Jul 26, 2011

BB Rally Pro

I've always enjoyed Rally Racing simulation games.  On the consoles, the Dirt series has given me a lot of satisfaction.  On the Android, the only racing game that I've spent any real time with is Need for Speed Shift which isn't exactly an off road simulation.  When I was given the opportunity to review BB Rally Pro I was excited as I generally enjoy racing games.  Installation was a snap and doesn't take up a lot of space.  As a matter of fact, applications report it only takes up 168k of space.  The game fires up pretty quickly as it cycles through its boot loader screen.  Once inside the game you're treated to a cool menu with some neat background music.  If you sit and watch the intro screen for a moment you'll realize that what you're seeing is wire frame graphics that appear to be from the actual game.  There's even a car whizzing around the wire frame track, very cool, this would make for a neat screen saver too!

The options you are presented with include Play, High Scores and Credits.  Starting with the credits you'll see that this game was pretty much created by one guy.  His name, Byron.  He did the graphics, the software, the music, the works.  Pretty talented individual if you ask me.  Hitting the back button to head to the main menu and tapping the high scores shows you the top 5 lap times and the top 5 total times for each of the three included tracks.  These are all local scores so perhaps he'll incorporate global scores sooner or later but for now these will have to do.  I want to mention that even though it doesn't say so, from the main menu you can hit the menu button on your phone for a few more options.  These include Restart, Main Menu and Bonus.  The bonus section is what's cool here.  You can change the frame rate between Limited and Unlimited.  Change the gravity between Earth and Moon and even turn wire frame graphics on and off.  The only catch to these settings is that you'll have to beat the fastest lap times on each track to unlock them!

From the main menu if you choose Play you will be presented with a choice of three tracks.  Jumpy, Curvy and Flatty.  All pretty self explanatory but let me go into a bit more detail.  I started with flatty as I wanted to get a feel for the controls.  There are three difficulty levels which seem to simply dictate how the car handles.  Easy, Pro and Nuts.  Yeah, Nuts, that gives you rear wheel drive and makes it to be impossibly skiddy so if you want your car crazy then go there.  I chose Pro which seems to be a nice balance between easy and Nuts.  Once inside the game load times are almost instant on my HTC Incredible you are presented with a behind the car view which looks to me like a Volkswagen Rabbit or GTI like car.  It's white and while the graphics aren't anything that's going to blow your mind they look decent and clean.  sliding your finger in the middle of the screen lets you spin the view around the car.  The left side of the screen is filled with 3 large buttons, one for accelerate, one for decelerate and one for sliding (pulling the handbrake I guess).  The steering is handled by the accelerometer in your phone.  A timer immediately starts when you get into the game so you better mash that peddle and get to it.  Controls are pretty tight but the car can get a bit crazy at high speed.  On the right hand side of the screen are two buttons, one appears to make the car jump or even flip at times and the other is a reset if you go too far off the track.

As you're cruising around the track at high speeds it is quite easy to make a mistake by overcompensating the controls.  After some practice though you'll quickly make use of the hand brake to veer around the tight turns.  After a few laps on flatty I was able to get 3rd place on top five laps high score which was 01:04.83.  I feel I could easily shave another second off my time and get the top score but now it's time to try another track, this time Jumpy!  Jumpy changes the game quite a bit.  There are actual ramps on the track that you can use and the track itself has undulations, if you are not careful and use the gas and brake wisely the car will get out of control and end up rolling.  This forces you to reset and lose time.  After some practice I was able to drop 5th place on both top 5 and top five total times which I thought was pretty nice.  The interesting thing on this track was that a ghost car appeared.  Well, what I think was a ghost car, perhaps my best time, but not really a competitor as I was able to go right through the other car when I passed it, alas, no big crashes.  Maybe a future release will offer clipping?

The last track, curvy, to me was the most challenging.  I found myself actually turning my head as I moved the phone left and right to navigate the complicated course.  I must also mention that on all these courses there are other off road and interesting areas to explore.  As an example, the curvy track has a large bridge looking object in the middle of the track.  I haven't been able to successfully navigate it yet but perhaps it is a shortcut to an even faster time for the high score board?  The other tracks also have off road elements that give the player something to search for if they want to go exploring a bit.  The whole thing just comes off as fun but it's not without its flaws.

While playing the game I just felt that there is a bit more polish that's needed to the game.  For example, as I missed a turn on flatty and came barreling back onto the course, I ran into the barrier that is the edge of the track and thought I would just jump over it.  Instead, I got stuck in the wall and found that the only way to get out was to use the Menu>Restart function, at least now I know what that is for now.  Another thing I noticed was that occasionally you can see into the wire frame, almost as if there are missing parts of the track.  Finally the game has crashed on me a couple of times after several races reporting an error of "This device does not have enough Native Heap Textures".  To be fair this could be my particular hand set as I wasn't able to find others complaining about this issue.  If the developer wants more information about this problem I will certainly be happy to give it to him. 

