Nokia’s Z Launcher: Radical New Homescreen Concept, But Worth Using?

Nokia’s Z Launcher: Radical New Homescreen Concept, But Worth Using?

Jun 24, 2014

Nokia’s Z Launcher takes a curious approach to the homescreen launcher: by instead of having multiple pages of icons, it shows six common apps or actions, like a commonly-texted contact, and allows you to ‘scribble’ handwritten text, sketching out the letters in an app, email message, or web search, to access it from the homescreen.

It’s an interesting idea, and it’s still in beta so it could improve by leaps and bounds in future versions, but one thing is clear from having used it since it launched: this is far from prime time, and far from being a realistic replacement for your current launcher.

Z Launcher Beta (1)

The bottom icons are not customizable, which leads to a few problems in this beta. For example, if you use Hangouts and not the default Messaging app on your device, well, you’re not going to have quick access to it. Have Chromecast and the Chrome app installed? Well, Chromecast shows up on the bottom bar and not Chrome. I’m assuming that is an issue. And it’s one that can be fixed, but it hasn’t yet. Perhaps customization of the bottom 4 icons is coming, but it’s a problem right now. As well, if you use a phablet that can comfortably fit 6 icons at the bottom, having 4 feels like wasted space.

But really, let’s get into the ultimate question: is this better than a standard launcher? Handwriting recognition is still an art rather than a science, and if a letter gets mis-recognized, well, there’s no quick backspace, you have to hit the back button to reset it, and that there’s not a button to clear out the letters feels like an odd interface decision. The launcher sometimes takes a few seconds to go back to the homescreen after hitting the home button.

But really, is this quicker? To have to scribble letters to find things on my phone? It felt awkward to scribble “g-r-o” to get to GroupMe on my phone to react to the USA scoring a go-ahead goal to send a message to my friends when my standard launcher has it on the homescreen. And it can fit more than six quick-access apps, and most phones can. Sure, it’s kind of nice to have quick access to anything, from apps to emails to web searches from the homescreen, but isn’t there some balance? I hate losing widgets in exchange for scribbling. And really, I think it’s more important to have rapid access to my most common apps than slightly-quicker access to everything, as compared to a standard launcher.

And that’s the thing that I think Z Launcher is going to have to sort out in the coming weeks and months, however long it takes for it to leave beta and become a finished product. In adding the scribbling aspects, does it remove too many strengths of traditional launchers? Can some of these be restored? Because if so, this launcher feels like a step forward, but too many steps backward to be of use.

But hey, that’s the joy of beta software, huh?

Tales of the Adventure Company: Hands-On Preview with Video of the Upcoming Disco Zoo Meets Dungeon Crawler Game

Tales of the Adventure Company: Hands-On Preview with Video of the Upcoming Disco Zoo Meets Dungeon Crawler Game

May 20, 2014

The upcoming Tales of an Adventure Company takes a very interesting approach to its RPG gameplay: and it’s one that feels like it could be free-to-play, but isn’t: and because it’s about just the game itself, it’s worth keeping an eye on..

Players are presented with a set of 5×5 grids, and must manage to defeat the enemy that has the key to the next floor, before eventually fighting the boss. Enemies are laid out in set formations, so players know where additional ones might be, and new allies are in similar formations, allowing for the party to get up to 4 strong. Attacking enemies does damage to the enemy, and then they do damage back, with certain effects coming into play depending on enemy and hero abilities. Players only have a limited number of turns to get to the bottom, so just exploring all willy-nilly is not wise. Nor is letting everyone in the party die, as that’s game over.

It’s essentially a hybrid of Disco Zoo and a dungeon crawling RPG. Plenty of tile-uncovering RPGs do exist, but this game is about making it to the end in a certain number of turns, not about leveling up or collecting anything in particular: it’s about survival in the current game session.


Luck does play a definite role in the game, but the game is about decision-making in the face of the luck of the draw. Using the right character for each attack is important, even the leader on each tile’s effect is key. There are some permanent bonuses that can be unlocked for completing certain challenges, like getting other character classes to appear in other levels, but this is mostly a game about solving the challenge at hand. And while many games would use IAP to sell more turns, this game notably abstains.

