Pathogen Review

Pathogen Review

Apr 30, 2014

Pathogen is a puzzle board game – and I mean it in the strictest sense. It’s similar to Japanese Go, both in form, and in a facade of simplicity that hides a mind-crippling difficulty inside, like a Trojan horse full of challenges and frustration. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that I’m bad at it, but I don’t get to say this about many mobile board games. There’s no story in Pathogen, because stories are for children, while we’re here to kick ass and capture territory – and we’re almost out of ass.

In Pathogen, the player can compete against AI or other players, locally, or online. The goal is to capture more territory than the enemy, before you both run our of land. Similarly to Go, the main mechanics are an ability to place your pieces on any part of the field, capturing it, and an ability to capture enemy’s resources with careful planning, although the process is different. The player has several kinds of pieces he can place, with more advanced pieces requiring several turns to recharge. When the player puts a piece on the board near existing ones of the same kind, they form a connection. Then, if the player puts a more advanced piece on, or near any of them, they all get advanced to the next Pathogen 2level and start belonging to the player – even if they originally belonged to the enemy. The connections never break, meaning that at the end of the game, large portions of the game field get to change hands every turn, as players race to advance them to the last stage that turns all connected pieces into a wall, solidifying them. After this, they can’t change hands, and the area completely goes under one of the player’s control.

There’s an insane level of possible customization, including different AI strengths, special “infection” mode, free choice of multiplayer options, but they’re all icing on the cake that is insane depth of Pathogen. Not only do you need to plan where to place the next piece, but also what kind it should be, and if it puts you at risk of the whole chain being completely captured – or if this can actually be of an advantage. AI is damn good, so don’t expect that single player campaign will be a cakewalk, either. I can already hear muffled scoffing from the masters of Go, as they go through the levels like a katana sword through a leaf of sakura, but I do think that Pathogen is one of the most challenging board games I’ve ever played on the mobiles.

Theme Thursday: Ubuntu HD for GO Launcher

Theme Thursday: Ubuntu HD for GO Launcher

Aug 30, 2012

Many people have not heard about Ubuntu or even have the slightest idea as to what Linux is. As a Linux user for over a few years I have come to enjoy the simple and attractive styling of Linux’s most popular distro. While surfing the Google Play store looking for a clean and new theme for my phone I figured why not try to emulate the operating system that I was currently using. There are a myriad of Ubuntu options on the Play store but the one I am going to look at this week will be Ubuntu HD by developer Shivmanas.

Fortunately for Ubunutu HD it lives up to its HD suffix by delivering great, high quality icons that really reflect the nature of Ubuntu’s core styling. There are a large selection of icons and because the change is subtle, non-custom icons do not look out of place. This makes for a very seamless and well constructed theme because there is not that abrupt of a difference between the theme icons and the loners that plagues most other themes. A nice touch that is somewhat controversial is the change of the home button to a Ubuntu logo. I was wary of this at first because I felt that it may have been taking the theme too far, but it truly ties the whole thing together nicely. Besides, it can always be changed in GO Launcher.

However, my favorite part of this app has to be the amazing wallpapers that are pretty much ripped right from Ubuntu. I love the wallpapers that cycle through the Linux distro and I am elated that the developer chose to include those in this theme. The whole theme wraps up nicely and looks great as a sum of its parts. For anyone who is a Ubuntu fan or is just looking for a bright, mature, and clean theme I would strongly recommend taking a look at Ubuntu HD for GO Launcher.

Theme Thursday: Cyrix GO Holistic Theme

Theme Thursday: Cyrix GO Holistic Theme

Jul 26, 2012

The great part about the GO Launcher Dev Team products is that they all operate seamlessly in and amongst themselves. When running GO Launcher it makes more sense to go all out and use some of the other GO products such as GO SMS or GO Locker. I have used all of these and while GO SMS is not my favorite SMS application, it is more than serviceable. However, until the advent of GO Holistic themes there was no real way to synchronize one unified theme between all the GO applications because developers that created GO Launcher themes did not always create a companion GO SMS or GO Locker theme. GO Holistic themes are themes that incorporate all the GO apps under one single download which eliminates having to download and manage multiple separate versions of themes and then go through and individually change everything manually.

