Cut the Rope 2 Review

Cut the Rope 2 Review

Apr 23, 2014

Even though it didn’t feel like it was gone (thanks to some well-timed seasonal outputs), we should take time to welcome back Cut the Rope 2. Om Nom is back, of curse, and brings new characters and some fresh tweaks to the gameplay.

The cutscenes tell the woeful story of appropriated candy and an inadvertently lost Om Nom, and how our roundish hero goes about getting home while re-collecting his hoard. As with the previous iterations of the game, get the basic concept is to manipulate the playing area to get the candy piece into Om Nom’s mouth while nabbing as many of the three stars available in the process.

The general mechanism remains the same: swipe gestures sever the ropes holding the candy, and if done correctly, On cut1Nom gets his treat. Balloons and platforms make early and continuous appearances; the former works to complicate puzzles in an interesting way, as they (as everything else in the game) follow general rules of physics. As progress is made, new folks with interesting powers make their acquaintances.

Failed levels can be repeated, and there are plenty of upgrades and such that can be applied after procurement from the in-app purchasing depot. There are bonuses that can be used to help with solutions, as well as other exhaustible power-ups.

The graphics look familiar, which is a good think. the different environments are mostly unique, but retain the look most folks know and love. The use of color os well done, and the hi-res, glossy imagery coupled with the occasional cutscenes work well to convey the gameplay. The animations are smooth, down to the soft bounces of inflatables and flail of the severed restraints.

Cut the Rope 2 seemingly manages the difficult art of being a sequel to a well received game that stands on its own feet without wrecking what worked to make the original popular in the first place. It’s a great time waster that reaffirms Zeptolab’s mindshare.

G5 Introduces New Sim Game Brave Tribe to Android Devices

G5 Introduces New Sim Game Brave Tribe to Android Devices

Apr 23, 2014

Prolific Android developer/publisher G5 Entertainment (in conjunction with Taploft) recently released a new game, Brave Tribe, for Android OS.

Per the press release:

Set in a bright green world, this free-to-play, social game invites you to an amusing world where players cultivate crops, build workshops and houses, remove trees, rocks and grass, and occasionally battle against Roman spies.

A long, long time ago, when men still plaited braids in their beards, there was a happy village in the heart of Hibernia’s primeval forest. The villagers – lovable Irish Celts – valued peace, a healthy lifestyle, ecology and beautiful flowers above all else. Unfortunately, the Romans began destroying the forest to construct a huge aqueduct. Help defend the village against this encroaching threat, which includes Roman spies, warriors and siege towers. Beat your enemies back and preserve your village’s way of life! Look after forest animals, welcome quirky travelers, grow crops and witness passionate affairs of the heart. Use magic runes to beautify your village with special buildings and decorations and cooperate with friends to keep your tribe prosperous and safe! Most importantly, discover the ancient secret to happiness in this sunny and absorbing fable!

The game is developed by Taploft and published on Android OS by G5 Entertainment.

Key Features:
∙ Over 440 quests to keep you entertained
∙ Over 200 decorations to spruce up your village
∙ 50 special buildings to construct
∙ 12 funny and amazing characters to meet
∙ 17 crops to cultivate on your farms
∙ 14 enemies to fight with all your might

Brave Tribe is available for free (with optional in-app purchases) on the Play Store.

Carousel Review

Carousel Review

Apr 23, 2014

Dropbox is a-cookin’, and Carousel, its new media management app is headlining the menu.

The app itself is fairly clean in appearance, with a bright default menu system that is reminiscent of the menu of its big brother. The gesture-based contexts are well represented by in the quick tutorial; overall, the minimalist concept looks good.

If Carousel’s main purpose is to streamline storage and access to images and videos, it makes a good case for itself on the first use. After creating or signing in to an existing Dropbox account, it automatically collects photos from the device and collates them by date. Each picture can be selected by tapping on it, and then the picture can be shared or hidden. In the gallery view, the sets of picture by day can be scrolled through.car1

The share functionality is very interesting, and probably the best feature. In the main view (by date), several pictures can be selected by tapping; a blue check mark appears on the ones selected, and when one is done, one can tap the “share” button, which opens up a a send dialogue. The sharing tool lets stuff be shared to contacts in the address book: by SMS, email, etc. If sharing to other onboard services is more of the current fancy, the extended share functionality takes care of that. There is also a dialogue icon that shows shares, and for the queasy, the app backs up taken photographs to the cloud.

