Bottle Cap Blitz Review

Bottle Cap Blitz Review

Aug 1, 2013

I have to say, Bottle Cap Blitz is a total surprise to me. Although the fact that people can make a game out of anything is well-known, it’s still always a pleasant incident, when the game in question turns out quite entertaining. I expected Bottle Cap Blitz to be nothing but a time-waster for party-boys, returning from their VIP beaches and out of vodka for a minute, but it turned out to be a bloody well-done time-waster.

Bottle Cap Blitz 5Bottle Cap Blitz‘s story isn’t exactly Citizen Kane. The player is chilling at the beach bar and throws bottle caps at ice cubes to pass the time. It’s akin to Fruit Ninja in its simplicity, but it’s also close in its staggering ability to drown the time in an incredibly monotonous procedure. There’s one thing to do and one thing only: tap on the screen to throw bottle caps at ice cubes for a minute, and get the greatest possible high score.

If several ice cubes are hit with a single bottle cap, a bonus is awarded. Depending on the player’s productivity – or, perhaps more correctly, lack thereof – he is awarded experience that can transcend him to the next level, unlocking one of the new mechanics of the game, like cherry ice cubes that blow up all the other ice cubes on the screen, a watermelon ice cube that slows time for a bit, or power-ups that give various abilities at the cost of coins. The aforementioned coins can be gathered throughout the game, bought with real-world money as in-app purchase, or simply not be bothered with, because power-ups are for slackers. The in-app store, which is only unlocked after you play the game for an hour straight – strange, but whatever – is not in any way required for the simple-minded fun that Bottle Cap Blitz proposes.

Naturally, the challenges are introduced as well. For example, pebbles can sometimes be thrown along with ice cubes. Hitting them will remove some points from the score, and remove all of the ice cubes that are flying along with it. There’s also a daily challenge that grants some bonus coins. There are several lesser challenges as well, apart from the main goal of Bottle Cap Blitz. The game starts out as deceptively primitive, but as it gains pace, it becomes quite a challenge.

It’s quite an achievement, I think, to make a game with such a simple, borderline ridiculous premise, and actually make it not only enjoyable, but quite engaging, as well. Bottle Cap Blitz is definitely a fine game, and its gameplay simplicity certainly helps. Although I’ve had some problems with it requiring a Google Plus account for no valid reason, but after it started, there were bottle caps, flying all around.

Jack Lumber Review

Jack Lumber Review

Jul 25, 2013

It’s time to sharpen axes and put on plaid shirts, for lumbering season has begun. Jack Lumber is an arcade game that features an okay lumberjack, sleeping all night and working all day. He is on a tree-murdering spree, in honor of his late grandmother, who was brutally murdered by an evil pine tree. Guess it knew how to not make a sound when no one was watching. Anyway, after the random and slightly insane mood is set, Jack Lumber doesn’t wait around to start the action.

Jack Lumber 3At its core, Jack Lumber is but another “finger-squish” arcade, not unlike Fruit Ninja, but with a couple of innovations of its own. Of course, instead of fruits it’s pieces of lumber that require destruction, and there are many tricks to the way they should be sliced. Each level consists of a number of log throws. In each throw, a bunch of logs is thrown in a predetermined path. When the player puts a finger on the screen, time slows significantly down, and the logs practically freeze in places. Then the player needs to cut through each log in a limited time, without lifting the finger. If each log is cut in the right way, the player gets awarded with slight score bonus. Furthermore, if the player manages to cut two logs with a straight line, he gets additional bonus. After a series of log throws is complete, a score is calculated, and if it’s beyond a certain limit, player gets a medal, and continues onto the next level.

Score isn’t just a number in Jack Lumber, as it allows to purchase a number of items from the store that can help improve the end score, and get a gold star, or actually make the game more challenging. The challenge comes in the way of various logs that require different handling. There are logs that can only be cut from one side, curved logs that require cutting them with broken lines, logs that need to be sliced more than ones, and many more. Jack Lumber starts like a really casual entertainment, but becomes pretty challenging relatively quickly. The player needs to calculate the time, when to slow the time, so logs are in the best position on the screen, slice fast, to slice every log in time, and to slice carefully, because a getting a medal is not simple without the bonuses. Anyway, the game is great, challenging and interesting. I didn’t find any particular problems with it, so it’s a fine game for everyone, seeking to slice something up on a mobile screen.

