Holiday gift round-up: Part Deux

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Date: Friday, December 20th, 2013, 08:16
Category: Accessory, battery, Consumer Electronics, Gadget, Hardware, Holiday, retail, Review, Software, The Apple Core

Christmas-GiftHere’s part 2 of my Gift Guide, which may turn into that “what I get when I return my Christmas gifts for credit” list, seeing as how it’s only 6 days until Christmas. The second half includes a number of gift ideas that I’ve stolen borrowed from some other gift guides because they are really good suggestions for things I’d like to get for myself. I’ll throw in a couple more of my own at the end.

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Doctor Who: Legacy – new mobile game launching on Wednesday

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Date: Tuesday, November 26th, 2013, 17:29
Category: Announcement, App Store, Apple, Apps, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Mobile Phone, Software, Software

Screenshot 2013-11-26 13.43.43Are you having Doctor Who withdrawal now that all the 50th Anniversary hubbub is over? Can’t wait until the Christmas episode? Well have no fear, the Doctor is here…in this game I’m going to talk about. According to PadGadget, BBC Worldwide in cooperation with Tiny Rebel Games and Seed Studio, is releasing a new mobile game with is being launched tomorrow, November 27th. What’s even better is that the game is FREE! The official press real ease states;

“Build a team of your favourite companions and allies drawn from the extensive and illustrious history of the show; face the Doctor’s most notorious enemies; and relive the Doctor’s greatest triumphs.”

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Apple asks developer community to begin submitting Mavericks-optimized apps

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Date: Saturday, October 19th, 2013, 22:19
Category: News, Software

maverickslogo

It’s about time for Mavericks.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple has asked developers to begin submitting OS X Mavericks-optimized apps. On Apple’s official News and Announcements page for developers, the company said:

“Submit your OS X Mavericks apps today.

Make sure your app takes advantage of the great new features in OS X Mavericks when the world’s most advanced desktop operating system becomes available to millions of customers later this fall. Download OS X Mavericks GM seed and Xcode 5.0.1 GM seed, now available on the Mac Dev Center. Build your apps with these latest seeds, then test and submit them to the Mac App Store.”

The timing of the request correlates to Apple’s announcement today that it is holding another product launch event on October 22. Though the latest Mac Pro and MacBook Pros are expected to be announced (along with new iPads), it’s unlikely that OS X Mavericks will ship that day. However, the fact that Apple is requesting devs get their Mavericks apps ready suggests the new OS could launch in the days following the event.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VirtualBox updated to 4.3.0

Posted by:
Date: Saturday, October 19th, 2013, 22:22
Category: News, Software

virtualbox

You can’t knock a tidy update.

VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.3.0. The new version, a 113 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes with the full release notes posted here:
– VMM: major rewrite of the VT-x code and the AMD-V code including many bug fixes and performance improvements (for example bug #9659).

– VMM: introduced a lightweight instruction interpreter for situations not handled by hardware virtualization.

– GUI: extended messaging mechanism (new non-modal popup overlays used to show non-critical warnings and provide user with additional information).

– GUI: keyboard shortcuts management (input page of global preferences extended with possibility to edit general keyboard shortcuts for VirtualBox Manager and Virtual Machine).

– GUI: video capturing support (bug #4766).

– Added USB touch device emulation.

– Added experimental support for webcam passthrough complementing USB passthrough (see the manual for more information).

– Added SCSI CD-ROM emulation, including boot support.

– VRDP: support for IPv6.

– Guest Control: guest sessions now are running in dedicated, impersonated session processes (needs at least Guest Additions 4.3 installed).

– Guest Control: implemented IGuestFile support.

– NAT: experimental virtual router mode: several VMs are attached to the same internal network and share one NAT service (see the manual for more information).

VirtualBox 4.3.0 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback, please let us know.

Review: Colin McRae Rally for iOS

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 21st, 2013, 09:37
Category: iOS, Review, Software, Software

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 9.14.41 AM

Review: Colin McRae Rally iOS
By Mr. S

Rally racing is a mystery to most. A marginalized sport that has a hard time in certain countries finding mass appeal. Like other european sports, it has had an especially hard time in the United States where the name “Colin McRae” is about as well known as canadian metal band Anvil.

