Blast from the past: Broken Sword

Blast from the past: Broken Sword

Jan 30, 2018

Long before Dan Brown got regular people talking about Knight Templars in their book clubs (and long, long before Tom Hanks had us doing the same in our living rooms), some of us already had an in on the shadowy world of religious conspiracies. It came in the form of the point and click adventure of the time, called Broken Sword.

Look, this was a fantastic game. My first foray occurred, believe it or not, on Palm. Before then, it cut its teeth as a very popular PC game. Since then, it has spawned versions on other mobile platforms (like Android and iOS, of course), sequels, prequels and even the eponymous proof of standing: a Director’s Cut.

Want more proof? it has been nominated for our very own Pocket Gamer awards in years past.

From a personal standpoint, it is a bit of a family gaming heirloom. It was one of the first games we played as a family, and even now, it is the one application that makes it worthwhile to keep the old Palm T5 charged up. As part of our Google Play family library, it exists and every device, including, most recently, my Chromebook.

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Then, as now, the game’s charm is based on its creativity. Right from the beginning, it draws you in, and doesn’t let go; because of its design, it felt tailor-made for mobile play. The artwork was zany then, and retains that quality even when seen through eyes spoiled on high fidelity graphics. But the coolest factor was that the game came together very well.

All the accolades aside, Broken Sword represents a fun time in my life… back when everything was evergreen, and life was so full of hope. When I fire it up now, I get the same feelings.

Life can be a game.

[Our Broken Sword Review]

MazeMilitia Review

MazeMilitia Review

Jan 29, 2018

It would seem shooting games are always in vogue. MazeMilitia: LAN, Online Multiplayer Shooting Game is a newish game in Android world via Google Play, available for all of our individual playing, uh, pleasures.

In any case, as you guessed, this is a shooting game, with online group play as the core element. Visually, it is a gritty game, using different views and varied locations all presented in landscape orientation. The controls consist of two thumb system, which allows you to move, swing around and (when necessary) the ability to do shoot-y stuff like firing, zooming in and the like.

After the beginning tutorial, the default action pits you and your virtual character against several other online foes in a compound strewn with different obstacles. The name of the game is to take out the others and simultaneously stay alive. Well, with the basic gear you have, staying alive long is tough; respawning is an option to use. After a set time, all stats are recorded, and XP and/or cash is/are dished out.

Now, it makes sense to improve and upgrade the gear to be more effective. In the battles, it pays to have a strategy… high ground, maybe? It does get fun, and quite addictive.

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It’s a relatively slow row; be prepared to battle very often to accumulate the XP adds game cash necessary to unlock and acquire materials that are, in essence, needed to do well. In fact, it is tempting to use real cash to expedite operations so as not to die so often. If you don’t mind ads, there’s are a few ways to pick up bonus goodies, but sans cash, a bit of patience is definitely required.

Per the action, the battle segments could probably benefit from a few defensive actions (like crouching) and the mapping utility could be more dynamic, but quibbles aside, it’s a solid action battler that has the added benefit of being adjustable to local play.

An in-depth look at NETGEAR Orbi: could wall-to-wall wi-fi be a possibility?

An in-depth look at NETGEAR Orbi: could wall-to-wall wi-fi be a possibility?

Jan 28, 2018

I remember when I first got a wi-fi router. Yes, in those days, when I wanted to get online on the phone-book looking laptop, I had to disconnect the ethernet cable from the desktop and reconnect it to said laptop. Yes… very mobile.

My wife wondered aloud at the investment. Why on earth did we need wireless connectivity? I gave her the techie’s best catchall answer: because it’s cool.

Now, for myself and the practically the rest of the world, wi-fi is ubiquitously necessary. Seriously… I remember when we had the only network in our neighborhood. Now, there are scores of them whenever you look to sign in, including the standard sophomoric joke names referencing anatomy and federal agencies to boot. I expect doctor’s offices, coffee hangouts and church to have complimentary wi-fi. And, interestingly enough, turning it off is the one way I can simultaneously elicit screams from every corner of the house… the loudest coming from the same person who originally doubted its usability.

