don't know what that is... it is a cross platform development environment that allows for the creation of mobile games that run on the iPhone, Android, BREW, Windows Mobile... etc from one code base and they claim that it lets you do high performance graphics. Natural Motion used it for their iPhone version of Backbreaker Football (but hasn't released it on other platforms?) and that's a game that impressed me so I believe it. I also have plans to use it myself and I don't understand why more don't use it given the upside with minimal downside.

Another thing I don't get is why so many developers that make games for the iPhone fail to mention an Android version on their websites and this game is among those. Asphalt 5 was, too, in addition to many others. We're talking professional, big name companies and they keep the Android versions of their games a secret. What gives?

Apr 23, 2010

Asphalt 5

Asphalt 5 is the hot, recently released racing game from Gameloft. This is a challenging review to write as I'm also going to contrast it against Raging Thunder 2 from Polarbit. Usually such contrasts are a slam dunk, but in this case it's not so clear cut. Don't worry, though... I don't wimp out and I do pick a winner.

First off, Asphalt 5 has stunning graphics. It's graphics are likely the best I've seen in an Android game. But once you look past the eye candy the game itself is solid and the usual choice of cars and tracks exist with some having to be unlocked by winning races. One difference, though, is that there's oncoming traffic because you're street racing (which translates to moving obstacles). You can also hit other cars and 'eliminate' them if you do it right and that's all covered in the help.

The control is pretty tight and uses the accelerometer to steer and some on screen buttons to brake, accelerate (unless you chose the default auto-accelerate option), and boost. The game also features a nice soundtrack and solid audio effects to enhance your game playing experience.

All in all this game and Raging Thunder 2 are very similar with the oncoming traffic being the only major difference I've detected. Asphalt 5 also has police that will track you down and pull you over. I was somewhat disappointed by that  as I really enjoy police chases and for it not to be a separate mode of play was a disappointment. Furthermore, Asphalt 5 has little (and big) pauses during play as if it's really taxing my Android to its limits and my understanding is that this game was specifically designed for the Droid (which is what I have). I've had games with just a little choppiness here and there and I've had games where there's literally a second or so pause in the game which feels like an eternity when focused on racing at top speed.

When contrasted Asphalt 5 has slightly better graphics most notably with the cars, but it is evident in other areas as well. I also liked Asphalt 5's audio a tad better... once again it is not a day and night situation, but rather that Raging Thunder seems like the roar of my engine was dominant over the soundtrack and I'd rather hear less "bzzzzzzzzz" and more music. Raging Thunder 2 seems to have a more animated course with things such as knocking an orange cone out of the way and then watching it fly through the air. Raging Thunder 2 also gets the nod in terms of control... once again close, but Raging Thunder seems to give more of a visual clue when it detects that I'm turning giving me a bit more comfort with the controls. These games are close and Asphalt 5 earns 5/5 stars, but if I had to choose one or the other I'd go with Raging Thunder 2. The biggie is the freezes during game play which, while infrequent, were enough to be a nuisance plus Raging Thunder 2 is about a dollar (US) cheaper, but you won't go wrong with either of these quality titles and hardcore racing fans will want both.

Hockey Nations 2010 Looks Great

Holy cow! After posting about the lack of sports game on the Android a great looking hockey game appears. We'll review it shortly as I love hockey. In the meantime, check out the video below...


I've reviewed several shooters here over the past month or so and none has really caught my eye. My first video game ever was Space Invaders. I may have played Pong in a Sears or something, but Space Invaders at the Thornwilde clubhouse in Warrenville, IL was the first time a video game impacted me... and THEN they got Galaxian! Eventually I graduated to Galaga which is still one of my favorites video games of all time. It would be nice to have a game of that quality on the Android and we do indirectly via NES emulators, as the NES version of Galaga is excellent, but when using emulation a lot of the power the Android offers is wasted on trying to perfectly replicate another machine's hardware which means there's lots of room for a native Android game of this kind to excel.

Radiant offers more than the other shooters I've reviewed. I was surprised to see that it's from Hexage, a company that has produced a couple other Android and iPhone games, as I was under the impression it was more of an indie game... not that Hexage is a massive corporation. In Radiant it's the usual gun at the bottom of the screen that moves back and forth firing away and once again my peeve with Android shooters relying on autofire comes to light. I'm fine with that being an option and I was surprised and pleased that Radiant supports the DPad for movement in addition to the touch screen... so why not allow me to press the space bar to fire when *I* want to? And the 'bleep bleep' sound of my gun firing away over an over started grating on my nerves after 5 minutes of play. Still the game is quite impressive with nice, smooth animation. Even the gun at the bottom of the screen which is actually a spaceship flying through space is animated as it flies left and right.