So, with regards to sharing and simple organization, Carousel is an equitable offering, but “organizing” doesn’t necessarily include “deleting” at this point. On one level, it isn’t that big of a drawback, but I immediately found some pictures that I wanted gone, but could not get rid of off from within the app. Of course, it then begs the question of whether a standalone extension of Dropbox for just media is warranted.

For now, it’s great for light use, and I think as time goes, it’ll be a more functional part of Dropbox’s mobile strategy.

OUYA and Team Tripleslash Announce Upcoming OUYA-Exclusive Game Magnetic By Nature

OUYA and Team Tripleslash Announce Upcoming OUYA-Exclusive Game Magnetic By Nature

Apr 23, 2014

OUYA and Team Tripleslash has announced its upcoming platform game Magnetic By Nature; the game will be coming exclusively to OUYA first. The game will be available in May 2014.

The game is a redesign of an Xbox Live Arcade proof of concept Magnetic By Nature: Awakening, a proof-of-concept demo for Xbox Live Arcade.

Per the official press release, Magnetic By Nature explores platforming without platforms, putting players in the role of the last remaining robot exploring the ruins of an advanced civilization. Using the power of magnetic attraction and repulsion, players must manipulate magnets – and themselves – through wickedly difficult puzzles. Success relies on carefully balancing pushing and pulling on the level itself – go too far in one direction, and you’ll meet a nasty end. With a striking art-deco style, atmospheric sound design, and more than 100 levels of magnetic mayhem to navigate, Magnetic By Nature is an engrossing single-player experience that platformer fans will love.

[Source: OUYA Press Release]

Wind-up Knight 2 Review

Wind-up Knight 2 Review

Apr 22, 2014

Some things never stop being cool. Afros. William Shatner doing karaoke. Swashbuckling knights.

Wind-up Knight shows that even wound-up armor can come correct. It also shows sequels can live up to the hype.

The graphical presentation is done quite well, with cute characterizations and excellent use of color. The animations are fluid, and work well with the scene-to-scene stills that make up a lot of the background. The artwork is vivid, and becoming.

As far as gameplay goes, we get side scrolling platform action; our wound-up hero is armed with a sword and a wind1shield, and can jump and duck too. Correspondingly, their are virtual buttons that control jumping, attack, defense and such towards the bottom of the screen.

The first level launches the gameplay in all its glory. The knight progresses from left to right, jumping across obstacles and working to acquire jewels. Soon, there are correct live creatures blocking the way, and jumping won’t work. Here, the sword becomes useful to slash through these beings that can do end the the run otherwise.

In this initial level, the appreciable quirks show up. At one point, the knight starts going in the opposite direction after a downwards jump, and then switches back to left-to-right again. I liked these little switch-ups a great deal, as they ensure players stay on their toes. Down the line, other dangers appear, like dropping seeds that require the shield. The environments become more varied as well.

A finish line denotes the end of the level, and success depends on the number of jewels collected, with gold coins being the payout. The entire game can be unlocked for a fixed price, but isn’t necessary to enjoy. Customization and power-ups are also available; for the truly competitive, there is a tournament mode (with leaderboards) and side quests to tackle, and I especially like the latter because it gives a reason to play levels again. The in-app store allows for upgrades to equipment and customization efforts for gold coins or real cash.

The game is pretty tight, easy to get hooked on priced right. Ready and waiting, Sir Gamer.

PuzzleBits Review

PuzzleBits Review

Apr 22, 2014

PuzzleBits is as easy-going as they come.

