Super Tank Arena Battles Review

Super Tank Arena Battles Review

Jul 25, 2014

In Super Tank Arena Battles, we get the to see our favorite weapons (tanks) go head to head in our favorite fight environment (an arena). It just gets even more hyper from there.

It’s a simple looking game, but still manages to impress graphically, with the opening menu made up of cheery animations and pastels guiding the text. Here, amongst other options, we are presented with 5 game modes: Survival, Catch The Flag, One On One, Mines Rush and Hardcore Survival.The first is open, while the others need a threshold of some sort needed to unlock successive modes.

Tapping to get into Survival launches one headfirst into the basics; as the title suggests, it is an arena stab1fighter, and the main playing area is dark. Artistically, this allows the colored tanks that roam the playing area and other elements to really pop out.

The “home” tank can be controlled by dragging, which works as the main control since the tank perpetually shoots. In the first mode, other tanks move in, and basically, it is literally a battle for survival, with points being awarded for destroying the quickly-replicating enemies. The game has arcade elements, foremost in the digital representation of small colorful dots that appear randomly, and that act as power-ups when “collected” by driving over them. These power-ups are quite varied, but still what one would expect: stuff like weapon upgrades, shields, repair/health packets and even stuff like nukes that are effective in disposing of the enemy.

I like the way the different modes are linked with regards to the unlocking mechanism, and the simplicity of the game overall. On the play side, I’m not overly enamored of the controls; it works, but I tend to dislike drag controls, because they tend to cover a good portion of the screen in landscape.

All in all though, it is a better — far better — than average, and simple elegance of the graphics and gameplay mostly cover the distractions.

Need A Hero Review

Need A Hero Review

Jul 24, 2014

Need A Hero is a game that challenges folks to match objects while being a hero.

On the surface, it looks like a simple turn-based game that pits our protagonists against several fanciful foes in his quest to save the princess. Beneath the surface, however, it is a bit more complex.

After the preliminary backstory, the game’s core elements are initially represented by a playing area with dueling parties at the top: our hero and a baddie. The action between the two is generally determined by the main element.

The main course has to deal with matching like objects in a column that sports several different colored pieces.need1 Using colors as the main guide, the idea is to connect as many matching colors via gesture dragging in straight lines and adjacent angles. Connected pieces, ordinarily, dissolve and get replaced by new ones in a seemingly random manner. The longer the chain, the more attack power is generated, so longer combinations are definitely encouraged. Combinations yield special pieces, which in turn can trigger boosted reactions which are great for some specific situations.

In essence, the efficacy of the matching game determines the effectiveness of the strikes. As noted, longer chains create hits with more damage, but one has to take into account the return hits as well. There is a palpable arcade feel, with special combos yielding boosts like donkey kicks and lightning strikes, or even the ability to freeze the opponent for a set number of moves. In the end, it is still a turn-based war of attrition; whoever depletes the other’s lifeline with life left in their own wins. It’s leveled with crafting elements, and accumulated game cash can be supplemented with that of the real kind. There is an energy requirement (boo!) but it isn’t too strenuous in nature.

It is a simple game; if one is after complex logic, it might not hold much appeal. It works in that it does multiple things proficiently at the same time.

Ninja Chicken Multiplayer Race Review

Ninja Chicken Multiplayer Race Review

Jul 21, 2014

Ninja. Chicken. Multiplayer. Racing. Say it altogether, an you get an interesting concept: Ninja Chicken Multiplayer Racing.

The racing environment is set up in 2D fashion, with the avian creatures racing from left to right. The runway is somewhat platformed, with plenty of colorful graphical elements tossed in. There are collectible goodies that line this area, on the ground and in the air, and the platforms are positioned to encourage fast decisions that border on twitch reactions. There are even rope structures and overall, the coloring is sharp and relatively eye-pleasing throughout. The animations are quite stilted, but the developer is able to effect the presence of multiple running and jumping chickens in an interesting way.

It’s a communal race, so each race has multiple chickens on the same track; the chickens start off, and are almost nin1immediately presented with obstacles that, as noted, test the reflexes. To control one’s chicken, there are simple (but fairly intuitive) controls: tapping and double tapping to jump and double jump respectively, and then there is the tap and hold which causes the chicken to barrel roll underneath low lying obstacles. The aforementioned goodies are great tempters, and getting them can be rewarding and taxing at the same time, especially since a missed move or over-exuberant jump can cause a delay that allows rivals to speed by. The obstacles are varied in nature, with spikey stuff and solid barriers being examples.

