Archive for category Games

Angry Birds: The Next Generation

Angry Birds Space – Game Review

First they were merely slinging birds at green pigs, then they were doing it over various holiday seasons, then they were doing it in Rio (with some monkeys around), but now the Angry Birds have taken their war with the green pigs (who I’ve always suspected of being aliens anyway) into outer space. In typical Angry Birds tradition, there is a loose storyline surrounding the game, and in the latest sequel, the pigs have taken an entire egg planetoid from the birds and they’re not happy. As far as the game goes, it’s a variation on the basic mechanics of the other three (i.e. slingshot the birds at the pigs). I am truly glad they didn’t try to take the birds and put them into spaceships and create a totally different kind of game using the same characters. That being said, there are a number of fresh elements to Angry Birds Space that make it a refreshing new instalment.

The biggest change is that now rather than having the birds on one side, targeting the pigs on the other side of a single horizon, often we are dealing with entire planetoids. What that means is that there is gravity to deal with. What used to be a simple arc trajectory for the birds is now curved even more according to planetary gravity (I’m no physics expert, but I’m trying … ). In some cases, you can even shoot your bird past the planetoid and the gravity will cause the bird to “slingshot” back and orbit the planet for a second shot at the pigs (it’s way cooler than I’m describing it). Also, since it’s space, there’s atmosphere and atmospheric gravity to deal with. Sometimes the pigs are floating in bubbles. If you pop their bubbles, they will die in the vaccuum of space (I know, it sounds terribly cruel, but it’s still a cartoony game — suffocation is all in fun). Also, when your birds lose momentum, they float through space very slowly without gravity until they reach the atmosphere, then wham, straight down to the planet! I love these kinds of clever rules of physics that have been added to this fresh, new variant on the Angry Birds basics. The game makers have clearly given thought into how to continue the tradition of fun gameplay that they’ve already established.

If you’re wondering what new birds there are, most of our familiar feathered friends have joined the space program, but now they have funky cool space capes and goggles. Red bird is still our main guy, blue bird still splits in three, bomb bird still blows up. However, yellow bird has been replaced with purple bird who not only speeds across the screen when you tap, but actually follows the location of your finger for a target. After a few screens, you will also be rewarded with three free Space Eagles. Similar to the eagle from the original game, the Space Eagle basically finishes the screen for you if you get stuck.

The game play is still fun and simple; with the same broad appeal that the rest of the series had. I hope that Rovio will keep coming with the updates like they have for the others (that’s definitely part of what makes the games appealing). Even after very little time, I’ve already finished two thirds of the first set of screens (albeit not all with three stars), so it won’t be long before I’m looking for more. If you’re already a fan of the birds, this is more of the same with a twist. If you’ve never slung a bird at a pig, you’re probably better off with the original game as a starter — more bang for your buck. But you’ll soon be ready for the space birds, and I’m sure they will be waiting. (4.5 out of 5)

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Infinity Blade – Game Review

If you think that games on the iPhone and iPad are all puzzle games about cutting the rope or flinging birds at pigs, and wish that there were something more exciting, visually impressive, and more violent (You can’t help it, you’ve been desensitized by TV, right?) then you should try the impressive Infinity Blade. Originally there was a free demo that showed how amazing the 3D environment could be rendered on an iOS device, but now it’s a full-blown game. The title is completely apt because essentially you play a knight in a fantasy realm trying to get to the top of a castle where you face the evil God King (this isn’t much of a spoiler because it happens right away when you start the game) and you end up dead very quickly. Fortunately, your descendant (who’s got the same equipment, gold, experience as you did) comes back to try again. Along the way into the castle and up its tower, you do battle with a number of enemies (though not a very large number of enemies) before you face the God King again (and probably die again). This cycle keeps going again and again until you defeat him (and even then it goes on).

What makes this game good is firstly the graphics. The 3D CGI is amazingly sharp and you really feel a sense of the virtual depth. The characters, their weapons, armour, etc. are really imaginatively-designed and look good (My favourite enemy is called a Wood Jester, look for him!). The gameplay functions perfectly for a player like myself. I like things simple. I don’t like having to manipulate 10 different parameters, or perform a complex series of gestures just to get my character to do something. Instead, there are two arrows at the bottom corners of the screen to allow you to dodge to the left or right when the enemy attacks. There are also blocking moves, parries, stabs, etc. To attack, you just slide your finger over the enemy in a slashing motion. Again, the graphics are nice and fluid. On top of all that, there are spells that you perform by drawing a certain pattern on the screen with your finger once your magic gauge is full. Even on my iPad 1, the responsiveness is excellent, and my knight moves quickly and responds to all my commands (for the most part) immediately.