Take a trip to Finland, Scotland or Darkur and you will see the exact opposite. Rally is king, and its master drivers are lauded as superhuman for their ability to drive with total precision through some of the most technically challenging road courses known to man. These are not well-groomed good ol’ boys taking left turns as fast as possible. These were chip-toothed men of true grit risking their lives for the sake of perfection. For those who understand rally racing, it’s the drivers who receive the most admiration, because it takes a special kind of man to take a 90 degree corner at 70 mph on a dirt road the width of a Mini Cooper surrounded by trees that could turn your car into scrap metal the moment you slip up. That’s the kind of legend Colin McRae was. He was the Flying Scot, and until his untimely death in 2007 he was one of the most exciting drivers since Ari Vatanen.


Pay in Championship, Single Stage or Rally modes.

Play in Championship, Single Stage or Rally modes.


Getting to know rally and the men who participate in it is imperative to understanding why Codemasters was smart to take extreme care in making the Colin McRae series of racing games. The equivalent would be something like putting Michael Jordan on the cover of your NBA game; players are going to be expecting perfection and anything less will be bollocks. Not even the king of simulation, Gran Tourismo, with its amazing rally mode can match what Codemasters has done with this amazing series. Racing legend Hans Stuck famously drove his cars with only a small piece of cloth on his seat. He says “Its important I have a physical connection with my vehicle, I need to feel the sliding.” It’s that same attention to “feel” that makes Colin McRae exceptional, and it’s why this iOS port is amazing. Even though it’s just a quick port of a thirteen-year-old game for the original Playstation and PC.

And this game does not try to hide its age. Tree textures pop in and out, levels are basically ugly skinny corridors with hyper-flat surfaces, and objects that you should be able to crush or roll over stop you dead. The once-fun animated menu system with a funky 90’s soundtrack cool enough to warrant its own YouTube OST video was taken out to save space. All we’re left with is a Fisher Price style main menu with a whopping three icons and one lonesome techno track looping.

All of this is forgiven, though, because they didn’t label it as a port or “HD” remake. They simply named it “Colin McRae Rally”, but more importantly they left in everything that makes the Colin McRae Rally experience fun.


Colin McRae Rally may not be the prettiest thing out there, but it still delivers terrific gameplay.

Colin McRae Rally may not be the prettiest thing out there, but it still delivers terrific gameplay.


Codemasters made sure every little detail is pitch-perfect from how gravel sounds in a wheel well to how your wheels screech and pick up grip when sliding sideways onto a paved road. They even included the oft-overlooked and distinctive sound of a handbrake being used. While the audio is well-designed, it’s the physics that really steal the show. Rally cars have an insane amount of power, and this game does a really good job of putting that power in the hands of the player. You can see your suspension working when you slam on the breaks or take a corner hard, you can feel the difference in handling when you change gear ratios. It all works together to solidify that you are indeed flying down a european backroad at speeds that would make most men weep.

It’s the love for rally that really shines through in the Colin McRae series, and thankfully this iOS port brings that love of the sport and the attention to detail that comes with it to the App Store. For racing fans burned out on Real Racing, it’s an absolute must.

Colin McRae Rally retails for US$2.99 on the App Store and requires iOS 6.0 or later to install and run.

Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us

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Date: Tuesday, July 9th, 2013, 11:20
Category: iOS, Review, Software, Software

Injustice: Gods Among Us iOS Review
By Mr. S

Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation famously asked his viewers to name one game that has had a fun amor/item/weapon degradation mechanic. He only gives us a millisecond to think about it, but I still can’t think of one. Of course, these mechanics are essential to certain kinds of gameplay scenarios. They make simulation games like Arma feel alive, and games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R feel incredibly dangerous. My point is they have their place, and have proven to be an essential part in bringing out a certain types of emotions from players.


Level up your characters to equip cool attacks like the Green Lantern's girder...

Level up your characters to equip cool attacks like the Green Lantern’s girder…


You know what doesn’t have its place in fun video games? Ridiculous fake currencies and obvious ploys to milk the customer for every dime they have. And for what? So I can use Batman in your second rate, slapped-together clone of about three other games on iOS?