There are power-ups, and they serve to give the game a cool arcade feel in the same vein as, say, Mario Kart. The one allows a player to fire arrows on competitors in front and attempt to slow them down. Such boosts are rechargeable and upgradeable; it’s pertinent to note that other racers can use them as well.

The collectibles allow one to purchase more boosts, upgrades, clothing and eqiupment; each generally have attributes that can contribute to success. XP points are also generated, and players can level up as well as advance on the leveled course.

It isn’t a boring game by any means; there is in-app purchasing available, but it does no feel necessary to enjoy. The game’s core is challenging without being too infuriating, and the escalating challenge of the courses is a welcome element.

All in all, it packs a lot of fun into a tight, tidy intuitive package.

Nuts! Review

Nuts! Review

Jul 21, 2014

If you haven’t checked out the aerial runner Nuts!, well… you get the gist.

A tree that makes legendary Hyperion seem stunted is our running path in this one. Our squirrel starts off at a running clip up the tree; it’s pertinent to note that there are coins and other goodies that are spread out around, and one of the goals is to collect as many of these coins and goodies as possible; this is facilitated by the controls, which are tilt-based in nature. Using the controls, it is possible to run around the tree and collect as many pieces as possible with the squirrel, which moves up continuously once a run is initiated.nuts1

Or, it should be noted, it runs up continuously unless it comes in contact with an obstacle; as it’s a tree, there are plenty of branches that can be a bit dangerous to our swift, upwardly mobile rodent. The branches start to appear after a bit, and their placement increases the challenge the higher up the player travels, so quick reactions become key to survival. To begin, the squirrel can survive two hits; the third knocks it down and ends the run.

Outside game cash, there are other things that can be collected. There are power-ups, such as a speedy fireball, that, when collected, gives the squirrel super speed and branch invincibility for a limited time. The game coins can also be used for a bunch of different upgrades, like extra life, which allows for the squirrel to survive more than the standard three hit before the run ends. There’s also extra value coins, and more. These upgrades are staggered an increase with each higher level. Real cash can be used to expedite upgrades.

The game also incorporates in-run achievements, giving the player an extra element to work on while running. These tasks run the gamut, from doing hings like traveling a particular distance or collecting a special piece a set number of times. There are also leaderboards for those that connect with Google Games.

The game’s greatest attribute is that it just works. It’s as intuitive as the come, with simple extras that don’t complicate or distract from the main gameplay.

And it’s almost never, ever wrong to root for the squirrel.

STM Harbour 2 Case Hardware Review

STM Harbour 2 Case Hardware Review

Jul 17, 2014

STM, as a company, is probably best known for its laptop bags; we had the privilege of reviewing its Trust Messenger Bag quite recently. In fact, STM has quite a few smart device case and covering offerings in its arsenal, and we got a formal look at the STM Harbour 2 Case for the current HTC One (M8). Like it or not, STM has a reputation to uphold, so I was more than a bit curious about this accessory.

The review unit provided highlights the red piece we received (it also comes in black and charcoal); the red finishing pops through the clear product packaging. Removing the box reveals more: the reddish hue and grey accents and linings and the seemingly precise cutouts. The otherwise solid piece does have an interesting bit of flexibility built alongside a grey band; along this strip, the unit could be lightly bended and manipulated; this allows for docking and can even serve as a pseudo-stand. It feels solid, but not overly rigid, and the hard plastic (polycarbonate and TPU) comes across as well-formed. On paper, the case is 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.4 inches. It is barely bigger than the M8 when standing beside it, and that is somewhat reassuring for folks who are reasonably concerned with added girth.

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The unit snaps into place with a reassuring, subdued snap, and the first thing that really stands out is the fit. It does merge with the phone and feels with seamless; I didn’t get any creaking or unnatural gaps. The bottom ports have an open space in lieu of separate holes, and the power button, volume rocker are catered to. At the back, the dual cameras each have cutouts (which means the flashlight is also unencumbered), and there is also spacing for audio. The edges are mostly well covered, but there isn’t much of a lip for when the cased M8 is face down.

