LG G Flex Hardware Review

LG G Flex Hardware Review

Apr 17, 2014

As we mentioned earlier, LG Electronics largely elbowed its way to Android prominence with it latest batch of devices. We had an opportunity to formally look at LG’s G Flex, and the experience was just as eye-opening.

Gotta admit, the internals are juicy. It sports a 2.26 GHz quad-core Snapdragon chip, and packs in all the radios and stuff one would expect in a high-end Android phone: Bluetooth 4.0 LE, wi-fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS. The cameras are definitely not slouchy, with a 13 MP autofocus snapper in the rear and a 2.1 MP unit in the back. Top of the line requisites like LTE and a 3,500 mAh battery are present to partner with the 32 GB memory.

Cool innards aside, the physical presentation is where it will most likely stand out initially for most. It cuts an imposing figure, and wears the label “phablet” (yeah, I said it) quite well, embodied in the 6.32″ x 3.21″ x 0.31″ flex2 and stated 6.24-ounces frame. But it’s The Curve that visually defines this phone. The phone features a tangible parabola that tapers uncompromising into the 1280 x 720, 6″ HD flexible OLED Gorilla Glassed display.

The device is sleek, with its signature curved chassis and slim profile being easy on the eyes. The USB port is centered at the bottom, and the sides are delightfully bereft of buttons, as the ON button is placed on the back. The grey finishing defines it quite well, and the device feels natural in the right hand despite its non-diminutive size.

And y’all just have to forgive me for getting a bit caught up in the screen. It’s supposed to be indicative of the future of curved displays, a feature that is supposed to be enhance the enjoyment quotient. Coupled with the excellent screen, the whole structure does seem to work, though I feel those looking for something that changes the fabric of life as we know it might be a little let down. In other words, the flexible screen (along with the self-healing capabilities of the back) works well, but might not yet be a set-apart feature just yet.

The software suite also sets it apart. There is the needed Google suite, but above and beyond, that LG makes the crafty (and daresay, necessary) move to ensure customers have an opportunity to get immersed in LG’s massive consumer electronics ecosystem. Like the G Pad, the Flex works with other select LG devices and electronics. Miracast compatibility is another plus, and the device comes upgradeable to Android KitKat. In real-life use, the device is quite fluid, and doesn’t stutter under heavy lifting, and everything runs smooth.

Pauses? Folks coming from the G2 or other bigger flagships, might not be as enamored; I would have loved a bigger battery, and I will whine about available accessories. Still, it’s the first phablet I have ever wanted to be around for an extended period of time.

Trust me… that says a lot.

Instantion Review

Instantion Review

Apr 17, 2014

Where is Dolly the Sheep when one needs her? Instation brings cloning to Android, and the replicated pieces make even the best line dancers look quaint by comparison.

The gameplay is leveled; in this one, we get a blue, somewhat luminescent running being, intent on doing what most platform side-scrolling runners want to do: run from left to right. The scenery had a touch of the futuristic tinged with a the ominous feel one gets from the occasional red lasers and bright obstacles that add context to game functions.

In its simplest form, the running creature meets obstacles. There is a jump button, direction buttons and an interaction button, with last being useful to toggle gates open or to assemble bridges. There are also green step instant1pads that also toggle gates open and shut. As the gameplay unfolds, the obstacles get trickier; what is one to do do when the switch for a bridge is on other side?

Here’s where cloning becomes valuable. Our humanoid has the ability to create exact copies of itself when fully charged, and the clones can be placed (via intricate and sometimes infuriating sighting process) where they need to be as long as the point is not too far away.

The interesting part is how the humanoid and the clones act; they do everything in unison… jumping, running left or right… everything the “true” unit does is mimicked in time simultaneously by the clones, unless restricted by an object or obstacle. This adds a completely different feel to the gameplay, especially in further levels. For example, the aforementioned energy fields reduce clones even when only the main unit goes through them. At one point, solving the puzzle of advancement means inching back and forth, while allowing obstacles to adjust the natural movement of the clones, until the target can be reached without going through the laser.

Finishing a level quickly is the goal, and each run is graded.

It comes together quite nicely, even if I think the game could do with a tutorial, as I spent some time spinning my wheels.

