Apr 30, 2011


Condado is a single-player implementation of the card game San Juan, designed by Andreas Seyfarth. Condado, written by Kevin Quan, is clearly a labor of love and is provided for free. I'm always on the lookout for good, quick filler games, and I've found that card games are a good bet to fill that niche. Condado fills that role admirably.

In San Juan, players take turns selecting a role to execute from a list of five possible roles. As each role is selected, all players get to perform the action, but the player who selected the role gets a bonus. After each player selects a role, the starting player moves clockwise and the round starts over. The roles that can be selected allow players to produce resources, draw additional cards in various ways and play buildings to score points and grow their economies. The most clever bit of San Juan is that the cards in your hand are not only the buildings you can play but also serve as the currency in the game. There's a wide variety of cards that appear in the game, and many different successful approaches to winning. It's a game I've played quite a bit and enjoy in person and it's an excellent candidate for a computer implementation.

Condado allows you to play against one to three computer players, and features eight different AI profiles you can play against. I haven't particularly noticed differences between them, but I always play against random ones, so I'm not really paying attention to the names. The interface works well, but does have a few rough edges here and there. As a few examples, there are some extra clicks at a few spots, the flick to scroll between the player boards is a little difficult to get to work and the interface to use the Black Market doesn't scroll properly. All that said, there have already been substantial steps forward with the interface just in the time I've been using the app, so I'm confident that most of this stuff will be ironed out. The graphics are functional and reasonably attractive, albeit pretty minimal in spots and there is no sound. Overall, it's a quite playable implementation.

As for the play quality, San Juan is an excellent card game, so Condado starts with a rock solid foundation. The big question is how good the AI is, and it's OK. It has also improved with recent updates, to the point where it is now capable of winning occasionally. Even in a four player game, I do win the majority of games, and usually only lose when the deck is really unkind. However, even with the AI not being a difficult opponent, the act of playing through a game is pleasurable - selecting roles, building your economy and planning your best course through the game is enjoyable. It does play quickly, it's a free release and it's improving rapidly (it's still marked Beta in the market). It has become one of my goto fillers, and is highly recommended for any card game fan. 4.5 stars.

Apr 28, 2011

Five Android Pinball Games

"Ever since I was a young boy
I've played the silver ball
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all
But I ain't seen nothing like him
in any amusement hall
That deaf, dumb, blind kid
sure plays a mean pinball!"
- Pinball Wizard, The Who

I always thought Pinball was pretty stupid. On the Atari 2600 it was a basic video game with a few bumpers and a pair of flippers and the real, mechanical pinball machines didn't offer much more attraction. It's only been recently that I've become attracted to the game seeing past it as an elementary game of luck in which any idiot can snap the flippers when the ball comes down and hope the ball doesn't hit that magic spot between the flippers that costs a precious ball.

This interest and some impressive pinball games in Apple-land have left me wanting a good, solid pinball game on my Android. I tried Magma Mobile's appropriately named Pinball and it just wasn't anywhere near as good as those iGames were. Recently, however, we've seen several new pinball games hit the Android Market so today I'll take a look at three of the best that I've played and compare them. I chose these five as I've tried some of the others like Vector Pinball and they just didn't cut it for me. Let's take a look:

Carnival Pinball

Carnival Pinball
Carnival Pinball opens with some nice music, but the table is pretty basic. It does have one interesting aspect in that there are actually two tables that are connected so if you can hit the ball just right you can switch over to the other side (supposedly there's a third table, but I it's not obvious how to get there and there's little desire to do so). Each table is small and sparsely populated with parts. Obviously it's got a bit of a carnival theme to it with a little ferris wheel at the top of first board. Oddly enough, the second board's most obvious graphic is a fish? The physics in Carnival Pinball just seem off and I don't feel anything like I do when playing a real pinball machine leaving me wanting more. The game is free, though, which may be its more redeeming quality.

Pinball Deluxe

Pinball Deluxe sports four different tables: Wild West, Carnival, Space Frontier, and Diving for Treasure. The game doesn't show you the entire table at the same time, but follows the ball around as it bounces from flipper to bumper. The ball physics seems pretty accurate. Pinball Deluxe is also the pinball game that seems to provide the most options. For example, I like the fact that it reserves a little screen space at the bottom for button to tap for flipper movement as I don't like covering the screen with my hands as I play. Don't like it... no problem, you can turn that and about 8 other things on/off. The tables in PB Deluxe are also among the more elaborate with the latest Diving for Treasure table being quite sizable making a good job that the scroll around with the ball. And being free, ad supported software it's no wonder this game has surpassed a quarter of a million downloads.

Enzo's Pinball: Clockworks

Enzo's Pinball features three tables: Clockworks, Steam Power, and Turntable DJ. Each of the tables has its own musical score and plays well. I tended to like the Clockworks table the best, but wouldn't say I was overly attracted to any of the tables as being one that really stood out. The ball physics feels good here and the game features Open Feint support for leader boards. The game costs $1.49 and perhaps that's the biggest issue for me... with some of the other quality freebies I don't think this is $1.49 better than the competition.

