Sonic the Hedgehog is a classic, at least in the sense that it was the launching pad for a famous character. In reality, it’s a lot more like some bands’ first album: their later stuff is more refined, exploring their strengths better, to make for a better product. Such is the original Sonic game. Sonic 2 and 3 do a lot to make the series much better, so I must admit that when I heard that Sonic 1 was being remastered by Christian Whitehead and company a la Sonic CD, I was initially disappointed. But really, there was no reason to be: the tweaks and new features make this better.
Sonic should be well-known at this point. Run, jump, fight Eggman’s robots and contraptions (though he’ll always be Dr. Robotnik to me), and avoid those darn spikes. This is the game that started the classic formula, including the most underappreciated part of the series’ gameplay: the complex levels and challenging platforming that comes from their multiple layers.
The spin dash I have mixed opinions about: it makes the game feel better, but it makes certain sections much easier. This is especially true of the final boss, where dodging the sparks that come out becomes much, much easier thanks to the ability to quickly speed away from them on a dime. But hey, it makes the game a bit less frustrating, so it’s worth it, right? Plus, it’s just an option, so the purists can turn it off.
The other new features add a lot of value to the game. It’s possible to play as Tails and Knuckles, or even Sonic with Tails. Powerups from later Sonic games can be used. There’s a Time Attack mode. The cartridges for the three different versions of the game as well to be displayed when launching the game. It’s a minor feature, but for a project powered by hardcore fans who have gotten to work with Sega, it means a lot.
The controller support helps to make this a far-improved experience as well. A wide variety is supported just like in Sonic CD – the MOGA models are supported as are HID controllers, for example. The virtual controls are far from perfect, but at least they’re configurable.
Sonic the Hedgehog may not be the best game in the series, but the bonus content that comes along with it (in surprising amounts) is well worth checking out for fans both new and old.
The big event for Google is just about to kick off. We should see loads of new products and services launched. Google has condensed the three days of keynotes into one this year, so we can expect it to be loaded (and long). Will we see Sergey jump from an airplane again this year? Will we see lavish gifts for the developers in attendance? What will we see?
It’s about to kick off. We’ll summarize the announcements and our reaction to them as the keynote is going on from our offices in San Francisco. You can also follow along with the video below.
9:01am And here we go!
9:10am 900 Million Android activations to date. No mention on the number of current users though. I can’t imagine that too many of the T-Mobile MyTouch users that activated are still using those devices. But even if 50% of this number are retired devices, it’s still showing staggering growth.
48 Billion Google Play app downloads is showing amazing growth with over 2.5 billion in the last month alone.
9:15am Google Services — sits on top of the Google Play store to provide extra services. Today Google will announce three new services.
Fused Location Provider – Enhanced Location Services that uses less than 1% of battery per hour to keep track of location. Also uses all of the sensors to enhance the accuracy. Geofencing – location based API that allows triggers based on location changes and entering / leaving a defined area. Activity Recognition – Uses the sensors to measure activity / exercise. Also low power requirements.
Single Sign-on – Now integrated with Chrome to allow Google+ Single Sign On integrated sites to push app installs to your device via pop-up app install notices.
Google Cloud Messaging – Enhanced services, upstream messages, and cross device notification acknowledgements.
9:22am Google Play Game Services — Google’s answer to Apple Game Center — but taken to the next level. Includes Cloud Save to allow cross device game saves. APIs for achievements, leaderboards, and integrates Google+ circles to track scores. Launching on Android, iOS, and web.
Multiplayer Services – Google will provide a new services to help multiplayer in games. Details are a bit thin.
Demo gods strike – unable to show the multiplayer as the network was unable to connect. With 6,000 people in a room, probably 12,000 wifi connections being attempted.
9:29am Android Studio announced — a new development environment for creating apps announced. Based on IntelliJ Idea.
9:33am Google Play Developer Console updates announced. These are huge.
