Jul 31, 2010

Hyper Jump

Camel Games is no stranger to the Android having produced some of its best games. With their current library of titles I'm puzzled as to why they don't yet seem to have a website to better market their wares. It's also been interesting to see them grow in terms of quality and Hyper Jump is another example of their experience.

Hyper Jump is another jumping game based on the premise introduced by Doodle Jump, and I'm pleased to see that it does do something different. However, before we get there let me say that the graphics and sound on this titles are very well executed. The background, unlike its inspriration, is very colorful and pretty. And the 'ahhhhh' sound of climbing is really very well done along with the cha-ching of gathering coins and so forth. Controls are flawless with the simple tilt left and right control scheme that makes this game so good on mobile devices. The game play is as smooth as silk and Hyper Jump is a pretty game to look at.

The premise of the game is that you're trying to jump as high as you can. As you jump you are trying to collect coins (and other power ups). Coins are not only points, but also act as energy to fly higher... in fact, I'd say the little guy in this game flies more so than jumps. If you're out of energy you fall and MUST touch a coin on the way down to get more energy and that's where the game is different. There are no platforms to land on or wait on while you think of your next move. This game has you going and going and going until the end which, for me, arrives very quickly. My current high score is a paltry 3,993 with 59,224 currently occupying the top spot on the global leader board by a solid margin.

I do wish this game had instructions... but I'm sounding like a broken record with that complaint. If it did, I wouldn't have to figure out that the number in the upper left is how many coins have been collected... upper right is your height... and your score is equal to 5 times the number of coins collected plus your height. It would also be nice to know what power ups are available, the exact difference between the red and gold coins (are reds worth 5 or something?), ...etc so I could play instead of having to experiment to figure out something that could (and should) have been communicated. The game also offers different characters... one has one eye and the other has two eyes. Is there any real difference between the two? And how about the scene that is coming soon... will it change the game or will it be just art work?

As for the game, it is both excellent and enjoyable despite me having to figure out the 'rules'. It is well worth the $1.99 introductory price tag (although that seems like a good price to keep the game at to me). 5/5 stars for something that has and will keep me coming back for more.

Jul 30, 2010

My Traffic

Polish. Often that's the difference that separates the good games from the great ones. My Traffic is a great example of this. I know you're probably sick of hearing about Flight Control, but what made that game great? Was it really innovative? It only took a concept that was used in Root Beer Tapper in the early 80s (and I don't know that it was really first) and converted it to airplanes. What made it great was polish, and that's why so many of the Android clones of the game fell short.

My Traffic is a game about controlling the flow of traffic. You are the "traffic master" and can seamlessly turn traffic lights from red to green and back again. Your goal is to get a predetermined number of cars safely on their way. If you go "green happy" cars are sure to crash and go boom ending the game. The game's graphics are fair, audio non-existent, and controls consist of simply tapping on the traffic lights (so it makes a great touch screen game). I'm actually very happy to have this game as I've been enjoying a similar game on another mobile gaming platform. The problem is that I'm spoiled... the other platform's version is much more polished.

Where to begin? First, this game has a little bit of slowdown in it. Is it when many cars are on screen at the same time? I'm not sure... but I do see it. It's there, but not a deal breaker in any way. Next, there's the collision detection... cars will explode even when they didn't actually touch. You can see on screen that they are not touching... just exploding. I'm guessing every car has an invisible box around it and if two overlap then that's a collision and the developer wasn't very forgiving. Finally, the "other" game has a really neat collision sequence where a crash doesn't actually end the game... it just prevents other cars from proceeding which usually ends the game. The physics of such crashes is actually a thing of beauty. Not here. Boom... game over.

But... this game is Fun with a capital F. The levels advance at a good pace with the exception of the utterly ridiculous and unnecessary level one (hint... you do nothing, but watch the cars go by). The core game play is all in place. And the game is less than a dollar (priced at half a euro or US $.65) and worth every penny. I'd really love to see the developer fix the slow downs, improve the collision detection, perhaps spice up the graphics a bit, and add those cool crashes versus instant death. I'd also love to see world peace. 3.5/5 stars and probably my lowest rating for a game I'd still heartily recommend.

Jul 29, 2010


I wish someone had told me about Everlands sooner. It's been on my review list (along with about 30 other games) for a few weeks, and it's a perfect match for the strategy lover in me. But what about you? Let's take a look...

Everlands is a turn based strategy game in which you command a force of good animals in their battle over a group of animals that have turned to the dark side. Fortunately, there are ways to make an animal see the light. Unfortunately, there are also ways to bring evil to the heart of the toughest minded critter. Each animal has a health (the amount of damage it can take) and a strength (the amount of damage dished out when it attacks/defends) and is capable of attacking only a select number of adjacent hex spaces. Each animal also has its own special capabilities such as the leopard. Usually, after placing an animal, defenders attack first, but not so with the speedy leopard. Your goal is to control more than 50% of the board when the game is over.

Everlands includes excellent instructions and a solid tutorial mode to get you playing quickly which is a rarity in Android gaming. The game's graphics consist of a hexagonal grid of tiles (with a layout specific to each scenario) and the audio includes appropriate sounds indicating selection and a nice, relaxing score for the intro music. Controls rely entirely on the touch screen to select an animal tile from those available (shown along the bottom of the screen) and then selecting where to place it. Should you make a mistake nothing is actually done until you press the 'make my move' button in the upper right. Furthermore, the game will give you expert advice as to what to do next if you need it by pressing a star icon at the top of the screen. I tried using the expert advice in a real match and it worked well (and won) so don't use that crutch too often.

The game itself consists of a story mode containing 20 missions which are of moderate difficulty and a two-player match mode. This is really the only shortcoming of this well crafted game... once you're done with story mode you either have to find an opponent to play with in hot seat mode or you're done with the game. Additional scenarios... the ability to play with different maps against different levels of AI... and network play would be welcomed by many I am sure.

Looking for a great strategy game clearly worth its price tag? Look no further. I can only hope Hexage improves my play options to increase the longevity of this cute and entertaining title. 4/5 stars for a game that's over before I say it's over. The video trailer for the game follows...

Jul 28, 2010

We can beat GIANT MONSTERS !! (Part II)

Please note that this is Part II of yesterday's review... please read Part I first. Soon these two parts will be merged into one, but I leave it this way for now for my regular readers...