The Jerky Boys Pinball
Feel like being insulted while you play pinball? If so then this is your front runner. The Jerky Boys pinball offers just one table, but it's among the most graphically elaborate. It also offers several different camera angles according to the market where the word 'several' apparently means two and one of them (zoomed in) makes the game much more difficult and annoying to play as it's just too zoomed in. I think I'll stick with the full view, thank you! I'm not a fan of the Jerky Boys... in fact I didn't even know who they were until getting this game. Now that I have the game I realize that I am not a fan. The balls physics is good, but not great, and really... the centerpiece of the game is all of the character commentary as you play. At $.99 I think only pinball fans that 'heart' the Jerky Boys need apply.
Kick Off Pinball

Kick Off Pinball is a beautiful, soccer-themed pinball game featuring the music of The Parlotones and is the only pinball game that is in 3D. It's actually graphically pretty cool, but those graphics comes at a price as whenever I exit the game it takes my phone about a minute to catch up for whatever reason (meaning that my icons/shortcuts are gone, clicking on programs reveals that they are gone, and then after about a minute [really, a minute] everything returns to normal so I'm reasonably sure it's the game cleaning up after itself which it does properly and just takes awhile). The table is pretty fancy and ball physics seems solid. I tend to feel that my flippers are abnormally large after playing some of the other pinball games, but that doesn't adversely affect anything and may just be the illusion of them being the closest object to me with the 3D graphics. Kick Off Pinball is also a marketplace freebie and is ad supported.

In summary, the Android Market has come a long way in the past year with respect to the pinball games I was looking for. If you like pinball... I should rephrase that... if you like digital pinball (as I really feel like playing the real thing is quite different) then I have two winners for you (drum roll, please): Kick Off Pinball and Pinball Deluxe. My reasoning is as follows: both games offer good ball physics and both games are free, ad supported titles (although I do wish they would offer a paid version that remove the ads). Pinball Deluxe is the best 2D pinball game in the market even when compared to the paid apps... its tables are the most interesting, ball physics is good, and its fun. Kick Off Pinball's 3D effect and the quality of the table make it another outstanding game I think pinball enthusiasts will want as well and it too is free. I can't see paying for a pinball game with titles of this quality being available for nada. That said, the iPhone/iPad still has Android beat when it comes to pinball and there's plenty of room for improvement. I was just playing a pinball game on the iPad where zombies work their way down the screen and you have to hit them with the ball to destroy them. And that's what I think really makes a good pinball game... the feeling that if I can get just the right hit on the ball then I can hit a specific target. Many of these pinball games leave me feeling like I'm aimlessly flailing around just hoping that I can keep the ball in play versus having a purpose.

Further Beyond Fighting - First Look

Further Beyond Fighting breaks new ground as an Android game. It's the first effort I've seen at a Virtua Fighter or Tekken style game and I just pulled it down to give it a try about half an hour ago. I can't do a complete review with such limited play time, but a game of this magnitude deserves some instant coverage so here goes...

First, the game is HUGE by Android standards. Almost 100 MB. My poor, old Motorola Droid wouldn't have known what hit it had I tried to install this on it (yes, I know it would have told me it couldn't download it because it's too big). Actually, after checking it on my phone, it shows that it's just under 50 MB, but here's the kicker... no App2SD. That's right. I've got 500 MB of storage on my phone and this game alone wants to eat 10% of that. Enabling App2SD has to be the number one priority here for the next update.

But how does it play? Well, you've got 3 buttons to fire off your kicks and punches and a virtual joystick for movement (both left and right as well as side stepping). There are also several modes of play. My test run was on arcade mode as I'm really using my phone as more of a 'quick fix' for entertainment and not as an Xbox 360 replacement. The graphics are quite polygonal and remind me of the coarseness of Virtua Fighter on the old Sega Genesis 32X expansion. That's not bad... just don't expect the smoothness of a modern day Tekken where the characters are coming close to looking like real people. The game also has a nice musical accompaniment and plays appropriate hit sounds when you make foot to flesh contact with your opponent. Speaking of audio, the character's do their usual little verbal taunts and the voice acting is quite amusing. My character was from China, but she speaks like she's... well, not from China.

The game has some obvious issues with smoothness on my 1 GHz Epic 4G. I'd be curious to know if this plays smoother on a dual core device or if that's just how it is. There really isn't any slow down issue, though, which is good development. Remember... we're talking about a pretty ambitious game here in full 3D so I think the developers did a great job and made a smart decision to drop some frames of animation in favor of no slowdowns (much like the game emulator developers sometimes need to do). Yet, at the same time, I was surprised at the end of the round jiggle in my character's breasts (yes, I played as the hot red head)... so let me see if I understand. Jiggle comes before App2SD and, apparently, so does pink underware? Ok, I won't berate the App2SD issue anymore.

As my character fought I was able to beat up my first opponent with the usual kick... kick... kick... kick... kick... are you seeing a pattern? As the game progressed I had to vary it up a bit, but then... my third fight. Hey, wait, is that me? I'm fighting myself. Tekken is actually the console fighting game I have the most experience with and now that I think about it perhaps Tekken did that too.

FBF is a $4 game in the Android Market. If you're expecting a PSP (Playstation Portable) quality experience then you are sure to be disappointed. If you just want a fighter and you're willing to overlook some of the shortcoming then this may be the dream game for you. $4 is certainly worth it and it will be interesting to see if this genre advances in software or if hardware is the only savior for a game that requires this level of computing power. In any event, my kudos to the developers for delivering a quality fighting game that runs on my phone and my initial feeling isn't a 'go get it now', but is positive.