As you continue to fight, after each victory, you get gold and experience. The experience also goes towards mastering your weapons and armour (which is actually kind of a bad thing because there’s a gauge on each item which fills with experience points and as they fill up, they increase your overall experience and allow you to level up. Unfortunately, once you master an item, there are no more points added to your overall experience, so levelling-up goes much slower until you can buy and equip more items. Items cost gold, but there is a way to make in-app purchases for more game-gold in exchange for real-world cash. If you have the patience to spend many virtual bloodlines to do it, you probably can earn the gold in the game world eventually without shelling out more actual dollars.

Anyway, after you level up and get good weapons and armour, you will probably defeat the God King. Unfortunately that doesn’t automatically get you to the next level (I thought that surely the Infinity Blade which the God King uses would have been given to me and then I could use it to unlock the second level in the basement, but I have to earn the gold to buy the Infinity Blade myself — and it’s not cheap!). Anyway, once you get the Infinity Blade, you put it into a small obelisk in the castle basement which then opens three more doors to the Deathless Kings cells (this is the new content that was part of a free upgrade from the company). The Deathless Kings are even tougher than the God King, and pretty cool looking to boot.

As far as tips go, it was a great tip that I got from another blog which recommended that after a certain point, I should restart level 1 (keeping all I had acquired) because the enemies would be easier now that I’d levelled up and I could get more gold and experience quicker than ever. Another tip is that a healing ring is a must-have for any big battle. It allows your knight to become almost deathless himself.

Unfortunately there are a few flaws to the game as well. I already mentioned problem with mastering items. Another problem is the repetitiveness of the game (but that can actually be fun because you’ll become a better fighter by learning how each enemy fights). It would be nice if there were more paths within the castle, more choice. Also, maybe because it’s such a large app to have in RAM, it crashes not-infrequently. Thankfully your progress will likely be saved in the system so you can come right back to where you left off.

After I beat the final boss, I’ll have to look back at how distracting this game has been. I’ve spent many hours playing this game, and enjoyed every minute. (4 out of 5)

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“Slingshot” games for the iPhone

I know everyone else is talking about iPads, but since I live in Canada, I don’t have one yet. However, I would still like to revive my Apple blog by talking about something cool — iPhone games!

Do you remember when games first started coming out for the iPhone and iPod touch? A lot of them tried to make use of the accelerometer (since it was one of the cool new things about the hardware) and we got lots of games like Monkeyball, Dizzy Bee and Labyrinth that made us tilt our phones a lot. Now I noticed another trend: slingshot games. What I mean is that the game’s central element is that you have to pull some kind of virtual elastic and shoot your character forward like a slingshot. I recently discovered these three slingshot games which are similar but different. After wiling away subway hour upon subway hour with them, I’d like to share my review (and my addiction) with you all.

Parachute Ninja

Basically this one is the slingshot version of a platform game (i.e. the Mario Brothers genre). Your character is a little yellow ball. But no ordinary yellow ball — you are a ninja, but no ordinary ninja — you have an umbrella that can pop out of the top of your head (yes, it’s weird but incredibly cute and fun). You start from a elastic green string and slingshot yourself up or sideways depending on the level, avoiding falling into the water below. To help you are other strings along the way (you can rest on the string and then shoot yourself further), fans (they give you lift when you open your umbrella), and bouncy platforms. Unfortunately there are also challenges in the form of spikes that zap, and hovering monsters. This game is very well designed and the levels are challenging (so you have to think about the physics and plan ahead) but not too difficult that you can’t keep going forward. Who’d have thought that being an umbrella ninja yellow ball would be so fun?

Angry Birds

Did you know that there’s a war being waged between the birds and the green pigs? Well there is one in this game. On one side the birds are armed with a big slingshot and various abilities. On the other side, the green pigs build shelters out of wood, bricks, glass and metal. The object of the game is to finish each level by squishing all the green pigs. You are the birds and you slingshot yourselves kamikaze-style at the green pigs in their shelters. Not only is it fun to figure out all the right tactics for taking out the pigs, but what makes this game addictively fun is that each species of bird has special abilities. Little blue birds will split into three birds in mid-flight. Yellow birds gain a sudden burst of power. White birds drop explosive eggs, and black birds are themselves destructive bombs. You probably have to play it to get how enjoyable this game is, but I encourage you to take up arms in this conflict. The Angry Birds need YOU!

Must.Eat.Birds.

