Platinum Solitaire 3 Review

Platinum Solitaire 3 Review

Aug 31, 2011

Back when I was a kid, I used to play Solitaire with real, physical cards all the time. With the advent of digital gaming technology on mobile devices, Solitaire and its many variations is easily accessible without a deck of cards and, more importantly, the need to remember rules. Platinum Solitaire 3 is a game that makes solitaire more than just a card game—it is a world adventure with cool animations and graphics. Offering a “World Tour,” Platinum Solitaire 3 effectively enters the user into a story mode that serves as a challenge to increase wealth and unlock rewards and tricks. Throughout the tour, users choose which available version of Solitaire they wish to play during the world tour as the user unlocks new games. Platinum Solitaire 3 also offers a quick play option that allows users to play outside of “World Tour” mode. While Platinum Solitaire 3 offers excellent graphics and a great story mode, it falls short in providing a qualitative gaming experience that users can ultimately find a superior experience in free versions of Solitaire games.

Gameplay in Platinum Solitaire 3 is quite similar to other digital versions of the game with a few exceptions. Each game keeps track of your time, so you know how long it took to finish. Additionally, there is a tracker that advises lets users know how many cards are left until completing the game. Those things aside, there are some hefty quirks. One of my favorite features about digital Solitaire is the auto-move, a feature that automatically places a playing card onto the ascending play pile. In Platinum Solitaire 3, users must put up with a little “Shake” animation before the auto-move actually takes place. Users do have the option of turning auto-move off, but that takes away from one of the key features of a digital solitaire game. Additionally, in-game navigational icons, such as “hint” and “undo,” are confusing. If a user is looking for help, they have to pause, which opens a menu granting the option for help.

Gamers that play Platinum Solitaire 3 will also be reminded of expensive gaming systems that require long loading times prior to gameplay. Though the graphics are enticing, they simply are not necessary for a solitaire game. Users will find their initial experience of Platinum Solitaire 3 to be flashy and fun-looking, but their opinion will quickly change as they wait for games to load due to excessive graphical use. Users will also be disappointed in the game selection on Platinum Solitaire 3, as it offers fewer versions of Solitaire than other free versions that load more quickly and efficiently.

Perhaps the greatest redeeming quality of Platinum Solitaire 3 is the gameplay tutorial each solitaire game offers. Most Solitaire games provide text-based instructions, but Platinum Solitaire 3 uses excellent videos that, by themselves, make the ninety-nine cents spent worthwhile. Users will also find Platinum Solitaire 3 enjoyable when moving columns of cards, as it offers a system that is easy to use and intuitive.

When users shop for a Solitaire game with a comprehensive list of games on the Android Market, Platinum Solitaire 3 is not necessarily the best option. If, however, a user wants a more interactive experience that offers a somewhat fun story with some challenges outside of game-play, then Platinum Solitaire 3 is a good fit for purchase. As a Solitaire multi-pack, however, Platinum Solitaire 3 does not live up to its competition. Users playing this game will likely find themselves flocking to a simpler version that does not require so many graphical animations and illustrations and offers a wider variety of Solitaire games. Purchasing Platinum Solitaire 3, ultimately, is money spent on flashy artwork that looks good, but does not enhance the game-play enough to warrant a cost.

Samsung’s Galaxy S II is Coming to the US, at Last. Here Are 5 Things to Know.

Samsung’s Galaxy S II is Coming to the US, at Last. Here Are 5 Things to Know.