Victory is mine! I successfully vanquished the Fire Dragon and advanced. What I didn't understand about the game was that I could go back and beat the first boss monster again (and again [and again...]). Does that really make sense? To me it detracts from the feeling of advancement the game should offer. Unfortunately, my feelings of monotony have become more than just feelings. I have graduated to a point where the game consists of wandering around in randomly generated dungeons... killing monsters (that are now way too easy to kill)... gathering a few staple items... and eventually getting enough ore to upgrade my weapons / armor so that I can kill the next 'boss'.

I had mentioned that I thought it was cute that the first boss took a break in the middle of my fight. It's not as cute when they all do it. It's also a bit of a nuisance when monsters off in the distance seemingly disappear (maybe they took a break, too?).

This game started off in a very promising way... a simple story, fast action (you can get around VERY quickly), and some interesting graphics. Once all is said and done and you get past the first 5 minutes of play the game becomes repetitive and dull with the only incentive to keep playing being getting to see the next boss and maybe, just maybe... an interesting ending. 3/5 stars for a game that needs more (far more!) filling in the middle.

We can beat GIANT MONSTERS !! (Part I)

How could a game called "We can beat GIANT MONSTERS !!" (or WcbGM for short, not that it needs to be shortened) possibly not be a hit??

WcbGM is an RPG Dungeon Crawler. You are tasked with being 'Hero' and saving your sister from paralysis by collecting Dragon Scales and lots of them. The game starts with you in the castle learning the details of your adventure. I saw a post in the Market wondering how to get to the dungeon... and, not to give too much away, you have to talk to people multiple times. They don't necessarily just repeat the same speech.

The game uses a bit of a 3D presentation when showing a dungeon, but everything is really just basic 2D tiled sprites and the map, while presented in an almost isometric kind of view, is also tiled. The controls are simple... on screen left, right, up and down buttons along with an action button keep things moving. And combat is all turn based so the twitch issues of a virtual DPad are not an issue with this game.

Each quest seemingly involves heading down in the dungeon, finding, and then killing a monster...err, a GIANT MONSTER !! Ok, I jest a bit about the title and it's probably because of the translation from Japanese that provides a funny name and some dialog in broken English. On the other hand, if I could speak Japanese this well then I'd consider myself fluent.

As you'll note, I labeled this review 'Part I' and didn't get a new review up last night. That's because I headed to the dungeon and knocked off my first monster like clockwork, but second one is kicking my a@@. I'm stuck in a "head down... get stuff... head up... level up..." loop that I'm hoping is just an oversight as it's way monotonous. I don't want to write this off until I kill my second monster as it got off to a great start.

A few highlights, though, and one is that the dungeon is random EVERY time. Yes, every time go down and back up... and then return you get a NEW dungeon. Each level is small and manageable, but you don't get the benefit of remembering where everything is. In fact, everything in the dungeon regenerates each time as well and that's actually pretty key to the game. Next, when I fought my first giant (or boss) monster he, in the midst of combat, tells me he's decided to take a break and wanders off. I've never had a monster be that rude to me before and I thought it was very cute and funny. The game really got off on the right foot.

Right now I'm at a 4/5 stars for this game, but we'll see if things change after the second monster or if it just becomes a repetitive gathering of the same couple of items with little additional story... and while you wait here's a video of the game to look at (and note that despite the video having Japanese text the game HAS been fully translated to English).

Jul 26, 2010

Impossible Level Game

Is this a game or not? I don't really know how to classify it. Impossible Level Game from HyberBees has been generating some solid ratings in the Android Market so I thought I'd try it out and then you can decide if this is something that will float your boat.

First, the game's Market advertising says that if you're smart then this is for you and if you're dumb then don't bother. I know it's just marketing, but I've hated that kind of thinking ever since I stopped doing it. Different people are gifted in different areas and just because your logic skills aren't the best doesn't mean you're stupid. Maybe composing music is your bag or perhaps architecture or God knows what. On the other side, does this game really need brains of any sort? Once again, debatable and I'll give a sample puzzle and solution (along with an appropriate spoiler alert) at the end of this review.

Impossible Level Game essentially consists of several puzzles. The first two aren't really puzzles, but are more of a 'follow directions' kind of thing and then after that it is all about puzzles. Or maybe it's all about trial and error. I think it's probably a little bit of both. Some of the puzzles involve going back to prior puzzles and redoing them which is particularly annoying when it requires typing a previously found password over and over and over again. At the same time, some are cute and you can redo the puzzle the hard way, as if you've never seen it before, or apply your new knowledge and short circuit it.

The other negative (and positive) side of this game is replay value. Once you're done with the puzzles then you're done with the game. For less than $1.50 that may still be a good deal as, for example, take an adventure game or, better yet, let's be time relevant and use StarCraft as an example. One of my best memories of that game was when Kerrigan became a Zerg. They executed it so well, but it's a one time event like watching a movie or reading a book. If a game is going to offer a true 'adventure' then it really needs to be this way. For that I heartily applaud this title. Unique and innovative little riddles, puzzles, or mysteries that you solve once and then you're done, but will pull your hair out in doing so. This entertainment 'model' can make for an outstanding 'one time through' experience. Does it do so here?

In this case, it's probably going to all come down to your personality. And here's the promised sample puzzle (spoiler alert... skip the rest of this paragraph as I'm going to hand you a solution to a puzzle): The screen shot (sorry it's so small... it came from their Facebook site) has a spoon on it and says "There is no spoon!" at the top. Ok, what do I do? Click on the spoon and it gives you a hint suggesting that you bend the spoon... so I'm busy doing all sorts of gestures on the screen to try and bend the spoon. And is a bent spoon not a spoon??? I guess that is a philosophical question that won't be debated here. Nonetheless, after fiddling eventually (and I don't recall if it was an accident or what) I moved a little square that matched the background's color in the lower left of the screen and then realized I could drag it. Behind said square was a hammer that I had to drag onto the spoon. And then it bends. Personally, I don't feel that I used any brain power in solving that... I think I got lucky or eventually saw the microscopic visual clue of a bit of white peeking out at me. At the same time there was an 'a-ha' moment when I noted the little square could move and that there was something behind it.

This isn't an ordinary game and I always like innovation. I would have liked it more had I felt that there was less trial and error. I wish I could go into detail, but every puzzle I give away makes the game that much less relevant. 3.5/5 stars.