Apr 27, 2011

Stellar Escape

One thing I've always said is that Angry Birds isn't an amazing game... it's just a game that executes that genre VERY well. It's a prime example of how important polish is to a game title. You might have the greatest idea in the world, but unless you can execute it well then it'll probably just result in another mediocre (or worse) game. Stellar Escape is an example of Angry Birds quality brought to an old and tired genre resulting in a fine piece of work.

In Stellar Escape you are navigating your character (Elliot Black for those into names) as he runs (i.e. you have no control over the fact that he's always running to the right) through a series of courses and you can do five things to navigate through them. You can jump, slide, dive, climb (not up, but along playground monkey bars), or dive into tubes. The first level is a good proverbial confidence builder with simple jumping and sliding and it gives a good feel of what is to come. The game also progresses at a smooth pace. Next you'll add diving through holes that are about 2/3 the way high on a wall. Now that you're juggling three buttons (and the obstacles come pretty fast) you'll start to be challenged. Next, add the monkey bars and you'll be wondering how the tubes fit into the game. Well, the tubes actually allow you to pop in and out of another location (effectively skipping a section of the level). Scoring is based on how much of the level you complete and how many mistakes you make.

qrcodeThe controls are all touch screen based and there's no option to use a keyboard or anything else. That's my biggest complaint about the game. In fact this game is also a great example of how important tactile feedback is for button controls as I find that when juggling five touch screen buttons that my fingers easily slip off of the buttons. And that's annoying. The graphics in the game are great and do justice to the metallic, space station environment that Elliot is in. They are very crisp. Sound effects work well too.

Stellar Escape is another game that costs just over one US dollar in the Android Market and it's a great mobile title that will kill off a few minutes at a time. As you progress through the levels it rates you (in Angry Birds style) allowing you to finish off a couple levels here and there with each level being progressively more difficult. In conclusion, Stellar Escape is a solid arcade style game that will test your reflexes to the max and is well worth the price. Unfortunately, there is no demo so you'll have to buy it to try it, but I think most people will agree that it's a keeper. 4.5/5 stars.

Apr 26, 2011

Clash of Mages HD

Review by Joshua Buergel

As I mentioned in my review of Highborn, I am a sucker for fantasy themed games. I’m also a huge fan of board and card games, so when I found Clash of Mages in the Market and learned that it was a fantasy themed card game, I knew I would be giving it a try. Since they touted tablet compatibility and I was looking for more things to put my Xoom through the paces, I bought the HD version. I later discovered that the HD version isn’t compatible with my Motorola Droid, so this review is based entirely on the tablet version. There is nothing in the game that would lead me to believe that the phone based version would be a problem, however. Before discussing the game play, it’s worth noting that the graphics for the game on my Xoom are attractive, and the controls are simple and effective.

Clash of Mages is a dueling card game between two players, where you win by destroying the other player’s tower. There are six cards at the bottom of the screen, which are a shared pool between the two players. Each card has a cost, expressed as the amount of blue (potions), green (something...orbs?) or yellow (gold) that you have to spend to play the card. You gain one of each resource a turn, and there are cards you can select to gain more. In addition to your current totals of the three resources, you also have the height of your tower and the strength of your shield. If your tower drops to 0, you lose the duel.

Despite being a fairly simple card game, Starwind Games did manage to make it pretty confusing. The help screen provides just the barest level of instruction, and doesn’t tell you what any of the icons on the cards mean. I did figure it all out through experimentation, but a help screen that had at least the definitions of the icons would have been useful. As it turns out, there are three different kinds of attacks. There are ones that always hit the opposing tower, which are somewhat rare and never seem to go above two points of damage; there are attacks that only hit the opposing shield, which are inexpensive; and there are attacks that can hit the shield or tower. Those attacks are the most interesting, since the way they work is if the opposing tower has any points on its shield, the entire attack will hit the shield, even if there are points left over (such as a four point attack on a one point shield). That makes managing your shield important, and keeping an eye on what attacks are out and how they might interact with your shield is an important factor in victory.

There is a brief campaign game, encompassing seven fights at three different AI levels, along with the ability to play single fights with the computer AI (at any of the levels) or other people. I haven’t tried any play versus a live human, but I did play through the campaign against the AI along with several one off matches against the toughest AI player. The AI does an OK job, although I have only lost twice to it, and one of those was the match where I was figuring out the icons. I’m concerned that the AI might not present enough of a challenge in the future, though. On at least one occasion, the game could have delivered the killing blow to me but elected to play a different card. Duels take roughly five minutes to play out against the toughest AI.

qrcodeOverall, I liked Clash of Mages reasonably well, but I don’t know that it’s going to be a long-term game for me. The duels feel like you’re on a seesaw much of the time, not making progress, and the AI doesn’t seem like it presents enough of a challenge to continue being interesting. If the card game were more complex or the AI more difficult, it would be more engaging. As a quick filler type of game, it’s not bad, and I do like a few of the subtleties of the card system. I’m going to give it 3 stars as a game that isn't going to be a mainstay, but big card game fans might want to give the light version a try.