Optimization Tips – give you ideas on how to optimize your app for sales (not performance) – things like countries it sells in but perhaps it isn’t optimized for. Google now has a translation service that allows you to have strings translated. Referral Tracking – Ad tracking – allows you to track what ads that drive your downloads are the most effective. Usage Metrics – Engagement metrics from Google Analytics inside the Google Play admin. Revenue Graphs – App revenue details over time. Beta Testing & Staged Rollouts – Allow testing groups inside the Play admin. Google+ Circle / Community based. Managed rollouts. This will be helpful to developers testing their apps and app updates.
9:40am Google Play Store changes (consumer facing) announcements. Personalized Recommendations – based on likes and things Circles on Google+ have plussed. Tablet Charts – Top charts showing what tablet designed apps are charting. Web Edition – Play updates coming to the web as well.
9:45am Google Music Service Announcement – New Music Service – All Access
A music service that is about music and the technology stays in the background. All Access is a uniquely Google music service.
Both expert curated recommendations, key albums, and algorithmic recommendations. You can also create a radio station based on a single song. See the upcoming songs and modify the list. “Radio without Rules”
Always search at the top. Can play an artist, album, or just a song.
You see your uploads from Google Locker as well. Can add new albums to your library. Listen Now – Stuff Google thinks you will love — recent plays – auto created radio stations, hot music.
Works on tablet, web browser, phones, etc. Price – $9.99/month in the US – launches today. $7.99/month if you start by June 30th. 30 Day free trial.
9:53am – Devices Time to announce the hardware! “This is not a device giveaway!”
Something new on the Galaxy SIV – a stock Android version of the Galaxy S IV shown. Available directly through Google Play – unlocked, T-Mobile and ATT LTE, boot loader unlocked, prompt system updates. Basically a Galaxy Nexus S IV – on sale June 26th – for $649.
9:58am – The keynote switched to Google Chrome – with 750 million active users. Lots of announcements around Google Chrome enhancements. Since mobile is our focus, we’ll leave those to others to cover.
10:19am After much excitement – the first device giveaway was announced — the $1299 Chrome Pixel has been given to all IO participants.
Apps for Education – Great Google Apps for Education announcements. Including the ability to push Play Apps (education focused of course) directly to students mobile and tablet devices. Funded by educational grants and purchase orders. Official name – Google Play for Education. Also includes curated apps for education, based on subject and student age, curated by educators.
10:30am Google+ Enhancements — many great enhancements rolling out today — a new layout reminiscent of Pinboard, enhancements to Hangouts including a dedicated Hangouts app, enhancements to photos and announcements around the idea of Google Datacenters being your new Darkroom. The auto enhancements shown are pretty spectacular, if a little over-applied in some cases.
Auto Awesome – a new photos feature that grabs a bunch of images taken at once and automatically takes them and will create animations, group photos, panoramas, HDR, and mix. It does all of this automatically by just looking at your photos.
10:57am The marathon keynote continues with a rather provocative statement “The end of search as we know it”
Google Now updated with new cards like Reminders, Public Transit, albums, books, and video game suggestions.
11:15am Google Maps updates that leaked earlier this week — time to announce them after a little history.
11:23am Update to Google Maps for Mobile coming. These include new ratings for businesses based on a 4 point scale. Oddly many of the changes to the Android version are already available in the iOS version. As a matter of fact it looks like the Android version has changed to look just like the iOS version.
11:32am Something new and revolutionary teased. The New Google Maps — built just for you, immersive imagery, and the map is the UI.
A web based, full window version of maps, as we saw leaked earlier is shown. Better focus on the map and the data included. Integration with Google+ and your friends reviews, +1s, and such.
I think the presenters definition of amazing my be different than mine. Some great changes shown when taken as a group, but any single one is hardly amazing.
11:39am Two hours, 39 minutes in. Will this keynote ever end?
Google Maps Preview Invites open up — available here.
11:45am Larry Page, CEO comes on stage. Recently announced that he has suffered vocal cord damage, speaking, fairly softly, into a microphone, the room completely quiet. Hard to do for a group of 6,000 people. Very respectful.
Larry reminisces on technology, changes in life, and the roll of technology in our daily lives.
12:30pm A marathon of a keynote. Three and a half hours capped off by a bunch of questions answered by Larry Page. But what didn’t we hear about:
Google Nexus – no new Nexus 7, no new Nexus devices at all.
Android Update – No update to Android Jelly Bean announced.
