Sources describe the new Maps app as a forthcoming tentpole feature of iOS that will, in the words of one, “blow your head off.” I’m not quite sure what that means, and the source in question declined to elaborate, but it’s likely a reference to the photorealistic 3-D mapping tech Apple acquired when it purchased C3 Technologies. C3 did use missile-targeting technology to develop its gorgeous 3-D models of major cities, so …
“Missile-targeting technology”? Well, it’s a good thing Google’s not the company with that tech. With all of the personal data they’re collecting on us, “blow your head off” might have a more literal meaning. *rimshot*
But seriously, the Maps iOS app is something that needs to be overhauled, given that no truly significant functionality has been added to it since the launch of the original iPhone. I’m not sure 3D mapping is something that’ll be practically useful on a day to day basis, but I would love some more turn-by-turn navigation and localized search capabilities at the very least.
The only thing keeping Nintendo and Sony handheld systems relevant in the age of iOS/Android gaming is the fact that they offer high quality game experiences that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Of course, there are certain console titles that play just as well, if not better, on touch screen only devices, Scribblenauts Remix being one of them and Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective being another.
Capcom’s finally released Ghost Trick on iPhone/iPad as a universal app (with iCloud saved games enabled!) today. I haven’t actually played through the original version on Nintendo DS yet, but hear it’s a pretty good game. It’s a detective adventure game where you try to solve your own mysterious deaths as a ghost. There’s a bunch of parallels with the Phoenix Wright series, if you’ve ever played those.
You get the first two chapters of the game as a free download, and can purchase the rest in app for $9.99. It’s a pretty good steal, given the fact that Ghost Trick just came out barely a year ago as a $29.99 retail Nintendo DS title. Plus, you’re arguably getting a better gameplay experience as you don’t need to use a silly stylus or carry around a Nintendo DS with you.
I’m midway through the first chapter now and will most certainly be buying the rest.
Updated Protip (2/3): The iCloud interface is really ambiguous and scarily written. (“There is a chance that you might lose your progress” on both options?? Come on Capcom!) I’ve tested it, though and you want to hit “Sync iCloud backup data” to upload your current save to the cloud. Tapping “Sync this device” brings the save from the cloud down to whichever device you are using now.
Last night I was browsing the “Featured” tab on the App Store on my iPhone and came across an interesting new app called “Viggle,” which promised to reward me with fabulous prizes for watching TV. Now, I watch my fair share of TV, so naturally this proposition intrigued me.
Basically, the service asks you to “check in” when you are watching a TV show, similar to GetGlue or IntoNow. The difference is that with Viggle, you get 2 points every minute that you’re “watching” TV. When you’ve collected enough rewards points, you can redeem them for things like Amazon, Best Buy, Sephora gift cards or a month of Hulu Plus service.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Yes and no. The “prices” of the rewards are high enough that you can’t really quit your day job and watch TV all day. A $5 gift card to Starbucks or Best Buy costs 7,500 points, which equates to 62.5 hours of TV watching. There are other ways to gain points, the most significant of which is by checking into “Featured” shows. Being checked into Glee nets you an extra 325 points, for example. You can also get scattered bonus points here and there for setting reminders to watch shows, answering trivia questions, or watching video advertisements. Many people have already reported redemption of the rewards, so at least Viggle is coming through on their end of the bargain as of now.
The biggest problem I had with the service is that the audio detection simply doesn’t work. I tried sticking my phone next to both my TV speakers for an episode of Family guy and next to my iPad streaming an episode of 30 Rock and neither would register on Viggle in four attempts. After two failed attempts, Viggle will give you the option of manually checking into a show. The catch is that you can only manually check into programming that is currently on “live” TV. (Viggle asks you for your cable provider in order to offer you options) I managed to “check in” to Jimmy Fallon’s show even though I wasn’t watching.
This got my gaming mind thinking. Since there’s a cap of 120 points per hour (you don’t get extra points for channel flipping), your best bet at points generation is to make sure you are always checked into a show. You can do this even if you aren’t near a TV by failing the app into letting you check into something manually. It’s a pretty silly busywork task to have to open an app on your phone and do some taps every hour or so to generate points, but it’s really no different than checking in to harvest your plants in FarmVille or opening a new floor in your Tiny Tower. To take the freemium game analogy further, earning bonus points by “watching” a video advertisement is basically the same thing as watching a progress bar as your Sim goes poop. There’s even rewards for opening Viggle at the right time (bonus points for checking into a featured show).