The theme, specifically, that is spotlighted today is Cyrix by a persistent favorite here on Theme Thursday, ZT.art. The theme opts for a very cool black and teal design that is very popular yet I am still on the fence. Fortunately everything is executed wonderfully and the theme looks great and the whole theme has a high level of refinement that make it look very professional. I would have liked to have seen a little more variation in the theme, however as the matte black background is somewhat boring and this is especially demonstrated in the GO SMS portion of the theme.

My favorite part of this theme has to be the locker. Remaining battery life is elegantly displayed as a fading colorful circle around the date and time. The circle changes color depending on how much battery life is remaining; passing off the information almost subconsciously. The best designs are the ones that give the information that is needed almost without the user knowing it and that is exactly how the locker works.

So for those who are a fan of the teal on black color scheme, I strongly recommend giving Cyrix GO Holistic theme a try; it is a very well done theme that helps tie all GO apps together under a unified theme.

Theme Thursday: WOOD

Theme Thursday: WOOD

May 31, 2012

One surefire way to add a touch of elegance to any theme is to put a nice dark wood background. The folks at Lucky Art obviously realize that and have provided us with the best hardwood theme for GO Launcher aptly titled WOOD. The provided wallpaper is easily this theme’s strongest asset as the deep browns really pop, and they are just amazing. Unfortunately, I immediately recognized the background as simply a manipulated version of a black and white hardwood wallpaper that I used to employ as my wallpaper and actually have for my ChompSMS background. While this is a little disappointing it does not affect the overall quality of the look. Lastly, the dark background to the dock adds a nice sunken effect that will really add a lot to character to any home screen.

Easily the most perplexing part of this app is that it comes with absolutely no icons. Zero. Initially I was shocked and re-installed the app thinking there was a problem, but what the developer’s intended was to use GO Launcher’s default app selection and then utilize an attractive sunken square slot for all the other icons. I cannot decide wether this should be applauded for its efficiency or derided for its laziness because the default GO Launcher apps actually work very well in WOOD’s theme. The problem is GO Launcher does not come with very many icons, just enough to cover the basic phone functions with not even a Facebook icon.

This theme is best kept minimalistic on the home screen as the bare wood works well with a favorite text clock or something simple. Also, this is a darker theme so I would recommend using the transparency theme for GO Widgets. In conclusion, anyone looking to add the nice touch of modern hardwood to their phone should look no further than WOOD for GO Launcher by Lucky Art.

Theme Thursday: Cartoon for GO Launcher

Theme Thursday: Cartoon for GO Launcher

May 24, 2012

Today in our weekly Theme Thursday blog post we will be looking at the aptly titled Cartoon theme for GO Launcher and its numerous, stylish icon selection. The first thing that will strike anyone after applying this theme is the almost creepy painted lady icon that represents the app drawer. This icon bears a nearly identical resemblance to No-Face from Spirited Away, and its strange aura is a questionable inclusion at best; considering the rest of the theme carries a much happier tone. Aside from that, each icon looks top notch, and it really seems like there was a decent amount of attention paid to keeping the whole theme consistent. These icons ‘pop’ slightly in the middle and, with an added shadow, this subtle 3-D effect is pulled off brilliantly. As stated before, the whole theme has a bright, pastel feel to it, and unfortunately this will probably limit its audience. I know that as a man, it would not be out of the realm of possibility to get some ribbing from my roommates for having this theme on my phone, but fortunately, my girlfriend found the app much to her liking and I suspect that opinion will hold true for a majority of women.

While it works just fine, I found that the wallpaper was just too plain and almost boring. All the icons fit in perfectly with the provided wallpaper, but, like most other themes, the wallpaper is usually the first thing to go, and in this case there is little reason to keep it. One good note about the wallpaper is the pretty app drawer background and folder display that features well appreciated details such as the double-layered edges on the folder panel. One final note is that the icon selection here is above par, and there are plenty of icons to mix-and-match to make that dock bar completely consistent. While I would not necessarily recommend this theme to any guys out there, Cartoon for GO Launcher is definitely something to recommend to those Android fan-girls out there.

