The Conduit HD Review

The Conduit HD Review

May 31, 2013

The Conduit HD is probably the finest console-quality FPS available on mobile because it actually is a console FPS on mobile. Originally released as a Wii game by High Voltage Studios, they have now brought it to Android with a fresh coat of paint for HD devices, but with the same gameplay. On mobile scale, it’s quite an achievement, but does the title actually work on mobile? It’s a mixed bag.

Players control Michael Ford, a government agent who soon finds himself facing down an alien invasion after being betrayed by a shadow government, and forced to work for the ‘terrorist’ Prometheus who may not be as bad as he seems. Players swap between a variety of weapons and use the “All Seeing Eye” to activate switches, unlock doors, and find hidden items and messages spread throughout the game world.

The Conduit HD doesn’t really do much with the FPS formula that feels all that unique – part of its notability back in 2009 was that it was an original hardcore-focused FPS for the Wii, a casual-focused platform. While console-style gameplay is somewhat lacking on mobile, there have been a several FPS titles that have released, like Gameloft’s whole NOVA and Modern Combat series. So, while it feels a bit unique to be playing this game on mobile, it’s not entirely there.

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The game is freemium, with the first two levels (though the very first is really just an extended tutorial) available for free, and the rest of the game unlockable for $4.99. It’s possible to buy 3-6 and 7-10 for $2.99 each, but…really? Don’t do that. As well, cheats can be bought with IAP.

The game is rather lengthy for a mobile title, with extended-length missions that make the most sense to play while at home sitting down. All the voice acting is still here, even though the plot, full of double-crosses and aliens is somewhat overacted by the cast. However, being called “Mr. Ford” all the time is entertaining for fans of Frisky Dingo.

The controls are a mixed bag. On the touch screen, it’s a wee bit chaotic, what with the virtual joysticks and double-tap actions that can cause random things to happen. My recommendation? Play with a real controller. HID gamepads (like the Xbox 360 controller) and the MOGA controllers are supported, and they’re much better for playing the game than the on-screen controls. Those are fine in a pinch, but this is a real FPS meant to be played with real controls.

And really, that’s the problem. This game is a console game on Android. And not one that is all that original to boot. Those looking for a legitimate FPS experience will want to check this out, especially for owners of physical controllers. They will get their money’s worth. But for those looking for a great mobile FPS…keep looking.

BlueStacks Goes From Android Apps on PC to Android Games on TV With the Upcoming GamePop Console

BlueStacks Goes From Android Apps on PC to Android Games on TV With the Upcoming GamePop Console

May 31, 2013

BlueStacks, known for their Android app emulation on PC and Mac, is pivoting a bit with the announcement of their new GamePop console. Planned to release this winter, the console will use a subscription-based model for its games, where people pay $6.99 per month for unlimited access to games, with titles from publishers like Com2us getting featured. They’re running a promotion at the moment where those who preorder the device by signing up for a year of the $6.99/month subscription will get the console for free, in a promotion running until June. Not a bad deal since the console will run $129.

This is BlueStacks entering an increasingly-crowded market segment though, and one that has yet to prove itself in any meaningful way. After all, Ouya isn’t even out yet to the general public, and there’s GameStick out there as well as those HDMI-toting dongles that can theoretically play games. Bluestacks is also minimizing the focus on its PC/Mac Android emulator, it seems – which is bad news for Windows tablet owners. Will this pivot with a subscription model on an Android gaming console actually work? We’ll find out this winter.

10000000 Review

10000000 Review

May 31, 2013

“And lo, the hero’s adventure did come to an end because he couldn’t unlock the chest in time.”

This is something that does happen in 10000000, the indie match-3 RPG from EightyEight Games (aka Luca Redwood) that has been brought to Android. Sometimes it’s not the enemies that fell the player, it’s the inability to get the keys to unlock doors and chests, leading to one’s doom. Wait, why?

Well, in the world of 10000000, players exist on a horizontal scale where they need to keep moving, and anything that slows them down or keeps them from advancing it a threat. Sure, the enemies are greater threats because they’ll actually knock the player back, stopping them on their quest to get ten million points and free the protagonist from his mysterious imprisonment.