Aug 31, 2011

The Samsung Galaxy S II has been out in Europe for months now, but the US is about to finally get their hands on the smartphone that has been a big seller across the pond. Here are 5 important things to know about the Galaxy S II’s launch in the US:

  • All 3 phones share similar hardware specs: 8MP rear camera with flash and 1080p video recording, 2MP front camera, 16GB memory, gyroscope, HDMI adapter support, and the Samsung Exynos dual-core 1.2GHz processor. On the software side, the phone runs Gingerbread, comes with the TouchWiz launcher, Samsung Media Hub, Samsung’s Task Manager, an easy screen capture feature by pressing power and home simultaneously (amen!), and a voice command feature called Voice Talk.
  • All of the US Galaxy S phones will be classified as “4G” phones, though the actual connection speeds will be defined by whatever the carrier defines 4G as.
  • Unlike the last generation of Galaxy S phones in the US, the phone will actually be called the Galaxy S on AT&T and T-Mobile. The Sprint variant will be called the Epic 4G Touch, and will be the first Galaxy S II phone available in the US, starting September 16th. The other carriers’ phones should be available this fall.
  • Notably missing from that list of carriers is the other major carrier in the US, Verizon. There is no word on if or when they will be offering the Galaxy S II, but this hurts Samsung’s presence in the US with making the Galaxy S line universally available, one of the strengths of the first-generation Galaxy S phones. TheDroidGuy points out that this may be because Verizon classifies LTE as 4G, and there’s no LTE-capable Galaxy S II model yet.
  • The phones all share the same 800×480 AMOLED screen, though T-Mobile and Sprint are using a 4.5″ screen. AT&T’s going slightly smaller, with a 4.3″ screen that is the same as the international variant, and the battery they’re using is 1650 mAh versus T-Mobile and Sprint’s 1800 mAh batteries. This will also make the AT&T phone thinner, though.
  • Source: Engadget

    SportCaster Brings Sports and Twitter Together Just in Time for Football Season

    SportCaster Brings Sports and Twitter Together Just in Time for Football Season

    Aug 31, 2011

    Football season is about to be upon us! This is opposed to football news season, where young men playing a dangerous game for well below market value are scolded for being caught taking extra money or selling their awards, and where billionaires argue with millionaires about how they should properly divide pennies amongst themselves. No, the time for actual gridiron-crunching football is just about on us! OneLouder, developers of TweetCaster, have introduced a new kind of Twitter app to help football fans take in all the analysis, commentary, and even the snark that is posted on Twitter about their favorite sport.

    SportCaster offers 5 sections for users to explore: Conversation, where users can get the latest tweets from analysts, experts, and athletes, and filter by specific terms to focus on specific comments. By default, general experts are listed, though users can also add experts and fans for specific teams as well. There’s a scoreboard view to keep abreast on all the latest scores, and can click on a specific game to get the latest tweets from experts on both teams. The Schedule view allows users to look in advance at teams’ games, and to view the chatter about the two teams. Standings is just a basic view of the recent standings and rankings of each league. Finally, there’s a Fantasy section, where users can search for information and advice that will help benefit their fantasy football teams.

    This isn’t just an app for tweet consumption without contribution, though. Twitter is all about conversation, and sharing, so SportCaster includes options to reply and retweet tweets discovered in the app. Right now, SportCaster only supports pro and college football, but over the next year as the other pro and college leagues start up, they will be added to the app as well. SportCaster is available now for iOS and for Android.

    Sonic CD Comes to Android, Game to be Distributed Digitally and Ironically

    Sonic CD Comes to Android, Game to be Distributed Digitally and Ironically

    Aug 31, 2011

    Sonic CD is coming back! This Sonic title, released for the ill-fated Genesis add-on Sega CD, is being given a modern re-release by Sega, in part because it introduces Sonic franchise mainstays Amy Rose and Metal Sonic, the latter having a connection to the modern Sonic 4 series. The most surprising part of this announcement, and the reason why this is being reported on an Android site? The game is going to be made available on Android, as well as the consoles and the iOS App Store.

    This represents Sega’s first major foray into Android gaming, and this is an interesting choice for Sega’s first Android game. The game is running on the Retro engine, developed by a member of the Sonic community named Christian “The Taxman” Whitehead, who designed a proof of concept back in 2009 of the game running on his Retro engine, which is designed specifically to play like classic Sonic games. This means that the game is not an emulation, this is a port, meaning the game should have proper support for widescreen phones, and no worries about incorrect physics like with Sonic 4: Episode 1.

