Aug 1, 2012

Dead Trigger Goes Free

I noticed on Apple's App Store that Dead Trigger (from the makers of Shadowgun) was now free and usually to my disappointment the same isn't true on the Android side of the fence. Well, today is the exception as Dead Trigger is also free for Android. Download away...

May 16, 2012

F18 Carrier Landing

I've been strangely attracted to a game called F18 Carrier Landing lately. I've always enjoyed flight simulators with a bit more towards an arcade oriented control structure. Microsoft's Flight Simulator has always appealed, but I just don't have the time to learn how to be a real pilot. The two games from the past that have really caught my fancy have been Solo Flight, an old Atari computer game from Microprose, and Ace Combat on the Playstation. Both were simple to control and both were a lot of fun. I'm finding F18 Carrier Landing to be the same and all for $1.

The game's controls are very simple. There's a throttle, an air brake, landing gear, and radar on your screen and you tilt your phone/tablet to "steer". There's a demo version in the Market to get you started with a simple flight where you're flying in for a landing, but the full game (come on... it's only a buck) adds missions. I was able to complete the training course pretty easily, but the next missions requires taking off from a carrier (the easy part) and landing at a nearby base on land. Holy cow that was rough. You'd think with such a simple control scheme it would take just a few tries to get it right, but apparently landing an F18 isn't easy. I joke... I don't really think this is like landing an F18. I suspect that might require more than a 2 minute training course, but this arcade like simulator provides enough for me and it's a lot of fun and frustratingly difficult. It's easy enough to slow on approach and drop the landing gear, but coming in at the right angle while maintaining the right elevation such that you're in a position to cut the throttle and hit the air brake hard after a touch down is just the right mix to keep things interesting.

qrcodeThe missions are pretty basic and are all a form of take off and land. And the graphics... they're so-so as well. A year ago I would have been writing a glowing review with respect to the graphics, but by today's standards with some of the Tegra titles available they're just a little better than average. The audio is on target and the in game instructions are pretty easy to follow although I miss the voice prompting regarding missions that the Ace Combat series had. In this game you just get little, green text blurbs with your orders in them.

All in all I'm really enjoying this game. It's inexpensive, it's challenging, it's fun, and it's right up my alley... plus it doesn't keep trying to sell me new planes or other junk like that (aka no in app purchases... yet). If flying games are your thing then check this out or, at least, try the demo. 4/5 stars.

May 15, 2012

Whale Trail Reprise

I saw an interesting article over at Touch Arcade this weekend on a game I have previously reviewed called Whale Trail. I'm fascinated by the fact that the devs thought they had just developed the next Angry Birds when they released this game. Yes it's pretty and it's cute, but it has little longevity unless you are six. And even then it hasn't proven to be the go to game for my six year old. So what's the solution? Pack the game full of ads and follow that abhorrent industry trend... The future apparently holds more along the lines of me playing games on emulators than it does native Android games. Right now I've pulled down SToid and want to get the old Dungeon Master up and running on my tablet.

On a sidenote, an interesting thing about SToid is what happens in the Android Market ahem Google Play when you search for SToid. It's nowhere near the top of the list. You'd think the "search experts" might make a search that matches a word in the app's title a top match versus PicsArt - Photo Studio being the number one hit for that search expression. SToid comes in at the 19th item on the list shortly after Pocket Pole Studio LITE.

Apr 24, 2012

Temple Run

If there's one game that's been getting the most play time on the family Android Tablet it's Temple Run. This free title has my six year old enthralled and it has impressed me as well. One reason it has impressed me is that it's free, but at the same time it's not just an empty shell meant to sell me stuff. Sure, I can buy extra coins, but they're kind of hidden off to the side within the game's menu system. It's not that 'in your face' stuff or ads in the middle of the playfield during the game.

Edit: A screen shot would be here if Google's blogger tool didn't suck... oh, how I need to migrate off of it.

What's Temple Run about? Well, it's been high on the Market's charts for a while so I'm probably a bit late to the table with this one. In a nutshell it takes those 2D games where you have to jump over and slide under obstacles as you run and turns that into a 3D experience. At the beginning of the game you've stolen the idol and come dashing out of the temple with several nasties chasing you down. You'll have to swipe left and right to turn, up and down to slide, and tilt to move left and right in an effort to pick up as many coins as you can along the way.

qrcodeCoins are used to buy power-ups. I have to admit, though, that we haven't spent much time focusing on that. Temple Run has been a fast paced arcade game in our household as we don't last much longer than a minute or two. In fact, my six year old proudly earned the Miser achievement yesterday... that's running 500m without picking up a single coin. She doesn't quite get that coins are good... well, they are unless you're trying to earn the Miser title which is another thing that makes the game quite cool. There are tons of different achievements to earn to keep you pushing for that extra mile meter.

I don't have much more to say about this one... it's free, it's fast, and it's fun. 5/5 stars. Get it if you haven't already.

Apr 18, 2012


When I got my now dated Android tablet roughly a year ago there were a handful of games targeting its Tegra 2 chipset. Worse yet, those games cost substantially more than most other Android Market games (over $5). So, as fate would have it, I ended up picking up ShadowGun on the iPad first and loved it. It offered a very high quality first person shooter experience that controlled well. I almost let temptation get the best of me and wrote an Android review based on the iPad version, but I resisted, eventually got the Android version of the game when it went on sale, and (finally!) here's the review.

ShadowGun's plot is simple and unexceptional. You are a futuristic bounty hunter invading Dr. Edgar Simon's fortress and have to battle past all of his droids and cyborgs. You're dropping in on the outskirts of his fortress and maintain contact with your commanders who feed you information throughout the game. Graphically the game is very sharp and it isn't that far behind modern console quality games. Actually, as more games of this quality appear, it makes me want to get a USB pad hooked up so I can use it instead of the touch screen as appropriate (not that this game supports that).

Everything is controlled by the touch screen with the typical on-screen gamepad on the left and on-screen buttons on the right. The on-screen game pad floats which, as I've said before, makes it much more accommodating. The game has a great tutorial to get you going and the difficulty ramps up at a pace that's just right. You'll start off with the basics of moving and looking around, firing your weapon, using controls panels to unlock force fields, and eventually be killing off a few, easy cyborgs. You'll soon be in the thick of things taking on multiple bots and automated weaponry just minutes into the game.

qrcodeBefore writing this review I did do one final test and that's to download the game on my phone (a single core Epic 4G) and run it through the paces. It installed just fine, but did load/run a bit slower although at an acceptable pace. One thing I was curious about was how well the game, after playing it on tablets, would adjust to the small screen size. Well, it's smaller and I must prefer playing on a tablet, but that shouldn't really be a surprise. It was however fully playable even though it was graphically jerkier. Actually I was surprised that a game of this caliber player as well as it did... at least until it force rebooted my phone. That didn't surprise me. All in all I'd say that if you've got a higher end phone you'll probably be fine, but anything less than a dual core phone comes with a warning.