The game is a match-3 puzzler at its core, but it uses a slightly different mechanic where players slide around entire rows and columns in order to make matches. Now, each match has a certain effect, whether it be to deliver attacks on enemies, unlock chests, or add items to the inventory.

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Where the challenge starts to come in is that players need to make specific matches at specific times in order to do what they need to. Thus, the context of battles changes the complexion of the board. What at one second is a favorable layout suddenly becomes a nightmare. It really brings a layer of depth to the matching that similar puzzle-RPGs don’t have, because each match has a particular response, and sometimes those responses aren’t adequate for the situation at hand. It’s ingenious.

The upgrade system where players get stronger by spending gold and resources not only adds a layer of customization, it also adds a tantalizing layer to the matching game: is it worth collecting resources with this available match, or to make this combat match? Yes, I’m in a fight with an enemy, but these resources could mean the difference between an upgrade for the next game and not. Since the goal is not to get high scores, but to get the high score of ten million points, maybe that’s the better play. This game is far more layered than a match-3 deserves to be.

There are a few drawbacks to the overall experience. Visually, the game is a wee bit ugly, and that icon is almost endearing at this point. The controls on a 7″ screen are fine, but it does require using the index finger as a pointer. I kinda like this better on a phone. The sliding rows and columns makes finding that next match often a bit more difficult than it needs to be.

10000000 isn’t perfect, but as a match-3 game that truly integrates its match-3 gameplay into its experience, versus using it just as one way to skin a cat like with Puzzle Quest (not that it’s a bad thing), it’s brilliant and can be quite the addictive little game.

MOGA Pro Bluetooth Gamepad Hardware Review

MOGA Pro Bluetooth Gamepad Hardware Review

May 31, 2013

There are a lot of gamepads available for Android. I mean, a lot. Plus, there’s the ability to plug in Xbox 360 controllers, so the landscape is inordinately crowded. But there might just be a king of the hill finally: the MOGA Pro. This is a Bluetooth gamepad that features the standard Xbox 360 layout, and comes with a tablet stand.

Unlike most controllers where actually usage of the controller feels like an afterthought, the MOGA Pro is incredibly ergonomic and a joy to hold. The controller is light, but the rubberized grips mean that it fits in one’s hand perfectly. Extended gaming sessions are comfortable. The buttons all have a nice, solid response to them, especially the shoulder bumpers and triggers. MOGA claims this is based off of parent company PowerA’s Ecl1pse controller, which is apparently used at tournaments. I can belive it, as this is one nice controller.

The only complaint I have is that the d-pad is a bit on the stiff side, but it may just take some breaking in, and it’s still light years ahead of the 360’s default d-pad. The joysticks are a bit loose for my tastes but that didn’t have a significant impact on me. Try the joysticks out with many games – The Conduit HD had deadzone issues with the joysticks that didn’t arise elsewhere.

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Now, the problem with many gamepads that use their own standardized APIs is that it’s a cause of severe fragmentation in a land where the HID protocol exists. The original MOGA controller lacked HID support so some games were left unsupported. Well, the MOGA Pro can be run in “A” mode which supports MOGA-compatible games, and “B” mode which is HID mode. Connecting takes a few seconds when done through the app, but it’s otherwise a painless process. Games that supported HID had no difficulty with me on the MOGA Pro. Sadly, I could not get HID mode to work on Windows 8, which is a shame because this would be a perfect controller to use via Bluetooth. For comparison, the Nyko Playpad’s HID mode kinda works but that controller is also just mediocre.

The MOGA Pivot app is a good portal not just for connecting the controllers to the device but to also find MOGA-compatible games. It’s not a separate store, just a portal, which is quite welcome. Also, the MOGA comes with a code for a free game. Sweet babies!

There are a lot of Android gamepads out there. I issue my highest recommendation for this controller.

The MOGA Pro is available for $49.99 from MOGA’s website and other retailers.

Little Amazon Review

Little Amazon Review

May 31, 2013

Little Amazon is a lot of goodness packed into a genteel exterior.

Yeah, right.

It’s a running game, but keep in mind that it is from Bulkypix; this likely means there is not going to be a lot of spoon feeding. It tells the story of the evil Gruul, and the battle to bring him down.