There isn’t too much added bulk, and the stand functionality does come in handy in portrait, even though it is isn’t as smooth of a solution as an incorporated kickstand. It does provide a degree of protection in pocket too, and the case still allows for wireless charging via add-ons. The SD card on the M8 is covered, but the IR blaster works flawlessly.

The case is a good option in a relatively crowded sub-section, and it more or less holds its own.

The STM Harbour 2 Case is available for $27.12 via Amazon.

Disney Bola Soccer Review

Disney Bola Soccer Review

Jul 17, 2014

Sadly, the World Cup is over, and while I’ll miss the hilarious tweets from our editor (like this one), make no mistake: Football NEVER ends. Disney clearly understands this, hence a game like Disney Bola Soccer.

The game is about as simple as one could expect a simulation to be; it is fairly easy to get it going and getting started. The play area is laid out somewhat as one would expect a soccer game to, with an expansive, shifting top-down view. The game presents the players somewhat whimsically, but there is a judicious use of color that helps frame the gameplay.bola1

Basic in-game movements and actions are effected by gestures and taps. Tapping a player highlights said player. Gesture dragging allows the player to dribble without the ball, and longpressing creates a shot, and tapping a player without the ball gets the ball passed to that player. The play comes together well, and kudos to the developer or using realistic formations and off ball runs; the game clock is an abbreviated 90 minute affair. As games are won, one’s team has an opportunity to move up leagues, and face tougher opponents.

Winning games is pretty much the end goal; there is a cash payout for victories, and this cash can be used to upgrade player attributes. I did like how this particular piece works. It’s simple and straight to the point, and mostly feels logical, and can be performed in between games.

Some of the movements are a bit stilted, and in the easiest mode, the sequences can be somewhat simplistic. Some elements that could add to the gameplay, like replays, are not present, and not every scenario in soccer is represented. Still, it works well to bring soccer alive in a fairly realistic, mobile package.

Four more years? Not so long, potentially, with this one.

Miccus Pool Party SPX9 Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Miccus Pool Party SPX9 Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Jul 16, 2014

Summertime is all about the outdoors, grills and pools. Why should the fun stop there? That is what the Miccus SPX9 Bluetooth Speaker asks out loud.

The review box Miccus sent us came with the speaker itself, a male-to-male 3.5mm coaxial cable, USB charging cable, wall adapter, user paperwork and a net carrying bag. The unit itself is mostly grey and black, and is formed in hard plastic, with dual, soft-feeling speaker grills on the front face with an LED indicator along. The top part houses the controls, with an on/phone answering button, back, play/pause and forward buttons, mic and volume toggles. The back piece is molded into a simple handle, and there is a flap that sp1hides opening for the coaxial cable, USB charging connection and micro-USB cable. All in all, it is solid without looking too straitlaced, and looks well fused together.

Pairing the device will be intuitive to anyone that has paired a bluetooth device; it’s a matter of activating the bluetooth source, and turning the speaker on by holding the on button for a few seconds, which puts the speaker into pairing mode. The device then uses beeps to help guide pairing.

The sound quality is admirable. there is a bit of lost sharpness at higher decibels, but the music is mostly clear and far from muddy. The added wired functionality is a boon to, as it makes the speaker available to a wider array of sources. It can be used to answer phones too via speakerphone.

Two elements also make this accessory stand out a bit more: the splash proof nature and the portable charging functionality. The SPX9 is advertised as pool safe, and the finishing and rubber protection underscore this. My admittedly cautious water testing didn’t cause the unit to miss a beat. I especially like being able to plug in a mobile device into the speaker for emergency juice.

Pound for pound, the biggest barrier might be the pricing; at $99.00 (via the Miccus site), it’s in for a lot of competition, even with the extras. Still, for a device that won’t shy away from the occasional wetting, it’s a decent offering.

No Brakes Review

No Brakes Review

Jul 14, 2014

No Brakes is a racing game with a twist.

The developer should be commended for simplicity; the gameplay rolls intuitively and needs little by the way of tutorials. The 2D rendering of the raceway works with the top-down view, and the color scheme does tweak the senses a bit. It’s a car racing game, but the unique element is that this is a self-contained race against time, and a, well, speed trial is at stake.