The beginning of the game has you flying through an asteroid belt. You can destroy the small asteroids, but your pea shooter does nothing against the big ones. All throughout the game there are stages, thus there's a feeling of accomplishment that Space Invaders doesn't really offer, and there is dialog with a commanding officer that is very nicely done and well written. My favorite quote is "just mindlessly blasting away, sir" as that's what this is... a mindless space shooter (and that's not a bad thing). As you grab power-ups and earn money you can buy upgrades for your ship. In other words, this game has a lot more depth than a typical space shooter.

The graphics, sound effects, and controls are all very well executed. If you're looking for a shooter on your Android then this is probably what you're looking for. As for me, I got bored after five minutes of shooting baddies. The game features three skill levels so I decided to crank it up to hardcore and experiment a bit. I didn't really have much trouble at first and was able to get the point that I could upgrade my cannon by two levels. After doing so the repeat rate improved and instead of 'bleep bleep' it was 'bleep bleep bleep bleep' and I died shortly thereafter. In fact, I'd say that's a key point of what I'm looking for in a good shooter... not so much the levels and story (which are done well here), but challenge and different weapons. I don't want my game to last forever and involve saving... I want to play a quick game while I wait for the train to come. And I LOVE the dual cannons that Galaga sports and Radiant also has that kind of stuff going for it. In summary, this is a very well done shooter and warrants 5/5 stars... I just wish it had a fire button as an option rather than auto-fire as that would make it almost perfect for me. For more details check out the video below.

Apr 21, 2010

Magnetic Sports Soccer

The Android platform lacks any serious representation with respect to sports games. No decent football, hockey, or soccer and only one real choice when it comes to baseball is nothing to laugh about. I love sports games and drool at the iPhone's sports lineup. While Magnetic Sports Soccer isn't going to fill the gap for soccer fans it may, at least, be a tie over while the wait continues.

This game is based on those old sports games with a bunch of magnetic players and a metal marble. Remember those? Neither do I... never heard of them, in fact, until seeing these 'emulators' appear. In a nutshell you've got a bunch of players attached by a spring to a board and you pull them back and release them to shoot or pass the ball. How far you pull back controls the power and accuracy of your shot. The ball then either ends up in the goal or rolls around until it gets captured by the magnetic pull of a playing piece and comes to rest at which time the process repeats itself until goals are scored and the game ends. The only wrench in this formula is tilt... as you play you accumulate tilt and at any time when your tilt bar is full you can press the tilt button (or shake your phone) and havoc breaks loose... the ball is freed and where it goes nobody knows, but if you didn't have the ball to start with then that's better than nothing. Oh, one other note... the tilt bar is more of a tilt pie graph and it took me a while to figure that out. The icon itself gradually goes from translucent to opaque and that's when you can give tilt a go.

Now, I had some problems with this game crashing on me to the point that it almost lost a star from my review (hear the devs shout "oh no!"). But, as always, I tried Advanced Task Killer and killed everything off just to see and sure enough that resolved my issue. Apparently far too much Android software doesn't cooperate. I don't know the technical details, but I do know that if you ever experience crashes from games then you should try it to see if it cures your problem... maybe some other application didn't clean up after itself?

Magnetic Sports Soccer is a cute game more akin to pool than soccer. A precise finger will go miles in the game. It has a nice tutorial, nice graphics, appropriate sounds, and a control system that works well. There's also quite a satisfying feeling to scoring a goal after passing the ball all the way down the field. The game itself offers 4 skill levels, options to choose between a timed game or playing to a preset number of goals, and a few different 'stadiums'. The game even includes the ability to compete for the prestiguous Magnetic World Cup. Unfortunately the iPhone version apparently supports networked play and that didn't make the leap, but maybe someday.

In summary, Magnetic Sports Soccer is an enjoyable game that fits the mobile platform well with full games that last just a few minutes. I don't see this as a game with exceptional longevity, but it's also just a few dollars... much cheaper and more fun than a movie. 4/5 stars.

Apr 20, 2010

IQ Knights - Dice Chess

I keep planning on reviews of certain games and then do some sort of search/browse on the Market only to get sidetracked with other great (and not so great) games. Today it's another title from one of my favorite Android developers: HandyGames. My next three reviews will be Asphalt, Radiant, and Magnetic Sports Soccer... please hold me to that.

