Amazon Appstore Discounts Nine Games for Black Friday

Amazon Appstore Discounts Nine Games for Black Friday

Nov 29, 2013

On this day of mass consumerism, Amazon is about to throw a sweet deal Android users’ way: they have nine games available for free on November 29th only. These include Sonic the Hedgehog, Angry Birds Space, Fruit Ninja, and six more. The games are available though the Amazon Appstore only, so jump on the deals while they last. This page lists all the free games for US users. UK users can check their list here.

Angry Birds Space: Over 10 Million Served, Samsung’s in the Danger Zone, and Backing Up That Save

Angry Birds Space: Over 10 Million Served, Samsung’s in the Danger Zone, and Backing Up That Save

Mar 27, 2012

Angry Birds Space has really taken off! (Pause for groaning from readers) Rovio has revealed that the newest Angry Birds game has gotten ten million downloads in three days. While they did not reveal anything about platform numbers, many of those downloads are likely sales, though Android will also be making up a big number of those downloads given the presence of a free version on Google Play.

In fact, as far as versions of the game go, this is the first Android Angry Birds game to have a tablet-optimized version specifically. However, the only difference between the HD version and the regular versions is that interface elements are better scaled to high-resolution devices. Beyond some letterboxed artwork, the game plays perfectly well on tablets. In fact, I would say there is literally no difference in gameplay at all. This is basically Rovio trying to get an extra two dollars out of tablet users. The difference between Android and iOS in this respect is that iPad users have to buy the HD version or deal with scaled graphics; Android users get one that’s expanded out to take advantage of the full resolution.

The HD version's level complete menu.

The standard version's level complete menu.

Samsung Galaxy device owners got 30-plus free levels with their download, getting the Danger Zone levels unlocked for free, and before the rest of the Android universe got them. As well, a Golden Eggsteroid level with a Galaxy Note theme was made available. These levels are available on iOS, but as an in-app purchase; a three month exclusivity on Android was mentioned, but no word on if the levels will be made available through in-app purchases was mentioned. As well, the Android version is lacking the “Space Eagle” IAP that the iOS version has; Rovio appears to be avoiding in-app purchases on Android entirely, perhaps due to not having standardized options thanks to multiple marketplaces.

Yesterday, I wrote a column that in part bemoaned the lack of any kind of save game synchronization between Angry Birds games. While transferring progress between my iOS devices and my Android devices is still at Rovio’s whims, third party developers have figured out ways to transfer saves between Angry Birds games on Android. While there are several solutions, maybe the best one is Angry Birds Backup, which has been updated to work with Angry Birds Space. This is for several reasons.

  1. It backs up to Dropbox. This uses the Dropbox APIs (requiring the Dropbox app to be installed of course) to link to a folder, then the file from a game is backed up, and can be easily restored and re-backed up from any device with the app installed. Multiple profiles for backing up can be used as well.

  2. It can restore to different versions of the game. Start playing the paid version on one device, but have the free version on another? This works for transferring between versions. Note that the app will backup/restore data to/from one version on the device, in the priority of: ad-supported, paid, HD version. While it would be nice to choose between versions manually (especially when converting from free to paid on a single device), there really isn’t much of a reason to have multiple versions.

  3. It’s free. It works perfectly and it comes at no cost to the user. Some paid solutions exist, but this option works well. It also has limited permissions requests for internet access and modifying storage contents, so it appears to be safe as well.

It also doesn’t require root access, so all users can free their Angry Birds data. The app is available on Google Play but not the Amazon Appstore, so Kindle Fire users are out of luck at the moment with this particular solution.

The Hills Are Greener: “Angry” About Cloud Saves

The Hills Are Greener: “Angry” About Cloud Saves

Mar 26, 2012

Angry Birds Space launched recently, and much like a space-bound rocket, it took off to the top of pretty much any chart it could be on. One notable feature was omitted from the game – cloud-based saving. Rovio announced a while back that they were working on an Angry Birds Sync service, that has yet to materialize. How has the world reacted to this notable omission? By barely reacting at all, if the lack of discussion on social media is a reliable indicator. There are a few tweets here and there grousing about the omission, but it’s apparently not enough of a deal for people to go out and be angry about it.

So, if the biggest franchise in the world releasing a new game without cloud-based synchronization between even devices on the same platform is not a big deal, do people really care? Perhaps not. Maybe the number of people that like to play between devices is so few that it’s just not worth the headaches to implement.

And really, whenever I speak to developers about implementing cloud saves in their own games, they do mention that it’s headache-inducing. There are so many possible errors that come up, from the same game being loaded up on multiple linked devices, to what happens when a device goes offline, that many just prefer not to mess with it. While I frequently mention the omission of cloud-based saving in games (especially on iOS where the iPad/iPhone split is prominent, and iCloud does exist as a solution), it’s something not being picked up en masse.

But maybe users aren’t complaining because they don’t know that it’s something that is technically possible. The “cloud” in general is a confusing concept, one that requires explanation to non-technical people. It’s something they use every day with their email, or even accessing Twitter or Facebook, but the idea of the cloud is obscure. So, people may not even realize that it’s technically possible for games to transfer their data from one device to another, even from one platform to another.

And really, the frustrating thing is that off-the-shelf tools for cloud synchronization exist. Apple has the much-ballyhooed iCloud service that few games implement – and even fewer implement in an error-free way. OrangePixel’s games all synchronize between devices using OpenFeint – even between operating systems! OrangePixel is a one man studio from Holland. So, while it may not be easy, if it’s possible for one person to use a free service to synchronize game saves, surely my Angry Birds Space scores can transfer from my Xoom to my iPod touch?