All in all I love this game. It's a solid piece of work such that if you've got a device with the power to play it then it's a 5 star title. I would tend to stick with Tegra devices (and there's also an enhanced Tegra 3 version available), but it ran better than expected on my feeble Epic 4G albeit with the reboot. 5/5 stars.

Apr 4, 2012

Train Crisis HD

I'm slowing down on my Android game reviews in part because of how disgruntled I am becoming with the freemium model. I can't tell you how often I download a 'free' game only to be asked to pony up cash if I want this feature or that feature. I don't necessarily have a problem with the core idea of pay for play... it's really not too dissimilar from the coin operated arcade games I grew up with. It's more that it's not advertised clearly up front which is all part of the marketing technique of sucking me in and then asking for cash.

However, I did get Train Crisis HD this past weekend and was expecting another 'me too' Flight Control style game with trains. What I got was something quite different. Yes, in Train Crisis you're trying to land your trains in the correct stations and you have to make quick decisions to avoid the other trains, but it introduces much more of a puzzle element to the game.

For a start the game the game offers the usual tutorial mode. Each level requires you to click a start button to launch the trains in motion and then you can tap on the various screen elements to guide the trains appropriately. Every level has the standard switch to choose between this track or that track, but additional elements are added such as crossings that allow you to temporarily stop your trains or track debris which must be dynamited away with a limited supply of dynamite. The thing that really makes this game a standout is how well the puzzles progress, but moreso how much thinking one has to do before even putting a train in motion on the later levels. Each level requires analysis as to how to get each train from point A to point B, and then a bit of memorization, and then perfect timing of the required set of events you'll need to execute to complete the level.

qrcodeTrain Crisis doesn't stop there, though. It offers some beautifully rendered graphics of not only the trains, but rivers and grazing sheep. For a puzzle game it's also quite pretty. The game is a little short on levels with just 42 (2 sets of 21) and I'd say perhaps 5 of those are really just simple tutorial levels which I can really count as levels. However the game is just a buck and it's easily (and I mean EASILY) providing a dollar's worth of entertainment without trying to sell me additional levels once I made it through the tutorial. 5/5 stars. Oh, and if you just want that sneak preview to avoid that costly dollar plunge there is a demo available, too.

Mar 20, 2012

Humble Bundle 2

Just a quick note that there's a Humble Bundle 2 out now. The games aren't as familiar to me as the first bundle, but it looks like a great deal just like the first go around. The games are Canabalt, Zen Bound 2, Cogs, Avadon, and (with donation of over $6.30 now) Swords & Soldiers. Read all about it at

Mar 7, 2012

Dungeon Village

Edit: I can't seem to upload images into the blogger right now so sorry about the lack of visual appeal today...

I reviewed Kairosoft's Game Developers Story many months ago and it left me feeling flat despite the widely acclaimed praise the game seems to garner. Even my favorite blogger seems to be gaga over these games. I skipped their other fifty releases, but the idea of building a village that acts as a safe haven for weary adventurers intrigued me. Was there something I was missing?

Dungeon Village pits you as the Supreme Being overseeing the development of a remote town in the wilderness where beasts run rampant and weary adventurers seek the comfort of  a cozy inn or a place to restock on supplies. You start with a small town that has an Inn and a Weapon shop along with a small amount of gold in its treasury. The game's built in tutorial walks you smoothly through the construction of your first building and does a fantastic job of explaining the game in a nice, progressive manner. As you play you'll learn about attracting adventurers to your town, improving its appeal to attract even more adventurers, about dungeons and quests, and be faced with the usual dilemma of how to best manage your money to grow your village.

Graphically Dungeon Village pretty much looks like all of the other Kairosoft games. Teeny weenie little people march around, slightly larger buildings get plopped down with infinitesimally small signs with which to disambiguate them, tiny monsters gather outside the village's gates, and holes pop up in the ground (dungeons) for your friendly neighborhood adventurers to explore. All the while, a nice audio accompaniment plays along to keep you in the spirit of city building making the game's graphics good, but familiar. Controls entirely rely on familiar touch screen dragging and dropping or navigating through pop-up menus.

Dungeon Village's theme brought me back to my SimCity days given that instead of building a software company now I'm building a village. I loved SimCity when I was first exposed to it. There was a powerful feeling in having absolute control over building a thriving metropolis and it also providing a bit of an educational experience in the challenges town planners face. Dungeon Village also brought me back to a statistics class from my college days where we learned the various models for generating a seemingly random (but not) formula for customer arrivals. So do I like this game? No, I don't.

First, I understand that I'm almost alone in the feeling that these games seem to play me versus me playing them. Ok, I can choose where a building goes and such, but I feel far more like I'm waiting for the game to deliver population to me or tell me there's a new dungeon or for any number of things to happen. I'm just waiting on that formula from stats class to kick in a deliver something to me doorstep. If you enjoy these kinds of games then strike me review from your memory and this will probably be right up your alley. I don't get much pleasure from games like this and wish I could have my $5 back.

Second, I'm pretty sure Kairosoft doesn't develop these using traditional programming techniques. By now based on the rate at which they crank out these games I'm certain that they must use the Kairo Games Construction Set to plop out the same old stuff with a new theme. Hey, here's a game about building an amusement park and here's a game about building an oil company. Fifty games later people still haven't tired from the same old formula? Let's change the graphics tile set and the text strings and now we're building a zoo. Yes, I over simplify as there's quite a difference between layout out a village and deciding where to invest money in a game company, but I don't over simplify by as much as I should have to. Consequently, I don't think these games are worth $5 each, but so long as people will pay it then I don't fault them for charging it. Maybe one day they'll release their Kairo Games Construction Set...

In conclusion, I am more confident than ever in a 3/5 star review for this game not only based on my own lack of interest in the game, but also based on how it really doesn't break new ground. I am only glad that I have skipped the other countless iterations of this stuff and how that they don't introduce the 'Roman Village' game which would be another theme that might sucker me back in for another look. I have had some ask why I haven't reviewed Grand Prix Story or Pocket League Story or Epic Astro Story or ... it's because they are all the same game in a different package. And yeah, I'd love to hear some constructive reasons that people disagree with me on this and find this and/or each of their other games surprisingly unique and enjoyable.

Mar 2, 2012

Pinball Arcade

Pinball Arcade arrived in both the Apple AppStore and Android Market within days of one another to great fanfare. Pinball aficionados appreciate a pinball simulation that attempts to bring every nuance of the great classic tables into the modern age... not to mention into one's pocket. How do these games stand up in their purely digital transformation? Let's check it out...