IQ Knights is a different game and that matches the fact that HandyGames seems to develop innovative titles. Panzer Panic is an excellent arcade game and infeCCT is an outstanding puzzle game. IQ Knights follows in the footsteps of infeCCt and is another puzzle game, but is not without its flaws.

For a start, the idea is that you control dice on a board and have to capture the kings. That's about where the relevance of the 'chess' part of the game's title ends. A die moves based on the number it is currently showing and when moving it can only change direction once. As it 'rolls' the facing number changes so not only are you planning your current move, but also the number that will be showing for your next move and so forth. The game then adds enemy dice, platforms that 'change' the field of play, shackled dice... etc. It's substantially more complicated that infeCCt which I thought was a bit too easy.

The challenge I have with the game is that it's not natural, at least not for me, to know that as I 'roll' a die what the facing number is going to be making planning ahead difficult. The game does show an 'on screen' die, but one of the sides is difficult to see not to mention it's a slow and tedious 'trial and error' process trying to accomplish what I want. I think this could have been far better done by allowing a die to be clicked on and then having the display show me when all possible spaces that I could move to along with a faded image of the facing of the die. Such a mechanism would help speed things up and take that 'trial and error' process away.

The game offers an excellent in game tutorial that explains the game's rules, but also some basics such as the fact that the opposite sides of a six-sided die always add up to seven to help with figuring out moves. And the sound track is of some music similar in nature to infeCCt's in that it's both beautiful and relaxing.

Another challenge I'm having is that HandyGames doesn't seem to update their games. If you look Panzer Panic sits ignored still at a version 1.0 with a low download count after many suggestions being provide in Market comments. InfeCCT made it to 1.0.1, but probably because of some bug, and has an even worse download count. I can't help but think that a monthly update would not only improve their games, but would also put their games back on the 'recently released' list and increase exposure. I hope they haven't decided to solely focus on the iPhone. Oddly enough I don't see a mention of this game on Handy's home page... I had to search on their site to find out about it.

IQ Knights is a neat and innovative little game done with the usual class and style that HandyGames is becoming known for. At the same time I think this is going to take a harder core puzzle enthusiast to appreciate it... in other words try infeCCt first and then one you've made a dent in it consider moving on to this one. The iPhone trailer is below for your viewing pleasure. 4/5 stars.

Apr 18, 2010


I'm not going to do a complete review as this game is still in beta and the developer continues to update it regularly, but it's a Pac Man clone for the Android. It's not as polished as real Pac Man, but does promise to allow for custom mazes. I'm hoping some of the cutesy stuff that the original does (such as the ghost's eyes navigating their way back to base vs. teleporting) makes it in eventually and that the annoying progress bar that fills up to show your final score is pulled. But it's free and at the limited time special price of $7 for the official Namco Pac Man (that I've already purchased countless times for the Atari 2600, NES, PC, Playstation, Playstation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS... etc) I can't justify throwing more money at this game to play it on my Android.

I really like seeing these classic arcade games done well on the Android. Berzerk?, Donkey Kong?, ... anyone? They takes a couple minutes max to play (given my skill level) and are a perfect cure for that quick itch. Just keep in mind that they're all available on the NES emulator so if you're so inclined you need to take advantage of the touch screen, accelerometer, ...etc to do it right.

Galaxy Domination

One of my first Android games was a game called Archipelagos. It was a knockoff of a game I loved on the iPod Touch that was billed at a real time strategy version of Risk, but it fell way short of replicating the experience due to a lack of challenge and depth. I was delighted the other day when Galaxy Domination appeared as it appears to successfully fill this void, and while it too falls short of what is available on the iPod Touch in terms of play options it is certainly a worthwhile challenge.

The premise of the game is that you 'own' a planet in a system of planets. Each planet produces new units for military conquest based on its size... capture a big planet and watch it grow fast... settle for a tiny one and watch it grow at an anemic rate. From there your mission is to conquer the galaxy.

The graphics are basic... textured circles for the planets and dots for ships being sent from one planet to another. There's not much for your ears either... so little that I find it amusing that you can turn sound on/off. The only thing I hear is a little tick sound when invading another planet. The user interface works well, though. Click and drag from one planet to another and release to send half of the units from the source planet on their way to the selected target. Each units kills off the opposition at an even exchange rate until you overwhelm the enemy force.

This game steps ahead of Archipelagos by offering a campaign mode and several levels of difficulty. The game also offers a nice tutorial. A demo version is available so that you can try before you buy, and the full version costs about $1.50 US. Some improvements would be additional options such as fog of war and the usual atmospheric audio and better sound effects. All in all the game is well done and earns 4/5 stars.

