Spellsword Review

Spellsword Review

Dec 31, 2012

For those who are all about swords, and magic spells cast from swords, then Spellsword, Everplay and Fire Fruit Forge’s arena-based action-RPG brought to Android by Miniclip, is worth seeing.

Spellsword takes a bit of a different spin on the traditional Super Crate Box formula – which really needs to arrive on Android proper at some point, not just via PlayStation Mobile – by making magic cards the item to be constantly picking up. These cards all have different effects, like summoning fireballs, poisoning enemies, or shooting out ice shards. They’re also far more powerful than the plain vanilla sword is, so collecting them is key. Success is defined by more than just card collection though, as there are plenty of enemies to take down. They drop rupees, which can be spent on upgrades to make the cards better, and items for increasing health or modifying stats. There’s a secondary dragon coin currency that also appears periodically which is used to buy certain other items.

The game’s two-pronged structure works well for it. Mission mode does well to introduce players to new elements, as well as providing short bursts of challenge to tackle. Meanwhile, endless mode serves as the culmination of those efforts: a chance to put one’s skills to the test in the three arenas, with three difficulties each. The two modes also inform each other: endless mode hands out a lot more rupees, but the best way to unlock new cards and content is by progressing through mission mode, so balancing out the two is necessary. The pixel art is very colorful, and character armor can be viewed on the characters themselves when equipped. The soundtrack is particularly memorable as well; the songs are basic but I found them sticking in my head long after playing.

Spellsword is not most the intricately-assembled game ever. There’s a lot of slowdown on newer devices. The game doesn’t really inform the player of when they have taken damage. The Nexus 7 controls are a bit too big perhaps to be comfortable for most; I felt like they were usable but I would prefer less thumb stretching.

For those looking for a great pick-up-and-play arena brawler with enough RPG elements to satisfy long-term desire, then Soellsword is a must-have free download.

Chemical Cubes Review

Chemical Cubes Review

Dec 31, 2012

Here’s a puzzle game that doesn’t involve just matching falling blocks! Chemical Cubes is a more intriguing take on the genre. Blocks scroll in from the left side of the screen. The goal is to make sure that a column of blocks matches up as the same color vertically before it reaches the end. Of course, it’s easy early on when there’s just red, blue, and green, but then when more colors get involved, it’s not as easy, let’s just say. Oh, and other difficulties expand the column size from 3 to 4 and 5. Mess up 3 times with mixed color columns passing through the barrier, and it’s game over.

The gmae is a great fit for the Nexus 7 and large phones, with plenty of room to make quick moves. The game does get extremely frantic, picking up in pace, and it’s easy to get into that trance state where only the mission at hand matters, nothing else. The game is basic, both visually and in concept, but it does work extremely well. There’s even little bonuses for matching up the same color columns consecutively.

The game does suffer somewhat by not having online leaderboards; it’d be great to compare scores with friends, though this is partially Android’s fault for not having a built-in service similar to Game Center. It feels like having a reset or something similar when a mismatch occurs would help out a lot, as right now it feels like sessions can end way too quickly.

While this is a basic puzzle game, I still had fun with Chemical Cubes. It certainly is a nice refreshing change of pace from all the other match–3 puzzle games out there, whose existence will haunt me to the grave. This game will not. It will be a respectful mourner at my grave.

The Hills Are Greener: There’s No Such Thing as an “iPhone Killer”

The Hills Are Greener: There’s No Such Thing as an “iPhone Killer”

Dec 31, 2012

Well, it took a bit longer than expected, but it seems like Google is finally going to use their Motorola acquisition to actually make a standout phone for themselves, the “X Phone.” Or whatever the next Nexus device will be called.

The immediate speculation swirling around is that this is finally Google’s “iPhone Killer.” You know, like the other Nexus devices that were iPhone killers. I don’t think that anything at this point will be an iPhone killer. It just isn’t going to happen.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies

I think the most immediate analogue for the iOS vs. Android battle is like Halo versus Call of Duty. Halo is more of an exclusive club – it’s popular, and very much so, but its audience will have a built-in limitation because it’s only trying to get to so many people, Xbox owners. Call of Duty, by its nature of being a multiplatform game, has bigger success, even standing firm on Halo’s home turf. But the point is that both are doing extremely well. Thre’s room for both.

