SpeedX 3D Review

SpeedX 3D Review

Sep 22, 2010

If you ever find yourself in a rocket ship, blasting through tunnels in some strange space dimension, you’ll have wished you played Speed X 3D on your long bus commutes.

Speed X 3D is a game that rockets you down a tunnel at 1000mph as colored blocks shoot toward you. By tilting your phone left or right, you control your rocket/motorcycle/jetpack to avoid the obstacles. By running over certain blocks, you can gain extra lives, and more.

The graphics of this game were pretty impressive. The tunnel that you are riding in at times will suddenly open up and become a flat plain and then later curve into a ball. Colored cubes rocket toward you, plasma balls blast around you, and more eye candy will entertain you – as you drip sweat off your nose. You’ll be sweating, because this game is hard. Impossibly hard. Have you ever been to a mall, and seen a kid with way too much time on his hands, playing “dance dance revolution?” This game reminded me of that, on the expert level. It’s so fast paced, that the “online leader board” won’t mean anything to you, because the scores you get will be so laughably minuscule, they won’t even post. Hindering your high scores are the occasion warnings like “blackout mode in 2 seconds!” that completely blacks the colors out, so you can’t see them coming. Good luck surviving that one.

Comedian Mitch Headberg once said, “As a comedian, you have to start the show strong and you have to end the show strong. Those are the two key elements. You can’t be like pancakes. You’re all happy at first, but then by the end, you’re sick of ’em.”

This game is a stack of pancakes. The graphics will wow you to begin with, but after a few minutes you’ll be frustrated, and have a headache. Plus, the music is so hideously annoying, you’ll shut that off by the end of the first round.

Speed X 3D is a great proof-of-concept, and the graphics are impressive, but the fun of it is short lived.

Hotel Mogul Review

Hotel Mogul Review

Sep 21, 2010

Hotel Mogul surprised me. I’ve never liked “Simcity” style games, and a game entirely dedicated to building fake hotels sounded boring. I read the comments on the Android Market, and there were several words repeated:

“Addicting!”
“Worth the money!”
“Stuck on level…”

Really? A game dedicated to hotels was that good?

After three days of playing, I’d have to agree. I’ve played it on car rides, during movies, and on my back in bed. I’ve played this game a lot.

Hotel Mogul places you as the unseen helper to the protagonist, Lynette. Lynette is in charge of the ridiculously named development company, “The Golden Company,” until (cue muted trumpet) her husband cheats on her with her best friend, and divorces her. He then proceeds to steal the company from her.

What should you do, as her dedicated friend? Of course, you help her build her own company, from the ground-up, and teach that no-good cheater a thing-or-two.

To begin with, Lynette guides you through the building, selling, and building again of several campgrounds. The gameplay is slow to begin, but within a few levels, you’ll be franticly selling, buying, improving, fixing, collecting, and demolishing real estate. Soon I was raking in millions, and feeling rather accomplished. I wish making money in the real world were this easy!

The game has a somewhat strange side-story, involving the Lynette-love-triangle, complete with comic-book style storyboards and a mini-game involving collecting scattered pictures of her cheating husband. Don’t ask. I didn’t get that either.

The graphics of the game are pretty phenomenal. As you watch a hotel being built, construction crews helicopter in supplies, tiny cars drive the highways, water flows through the streams, and more. The detail is impressive.

This game is not very easy to learn, but after a few levels, you’ll get the hang of it. The best part of the game is that it actually uses real principles of real estate selling and buying. Playing the game actually feels like you’re accomplishing something, and that is important for maintaining a player’s interest.

There is a demo version of the game, so try it out. Don’t give up if you don’t understand what you’re doing at the start. You’ll get it. If you like this type of “fast-paced-simcity” game, then Hotel Mogul won’t disappoint.

Battle For Mars With Multiplayer Review

Battle For Mars With Multiplayer Review

Sep 20, 2010

Sweat is dripping off your nose, pooling on the red martian rock below, where you’re huddled in the fetal position. You’re afraid. Rocks explode around you, and you know that the Martian MegaBot is zeroing in on you and your elite troop unit.

“Sign up for the Mars invading force, and be a hero!”
they said. “Be part of saving the Human Race’s future!” was their recruiting cry, and you signed up, thinking it would be the best option for your future. Two months of training, and two years of cryo-sleep later, you’re questioning if you have a future at all.

If you live, you’ll see this kind of action again tomorrow.