Maybe I should back it up a little.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a iOS tie in to a very good game for Xbox 360, PS3, and WiiU console created by NetherRealm Studios. You remember those guys, right? Ed Boon took a bunch of Mortal Kombat veterans from the collapse of Midway and bought the rights to Mortal Kombat and created a very deep and brutal game with a very original title called “Mortal Kombat” back in 2011 which actually became a fighting game on par with Street Fighter 4 as one of the finest of this generation. NetherRealm also made the iOS game Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, and it’s clear that the modified Unreal engine they created for that game was repurposed for Injustice.

Normally, that’s a great time to build on what worked and fix what didn’t. Refine the already solid touch screen fighting mechanics so they are perfect, and innovate on new ways to add variety to the formula. That was not the focus for Injustice. The focus was building a compulsion loop that ultimately drives you to purchase the ridiculous currency so you get to play with the characters they showcase in the game’s intro video.


Pick and choose from your favorite D.C. heroes to fight with.

Pick and choose from your favorite D.C. heroes to fight with.


As an experiment, I attempted to play the game without purchasing any currency. I wanted to see if Injustice: Gods Among Us was really “free to play”. By that I mean, can I enjoy this game just as much as any other game without spending money? Will the refusal to give this game money make my experience suck? In a word: absolutely, but to elaborate, it was evident after the first hour that I was not going to get anywhere without a substantial amount of ludicrous “coins”. I ran into a situation where the only way I could proceed is to use all the coins I had earned on the three characters that I started off with and had leveled up, but the only way to get the cool characters with incredible powers is to save up enough coins to buy the equally ludicrous “booster packs” (and by enough coin I mean 100,000+…) To give you an idea of how hard that is to attain I was able to amass over 50,000 after eight hours of play. That number hovered at 50,000 for a very long time because you get only a fraction of the experience points and no coins for replaying past stages.

Let me put all of this in perspective. Imagine Tekken 3 with most of its characters behind paywalls? Imagine how crappy Gran Turismo would be if you couldn’t re-race championships for cash to buy new and better cars? It is true that GT does not give you the same huge payout each time, but you do make progress in a matter of minutes, whereas Injustice tasks the free player to endure hours of monotony. Imagine GT sticking you with a Ford Probe until you fork out some cash? Unthinkable! And yet, in the mobile realm, this is common practice. For those asking why, the answer is simple. “Gamers” as we know them are not the target market for this kind of game. It’s the casual players that are in the crosshairs.


Remember to level up your characters' attacks and attributes after each victory.

Remember to level up your characters’ attacks and attributes after each victory.


It just happens that Injustice also forgets them in its rush to iOS gold. Had you not read the comics or played the console game you would have no clue why there are “Insurgent” or “Regime” versions of Solomon Grundy. “Who the hell is Solomon Grundy?”, you ask. Don’t bother trying to find out on your so-called “card” because you get jack-diddly for context. No bios, no explanations for the setting, no information about their comic origin? Zip. Just a number for damage and a price tag. Fun card!

The real crime of it all is that underneath all this bull, this blatant and game-breaking monetization, there’s a good game. A game that, with a bit more polish, some multiplayer, and the complete removal of all this microtransaction mess for a clean US$5.99 price tag, could be one of the best best 3D touch based fighting games on iOS.

Back in my home state we had a little thing called the Iona Free Fair. It didn’t cost you anything to get in the door, but if you wanted to park, go on any rides, or, dare I say, eat food, it was insanely expensive. I don’t think I need to tell you what word often replaced “free” when the fair came up in conversation.


The real crime: You're not going anywhere without throwing a few bucks in to snag character upgrades along the way...

The real crime: You’re not going anywhere without throwing at least a few bucks in to snag character upgrades along the way…


Injustice is the Iona Free Fair of mobile titles. Make sure to get a tape recorder close to Ed Boon on his deathbed, because I’m almost certain the man who has created some of the best fighting games in history would agree: It’s not up to NetherRealm’s sparkling standards.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is available for free and requires iOS and requires iOS 5.0 or later to install and run.