KickStarter Spotlight: playGO AP1

KickStarter Spotlight: playGO AP1

May 23, 2012

Love them or hate them, it is hard to argue against Apple’s AirPlay; with the tap of a button any song is now playing, wirelessly, on the living room speakers. Making an entire house’s media work together is something that Apple really prides itself on, and for good reason. Having an Apple TV, iPod Touch, and a MacBook Pro I can attest to the ease of use and incredible convenience of sitting back and wirelessly listening to my music on the stereo while my laptop and I remain comfortably seated on the loveseat. Delivering an experience like AirPlay is something that Apple competitors have been trying to accomplish for years now, and while semi-viable solutions have emerged, it is still a frustrating and very flawed experience.

The solution for non-Apple subscribers remains tied to DLNA. Unfortunately for phone owners, there is not a lot of DLNA support in Android and it is up to a 3rd party app to get it to work. Assuming this is not too much to handle, playGO from Monroe, CT has developed a worthy replacement for any set-top wireless audio streamer dubbed the AP1 for it’s native AirPlay support. A major complaint of other routers is that they are tied into a questionable sets of speakers and can be horrifically expensive.

The playGO AP1 connects directly into any existing stereo system and includes multiple input and output types. This level of flexibility has yet to be seen from this market and playGO has made it a mission to ensure that this product is both future and backwards compatible. The sleek white with blue trim router is firmware-updatable and offers support for wired connections; including legacy iOS models.

I know that setting up home audio with an Android phone in mind is tough, but assuming that dealing with DLNA is not an issue then the playGO AP1 is something that should not be missed, and as like all KickStarter projects, these projects are not funded without support from the internet.

Theme Thursday: Ink

Theme Thursday: Ink

May 17, 2012

Themes with a sort of a hand drawn notion are very difficult to build because there is a large difference between those that are made for the app and the ones that aren’t. GO Launcher Dev’s very own theme, Ink, compounds this issue by also being very limited in the number of icons it offers as well.

Forgetting about this a moment, Ink is a very well done app and nearly makes up for not including more icons by doing a typical icon border around the rest. This is really nothing more than a stylized and inked square that holds each app icon.
Luckily the background adds a great touch, and assuming the home dock stays with the usual assortment of apps that are included, the look is fantastic. These white inked icons pop out of the black brush swath behind them. The wallpaper is a off-white rice paper with a inky, hand drawn black and white image of a dandelion blowing in the wind with seeds flying away in the breeze. Even though that description does not seem like it would appeal to the more manly among us, the stark contrast and excellent artistic handiwork really stand out. The whole theme has a kind of oriental vibe to it, and this extends to the app drawer wallpaper which unfolds like a piece of parchment with a decidedly Asian design down the sides.

Seeing as this theme comes straight from the GO Launcher developers, I am tempted to hold it at a higher standard, especially pertaining to the lack of sufficient icons. With all the resources available there should have been more effort put into this theme that has so much potential, but seems to be mired in neglect. But, if my complaints seem trivial, I recommend picking up Ink on the Play Store because the entire styling is something to be praised.

Theme Thursday: Dark for GO Locker

Theme Thursday: Dark for GO Locker

May 10, 2012

This week for Theme Thursday, we are going to be looking at a slick little theme by a design team, ZT.art, that has done a lot of fabulous work in the past and are seemingly a regular on Thursdays. Some of ZT.art’s handiwork has been featured in the Theme Thursday posts (C.Black, Touch, and Cry Cloud) and this is the first time I am actually doing a Locker review from them. The theme is called Dark and, some hiccups aside, is a very competent and compelling addition to any Android.


Those familiar with or running the Nexus-style live wallpaper should feel right at home here with Dark’s linearly sprinting colors. The thin sans-seriffed font adds a great touch of class as does the diagonally striped wallpaper. The screen is segmented vertically into four different labeled sections for the time, SMS, Phone, and Unlock. Obviously, swiping across the latter three will open up their respective applications, but unlike my current locker, Four Key, there is no option to assign custom apps to messaging. This means that no matter what messaging app is defaulted, be it GO SMS, HandScent, or ChompSMS, the only one this theme unlocks is the stock Android, which is honestly disappointing.