Halo is a particularly apt comparison, because the term “Halo Killer” has been frequently bandied about, particularly in the days of the original Xbox. Everyone thought they had the game to replace Halo, to crush it outright, to be that much more superior than it, and what happened? Call of Duty kept at it, and started to succeed and become extremely popular on its own merits. Halo hasn’t been “killed” yet, it’s still a major success, but it’s not alone. Same goes with the Mario games: no one ever really killed it.

I think it’s the same situation with iOS and Android. If there is an iPhone Killer, it will be time, people getting disinterested, more so than a sexy new device coming around and overtaking it. Apple in particular has a history of being whittled down over time, rather than outright slain. That might be what happens with Android: it will just grow so large, like Windows did, that it dwarfs iPhone. In particular, its advantage in having a growing international market with tons of low-cost devices is a huge help in the platform’s dominance. But there’s no reason why one has to kill the other. There will be no iPhone killer because such a thing as people want to deem it does not exist.

Anomaly Korea Review

Anomaly Korea Review

Dec 31, 2012

To make it in the Android app game, being able to stand out is the name of the game. This is especially true of tower defense type of games. To call this segment saturated is being somewhat generous.

I did find Anomaly Korea to be a needed breath of fresh air.

Why? We all know the elements of tower defense: destroy moving enemies before they make it from point A to point B. Well, how about switching the paradigm a bit… how about making my units the ones needing to make it to a safe point, with the enemy in fixed positions? No, not as great as inventing the wheel, but good enough to get this game a good look in my book.

The storyline will be familiar to fans of the prequel (Anomaly Warzone Earth): alien invasion, with mechanized machines at street level. With top-down visuals, I had to direct my convoy on a number of missions through hostile streets and pathways, using resources wisely to achieve success. Using a planning tool, I had to design a path to wherever we had to get to (airplane, safe zone, etc). The shortest route wasn’t always the safest, as the driveways were lined with enemy gunners. Additionally, I had to watch damage — I had the ability to change the positioning of my vehicles, hiding damaged ones and protecting my big weaponry. My job was to destroy the enemy before they destroyed us and/or prevented us from getting to the mission point. Power-ups and loot appeared on screen, and I was able to accumulate game cash.

I thought is was more than sufficient graphically. The developer did a good job of rendering a conceptual, futuristic war-torn city, and the planning overlays helped to isolate the goodness of the actual fight screen.

“Tower Offense” isn’t a new concept, but really, Anomaly Korea is well worth checking out. It is a fun game, with well-thought out ideas.

Fish vs. Pirates Review

Fish vs. Pirates Review

Dec 28, 2012

Over half of the world is covered in water. For anyone who’s ever watched a nature documentary, it’s pretty obvious marine life can be quite a day-to-day battle. Fish vs. Pirates is an underwater defense game where fish need to protect against attacking fish Pirates.

The incoming Pirates swim in a straight line. By placing the defending fish in the direct path, it’s easy in the beginning to ward off the attackers. More than one fish can be placed in the same row so both fish are attacking at the same time. As the need for more than one fish needs to be placed on the screen to defend from the attacking pirates, there becomes a shortage of pearls.

Gain more pearls to be able to add a better defense by placing oysters in locations on the screen. The problem with just placing the oysters anywhere is they take up valuable spots for the defending fish. Ideally keep all of the oysters to the farthest back row.

In progressive levels, different types of fish and sea life are available to play a defensive role against the Pirates. Snails, starfish and various other types of fish all have their pros and cons to adding them into the defensive line up. For example, snails are better at withstanding damage from attacking pirates. The downside is the snails shoot a lot slower.

