Zombie Madness II Review

Zombie Madness II Review

Sep 23, 2014

Zombies! Are you tired of them yet? Well, I hope not, because here comes another game featuring a whole bunch of undead brain-eaters.

Zombie Madness II is a wave-based shooter where the aim is to survive for as many days as you can. Along the way, you’ll pick up gold that the zombies inexplicably drop and use this to strengthen your frontline.

The game’s main gameplay mechanic comes from the fact you get to control one bunker in particular. An on-screen cone lets you know where you’re aiming and a ‘fire’ button on the bottom left of the screen cause you to shoot whatever weapon you’ve got equipped. You can also double-tap the screen to launch a grenade.zm4

The cone is important as it means that your weapon isn’t as precise as perhaps you’d like. As we all know, when it comes to dealing with zombies, you really want to be aiming for the head. This is also advisable because shooting zombies in the head causes them to drop more gold. Again, don’t ask why this is.

The previously mentioned upgrade system comes in two forms. You can update the central bunker which you control or you can build further AI controlled bunkers that will also help you.

Your own bunker can unlock new weapons and upgrades that improve your aim, reload speed or likelihood of scoring a ‘critical’ attack on a zombie. The other bunkers can be upgraded in a similar way too. If I were to go through each upgrade in the game, it would take up my entire 500 word count. What I will say is that the upgrades have a meaningful effect on how you play and they’re a good incentive to play just one more wave.

The zombies themselves look a little stilted in their animation and there’s not too much variety to them. Some zombies are slow and take a lot of hits, other are holding some armour and there’s a few that have somehow managed to strap explosives to themselves. It wouldn’t have hurt to have a few other variations on the shuffling foes as you’ll soon see all of the different enemy types rather quickly.

Whilst I’ve praised the variety and amount of unlockables, it does seem that some of the game suffers from balancing issues. For example, you’ll soon unlock the ability to do an absolutely devastating bomb drop. It clears the screen almost instantly and it recharges pretty quickly. Once you get a few skills and upgrades under your belt, you’ll find it hard to lose.

Still, despite the simple graphics and the skewed skill tree, it’s fun to take on wave after wave of zombie. A few areas lack polish as, for example, zombies will talk over the top of the on-screen buttons and there are some spelling mistakes within the game. So whilst Zombie Madness II is fun, there’s still room for improvement and it doesn’t quite manage to be great.

Exotic Fishing Review

Exotic Fishing Review

Sep 22, 2014

I’m not really a ‘fisherman’. I’ve no real interest in sitting down by the side of a lake, in the cold and fiddling about with maggots, worms or whatever other gross creatures count as bait. It’s just not my bag.

It’s weird then, that I’ve played and enjoyed so many games that are about fishing. Ridiculous Fishing, Sega Bass Fishing and a slightly obscure Game Boy Color game call Legend of the River King all hold a certain fondness to me. Perhaps it’s the fact they’re nothing like real fishing that I enjoy them so much.

Like the previously mentioned titled, Exotic Fishing holds little in common with real fishing. You simply have a hook at the top of the screen and you press down on the screen to have the bait-free line descend. Whilst this happens, fish swim from each side of the screen and it’s up to you to try and make sure the aquatic creatures end up colliding with your hook. All of this happens whilst a timer ticks down as you have 60 seconds to land as many fish as you can.ef3

It’s incredibly simple. When you have a fish on your line, nothing happens. The game automatically reels them in and you get a couple of points added to your score. Sometimes certain fish will give you a bonus of some kind. Some will give you a score multiplier, others will give you some extra time.

There’s really not a lot to it. I can’t overstate this.

Occasionally you’ll net fish that give you coins or rubies. These forms of currency can be used to unlock skills that ensure following fishing sessions start you off with more time, give you a reel that moves your hook quicker or you can even buy bombs that clear the screen and improve your score instantly.

The problem is that although you can unlock extra ‘things’, none of them matter. Nothing you unlock really changes the way the game’s played it’s therefore difficult to justify spending time unlocking. Extra levels consist of different still background images whilst the fish you catch remain the same. Different fish give you different scores but are caught and reeled in exactly the same.