That aside, the consistent color coordination is a great touch and the vibrant colors jump out of the dark background displaying missed calls or messages. The large time and date at the top adds a touch of class and overall the whole theme is very elegant looking. For those looking to give their phone a sophisticated look this is really the locker theme to do that. Unfortunately, this theme really becomes more style and less practical for anyone who has ditched Android’s boring SMS app in favor for its more exciting competition.

Theme Thursday: Four Key for GO Locker

Theme Thursday: Four Key for GO Locker

Apr 12, 2012

Rarely on Android is the lock screen customized. Most people are not even aware that this is an option, even those who have custom launchers. I, for one, am not entirely sold on non-stock launchers simply because I have not found one that consistently works faster then HTC’s Sense locker. Sometimes there is a slight lag between unlocking and when the custom locker actually appears, giving a glimpse of the home screen before slyly taking it away. Nobody wants their software to be laggy, which is exactly why I have been regularly off and on with custom launchers.

Just a while ago I decided to give GO Locker a chance because I am already using GO Launcher and I had grown tired, yet again, of stock Sense UI. A big reason I chose to go back to this mistress again is because I have found that GO Locker, at least for me, is the most consistent and quickest locker that I have used. So this week we are switching it up and busting out a theme for GO Locker called Four Key. With the new version of HTC’s Sense UI they introduced a locker that allows opening of selected actions or apps directly from the lock screen. Seeing as my phone is deemed too old to receive this update I am stuck looking for alternatives.

This brought me to Four Key with its center button that is simply dragged to either the unlock position or to the other three corners to open any application of my choosing. Most likely these applications will be the dialer, a text messaging app of choice, and either a camera or media player, but the options are entirely up to the user aside from the unlock panel which is always on the bottom of the circle. These custom apps open up with a snap and there is nary a hint of lag. As a theme, Four Key looks great and there are certainly no complaints there. It would be nice to change the clock font, but everything else from the transparency to the cool blue tones are excellent. There are not many options to fiddle with but all the core ones are present, which is really all that is necessary.

I was impressed by this theme’s swiftness and its ability to get out of the way if all I wanted to do was simply and quickly unlock my phone. The biggest test of a good launcher is not so much the bells and whistles but if it can get out of the way the moment the user wants it to. Fortunately, Four Key and GO Locker deliver where so many locker apps fall short.

Theme Thursday: Backyard for GO Launcher

Theme Thursday: Backyard for GO Launcher

Apr 5, 2012

For this Thursday’s Theme I chose a theme that really surprised me. Being a fan of simpler, less graphical themes I was skeptical about the stucco and exposed brick of GO Launcher’s Backyard theme, but I was quickly proven wrong. Like all of the themes that I have chosen to do recently, Backyard uses the method of applying an effect to every icon which gives the whole theme a strong, unified feel. Backyard does this in a brilliant way by means of the stock wallpaper, which I strongly recommend using. The wallpaper simulates a vine-kissed wall in a stone alley and the icons all have the effect of being stuck to broken sections of exposed brick. Other themes have tried similar effects, but I cannot recall one that pulled it off so perfectly. The only thing that could make this effect look any more genuine is if there were multiple brick graphics that would break up the repetition which would lend that extra touch of reality.

Regular users of GO Launcher would benefit from moving their icons off of the extra dock pages because the exposed brick effect unfortunately does not work well on the bottom of the wallpaper, as it is a brick street and not the blank wall. Seeing as icons look great on the main screen, this is more of an opportunity as opposed to a sacrifice. Included for the dock are a familiar minimalistic white semi-transparent icons for basic Android functions, such as the Dialer, Market, Settings, and Text Messages. The selection here isn’t great but chances are most users do not use their primary dock page to hold much more than the core applications.

I had a hard time breaking away from the darker, more simple theme I was using before Backyard but this one might finally make me change my mind. And as an added bonus, like most themes reviewed here, it’s free. So why not take a chance and add a little warm, homey magic into the traditionally cold and futuristic Android.