Review: Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

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Date: Friday, June 14th, 2013, 08:23
Category: Review, Software, Software

The space opera that is StarCraft continues in fine style.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, the latest installment in Blizzard’s epic StarCraft real-time strategy series, has been out for a while now, reflects a fairly major overhaul in its unit progression, achievement and multiplayer systems. Picking up where StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty left off, the story hones in on Sarah Kerrigan, who, under the protection of Jim Raynor, is attempting to resolve being human again after her transformation into the Queen of Blades and the overall conflict against Emperor Mengsk’s Dominion forces.

Like any space opera, the plot grounds itself in tragic elements, Kerrigan witnessing Raynor’s death at the hands of Mengsk’s forces, allying herself once again with the now-scattered Zerg and working to reunite the Swarm as a tool for vengeance. Not a bad start within the first few missions of the game and Blizzard’s classic strong voice acting and marquee-level cut scenes continue to tell a great, relatable story to its audience.


Send in enough flying units to take down powerful defenders like the Terran Thor unit.

Send in enough flying units to take down powerful defenders like the Terran Thor unit.


If there’s one thing that makes Heart of the Swarm work, it’s an easier approachability than Wings of Liberty offered – and flustered some players with. Unlike Wings of Liberty, unit upgrades aren’t hooked into a currency system and are therefore easier to earn and work with. Unit upgrades can also be switched prior to the beginning of each mission, meaning you aren’t completely locked into a given upgrade once your choice has been made. This comes as a welcome change and it’s fun to experiment with alternate upgrades to see what works best in different situations.

Still, it’s the sheer joy of a Zerg-focused StarCraft game that sells Heart of the Swarm. Here, you’re greeted with the fully awesome disgustingness of the insect/reptilian armies you’ll happily grow, spawn and mutate to defend your nest and annihilate your enemies with. From gruesome-yet-fun “Splortch!!!” sounds as your units emerge from their cocoons to the sounds of your multi-legged units skittering and/or oozing their way towards battle, there’s the unassailable enjoyment of creating and fighting with the most disgusting army in any real-time strategy game.


When in doubt, send everything you've got.

When in doubt, send everything you’ve got.


Heart of the Swarm doesn’t provide a massive graphical update over Heart of the Swarm, but it’s still noticeable. Where Wings of Liberty sometimes chugged along slowly on my late-2011 MacBook Pro, Heart of the Swarm ran briskly, complete with detailed characters and fluid animation. Whatever Blizzard did under the hood of the game, it worked and the title still features all the terrific slime, gore, fangs and ooze you’d expect from the Zerg, even with the resolution turned down to more minimal levels.

It was the new multiplayer features that caught my eye when Heart of the Swarm was in development, Blizzard offering new and altered units and abilities. Even though there’s something of a learning curve with the new stuff, Blizzard came through and delivered, new units such as the Viper allowing you to literally pull your opponent’s high-value units out of a cluster and drag it towards your forces to be quickly attacked and torn apart. Upgraded mine units allow you to create a defensive line where needed and Blizzard has incorporated something of an “arcade” feel to its revised multiplayer gameplay, the program visibly awarding experience points for actions such as gathering resources, building units and defeating enemy units. It’s a small thing, but it brings back a sort of action-based/arcade feel to even standard multiplayer gameplay and makes achievements that much more fun to work towards.


The new Zerg Abomination unit can slug it out with even the toughest ground defenders.

The new Zerg Abomination unit can slug it out with even the toughest ground defenders.


Top this off with new game modes, new customer maps and a better means of sorting players by appropriate player and skill level and the Heart of the Swarm can stand on its own as a multiplayer-only title should you choose to ignore the core campaign. Battle.net, Blizzard’s multiplayer gaming service, has improved dramatically over the years and the only limitations are occasional downtimes for server upgrades and perhaps how your Internet connection happens to be behaving at that point in time.

If there are points of contention to deal with with Heart of the Swarm, they come in the form of some familiar points of conflict gamers have had with Blizzard in recent years. Blizzard has disabled Local Area Network multiplayer gameplay, which is meant as a piracy-prevention technique, but also removes what would literally be the fastest form of multiplayer gameplay available to a group of players. This, combined with the fact that, once activated and hooked into an activation code, players are unable to resell their used copies of Heart of the Swarm down the line. Perhaps Blizzard will figure out a way around this or a more moderate fix, but it still feels like a heavy-handed approach to copy protection. Finally, Blizzard has instituted a requirement that single player achievements can only be earned (and recorded) if the account has logged into Battle.net. Granted, this isn’t as draconian as Blizzard’s requirement that players always be logged into Battle.net even during single player gameplay in Diablo 3 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, but there’s still a sense that you’d like to just open the game and polish off a few single player missions in your free time without having to log into the server.