PapiBatting is simple... real simple. It's another take on the batting side of baseball, but it's pretty clear the game has no intention of challenging Com2Us's brilliant HomeRun Derby 3D for that crown. Instead it goes its own way, perhaps even gaining some fans that might find the former title too complex or difficult. In PapiBatting you get 3 outs before the game is over. I find it odd that an out is really what a strike would be in real baseball so let's clarify that an out is simply a swing and a miss. In fact, you even get points for hitting a foul ball, but let's back up a bit. In PapiBatting you'll have the balls tossed towards your batter at various speeds and trajectories. Your job is to time your swing to try and knock that ball out of the park... for 100 points. A triple is worth 50, a double 25, a single 10, and a foul ball 7 although the real benefit of getting a hit is that you didn't lose a precious out and get to keep on playing. Your goal in the game is simply to get the most points before missing the ball three times. When you first start playing you're going to think that the game is insanely easy (and possibly quite stupid), but after about a thousand points you'll learn that there's a second 'jump and swing button' and that some balls will come in high. That's high as in 'above your head' and not high as in 'at the top of the strike zone' so in addition to timing your swing you will also have to gauge whether to do a jumping swing. I don't think I've had a game last longer that a couple minutes.

qrcodeThe only other thing to mention about this game is that it does feature leader boards so there is a competitive element to the game. My high score is about 2600 and I'm at #26 on today's score board. Before finalizing this review I checked the Android Market for comments and I'm floored by all of the low reviews this game has gained recently (although it's overall score remains high). Granted the low reviews have absolutely no substance behind them (I'm usually checking to see if there's any quantity of people reporting crash issues as I experienced today with another paid game about 3 minutes in to playing). The game is also free so if you don't like it then you're free to delete it and keep moving.

As for me... I like sports games and while this game is mind numbingly simple with basic graphics it also has an addictive element that keeps me playing. 4/5 stars.

Apr 25, 2011

Press Release: Anagram Online launched by SillyCube!

The Only Anagram that (is) played with real persons in Android Devices

“Simply entertaining for word game lovers. The game provides interactive experience to word puzzle.” says Benny Chan, Founder of SillyCube Technology Ltd.

Hong Kong (21 April 2011) – SillyCube Technology Ltd has launched an Android game, Anagram Online. When users open the game, they will be surprised that they won’t play with their own. Instead they will connect to thousands of users online and challenge other players instantly.

In each 1-min round users will make the best scoring words from 9 letters. Some letters may have a higher score bonus. Anagram Online integrates Scoreloop leaderboard system. On top of that, it also has featured Facebook and Twitter integration that enables posting without the need to leave the game. Currently the game will be limited to support 10,000 users. Additional users will be queued for available server space.

  • 1 vs 1 with other players
  • Train mode with computer
  • Unlimited rounds for each game
  • Submit score to the Scoreloop leader board to show your ranks
  • Share your word talent via Facebook & Twitter
Pricing and Availability

Users can find the game in Android Market, the game is free of charge.


Edit: Welcome to our newest game reviewer: Joshua Buergel. Joshua has been a long time reader and joins us having both a Motorola Droid and Xoom tablet along with a passion for strategy gaming. Please welcome him with your comments below.

Also note that Highborn is an Amazon Appstore exclusive for now.Review by Joshua Buergel

When the Amazon Appstore launched for Android, one of the earlier high-profile releases into the market was Highborn by Jet Set Games. Any game with a fantasy theme will usually catch my eye, thanks to a life-long habit of playing assorted fantasy RPGs, and the comparisons to “Heroes of Might and Magic” (HoMM) that I saw sealed the deal and I purchased the game. And promptly forgot about it. Not long after, I got a Motorola Xoom, and when I was installing all my purchased software on it, my memory was jogged and I sat down to give Highborn a play through, and I’m certainly glad I did.

The comparison to HoMM is certainly apt. Highborn, like HoMM, is a turn-based fantasy strategy game, featuring a series of missions organized into a campaign. In each mission, you are given a starting set of troops along with one or more heroes (there are three that appear during chapter one of the campaign). Each mission is played on a unique map, organized into offset squares (which offer the same six directions as a hex map), with a variety of different terrain types and map features. There are towns, which are the focus of the missions and usually need to be taken to advance in the mission; there are castles and wizard’s towers, which have defensive abilities and provide additional units; there are monoliths, which provide the ability to cast spells to influence combat; and there are monasteries, which provide monks who have a special unit that can heal other units. On each turn, you can move all of your units and then perform an attack or action with each of them.

Every unit in the game has an assortment of ratings, including current health, attack range, defensive ratings against magic and physical attacks and a few others. There are a pretty wide range of unit types that appear in the game, ranging from mundane units such as knights, archers and catapults all the way up to Cthulhu-ian creatures and assorted undead horrors. As I mentioned, there are also three heroes who appear in the various scenarios, who are stronger than standard units and each of which has a unique set of spells they can cast. If you lose a hero, you lose the mission and have to restart or restore from a saved game. The variety of units that appear and their interaction is one of the interesting facets of the game, and provides a fair bit of texture to the fantasy world in which the game takes place.