    The game itself is particularly notable for its time-travel gameplay mechanic; each act contains Past and Future variants that the player can travel to by passing Past and Future lampposts and then running fast enough to activate the time travel. Each time had its own music and differences in levels, and some actions undertaken in the past or present would have an impact on future versions of the level. Players that detonate the robot generators in the Past and return to the Future will make it a Good Future that is bright and colorful as opposed to the bleak darkness that normally fills the Bad Future. Getting Good Futures in both of the first two acts of a zone makes the third act, a boss fight, a Good Future automatically. As well, the game introduces Metal Sonic and Amy Rose into the Sonic canon for the first time.

    This version of Sonic CD will also feature the original Japanese soundtrack and not the alternate US soundtrack. While the members of the Sonic community who realize that there was a difference generally fall in favor of the Japanese soundtrack, the American soundtrack is a nostalgic part of my childhood, so hopefully it is added as DLC in the future; right now it is not in the game due to licensing issues.

    Sonic CD will be available on a variety of platforms, including consoles, PC, and mobile platforms by the end of the year, and a review will definitely be up on Android Rundown when it comes out.

    Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles Review

    Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles Review

    Aug 30, 2011

    Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles is a mobile MMORPG from Spacetime Studios that may be technically the game that has had the longest development cycle in mobile gaming. Though the game was originally meant for traditional computer platforms, it got stuck in development hell and was only recently unearthed after the launch of last year’s Pocket Legends. This game uses a similar backbone, supporting play between users of different platforms, including iOS and Android players.

    Star Legends‘ story has players taking on various missions for several corporations aboard the Blackstar spaceship. Players choose from three classes: the hulking Commando, the skill-based Engineer, and the Operative that primarily targets single enemies. The combat system involves an auto-firing weapon, and skills that the player can map on the main screen. Star Legends is free to play, with Platinum available for purchase that can be used to obtain additional money, items, and enhancements. Star Legends is thankfully built for mobile gaming; it is very easy to just log in and go to a mission, with players joining as they may. The game also offers options for friends lists and Guild management for deeper and more organized play sessions. Still, this is a game that can be played very casually on a whim for short play sessions. Don’t be afraid to leave the house!

    However, Star Legends‘ cross-platform gameplay is perhaps its greatest strength; players can load up any client that the game runs on, be it an iOS device or an Android device, phone or tablet, using their same character and platinum when logged in to the same Spacetime Studios account. This platform agnosticism is perhaps the most impressive part of Star Legends; the game just works, no matter what system.

    This is a free to play game; while not spending money is certainly an option, Star Legends is not afraid to give advantages to those who do spend money. By spending money, players can easily earn additional experience, boost their stats, and even get better items at the very beginning. This may put some people off right away, though nothing is necessary. Combat can be very finnicky at times, especially targeting special abilities. If the enemy targeted when an ability is used suddenly dies, the next enemy isn’t targeted, leading much ability usage to go to waste. While mashing the attack button to lock on works as well, it just doesn’t feel as clean. It is possible at times for enemies to overwhelm players to the point where it is impossible to respawn without enemies instantly killing the player. This is supremely annoying, to say the least. The game seems to have limited amounts of gameplay past level 25, though it is likely that Spacetime Studios will add more in the way of content as time goes on, especially as they supported Pocket Legends long after release.

    Star Legends is as much a feat of technical impressiveness as it also successful as a casual MMORPG experience. This is a genre that is teeming with potential, but thanks in part to games just wanting to directly copy World of Warcraft, has become stale, and overly demanding of players. Getting more of a short-burst gameplay experience, and feeling like I don’t need to be overly committed to a game is rather refreshing.

    3D Game Converter Coming to LG Optimus 3D

    3D Game Converter Coming to LG Optimus 3D

    Aug 30, 2011

    While the actual long-term viability of 3D is still in question, consumer electronics producers are just trucking along with the production of devices with 3D capability. LG has a phone of their own that will feature a 3D screen, the LG Optimus 3D. The problem of course with 3D devices is getting quality 3D content, of course. LG is hoping to increase the amount of 3D content on their phone with the 3D Game Converter. This app will convert certain games from displaying in 2D to displaying in 3D on the LG Optimus 3D’s display.

