Crowdfunding Spotlight: Boss Monster: Dungeon

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Boss Monster: Dungeon

Aug 22, 2014

Boss Monster is a physical card game that was successfully funded on KickStarter, and has since gained a substantial following in the gaming community. The game is quite revolutionary and turns the traditional dungeon crawling genera on its head by putting the player into the role of the evil villain who is tasked with building as treacherous a dungeon as possible. These are then invaded by well-meaning adventurers at the end of each turn, and the winner is the player who has the last “Boss” standing.

While I have no personal experience with the game, it seems to be beloved by fans and because of its inventive premise it is something I could really see myself getting into. The crowdfunding project we are shining the spotlight on today is the attempt by the developer of Boss Monster, Brotherwise Games, to build a digital version for the iPad and Android tablets. Having spent considerable time with the Magic: The Gathering app for the iPad recently I understand how well these tabletop games can translate onto the large tablet screen.

It makes sense for Brotherwise Games to be creating this app at this moment, as the ubiquitous accessibility, as well as the spontaneous nature, of app stores can greatly increase their footprint and create a larger legion of Boss Monster fans. I will admit that I was not initially sold on the initial card game KickStarter, but with the addition of a cheaper and more convenient mobile app the odds of me investing in Boss Monster has definitely increased. Included in the game is the ability to battle against up to three AI opponents, and this feature is essential for a card game who’s main draw is head to head competition.

The first thing that struck me while perusing through the KickStarter page is how the app easily conveys the atmosphere of the retro dungeon crawlers it is based off of. The graphic design is spot on, and the audio, which is being recorded by a professional studio, is nearly indistinguishable from late-90s PC adventure games. As of the time of writing, Boss Monster is over halfway to their $85,000 goal; so please, considering supporting this innovative game and its incredible developers by visiting their project page and possibly earning some cool limited edition digital cards in the process.

Acer Iconia One 7 Hardware Review

Acer Iconia One 7 Hardware Review

May 29, 2014

The Acer Iconia One 7 is not a tablet that you buy if you want the latest and greatest in hardware, necessarily. It’s the tablet you buy if you just want a cheap Android tablet, if your parents want something to easily check their email with. But don’t be mistaken: as a budget tablet, it does a solid job.

This Intel-powered tablet is priced at $129.99, aiming for a budget market, and the build construction shows: the 1280×800 screen is clearly of a lower grade than most high-end ones, lacking in brightness, and with muted colors. The battery life is a bit lacking, even for a tablet: expect 4 or 5 hours’ use with it. The tablet is a little on the thick side, despite all this: not to say that it’s thick, in general, it’s still light and portable, but in the relative sense compared to other tablets.

As far as specs go, the table is a 7″ 1280×800 IPS panel, with an Intel Atom Z2560, dual-core 1.6 GHz processor, a PowerVR SGX544 GPU, 3700 mAh battery, front and rear camera, 3.5mm headphone jack, micro USB port for charging, micro SD slot for storage, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB or 16 GB of storage (the unit Acer provided was 16 GB). The tablet comes running Android 4.2.2, with a planned update to KitKat later. There’s a few pre-installed apps, but nothing too onerous: an anti-virus program, some AcerCloud apps, but nothing that substantially affects the stock Android interface.

The rear camera is really just there to be there: it takes fairly unimpressive photos at 1600×1200 resolution. There’s also a front-facing camera for those applications that can use it. Again, quality-wise, it’s there. There’s a micro SD card slot, though it appears apps can’t be copied to it. Still, it’s nice to have the option for music and videos.

There’s no video out via MHL or SlimPort for the micro-USB port. The charging port is on top where the headphone port is in portrait mode, which actually isn’t a bad design: it’s definitely out of the way when charging in both landscape and portrait modes because it is as at an offset.

The system is surprisingly capable for a budget tablet: it can definitely handle web browsing, email, and many basic games without issue, and Asphalt 8 runs decently: it’s not the smoothest framerate, but it’s definitely quite playable. Some apps seem to have crashed shortly after launch, possibly because, well, Android devices do that, but the Intel processor’s x86 architecture, when most tablets are ARM-based ones, may be at fault.

Ultimately, the Acer Iconia One 7″ is, for $129.99, a solid budget tablet. I was able to check my email, browse the web, type up things in JotterPad X, and play games on it. For the non-tech-savvy looking for an affordable tablet for doing basic things, I can recommend the Acer Iconia One 7.

The Acer Iconia One 7 will be available starting in June 2014 for $129.99.