Send Reaper units after space-based enemies to help keep the Hyperion safe in side missions.

Send Reaper units after space-based enemies to help keep the Hyperion safe in side missions.


Game companies have always had a hard time incorporating replay value into single player campaigns and Heart of the Swarm suffers from some of this, but not to a deal-breaking extent. There’s a fair amount of challenge involved with the Normal difficulty – which makes the game fun – and the game’s challenge scales well with each level of difficulty you attempt, but absolute die-hards have cited that the game could be more challenging in its most difficult modes. This comes down to personal taste and Wings of Liberty had some more definitive storyline and plot-based choices that added to the title’s replay value, but there’s still enough challenge and variety to be found in Heart of the Swarm’s multiplayer game modes to keep you coming back for more.


There's nothing like sweet, sweet StarCraft victory. And explosions to go along with it.

There’s nothing like sweet, sweet StarCraft victory. And explosions to go along with it.


In conclusion, Heart of the Swarm adds a solid contribution to the space opera story that the “StarCraft” franchise is known for, some nice core engine and gameplay improvements and is just as fun as an RTS fan would expect the latest installment of StarCraft to be. The assortment of new units make the single and multiplayer modes that much more fun and it’s cool to go back, look over the new units and develop new offensive and defensive techniques to use based on the new tools available to you. Yes, Blizzard creates its own foibles thanks to its current (and somewhat ever-changing) privacy-prevention techniques, but there’s also the sense that they might be able to eventually arrive at a set of methods that both players and the company can live with. Heart of the Swarm isn’t perfect, but the good more than outweighs the bad, it’s what the next chapter of StarCraft needed to be and the joy of playing – and conquering – with the Zerg is everything you could have hoped for.

Minimum System Requirements:
– Mac OS X 10.7 or later
– Intel Core 2 Duo or faster processor
– NVIDIA GeForce 9400M or ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro or better graphics card
– 2 GB RAM
– 20 GB available hard disk space
– Broadband Internet connection
– DVD-ROM drive
– 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution

Recommended System Requirements:
– Mac OS X 10.8 or later
– Intel Core i3 or faster processor
– ATI Radeon HD 4850 or NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M or better graphics card
– 4 GB RAM
– 20 GB available hard disk space
– Broadband Internet connection
– DVD-ROM drive
– 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution

Review: Game Dev Tycoon

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 31st, 2013, 07:14
Category: Review, Software, Software

By Mr. S

Tycoon… What is a Tycoon? Websters defines a Tycoon as “A top leader (as in politics) or a businessman of exceptional wealth and power”. So basically a capitalist that can make something out of nothing. A leader of men and a maker of things.

At some point we have all said to ourselves “I would do a much better job if I was in charge, gob smack it!” and that’s the basis of attraction for “Tycoon” games. They put you in charge and say “Here ya go, sonny! Make it happen or lose it all! It’s up to you!”. This is where Game Dev Tycoon falters big time and it’s heartbreaking considering the amount of love that went into its creation.

But more on why I don’t like it later. Lets talk about the things it does right.

Starting off in the garage of your mystery house you start the journey of a fledgling game designer from the golden era of video games, the 70’s. Like the legendary game designers from that period, you start on your Commodore 64 or PC, pumping out games for a few thousand enthusiasts. The first hour of gameplay in Game Dev Tycoon genuinely captures the magic of those times. When men wore pleats, and code was assembly. In those days, a man could spend a couple grand and start cranking out software to a very earnest and attentive audience.


Because every game studio needs a Delorean in the garage...

Because every game studio needs a Delorean in the garage…


The art direction, while simplistic, has a wonderful charm and watching your company grow from backwoods garage operation to full-on ten person studio is very rewarding at first, but that’s exactly when things start to fall apart.

The game turns into a choir of frustrating guesswork that inevitably leads to total studio failure unless you’re good friends with the app’s “save” and “load” buttons or a Web-based wiki to help guide you.