The car is a simple, smiley box that moves along the mostly windy game roads. It is controlled by two buttons, oneno1 that maneuvers it left and one right; otherwise, the car moves forward perpetually. Thus, keeping a finger on the left button will keep the car turning in a forward manner, even as far as going in the opposite direction and beyond, unless it comes in contact with the sides of the road. In other words, getting the car to go generally means using the left and right controls to continually correct and re-correct the path along the road without touching the sides of the raceway. Oh yeah… there aren’t any brakes.

The race areas are generally windy, but not too difficult; one isn’t penalized for going in any direction, because speed is the name of the game. The longer the car travels without going out of bounds, the higher its top speed gets. It’s this top speed that serves as the main bragging rights, so in essence, as the game goes on (and the longer one lasts), the faster the vehicle goes, which leads to higher high scores.

As noted earlier, it’s the simplicity which sets this game apart. I liked the simple touches, such as the changing background visuals when benchmarks or touched. The music oscillated between cheery and borderline annoying for me, and i also think the game could use some more play modes.

For a game that gets straight to the gameplay and encourages quick retries, this game is tough to beat, and is at the very least a very enjoyable time waster.

Antec Bluetooth Headphone Hardware Review

Antec Bluetooth Headphone Hardware Review

Jul 14, 2014

The push to going wireless is alive and well, and Antec seems to be quite willing to take on the challenge, especially with its a.m.p Wireless Headphones

The review box which was provided to us showed the attention paid to product packaging. The product comes with the headphones, micro-USB cord, wall plug-in pins, 3.55 mm male-to-male audio cable, a carrying case with carabiner and paperwork.

The contoured black frame is mostly wrapped in somewhat glossy hard plastic with bendable ends that fold inside, a feature one almost expects in over-ear headphones to encourage compactness and portability. The cans are covered by soft, perforated material, and there is metal on the insides of the unit. The topmost inner part also has foam padding, and the cans are jointed, which allows them to rotate somewhat on a connecting axis. The right side has a micro-USB charging port, as well as a 3.55 mm port for wired sound feed. Also nestled on the right side are the track controls, volume rocker, LED light and power button. On the head, it is quite comfortable, and the innate flexibility of the set works well in real life, even when at rest around the neck, which it can do at 6.4 ounces.

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Charging didn’t take too long, and pairing it via the Bluetooth 3.0 chip to an audio source is easy and intuitive; it’s a simple matter of tapping and holding the power button till the LED alternates rapidly between red and blue, and finding the headphones and linking from the source device. It worked well with all types of audio, and the clarity was quite impressive. The bass output isn’t as sharp with some songs, but overall, it was loud enough in the ear. It streams close to the advertised 32 feet distance.

It also works with wire via the removable audio cable. This gives the set even more functionality. The “call”button, which is smoothly incorporated to the right end, is a nice touch. The call quality can be a bit jagged though.

All in all, while the exterior part of the device is prone to smudging, and the joints make me wonder about how it will hold up in the long term, I still think it is a decent value overall.

The Antec AMP Pulse Bluetooth Wireless Headphones is available for $79.99 via Amazon.com.

Boom! Tanks Review

Boom! Tanks Review

Jul 11, 2014

Nothing soothes the nerves like a good virtual tank battle, and Boom! Tanks looks like a compelling option in the tested genre.

The game boils down to tank battle via attrition. The early going explains the basics of the gameplay and associated elements. In a nutshell, the players tank has a designated enemy unit that it must get its sights on. When this is accomplished, one has to fire while absorbing damage from the event tank. The end goal is to destroy said tank before it destroys the players machine.

The sighting mechanism is intuitive without being too simplistic, and involves the use of a moving target that needs to be lined up with a targeting icon on the enemy unit; thankfully, the game gives valuable cues to let the player know when perfect aim has been achieved. And then both tanks engage.

Each tank has a life bar, and they are depleted by hits. When one is completely emptied out, the battle ends with boom1the victor and the vanquished. If the player is the former, the spoils of war include a game cash payout (based on performance and bonuses), which is great for the upgrades which become quite necessary down the line. The player also gets experience points, and can play unlocked newer opponents, each with unique tank commanders.