The Hills Are Greener: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Villainy?

The Hills Are Greener: Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Villainy?

Aug 29, 2011

Cloning has been a hot-button issue in mobile gaming as of late; games that lift their art and game concepts wholesale from either popular games or games on other platforms. This is especially an issue on Android, where the less restrictive policies of the Android Market make it easier for apps of dubious legality, though even Apple’s stringent review process has led to several games that are blatant rip-offs of other games.

In many of these cases, the best solution for the infringed has been to just jump on to the platform where the infringement is occuring, in order to capitalize on the interest there. There were numerous illegitimate clones of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Fruit Ninja on Android before their official launches. Flash developer Halfbot made their own version of The Blocks Cometh after EdisonGame ripped them off by releasing their own identically-titled game on the iOS App Store which also used a character sprite from another Flash game, League of Evil. Vlambeer, developers of Radical Fishing, are releasing a sequel for iOS after the game Ninja Fishing lifted the core gameplay almost wholesale from Radical Fishing. As well, they’re working with Halfbot to bring their other Flash game Super Crate Box to the iOS App Store.

I’ve had discussions with developers on the ‘cloned’ side of the cloning discussion, and while there is both disappointment and outrage over the violations, there’s also a despair over the fact that not much could be done about it. Either the games are just dissimilar enough to make legal claims non-pursuable, or the legal battle would likely be costlier than the possible money that could be made from a case. Many of these developers are trapped, because their games are ripe for the picking to be repurposed on mobile platforms by developers looking for an easy buck.

While the morality of cloning has come into question, especially when no specific art assets are re-used, it has led to an interesting discussion. What is it about game concepts that makes them more disposable and ripe for lifting than when art is stolen from these games? One could make a case that a game like Angry Birds isn’t really all that different from the Ninja Fishing debacle on iOS, because Angry Birds shares many similar mechanics with other physics puzzlers. What makes Ninja Fishing so bad in comparision? Game concepts are so intangible, and the language so indefinite that it is difficult to even discuss properly.

But these are things that must be discussed, because they are very important. Mobile gaming is becoming big business, and when independent developers are ripped off, it only hurts the reputation of mobile platforms. While the gatekeepers need to do a better job at preventing these apps of dubious copyright status to appear, is there anything that can be done about cloning? Or is there any way to properly define cloning at all? If not, then is there any good way to say that it’s wrong?

Fruit Ninja Goes Free to Play with New Ad-Supported Version

Fruit Ninja Goes Free to Play with New Ad-Supported Version

Jul 21, 2011

Fruit Ninja has been a rare example of not only a paid app that has been a mammoth success on Android, but an iOS port that maintained the paid app model in the transition to Android, without even a free version available. That has changed as of today, with Fruit Ninja Free. This is an ad-supported version of the game, featuring ads after play sessions. As well, there is a link to rewards program Beintoo, that likely is helping generate revenue for this free game. All the modes and features of the full version are present here. Fruit Ninja Free also includes additional language support, as well as some performance tweaks to make the game run better on more devices. Halfbrick have largely stayed away from free to play on Android continuing to distribute apps as paid apps, but because Fruit Ninja has cross-platform popularity, a free version makes plenty of sense. Fruit Ninja Free is now available from the Android Market.

The Hills Are Greener: The Perils of Freedom

The Hills Are Greener: The Perils of Freedom

Jun 27, 2011

Is it really possible that a major game can’t sell on Android? Cut the Rope has taken the same path that Angry Birds has taken with distribution on Android, which is to give away their app for free, generating revenue by way of in-game ads instead of selling the app as a paid app like on iOS. Kami Retro from Gamevil has also gone down this path, showing that they might be experimenting with this ad-supported game model on Android as well.