Granted, having a random list of checked in shows may not be as appealing an end result as a flourishing TinyZoo with Panda Bears, but I’d wager that getting gift cards to real stores is probably a good piece of compensation for that. I think that if I’m ever feeling bored enough to want to do some tapping on my phone, getting some more Viggle points may be in my future.
Since Viggle’s website has nothing but a link to their iTunes page, if you want more details on the service, checking out their Twitter feed is probably your best bet. The service says they are working on both Android and iPad versions of their app for release “soon.”
There’s plenty of asynchronous tactics games available on mobile platforms, but this one hits the sweet spot in so many tradeoffs that each turn is like munching a little stack of Pringles. For example, the “playfield” is small, like a boardgame. It could be bigger, but it’s not; at the same time, it’s not so small that positioning is minimized. Each turn consists of five – and only five – actions, and you can play your turn over and over again locally until you’ve found the optimal investment of those actions. Maybe a single unit takes all of them. Maybe it’s a turn you use to equip for the countercharge. Turns are never onerous, they always consist of some scientifically optimized volume of input.
Simplifying the description of the game further, you might just call it “Tactics With Friends.” It plays like a very polished, welcoming version of your favorite turn based strategy game (Final Fantasy Tactics, Advance Wars, Jeanne d’Arc, Fire Emblem, etc.) combined with a little card game intrigue. See, in addition to commanding different kinds of units, you always have a “hand” that you can use to either deploy new units, equip them with bonuses, or play effects on the board. Some tricky schemes can be set into motion by playing out unseen resources.
It’s a free download and though it’s got some microtransaction upselling and interstitial ads, it’s never onerous. As if you needed another reason, the game’s developer, Robot Entertainment, consists of some of the people who made Age of Empires and Halo Wars from Ensemble Studios.
Give it a shot. Keep in mind that it’s a “multiplayer only” game, though. There’s no single player campaign, but random opponents have proved to be worthy adversaries.
What could be a more fun iPhone game than shooting the crap out of zombies as a badass postapocalyptic British lawgiver? Turns out, there’s quite a bit of alternatives. I had the opportunity to review Judge Dredd Vs. Zombies for Comics Alliance late last year and while the core gameplay was competently fun, it was sucked dry by the hollow presentation and shameless difficulty due to a freemium model-friendly unlock system.
If you’re looking for an epic Judge Dredd gaming experience based on the comics, let’s stop right there. This is not the game for you. While the word “zombies” in the title could imply a tie in to Garth Ennis’ epic “Judgment Day” zombie storyline, Judge Dredd vs. Zombies involves nothing of the sort. The closest you get to a story is a single briefing screen telling you that Zombies have infested Mega City-One and that Judge Dredd is the “Solution.” In fact, other than scattered badges and the occasional logo in each level, the only sights you’re going to see are Judge Dredd, zombies, and generic looking building interiors. To be fair to the developer, though, it’s what was promised in the title and by golly that’s exactly what’s offered.
I’ve been playing with the new Xbox LIVE iOS app this afternoon and have to hand it to Microsoft – this thing looks slick. It’s got the new Metro UI that’s on the new Windows Phone and now the Xbox 360. The app looks and performs wonderfully even in iOS, especially on the iPad where it literally turns your iPad into a mini Xbox 360 dashboard. If you use Xbox Live with any sort of regularity, there’s no reason not to get this app asap.
Currently, it’s got the basic functionality of things you’d want to do away from your Xbox, like check/send messages, achievements, and friend activity. You can even check out some streaming video content from the Xbox LIVE team. You can’t, however, browse the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and make downloads or purchases. This would be the logical next feature add and I’d be surprised if Microsoft didn’t implement this sooner rather than later. After all, allowing players to impulse purchase content on the go can only do good things for Microsoft’s bottom line.
Here’s a list of features from Major Nelson:
Some of the features include:
Read and send messages to friends
Manage your friends list, invite new friends
Read and Edit your full LIVE profile (name, bio, motto)
Change your avatar features/items with the avatar closet
View and compare your achievement progress with friends
Apple obviously doesn’t use Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs so enabling LTE on the iPhone isn’t possible using Qualcomm baseband unless you make the phone’s PCB larger (which Apple obviously wasn’t going to do). Note that no one else seems to deliver a single chip LTE + 1x/WCDMA voice solution either, so this isn’t just a Qualcomm limitation.
Basically because as magical as Apple makes engineering seem, it just wasn’t physically possible and won’t be until at least 2012 sometime. And even then, will LTE even be rolled out in enough markets?
Developer Peak Systems has a shuffleboard app that lets you connect up to eight iPhones together to create a makeshift shuffleboard table. Yeah, I know, the iPad is probably a better size for the game, but it’s much less likely that you’re going to have a bunch of iPads in the same location unless you’re involved in some really geeky activities.