Set in 2152, Battle For Mars is a turn-based game combining the strategy and tower defense genres. You are part of the human force and your goal is to conquer Mars. This is not an easy feat. In fact, this is one of the hardest games you may ever play. It also might be one of the most creative and fun.

If you’ve ever played Command And Conquer, you’re familiar with the real-time-strategy (RTS) genre. Battle For Mars isn’t exactly “real-time” because it’s turn-based. This is actually a blessing, when you have to command an entire army on a screen that measures in mere inches.

Overtaking cities and factories will give you more resources and eventually allow you to win the level/map. Your factories produce troops, artillery, and vehicles. Once you’ve played for a while, you’ll discover more and more depth to the game. Certain units can travel over certain terrain, and others can’t, and some troops fire more effectively on other types. Building enough troops, battling back the defending Mars force, and overtaking their factories gives you the victory.

The gameplay may seem slow to begin with, but once a player gets used to the control and battle scheme, the turn-based play is nail-bitingly exciting. The graphics are reminiscent of an old-school SNES, but it works with the overall aesthetic of the game. The sound is basic and forgettable; I turned if off when playing, because it got annoying.

The multiplayer options are deep, and allow for different types of games on different types of maps. Multiplayer is vital to keep a player interested in the long-term, and Battle For Mars does it well. For example, the game allows you to keep playing the one player game, while you wait for another player to join the multiplayer game you’ve created. You can also create a private game, and wait for a particular friend. The game also features notifications when it’s your turn. This allows you to have a long-standing “one-move-at-a-time” type of game. Your friend makes a move, and tomorrow, you make a move. Because this is a relatively new app, their are fewer players, and finding a multiplayer game that is open can sometimes be a challenge. Be warned, though: these online players are very good.

Replay value is very high not only because of it’s difficulty, but because of it’s depth. The game is a bit pricey at $4.99, but the game’s depth and multiplayer options allow me to recommend it, especially if it ever goes on sale.

Mouth Off Review

Originally for the iPhone, and now for Android, Mouth Off is a set of 36 different animated mouths that move to the sound of your voice. The mouths include; dogs, robots, bunnies, monsters, cats, sharks, and lego minifigs. This app seems pretty straight forward, but believe it or not, this was one of the apps I missed the most when I moved to Android from the iPhone. Why?

1) My nieces and nephews love it. When I say “love it,” I don’t mean “strongly like.” I mean it in the “go absolutely bonkers, laughing, screaming, and running around the house” sort of “love it.” Being crowned as “Coolest Uncle Ever” by a seven-year-old is worth far more than the asking price of $0.99.
2) Once I was in a restaurant, and a kid was doing that annoying standing up in the booth behind my wife, and staring directly at me. I pulled out my phone, and had that kid laughing and giggling. Good times.
3) I once used the “robot” mouth on a costume involving sticky Velcro, boxes spray-painted silver, and drier vent tubing for arms.

You should buy “Mouth Off” if:

1) You’re got children, or are an aunt or uncle to young children.
2) You realize that this app is funny for about 30 seconds to your 20-something friends, and should not be pulled out at every party you go to.
3) You also realize that some kids (for me, one particular niece) will be so freakishly terrified or your animated mouths, that you’ll be apologizing to their mother for the crying child now sobbing into their shoulder.

I’ve really enjoyed this app, and was glad to see it on Android. It is certainly not perfect, of course. The mouths move to the sound picked up by the microphone, so in noisy environments, the mouths won’t react to your voice, or will be very jittery. Also, at over 9 megs, and no ability to move it to your phone’s SD card (only for froyo phones), you might might need to pass on this one if you’re squeezed for space.

Tasker Review

Tasker Review

Sep 17, 2010

If you buy one app for your phone, buy the Tasker app.

This app changes everything I thought I knew about my Android phone, and after hours of playing with it, I strongly recommend that every “power user” purchases it.

Why do you need the Tasker app? Simply describing what this app could do in a few short paragraphs would be selling it dramatically short.

So far with Tasker, I’ve:

  • Doubled my battery life.
  • Built my own “find my phone” app.
  • Created an alarm that plays my favorite song, and literally greets me with an audible voice.
  • Programmed my phone to automatically go vibrate-only when I’m at church.

Tasker is an app that can control virtually every aspect of your phone, by using a basic rules-based programming. Don’t let that scare you! You may use rules-based programming in your job everyday, when you build a formula for spreadsheets. Tasker is even easier than that. You’ll see the words “if” and “then” quite a bit in Tasker. For example, let’s say every time you plug in your headphones, it’s to listen to Pandora Radio. You could build this mini-program: “IF headphones get plugged in, THEN open Pandora radio.” Next time you plug your headphones in, your favorite station will immediately start playing.