Wi-fi is serious business. When auto manufacturers start incorporating something as a standout feature, you know it’s big.

But back to wi-fi at home… wi-fi coverage has gotten so much better, what with better technology and front-facing hardware, but dead spots at home can be a problem. I have a painful one, right across from the refrigerator. I have come to live with such, consoling myself in the fact that it could be worse, and even unconsciously looking for routers so as to be as close to them wherever I go.

The latest concept that is catching major steam is mesh coverage. This system looks to eliminate coverage dead spots by providing a, well, web of coverage that utilizes multiple hardware clients. NETGEAR looks to take this idea and gives us the Orbi.

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Now, if you want to be especially technical, the Orbi isn’t a true mesh network, in that it probably is more similar to a router-repeater setup. The resulting coverage purports to be more likened to said mesh coverage, which is what really matters. Honestly, I couldn’t wait to check this out.

NETGEAR sent us a 2-pc version, dignified and all in blue retail packaging. The review package contained two pieces that looked similar: a main router and an extender. Both pieces might remind you of a set of wireless speakers, coming in at 6.7 x 3.1 x 8.89 inches, and weighing just under 2 lbs each.

Setup was relatively easy; almost plug and play in the easiest mode. Setup from there was like any other: sign in via the web. Next, I configured the companion app, available on Google Play; the Netgear Orbi app in the same vein as other Netgear apps, in that it allows the administrator (in my case, read: parents) to control wi-fi access, set up quest access and monitor overall usage. Amazon Alexa can be used to launch guest network, by the way, in addition to other voice commands.

But how did it fair? SUperlatively, in the non-mansion target home it was tested in. That stubborn access disappeared, even with several walls between. Next up: how does it work at the office? Follow-to come soon, hopefully.

In case you missed it: elsewhere on Steel Media

The coolest thing about being part of a media network is that there is literally always something fresh… be it a different take, a new game or a platform-specific helper. Just in case you missed the goodness, here’s a quick rundown of some of the happenings on our sister sites.

Pocket Gamer

It’s always live at PG, and for folks that have a taste for sexy game talk, the latest Pocket Gamer Podcast — Episode 428 — is here. On the docket? Convo about The Room: Old Sins, Thumper and an interview Warhammer Quest II‘s developer.

There’s more… a walkthrough for popular cross-platform game Super Senso, and Jon Mundy’s take on the best iOS and Android games of January 2018.

148apps

Where to begin… if you want some tips and tricks to get ahead in Meteorfall, or become the baddest crime fighter in Jydge, or simply want to set sail with the best info possible in World of Warship Blitz… rest assured, the crew at 148apps has you well covered.

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AppSpy

If you’re looking for news about the latest music game that’s dropped on mobile, AppSpy’s got you covered with it’s quick hitter on aforementioned new iOS app Thumper. You also want to drink in the feature read on the Hidden Gem of the Week, Ending, as well as furthering your ambition to become the best turn-based gunslinger by reading up on Christian Valentin’s hot take on Infinite West.

Sniper Shot 3D Review

Sniper Shot 3D Review

Jan 26, 2018

Sniper Shot 3D: Call of Snipers‘ biggest attribute, possibly, is its simplicity.

The name lets you in on the game, in that it is a shooter. You get basic graphics, a bit stilted at times, but enough to convey the gameplay, along with varied backgrounds and action shot that blend in slow-motion sequences to catch the eye. The controls incorporate a dual thumb system, such that you can invoke the sights with the right side and shoot with the left.

It starts out as you basic sniper shooter; it is broken into levels, and each one has an objective. The first few help you get the basics down: how to zoom in, swing vision and the like, as well as advanced concepts like slowing down your breathing for a steadier shot. Accuracy means a lot, and as to be expected, head shots carry maximum value.

Missing a target means they might get startled, and run off, meaning that particular level is failed. Successfully completed missions yield scores, game currency and the unlocking of subsequent levels.