Jul 24, 2010

PhoneFraze Pro Sale

PhoneFraze Pro is on sale down from $3.99 to $0.99. Quite a deal! PhoneFraze is a GREAT party style game that features 3 modes of play for 3 or more players. In a nutshell, your phone displays a phrase and you have to gesture or provide hints to help the next person in your circle guess what the phrase is. Once they get it you pass the phone to them and they press the Got It! button. The person left holding the phone (i.e. unable to communicate their guess) loses points. My only fear would be dropping the phone as I pass it around so make sure you have insurance before playing. Click on the title of this article to link over to their website for a video and more details on the game. If you're into party games then you won't want to miss out on this deal.

Jul 23, 2010

Blackjack Attack

Blackjack Attack hit the Android Market a while ago. Essentially it's a bit of a cross between Blackjack and Klondike (aka the version of Solitaire that is standard on Windows). The brief instructions say that I need to get as close to 21 as possible (duh, it's blackjack), do it as quickly as possible, I can skip X cards depending on the difficulty, and to hit 'End Round' when I'm done to collect my score? Crystal clear? Nope, not for me either. The instructions need help.

In Blackjack Attack you can choose between having 3, 4, or 5 stacks in which to play. Each stack essentially holds a blackjack hand. As in Klondike you will deal cards off of the top of the deck and place them on these stacks and thus you will build multiple blackjack hands at the same time. While this is going on there is also a timer that is counting down. If the timer hits zero before you are done playing cards then your score will be nada, zero, zilch because the amount of time left is multiplied by the sum of a score multiplier plus bonuses. Your score multiplier is determined by how close you get to 21 with each of your stacks (and there's a table on the right side of the screen that displays the multipliers for each score). Bonuses are earned for accomplishments such as not using your skips to skip cards, getting 21 with 3 cards, and so forth. Needless to say, when you don't think you're going to continue to improve your hand you will want to be hitting that End Round button to get as large of a time multiplier as possible.

The graphics for the game are appropriate and you'll see the resemblance to Klondike in the screen shot. I keep making the comparison, but please not that this game does NOT play like Klondike. The pressure that the timer places on you gives it its own, distinct feel. Controls are simple... just use the touch screen to draw cards from the pile in the upper left to one of your stack, or press either of the two buttons. A game consists of two rounds and it's possible to earn a bonus round which I did once, but don't know how or why. Why can't games come with decent instructions that explain these things?? In fact, while playing I found myself adding up the values of my hands in order to decide where to play cards before I noticed that the game does that for you just above each stack.

If you like card games and enjoy the added pressure of a timer then I think this will be right up your alley. As with any game that has a deck of cards, luck of the draw will be a factor in how high you can score. On my first game using 5 stacks I believe the first 9 of my cards were 10s or face cards (i.e. value 10) making for a less than spectacular start. But other games weren't like that. The game also, unlike Klondike, plays very quickly... a couple of minutes and you're done and I think that is ideal for a mobile game. At the same time I doubt you'll want to play 10 times in a row. 4/5 stars for a clever take on a game that works pretty well.

Jul 22, 2010

Skies of Glory

I'm a fan of the arcade flight genre and absolutely loved Ace Combat on the PlayStation. In fact, it was among my first PlayStation titles purchased and served to continue my love affair with Namco. On the Android we've been blessed with a couple of pretty good flight games: Armageddon Squadron and Winds of Steel. Do we really need a third? Need is a strong word so let's just say that it's always good to have another choice.

Skies of Glory is a US $5 game making it one of the more expensive titles available in the Android Market. I was expecting to be blown away when I first played it. I was not. First, I had a rocky start with the game as after my first try with it I had some weird behavior on my phone. First, I lost my cool ring tone where Worf says "Captain! Incoming Message!". Yes, I am the hit at parties! Next... well that was 3 days ago so I really don't remember. Needless to say I wondered if the game had anything to do with said weirdness. I think it's safe to say "no" as I've been playing it quite a bit since then without incident.

The first thing to do in this game is to play through the tutorial. It'll teach you how to take off and fire and use the yaw controls and all that jazz. You'll have to destroy some balloons and some boxes on the ground and eventually a moving truck. These targets are far more difficult to destroy that I'd expect in a tutorial. I'd line those boxes up in my sight and be hammering away and nothing. Yes, eventually it would explode, but it took a lot of direct hits. If the rest of the game is like this then "no, thank you". Not to mention that the controls are quite challenging to get the hang of. I think this is the first flying game that I've had the option of yaw to turn... usually I have to roll in a direction and then even out. On the other hand... enough complaining about the tutorial. At least the game has one... and instructions... that aren't in broken English.

The game's graphics, as you can see from the screenshot, are top notch for an Android game. During game play I experienced little to no lag and it was a smooth process aside from gaining experience with the controls. Likewise, sound effects are in place and they work. You're not going to be be-bopping to some soundtrack while playing... just hearing your engines burn and enemy fire smashing through your windshield. And the control... all I can say is give it time. This game has depth and you're not being to be a flight hero in 5 minutes.

The game includes a single player campaign that consists of ten missions. You have to unlock them one after another. The first mission has you intercepting Luftwaffe fighters as they head across the English Channel. I did struggle with a bit of boredom from knocking down fighter after fighter.  There's also a lot going on. At one point the game quickly noted that there's some ship somewhere that I can fly to if I need help. What? Huh? Later I read through the written instructions and learned that I can tap on the life bar to reread that kind of stuff (although I have not done so, yet). I have yet to complete the other nine as I then I jumped in to online play. Oh, and the enemy planes weren't nearly as bad to shoot down... or maybe I got better... but taking out enemy fighters didn't provide nearly the same level of aggravation as those killer boxes in the tutorial.

The online player modes include a 'quick play' option than gets you in the middle of things asap. I tried that and I guess it's a crap shoot. I saw the last minute of the game... many planes crashing to the ground... and then saw that my 'team' had won. Go team! Wait, who? I think I'd rather find a game and play a scenario out from the beginning. Fortunately, as this is also an iPhone game, there actually are several other players waiting to play and you're not limited by the few Android owners that have purchased the game so far. Good move!

I was initially going to give this a 3 star review after my experience with the tutorial, then 4, then 4.5 after last night, but after continuing to play and seeing all of the detail in this game... the longevity it offers... and the fact that this game is going to easily provide $5 in entertainment with its missions and network play it's obvious, even to me, that this is a 5 star title. There's a lot here and it's worth every penny of $5. Just don't expect a cake walk, but wait... if it's too difficult there's an option to tone that down, too. 5/5 stars.

Snake 3D

Snake 3D is a 3D take on the classic game of snake. In this game, you're a hungry snake in a garden and you slither around munching on apples. As you eat you grow, and as you grow it becomes harder to move around without bumping into yourself. Bump into yourself and the game is over.

