Eskimo Tower Defense Review

Eskimo Tower Defense Review

Jul 29, 2011

There are two basic types of tower defense game. The first type provides open maps that force the player to create a maze within the confines of the map that keeps the enemies in range of your towers for as long as possible. The second type has the enemies moving along a fixed path, forcing the player to set up towers at strategic points on that path to dispatch enemies as efficiently as possible. Generally speaking, I find the first type far more enjoyable than the second. There are a few exceptions to that rule, and Eskimo Tower Defense is one of them.

Eskimo Tower Defense tasks the player with setting up towers (in this case, Eskimos) along a fixed path to defeat the incoming waves of monsters. The problem with many fixed-path tower defense games is that the level design has to be really strong to keep the game interesting. A predictable path can make it very easy to set up adequate defenses to deal with any situation. Eskimo Tower Defense contains some very well-designed levels that force the player to plan very carefully for each incoming wave.

The controls make setting up your Eskimos a breeze. Placing each Eskimo right where you want them can be a little twitchy, but the game forces you to confirm your choice before actually placing it, making it impossible to accidentally misplace an Eskimo.

The challenge provided by each level ramps up at a good pace, and as you make your way to some of the later levels, you’ll have to place, and upgrade your Eskimos carefully in order to keep up with the onslaught of enemies. The path the enemies take won’t always be clear, and you may have to think on your feet to place a few last-second Eskimos to keep up with the waves of monsters.

Eskimo Tower defense isn’t perfect; the graphics and sound are overly simple, and a little diversity in the types of Eskimos available to you would have been nice. Still, if you’re looking for a good tower defense game for your Android device, Eskimo Tower Defense is the game for you.

Freaky Friday – FountainDrink

Freaky Friday – FountainDrink

Jul 29, 2011

If, like me, you won’t leave the house unless you’re certain that a specific brand of soft drink is waiting for you at your chosen restaurant/slop hole, then this week’s Freaky Friday app could be just what you’re looking for. Unless you don’t live in America, in which case, please stick around for the misguided attempts at humour and the pictures at the end.

FountainDrink is an app that lists a few of the major brand soft drinks, and then tells you whether or not you can pick them up at major brand restaurants throughout the US. Instead of doing this in a way that’s pleasing on the eye, it decides that ugly menus and poorly designed user interfaces are the way forward.

It’s weird, because the app could actually be useful if it gave more useful information. No one ever got to a restaurant, sat down, looked at the menu and then decided to leave because they couldn’t get Sprite. At least, I hope that’s never happened, but I have been wrong before.

Few Freaky Friday apps have potential, but if FountainDrink offered a more comprehensive service, then it might actually become a useful tool. I, for one, like to know what’s on the menu before I head out into the wilds of the food world. Forewarned is forearmed. And having forearms is important.

As it is, FountainDrink is a pointless little thing, drifiting along in the highways and byways of the Android Market, unloved and ignored by most. Maybe, if you’re the sort of person who only drinks a specific type of carbonated beverage, you might find some use for it. Then again, if you’re the sort of person who only drinks a specific type of carbonated beverage, you probably already know which restaurants sell it. Because you’re weird.

FountainDrink is available now, for free, from the Android Market.

Hyperlight Review

Hyperlight Review

Jul 29, 2011

In the far future, spaceships will be made from geometric neon shapes that will drift around cornered off sections of the cosmos, causing havoc to any unsuspecting gamer who accidentally stumbles in. This future history lesson is brought to you by Hyperlight, a new tilt controlled Geometry Wars clone for your Android phone.

Hyperlight is a joy to look at, a mix of deep blacks and vibrant neon angles that really make the screen of your phone come alive. That visual stimulus is backed up by some pretty solid gameplay as well, although there are a few niggles to contend with along the way.

As with almost all tilt control titles, the tilting isn’t quite perfect. If you start a game with your device held at one angle, you’re not going to be able to change that base angle until the game’s over. More often than not, that shouldn’t be a problem, but it does mean Hyperlight can’t really be enjoyed in the cramped confines of a train or a bus.

Once you get past the controls, there’s an awful lot of fun to be had with Hyperlight. In some ways, it feels like tilt control is the perfect method for dodging around space, doing your utmost not to get blown into a thousand pretty, sparkly pixels. You move your spaceship around the screen, grabbing power ups and avoiding the angry attentions of the hordes of other enemies floating around the infinite vacuum of space.