Our protagonist, Lily, starts with little fanfare, breaking out and onto the screen and fading from left to right through a jungle interspersed with pathways of varying heights and lengths. There are plenty of treacherous obstacles, stationary and otherwise, that exist to hasten our heroine’s demise. Using the dual controls, jumping is an essential little1part of navigating through the game area. Jumping helped get our warrior to the bigger platforms and good coins (more on that later). Springing also helps to avoid ghosts and other dangers. It does become apparent that timing was a big part of controlling the jumping power; being overly, uh, jumpy could have negative consequences. Over-leaping could be just as bad as not jumping at all. There is also a weapon button that shoots.

Obviously, distance is the name of the game; going far earns points that help unlock advanced levels. Also, the entire run area is lined irregularly with coinage that can be collected by touch. Collected coins can be used to effect important upgrades to attributes that make gameplay much easier (in-app purchasing also exists). There are also mini-missions to complete and achievements to earn.

The graphics are a testament to an imaginative mind. It isn’t exactly cartoony, but does not take itself too seriously. It is a feast of pastels, with decent animations and a simple backdrop that works well with the forefront. The bad thingies looked like bad thingies, and the visual cues were good.

Little Amazon is a fun ride that more than adequately holds fulfills the promise of a tried and true genre.

Mr. AahH!! Review

Mr. AahH!! Review

May 31, 2013

Ponos, in bringing their infamous iOS title Mr. Aahh to Android, bring forth somewhat of a different aesthetic to the platform than others do, thanks to the studio’s Japanese origins.

The game itself has players controlling the daredevil Mr. Aahh, who enjoys swinging from platform to platform, trying to land as close to the center as possible. Well, I say he enjoys it, but there’s no actual proof of that. He could just be forced to jump thanks to a tyrannical regime. Consider that! Well, whoever or whatever is causing this to happen, players must time Mr. Aahh’s jump to land as close to the center of the platform as possible However, landing on the platform to begin with is very important, as missing a landing causes the loss of a life. Three falls and it’s game over for Mr. Aahh.

The game is very simple to play, just tapping on the screen to jump once Mr. Aahh starts swinging, tilting to fine-tune the jump.. The game picks up in challenge as variable wind and gravity comes in to play. Suddenly jumps get to be a lot more difficult when the wind is blowing in Mr. Aahh’s face and gravity has increased.

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The game does a good job at ensuring that players have a rough feel for how the physics work even when the physics get twist-turned upside down. The game requires learning the ‘feel’ of it and how it works, and that takes practice, but it’s rewarding the more that players play. As well, with greater bonuses for landing near the middle and getting ‘JUST’ bonuses consecutively, mastery is especially rewarded.

Now, I think that the aesthetic of Japanese games is something that gets kind of missed in the recent era of gaming: Japanese gaming has a special feel to it that’s represented here. Whether it’s just the music that sounds like it was straight out of a 16-bit game, and just different enough from other chiptunes that are out there. It just has a different feel that’s quite welcome. Japanese gaming has a heavy continuing influence on game developers as a whole, and there’s no reason why it can’t continue.

Mr. Aahh has a simple premise and lots of fun that will come from it. There’s even online leaderboards, albeit with a system that visually apes the look of Game Center on iOS. Fans of arcade-style gaming need to check this one out.

Zombie Derby Review

Zombie Derby Review

May 30, 2013

Zombie Derby is about three ubiquitous concepts: destruction of the undead, crazy driving, and insane vehicular modifications.

In this motorized horror adventure, a vehicle is commandeered from left to right, trying to make it to a safe haven. Between me and that safe haven are innumerable zombies and obstacles… not to mention other unfortunate issues, like inadequate gas supply. Plowing through monster bodies earns cash.

The controls are minimal, and consist of virtual buttons for acceleration and another to fire. There is also a nitro button button that appears when that upgrade is activated.

I like the relatively simple upgrade process. Some games make it so convoluted. In Zombie Derby, youderby1 race, dispatch zombies, earn points, upgrade elements that make the vehicle more viable, and finish the level to move on. Fairly straightforward.