Google Glass – no real mention of the new category of devices. No update, no progress, no comercial release announced.
Google TV – no mention, whatsoever. Look for Google TV to pivot in the coming months. It’s obviously not top of mind anymore.
Google Q – the sphere / music device announced and quickly killed after IO last year. Consider it dead and Google will likely want to forget it ever existed.
One of my favorite games of 2012 was undoubtedly Punch Quest. Rocketcat Games’ endless puncher’s only flaw? It wasn’t on Android yet. Well, Noodlecake Games, in their first published title after the launch of Super Stickman Golf 2, have rectified this situation. And oh how sweet it is to be playing this amazing game on mobile.
Unlike most endless runners where there’s little to no combat, this is all about punching one’s enemies. It’s more of a beat ‘em up with automatic running instead of an endless runner. The fighting is surprisingly complex despite there only being three different inputs: forward punching, uppercutting, and blocking, though each has different functions based on different situations. For example, uppercutting in the air is actually a dive punch. Upgrades can tweak the way that punches work, or give them special functions. But it’s the interplay of the attacks and the way that each enemy has a particular strategy that works best – and ones that don’t work quite so well – that players need to learn and master in order to do well at the game.
The thing that I have realized in playing the game over with a clean slate has been just how much skill is actually involved. Yes, the upgrades will definitely help, that is undoubtedly true. But the skills I’ve accumulated by playing the game for hours on end have gone a long way toward improving the kinds of scores that I’m getting with minimal upgrades. For really high scores, will they require some more expensive upgrades? Oh, definitely. Later upgrades get pricey, and definitely make spending money on coins worth it, but that’s after many hours of play. Its the way that games like this should work. The game has launched as a paid app on Google Play because it’s impermissible to go from being a free app to a paid app, so they launched as paid, like the app briefly was on iOS. The game has launched with all the latest upgrades, however, and there’s plenty to do for free.
The port to Android is on par with Noodlecake’s other work – it’s high quality and virtually identical to the iOS version. All the content from the latest updates are here. What’s missing is the support for leaderboards. I’ll say it again: Google needs to release a Game Center equivalent now!
Punch Quest does not disappoint. This is an absolute must-play. It was last year, it still is now.
The core gameplay involves tossing food to the team of four dogs to keep them at their peak performance in order to do well in the mushing competitions that are entered. It’s a simple control scheme to use, just tap and hold to control the angle the food will be launched at, but doing this effectively at a continuous rate will be the challenge.
Managing one’s team plays a big part in the game, and randomized elements that could have a big effect on how well one does will come into play. Raising and succeeding with a mushing team and one’s dogs will be the ultimate goal: becoming the top dog-sledding team ain’t easy, but nothing good ever comes easy.
The game is coming to Android – I’ve played an early version running on the developer’s phone – and could come to consoles like the OUYA at some point in the future. iOS, Windows, and Mac will definitely see the game released as well.
While the game has already reached its base level of funding that will allow the developers to create the game, there’s a lot more in the works for those who wish to continue to support the game’s development and to see more advanced features. The dynamic music stretch goal has already been met. Time of day and weather effects will be added in at the $8,000 level. Wildlife activity in scenery will be added at $11,000. A new gameplay mode at $12,000. $20,000 will see one-on-one multiplayer tournaments added to the game. $25,000 will see cross-platform cloud saves added with MusherNet.
The nominees have been selected, and it’s time to vote for the Best App Ever for Android. From the most-nominated apps across all categories, these ten apps are up for the top prize.
The Room: Fireproof Games finally released its hit iOS adventure game on Android, and it’s such a hit with Best App Ever voters that it’s already one of the ten finalists. Does this game deserve to take the crown, though?
WhatsApp Messenger: The messaging service that brings together iOS and Android users with free messaging over data services and wifi feels like it would obviously be part of the Best App Ever’s overall award. After all, anything that makes it possible to easily share photos and messages without needing to go through expensive messaging plans is a boon! Of course, is it good enough to win the overall prize?