    A selection of 50 games will be available by the end of October that will support the 3D Game Converter with 50 more planned to be supported through the converter by year’s end; no games specifically have been announced that will support the 3D Game Converter, but LG says that some certain unlisted games that run in OpenGL will support the converter by specifically enabling them in the app’s options. This might mean that only games that run in OpenGL will be officially supported. Thankfully, the converter will support the games that are already available on the Android Market and on other app stores, instead of requiring brand new versions of the game.

    LG’s 3D Technology Evangelist, Dr. Henry Nho, describes the 3D Game Converter as “far from being a gimmick, LG’s 3D Game Converter automatically recognizes the depth information based on the location of each object and separates the 2D graphic images for each eye. Using the existing depth information, the 3D Game Converter generates two different images – one for the foreground and one for the background. It then uses a thin film called Parallax Barrier on the display to show the left image to the left eye and the right image to the right eye, creating an illusion of visual depth.” LG claims that they have filed for patents on their 3D Game Converter, so similar products for other 3D phones may not be in the works, though the possibility of the converter being reworked to support other 3D phones in an unofficial capacity through the very clever Android community is always possible. The LG Optimus 3D starts rolling out to cariers in October, and the 3D Game Converter with it.

    Source: Talk Android

    The HP TouchPad Gets Closer to Being a Real Android Device With CyanogenMod 7

    The HP TouchPad Gets Closer to Being a Real Android Device With CyanogenMod 7

    Aug 30, 2011

    The HP TouchPad may have been killed, but its soul lives on, particularly in the hands of those looking for cheap tablets. Those crafty geeks that exist out there in the shadowy corners of the internet have set to work in making sure that those TouchPads don’t quite become obsolete eventually. What better way to make the TouchPad useful than to make it run Android? Well, right now, the TouchPad is running Android…sort of. CyanogenMod 7 is running on a TouchPad, as seen in the demo video below, but right now, it is in such an unfinished and unstable state that not even the touchscreen on the device works when booting it. In short, this is still a very rough work in progress, and this isn’t even going to turn the TouchPad into a Honeycomb tablet until that OS’s source code is released, and with Ice Cream Sandwich on the horizon, we may have to wait for that. But this is a start to something that could help turn the TouchPad into a device its users use for a long time after its seeming death.

    Source: Phandroid

    Tetris Free Comes to the Android Market

    Tetris Free Comes to the Android Market

    Aug 30, 2011

    EA is increasing their experimentation with free games on Android, after releasing an ad-supported version of Scrabble recently. Now, Tetris is available in a free capacity for Android. Tetris Free features only one game mode, the traditional Marathon mode that’s likely the most popular of all Tetris modes. As well, the game features ads that display before the game starts and on the top of the screen during gameplay. Unlike Scrabble Free on Android, Tetris is designed in part to upsell the paid version that currently exists on the Android Market.

    It will be interesting to see if this proves to be EA’s preferred distribution method for games on Android from here on out; while these last two releases have been free to play, they haven’t involved in-app purchases in any way. Will EA games go down this road in the near future? Time will only tell. Tetris Free is now available from the Android Market.

    Save Toshi Review

    Save Toshi Review

    Aug 29, 2011

    After it’s discovered that a demon dies every time mega-popstar Toshi dances, the demons kidnap her to ensure that she never shakes her hips again! Before the world becomes overrun with hellspawn, someone needs to get her to the dance floor.

    By firing tennis balls, you can topple pillars, move blocks and rotate set pieces to help push, slide and fling Toshi onto the dance floor. Solve the puzzle under a par number of shots, and you’ve got yourself a perfect score. Save Toshi’s puzzles get very challenging, and there are some I’m still not sure how to solve. Some require just one, carefully aimed shot while others require multiple, rapid shots. And then, there’s always the element of chaos, just to keep you guessing.