As for the levels, you’re generally tasked with taking out non-desirables in different scenarios: escaped prisoners, hostage situations and more. Weapon choice is important, and it is necessary to think of speed, because, for instance, the bad guys are going to hold off taking out innocent hostages for only so long. As you go on, you might need to unlock goodies and go for infinite shooting power-ups, because these get tougher the further in you get.

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The game does well with regards to mission types and the gradient of difficulty; it keeps the action interesting by not being too one dimensional, and encouraging strategic play.

There are a few issues. In some areas, it even feels somewhat unfinished, like when the graphical sequences defy physics. Also, some of the action sequences might seem a bit callous to fold with Western sensibilities. Beyond the unnerving ickiness of sniper play to begin with, doing stuff like shooting fleeing baddies does feel a bit awkward at the very least.

In the end, it does the deed if one is looking for an engaging time waster, because it doesn’t overly complicate matters with intricate missions or complex upgrade mechanisms. Shoot, get better, advance.

Simple.

Finger Driver Review

Finger Driver Review

Jan 24, 2018

Ketchapp’s Finger Drive is one of those games that gets right to it.

Yes, take it in. Portrait orientation, simple graphics with roving solid backgrounds. Smooth animations, and a singular control: using your finger to control a singular steering wheel.

Which controls a singular car that needs to be guided along a very windy road.

Bam. That’s it.fd3

Wait a sec… this is quite a serious challenge. The steering while isn’t as sharp as one would hopefully want, in that the car doesn’t react instantly to turns. Now add in the exceptionally and evilly curvy roads, and you can see why it ain’t an easy ride. Go off the road — even by a teeny bit — and the level is failed. Back to the starting board.

And as if to tease you even further, the game tosses in an extra arcade element: collectible diamonds, that can be accumulated by contact. No, these are not placed in the easiest spots… but why would they be? Steer quick, but don’t oversteer, on and on and on.

This is a very “touchy” game, one that demands a positively twitchy finger. The name of the game is to as far as you can. Going far yields diamonds, and there are other arcade-y touches, such as the ability to extend the run by watching ads. The game is broken down into missions (thresholds), and finishing the one opens the next. For folks having a tough time, you can always skip a mission by buying your way through with collected diamonds.

Now, there are plenty of ads, but you can kill these with a one-time purchase of $1.99.

When it comes to games that are easy to pick up and get into, few will be able to complain about Finger Drive. It’s a tough game, yes, but has enough side roads to make is palatable for even the most impatient casual gamers out there.

US Army Frontline Special Forces Commando Mission Review

US Army Frontline Special Forces Commando Mission Review

Jan 19, 2018

US Army Frontline Special Forces Commando Mission
is a game, yes, but it happily bathes itself in good old national pride.

The game descriptor is very, well, precise with regards to targets and all, but this one boils down to a mission based first-person shooter. Thus, the action is taken in as such, with virtual buttons laid out to control movement, shooting, sights and so on. The visuals are very desert-y and sun-drenched, and the environments become a bit more intricate as you go further.

The action is very straightforward, and the initial few levels higlight this: select an available weapon, and shoot your way through a few baddies, then collect some collectibles at the endpoint.

Open up new levels. Rinse. Repeat.

Success yields game cash, and this can be used to acquire better gear, which begin to become available when subsequent levels are open. Of course, there are tougher challenges the further on you go, and the gameplay is fairly self contained, and mostly well done.

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But…

I’m all for developers making money, and will defend ads in freemium games, but I did find the ones in this one to be more than a tad annoying. Thankfully, they can be removed with real cash, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a player or two were put off permanently by the way these ads pop up.

Ah… those controls. Outside the ad system — which, as already noted, can be killed via in-app purchase — the control system is probably the most annoying aspect of the game. The pan and shoot mechanism could definitely be smoother, and a whole lot more responsive.

If you are able to overlook those foibles, this one is as easy to enjoy as it is to get into. Get in, do the deed, reach the endpoint… and do it in the allotted time.