Dead Trigger: Who doesn’t like killing some zombies? Best App Ever voters who chose the nominees in the gaming categories certainly liked Madfinger’s first person shooter. Will these brain-hungry walkers gnaw on the overall award though? After all, it faces stiff competition from…
Shadowgun: Deadzone: A fellow Madfinger title, their multiplayer FPS. Who doesn’t like taking on opponents from anywhere and everywhere, even taking on iOS opponents? But will it be satisfying enough to win the overall prize?
Subway Surfers: Kiloo’s endless runner has been a worldwide smash hit, hooking players with its crazy action. Sure, it’s popular, but can its fans make it the winner of Best App Ever’s highest honor?
Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour: Gameloft brought realistic, console-style FPS action to Android gamers everywhere with their latest Modern Combat title. Can it frag its way to the top award?
Battle Bears: Bear is fighting? How can this be? Will these ursine warriors be able to claw their way to the top?
Royal Revolt: This action-RPG features plenty of castle crashing, but can it ascend to the throne?
Real Boxing: This not only is a contender, could it possibly raise up the championship belt at the end of it all?
AutomateIt-Automate Your Droid: What would be a competition to determine the best Android app be without an app that takes advantage of Android’s strengths? Could this app represent the Android platform on its way to Best App Ever?
Frankly, I love what is happening in the mobile gaming space. With more powerful hardware and a dedicated corp of eager developers, the segment is booming. And why not? We manage business, control communications and so much more from our smartphones? Why shouldn’t we be able to play console-quality games on the go?
Yes, you can get any of the dedicated gaming devices, but what’s the fun in that, especially when cell-based games sewn so much cheaper?
The pair of review pieces came in a nondescript box that his the well packaged goodies inside. The boxes themselves each came stacked, weighing in with a gamepad, instructions, HDMI adapter and — this really impressed me for obvious reasons — batteries.
To be honest, I was surprised at how light the controller was. It seemed sturdy enough though, surviving two drop tests on hardwood without any discernable damage.
To get the controllers up and running, I had to download the companion app Arena, which not only streamlined the pairing prices, but collated compatible games very nicely. Pairing was painless, and the distances allowed was equitable.
I tried the controller with several compatible games, and the performance was impressive. I didn’t detect lag, and I found the experience quite enjoyable. I thought the re-pairing process was slightly inconsistent, but I was generally back up in seconds anyway, albeit manually.
The added HDMI cables take the whole system to a whole new level by allowing for functionality with big screen TV for portable entertainment.
When it comes to handheld gaming, I liked this item enough to want to splurge on compatible titles. This testament to its efficacy also reveals my biggest quibble: I want more games! Thankfully, with available SDK and an all-call to developers to join the party, I am sure that that specific gripe will be licked soon. Customer service was topnotch in my limited interaction.
In a word? Fantastic. This is an item that is helping change the gaming paradigm, and it is always awesome when great ideas actually make it to consumers. With cost effectiveness and mobility on its side, the Arena Controller does seem like a compelling item.
Relic Rush is an 8-bitish platform puzzler from Crescent Moon Games that packs a lot of fun.
It is an archaeological thriller that packs in jungles, temples, spooky beings and our protagonist with the ethical beliefs made popular my the whip-carrying here of the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I’m a complete sucker for retro-looking graphics, and Relic Rush delivered. There is some skill to creating the oldish look, but i think the developer did a good job. I especially liked the jerky, purposely pixelated look of the animations. the different characters all had a certain charm to them. The game background mostly consisted of platforms and ladders set in an equitable combination of height and width. My job was to navigate to the top of the specific screen, retrieve the idol, and advance. With regards to controls, I had one on screen control: tapping and holding caused my player to stop for the duration of the hold. Otherwise, my character kept moving forward.There were jump spots that automatically hoisted my character into the air.
The gameplay started out easy enough, with a minimum of obstacles. The simple object was getting to the top with a minimal loss of life. Running into an obstacle knocked me off and expended a life, so I had to be careful. As the game progressed, the obstacles became wilier, incorporating recurrent horizontal sliding, jumping, projectiles and shooting fire. They sometimes worked in groups to cover paths of egress. I found that the stop control (along with a sharp sense of timing were particularly invaluable. There was plenty of fun play to be had, and the game had a decent soundtrack to go with it.