The game's graphics are good... for a snake game. Sound effects are basic with a springy sound when eating an apple and an odd croaking sound upon death. Controls consist of using the touch screen to turn left or right... otherwise it's straight ahead. The game includes a nice tutorial to get you started... not that the game is complex. It does explain that there's a bit more to the game that just the 'plain jane', red apple.

My problem with the game is that I think 2D snake is better. This is a game that doesn't benefit much (at all?) from the jump to 3D, and it becomes MUCH harder to figure out when I'm on the square I need to be on for turning. Consequently, I make mistake after mistake with my turning and the game becomes less about me being clever in maneuvering my snake, but instead trying to figure out what 'square on the grid' my snake's head is really on. In that sense it kind of reminds me of the Droidkoban 3D, but that game doesn't force timing on me as much as this one does making the 3Dness less of an issue. I'd really like to have a 2D option in this kind of game.

One other note... this game is around US $3 (2.49 euros). Snake is one of the 'sample' games in the Android SDK from what I understand. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it was the first publicly available Android app. Consequently there are like a bazillion snake games in the Market for free from developers tinkering with this code. Unless you're a die hard snake fan (and I don't mean DeGrassi - go ahead, Google it) I think you'll be better off saving your cash for something else... and that's likely even if you are. 2.5/5 stars.

Jul 21, 2010

Pac-Ball Full

Pac-Ball bills itself as the fusion of those old tilt-to-control labyrinth puzzles and the arcade favorite known as Pac Man. I think that's pretty fair, although I'd say it's about 70/30 labyrinth. In this game you are Pac-Ball and have to traverse the maze gobbling up all of the dots all the while being chased by four ghosts Androids. Be careful, if they get a lock on you they speed up, but you can easily roll away, and to help your cause there are, scattered throughout the maze, special dots (power pills?) that turn the tables and allow you to crush the Androids.

Pac-Ball's graphics are pretty basic and consist of a maze, tiny Androids and a little ball representing you. It works, but this isn't going to be the game you use to show off your Android's graphics. Sound, likewise, is simple. A ping every time you eat a dot... a boom every time you are destroyed... and a steady blip-blip as the timer on your 'turning the tables' comes to a close. Controlling Pac-Ball is done via either tilt or the touch screen. The game defaults to, and is meant to be played by, tilt. I find it interesting that when calibrating the game instructs one to "Lay Device on a Flat Surface and Press Calibrate". Do people really play this such that they have to tilt out of view in order to move up the screen? There's also a sensitivity control with higher values seemingly meaning that there's less resistance / friction as the ball travels throughout the maze. And, of course, you can alternatively play where you touch in the direction you want Pac-Ball to go and as much as I wouldn't do that with this game it is always nice to have options.

The game also has three modes of play (standard Pac Man style, a variant where your goal is to light up all of the gates instead of getting all of the dots, and a survival mode in which you just try and stay alive) and three difficulty levels.

I have to admit that when I first started playing Pac-Ball I was less than impressed. I think that's because of two things: a) I was excepting more Pac-Man than labyrinth and b) I needed to calibrate the controls to my liking before starting to enjoy it. After playing a few times it has grown on me as a good alternative to the existing labyrinth style games although I still prefer Pac Man. I think one of the things that really got me is how the ball is less wide than the maze's passages. Consequently, not only are you moving through the passages, but you also have some play to bump into the walls which can slow you down. Racing down a straightaway is fast, but turning corners can be slow. I also think this game could benefit and possibly be excellent with a better presentation. The core game play is pretty solid here, but with better audio... cuter animations... intermissions... etc this game could really blossom. 4/5 stars.

Jul 19, 2010

Brain Trainer

Brain Trainer for Android claims to help you build your brain power when it comes to making decisions, doing basic arithmetic problems, and "interpretive challenges". No doubt this game's goal is to piggyback on the many Nintendo DS titles that do the same. I almost wrote "cash in" instead of piggyback, but at $.99 I can't say that without a smile.

The game currently consists of three mini-games...

First there's Master Math. In this game you perform various mathematical equations like '35 x 4' and '7 - 0'. For me the most challenging ones tend to be the bigger division problems like 123 / 3. When I first played my score was 22. The next day I scored 13. I'll be the first to recognize that a sample of 2 days isn't terribly useful, but I will say that problems like '8 - 0' and ' 8 X 0' really aren't in the same league as '140 / 4'.

The next game is Match Color. In this game you see the names of colors in different colors and have to press a button indicating whether all colors are colored with the correct color or not. Try saying that fast. In other words you are recognizing whether Orange is, in fact, orange as quickly as possible. Once again doing this for once color vs four affects the difficulty of any 'problem' not to mention if the first color in a sequence of four isn't right. I also think most people will have more trouble with 'Cyan' vs a more common color like 'Red'. Whenever Cyan pops up I have to work my way through the 4 toner colors in my laser printer to remember Cyan is like pink... I mean blue.

I don't know why a button for a game that is coming soon is here, but that's the case with Detect Max. Couldn't the developer have also made the button be 'Coming Soon'?

Finally, in Count Color (pictured) you are presented with a grid of different colored dots and you have to determine which color appears the most. For me that meant looking and taking an educated guess. I sure wasn't counting them all.

There's really nothing to report with respect to graphics and sound. The controls consist of pressing buttons to indicate choices. Simple enough and that's all that's needed for this type of game. My only criticism is that in some games the 'Stop and Go Back' button is right next to the other buttons and I found myself accidentally pressing it all too often. Likewise, I wonder if, in the case of the arithmetic games my skills at typing on a calculator are growing faster than my ability to crunch numbers.

The game then provides score tracking so you can analyze your performance improvements. As you can guess, I'm not really convinced that this is going to build my brain. I also can't say it doesn't. What I can say is that I feel my brain being using just as much in some of the good physics games or a good Sudoku puzzle and my 'fun meter' goes significantly higher when playing the latter selections. This is an average game. If the aforementioned games sound like a good time to you then go for it... for me this is a 3/5 and not something I'll be using regularly.

Jul 18, 2010

Ultimate Darts

Darts, and other such sporting titles, are difficult to convert to a computer because how does one simulate the precise control that the human hand offers? For golf games often you'll have multiple meters and have to twitch at the right times to control power and accuracy. I suppose the same could be done with darts, but needless to say it's not the same thing. So when I saw Ultimate Darts pop up in the Android Market I was curious.