The real kicker is the fact that the rate at which you gain coins and rubies (which you need to unlock anything) is painfully slow. The only way you can guarantee any coins or rubies is not by playing but by watching sponsored videos. In fact, the way the game’s designed is to almost force you into sitting and watching 3 adverts just so you can unlock a few extra seconds for your fishing sessions.

But it’s ultimately not worth it. There’s no visual or audio charm. The gameplay is beyond simplistic and there’s little to no value in the unlockable skills. Reaching certain milestones offer you a slight goal to aim for, but meeting these goals only unlock crude images of cartoon trophies.

Exotic Fishing is a game that doesn’t ask you to do much and in return it offers nothing much either. A bizarrely pointless title.

Lex Review

Lex Review

Jul 1, 2014

Since the dawn of hangman, people have been obsessed with word games. Most word games often put focus on creating the longest word or the word that uses the less common letters.

Where Lex differs is that it puts the onus on quickly finding words. If you’re to get anywhere with Lex you need to break the habit of showing off your vocabulary and instead you need to learn to be satisfied with typing out the word ‘cat’.Lex2

The reason for this is simple. A set of tiles fill the bottom of the screen and each tile has a letter on it. Like traditional word games, these letters have a numerical value to them but unlike word games they also have a timer attached to them.

The letter tiles will fill up with a red hue. How fast they turn completely red depends on how common they are. For example, vowels seem to have the quickest timer, presumably because they’re the ‘easiest’ to use and should be put into action sooner. If you let one tile fill up with red completely, it’s game over.

Incredibly simple as the game is, it really took me some time to get over the desire to want to spell out a fancy long word. My years of watching Countdown (it’s a British TV show – Google it) have ingrained a desire for me to only settle for 9 letter words. As mentioned before though, you’ve got to get over that. Carol Vorderman (she was the co-host of Countdown – Google her) isn’t watching you play the game, so there’s no need to impress.

This gloriously simple premise is then refined by some initially soothing presentation. A calm ambient track lulls you into thinking you have all the time in the world but as you reach the higher scores the bass drum will kick in and this will only add to the tensions as tiles fill up faster than ever. The game suggests it’s ‘Best played with headphones’. This would normally cause me to roll my eyes but in this case soft ambient soundtrack could be lost without some in-ear audio.

Adding to the ambiance is the visuals. A really nice touch is that as you press on each tile to make your word the corresponding letter starts to fill the background in an effective kaleidoscopic way.

In summary, Lex is dead simple, extremely well presented and doesn’t do anything majorly different from other word games. It’s this slight difference that somehow manages to make all the difference. Well worth your time and well worth plugging your headphones in for. Just brush up on your 3 letter words beforehand.

Flick Soccer Brazil Review

Flick Soccer Brazil Review

Jun 26, 2014

I blinked and I missed it. England’s run in this year’s World Cup has been close to shambolic and to be honest I missed a lot of it. Mainly because I was playing Flick Soccer Brazil.

The setup’s simple. A ball, a goal and a keeper. The aim is to swipe at the football and then as the ball’s mid-flight you swipe at the screen again to apply some extra dip, lift or swerve.FlickSoccer2

This sounds easy but there’s a real skill to swiping at the ball just quick enough to get enough height on the shot so it reaches the top corner. Even a fraction too much velocity to your swipe and the ball will end up in row Z.

You can drag above the ball to get the camera to swing around the ball. This helps you line up your shot better, especially if you’ve got a pesky defender willing to stick their face in the way of your shot. In the end.

With the basic controls understood, it now boils down to how challenging and interesting the game makes these simple mechanics. Luckily there’s enough here that even the England defence could give it their full concentration for 45 minutes.

A series of different modes include The Crossbar Challenge, where you need to hit the crossbar as many times in a row as you can. Then there’s a consistency challenge that provides simple enough targets to hit, though to get a good score in this mode you can’t afford to miss a single shot.

The real challenge, funnily enough, comes in the game’s Challenge Mode. The challenges range from ‘Trainee’ level all the way to ‘World Class’. The challenges get harder as the targets in the goal get smaller, the keepers get better and the number of defenders in the wall get more plentiful. To unlock each new level you need to reach a certain score threshold. Even once you’ve unlocked the subsequent level, you’ll still be reminded that you’re a certain number of points away from unlocking the gold medal at that level.

