The big event for Google is just about to kick off. We should see loads of new products and services launched. Google has condensed the three days of keynotes into one this year, so we can expect it to be loaded (and long). Will we see Sergey jump from an airplane again this year? Will...
Vector Unit offers full support for Android’s new Google Play game services by making their top selling racing titles part of the service. Starting today, players can now enjoy earning achievements and posting new high scores to the leaderboards when playing Beach Buggy Blitz, Riptide GP, and Shine Runner. Riptide GP2, which is scheduled for release this summer, will feature the real-time multi-player capabilities that is offered through the Google Play game services.
In a press release, Matt Small, CEO of Vector Unit said, “We love to connect players in our games, but until recently on Android there have been a lot of competing social platforms without a single standout,” “Google Play game services offer a unifying platform that every Android gamer can join easily, has all the features we could want, and that we as developers can support without worrying about whether it’s going to still be around in 2 years.”
The winners for the Best App Ever Awards for Android were announced today. Subway Surfers by Kiloo takes the 2013 award for Best App Ever with Battle Bears coming in second and Dead Trigger third. You can find the full list of winners by going to bestappever.com.
How much muck could a muck chuck chuck if a muck chuck could chuck muck?
Chuck the Muck is a cool entry from KizStudios that merges nice graphics with easy-to-learn gameplay and a familiar scoring method.
Bob is the name of our protagonist in this one. A blob with attitude, Bob is described as a being with an appetite, and it seems to hunger for colored gems. It just so happens that these gems are not that easy to get to. Thus Bob’s job is to use the gooey stuff in his environment to solve the physics puzzlers that the the gem placements created.
The basic tool was a stretchy, springy “muck” that I could manipulate to a degree. Using it as a trampoline of sorts, I could use my finger to direct Bob in a pre-determined trajectory. This helped me collect the gems for three start score. Missing a target or a landing could lead to Bob’s demise. The controls mostly involved dragging, pulling to release and tap and hold.
As the game progresses, the puzzles get harder. There are guards (who could catch Bob/me) and different traps and tools made an appearance. For instance, I ran into diamonds that were conveniently placed in precarious spots, such that even if I did get the gem, I could drop into an endless abyss. Using movable ooze cannons in tandem allowed for me to figure out the puzzle. The power-ups (like guard uniforms to “hide” from the guards) make sense in the context of the game, and denote creativity. The store was well stocked with purchasables to enhance the game.
The scoring and gameplay are quite similar to that used in Angry Birds, with leveled gameplay and cumulative gem collection. I think it help that these elements make the game familiar, while allowing the gameplay ensure that it is not just another Angry Birds clone cloaked as something else.
All in all, it is a pretty nice addition to anyone’s gaming portfolio, and I do believe it has the best intro tongue twister in the history of gaming.
I can’t say that I expected much from Elements Battle. The name is about as unimaginative as it gets, the art looked pretty but uninspired and to top it off it’s freemium, which is a business model that I’ve never been entirely comfortable with.
As it turns out though Elements Battle is substantially better than I expected. The core game is a lot like Puzzle Quest. The bulk of it is a series of puzzle battles on a grid where three or more identical symbols must be matched each turn. Those symbols correspond to elemental spells which get fired at an opponent once enough of them have been matched. The opponent does the same and the winner is the one with health left at the end.
Outside of battles there are some basic RPG mechanics with quests to complete (though they all boil down to battles too), levels to gain and a store used to purchase additional spells and equipment.
Battles require energy to fight and that energy goes down after every battle (though it gradually goes back up again too if the game isn’t played for a while). Spells also need replenishing periodically and they won’t recharge on their own. Both energy and spells can be bought using in game currency, which in itself can either be earned from completing quests or bought with real money.
New players are given enough energy and money to play Elements Battle for quite a while. If played a lot eventually the freemium side will rear its ugly head and a point will come where it’s necessary to either spend real money or wait a while to keep playing, but it’s not as stingy as many freemium games as it gives players enough gold and loot for winning battles and completing quests that I never felt like I really needed to spend money to keep going.
Elements Battle controls well, there’s loads of content and there are even player versus player battles, though it’s not possible to communicate with other players, so it’s not that much different to battling the AI.
So far so good, but while there’s certainly a lot of game here it quickly starts to feel a bit repetitive, as it’s almost all battles and much of the time it’s necessary to fight the same or similar battles multiple times over to grind for quests or loot.
The battles themselves could be better too, as there’s a time limit of around seven seconds each turn, which I didn’t find was long enough to really think about a strategy. I’d have liked to be able to decide which elements to focus on or try and set up chain reactions by making additional matches from symbols that fall into the space cleared when a match is made, but generally there’s no time for that and often I found that I’d just have to go for the first match I could see.
