May 31, 2010

A Few Random Notes...

Wow, yesterday I got one advertising click and earned a whole nickle. The family is looking forward to enjoying gumballs for dessert tonight (and the small ones at that). And I'm making fun of the Google Adwords program with that comment...

Today I was driving and we were headed to check out a Half Price Books store. I went to one when I visited my brother in Texas and they're great stores with lots of neat stuff to peruse. As I'm navigating the outer circle of the mall and getting ready to turn onto a major street my GPS annouces that I need to turn left on 'Wisconsin 253' or something like that... and I live in Illinois. It apparently decided we had somehow warped on over to Madison, WI. Listen, Mr. GPS... if I could travel that fast then I wouldn't need you... as whenever I made a wrong turn it would only take seconds to correct at that speed...

And now my Weather Channel software displays a city about 20 miles away as my home location. Verizon's answer? "Have you turned it off and on again?" (That's a quote from the British sitcom titled the IT Crowd which is excellent, by the way). I'm also seeing it toggle between 1x and 3G way too often after months of excellent service. I might think it was my phone... if my wife's wasn't doing the exact same thing.

Dragon Fire

It's no secret that I have a passion for board gaming (and more specifically Euro style games). In this niche hobby the abstract strategy genre doesn't get much love. There are some excellent abstract games, but often games with similar mechanics and a theme do much better at the retail level. People love pirates and zombies and so forth much better than simply being black or white. And yes, this will tie in to this game review...

Dragon Fire makes the claim that if you like traffic control games (hinting at Flight Control) then you're a good candidate for this game. I fully understand why and it's a reasonable parallel. In Dragon Fire a dragon's head that could have just as easily been a paint can or a square box fires different colored streaks and then you have to navigate them to a receptacle of the same color. You'll be toggling directional arrows to achieve this goal and there are three basic objects in the game: receptacles of different colors (and they change color and eventually go away as they are filled), the arrows that allow you to control where these streaks go, and turns which change the direction of the streaks. If you fail to get one of these color streaks to a like colored receptacle then you lose a life... lose three and it's game over.

The game includes 26 levels and a speed adjustment option. Make no mistake... the game is hard. Once you get past the first couple of confidence builder levels it'll have you stressing out and making mistakes. That reminds me that one thing I didn't like was if a streak entered an arrow and I change the direction of the arrow before it exited then the streak would continue in the arrow's original direction. From what I know about game design that kind of behavior is recommended against as it's frustrating (it's recommended to err in the player's favor)... and I find it to be unnatural. Just as I make a brilliant move the carpet is pulled from under me.

Dragon Fire's graphics are at par for this kind of game and it's got a nice audio track. The controls are decent, but I do find myself missing the smallish touch points for controlling the arrows now and again. It would be nice if those were bigger when they weren't adjacent to other arrows as there's no ambiguity as to what my intent is.

I think the game, despite being well done, has a couple of strikes against it that might not have been there had it been released before Flight Control. First up is the abstract nature of the game. I find it far more enjoyable landing planes or parking cars or docking ships versus controlling streaks of color. Second, in the 'traffic control games' the whole screen is my playground. I can change directions of a vehicle whenever I want by dragging a new path, whereas in Dragon Fire I'm limited to affecting just a handful of spots on the screen. Perhaps it's a good thing that the developers didn't just make yet another Flight Control copy (I think the Android Market has four direct copies already) and gave us something different. Unfortunately, I find the original to be the more enjoyable diversion. 3.5/5 stars for a quality title that falls a bit short of the competition.

May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Sale

Glu Mobile is having a Memorial Day sale and is offering their games such as Build-a-Lot and Super KO Boxing 2 (an excellent game) for a measley $.99 here in the USA. Great deals! Go get 'em now... and thanks Glu for matching your Apple App Store sale in the Android Market vs leaving us in the dark. Just do a search on 'Glu' in the Market to find them.

May 27, 2010

Super Jetpack Dragon IV

I got a notice about Super Jetpack Dragon IV a day or two ago. It looked interesting and thus I knew it was a title worth reviewing. But one thing that always intrigues me when I learn of a new game is checking out the developer's website and learning that I've played one (or more) of their other games in the past... in this case 'The Battle of Pirate Bay' on the iPhone. It's also interesting to me when devs are more open about their process versus trying to impress me with that big, corporate look. You see, I think we're in an age when things have become too impersonal and people want to deal with people. Case in point this article on their website about the similarities of the submission process between the Apple App Store and the Android Market which shows a very human side of the company:

App Store vs Android Market Thoughts

So what's the game like? Super Jetpack Dragon IV is a mouthful and will hereby be known as SJD. In this game you're a dragon (with a mount, I think... but that doesn't matter) and you're a menace to the countryside. Why? Because it's there. You're racing from left to right on a scrolling landscape scooping up food, burning down villages, and plundering walls. The controls are simple and are explained everything you run the game which I wish was not the case. I would much rather have a separate 'How to Play' button. Not to mention the instructions omit a key part of the game and that's the energy meter in the upper right of the screen and the fact that both hovering and breathing fire deplete it. That will most likely become obvious while playing, though, as it was for me.

The landscapes have a slight cartoony feeling, and are smoothly drawn. The parallax scrolling is pretty smooth although I do detect a bit of jerkiness here and there. Controls are responsive and other than the fact that when my dragon plummets to his death it sounds like a guy saying 'Ahhhhhh!' the sound is decent.

This game is arcade game all the way. After initially feeling like this was going to be a Sonic clone I now feel like it's more of an advanced (very advanced) SFCave. Perhaps Mini Plane would be a closer analogy. You are always moving forward... and you have to jump and attack at the right time to rack up points. As the game progresses there's a little bit more to it with avoid things like dragons, but it's really all about racking up points. Unfortunately, for what it is... the game is big and until Android 2.2 is available for me it's 15 MB size is a problem. I don't fault the developers for that as I, personally, wouldn't waste the resources of pushing stuff to the SD card knowing Android 2.2 will take care of that problem for me.

The developers indicate that there's more coming. I'm hoping more also means 'The Battle of Pirate Bay'. In the meantime, SJD is a solid arcade title that doesn't have a lot of depth, but is worth of playing a few games here and there while waiting for a train or competing for a high score. And with scores being the central reason to keep playing leader boards would be nice. 4/5 stars.