I’d like to point out that you gain nothing from unlocking the gold medals on each level. Nothing except pride and a sense of achievement. I could make another England football team joke here, but right now, it feels like kicking someone when they’re down.

Medal-chasing and score beating is the crux of the entire game. From the outset, most of what the game has to offer is available and the only thing that’s going to keep you coming back is the desire to beat your old score and to simply enjoy swiping at the ball and seeing your perfectly placed shot nestle into top corner or, the sweetest of them all, ping in off the post.

It says a lot that the game’s simple controls hold up so well and are the main selling point. This isn’t to say that the game doesn’t have other strengths. The game has, for example, been given a Brazilian makeover and as such has plenty of South American music playing in the background alongside some quite nice 3D visuals.

At the end of the day (to use a soccer cliche) Flick Soccer Brazil offers a great test for those that enjoy beating their own high scores and provides a control scheme that should be easy enough for anyone to try and tricky enough to be worth conquering.

Hazumino Review

Hazumino Review

Jun 19, 2014

Often videogames get criticized for retreading old ground. People will complain that ‘they’ve played it before’ but sometimes revisiting old ideas that you get new ones. Hazumino goes back in time to visit both Tetris and Canabalt and by doing so comes back with something new yet reassuringly familiar.

The reason that Hazumino‘s goal will be instantly clear is because of the world famous shapes that occupy the right-hand side of the screen. These ‘tetrominos’ need to be rotated and shifted up and down before being launched to the right. The reason why you’re placing these shapes is because you need to form a bridge of sorts.Hazumino3

This bridge is needed to help out your character who will keep walking forward with no regard to the fact that sometimes there’s no floor to walk onto. This is where the Canabalt ‘infinite runner’ influence is seen. You need to be sure to place your blocks carefully as your character doesn’t take kindly to walking into walls that you may end up creating if you’re not paying attention. Equally as negative is launching a shape directly into the face of your avatar. Both scenarios will see your end run.

As is the way when dealing with two tasks at once, sometimes you’ll be too busy concentrating on placing your shapes correctly that you’ll forget to jump any gaps or hop onto any ledges your previous shapes may have made. Equally, if you’re too focused on hopping about and navigating your homemade platforms you’ll soon run out of platforms entirely.

On top of this basic desire to survive, there are also coins randomly dotted along your linear journey. These coins are smartly placed at different heights. This means that you’ll want to place your blocks in a ‘stepped’ manner so you can reach the higher coins or you’ll be trying to create a slide made of right-angles to reach those placed lower.

These simple mechanics are supported by some charming and blocky visuals. This game’s audio, with quite a thumping soundtrack also aids the game in standing above its competitors.

As with any good mobile game there needs to be a hook to keep you coming back. Of course there’s the obligatory high scores to beat but there’s also a decent amount to unlock too.

Extra characters, though they do nothing, add an extra incentive to keep playing and give you a reason to collect the previously mentioned coins. You can also unlock new stages to run forward in and these are unlocked by reaching accumilative distance milestones. Like everything else in Hazumino the stages add to the experience. The early stages will help you see where your shapes are about to be placed by drawing helpful lines whilst the later stages will speed up and contain distracting backgrounds. It’s simple but it’s these slight changes in what the game throws at you that keep you interested.

Hazumino manages to combine two ideas extremely well and carries on to provide enough content to keep you entertained beyond what you’d imagine a Tetris and Canabalt combination could provide.

FreeDum Review

FreeDum Review

May 23, 2014

FreeDum is a fairly straightforward title. You’re a little bug that needs to escape from treacherous shoe-box sized obstacle courses. Along the way you also need to run into baby bugs to save them as well. You’ve been placed in these cardboard confines by an ill-mannered youth who doesn’t really appear in the game much beyond the opening scene. Like I said, it’s straight forward.