I'm trying really hard not to be too critical because as I stated earlier the game is fun.  I found myself going back and messing around with it even after the review was finished which to me says a lot about the game.  I also checked on the reviews in the market and while it doesn't have a lot, the ones that it does have are very positive.  Most of the people just want more.  More tracks, more cars, multiplayer (at least AI) and maybe even a track editor.  The price of entry is a little steep at a current rate of $3.24.  I hope though that the developer keeps running with it.  My biggest positive was that it brought me back to my first days with Hard Drivin' by Atari which was a vector based racing game such as this.  If the developer added loops and bridge jumps and those sorts of things that Hard Drivin' had I think he would have a runaway hit on his hands.

As it stands you can grab the lite version which will give you one track and 3 laps.  It'll give you a feel for the entire game and may make you shell out the three bucks.  Like I said, I hope Bryon keeps adding to this game as I feel it has big potential.  I had some serious fun with it during the review, I just wanted more.  Go check it out!  I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Jul 25, 2011

Gurk (and Gurk II)

It was the mid-80s when Ultima IV hit my home computer. I had just started writing computer software to make a little money and purchased this game in part because I thought Ultima III looked and sounded (it had a great audio track) cool. And I played Ultima IV for months jotting little notes on wrinkled up scraps of paper to help me remember my quests, where nightshade (a spell ingredient, if I recall) was, and so forth. It was a game like no other with both a clear, linear goal and optional, open ended game play where I could wander the country side in search of fowl monsters to slay and precious gold if that was what I wanted to do. And that's the key to open ended game play. What do I want to do.

Gurk II

Fast forward to 2011 and sure, we've got some very impressive fantasy games that are technically superior in every way. Betheda's Oblivion and upcoming Sky Rim come to the front of my mind, but there's still something desirable about the simplicity of these older titles and that's what Gurk capitalizes on. Gurk is simple and it's meant to be simple. You control a party of three characters... a fighter, an archer (ranger), and a wizard. You cruise around slaying monsters, hoarding treasure, and growing stronger along the way. But I'm here to tell you that Gurk is a waste of time.

Because Gurk II is already available and it adds oh so much to the game including a $.99 price tag. Pay the $.99. Gurk is a nice, little demo, but Gurk II is where it's at with a pretty sound track, and quests... we have to have quests... Not sure you'll like this style of game? Go ahead and download Gurk to see. The core mechanics are pretty much identical as are the controls and it'll provide a nice little technical demo of what you'll get with Gurk II, but don't waste hours on it... get Gurk II.

In Gurk II you'll create a party by accepting or rejecting different fighter, ranger, and wizard type characters that are randomly generated for you. Once complete you start off in a small town. The typical ingredients for a town in this game are a store, a healer, and some people to visit. People may give you information or offer you quests to perform.

qrcodeGurk II touts itself as an 8-bit game and it maintains that look for better or for worse. I like retrogames, but I'm not going to try to convince you that all else being equal I'd rather have poorer graphics. Gurk II relies entirely on a simple touch screen based control pad for moving around, accessing your party, and doing everything else. Depending on where you're at the options on these buttons will change. Move onto a town space and entering the town will become a choice. Consequently moving around and game play in general is very fast and smooth. You can travel from one side of a continent to the other in seconds unless you are attacked by random monsters. Personally, I've never been a big fan of random monsters and this game has those in spades. You'll be walking through a forest or wandering a dungeon and 'blitz' with no option to retreat. That certainly makes the game more challenging as you have to ensure that you've always got enough left for another battle and that you don't stray too far from home.

Gurk II is a great, pocket adventure game and I don't want to dig into any quests or anything. I'll save those as an exercise for the reader. One nice thing, however, is that you can save at any time so it's easy to pull out and play for a few minutes if that's all you've got. Unless you just can't bear the idea of old school graphics or just don't like adventure games in general then for $.99 you'll want this. It's fast and it's fun. 4.5/5 stars.

Jul 20, 2011

Doodle Fit

Doodle Fit combines the overdone 'doodle' style of graphics with the well represented 'fit the pieces together' style of puzzle. Couple that with a lot of polish and we've got a nice little game on our hands.

Simple as pie... Doodle Fit is basically a tangram style of puzzle where you place tetris shaped object onto the predesigned pattern in attempt to exactly (no more, no less) cover all of its component squares once. As you can see in the screen shoot, there are several pieces below the puzzle and you can easily drag them to place them on the above shape. As you drag the game helpfully shades the squares that would be occupied by the piece if was dropped at the current location. Likewise, you can easily drag pieces off of the puzzle if you wish to start again.