Highborn has a very high level of graphical polish and is clearly a professional product. In fact, the graphics are high quality enough that my Motorola Droid is simply unable to run it. Taps are dropped, dragging the map around goes crazy, the menu won’t pop up - it’s essentially unplayable. On my Xoom, however, the game plays very smoothly and looks fantastic. There are a few minor problems with text display on the Xoom, where occasionally the last line of text in some areas will be cut off. Sometimes, text will overlap an adjacent graphic a bit as well. Those incidents stand out as a rough spot in an otherwise very attractive and high quality game. The sound similarly is professional, although I played through the majority of the campaign with it off.

The writing deserves a separate mention. Highborn is written using a very self-aware sort of humor, a style that can be very difficult to pull off without seeming very smug. That style of reference-packed meta-humor has been tried by many games and often falls flat, but here, the writers did quite well and manage to not overwhelm the player, and the dialogue is often genuinely funny. It’s possible I just have a soft spot for any game that makes a Keep on the Borderlands reference, but I did find the writing to be genuinely entertaining.

The interface of Highborn is well done, although there were a few things I wish had been added. A button to take you to the next unit that has not yet acted would have been helpful, although the game does warn you if you try to end your turn before moving all of your units. An undo button would also have been useful, as there were a few occasions where I moved a unit and discovered I would be within range of an enemy castle and was unable to retrace my steps. The combat, which based on the description sounds like a HoMM-style tactical subgame, is actually just a simple animation that shows you the results. Overall the interface is quite good, although a couple simple refinements could have been outstanding.

A larger issue is that the AI in Highborn is not particularly strong. On a couple of occasions, the computer might have been able to kill a hero by concentrating its forces better, but chose instead to spread out its efforts which is a recipe for disaster in a game like this. The forces in the mission were somewhat unbalanced in favor of the computer, which I would have expected going into the game, but not enough to present a real challenge in the missions in chapter one. I did not have to restart any of the missions in the chapter, and aside from a couple of moments where I left a hero more exposed than I wanted, I was never particularly in danger of losing any of them.

In the end, I think Highborn is very good, especially for $.99. As it stands today, with one chapter of missions without a lot of difficulty, I’d give the game 4 stars, but it’s a rating that will easily climb much higher depending on how difficult the missions in later chapters become. However, given the difficulties running the game on my Droid, I can only recommend it for more recent, powerful phones or for Honeycomb tablets. Anybody with one of those higher-end devices who enjoys fantasy games should give it a try.

Apr 21, 2011

Game Reviews

I've been inundated with great Android games to review and just can't keep up. Currently I'm working on a comprehensive review of Pinball games for the Android, but writing real reviews takes time invested in both playing the games and writing about them. So I'll do a shout out that I'm still either looking to join up with another game review site or be joined by a handful of others with a passion for writing Android game reviews. One person isn't going to cover the whole Android Market alone anymore... and that's a good thing!

Press Release: Gameview’s Tap Fish Comes to Android

Gameview’s Tap Fish Comes to Android, Soars to #1 Free Casual Game

Leading iOS aquarium game now available in the Android Market

Mountain View, CA – April 19, 2011 – Gameview Studios Inc. (www.gameviewstudios.com), a leading publisher of mobile social games and a division of DeNA, announced today that Tap Fish, the largest aquarium game on iOS with more than 10 million downloads, is now available in the Android Market as well. Launched on April 1, the application has already received over 500,000 installs, rave user reviews and a 4.5 out of 5 star rating by over 10,000 fans. It is currently soaring up the charts, reaching the #1 position for free casual games and near the top of the charts for all free games.

The success of Tap Fish on Android is reflected in statistics such as:

• On average, users log in more than 3 times a day to check on their aquariums
• The 7-day retention rate is greater than 85%
• Since the launch, users have visited over 1 million of their neighbor’s tanks

“The Android platform holds tremendous opportunity for social mobile games,” said John Hwang, Vice President of Social Games at Gameview Studios. “Consumers have clearly embraced it, and there are several key distribution and monetization opportunities that make it very appealing to us as developers. But the biggest reason we ported Tap Fish over to Android was the sheer volume of requests we got from consumers who had seen the game on their friends’ iPhones or heard about it online and simply had to have it for their Android devices.”

Just like in the original iOS version, Tap Fish for Android gives players virtual aquariums in which to raise various types of fish and other marine life by feeding them, cleaning their tanks, and giving them “love.” Once grown, the fish can be sold or bred with other fish to create new species. The game features hundreds of different types of fish and exotic marine life including killer whales, sharks and sting rays, plus 80 distinct tanks, dozens of backgrounds, and a large variety of decorations.

Porting Tap Fish over to Android was an easy decision for Gameview Studios, considering the platform’s extraordinary growth rate. A study released earlier this month by Gartner said Android is in line to become the world’s most popular operating system by the end of the year and capture nearly half of the entire smartphone OS market in 2012.

With in-app purchases now available on Android, and with application storefronts such as the Android Market and others making Android apps easier to find, Gameview Studios plans on releasing many other titles on the Android platform over the coming months.

Tap Fish is now available on all Android devices using version 2.0 or later. The game can be downloaded through the Android Market or online at https://market.android.com/details?id=com.bayview.tapfish.

Apr 18, 2011

Stupid Rabbits for Android Press Release

Edit: This is among the most thorough Press Releases I've received.