Edit: I had a chance to check out the iPhone version of this game and the only real difference is that they do have leader boards... so obviously the dev is well aware of this as a good feature.

May 26, 2010

Winds of Steel

The state of Android gaming is really starting to improve. No longer are all of my Android games just quick flirts with entertainment that might repeat themselves with harder levels and little more. There are many examples of this and Winds of Steel is among them. WoS is a World War II aerial combat game that is very nicely done. The game loads with some nifty forties style music complete with static interference just like old time radio. You'll be greeted with a menu allowing you to select campaign play, instant action, or options. Options lets you adjust things such as skill level (there are three of them) and whether or not to enable sound and force feedback (vibration). Absent is any real help and I'm bothered by that trend as I don't find trying to figure out the game and its limitations very enjoyable.

Choose 'Instant Action' and you'll be able to select such modes of play as a simple dog fight, a bombing run, ...etc. I tried the dog fight mode first. Steering is done via tilt (as it should be) and works well. Occasionally the game might skip a few frames and I'm curious how well it runs on phones with the faster snapdragon processor, but no big deal. Your plane has two modes of firing: machine guns and bombs and they are toggled with a touch screen button on the lower right. In the screen shot you can see bombing mode is enabled, but for dog fights we can leave the machine guns on. Mysteriously absent from the screen shot (taken from the developer's web site) is the fire button which is above the toggle button about half way up the screen. Tap it for a burst of machine gun fire. As you pilot your plane a red triangle will point you in the direction of the currently selected target (and I don't know if I can change to a different target or not... I sure couldn't see how) to pursue. Line the enemy up in your crosshairs and fire. As your plane or your enemies plane takes on damage it will start to smoke, burn, and eventually crash.

The graphics are very nice with nice puffy clouds and good detail on the planes and ships. The hum of the plane's engine is well done and the vibration has a pretty good feel of a plane's propeller whirring away. The controls are smooth with one exception... I found the fire button a little on the small side of things. Often when focusing on the action my guns would not fire as my thumb would slide ever so slightly off of the fire button. As there's nothing else there (i.e. no opportunity for ambiguity for what my thumb touch was trying to do) I wish they'd have given some tolerance of error... that would have improved my game play experience substantially.

I then tried the Naval Battle mode after getting the hang of things and blowing several enemy planes out of the sky. The Naval Battle is harder so say the least... and all of this is on rookie mode so far. First, I had to figure out what to do... and living in the USA I immediately went after the Japanese ships and planes. Wrongo! Admittedly if I had paid attention to the graphics on the wings of my plane it would have been obviously that I was a Japanese pilot. Even more impressive was that I could clearly see the US flag on the ships. Anyhow, once I figured out my role I then realized that I needed to focus on the targets the game selects for me and avoid the flak from the enemy ships (and there's a lot to avoid). After several tries I was finally able to knock out the American Air Force (thus defending my fleet) and then blow away the enemy battleship. Mission accomplished.

Other minor issues with the game include exiting to a screen displaying my score while force feedback whirrs away (that can't be good for battery life) and the lack of any altimeter such that I have to rely solely on visuals to avoid getting too close to the ground.

I won't continue with the same level of detail, but the game has a couple other instant action modes of play and a whole slew of campaigns such as Pearl Harbor. There's a lot to this one and it's only 3 euros (or about $4 with the recent fall of the euro to the dollar). I'd really like the see the fire button issue addressed, but beyond that any criticisms I have are on the petty side. Great game and great fun! 4.5/5 stars.

Car Survival

Car Survival is a simple (and free, courtesy of advertising) game that is good enough to provide some quick entertainment (and frustration). In it you control a car and your car must survive for as long as possible. Right now you're probably thinking, "Whoa! This game's title is genius!!". Indeed.

Upon loading Car Survival you'll be greeted by an oval track with three choices where only one is signifcant with regard to the game and that's the "Go" button. You can also turn the audio on and listen the the hip sound track repeat how "crazy" it is. Click "Go" and your car starts accelerating counter-clockwise around the track. The lower left of the touch screen provides a method of turning that I still have not entirely figured out. You can tap the left or right arrows and turn your car a little... very little... certainly not enough to last through the first curve. You can also slide from the middle to the left or right and it appears if you slow slide you can turn more... in fact you can even spin your car around. And that's what the game is all about... getting the hang of the controls.

This is the kind of game you'll play several times. Some will persist more than others. My best time is about 18 and a half seconds. It's good, quick, and free arcade fun and definitely worth a try. 3.5 stars.

May 25, 2010

Gameloft Revisited

It appears Gameloft's recent batch of games is now available for purchase direct from their website at for about $6.99 each. Once again the titles are:
  • Asphalt 5
  • Let's Golf!
  • Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles
  • Hero of Sparta
  • Gangstar: West Coast Hustle
  • Dungeon Hunter
  • Real Football 2010
  • N.O.V.A. Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance
  • Modern Combat: Sandstorm
  • Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
I think it's great they've released these quality (or so I hope) games for the Android platform. I'm mystified as to why they won't sell them via the Android Market (Is it the 30% cut Google takes? Security issues? ...?) and I wonder how that will affect sales. If I didn't operate this website I doubt I'd know about them.
I also see there's a claim that last November Gameloft's games in the Apple App Store were outselling the Android versions by 400% (i.e. 5:1). Is that all? Quite frankly I'm pretty impressed that it's that small of a difference given all of the media attention I've seen.

Muteki Corporation's first Android game, Super Jetpack Dragon IV: Village Burntopia is out now for some Android Devices.

Saw this in the Market tonight and then got an email press release... looks interesting and it's in the review queue:

Jetpack Dragon is a fast-paced game with easy controls and a rockin' sound-track. As Jetpack Dragon you can jump, hover, and dash your way through increasingly challenging levels full of obstacles to jump over, run under, and dash through. All the while, pick up meat haunches for extra points and burn the villages to send the evil villagers running for their lives!

But this is just the first release - we already have the next update planned, and beyond!

May 24, 2010

Hockey Nations 2010

Hockey Nations 2010 appeared a few weeks ago in the Android Market after making its debut in the Apple Store a few months ago. I didn't see it coming and love sports game so I was elated. However, I decided to wait on the review because they indicated keyboard support was coming. That may have been a mistake as it still doesn't support the DPad (the latest release allows you to use the I, O, and P keys to control passing, shooting, and sprinting, but no directional controls) that I so want to use, but I can't delay reviewing this puppy anymore even if DPad support is (possibly?) planned.

