Holiday Gift Guide: The Android Workaholic

Holiday Gift Guide: The Android Workaholic

Dec 5, 2014

Mobile devices have quickly evolved into major business, especially for those who actually use them to conduct business. Better technology and more productivity apps have found a home on Android devices, but getting real work done can still be a chore without the right tools. These Android accessories will satisfy the person on your list who just can’t stop working.

ZAGG Universal Bluetooth Keyboard

Android’s built-in keyboard has received steady improvement since the OS first released, but it is still not nearly as efficient as a classic keyboard. The sleek-designed ZAGG Universal Bluetooth keyboard makes typing on tablets and smartphones enjoyable. The ergonomic design makes the keyboard comfortable and natural for all users. While the keyboard is portable, it is not too small where it ruins the typing experience.

The ZAGG keyboard is priced at $69.99 and can be purchased through the company’s official website. It comes packed with a protective case for carrying and storing the keyboard, which also doubles as a stand for any tablet or smartphone.

GoSmart 200 Stylus

A nice pen has always been a classic gift for a bussinessperson. With touchscreen technology abound, a pen can be replaced by a stylus. In addition to avoiding leaving fingerprint smudges and touching a germ-filled device’s screen, using a stylus offers more precision, especially for hardcore users. The GoSmart 200 stylus can easily be mistaken for an executive pen, but it is effective on touchscreen devices.

At only $19.95, the GoSmart 200 stylus represents a serious value. Use it as stocking stuffer and watch as the Android user on your list never uses fingers again. Read our review of the stylus here.

LG G Watch R

The one thing workaholics want more of is time — and who has enough time to actually pull out their phone when a new call or message is coming through? The LG G Watch R smartwatch allows users to save time and keep their focus on the business at hand. The watch connects to an Android phone and displays alerts such as messages, calls, emails and weather directly on the watch’s face. But the G Watch R’s best feature is its design. Unlike other smartwatches, the device looks like a high quality watch when alerts are not being displayed.

Priced at $299, the LG G Watch R is the perfect gift for the Android user who has been extra nice this year. It can be purchased via the Google Play Store and many retail outlets.

SanDisk 128GB MicroSD Card

Between downloading PDFs, creating reports, and updating documents, stock Android devices simply are not equipped with enough memory. Power users will quickly blow through space with music, photos, and apps alone. The SanDisk 128GB MicroSD card is the ultimate solution. The extra memory slides into the Android device’s microSD slot — a luxury that iPhone users do not have — and adds backup to the phone’s own internal memory.

The memory card offers all the storage space an Android user could possibly need at only $119.99. If that is too pricey, choose a smaller amount of memory for a cheaper price.

Holiday Gift Guide: The Music Lover

Holiday Gift Guide: The Music Lover

Dec 2, 2014

Perhaps the most frustrating person to find gifts for is the music lover. Ideas like headphones and speakers are obvious, but it can be difficult to sift through the numerous options to find the perfect gift. If the Android users on your holiday gift list can’t stop the music, these gift ideas will turn them into DJs in no time.

Photive BTH3 Bluetooth Headphones

There’s nothing more annoying than wires. The Photive BTH3 Bluetooth headphones ditch the wire and connects to your device via Bluetooth. Buttons at each earcup means users will be able adjust volume and change tracks without taking out their Android device, and the 12-hour battery life means the headphones will last through hundreds of jams.

Although the Photive BTH3 headphones aren’t quite up to par with top-of-the-line headsets from Bose and Audio Technica, the sound quality is quite satisfying and the price is surprisingly affordable. The headphones, which also include a built-in mic for phone calls and a travel case for storage, is regularly priced at $120, but can easily be found for as low as $49.99 on Amazon.

Sonos Play Speakers

Sonos offers a series of wireless speakers perfect for any music lover’s home. No matter how much room you have in your home, there is a Sonos Play speaker that will find a great spot. The Sonos Play series offers a set of speakers, including the Play:1, Play:3, Play:5 and Playbar. Prices on the speakers range from $199 for the Play:1 to $699 for the Playbar, which is also a great complement to a TV.

The speakers offer top-notch sound that fills up the whole home, and design is sleek enough to leave the speakers on display on shelves or tables. An app allows users to control what plays through the speakers from any room in the house right on their tablet or smartphone. The Sonos speakers are available at Best Buy and Target locations.