First off, Pinball Arcade is a free* download. Pay extra special attention to that asterisk because it means this is hardly free. This is actually a trial version of four pinball tables which is clearly stated in the description although the description lacks on the definition of trial. Trial here means 'score limited'... play until you score a predetermined number of points. Personally I find that to be very fair as it gives you plenty of taste for how well these games play, but I also think the name of this app needs to be changed to 'Pinball Arcade Trial'.

Next, note that this app doesn't actually contain ANY pinball tables... it's another market (and based on its huge file size is also the engine under which these simulations run) in which you still have to download the pinball machines. Each machines costs, by app standards, a rather steep $3 or for $10 you can have all four tables that are currently available.

qrcodeHow does it play? It plays well. These pinball machines offer substantial depth and the game itself even provides some basic history on each game. I won't delve into the details of pinball as the game itself is pretty basic... keep the ball in play with flippers positioned at the bottom and elsewhere within the playing field. Advanced pinball games such as these also offer a variety of targets and goals based on the table. Graphically these games are beautiful although I'm sure the real deal is far superior to a digital recreation, and each table's audio is faithfully recreated although that was probably digital in the first place. There is one graphical issue I have with these games and that's that the ball appears to 'ghost' when travelling as it travels at faster speeds. There are points where it just appears downright flickery and where I'd swear it just went through my flipper only to clearly register as a hit based on the ball's new trajectory. My other issue is that sometimes the ball disappears from view when inside some simulated pinball contraption and while that does happen on a real pinball table depending on its design I can a) move my head around when I'm playing on a real table to change my view and b) I personally find it annoying when I can't see my principal focus for the game.

How does Pinball Arcade compare to other pinball games? Actually I went back and viewed some older reviews I had written... most notably this one where I review five different pinball games and I'm stunned that I haven't yet covered my favorite pinball title for Android: Pinball HD for Tegra. Pinball HD features 3 tables which are reasonably intricate and play very smoothly... quite a bit smoother than Pinball Arcade. Unfortunately, it's only for Tegra devices whereas Pinball Arcade supports a wider range of hardware.

In summary, I don't think this is the best pinball available, but it's still quite good. $3 per table is high, but not out of the question and is probably a deal if you're really into any of these tables. I'd be far more attracted to this as a casual purchase if $3 included the four tables and then they had me buy others as desired, but I'm also not knocking the price. For the casual player, however, I think there are better and cheaper casual options. I give this a 3.5/5, but with the caveat that if any or all of these tables appeal to you then it's probably worth another star to you. At any rate... it doesn't hurt to check out this Pinball Arcade Demo.

Mar 1, 2012

World of Goo

World of Goo is another hit game that recently made the jump to Android much like Osmos did and at roughly the same time. It's another level based pseudo puzzle game with excellent execution. It currently has a 4.9 rating on the Android Market and it deserves that rating. If you aren't familiar with this game yet then read on... otherwise feel free to jump right into downloading and playing it.

World of Goo pits you with the goal of getting your little goo droplets from here to there in a 'bridge building' manner. In essence you'll be dragging droplets to new spots on the screen and a pair of lines will follow you to show the connection you're about to build. Move too far away and you won't be able to make the connection. As the name of the game states, you are building with a somewhat flexible goo substance so don't expect rock hard connections, but rather connections that flop back and forth as you work to build up and across to the giant pipe in the sky.

Graphically the game is good and the audio is nicely integrated to make for a smooth game play experience. The touch controls work well with the occasionally irritation of too many little goo balls being too close together so it can be hard to single out just one when there are different types of balls in later levels... a minor irritation. Likewise, an errant tap here or there can result in a connection being deleting and your whole structure tumbling back to the ground. Be careful out there! The neat thing about this game is the variety present in the many levels meaning that each level is typically a leap and bound beyond the previous one offering up a new challenge versus being another variant on a theme. This game keeps you guessing and thinking...

qrcodeThe game also includes 'hints' along the way to attempt to provide some guidance as to what to do next. For example, an early level features balloon goo droplets in that they move back and forth like the black goo, but can be dragged into position and act as balloons. It took me a couple minutes to piece together what the sign painter was trying to say as the level was quite different from those preceding it and the progression found in most puzzle games. The feeling of frustration set in initially as did the equal and opposite feeling of accomplishment once I figured it out. The game also plays very much like an open sandbox where I'm sure there's not just one path to victory.

In addition to the many levels the game includes which are divided amongst several nicely themed chapters there's also an ongoing competition to build the tallest tower although that might not be obvious at first. As you play the game you'll have a goal of saving a number of goo drops and often you'll exceed that goal. Each of those extra droplets goes to your 'goo bank' which you can use in an effort to build the tallest structure which is ranked on a global leader board.

As stated in the first paragraph, this is a great, great game! It's premium priced at $5, but that price is fully justified, but it gets better... they even have a free demo containing the first chapter's worth of levels to get you started before you plunk down your cash. There's no reason not to try it... and then buy it. 5/5 stars.

Feb 29, 2012

Dungeon Raid

It's time for a trip back into the dungeon! This time, though, it's not as a roguelike (although there are some coming soon). Instead, it's in the guise of a...match-3 game? Yes, amazingly, there is still life in the most staid of casual game genres, as Fireflame Games demonstrates with this very cleverly themed adventure game. But seriously - match-3?

In Dungeon Raid, you start off a new game by selecting a difficulty level (Easy, Normal, Hard or Harder) and an adventurer class. At the start of the game, you only have one choice, the Adventurer, with no options for customizing any part of it. As you play the game, more classes will be unlocked, along with customization options for them in the forms of different perks and difficulties that will be applied. The classes do end up playing differently, especially when you start dealing with the nemesis of each class, and having unlockables to strive for is always nice. After you have your character selected, it's off into the dungeon.

The main screen includes a 6 by 6 array of icons, which typically are swords, shields, potions, coins or skulls. You trace a path with your finger to connect three or more of the same symbol, including diagonally. What happens next depends on the icons you traced. For shields, you increase your stored defense with the excess going towards equipment upgrades. Coins increase your treasury, which will eventually give you more equipment to purchase. Potions will heal your character. Finally, swords and skulls are matched, with the latter being monsters with attack, defense and health values. You generate damage to monsters when you connect swords to them, using your character's base damage with a bonus for each sword connected in a run. Subtract the target's defense and apply the result to its health. When you blow up a skull, you get experience to allow your character to level up (and gain benefits). After you trace, the icons disappear and stuff falls down from the top.

On top of this basic chassis, your character will earn skills which have a variety of effects (many of them pretty significantly changing the game state) and there are also boss monsters who show up. Those boss monsters take some planning to deal with, especially a nemesis monster, who will have special requirements for what you have to do to defeat them. Things can go south in a hurry if you aren't careful. It's also the case that the decisions you make on what to upgrade, what stuff to purchase and what upgrades to get upon leveling up is non-trivial, and you have to decide on a strategic approach to the game. Those upgrades also come at a good pace, keeping you interested, and the boss monsters show up at a good pace as well.