Interestingly, the game releases this week for Windows Phones first, then Android on May 29th, before iOS finally releases on June 6th. This is, of course, backwards from what most games progress to in their releases.

If the game sounds intriguing – and it certainly should be – be prepared for our review on the 29th. But until then, check out this video of how the game works, and how to succeed at the first level:

Live on Twitch at 3:15 PM EDT: Mutant Gangland with Developer Commentary

Live on Twitch at 3:15 PM EDT: Mutant Gangland with Developer Commentary

Mar 12, 2014

We’ll be streaming an alpha version of Mutant Gangland, the fast-paced turn-based strategy game, on our Twitch channel at 3:15 PM EDT (2:15 PM CDT, 12:15 PM PDT, 7:15 PM GMT), with Thomas Noppers, one of the developers of the game. Get the scoop on what the game is now and the plans down the road for it.

Just click here to watch and chat. We’ll have an archive of the game after the broadcast.

And here’s the archive!

Spindio Music Web Streaming App Successfully Launched

Spindio Music Web Streaming App Successfully Launched

Dec 2, 2013

Spindio 1

Spindio is an online music streaming and livestreaming web application that allows people to search for local live gigs on a Google Maps-like map, and preview and find information on artists in the same window. It’s an interesting project, and it seems to work fine already – for selected cities in US for now. It doesn’t have a separate app, so it can only be accessed via mobile browser here: Spindio Official Website.

Ultraman Galaxy Review

Ultraman Galaxy Review

Oct 14, 2013

Some games base their whole design on the hope that people will want to collect all of what the game has to offer. It’s worked many times before. In fact, I hear that a certain Pokemon game has been released and that seems to be doing somewhat well.

Ultraman Galaxy looks to borrow this setup and has you collecting cards based off the Ultraman series’ huge range of monsters, aliens and giant cyber-men. You may have guessed already, but I have no clue about the Ultraman series. I do know, thanks to my time with the game, that it contains a huge range of ridiculous looking creations that can’t hide their ‘man in a suit’ roots.Ultra2

So, if the basic premise is all about collecting cards, the game will live or die by how interesting this card collection process is. Well, it’s not the best and it’s not the worst. You take part in a series of battles and by winning battles you gain levels as a player and collect a random card. Battles boil down to watching a one-armed bandit’s reels spin. The images on the reel decide who attacks, who heals or who gets their ‘Ultra Move’ charged up. By lining up 3 of the same icons, your characters will carry out the relevant action. You also have to take into account the fact that each spin will cost you Action Points (AP).

Which is all there is to it, from a gameplay point of view. You spin the reels, you cross your fingers and you get your result. There is a degree of strategy to it, which does help with this problem, but doesn’t truly solve it. For example, you can double the effectiveness of your attacks, but this costs you more AP per spin and also make the enemies’ attacks do more damage. You can also ‘Hold’ some of the icons, so you can put the odds in your favour for your next spin but this again will cost you more AP.

Whilst the ‘combat’ element of the game isn’t the most interesting thing on the planet (there’s even an ‘Auto Battle’ button for crying out loud) the real draw will be the collecting and upgrading of your monsters. Quite simply, there’s a huge range of cards to collect and there’s a certain amount of strategy to setting up a good group of monsters. As each monsters has their own ‘element’, it’s important to have a balance in what monsters you take into each fight.

On top of each monster having an ‘element’, they also have a level. You can level up your monsters by essentially sacrificing other cards. This will need to be done at regular intervals or you’ll soon see your teams being defeated.

In the end, Ultrman Galaxy is an incredibly simple game that relies on the player’s interest in collecting monsters from the series. If you’re a fan of Ultraman and love collecting cards, you’re onto a winner with this one.

Tweetdeck For Android – BETA Review

Tweetdeck For Android – BETA Review

Aug 20, 2010

Tweetdeck for Android has arrived! Users of the desktop client should be familiar with the features that Tweetdeck offers:

Ease of use
Multiple accounts
Columns of tweets

The Tweetdeck for Android incorporates many of these features, but lacks polish and usability that will hopefully arrive in the full release. Here’s the rundown on what works with the app, and what didn’t.