Here’s some more examples:

  • IF I’m reading my RSS feeds, THEN don’t shut off the screen.
  • IF It’s after 1AM, THEN shut off WiFi, and Bluetooth.
  • IF my friend calls (the one who’s voice is really, really loud) THEN lower call volume for that caller by 50%.
  • IF I’m not using an app that doesn’t require GPS, THEN shut it off.
  • IF I get a call from a certain number THEN automatically record it.

Here’s an example of a Tasker program I built:If I lose my phone, I can text it a special code from my wife’s phone. Tasker will then immediately post reward/contact information on the main screen, play a really annoying sound (so I can find it if it’s in the couch), turn on GPS, triangulate a position, send me those coordinates, and then shuts off GPS to save battery life. Amazing!

There are also multiple plugins for Tasker that are incredible helpful: “Local Google Voice Set Plug” will “ control automatically which phones in your GV account should ring, based on all the great conditions Locale offers, like your Location, SSID or Time.” In other words, when you’re at work, business calls will ring in. When you’re home, just friends and family. Automatically. “Google Voice Callback” programs Tasker to “…detect [an] outgoing call, and uses Google Voice (GV) to call you back and connect you to the call.”

Although incredible powerful and useful, Tasker is not perfect. It is really only for the advanced Android user. If you wouldn’t call yourself that, then this app might be far more than you need. Setting up Tasker is easy once you get your mind around the concepts, but unfortunately, the training manual is long and not very easy to read. If you’re a creature of habit, then Tasker is your best friend. If you keep strange and varying hours, then many of the timed functions won’t work for you. There were certain functions I couldn’t find or figure out while tinkering, and finding support for this app is a bit on the sparse side.

The app costs £3.99, which is about $6.00 US, which is more than most are willing to pay for an app. Once a user learns the flow and function of Tasker, it could potentially replace multiple paid apps. If you are an Android power user, comfortable around computers, and like to tinker, then Tasker is an app you’ll likely be grateful you purchased.

For more information, you can start where I did, with these Lifehacker.com articles:

  • How to Turn Your Android Phone into a Fully-Automated Superphone
  • Push Your Automated Android to Awesome Heights with These Tasker Setups
  • Three Handy Tasker Profiles from Our Readers
  • You can also read more on the Tasker website and read the user manual (required reading) here.

    Abduction! World Attack Review

    Abduction! World Attack Review

    Sep 17, 2010

    Psym Mobile must have been thinking that picking a name like “Abduction! World Attack!” would be a great way to drum up attention for a their game, and it must have worked, because it’s one of the best selling games in the Android market. Unfortunately, an exciting name alone can not cover its weaknesses.

    Abduction! World Attack! is a “keep-your-character-jumping-from-one-platform-to-another-using-the-accelerometer” type of game. It’s basically a dead horse genre. Games with the exact same gameplay include the likes of Doodle-Jump, Papi-Jump, Extreme-Droid-Jump, and Hyper-Jump. And that’s just off the top of my head.

    Gameplay is as should be expected with this type of game, with few surprises. Tipping your phone to the right and left will control the jumping of your character from platform to platform, as it apparently tries to get to the UFO that’s kidnapped your fellow-farm-animal-friends. Completing each level, aided with power-ups along the way, gives you more platforms and higher jumps. Unlike other platform-jumping games, Abduction! World Attack! has a finish line. Reaching the UFO ends each level, which is a pleasant change from the other games in the genre, which have never-endingly-high levels. Replay value is moderate, with unlockable characters, and gameplay modes. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself grows somewhat tiresome after more than an hour of playing.

    Despite all of this, the game is not very large. I played through the entire “adventure” mode in about 25 minutes. “Versus CPU” pits you against a CPU-controlled character in a race to the top. This the graphics are cartoonish, but kind of boring.

    This game has cute, cartoonish graphics, but I wasn’t wowed by the visuals. These would have been pretty good a year ago, but have since been passed by games like Hyper Jump. The price is also fairly steep for a game with such a worn-out genre. Charging a little over $2 is a bit much. I have no doubt that Psym is seeing quite a few returns of this game within the 24-hour trial period, because users can not only play through, but grow tired of this game, in a few short hours.

