Tagged "Apple"

Jul 23
By Adam Philbin In Mobile Games 8 Comments

Last month Google unveiled their entry into the tablet market, with the Google Nexus 7, the budget-priced 7” Android tablet that aims to surpass the Kindle Fire and potentially Apple’s iPad. The Nexus 7 finally started shipping last week and I was lucky enough to take delivery of one on Wednesday. I opted for the 16GB model, which is selling for just £199, whilst there’s also a model with 8GB storage for £159 – both costing less than half the price of an iPad, with the 8GB model costing even less than a PS Vita.

The modest price is clearly one of the main attractions of the Nexus 7, but even more remarkable is the high quality of the device, especially considering the price. The internal hardware is up there with the best devices on the market, with the Nexus 7 packing a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU (for reference, basically double the processing power of an iPad 3) and a 12-core (yes, a dozen) GPU pushing a lovely looking, pixel-packed 1280×800 resolution 7” screen. As a gaming device, this actually makes the Nexus 7 pixel-for-pixel more powerful than the iPad 3, which has to push a 2048×1536 resolution screen with a similar graphics chipset. Sure, 1280×800 isn’t quite “retina-level”, but it’s still 216 pixels per inch, which is almost the same as the 220 pixels per inch that Apple call “retina-level” on their Retina MacBook Pro. (To be fair, based on Apple’s guidelines, absolutely any screen becomes “retina” once you’re really far away from it.)

A few corners were cut to reach the sub-£200 price tag, namely the lack of a rear camera and SD card slot. The latter is a bit of a shame, as expandable storage has always been one of the nice perks of Android hardware, but life with a mere 16GB is manageable and I suppose we mustn’t grumble. Connectivity is limited to WiFi only, with no 3G option, if that’s something that matters to you.

But enough about the hardware, you can just look at this spec sheet if you’re really interested…

Specs Google Nexus 7 iPad 3
CPU 1.3 Ghz quad-core
ARM Cortex A9 (Nvidia Tegra 3)
1 Ghz dual-core
ARM Cortex A9 (Apple A5X)
GPU 12-core 416Mhz Nvidia GeForce ULP Quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP4
Memory 1 GB DDR3 RAM 1 GB DDR2 RAM
Storage 8 or 16 GB flash storage 16 or 32 or 64 GB flash storage
Battery 4,325mAh (approx. 9-10 hrs) 11,560mAh (approx. 9-10 hrs)
Display 7 inch IPS LCD
at 1280×800 (216 PPI)
9.7 inch IPS LCD
at 2048×1536 (264 PPI)
Weight 340 grams 650 grams

There are a few things which really set the Nexus 7 apart for me, and make it more than worthy of its price tag. Firstly, the fluidity of the user interface. Google have spent a lot of time working on the response time of the Android UI, working on what they call “Project Butter” for the latest version of Android (codenamed Jelly Bean). As a UI designer myself, I was really impressed to see the lengths Google’s Android team went to in an effort to make everything so responsive. In addition to including a special low-power CPU (in addition to the main quad-core CPU) to make wake-up times instant, they used RED cameras to measure the UI response time down to the millisecond, to ensure the whole interface felt silky smooth. Also it doesn’t hurt that now everything’s hardware accelerated on the GPU. The end result is a UI that feels incredibly responsive, moving quickly and precisely, giving the impression that the Nexus 7 is doing everything absolutely effortlessly. This is the first time I’ve felt like Android has actually surpassed Apple’s iOS in terms of interface and that subjective software quality that just makes the whole package feel so solid.

So Android and the Nexus 7 work together harmoniously, but what about gaming? Well, that’s the other reason I think the Nexus 7 makes a formiddable little gaming device. It just so happens, that ergonomically seven inches work surprisingly well. If you’ve experienced trying to play traditional games on an iPad, holding it in your hands like a giant controller, the experience is… a little like holding a big plate. It’s too big, a little difficult to hold, and it doesn’t take long before the weight becomes a little too much for your limp wrists. The Nexus 7 however is about half the size of an iPad (though more than half the screen size) and half the weight. It’s comparable to a Kindle – so you can easily hold it one handed to read a book, without it ever feeling too heavy. Like the Kindle it also has a nice rubberised backside, which feels nice and always provides a great grip.