Turtle Shell 2.0 Bluetooth Speaker

In-home speakers are great, but the true music lover wants to listen to tunes on the go. Unfortunately, finding a quality speaker rugged enough to survive the outdoors is no simple task. Most portable speakers are not built to withstand the elements and are quickly ruined by water or sand. Enter the Turtle Shell.

The Turtle Shell 2.0 Bluetooth speaker can be taken anywhere from the backyard patio to the beach. The shockproof speaker is designed for use in all conditions. The Turtle Shell delivers quality sound in all directions, even after several trips to the beach or desert. It is available in multiple colors for $129.99 through the Outdoor Technology website.

Google Play Music Subscription

What’s a fancy new speaker worth if you don’t have any music to play? A Google Play Music All Access subscription is the gift that keeps on giving for the Android music buff. At $9.99 per month, Google Play Music All Access gives Android users access to a library that is virtually unlimited. Users can search through a huge collection of music that includes almost every song imaginable and stream tracks through any Android device or online.

Purchasing this gift for the Android user on you list may prove difficult without access to the person’s Android device. Alternatively, you can purchase a Google Play gift card that can be used to purchase several months worth of the subscription.

Holiday Gift Guide: The Android Gamer

Holiday Gift Guide: The Android Gamer

Nov 27, 2014

Trying to find a gift for the Android gamer is no easy task. There is a myriad of options when it comes to accessories, and many of them can be considered useless. Our holiday gift guide will help you find the perfect gift for an Android gamer, whether you are looking for a more expensive gift or a stocking stuffer that won’t break the bank.

Nexus Player

Android gamers typically love the portability of mobile devices, but even the large screen of a tablet doesn’t compare to playing games on a TV. Of course, gamers can turn to full gaming consoles, but buying a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One requires a significant financial investment, especially when factoring in the cost of games. Google is attempting to fill the void this holiday season with the Nexus Player.

The sleek device plugs into a TV via HDMI and allows users to access Google Play apps on their TV. This is great for streaming video, but it also represents an affordable gaming option at only $99. Not all Google Play apps and games are currently available through the Player, but there is already a solid selection of games, and the collection will only continue to grow. Add the Bluetooth gamepad for $39.99. It will also work with any other devices. The Nexus Player and gamepad are currently available through the Google Play store.

MOGA Mobile Gaming System

The MOGA mobile gaming system has long been a favorite among Android gamers, and it is the perfect gift for users who love playing games on their smartphone. Holding the phone and using touchscreen controls is not comfortable, especially during longer play sessions. The MOGA controller solves this problem. The portable Bluetooth controller is equipped with a pop-out center that acts as a stand for smartphones. Devices up to 3.2 inches wide can snap into the port, making it a great option for on-the-go gaming.

Tablet users will also be able to use the controller without the stand via Bluetooth. While the controller has a list price of $29.99, it can often be purchased for much cheaper on Amazon. If the Android gamer on your list has been extra nice this year, spend a few more bucks for the MOGA Hero Power.

Antec LifeBar 10 Portable Charger

The Android gamer’s worst nightmare: not being able to play games because the device is dead or dying. The Antec LifeBar 10 portable charger is a solution that fits inside your pocket. The sleek handheld charger is equipped with two USB ports and one micro-USB slot, and is capable of charging any mobile device.

Android gamers on the go will appreciate the charger’s ability to hold a charge over several days, making it hassle-free power. It also has a built-in flashlight, allowing users to find their device even in the darkest times. Check out our review of the Antec LifeBar 10 here.

Nyko DualShock 4 Smart Clip

The Nyko DualShock 4 smart clip is the perfect stocking stuffer for hardcore gamers. If the gamer on your list already owns a PlayStation 4, this is a great complement. It clips onto the DualShock 4 controller and has a stand that will hold most smartphones.

While the smart clip is designed for use with the PlayStation app or PS4 Remote Play, more active Android users will find a way to make the controller work with Android games. The smart clip is available on the Nyko website for only $9.99.

Mobie360 Review

Mobie360 Review

Oct 7, 2014

The Mobie360 app can best be described as a home screen replacement. But the team behind the app demands more of a smartphone’s home. Rather than a clutter of apps, widgets and pictures, the Mobie 360 version of a home screen is a central hub of information for your smartphone, and it makes users’ lives easier and cellphones more functional.