Apr 16, 2010


One of my many favorite board games is a game called Ubongo. It's a 1-4 player puzzle game in which you're given some different tetris shaped pieces and have to assemble them in a provided shape. In the board game it's a race to solve the puzzle first (link to more info at Amazon.com below). Woodenigma is similar, but it's a solitaire puzzle version and there's no race and consequently no pressure.

I'm a fan of these kinds of spacial relationship puzzle games and this one promises 700 puzzles and, through April 20th it's available for just under $1 US (or .59 euros). 700 puzzles for that kind of money is a deal especially given that puzzle books cost much more than that and this one offers portability. It plays well and these kinds of games are well suited for mobile, touch screen devices. You simply select a puzzle, touch and drag the pieces until they're in position, and once the game detects that you've solved the puzzle it's checked off of your 'to do' list of puzzles. I suspect it could benefit a bit from some relaxing music as this kind of puzzle is more of a relaxation activity for me vs. a frantic game like Tetris. The previously reviewed infeCCT is a great example of music accompanying a puzzle game.

My only real gripe with the game is that the author has chosen to group puzzles in sets of 50 and it appears all 50 must be solved before moving on. I'm not sure of that as I've only solved about 20 puzzles so far, but I do know I can only see the first 50 groups in 5 x 5 screens of 25 puzzles each. Why must I be tortured and have to work through the easy puzzles to get to the hard ones... and how do I know they're hard (Hint: I don't)? Usually I lose interest well before I get a chance at puzzle 700 so how about it, devs? Will you unlock all of the puzzles so that *I* can choose how to play this game I've purchased?

But for a buck (or even when the price skyrockets to US $1.50 on April 21st) this game is well worth it, but only if you like spacial relationship puzzles. If not it'll just be 'that annoying little game'. As for me I give it 4/5... it's not stunning, but it's well done for what it sets out to do and is well worth the money.

Apr 13, 2010

My Paper Plane

I wanted to write about Joyland Bounce today which looks to be a very well done 'platformer' of sorts with some interesting twists one of which is you can flip your phone upside down and your orange blob drops from top to bottom. However, the game has a fatal flaw and that's that it doesn't work. After playing for a bit (or even sometimes when first starting) the screen goes haywire. I've emailed the developer about it as I am a paying customer and two days have gone by without a response so we'll see how that goes...

My Paper Plane is from Wavecade, the same company that brought us Pokanoid Deluxe. It's a freebie so don't expect much depth, but there's potential here for something bigger if the developer is so inclined. And it's still an enjoyable diversion as is.

In My Paper Plane you are indeed a paper airplane and your objective is to glide around and pickup blue cubes. Each blue cube provides points and boost to fly high once again. You also get 1-3 boost 'charges' at the start of the game based on your difficulty level.

The courses range in difficulty with the basic ones just having a few cubes scattered about all the way to the advanced ones having moving platforms. The graphics are nice and smooth, but the audio is pretty basic. Control of your airplane consists of tilting your phone back and forth and works very well. Three difficulty levels are available and while there's not much in the way of help it appears the chosen difficulty level affects the number of boosts you start with and your starting level. If this game had more to it and perhaps an audio track it could easily be a 5/5 star game and certainly worth a buck or more. As is it's a free 4/5 game that beats many $1 games and is certainly worth a look. My hope is that it's fleshed out into something more substantial even dropping the paper airplane concept into something more of a Pilot Wings as the engine seems to already be here.

Apr 12, 2010

Defense Homeland

Defense Homeland is my first real-time strategy game for the Android and it's great to see a variety of genres available. The developer claims a new mission or feature will be added every week, but we'll see about that as I know from experience that that's a lofty goal. So what do we have right now?

Currently there are 9 missions and four skill levels (with level two being the default and the one I played on). One of the nice things the developer did though is to allow them all to be unlocked versus having to play through them. So far I've played through two of them and tried a skirmish. However, the first thing I noticed was a lack of instructions. Why is it that so many of these games elect to not provide documentation on how to play it? I don't know if I'm missing anything. In this game you can select units individually or you can group them into one of two troops. The select button is in the lower left and is touched followed by dragging a rectangle around the units that you want to command as a troop. Next, click one of the two troop buttons next to it to assign them a troop number (1 or 2). Now you can select them all by touching that same button. The top two buttons are used to build buildings and units (and they don't come into play in the first two missions).