What does all that have to do with gaming? Well, when holding the Nexus 7 in landscape mode, it’s almost the same width as a PS Vita. Obviously it doesn’t have the analogue sticks or buttons, and virtual buttons are never quite perfect, but holding a Nexus 7 isn’t unlike holding a PS Vita – or as Google themselves said, it’s “like holding a Sega Game Gear” – which makes the Nexus 7 a surprisingly good little gaming device. Being Android, the whole operating system can be as customisable as you want it, so if you really feel the need to tinker with things, it is actually possible to connect a regular control pad to the Nexus 7 using Bluetooth or USB. You can run emulators on it too, so it’s quite an impressive little gaming device.

As good as the device is though, it needs great games to be a great games system. That’s where things get a little muddy – and this is true for all Android devices. Whilst Android is a wonderfully open system, free for practically anyone to publish on, it’s still lagging behind Apple’s App Store for great games. Many of the big hits are available on both platforms, but due to rampant piracy and a general reluctance for many Android users to pay for games, developers still favour iOS. That’s slowly changing, but it still remains an issue.

That’s not to say there aren’t any good games to play on Android. Most of the “obvious” mobile games are available on Google Play, such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Where’s my Water?, whilst there are quite a few console-quality games too, such as Shadowgun, Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto III and Football Manager 2012. Considering such games could easily retail for £20 or £30 as PS Vita games, downloading them from Google Play for a pound or two is a bit of a steal.

As a tablet for web browsing and email, the Nexus 7 is arguably the best on the market, if you’re fine without a 3G connection. The latest version of Android feels incredibly slick and frankly rather good, and a tablet with an Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset for under £200 would have been unthinkable just six months ago. Solely as a gaming device, the Nexus 7 shouldn’t be your first port of call, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department. In fact if you like the idea of getting your hands dirty and installing emulators, it actually makes a brilliant retro emulation machine. As a package, it’s just a remarkably nice and likeable little thing.

Jan 13
By Jake In Mobile Round Up No Comments

The App Store charts look quite familiar at the start of 2012, with Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Bejeweled and so on all taking the top spots in an effort to make all other mobile game developers feel a little hopeless. At least Catchphrase is high in the charts, which should please Roy Walker.

Nintendo might be slightly annoyed with Mole Kart (we’ll avoid the hyperlink), a game which not only copies Mario Kart, but directly rips off some of its tracks too. Almost as blatant as Angry Chickens.

In another piece of self promotion, Paper Glider vs. Gnomes has just been released on iOS and Android, with a dozen or so levels crafted by the dainty hands of our own Mr Philbin. It’s free, so get that to shut Adam up.

Now some games about augmented sound and art.

Dimensions. Adventures in the Multiverse

Dimensions. Adventures in the Multiverse

A game based on augmented sound is a fascinating idea, and the initial noodling around with Dimensions doesn’t disappoint: noises around you in the real world come at you pleasingly translated and distorted through your earphones, over and above the soundtrack which changes depending on what you’re up to. The idea is that you leave Dimensions running in the background as you go about your business, and every now and then you’re notified that there’s an Artifact to collect or a Nephilim to fend off.

There’s just one problem with this. Both activities use up Quantum Cells, which appear around you relatively frequently, and can be collected by scanning the environment occasionally. But this requires you to pay constant attention to the game, which is not really the point: as I said, the idea is to have it as a background; Artifacts and Nephilim are relatively infrequent. The solution is to buy Quantum Cells with actual money. When the app itself is already at the pricier end of the scale, this is a bit much.

The game is quite a demanding beast, too. The different dimensions are unlocked by being quiet and noisy (fine), playing between midnight and 1am (bit specific), and promoting the game to your friends (sod off). Notifications, too, are on the bothersome side – though developers RjDj have taken note of this in a recent update, and they can of course be turned off.

It all adds up to a game that, for my money, just asks a bit too much of the player, in return for relatively little beyond the initial joy of discovering what the game does with augmented sound. It’s an intriguing curiosity, and there’s definitely potential in this area, but that’s not quite fulfilled here.

iOS (£1.99)

Race Against Time

Race Against Time

I enjoy a wander around Tate Modern as much as the next pleb, and developers Somethin’ Else – The Nightjar, Linkem – are a class act. Combine the two, and what’s not to like?