Graphically the game is basic, but pleasing. It uses different colors to avoid a monotonous black and white look. And I believe its audio plays a major role in setting it over the top for me. In fact, last week I was at my doctor's office getting my blood pressure checked. I know I get white coat hypertension and I didn't want any problems so I turned to the game infeCCt primarily because of its calming sound track. I'm not sure Doodle Fit's soundtrack is calming... actually I'd say it makes me want to keep going. And the controls... they worked very well and I never had any problems getting that perfect placement. Plus, the game worked perfectly on both my tablet and my phone.

qrcodeAt first thought, I thought it was the audio that made this rehash of old gaming concepts a standout, but actually I think it's the smooth puzzle progression that really puts it over the top. The early levels are pretty easy with an occasional stumper. Then, as the game gets going, I can feel my brain at work. It's not all trial and error, but basic logic that tells me a given piece can't go in a given place. Typically I find myself working with the biggest piece first as often then can only fit in a handful of spots. From there I can eliminate spots based on not having the part to fill in the gaps. All in all, progression is very smooth and the game makes me want to play it.

Doodle Fit is available in both a free, trial version and a full version that costs a whole $1.50 (actually less). Obviously I'm hot for it. I also love the board game Ubongo and this is just like a solo version of that game. If spacial puzzle games are your thing then this one is a winner. If you're not sure then I'd recommend you still give it a try. This one is both simple and good. 4.5/5 stars.

Jul 14, 2011

Contract Killer

If you've been reading MeAndMyDroid.com for long you know that sniper games are high on my list when it comes to shooters. I much prefer the silent, strategic kill versus the frantic, running, and jumping kill. Contract Killer is all about the snipe...

Contract Killer, from Glu Mobile, is a sniping game turned RPG with a lot of story, the need to purchase and upgrade equipment, and it's not on rails (at least not entirely). You are given assignments that involve killing some kingpin at a known location in the city and perhaps some additional instructions such as the need to eliminate all of his henchmen as well. Multiple points will be highlighted on the map making it easy to find your destination, but also opening things up such as gathering information and finding new jobs.

Game controls are often the crux of success or failure in a sniping game. Contract Killer relies entirely on the touch screen. Once you click on a point in the city and choose to go there you will be positioned on a building overlooking a small section of the city. Touching/dragging on the touch screen allows you to pan your eyes looking for criminals. Once you've found a location you want to zoom in on with your rifle there's a button you click and you can continue to touch/drag to zone in on a 'soon to be' dead body. When targeting people the game will let you know who they are so as to help you avoid gunning down an innocent civilian. Then it's as simple as tapping fire. Depending on the scenario, your mission may then be complete or other enemies may scatter and start firing on you so you'll need quick reflexes and steady aim to avoid being filled with lead. You can also buy and use med packs to heal yourself.

The graphics and sound are solid and while the controls aren't perfect they do work pretty well. I'd have liked an option where the accelerometer would allow me to, at a minimum, fine tune my aim. As it is I have to click on one side to zoom in and then drag around followed by the other side to fire. Sometimes it feels more like I'm painting than sniping. And there are no options to adjust the controls.

As you kill your targets you earn money to buy new stuff from the store (which is another location on the map). And after playing for awhile the game starts becoming repetitive which makes the story line feel less like an adventure and more like an afterthought. The names of my victims and the places I am to travel get lost behind the arcade action of sniping.

The game also features a virtual money element (in addition to being ad supported) in which you can convert your real cash into money to buy in game items faster. I really don't see a need for that. What's the point in buying progress in a game? Are we supposed to just want to play it to progress? I'm also reading some claims that the 'real cash to virtual cash' is misleading and that eventually you HAVE to pay. I've played for about an hour or so and just started up again to verify my facts for this review and have not hit that point. I also don't really have any desire to do so.

qrcodeContract Killer is a well done game, but it feels like it's missing something to put it over the top. The controls could be a little more integrated and perhaps the missions a bit more varied if they really want the 'adventure' element to play a part in the game. Add some search and rescue... add some more variety. A game in which every mission comes down to killing a handful of people from similar looking roof tops probably should be left alone as just an arcade game. The game does have its shiny spots. Shooting the bad guys in the leg can allow them to limp off and escape your wrath, but all in all I'm just left wanting more. 3.5/5 stars.

Jul 11, 2011

Press Release: Puzzle Game “Domino Run” Released for Android

Dorset, UK, July 11th 2011 – Independent game developer Shiny Egg Studios announced today that its puzzle game “Domino Run” and the demo version “Domino Run Lite” have been released through Android Market. Launched on July 7th, the demo application has already received over 4,000 installs and given an average 4 out of 5 stars by users on Android Market.