The first mission is a confidence builder... very easy. Cruise around,  pop everyone off, and you win. The second mission not so much. In fact I was able to kill everyone but one unit in the second mission after many tries and that made me feel good enough to write this review, but I couldn't find that last enemy so I blew up the oil well wondering if that's what it wanted me to do. And no it did not. Spoiler (or skip to the next paragraph): My trick for winning was to blow away the three heavy tanks/missile launchers and then use guerilla warfare with my tank as its range exceeds that of infantry so slowly I was able to pop everyone else off.

The graphics are good for what they can be with a game of this kind of detail on a mobile device. After all, how detailed can you be with men made of six pixels and if they went much bigger then you wouldn't be able to fit much on the screen at once. The tanks look pretty nice and units seem to be pretty easily distinguished. The sound/audio is well done, too.

I did experience a few issues, but they don't seem to be consistent in terms of reproducing them. First, one time I loaded it... tried to do a new game and the list of campaigns didn't appear (only the select text above it). Using task killer fixed that. Next, I did have occasional problems moving to unoccupied space means I could select my unit and click on an enemy and off they march... click on empty space to flee and nothing. Finally, the AI doesn't seem to be that good... units watch as I pick off lone soldiers, units pursue for a short while and call it off leaving me in complete control of tactics (and consequently allow the aforementioned guerilla warfare), but with that said even the second mission on the second skill level is a challenge.

As stated I didn't get to any missions where building an army was involved, but I did try the skirmish mode in which that is used. Unlike most PC games of this type building a unit is instantaneous... click that I want a new infantry unit and out he walks. Building a new building was confusing at first as I'd click the build button, sel;ect a building, and this red circle would appear and nothing would happen. I needed to drag when I saw the red circle to where I wanted to build. Didn't take long to figure that out, but still it would be nice to have instructions as, once again, I don't know if I'm missing anything. Their website does offer descriptions of the different unit types, but the game doesn't even tell me to go and look there.

After all is said and done though this is a solid effort for a pocket RTS game and at 3 UK pounds or a bit less than $5 US it's well worth it. I'm hoping they continue to grow the game as they indicate they plan to, but it's worth the money right now (which leads me to a pet peeve... games that are in beta, but are charging me to be their tester?). 4.5/5 stars which could easily become 5 with a bit more polish. Check out the video (above) for more info.

Apr 11, 2010

The Big Time

Well, guess I've hit the big time! I got my first nasty blog comment (quickly purged due to vulgarity). In the past every developer that I've written a review for whether positive or negative that has followed up with me has been very courteous and used my comments as constructive criticism. When I write a negative review I always write why as best as I can. Obviously I don't know that this was a disgruntled developer, but I do know that a) there's usually a motivation for things and b) it was the typical, gutless Anonymous comment :-)

Apr 9, 2010

Blastosis: Invasion

I keep getting pulled in by these shooters which are becoming a dime a dozen for the Android Market and keep leaving unfulfilled. While the genre is well represented there are only a handful of really good ones. Blastotsis is not among them.

First, the developer does the right thing by offloading most game data to the SD card. In fact, that was probably the catalyst that inspired me to download this game. But then the game has this goofy method of having a Lite Demo and a separate key app to unlock it versus a separate full version. This results in it consuming two icons worth of space in my programs. But that's not a problem with the game itself... and perhaps problem is harsh. This game isn't horrible either... it's just "meh".

The graphics are nice and one thing I did appreciate is that while using the touch screen to control my ship it positions my ship slightly above where I touch so that I can actually see it. Genius! I say that tongue in cheek as too many other developers decide to hide my ship from me. The sound effects are pretty decent too. However, the game seems to suffer from a bit of jerkiness... just enough to be annoying. The graphics also seem to use a very primitive collision detection as it's almost as if circular objects have a square around them based on how objects are hit... very unsmooth. And the words that appear use this font that isn't spaced properly which isn't a show stopper, but is a nuisance and screams amateur.

Back to the plus side, is that the game features several different power-ups that add some interest to the game along with shields and little starts to collect after destroying the larger enemies. The game is presently on sale in the Android Market for $1.49 and, as stated, has a lite version that provides the first level of the game for free. It's a game that has potential... fix the smoothness issues, make the collision detection look better, fix the font, and all in all polish this game up and it could be a winner. For now it's just average... 3/5 stars.

Funny Thing

I mentioned my desire to derive revenue from this site a month or so back from advertising clicks. The funny thing is that as my post quantity goes up my number of clicks goes down despite the number of visits going up substantially? I've kicked it into high gear this week with an average of more than a review per day and... well, I don't know what to make of it.