Not a lot, though initially it might not seem that way. You control a little chameleon guy, jumping through levels based around the art of each decade from the 20th and 21st centuries. For the first few levels, it’s all a bit pedestrian: the action is undemanding, and the background – inspired by the art styles of the time – doesn’t seem particularly varied to my idiot’s eye.

But the second half of the game is a different matter: the variation in scenery and music is far more noticeable, and all the better for it; the levels themselves become exacting sequences of jumping and power-up collecting, long enough to challenge but short enough not to irritate.

Not surprisingly, there’s a bit of education in there too: a nice modern art timeline, and explanations of the different art styles unlocked as achievements.

iOS (free)

Dec 04
By Adam Philbin In Mobile Round Up No Comments

The last week has been a bit quiet for the various app stores, although Infinity Blade II, the sequel to the massively successful original, was a fairly noteworthy release. We haven’t bothered reviewing that though, as we’d probably just write “it’s almost exactly the same as the original, only better”. I suppose you could call that our review then.

ChuChu Rocket

A new release for Android at least, although the iPhone version came out last year, with the Dreamcast original now twelve years old. Jake actually covered ChuChu Rocket earlier this year, where he grumbled a bit that it wasn’t free like the Dreamcast version. It’s hard to complain at 69p though.

We may have reviewed ChuChu Rocket more than any other game on this site, come to think of it (on the Dreamcast, Game Boy Advance, iPhone, and now Android, if you’re interested). So for that reason, long live ChuChu Rocket!

iOS (£1.99) / Android (£0.69)

Jelly Defense

Possibly one of the most overdone genres on the iPhone, this tower defense game does at least exude buckets of charm and simple yet beautiful graphics. The limitations on placing your towers make it a little more strategic than simply building a vast array of giant lasers. Even when the action gets quite hectic, with your base about to be overrun by bouncing jelly blobs, it still all feels quite calm and relaxing. That’s both a strength and weakness of the game – it’s thoroughly likeable, yet doesn’t always manage to suck you in.

iOS (£1.99) / Android (£1.99)

Traffic Panic 3D

Traffic Panic 3D

Another bit of self-promotion here, as one of the GA writers (this one) worked on the graphic and interface design. It’s still rather good on its own merits though, a deceptively simple game where you stop and start the traffic lights, to either flow the traffic through or cause big collisions, earning credits to unlock better and more explosive vehicles.

Matt said it was a bit like Burnout Crash for iPhone, which isn’t totally inaccurate, although it plays completely differently (you’re not driving a car, for starters). It’s out now on iOS, with the Android version following in the next week.

iOS (£0.69)

Nov 20
By Adam Philbin In Mobile Round Up 1 Comment

This week we’ve mostly been… well, playing Skyrim really. We did manage to find a few hours to play around with our phones though. The most notable new iPhone game this week must be Minecraft, which we covered last month when the Android version was released. Aside from that, we’ve got these three…

Shadowgun

From a technical point of view, Shadowgun is quite an achievement, right up there with the most accomplished mobile games. It wouldn’t look out of place on a home console, looking and feeling quite a lot like Gears of War. It’s all very polished.

If anything lets Shadowgun down, it’s the on screen virtual control pad, which makes moving and aiming a little fiddly. That, and the sci-fi “bald guy shooting thugs in masks” theme that borders on being the most over-done concept ever. Still, when you’ve got used to the movement and cover system, there’s a decently playable game here, with hours of content and a general ability to make you gawp as you realise you’re playing on a mobile phone. Although, the price difference between the iOS and Android versions is somewhat annoying.

iOS (£2.99) / Android (£3.49)

Stardash

It’s not uncommon for mobile games to borrow gameplay or art styles from established console games – sometimes it even borders on plagiarism (hello Gameloft!). There is a thin line between IP theft and nice homage though, and Stardash just about falls on the right side. This is essentially the Game Boy’s Super Mario Land, though minus the fat Italian plumber and with just enough differences for it to be acceptable.