Played in short bursts Elements Battle is good fun and won’t be too money hungry, but longer play sessions become repetitive and dull.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a classic, at least in the sense that it was the launching pad for a famous character. In reality, it’s a lot more like some bands’ first album: their later stuff is more refined, exploring their strengths better, to make for a better product. Such is the original Sonic game. Sonic 2 and 3 do a lot to make the series much better, so I must admit that when I heard that Sonic 1 was being remastered by Christian Whitehead and company a la Sonic CD, I was initially disappointed. But really, there was no reason to be: the tweaks and new features make this better.
Sonic should be well-known at this point. Run, jump, fight Eggman’s robots and contraptions (though he’ll always be Dr. Robotnik to me), and avoid those darn spikes. This is the game that started the classic formula, including the most underappreciated part of the series’ gameplay: the complex levels and challenging platforming that comes from their multiple layers.
The spin dash I have mixed opinions about: it makes the game feel better, but it makes certain sections much easier. This is especially true of the final boss, where dodging the sparks that come out becomes much, much easier thanks to the ability to quickly speed away from them on a dime. But hey, it makes the game a bit less frustrating, so it’s worth it, right? Plus, it’s just an option, so the purists can turn it off.
The other new features add a lot of value to the game. It’s possible to play as Tails and Knuckles, or even Sonic with Tails. Powerups from later Sonic games can be used. There’s a Time Attack mode. The cartridges for the three different versions of the game as well to be displayed when launching the game. It’s a minor feature, but for a project powered by hardcore fans who have gotten to work with Sega, it means a lot.
The controller support helps to make this a far-improved experience as well. A wide variety is supported just like in Sonic CD – the MOGA models are supported as are HID controllers, for example. The virtual controls are far from perfect, but at least they’re configurable.
Sonic the Hedgehog may not be the best game in the series, but the bonus content that comes along with it (in surprising amounts) is well worth checking out for fans both new and old.
The Sandbox is celebrating its one year anniversary with a big sale on in-app purchases and a contest. Fans can now download each campaign for $0.99 cents or as a whole for $3.99. Also on sale are the mana packs, from $2.99 to $15.99. As of today, iOS and Android combined, The Sandbox has had over 4.3 million downloads and has surpassed 220,000 worlds shared in the online gallery.
On Google Play (end of May)
-User-Created Campaign (FREE): 15 new levels to enjoy!
-New Humans element: an intelligent life-form!
-Use one of the 4 Magic Powders to induce their behaviour: Miner, Hunter, Builder or Woodchoper
-New campaign: “Humans Castaway”, featuring 15 levels of puzzles
-Daily Quest: each day a new challenge to win FREE mana
The creator of Chip’s Challenge is back, bringing Chuck’s Challenge 3D to NVIDIA’s Porject SHIELD. Chuck Sommerville, the designer, has had a 20 year absence and is now making a new puzzle game which will be available at launch. Chuck’s Challenge 3D is said to have players moving from point A to point B, collecting items including red keys that open red doors, along with much more. Players will have the opportunity to create and share their own levels in the game by using a simple paint-style interface.
In a press release, Chuck Sommerville said, “Over the last couple of years we’ve been creating a 3D puzzle game based on my original design and over two decades of player feedback,” “Chuck’s Challenge 3D is nearly ready to be released, first for the Project SHIELD, taking advantage of both NVIDIA Tegra 4 and the controller.”
Google announced new updates for Google Now, which is currently available as part of the Google Search app, reports Tech Crunch. Google announced the addition of six card types, including location-based reminders, public transit travel times, and information about music, TV shows, and videos games. There will also be voice recognition for people to use, allowing them to set reminders based on time, people, and location, by using their voice.
Editor’s Note: As of publication, the game is only available for the Kindle Fire on the Amazon Appstore.
Sometimes we like predictability. We all know that NetherRealms make good software. We all know that the ‘Arkham’ series of games are a sign of quality. We all know that every single guard, policeman and security officer is absolutely useless in the city of Gotham and that it means villains are let loose on a regular basis.
Which is lucky for us, as these predictable factors come together to bring us Batman: Arkham City Lockdown. Taking place in the world created by previous ‘Arkham’ games, the game sees you playing as Batman as he beats up a bunch of escaped crooks and generally cleans up the streets. Not with a mop and bucket, mind, but with his fists and gadgets. You can expect to see favourites like Two-Face, Poison Ivy and The Joker. Also, keep an eye out for a certain Mortal Kombat character’s cameo.