    While saving the world requires saving Toshi, it also requires listening to her banter. In some cases, simply resisting the urge to fling tennis balls at her head can be the hardest part of the game. “It’s good to be back,” Toshi says, after I accidentally knock her into the water. “Are you blind?” she demands to know, after accidentally striking her with a tennis ball. “I’m alive! It’s a miracle!” she says after sliding off an ice platform and drowning, once again. Then, as she gets flung into the air, screaming, “SAYONARA!” I can’t help but laugh. As she coughs and sputters before exclaiming, “I think I swallowed some water,” while her voice tends towards a more annoying blend of Pikachu and Carol Kane (especially if you recall Kane’s role in the movie Scrooged), I find it impressive that the developers gave her such a variety of reactions. Thankfully, they also included the option to turn her voice off, if you’ve decided you’ve had enough.

    Before you go rushing off to install Save Toshi, however, you should know a few things that happen outside of the game. Things like a notification ad that pops up, asking if you’d like to install other games and an app called “Heyzap” which would appear to be an OpenFeint-like social gaming network. While I really don’t mind in-game advertisements for a free game, this all seemed to go over the top, in my opinion.

    Other considerations to take into account include the graphics being slightly stretched to fit the resolution of an Android screen — this is an iOS port, after all. And while the first level pack, consisting of 20 levels, is free, you can purchase the remaining 4 pack for a total of US$2.99. Thankfully, it relies on the Android Market’s in-app purchasing system, so it worked without a hitch. Alternatively, you can get the whole game for free by going through the built-in Tapjoy offer-wall.

    Despite the odd ad placements, this really is a fun game. And keep in mind, you won’t even see the ads if you purchase the additional level packs. So, if you’re looking for some eccentric, physics-based puzzle fun, this might be the game for you. Save Toshi, save the world.


    The Hills Are Greener: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Villainy?

    The Hills Are Greener: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Villainy?

    Aug 29, 2011

    Cloning has been a hot-button issue in mobile gaming as of late; games that lift their art and game concepts wholesale from either popular games or games on other platforms. This is especially an issue on Android, where the less restrictive policies of the Android Market make it easier for apps of dubious legality, though even Apple’s stringent review process has led to several games that are blatant rip-offs of other games.

    In many of these cases, the best solution for the infringed has been to just jump on to the platform where the infringement is occuring, in order to capitalize on the interest there. There were numerous illegitimate clones of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Fruit Ninja on Android before their official launches. Flash developer Halfbot made their own version of The Blocks Cometh after EdisonGame ripped them off by releasing their own identically-titled game on the iOS App Store which also used a character sprite from another Flash game, League of Evil. Vlambeer, developers of Radical Fishing, are releasing a sequel for iOS after the game Ninja Fishing lifted the core gameplay almost wholesale from Radical Fishing. As well, they’re working with Halfbot to bring their other Flash game Super Crate Box to the iOS App Store.

    I’ve had discussions with developers on the ‘cloned’ side of the cloning discussion, and while there is both disappointment and outrage over the violations, there’s also a despair over the fact that not much could be done about it. Either the games are just dissimilar enough to make legal claims non-pursuable, or the legal battle would likely be costlier than the possible money that could be made from a case. Many of these developers are trapped, because their games are ripe for the picking to be repurposed on mobile platforms by developers looking for an easy buck.

    While the morality of cloning has come into question, especially when no specific art assets are re-used, it has led to an interesting discussion. What is it about game concepts that makes them more disposable and ripe for lifting than when art is stolen from these games? One could make a case that a game like Angry Birds isn’t really all that different from the Ninja Fishing debacle on iOS, because Angry Birds shares many similar mechanics with other physics puzzlers. What makes Ninja Fishing so bad in comparision? Game concepts are so intangible, and the language so indefinite that it is difficult to even discuss properly.

    But these are things that must be discussed, because they are very important. Mobile gaming is becoming big business, and when independent developers are ripped off, it only hurts the reputation of mobile platforms. While the gatekeepers need to do a better job at preventing these apps of dubious copyright status to appear, is there anything that can be done about cloning? Or is there any way to properly define cloning at all? If not, then is there any good way to say that it’s wrong?

