Super Monsters Ate My Condo! Review

Super Monsters Ate My Condo! Review

Mar 28, 2013

Super Monsters Ate My Condo! is a whimsical game from Adult Swim games.

It’s a two-minute color-matching sprint that forced me to combine quick wits and finger dexterity to keep the gang of hungry, freaky monsters happy by tossing them condos from a stack of multicolored structures. In a subtle ode to Tetris, I couldn’t afford to let the stack get too high, or the peeved monsters would topple the unnatural high-rise, ending the game.

It had some interesting backstory for each monster (blue, green, red, yellow). Most of the source material had to do with nuclear exposure and/or experiments gone wrong. Either way, these little nuggets (along with a detailed How To Play section) helped flesh the gameplay out a good deal.

The graphics were interestingly rendered, with emphasis put on the bright colors (obviously); the monsters exemplified the deliberately zany look of the game as a whole. It looked fun, made use of plenty of awesome animations and also did well with angling and shadows. Even the little people scurrying in the cutscenes worked well to add character to the game.

My biggest job, as noted, was to prevent the ever-rapidly formed tower of buildings from getting too high and then pushed over. To prevent this, I had to swipe condos towards one of the two monsters on either side. It was better to get the monsters a condo that matched their respective colors. Additionally, I got points for effecting same collor 3-condo combos that converted to a bronze multiplier. Even cooler, the bronze could be upgraded to Silver, and then to gold, though it took a bit of work to do that.

The developer also incorporated level-topping Goals into the game. The goals were things like point thresholds, or doing an activity while a particular monster’s power was active. It was possible to unlock Boosts, and I thought the spinning wheel was a great touch. The in-app store could be used for stuff as well.

SMAMC was a lively game that stimulated my competitive juices and had me enjoying it immensely.

Catapult King Review

Catapult King Review

Mar 28, 2013

I think a lot of people admire what Angry Birds did for the mobile gaming space. Almost overnight, it became a cult classic and the de facto kingmaker of mobile platforms, and pretty much showed us that avian revenge could be effected with a catapult and a basic understanding of simulated flight physics.

I say all that to say this: to call Catapult King a clone of Angry Birds does both games a huge, undeserved disservice.

Yes, there’s a catapult. Yes, there are platforms with preening enemies. But instead of birds, I got to use more genteel boulders, and the Angry Birds franchise doesn’t yet have a medieval spin-off. And all those Angry Birds may have gone after Darth Vader, but have not yet tangled with a dragon, have they?

My, my… the catapult was a thing of beauty. It was big, it was menacing, and it had range. It looked real enough, with the developer doing well to replicate wood, levers and rocks. I also liked the green scenery that somehow allowed a rogue dragon look at home. The animations were smooth, and special effects were, well, special. All in all, it was a rich 3-D featurette that completely enveloped the story.

The gameplay fit together well. Extra fearsome boss holding a damsel in distress? Check. Inept, mocking henchmen? Present. Cool power-ups? Here. The catapult action needed some learning, but was not too difficult to figure out. I especially loved the complexities of the targets; the henchmen were generally spread out on wooden structures, and they got harder the further asking u progressed. I had a limited amount of projectiles to use to dispatch them. Doing so successfully earned me points, jewels and magic units (the magic units allowed me to select power-ups that could be used to ease my way through a particular level).

Call me easily amused, but I thought the power-ups are what really set this title apart from the pack. I hate to be Mr Spoiler here, but allow me to say that the aptly named “Lunar Strike” was awesome in its potency, and the Tornado effect was fantastic as well.

There is so much to like about Catapult King. The familiar type of gameplay will be welcome, but the perspective makes it feel so new. The combination of graphics and extras will most likely leave it as a fan favorite.

GDC 2013: MOGA Introduces Their Pro Controller

GDC 2013: MOGA Introduces Their Pro Controller

Mar 27, 2013

MOGA released its Android-compatible game controller late last year, featuring a small portable size and phone clip that could accommodate devices up to the Galaxy Note 2 in landscape height. Now, they’re releasing a new controller model that they hope will appeal to hardcore gamers on Android. The MOGA Pro is a Bluetooth gamepad with a button layout similar to an Xbox 360 controller – a diamond of face buttons, two bumpers, two triggers, two joysticks, and a d-pad.

Where gamers and Android users should care is that the controller is based off of the Fus1on Tournament Controller design, which the company claims is used by professional gamers worldwide in high-stakes competitions. Even for the mediocre gamer, this controller will do well – the joysticks had a great resistance to them, the triggers felt great to use as I killed zombies in Dead Trigger, and it’s increidbly ergonomically-friendly. There’s a rubber finish to where the player grabs the controller that makes it feel comfortable, and the controller has enough weight to it so that even a Galaxy Note 2 won’t make it feel lopsided. It also comes with a stand for the tablet devices that will work with it.