Puzzles. Running. Teleporters. Multiples. Welcome to gaming in the 21st century.

Disco Zoo Review

Disco Zoo Review

Apr 16, 2014

Disco Zoo is somewhat of an all-rounder. It’s chunky pixels are the perfect call to the joys contained within.

One of the biggest attributes of the game is the more-or-less logical flow. It is a management sim, and as such, there are resources, and a need to spend those resources wisely to expand.

As the tutorial cycles through, the player gets a bank of coins, which is useful to procure the vehicles and animals needed to make the gameplay work. Some elements are linked; for example, buying one hot air balloon unlocks the farm, and other unlocks and upgrades are affected by other factors such as number of animals and such.

And procuring animals to keep zoo animals patron paying for acess and tips is ultimately the name of the game. The first step is to “rescue” the animals from different habitats, but different habitats need different vehicles. Thedisco1 aforementioned hot air balloon is the bottom tier vehicle, and good for simple animals. To get more exotic animals, a better flying vehicle is needed to get to the outback, for instance. Well, to get that money to get the better vehicle, one needs to rescue the easy local ones.

Rescuing is a whole new element in and of itself; basically, there is a grid made up of smaller squares, and the operation plays out like reverse Minesweeper: locate the animals hidden underneath before running out of tries. To rescue a kangaroo, for instance, there are four kangaroo images hidden in a standard order; getting all four in ten tries gains the animal, which in turn gains money for the zoo operation. To move on to savanna animals, more money is needed, and so on. There are also coins to be gained from these searches. As new animals are garnered, more of the zoo is developed to accommodate them.

The game is enjoyable because it doesn’t require real cash, though it can be used if needed; there’s even the option to watch ads to get extra rescue attempts. The animals yield payouts every so often, and the rate can be increased by rescuing more of the same type. Animals go to sleep, and have to me wakened to earn money, but Disco Events can be organized (for a cost) that not only keep the animals awake, but yield more coins.

It’s an engaging game; it does require some amount of attention, and feels overly easy in parts, but it’s a fun game that can be tailored to fit individual and changing interest levels

Astray Review

Astray Review

Apr 15, 2014

With wearables and smartphones hitting the next level, and hardware components that are beginning to match standalone counterparts, games like Astray are inevitable. Or at least, they should be.

Astray is an interesting, augmented reality-assisted labyrinth game that touches on some interesting gameplay elements. The game walkthrough underscores some of the highlights, and ties in the important aspects together.

It would be a disservice to not lead with the fact that Astray is a 3D labyrinth game at heart; there is the maze, the metal sphere and the target location. The environment could be described as vaguely medieval, with a relatively well designed background imagery. Labyrinth core concepts are present: obstacles, gates and such. The dangers include stuff like colored portals that end the level unsuccessfully if the sphere falls into them.

The key part of the game is the picture; indeed, the gameplay starts with image acquisition. The first part of astray1setting up a game is taking a flat object (a piece of paper, a large envelope, etc.) and getting it within the program sights. It gives a visual score of how good the image is (with three stars being the best), and then, the game uses the object as a movable part of the game. The trick is that instead of moving the device, you keep it stationary, and use the underlying paper to guide the sphere to the right hole. Progress is timed, and solving one puzzle opens the next.

The game is well thought out idea. However, in practice, some things felt a bit weird. One thing was the picture taking mechanism; it seemed quite picky. The other issue is that by default, I ended up holding two things in the air with each hand, which can be uncomfortable over time, especially since I was using a tablet.

This is one game that I feel is worth waiting for, and the developers seem responsive (having already fixed a gripe I had in the last update). It’s free and interesting; how can one not like it?

Big kudos with regards to the musical score, one of which I understand was performed on a penny whistle by the lead developer.

Lost Light Review

Lost Light Review

Apr 15, 2014

Lost Light is a game from Disney with a familiar feel that sill manages to surprise in a pleasant way

It’s a matching game with a twist. Instead of matching by color as a lot do, Lost Light puzzles the player by incorporating numbers into leveled gameplay, with success at the opener of further levels.