LG G Pad 8.3 Hardware Review

LG G Pad 8.3 Hardware Review

Apr 7, 2014

LG Electronics has been on a tear lately. It has made itself quite well known in Android circles; its Optimus line represents one of the most encompassing smartphone collections, and being tapped by Google to help create the Nexus 4 definitely pushed the South Korean electronics house to the front of the Android pack. Being tapped to make the sequel Nexus 5 all but reinforced its status as a premium device maker.

I just got the opportunity to review the LG G Pad 8.3, which is the company’s entry into the mid-size tablet space. At first glance, there isn’t a whole lot to not fall in love with.

The device is pretty light, quite thin,and looks sleek in the black and gray trim. The screen is rich, with a hint of framed bezel that is thicker at the ends; the front-facing, 1.3 MP camera balances out the 5 MP rear one at the back. There are two speaker grills in the back, and the Verizon-branded review unit sports a micro SD port at the top (right between an infrared emitter and standard headphone jack), which allows the internal 16 GB be supported by an external 64 GB. It’s light, at just under 12 ounces, and is shaped at 8.54 x 4.98 x 0.33 inches, which makes it infinitely wieldable. The volume rocker and “on” button are on the right, while the microphone and USB port are nestled at the bottom.

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Turning on the unit is what gets the party really started. LG advertises an HD screen, and it surely wears the crown well, with warm, rich representations that actually make one want to hold the device and stare. The 273 ppi, 1920 x 1200 pixel screen is rendered exceptionally well. In action, the G Pad is pretty snappy, which is what one would expect from a 2 GB RAM Android 4.2.2 device rocking a quad-core Snapdragon 1.7 GHz chip. Setup was easy, and I was able to get the wi-fi and bluetooth 4.0 low energy going fairly quickly. The included GPS, Miracast and VZW 4G functionality are welcome connectivity options.

Software wise, the G Pad offers Google Apps and the power of Google Play. While I’ll always prefer raw Android, LG’s skin is fairly unostentatious, even if there are some VZW/LG bloatware to contend with. I did like the Qpair idea, in that it helps to connect to standard Android devices, and the ability of the tablet to interface with some LG electronics.

So… what’s the “Jamie Foxx screeching stop sign” pause moment? It just might be pricing, which seems to be hovering around roughly $300 to $330 online. Not too unfair of a price considering what one is getting, but with the Android OEM race to the pricing floor, excellent tabs like the G Pad might get lost in all the cheapness. I also thought the battery life was jut okay.

Still, it’s one of the better tabs I have looked at, packs a lot of functionality in its purposefully slender frame, and is backed by the coolest kid on the block.

It’s hard to say no.

Kobo Arc 10 HD Review

Kobo Arc 10 HD Review

Feb 24, 2014

Kobo is probably slightly more known for e-books than hardware. Still, the company has been working on building its Android device rep, and its newest tablet, the Kobo Arc 10 HD tablet gives us an opportunity to see what is on the table.

Specs-wise, the Arc 10 is not shabby in the least. The review unit comes in black, and is a true 10-inch screen. More to that, it rocks a 2560 x 1600 LCD screen, and, frankly, it’s hard not to stare. It is inviting, renders colors well and reflects its 300 ppi quite nicely. It sports two rear facing speakers, a decent 1.3 MP camera that is advertised as being capable of picking up video in 720p. Internally, this device is a relative screamer, packing in 1.8GHz quad-core Tegra 4 processor, which males an admirable mockery of his being used only as a book reader. One has to be satisfied with the 16 GB internal storage, because it doesn’t have expandable memory, but the 2 GB RAM might alleviate that pain.arc1 It also has a mini-HDMI port and two physical toggles for sound and on/off. This is all encased in a 9.96 x 6.77 x 0.39 inch frame. Bluetooth 4.0 and Miracast support are included.

Now, in hand, the Arc 10 feels every bit of the 22 ounces it comes in as; it probably won’t be described as dainty. It is a solid device, and feels like a quality device.

It comes with the coveted suite of Google Apps, with the crown jewel Google Play on major display. There are also Kobo apps (with the Kobo Store supplying e-book needs), and the Kobo skin isn’t too invasive, especially on top of Android OS 4.2.2. The software comes together quite well, with little hint of lag, even with graphics-intensive games. With basic reading, it came pretty close to 9 hours of mostly onscreen time; the experience is what one would expect of a premium device overall.

I think the camera could be better, especially during videochat, and, as noted, it might me a tad hard on the wrist. The biggest issue, though, is that at $400, it might get overlooked by folks more interested in a cheap deal than build quality.

Still, it’s hard not to like the overall product; it represents Android well, and has an opportunity to put Kobo on the map.