Not only does the game use the ‘Arkham’ setting seen in previous games of the series, it also borrows heavily from ‘Arkham City’ as a whole. Not a bad thing, as Arkham City was a good looking 360, PS3 and PC game which makes this one of the better-looking apps I’ve seen running on a Kindle Fire. The same models and locations pop-up a little too regularly, but the quality of what you’re seeing can help you forgive the re-use of assets.
The worst offender of this re-use is the sound. Thugs spout the same lines over and over and the music’s on a fairly short loop. That’s what mute buttons were made for, right?
The game itself plays out like Infinity Blade, where you’re swiping the screen to dodge, punch, counter or use a gadget. The locations and combat offer some variety, with certain levels putting you under special conditions such as using no gadgets or clearing out a room in 60 seconds.
The gadgets in question (bat swarm, electric gloves, etc) can be upgraded as can Batman himself. You earn cash by completing levels and beating up thugs, as you’d expect, though this can be a problem as levelling up takes a while, forcing you to replay levels more times than perhaps you’d want to.
It’s also hard to say if it was me or the game causing an issue, but my swipes were mistaken as taps and vice versa. This is important as countering when you want to attack can make you lose your window of opportunity and punching when you want to counter will see you getting knocked out.
Minor control issues and forced replaying of levels aside, Batman: Arkham City Lockdown is a solid title that should please Batman fans long into the (Dark) night.
Gameloft has announced its first three games that will use the new Google Play Game Services feature. Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, Dungeon Hunter 4, and Asphalt 7: Heat will be the first games to use the service which provides players with global leaderboards, achievements, and more. Modern Combat 4 is currently the first title to get the update, with Dungeon Hunter 4 and Asphalt 7 being updated in the coming weeks.
Zombies in games seems to be a fad that’s as unwilling to enter the grave as the re-animated corpses themselves. Still, every now and then you get a title that allows you to forgive this over-saturation. Into the Dead is one of those titles I’m happy to say.
The premise is dead (ha) simple. With no explanation you see that you’ve just scrambled out of the flaming wreckage of a helicopter. A helicopter that’s surrounded by zombies, no less, so you turn around and run.
And that’s the game.
Into the Dead is an endless runner, a game that has no end but merely goads you into running further and further each time by showing you how well your friends are doing.
It looks great. Not in a ‘loads of polygons’ kind of way but in a very stylish manner. The game is practically black and white, with colours being extremely washed out. There’s also some filters applied to the screen that make the whole world look dusty, gloomy and not very welcoming.
Running through an empty field would get pretty dull, no matter how stylish, and it’s lucky that the environment changes regularly enough to keep things not just visually interesting but the locations also affect playing. Cornfields will contain zombies hidden from view and a tree can easily be run into, causing you to stumble into the arms of a zombie.
The running and jumping is automated and this leaves you only having to worry about leaning your character left or right to avoid the zombies in front of you. Into the Dead allows you to choose a number of controller layouts, meaning you’ll either tap on the left or right side of the screen to lean or you can tilt whatever device your playing on. As someone that has to play games in public and hates tilting in the view of others, this was greatly appreciated.
To make getting through zombie-infested fields somewhat easier, there are crates you can run through to get a random weapon that’s inside. The weapons range from chainsaws to grenades and these weapons have their own strengths, weaknesses and range.
The weapons aren’t all available from the get-go, mind. You’ve got to level up which at set milestones unlocks extra content within the game. This is pretty well paced out and you’re never too far away from getting a new weapon. Levelling up will also unlock new modes, but these aren’t much different from the one mode you start with.
The previously mentioned ‘levelling up’ is completed by meeting set targets. These can be ‘kill 5 zombies’ or ‘run 1,000m without killing a zombie’ and are useful to force you into playing in a way you normally wouldn’t. The only issue with them is that they soon fall into the trap of setting ridiculous targets that stop your progress dead. Coins can be used to buy your way out of these missions, but you’ll want to use the coins on perks.
Perks are pretty simple, in fact there’s only (currently) 4 of them. A head start perk, start with a weapon, more ammo and more crates placed are all yours to use if you’ve got the coins.
Into the Dead manages to keep the zombie fad alive and is a great example of the endless runner genre.
Today, Google launched Hangouts to the Google Play store, providing you the ability to chat one-on-one or in group conversations for free. You can also have a video call with up to 10 friends as you connect with friends through computers and mobile devices.
● Say more with photos and emoji.
● See when people are together in Hangouts, when they’re typing, or whether they’ve seen your message.
● Turn any conversation into a video call with up to 10 friends.