The upgrades are fairly logical. It starts out with a basic truck with little gas. Every run results in points and cash, which can be used to build up stuff like fuel capacity, rocket boosters and engines. A lot of these boosts could be increased in progression; for example, at the base level, I could upgrade gas with an amount of game cash. To get gas capacity raised again, a larger amount is needed, and so on, till that element maxes out for that level. The same applies to weaponry and more. Increasing the elements invariably increases the length of the runs and the cash haul, so everything works together.

With all upgrade elements fully upgraded, it finally becomes possible to complete the run to walls of safety, and unlock the next level. It is then possible to purchase new vehicles and start the upgrade process again. In-app purchasing is available to expedite the process with real money

As progress is made, it becomes evident that running over bodies and obstacles, while horrifically fun, isn’t always the best option; in an ode to realism, the developer ensured collisions slow speed. Thus, it makes sense to use the guns to take out objects when possible. But there is never an unlimited supply of bullets either, so management is key.

The graphics and sound just fit, with nice 3D graphics that I selfishly thought could have been even more refined. I do appreciate the gore wasn’t overdone, which seems to be a hard balance to strike in zombie-themed games.

As far as zombie games go, this one just about proves that we are not saturated just yet.

Shaun the Sheep: Fleece Lightning Review

Shaun the Sheep: Fleece Lightning Review

May 30, 2013

There’s no shame in admitting that you enjoy certain things that aren’t necessarily aimed at yourself. I, as a ‘grown-up’, have been known to enjoy the odd cartoon here or there. No shame in that, especially when one of the animated shows I speak of is Shaun the Sheep. The lovable lamb has his own TV show after becoming a cult favourite thanks to his appearances in the Wallace & Gromit series of animated shorts.

What happens when a character gets popular? They get their own game as well, and Shaun the Sheep is no different. Here we have Shaun the Sheep: Fleece Lightning, a game, like the show, which is aimed at a younger audience. Unlike the show, this age gap is harder to ignore. The problem being that although the show is simple, it gets by on its gorgeous animation and charming characters. This game has neither. It’s just too simple for adults to really enjoy.

Shaun1As the name may imply, Fleece Lightning is based on racing the titular Shaun from one end of the farm to the other. This is boiled down to tilting your device of choice left or right to avoid farm-based obstacles, whilst the game controls Shaun’s acceleration.

A good job’s been done on the presentation, with characters and locations maintaining their trademark Aardman style, though very little is animated. A few frames at the end of a race show Shaun jumping for joy when he wins, though the rest of the game is fairly static.

Another positive is the variation between races. Boost pads, mud that slows you down, ramps and bouncy trampolines litter the courses making each dash as interesting as the game’s simple premise can be.

It boils down to the fact that the game’s simplicity is both its biggest strength and weakness. As an adult that’s played plenty of games and demands more of a challenge, this is too flimsy a product to recommend. However, if you’ve got a person of a younger age that could quite happily compete in race after race as a speedy sheep, then you could do much worse.

Gluddle Review

Gluddle Review

May 30, 2013

If there is anything that we learned from the furious avian franchise, it’s that physics-based games almost never get old, and that’s why puzzlers like Gluddle will always get a happy look-see from blokes like me.

The game story is simple: the bouncy blobs known as Gluddle want to live their lives without being harassed by the prying eyes of “The Supervision” anymore, so they take matters into their own hands and dispatch with the enemy blobs themselves. Being a seemingly peaceful set of beings, it seems as if the height of Gluddle violence involves launching themselves aggressively at the enemy to dissuade them from being bothersome.

The actual gameplay basically has to do with flinging our protagonist(s) at the opposing spheres. There is a direction glu1winder of sorts, and this allows one to direct the blob. A tap then launches it in the predetermined path.

But wait. There’s more. Of course, it gets harder. Eventually, I had to go against more than one Supervision orb per round. Usually, the number of Gluddles increases as well. Also, the distance from the launch area to the targets increases, which means using advanced techniques (like freezing an orb to bounce another one off of it) becomes an essential piece to progress. Using fewer orbs gives better scores.

As hinted at, the gameplay is leveled. The orbs have infinite bounceability, which adds to the fun factor. It’s pretty cool to see the action that occurs when multiple ricochets occur. The developer describes it as “pinball meets trampoline,” and it is an apt description. The levels were blessed with plenty of variation, so everything felt new.