Instead of giving you a well-presented and balanced system, you’re presented with a single mystery path that forces you to try randomly at success. The game never gives you specific details as to why one of your games failed or succeeded, thereby making a core element of the experience feel hollow and luck-based. Why does having the ability to have steering wheel functionality make my football game engine better? Found a great combo? Don’t use that one again or your game will get panned into oblivion even if the game’s setting is completely different and the last game you put out with that combo was ten years ago.


The critics will love you or hate you...

The critics will love you or hate you, but good luck getting details as to why.


You’re given little room for failure, because every game has to be somewhat of a success to pay a staff necessary to sustain the studio. It feels Sisyphean when your workers have to take a week off every four weeks just to keep them happy, and then you have to waste precious time training these layabouts too. You simply fail or succeed with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Try to experiment and your studio goes bankrupt.


Expand staff where you can and you might just crank out a hit.

Expand staff where you can, and hopefully you’re lucky enough to pay them.


Proper feedback and getting just enough understanding of what’s going on under the hood is imperative to a good tycoon experience, and it’s this essential feedback that is totally missing from Game Dev Tycoon. Sure, you get the reviews from the press, but “meh” or “feels derivative” does not tell you why your Zombie Dinosaur Football Racer tanked. You know when you make a good combo, but you can’t use it again without getting horrible reviews for copying something you already did. It’s why you see little pop-up emoticons in “Roller Coaster Tycoon”: instant feedback. You know the people are digging your new toilet because they go in looking miserable and come out looking great. Vis a vie toilets are good whereas a “meh” reaction tells me next to nothing.

Game Dev Tycoon puts a blindfold on your head and chides you for not knowing the way.
It has all the elements of a great tycoon game, but ultimately fails in providing a rewarding tycoon experience. Its scope needs to be widened with a much larger emphasis on player feedback and much better info on what a certain element will add or subtract from the product you’re making in the game. Greenheart Games is an independent company with a clear love of the craft of game making and is probably painfully aware of its shortcomings. As an early supporter of the game, I hope to see it grow from this interesting idea to a more compelling experience with time, but as it stands right now it’s just not fun being a Game Dev Tycoon. :(

Game Dev Tycoon retails for US$7.99 and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

A full demo is available here for your consideration.

Game Review: Pro Zombie Soccer

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 27th, 2010, 09:03
Category: App Store, Game, iPad, iPhone, News, Software

Pro Zombie Soccer is a game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (still a Pixel-doubled version, not native) distributed by Chillingo and developed by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team. I’ve never been caught up in the Zombie craze, although I did enjoy Zombieland and Shawn of the Dead, so I was not really excited about this game at first, but a friend assured me that it was a lot of fun and he was right.

Some of the things that made this such a fun game was the artwork and the storyline. While not complicated, the story added enough depth to propel you from scene to scene. The artwork has a punk attitude, similar to what is associated with Gorillaz, and is pretty lively and colorful.

In the game, you are playing the role of Jax, a young, talented soccer player who freezes up while trying out for the big team. While moping about town, the zombie outbreak occurs and Jax is bitten by a zombie who happens to be the star player of the soccer team. Jax soon finds out that his zombie infection has given him super-soccer powers which he decides to use to take down the zombie apocalypse….while he still can.

The controls are simple. You thumb aims the direction that Jax kicks the soccer ball and lifting your thumb fires it off. You have a regular kick, and a super-charged kick at your disposal, but eventually you acquire other “zombie powers” which you can choose from during certain parts of the game. Doing a “head-shot” to a zombie (beheading them) is worth extra points as is several head-shots in a row. Some zombies can only be killed with the super-charged kick, which takes more time to “charge up”. Eventually you run into zombies that can only be killed in a certain way, like ricocheting off a wall, as well as avoiding obstacles like fleeing scientists which, when hit, will end the game. If you finish the game too quickly in Normal mode, you can play through again in Hardcore mode which won’t be so easy. The game’s music is pretty good and in the Extras you’ll find the Music Player which allows you to play back the game’s soundtrack, a total of 16 tracks.