Domino Run is a puzzle game where players rearrange dominoes on a series of platforms. The aim is to place the dominoes in the correct order and topple them all to win each level.

“We wanted to make a great game that's fun to play, easily accessible but still challenging enough to give the brain a bit of exercise at times,” said Steffen Engel, co-founder of Shiny Egg Studios. “Although there are a lot of games available for the Android market, we saw a domino-shaped gap and decided to fill it.”

Vibrant graphics take the player through three stylish worlds, from the Stone Age through the Mayan Jungle to the Pyramids. As the player progresses through the 70 levels, special domino types are introduced and the puzzles become increasingly challenging. Once the player has solved the levels, they can try to beat specific Aim Times and match the minimum moves to be rewarded with a 'medal' for that level. The free 'Lite' demo version of Domino Run includes a selection of 20 levels from the full version, but contained within a single world.

Domino Run is available for download now from Android Market for devices using version 2.1 or later, while releases for iOS and Windows Phone 7 are expected in the near future. The price of the full version is currently £1.43 (approximately $2.28 or €1.60). More information and screenshots of the game can be found on the Shiny Egg Studios website, shinyeggstudios.com.

Death Worm

To be or not to be a Death Worm. That is the question. For whether it is... Shakespeare? Death Worm? Nothing in common. Death Worm is pure, adrenaline pumpine, arcade action. You're always moving... always sliding back and forth through the earth. Always, that is, until you surface with enough speed to shoot into the sky like a rocket ship. However, such trips are short lived and its back into the ground seconds after launch.

Death Worm is a simple game. You control the Death Worm with an on screen DPad and you slither back and forth trying to gobble up the surface dwellers and avoid enemy fire. It's frantic... it's fast paced... and it seems to last forever. And lasting forever is what kills the game for me. In fact, I played a game this morning with my whole goal being to die as quickly as possible and it took about 3 minutes to finish. That just doesn't work for me in an arcade game where I'm craving challenge and fighting tooth and nail to stay alive.

But let's look at what's done well here. The graphics are quite good. Police cars, helicopters, and even the little, tiny humans are rendered nicely as they scamper across the surface. The Death Worm is animated smoothly and the game play is smooth, too. In a sense, this game reminds me of Hungry Shark, as I'm always heading to the surface for my next meal. As things progress, the Death Worm gains power and upgrades. Upgrades provide for a choice from one of two options for things like speed and skin strength. The graphics and sound are all both grade 'A' quality and the controls work pretty well albeit a true gamepad would be ideal.

qrcodeDeath Worm includes both a survival mode (play until you're dead), a campaign mode, and mini games. In the campaign mode you are simply given a goal such as 'eat ten people'. There are also different backgrounds such as a desert with camels and such to consume that add some variety. The mini games are cute. One of them requires you to hit flying enemies (helicopters, UFOs, ...etc) with some boxes on the surface so you have to accelerate quickly to the surface, make head on contact with a box, and knock it into the air at the precise moment something is flying over. But because you can't see what's overhead it becomes as much about luck as skill as you can plan where a box is, but just have to hope you hit something upon contact with the box.

Death Worm isn't a bad game. In fact, if you're willing to accept that the game lasts a long time with little immiment threat of death it can be kind of fun. It's not as if you won't be hit when you surface. It's just that I think you're given, versus having to earn, way too much life. It would be like playing Space Invaders or Pac Man and starting off with 30 lives instead of the usual 3. For me, however, that made it a little too boring just a little too fast due to the lack of perceived challenge. 3.5/5 stars.

Jul 10, 2011

Candy Swipe is for sale... No, Really... The WHOLE game on eBay!

Edit: I got this in my Inbox this morning and I'm always interested in such things. $500,000 is the asking price for the full rights to this game that generates $X,XXX+ per month. I'm not sure if that's more than $X+ per month or not. It does state that roughly 3,300 copies have been sold for about $10,000 minus the 30% the Market takes for a total of $7,000. $500,000? I think not.

One of the Top 50 Casual Android Games up for grabs on ebay!

Auction Ends: July 17th
ebay listing:

Established brand. Android game with proven success, growth and revenue with virtually no advertising.

CandySwipe® and CandySwipe® FREE
One of the top 50 casual games in the Android Market
Completely Original Unique Puzzle/Casual Game
w/Registered Trademark

Released December 2010
Website: http:www.candyswipe.com
Twitter: @candyswipe
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/CandySwipe-Android-Game/126224507439495
Android Market Link: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.runsome.candyswipefree&feature=search_result

Current monthly revenue Ads and Sales: $x,xxx+/mo and growing
Free version Ads: $ x,xxx+/mo
Full Version Sales: $x,xxx+/mo (app price $2.99)
140,000+ ad requests per day from the free version.
On track to generate $xx,xxx.xx-$xxx,xxx.xx annually

Over 500,000 downloads
Free version Downloads: 500,000+
Full Version Downloads: 3,300+

Both versions rated 4 1/2 of 5 stars - with over 4,700 ratings.