Hyperlight is one of those games that manages to blend old school playability with modern good looks and sharp programming. Even the tilt controls, once you’ve got used to them, aren’t as difficult or cumbersome as they are in other titles. If you’re looking for a good, old fashioned space-faring sim with a twist, then you could do a lot worse than downloading Hyperlight.

PapayaMobile to Bring BulkyPix Games to Android

PapayaMobile to Bring BulkyPix Games to Android

Jul 29, 2011

Prolific iOS publisher BulkyPix are coming to Android with the help of social gaming service Papaya, and will be bringing their products to a wide international market. PapayaMobile will be initially bringing BulkyPix titles Saving Private Sheep, A Moon for the Sky, and Hills of Glory: WWII to Android. The titles will take advantage of Papaya’s social gaming features and in-app currency systems. As well, the games will be coming to the growing Chinese app markets, thanks to PapayaMobile’s “Gateway to China” program to localize games for the Chinese market. According to PapayaMobile CEO Si Shen, “We’re dedicated to continuously expanding the already great content available on the Papaya social network, hence BulkyPix is a natural partner for us.” Oliver Pierre, CEO of BulkyPix, adds: “Working with Papaya will provide us with access to the Chinese market and localisation services, as well as local knowledge and expertise. Our releases on Papaya will also directly benefit from Papaya’s global social network. We’re excited about releasing our games to 22 million people that love social mobile games.”

Verizon launches VZ Navigator VX Navigation Service

Verizon launches VZ Navigator VX Navigation Service

Jul 29, 2011

Verizon users can now access a new navigation feature through their phones, as the nation’s largest mobile carrier has launched VZ Navigator VX. This new navigation service offers not just standard mapping and navigation services, it also offers other features to improve navigation. “Smart Routes” with real-time route updates (updating every 60 seconds) will offer detours and notifying of upcoming traffic. This service also offers turn by turn voice directions, that will also work while the app is running in the background. The app also claims to offer real road signs and road views, so users will know of things like upcoming lane changes, which will help with the app’s navigation services. As well, users can share their location with their Facebook friends as well as users of My Place. VZ Navigator VX is available now for Verizon users, with a 30 day trial available, and the service is available for $9.99/month. VZ Navigator VX can be downloaded by visiting this website, or by scanning this QR code below.

Theme Thursday – Solace

Theme Thursday – Solace

Jul 28, 2011

As I delve deeper into the list of themes I’ve been choosing from for Theme Thursday, I find myself steering further away from gimmicks and more towards uniform color schemes and imagery that helps pull a theme together. In other words, a theme that simply changes the icons into funny pictures or novelty items isn’t going to cut it. I want something that catches the eye. Solace, a custom theme for ADW Launcher, does just that.

If you’ve never heard of ADW Launcher, it’s a home screen replacement utility that allows you to customize nearly every aspect of your Android device’s graphical user interface through custom ADW Launcher themes, like Solace. Icon sets, wallpapers, dockbars and even the way the app drawer behaves are all easy to customize through ADW Launcher’s settings.

This week’s theme, Solace, comes with striking wallpapers that show off their tones of orange and purple that really grab your attention. The colors clash just enough to make the background stick out, but blend together in unexpected ways. It’s almost like an oxymoron — how can these two, seemingly opposite colors that are completely at odds with each other help bring about a sense of unity? As I look at the designs, I realize that this is a visual representation of what the world “solace” means: comfort in a time of distress.

It’s no coincidence that even the abstract shapes and objects are set against dark, rigid lines. Two elements that shouldn’t go together, yet here they are in harmony.

The color scheme continues into the more than 250 icons that are included with the theme, showing off colorful silhouettes against a dotted background. As each of these elements come together, you get a sense of “one from many,” a prevailing idea displayed in a beautiful, mesmerizing way.

Solace is available on the Android Market for US$1.49. The clock widgets being used in the screenshots are Tajm and Clockr. Both are free.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Comes to International Xperia Play Devices

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Comes to International Xperia Play Devices

Jul 28, 2011

The Xperia Play is getting even more games being released for it, with the latest being a flagship first-person shooter from EA, Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The game, originally released for iOS last year, and reviewed 3.5/5 stars by sister site 148Apps, features a lengthy single-player campaign of 14 missions that traverse the globe and have players taking down bad guys with a variety of weapons. The game will naturally support the Xperia Play’s built-in gaming controls for improved shooting precision. According to Dominic Neil-Dwyer, Head of Market Development, Sony Ericsson says, “As Xperia™ PLAY becomes available in more markets across the world, the portfolio of games continues to grow and so we’re delighted to announce the availability of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for Xperia™ PLAY. We aim to give consumers the best possible gaming experience on a smartphone and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for Xperia PLAY is the latest title from EA to bring one of the most popular gaming franchises to our consumers. Watch this space for updates on more content coming!”