Most Android users don’t find anything wrong with Samsung’s TouchWiz, stock Android or whatever is packed on their phones, but Mobie 360 reveals the true potential of the home screen. However, the first thing users will notice is its not-so-sleek look. Mobie 360 is all about functionality, and that is apparent by its outdated appearance.

mobie360_3Users can change the background, but it won’t affect the overly bold look of the notification bar-like buttons aligning the top of the screen. Widgets can be placed on the Mobie 360 home screen. However, they don’t retain all the customization as they do on Android’s home tiles, a major compenent of Android’s appeal. This is especially frustrating when trying to set up Google widgets such as Google Now and Google Calendar.

While Mobie 360 allows users to tinker with the appearance of their home screen, its real goal is to make it easier for Android users to find the apps that matter most to them. The custom home screen is made up of tiles, but instead of a mere hodgepodge of apps and widgets, tiles are divided into categories such as work and home. Mostly populating that area is an app wheel, which can be set to include apps you most use at each designated location. This experience can be customized, but Mobie 360 is smart enough to provide easy access to the phone’s most used apps.

A floating Mobie icon — which is a cute creature named Mobie — hovers over apps indicating it has a message to relay. Holding down on the app icon will pull up Mobie’s notification, which will give users tips on phone usage (i.e. Twitter is using too much of your data consumption).

Where the app is really useful is in its stat tracking. Mobie 360 makes it easier to save battery and keep track of how your phone is draining power. A single tile on the home screen is filled with information regarding the device, including how many more hours your phone will last without being charged, how much data you have used this month, and how secure your phone is.

This is an extremely useful tool for phone power users and Mobie 360 presents it in a way that is easy to understand. It also provides tips to resolve issues, such as deleting apps that are sucking up too much energy.

Mobie 360’s design will not appeal to everyone, but the app will still provide suggestions to users who refuse to change their home screen. Before you go to bed at night, the app will ask you if you want to enter bedtime mode to eliminate overnight distractions. After you arrive home from a long day out, Mobie 360 will suggest you turn on WiFi to conserve power. All of this is done through notifications that pop up on screen.

The Mobie 360 app can be used in many ways, and all Android users will find it useful. The app is a must have for power users who are constantly struggling with app usage and battery life.

Abs Trainer Review

Abs Trainer Review

Sep 10, 2014

Smartphone users look to get the most out of their phones because they are always on the go. Many of these people are so busy, it’s hard to find time to go to the gym. Abs Trainer, a new app in a workout series created by Backbenchers Lab, uses the portability of a phone to provide quick ab exercises that users can perform from the comfort of their own home.

Abs Trainer doesn’t require a hefty knowledge of working out–it provides simple workouts anyone can achieve without having to pay expensive gym membership fees. If you know how to do a sit-up, you should have no problem understanding the many exercises showcased in the app.

Abs-Trainer-4The user interface is straightforward and easy to use. To get started, users simply select which section of the abdominals to work out. The app directs users to three sections broken down into the upper abs, lower abs, and obliques. Lower ab workouts are typically less strenuous and complicated, but users should integrate a mix of routines from all three categories, especially if they are working towards six-pack abs.

Choosing a category will lead users to another menu, this time displaying different ab exercises that focus on the selected abdominal section. The app is extremely helpful because most of the featured exercises can be done without any gym equipment. Exercises such as leg lifts, planks, and mountain climbers can provide an intense workout that is easy to achieve and requires nothing aside from your body.

However, there are some workouts featured in the app in which fitness machines are required. Some of these exercises are a bit more complex, especially for users who are just beginning the journey of getting in shape.

After selecting a particular workout, users are shown a very brief video clip that explains how to perform the exercise. In fact, the clips are more like a gif than a video. The length of each clip works as both a benefit and a disadvantage for the app, varying by the complexity of the workout the clip is displaying.

Shorter, simple exercises are easy to replicate by watching the videos, and users will find themselves able to pull off a handful of routines in no time. However, that is not the case with all featured workouts. More complicated moves–such as exercises that require users to alternate sides–are not shown in their entirety. Users who lack any previous knowledge of the exercise will still be uninformed after exploring the app, which is the exact opposite of what Abs Trainer is trying to achieve.

The app somewhat offsets this by breaking down each exercise with step-by-step instructions. These processes might be confusing if taken alone, but pairing written instructions with how to videos helps clear up any doubt.