Hockey Nations 2010 is a full featured, 6 on 6 hockey game that fits in the palm of your hand. The game includes some basic instructions such as control layouts and such, but I'd hardly call a few screen shots that explain what the buttons do a 'Tutorial' as it is labeled. The game is easy enough to manage, though, and a tutorial is certainly not needed. You've got a virtual DPad and a sprint button on screen and if you're on offense you can pass or shoot. If you're on defense you can poke check or body check. You can also watch you player's stamina and execute line changes.

The game includes a practice mode that features your team against a goalie so that you can more effectively learn the controls. Shooting involves holding down on the shoot button to give your shot more power. The game also offers a shoot out mode. In shoot out mode you skate down and try to fire a shot past the net minder (aka goalie for non-hockey fans). Your goalie is controlled by 5 basic spots for a shot to be taken (low left, low middle, low right, shoulder left, and shoulder right) being displayed, the computer picking and flashing one, and then you have to quickly click on that spot making it a reaction game. This works well as better or more difficult shots can be represented by decreasing your alloted reaction time.

Naturally there's an exhibition mode for those that don't want to play through an entire tournament. In exhibition mode you pick your county and the opposing country along with difficulty level (there are three) and so forth. It took awhile, even on easy, to get to the point that I could get the puck out of my zone (hint: the sprint button is a close friend). Setting up passes seems difficult, but with a little practice I was finally skating down the ice and taking shots. I lost my first game 3-0 (once again that was on easy mode) which is good. I can't stand getting a new sports game and winning on my first play even if there are higher difficulty levels available.

Face offs are done in a manner similar to goaltending in shoot out mode. A countdown is performed and then the puck is displayed in the faceoff circle and you have to click on it quickly. Miss or act too slowly and the opposition gets the puck.

This game has many options with the practice and shoot out modes to help you get the hang of things all the way through tournament mode (which I have not tried). It takes time to get used to the controls and all that is happening in a game, but it does come and so far has been quite enjoyable. I'm disappointed in the lack of DPad support and find the ability to use my keyboard for only half of the game's controls to be useless... if I'm using on screen controls for moving then I really don't want to have my keyboard popped out for passing and shooting. So far this is a 5/5 star game for me, but I'm reserving final judgment for some more play. But that's a good thing as it means I am and want to spend the time playing it unlike some other games (even good ones) that I tire of all too quickly.

May 23, 2010

Crusade of Destiny (Preview)

A game called Crusade of Destiny hit the Android Market today at the steep price of $5.99. I've played with it a little and will provide a full review later in the week, but so far it looks good. The game is huge weighing in at over 20 meg (which isn't that big compared to some other titles that download to the SD card), but that's to be expected if that game world is of a decent size. One oddity so far is that it's the first game that forces me to turn my device clockwise (the game uses a landscape screen view) to play versus turning it counter-clockwise (so I immediately knew Droid DPad support wasn't going to happen).

The game has a short story intro (that can be skipped when replaying) and starts you as a farmer called upon to see the town's elder as you learn to fight and move towards becoming the hero. Movement is performed with a virtual DPad on the lower left of the screen, but I think I'm coming around. Playing with the virtual DPad on this (and Hockey Nations 2010) isn't as bad as it was when I first tried one.

The game has pretty good graphics and has those extras like animated wind mills and moving horses that one would expect from a top tier game. The controls seem good too... run up to a towns person and a little bubble appears that lets you talk to them. Approach a sign and a little eye icon appears indicated you can read the sign.

The game looks to be a winner, has garnered a few 5 star reviews in the Market already, and is earning its worth as a $5.99 game. After all, it's cheaper than Pac Man when that's not on sale. In the meantime go get it or take a look at the trailer below while you wait for my full review.

Pac Man's 30th Anniversary (and a Sale)

I suppose I'm late to the party with this, but Namco is having a sale on Pac Man through May 24 in the Android Market to celebrate Pac Man's 30th Anniversary. Reduced from $6.99 to $3.99 I still think it's expensive given how many time's I've purchased the game for different platforms... especially when iPhone owners get Pac Man Championship Edition (among others) for a mere $.99.

May 21, 2010

Android 2.2

I guess it's been officially announced at Google I/O 2010 today that Android 2.2 will allow us to store apps on our MicroSD card. The update is also supposed to operate quite a bit snappier. And then there's Flash support and built in tethering.

And they claim it'll be available for Nexus One and Motorola Droid users in June. Any guesses on the actual release date? I believe the Nexus One will get it in June... just not my Droid.

Dynamite Pro Football 2010

Why do those of us in the states call what is known globally as "football" by the name "soccer"? It's a game all about using the feet and not using the hands. And then we create another game and call it football and then have minimal use of the feet in this game. Sometimes we make no sense. So, when you see Dynamite Pro Football 2010 in the Market, know that it's not American style football, but rather World Cup style football. And being a sports gaming enthusiast I am so glad to see a game like this arrive (not that it's perfect) and I look forward to an American style football game someday.

You probably already have a basic idea how football (or soccer, but I'm going to call it football given the game's title for review purposes) works. Eleven players try to move the ball down field without using their hands and ultimately try to get it past the opposing keeper and into the opposing goal. Dynamite Pro Football 2010 looks a little like Sensible Soccer to me although having not played the latter extensively I can't compare the two. You get a top down view of the field with a bunch of teeny-tiny players on it that you control via touch. Interesting, to me, is that the game avoids used of the all too common virtual d-pad and does something different. Instead, controls are such that touching:
  • around the player with the ball changes his running direction (and he always seems to be on the move).
  • directly in front causes the player with the ball to shoot it.
  • directly on the player causes him to pass it.
  • behind the player with the ball causes him to lob it down field.
DPF 2010 is clearly more of an arcade style soccer game. The game includes a practice mode where you only face an opposing keeper to learn the controls, and then when you're ready to can play real games featuring international teams (just named via county... no licensed player names or anything of that sort). The game is chock full of options... 3 difficulty levels, several formations, different length matches from the quick 5 minute/half game to a full 45 minute/half game. And the game does provide some pretty intense action.

