Spacetime Studios may be readying Dark Legends to hit Android soon, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve forgotten about the first release on the Spacetime Engine that powers their range of cross-platform MMOs. Yes, Pocket Legends (which according to Spacetime Studios has been played in every country on the planet except Cuba and North Korea) is actually getting an update, and for those who haven’t checked out the game’s Premium areas, well: they’re now available for free to all users. Those who have bought the areas in the past will receive a “Frozen Crown of Gratitude” vanity helm for their support. As well, in celebration of the game’s 2nd birthday coming up on April 3rd, players can purchase birthday hats. Players that wave at birthday hat wearers will receive their own, smaller party hat for free as long as the event is going on (for about a week). Pocket Legends will still be around and kicking even as new players begin to fight as the undead and in space in Spacetime’s other games. But do they have fighting bears? I think not! Pocket Legends is available from Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.
For anyone who has ever been to the game room at a restaurant or movie theater recently those block stacking prize games should be familiar. Typically in those games any piece that is not stacked onto a block below it is lost and the game continues until there are no blocks remaining. Coming from the fine people at The Grey Studios is Pixel Towers, a game that is fundamentally unchanged from those arcade standards albeit with a clever new coat of paint. Even thought it is made kind of obvious by its name, the art design in Pixel Towers is pixel art and, even though there isn’t much time to take it all in, the detail in each block is quite extraordinary. Each block is a new level for an office building and they are bustling with workers and the floors are surprisingly varied keeping things fresh and interesting.
As expected, the higher the office gets, the faster the blocks fly by, but Pixel Towers throws in a sly wrinkle by slowing things down randomly; on paper, this seems like a hanging curve but in reality the dramatic change of speed is the equivalent of a change up in baseball. Another smart addition is that every so often the game will give back a lost square. For example, if there are two squares remaining, it will turn into three at random moments giving the player a second chance after a mistake. This mechanic helps make a very unforgiving game a little easier.
Unfortunately, even with these two additions the game remains just too simple to really captivate anyone for more than 5 to 10 minutes because it is essentially the TicTac of the gaming world. After playing two or three games, the Pixel Towers really loses its charm right up until about the next time five free minutes become available.
NBA Jam took its sweet time, but it is finally on Android. The high-flying arcade basketball revival from EA brings all the 2-on-2, no-fouls-called, gravity-defying, other-hyphenated basketball action. Players can throw down with all 30 NBA teams, choosing two players from a selection of the current roster, with some classic players available as well. There’s a Play Now mode to just throw down the rock against a computer opponent, the Classic Campaign to take on 36 teams, including some legends teams, and even multiplayer over Bluetooth for two people.
Control-wise, the game is fantastic. By using gestures for turbo along with the virtual buttons, the controls wind up being extremely accurate, more so than many games that use virtual buttons. The directionality of the buttons give them a utility that other games’ virtual controls lack. I never feel like there are any missed inputs with the virtual buttons. The “shake device to spin” mechanic is still somewhat difficult to use, however.
Rosters have thankfully been updated for the latest season, with rosters accurate to the beginning of the season. There are some inaccuracies compared to the season being 3 months deep now. TJ Ford, sadly now retired due to continued health issues, is still on the San Antonio Spurs’ roster. Looking to experience some Linsanity? Too bad, because there is no Jeremy Lin in the game yet.
All the little things are still in this game. The big heads, catching on fire, just everything that made this franchise what it is back in the days on the arcade is faithfully represented. And even a year after its original release on iOS, this game is still incredibly fresh and fun to play. It maintains that classic gameplay, and while it’s very simple at its heart, and there are plenty of elements to exploit, there’s just so much fun to be had that the simplicity doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s fun to just sit back and throw down a dunk from the rafters. And the Android version preserves all that fun.
I am going to start this Theme Thursday blog post by pointing out the obvious, Cry Cloud, a theme for GO Launcher, has an egregious mistake right in the most important aspect of any theme: the wallpaper. In some strange error in translation the wallpaper reads, in a cute hand-written font, “without you everything look so sorrow.” Obviously, I get the message that the developer was trying to convey, but how was this not caught initially or even fixed by now from the plethora of comments on the theme’s Google Play (formerly the Google Market) page.