It’s not quite clear why publishers and developers have decided en masse to pursue this model when releasing on Android beyond reaching a wider base of Android owners. If it’s a piracy issue that publishers are worried about, it seems kind of silly since adblocking on Android is not all that difficult for those with the technical knowhow. Essentially, if people don’t want to give a developer revenue, it’s not that much of a stretch to actually do. It seems like it’s just attacking the lowest common denominator, instead of actually solving the problem of not being able to sell paid games on Android. Plus, it just doesn’t sound smart to have a game that displays ads for other free games that people could download; while playing Cut the Rope, I’ve seen ads for not only Words With Friends for Android, but also for Angry Birds in Google Chrome! Such is the peril of allowing advertisements.

As well, this has the long-term potential of hurting the growth of paid applications on Android Market. A larger developer can make up for small click-through rates on ads by way of sheer number of users playing the game and viewing the ads; this requires a game with a name like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, or Words With Friends. As someone trying to make money with Android has shown, when just trying to start from the ground up with an Android app, the results can be rather rough. If big-name apps and games continue to hit Android as free downloads, and users continue to expect to get premium quality apps and games as free downloads, then why would they ever pay for apps and games? Fruit Ninja has succeeded on the Android Market, but it appears to be the notable exception to the rule, rather than any kind of indicator that other developers are taking.

If the Android Market is ever going to reach a point where major developers will consider it worth the financial benefits of working on it, then it will require a market where users will expect to pay for some apps; when major apps are regularly being released for free, how can this ever happen? Do I like free games? Sure! Call me a hypocrite for playing and downloading these games when they go free, but I am still just a man who likes getting things for free. However, I still recognize that this trend ultimately is bad for smaller developers looking to grow on Android because they cannot ever expect to make meaningful revenue, even just starting out. The big guys just aren’t making it any easier for the little guys, because free is hard to beat.

The Hills Are Greener: The Gaming Quandary

The Hills Are Greener: The Gaming Quandary

May 16, 2011

The Android Market has a problem. Namely, it’s that despite having a great OS, with plenty of apps for general usability, rivaling what iOS has, the gaming market is still far behind what iOS’ gaming market has been. This is despite Android devices selling by the bushel – it’s not a lack of consumers that explains why the Android gaming market continues to flounder. It’s hard to formulate a good hypothesis as to why this is the case, but I have an idea.

Apple does a better job at rallying people around their devices and their concepts than Google can. The Android community is smaller, and more focused on the devices themselves. There are plenty of sites and forums covering Android and plenty of people talking about them, but there are no major equivalents to the mass gaggle of iOS and Apple media sites. Android is the Windows of the mobile market – lots of people use it but no one gets excited about it in the way that Apple users do. This means that developers, especially talented ones, are going to be more likely to develop for iOS than for Android at this point. Who can blame them? iOS game releases draw more attention than Android ones do, by far, even if many releases get drowned out, still. This means that talented developers, like the super-talented independent iOS game development community, have little reason to release games on Android first, if the iOS community is something they’re both more familiar with, and more likely to achieve success with. Android has all the noise of the App Store, but not enough signal to justify releases on it.

It’s a chicken and the egg situation. There really hasn’t been a breakout release on Android to help justify talented developers releasing their games on Android, and Android ports of iOS games have only done well if they are major titles – think Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, et al. Major licenses tend to do well, as evidenced by EA, Namco, and Gameloft’s support of Android. Gameloft are even trying to spark up platforms with individual hardware hooks, like BackStab for Xperia Play, and Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem for the HTC EVO 3D. Whether there’s any net gain for either Gameloft or these specific devices does depend on a wide variety of factors including customer acceptance. However, these are even smaller user bases on these devices that companies who release games on these are trying to sell to. Of course, if developers would start to release some great games on Android, and get the market acclimated to Android as a serious gaming platform in the way that iOS has become, then it could quite possibly become just that. It just needs the content to do so, but right now developers have little reason to do so, without taking massive risks. The kinds of risks that independent and small development studios just cannot take.

It is a shame that in spite of Android’s user base, the game selection remains as mediocre as it is. The thing that continues to draw me to iOS is that there are so many interesting games being released so often, and Android just doesn’t quite have that same effect yet. I love Android, but it is absolutely lacking in the kinds of great games that iOS gets a steady stream of. Change will have to come if Android is to compete with iOS as a gaming platform.

PAX East 2011 Rundown

PAX East 2011 Rundown

Mar 13, 2011

Greetings from Boston! I’m here attending the Eastern Penny Arcade Expo on the lookout for new and upcoming Android games. The good news is, I might have found a few.