The graphics are good given the tiny players, but you can make out arms moving back and forth as they run and the ball does seem to spin as it rolls down the field. The game also has a nice audio track although little in the way of sound effects. There's no 'GOAL!' shouted when a goal is tallied, but the player does do a victory dance. Quite frankly that surprised me given the quality of most aspects of the game.

My biggest problem with the game deals with controls and while I heartily applaud avoiding the use of a virtual D-Pad I all too often end up shooting the ball away when I'm trying to turn. I suspect, from a technical standpoint, that the player has 8 directional zones surrounding him and all are of equal size so you have to make sure you're touching what is clearly off left or right to get the player to turn instead of shoot. But after playing for an hour or so across three gaming sessions I was still making this same, basic mistake. I also think the passing game is difficult to muster... it doesn't appear that tapping on your active player passes to the closest player, but rather you have to be running in the receiving player's direction and by the time I was doing that I'd have run right by the player I wanted to pass to with my speedy runner and consequently no pass.

Another minor, technical snafu is that pressing the home button on my phone is how I've become accustomed to ending programs. Not good enough for DPF 2010... you have to go to the top level menu and exit. Now if you really like the music maybe this is a blessing as you can exit via the home button and continue to listen to it, and while it's good it is not that good. In fact, even turning off my phone by hitting the power button left the music playing (which makes a good demo that the power button isn't really a power button in the strictest sense).

In conclusion, DPF 2010 is a good start to a soccer game. It's a little on the pricey side at 3 Euros (or about US $4). It's also probably a bit of a hit or miss title depending on your personal preferences. I like it, but would like to see some improvements and/or fixes to address my issues. 3.5/5 stars.

May 20, 2010

Roll or Don't - TWO PLAYER

I reviewed a game called Roll or Don't in January which is an Android version of an old board game by the late Sid Sackson called Can't Stop. The author has released some freebie versions of this game one being a two player version. You can read my original review by visiting the link below:

It's worth the download if you like strategy games (this one being a "push your luck" style game). You may think it's all random and there is luck involved, but there's also a lot of strategy in understanding probabilities in this game. Give it a go.

Kongregate Collaborates with Adobe on Beta Completion of Flash Player 10.1; Fuels Flash-Based Mobile Gaming for Android 2.2

Here's another Android game oriented press release that arrived in my email this morning. I'm mixed on the Flash games for Android... on one hand it leads to lazy game development as dime a dozen ports will be common and on the other hand there are some entertaining Flash games out there (my current favorite being Gimme Friction Baby) and it's a perfectly competent platform for many of the retro games that I enjoy. Furthermore, after the long wait for Android 2.1 to actually arrive on my phone I'm doubtful I'll see Android 2.2 any time soon.

Leading Indie Game Site Unveils More Than 100 Mobile Flash Games

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Google I/O Developer Conference) – May 20, 2010 – Kongregate, the leading indie games site featuring nearly 30,000 free-to-play games set within an addictive social environment, today announced its collaboration with Adobe for the beta completion of Flash® Player 10.1.

Working closely with Adobe, Kongregate has launched a mobile site ( with more than 100 of its popular games optimized to run on mobile devices, delivering Flash-based mobile gaming to Google’s anticipated Android 2.2 platform using Flash Player 10.1.

“Adobe Flash Player 10.1 will have a tremendous impact on the mobile gaming landscape for both the game developer and player,” noted Jim Greer, CEO and co-founder of Kongregate. “Bringing Flash technology to Google’s next version of Android enables our more than 8,000 developers to create engaging mobile titles using the tools already familiar to them, while Kongregate players will be able to enjoy great Flash-based, free-to-play game experiences anytime, anywhere.”

Featured among Kongregate’s 100 mobile Flash titles are Assembler 3, Talesworth Adventure, Hexiom Connect and Straight Dice, all popular games on Kongregate that seamlessly make the transition to mobile.

“Kongregate is a key contender in web-based gaming and a valuable partner in helping us demonstrate the capabilities of next-generation Flash technology for devices,” said Ricky Liversidge, vice president, Product Marketing, Flash Platform at Adobe. “Kongregate has been critical to delivering rich and compelling Flash-based game experiences for the rapidly expanding mobile games market.”

Adobe Flash Player 10.1 enables uncompromised Web browsing of expressive applications, content and video across devices. With support for a broad range of mobile devices, including smartphones, netbooks, smartbooks and other Internet-connected devices, Flash Player 10.1 will allow content to reach users wherever they are. The vast majority of Kongregate’s free-to-play games were developed using Adobe Flash technology, and with the use of the beta for Flash Player 10.1, Kongregate and its developers are taking mobile gaming to the next level.

About Kongregate

Kongregate is a leading indie web game site receiving more than one million game plays a day and one thousand new games added a month with an audience of over eight million unique users worldwide. Kongregate players are 85 percent young men who come to earn points and badges for their Kongregate profiles on an achievement system analogous to Xbox Live. Kongregate shares ad revenue directly with its participating game developers and its advertising base includes brands like Axe, Sony Pictures, EA, Sprint, Frito Lay, Xbox 360, 2K Sports, Focus Features, Toyota, Stride Gum, Nokia, and Scion. Additionally, Kongregate has premium games on the site, where users can buy virtual goods using its micro-transaction platform, Kongregate Kreds.

Based in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2006 by brother-and-sister team Jim Greer, a game industry veteran, and Emily Greer, an interactive marketing executive. The company is funded by Greylock Partners, Bezos Expeditions and leading Internet and game industry angel investors. Kongregate is an award-winning company and the recipient of two Webby Awards.

Steel Shot

Steel Shot is a game similar in nature to the previously covered Shoot U! You control a giant sling shot and have to fire shots to hit targets scattered throughout the level. Controlling the sling shot is done via holding down, dragging, and releasing once you think your power and angle are on target. Unlike Shoot U! each level is not contained with a single screen so by single and double tapping on the screen you can zoom in and zoom out to get a better idea of where you need to aim.

As you can see, the game's graphics are pretty basic... a crudely drawn slingshot on a rock base and the targets consist of red balls on platforms with different support structures (that can be knocked over) on them. The game does feature 76 levels with more planned. The game's physics seems to be on target and the controls offer the precision necessary for success, but don't expect to be wowed by any audio or video presentation here as it's all about the physics and control.