Ultimate Dart's description includes such keywords as 301, 501, and 701. I read too quickly and assumed that the game included several different darts games. No... it's 501 and that's it (no 301 and no 701, not that that would add much variety). The game's title screen is basic... Play, View High Scores, or Quit. Click play and let the game begin. And that's the let down. With the Android's touch screen platform and accelerometer technology I would have expected better controls than simply swiping on the screen. Darts are thrown by swiping from the hand to a point on the screen which controls your throw (and now that I think about it I'm not even sure I have to start at the hand). I did, however, extensively test whether arcing my throw and throwing faster/slower had any effect and the answer is no. The game relies entirely on the end point of your swipe (or touch?) and thus boils down to what pixel your phone reports your fingerprint as being representative of.

A good darts game would be nice, and this isn't horrible... just another average game. I really think the developer could have done more with the speed of the touch and arced throws and such. As is, if I could get my fingerprint down to a point I could presumably throw a perfect game with ease.

I applaud that an update was done today to improve visual feedback on scoring and to spice the font up in the display (it looks a tad better than in the older screenshot). The game also does audibly announce the results of throws that hit the dart board... and perhaps some ribbing for poor throws would have been cute. Perhaps not, given the strong accent. Graphically the dart board looks fine albeit a bit small.

All in all, I think the controls could be more interesting and that's what's going to make or break this game. I just can't imagine getting interested in long play sessions with this as is. 2.5/5 stars.

Jul 17, 2010

Pixel Chaos

I was recently asked to review Pixel Chaos. I always hate reviewing games when I'm asked to do so because I don't know if I'm about to alienate a reader if the review doesn't go so well and I've pledged to give honest reviews of games and to not be manipulated by free copies, advertising, ...etc. At the same time I like the communication and knowing that I could actually email a real, live person if I have any questions. So, what is Pixel Chaos?

The Android Market's description states that it's similar to WarioWare and, if you don't know what that is, essentially it's a series of very simple mini-games and your goal is to complete as many as you can. And that's exactly what we have here... lots of mini-games and you get a point for every one that you complete. At first I was a bit disappointed by the lack of mani-games as there were only 6, but I could see potential. With just 6 games it becomes repetitive very quickly. In fact, there's a comment as of today from someone that complains of this... I'm guessing they didn't bother to check out anything beyond the first level and perhaps some instructions could clear that point up. The game actually has 30 mini-games included and I'd guess that means 6 per level... so ratchet the level up to the max and you'll be playing them all... much better.

The graphics are very retro and perhaps also somewhat inspired by the whole 'doodle' craze.
The audio basically consists of a 'bleep-bleep-bloop-bleep' after every challenge played at various speeds to provide audio cues of the added pressure.

The mini-games are of varying difficulty. The one pictured simply requires you to tap the screen to jump over the hole. Easy, right? But as the game progresses it speeds all of its challenges up making jumping over a simple hole difficult. Other mini-games include shooting an invader, matching an image, running around a planet while avoiding a UFO (the easiest one, from my experience), avoiding search lights, ... etc. This game simply begs for more mini-games to be added as even 30 will get old eventually. There are also plenty of opportunities to better use the touch screen in ways Wario did that better utilize the touch screen or even utilize the accelerometer... e.g. cut the character's hair by sliding across the touch screen.

Despite easily being worth the traditional $.99, this game is free. I can also see it as being a big hit with the kids. 4/5 stars getting an additional bump because it's free. I'd really like to see an update with 100+ mini-games and with slightly more complex challenges. I'd pay a couple of bucks for that any day.

Jul 16, 2010

My Paper Plane 2

I reviewed My Paper Plane back in April and was optimistic that it could be made into a great game given the solid base. Well, My Paper Plane 2 made its debut a few days ago at the high price of $3.99. Isn't it funny when $3.99 is a high price for a new game? I guess it's all relative.

Initially, I was really frustrated with this game as it has all of the levels locked with the exception of the first one and getting by the first one required a score of 5,000 or more. I tried and tried and could only muster 1,300. That night they 'updated' and made it much easier to get past the first level (and other levels?). As impressed as I was with the responsiveness, I was surprised to see they lowered it from 5,000 to 300... does that tell you this wasn't tested well to have the required score drop by 94%?? But I'm getting ahead of myself...

My Paper Plane 2 (or MPP2) takes the concept of My Paper Plane, throws it out the window, steps all over it, and decides to become something of a racing game with no timer. In MPP2 you are a paper plane cruising along in a straight course avoiding things like trees, buildings, and more trees. While you fly you are trying to navigate through rings (don't know if that scores extra points or not) and collecting stars (for extra points). Controlling your plane is done by tilting and that's it for the controls. My core problem with this game is that it's boring with a capital B. You see... they took My Paper Plane, which was a pretty neat idea, where you flew around an enclosed course trying to pick up stars... had a limited number of boosts (to fly higher)... and got an extra boost after every star collected and instead of improving the game with intricate levels, power ups, and challenges made it into something ordinary. Left, right, left, right, up, down... is anything ever going to become interesting? Why am I supposed to want to keep playing this game? And it's going to take me half an hour of this repetitive game to accumulate 3,000 points to get to level 3. What's the reward for advancing? As far as I can see it's different scenery... with the same plane, travelling in the same straight path, and avoiding various shaped objects.

The game's graphics match those of the original... I guess they used the same graphics engine and color palette which is fine as the game's visuals have appeal. The sound effects are almost non-existent... a simple whoosh as you take off. And the controls are great... very responsive. It's just this feels more like a demo of a neat game to come than 'the' game. The game plays as if I'm eventually going to have a crack at blowing up the death star, but based on the scenery I'm on Tatooine. Other issues consist of me not being able to really get a feel for my altitude. I will crash into objects and feel like there's nothing I could have done about it versus learning something and improving as a player. I also don't like that I can bank all the way to the left or right and not crash, but the game is hard enough as is with the aforementioned visual challenge.

What makes me shrug in disbelief is the number of 4+ star reviews for this mediocre title. Am I missing something? If I am, then please share the excitement with me. What makes me shrug in disappointment is knowing that these developers are better than this. They could make a game that's fun by using the concept of MPP and doing the aforementioned enhancements and hopefully even more. As is this gets 3/5 stars for a game that's average, boring, and with which you'd be better off with its free predecessor.

Jul 15, 2010


Personally, I love "scintillating new age games" especially when they are "exceptionally well built" so Cronos was a must. My favorite feature? It crashes (displaying a force close dialog box) whenever I die. I almost decided not to review this game, but this is just too over the top for me after making such ridiculous claims in its Market description. Just check out the website the devs provide for this game (click on the title of this article) and that should give you an idea as to how much love and care went into this game.