As the defensive lineup gets stronger, so does the strength of the Pirates. Pirates will start out with a few weaker fish and get bigger more plentiful as well. There’s just something about seeing a shark dressed up for the pirate to make for a fun defense game. Main menu, click the book icon to get a better description of the fish and the Pirates. Having a better idea about the fish and the Pirates will help to line up the right defensive fish against the attacking pirates.

Jumping Electron HD Review

Jumping Electron HD Review

Dec 28, 2012

Simplicity in a game does not always mean it’s super easy. Jumping Electron HD has a very clean and simple design to it, but it is a game needing full attention. The premise of the game is to roll a ball down a lane to the finish line. To control the ball, it’s a matter of tilting the Android device to the left or to the right. To jump, tap on the screen.

The currency of the game is in volts, not dollars or gold. The monetary system works the same regardless. Using volts, upgrades can be purchased with real-world money; 5000 volts are $.99. There’s also an option to earn free volts by sitting through a video advertisement. The ads are about 15 seconds so it’s nothing too terrible. By completing the task, the reward is 300 volts.

The currency is used to purchase new balls, level boosters and even to opt out of ads. A new ball will range anywhere from about 500 volts to 5000 volts. Buying a better ball will help withstand bumping into other objects. With the original ball that starts the game, any impact ends the level. Purchasing the ball for 1000 volts can take a few more bumps and bruises along the way making it easier to finish the levels.

While rolling the ball down the lane, there are gaps to jump and was other items in the way. The ball will acquire speed as it travels meeting decisions will need to be quickly made towards the end of the level. Sometimes the gaps are hidden behind objects or blocks making it harder to judge the next action until the gap is right there.

While Jumping Electron is not the most complicated game I’ve ever played it’s still a lot of fun and it ranks up there with games like Teeter. Like I said I game doesn’t need to be complicated for to be fun and challenging.

DEATH DOME Review

DEATH DOME Review

Dec 28, 2012

Alright…

For folks who like mayhem, virus-created monsters, survival storylines, and ravaged cities cordoned off from society, DEATH DOME might be just what the doctor ordered.

In this title from Griptonite Games, the plot is a vehicle to the action. Yes, this “M-virus” is a virus that attacked humankind and laid waste to it locally via mutations before being contained in a “bio-dome.” Of course, the virus has learned to live without human hosts in the manifestation of huge, terrifying creatures euphemistically referred to as behemoths. And of course, I had to get trapped in the bio-dome, with no chance of the outside world letting anything out with behemoths running amok inside.

Time to fight my way out.

The graphics were gritty, and had the dark look that a post-apocalyptic game of this type almost demands. The animations were fluid most of the time (I did find some temperamental stickiness on my dual core test device), and the handheld weaponry looked good in the context of the game. If anyone still had residual doubts about the viability of 3-D fighting games, this is the title to put those doubts to rest; the dimensional rendering was done well.

The gameplay was basically 1v1 progressional gladiatorial-type combat, with boss levels at intervals. The tutorial was swift and informative, giving me the basics of parrying, blocking, counter-attacks and more. I liked the use of life bars and the finishing moves. There were some cool attack gadgets, like flanges and even lightning. Victories got me loot (ominous sounding stuff like “skulls” , and XP which gave me opportunities to level up. Losses got me stuff like gigantic monstrosities shaking, uh, rear stuff over the prone body of my character.

The controls mostly consisted of taps and swipes. Timing was huge, as dodging attacks and launching legal strikes of my own required that I time movements precisely.

Some specialized items (weaponry, revives, etc) can be obtained via the in-app system. So called diamonds were the king of the financial jungle, and fairly hard to collect by simply playing the game.

All in all, DEATH DOME was an entertaining piece that overcame the somewhat well-used story and over-involved (in my estimation) menu system and reliance on purchases.

Snapseed Review

Snapseed Review

Dec 28, 2012

There was a time, not all that long ago, when cameras on phones were not too hot. The hardware was rudimentary, and the accompanying software bordered on the silly. Pictures were not that great.

Since then, it has gotten better… much better. So much so, that for many people, their smartphone cameras are the cameras for everyday use.