The tutorial lays it out with its helpful squirrel by going through some of the sequences and playing methodology. The playing area has a darkish background, with numbered squares rising to the top gradually from the bottom. Using gestures, one looks to swipe groups of numbered squares to dissolve them as long as needed; if the column makes it to the top, the level is failed, so even if the the wanted sequence isn’t available, blasting squares to prevent the column from getting to the top might be good strategy from time to time. lost1

With regards to the gestures, swiping adjacent sets of the numbers is the general idea. If the game spits out a “4″ to collect, the player must then swipe through four lines of adjacent four squares to meet the goal. As the levels progress, the challenges (and associated time limit) get a bit tighter, with sequences that become a bit more varied. Of course, quick thinking and pinpoint connections are needed. There was the one where a point threshold has to be met in a set time. I loved the occasional ability to multi-swipe past the number needed to do more at once (this almost needs to be done to be understood).

There are powerups to help with the arcade feel.

All in all, it’s a simple game with plenty of puzzling and potential strategizing that makes it worth the sub-$2.00 price. Unfortunately, the game information states not all levels are free, which might cause some consternation, but it’s a good game nonetheless.

Lyne Review

Lyne Review

Apr 15, 2014

Lyne is just what the doctor ordered.

The gameplay provides what I would describe as a gentle challenge over increasingly difficult levels. Matching and connecting are the root elements of the game, but even more enjoyable is the puzzle-solving aspect.

This is one of those games that is best explained by actually playing it. The opening helpers are especially brief, but do give an idea of the control set and playing methods. Basically, there are similarly shaped 2D objects (squares, diamonds and triangles) in the grid that comprises the posting area; matching like colors by swipe gestures completes the riddle.

It gets trickier when multiple colors/shapes are in the grid. At this point, the “end” units become more apparent; these are white-dotted pieces that more-or-less start and end the swiping motion, and their are guiding paths to lyne1help frame the allowed movement, and swipes light up the paths. Crisscrossed swipes are not allowed, and the game engine gradually gets more complex to force thought to be applied to solutions.

Soon, light blue octagon “junctions” (as I refer to them) begin to appear. The junctions have jokes in them, and can be helpful in bridging matching shapes, but all the available holes need to be filled for the puzzle to be solved. In this, the junction units bring the game a whole new, engaging angle without overly changing the general gameplay; figuring out how to double back within the rules and get through a junction piece the required number of times can be quite battle.

When a level is complete, the pieces flash bright white, and more levels are opened; levels can be repeated infinitely. this easy pace is yet another enjoyable aspect.

For the easy-going gamer, Lyne is an answered prayer. It’s a lullaby that relaxes without knocking one out, and is able to toe the delicate line of calm and challenging without tipping over into boring and infuriating.

It’s $2.50 on the Play Store.

Dead End Review

Dead End Review

Apr 14, 2014

Zombies have become a gaming mainstay. With good reason too; they are the perfect adversary, as they’re stinky, they walk funny and tend to crave weird things to eat. In the inevitable zombie apocalypse, we are all gonna have to find innovative ways to dispatch the undead, and Dead End provides us with a cool, relatively painless way of doing it.

The first thing one should notice in this game is the interestingly zany artwork. It hearkens back to a time of the Big Red Machine and when John Travolta made a living on the dance floor. The 70s motif is especially reflected in the reversed reddish monochromes that the gameplay is bathed in.

The gameplay itself is as simple as it gets. The player is in a vehicle, and using optional tilt controls or dead1virtual direction buttons, the overriding goal is to take out as many zombie jay-walkers as possible to score points; different types have different point values. To counter this, there are different types of road hazards — stuff like spikes in the road and strewn debris — that reduce the motility of the driven vehicle. Running over zombies usually leads to splatter on the windscreen that blocks vision, a swipe gesture activates wipers.

So, at the base level, a lot of quick reflexes are needed to make the most of the runs. Challenges are incorporated, using things like distances, combos and money spent. I liked that the developer flips these challenges around further on, and makes players go distances without hitting zombies. In and of themselves, the challenges should provide plenty of enjoyment.