No, it's not all bad. The title screen and graphics are actually pretty good (although the title screen leaves a black bar on the right side of my Droid screen probably because the Droid has a funky screen resolution and they didn't detect and center as I think many games do). As for the game itself... you're a cheetah running along the plains (although it looks more like a railroad track at the bottom of the screen) and you have to jump over the fires (why they're there I do not know), jump higher to catch birds in mid-flight (cheetahs much prefer aerial prey than grounded prey), and once you hit level 2 you have to jump over foxes (instead of fire?). You can also press a 'center button' to enable your cheetah's fire power... except there is no center button. Audio? None. And to make matters worse the scrolling is jerky and periodically the screen flashes black just long enough to be noticeable.

So in a nutshell... tap the screen to jump when appropriate and you've got this game summarized. You want this type of game? Then go get Super Jetpack Dragon IV which is actually quite good. I hate giving bad reviews... but I hate the idea of anyone wasting time on this unfinished game. I'm sure it works on the dev's Android phone and they just didn't test it on other versions of the OS or something like that... but even if the crashes didn't happen the game itself is seriously lacking for being such an "exceptionally well built" title. 1/5 stars.

Jul 13, 2010

Pocket Racing

Pocket Racing arrived in the Marketplace last week and has been earning some pretty glowing reviews. At the same time I'm dying for another 5 star title. Let's take a look...

Pocket Racing is an overhead racing game that can be compared to classic arcade titles such as Super Spring. You control a car on a race track that automatically accelerates while you steer. Your goal is to complete the track as quickly as possible. Controls are done by touching the screen on the left and right to steer accordingly. The game currently features 5 tracks, race lengths of 3/5/7 laps, and a choice of 4 cars with varying attributes. All in all a simple concept.

The controls work well providing an accurate steering mechanism although it seems using the accelerometer would have been a logical feature for this game. So logical that it makes me wonder if they tried that and it just didn't work well. I'm glad they didn't restrict the controls to just the accelerometer though as the game does need precision as your car speeds up and demands a hairpin turn. As you drive a timer ticks away and should you drive off of the course, and you will, a second timer counts penalty seconds that will be added to your time.

The graphics aren't anything to write home about, but I don't see much more needed for this style of game. The cars are small and you want to see as much track as possible in order to plan your maneuvers. The game also has a pretty intense sound track, and the wisely provide the option to turn it off. It's ok for awhile, but just too much for any extended play (and apparently not good enough for their demo video [below]). The engine noise and screeching around the track is quite nice, though. The kicker in this game is the leader boards and the ability to download an opponent. In not entirely clear if these are supposed to be other 'real' people that did well, but you can download one of many opponents to race against and each opponent basically amounts to a pre-generated race. Personally, I expected crashes to come into play... but by opponent they simply mean pace car.

In summary, the game is well done and I'm sure racing fans will enjoy the game. As for me, I need a bit more in my racer to make it exciting... driving in a circle for X laps doesn't cut it. Power ups? Being chased? I need something more in the year 2010. 4/5 stars. And if you'd like to see the game in action you're in luck... just play the video below.

Photo Sharing

I reviewed MLB Power Pros last week and couldn't find a photo of it being played on the Android. All I could find was other mobile versions and I decided that wasn't good enough this time. My solution was to use my wife's Droid to take a photo of my Droid playing the game and then to email it. Well, today (a week later) the photo showed up in my email... both of them. Now, MY email server has been receiving large files just fine (including 8 of them last night) so a note to Verizon....

Photo sharing becomes FAR less useful when the photos arrive A WEEK LATER!!!! And this is the 'best' network??

For the rest of you, the photo is now part of the review and thanks for your patience.

Jul 12, 2010


Back in the fall of 2008 our daylight basement flooded. I had always joked that if we ever got water in our basement we could open the rear sliding glass door and let the water pour down the hill. The joke was lost of me that day as it damaged several of my board games as we furiously worked to move them to the garage as the basement would be out of order for many weeks to come. Did I mention that this was a daylight basement for a house with a downhill back yard? Abalone was among the slightly damaged games and while it was only the box becoming a bit water logged it was a sad day... just not as sad as it was for my War! Age of Imperialism board game.

I was surprised and happy to see that Abalone landed on the Android market a few days ago at the low cost of $0. I still hadn't had a chance to play it so I pulled it down and have played several games of it throughout the weekend and finally managed to win one against the AI about an hour ago.

Abalone is a simple abstract strategy game played on a... well, look at the screen shot if you want to see the shape of a board it's played on. The game does offer rules, but they reference fictitious diagrams making me wonder if they were just lifted verbatim straight from the game. In a nutshell you take turns trying to push your opponent's marbles off of the board with the winner being the first to 6. On your turn you can move a line of up to three marbles by one marble in any direction so they can slide like a snake in a line or move as a group one marble over. If other marbles are in the way you can push them provided you have more marbles in your line than your opponent does. You can never push your own marbles.

There's not much to talk about in the graphics department and even less to talk about in the sound department. The controls allow you select a marble or group of marbles with a swipe and then click on another space to indicate the direction of your move. The spaces are a bit on the small side so that's not exactly perfect, but it works. What I was impressed with was the AI... it gives you a decent fight. Perhaps if I knew and understood the intricacies of the game better I'd be disappointed, but if you haven't played Abalone before this might actually inspire you to get the real thing. The game does allow hot seat play against another person, too.

All in all this is a nice, free game to feed your brain with. 4/5 stars for a decent job and a giveaway price tag.

Jul 9, 2010

CarWash 3D

I've pushed this review to the top because the developers are having a content based on high scores in the game in which you can win a Droid. So what's the game about?

Simply put, it's yet another play on the often imitated, seldom replicated Flight Control formula. In this game you are guiding cars to a car wash. Now, my initial assumption was that this might be a competitor to something like Car Traffic Control that I reviewed last week. No. This car wash eats your cars when it's done... they never pull out of the other side requiring you to safely guide them off screen (as would have made more sense to me). As it is, there's a single car wash in the middle of the screen and as the game progresses more 'doors' are added for more vehicle types. When you click on a vehicle the door you have to guide your car into glows green. Drag a line to the door and the line turns from red to green indicating a valid path to the car wash for that vehicle.