Over 50,000 game plays a day (tracked with google analytics - recently added)

Auction is for both versions of the game (including source code and all graphics), the trademark, website, and all rights to the brand.

Serious inquiries only please.

Jul 6, 2011


BackStab from GameLoft hit the Android Market earlier this week and, given its steep price of $6.99, I decided to bump it in the review queue. Actually, it's amusing that $6.99 is a steep price for a top tier game having paid $30 and up in the past for games that arrive on little, plastic discs. The other side of this story is that this marks the fifth premium GameLoft titles to hit the Android Market at the $6.99 price point since their withdrawal in the middle of last year.

BackStab is essentially an action RPG title with a 3D "over the shoulder" perspective. You play the role of Henry Blake. The game starts with the Spanish having arrived in a British port and your city is under attack. The game uses extensive voice dialogue although the animations are substantially over acted (i.e. as the characters talk they unnaturally flair their arms in the air like mad men). You learn as you play, but the basics are that you can drag around to adjust your view... use a virtual DPad in the lower left to move... and press various buttons in the lower right to attack, jump... etc.

The graphics in the game are top notch for a 3D type game on a phone. Obviously you're not going to get console quality graphics so it's all relative, but for a phone game they are impressive. There is some issue of performance for such a high end game on my phone, but all of the slowdowns have been easily tolerable. You can easily adjust your character's view of the area and movement has been reasonably smooth. Things can bog down a bit when there are multiple 'things' on the screen at once. Everything is touch screen controlled so this is definitely one of those games that could benefit from a real gamepad. No matter how much I play I still cannot get used to an on screen, virtual pad. The voice acting is good as are the sound effects and the game's mood and ambiance are very well done.

Your first mission will have you chasing after a comrade in an effort to get to the sea. You'll end up in a sword fight, slicing and dicing your way through enemies. The controls during the fight made me feel more like I was in a drama than I was actually sword fighting as I flailed around, but in the end I was victorious. I was then instructed to use my pistol to blow up some powder kegs in order to blow an escape hole in the wall. Ok, now... if I had a pistol then why was I just using my sword? Let's justify it by saying we were trying to conserve our ammo. Onwards, with a roof top chase after my friend to the sea. Climbing is simple... just get near a wall and push up on the virtual DPad. However, sometimes finding my buddy wasn't so simple as he's chase off down the way only to stop and wait for me in the darkness. Fortunately, the game uses a little yellow arrow so that I can zoom my view around and eventually find him. Off we go again and we make it to the sea where a cannon awaits me and my first mission is complete. Next, I'm instructed to fire away as the ships in the harbor so as to cut off any Spanish reinforcements. Aiming is, once again, a simple matter of dragging the touch screen. The game shows me with a red arc the approximate location of my shot and I tap the on screen fire button to blast away. As I work, some Spaniards are trying to row to show so I have to try and sink those small boats before they arrive. And then there are two larger ships that I also have to sink. Oops, one gets by me and if too many do then all is lost. My buddy and I now separate and I am to meet him at the north wall when 'I am ready' and...

Hopefully that gives you the gist of the story line. And this is a game that is much more about story than about action although I appreciate the action elements. Free form roaming is permitted if you want and various side quests are clearly illuminated on the map. You can also see that there's variety here with the usual "follow me" mission leading to a cannon battle.

BackStab is a huge game in terms of storage, but 99% of it is stored on your SD card which was quite impressive to me considering that EA's Tetris still requires 8 MB of my phone's internal storage even after a move to SD. The game also offers four save slots for those that wish to share a phone.

qrcodeOne of my concerns for a game like this is I think development of a mobile game and a console game are quite different things. A key factor for a good mobile game is to make it bite sized so that I can play for five minutes here and there. Often I will want to crack out my phone and pl;ay for a little bit when I'm waiting for someone or something. Puzzle games are ideal for this kind of platform, but I often find that adventure games are not. BackStab has done a nice job of breaking a large adventure into bite sized chunks allowing me to polish off a mission during these small, but frequent bits of down times.