There are also a lot of very professional things to appreciate about the game. It does a great job of saving your state all the time, so you can hop in and resume a game quickly right where you left off, a feature that is really important to me. There is a well-done tutorial to get you running quickly. There is a great variety of equipment, skills, monsters and character classes to keep you interested, meaning that despite the relative simplicity of the basic game, there is a lot going on. I also like that the game can get vicious in a hurry. The developer has done a great job tuning the game to be quite engaging. The physical mechanics of playing the game are also pleasant, with the act of tracing a really long path being quite satisfying. While it shares the attributes of casual games in how quickly you can pick it up, I think there's some good depth here, and it's quickly become a favorite on my phone. I'm going to give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Feb 28, 2012

The Lost City

The Lost City from Fire Maple Games is an attempt to bring back the excitement that Myst produced in the early 90s. I never really jumped on that bandwagon because I was busily studying and working away at in college at the time, but I did eventually try the game many years later. For whatever the reason it didn't really draw me in.

The Lost City is essentially a point-and-touch adventure game. In it you are returning to an island in search of the lost city in order to return an artifact that your grandmother passed on to you. Each location is essentially a static picture with minimal graphical effects such as perhaps a little running water or rain or a glowing orb. You navigate by tapping on the edges of each frame (i.e. tap the bottom to go backwards) or on things within the frame (i.e. a path leading off into the distance). As you do so a map is weaved together that you have access to via your backpack. Your backpack also contains a journal so as you discover things of interest (and the game auto adds such things to your backpack so you'll KNOW it's of interest) they are scribed for later viewing.

As for the puzzles, many of them rely on recognizing that this shape I found over here fits a puzzle over there. Or this object makes sense if it's use on that. The game requires good observational skills so that you don't miss anything in a location and reasonable skills at putting things together. On a personal note, I found the game to be pretty much perfectly attuned to my skill level whereas I recall Myst feeling a little too difficult for my lack of patience. Generally speaking, if I'm stuck on something for 5 minutes in a game like this then I move on to something else, however, The Lost City actually includes a built in hint system to prevent that from happening.

qrcodeGraphically the still frames are very attractive and the audio is a nice accompaniment to the game. The map feature is nice as well because it makes it pretty each to ensure that you don't miss a location as unexplored locations will show as a line linking one location to nothingness; however that's also the case if something is preventing you from advancing such as quicksand. My only complaint with the map is that I think it would be nice if I could just tap on another location to get there versus having to execute the correct sequence of taps to march to said location.

True adventure games (not RPGs) are in short supply on Android so this is a nice addition and at $.99 it's s steal of a game. There's far more than a buck's worth of entertainment going on with this game. If you've looking from some adventure from the comfort of your couch then look no further than The Lost City. I've been pulled into this world and I suspect you will be too if you have the slightest interest in adventure games. 5/5 stars.

Feb 27, 2012


Any user who spends substantial time on BoardGameGeek is going to read about a card game called Tichu at some point, a favorite of one of the site founders and many of the long-time users. The game has now been brought to Android, and it was an automatic buy for me, as both a fan of the game and someone who loves board and card game adaptations above any other category of game for my phone. Did the game make it over intact and how is the interface and AI?

Tichu belongs to a category of games that are called climbing games. A climbing game is one in which players take turns playing onto a central pile of cards (confusingly called a trick here, terminology that will be confusing to Bridge or Spades players), with each play being a bigger combination of cards. So if a player has played a three-of-a-kind, a valid play would be a higher three-of-a-kind. Each climbing game has a different set of rules about what are legal combinations and what types of plays count as a raise. Once all players have passed, the last player who played claims the cards and starts of the next play with any choice of combination that they want. Usually, the goal of these games is to get rid of all your cards first, and managing which cards you have that will get you the lead and doling them out carefully is usually the key to success.

In Tichu, the game is a partnership game, which provides interesting dynamics, as you seek to help your partner when possible. Tichu is played with a standard deck of 52 cards (with new suits) with 4 special cards added. Each special card has a unique function, from transferring the lead to your partner (the dog), a wild (the phoenix), a card that always wins but can never combo (the dragon) and the card that determines who leads but is the lowest card in the deck (the mahjong). The combinations that can be played are similar to poker hands, but with the addition of consecutive pairs and with flush not being playable. Four-of-a-kind and straight flush combinations are called "bombs" and can be played at any time to try and steal the lead, otherwise you always have to play the same combination as the player before you (just increasing the rank of the cards). Beyond the peculiarities of the deck and the wrinkles from being a partnership game, Tichu also includes exchanging one card with each opponent at the start of each hand as well as intricate scoring rules. It's a game that requires some adjustment to learn and practice to play competently.

The first question, with any board game adaptation, is how good the interface is. Here, the Tichu app is a bit of a mixed bag. The cards are a little bit smaller than I'd like, especially on my tablet, but not bad. Given the continuous nature of a round, the scrolling list of plays is probably a pretty good compromise and it works reasonably well. It can sometimes get confusing telling who has passed and whose turn it is, and the pauses in the UI (which are necessary for bombing to work right) are a bit of a hassle, but it's pretty good and certainly playable. I'm not sure how easy it will be to learn the game from the application, since I already knew how to play, but the instructions included with the game seem decent (although they lack a few nuances of scoring). The interface will certainly work better for folks already familiar with the game, though.

The actual play experience, meanwhile, relies heavily on the AI for the play quality. Here, I'm pleased to report that the AI is solid. It does seem to make some mistakes in play, but I still do as well, and it's not a bad match up for me. The difficult decision of when to call "Tichu" seems to be handled well, and the computer seems to play good defense on hands. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the AI, actually. Online play is supposedly coming, but I almost always play these kinds of games on my phone single-player, especially since I play on a bus going through a bus tunnel much of the time, so online play doesn't appeal to me but is important to others. The lack here may turn some folks off.

There are some stability concerns with the application. It occasionally crashes and sometime the game state is corrupted so that whenever you try and resume a game it will repeatedly crash. There is a "Reset" option included on the menu to rescue those situations, which is helpful, but it'll be nice when the stability issues are knocked out. It's thus far been a minor irritant and not a major problem.