However, after taking a step back, this mistake is honestly not as big of an issue as it probably should be. The text is small enough that it is not very noticeable and it’s not like the average user takes the time to read the text on his or her screen after every unlocking. The playful font of the text adds a quaint, minimalistic design to the theme and the white rain cloud above it is a great touch. The whole theme screams of cute romanticized heartbreak, which appeals to a specific demographic, and yet the pastel color scheme is surprisingly relaxing and uplifting. Cry Cloud’s icons are very well done and are the typical fare of pencil sketched circular icons. The supplied icon set is not as populated as other themes yet this is acceptable because Cry Cloud takes advantage of integrating existing, unsupported applications’ icons. As I have stated before in many a Theme Thursday: continuity is very important in making any theme truly immersive, and Cry Cloud does that handily.
So, for anyone looking for a lighthearted but still minimalistic theme for GO Launcher I would definitely recommend giving Cry Cloud a shot, assuming the head scratching grammar gaffe isn’t a deal breaker.
Opera has released a new major version of their Opera Mini browser, with version 7 now released. This web browser is designed to save on bandwidth and processing speed, by loading and rendering pages on Opera’s servers instead of on the user’s device, and then delivering them to the user. Opera claims that up to 90% of the original data from a website is trimmed in this process of delivering it pre-rendered to users, saving on pricey (and increasingly tiered) data plans. Even the app is designed to save on bandwidth, with a file size under one megabyte. Version 7 in particular includes improved hardware acceleration, allowing for improved hardware acceleration. The limit on number of Speed Dial pages at launch has been raised, from a paltry 9 to a less-paltry hypothetically-unlimited number! Opera Mini version 7 is now available on Google Play. For those who want the Opera interface but not the cloud-based web page processing, there’s also Opera Mobile, which does all the rendering locally.
There are certain situations in which a mobile phone user has to be away from their phone to work on their desktop computer. However, in this digitally connected world, this certain user might still need to communicate with SMS using their phone.
MobiTexter is an innovative way to send and receive SMS on a desktop computer through their website, Mobitexter.net. For this to work, one simply has to install the phone app, register using his Google account, and sync contacts and SMS. Note that the app will not sync SMS that was previously sent before installing it. To view and reply to incoming SMS, one needs to go to Mobitexter.net in their desktop browser. Once logged in, the user is able to view incoming SMS and reply accordingly.
This app is pretty impressive because of its simplicity and how one doesn’t need to have advanced technical skills to use it. The sync process is a breeze and the interface is as simple as it gets. The app’s interface does not really need to be perfect since it’s used for syncing the phone’s contacts and SMS and the user would most likely spend more time with the desktop computer and the Mobitexter website.
The website, however, is also too minimalist – maybe a little too much. The setup is pretty basic and there’s not much navigating one can do other than read and reply to SMS. Although it is great that the contacts auto-complete when typing a name in the To field, which is close to how it works on a phone.
Although it does sync the phone’s SMS since the app was installed, it will not sync any deleted messages made on the site to reflect on the phone. Hence, deleting messages will not prove productive if it only deletes it in the website’s interface but not on the phone.
Overall, Mobitexter is a great solution when the situation calls for it. There might be some users who are wary of allowing an app to access their SMS Inbox, so this app is not for everyone – and most definitely not for daily use. Surely the developers have some sort of protection against possible hacking but one can’t be too careful – especially with Android’s open source nature. With these considerations in mind, one simply has to use with caution and only when it is absolutely necessary. At the end of the day, the app does deliver what it promised without any frills.
BlueStacks has introduced a new tool allowing Windows users to use Android apps on their PC. No, this isn’t an installation of Android on Windows like the x86 Project, but an actual way to run Android apps on a Windows PC. By installing it on Windows, various Android apps and games can be played directly from any compatible Windows computer. No Mac version is currently available, though.
On the Android side, it’s possible to use BlueStacks Cloud Connect to sync up apps to the PC side of BlueStacks in order to easily use favorite apps on PC. This makes it easier to use apps like text messagers, or audio playback software, and games not yet available on PC.
I have been a big fan of the High Score books ever since I started playing video games. For anyone who doesn’t know, High Score is a coffee table illustrated book by Rusel DeMaria that reviews the history of video games from the very beginning. The aspect that most struck me about DeMaria’s books was the plethora of images and graphics that never got to the point of being overused. His books take the reader on a very enjoyable yet informational journey through one of the most popular and quickly evolving artistic mediums.