The obstacles you’ll come across range from other, much more tougher bugs, to saw blades and rotating razor blades. These don’t offer too much of a challenge other than ‘don’t touch them’.freedum2

In total, there’s around about 30 levels of this and it’s all rather too simple. Levels do change theme every 15 stages or so, but this doesn’t impact on the game in any real way at all. It’s also incredibly difficult to move through the tightly packed-in collection of razor blades and killer bugs that litter each level. Very quickly, say after about the first 10 levels, you’ll hit something of a difficulty spike that aims right for the heart.

So whilst the levels sound difficult enough, the player’s not helped by the fact that the real challenge comes from the control scheme. To move your critter character you need to tap on the screen and it’ll make try and move to that position in a straight line – taking the shortest route.

The control scheme sounds simple but in reality this controls really quite poorly. You’ll often accidentally tap on an obstacle instead of the floor and because you don’t have direct control of your character, the stupid bug will walk straight into a razorblade. You also have the ability to double-tap on the screen to get the creature to run, but this is finicky and hard to guarantee it’ll work.

Other than that, there’s just not much else going on. The game has a nice presentation to it, though it’s hardly groundbreaking. Little blood splatters will soon litter the levels as they highlight the number of times that you accidentally command your ladybird to run into a blade, but aside from that, there’s not a lot else of note.

The audio doesn’t really do much either. Squeeks play every time you die and little cheers ring out whenever you grab a baby bug. There’s no real music to speak of which again only cements my opinion that this game’s just a little to basic.

FreeDum is an extremely simple maze game that could have been fine or even good, but when the controls are going to be the player’s main enemy, you have a problem on your hands.

Brandnew Boy Review

Brandnew Boy Review

May 2, 2014

BNB3The first thing that will most likely strike you about Brandnew Boy (apart from its odd title) is that it looks great. Brandnew Boy is built using the Unreal engine and even though I reviewed the game on a Nexus 4, it still managed to pack a graphical punch. The game itself revolves around you playing as a young man (or if you’d prefer, a young woman) who’s got a bad case of amnesia.

What they (you) can remember though is how to kick and punch. This is handy as each level you complete is full of bizarre creatures, ranging from odd-looking ‘egg men’ to what can only be described as a demon with an umbrella.

The game as a whole has a great visual appeal to it and everything’s been designed to look extremely unique. It does come across as a case of style over substance though as the story is pretty cliche and the combat is nothing too special.

Combat boils down to tapping the screen to initiate a combo attack. To keep the combo going you need to keep watch of an attack gauge. You need to time your following taps so that the gauge is in a yellow zone, otherwise your hits will fail. This means that more often than not you’ll be too busy staring at a moving bar than taking in all of the great visuals and animations going on in front of you. To make this worse, enemies will sign-post their attacks, but again, as you’re too busy looking at the bar, you’ll often miss these queues. In the game’s defence, this is less of an issue when playing on a larger screen.

Another factor that makes the game tricky is that the developers have made it that way. The game quickly ramps up its difficulty leaving you with two options. Pay to improve your character or grind away on the same levels to unlock experience that way. It’s a tried and tested method of making ‘free’ games profitable, so why this spike is inside of this ‘premium’ (i.e. you have to pay for it) title, I have no idea.

As you could probably guess, you get to spend your experience points on improving your character’s stats. More health, stronger attacks and special moves are all available for those that invest the time. Special moves are extremely useful, especially ones that break through your enemies’ defences or can clear a large group in one go. Also adding to the depth of combat is the ability to summon any defeated bosses. These summons don’t act any differently than the previously mentioned ‘special moves’, but it’s still pretty cool to see the tiger you defeated earlier on now being on your side.

In summary, Brandnew Boy oozes style and looks pretty stunning. The combat’s not the most interesting, but there’s such a wealth of content on offer here and it’s all presented so well that you’ll likely be driven on to see what areas, enemies and moves unlock next. Well worth your time if you don’t mind a bit of a grind.

LEGO Hero Factory: Invasion From Below Review

LEGO Hero Factory: Invasion From Below Review

Mar 27, 2014

Lego has established a pretty good name in the medium of video games. Thanks to Traveller’s Tales and their ability to make charming platformers based off Danish bricks, there’s a certain level of expectation that now comes with a game that has the Lego name plastered all over it.

