Seal Force Review

Seal Force Review

Dec 30, 2011

So here’s a unique combo: line drawing combined with an endless runner. Seal Force puts players in control of the eponymous team of seals, who are out to defeat the evil Krillian and his Krill Army. In what can be described as a glaring error on Krill’s part, his armies are susceptible to damage by the three members of Seal Force by matching up the color of each seal to the enemy unit. The enemies keep coming leftward, and the player must draw paths to attack the enemies coming at them. Powerups can be picked up, such as one that allows all 3 seals to attack at once (normally, only one seal can be out attacking at a time), or gives the seals more powerful attacks. Golden clamshells can be collected, which can be spent on upgrades.

The game takes some getting used to; particularly, learning how to manage the timing of the seal’s attacks, and how to draw the lines for where the enemies will be, not where they are when the seal is sent out. It takes time, but the game gets more engaging as it goes on. It is free to play, using the Jetpack Joyride (a game which really should be on Android at this point) model of low cost of entry, but then selling currency in the game. There are objectives which help provide a sense of progression, as well as bonus money.

Now, I have no problem with the free to play model at its heart, and think it’s a great model for Android, where users are more skittish to spend money. But selling an unlimited money IAP for over $100? That seems a bit ridiculous. The pace feels really slow at first, and sessions do take several minutes to play. The game’s tablet support is rather iffy – the game seems to contain low-resolution art assets and runs at a slower frame rate on the Xoom; it lacks the ability to shift it into “Zoom to fill screen” mode as it likely was meant to run native on tablets.

Seal Force is a better take on implementing line drawing/path management than Spy Mouse did; the on-the-fly planning that is necessary is what makes it work well. There’s those moments where I feel like I have a master plan with the seals, that I know when and where I’m going to use each one as new hazards pop up, and that’s when I know that this is a pretty darn good game, that little spark of genius.

Are You Watching This? Brings New Ways to Watch and Follow Sports

Are You Watching This? Brings New Ways to Watch and Follow Sports

Dec 30, 2011

Sports have exploded in popularity the past decade, bolstered in part by expanding cable and satellite lineups that allow no atheltic competion in any quasi-relevant sport to go unseen by someone on their couch. However, with all these channels, finding games on TV is extremely difficult, if not impossible – what channel is Fox College Sports Central, anyway? 648, I think? How should I know? And what if there’s some game on that’s more interesting? I wish there was an app to help find those games right away, and alert me when exciting games were on?

As it would be a boring article if there wasn’t a potential answer to these rhetorical questions, “Are You Watching This?” is the potential answer. The app tracks and rates live sporting events based on their watchability – more important and hotly-contested matchups are rated higher, for example. Games are rated from OK to Good to Hot to Epic for those truly exciting matchups. For example, the Epic rating was saved for the Florida-Rutgers men’s college basketball game that went into double overtime. The Mavericks-Thunder basketball game that ended with a game-winning 3-pointer from Kevin Durant was Hot, as was the Baylor-Washington college football game that was the end of defensive football.

The app can send alerts for games that are Good, Hot, and/or Epic. As well, it can be set to only send alerts for certain sports, only games that are on the selected TV provider, and even for just the user-selected favorite teams.

Possibly the most unique feature of the app is the ability to actually change channels based on the selected game. This requires either a Google TV, DirecTV, or Tivo box at the moment, but by swiping through games, the app can automatically cause the selected TV to switch to that game directly.

This is a useful app for keeping up with the latest scores, to find watchable live events, and for those with supported technology, to easily watch those games. Are You Watching This? is available for free from the Android Market.

Verizon to Introduce Awfully Inconvenient “Convenience Fee” in January

Verizon to Introduce Awfully Inconvenient “Convenience Fee” in January

Dec 30, 2011

In a move torn straight from the pages of Kafka, though I doubt he had any idea about cellular phones, Verizon has introduced a baffling new fee for their customers. Starting January 15th, customers who pay online will now have to pay a $2 “convenience fee” on their bill. This is silly for two distinct reasons – first, the idea that users should have to pay extra for the convenience of paying their bill. Does this mean that their default expectation should be to be inconvenienced? Have users who felt like they were not being inconvenienced now be pleased, or angry that they will now be convenienced?

The other silly thing? Well, payments by mail will not have to pay this fee. That seems like it would be more inconvenient than web-based payments, but apparently not. Auto-billing doesn’t have to pay the fees, but then that means that bills can’t be reviewed before being paid.

Source: Engadget

HTC Introduces Official Bootloader Unlocking Tool for Phones Released After September 2011

HTC Introduces Official Bootloader Unlocking Tool for Phones Released After September 2011

Dec 30, 2011

HTC has made a great move toward ensuring user freedom on all their devices, by announcing that they will release tools to unlock the bootloaders on all of their devices going forward. Officially, their tools will work with devices released after September 2011; devices released prior to this may get tools in the future.