The core problem with the game is that it's very frustrating trying to shoot at something that I have to see through my mind's eye. Yes, I can zoom out to get an idea of where the target it, but playing this would be like practicing archery, but when actually taking the shot being blind folded and spun around once. I like the idea of the bigger levels and area, but can't stand not being able to see what I'm shooting at when I'm pulling the trigger. I don't know if a little window showing the whole level could fix that or not... it may just be too small to be of use.

Consequently, I'm not too hot on this game. It's got some potential and I hope the devs don't lose faith and continue to improve not only their game programming skills, but also their design skills as it's a design issue that ultimately brings this game down to being mediocre. 3/5 stars.

May 19, 2010

Gameloft Brings 10 High-Def 3D Games To Android

I saw this press release today although I don't see it on GameLoft's website (having looked under News). Can anyone else see these in the Android Market? I sure can't.

Posted on Mon, 17 May 2010 12:46:55 CDT | by Jordan Cressman3D and Android - two of the big tech buzzwords - together in one announcement? This must be big. Gameloft has announced the release of 10 new high-definition mobile games available on Android.

The 10 new titles available now on the Android Market are:

Asphalt 5 (ok, I can see this one... came out awhile ago)
Let's Golf!
Assassin's Creed (I presume this means an updated Assassin's Creed?)
Hero of Sparta
Gangstar: West Coast Hustle
Dungeon Hunter
Real Football 2010
N.O.V.A. Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance
Modern Combat: Sandstorm
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Although gaming on Android has historically fallen by the wayside, it is finally starting to become bigger news. Devices like the HTC HD2 and the EVO 4G, with larger screens and more focus on multimedia, are bringing video games to the forefront.
"With the arrival of smartphones that allow the creation of high quality games, we are excited to bring consumers a unique line up of diverse titles combining rich 3D graphics and intense gameplay," said Gameloft SVP of publishing Gonzague de Vallois.
Among the devices that can play the new 3D games are the Sony Ericsson XPeria X10, HTC Desire, Motorola Droid, Motorola Motoroi, and Nexus One.

Edit: I'm now reading that the games will be available only from GameLoft's website. If that's true then "bravo"... then in 6 months GameLoft can say Android sales are still poor because nobody knows about their games. Maybe they should try that tactic with the iPhone... oh, yeah... Steve doesn't permit it. (And note that this is speculation right now... GameLoft may be planning to sell them via the Market.)

I'm also reading that GameLoft is having some trouble with the games and has temporarily pulled them.

More news when I have it...

Crazy Party

Crazy Party is a party game (currently on sale for $.99) and who can resist a game with "65 kinds of maze.25 kinds of Party."? I haven't reviewed any party games here before so it seemed like a good choice and with what is currently a 5 star rating it has to be a winner, right? Let's take a look...

First, the game is essentially three mini-games: a match 3 game (although they call it a maze), a memory game, and whac-a-mole. In more detail:

The Match 3 (Maze??) game gives you a grid with animal pictures on it. You can pick any 2 that are orthogonally adjacent and swap them. If you get 3 of the same in a row (vertically or horizontally) then they score and dissipate.

The Memory Game puts a bunch of these same animals on a whac-a-mole field with each one being covered with a shell or nut or something. Click on two and they are revealed and if it's a match they score and go away.

Whac-a-Mole just pops moles and non-moles up and you have to touch the moles without touching the non-moles.

See what I'm getting at? These games are all insanely simplistic and are games for 10 years old (if that) and younger. I just don't see an adult getting any enjoyment out of this after playing for about a minute. That's not a bad thing... it's just written to set the expectation level for these games. Sure, they ramp up the difficulty so that it's eventually a challenge for me, but I've reached boredom way before (and after) that point is reached. It's kind of like tic-tac-toe. My daughter thinks it's interesting. I don't. And making it 4x4 to increase the challenge doesn't really do anything for me... there are better choices like Reversi for me that have similar appeal.

Professionally done these are! Very nice, sharp graphics. Great audio. Solid controls. Go ahead and get this for your child as they'll probably really like it... especially girls given the more cutesy nature of the games. Also note that there is a lite version to try if you're on the fence. 4/5 stars for a quality job that probably meets its objectives head on... it's just not for me.

May 18, 2010

Bunny Mania

I still remember the day when a friend invited me back to his dorm room to take a look at a new game he had for his Amiga back in the late 80s. The game was Lemmings and Bunny Mania brings that same enjoyment to the Android platform.

In Bunny Mania (don't think I'll abbreviate this one) cute, furry, stupid little bunnies drop out of a magic hat in the sky and basically wander until something such as a wall or a fall changes their direction in life. In a sense this is an early god game as you give the bunnies commands such as the traffic cop command (which causes them to stand still and act as a wall for other bunnies), or the dig command (to burrow a tunnel), or even the bomb command to blow things up. Your goal is to guide as many bunnies as possible from the beginning of the level on through and out the exit door. In a sense this is a real time puzzle game as if you don't act fast you run the risk of sending your bunnies off a cliff (and you get to hear their displeasure with that).

The game offers 50 levels of play with the first level or two being dedicated to getting you off the ground and playing. The game also includes help to explain the game which is nice. I do have a beef with it, though, as they've decided to stick advertising in the pay version and I don't like that. Of course there is no advertising during the actual game play. The game also includes basic level editing facilities and you can download levels from the Internet (and there are currently only 3 available so don't get too excited).

The graphics are fair, but it's hard to be detailed with such small objects as the bunnies. The game does have a cute audio track going for it and cute sound effects for bunnies as they fall or reach safety. As for controls, the game relies entirely on the touch screen and that works well. My only problem is that I keep wanting to click on a bunny and then an action and the game wants the opposite of that, but that's my problem and not the game's fault.

This title does a solid job of bringing that old time Lemmings experience to our favorite mobile OS. If you don't know what Lemmings is take a gander at the video below or try out the lite demo version. 4/5 stars.