In brief

“Stupid Rabbits” is a new arcade-puzzle game, developed by an indie Russian software studio Mobiquest (http://mobiquest.ru, note: Russian language website). Released independently.

The game takes players through a number of short puzzle levels, where they must combine thought, precision and good timing to lead a variable number of rabbits from level starting point to the exit. Physics-based motion adds a spark of realistic qualities and extra replay value to the game.

Toon-style graphics and funny sounds accompany bunnies along the way.

Although the game itself is a bit scarce on how and why the bunnies are lost and need saving, there’s actually a serious plot behind the sufferings of these cute little mammals…

Grandpa Rabbit was taking a hike in the woods with a considerable number of his grandsons. The little bastards were sneaking here and there until they encountered a strange-looking Hat in which, of course, they jumped quickly and thoughtlessly just to find themselves lost inside the magic world of the Hat.

The bunny-grandchildren were all dispatched in different places of the Hat-world. In each of them there’s a Magic Exit Hat, which takes them back home.
Gameplay core

The player starts each level with a few bunnies (2-3 is the most common set) and a number of gadgets. Initially the bunnies start all in one place together, while on later levels they start in different parts of the level so that the player will have to use a greater attention span to control the situation.

Levels consist mostly of multiple grassy platforms with trees small to huge, and err… more platforms. If a bunny falls down from the platform into the deadly bushes at the very bottom, it dies. If a bunny falls down from one platform to another and the falling height was serious enough – it dies too. That’s about it. So the primary concern of the player will be keeping the bunnies out of harm’s way by not letting them fall down too hard or too far.

To sweeten things up there are three juicy carrots on each level. However getting each carrot is usually associated with a high amount of bunny-risk.

Now, the user has a number of “gadgets”, which include bunnypults (like a catapult, but for bunnies), wooden sticks, rockets, haystacks, stop signs, air fans and so on… (more gadgets will be revealed in coming updates).

Each of 12 authored levels (more to come in updates very soon, a matter of days, actually) can be played through in just two or three minutes. However, before a level can be successfully completed, it must be “solved”: the player must find out in which places the bunny-helping gadgets must be placed, so that all of the bunnies make it safely to level exit.

Once the player has completed the level, he or she may want to play it once again to achieve the perfect level score result, players have to collect three carrots, scattered across the level in places, that can’t be easily reached by bunnies without a specific and precise gadget placement layout.

The game was developed with best casual gameplay practices in mind, so a usual session will last for just about 5-10 minutes and won’t be too demanding of the player. But harder levels will, of course, call some amount of sweat from you.

Extra features

Initial levels include graphic tutorials on the bunny-saving basics to help newbie gamers. The controls themselves are pretty intuitive with touch-based inertial scrolling and pinch zoom and just a few buttons. Phone menu buttons is used to call the in-game menu.

A notable option is the level of detail setting. As the game supports even older 1.6 devices, this option allows users with low-end devices (e.g. HTC Hero) deny themselves a few bells and whistles to win more FPS.

Dev Story

Mobiquest is serial startup company does various sorts of software development and consulting and employs a number of people. This game, however, was developed by Mobiquest founding team only – Mike Urinson and Denny Kolesnichenko in about a month.

The starting idea was just a brief insight during a lunch discussion and the actual development processes started short after. Gameplay concept though changed quite a bit in the process, as initially we wanted to employ the Lemming’s (one of the prototypes of the game) principle directly – bunnies would have been assigned roles of digger, paratrooper, bomber etc. The gadget placement concept was invented later and caught on as a more innovative approach.

No advertising budget is available for the game so it’s growing organically ever since launch.
Game Art

Every single piece of game art is authentic. Most of the elements are vector graphics, so an HD version of the game is coming soon.

Technology Components

Stupid Rabbits is developed using AndEngine (open-source Android OpenGL engine) and Box2D (open-source cross-platform physics engine). Both projects are absolutely awesome and we owe much to their respective communities.
Did you know?

Rabbits can be milked for science! Dial 1-800-MILK-BUNNY or learn more about this activity here:


Mixt : Launches on Android!

Uprising Games Ltd. in association with Jakyl are pleased to announce their critically well received iOS title “Mixt” is now available for Android devices.

Mixt is an action puzzle game which is simple enough to play with a single finger, yet involving enough to test players of all levels. Use the responsive, tactile controls to drag, flick, cut, mix and sink the coloured Blobs into the correct Pools in progressively more hectic and challenging levels.

“Mixt HD” is available for around £2.50/2.99euros/$3.99 at https://market.android.com/details?id=com.jakyl.mixthd.

“Mixt Apprentice”, a Free introduction to the addictive original gameplay is also available at https://market.android.com/details?id=com.jakyl.mixtapprentice.

Apr 13, 2011

New Phones

It's been a grueling decision. Last fall I was attracted to the Samsung Epic 4G as my Motorola Droid started showing its age before its first birthday. However, I'd have had to pay the early termination fee for a full year of service. So I waited and since then we've seen some hot new phones hit the street and even more hit the headlines. There are so many things I'd like my next phone to do. I'd like HDMI out so I can view it on a TV... a fast processor... big, but not too big, screen... front/rear cameras so I can take photos and video chat... a QWERTY keyboard... more internal storage... higher speed Internet... and at the very least version 2.2 of the OS.