Vyper Snakbyte Tablet and Gaming System Coming to North America Very Soon

Vyper Snakbyte Tablet and Gaming System Coming to North America Very Soon

Jan 8, 2014

Sunflex has announced the release date, configurations, and prices for the Snakebyte Vyper, a tablet with media dock and HDMI output. The 7″ quad-core tablet with Google Play access is now available in Europe, and will launch in North America on January 31st from a variety of online retailers including Amazon. It will come in two configurations: a $199 version with the tablet, dock, and Vyper Airmouse for media controls and mouse functionality, along with a $249 version that has all that and a wireless gamepad.

According to Nicki Repenning, vice president of business development for Sunflex, “We created two different controllers for Snakebyte Vyper so gamers can choose how they want to play the tens of thousands of exciting games in the Google Play Store – play on the tablet, or on any HDMI TV with the motion controller or wireless game controller.” Given that most microconsoles are tethered to the TV and don’t feature Google Play access, this tablet could be an interesting option for flexible gamers.

Snakebyte Vyper hardware

Unu Is Available For Pre-Order

Unu Is Available For Pre-Order

Oct 14, 2013

unu Gaming Edition m

Unu is a very daring tablet-like hardware that unifies standard tablet experience with a gaming controller, and smart-TV capability. The console is already available for pre-orders. Called an “entertainment hub” by its creators, it’s available in two versions, costing $199 without, and $249 with the wireless gaming controller. Additional information and pre-order are here: Unu Official Website.

Two Games From Gameloft Are Optimized For ARCHOS GamePad 2

Two Games From Gameloft Are Optimized For ARCHOS GamePad 2

Oct 11, 2013

ARCHOS GamePad 2 3

ARCHOS GamePad 2 is a new gaming tablet that features HD support, gaming-oriented design and many more interesting features. Gameloft has announced that it optimized two of its popular games, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour for the system. Not only will they boast better graphics and responsiveness on the tablets, but they are also absolutely free for the owners of the device. You can get additional details about ARCHOS GamePad 2 from here: ARCHOS GamePad 2 Official Website

Speech Therapy for Apraxia – App That Helps Children With Speech Disorders

Speech Therapy for Apraxia – App That Helps Children With Speech Disorders

Sep 16, 2013

Speech Therapy for Apraxia 1

Let’s get serious here for a second. Apraxia is a wicked disorder that denies people an ability to speak by limiting person’s ability to transform a desire to speak into actual mouth movement. In other words, you want to speak, but you can’t. Speech Therapy for Apraxia is a tablet app that is designed to help kick Apraxia’s ass by practicing simple speech patterns. The details can be found here: Official Site For Speech Therapy for Apraxia. The app itself can be downloaded for Android tablets from here: Speech Therapy for Apraxia on Google Play

Dinamotxt Review

Dinamotxt Review

Sep 4, 2013

Texting someone is probably most convenient way to talk to a person these days. I personally send thousands of texts a month. When compared to the few hundred minutes a month I talk, if even that many, I see the need for better messaging apps. NOt so much what the app can do, more like where I can use it. Dinamotxt is a pretty great way to text from any connected Android device, as well as a computer.

Dinamotxt-2In a nutshell, Dinamotxt lets the end user sign in via Google+. This is what links all of the devices together. When logging into the website (web.dinamotxt.com), make sure to be logged into the same Google Account as on the phone and/or tablet for everything to sync up.

Once all signed in, everything is pretty straightforward. When a message comes in, it can be read and replied to from any of the devices connected to the account. What I thought was cool too is, I am a longtime user of GO SMS Pro. SOme of the apps like this I have tried don’t work so well with 3rd party SMS apps. Dinamotxt works the same with the stock messaging app and GO SMS Pro.

The speed of Dinamotxt is great. Some other apps have a lag when sending or a longer refresh time for the web portion. Dinamotxt is really quick. I can hear the notification on my phone, switch to the open tab in my browser with Dinamotxt running and the message will be right there.

Sending a message from the website is pretty easy too. There is a little plus sign at the top of the phone pictured. If it’s not visible, press the back arrow on the phone pictured until all of the current message threads are shown. Clicking it will open a new message. Add the contact, type the message and press send. Pretty easy.

Wikipad Gaming Tablet Hardware Review

Wikipad Gaming Tablet Hardware Review

Aug 28, 2013

The Wikipad, the long-awaited 7″ tablet with a controller attachment, is in theory a great device. The gamepad attachment looks a bit big and goofy at first, but it’s a comfortable experience and one of my favorite ways to play games now. But the hardware being a year behind current high-end tablets, especially as a gaming device, causes the Wikipad’s overall value to suffer, which is a shame: this is a fantastic concept.

