Tagged "iPad"

Tengami
Feb 28

Have you seen just how many Flappy Bird clones there are on the App Store now?

You don’t need to, because Stuart Dredge has been keeping a slightly obsessive eye on it for The Guardian. In short: lots.

Tengami

If Nyamyam had been so inclined, they might have renamed Tengami ‘Flappy Paper’. They might have got a few sales by association, but probably not the headline promotion from Apple that the game’s received.

It’s just the sort of thing that Apple likes to give prominance to. The art style is mature and beautiful, rather than the standard cartoon world; it’s from developers with a bit of a track record – in this case, ex-Rare people; and of course it costs three quid, which can’t hurt when Apple takes a chunky cut of that.

And anyway, ‘Flappy Paper’ would be an altogether inappropriate name – there’s nothing flappy about the paper in Tengami. The pop-up landscapes are precision folded, crisply opening and closing as you swipe, with impressively intricate detail.

It’s an effective atmosphere, enhanced by the soundtrack, played on traditional Japanese instruments. But not enhanced by the game itself, which gives you too much time to think, and not enough to think about.

Tengami

It’s a slow moving game – literally. Literally literally. The protagonist walks at a leisurely saunter, which is in-keeping with the tone, but with fairly sparse landscapes doesn’t do much to keep your mind occupied.

The puzzles, which are few in number even for a game which is over in a couple of hours, fall into three categories. There’s the odd nice puzzle, satisfying to work through logically. There are slightly laborious puzzles, which you’ll be a few steps ahead of, limited only by the slow pace of movement. And there are puzzles that are just a tiny bit obtuse – and in an arbitrary, rather than a clever way.

Tengami

With not quite enough stimulation on offer, I found myself pondering the inconsistencies in the mainly glorious presentation. Most page turns require a swipe across the screen, but a few don’t. The music occasionally takes a slightly darker turn, but without any noticeable change on screen.

In that way, the lack of substance isn’t just a problem in itself, it actually detracts from what the game has going for itself – the style. It ends up feeling a bit empty.

And then, abruptly, the game ends.

Version: iPhone
iTunes App Store: £2.99

DumbT
Jun 05

You’d have to be either very dumb or incredibly naive to deny that Dumb Ways to Die is a blatant clone of Nintendo’s Wario Ware. Unlike many of the App Store’s copycats though, it’s very easy to look past the plagiarism on the account that it has clearly had a bit of love and attention put into it.

DumbWays4

A little bit of history: Dumb Ways to Die began as a safety video from Metro Trains Melbourne to prevent stupid people from messing around on train tracks. Thanks to a daft sense of humour and lovable cast of characters the video went viral, spawning the game seen before you. There is still a hint of educational value present here, but don’t let that put you off.

Like the game it imitates, Dumb Ways to Die offers a quick-fire burst of mini-games lasting just a few seconds each. Tapping, swiping and tilting the screen are common themes – tapping wasps off a little yellow chap’s face, wiping puke off the screen and keeping somebody upright by tilting your iDevice are just three of the tasks at hand. Every mini-game is as smartly presented as the last, complete with a few little nice touches here and there.

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realracing3_top
Mar 01

Freemium gaming has no shortage of critics. It’s understandable, given that such games have earned a reputation for nickle and diming their players. EA have taken the concept further than ever with Real Racing 3, their attempt at combining the freemium model with AAA production values. The result? Possibly the most depressing thing to happen in modern gaming.

This article started life as a review, but seeing as Real Racing 3 is less a game and more an attempt at flagrant money grabbing, providing a score would be tricky. Ethically it doesn’t feel right writing a typical review.

“Gameplay not included. Fun may cost extra.”

On the surface, Real Racing 3 is an impressive game, bringing almost console-quality graphics to mobile devices – although the sparse trackside visuals don’t quite match the pretty cars. The racing experience itself is adequate, but with the vague tilt controls, auto-acceleration and feeble opponents, it’s not remotely near the same league as anything on a console. That’s probably because EA haven’t really made a racing game, but a car-themed credit-grinding simulator, in an effort to part you from your cash at every turn.

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Nov 08

So Peter Molyneux’s “social experiment” Curiosity – what’s inside the cube has been out for two days now, and at the time of writing more than 396,000 people have tapped away at the giant cube, destroying more than 163 million cubelets. The big question remains – what is inside the cube? We’d like to offer some suggestions…

Peter Molyneux jazz handsA photo of Peter Molyneux
We wouldn’t be remotely surprised if the centre of the cube contained a giant photo of Peter Molyneux. Though the game’s FAQ does suggest the contents of the center are displayed within a video. So, a video of Peter Molyneux singing and dancing, with waving jazz hands? No one would put it past him. But could the centre of the cube contain something even more inspiring? What could possibly be more inspiring?