So, go ahead and picture Harrison Ford. I’m sure Indiana Jones did not always play video games, but when he did, he most likely played Relic Rush.
Trial of the Clone is an innovative game that reminds us of the days before the interactive computer adventures of today. It is a joke-laden choosable path narrative (remember those?) that combines zany humor with some awesome Kickstarter roots.
To understand this game, a little bit more of its history is helpful. Cue up the name Zachary Weinersmith and the underground hit comic strip Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Fan clamor led to a Kickstarter effort for the action book; to give you an idea of how popular the project was, it blew through it’s initial funding goal of $15,000 by a factor of more than eight (8). So, with the book out (laced with art from Chris Jones), a collaboration with Android developer Tin Man happened, and bam! We get the game.
The humor started with the option to select difficulty at the beginning. It was possible to “just be honest with yourself” (easy) or “play like you’re not a sniveling coward” (regular). The latent challenge made me smile.
The storyline revolved around the adventures (or misadventures) of a young interestingly conceived orphan and the gameplay involved making decisions. Just like in the books of this genre, selecting any one path jumped you to that page in the game. I thought the illustrations fit will with the attitude of the book, and the transitions flowed surprisingly well. The dialogue was, in a word, hilarious. Orphanage philanthropy to wiener dog healthcare just made for some really funny readings, and the voice-overs added to the giggly atmosphere. The place names were whimsical-sounding tongue twisters — Skilene Monastery at Skubnuti Prime — and the game did well to be good without taking itself too seriously.
I thought some of the book was a bit, well, salty, but this is listed clearly in the game’s description.. I think it will also help to have a somewhat dark sense of humor to get and enjoy some of the points, but as far as adventures go, this was a breath of fresh air.
If the romantic history of the game doesn’t pull you in, do it for you.
Jeff Minter, long-time game developer known for such titles as Tempest 2000 and the divisive Space Giraffe, has been hard at work in recent years on mobile with his studio Llamasoft, exploring different game ideas that fit into his oevure. Now Llamasoft has released an Android game, but under an interesting distribution model: donationware. Don’t expect to find the game on Google Play, but it is available for free from Llamasoft’s website, released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license meaning that it’s permissible to share the game with attribution, but not to use it for commercial purposes or to create derivative works from it.
Gridrunner itself follows the kind of formula that many Llamasoft games follow: it’s a hybrid of several retro titles mixed into one, with the two-dimensional movement of Centipede mixed with an art style similar to Namco’s arcade titles like Galaga, and plenty of crazy powerups and crazy visual effects that Llamasoft games have been known for. Oh, and in the kind of oddball Llamasoft twist, it’s possible to play one of two older versions of the game by tilting the device into landscape mode. Oh, and the "pause" button is a paw. A "paws" button. They’ve even built their own high score service, Llamascores, for competing on the leaderboards across the multiple game modes. The game supports some controllers via Bluetooth or USB.
Llamasoft and Jeff Minter promise that this isn’t the only donationware release – other unreleased or other games may be released with this model, and it could include more Android games. As well, they’re at work on TxK, a revisiting of the Tempest 2000 formula initially for Playstation Vita, but considering that the studio is working on some longer-term projects that could include Android, this could include an Android release. Stay tuned.
Nimble Quest, the latest from NimbleBit, starts off with an immediate nod to its direct influence, Snake. Before mobile games exploded, everyone enjoyed Snake on a Nokia mobile phone, because what else was there to do besides play Snake? So, immediately, it seems like there may not be much to this at all.
Nope. Nimble Quest takes that simple concept and makes it deeper and more fun than it has any right to be.
It starts by adding a bit of strategy to the standard Snake gameplay of turning left and right, avoiding walls and enemies. See, players control a character that has a special attack ability that triggers when near enemies, and they use that to take out enemies. Other heroes can be collected as drops from enemies that form parts of the snake, and can use their own individual attacks. Now, enemies can attack as well, so it becomes about staying out of danger, as the heroes have health bars that will quickly diminish, and if the lead hero dies, it’s game over. So, there’s a strategy to approaching the enemies, one that is about taking as little damage as possible.