Lego Hero Factory: Invasion From Below doesn’t live up to quite that standard, but it’s fun and polished enough as it is.

There’s a fairly basic premise on which the game’s based around, which is to be expected given its likely aimed at those aged 5+. The story is as follows;

Robotic bugs sprout from the ground. You play as a bunch of Lego robot heroes. You shoot said bugs and then climb into bigger robots so that you can fight bigger bugs. Simple.

Gameplay takes the form of a wave-based platform shooter. The levels contain platforms and pitfalls to avoid, though lack any interactivity. Crates are dotted about and you need to open these crates to get what’s inside. What’s inside, you ask?

Well, the answer is powerups. You’ll find extra lives , speed boosts and ammo upgrades to make your waves that much easier to live through. The challenge of each wave comes in the form of little robot bugs. These bugs simply crawl and jump towards you, happy to ignore your laser shots to the face.

Once you’ve broken enough crates and have been lucky enough to three magical cogs, you’re now allowed to move onto the second phase of the game. The second phase seeing you in a big robot mech thing. The gameplay doesn’t change at all and it just looks like this is another toy you can buy. Cynical of me, I know, but no doubt the truth.

Lego4You still have to shoot robot bugs but your aim isn’t to collect magic cogs. When in your mech-suit, you need to concentrate on taking out the boss. Don’t get excited, the bosses are just as straightforward as the other enemies you face.

Cutscenes showing the heroes (available in all good toy stores) are shown between levels and contain something close to a story, but end up feeling like an advert. Then again, a 7 year old may love them.

Once you’ve completed your level you get the chance to upgrade yourself. These upgrades are rewarded for completing challenges in-game. Challenges such as ‘shoot 30 bugs in a wave’. So whilst you may want to get through the levels quickly, it pays to stick around and shoot a few robo-spiders.

Upgrades are run of the mill. Jump higher, shoot faster, more armour, etc, etc. They’ll all be needed as the game quickly ramps up the strength of the enemies you face in the story mode.

This difficulty ramp becomes a slight issue as when you die in story mode you have to spend a ‘credit’. You get a ‘credit’ every 10 mins and can only (by default) store 2 credits at a time.

So, you can either pay to not have to wait for the story mode to become playable or you can while away your minutes of waiting by playing in battle mode.

Battle mode is exactly the same as story mode though you only play against monsters you’ve come across in the main game. You still earn upgrade points though, so it’s worth doing, even if you’re not making any ‘real’ progress through the game.

So whilst the game doesn’t contain anything ground breaking and is hugely simple, it’s all done with a good level of polish that will no doubt please its intended audience.

Dream of Pixels Review

Dream of Pixels Review

Dec 6, 2013

There’s no point beating about the bush when talking about Dream of Pixels. It’s Tetris but with a twist. There’s no other way to explain it.

Dream of Pixels is a puzzle game where you have to place familiar look shapes onto the screen. Unlike the game it clearly derives from, these shapes don’t drop down from the top of the screen, so there’s no need to shift your shapes from left to right before they hit the bottom. Instead, Dream of Pixels slowly (at first) scrolls the entire screen upwards. Your job is to ensure that no empty spaces make their way to the bottom of the screen. This means you need to use your shapes to ensure that each line is full of blocks.

See how much it’s like Tetris?unnamedVWZ7E3JS

In Dream of Pixels‘ defence, it works quite well and is just different enough to stand on its own legs. What also helps the game is the extra selection of game modes on offer. The two you’ll play the most will be Classic and Puzzle.

Classic just wants to see how many lines you can put together in one run. As you’d expect, the speed at which the screen scrolls gets faster and faster until you eventually let one empty space hit the bottom, whereupon the screen fades to white.

Puzzle, as the name implies, tests your IQ by giving you a set number of pre-determined shapes. These shapes need to fit into the spaces on the screen, and whilst this starts off simply enough (4 square spaces on the screen and 4 square shapes given) it soon ramps up the difficulty and will have you considering how best to use your shapes to plug up all of the gaps.