The upgrade mechanism is fairly straightforward, and affords players the ability to get better equipment with more competitive attributes. In some cases, picking a specific tank can give a boost in one category, but may lack significantly in another; for instance, reload time is a serous issue. Picking a tank with rapid fire fixes this deficiency, but at the cost of better armor. Multiplayer feens will like that play option, and the leveling element gives it a another challenge angle. The tanks can be customized, and there are several iconic ones too.

The graphics are superb, with excellent use of visual perspective and faux lighting, and several different scenes ranging from icy landscapes to desert locales. The sub-menus feel a bit over-involved in places, and the accumulation of game money is glacial; real money can be used. I do think it feels a bit one-dimensional, outside the game modes provided.

For basic, unadulterated tank battle fun, it is a better-than-decent offering that had just the right amount of escalating challenge.

Antec a.m.p. Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Antec a.m.p. Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Jul 10, 2014

Portable output devices have more-or-less become must-have mobile accessories. Music? Podcasts? Word Cup audio? Heck, what about hands-free phone calls? These are things that the Antec a.m.p. SP-1 Bluetooth Speaker purports to take care of.

Antec was kind enough to provide us with a review sample; the clear casing hints at the product within, and the extra covering contains a male-to-male coaxial audio cable and a micro-usb cord. We received the pink units (it also comes in black, white, orange, red, blue and green).

The unit itself isn’t too big at all, coming in at 1.6 x 6.2 x 2.4 inches and weighing in at 1.3 lbs. The exterior is made up of hard plastic, and the entire shape is slightly trapezoid in appearance, with perforated labels taking up opposite long faces. On the one end, there are ports for the audio cable and charging, along with an on toggle. On “top” of the unit are hardware buttons for volume and pairing.

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Pairing? Like most Antec Bluetooth products, pairing is seamless, as long as the unit retains a charge.

In real life, it does well with producing sound. it isn’t ear-splitting, but the monaural output is pleasing, if a teeny bit hollow-ish at the highest volumes. It boasts an official range of 30 ft, and in regular testing, I was able to maintain a connection just a little short of that in open space; walls and such introduced more distortion quicker at further distances. It also came close the advertised 10 hours of usage time.

An additional feature that it has that is becoming more ubiquitous across the board is the the speakerphone capability. When paired to a telephony device, it is possible to answer and converse with callers via the built-in speakerphone.

It’s a compact device that has great sound and multiple uses, which make it a viable option, even, I daresay, to stereo output snobs. Officially, it is listed at $99, though it can be had for cheaper via other online retailers.

Ascendo DataVault Gets New Update With Several New Features

Ascendo DataVault Gets New Update With Several New Features

Jul 9, 2014

When we first looked at Ascendo DataVault, it was hard to knock it. As a mobile digital password safe, it mostly had the tools to be a relevant tool for the professional on the go. As our individual online profiles grow, we need good, unique passwords to maintain safety and security for each footprint. DataVault not only helps to secure and mobilize these passwords, it helps generate them.

Thankfully, Ascendo doesn’t just sit back and rest on its laurels; its recent update to DataVault brings in some pretty cool features.

The basics are still there: optional desktop companion, password generation, the ability to auto-destruct after multiple wrong log-ins, AES encryption, SD card, cloud, WebDav server and local wi-fi backup/sync functionality and more. Version 5.1.16 brings in a refreshed look, with a cleaner menu interface. Most prominently, though, the app now offers additional premium features from within the app.

The first listed new feature is advanced AES 256-bit encryption. It also has a bunch of new icons (200 of them), which allow for more accurate labeling, and it allows for linking and backup via Dropbox. It also has better tablet support and bug fixes. The new features more or less create a more vibrant app, and greatly increase usability.

In practice, I did like the updated app; it feels snappier, syncs flawlessly, and retains the basic security functions it is known for. The password generator is one of my favorites, allowing one to randomly select a password based on criteria like length, letter case, numbers, punctuation marks and estimated strength.

I would still love a smoother, more organic sync procedure; tighter cloud syncing (like what is available for iOS) would be definitely welcome. Still, the app keeps on getting better, and is a great mobile tool.

These premium offerings can be unlocked via in-app purchase for $4.99. DataVault itself is available on the Play Store for $9.99.

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