Overall, I was pretty impressed. For fans of the game, especially those who enjoy it but aren't necessarily masters, it's an excellent game to pick up. I don't know how an expert level human would do, it may turn out that the AI is no match. For folks who enjoy complex card games or partnership games, it's again a recommended purchase. Since I haven't found a great Bridge app yet (one of these days I'll spring for the $20 Bridge baron), this is kind of the next best thing for me. People looking for a casual game that is easy to pick up might want to stay away. It's a little bit of a tricky game to rate, since I think the audience is somewhat narrow, but it's of high appeal to those folks. And at $2.99, it's a little bit more expensive than some other games to take a flyer on. So, it's a 4.5/5 for people looking for a complex, meaty card game (marred only by stability problems) and a 3/5 for folks looking for a more casual experience.

Feb 20, 2012

Osmos HD

Osmos HD is one of those hit iPad games that really should have made the leap to Android sooner. It's a game that is different from other games and, as with many of the top mobile games, takes advantage of the platform it's on. You see, I really think one problem some developers have with the mobile, touch screen platform is that they're still thinking like console developers and my advice would be that if one of your game decisions is how to get an on screen DPad going then you may be going down the wrong path. Sure, some games are good enough that we might want them despite being primarily console style games, but in many cases the top mobile games just don't work like that... at least not until the external, USB DPad becomes more standardized and that will only be for tablets / larger mobile devices.

But what about Osmos? The premise of Osmos is that you're a big, ball of matter that wants to put on some weight so you float around the screen absorbing smaller balls of matter and avoiding the larger balls that would have you for lunch. Movement is done by tapping behind your ball and taking advantage of the physics cliche that "objects in motion stay in motion", but movement costs energy so every tap actually reduces the size of your ball by a little bit. But that also means move a lot... lose a lot or perhaps I should say accelerate a lot means lose a lot.

The game, like many premium games, features an excellent tutorial and it guides you into the game at a not too fast, not too slow pace. You'll learn how to move, speed up and slow down the game, access the menu, and so forth with one, two, and three finger salutes and swipes. The game itself is then broken into an arcade based mode and a mission based mode. The arcade mode is a free for all of varying difficulty whereas the mission mode provides different objectives throughout the game play... objectives such as "become big", "gobble up that", or "become the biggest".

qrcodeGraphically, well, there's not too much going on here. It's not that the graphics are poor... it's just a matter of how far one can go when the goal is to create brightly colored balls of matter. The game does color code the balls such that you know red ones are bigger than you, you're a sky blue ball, and other sea blue ones are smaller than you. That's actually pretty important as you don't want to have to rely on a ruler in the midst of game play. The audio, however, is enchanting and beautiful and gives this game that therapeutic feel. This is a game that will lower your blood pressure and yet make you want to keep playing. It's not that intense, kill them all feel that a third person shooter induces in me, but rather that feeling of one with the universe.

You want more? I hate to give away much in the way of spoilers during a review, but an example of things to come as you play this game (as this is early) are green anti-matter balls. Absorb them and you get smaller so they are to be avoided.

Osmos is a different and special game and one I think everyone will appreciate. It's not new to me as I'd been playing it on my iPad on and off for a year or so, but it's great to have it on Android now, too. 5/5 stars for a game that may very well be in my top ten next time around. And if you're not ready to plunk down a couple of bucks for the game right now (it's on sale for $3 as I write this) there is also a demo available in the Market.

Feb 19, 2012

Anomaly Warzone Earth HD

Tower Defense games have been a genre to define mobile, touch screen gaming. With such a successful game style it was only a matter of time before someone would reverse the roles and put the player in charge of the attackers. At the same time, I have to wonder just how successful this can be. The attackers in a tower defense game follow a typically linear movement pattern and act in a brain dead manner that relies on an overrun through sheer numbers. Let's take a look...

The first thing I noticed in Anomaly Warzone Earth HD (abbreviated as just Anomaly from here on out) was the lengthy and polished intro with full video that really gets one ready for war. The startup tells you that this is going to be a first rate experience. Once you're at the main menu the game provides a solid tutorial to get you going. You are given a military objective and have to plot your path through the city. Furthermore, you are given some healing abilities. From there your units march and exchange fire with enemy units and as your units are weakened you basically drop healing 'zones' on the map and while your units are encompassed in these circular zones they will regenerate. You will also pick up more power-ups as you grind your way through the map and destroy enemy units. Ultimately there really wasn't much to it and I was left feeling disappointed. There has to be more, I thought...

As the game progresses you'll earn money and, as with the traditional tower defense model, there will be different types of defenses to push past. The game does stay loyal to the theme by making it so you don't have to wipe out every unit along the way and instead one just has to achieve an objective which may consist of simply reaching a destination point, knocking out a few specific units, or ... etc. With the money you earn the game does, in later stages, let you build your own army of units although it's not for awhile that you really gain any real control of that (i.e. if I have $350 and there are two units to choose from... one costs $100 and another $125 then I'm probably going to take 2 $125s thinking they must be a bit better and a $100... not too much choice). The game also adds, and this is probably the biggest thing, abilities to your arsenal as you play such as smoke screens which is the first extra ability you'll receive. I won't give away more than that as picking up new abilities is a good chunk of the adventure in playing this game. Finally, I should mention, that you can alter your path through the city at any time during the game play should you need to make an additional adjustment after your units are initially dropped onto the map.

On audio/visual alone this game is great. Units are nice and detailed. The map provides a beautiful 3D overview that you can scroll around on. The game also features different skill levels. I've focused on the easiest mode which is called Casual simply to make maximum progress in the game before penning a review.

qrcodeIn conclusion, Anomaly is a good game, but not a great game. I recall the feeling that the good tower defense games created and that was the immediate desire to play again and to beat previous efforts. I recall some of the issues... one being where I might play for half an hour, eventually lose, but have to do the half hour again to get to the 'challenge'. Anomaly certainly doesn't suffer from that with its bite size missions that might take 5 minutes to complete (making it an excellent mobile game). However, Anomaly doesn't have the extra oomph that really draws me in. I've been playing it for the past few days and it's been enjoyable and is an excellent job at reverse tower defense... I'm just not convinced tower defense should be reversed. 4/5 stars for good, but not great. At $4 it's among the more expensive Android Market games. It's ashame there's not some sort of demo to give people a better taste of this game before they must buy it as I'm sure there are many that will really enjoy this one, but it's not going to be for everybody.

Feb 13, 2012

The Humble Bundle

If you're a PC and Steam enthusiast then you've probably seen these charity, indie bundles before, but this one is different as it includes Android and several smokin' hot games such as Osmos and World of Goo. Basically donate, and I use that word loosely, an amount greater than the average dontation (a little over $6 right now) and you'll receive DRM free copies of these games for Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux. I feel more like a thief than a supporter of charity...

Visit The Humble Bundle for more info.

Feb 11, 2012

NFL Kicker!