I had some hands-on time with Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack from Be-Rad Entertainment. Be-Rad Entertainment is known for the iOS game Lame Castle and were asked to work on a Serious Sam game by publisher Devolver Digital.

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack features an interesting twist: Rather than playing as the series’ hero, Serious Sam, you play as one of the screaming, headless, kamikaze bombers. (Yes, screaming, despite being headless.) Kamikaze Attack is an auto-runner style of game where you jump and kick incoming bombs and rockets in attempt to take down Sam, himself.

I talked with the developer, Bradley Johnson, who told me that the game, developed using Unity, is coming to Android. We also discussed new modes of play and the inclusion of OpenFeint.

I really enjoyed playing Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack and will be following its development to keep you all updated.

Another game I looked at is Machine Gun Jetpack from Halfbrick.

Halfbrick are known for Fruit Ninja on Android, as well as their other outings for iOS devices and Raskulls for Xbox Live Arcade.

Machine Gun Jetpack features Barry Steakfries in another adventure. This time, in an auto-runner style game with a machine gun that functions like a jetpack. The longer you touch the screen, the higher Barry will go.

You’ll have to dodge obstacles, take out enemies and collect coins to spend on in-game items like top-hats, double-shields and more! You’ll also come across vehicle pick-ups such as a gravity suit, a giant mech suit and the “Crazy Freaking Teleporter.”

The gameplay is simple and easy to learn, but offers plenty of extras to keep it different from similar games in the same genre.

I spoke with Phil Larsen, Marketing Director for Halfbrick, about the possibility of Machine Gun Jetpack also coming to Android. He told me that, currently, their focus is on getting the game running properly on iOS before they can get to porting it. Still, a slim chance is better than no chance at all.

While the presence of Android is barely felt here at Penny Arcade Expo, keep in mind that iOS games are almost just as rare. Things can only get better, however, especially as Android devices continue to grow in popularity. As for me, it’s only Day 2 here at PAX, and I have plenty more games to see.

[Updated] Dungeon Defenders: First Wave, Fruit Ninja and more…

[Updated] Dungeon Defenders: First Wave, Fruit Ninja and more…

Jan 21, 2011

We all love a good update and while most of the time we get much needed improvements and added content, there are also those rare times when updates bring us crashes and headaches. Hopefully you will experience the former when checking out some of the recent updates released for a few of Android’s popular games.

Fruit Ninja by HalfBrick

Fruit Ninja was just recently updated to bring us that long awaited “Arcade Mode” we told you about back in November plus some other features. Arcade Mode should now take the place of that mysterious “Coming Soon” black banana you’ve come to ignore. To read all about Arcade Mode for Fruit Ninja just hop on over to our November post [HERE].

Fruit Ninja Arcade Mode Coming Soon?

Fruit Ninja Arcade Mode Coming Soon?

Nov 17, 2010

About a week ago Halfbrick finally showed us what was to be of that mysterious black banana that taunts us with its “Coming Soon” innuendo. Of course it has already been released to the iOS masses but when is Android going to get some love? There are over 100,000 Android users anxiously awaiting some new fruit slicing challenges and even more who are rediscovering their fruit frenzied fingers via the Galaxy Tab so I ask again: “When is Android going to get some love”?

Fruit Ninja For Android

Fruit Ninja For Android

Sep 20, 2010

“It slices!” “It dices!” And for one easy payment of 99 cents, you too can own this “fabricator of fruit fury,” this “slicing sultan of strawberries,” this reigning “walloper of watermelons.” So, what are you waiting for?! Click on over to your local Android Market and “Buy one today!”

Did you like my classic Ronald Popeil impersonation? No? Oh well, I tried. In case you haven’t heard, the very addicting & highly popular iOS game Fruit Ninja has sliced its way onto the Android platform. At only $.99, this ginsu game is a steel (get it? steel?).

Apparently the guys over at Halfbrick have found a long lost ninja scroll that clearly states “All ninjas hate fruit!” and Fruit Ninja is what happens when someone tauntingly tosses fruit in front of one. Very fun and very addicting, this game results in endless hours of unproductivity.