May 14, 2010

Backbreaker Football (Review)

I noted the release of Backbreaker Football (or BBF) a few days ago and promised a review. Unfortunately, the process of eliminating games from my Droid to free up space was heartbreaking. The deed is now done, though, and I ran BBF through the paces today. My phone only reports it to use 16 MB of storage despite the Market claiming closer to 33 MB which was a good thing. And before I delve further let me note that this game is impressive from a technical standpoint because a) it's really impressive and b) it uses AirPlay and if all games were written using AirPlay then porting from the iPhone to the Android would be a freebie for developers (and, as you'll read, stunning games like BBF can still be created).

What is Backbreaker Football? For a start, it is only a fraction of a real football game or, more precisely, it is the kickoff return portion of football converted to a mini-game. It's also not versus a real team, but rather a scattering of players. As you work your way up more defenders will be positioned on the field to try and tackle you before you can reach the end zone. Furthermore, the a 'zone' may be cut out of the field limiting where you can go during your return with additional spots yielding more points if you can run over them.

The controls include the tilt aspect of an Android phone and several on-screen buttons to do things like juke, spin, sprint, and showboat (which scores more points). The 3D modeling is great especially for a mobile game and the controls work well, but as there is no tactile feedback, sometimes my return man might not juke when I think he should and I don't know where the error lies... presumably I missed the on screen button.

This game, because it was developed with AirPlay, is identical to the iPhone version. Unlike the iPhone version I did have some crash issues with background tasks while running this game. Most notably, SportsTap would crash pretty much on queue only to reload and crash again while trying to play BBF. Is that BBF's fault? Probably not as I've had issues with SportsTap before. But I also had an issue with my texting. I don't know if this game taxes my Droid so badly or what, but this game apparently brings out the worst in the Android's multi-tasking OS. I am curious about the iPhone 4.0 OS that adds multi-tasking as that can bring problems such as this with it, but for now I can say I had a more pleasant experience with the iPhone version.

As I've tried to explain, the game is top notch in the graphics department and the controls work well. The sound effects are solid, too. I parallel this game as being to football what Home Run Derby 3D is to baseball... which brings up a negative. I find that batting is the most exhilarating part of baseball, but punt returns are not the best part of football (IMHO passing is). Consequently returning punt after punt after punt gets old. The lead me to stop playing much sooner that I ceased playing Home Run Derby 3D.

Since I last played they've also added an advertising splash screen that I think is a bit much. Fine, give me a button to learn more about the upcoming, full featured PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of BBF, but don't make me wade through the splash screen every time I load the game. Furthermore, I can't find a thing about the mobile BBF anymore which makes me think they are so focused on the console version that they no longer care about mobile development.

In summary, this is clearly another crème of the crop game... no doubt about it. The concept isn't perfect, but it is well executed and fun for awhile. I was thrilled to see it make the leap from the iPhone to the Android after wondering why not (know the game is a key example of AirPlay). And if you're Devin Hester maybe punt returns are your favorite part of the game. 4.5/5 stars.


As you may have heard, Sprint is releasing their new, powerhouse 4G Android phone on June 4th. My two wishes are that it would ship with Android 2.2 instead of leaving new customers with a (slightly) old OS, and that it would come with a keyboard and DPad. I know they're trying to capture the magic of the iPhone, but if I wanted one of those I'd have purchased it instead. Stop trying to copy the competition and start trying to improve on it! I'd say the lack of a real keyboard and DPad is my number one aprehension about paying the termination fee of $175 on my Verizon contract and upgrading. I'd even be happy with an external add-on keyboard/DPad. I guess maybe I can just use a Wii controller for games with the way things are going (although I haven't checked on the progress of that recently). Upgrading would also save about $30 a month and provide a data connection that, if solid, could replace my DSL.

And Android 2.2 is a huge deal with it's Flash support. A lot of iPhone games original were derived from Flash games and I could foresee Adobe doing something similar for the Android like they did for the iPhone just for revenge not that Apple has shunned them. And have you heard it's now supposed to have tethering built in? And hopefully it'll solve the app storage issue once and for all. I guess we'll find out next week.

May 13, 2010

Number Stacker

Number Stacker, for better or for worse, looked like a different kind of game. After playing it I'd have to say it has a little of that Tetris feel, but falls short of being as good as Tetris for one key reason that I will get to later.

For a start the game, unlike many, does include instructions although they are in broken English. The gist of the game is that the numbers are falling slowly from the top of the screen and if/when they reach the bottom you lose life as shown in the life meter. You have five number across the bottom that you can stack on these numbers provided that the number isn't more than 1 off of the number you are stacking on. For example, if it's a 5 you could drag a 4, 5, or 6 onto it and it will become that number. Stack three numbers onto one spot and you eliminate it saving your precious life meter any hard. You also can also flush the numbers along the bottom with the little R button and get five new numbers if you don't see any useful (or possible) plays. As you progress you'll advance in level and get addition flushes to help out your cause. You can also pick up bonus points by dragging an identical number or color onto a valid spot.

The games graphics are basic, but the controls work well... a simple drag from a number along the bottom onto a number as illustrated had no problems. This game falls short, though, as the game's engine is apparently random and all too often I had 3 8's coming down the screen with a 1, 2, 4, 3, and 6 as my numbers or a 6, 7, 9 and 0 falling while having 3 1s and 2 2s as my choices. The flush option gave me an out sometimes, but as it is limited in use I found that as the game progressed I was frequently left between a rock and a hard place. A no win situation = no fun. The game engine really needs to be smarter and ensure that there's always a play to be made... maybe the one play at a time and the thinking that is involved might warrant flushing as a 'best move' still making the flush option have value, but those impossible situations really were annoying.

In conclusion, I found myself really enjoying this game initially and felt my brain processing all of the options, but then when it became obvious that I couldn't do anything, but watch the numbers drop and hope for a good 'next' number it became a nuisance. There's untapped potential with this idea, but it needs more work and some catchy music. I'll also offer to improve the instructions and eliminate the broken English for free if the developers want to contact me. As is I can only give this 2.5/5 stars.

May 12, 2010

Water Hazard

A few weeks ago I picked up an old Mario Bros. Game & Watch from the local Goodwill. I popped two new batteries in and it worked like a charm. The game is very basic, but was fun in that 80's retro way. Water Hazard had a similar look from the screenshots in the Android Market and having no rating I decided to try and see if the game deserves some love.