This year was my first year in three decades that I didn't watch the Super Bowl. I'm tiring of pro sports on many fronts. First, the players have little resemblance of the cities they represent. So New York wins the Super Bowl... what does that mean? It's not like New York has the best athletes or anything akin to that. And don't get me started on hockey, a sport I love, where the bulk of the players are not even from the American continents. Second, I'm tiring of the frequency at which 'Cinderella' wild card teams fall a@@ backwards into the playoffs and then walk away with the championship. If you've watched the movie Freakanomics then this screams that there is cheating (or fixing) going on in pro sports in a big way. So I'm pushed more in the direction of game simulations where I can pretend and live in my own fantasy world...

NFL Kicker! is Full Fat's take of field goal kicking in the NFL and relies on their usual interface for flick kicking the ball through the uprights coupled with the ability to provide a helpful, but limited, push after the fact. But, "Hey!" you scream: "We've already got Flick Kick Field Goal.". A game with a much bigger name and bigger is better, right? Before I jump into a comparison let's look at NFL Kicker! on its own.

NFL Kicker's graphics are very good and, as you can tell from its title, it has the NFL license so you can suit up as a player from your favorite team and jump right in. Kicking is done just as it is in any of Full Fat's many flicking titles and you'll be taking shots at field goals from a variety of angles and distances with differing wind levels. Adding the NFL license is a plus and for an extra buck its palatable. I want to get to my comparison and avoid repeating myself so let's just say this is a solid field goal kicking game.

qrcodeOk, so how does it stack up to Flick Kick Field Goal (of FKFG) which is a favorite of mine? First, graphically it's better by a small margin primarily because of the NFL license allowing them to add the players to the screen to spruce things up a bit. This comes at a cost, though, as the game is a bit more sluggish especially on my weaker phone (versus my dual core tablet). If you've got a lower end device you'll probably prefer FKFG. As for game play I do like NFL Kicker's flicking method of being able to apply adjustments after a kick simply because it keeps me more involved with the game. It's no longer flick, watch, and wait. But then NFL Kicker! goes a bit further an adds some extra game modes beyond just kicking field goals all day by adding a Coffin Corner mode where you're trying to punt and down the ball inside of the 5 year line. Is it day and night for this game... no, just a different target with different graphics... but the change of scenery is nice.

What's my overall take on things? If you already have FKFG and you're not playing it regularly then I wouldn't add this game to your arsenal... it's not different enough. If you're a diehard field goal kicker then it's a worthy addition. And if you own neither and kicking field goals is right up your alley then it depends on how much the extra dollar and the NFL license matter to you coupled with the assumption that you have a newer (higher performing) Android device. If so then I'd lean a bit more towards NFL Kicker! as I think it's a hair better. 4/5 stars.

Jan 25, 2012

Elder Sign: Omens

I'm going to take a break from the roguelikes to have a look at a board game adaptation, Elder Signs: Omens. Fantasy Flight Games is probably the biggest maker of hobbyist board games going right now, and they're known for lavish productions and expansive worlds alongside often complex systems. They have concentrated on creating immersive, substantial games and have entered into the electronic market. Will they bring that same philosophy of concentrating on games replete with theme and a focus on art to their mobile adaptations? How well will the Fantasy Flight experience translate?

Fantasy Flight are no strangers to the world of H.P. Lovecraft, having produced many board games, card games and assorted other products set in his universe of eldritch horror. Let's just say Cthulhu is a frequent visitor in their properties. Elder Signs: Omens faces the player with a familiar scenario for anyone who has played this sort of game, where some malevolent god must be stopped before the Earth (and possibly the universe) is destroyed. Upon first running the application, you will have to download a huge amount of extra data - I recommend plugging in your device and wandering off. Don't try and download the game right before getting on a plane and expect to be able to play. After that completes, you can start a new game, which begins by selecting a team of four adventurers from the group of sixteen that are available. Players of Fantasy Flight games like Arkham Horror or Elder Signs will recognize the heroes available here. Each of them has different statistics and starting equipment as well as a unique special power. Once you get your team assembled, it's off into the museum to battle for the planet.

The heart of the game is taking on a series of adventures, each of which consists of a set of tasks that must be accomplished to win the adventure. If you win, you get rewards such as items to help with future adventures. You can also earn elder signs, which are how you win the game. Earn 14 elder signs before you suffer 12 doom symbols (or all four of your adventurers die), and we all live to see another game. If you fail an adventure, you suffer the consequences, such as damage to your character, generating doom symbols or monsters showing up to make your life difficult. While on an adventure, you will roll a set of dice and spend matching sybols to finish tasks. After each task (or after failing to finish a task and discarding a die), you re-roll the dice. Items can give you more dice, re-rolls, the ability to transform dice and many other effects. After every four attempts at an adventure, win or lose, the clock hits midnight and the bad guys grow in strength.

At its heart, Elder Signs: Omens is a game of resource management. You want to attempt adventurers where you get solid rewards, but if you spend a bunch of items and fail anyway, it can really set you back. You want to aim right for the edge of your capabilities, but not beyond. It's better to be sure about succeeding than to blow all your stuff in a failed attempt. Certain adventures also up the pressure by giving additional bad effects at midnight. Developing that sense of how difficult adventures are takes some practice, but once you become familiar with it, it becomes possible to win most of the time. I'd probably say that I win three-quarters of my games these days, after getting my feet under me with my first couple games.

The production values are very strong here. The artwork is very well done, is attractive and evocative of the subject. The animations and sound are very professionally done and the level of polish is very high throughout the game. The game teaches you how to play with a series of video tutorials, which are well done but don't really cover the fine points of how to play - you'll need to stumble through some surprises in play to really master the game (such as how locked dice really work). The controls are excellent as well, and overall, the game comes across extremely well. One note is that I only played this on my Xoom so far, since my poor sad Motorola Droid is insufficient to really make a game like this go (I'll be buying the Samsung Note once it becomes available on AT&T). I don't know how well it will play on handsets, but there are separate graphics available for handsets as opposed to tablets, so it should work well.

After probably a dozen or so games, the game play started to feel a little samey. There are only so many adventures you see during the game, and you'll start to recognize them. While selecting which adventure to go on and rolling your dice is fun, the game is not going to be the sort of thing you'll spend hours on at a time. I burned out a bit on it, but after walking away from it for a week, it returned to being quite fun. It is ideal for my bus commute, with one game more or less taking me from door to door. It has more meat than filler games and occupies a middle ground that not enough games in my collection have. It is on the expensive side, though, at $3.99, but you are getting an extremely well-polished product for that price and for me, it's well worth it. I'll give it 4/5, and recommend it for people looking for a game to play to completion in the 20-30 minute range with some complexity, but not for someone looking for an immersive, long-playing experience.

Jan 24, 2012

Neon Zone

I've preached on this before, but it seems that there are far too many puzzle games for Android and that it's an over represented category in the touch screen gaming world. Sure, touch screen devices make for a great puzzle platform, but really... do we need another? Fortunately, in this case the answer is Yes!