There are over 50 games that support the MOGA controllers through the company’s SDK, which they claim is the best way to implement controls as developers can easily tweak the controls for their button layout and joysticks. But with the wealth of Android games that support gamepads, often in secret, the MOGA Pro will still work with them, as an HID mode that works theoretically the same as when an Xbox controller is plugged in is also available through a switch on the controller.

The MOGA Pivot app is available to see which games are available on Google Play that support MOGA controls; this isn’t a separate store, but just a hub for seeing which games support the controls for Google Play. Plans are in the works over the long term to bring it to Amazon Appstore and Kindle Fire HD as well.

The MOGA Pro will be made available in mid-April, and is available at retail in many places such as Toys R Us and all major cell phone carriers.

KickStarter Spotlight: Station

KickStarter Spotlight: Station

Mar 27, 2013

Everyone could use some help being more organized; it is not a secret. An amazing percentage of the clutter that will build on an average desk are objects that are only there temporarily, such as a phone, keys, or wallet. There are hundreds of desk organizers that are available for purchase either online or at any store with an office section, but there are generally cheap and crudely constructed. At the least, a majority of them are overdone and attempt to do too much which might not be a problem for most people, but for those who are looking to add a little minimalist flair to their desk these obtuse organizers tend to get in the way. Over in KickStarter land there is a budding and promising new project that aims to deliver a precisely crafted organizer that also is pleasing on the eyes and might even garner a few compliments. This project is called Station, and it aims to clear the clutter in the most minimalist way possible.

Station is really nothing more than a piece of machined bamboo, which, as the developers are quick to point out, is one of the fastest renewing resources. The product is really designed for those who do not need much in the way of mass organization, and therefor really caters to a very specific client who does not need paper storage and only has a handful of items with them daily. There are three compartments here, a narrow trough for a pen or two, a large rectangular, multifunctional bay aptly deemed “stuff”, and a small, deeper gap for a smartphone to stand at an angle. By keeping the Station small the creators really allow for it to be placed anywhere, and it’s gorgeous, simple bamboo finish is enough to fit seamlessly into a modern living room or bedroom. My one gripe is that there should be at least an option to thread a charging cord into the phone dock.

With product consolidation at an all time high the need for a receptacle that holds a large plethora of items is waning, and it is hard to find many people who are carrying much more than a phone, keys, a pen, and a wallet. For only $29 retail, the Station is a cheap way to add a little extra functionality and style to an office or living area. With almost a month left to go, Station is almost half way to it’s $5,000 goal so for those looking for a discount donation price better ask quick before they’re all sold out.

Parking Mania Review

Parking Mania Review

Mar 27, 2013

I love parking games.

Park Mania was an interesting challenge. I liked how the developer strung together the sequences, and how there was a hint of realism in how they played out. They started out gently enough; at first, all I had to do was figure out how to use the accelerometer and movement slider in conjunction (more on controls later) to park a small sedan into an empty space. The aisles were wide, and spacing was liberal.

As the game progressed, the challenge became tougher. The driveways become thinner and maneuverability became more difficult. The parking areas started getting much tougher to get into. I liked the realistic challenges that I started facing: multiple cars, multiple stops, hidden rewards that upped the difficulty level, merging into traffic, sharp turns, bigger vehicles and more. The hidden rewards usually added to my cash haul at the end (I got cash for successfully completing challenges) and some seemed dependent on time. For every level, I had a set number of collisions before I “failed” the parking mission and had to redo the level.

The controls were simple. There was an on-screen forward/reverse pedal that was controlled by dragging. The survival controls were what really stood out.

I liked that there was a myriad of ways to control the vehicles: tilt controls, swipe/drag, virtual steering wheel or via flip controls. Part of the fun was trying out the different controls in difference scenarios. Giving folks options in this regard was a very good design decision in my opinion. In-app purchasing was available to buy attributes, but playing to earn cash was definitely not undo-able.

The graphics were nice and deliberate; the little things gave proof of the developer’s attention to detail. When I looked close enough, I could actually see the tires angle out when I turned, and when driving topless vehicles, the driver sat behind the wheel. The roadways, the barrier cones… even the flash of the headlights: they all tied in very well together.

And that, in a nutshell, is what made this game so much fun: all the pieces tied in well together. Chillingo seems to have a knack for doing this.

Evernote Launches 5.0 Update with Smart Notebook Support and Page Camera

Evernote Launches 5.0 Update with Smart Notebook Support and Page Camera

Mar 26, 2013

Evernote, one of the best ways for taking notes while on the go, has updated their Android app with new features in their big 5.0 update.