Water Hazard's description matched that of an Atari 2600 favorite called Kaboom!, but instead of a 'mad bomber' it's a water leak in the ceiling, but we're still catching falling stuff in a bucket. I've yet to see a real good Kaboom! remake so I was hopeful, but feared the worst as the screenshots showed two buttons (most likely for left and right) whereas Kaboom! relied heavily on a paddle (or spin) controller for speed and precision. Indeed this is not Kaboom!

But it is something different as it adds a twist... your bucket can only hold three 'drops' of water before you have to dump it out of the left or right window. In actuality the game is pretty cute albeit basic. The game features two difficulty levels known as 'Game A' and 'Game B'. That made me wonder if this was a remake of a past 80's handheld game, but my research has turned up naught. And if it isn't then calling the difficulty levels A and B just seems odd, whereas if they were replicating someone else's odd decision then it's simply authentic.

It's always bugged me trying to take a game and convert it to a single or even a group of numbers. Each game, in many cases, has its own nuances and charm despite falling short of perfection or even goodness. This particularly bugs me when it comes to retro remakes that are spot on, but only garner a 6/10 or worse rating in a trade magazine. If a game is spot on with its goal met or exceeded and doesn't advertise itself as more than a copy of an old game then is it not perfection? Sure it might pale when contrasted to today's standards, but purists such as myself appreciate spot on accuracy with classic remakes. I don't know if this game falls in the category of a classic remake that is spot on (drop me a line if you know), but it is of that ancient style.

In conclusion, this game will provide a short burst of entertainment and nothing more as you frantically tap to move left and right collecting water and dumping it out of the window. You're not going to play it for weeks. There are no leader boards to compete against. It's also only $.99. This game is going to have limited appeal, and I'm sure the developers knew that with the primitive graphics and sound. Still the game works well for what it is. 3.5/5 stars. And Red Rabbit (the devs) has provided a video of the game below...

May 10, 2010

Super KO Boxing 2

It seems like sports games are now all the rage on the Android with Hockey Nation 2010, Backbreaker Football, and now Super KO Boxing 2 all appearing on the Android in the past few weeks. Depending on your personal preferences, Super KO Boxing 2 may actually be the best of the lot. It's a huge game... but Glu Mobile was smart enough to download all 80+ meg of that extra data to the SD card so this game doesn't take up much of your internal storage space at all. I LIKE that! Second, the game comes in two flavors... $4.99 and free with ads (and the ad supported version is IDENTICAL to the $4.99 version). Being a cheapskate I went with the free one.

One thing that is increasingly frustrating for me is the assumption that once I load a game I'll immediately know how to play through clairvoyance. I tire of  games that do not include instructions as a bare minimum (or better yet, a tutorial system). Super KO Boxing 2 makes this mistake. Believe it or not, while I don't like to read instructions I do like to have them as a backup for when I finally admit that I don't know what I am doing. It took me a while to figure out that fighting involves more than using the block button and the on screen 'super charge' meter, but rather requires swipes to land punches. It took an ever longer while for me to realize that swiping doesn't work well because I just need to tap on the screen where I want to punch. But once I figured all of that out the game played very well... until I got knocked out. The game does provide onscreen instruction there... tap the screen as the numbers meet in the center of the screen (it'll make more sense when you play it) and I, for the life of me, can't seem to do that.

The graphics and sound in the game are phenomenal... just take a look at the screenshot. Very nice, cartoony graphics and a bunch of opponents each with a personality. They even offer an online strategy guide to help you get past seemingly impossible opponents. All things said and done this is a game of learning your opponent's weaknesses and exploiting them... kind of like real boxing. The game offers a few different control systems in terms of button placement and whether or not the accelerometer is used, but punches are fired off via tapping on the touch screen.

All things considered this game is great and I can't believe they've released a freebie full version supported by advertising. That has to be experimental marketing and I just don't see it paying off unless they are getting paid by impression... for a start the ads don't affect game play during the actual game, but rather just during loading sequences and downloading the initial payload of game data. However, if you're honest and you play the game through more than 5 fighters you really owe it to Glu Mobile and the life of the Android platform to pay for the $5 version. It will have been worth it and your dollars are essentially a vote for whether development of future Android games is worthwhile. In the meantime, if you're unsure please give this title a try unless you absolutely abhor boxing... you might be surprised how much you like it. 5/5 stars.

Edit: It appears my pricing is wrong... the full version is just $2.99. A steal!

May 6, 2010

Replica Island

With 250,000+ downloads I must be the only Android gamer to have missed the release of Replica Island. If not then please allow me tell you about my recent find.

Replica Island is a free 40 level game in the same genre as games like Super Mario Bros. In it you control Android (and yes, he looks like the Android logo) and your goal is to find 'The Source'. For free this is a stunning game. At $5 it would still be impressive. Did I mention this game is free?

The game starts off with a nice tutorial which other games should take notice of. In the tutorial you learn the basics of how to move and fly. You also learn about the different things to pick up, how to take control of other objects such as enemy robots, and how to do 'drop and smash' attacks. The game has depth. The game also supports different controls across the various available Android devices (and in my case supports my Droid's DPad so I'm in heaven). The game also has some cutesy dialog with the professor that engineered you as he teaches you how to play.

The game play is smooth and the controls are responsive. I haven't had any issues with stutter and the graphics are good for this style of game. Replica Island is also among the first platform style games... I admit that I haven't really missed them as that's not my genre of choice, but after playing this it hit me square in the face that this category is not represented well. Is this game perfect? Well, one time while playing the first tutorial mission I fell through the floor (it happened right before collecting my first red gem) and couldn't get out. But I couldn't reproduce it and have played for about an hour without a hitch since. So no, the game isn't perfect.

I don't know what else to say... the game would be a 'get it' in my book for most gamers at $3 or less and maybe $5, but at free... what are you waiting for? Go download it now! Or take a look at the sample video below if you're skeptical. Oh, and I see on their website (among the best Android game websites out there) that the game isn't even two months old so I guess I'm not that late to the party... but still... 250,000+ downloads!! I think people with Android's do indeed play games and use the Market. I wonder what kind of Android Market action they would have seen at $1 a copy? 5/5 stars... no question about it.