I'm a downer on GameLoft. I have not liked their polices ranging from massive sales for Apple owners while we're left in the cold all the way to their temporary abandonment of the Android Market. I can't deny that this is a great piece of work and a welcome addition to the Android Market. Sure, it's relatively steep at $6.99, but you'll pay more to go and see a movie and not bat an eye at that. GameLoft is quite particular with testing their games on each device and only releasing them for approved systems. That's both good and bad as it means I can't play this on my tablet yet despite the fact that I'm sure it would perform much better with a dual core processor. All in all, BackStab should provide a solid 6-7 hour story if you ignore all of the side stuff and has been much fun to play. Welcome back, GameLoft and keep up the good work! 5/5 stars.

BackStab now available in the Android Market

BackStab was one of those hot Xperia Play (Playstation Phone) exclusives, but it's now available for all (most?) in the Android Market.

As an aside, I finally got to try out the Xperia Play the other day and 'Wow!' is that control pad small for my giant, American hands. I'm glad I didn't wait for that... never mind about no 4G.

Press Release: G5 Entertainment games are now available on Android

Edit: While I'm always happy to see new Android games from new companies and I'm all for paying for a quality game, I'm mixed on the whole "in app" unlocking. I guess I wish the Android Market had a place for paid games, a place for free games, and a place for game demos. Please note that all of these 'free downloads' are trial versions.

Five time management and puzzle hits are released on Android as free downloads

San Francisco, California – June 30, 2011 G5 Entertainment, known for its best-selling iPhone, iPad, Mac and PC casual games like Supermarket Mania, Mahjong Artifacts and Virtual City, today has released the first five games for Android devices. Time management hits Supermarket Mania, Stand O’Food and Success Story, and relaxing puzzles Mahjong Artifacts and Mahjong Artifacts: Chapter 2 are available for free on the Android Market, with In-App Purchase to unlock the full version of the game.

Game Descriptions:

Supermarket Mania is a highly addictive casual time management game with millions of players on iOS, PC and other platforms. Running a grocery store can be a lot of fun! Help Nikki keep five stores stocked to the rafters with the provisions customers want, and show your adversary what a little hometown pluck can do!

Stand O'Food is an original, fast-paced restaurant challenge. Feed a host of hungry patrons before they leave in a huff! Slap together burgers and cook up some bacon as quickly as you can!

Mahjong Artifacts: Chapter 2 takes tile-matching games in an exciting new direction! Pair up tiles to dismantle hundreds of layouts. Gather pearls for purchasing special powers, utilize a selection of ground-breaking powerups, earn trophies, and enjoy the game's beautiful graphics and rich audio.

Mahjong Artifacts - Escape from the rush of modern life into immersive ancient atmosphere of Mahjong Artifacts! Three game play modes will take you through five exotic cultures as you enjoy music tracks inspired by ancient melodies.

Success Story - Slap together burgers for hungry customers, serve French fries and desserts, and keep the line moving in this arcade time management game!

Jul 5, 2011

Death Worm is on sale for $.99 (Updated)

Down from $2.99 to $.99, Death Worm is having a 67% off sale. In a nutshell, you are the Death Worm and you slither (and fly) about consuming and destroying everything in sight. The game garners quite good feedback in the Android Market and looks like a steal at this price.

I actually got a chance to try it out for myself this afternoon. It's a cute, fast paced game where you use the on screen joypad to control your worm and try to consume the surface dwellers and, as you progress, you effectively level up with things such as tougher skin and a larger, faster worm. My only question mark is with respect to challenge... I seem to be able to slither and pillage all I want with little consequence. It's nicely done and easily work a buck, but I'm questioning the 'game' part of it.

Jul 4, 2011

Can Knockdown 2

Mode 3 of the game play. Note the
TNT can in the lower left of
the pyramid.
How do you turn a dexterity oriented game into a digital version of the same? When I reviewed Jenga the answer was "you don't", but Can Knockdown 2 shows that there's more than black and white to this question. Can Knockdown 2 is an Android adaptation of the old, carnival game where you're tossing balls at various targets such as a stack of tin cans. The interesting thing about dexterity games (defined as games in which you flick, throw, pull or otherwise manipulate real world objects in a skillful manner with your hands) is that a big touch screen allows for flicking to be implemented well. However, what a game developer does with this power is a different story.

Can Knockdown 2 features three modes of play:
  • Throw the ball at 'bulls eye' style targets. Some are stationary and some move. There are also power-up cans that are thrown in the air that do things like grant you a time extension.
  • Throw balls at cans being shot into the air (much likje a skeet shoot). This is quite a bit more challenging that the last mode as timing your throws becomes every so much more important.
  • Throw balls at stacks of cans and try to known them all down with as few balls as possible. You get 5 balls to start with and an extra ball every time you clear a level (i.e. knock all of the cans down). There are also special cans such as the TNT ones that explode upon contact sending everything nearby flying.
The interesting thing to me about the game was its interface. Throwing the ball is done with a drag motion from the ball to target and the speed of the drag determines whether it's a quick toss or a slow lob. Both types of throws will end up at the same target, but one takes longer to arrive and thus a timing element is introduced. This also prevents you from starting a shot and then waiting, by holding down on the touch screen, to finish it. When throwing balls at stationary targets the game is so easy that it's almost pointless, but as moving targets enter the game coupled with the timer things start to become more interesting. And adding the mode in which you're trying to knock down stacks of cans with minimal room for error adds a clever puzzle dimension to the game. Now you have to think about the weak link that will knock down the most cans with a single ball.