The camera note functionality has been improved to where it’s now possible to take and save multiple photos in one note. Photos can be easily deleted and cleared out from te note as possible.

Page Camera will make it easier to take photos of printed documents in order to have copies saved in Evernote, without any of the outside details, and with increased contrast.

As well, Page Camera is compatible with Evernote’s Smart Notebook by Moleskine. The notebook has dots instead of lines, and with Page Camera, it can easily be digitized into Evernote simply by snapping a picture of it. They also include “Smart Stickers” for increased organization. The notebooks come with 3 months of Evernote Premium as well.

Finally, the interface has been revamped, the shortcuts feature has been brought to mobile, document search for Premium users is available, and more. Download the update from Google Play.

The Jump: Escape The City Review

The Jump: Escape The City Review

Mar 26, 2013

We all love our distance running and driving games; they tend to be interesting, easy to understand and allow for mindless, quick fun. The Jump: Escape The City ties in this genre to the social upheaval that will clearly occur in about 500 years.

Set in a futuristic dystopian-looking society known as Monopolis, I had to escape the ominously-named World Corp goons who were after me, and I got to try to escape by jazzy vehicle.

The gameplay was fast and furious. The play area was a three-way highway, and in true distance running/driving style, it wasn’t as simple as just any other regular road; there were several obstacles and powerups. In addition, there was an ever-present, grim-looking helicopter just over my shoulder, waiting on me to crash or simply drive slow enough to catch me.

Using thumbs (preferably), I had to tap left or right to pick up objects or avoid the obstacles. I also could swipe up to jump, and swipe down to invoke specialized powers like temporary invincibility. The obstacles were interesting… collapsed roadways, random, bulky debris, abandoned vehicles and the like. The power cells I had to collect were green orbs. Before every run, I had the opportunity to select three power-ups for the chase.Some could be invoked manually, while some started up automatically.

As an added challenge, there were “speed-up” spots on the roadway, as well as opposing slow down areas. These were useful, but also had associated drawbacks. For instance, hitting too many of the former afforded me less control due to high speed. Going too slow made dodging easier but eventually allowed the helicopter catch up with me and end my run. The scoring system gave me points, and the in-game purchasing was in place to support that if it was too slow for me.

I liked the smoky, dusky look of the game. There was something about it that made me think of Mad Max… and the dark theme of the game reflected the despair. Bright color was used when needed. The 3D graphics were nicely rendered, and the animated sequences were pretty cool. I loved the achievements; they were varied and creative. I also liked the social sharing and the optional leaderboards. I do wish the game had landscape mode, though I somewhat understand the design perspective with regards to perspective.

The game did well to keep my attention, and has plenty of upside.

Saving Made Simple Finance App Review

Saving Made Simple Finance App Review

Mar 26, 2013

It’s a rough, tough mobile world. Thankfully, more and more tools are sprouting up to help us keep abreast of all the data. As our financial lives become increasingly electronic, the tools we keep to track them must keep up.

Saving Made Simple Finance App is a nice budgeting tool that allows everyday people to keep a finger on finances, even while on the go.

The app got straight down to business. It opened up with with a pop-up request to create a goal. The goal menu opened up to entry dialogues such as those for title, amount, deadline and reminder.

I randomly picked a goal amount to save, and after confirming the target date and such, it gave me all sorts of stats: dollar amount/percentage of target amount accumulated, and a monthly “payment” that will effect reaching that goal. It was all tidily presented, with the information easily accessed and manipulated. I liked the potential detail; if I so wished, I could get weekly, fortnightly or even daily cash estimates for each goal entry. I could also toggle automatic entries (credits and debits) to the head amount.

Now, the cool thing about the simple template was the different ways it could be used. It didn’t take a whole lot of work or reasoning to create a payoff schedule for things like credit lines or loans. Simply entering in the balance and a time frame, and the program did the calculations for me… not bad for a simplistic amortization spreadsheet. The same could be done for long-term savings: car, Christmas, wedding, college expenses… all could be entered in some fashion.

In the same vein, since the program had a reminder system, it could be used set up reminders for the payment of bills. This is something I found incredibly useful.

All in all, there is so much to like in this app. It is simple, very intuitive and more functional than it needs to be.

Oil Rush Brings Visually-Stunning Real-Time Battles to Snapdragon S4 Devices

Oil Rush Brings Visually-Stunning Real-Time Battles to Snapdragon S4 Devices

Mar 26, 2013

Unigine has a big game out on Google Play now, in multiple senses of the word. Oil Rush: 3D Naval Strategy has players commanding air and sea forces in a post-apocalyptic world. Players try to strategically fight for a wide variety of objectives in a number of game types with a campaign that the developers claim lasts up to 10 hours. The graphics are the immediate standout feature, with incredible detail and expansive environments. The game requires a device with 1 GB of RAM to play.