What is unclear from reports is if the online multiplayer mode from the iOS version is in the game, though the lack of mention of it anywhere seems to indicate that it might not be. We will update when we get a definitive answer. As well, the game is not available in the US, as it’s only available in the international Xperia Play-specific store. There’s also no word on a US or general Android release of the game yet. However, with the Xperia Play coming to more carriers in the US, it could continue to be a major player with Android gaming, or at least Sony Ericsson is definitely pushing to make the platform a viable contender with the Android gaming scene. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is available for international Xperia Play devices for £5.

Android Tablet Twitter App Rundown

Android Tablet Twitter App Rundown

Jul 28, 2011

Having just acquired an Android tablet (the Motorola Xoom), my first goal? Find some worthy Twitter apps to download so I could get my tweet on! Finding these apps was difficult, in part because the phone apps are listed the same with tablet apps, and there’s no easy distinction between non-tablet and tablet-optimized apps. After some searching and vigorous testing, here is a rundown on the basics of some tablet-compatible apps, and some phone apps’ usability on tablets.

TweetComb: This app features a multiple column interface similar to TweetDeck’s desktop and iPad incarnations. The three columns list the main timeline, mentions, and direct messages, with a separate page for list viewing. There’s no pull-to-refresh, though there is a refresh button for each column, and a button to snap to the top. The app supports notifications, but does not support any kind of picture or video uploading. None at all.

TweetCaster: This app eschews the multiple column display for a single column of tweets. The application supports inline previews of media and conversation views, which is the strength of the app. The app lacks any kind of snap to top feature in the tablet version, and exiting the app kicks it out to the phone version with seemingly no way to revert to the tablet version. As soon as that glitch popped up, I found myself not returning to this app.

Plume: This app blends features of both multi and single column apps; in landscape mode the app is a multiple column interface, shifting to a single column mode when a tweet is tapped, and offering a larger display of the selected tweet. The app also supports a single column mode for portrait display. This is probably my preferred application going forward, and as it provides the most and best-working features of other apps I’ve tried.

The phone-optimized apps also work, and for those who want to view a lot of tweets at a time, then Twitter for Android and TweetDeck work well for this purpose, though their interfaces are hardly optimized for tablets. Still, these apps have a lot of features, and could be useful on tablets for power users.

Have I missed a worthy tablet app for tweeting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or send a tweet to @AndroidRundown!

Cut the Rope Comics Coming From Ape Entertainment

Cut the Rope Comics Coming From Ape Entertainment

Jul 27, 2011

Om Nom’s campaign of candy consumption is about to extend even further. Ape Entertainment has announced that they are turning the lovable protagonist of ZeptoLab’s mobile gaming franchise Cut the Rope into a comic book series, to be published by them. The goal of the comic series will be to help expand the story of the franchise, and to show where Om Nom came from. Ape Entertainment are familiar with turning apps into comics, as shown by the Pocket God comics that have come out. The art for the comics will be done by experienced artists Antonio Alfaro (known for his work on Fairly OddParents) and Ricardo Garcia, who are inking the series of 12 issues that should start rolling out over the next year, starting in August. The comics will be distributed digitally, initially through an app for iOS; an Android version is not confirmed yet. A trade paperback version is possible, as has been seen with the Pocket God comics. For more information on the upcoming comic, listen to the latest episode of The Portable Podcast, recorded at the Ape Entertainment booth at Comic-Con. As well, some plush toys of Om Nom will be released starting this September.

PowerSkin Review

PowerSkin Review

Jul 26, 2011

These days, I’m getting more usage out of my Droid X than ever before, and it’s all thanks to a gadget called PowerSkin — a rugged, soft-silicone casing with a built-in battery pack that keeps your phone charged while keeping it safe from abrasions and sudden impacts.

Prior to using the PowerSkin, I was getting about 10 – 12 hours of battery life before needing to scramble for a power-outlet. Depending on usage, some days I’d get much less than that. In the best usage case scenario, I was on vacation a few weeks ago, shooting pictures, texting, tweeting, making a few short phone calls, using the GPS and looking up information online. Even while using maximum power saver mode, the battery only lasted about 8 hours. That’s pretty good for how heavily I was using it, but it was still stone cold dead long before we were done having fun. With the PowerSkin, I’m certain it would have lasted much longer.