At one point I was really attracted to the Xperia Play, but after reviewing the specs they really aren't all that impressive in light of the new phones coming out. Plus, being an emulator nut, I really want a full keyboard for the computer emulators like Atari800.

Well, I won't bore you with the details, but today I upgraded to an Epic 4G. It was tough doing that because it's a phone that is 8 months old, only doubles my internal storage, and I've read questionable stuff about the unit's GPS. It's certainly not impressive by today's standards, but it has the critical QWERTY keyboard and is a substantial upgrade over my Droid. I haven't put it through the paces yet, but so far, so good and wow is the Internet fast on it. And it shaves about $30 off of my monthly bill, adds free calling to all mobile phones, and more than doubles our monthly minutes (not that we'll even come close to using them) [I switched from Verizon back to Sprint]. The best part is that I can finally play and review some of the newer, high end games like Dungeon Defenders.

So here's to the thrill of getting a new phone...

Apr 12, 2011

Through the Desert

When Through the Desert first made its jump from board game to Android game I was quite thrilled. Finally, there are some quality board games on a device that pretty much sleeps with me. Unfortunately it didn't have App2SD and weighed in at a hefty 18 MB which was much too much for my beleaguered Droid. App2SD has since been added and I've since downloaded and played it.

First, here is a quick summary of the game. Through the Desert is turn based and is known as an 'area enclosure game' that involves placing camels on a board. It supports up to 4 players (whereas the original board game supported up to 5) which can be either Human or AI opponents. Each player has a caravan leader in each of five pastel colors. You place these leaders one at a time in turn order on a board that is divided into hexagons. Each hexagon contains either sand, a water hole in one of three sizes, or an oasis (represented by a palm tree). Once every player has placed their five leaders then game play begins and players in turn order will place two camels per turn and have to place them adjacent to an identically colored leaders building a chain. Reaching an oasis or occupying a water hole earns victory points. Furthermore, there is also additional scoring for surrounding an area that is unoccupied by anyone as well as leading the longest caravan (chain of camels) in each of the five colors at the end of the game. In a nutshell, there's a lot going on here.

The game includes decent instructions, but no interactive tutorial so I question how easily new players will pick this one up. I also think the wording is weak not to mention that the text is quite tiny and the curly font only makes things worse when trying to read information on the screen. Typically board game conversions will feature options to speed things up by turning off some of the cutesy animation, but no such luck here. An AI opponent on hard seems to make its move relatively quickly (a few seconds), but then it takes another second or so to watch the hex being occupied become highlighted and for a camel to float on over to it. Another rather important user interface issue is that when zoomed out on the map you cannot see the bottom several rows of hexes. That's ridiculous and I can't believe that hasn't been rectified yet. In order to see them I have to be at maximum zoom.

qrcodeI'm not a skilled Through the Desert player having only played the board game once, so I really didn't think I could judge the AI's skill properly. The AI comes in two flavors: easy and hard. I left it on hard for my first two plays and was able to beat it on my second go around. I'll admit to being a bit of a seasoned board game player, but I just don't think that should happen on 'hard' mode in a game that boasts "great AI opponents". You can also play hot seat mode against other humans, but there's no network play in case you were wondering.

I've probably been a bit hard on the game because board games are a passion of mine and I get kind of giddy when one of these makes its jump to the world of video games. Through the Desert has a great musical score that plays throughout and the graphics are pretty nice albeit small. I also didn't have any problems with the touch interface when it came to placing pieces (unless I wanted to place on the bottom few rows). If you're looking to learn a new board game or play against some mediocre AI then this is a good find. Likewise, on a tablet with hot seat mode this is a steal for a few dollars when retail for the board game is $35. I just don't see it extending a hand to non-board games and think better AI and some interface tweaks are in order for a higher rating. 3.5/5 stars.

PewPew 2 is Amazon's Freebie Today

As I've mentioned previously, I really like Amazon's App Store not only because of its new organizational features, but also because they're doing a "free app every day". Today it's PewPew 2, the successor to the highly regarded PewPew. If you're in the US of A then you really need to get their App Store on your Android device NOW and start getting the freebies. Over the past few days they've given away Zenonia 2, and X Construction as well. And, once again, my sympathy to those of you outside of the USA. I only hope Amazon launches in your country soon... not only so you can get in on the freebies, but also so that the developers submitting to their store gain the extra exposure.

Apr 11, 2011


Generally speaking if a game has a really stupid name like Aporkalypse then I tend to shy away from it. However, HandyGames has generated enough quality titles to warrant an exception to that rule. This does highlight just how important naming your new game is, though, for those that are indie developers. Seriously... when you see a game named Aporkalpypse doesn't it make you cringe a little at would could possibly be behind that loading screen?

In this case, it's one of those puzzles games where you're pushing crates around and clicking on the switches in the right order. Naturally you are a pig and you move around the levels with the usual left/right/up/down controls and you've got to make it to the end square. There's also a heaven and hell theme at work as each level starts with both the angel pig and devil pig giving you advice. For example, the devil pig will encourage greed in that you'll be able to pick up coins along the way and while that's not mandatory to complete a level it is useful. The game features 30 levels of increasing difficulty and I do give the game credit for inspiring me to play on. There are four different pigs to control and later in the game you'll be using multiple pigs to complete a level. Each pig also has a unique ability. The first pig, for instance, can gobble up a cube of straw and regurgitate it elsewhere (so instead of pushing a crate around you now eat it and spew it).