Snapseed (from Nik Software) is an app that looks to perfect the picture-taking experience. It is a photo-editing title that incorporates a lot of the features people have come to expect with apps of this type. Being chock-full of fan favorite filters definitely makes it an interesting offering.

I found the app to have a clean, simple interface which belied its bubbly functionality. It opened up with a quick diagram fitted with a test picture and an accompanying tutorial, which was simple but effective; it let me understand the basics of photo manipulation and enhancement. There was an automatic tab, as well as tuners for color, cropping, and more interestingly labeled filters like grunge, vintage and the interestingly titled “Drama” option. “Selective Adjust” allowed me to manipulate specific areas of my image on the fly.

Additionally, there were borders that could be added to give my images a somewhat formal finish.

I found the program intuitive enough to go in and play with right after the install; I especially liked the multitude of import options. The import tool pulled photos from Dropbox, my file manager of choice, or my device Gallery. For Google+ users, the one-touch share button will be welcome; I was also able to share to other apps on my device by using the built-in share option.

The unspoken comparison will be to Instagram; this app does not have the integrated social network that the Big Guy on the Block does, but in the enhancement department, I thought Snapseed more than held its own. The share functionality and cross-platform nature of the app definitely makes it a great creator of nostalgia though.

Free Friday App Rundown December 28 – Matching Games

Free Friday App Rundown December 28 – Matching Games

Dec 28, 2012

As we age, our brain tends to get lazy. It does’t like to learn and react to good as they did when we were younger. Playing match games and other memory training games will help keep the brain fresh and working like you did when you were younger. It may even help when trying to remember where the car keys are.

Jewels Star

Jewels Star is a traditional Match 3 type of game. Matching three or more like jewels makes them disappear and scores points. The more like jewels matched, the greater the reward; sometimes color changing jewels and other power ups. There’s some great soothing music in the background to.

Download Jewels Star

Match Cube

Match Cube brings a new dimension to match games. Instead of having a flat game surface, a greater challenges added by using a 3 dimensional cube as the playing surface. Using any of the tiles on any of the side it, pick the matching tiles. This will really test memorization and brainpower!

Download Match Cube

Matching Game – DoubleTake!

Another fast-paced memory style matching game. As the similar tiles are touched, combos can be earned. The different modes make it a lot of fun. In survival mode for example each wrong selection will decrease the health bar. Each right answer will increase it. Also, throughout the game the tiles move and appear and disappear making it more difficult to remember the tiles based on location only.

Download Matching Game – DoubleTake!

Wonderlines match-3 puzzle

Wonderlines is a match 3 style game with a twist. Instead of matching several stones of a single color in a line, match balls to destroy them over a selection brown tiles. It takes the genre of the game and adds a new aspect to it to help set it apart from the many other match 3 type games.

Download Wonderlines match-3 puzzle

Memory Match

Memory Match is a more classic style memory match type game. Choose from different tile types to match such as plants or jewels. The tiles are shown, then it is all a matter or remembering where two of the matching tiles are. Even though it’s a little more simplistic than other games in the list, it’s a good place to start training for better memory retention.

Download Memory Match

Verminator Review

Verminator Review

Dec 27, 2012

I think physics-based games are some of the most fun and also some of the most challenging games out there. Verminator is a little on the easier side but a lot of fun.. The premise of the game is to eliminate the rodents. The beginning of the game has the rodents being drowned; later on other methods are used such as bombs.

The controls are very simple. Simply tap on the bait or weapon then tap the screen again where it should go. Because of the physics of the game, the placement of the bait or explosive is pretty important. Cheese is the main bait used. The bad cheese is green. It repels the rats away from it. Once the good cheese or bad cheese is placed, the scent will get out to the rats and they will act accordingly. Use the green cheese to push them in a specific direction. The yellow cheese will make them walk towards the scent. They will also eat the yellow cheese which keeps them in one spot for a little longer.

While driving the vermin, they can fall on unbalanced surfaces and tumble to their demise. In later levels, different types of cheese show up. One example is bouncy cheese balls. The cheese balls act the same way as the standard cheese wedge but because they are round and bounce, they get into hard-to-reach areas.