The problem, of course, with the breakneck speed of the evolution of video games is that a book is almost instantly outdated as soon as it is published. So books like DeMaria’s need to be updated every couple of years to stay current, but it is hard to keep a publisher for an extend amount of time when the sales pitch is that this book will be instantly obsolete. Recently securing a new publisher, DeMaria is devoting a full 3-4 months of his time to work on this book. Costs not only include his own personal expenses but travel for interviews and the complicated excursion of securing photo rights. The High Score series has not been updated since the beginning of the millennia, and just think of all the change that has occurred in just these last twelve years.
For perspective, in the year 2000 the PS2 was released as well as The Sims, Diablo 2, Escape from Monkey Island, and the second Tony Hawk Pro Skater. That gap of time could easily fit in its own coffee table book which leaves DeMaria with a hard enough task on his time without reworking and updating the previous 30-some years of video game lore.
A sort of brutal but necessary aspect of KickStarter is that if a project does not reach its target amount, that project does not get funded at all. As of writing this, Russel is just over $2,000 short of his $25,000 goal with just a week remaining. Editor’s Note: It appears that the Kickstarter project has reached its funding as of publication! It would be a total shame if this project went unfunded because High Score is an amazing book and is commanded by such an ambitious and dedicated man.
Temple Run on Android is finally here! Yes, after countless fakes, a month delay, and plenty of apps that tried to take advantage of the game’s popularity (on launch day, the actual Temple Run was a couple dozen apps down the list on Google Play when searching for “Temple Run”). Well, Imangi’s smash hit auto-runner is here on Android, and despite a few early technical glitches, it does not disappoint.
The gameplay is the same: try to jump, slide, tilt and turn in time to keep running away from the evil monkeys chasing the ever-running hero down. Of course, along the way there are coins to collect, and powerups to collect coins, become invincible, or boost ahead to pick up as well. Coins can be spent on unlocking new characters, unlocking and upgrading powerups, and buying temporary boosts, including revive wings that will continue a run, but only are active for 30 seconds at a time.
The game was rebuilt in Unity, and the conversion was just about perfect. This looks and feels like Temple Run on iOS. That’s a very good thing, because the game is still a ton of fun. It’s easy to just jump from one session to the next, trying to collect even more coins, and raise that high score even higher. Temple Run does do a great job at being “free to have fun.” Coins are awarded at a regular rate, and it steadily increases over time as the player gets better, so spending coins is a way to get more coins. There’s none of that “second currency” funny business that other games use. This is a great free game.
The game is not really tablet-friendly at this point; on the Motorola Xoom, the game clearly looks like it has scaled-up graphical elements, and the frame rate does stutter a bit. On the Samsung Captivate, the game crashes every few games or so, with some occasional stuttering at times. The game supposedly supports over 700 devices at launch, but it’s still something being smoothed out. There are no online leaderboards at launch, like how the iOS version supported Game Center and showed friends’ scores while running. This is actually a rather notable omission, though Android’s lack of a built-in service make it harder to do. Some of my favorite times on the iOS version were when I was having high score battles with a friend.
Temple Run is popular for a good reason: it’s still extremely addictive and fun to play. There’s still a few things to iron out at launch, but the core game has been represented well. This is a must-have on Android just as it was on iOS.
Sega’s franchise about a dystopian future where monkeys must roll around tilting mazes for the amusement of a watching audience is finally on Android. Super Monkey Ball 2: Sakura Edition, a port of the iOS release, features 125 perilous levels that must be tilted to get the monkeys through safe and sound, lest they fall to their doom. Thankfully, they have multiple lives, and can earn extra ones by collecting bananas in the levels.
The game’s core conceit is still enjoyable to play with, and still extremely challenging to try and conquer. However, the mini games are still probably the best part of the Super Monkey Ball experience. Monkey Bowling is a fun game of bowling, involving monkeys incased in plastic balls. I used to sink a ton of time into the Game Boy Advance Super Monkey Ball Jr. (yes, a Monkey Ball game that controlled with a d-pad. It was actually really good.) and I could see myself doing the same here, though the swipe and tilt controls are a new challenge. Monkey Golf is very challenging in and of itself, but a solid arcade golf game, especially considering that it’s a mini-game part of a larger package. Monkey Target has players flying through the air, then trying to land three balls near the center of a target. It’s fun, and it incorporates the Monkey Ball mechanics the best. Tablets get an exclusive mini-game as well, Monkey Base. This is essentially the classic Warlords game from Atari, but with monkeys in balls, and 4-player support on one device.