● Message friends anytime, even if they’re not connected right now.
● Use Hangouts on computers, Android and Apple devices.
Google has announced Google Play for Education, which is a custom app store filled with apps specifically built for students and educators, reports The Verge. The store is schedule to launch this fall, but developers can begin submitting apps to the store during the summer. Teachers will be able to pick an app and have it installed on every students tablet that’s in the classroom.
Google today announced a new game service, Google Play Game Services, that will bring achievements, cloud saves, matchmaking, and leaderboards to Android games. The Verge reports that the service is integrated with Google+ and that it will also be available on iOS and the web.
The big event for Google is just about to kick off. We should see loads of new products and services launched. Google has condensed the three days of keynotes into one this year, so we can expect it to be loaded (and long). Will we see Sergey jump from an airplane again this year? Will we see lavish gifts for the developers in attendance? What will we see?
It’s about to kick off. We’ll summarize the announcements and our reaction to them as the keynote is going on from our offices in San Francisco. You can also follow along with the video below.
9:01am And here we go!
9:10am 900 Million Android activations to date. No mention on the number of current users though. I can’t imagine that too many of the T-Mobile MyTouch users that activated are still using those devices. But even if 50% of this number are retired devices, it’s still showing staggering growth.
48 Billion Google Play app downloads is showing amazing growth with over 2.5 billion in the last month alone.
9:15am Google Services — sits on top of the Google Play store to provide extra services. Today Google will announce three new services.
Fused Location Provider – Enhanced Location Services that uses less than 1% of battery per hour to keep track of location. Also uses all of the sensors to enhance the accuracy. Geofencing – location based API that allows triggers based on location changes and entering / leaving a defined area. Activity Recognition – Uses the sensors to measure activity / exercise. Also low power requirements.
Single Sign-on – Now integrated with Chrome to allow Google+ Single Sign On integrated sites to push app installs to your device via pop-up app install notices.
Google Cloud Messaging – Enhanced services, upstream messages, and cross device notification acknowledgements.
9:22am Google Play Game Services — Google’s answer to Apple Game Center — but taken to the next level. Includes Cloud Save to allow cross device game saves. APIs for achievements, leaderboards, and integrates Google+ circles to track scores. Launching on Android, iOS, and web.
Multiplayer Services – Google will provide a new services to help multiplayer in games. Details are a bit thin.
Demo gods strike – unable to show the multiplayer as the network was unable to connect. With 6,000 people in a room, probably 12,000 wifi connections being attempted.
9:29am Android Studio announced — a new development environment for creating apps announced. Based on IntelliJ Idea.
9:33am Google Play Developer Console updates announced. These are huge.
Optimization Tips – give you ideas on how to optimize your app for sales (not performance) – things like countries it sells in but perhaps it isn’t optimized for. Google now has a translation service that allows you to have strings translated. Referral Tracking – Ad tracking – allows you to track what ads that drive your downloads are the most effective. Usage Metrics – Engagement metrics from Google Analytics inside the Google Play admin. Revenue Graphs – App revenue details over time. Beta Testing & Staged Rollouts – Allow testing groups inside the Play admin. Google+ Circle / Community based. Managed rollouts. This will be helpful to developers testing their apps and app updates.
9:40am Google Play Store changes (consumer facing) announcements. Personalized Recommendations – based on likes and things Circles on Google+ have plussed. Tablet Charts – Top charts showing what tablet designed apps are charting. Web Edition – Play updates coming to the web as well.
9:45am Google Music Service Announcement – New Music Service – All Access
A music service that is about music and the technology stays in the background. All Access is a uniquely Google music service.
Both expert curated recommendations, key albums, and algorithmic recommendations. You can also create a radio station based on a single song. See the upcoming songs and modify the list. “Radio without Rules”
Always search at the top. Can play an artist, album, or just a song.
You see your uploads from Google Locker as well. Can add new albums to your library. Listen Now – Stuff Google thinks you will love — recent plays – auto created radio stations, hot music.
Works on tablet, web browser, phones, etc. Price – $9.99/month in the US – launches today. $7.99/month if you start by June 30th. 30 Day free trial.
9:53am – Devices Time to announce the hardware! “This is not a device giveaway!”
Something new on the Galaxy SIV – a stock Android version of the Galaxy S IV shown. Available directly through Google Play – unlocked, T-Mobile and ATT LTE, boot loader unlocked, prompt system updates. Basically a Galaxy Nexus S IV – on sale June 26th – for $649.
9:58am – The keynote switched to Google Chrome – with 750 million active users. Lots of announcements around Google Chrome enhancements. Since mobile is our focus, we’ll leave those to others to cover.