qrcodeThe graphics in the game are solid and perhaps a little overdone with fancy rendering for objects that have minimal artisitic appeal. This extra effort penalizes the game with some occasional unnecessary slowdowns during play on lower end devices. Sound effects are as you would expect with the plink of the ball hitting a target on cue. And the aforementioned touch interface works great. The game also supports leader boards via Open Feint.

Another interesting thing about this game is that instead of having a free demo version or an ad supported version the developers have elected to give away the basic 'Can Knockdown' game in hopes that you'll like it enough to plunk down the whole dollar that it takes to buy this improved version. Based on Android Market numbers that's working about 1% of the time, but is still yielding a highly successful game with over 10,000 sales (compares to over a million of its free predecessor being downloaded). My recommendation is that you check these two games out and then buy this version if you like the idea of the game if only to support the developer. It's a solid carnival style game and perhaps the best of its kind of game that I've played on my Android phone. Oh, and it also works well on my tablet. 4.5/5 stars.

All Mighty RTS July 4 Sale

Just a quick note that while Apple owners rejoice with countless sales that we Android owners seem to be all too often overlooked when it comes to holiday sales.

However, the All Mighty RTS is on sale for $0.99. Not a huge deal given that the game is normally just $1.49, but it's more than GameLoft or EA did for us while their 99 cent deals abound on the 'other side'. There's also a free version so that you can give it a whirl at no cost to you.

Happy 4th! Which reminds me of a story... my parents are British and at work one of my Mom's coworkers seriously asked "Do they celebrate the 4th in England like we do here in America?". "No, no... its not quite the same big deal over there", she replied...

Jul 1, 2011

Settlers of Catan Released

The Android version of Settlers of Catan made its debut today in the Android Market at the 'introductory' price of 3 euros (or about $4.33 US) under the app name of 'Catan'. Early reviews in the market seem mixed, but that's mostly rthe usual 'worked/didn't work for me' stuff versus how good it actually is when it works (although I agree that I'd have expected thorough testing to ensure it works across almost all Android devices). My key disappointment is the fact that it does not work on tablets and I can't tell if they are going to be releasing a separate HD version or upgrading this version. Online multiplayed was something I'd have expected, too, that is apparently absent. Couple this with how many times I have already purchased this game on other platforms and its a mixed bag for me.

Cut the Rope

Edit: Cut the Rope is the third in a series of reviews covering the three puzzle games: Nano Panda, Burn the Rope, and Cut the Rope.

My first exposure to Cut the Rope was on Apple's platform. It, like Angry Birds, really didn't do much for me at first and didn't make me decide to purchase it. However, both arrived on Android for free (as ad supported titles) and after giving it time I came to enjoy both titles. Neither is stunning or flashy, but both are cute and well polished games. Another thing I look for in these kinds of games is how my kids react to them. Are they too difficult such that the kids just walk away? Are they too abstract such that the kids don't even take notice? Or are they just right... hard enough that adults aren't able to easily defeat them, but easy enough to give kids a fighting chance?

A few weeks ago my daughter, who has grown quite an affection for my iPad, found a game on Android that she liked called "Hey, That's My Fish!" (that has been reviewed already). She's able to beat it on easy mode... which basically says easy mode is brain dead as she isn't at the point where she is able to think several moves ahead, yet. However, that showed me the merit of having an easy mode. Game developers have to target all types. Anyhow, she's since started to enjoy a game now known as 'the clown game' on the iPad which is basically a Cut the Rope clone, but instead you cut chains and try to get the clowns into barrels. It's easy enough that she's able to work through most of the puzzle via trial and error, but cute enough that she persists. Cut the Rope has since made the list of games she asks for by name. We'll sit on the couch together and work through the levels. Some she can get and some she asks for help with. It's more difficult that 'the clown game' and often passing on to the next level is easy, but doing it and getting all 3 stars is hard. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Cut the Rope is a puzzle game in which you have to get the candy to the adorable, little monster. You do this by cutting various ropes that control the candy's descent. However, the game could have just have easily been called Pop the Bubble or Jump the Hat as there are many elements that are added throughout the game to maintain one's interest. Eash level also features three stars that you can get to improve your score. Oh, how I tire of collecting stars which is becoming a way overused 'theme' in gaming.