What does this mean, exactly? Simply put, it means that users can install their own custom ROMs without any restrictions from HTC, though carriers can still hold the rights to not allow the bootloaders to be unlocked. However, for HTC users, this means that they will be able to install the core software of their choice on their phones. It’s a great move for user freedom, and should benefit HTC as power users may be more motivated to use their phones because of this. As well, it’s not like enterprising hackers wouldn’t be able to find a way to unlock them anyway.

Writers Wanted Here at Android Rundown – Join the Fastest Growing Android Site

We’re looking for several App Reviewers and Bloggers to expand our coverage here on Android Rundown. The premise is very straight forward: a website focused on Android, with heavy emphasis on reviews of paid apps available in the Android Market.

Your past experience is not nearly as important as your ability to write proficiently, your passion for Android, and your drive. The ideal writer for our Android site should be able to devour apps and games and be able to write about them quickly and authoritatively. You should have a good critical eye and the ability to express yourself well. You should be able to self edit your posts and deliver them ready to publish. And most importantly, you should be able to do this while keeping your review fun and interesting like the common voice of our sites.

In addition to app and game review writers, we are also looking to add one or two news reporters. The ideal news reporter would be someone who knows when an app is going to be released before anyone else does. Someone who knows the industry and the people in the industry. Wakes up in the middle of the night to see what new apps have gone live. And is comfortable talking to developers, marketing people, and even press agencies. You must be able to respond to and write about events and industry changes quickly. And most importantly you should be able to filter through information for what is a good story and what is just PR fluff.

If you think either of these descriptions fit your skills, please keep reading. In exchange for your amazing writing skills, we will provide a brand new outlet for your talents. And of course there’s the money. We do ask that you only apply if you can keep up a regular posting frequency of at least 5 posts per week. While this isn’t a full time job, it is certainly not a once-in-a-while hobby either.

As this is a paid opportunity, please provide several samples of your work that is relevant. For those of you who don’t have relevant experience, please pick your 2 absolute favorite Android games and 2 favorite apps and provide a 300 word review of each of them along with your information.

If you have any questions, please contact us at the address below.

How to apply

If you think you have the writing skills, the drive, and the Android focus to help take our Android site to top, send us the following:

Your name
Where you live (city, state, country)
What Android device(s) you use
Why you want to write for us
3 writing samples
Past writing experiences

Email all that to helpwanted+android {at} 148apps {dot} com and we will be in touch.

Spy Mouse Review

Spy Mouse Review

Dec 29, 2011

Firemint are an interesting developer to follow in terms of the titles that they have developed. Starting off with the line-drawing/path management game Flight Control, they followed up with the visual powerhouse racing franchise, Real Racing. With Spy Mouse, their latest original title, they return to their Flight Control roots. This is essentially a stealth action game with line drawing mechanics. Players control Agent Squeak, who is trying to collect cheese strewn throughout various levels while not getting captured by those nefarious cats; preferably without ever being seen by them at all!

The game’s use of timing and even patience differentiates it from Flight Control. It does feel odd to sit back and wait for the perfect time to draw a path when Flight Control was all about panicked real-time survival. The multiple medals for each level serve as a great motivation for playing them in different ways, and for trying to explore different solutions to not be caught, or to beat a level using only a certain number of paths. Visually, the Firemint crew deserve recognition for making the game be more aspect-ratio-agnostic than many games that are brought from iOS to Android; there is no stretching, and levels display as being slightly wider than on the iPhone’s 3:2 aspect ratio. As someone who hates stretching, I appreciate it greatly. The animation and artwork are fluid and cartoonish in good ways, as well.

Spy Mouse just seems to be missing something. The line-drawing mechanic just isn’t as much fun with controlling a single character. This is in part because walls get in the way of the line-drawing and makes it not feel as intuitive. That, or maybe just having one character to focus on isn’t as compelling of a gameplay mechanic in lieu of having multiple items to manage with line drawing. After all, the fun in Flight Control and its genre mates comes when there’s many planes to control; just having one to manage, and one that can actually stop in its tracks, just isn’t any fun to control. There are creative elements, but I’d much rather have direct control over the character, which is part of the fun and challenge of stealth games. Knowing the exact path the character in a stealth game will follow takes a lot of the fun out of it.

This is just one combination of gameplay styles that doesn’t quite feel right to me. I felt like I was trudging through the game because of review obligations, not because of any actual desire to do so. Fans of Flight Control may want to check this one out, but it’s not the kind of blockbuster title I expected it to be when I first played it.