The game offers three 'styles' of play... Texas, Gangster, and New York... each with its own music and graphics. The graphics are, unfortunately, drab and dull and even too dark in the case of Gangster and New York modes. The game itself is pretty well done with nice looking menus, good responsiveness, and a decent sound track. The game's early stages are also way too easy... my first game lasted minutes... and it would be nice to be able to start at a higher difficulty level.

But my core problem with the game is that it's a "me too" title and doesn't better the previous attempts at this genre on the Android platform. Flight Frenzy and Heli Rescue are the elite in this genre from what I've played and I also liked Car Traffic Control as a third. It's not that there's anything totally wrong here... just there's nothing special. Except for the contest (that expires at the end of July 2010)... at $1 if you want to play for a prize maybe this has your name written all over it. And with fewer than a hundred downloads so far there can't be a lot of competition. 4/5 stars for a game that would have been much better received if it came along earlier.

Jul 7, 2010

GalaxIR Star

GalaxIR Star is another game that follows suit with Archipelago and Galaxy Domination and while Archipelago is dismal compared to these games, GalaxIR is a worthy competitor. The game play consists of a galaxy of planets of varying sizes scattered across your touch screen. Some are under your control (indicated by color), some are enemy controlled (again based on color), and others have yet to be conquered (gray). Each planet has a strength or 'number of units' that grows at a rate based on the planet's size... bigger is better. You then attack other planets and ultimately seek to control the galaxy.

About the only thing Galaxy Domination might do better than GalaxIR is offer a campaign, but I'm not sure that's worth much. GalaxIR is packed with six difficulty levels and a choice of 1-3 opponents providing plenty of challenge. The difficulty levels make quite a bit of difference and while they must be unlocked by winning at easier levels that only takes a minute or two as a game is generally short and thus doesn't bother me.

GalaxIR has better graphics in that a fleet of pixels is replaced with graphics more representative of an invading fleet of spaceships and the sound of blips is replaced by music the has yet to become annoying. In fact, I had to try the game out to remember what the audio consisted of for this write up. Controls are similar... tap a planet or two and tap a target planet, but GalaxIR allows you to choose what percentage of units will be sent in an invasion. I'm not convinced that being able to control how many troops are sent is terribly useful especially in the heat of battle, but it's there and certainly doesn't interfere.

Some of GalaxIR's features are apparently buried in the difficulty levels... for instance, as I progressed enemy unit counts disappeared (i.e. kind of a fog of war). That adds significant challenge to this kind of game. Also, when battling multiple opponents it seemed their early strategy (in level 4 of 6) was to focus on beating the snot out of me. I was able to adapt and meet the challenge and am now stuck at level 5 playing against one other AI opponent. GalaxIR's crowning feature, however, is network play via bluetooth or via the Internet and while I can't say there are lots of Internet players waiting for you (1 is online now and it's not me) that does, at least, let you play against other Android owners. GalaxIR party anyone?

In summary, this is the new best of the 'Real Time Risk' games. The demo is called GalaxIR and the full version is called GalaxIR Star. 4.5/5 stars and a lot of fun.

Jul 6, 2010

MLB Power Pros 2010 - The Review

Baseball season arrived three months ago, but only recently have Android owners received 2010 versions of baseball games. And is it just me, or is it more fun to play a sports game when said sport is in season? I have a hard time breaking out a hockey game in July. So, while I've enjoyed MLB Power Pros 2010 and think it's an excellent baseball game I have also had renewed interest in Com2Us's HomeRun Battle 3D. Why do I bring that up in a review about another game? Because I'm amazed that on a platform that features an accelerometer that I'm still pressing buttons and tapping to pitch and bat. Their success should have been a clue that it's a lot more fun to be able to quickly tilt and tap for an accurate swing that it is to tap and tap again. But let's go back to the top...

MLB Power Pros 2010 is Konami's baseball franchise with console and mobile versions available. The Android version is well done and allows you to go as far as creating your own team. I basically stuck with using the MLB teams as this is an officially licensed product with all of your favorite players. As far as games go you can play a quick exhibition game or in season mode.

The graphics and sound are both excellent... easily 5 stars for an Android game. Controls are interesting and they work fine...

When batting you can adjust your swing inside, outside, high, and low. The game has a VK (Virtual Keypad?) mode that can be enabled/disabled and I found it aggravating as all heck to play with it on. When on there's a little circle on the right of the screen that you have to tap in order to swing the bat. A VERY little circle such that I'd often miss and my batter would strike out looking. When off you can pretty much tap anywhere on the right to swing and drag anywhere on the left to adjust your batter. However, there is no multi-touch support so don't dare try to do both as the same time. Swinging early and late makes a difference so once you get the hang of it batting works well. You can also choose to have the computer control the runners or you can do so. I think there's the same, but when you control you can drag on a baseline to try and advance a runner. If you don't then the computer naturally advances runners when forced to just as it does when the computer controls all of the running. I never saw the computer do anything clever with regard to base running aside from just bumping up runners in forced situations.

When pitching you choose a pitch and then deliver that pitch to a target point. If you have VK mode off from batting this consists of tapping on an arrow (or the center for a fast ball) and then tapping on the spot you want to throw to which given the size of a pixel on my screen and the size of my finger is not a terrible accurate means of pitching. Consequently, I recommend turning VK mode back on for better control. With VK more on you have a virtual DPad and the usual hard to press button on the right, but this time you can afford to miss it and take your time to get it right, and now as the ball is delivered you can use the DPad to more precisely guide the ball when you want it to go. If the batter doesn't make contact and hits the ball in play fielding is either automatic or semi-automatic... and all semi-automatic means is that you get to choose what base to throw to once fielded.

After playing I'd just as soon control the running and fielding so as to be more involved in the game. Neither is a taxing or difficult activity. Still, after playing a few games of this I keep coming back to HomeRun Battle 3D because it plays quick... has such great control... and is so well done. That leaves me perplexed as I general prefer the full game to a silly mini-game like HB3D, but I've got to think that if you're into baseball then you're going to want one of the two baseball games (Baseball Stars 2010 being the other one) and HB3D.

A few other notes... first, this game takes quite a while to load. I've timed it at up to 30 seconds as it refreshes sound data and the like. Second, on the iPhone they use a portrait display whereas on the Droid they use a landscape display... a point for us I think. I'd much rather have a landscape view for a baseball game. Finally, and I've heard this in another game, but can't recall the title... the game will say "still no score" even when it's 7-2. Is it that hard to compare two numbers to zero and if either isn't 0 to not play that digitized sample?