The basic monochrome graphics work quite nicely on a mobile device, and show that the game’s clearly referencing the Game Boy original in a friendly, nostalgic way. Nintendo might not look too fondly on it, but until they start re-releasing their games on the mobile app stores, people after a bit of old school Mario-style gameplay probably won’t mind spending some spare change on a little title like Stardash.

iOS (£1.49) / Android (£1.39)

Scribblenauts Remix

Remember that Nintendo DS game from a couple of years ago, Scribblenauts, where you wrote things and they came to life? Yeh. This is basically that DS game, although for the iPhone and at a tenth of the cost.

To give a bit more of an explanation, the game involves lots of little puzzles and missions that require you to think of the right word to conjure up a way to solve the level. It’s all quite varied and fun – one level simply asks you to create five items to put in a student’s room (think books, computers, etc), another asks you to kill all the dinosaurs. There are usually dozens of ways to complete a level, limited just by the game’s dictionary and illustrators. It’s hard not to like it really.

iOS (£2.99)

Oct 21
By Adam Philbin In Mobile Round Up 3 Comments

Welcome to the first in a hopefully regular series covering the latest noteworthy mobile phone games. We’ve dabbled with the idea of mobile and download game round ups in the past, though now we’re going to attempt to do it semi-properly. A couple of months ago the Pickford Brothers referred to us as “yet another website that lumps mobile games reviews together in a round up rather than a page per game”, which we found mildly amusing, seeing as we we’re only just starting our mobile games review round up now and we have given our favourite mobile games full page reviews. There’s nothing wrong with a nice bit of round up though, is there?

So sit down. Stick your hand in your pocket. Grab your phone of choice (assuming it’s an iPhone or Android phone, all you Windows Phone and ironic retro Nokia owners can go piss off), and get ready to download some of these little gems should they tickle your fancy. Unless they’re really shit. We’re not just doing a round up of the most brilliant mobile games are we? Mmm, whatever.

Jetpack Joyride

A few months ago Jake wrote a post about the cost per hour of console games vs apps… Jetpack Joyride is one such mobile game that manages to eat away the hours and provide a surprising amount of entertainment for 69p.

Playing’s rather simple – tap the screen to fire your jetpack and hover upwards. Combined with charming graphics, satisfying sound effects and an OCD-like mission/achievements system that rewards you with coins to buy new outfits and jetpacks, it’s really easy to lose a few hours or more just tapping away at the screen like a small-minded imbecile. High praise indeed.

Download on iPhone/iPad (£0.69)

Whale Trail

Whale Trail might seem a bit familiar after playing Jetpack Joyride, as it’s essentially the same “tap to fly” mechanic – although in this case you control a whale flying through the clouds collecting coloured bubbles. There’s a bit of a Nights into Dreams feeling to it, as you follow the ball trail, building up a multiplier and occasionally pulling off loop the loops (speaking of Nights, now there’s a game Sega need to re-release for iOS).

The melodic Gruff Rhys soundtrack and cutesy visuals are the main reason for people to take notice of Whale Trail. It doesn’t have the same compulsive “one more go” gameplay of Jetpack Joyride, but it provides a pleasant ride through charming scenery, while it lasts. Actually, it might just be all about the music…

Download on iPhone/iPad (£0.69)

Pocket League Story

I feel like I’m doing Kairosoft a bit of a disservice by just giving Pocket League Story this “mini review”, though if you’re a fan of their previous games you’ll probably know what to expect here, and hopefully love it just as much. This is basically Kairosoft’s version of Football Manager. It’s so cute and charming though, even sound-minded non-football-fans may be smitten with it.

Essentially it’s still a game of levelling up, watching numbers increase and growing your team, but as you turn your training ground from a dusty patch to a luscious pitch complete with parking and world class gym facilities, you feel a certain sense of satisfaction. The matches are just about right, short and snappy, enough to enhance the immersion without getting too repetitive. Currently only Android users get to experience the fun, but it will almost certainly get an iPhone release in a month or two, just like most other Kairosoft games.