It’s an easily digestible game, and fairly intuitive with regards to figuring out. The playing area is 2D in nature, with a shaped white grid (usually patterned after animals) taking up the top part; to work within the game concept, the shapes are generally made up of defined lines and angles. Just below this are colored pieces, all of which are polygons of one sort or another; few are generally identical. At this point, the basic idea becomes apparent: fit the smaller pieces to completely fill in the space in the big grid, much as one would do with jigsaw pieces, via dragging and dropping the given pieces to “holes” in the grid.pu1

The developer has done a good job of being just a bit tricky here; the pieces are very deliberately shaped, and the initial gambit is most likely to drag a piece that looks like it can fit into a specific area. Most of the time, this works, but it is clear that there are some false leads built in, because one misplaced piece means the puzzle will be incomplete at the end. At times like this, it is easy to just drag the pieces one thinks are placed incorrectly back down, or simply reset the puzzle back to the empty beginning.

Completing the puzzle causes a burst of color, and the next one is opened. Hints are available, and they allow for players to get free correct piece placements. Hints are exhaustible, but can be bought in bulk with real cash; I do like the fact that the developer includes free ways to get a hint or two during gameplay.

From a simplicity standpoint, the game is hard to beat: simple gameplay, truly optional in-app purchasing and low-frills playing environment.

Polymer Review

Polymer Review

Apr 21, 2014

We see the graphics; we can enjoy the sounds, the action and the concepts across gaming genres. We love to see how different game engines perform across different pieces of hardware. At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done and the fingers are resting and devices are at rest charging, there is just one thing I think ALL gamers want.

Choice.

The choice to relax. The choice to rock it. The choice to pause all willy nilly and come back, ot to hunker down and rack up points non-stop for 12 hours. The choice, to, well, choose.

Games like Polymer do choice quite well.

On he surface, it is a simple, 2D matching game, with a bunch — and I do mean a bunch — of differently colored pol1seemingly polymorphic shapes, each in their own row of squares. Each row and column can be pulled or slid as one unit, much like can be done on a rubik cube. Each shape/piece has at least matching end denoted by a black dot; when black dots from different pieces are aligned by maneuvering, both shapes take on the same color and become homogeneous. When all black dots are joined in a particular shape, the shape can be “popped” for points. Bigger poppable shapes lead to bigger points. Thus, a little bit of strategy can be used to match and score points.

The strength of the game, as noted, is the number of options available. The game can be played in different modes: endless, which is gentle and undemanding. There is the bomb mode, which rewards speedy point garnering. Two minute is a fast paced with a time limit, and one polymer looks to allow players make the biggest continuous piece possible. Some of the modes are restricted, and can be unlocked by accumulated points or real cash.

All in all, its a spiffy game that packs a lot beneath its flamboyant exterior.

Sony SmartWatch 2 Hardware Review

Sony SmartWatch 2 Hardware Review

Apr 21, 2014

The smartwatch space is one of those segments that one can’t afford to glance away from; when one looks back, it might be disconcerting to see the new models and proofs of concept that pop out seemingly every other second. Some companies, like Sony, are already building multiple iterations at this point. We just got the opportunity to formally look at the SmartWatch 2 a few months out of the gate, and it is an interesting ride, to be sure.

The stock hardware has improved… not that the original was lousy. The stock rubber straps didn’t exactly proclaim luxury, but the ability to get other set was a bit calming. The watch piece itself has Sony stylings all over it, with the sleek chromish angling, end-to-end screen use and covered micro-USB port on the left side.. The square face is punctuated by a the “SONY” brand name at the top and three virtual buttons (back, home and three-dot menu) at the bottom. Rounding out the look is a chrome push button on the right, that looks like a winder on a “regular” watch.

2014-04-19 12.25.21

The device is light enough to be used comfortably; I wear a business/sports watch socially, and this one feels even more natural on the wrist in comparison, so much so that it’s easy to forget. When on and in its rest state, the default watch face has dark undertones, and hitting the on button lights the face up further, and activated the home button. Anyone familiar with Android devices (or smartphones in general) should find the menu quite intuitive; tapping the home button opens up the menu, where installed apps and the settings menu reside.