The sound effects and gameplay are great, and everything looks awesome on the iPhone 4’s screen. As of this writing, the game was iOS 4 compatible, but did not take advantage of background app switching. Leaving the game means starting again from the main menu, although it should remember your progress. I didn’t try it on the iPad, but it is compatible with iOS 3.0 and up. I look forward to an HD version, but I hope it’s an Universal app.

The game uses the Crystal gaming network, which I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of, but not because it is a bad system.

I highly recommend this game. It’s fun and relatively easy to play, and the stages make it easy to play a few minutes at a time, or kill 20 minutes or so. Pro Zombie Soccer is a pretty good deal at $2.99.

Game Review: Predators™

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Date: Monday, July 19th, 2010, 11:41
Category: Fun, Game, News, Review, Software

The Predators game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is a direct tie-in with the recently released Predators movie by Robert Rodriquez (directed by Nimrod Antal) distributed by Chillingo for Fox Mobile. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’ve been told it’s good fun and the game seems to do it’s job of getting me a little more jazzed to see it. Unlike a lot of game-movie tie-ins, this game actually has some solid play value.

One of the things appreciated about this game is that is it a Universal app, meaning the same app plays on all three “i” devices. An issue that bugs me a little is games that require you to buy a completely new app in order to play it in full resolution on the iPad. I understand that developers have to make money, and that they do have to do some extra work, but it just feels wrong to have to pay a second, higher price for a game I already paid for. I wish they would just work out a system to upgrade to a Universal app for the difference of the two. On a side note, I had a problem with the game on my iPad crashing on launch, but rebooting the iPad seems to have fixed it so far.

Off my soap box, and onto the action.

In this game, you are playing the role of the Predator which is a nice switch up. This is probably because he has all the cool gadgets. The first several “missions” teach you the essentials of mauling and beheading humans for trophies. There are also in-play tutorials for learning to use the gadgets like the wrist knives, shoulder cannon, and the cloaking device. Later, you also get other abilities like thermal vision. I really liked how the tutorials played out so you can get used to using just one weapon or combo attack, rather than just being thrown into a melee and having to figure it out.

The game isn’t strictly a shoot ‘em up either. In some scenarios, you get more points for stalking your prey in cloaked mode, and killing humans undetected. There are also human “boss” characters which represent the main characters from the film such as Royce who is played by Adrian Brody in the film. These guys are harder to beat. I haven’t gotten too far in the game, but so far the terrain has just been your basic jungle with some different environmental factors like darkness or rain (with makes you more visible in cloaked mode). I’ve been through about seven levels and it hasn’t gotten boring yet, so I hope it just keep getting better.

The game stays very true to the Predator feel and mythos. Even the crosshair for the shoulder cannon works like it did in the movie and you can shoot people behind you. The graphics can be a bit gruesome if you are worried about younger audiences. There is lots of blood and your Predator very clearly rips people in half and pulls their head off with a nice, wet, ripping sound. Obviously the graphics are very good and optimized for the iPhone 4 and iPad, and the sounds are quite good as well; probably taken directly from the movies. You will also be happy to know that the game is compatible with iOS 4’s backgrounding, so you can leave in the middle of a mission and come back in the same spot and continue. There is also a pause menu too, until the iPad gets iOS 4.

I liked the iPad version the best, but mainly because the controls cover less screen than the iPhone version. Menus are slightly different for the iPad, but the gameplay is identical to the iPhone/iPod Touch version. I liked that none of the combos were too complicated. I find that annoying about some console games because you end up concentrating too much on how many buttons to push instead of the game. The controls are pretty good and straightforward. There is a “joystick” on the left and action buttons on the right. There are also toggles for things like night vision, weapons, and cloaking. It isn’t a problem for me, but I’d like to see more games give people the option of flipping the controls. The only problems I had were the ones inherent in a touch-based system; when the action gets fast, you tend to slide your fingers off the controls and can’t center again without looking away form the action. Perhaps I have more trouble with this than most people, but I can’t really fault the game for this.

Lastly, the game uses the Crystal gaming network. The frustration I have with all the game networking systems could be a whole post in itself. I’m waiting to see how Apple’s Game Center changes things. Developers naturally have investments in tying themselves to particular systems, but I wish you could choose which system to use for each game instead of being forced to use the one the developer picks.

I highly recommend this game. If you like action games, shooters, and anything to do with Predators, this game is a steal at $2.99.