Instead of being on the side of the birds, now we use our slingshot to defend ourselves from the birds. In this game we are little round monsters with big mouths and apparently the birds are parachuting onto our picnic and once four birds sit in our four plates, the picnic is over. I know this sounds bizarre (all these games probably do) but this one seems to be a Japanese translation, so it’s probably even more wacky. The way to stop the birds (basically the only thing you do) is slingshot yourself into the air and gobble the birds in mid-drop. The special defence of us orange monsters is that we can shoot out and gobble multiple copies of ourselves. Each time we do, we double in size until we become a large, massive orange monster. But that’s still not the best part! The best part comes when you eat a whole bunch of birds in quick succession a large cake rises up in behind you and someone yells out “Maximum bake” in a strong Japanese accent. At that point, you bounce around the screen like crazy, and your points just go up exponentially — it’s the wildest monster cake picnic ever!

I know all these games probably sound insane and weird, but that is what will get you hooked. Maybe it’s something about slingshots that just cries out for something a little bizarre, but I promise you won’t notice that by your umpteenth hour with them. Just watch out for repetitive sling injuries.

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Flight Control – Game Review

Flight Control is a simple game for iPhones/iPod Touches that is addictive and a great time killer for the subway ride, the doctor’s office, or wherever you want to distract yourself for a few minutes. Using your finger, simply trace the path that leads the appropriate planes to the correct runways. Easy, right? Yup it’s all a breeze until the airspace starts to crowd with aircraft, and the big planes with their speedy engines start to fly in from all directions. One of the best features of this game is that it gives you the option to either use the game sounds or keep playing your own music in the background — too many games prefer to replace that Lady Gaga song that I had been enjoying … darn you Bejeweled 2! Anyway, as I said, this is a nice little game that you will enjoy anywhere you bring your iPod (except you might want to avoid playing it on your next flight… I’m just sayin’).

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Pocket God – App Review

Imagine you are a powerful Polynesian deity, able to wield your infinite might over a tiny island nation of palm-frond-wearing natives. You control the sun and the moon; you manipulate the clouds and storms; they worship you and fear the wrath of your mighty lightning. Omnipotence sure feels good, don’t it? Well, with Pocket God, a really cute pseudo-game from the iTunes app store, you get a taste of what that’s like.

It’s a very simple concept: there’s an island on the touch screen, complete with coconuts and idols, and a shark waiting in the water for the little cartoon natives. If you tap on the coconut, it drops out of the tree. With your finger you can lift the natives high into the air, or drop them into the sea (if you dangle them over the shark, it might just jump out of the water for a snack). You can even manipulate gravity by turning your iPod upside-down. If you’re feeling vengeful, you might toss a few islanders into the nearby volcano — try three of them. (Don’t worry, you can easily create more — you’re God,)

It doesn’t take long to do all the things that you can do, but the animations are extremely cute. The best part is that the updates are frequent, and each update brings new features and new activities that you can do. The latest update added the feature where tapping on the moon brings a vampire bat to your island to bite one of your little friends — you can guess what that’s going to lead to. Just wait until the sun rises in the morning — ouch!

This is one of those fun little apps that are great to show your friends, plus you may become addicted to trying out all the activities. I hope they keep adding on the updates. Til then I think I’ll chuck a few more thunderbolts their way. Hey, not actual islanders were harmed in the making of this game. We’re cool.

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My Five Favorite iPod/iPhone Games

First of all, I know there are lots of simulation and action games for the iPhone. However, this review will not cover those games. I’m generally more a fan of the puzzle-type or quiz type games. I liked to think outside-the-box and exercise my brain rather than my coordination. So if you’re into that type of thing too, here are a few suggestions but you should check out from the App store.

Frenzic

Frenzic is kind of an action puzzle game. The objective is to make pies of six wedge pieces. The pieces come out of the middle and you have to decide which pie to put them in. It’s better if you can create pies of a single color but as the pieces come at you fast and quick, sometimes you just have to put them wherever you can. If you do well, you get power ups such as slowing down the clock, double your score, or nuke all the pies. This is a well-designed fast-paced game that I got really addicted to. I was playing this in the bathroom! (TMI, sorry!)

Parking Lot

Parking Lot is a port of a real-world toy game similar to the classic sliding tile game where you have to move pieces around to form a picture, but the objective here is to slide cars out of the way so that you can move the yellow Volkswagen out the exit. The levels go from easy to very difficult, where you might have to move many cars around several times before you can get the yellow car out. I think this is a great one for thinking outside-the-box.

The Plateau

This is a really polished version of the game that I had already played on the Macintosh before. You start with a bunch of balls connected by lasers/strings that overlap. You move the balls around until the strings no longer overlap any others. That’s how you clear the screen. It sounds very easy, but there’s a lot of strings and you need to move them in ways that you may not consider at first. This is another one of those brain-stretching ones.