Apr 8, 2010

Paper Toss

I've reviewed a couple "flick stuff at a target" games and all have left my Droid rather quickly. Here's an old favorite from my iPod Touch that is here to stay. Paper Toss from Backflip Studios is good, clean, simple fun. Essentially it hearkens back to a boring day at the office in which tossing a ball of crumpled up paper serves as the entertainment du jour. Add a fan to the mix that blows at varying speeds and we've got ourselves a game that involves more than flicking in a straight line up the screen. Sure you get better knowing where the flick when the fan is blowing at a speed of 4.96 versus 1.34, but with two decimal points to play with there is plenty of opportunity to miss... and you will miss.

The game offers 3 difficulty levels and adds three locations in which to play (for what really amounts to six difficulty levels), has decent graphics and sound effects that really fit the mood whether you're playing at the office, at the airport, or in the rest room. It's addictive... it's fun... and, oh yeah, did I mention free (ad supported)? Download this one right away and start wasting time with the rest of us (perferably while at work so as to maintain the right atmosphere). This one is a clear 5/5 stars!

If you're not sold check out the video (from the iPhone version), but if you're not sold on a great game that's free then the video probably won't really matter, will it?

Apr 7, 2010

Paddlewar 360

Pong was one of the first video games and is a classic. I'm sure everyone knows what it is, but just in case... one the left and right sides of the screen are paddles and you move them up and down knocking a ball back and forth until it gets by one of these paddles which results in a point. Players play to a predetermined score. My first experience with pong was through the Video Olympics cartridge on the Atari 2600 although I'm sure I played in store demos prior to that... I was 9 and the memory is a bit weak.

Recently I saw Paddlewar 360 in the Android Market. Paddlewar 360 is a twist on pong that provides a circular field of play and removes the concept of my goal versus your goal. Player just hit the ball back and forth until someone misses. Neat idea!

After playing it several times here are my thoughts:

  • This game starts off kind of slow. It offers two modes of play... Beginner and Expert. Beginner starts of VERY slow and takes several volleys to get up to speed such that there's a chance that a player will miss the ball. Expert gets things going a bit faster.
  • The touch screen controls that rotate your paddle clockwise or counter-clockwise work well. No problems there other than accidentally pressing the wrong one, but that's all me.
  • I did experience some minor slow down or sluggishness during play presumably when someone background task on my Droid decided to wake up and get to work. It was temporary, but did throw off my timing a bit. It would be nice if that would be fixed.
  • No real graphics or sound to report on... the game is all about reacting and hitting the right buttons. What's here works just fine.
  • It's ad supported and thus is free for you and me.
In conclusion I give this one 3.5/5 stars (which means 4/5 in the Market as I round in favor of the game). It's good, free entertainment that should keep one amused for at least a little while. A two player mode would be cool as the computer player is very (and perhaps a bit too) good.

Alien Assault

I keep hoping for a good, simple vertical shoot 'em up in the same vein as Galaga and my Droid keeps letting me down. I noticed Alien Assault a few days ago and at under a buck with two glowing reviews I gave it a whirl. Key phrases like "intuitive control" and "fast paced" lured me in like a seductress in the night, but if this is "fast paced" then have mercy on me if this developer ever releases a "slow paced" game.

In Alien Assault there's a gun at the bottom of the screen and it pivots back and forth for aiming. The sirens blare and the alien hordes arrive. You touch the screen where you want to fire and then the gun rotates and fires a shot. And then the waiting begins for the shot to finally reach its target. Usually, by then, the incredibly slow flying ship has moved out of the way of the incredibly slow shot which is a puzzle in and of itself. Somehow these aliens have the technology to travel to earth in the traditional flying saucer variety spaceship, but once they are here apparently they are mesmerized with the need to sight see... at least rubbernecking is the only explanation I have for their lack of speed.

I had hopes that this was going to be like Sabotage on the Apple II (which I can now play with the cAndy Apple emulator) or Paratrooper on the PC or even just a Droid friendly "All Your Base" when I saw the pivoting weapon, but no such luck. The only challenge here is trying to line up my shot and time it right, but I started going gray as I waited to see the results. 2/5 stars because it doesn't crash, but it's not worth any hard earned cash.

Apr 6, 2010

Fire Helicopter

Fire Helicopter is from Psym Mobile. At first the publisher's name didn't look familiar, but this is the same company that brought us Abduction! World Attack and Gem Miner: Dig Deeper after a name change. Abduction! World Attack was one of my first game purchases so it was nice to see these guys (or this guy) continuing their support of the Android platform.