Download on Android (£2.99)

Minecraft – Pocket Edition

You’ve heard of Minecraft surely? The crafting/mining/lego-style indy game made by one guy that went on to sell almost 4 million copies (and counting). Well, this is the game in mobile form, for Android phones. Having Minecraft in your pocket is rather amazing in its own right. Although, it’s hard to completely recommend this version, as it’s still effectively an alpha (currently at version 0.1.2), and Mojang are charging a rather steep £4.29, when most other mobile games are less than £1 and £2.99 is considered high.

If you have a capable enough Android phone though, this is definitely a game to keep an eye out for. By the time it reaches version 1.0, it could be quite amazing.

Download on Android (£4.29)

Golf Putt Pro 3D

The most amazing golf putting game, like, ever! Or at least on the iPhone. Using the power of your finger, you putt balls… into holes! Ok, admittedly one of the Games Asylum writers may have had some involvement with this game. It’s not like we’re on the developer’s payroll or anything. Well, maybe. It’s free though, so you might as well download it if you like golf or trajectory-based ball games. 87 out of 10!

Download on iPhone/iPad (Free)

 
 

Oct 03
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Apple’s App Review Board has come into scrutiny after letting an unofficial Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game slip onto the App Store.

The game, which is apparently close to being unplayable, has been created by a Vietnamese developer going by the name of either Dang Van Phuong or Namphuong Star – depending on which news source you trust. A quick look on the App Store shows that it has now been removed so we’re unable to research their name for ourselves.

Develop-Online reports that it went up on the App Store six weeks ago (18th August), so it’s not hard to believe that a fair few people were duped into buying it for the $5 asking price. According to Destructoid it was still available to download earlier today.

Nickelodeon currently owns the Ninja Turtles license, and it’s not just Nickelodeon that are victims of copyright fraud here – the backdrops have been lifted from Konami’s Contra.

Imagine if Nintendo ever let something as dodgy as this slip onto the 3DS eStore. That would certainly turn a few heads.

Jun 29
By Adam Philbin In Reviews 3 Comments

Grand Prix StoryI should be making my own game right now, but I’m not, I’m playing Game Dev Story. Oh wait, that was the last Kairosoft game. Now history is repeating itself, but this time I’m engrossed playing Grand Prix Story, which as the name implies, is a racing version of Game Dev Story. Kind of.

One of the most likable things about Game Dev Story, aside from the geek fantasy of making your own games (within a game), was that it played so heavily to your imagination. You chose a genre, a release platform and the game’s name, but other than that, it was largely a case of creating better games by grinding away to earn higher and higher skill levels and numbers. The cool stuff happened within the player’s imagination, where you created your own vision of the game. As such, I still have a fondness for my fictitious Sushi and Sumo game franchises (sidenote: one of which I’m releasing for real next month, in name at least).

Vroom vroom KairosoftGrand Prix Story is a bit more literal. This is probably a good thing in this case. You get to see the actual races play out. For the most part, you’re just a spectator watching your cars race around the track, although you can occasionally decide when to use a turbo boost. The races are short and sweet enough that they don’t feel too repetitive, and you don’t mind sitting through them for 30-60 seconds, watching your little driver and carefully constructed car whizz around.

The rest of the game consists of carefully deciding what cars and technologies to research, upgrading them with your experience points, spending money to train your drivers and mechanics, and picking appropriate sponsors for your race team. It’s all very similar to Game Dev Story in that regard – essentially a game of generating ever higher numbers, presented in a nice interface with cute little characters.

Construct your own race teamIt’s a bit like a role playing game where they’ve stripped out the game and kept just the leveling system, making the process of earning experience points the entire game. If you look at it cynically, that’s fairly accurate. But once again, a mixture of cuteness and imagination make it much more than the sum of its parts. If you happen to like the idea of a racing management game too, then you’ll be most pleased.

Grand Prix Story is perfectly suited as a mobile phone game (currently available on the Android Market for about £3, but surely an iPhone version will soon follow). In theory, it’s the type of little game that you can dip in and out of at will. In reality, it’s the type of game that has you staring at your mobile phone screen for hours on end, until the battery begs for mercy.

Well done Kairosoft for creating yet another nugget of digital crack.

© 2001-2014 Games Asylum