The problem with Super Monkey Ball 2: Sakura Edition is quite simply that the controls are extremely unwieldy. The tilt controls are all extremely sensitive to the point where minor adjustments are difficult to make. There’s no calibration for angles besides the default one as well. Tilting forward causes awkward viewing angles as well. Drawing a straight line in the minigames where necessary becomes extremely difficult on a phone screen because the game is in landscape orientation. It is much easier on tablets, though the swipe length is rather long.
A game where the controls must constantly be fought with is not very fun. As such, my time with Super Monkey Ball 2: Sakura Edition was rather disappointing. The core is still well-done, but for those that check this one out, be prepared to fight the controls.
Angry Birds Space has really taken off! (Pause for groaning from readers) Rovio has revealed that the newest Angry Birds game has gotten ten million downloads in three days. While they did not reveal anything about platform numbers, many of those downloads are likely sales, though Android will also be making up a big number of those downloads given the presence of a free version on Google Play.
In fact, as far as versions of the game go, this is the first Android Angry Birds game to have a tablet-optimized version specifically. However, the only difference between the HD version and the regular versions is that interface elements are better scaled to high-resolution devices. Beyond some letterboxed artwork, the game plays perfectly well on tablets. In fact, I would say there is literally no difference in gameplay at all. This is basically Rovio trying to get an extra two dollars out of tablet users. The difference between Android and iOS in this respect is that iPad users have to buy the HD version or deal with scaled graphics; Android users get one that’s expanded out to take advantage of the full resolution.
The HD version's level complete menu.
The standard version's level complete menu.
Samsung Galaxy device owners got 30-plus free levels with their download, getting the Danger Zone levels unlocked for free, and before the rest of the Android universe got them. As well, a Golden Eggsteroid level with a Galaxy Note theme was made available. These levels are available on iOS, but as an in-app purchase; a three month exclusivity on Android was mentioned, but no word on if the levels will be made available through in-app purchases was mentioned. As well, the Android version is lacking the “Space Eagle” IAP that the iOS version has; Rovio appears to be avoiding in-app purchases on Android entirely, perhaps due to not having standardized options thanks to multiple marketplaces.
Yesterday, I wrote a column that in part bemoaned the lack of any kind of save game synchronization between Angry Birds games. While transferring progress between my iOS devices and my Android devices is still at Rovio’s whims, third party developers have figured out ways to transfer saves between Angry Birds games on Android. While there are several solutions, maybe the best one is Angry Birds Backup, which has been updated to work with Angry Birds Space. This is for several reasons.
It backs up to Dropbox. This uses the Dropbox APIs (requiring the Dropbox app to be installed of course) to link to a folder, then the file from a game is backed up, and can be easily restored and re-backed up from any device with the app installed. Multiple profiles for backing up can be used as well.
It can restore to different versions of the game. Start playing the paid version on one device, but have the free version on another? This works for transferring between versions. Note that the app will backup/restore data to/from one version on the device, in the priority of: ad-supported, paid, HD version. While it would be nice to choose between versions manually (especially when converting from free to paid on a single device), there really isn’t much of a reason to have multiple versions.
It’s free. It works perfectly and it comes at no cost to the user. Some paid solutions exist, but this option works well. It also has limited permissions requests for internet access and modifying storage contents, so it appears to be safe as well.
It also doesn’t require root access, so all users can free their Angry Birds data. The app is available on Google Play but not the Amazon Appstore, so Kindle Fire users are out of luck at the moment with this particular solution.
This is the first true sequel to their reboot of the Phantasy Star franchise, initially launched in late 2000/early 2001 for the Dreamcast, and later brought to the GameCube and Xbox. Phantasy Star Universe, another followup, made its way to PS2 and PSP, with a DS Phantasy Star 0 game released in 2009.
This will be free-to-play, with real money needed to buy some items in game. This will be a different game from the versions planned for PC and for the Playstation Vita; data will be shared between those versions of the game, but it will be a different experience, possibly even single-player focused. There’s no word on if online play will be available, even between just mobile versions of the game, with a version also planned for iOS.
We’ll definitely have more on this title as the details are revealed.