The body and guts of the tablet are the same as the original Nexus 7: it’s about the same size, has a rubberized back (though with back ridges that jut out), has a Tegra 3 processor with 1 GB of RAM, all the same basics. Running a 3DMark benchmark showed a score of 3629, compared to 4185 in their database for the 2012 Nexus 7, (Update: Futuremark reached out to me and said that this is an error: 3800-3900 is the average benchmark score for the 2012 Nexus 7, the 2013’s benchmark scores are currently mixed in with the old model’s scores.) but it actually outclasses it in two fashions: one, it has a microSD card slot built in so that its storage can be expanded, which is key for the gamer audience that this tablet targets. Second, it has a microHDMI output on the top of the tablet, which is something that the Nexus 7 lacked (even with SlimPort or MHL functionality through the microUSB).

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The tablet is laid out in an intelligent way. Yes, 7-inch tablets are actually quite usable in portrait, but like most tablets, they’re great because they can be used in landscape. And the Wikipad puts its microUSB slot on the bottom, with all other inputs on the top. Sure, it has to by necessity of the gamepad attachment, but still, it’s nice to use a tablet and not have to awkwardly place my hand around the charging cable. And the Wikipad seems to have a lot of background battery drain for whatever reason, so I’m glad it isn’t in the way.

OS-wise, the Wikipad is running 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, which is disappointing now that 4.3 is out and 4.2 has been out for a decent spell. The rest of the OS is largely untouched, so I hope that Wikipad is hard at work at bringing the OS up to speed with 4.3.

Now, the gamepad attachment. Yes, this thing is big, considering that it envelopes the entire tablet. But it turns the 7″ tablet into something that’s the width and height of the Surface Pro, so it’s not necessarily all that huge. It feels a bit weird at first holding a controller that’s far wider than the standard-width gamepads on the market, but it’s not a bad thing.

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Thanks to the rubberized construction, this thing is an ergonomic joy. The shoulder triggers and bumpers all work well. The face buttons are solid. The d-pad works exceptionally and is great for fighting games if Samurai Shodown 2 is any indication. The joysticks were the only area of skepticism with me, when I tried out Dead Trigger, I had to change the sensitivity of looking in-game in order to make them feel better. Still, using these joysticks was a lot better than the touch screen. I was dropping zombies left and right, which is quite welcome for that game.

The combination of tablet and gamepad attachment is not particularly weighty: perhaps holding it in one hand feels a bit heavy, but with two hands, the weight is properly distributed and feels very comfortable. This is a perfect device for sitting back, and enjoying some Android games that support gamepads. The built-in TegraZone app (also available on Google Play) has a gamepad section that’s worth perusing, though it’s not an exhaustive list. Really, Google not showing which games are compatible with the gamepad is a drawback that needs to be addressed.

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The gamepad attachment has a microUSB charging port and powered speakers to go along with it, and the charging port is set up in a way that it’s pointing outward, so there’s no awkward cable bending. There was a lot of thought that went into the Wikipad’s physical design, and it shows.

The one big deviation on the OS level is the inclusion of PlayStation Mobile, which is really cool: some of the indie games that are on PS Vita are available here! Except this winds up being a disappointment: there’s no gamepad support! This could be addressed in one of two ways, either Sony enabling HID gamepads in Android for PSM games (since they largely require the manual enabling of a virtual gamepad anyways), or Wikipad implementing touchscreen-to-gamepad mapping. It’s something Archos’ gaming tablet supports, and is something that rooted third-party apps can do, but sadly is not present here despite it seeming quite possible. Think about it: if every game could become possible to use with the gamepad, the value here would be enormous.

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As for the tablet’s current value, it’s $250 for the tablet and the gamepad. Now, here’s where the problem with the Wikipad lies. This is year-old hardware. Google just refreshed the Nexus 7 and it’s $229 for its 16 GB model, though a decent gamepad isn’t. Nvidia just released the Shield, which is $299 but also one of the most powerful Android devices available with the Tegra 4 processor. So it’s at a disadvantage that it wasn’t at, say, 5 or 6 months ago.

This is not to say that it’s not still capable hardware: it plays most if not all games quite well, though I did notice the occasional stuttering. But that’s true of the 2012 Nexus 7 as well, and given that it’s a very popular device, most if not all games will support it. It’s just, especially for gamers, who are a performance-focused group on the whole, offering them a sub-optimal horsepower is a major ding.

It’s true that this is a unique package, with the gamepad attachment. Just based on that alone, it’s a more interesting proposition than the Playstation Vita because of the screen size. And given the HDMI output and just general design, it’s got a lot of compelling features. But the horsepower issue is one that will keep coming up.