The game is currently exclusively available for Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 devices, which include the Galaxy S III, Nexus 4, and Motorola Droid RAZR HD. The game does come with a hefty $7.99 price tag for the lengthy campaign and detailed graphics, but for those curious about if the game will run on their device, a free demo version containing the first chapter of the game is available from Google Play.

Pixel Kingdom Review

Pixel Kingdom Review

Mar 26, 2013

Pixel Kingdom melds some great FANTASTIC concepts: Kickstarter projects, tower defense and retro gaming.

I admit to being a huge Kickstarter fan; there is something inherently cool about crowd-sourcing dreams and seeing them (in the nice cases) getting the funding and eventually coming to fruition. Pixel Kingdom is a Kickstarter success story, and as such, it is a huge pleasure to have the opportunity to review it.

It is a hybrid tower defense game that is a little bit different from the norm. It splits the playing area into three lanes, with the game engine units (the offense) marching from right to left, towards my wall, where these enemy units inflicted damage.

My defending units could be invoked to defend the lanes. In classic tower defense style, different levels had different cost values; I had to pick carefully to put the best unit in the best lane at the right time. Now, depending on the power of the opposing unit, my players could be destroyed or beaten back, as could the enemy units. My units kept on marching till they were overrun, or off the screen to the right.

The units showed a fun degree of variety; relative efficacy was directly proportionate to cost, as to be expected. Resources to purchase were replenished and created by destroying enemy units. The game got harder at the end of every level, and I got performance stats at the conclusion of each one. There was the occasional treat chest too.

The graphics were a true treat, reflecting a time when 8-bit was the standard look for video games. I thought the retro look simply worked in this case (and I hold to that even though I admit to my love of retro games).The jerky movements and tentative colors were excellently rendered.

Another great thing about the game is the ongoing development. New unit types still make their way to the game, and the built-in community from kickstarter helps with continued propagation of ideas.

This was another cool game, with an almost cooler real-life backstory.

Pac-Man +Tournaments Makes Pac-Man Free to Play, Exclusively for Android

Pac-Man +Tournaments Makes Pac-Man Free to Play, Exclusively for Android

Mar 25, 2013

Pac-Man has gone free to play. Namco has announced Pac-Man +Tournaments for Google Play. Players get to play through the standard Pac-Man mazes, including some brand new designs. The classic mode is completely free to play, with some daily free play options, though there’s definitely opportunities to spend money. Just like the classic arcade games, it’s going to beg for quarters, though at least you don’t have to put a quarter in to start playing! Still, history repeats itself, and we’re still playing Pac-Man decades later.

Players will compete for spots on the leaderboards and try to unlock achievements, plus there’s the chance to win real prizes. Want to win plush ghosts? Go for it! Just don’t expect them to be edible, even if you take power pellets beforehand. Pac-Man +Tournaments is available now for free on Google Play, which is an Android-exclusive launch.

Crumble Zone Review

Crumble Zone Review

Mar 25, 2013

Every now and then, I get to try out a game that initially baffles me, but ends up surprising me. Sometimes it’s good; other times, less than optimal.

Crumble Zone was one of those games that surprised me.

I have to say that I became infatuated with the look of the app. It was a true party of bright, inviting colors that really leapt out at me. The animations were smooth, and explosions brightly rendered.

The best way to describe the gameplay is “planetary.” I was a sentry alien of sorts around a large space rock, protecting it from incoming asteroids. The asteroids came in different sizes packing differing destructive payloads, so it was imperative to get to them — and destroy them — before they orbited into my home planet. To accomplish this, I made use of two direction buttons on the left, and a firing button on the right. Additionally, there were special weapons I could get with diamonds I procured.

Yes, I said diamonds. I got precious jewels for destroying particular space rocks. I also used the rotate button to pick them up. I found that these multi-colored diamonds served as game currency, which could be used to purchase upgrades and such. I liked this a lot, as it placed advanced activity in my hands: play well, and play long, and the game is more interesting.

The pace was fast, and got more challenging as I progressed. I liked the explosive sequences, and found out that it took a little bit of strategy to maximize effectiveness. I was able to instigate combos and the such, and the advanced weaponry and attributes were pretty cool.

The game also has a local multiplayer option that pits two players in a battle of asteroid blasting.

As I said at the beginning, sometimes I get surprised. This one one game that blew me away… in a good way. I was impressed with the design and consuming gameplay, but was not pleased at the length of time I had to use to, uh, review the app.

In fact, I have to go do some more research.