The animations are sharp, and are the perfect complement to the bright graphics. The detail is pretty amazing, and the sequences really nice to see. The exotic scenery inspires the desire to personally hug the brain stem of the developer.

The game comes with free levels with more unlockable via in-app purchasing.

For a trip on the wild side, Gluddle is definitely worth the time.

Verizon Cloud Now Covers The Droid DNA and Galaxy S 4 Phones

Verizon Cloud Now Covers The Droid DNA and Galaxy S 4 Phones

May 29, 2013

Verizon Cloud has expanded is coverage and now includes more Android devices, such as the Droid DNA and Galaxy S 4. Engadget reported that when Verizon Cloud launched last month, only backing up a small number of Android devices, that it wasn’t quite what the carrier had in mind when it came to their cross-platform plans.

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Monkey Boxing Review

Monkey Boxing Review

May 29, 2013

For boxing feens, Monkey Boxing may be close to a must-see. And why not? Monkeys in the boxing ring… it doesn’t get much better.

In this game, lower primates get to be pugilists with flair. It has the feel of Wii’s generic boxing game, decked out in eye-catching 3D detail. The developer really works color into the customization options by giving a great selection of clothing and gear, plus whimsical vanity items and hair pieces. The animations were okay, avoiding the overzealous gruesomeness that sometimes plagues games of this time. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I appreciated the zany touches. It’s much easier to justify knocking out your 6-yr-old when bananas are floating over the prone body of his mon1character.

The game has a few different modes. It is possible to play in a single ladder type of progression, or two players locally on the same device. There is also the option of playing against an opponent who is on another device on the same wi-fi network. Single player entails fighting, training and completing challenges; progress unlocks more features and customization options, and the game does a good job of compiling stats. The boxing matches themselves were simple affairs, with fights going about four rounds. Each fighter has a life bar, and the winner is the fighter with the most life at the end of the fight, or the one who is still standing. Controls were minimalist in nature, with two virtual buttons (punch and block) being the primary ones; other special power buttons flashed when earned or invoked.

The multiplayer multi-device play is pretty fantastic. As noted, it involves playing over local wi-fi. I think it’s the best part of the game, but then again, I’m a sucker for multiplayer functionality.

My biggest gripes were the ease of play in the single player mode and the finicky connectivity for the multiplayer portion. With the former, I just wanted a bit more of a challenge. The latter was a frustrating experience; I hope it isn’t a widespread issue and that it was mostly user error.

All in all, Monkey Boxing is a great time waster with plenty of upside and expandability.

Total Recoil Review

Total Recoil Review

May 29, 2013

Ah… every now and then, a game comes along and sucks you dead in the jaw. Total Recoil it’s one of those games, and it is chock full of lippy attitude. It’s an arcade shooter published by Thumbstar Games that brings to bear cool features, awesome graphics and raw gameplay.

The 3D environment is gorgeous. From jump, it is hard not to admire the succinct amalgam of motion and animation. From the very first explosion to the smooth rotation of the firing soldier, everything just worked. The environments are fun without being overly silly, and the graphic design reflects the arcade roots of the game. There is little to complain about with regards to the artwork.

Vin Diesel would adore the gameplay, because this action is fast and furious. As soon as the “play” button is tapped,total1 shooting and destruction starts. The dual control system is fairly intuitive, with one button guiding movement, and the other controlling the rotation of the perpetually shooting soldier. The action comes in a few different play modes, including wave, operations and basic challenges. One thing I especially like is the full-fledged tutorial that makes up a part of the game; it gives plenty of pointers with regards to the goals and activities.

At its core, a lot of the progress depends on successful wave defense and the defeat of the big bad bosses. As expected, it starts off fairly easy and gets harder. Destruction releases coinage that can be accrued to garner valuable upgrades. For those frothing at the mouth to go big even faster, in-app purchasing is available, though I didn’t find it to be necessary. Of course, it wouldn’t be an arcade sim without destruction-induced weapon upgrades, streak rewards, war birds, choppers and more.

All in all, it is a fantastic offering that is hard to put down. I enjoyed it immensely.