The levels are timed so there is some sense of urgency to solve the puzzles. Each level starts at 99 seconds. The score is based on how quickly the puzzle is solved. For example if the level of solved with 53 seconds left, the score received is 53.

The sound effects are great. As the rats are drowning, they can be heard screaming underwater as they fall to the bottom. The background music is different. Not in a a bad way, just something I wouldn’t expect in a puzzle game.

Polara Review

Polara Review

Dec 27, 2012

Take an endless runner, a genre with plenty of fun entries, and mix it with Ikaruga. That sounds like a winning combination, doesn’t it? Polara, the endless-runner-meets-Ikaruga game I’m referring to is thankfully a brilliant little title.

The story has players controlling Lara, the conveniently-named heroine who uses a government-provided power suit that can switch between blue and red, in order to navigate the defenses that keep the lower class away from the upper class. Really. It turns out the upper class are kind of jerks, and seemingly killed her dad, so she rebels and runs to help the lower class resistance. Karl Marx would be proud.

So, in running through the game’s levels, players must jump and switch between the red and blue colors in order to survive and advance. The use of the colors is what gets ingenious, as it applies to many different mechanics. There’s the ability to absorb the same-colored bullets and lasers that come through. Platforms and jump pads are enabled and disabled based on which color the player is. Gravity switches around in some spots. Hexagonal gears pop up, which will kill the player if they are the wrong color, but get launched into the air otherwise, and serve as the way to defeat bosses.

It’s not just that the game uses the color-switching, it’s that it uses it well. It challenges the player not just to react but to also think about what they need to be doing. The wrinkle thrown in is that the game is perfectly willing to subvert its patterns, where players may react based on instinct to switch colors but actually don’t need to do so. And even then, when the game plays it straight, it can still be challenging to figure out the proper sequence of jumps in order to survive. The game is rather brilliant, and its tricks don’t get old, though it does get extremely challenging. Yet, it isn’t frustrating because of very frequent checkpoint placement.

The game also boasts plenty of replay value: there’s the quest for zero deaths in a level, and replays add collectible letters, and a secret icon that’s rather challenging to collect. A randomized endless mode gets unlocked, and collecting the icons and letters in other levels unlocks new modes.

Polara is one of the best recent examples I’ve seen of a game having a simple-yet-effective premise, and truly delivering on it. This couldn’t have been much better.

Free App Recap December 27 – Wi-Fi Apps

Free App Recap December 27 – Wi-Fi Apps

Dec 27, 2012

Everything mobile uses Wi-Fi,this includes Android tablets and phones. Something to consider though is there really isn’t good preinstalled application for managing Wi-Fi on Android devices. This week’s list of free Android apps will be talking about a few applications to help manage Android Wi-Fi.

Lookator

Lookator is an augmented reality app to help locate the source of the Wi-Fi signal. When in an area with a lot of different Wi-Fi sources, knowing which signals are unsecured is the first step in the process. The second step is to find the source because not everyone names their Wi-Fi. Lookator displays the name of the Wi-Fi sources on an overlay or layer to the Android. The screen shows what the rear camera sees. Each of the Wi-Fi locations are displayed on the actual building vs. just seeing a name and the strength of the signal. Take a look here to see what that looks like.

Download Lookator

Wi-Fi Keep Alive

Part of the battery saving options some Android devices have is to turn off the Wi-Fi when the screen shuts off or after a set amount of time if the device is plugged in. This can be problematic especially if downloading something. Wi-Fi Keep Alive solves this problem by forcing the Wi-Fi to stay on. Using the home screen widget to easily toggle the default setting.

Download Wi-Fi Keep Alive

FoxFi (WiFi Tether w/o Root)

Not all of the wireless carriers allow Wi-Fi tethering to other devices. Fortunately for us, FoxFi fixes that problem. It can turn a non-rooted Android device into a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth hotspot. Using an app like this is a great way feed a Wi-Fi signal to a laptop or tablet when no other source is available.

Download FoxFi (WiFi Tether w/o Root)