May 5, 2010

Backbreaker Football

Awesome! Backbreaker Football is in the house Android Market. I had this game on the iPhone and enjoyed it quite a bit. I will have a full review of the Android version soon. In a nutshell, it's a 3D simulation of the punt return portion of a football game and as you progress you'll have more defenders to beat and different zones (on the field) that you must stay inside of. The game uses tilt for controls and is to football what Homerun Derby 3D is to baseball. I'm glad to see it's only $2.99 at well. If you're a sports afficinado, as I am, then you'll definitely want to take a look at this one. I'm having a hard time tracking down a good video of it, though, as the company is hard at work on a full featured console football game from what I can tell and doesn't seem to dedicate anything to coverage of their mobile game.

Edit: Holy moly... this game is the biggest yet at over 30 MB. I'm going to have to delete half of the stuff off of my phone just to try it.

May 4, 2010

Super Tumble

Camel Games has released their sixth game in the Android Market and not surprisingly it's another physics puzzler. This time you're given a structure with a star precariously balanced at the top and you have to gradually eliminate supports allowing it to fall gracefully onto a supporting platform below. The picture probably illustrates this better than does my description. Camel, as usual, does a great job with the physics and they are apparently so into that aspect of their games that even the menu utilizes it this time around. Camel's Space Physics was among my first Android game reviews and their games have only gotten better. They're also the first developer to load game data onto the SD card while other professional developers still haven't gotten that memo.

The game itself offers over 65 levels (looks to me like 71) in groups of 12 that have to be unlocked (which means that if you're like me you can solve level 12 and have access to the next group and skip to level 24 and so on...). The first twelve are easy... I'm currently working on the second group and am having trouble with level 18. The first group just offers the basics of different shaped blocks and balloons (which cause things to fall more slowly). The second group adds things like pits which means instead of just getting the star straight down you have to 'steer' it left or right onto a platform. It should also be noted that you can't just tap on everything and have all objects disappear... if you've eliminated one object there is a delay before another can be eliminated (although you can immediately select it which will cause it to flash indicating it'll be the next to go away).

A couple puzzles for me are a) why Camel doesn't have a website for all of their games yet and b) why they offer "no ads" in the description of the full/paid version of the game... at $3 I'd hope not (cut and paste error?).

This game's graphics and UI are excellent and there isn't much audio to critique or praise aside from the sounds of clicking on stuff, starting a level, ...etc. I'd classify this game as a variant on Blow Up (or iDemolish). How many physics games should you own? At this point in time if I was starting out I'd buy two of theirs: ShootU! and Super Tumble (and wow... ShootU! has sold over 10,000 copies while my beloved Panzer Panic struggles at under 500). Super Tumble sells for $2.99 in the Market and is a winner. Hopefully they'll support the game (as they plan to) with additional levels. And Camel has been around for long enough I'm sure they will. 4.5/5 stars.

Edit: This game just gets better... made it into the third set of levels and a few new things have been introduced. The most interesting find is an object that doubles in size when you click it before 'blowing up'. The game also has a really good feel when I hold my Droid like a Playstation Portable and use my thumb to tap on objects. Not many games seem to have that kind of feel.

Finger Runner

Here's a freebie to get the week started...

Having very young children and living near a Chuck E Cheeses means we go there frequently. Pizza, games, and prizes at the end... everyone's a winner! Ok, well the pizza sucks and while they know it they also know they don't have to do a thing about it... heck, they could just order some DiGiorno's and I might start eating there. As it is I stay away from the food. The games... kids love 'em. They just got this horse racing game that features an almost life size horse to ride that controls the game and while she seem content just sitting on it and letting him ride into a wall it's pretty neat... a little girl's dream come true. And my kid's love the helicopter ride. Ok, who am I kidding... I love going there for the games, too. Finally, once the hour visit is over, it's time to get prizes and winning a penny lollipop is quite the thrill for a kid.

My location has this finger race game... it draws a maze using LEDs and I have to race my finger through the maze before time expires. Success = tickets = more and better prizes! That's what Finger Runner is (without the heavy pressure of penny lollipops hanging in the balance). Currently it just offers a handful of mazes with a promise of more. It also has an option (on by default) that shows crosshairs where your finger is... good diagnostic info if nothing else. Yet this kind of game is fun and a great game for a mobile platform that relies on touch screen input. Plus, it's a simple game that you can play quickly and be done with.

The cool thing about Finger Runner, though, is some of the additions over the amusement version. First, they've added multi-level mazes and second, they've added secret doors that open when you reach a given target. At free this is a nice, little diversion... currently advertised as being in alpha... I'm looking forward to seeing the final version. Give it a try!

Android Gaming

I've delayed my review of Hockey Nation 2010 for a couple of reasons. First, the publisher has indicated DPad control is coming soon and I think the game will be much better with that feature. Second, I see they just released an update for the iPhone version so I have to hope our update isn't far behind.

Over the weekend I tried Caligo Chaser from Com2Us (get it... "come to us"?). Com2Us made the excellent Homerun Derby 3D. Unfortunately they haven't quite clicked that Android owners have limited storage for game resources in main memory and while I gather the plan is for that to be fixed in a future OS update we're still waiting. Meanwhile, Caligo Chaser weighs in at 22 MB of storage which is massive.

Caligo Chaser is an Action RPG and that's among the many genres I really like. But I'm apparently too inept to get past the first battle. Any hints? I get my weapons and training and head off on the confidence builder mission to the south. I thought I had the ebb and flow of combat down, but can't seem to kill anything and eventually die. The game looks awesome and I'd love to be able to dig deeper and give it an accurate review. Oh, and it does support the Droid's DPad in the current release which is also nice.

And speaking of DPads has everyone seen the GameGripper? It's for the Motorola Droid only and slides over the keyboard to provide a more traditional gamepad experience. At $15 it's not like it's expensive, but having purchased a phone with a DPad I have a hard time buying a DPad add-on... still the reviews are generally good. I already have a BGP100 bluetooth gamepad from my Windows Mobile days and there's an Android driver for it now... something else I need to try.

Finally, I've been pretty pleased with gaming on the Android, but a friend asked what I think I'm missing versus the iPhone. Good question as there isn't much... Madden 2010 (or a good football game) would be welcome, as would some of the strategy games like Money! and Ingenious. And then there are a few other misc titles like Sniper vs Sniper (also from Com2Us) and Ace Combat from Namco. But on the whole I've got plenty of games on my Droid that I haven't been able to give proper attention to which is positive news.