Another thing that helps is that the controls work really rather well. Placing a shape onto the screen isn’t the hardest of things to do when you’ve got a touch-screen device to play on, but Dream of Pixels makes it entirely clear as to just how your shape will be placed when you let go of your device. This may not seem like much, but for those of you that know how finicky touch-controls can be sometimes, this is nothing but good news.

The presentation and the audio of the game are nothing ground-breaking though are nice enough. The whole game, trying to live up to the ‘dream’ within its name, has a very gentle feel to it with clouds and skies of different hues used throughout. The only time it won’t appear gentle and relaxing is when you’re rushing to place a shape as pesky gap makes it way to the bottom of the screen.

Dream of Pixels just about avoids being a Tetris rip-off by having enough of its own good ideas and the tight controls along with solid presentation helps too. It’s hardly the stuff dreams of made of, but then it’s nowhere near being a nightmare. This is an extremely capable puzzle game.

Soccer Moves Review

Soccer Moves Review

Nov 27, 2013

“He’s got a good ‘footballing brain’”. A phrase often used (by mainly English commentators) to compliment people that can’t add together ‘2 + 2’ but are good at soccer. Now it’s time to see if you’ve got a good ‘footballing brain’ with Soccer Moves.

Soccer Moves is an ‘X-Com meets FIFA’ app looks to test your smarts on the pitch and to see if you’re an Einstein of soccer. Essentially a turn-based strategy game, Soccer Moves has you starting off playing in a small park and eventually playing for your national team in the world’s biggest stadiums.unnamedCA1HYE6S

The game’s flow is as follows. Each level has a set number of opposition on the field and you’re given a number of passing moves and running moves in which to score a goal. During your turn can pass the ball and move a player once. At the end of your turn, the opposition move their players.

It’s dead simple in concept, but the game manages to make it more engaging than it first sounds. Firstly, you’ll come across a number of different types of player. Some players you’ll face are good at intercepting, and so you shouldn ‘t try and pass the ball when near them. Others are good at tackling, so dribbling with the ball near them is a no-no.

On top of that you’ll also learn a few skills of your own. Dangerous tackles can be avoide with a dribbling skill and tricky passes can be made easier with a lob skill. Both of these skills need you to time a button press perfectly to pull of though and they also cost money.

Yep, unlocking skills comes at intervals throughout the levels, but once unlocked after beating a certain level, you have to pay to then use the unlocked skill. This was a little annoying as after starting a level it would soon become clear that you’d need a skill to get through it. This then meant backing out into the shop menu and buying that skill to use.

Another minor annoyance was the unpredictability of the opposition. It was never clear if a defender would go towards the ball or carry on marking their closest opponent from turn to turn. This meant that some of my Arsene Wenger like maneuvers came undone.

Aside having to buy moves and seemingly random AI, Soccer Moves is a great game with some real polish. A good amount of content is available from the large number of levels to the ever-expanding wardrobe of unlockable costumes. Well worth a go for the more thoughful soccer fan.

My Dolphin Show Review

My Dolphin Show Review

Nov 26, 2013

Ever since Free Willy, I’ve had a desire to run a show at Sea World. Perhaps the movie was meant to make me want to save sea mammals, but no. I want to control these aquatic animals and have them jump through hoops on my command. Luckily, here’s My Dolphin Show, a game all about getting a dolphin to perform tricks for paying punters.

The basic premise of the game is that through swiping the screen you control the angle and speed at which your dolphin swims at. If you get your dolphin to swim fast enough towards the surface of the water, they’ll leap into the air. Once airborne, you get one more swipe to further direct the flying Flipper.

You’ll need to get your dolphin to jump over gates, land on targets, hit balls and so on. You get a bonus for completing a number of tasks in one leap which means you’ll get more money for the completion of your show.unnamedCA2EO10T

My Dolphin Show has clearly had some effort poured into it. The presentation is a notch above your typical free-to-play fare. The dolphin (although, not always a dolphin) swims around the screen fluidly and the 3D models in general are bright and colourful. No doubt exactly what small children like.

To the game’s credit, there’s plenty to unlock and most of it’s pretty cute. This is, after all, a game aimed at children, and the more cute things you can put into it the better. In fact, one unlockable turns your dolphin into a shark. You better believe I bought that straight away. Not only because sharks are cool, but this upgrade gave me a boost to my speed and jumping stats. Very useful.