This is kind of like the Surface Pro, a device in comparable size: both are really great ideas, but as products their first generations suffer from not having the most up-to-date hardware. The Surface Pro, with the Intel Haswell processor microarchitecture and its improved power management should make any potential second generation much better. The first generation? Buying into the idea as much as the product. That’s the same with the Wikipad: it’s going to need people buying into the idea, willing to put up with hardware that is not at its peak in order to get what they want eventually. The Wikipad is perhaps the best tablet gaming experience out there on paper, it just needs more horsepower under the hood to be something I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Long-Awaited Wikipad Gaming Tablet Has a Release Date

Long-Awaited Wikipad Gaming Tablet Has a Release Date

Jun 4, 2013

The Wikipad, the long-in-development Android gaming tablet that showed itself recently at GDC, is one step closer to getting into the public’s hands. Wikipad has announced that next Tuesday, June 11th, the Wikipad 7 will be available in the US for $249. Those interested in buying it will be able to get it online from Best Buy, Walmart, and TigerDirect. It will be made available internationally at a later time.

The tablet’s specs remain the same from what we learned at GDC: 7" IPS screen at 1280×800, 16 GB of memory with a microSD slot, and a Tegra 3 processor. And of course, there’s the all-important gamepad attachment that makes the Wikipad a gaming-optimized device.

The Playstation Mobile partnership still comes in tow, meaning that a selection of original titles not yet available elsewhere on Android such as Super Crate Box and rymdkapsel will be supported by the Wikipad. Given Sony’s push to get original content for the Vita from indie developers, this means that the Wikipad could also be the benefactor of some original titles. As well, Big Fish Instant Games will come preloaded with cloud access to over 250 titles. Plus, the gamepad will have HID support for any Android games that support controllers, so plenty of games will be available for those picking up the Wikipad. We’ll have more as we get our hands on it, hopefully soon.

The Hills Are Greener: Android the Solution to Windows’ Tablet Problems?

The Hills Are Greener: Android the Solution to Windows’ Tablet Problems?

Jun 3, 2013

While Android has largely been the domain of phones and tablets, its open source nature is leading it to expand out to other devices, be it game consoles, appliances, or even…PCs? Well, that seems to be the start.

Companies are starting to bring Android to new places. Acer makes a monitor that runs Android. Asus is making PCs that run both Windows and Android simultaneously. There’s the Transformer AiO P1801, an 18.4″ tablet with dock that runs both Windows 8 on an Intel Core processor, and Android on a Tegra 3 also in there. Both operating systems can be used simultaneously, and swapped with the press of a button. More realistic is the Asus Transformer Book Trio which features a similar setup, but in an 11.6″ device.

These companies may be on to something by using Android as a complement to their Windows PCs. I have a Surface Pro, and while I really like the idea of the laptop-tablet hybrid still, Windows 8 at this point is not the OS to make it work. Windows is perfectly fine as a desktop OS, but there’s a reason why Microsoft included a Wacom digitizer: the pen is needed for the desktop environment without a mouse or trackpad in use. Like, in tablet mode.

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Right now, Windows lacks a lot of great tablet apps to justify ever using it in tablet mode. Oh, and there’s far too much mingling between the “Modern” interface that’s tablet-friendly and the Desktop interface to where certain settings are only in certain interfaces, and there’s visual and usability clashes.

So, why not combine the great strengths of the two operating systems? Use Windows for standard computing tasks. Then, when primarily using the touchscreen in tablet mode, have an OS there designed for it: Android.

Of course, it’s not a perfect solution, as it basically requires two different devices just in one case. Plus, it doesn’t actually address the issues of Windows being tablet-deficient and Android being perhaps desktop-deficient.

But Android’s deficiencies may be easier to address. Android is much friendlier to the PC environment with input and with file handling, so it’d just be a question of getting the kind of functionality that users have on desktop OSes, but on Android. Windows basically has to build up its own new interface and library of apps to be tablet-capable, and it’s been a slow start so far. Windows is a desktop OS, and it might not work as a tablet one. But Android can certainly work by moving up.

Certainly, it’s still something of a niche idea. Time will tell if Android actually makes headway into the desktop market. But even just as a way to make tablets actually work as tablets, while not being crippled when they need to work as full-fledged computers, Android holds a big advantage here, at least while Windows continues to flail about in the tablet market. Android could easily find a way to wedge in and make these hybrid devices a realistic possibility by solving the problems that Windows alone fails to address.

Of course, there’s also Apple to consider. They have yet to show any signs of making a hybrid device, and if Apple decides to keep OS X and iOS segregated on the iPad side of things, Android could have room to create a market if done well here.