In Fire Helicopter you are a helicopter putting out a raging forest fire. You start off at your base with a full load of water and press the throttle (lower right of the touch screen) to rise and release it to fall much like in SFCave and tilt your phone left/right to move in the corresponding direction. You'll need to monitor your fuel gauge, though. When you approach an area of forest fire press the water button to begin dousing it until you deplete your water supply or extinguish the fire. Refilling on water can be done by returning to base or hovering over a body of water and sucking it right out of the lake. A refill on fuel can only be had at your home base.

The graphics are decent and very much in the style of this developer with similar shades of blue and green as is used in their other games. That's not good or bad... What is sadly lacking is any sort of audio. A good whirring helicopter blade, raging fire, and splashing water would really add to this game's atmosphere. The game features three difficulty levels and once you've put out the first you'll receive a grade (aka score) and the game is over. It would be nice if the difficulty ramped up until I couldn't handle it instead as the game is over very quickly.

The game is free and is ad supported. The fun factor is there and I've enjoyed playing this little title as well as this developer's other titles. The game would be a 4 star title with good audio and longer game play and the potential is there. Here's hoping... 3.5/5 stars.

Apr 5, 2010

Demon King

It seemed appropriate and time saving to review Demon King right after Aliens. Both are 3D FPS games from 3D Studio, both presumably use the same 3D graphics engine, and both cost $4.99. The only real difference is the content and while it's a worthwhile change and I prefer this game over Aliens (as I'm a sucker for fantasy settings) I have to also say that I wouldn't buy both unless I completed one of them.

Here's a handy keyboard reference chart:
Key PressAction
A and ZLook up/down
, and .Strafe left/right
/Change weapon
Space or DPad centerJump
TType (codes?)
DPad directionsMove

The environment in Demon King is also a bit brighter and easier to see (although you'd never know that from the screenshot). I'd be curious to know why the screenshots in the Android Market are in portrait mode when the game plays in landscape more.

For more info read the Aliens review right after this as everything else (good or bad) applies the same here. 5/5 stars. Anyone know if these guys (3D Studio) have a website?


I'm not sure why Aliens disappeared, but it was back on Sunday morning released under the publisher '3D Studio' which has a rep for releasing first person shooter ports such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom on the Android. When I purchased it on Thursday night it was under Vladimir Silva's name according to my receipt and while I tried to figure out what had happened I noticed that he has written a book called 'Pro Android Games' as below:

Aliens is a 3D first person shooter (FPS) written using a new 3D engine that I gather he developed (the book supposedly talks extensively about this topic). The game is currently only for Droid owners, but hopefully either already runs or will soon be tested / fixed to function on other Android devices. The game itself does not offer much of a story line and the game plays very much like a Doom style game. I reviewed Toon Warz awhile back and indicated I wasn't very gung ho on this style of game on my mobile device. Aliens changes my mind and does a lot of things very well.

First, the controls. Using the accelerometer sucks. It's too imprecise and that almost made me give up on this one, but I switched to popping out the keyboard on my Droid and using the DPad. Much, much better! One issue with the accelerometer was some angles that were needed to move made it so I couldn't see what was going on very well and made the game uncomfortable to play. The DPad offers the precision I need to play effectively. However, the game doesn't come with much in the way of instructions. Help really needs to be added to this game so that you don't have to fumble around to finally learn that it's the @ key that is used to fire. Am I supposed to already know this? I guess I was sick that day.

Second, a lot of these style games on the PC offer gamma correction to compensate for differences in monitor brightness and color differences. I suppose with a constant platform like the Droid that might not be necessary, but I see it being more necessary in order to accommodate other devices with different display hardware. It would also be nice to have because this game is difficult to play in bright light because the game's environment is so dark... and that's not dark as in disturbing... that dark as in 'no light'. I got the most enjoyment when I played this in a dark room, but gamma correction would be nice.

The game engine is smooth. The graphics are solid! And the sound is effective. The enemies cry "game over, man" as you approach which is cute at first, and does become repetitive (but not intolerable). Control, once the switch to the DPad was made, became precise and the game is a very playable pocket FPS. The game is hard, though. There are a couple confidence builder enemies, but the last guy on level one took me many tries and some strategy to finally knock off which let me get the key I needed to move on to the next level. I don't consider myself to be terribly good at these kinds of games though so if you can breathe chances are you'll do better than I did.