    The Moron Test Review

    The Moron Test Review

    Sep 17, 2010

    I was fairly skeptical about purchasing this game for several reasons. First, the name is somewhat insulting, seeing as though a “moron” is an actual (if not antiquated) term for someone with mental difficulties. Second, I’m not really eager to find out that I am, indeed, a moron.

    I was pleasantly surprised, however, by The Moron Test. In fact, I’ve played it for a while now, and I’ve been at parties where my phone is being passed around, with friends cheer or moan when they pass or fail the “test.”

    The Moron Test is half test, half game, and half puzzle. For some reason, I had difficulty passing this test. Maybe you’ll have better luck. The premise is that screen after screen features a seemingly simple task to complete. For example, there will be two buttons, one red, and one blue. The instructions will read, “Don’t push the blue button, then push the red button.” Most people won’t read carefully enough to not push the blue button. As you progress through the test, you’ll start fires, stack up icecream cones, and more. Sometimes the game will use the accelerometer, requiring you to flip or shake your phone to get the answer to a certain puzzle. Wordplay, double negatives, and more forces you to pay attention, or fail. Failing the test will boot you back to the last checkpoint, and failing three times will push you back to the beginning of the level. If english isn’t your first language, this game won’t be an enjoyable experience. For example, if you struggle with the different between hair and a hare, you’re in trouble.

    Don’t let the word “test” scare you away from this game. It’s fast paced and creative. Each school-themed level will make you pull out your hair in frustration, but will you’ll laugh and go at it again. You can share your scores and times on Facebook, and challenge your Android-owning friends to beat your score.

    Replay value is moderately high. You won’t be able to put this game down, until you beat it. I’ve played through the first three levels, but am struggling with the last. The Moron Test is creative, fun, and priced perfectly at $.99, Grab it!

    Droid Analytics Review

    Droid Analytics Review

    Sep 17, 2010

    A “visitor counter” at the bottom of your website is so 1998. If you want to know real data about your site, you need Google Analytics.

    If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics (GA), it is code that you can insert into your blog or website that will help you answer questions you may have had:

    How many visitors do I get per day/week/month?
    Where do these visitors come from?
    What are they looking at when they arrive?
    What sites are pushing the most referral traffic?
    What is the most successful route to push more traffic to my site?

    Touiteur Review

    Touiteur Review

    Aug 30, 2010

    Touiteur might be the best Twitter app you’ve never heard of.

    The Android Market is starting to look like the ground under a flock of seagulls; covered in Twitter poop. There are a few gems (read: Twitdroyd, Tweetdeck) but there is one app that has much fewer downloads, and far less hype: Touiteur.

    This is strange, when you see how well the UI is designed, and how powerful the app is overall. Touiteur offers all of the features that the best Twitter apps offer, wrapped in a gorgeous interface.

    Crush The Castle Review

    Crush The Castle Review

    Aug 25, 2010

    Thirst for destruction? Looking to travel to exotic locals? Are you longing for a chance to launch large blunt objects? Do you laugh in the face of human casualty?

    The king is looking for you to join the trebuchet team in Armor Game’s new Flash-To-Iphone-Android port, “Crush The Castle.”

    But who am I kidding? You work in a cubicle. You’d enjoy nothing more than no launch your desk at the office building across the street. Finally, dear Android user, your thirsts can be quenched.

    Crush The Castle is a flash game that has made it’s way from the Iphone, to the Android operating system.

    Tumblr For Android Review

    Tumblr For Android Review

    Aug 23, 2010

    Tumblr, the new and “oh-soo-hot-right-now” blogging platform has made it’s way to the Android operating system, with an official, no-frills app.

    For those of you who are not familiar with Tumblr, it is a micro blogging platform that’s not as “micro” as Twitter, but not as “grown” as WordPress. I’ll call it a “husky” platform. Too fat to fit in Twitter’s clothes, but too small for WordPress’s trousers.
    When opening the app, you are immediately greeted with Tumblr’s classically-limited publishing options: “Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, or Video.” You can also take a look at your Tumblr dashboard, which allows you to edit or delete previous posts. Let’s go through each option:

    Tweetdeck For Android – BETA Review

    Tweetdeck For Android – BETA Review

    Aug 20, 2010

    Tweetdeck for Android has arrived! Users of the desktop client should be familiar with the features that Tweetdeck offers:

    Ease of use
    Multiple accounts
    Columns of tweets
    Speed

    The Tweetdeck for Android incorporates many of these features, but lacks polish and usability that will hopefully arrive in the full release. Here’s the rundown on what works with the app, and what didn’t.