New Qriket Season Starts With the New Year

New Qriket Season Starts With the New Year

Dec 29, 2011

This may be the most excited I’ve been for the start of an event that sounds like “cricket.” I’m not talking about that strange sport that your local Indian restaurant always has muted on the wall, I am talking about Qriket, with a Qr, as in QR codes. If you’re thoroughly confused right now, I don’t blame you. Qriket is a very odd concept and kind of a hidden web gem. The main basis of Qriket is to assemble a team of smartphone toting friends who snap photos of QR codes whenever they arise in the wild. Every code you get adds a point to the overall team total, and every code also comes with a mini game where you get a shot at receiving bonus points or even cash for yourself. At a minimum, you could just sign up, not join a team and just use Qriket to give yourself a small chance at finding a few bucks every time a QR code appears. The cash prizes aren’t too spectacular; my lone prize yesterday was 5 bucks. But honestly, that’s 5 more dollars then I had and for a college student, thats a free meal.

Qriket works in monthly “seasons” and the registered teams all scan away for the three top spots which receive a quite substantial prize. The prize for this last month was $8,500 for the winning team. This is the team prize, and it is evenly distributed among the team members. So, for an 11 man team, that’s $772 a person. Not bad. Granted getting these top spots is a long shot, and you have to be dedicated, but for now Qriket is a small service, meaning your odds are probably greater than you think.

Codes scanned in one season can be rescanned for the next season, so stockpiling a pile of magazine ads containing QR codes is something that I recommend. So head to their website and login with your Facebook account. Even if you don’t compete it is exciting seeing if you can squeeze some cash out of a stone (you’ll see what I mean if you play). I realize that by writing this blog post I am just increasing my competition for this upcoming season, but I think I’m up to the challenge.

Piggy’s Adventure Review

Piggy’s Adventure Review

Dec 29, 2011

There’s more to a good game than just good game mechanics. A truly enjoyable game needs good presentation, effective controls, and it needs to be both stable and functional. Bearing all of that in mind, it’s hard to say for sure whether or not Piggy’s Adventure is truly a good game, or just a game with good elements.

The core gameplay in Piggy’s Adventure is solid. Piggy runs from left to right, and you determine when he performs either a small jump or a big one. Performing the right jump at the right time will help you overcome obstacles, and pick up fruit. The further you get, the higher your score will go. The concept is simple, but enjoyable – you’ll have to master the timing of each jump, and make split second decisions on which jump is right for a given situation.

These core gameplay mechanics really are enjoyable. Learning to time your jumps correctly, and improving your high score make for a satisfying gameplay experience, but everything wrapped around that gameplay experience detracts from it. The first thing you’ll see upon loading up the game is an ad for the developer’s other games, and after that, you’ll see a message about how the game needs to be connected to the internet at all times. Both messages are written in broken English which was poorly translated from the original Japanese used by the developers. Most of the text in the game is so poorly translated that it’s a little hard to understand at first glance, giving the game an unfinished, and shoddy feel. It also seems odd that the game needs a constant connection to the internet. There’s no multiplayer, and most games push your score to the leaderboard after the game ends.

It may be the need for a constant connection, or some other flaw in the code causing the problem, but either way Piggy’s Adventure crashes a lot. Almost every time I fired it up, the session ended with the game crashing, and either closing itself, or presenting me with a “force close” error dialog box. It never actually crashed during gameplay, but the frequency of the crashes definitely diminished my enjoyment of the game.

So, is Piggy’s Adventure a good game? That question remains difficult to answer. The gameplay is enjoyable, but just about everything else the game has to offer is off-putting. It’s free, so if you’re curious about it, there’s no harm in giving it a try – just be ready to deal with some frustrations caused by the game’s incessant crashes and poorly written text.

Samsung Reports the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab Won’t Get Ice Cream Sandwich…Officially

Samsung Reports the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab Won’t Get Ice Cream Sandwich…Officially

Dec 29, 2011

The Galaxy S line of phones and the Galaxy Tab, one of the first mass-market Android tablets, may be old news, but there are still millions of users with these devices (this author included) and Samsung has at least seen fit to upgrade these devices to Gingerbread. However, with Ice Cream Sandwich rolling out, it appears as if Samsung cannot or will not be putting the latest tasty Android treat into these users’ hands.

The problem appears to be partially self-inflicted; namely, TouchWiz is the problem. The devices appear to lack some of the space for both Ice Cream Sandwich and for TouchWiz customizations that Samsung wants to offer. In an attempt to have their cake and eat it too, Samsung apparently wants to try and emulate some ICS enhancements by offering them through the Market to Gingerbread-toting Galaxy S/Tab users. It’s not Ice Cream Sandwich, but it is at least a gesture.

However, here’s the dirty little secret: Ice Cream Sandwich can fit on these devices. Enterprising Android hackers have gotten early builds of Ice Cream Sandwich running on devices like the Samsung Captivate. The catch of course is that they don’t feature TouchWiz or any other Samsung customizations; of course, advanced users may be more likely to want to ditch them for a stock experience, using their own preferred launcher instead of TouchWiz, and ditching any unnecessary Samsung apps.