The game's controls are touch screen based, but you do have the option of using a keyboard (and the game is Xperia Play optimized) to control it. I found that the touch screen controls worked just fine and that using my DPad didn't really add anything in this case. There are also times when I found the controls to respond sluggishly and I'd actually see my pig start to move in a direction and then pop back to its starting square. Such events never caused me any problem in the game and were more of a nuisance than anything.

qrcodeGraphically the game is nice and colorful with cartoony graphics. The audio fits in well with the game. Sometimes the 3D perspective made it a little visually unclear as to where some of the object were. For example, on one level I wasn't sure whether a block was occupying the space next to some steps that I needed access to or not until I walked over and put it to the test.

The game from my past that this really reminds me of is a game called Chip's Challenge that was first released for the Atari Lynx. I loved Chip's Challenge and I really like Aporkalypse. The puzzles are enough to keep me going and aren't too easy or too hard. Each new level seems to add something new and is interesting enough to encourage me to play on. I don't want to provide any spoilers, though, as you'll have far more fun playing through it yourself.

Aporkalypse is available as both free, ad supported software or for about $1.50. Try the freebie and then buy the pay version if you like it. And please do buy the pay version if you find yourself playing this (as we need to vote for the good games with our wallets). 4.5/stars for a fun and stimulating puzzler.

Apr 4, 2011

9 Innings: Pro Baseball 2011

When I saw 9 Innings arrive on the Android Market last week I just about freaked. I've drooled over it on the iPhone and wished that it would make the leap to Android, but hadn't heard that it was on the agenda. Sports games are one of my things... probably because I'm pretty competitive and like winning. And if I don't win, then I'd rather lose than tie. Plus it's from Com2Us... the same folks that brought us the addictive HomeRun Battle 3D.

Now, because 9 Innings comes from the same people that brought us HomeRun Battle 3D I'll admit that I had some preconceived notions. For a start, I thought they might use the same, successful formula for hitting in this game. That would be awesome! And then I thought maybe they'd use some sort of motion system for fielding as well... that would be pretty cool having to run your center fielded over in time to make that diving catch in the 9th. Who knows what else they'd think of? Instead what we get is something quite different.

9 Innings is played entirely with the touch screen and doesn't use motion control at all. Tap the screen to swing where timing is everything (and the only thing). Well, that's not entirely true as the game uses a player card system and as you play you earn upgrades to your cards and better cards. Cards aren't actually necessary as they could have just had 'upgrades', but I'm guessing they were used to appeal more so to the baseball card collector which I am not. No problem, though. When you get a hit you can tap on runners to make them advance (or retreat) and there's an icon that makes all runners advance. So there's really not much more to offense than timing your hits, playing an intelligent and not overly aggressive base running, and collecting improvements through further play.

On defense it gets more interesting. First, choose a pitch. Next drag on the touch screen to dictate an intended path for the ball to follow. Next, a large circle appears at the end of your drag and it cycles through getting smaller and then big and then smaller and so on. You goal is to tap when the circle is at its smallest so as to have the most accurate pitch possible. Tap when it's big and you'll be all over the place. Fielding of fly balls is automatic, but throwing to the bases is not. You can also click on multiple bases to create a 'pattern' of throws which is especially useful when trying to turn that double play (i.e. click on 2nd base and then 1st base before the ball arrives at 2nd base).

qrcode9 Innings is not MLB licensed, but is MLBPA licensed so all of your favorite players are here (and their photos are on the cards). I'm a Mets fan so I'm able to play with my beloved players from New York although they're not the 'Mets'. You can also adjust your line-ups. The card system adds things like Cheerleader cards and coach cards that you get and, as stated, will improve your season. I'll admit that I'm not too into that whole side of the game (and I'm also not a heavy baseball stats fan). The game offers both exhibition play and season play so right now I'm working through my season after playing a few exhibition games to get the hang of things. There's also a Home Run Derby mode which I find to be an interesting addition as it means the game somewhat competes against a flagship product of Com2Us's. This derby is different, though, as you (just like at the All-Star break) have to advance through stages to win.

All in all this is a great adaptation of baseball for a mobile device. Simple. Smooth. Fun. And it's got some Depth. It's not going to leave MLB The Show in the dust by any means (and it doesn't try and compete with it). I really liked how I could hit the home button on my phone and it would save my game so I didn't have to play a full 9 innings all in one sitting. Plus it's another free, ad-driven game. 5/5 stars for a great game that went in a very different direction from what I expected. And here's to hoping that motion centric version of baseball still comes someday!

Apr 2, 2011

Flight Control (part 2)

I ripped on Flight Control last month when it was released at a price of $4.99. Apparently even Namco agreed with me as the price was quickly lowered to a much more competitive $2.99 and today it's the freebie of the day on the Amazon Appstore. Free is my kind of price especially when it's for the full version sans advertising.

I did play the game and it's got 5 air fields and plays well on my original Droid... it's the same as I remember on my iPod Touch (aka a great game!). I still wish it was the same price as on the iPhone, but there's certainly $3 worth of entertainment here if you haven't already burned out on this type of game.