The only real issue I had with the game was the previously mentioned controls. Swiping at the screen in a vague direction for your animal to follow was often, quite literally, hit or miss. The game rewards you for making jumps that are precise enough to hit multiple objects but doesn’t give you the controls to make this a regular occurrence. Whenever I made a decent jump, I often felt like it was down to dumb-luck rather than some sort of skill.

Aside from that, it’s hard to really argue with what My Dolphin Show is doing. A game clearly aimed at kids and offers the little ones plenty to unlock. Whilst the controls lack the finesse you’d expect from a truly great title, this is a solid enough app that will entertain and won’t cost a penny. Unless you want to pay out for the really cool costumes.

I’m currently eyeing up this penguin unlockable. The only thing cooler than sharks are penguins. Fact.

Why Android Could be the PS4 and Xbox One’s Perfect Companion

Why Android Could be the PS4 and Xbox One’s Perfect Companion

Nov 15, 2013

You may have missed that the next-generation of console’s biggest feature isn’t shiny graphics, cloud computing or superior motion controls. Nope. The next big thing for console gaming is your Android device. The PS4 and Xbox One are going to turn your smartphones and tablets into ‘second screens’ with developers looking to offer companion apps to go with their big releases.

The PS4 and the Xbox One want to ensure they have your undivided attention this time around with the use of Android apps that ‘enrich’ your gaming experience whilst you’re playing games, watching video content and when you’re away from your console.App3

Similar to what the Wii U offers, minus the need for a proprietary device, these apps will increase the scope for potential singleplayer and multiplayer options when it comes to game mechanics.

Whether you’re looking at getting a Sony or Microsoft console, both of the new consoles are getting their own Android apps that will be pivotal to how you play and interact with your new console.

Microsoft have the jump on Sony in this regard, as their app, Xbox Smartglass, has been available for quite some time. This video for last year’s Forza game shows how Smartglass technology was integrated into the game.

Whilst Smartglass has currently been limited in what it can do, it does offer a glimpse as to how your smartphone and tablet will become increasingly important in this new generation of consoles.

This head start doesn’t mean that Sony’s offering is looking to be lacking. Similar to Smartglass, the Playstation App is set to offer functionality that’s on par with Microsoft’s technology. At the recent Tokyo Game Show, Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide, demonstrated the application in action.

Big-name publishers like EA and Ubisoft are already well into development of so-called companion apps that exploit the increasingly symbiotic relationship between console and Smartphones/tablets. EA has Battlefield 4’s application that shows a detailed map and allows for quick loadout selection. Ubisoft are working on tie-ins for their Watch Dogs and The Division games. In The Division’s case, by loading up the appropriate app, you gain access to a whole new class of character that plays unlike any other and otherwise isn’t available.

This focus on apps has all come about because console makers and developers have noticed the fact that people don’t watch TV or play games anymore. They multitask. The TV’s on, but you’re also on your laptop. Yes there may be playing a great game on your console, but you’re also on your phone and tweeting at the same time.

Recognizing that not all publishers have money to spend on developing game-specific apps, it’s interesting to see that both Microsoft’s Smartglass and Sony’s Playstation App are being created with large and small developers in mind.

Shuhei Yoshida, when speaking to Playstation Blog, was keen to mention this as a key element behind the idea of the Playstation App:

“There are many big publishers creating their own apps for their games, like Watch_Dogs or Battlefield, and that’s great, but smaller developers can use PlayStation App to connect to [the] PS4 and load an application, like drawing software for example, so that you don’t have to download and install a specific app on your smartphone. It’s open to all PS4 developers to use.”

With the new generation of consoles now upon us it’s good to see that, Sony and Microsoft realise what an important role smartphones and tablets play in their customer’s life. Owning an Android device for this new generation of consoles could mean you have the upper-hand in the battlefield, more ways to enjoy multiplayer games and give you access to content that you otherwise wouldn’t see.

The old saying goes ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and it’s about time these console manufacturers and game developers joined in with what we’ve been doing for years.