Neon Zone won't wow you with graphics. Just looking at a screen shot will probably make you pass up this game, but once you see that this game is a mental powerhouse versus being a visual treat then you just might stand a chance at solving all of its mind bending puzzles.

qrcodeThe game concept is very simple. You drop a block by tapping your finger on the screen and have to manipulate the block so that it touches all of the dots. After the block has been dropped you can do two things: 1) you can tap the screen to jump from level to level or 2) you can rotate your phone to change gravity. Each level then adds a time to beat along with a number or jumps and rotates that you must not exceed if you want to three star the level. Neon Zone comes with a nice intro pack of levels to get you started and to teach you the game and the first few levels are simple although three starring them all is not. But within a couple of minutes you'll be facing some interesting challenges in Neon Zone's world.

Neon Zone is not a complicated game and to some degree I'm now waiting for someone to rip it off and release Angry Dots with enhanced graphics and cute little block characters that seek revenge. But don't let the blah graphics fool you. This is a great game idea that is just missing some charm from its execution. Also note that there is a trial version available in the Android Market, too, for those that don't want to jump in the deep end with a $1 purchase. 4/5 stars.

Jan 21, 2012

Whale Trail

Take a look at this music video:

If, after watching, you're thinking "Wow, I wish I could ride an electric scooter through the sky just like he does." then Whale Trail is probably the game for you. That's really the first thing that hit me with this game... it's the first Android game I've loaded that has started with its own intro song that included lyrics. And the song isn't bad. In fact it's kind of catchy despite being a little (okay, a lot) juvenile. If juvenile was the target audience then bullseye. As for the game...

Whale Trail puts you in the role of Willow the Whale. Baron von Barry, an evil octopus (I think), is after you so you flee to the sky, but in order to survive the not so friendly skies you need to gobble up the bubbles and keep your health meter from becoming empty. Ultimately the game is very much like an SFCave clone as you touch the screen to rise and release to fall and if you want straight then you have to learn morse code (for those that don't get that then I'll translate... you have to tap and release very quickly). Additions made to SFCave would be the loop to loop and it's a very tight loop you're able to do which I say because at first I envisioned that I might be able to go backwards and catch the bubbles that I missed... nope! Furthermore there are mean clouds that will drain your energy unless you go Pac Man on them which is achieved by collecting a set of power pills starbursts. Finally, it's got a nice little graphic effect that as you rise in the sky you can see more of the level (i.e. it zooms out) plus the song interrupts with an "I can see my house from here!" lyrical quote despite no houses actually being part of the game.

qrcodeWhale Trail's graphics are certainly cute and the music certainly enhances that cuteness and it controls well. It also works just fine on both my tablet and phone although the music was a bit choppy on my single core phone and it crashed such that I had to pull the battery during my first play, but I didn't experience further problems after that. The game is also pretty challenging... moreso than I would have expected. Ultimately, however, I find the game dull and repetitive which means I have little desire to play it more. One reason I got the game is that I'm certain my kids will like it, but they're 5 and 2. How about you? If you're over 8 then I just don't see this being a big hit in your home. All in all I'll give it a 3/5 because I just don't think it's anything special although you can dance to it.


Jan 13, 2012

Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition

I still remember the day quite vividly. I was working at Radiant Systems and a group of us headed to the mall for lunch. Given that many of us were into video games we'd also always stop at the EBGames in the mall and look around. That was the day they had Grand Theft Auto III up and running on a PS2 and it was AMAZING. And the reason it was amazing is that it was among the first games to immerse me in a living world where I didn't have to follow the plot and could do what I wanted. Now, I'm a bit of a prude so I really don't like all of the hooker stuff and such in my games, but even I could appreciate the game on its technical merit.

So here we are roughly a decade later and Grand Theft Auto III has made the jump to Android... a platform that I can hold in my hand and take with me wherever I go. And the jump is solid. If you don't know what Grand Theft Auto III is I'll do a quick summary. You play the role of a petty criminal and the story line takes you through various missions... drive here, go beat this guy up, go there, be an escort service, ... etc. And on your way it's stunning to see the world alive with people going here and there, traffic that obeys traffic signals, and even trains going by. In 2012 it's not quite as amazing given that developer RockStar games has steadily improved upon the genre on the console/PC front, but to see it on my tablet compared to the other table games I'm used to seeing is still actually quite impressive. I don't know why when I compare the specs on my tablet to ten year old hardware, but it is.

Before I get into the details of the port, let me say that this game serves as a great demo of Android Market fragmentation. I got this game, but I can't play it on my Epic 4G. It's not 'certified' for that device and I gather it's only available for a handful of devices that have the specs to be able to run the game at a good clip. Now the devs are fair in that they list all supported devices in the Market, but it is getting frustrating buying a game on one device and thinking I'll have it for my other device only to see that it's not there. I don't blame the devs for this... especially given all of the idiots that give a one star review if something doesn't work for them which in turn leads to devs threatening users not to leave one star reviews (I've seen two say "no support if you leave a one start review!") and ultimately means you can't trust app ratings in the Android Market. I'll also note that the iOS platform, in this case, isn't much different as the reason this game is fragmented has more to do with the capabilities of various devices and my Epic 4G probably doesn't have the muscle to run this game. I just like talking about fragmentation.

Back to GTA III. First, the game's controls, while not as good as having a game controller, work quite well. Generally the game doesn't require fast action reflexes to get around, and they did the nice moving DPad for controlling your character that I've mentioned in another review. In GTA you just touch and slide to move your character and you don't have to worry about slipping off of the on screen controller. Unfortunately that only applies to running/walking around and doesn't apply to driving a car (?). The graphics while minutely pixilated are countered with all that is going on and the audio is all there. Because this game is a sandbox game it can be fun just to run around and do stuff, but the reality is that the meat of the game is in the story. It's also fun on a juvenile level to see the stuff that doesn't make sense in the game such as running a red light in front of a police officer (no he doesn't hunt you down, but instead passively ignores you) or running over a few people (nobody cares?). However, the game does keep the 'real' feeling going despite these shortcomings. I can't tell you how frustrated I was to get a new car, get it repainted, and get in an accident pulling my car out of the garage. That's why I don't like buying new cars in real life.

qrcodeFor those that want to know more, the game starts off with a sequence in which a bank robbery occurs and during transport of some prisoners a bomb is set off on a bridge to break them free. You and paired with a guy that loses his hands in the explosion making you the driver to get to your HQ. From there you're told that you can go far if you can follow orders and your first job is to go pick up Misty. One of the many neat things to demo the detail of the game is that Misty hops in your car on the passenger side. I then decided to get out of my car. Misty dumbly follows me. Apparently walking her home is an option. But when I hop back in the car she get in on the rear drivers side versus having to enter through the same door. Then it's drive her back and so forth...