All in all I'm glad to see this game prove me wrong about Android 3D FPS games. From a technical standpoint this game is a great achievement and a good way to demo your Droid phone to others. The game also does the 'download lots of data to your SD card' so it doesn't consume too much of that precious system memory. Big plus! At $4.99 this is a premium title and I wish it was available for more than just Droid owners so that more could enjoy it and the author could sell more copies of the game. But for now it is for the Droid only and I'm glad that, at least, I can play this title. 5/5 stars.

Apr 3, 2010


CastleGuard2 is a first person role-playing game. It went free today as the developer is working through some issues so I recommend downloading it just so that you are flagged as owning the game in the event that it becomes good. As of now it's more of a technical demo... or is it? I can't really tell for sure given the unmentioned bugs in it. Nonetheless, the developer does promise great things to come.

The game uses the Shiva 3D graphics engine. Why should you care? You shouldn't... it's not like it's the well known Unreal engine. And it's only half done, and half potential right now, but as one of my CompSci professors once said, "A program that isn't done is chicken scratchings". There's no 60%, 80%... if your sort doesn't 100% work it's not a sort. In this case, the engine looks good, but allows me to walk through benches... walk to the bottom of a pool of water (and the water disappears as it's a planar layer on top)... slide down hills, paths, and so on making it hard to stand still in some areas... and not open doors. And then the game itself isn't complete. I don't really understand how to use my sword and bow although I did kill a skeleton once... I also don't see how to talk to people (they just bow or wave their weapon)...

It's clear this is more of a tech demo than a game and it certainly shows promise. I just can't believe I almost paid for it. I hope it reaches its potential and it's there and I'd love to see a good 3D RPG on my Droid, but until then it's just chicken scratchings. My rating: wait and see.

Apr 2, 2010

WireFly - Best Android Blog

If you like this blog please vote for it at:


for best blog. Please reference URL 'http://www.meandmydroid.com/' and not the 'http://meandmydroid.blogspot.com/' redirect that will go away once we're up and running with our new software.

Disappearing Software

The great game mentioned at the end of my last post is the 3D FPS shooter called Aliens by Vladimir Silva. I purchased it last night for $4.99 and it does a lot of stuff right. So I got ready to write my review this evening and I can't find this game in the Android Market anymore. It's not in my Download section... searching for "Aliens" and "Vladimir Silva" can't locate it... and even scrolling back through the past couple of days releases reveals nothing. Did the game get pulled? I don't know. But I don't want to review something that isn't available so I'll wait and see what I can find out...

In the meantime it might be worth downloading 'CastleGuard2'. The author has made it free (almost bought it last night) until he can solve some issues with it. The game looks to have promise so get it while it's hot! I'll be reviewing it shortly (and then deleting it because it's 23MB and I'll need to do so to try anything else...).

Android 2.1

My reviews have slowed to a crawl. My apologies. The reality is every time I get the gumption to pull down a game I'm now forced to look at what games I have and delete some to free up memory given that my whopping 256MB of storage that I can use for apps is full while an 8 GB SD card sits virtually unused in the back. That frustrates the heck out of me. What moron said "I've got an idea..."? I thought Google only employed the absolute brightest of minds?? This has to be one of the biggest gaffes in mobile history. So what do I need to do to fix this? Root my phone?

That said I'm happy to see Android 2.1 FINALLY make it to my Droid. And it only took 3 months?? I was almost getting ready to write my bitch post about it still not being available. Look, Android's biggest black mark as far as the press goes is fragmentation. I can forgive them messing this up with the first couple of Android devices... admittedly because I'm not one of the poor souls that purchased one... but now that they KNOW it you'd think they might change. I know it might be Motorola's fault and it might be Verizon's fault... there are lots of people to point the finger at and they all probably want to point it at each other. I see that in my own business. I run a POP3 mail server (no SMTP) and whenever there's a mail problem with sending it still must be us and not the ISP because we're not the same size as Comcast (and actually try to equip our people with knowledge to solve problems versus a simple script).

Nonetheless, 2.1 hit my Droid this morning and so far so good. Pinch zoom is nice to have in the default browser and it seems to work pretty well. I also really like the idea that I can always used text to speech for an input box versus typing although I haven't been able to use it as much as I had hoped. Whenever I use it in public people look at me like I have Tourette's Syndrome. I'm sure in the future it'll become more acceptable to talk to an electronic device, but not yet... And until someone creates a way to root a 2.1 Droid I have to wait to fix my app storage issue.

Review of a great FPS coming in the next 24 hours...