A SphereA Sphere
What could possibly be better than a cube? A sphere, that’s what. Sphere’s are much better than cubes. If Peter’s looking for a new avenue to go down after the success of Curiosity, we speculate that he could look into making a sphere tapping game. So, will the final cube tapper reveal a spherical sequel to the cube-based wonder? If we were to hazard a guess, we’d say… probably not. It’s an idea worthy of consideration though. Pete loves his 3D shapes.

RickrollRickroll
Knowing Peter’s odd sense of humour and the pleasure he takes in trolling the gaming community, some have speculated that the centre of the cube may just contain a Youtube link to Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. In the event that this happens, we may have to refer to Peter Molyneux as a comedy genius and a brilliant man of our modern age.

What else do you think could be inside the cube?

Sep 07

Mobile games are released at such an unrelenting rate, that I don’t generally find pre-release coverage very helpful. If I can’t click through and buy it immediately, then there’s every chance I’ll have forgotten about it by the time it’s released. But it’s been a pretty lovely week for announcements.

Rayman Jungle Run

Rayman Jungle Run

Everyone loves Rayman Origins, and it’s to Ubisoft’s credit that they’re not going to try to convert it to mobile. Instead, they’re using the same luscious UbiArt framework to create a new outing specifically for touch screens.

Going by the trailer, Rayman Jungle Run is going to be similar to the treasure chase bonus levels in Origins. It looks like it will be an auto-runner, with the jumping, swinging and punching you’d expect from everyone’s favourite French limbless platform star.

If the levels are anything like as expertly crafted as in Origins, and the controls are sensibly implemented, we’re in for a bloody treat.

Release isn’t far away: 20th September for iOS and Android. It’ll be interesting to see the price, but I’d imagine it’ll be more Chillingo than Square-Enix.

Year Walk

Year Walk

It’s hard to know what to make of Year Walk, the latest offering from Beat Sneak Bandit developer Simogo. As you can see, it’s strange and intriguing. So, let’s resort to recycling some of the developer’s words:

“Venture out into the dark woods where strange creatures roam, in a vision quest set in 19th century Sweden. Control and interact with the world, objects and creatures in every way you can think of in your search to bend the rules of the universe and open the rift that separates our world and what lies beyond it.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself? Curious – in a very good way. Matters may be clarified when it’s released on iOS sometime this winter.

Jul 23

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.

Mar 02

Gluddle

It’s hard to predict what’s going to make something stand out on the App Store. In the case of Gluddle, it was the screenshot above faintly recalling some Lemon Jelly album artwork. It’s quite the stylish game, to my eye.

It’s more physics-based fun, in this case launching bouncy balls (‘Gluddle’) to knock into targets (‘The Supervision’). Handily, you can freeze a Gluddle in mid-air whenever you like, to bounce subsequent Gluddle off. Less handily, The Supervision can also freeze Gluddle if they stay in their gaze too long.

Gluddle

As usual, levels slowly become more complicated – by the likes of black holes and transporters. And of course there are targets on time and number of Gluddles used.

What’s nice is that not all of the levels are highly orchestrated. There are levels with targets such that there’s only really one solution, but also more free-form levels. These have much higher targets, letting you freeze Gluddle all over the place and improvise your way to completion.

This plays neatly on the chaotic nature of the physics, where a small change to the launch angle can result in a very different path for your Gluddle several bounces later. It’s like throwing a bouncy ball very hard indoors and seeing what it smashes. Fun, in other words.

The only sticking point is the price. Peanuts in absolute terms, yes, but three times the price of many equally good one-screen physics-based games? It’s a tough market out there.

Version: iPhone
App Store: £1.99

Feb 24

Beat Hazard Ultra

Beat Hazard Ultra looks fantastic, with its neon explosions and swirling backgrounds, and sounds – well, it sounds as good as your iTunes library. Which in my case is excellent, I’ll have you know.

Here’s the twist: the soundtrack you choose is used to generate the on-screen action. More going on aurally means more going on visually, affecting the enemies, your firepower, and the backgrounds. Volume power-ups heighten the effect, and there are others to increase your multiplier, smart bombs and so forth.

Beat Hazard Ultra

The action matches the music enough to convince, but not too much to hamper the game. There’s a lot of fun to be had just playing around with different types of music; Girls Aloud work fantastically, Fanfarlo less so.

There’s a choice of single and twin stick control. Shooting is automatic with a single stick, leaving you to duck and dive – but mainly just enjoy the visualisation effects, as the auto-firing is fearsomely accurate. It’s inevitably a more challenging beast with twin sticks. Either way, the virtual controls are surprisingly unproblematic; it’s hard to quantify exactly what makes them work where others don’t, but they’re responsive, accurate and unobtrusive.

They need to be, too, particularly for the boss enemies. The pace varies hugely, not always entirely based on the music, but at times you’re faced with a screen full of hell. Which, as every gamer knows, is a good thing.

It’s a fun visualiser, then, but also a very nice shooter. And all that by one man UK studio Cold Beam Games. Ludicrously impressive stuff.

Version: iPhone
App Store: £0.69

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