Overall, Abs Trainer is a solid app for Android users who are looking to start a workout routine without paying expensive gym fees. The app not only equips users with a database of exercises to workout their abdominals, but it also gives them the knowledge necessary to train the areas of their body they feel need the most work.

Notepad Reminder Review

Notepad Reminder Review

Aug 27, 2014

Smartphones are predicated on convenience. The best apps are simple to use and make people’s lives easier. But for some reason, app developers have not harnessed the convenient potential of widgets. At least, that is the concept behind Notepad Reminder, a note-taking widget that is easy to use and easier to access.

Rather than digging through menus and taking time to open an app, widgets offer a way to interact with an app right on an Android device’s home screen. This feature is typically used to relay emails or check sports scores at a moment’s notice, but Notepad Reminder takes it to another level, adding usability and productivity right to the home screen.

Notepad-Reminder-2Users can install the widget on one of the many slides that make up their home screen and access all of the app’s features directly from the widget. In fact, there is no app, making it the most simplistic way to take notes on an Android device.

Instead of a one-sized-fits-all widget, the Notepad Reminder widget can be customized to a users liking on the home screen. This approach allows each individual user to get what they desire from the app. While one person may need the widget to be as large as possible to read notes, another may prefer a smaller widget to take short, simple notes on the go.

After positioning the widget on your Android device, you can immediately get started leaving notes. A small bar along the top of the widget prompts users to add a note and select a priority. The widget is helpful for completing tasks such as creating a grocery list or a to-do file for the day. However, users in need of taking larger, more intensive notes will find the widget experience cumbersome. Longer notes will display on the widget, but there isn’t room for a lot of information and typing within the bar is unintuitive.

Despite its simplicity, the Notepad Reminder widget also has some features that are typically found in full-fledged apps. Users can set a reminder for each note directly within the widget. Once a task is completed, the note can also be deleted efficiently. There are no complicated menu screens or additional buttons to press; all of this can be achieved directly from the widget using understated yet obvious buttons near each note.

The straightforwardness of the widget is its greatest strength, but also is its biggest weakness. Users will find themselves creating lists on the app, but only one list at a time. There are no organizing features to create long-form notes or organize a list with a title. It would be nice if users had the additional option of using the widget to directly open specific notes within the app. Instead, there is no physical app, meaning some users will find little function for the widget.

Overall, the Notepad Reminder widget is a solid way to jot down quick notes or run down a grocery list without having to dig through menus. However, the app is almost too simple. The oversimplified user interface and lack of a full featured app will make users quickly forget about Notepad Reminder.

Globber’s Escape Review

Globber’s Escape Review

Jul 31, 2014

More than 30 years since its initial release, Pac-Man is still one of the greatest video games ever created. Although Pac-Man holds up surprisingly well today, the game’s formula could use some tweaking and updating for modern audiences. Well, at least that seems to be the thought behind Globber’s Escape, a new Android title that puts a modern spin on the Pac-Man formula.

Globber is a gelatinous glob attempting to escape the science lab where he is being held. It is up to players to help Globber find its way through the rooms of the lab. Along the way, players must guide Globber away from evil scientists roaming levels and towards alien flunkies and objects. The premise is refreshingly simple, and gameplay is frantic and fast-paced.

Like Pac-Man, Globber’s Escape is easy to jump right into, which is perfect for mobile gamers. In fact, the game’s lack of menus is almost confusingly simple. Boot up the game and one simple tap will take players directly into gameplay. There are no simple tutorial levels to educate players or option menus to browse through; Globber’s Escape is all about the gameplay.

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While Pac-Man is based on gobbling up all objects located on the entire screen, the objective in Globber’s Escape is to get to one specific area of a level at a given time. While mad scientists roam the lab, aliens pop out of machines spread throughout levels, requiring players to react quickly to collect the aliens while avoiding scientists. Once players are able to corral all aliens in a particular area, a special power-up will appear nearby, allowing Globber to break apart into multiple forms to make getting around the lab easier.

In the spirit of Pac-Man and popular mobile titles, there is no way to actually complete Globber’s Escape, or even any of the levels in the game, a fact that can be frustrating for the objective orientated gamer. Instead, the object of the game is to advance through as many levels as possible without dying and accumulate the highest score possible.

Once players collect enough aliens in a particular area, a door opens up and players can make their way through it. As players advance, labs begin to offer more of a challenge. Scientists eventually give way to larger and quicker robots.