Movie Challenge

I’ve tried a few quiz games, but this is the best one so far. The questions are all about movies, which I like. You need to make your way across the screen by answering questions correctly. You pick from categories such as comedy, sci-fi, actors, directors, etc. and there are different types of questions such as true or false, scrambled words, what’s the date?, trivia, quotes, etc. There are even some power ups to help you get the answers. One of the best things is that the questions are very up-to-date (I’m expecting some Slumdog Millionaire questions in the next update!). There are not as many of the graphical gimmicks as some of the other quiz games (no cartoon hosts or contestants) but I think this one has better questions and is more fun for a true movie buff.

Trism

Trism is a matching block game similar to Bejeweled or Tetris. You slide triangles across the board to match up rows of three of the same color. When you do they go away and make room for more to slide in. One of the differences is that with the iPod’s accelerometer you can control the direction in which the pieces slide. I know this is supposed to be a big feature, but I don’t see how it makes a very big difference. Nevertheless, this is a new variation on an essentially fun style of game. As you progress, there are both power-up pieces, as well as obstacle pieces. Locked pieces cannot be slid, and bomb pieces must be removed within a certain number of rounds. So if you’re tired of Bejeweled, or Tetris, you might give Trism a try.

That’s just a small selection from the vast number of games that are showing up for the iPhone/iPod in the App store every day. Many of them are free, or have light versions, but even the ones that cost money don’t cost much. They are a great way to pass the time on the subway or in a doctor’s office. Trust me.

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More Mac Apps

I want to talk about some software that I’ve picked up. I haven’t had too much time to become an expert in all of it, but here goes:

quicken.jpg

Quicken 2007 for Mac
You know that I’ve been trying to not pay for software, and it seemed most appropriate not to pay for personal finance software. I tried every program I could get my hands on, from the cute but useless Cha-ching, to Moneydance to Checkbook to Money (not Microsoft) to Cashbox and so on. I tested them by trying to record transactions and assign categories to them; and I also tried to import my transactions from Scotiabank online. Most of the programs just didn’t have much functionality. They couldn’t really do anything and it was difficult to keep things straight (i.e. It was hard to tell one account from another, it was difficult to put categories to transactions, and there was hardly any reporting feature available.) I remembered using Quicken on my first Dell and though I had gone over to MS Money (that was before I hated MS), I remembered that Quicken was pretty good. I looked at the web site for Quicken and it felt like they (like everyone else in the business arena) put a low priority on Macs. In fact, the Quicken.ca web site clearly indicated that if you wanted Mac software, you had to buy it from the US web site. Short story long, I got it and it’s pretty good. It has way more features than any other finance software I tried, and even though it seems to recognize Scotiabank, I haven’t yet gotten it to directly connect (however, it is really easy for me to download my transactions into Quicken and reconcile and categorize them all).The winning feature, hands-down, though is the dashboard widget. The widget allows me to enter transactions directly from the dashboard, so I don’t have to open Quicken every time. This was a bit of a problem for me before because I would start to lose track because I didn’t keep updating my information in Quicken. This makes it so much easier (and you know how I likes me widgets!)

More Widgets
On that note, here are a few that I recently found that are fun and cool.

singthatitune.pngSing-that-iTune downloads lyrics to songs for you as you listen to the song in iTunes. I don’t always sing along, but it’s a fun thing to have. It even puts the lyrics into the music file for you so you can read them any time.

Xcuts is a keyboard shortcut reference that is always there to provide handy quick key combos to do everything you can on Mac OS X. It’s really useful, especially when you’re still new like me and want to use the keyboard shortcuts. Who else is going to teach you?

 

quoteconjurer.png

Quote Conjurer is just something fun for the Potter geek (like myself). It gives you a new quote each day from the Harry Potter canon. Plus, it’s got awesome Disney-style drawings of the characters we know and love. It makes me smile.

todos.pngTodos

Another program I love (and this one’s free) is called Todos. It is just an easy way to get at all your applications. You tell the program to scan your applications and when you activate the program (using a quick key combination like ctrl+option+command+space, then the screen pops up with all your application icons in one window where you can click them to activate. I love it because I don’t have to hunt through my applications folder anymore. They’re all at my fingertips. Cool!

Zuma
Finally, I wanted to recommend a highly addictive game from the makers of the highly addictive game, Bejewelled. It’s called Zuma and the basic premise is that you are at the centre of the screen, shooting coloured balls at the line of coloured balls snaking around you towards the hole (Hole bad!). When you get three balls of the same colour in a row, they disappear and the when the gap closes, you could get a cascade reaction of coloured balls vanishing. Once in a while you get special balls that do things like move everything backward, explode or pause. It’s a really fun game. Windows users can play it free online via PopCap Games), but I could only play the demo. When I found myself playing the demo until 3am (since I knew that once I stopped, I couldn’t get back in). I decided to pay for a licence (something generally unheard of from me). Try Zuma!

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