In summary, don't let my nitpicky criticisms turn you away if you're into baseball games and want a good one. I have to write about something, right? This is a grade A title and worth it's high $6 price tag. MLB Power Pros 2010 isn't a game you're going to get a quick 2 minutes in here and there, but it does save and allow you to resume your games so you can choose to play it that way if you so desire (something very important for mobile titles). 5/5 stars with hope that things such as accelerometer control and faster load times  make it into next season's release.

Jul 3, 2010

More 4th of July Sales

Looks like there are several more games on sale for the 4th of July weekend...

EA Mobile
Tetris - $1.99
Bejeweled $1.99

All titles are $2.99 including the recently released PAC-MAN Championship Edition

As previously noted, most titles (every but Guitar Hero 5?) are $.99

Looks like their games are a couple of bucks off... $4.99 instead of $6.99, but you have to visit their website at http://www.gameloft.com/android-games/top/ to buy and download the games.

Happy gaming and Happy 4th!

MLB Power Pros 2010 is here!

I was pleased to see a second baseball franchise debut in the Android Market and immediately pulled it down. A full review is forthcoming, but I do have a few initial impressions.

First, note that there are two versions... check the handset list before buying and make sure you get the right one for your phone. Personally, I hate that... I wish they'd code the app to detect and gracefully degrade if specific capabilities aren't there. I don't like the two versions thing. Consequently my review is specific to the Motoroloa Droid version on a Droid. The game plays smoothly and is also an officially licensed game so I can take the role of my favorite team (Go Mets!). I'm happy to say that I haven't had any issues with performance so far. In the game you basically pitch and bat... the computer auto-fields, but given my limited time I'm not going to say there's not an option here somewhere. I basically jumped into an exhibition game to get playing as quickly as possible. Pitching is done by choosing a pitch and then, as the pitch is in progress, adjusting a target to place your pitch inside/outside/high/low. The batter can move back and forth as well and swinging is done by pressing a swing button, and that's my main issue right now... I'll be so focused on the ball that I'll miss the swing button. It's not like there are other controls around there? Konami Mobile needs more tolerance so that when I press near the button my batter swings.

Aside from that I'm enjoying the game... and a more detailed review is coming once I get a couple of hours in and get a chance to play around with the game's options. So far this looks great, though, despite being pricey at $6.

Update: After playing with this more I can say that there's a VK button (virtual keyboard?) on the lower left that changes the pitching/batting controls. With VK off the whole 'press here and exactly here' aspect of batting turns into 'press somewhere on the right' and it's a 500% better experience. I was starting to think that was going to be the downfall of this game having struck out too many times due to missing the virtual button. I find batting works better with VK on... just wish I didn't keep having to switch. Also you can enable it so that you control your fielders and base running. I have not tried it yet... I'll save that for the review.

Jul 2, 2010

Glu Mobile 4th of July Sale

Most of the games from Glu Mobile such as Super KO Boxing 2 and Build-a-Lot are on sale for the 4th of July holiday at the low price of $.99. There are definitely many values to be had... just do an Android Market search on 'glu' to see them all. Looks like Guitar Hero is the only one that is not on sale.

Car Traffic Control

I've avoided reviewing Car Traffic Control due to similarities with other games and the desire to focus on new and innovative titles. However, last week when I was itemizing the games I need to review I noticed its high ranking and figure it was time to give it it's day in the sun. I'm glad I did...

Car Traffic Control is a repeat on the tired theme of landing airplanes, but in this case you're guiding cars to parking spaces. Once parked the car refuels (or something?) and then has to be guided back on its merry way. The game has 4 basic types of vehicles... cars, fancy cars (?), buses, and taxis. Each has its own spot in which it needs to be parked. Naturally, buses move slower and so forth.

The graphics are pretty basic as is audio such as the fiery explosion that occurs when two vehicles collide. Where this games shines, however, is with its controls and its leniency for parking vehicles. At first I was concerned that I had to get my car exactly in its space... nope, just get your car in the basic area and you're fine. That means the games isn't fiddly and is actually pleasing to play. Next, drawing lines to guide vehicles works very well here... the cars don't do odd things like make sudden u-turns and I've had little difficulty getting cars to do what I had intended. Perhaps I'm reviewing this from a jaded perspective, but the game has a good feel to it.

As any mobile gamer knows, Flight Control on the iPhone is the game that seems to have lit this genre on fire. There are now MANY plane landing games and a few variations on that theme. One that I like is called Harbor Master because you are responsible for docking your boats and then guiding them away once cargo has been unloaded. The extra dimension of having to guide the boat away made a big difference to me. Car Traffic Control brings that feel to the Android. So far my high score is around 48, and the game features a leader board so you'll be able to complete against the world.

In summary this is a 4 star title that would have been 5 stars if it wasn't just another clone. However, it's a well done clone that offers a nice variation with excellent playability all for under $2 US. If you're a fan of this genre then you'll want to give this a try... and there is a free lite version available if you're gun shy.

Jul 1, 2010


As I've aged Pinball, for some reason, has become more interesting. As a kid I though the game was pointless most likely because of it's simplicity. What could be hard about pressing a button as the ball approaches a flipper? And there's a Who song about this?? Now I see that the game coupled with the complexities introduced with new tables is far from that and it's become quite interesting. Lately I've been playing a lot of 'The Deep' on my iPod Touch which is an outstanding video pinball simulator... the ball physics is beautiful and the table is so detailed. Then it occurred to me... I should be playing this on my Droid! Well, 'The Deep' isn't available, but a free game called (and this is genius) Pinball IS available.

Pinball is free courtesy of ads placed at the top of the screen. It offers several differently themed tables based on themes like bowling, water, soccer, ...etc. Simply hold down to release the plunger and then tap to trigger the flippers. The varied themes are quite nice... in bowling you have to bowl down pins and in soccer you have to flip the ball into the net at the top of the screen (with two sets of flippers).

The game's physics are ok, but not on par with 'The Deep' and I don't like the fact that I can't trigger the left flipper or the right flipper alone... it's all or nothing. Consequently, all too often, I seem to have the ball roll across the flippers as I'm flipping and then get trapped under the other flipper only to lose the ball as the flipper fall back down. Hard to express in words, but let's just say it's frustrating.

Still I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth given that it's a freebie and while there isn't enough competition for this to mean much this is the best set of pinball games available so far. It also is enjoyable to play and thus has earned some storage space on my phone, but after playing 'The Deep' I am also hopeful that better comes soon. 3/5 stars and certainly worth a look for pinball fans and cheapskates alike.