Dying doesn’t have to be the end all in Globber’s Escape. Gamers can use hammers acquired during gameplay to be brought back to life. However, hammers are difficult to obtain–the only clear way to get them is through an awkward post-death slot machine mini-game–so using them wisely is necessary.

Globber’s Escape is just the right mix between Pac-Man and something new. The game pays homage to one of the most popular games of all time and honors its legacy. However, it is not a Pac-Man clone. There are enough new gameplay elements to make Globber’s Escape an original title, and it feels right at home on mobile devices.

The frantic pace and ability to jump right into the game means players will be returning to help Globber escape over and over again.

Skyline Skaters Review

Skyline Skaters Review

Jul 15, 2014

Endless runners make for the perfect mobile games. A combination of accessibility and addictiveness make the genre ideal for gamers on the go. Skyline Skaters Rio is the latest game to take advantage of the portability of an endless runner, even integrating the World Cup into the game’s Brazil setting.

Rio is an update to Skyline Skaters that takes players to the favelas of Brazil. The Skyline Skaters version of the favelas ignores the dark side and presents a bright, vivid picture of the city. With the World Cup in town, the setting is full of color and full of life. Players will see nods to the soccer tournament as they skate on rooftops, noticing soccer balls bouncing, mascots jumping, and soccer-themed power-ups throughout levels. However, the soccer integration is merely a gimmick to capitalize on the popularity of the World Cup as it has no affect on gameplay.

The object of the game is guide your skateboarder through the rooftops, jumping across buildings and collecting coins along the way. The old saying “skateboarding is not a crime” is apparently invalid in Brazil, as a police helicopter gives chase to players. Hit a cone or other obstacle and you will allow the chopper to catch up.

Gamers also have to deal with several obstacles along the way, including flying missiles, floating obstructions and rails. To make dealing with these easier, players can obtain power-ups located throughout levels. Power-ups, which include a rainbow that bridges rooftops and a score multiplier, temporarily give players a boost that makes racking up high scores easier. The best power-up is the rocket, which allows players to sit back momentarily and watch their character fly through the sky and collect coins.

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There are also letters in levels players can collect to unlock a special bonus round. Spelling words such as “SPEED” or “SKATE” will take players to an area full of easy-to-collect coins.

Skyline Skaters is as simple as it gets when it comes to controls. A tap on the screen will cause your character to jump and a double tap results in a double jump. It is all very accessible and inviting.

With the Rio update comes a new soccer-themed Brazilian skater, but obtaining him can be a grind. Unless players are willing to shell out some real-world cash to purchase the character (or any other additional character in the game, for that matter), they will have to spend some serious time skating through Rio collecting coins.

Players who do not wish to deal with microtransactions will find it difficult to collect extras, upgrade their skateboards, or level up their characters past the early stages, which quickly reduces the game to a repetitive chore.

Skyline Skaters Rio is a colorful update to a solid endless runner. However, the fun of the game wears off unless users are willing to pay real world money to unlock new characters and upgrades. Without conducting microtransactions, the game becomes a repetitive quest to collect coins, and Android users will find themselves uninstalling the app.

MLB.com Home Run Derby Presented by Ford Review

MLB.com Home Run Derby Presented by Ford Review

Jul 11, 2014

There is nothing more exciting in baseball than the home run — the crack of the bat echoing through the stadium, the crowd roaring as the hitter rounds the bases, and the high fives and handshakes in the dugout. There is nothing like watching the best hitters in the world smash baseballs as far as they can. That is why MLB’s annual Home Run Derby exists. For those of us who will never get to experience what it’s like to hit a homer in a major league stadium, there is MLB.com Home Run Derby Presented by Ford for Android.

MLB Advanced Media recently released a massive update to MLB.com Home Run Derby that adds new game modes to the mobile home run contest and features 2014’s new home run derby rules. The update also includes the players selected to participate in the 2014 Home Run Derby and Target Field, where All-Star festivities will take place.

For those just jumping into the game with the update, it is exactly what you’d expect—players select an MLB star and try to hit as many bombs as possible. There are two control schemes; one in which players hold down on the screen to move their batter’s contact point and let go to swing, and one in which gamers tap the screen to swing. While the holding option seems to be easier, the tap-to-swing controls don’t currently work. Gamers will find themselves frantically tapping the screen while their hitter watches pitches go by. An update will likely fix this, but controls are broken for now.