The graphics are on par with the other two puzzle games. They are good enough for a quality puzzle game. The audio is likewise not really differentiatiable from the other two games although the monster does make a cute "sigh" when he sees the candy fall right by him knowing that he'll never savor said tasty treat. Cutting ropes is done with a quick swipe of a finger (and popping bubbles requires a simple tap). The game is entirely touch screen based and makes for another good phone/tablet game.

I have to admit that I've never been perplexed by any of the puzzles, however I also tend to play just to get to the next level and not with a need to get all 3 stars. If I played to get all 3 stars that would change things so I started to do that and found that it made the game more fun. As I've written in the past, I am not someone that likes the whole 'locked level progression' thing that all new games seem to do. Why, if I'm completely stuck on a level, should a game block me from enjoying other levels? One thing I often talk about with regard to puzzle games is trial and error. For example, if a game relies on simply tapping switches in the right order and there are 3 switches then there are only six possible ways to even try and solve the puzzle. Trial and error becomes a very useful method to solve such a puzzle. Cut the Rope avoids this problem (and so do Nano Panda and Burn the Rope) by introducing timing into the equation. For example, if a rope is swinging back and forth then you may need to cut it at a specific time in order to get the candy to drop at the right point. Sometimes this leads to puzzles that can get into an unsolvable state and the only thing to do is reset, but it also always leaves me thinking.

qrcodeIt's hard to rate and compare puzzle games. What appeals to one player may be different from what appeals to another player. All three of the games I've talked about this week are good, but I do think Cut the Rope is the best of them simply for its balance. Taking time to sit back and think will often reveal the solution within, and I don't want to put exact times on this, say half a minute. That's a good balance for a game that is supposed to be part of my leisure. I can't go as far to say that I think this is the perfect puzzle game so I'll give it a 4.5/5 stars. What? Sorry, gotta go... my daughter wants to play "the rope game" again.

Solitaire Chess

by Bill Schoonmaker

I'm sure many of you know how to play chess. You probably know how the pieces move and you might even know a few opening moves but how often do you really get to sit down and practice? With Solitaire Chess by ThinkFun you will have a world of practice right on your phone. Solitaire Chess is not your average chess game. Instead, think of individual chess puzzles that you must solve using the pieces. Now cross this with that classic peg removal game where you jump until only one peg remains and you will begin to see the goal of this game. There are two versions, a free version that has 40 levels for you to play, 10 at each difficultly level or for the ultimate challenge the full version which contains 400 levels with 100 at each difficulty.

The game takes up a minimal amount of space and it can even be moved to the SD card if you're needing the room on your internal storage. Once you have the game installed and run it you'll be presented with two main options, either Quick Play or Challenges. Quick Play takes you the most recent puzzle that you haven't completed. Challenge mode lets you select any of the 400 puzzles that you would like to play. So let's talk about the actual puzzles by giving you an example. The very first puzzle, on easy mode presents you with a 4x4 chess grid. On it are 3 pieces, a rook and two pawns. It is your job to make any legal move with any piece and only leave one of them. Since this one is easy I'll give it away, just make two legal capture moves with the pawn and you win. As the puzzles progress they get harder and harder. An example of one of the harder puzzles would include that same 4x4 grid but with 8 pieces instead of 3. This takes the complexity way up and really makes you think.

What's great about this title is that it is really polished. The developers spent time making what could have been a poor port of a physical board game into something that people will keep going back to until they've completed all of the puzzles. It's quick to bring up and quick to jump into your last game. Options abound include Music and Sound Effects and the ability to clear out your progress so far if you want to wipe all of it out. You can also take a tutorial or see information about the game. Little touches also include Home and Close buttons on most of the screens. How many times have you been in a game and not known how to get back to the main menu? While in any particular level, the game also has buttons for Resetting the board, Undoing your last move and getting a hint. If you do take a hint it is only the next move which is great that it doesn't solve the entire puzzle for you. Which would probably ruin it. Taking a hint and finishing the puzzle will also leave you with a check mark on the selection screen that lets you know you didn't complete the puzzle without any help.

qrcodeSo go ahead and grab the trial. The 40 puzzles will keep you busy for a while, but for the real challenge purchase the full title and spend hours puzzling over the solutions. So far I've completed all of the Easy challenges (which weren't so easy) and made my way through the first 10 or so on each of the subsequent levels. I can say without a doubt that the hard levels are very difficult but also very rewarding when you do figure them out. I'm not so sure that this would better your chess skills but it will keep you entertained and can be a quick diversion that takes some skill if you need it. ThinkFun has done a great job with this title and I look forward to their next Android offering. This title easily gets a 4 out of 5 stars.