Of course, why should Rovio spend the work implementing it if no one really cares?

Angry Birds Space Review

Angry Birds Space Review

Mar 22, 2012

Angry Birds Space is exactly what it says it is. It’s Angry Birds in space. Not even gravity or the lack thereof can change what it is at its core – for better or for worse.

For those living under a rock or in a comatose state the past two and a half years, Angry Birds is a physics puzzler where players must launch birds with different properties at pigs, who are positioned both on and in structures of wood, stone, and ice. The goal is to destroy all the pigs before running out of birds, and to score enough points to try and collect three stars in each level.

Of course, everyone probably knows that because the Angry Birds franchise is absolutely gargantuan. The big twist here in Angry Birds Space is that the game takes place in space, which means that various levels of gravity come in to play. Levels incorporate the alteration of gravity in two ways. First is that there are zero-gravity sections, where objects travel in a straight line, losing no momentum unless they hit an object. Second, some moons will have their own gravitational field that can be used in various ways, like either pulling a pig from zero-G to fall to his doom, or for a bird’s flight to be altered by flying around it. Some levels actually play more like traditional Angry Birds levels, taking place entirely inside a gravitational field.

The gravity switching is a neat trick, and it’s the heart of this game. The new wrinkle brings some creative new levels to the process, yet it does all feel very consistent, and it still feels like Angry Birds. The controls are still effective and easy to use, and the physics engine is top-notch, even with all the new gravity effects. Everything feels like it works the way it should, and that’s especially important here, where things do get all topsy-turvy. Due to all the new gravity effects, the dotted line showing the expected flight path appears to be extended. It helps out a lot with understanding what the birds are going to do, considering that the different gravities can be confusing.

Tablet owners will be glad to know that the game runs perfectly on the high-resolution devices. My Samsung Captivate, a 2010 phone, runs the game extremely smoothly as well , so I must say that Rovio has done an excellent job at optimization. I’m also rather impressed and satisfied that they managed to launch it on Android simultaneously with iOS, instead of the typical delay between platforms. There’s the ad-supported version on Google Play and Amazon Appstore, and an ad-free one on the Amazon Appstore with a special Kindle Fire version as well; the ads are non-obtrustive, so going with the free one is my call.

What I am curious about with Angry Birds Space is how the casual audience is going to react, and if they’ll enjoy it the way they have with previous iterations of the series. With the way that gravity doesn’t the same thing in one level to another, it can get confusing because while the physics engine ensures everything works the way it ‘should’, the way it should work is not entirely clear! Granted, this is largely a matter of perception, and figuring out what effects are going on by looking around the level and becoming acclimated to it all, but understanding the physics is a more involved process than it was in any of the other games.

I would love to see more of the golden Eggsteroid levels that pay homage to classic video games like Super Mario Bros. and Arkanoid, especially those Arkanoid ones as they really mess with the core physics of the game in an interesting way. The free version seems to be missing the “Danger Zone” levels that are unlocked in the iOS versions.

As well, the gameplay is really just the same as it was in its previous iterations. The gravity’s different, and the birds behave a little differently, but it’s still Angry Birds at its heart. The “launch birds at pigs” formula just can’t change that much. It’s still a good formula, and I had fun with it, but it’s clear to me now that no matter where in the universe this game goes, it will always be the same.

Angry Birds will love this game because of what it is. It’s sixty-plus new levels full of more pigs to launch birds at, and the new gravity effects are legitimately interesting to play around with. It is more complex than the other games, but that’s a good thing for the future of the franchise, to have an iteration that sticks out a bit. The older versions aren’t going away, and they actually got new levels recently as well. Those sick of Angry Birds might enjoy the new gravity effects for a short period of time, and to see how they change things up, but this is still Angry Birds, and altered states of gravity can’t change that.

Angry Birds Space Coming in March, and Launching on Galaxy Note

Angry Birds Space Coming in March, and Launching on Galaxy Note

Feb 29, 2012

Rovio’s about ready to pull back and launch their latest Angry Birds title on us pigs in March, Angry Birds: Space. Fitting with the vast expanses of space, the game will be “launching” on the Galaxy Note. What does that mean? Well…that’s a good question!

This could just mean that the game will be optimized for the Galaxy Note, and Samsung has an interest in making sure their name is connected with mobile gaming’s juggernaut. After all, they think so highly of the Galaxy Note that they spent approximately $10.5 million to run one ninety-second advertisement during the Super Bowl. Spending extra money to make sure their name is tied in with Angry Birds may be money well-spent.

The implication that no kind of exclusivity beyond some exclusive content for the game being mentioned seems to indicate that iOS users won’t be changing their opinions on the Galaxy Note from mocking to pure, spiteful anger.

What it may also confirm is that Android gamers (or at least a subset of them) will be playing the game come March 22nd when it launches. The previous two new SKUs that were released, Seasons and Rio, launched on iOS before hitting Android. That gap may not exist in this case, or at least it will not on the Galaxy Note. There’s worse ways to sell a phone than to say that it’s the biggest and best way to carry an Angry Birds-capable device in one’s pocket.

We’ll have more on Angry Birds: Space as it nears launch, especially as the game is still the behemoth franchise in mobile gaming, and likely will be jumping up the charts as soon as it launches. On Android, it will be interesting to see if the game launches on the Android Market in a paid flavor for a change, or if they continue to rely on the Amazon Appstore for paid versions of the game. We’ll know, or at least have a better idea, by March 22nd.