As you complete missions the game guides you with a nice map, but as you play the game you'll start to learn the city just like you would had you moved there. And I can't see anything that's missing from the original all the way down to the novelty of having a selection of radio stations in the cars. And fun? Yes, GTA is a lot of fun if you don't mind the theme. I'd much prefer to play the role of the police, but that's the prude in me talking again. As I see it this has to be one of the best games available on Android right now... uhm... on select Android devices. And for $5? I paid $50 when I first saw it.  5/5 stars.


P.S. So now I'm checking out the review score on the Android Market... 3.6. Just 3.6?? Reading deeper it's the usual "doesn't work for me" stuff and not too much targeting of the game... and occasional crash issues which I have not experienced on my Transformer tablet.

Jan 10, 2012

Spy Mouse

Spy Mouse is Australian developer Firemint's most recent game being released shortly after their sell out to industry giant Electronic Arts. If Firemint sounds familiar then you're right as Flight Control was their baby and it really took them places. And from the looks of things Spy Mouse tries to capitalize on their expertise in the line drawing genre of games.

In Spy Mouse you play the role of Agent Squeak. Agent Squeak is a mouse, but I have to admit I don't see much in the way of him being a spy. Simply put you are trying to grab the cheese and sneak by the kitties. The first level is easy. In fact, I don't think there's a way to fail as there are no cats to catch you. You just drag through the cheese, out the door, and you move on to the next level. As the game progresses new elements are introduced such as mouse traps that need disarming and mouse holes to hide in. But each level comes down to drawing a line that your mouse follows to pick up cheese and get out of the house.

qrcodeThe key element of the game is the cat as cats are the only things that seem to get in ones way. The cats follow a little predefined pattern of movement and apparently don't have very keen senses as you can pretty much follow right behind them and so long as they are looking the other way then you'll be safe. The thing this game reminds me the most of is Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation with its 2D overview and the need to sneak past the guards. It should also be noted that the cats may also have a little snooze built into their movement patterns and alert you before they pounce making things even easier.

Ultimately Spy Mouse falls into the puzzle game category where you are timing when to make your move in order to slip by the cats to get the cheese. One thing I use to judge these games is how well the game builds in difficulty and that's one area where Spy Mouse does not do so well. It wasn't until level 12 that I felt any degree of challenge and even then there was little resistance. It might be a good game for kids, but with so many other great games available this one just falls short and doesn't offer much that would compel me to come back to it. 3/5 stars for a game that's not horrible, certainly not great, and fits in nicely with 'mediocre'.


Jan 3, 2012


Grabatron is by the same folks that brought us the Hungry Shark series which I have really enjoyed. Hungry Shark put you in the fins of a rather hungry shark swimming back and forth and devouring whatever you could. Grabatron moves you from water to sky and puts you in control of a UFO with a claw arm that can grab and pick stuff off of the earth and either toss it to its demise or 'consume' it. There's a lot of similarity to these games despite the thematic difference.

Once you load Grabatron and get started the game provides you with helpful instruction screens. Control of your ship is done by tilting your Android device. When you're ready to drop your claw just touch the screen and if you've got something in its grip you can swipe to swing your claw and toss the object in hand back to the ground. As you play the game provides 'missions' in the form of 'abduct 10 cows' or something similar. The game controls very well and the graphics are quite sharp and are accompanied by a nice 'outer space UFO' audio theme. The game is also a lot of fun as I think most of us are intrigued with the possibility of life in outer space and here you get to play the role of such life in a hostile manner sucking up those poor, almost defenseless humans.

I say almost defenseless because yes, the military does enter the picture and shoot at you, but your craft is little match for these humans if you fly smart. One nice touch, though, is if you fly high up into the atmosphere the skies are teaming with jet fighters that will shoot you down in no time, but that's accompanied by a rather ominous warning to keep you within the boundaries of this sandbox style game. You will also encounter enemies such as helicopters closer to earth and have to drop a large object such as a boulder or car from above in order to take those out. And, once again, the graphics are beautiful although that does come at a price. The game did show a tiny bit of lag at time on my Epic 4G with it's single core CPU, but I had no problems on my dual core Tegra tablet.

Now on to the complaints department:

First, the game has a screen where you can buy extras such as the 'insane difficulty level' or '10 nukes'. Ok, so now we're going to cross the paid app concept with the freemium concept and charge me both upfront for part of the game and later for more? As you know I'm not a fan of such and I know we're talking about a game that cost a buck and add-ons that cost a buck. I also know the industry, to my dislike, is moving that way with consoles going heavy with the paid add-on content despite forking over $60 for a base game. Perhaps the movie industry can adopt this tactic and show you half of a movie and if you're still interested then you can pay more to see the other half?? I just don't see a pretty world where the goal is to make me an addict to something and then as soon as I'm hooked then to charge me more much like a pusher of drugs.

qrcodeSecond, when I played Hungry Shark I said the game had a therapeutic element. It felt good to play despite the fact that getting a high score wasn't really my objective. Because Grabatron is such a similar experience it got old a little soon. I can still see pulling it out for a game here and there, but there's not a lot of depth here. There's not much thrill beyond that first play in first abducting sheep and then abducting farmers. They both squeal in their own way. Sure, the background may change, but the theme which is a core part of this game stays the same.

All in all I like Grabatron a lot just like I liked Hungry Shark. And I love the theme. At the same time I really resent the attempt to sell me a difficulty level after purchasing the game. It's also a tough call to recommend as if you enjoy Hungry Shark you'll probably like this in the same way, but also already own that game. And if Hungry Shark did nothing for you then this probably won't either. Fortunately, there is a good demo version of the game in the Android Market called Grabatron Country which is basically the first level of the full game and that may be enough of the game for many players. 4/5 stars.

Jan 1, 2012

Tiki Kart 3D

Tiki Kart 3D is another freebie available in the Android Market this is pretty slick. Based on its name you can probably guess that it's a clone of the insanely popular Mario Kart series. Given that it's free I'm not going to try and do a full review as I don't have to sell you on it, but I did want to give the game some attention. The game also plays smoothly, doesn't appear to be packed with ads, and hasn't been hitting me up for any cash upon loading it (I've run a few races and have really enjoyed it, but can't say that it doesn't go freemium later on... just that they're not too stingy with the free part of things up front).

qrcodeThe game is controlled via tilt controls and it works well on my tablet. As with many of these games, you can collect power-ups (via collecting pineapples in this case) to assist with hindering the competition or giving yourself that extra boost. The game plays smoothly and controls well and has many options. I could go on and on, but it's New Years day and I've got places to be. All I'll say is that if you like the Mario Kart series or lighter race games then this need to be on your download list.