Crushing the zombies yields cash, and cash can be used to upgrade the car. Upgrades are valuable as they increase vehicle attributes and also provide exhaustible boosts. These definitely come in handy with regards to the missions.

All in all, the game comes together well, and has many hidden elements. It’s a worthy freemium game, and 99c unlocks the full game.

Polar Bowler Review

Polar Bowler Review

Apr 14, 2014

There are bowling games, and there are bowling games. Polar Bowler looks to NOT be your momma’s bowling simulation, and at first blush, it does well at being the renegade.

In a post-Angry Birds world, the initial element of catapulting animals will be fairly familiar. In this one, our genial bear, PB, straps himself on a tub of sorts, and with the help of a massive human-sized slingshot, becomes just the bowling ball that the curiously laid out set of bowling pins need.

The graphics are fairly sharp, quite representative of a polar atmosphere with a lot od whites and blues making up the landscape. The 3D representations are mostly reasonable, and are buttressed adequately by the animations. The control set involves gesture pulling and the occasional taps. The controls are a big part of the gameplay; to get PB in motion, “pulling back” and releasing in the direction of the pins is necessary. There are direction buttons pol1on each side of the play area that allow for the sling to be adjusted before the shot, and to also alter the direction of the already launched bear.

One aspects that makes the game unique is how the sets of pins are laid out. A typical level could have an initial set of pins, and another set or two in different areas that need some sort of finagling to get to; the basic idea is to knock down a set number of pins to advance.

The game has plenty of power-ups, some from wood cases that show up in the playing area, and others that are bonus grabs, or can be purchased with coins garnered from playing. The power-ups are stuff called tubes that can be selected prior to a run… stuff like pin magnets or extra jet power.

Yep, it’s fun. Some might balk at the additional in-app purchases after paying, but even as-is, it doesn’t feel like a wasted 99c.

Golfy Bird Review

Golfy Bird Review

Apr 11, 2014

Okay, I admit it. I really didn’t want to have a go at Golfy Bird. I mean, it is from Noodlecake, yes, which is almost always a positive. Still, it sounds suspiciously like The App That Was Pulled that we deign not mention by name. Frankly, the clones that popped up were somewhat depressing, and I even winced at real birds for a spell.

I was wrong.

Golfy Bird is its own person, and it’s somebody that might be very easy to like, and even fall in love with.

The graphics are appealing, in that they are fairly familiar, with a tint of retro that works. It is first and foremost a golf game, so the 2D graphics that highlight interestingly designed golf greens are expected. The animations are useful, and the whole visual representation is far from flashy, which I think is a good thing. If the courses look familiar, you’re not mistaken; they are based off of the courses in Noodlecake’s Super Stickman Golf 2 game.golfy1

As already noted, it’s a golf game — the idea is to pocket the bird in the holes with the least number of taps. To do this, the controls needed are a left movement button and a right movement button; tapping on them moves the button in the corresponding direction, while continuous, close-interval taps cause the bird-ball to go airborne in the corresponding direction, and it remains airborne and moving. The holes start out easy, and then get harder, with obstacles, bounces and combinations becoming integral. I thought the game could dearly use a zoom mechanism to cut out some guesswork, but the holes can be replayed, which is of some consolation.

The game employs a similar “scoring” system as to that made ubiquitous by Angry Birds, in that there are thresholds of success. If one makes it in the par number, one passes with bronze. A few shots less? Silver… and so on. The game play is leveled, and stars (which are accumulated by finishing holes) are the currency to get into the 30+ successive courses. To remove ads in this freemium game, a 99c in-app purchase is required.

I don’t always fall in love with games, but when I do, I fall in love with games like Golfy Bird. Give it a shot to find out why.

Mikey Hooks Review

Mikey Hooks Review

Apr 10, 2014

Mark my words…

There might be a zillion RPGs, and countless board games, and twice as many hidden objects games… no matter the time frame, or the medium of gaming, there will always be a place for arcade action gaming.

Always.

Mikey Hooks, which comes to us via platform heavyweight Noodlecake Studios and BeaverTap Games, is just one of those games, and I admit that I had pretty much decided to like it at first glance.