Now, this is where the free-to-play elements start to be exposed in the design, but in the traditional non-intrusive NimbleBit way. See, the maximum number of heroes that can be used in a chain is equal to the number of heroes that are unlocked. Naturally, it gets easier to progress further as more heroes are available. The characters can be unlocked by reaching certain level milestones in the game, or by buying them via IAP. Boosts can be bought by spending tokens, earned through random drops, or by spending 1,000 gems, the common currency. Both can be bought via IAP as well. Gems are used for powerup upgrades along with character upgrades.
All this talk about the IAP obfuscates the fact that it’s perfectly possible to enjoy the game at its core. It’s simple to pick up, and can be enjoyed with one hand, and in any orientation desired. While there is a definite sense of progression, of getting better, that can be accelerated by spending money, it’s still possible to play the game without spending money. NimbleBit tests without having IAP enabled, and it shows – this is a game that is free to have fun with, though there’s plenty of reward for spending. It’s a great balance that works in the way that free-to-play absolutely should be. Unlocking everything will take a while, along with just trying to get high scores for each character, but there’s also a guild mode where players compete for their team to raise their total score. Join guild #148Apps and let’s take on the world!
Nimble Quest is another winner from NimbleBit. In a world where free-to-play can be annoying and exploitative of players, they’re showing that it’s possible to do it right.
Just visit BestAppEver.com and get started in the dozens of available categories. Click on a category to nominate an app in, search for the name (start from the beginning of the app name), and hit Enter. Click on the app’s name, and that will nominate it! Simple as that.
These awards are not just open to apps from the past year, but to any Android app since the inception of Google Play and Android Market, along with the Amazon Appstore! See, we’re looking for the 2013 choices for the Best App Ever, and if an app from 2010 is still the best app ever in a particular category, then that app should win. But it’s up to you to decide.
See, all the categories are based on your nominations. The goal of the awards is to nominate the best, not just the best-selling. You can nominate an app just once in a category, but you can nominate multiple apps in a single category, and a single app in multiple categories. Nominations are open until April 30th. After this, you’ll be able to submit your votes for the Best App Ever in each category based on the top nominees. As well, the ten top-nominated apps across each category will be up for the overall Best App Ever prize, to be announced in mid-May around Google IO.
We’ll have more on the awards as the process continues, including some of our staff’s choices for apps you should nominate and vote for along the way. Get to BestAppEver.com and start nominating the best apps that you think should win! They need your support in order to win!
Calm down, internet. After delays caused some people to threaten the team at Wikipad with death for not getting their gaming tablet out on time, they finally showcased the final production version of the gaming tablet at GDC 2013 last week.
The tablet portion of the Wikipad is essentially the same as a Nexus 7. It has a Tegra 3 processor, 1 GB of RAM, and an 1280×800 IPS screen. However, there’s a few feature checklist improvements: a higher-resolution camera that’s oriented to be in the top center of landscape orientation, an expandable microSD slot, and an HDMI output for playing games on the TV. These are all located on the top of the device when in landscape orientation, which is very important because this is designed as a gaming tablet, and because the all-important micro-USB slot for the controller attachemnt plugs in at the bottom.
Yes, the controller attachment is the really interesting part of this device, which brings the standard gaming layout of 4 face buttons and 4 shoulder buttons to something that attaches to the tablet itself through the bottom micro-USB port. The controller has a rubberized grip for comfort, and it doesn’t add much weight to the tablet, it’s still light, though it is definitely bulky, and the analog sticks felt very loose out of the box when playing Dead Trigger.
There’s an SDK for developers to use to implement Wikipad controls, but the controller also boasts HID support for games that don’t have the SDK specifically enabled. The team is promising to go with as open an approach as possible – games can be acquired from whatever marketplace the user desires, as there is no special Wikipad store. Well, not necessarily: the device will support PlayStation Mobile, meaning that games on Sony’s store (that are also available for devices like the PlayStation Vita) will be playable on there. However, not all titles have controller support yet, but Wikipad is in touch with Sony to try to get more titles supporting the controller. They’re also investigating mapping touchscreen input to the controller.
The 7″ tablet with controller will be available for $249, and is in production now with units shipping out to distributors very soon.