The game is broken down into three game modes: arcade mode, single player and multiplayer. Arcade mode is the quickest game and easiest way to rack up in-game currency. Single player and multiplayer derby modes offer a more competitive experience, but each will cost players one ticket to enter.

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Tickets, MLB Bucks and coins are the game’s currency. They can be used to unlock new players and stadiums, and upgrade bats and power-ups. An in-game store also sells bundles of currency, which is severely overpriced but almost necessary to acquire some upgrades.

Graphics are surprisingly realistic. Player models are accurate recreations of MLB stars, right down to the batting stances. While players are console quality, crowd models are far from it. However, crowd reactions and in-stadium announcer voices are responsive and entertaining. From the moment the ball hits the bat, the sound adds to the ambiance, creating a great baseball experience.

The downside of Home Run Derby’s graphical prowess is the loading times players will have to wait before actually jumping into a game. Part of the mobile experience of video games is being able to pick up and play at any time. Long wait times hinder the game’s portability and make it less accessible for players with less time.

MLB.com Home Run Derby’s update brings the title from a cheap money grab by MLB to a full-fledged mobile title. With realistic graphics and new game modes, baseball fans will have little to complain about. However, microtransactions hurt the game’s replay value, and players probably won’t find themselves playing beyond this year’s All-Star break.

Cristiano Ronaldo Footy Review

Cristiano Ronaldo Footy Review

Jul 7, 2014

The FIFA World Cup leads to a heightened interest in soccer and Android developers are looking to cash in on the world’s newfound soccer fandom. A wealth of new soccer apps and games has popped up on the Google Play Store. Developer Digital Artists is taking it a step further by integrating one of the world’s most popular athletes into its game, Cristiano Ronaldo Footy.

Cristiano Ronaldo Footy is an arcade soccer game with RPG elements. Despite obviously drawing inspiration from popular arcade sports titles of the past, Cristiano Ronaldo Footy is clearly a game aimed at the youthful soccer fan. While children may find pieces of the game enjoyable, it is mostly an experience unworthy of Ronaldo’s name.

Players will immediately notice Ronaldo’s presence in the title is more gimmick than substance. CR7 will guide players through the menus initially, but there isn’t much beyond that to establish the Ronaldo branding.

CR7-Footy

There are two modes of play in Cristiano Ronaldo Footy. The game’s campaign mode offers players a series of increasingly difficult “challenges” that merely consist of beating a team that is better than the last. However, it takes little skill to beat opposing teams at the start of the campaign and the difficulty only slightly increases as players advance. Defeating opponents quickly becomes a boring exercise offering little reward.

Users can also challenge their friends in multiplayer battles, which make for much more compelling matches.

Teams are made up of only four generic players, including one goalkeeper. Rather than providing a full RPG experience, the game takes a more simplistic approach. Individual athletes do not have skills and progression attached to them, but instead, the user earns experience points by beating opposing teams. Progression is divided up into experience points, coins, and rubies. New jerseys, shorts, and shoes will be available to purchase using rubies as players level up. Purchasing new kits will immediately improve the athletes on the squad.

While it is possible to play the game without spending money, funding through microtransactions grants players rubies and coins that can in turn unlock improved abilities and more stylish kits quicker.

On the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo Footy delivers a quick mobile experience. Matches take only a few minutes each and there is no time to relax. In fact, the action is too fast paced. After scoring a goal, the ball randomly appears at midfield, up for grabs for any player standing near it.

Passing is game of chance as opposing players are likely to steal the ball away. Scoring goals is as easy as dribbling through opponents on the field and putting the ball in from a short distance. Beating the other team is more of a math formula than skill based. A.I. goalkeeper teammates will seemingly always stop the first few shots from the other team, so winning boils down to getting more shots on goal than the opposition. Powerups that can be bought in-game using coins add new ways to stop opponents or get the ball in the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo Footy is an obvious attempt at cashing in on World Cup fever, which is a shame considering it is attached to the one of the sport’s brightest stars. Ronaldo may be one of the best soccer players in the world, but that success does not translate to Cristiano Ronaldo Footy.

PES Manager Review

PES Manager Review

Jun 24, 2014

Soccer fever is spreading across the globe thanks to the World Cup. If you are a soccerfan looking to take your addiction on the go, look no further than PES Manager for Android.

Sports management sims generally require a large time devotion and tons of knowledge about the sport. However, PES Manager is not your typical sports management sim. The experience is catered to more casual players who only have a few minutes to play at a time. Rather than bogging players down with a plethora of options and deep menus, PES Manager opts for an RPG-style experience.