So, basically, Samsung is going to be depriving users of the latest pure Android experience, because of their own attempts to improve on it. These attempts can easily be removed by users enterprising enough to hack their devices, but users having to hack their devices and violate their warranties in order to get the best experience with their phones seems paradoxical. Of course, who knows – Samsung could definitely find a way to get TouchWiz working with ICS given the space concerns. Or, they could decide that giving users the stock experience as Google intended is the way to go. However, the big manufacturers feel like they have to apply their own interfaces to their phones for better or for worse, so expect TouchWiz to live on, even if it means limiting the number of users getting the latest Android updates.

Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots Review

Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots Review

Dec 28, 2011

Note: As of publication, the game is only available from the Amazon Appstore – click here to download it.

Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja has surprisingly, up until recently, only largely been contained to the single version of the game, while Angry Birds explores various holidays and even Cut the Rope has launched a second SKU. That is until now, with Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots. The game comes with 2 modes, Desperado and Bandito. Desperado is the same classic Fruit Ninja mode: fruit is tossed up in the air, and the player must slash the fruits without letting any of them hit the ground, and without hitting any of the bombs that are tossed up as well. The Bandito mode is the new mode, and the reason to come check this out. It’s a collection of set pieces with the same rules, where certain numbers of fruit must be sliced before time runs out. Players get 3 lives, and must make their way through 13 levels without running out.

Bandito mode successfully accomplishes what Angry Birds Rio and Cut the Rope Experiments could not – actually change up the original gameplay in a meaningful way. The new challenges are fun, different, and they provide a great justification for playing this game beyond “oh look, more levels. Hooray.” that the aforementioned franchises offered. It’s still Fruit Ninja, but it’s different enough to justify checking out.

The complaints come largely from technical issues. The game crashed frequently on my Samsung Captivate – it works a lot better on the Motorola Xoom, though there are some framerate issues when not running in “Zoom to fill screen” mode. As well, that achievement pop up is rather large and does get in the way of the Desperado mode. As well, the stretching from the iPhone and iPod touch’s 3:2 display ratio is still mildly noticeable; I understand compromises have to be made for wider screens, but I much prefer letterboxing to stretching.

Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots is a great expansion for the franchise; it expands on the original gameplay, uses its license in a non-obtrusive way, and is a great use of 99 cents for fans of the game.

NFLPA Begins Launching Player-Focused Apps

This is the last week of the NFL season, and for many people, their eyes will not be on the games that could determine potential playoff matches; no, many eyes will be on LeSean McCoy, running back for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are officially out of playoff contention, though that is not necessarily the fault of Mr. McCoy. Thanks to that wondrous game of fantasy football, where people form virtual teams of NFL players whose statistical contributions count as points toward their team. LeSean McCoy is the number one fantasy running back in the NFL this year, according to ESPN standard scoring. However, in his previous game, he hurt his ankle, and with this being the championship week for many leagues, many fantasy owners’ eyes cast worrying gazes on the status of LeSean McCoy to see if they should start him or bench him because of his injury.

For those Android owners currently obsessing about LeSean McCoy Conduit has teamed up with the NFLPA, Target Entertainment Properties, and ProPlayerInsiders to launch special player-focused apps. LeSean McCoy is one of the first NFLPA player apps to be made available, along with Takeo Spikes. Mr. Spikes is a defensive player and thus only makes cursory additions to fantasy football, and is thus less interesting for this story.

The app offers quick access to the player’s Twitter account, Facebook wall (including fan comments), latest photos and videos about the player, statistics, and a jigsaw puzzle game for users to enjoy. As well, the apps offers a contest for users to attend a party at the NFL Players Party to meet current and former NFL players at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on February 3rd, 2012. The LeSean McCoy app is available now, and I’ll be rooting for him this Sunday as he hopefully leads my fantasy football team to the championship. If not, I might just be one of those users posting in crude vernacular on his Facebook wall…

Gameloft and EA Announce Sales to Ring in the New Year

Gameloft and EA Announce Sales to Ring in the New Year

Dec 28, 2011

Over on the iOS App Store, EA and Gameloft have become known for their massive sales the last two years, typically putting every single one of their titles on sale for $0.99. EA has not done this on the Android Market, though some of their titles have been dropped to that price point and other titles like Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies have been discounted. Gameloft is going whole-hog into the sales for Android, though: starting on Thursday, all of Gameloft’s games will be available for free through January 5th in celebration of New Year’s. This even includes their most recent title Modern Combat 3, although this will only be on sale for a day; Gameloft will announce the date on their various social media pages: Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. With the Android Market becoming a bigger marketplace for game selling for these big publishers, expect more huge sales on par with the iOS App Store in the future, though nothing may quite match up with the recent 10 cents sale as far as ‘racing to the bottom’ goes.