10:19am After much excitement – the first device giveaway was announced — the $1299 Chrome Pixel has been given to all IO participants.
Apps for Education – Great Google Apps for Education announcements. Including the ability to push Play Apps (education focused of course) directly to students mobile and tablet devices. Funded by educational grants and purchase orders. Official name – Google Play for Education. Also includes curated apps for education, based on subject and student age, curated by educators.
10:30am Google+ Enhancements — many great enhancements rolling out today — a new layout reminiscent of Pinboard, enhancements to Hangouts including a dedicated Hangouts app, enhancements to photos and announcements around the idea of Google Datacenters being your new Darkroom. The auto enhancements shown are pretty spectacular, if a little over-applied in some cases.
Auto Awesome – a new photos feature that grabs a bunch of images taken at once and automatically takes them and will create animations, group photos, panoramas, HDR, and mix. It does all of this automatically by just looking at your photos.
10:57am The marathon keynote continues with a rather provocative statement “The end of search as we know it”
Google Now updated with new cards like Reminders, Public Transit, albums, books, and video game suggestions.
11:15am Google Maps updates that leaked earlier this week — time to announce them after a little history.
11:23am Update to Google Maps for Mobile coming. These include new ratings for businesses based on a 4 point scale. Oddly many of the changes to the Android version are already available in the iOS version. As a matter of fact it looks like the Android version has changed to look just like the iOS version.
11:32am Something new and revolutionary teased. The New Google Maps — built just for you, immersive imagery, and the map is the UI.
A web based, full window version of maps, as we saw leaked earlier is shown. Better focus on the map and the data included. Integration with Google+ and your friends reviews, +1s, and such.
I think the presenters definition of amazing my be different than mine. Some great changes shown when taken as a group, but any single one is hardly amazing.
11:39am Two hours, 39 minutes in. Will this keynote ever end?
Google Maps Preview Invites open up — available here.
11:45am Larry Page, CEO comes on stage. Recently announced that he has suffered vocal cord damage, speaking, fairly softly, into a microphone, the room completely quiet. Hard to do for a group of 6,000 people. Very respectful.
Larry reminisces on technology, changes in life, and the roll of technology in our daily lives.
12:30pm A marathon of a keynote. Three and a half hours capped off by a bunch of questions answered by Larry Page. But what didn’t we hear about:
Google Nexus – no new Nexus 7, no new Nexus devices at all.
Android Update – No update to Android Jelly Bean announced.
Google Glass – no real mention of the new category of devices. No update, no progress, no comercial release announced.
Google TV – no mention, whatsoever. Look for Google TV to pivot in the coming months. It’s obviously not top of mind anymore.
Google Q – the sphere / music device announced and quickly killed after IO last year. Consider it dead and Google will likely want to forget it ever existed.
Airplane simulations are always fun. They give folks like me who can’t fly aircraft an opportunity to, well, pretend to fly aircraft.
MAYDAY! Emergency Landing is cool, in that it ups the adventure quotient by not making me just a pilot, but one that has the ability to be heroic. In my own mind at least.
I liked the graphics that developer put together. Realistic coloring with defined shading made the cockpit out scenery look realistic. The screen was well used, with gauges and flight data spaced out well. The different environments and landing areas were interestingly crafted.
The controls were pretty nice. As I noted, I am not a pilot, but I assume that the beeping and flashing consoles mimicked the sounds and lights I’d expect. The accelerometer was the big piece here, with an onscreen throttle button as a permanent fixture. I liked how the flaps and landing gear buttons popped up at appropriate time, as did the buttons for braking and reversing thrust. They worked well with the onscreen gauges mentioned earlier.
The gameplay was direct; after a super-quick tutorial, I was off to the landing. There were mission-based levels, with plenty of varied conditions. On starting a landing sequence, i started in the air, already in descent towards a landing strip within view. Virtual arrows and green circles denoted the flight path, and I learned very quickly that it was a good idea to keep within the circles. I had an airspeed indicator to the right, and an altitude indicator to the left. Both glowed green when the recommended parameters were adhered to. They transformed to ominous shades of red when I was in danger; additionally, there was text and numerical values that popped up below… stuff like “faster!”. In addition, there was a helpful flight attendant that continually gave hints. These visual cues were well thought out in my opinion.
Bad landings ended up in catastrophe and opportunities to retry. Successful landings garnered a score based on lack of injuries and loss of passengers.
It’s a great game, despite the in-app purchasing system that allowed me to open up part or all of the game that could make some balk. So good, that I actually want to fly planes all the time now.