It is a 2D platform game, and the general concept is to move rightwards, avoid the obstacles, pick up the goodies and survive till the end of the level. Visually, it’s not as outwardly festive at the beginning as preceding title Mikey Shorts; the scenery here feels a bit darker versus the initial outdoorsy look of the predecessor, but the concept is the same: people need rescuin’, and rescuin’ (with aplomb) is what Mikey is all about.

The initial frame gives a decent idea of the gameplay and how to use the given controls; there iare two direction mik1buttons that guide our hero in either direction, and there is a red jump button and a blue slide button. When double tapped, he red button initiates a bigger jump, and when there is a large gulf and a hook present, double tapping then holding the red button allows Mikey to use a special rope to swing from one end to the other, Tarzan-style. There is gold and hearts lives to be collected by contact, but some are placed precariously.

The obstacles and dangers are plenty and varied; spiked animated objects and walls; some parts of the play area move, so timing is a huge part of success. Finishing a level is not enough; the faster the better, because these obstacle courses are timed, and stars are awarded based on speed.

The in-app shop is full of extras to buy… heads ropes and more.

I thought the controls could be a bit more refined, and I would have liked more bi-directional action and time bonuses. All in all, its familiar, but still loads of fun, and can be as involving as one lets it.

SideSwype Review

SideSwype Review

Apr 10, 2014

Nice to meet you, SideSwype.

The playing area is a 5×5 grid, with space for 25 squares of different colors. if filled all the way. The sparse white background is a great counterpoint that highlights the coloring of the squares, and the smooth animations are just what we’d expect from a game that uses gestures as the main form of movement and problem-solving.

The game is fairly easy to understand: match 3 or more squares and strive to keep the board as empty as possible. In other words, the run ends when the grid is full of squares. To prevent this from happening, it is possible to slide the boxes present in either of the four cardinal directions (or, relative to the grid, to the right or left and up or down). The unique thing is that the squares all move in unison but obey physical logic. Squares that are plush against immovable squares or the walls of the grid will not move, but others will move until one of those side1conditions are met.

Any sets of three or more that are formed as a result of a gesture action will cause a mostly welcome reaction of dissolving the squares (according to rules of the gameplay), thereby opening up space and keeping the run alive. Countering the smashing of blocks is the replenishment system; like Tetris, there is an indicator telling the player which blocks are coming next, and after every swipe, the new ones are added; thus, constant removal is necessary for success. Points are awarded for smashes, and high scores are recorded.

There are special blocks with special powers that require just a bit more strategy. The game also allows for some customization with regards to sound and looks.

All in, it’s a fun, consuming game, priced to move ($1.99) and no extra purchases needed.

Enjoy.

15 Coins Review

15 Coins Review

Apr 10, 2014

When it comes to gaming, there is always something intrinsically sexy about a simple game. It amazing to see what developers can do with the right tools on the right mobile platform; still, a simply designed game can be a joy to behold.

Enter 15 Coins. It is unabashedly minimalist, simple in concept and execution, and gives little reason to be disliked.

To play, the basic idea to understand is that 15 coins need to be collected. The coins are small and circular, and appear seemingly randomly in the portrait playing area. The vehicle for collection is a small triangle ship that can be controlled by tilt or touch controls, in this case, to collect the coins… or to avoid the clones.

The clones are the enemy, and really are the life of the game. They are black versions of the ship, and are lethal when touched. The problem is that the clones don’t only mimic the shape of our protagonist ship, they copy the movements as well; they follow the path made by the collecting ship, even as their numbers increase rapidly. As 151such, there is a duality to the gameplay strategy: offensive collection coupled with defensive movements. One plus (that can be a negative if misused) is the nature of the play borders; they act sort of like the gates in Pac-Man; for instance, going through the right side pops out the white ship out the left, and bottom through the top and so on.

To round out the arcade-feel, there are power-ups, which, when collected, freeze the belligerents for a short period. When they are in the frozen state, they can be destroyed by contact.

There are three levels of difficulty — easy, medium and hard. I preferred the touch to tilt controls (the reverse is usually true) and I really liked the orange motif.

All in all, it is not an easy game to get through, but like the devilish Super Hexagon, that is part of the allure. Free means there is almost no risk to try.

Except addiction.