Stickman Parkour Review

Stickman Parkour Review

Jan 18, 2018

Okay, admittedly, I have a major thing for parkour. There is something infinitely cool about the art of freerunning and its practitioners. Watch the action sequence following the opening credits in Casino Royale, with Daniel Craig’s Bond chasing Sébastien Foucan and see if you don’t fall in love. Seriously.

But hey, when it comes to mobile games, stickmen still hold sway, and Stickman Parkour Platform melds the two concepts together.

So, it has a barebones look and presentation, allowing one to take cues from specific colors. A lot of the playing areas tend to be stationary and dark, and but when animations are called for, they are done well. The game is in 2D and is played in landscape orientation.

Basically, this is a platformer. Stickman Parkour is broken into levels; the core objective, as in most platformer games, is to get from the start point A to the level-ending end point B. To do so, you, the player must control the character stickman to climb, jump, shimmy, dodge and otherwise avoid obstacles that look to prevent the goal being met.

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The controls consist of virtual buttons: a “pull” joystick to the left, and others for jumping and sliding to the right. Used together, it is possible to get our guy going, and with a little practice, the controls can become second nature.

As soon as the controls are understand, again, the whole idea is to move. It isn’t always from left to right, but following the general path is easy enough. After a while, it becomes clear to avoid specific dangers (hint: all about the colors!). There are optional dots to collect, and the obstacles do become craftier as you play on.

Alas! As of now, the game is quite short. Hopefully, more levels are on the way.

If you’re into stick figures — weird, maybe, but is there a reason not to be? –then you might as well check it out. Simple idea, and loads of fun. Stickman Parkour makes every one of us a free runner, and a potentially good one to

About that impromptu toughness test…

About that impromptu toughness test…

Jan 16, 2018

There is nothing — NOTHING — sexy about those insane drop tests. You know, the ones where the geek with the masochist streak lets admittedly increasingly fragile devices drop to the floor… supposedly to see how well they react to the clumsiness that occurs in the real world. I think it takes a twisted individual to be able to do this, but there is a place for ruggedness testing. These tech gizmos aren’t cheap, and even the most careful of us can have our plans for device longevity thwarted by the innocent gestures of a kid borrowing one’s phone to catch an episode of Super Y.

Stuff happens.

I come across all sorts of gadgets, and have the privilege of getting to try out dozens of products in any single category. Consequently, when I did pick a device, it is usually one that I can truly call the best for my needs at that time.

Like my earpiece of choice, the Jabra Eclipse. Sleek, light, effective, with a portable charging case to boot. I use it for calls, music and podcasts, and frankly, I baby the precious unit.

Till my laundry mishap last week.

Hey, I always check my pockets for gadgets. It’s a big reason I tend to do the laundry myself, actually; a soaked phone would cause me to swoon. Somehow, I messed up. I remember making a late addition to the load: a light jacket I’d worn out earlier in the day. It had the Eclipse and case in it. It went through the wash and dryer cycles, and I didn’t discover it till I got the clothes out to iron.

Ugh… my heart dropped when I saw the case at the bottom of the barrel. It took me a little while to locate the earpiece, which was magnetically stuck to the top of the dryer. Physically, it looked fine, but I just knew it would never work again.

But hey, I plugged in the charging case, and slapped in the earpiece. It started charging. What? After a half hour, it was working. Flawlessly.

So that’s my story of the Impromptu Toughness Test. Well done, Jabra.

[Our Jabra Eclipse Review]

After a few months, YouTube TV is beginning to grow on me

After a few months, YouTube TV is beginning to grow on me

Jan 10, 2018

It’s a cord cutter’s world (it seems) and we just live in it. I truly believe more of us are beginning to enjoy said world. There are quite a few options for folks trying to forego traditional cable television, and YouTube TV is definitely one that has created some buzz. After a several weeks (going on months) trying it out, here are some of our thoughts.