More than 1,500 real-life football stars from European leagues are represented in the game in the form of badges. Players collect badges by winning matches and will have to set up their team for the best chance of success. Users can change formations and substitute players into the starting lineup before fielding their team in friendlies or special matches.

New badges are earned through the game’s prize draw system, which is powered by friendship points and energy balls. Taking on other players in the game nets users friendship points, which can be used for a normal prize draw. Winning matches gives players energy balls that unlock more helpful premium prize draws. If all of this sounds foreign to football fans, that’s because it should. PES Manager aims to harness the mobile strategy, ditching realism for a more fantastical approach that is more accessible.

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During matches, players are shown the action on the pitch. You can watch in real time or use a fast forwarding mechanic to skip to the most important moments. However, it is all kind of pointless for a mobile sports sim. Every part of the game is designed for playing on the go, so a brief flash of the score and rundown of the game would serve the same purpose without costing players’ time.

It is easy to get lost in the menus while playing PES Manager, but success comes down to fielding the right players, improving player badges and earning points during matches to continue improving the squad. In order to achieve this, players must first overcome a confusing menu system.

Most of the game is spent setting up formations and managing badges in the menus, which suffer from a poor user interface. It sucks the fun out of the game by reducing its most important aspects to a mindless clicking chore. While users are never in control of the players on the field, they will sometimes feel they are not really in control of their team off it either.

PES Manager is only a soccer game in title. At its core, it is more Pokemon than sport. When leveling up player badges, users will almost expect to see Ronaldo evolve into a Charizard (which would probably make for a better game). Achieving success feels more like solving a game-beating formula, but it can only come from grinding match after match. In the end, having a dominant team offers little reward.

Mini Dodge Ninja Review

Mini Dodge Ninja Review

Jun 6, 2014

Unless you’ve been under a rock in a wireless dead zone for the past few months, you’ve probably heard of Flappy Bird. The simple screen-tapping game took the world by storm and caused its creator so much stress that he decided to take down the game. Since then, a plethora of similar apps have invaded the Google Play Store in attempts to recreate the worldwide frenzy that was Flappy Bird, including Mini Dodge Ninja.

Mini Dodge Ninja takes some elements and makes them its own, but it is an obvious duplication of the Flappy Bird formula, right down to the bird main character. While gameplay is similar to Flappy Bird, Mini Dodge Ninja offers a significantly greater challenge in a less vibrant setting.

In the game, players take a control of a ninja bird–apparently ninja birds wear straw hats so you can tell they are ninjas. The bird is dropped down a tunnel in his dojo and players must repeatedly tap on the screen to keep him afloat.

As players venture down the tunnel, a series of pipes appears to block the little bird’s path. But these pipes offer problems even a famous mustached plumber couldn’t fix. Pipes open and close, giving the mini ninja a chance to pass. Players must tap on the screen to help the bird fly and time their taps (and moments when to not tap) perfectly to guide the bird through the maze of endless pipes.

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While it may not seem like it, this poses a significant challenge. Pipes are placed closely together, so players have to find a balance between hovering over the next pipe and flying too high with a pipe above. In addition, pipes open and close at different times, meaning players will find it difficult to pass through more than one at a time.

Unfortunately, its difficulty is the only aspect of the game that captivates players’ attention, but it is an immediate turn off when starting out. Racking up higher scores takes practice, but players will find themselves uninstalling the game immediately before putting in an effort to master it. Rather than feeling they will be able to top their high score with the next attempt, players are left thinking they had some dumb luck on their side when performing so well.

Users had better want to compete on leaderboards because the game will consistently ask players to connect their Google Play Games account. Simply jumping in and playing is impossible without linking stats to a Google account. Players are also forced to link their Facebook account if they want to unlock new characters, which is the only real variety Mini Dodge Ninja offers.

If a game causes players to die often and die quickly, it should have a simple replay button that appears after deaths. That is not the case in Mini Dodge Ninja. Users are forced to go back to the main menu before starting up another attempt to tab their way to a high score.

From its gameplay to its imperfect menu system, Mini Dodge Ninja gives players brief moments of satisfaction that are drowned out by constant frustration. Its attempts at recreating the magic of Flappy Bird wear thin quickly and the challenges that it offers are too difficult for casual players.