    Reckless Getaway Review

    Reckless Getaway Review

    Aug 26, 2011

    I’m more of a demolition derby kind of guy when it comes to racing games. Running a track backwards, causing pile-ups and watching chaos ensue are a lot more fun to me than the constant striving towards perfection, as you race a tighter line and attempt to shave fractions of a second off your record. Thankfully, there’s none of that in Reckless Getaway. It’s all about over-the-top stunts and crash-’em-up action.

    There are two different ways to play this game. The first is Getaway mode, where you’re the wheelman in a bank heist, attempting to outrun the cops at any cost. But the focus isn’t on how fast you can go, it’s squarely on collecting loot, using power-ups and performing stunts as you attempt to break through the road block at the end of each level. There’s also plenty of crashing and smashing going on, but you run a high risk of turning your car into a twisted, burning wreck. Times aren’t important; the only thing that matters is getting to the end while causing as much damage and racking up as many points as possible.

    The other way to play is Wreckless mode, where the emphasis is fully on destroying everything in your path from the cab of a semi-truck. It’s similar to Getaway except that the cops aren’t hounding your every move. Your truck isn’t indestructible, but it can certainly take more of a pounding while dishing out plenty of hurt to everyone else on the road. It’s a great mode to play, if you’re tired of being blown to smithereens and want to exact some heavy metal revenge.

    Where Reckless Getaway really shines is in the graphics and sound department. The game just looks phenomenal. The top-down, 3D perspective is set back just far enough that you can see all of the action without the cars appearing small enough to get lost in the details. The most impressive aspect, however, is the sound of the game. Every bump, scrape and crash comes right through, lending some credibility to the environment and making for a much more immersive experience. I was particularly impressed by the deep growl of the car’s engine and exhaust note, as well as the sound of the truck revving up to speed in Wreckless mode.

    One flaw in the game comes at the very beginning, when you first start it up. Reckless Getaway has to download content before you can play it. I won’t fault the game for this unfortunate approach to content updating, but it was an annoying, unexpected delay that lasted a few minutes, at least. The game assures you that this is a “one time only” process, and while some users have reported crashes during this process, I experienced no such thing. It was a minor annoyance, at worst.

    Reckless Getaway is a great looking game that offers a sincere level of fun with plenty of challenge and high-speed thrills.


    Freaky Friday – For You

    Freaky Friday – For You

    Aug 26, 2011

    You might think that Freaky Friday is a cynical column. One that goes out of its way to find the very worst things in the Android Market, just so it can pour scorn on them from a very great height, laughing at their ineptitudes and rubbing their faces into the mucky sputum of their ambition. You’d be right as well.

    This week’s app proves that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, some people should not be allowed to be left to their own devices. It’s a recipe for trouble, and that trouble, in this case, has manifested itself as poetry. Poetry for Stephanie.

    By the looks of things, some poor soul has decided to express their love for Stephanie via the medium of a publicly accessible marketplace. That same poor soul also decided that the best way to express that love, is an acrostic. There are no words that can describe how bizarre this app is.

    You’re treated to a sickly sweet picture of hearts and love and other nonsense, along the top of which, emblazoned in glittery pink letters, is the name Stephanie. Click on each individual letter and you’ll be treated to an amazing poem about how Stephanie is great and moves planets with her loveliness.

    After the poem has been fully displayed, and you’ve let its imagery of dancing moons and stars and other crap wash over you, you tap again, and get a picture of a rose. Awwww. Hearts melt, true love exists, vomit, vomit, vomit.

    Part of me thinks that as I type this, For You is installing malware onto my phone, which is one of the reasons I’ve not linked to it below. The rest of me hopes with all of my heart that this is real, that someone thought the best way to make Stephanie fall in love with him was to make her an app.

    If you’re Stephanie, and you’re reading this, please, get in touch. I have to know if this worked.

    UPDATE: Before I got a chance to get screenshots to For You, it was taken off the Market. This makes me think it was real. O. M. G.