  • Location, location… location! It’s still all about where you live. The list of supported locales is growing though.
  • Sports lovers will probably smile, but probably won’t cackle out loud. ESPN remains a big draw, and there are other local sports options,but there a few staples that are not standard yet. Still, there are some bright spots; for instance, hardcore soccer fans can recover from USA not making the World Cup with a soccer-laden add-on which runs for $15 per month extra.
  • Unlimited DVR is just as cool as it sounds. The ability is pause, forward and rewind live shows isn’t remotely innovative, but it is awesome. Before long, it is easy to have a large collection of shows and movies, albeit edited for broadcast TV and consisting of ads. Hello, 30 for 30; greetings, Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
  • Controlling shows on phone or tablet is okay, but your might crave a bona fide remote control every now and then, a la Amazon Fire TV. It’s great being able to stream from any number of devices (including the Youtube TV app on iOS devices), but your smartphone might not have the most “natural” feel when it comes to managing the broadcasts.
  • The Chromecast offer (get a new one “free” after paying for the service for a month) is worth it. If you haven’t yet upgraded to the latest version, it is definitely a true upgrade performance-wise. The hand-offs are much quicker, it’s easier to engage and disengage the stream and there are definitely fewer latency issues.

The list of metros that have the service available continues to grow, and the no obligation trial makes it easy to try.

My App Addiction: Google Home

My App Addiction: Google Home

Jan 9, 2018

The world is simultaneously getting more connected and more untethered, and I love it. Even better, I enjoy the way mobile devices are becoming the heartbeats of a new paradigm… the so-called “connected home” that allows us to literally bring the internet of things home.

Of course, Google is at the forefront of this movement, and one of its biggest pieces in this pursuit is its all-encompassing control hub, Google Home.

The app does a lot — but my usage really devices around casting content from my phone, of late especially YouTube TV.

Now, the beauty of the setup is that using Google Home to cast does not tie up one’s phone. Indeed, one can go on and do any number of activities on the hosting device… like, say, drafting an article highlighting why the app is so easy to get addicted to.

One of the things that makes the whole system worth it is the built-in nature of the system. Google Cast is built into the Chrome browser, so, in theory, you can mirror most things from the Chrome browser to an equipped television. This also means I can use Cast-ready applications, like the Youtube TV app, on iOS. That’s not a bad proposition at all, especially folks who use technology across mobile platforms. And the list of iOS apps that are ready to go is fairly expansive, including media favorites like HBO GO, Showtime, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, Spotify and >a whole lot more. And remember, the Chrome thingie means your PC can be a portal too.

Now that I am beginning to dabble more into Google Home (the hardware, that is), the app becomes more of a mainstay for me. Google Home ties it altogether, making life easier and more cohesive, all while becoming more indispensable to me and mine.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Game Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Game Review

Jan 8, 2018

It’s practically expected now. Make a major motion picture in this day and age, and we, the consumers want — no, we demand — a companion mobile game. As we’ve said a bunch already, it makes sense; the franchise gets more buzz, which helps the game, which helps the franchise… a beautiful circle.

If the game is good, that is…k7

With the sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle out for our viewing pleasure, we are quite okay with checking out NHN PixelCube Corp’s companion game, well, Kingsman: The Golden Circle Game.

It’s a pretty good looking game, featuring recognizable characters bathed in non-glossy colors and housed in stark environments, with matching sounds buttressed by voice boxes and hint flashes. The animations are nice too, incorporating slick action moves and underscored by slow motion effects.

The game takes you on a journey, and play is simple. To begin, you finish up training, and the gameplay gets explained: you fight by match-3 action. Yes, your actions are determined by your dexterity with your fingers, and your ability to combine the right color of ammunition at the right time.

Good action leads to success, which leads to game coin, which allows you to improve attributes and accumulate stuff (ah, the clothes); real cash can be used, and there is an energy requirement… bummer.

What the game does well, in the first, is to ably meld a few genres into one cohesive experience. Most prominently, taking a match-3 and allowing it to be the conduit for a card-based action game works here. It’s not the first time we’ve seen it done, but darn it, when done well it still makes for a great caper.

But let’s not forget the source material. Juvenile or not, the Kingsman movies provide great action material, and getting to work with familiar characters is almost always a good thing. Fans of the franchise should love that aspect.