Pairing the phone via bluetooth is easy, and involves (in my case) the installation of two apps from the Play Store. After this, the user has access to the specially crafted apps available… stuff like Gmail, music and Twitter can be installed via the companion Android app.

ssw5

In practice, the gadget works as one would expect. After receiving an email on my phone, a notification vibrates through the phone and a summary is posted on the screen. The notification isn’t too startling, but it isn’t shy either. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure out how to remove installed apps (via the device). I did like the ability to customize watch faces and bands.

The biggest barrier to adoption, is the same one facing most smartwatches in this still niche space: need. For all the cool (geek?) factor, the need for a smartphone within range might slightly curb the mobile benefits. I’d also like to see the consolidation of companion apps needed. Of course, there is no such thing like too many apps; while there are quite a few to choose from, like Agent Smith in the Matrix series, we can always do with “more.”

Still, I’d consider the SSW2 to be one of the best items in a sector that still needs some refining overall, and that Sony is positioning itself well to reap future benefits.

Volt Review

Volt Review

Apr 21, 2014

Volt is an interesting game that tacks together puzzle-solving with leveled platform play and dresses the end product with a dash of arcade.

The basic quest is to get our adventurous battery on his way; in the game, this translates to moving the battery from its opening position to the exit hatch, the opening position usually being suspended from the top by en electrical beam. To accomplish the movement, the player has to harness the electric beams to solve the movement puzzle thus created.

The problem is that there are a limited number of beams, and they can only be used within a particular radius. To move the battery, it is sometimes necessary to create a path of beams from the top and swing towards the target volt1like Spider-man. But, wait… only two beams can be connected to the battery simultaneously; a slashing gesture can be used to dispose of old beams. The rules of physics are generally followed; for instance, if the battery is connected to a surface by two beams, and one is slashed, the battery will swing with decreasing momentum just as one would expect in real life. Tapping an unsuspended battery causes it to jump, but too many taps cause it to explode and ends the run.

And the game has plenty of obstacles and situational setups that make getting the battery through the level difficult. There are white surfaced (usually bladed) that are lethal, and other dangers that need to be avoided. Not all surfaces can be beamed from, and some (yellow) allow the beam to exist for only a short time.

The game boasts 60 levels and the ability to repeat levels endlessly. There are bosses and goodies to unlock, and the visuals prove the game just wants to played.

At $1.99, the biggest thing at risk is potential fun.

Sonic Racing Transformed Review

Sonic Racing Transformed Review

Apr 18, 2014

When it comes to kart racing, Sonic is the man. And the hedgehog. Whatever… Sonic is the consummate console competitor, and he and his friends have done well on mobile devices too. Sonic Racing Transformed is yet another opportunity for us all to see how fast our blue bandit has come on Android OS.

It is an intense game, and definitely not for the spec faint of heart. There are two modes off the bat, Single player and multi player, with the single optioning into the advertised new World Tour. There is also the Weekly Challenge, which allows players to compete for streaks and prizes.

In the World Tour, it’s all about racing as we know Sonic to race. The vehicles are closer to real gear than karts, but the mechanism and feel is still the same. Using optional virtual controls that are nestled in the bottom left sonic1along with the miscellaneous gear counters on other parts of the screen, the idea is to jockey for position, avoid obstacles and deployed weapons while deploying your own to thwart the competition. It’s leveled play, with success in a current level needed to unlock higher levels. One interesting aspect is the ability to play these levels at different difficult levels, with correspondingly different payouts. This makes it possible to have a semi-new feel even after cycling through a few times, as there is a tangibly different feel on different difficult levels.

The basics of Sonic racing are all present; windy, way roads, light play, collectible goodies and more. The different racing environments are a discovery all by themselves, with creative vehicles matching the creative spots. The game employs tasks, and there are rings that can be garnered by placing well. Rings can be used to get the boosts and characters necessary to be successful, but they are in short supply.

The multi-player option allows for folks to compete with others, local and otherwise. While the game is stated to be compatible with third-party controllers, I didn’t get an opportunity to use one.

It’s a fun piece of software; there are in-app purchases, even after purchase, but it does pack a lot of play in its fine-tuned raceways.

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.