Despite its awesome power, one downside to the PowerSkin is that it’s very bulky, almost doubling the thickness of the phone while adding a little more weight. The overall width is also increased. In a way, this is a good thing, because it means the case will absorb plenty of shock energy during an impact. However, this is also an annoyance; I had a tough enough time slipping the phone in and out of my jeans’ pocket before PowerSkin; with PowerSkin, forget it. My other concern is that the lip at the top of the case doesn’t extend over the front of the phone enough to hold it in place during an impact. This is the one area where the case seems to have the least amount of grip on the phone, and while I don’t think it’ll pop out, it bothers me that it could.

Finally, it’s great that you don’t have to remove the phone to charge the PowerSkin, but I’ve discovered an odd behavior. While charging the PowerSkin with the phone inside, if the phone’s battery is low enough to draw external power, it constantly behaves as though you are inserting and removing the power cable every second. I don’t like this, at all. It seems to take much longer to charge both devices and I’m concerned that it might damage something to continually go through that cycle. As such, I’ve gotten into the habit of charging the devices separately if they are each significantly drained. Otherwise, I charge the PowerSkin with the phone inside without any problems.

Regardless of these minor issues, I find that I’m very pleased with the performance of the PowerSkin. Compared to other external power devices I’ve purchased, the PowerSkin outperforms them all. I get the security of a rugged, good looking case without the need to carry any additional peripherals. Because of that, I highly recommend the PowerSkin to anyone looking to get more use out of their phone.

For more information on the PowerSkin, and to see if one is available for your phone, simply visit Power-Skin.com.

Curvy Review

Curvy Review

Jul 26, 2011

If you’ve read any of my previous work on this site, you know I’m a big fan of puzzle games on the Android platform. Puzzle games don’t require fast reflexes or a great deal of time to play, and that makes them perfect for short bursts of play when you’re on the go.

Curvy does a great job of providing bite-sized puzzle gameplay perfectly suited to mobile devices. You specify the number of tiles you want to use, whether you want the lines to come in one color, two colors, or two colors with a high density of lines, and Curvy will present you with a grid full of hexes. Each hex has some lines and curves on it, and your job is to make sure each line is connected to another line.

While that concept sounds simple, actually getting all the hexes to line up can be a real challenge. That’s partially due to the twisting lines and shapes on each piece, and partially due to the fact that there’s no predetermined shape you have to fit the pieces into. The lack of a bigger picture to chase after can be frustrating at times, but the nature of the game allows for an infinite number of puzzles, which more than makes up for that lack of direction.

Curvy’s only real shortcomings come from its minimalist presentation. The game offers settings for the colors of the lines, background color of each hex, and the background of the screen, but no matter how you adjust the settings, the game still looks extremely plain. It doesn’t detract from the gameplay, but it’s definitely worth taking into consideration before making a purchase.

Aside from the simple presentation, Curvy is a great game worth checking out if you’re a fan of puzzle games. It’s challenging, and the potential for replay value is extremely high, given the near endless number of variations each puzzle can come in.

Developers Can Now Upload Multiple APKs for a Single App on Android Market

Developers Can Now Upload Multiple APKs for a Single App on Android Market

Jul 26, 2011

Ah, fragmentation. The issue that continues to be bandied about as everything that is wrong about Android, because it is still a problem. Google is now offering a way for developers to work around this, by allowing developers to upload multiple APK files for a single app.

What this means is that a developer can upload an APK for an app that is optimized for certain device resolutions or features. For example, an APK that supports wider resolutions specifically, and features art assets for that resolution, can be made available. Apps that are designed for tablet resolution and features can be uploaded as well, and these will all be under the exact same app listing, so the process is hopefully invisible to users, and features the benefit of all remaining under the same Android Market listing. As Eric Chu of the Android Developer Ecosystem says, “When you upload multiple APK files, Android Market handles them as part of a single product listing that aggregates the app details, ratings, and comments across the APKs. All users who browse your app’s details page see the same product with the same description, branding assets, screenshots, video, ratings, and comments. Android Market also aggregates the app’s download statistics, reviews, and billing data across all of the APKs.”

This means that developers can address fragmentation issues directly, instead of trying to shoehorn in support for a variety of devices in one single APK that gets uploaded to the Android Market. Tablet support can now be more easily added in to games that may have had trouble with support for tablets due to file size limitations; Battleheart is a notable example of an app that could take advantage of this. While this is a lot more work for developers in some facets, this could help address many of the issues facing the platform and fragmentation, in a way that is both advantageous to the consumer and developers. Consumers get more apps that work properly on their devices, and developers have the ability to support a variety of devices in a way that is invisible to users.

Source: Phandroid