It may not have the same feel as a real shuffleboard table at your local dive bar, but hey, if you’ve got a bunch of friends with iPhones over at your place for some drinking, why not give it a shot?
I never thought there would come a day when I would prefer playing a particular game title on my phone rather than a “real” portable game console from Sony or Nintendo.
Well, that day is here.
Developer 5th Cell’s port of its “indie” Nintendo DS hit, Scribblenauts Remix is an absolute joy to play on the iPhone and iPad and is one of the few iOS releases that had me hooked enough to want to complete the game in one day.
(To be fair, I also never thought that there would come a day where there would actually be a good licensed superhero video game. What can I say? We live in magical times.)
For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, Scribblenauts is a puzzle/platforming game based on one core mechanic — your imagination. You see, you can bring in almost any object or living thing into the game world by simply typing it into Max’s notebook. It’s a very “wow”-inducing mechanic when you experience it for the first time because we’re so used to being limited to the constraints of what game designers have set for us.
The goal in each level is for Max to obtain a Starite by following the hints on screen. The first level’s Starite is dangling on a tree that is just out of reach. There’s many ways to solve the puzzle, depending on your level of creativity. Some might opt for the straightforward solution of creating a ladder for Max to climb. Me? My first inclination was to give Max a large chainsaw to cut down the tree, letting the Starite fall down to me, because I’m a f’in boss. You could also give Max a jetpack and have him float up there to reach it as well. Or maybe you could make a giant yellow beaver to gnaw down the tree. I’m sure you get the idea by now.
The game has a portly database of over 20,000 words so chances are that the game will have a better chance of stumping you rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, this doesn’t include proper nouns or places (for obvious reasons) or vulgar terms. Believe me, I was disappointed that I could not make a flaming pile of poop, but hey, what’s that really going to help you do?
All of the levels are fairly straightforward, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The danger with a game that provides so much freedom is in overwhelming the player with too many choices and possibilities. At no point in Scribblenauts Remix did I feel “lost.” The difficulty curve was nice and easy – almost too easy, in fact. Some of the more interesting levels have several “phases” involved, and I expected the levels to get more and more epic the further I progressed. Sadly, many levels remained very superficial in their goals. Fortunately, for those who want a more free form sandbox to play in, there’s a “Playground Mode” where you can just create objects and things and have them interact with each other.
One of the most exciting features about the game is that it supports iCloud for game saves. For people who own both an iPad and an iPhone, this feature is a godsend. I tend to play mobile games on my phone when I’m not home, but if I’m just lounging around, I’d rather use that larger screen real estate. Previously, you were essentially locked into choosing either the iPhone or iPad version to play, even if the game was a universal build. Sure, you could switch over, but you’d lose all of your gameplay progress to do so. And who would want to do that, other than shortsighted marketing folks who only look at features as checklist fodder?
There’s 50 levels included within the $4.99 universal iPhone/iPad release of Scribblenauts Remix. 40 of which are culled from the previous two Scribblenauts releases on the Nintendo DS. The remaining 10 are “exclusive” to the iOS version of the game. In full disclosure, I never finished the original game on the Nintendo DS because, quite honestly, I was annoyed by the controls in having to tap each word individually with my stylus on the onscreen keyboard. However, on iOS, inputting words is a joy because it’s a natural function of the device – just like writing a text message. A control pad isn’t necessary for this game since there’s no precision platforming to be done. Add it all up and you have a title that feels much more at home on a touch screen than on a portable game console.
Since I didn’t play the previous titles, I can’t say whether the “right” levels were picked or if the 10 new levels are worth the admission price for those who have already played the game on the DS. At $4.99, though, no one’s going to laugh at you for paying 50 cents a “new” level, especially since it’s quite apparent that 5th Cell will be adding additional level packs to the game as time goes on. For anyone who hasn’t played the DS games though, oh ho-ho are you going to have fun. Unless you don’t like words. In which case, I’ll direct you to this app instead.
The highest praise I can give to Scribblenauts Remix is that I was so enamored with the game that I wanted to not only complete the levels, but also obtain all the achievements as well. Think about it – how many games do you have on your phone? And how many do you actually want to finish, let alone get all the achievements on?
Scribblenauts Remix is available now as a universal iPhone/iPad build on the iTunes App Store.
Infinity Blade is the best gaming experience I’ve had on the iPhone.
Seriously. You can take your Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and all of your lame tower defense game clones and shove them in your favorite orifice because this game makes those look like amateur hour. From the time I downloaded Infinity Blade on my phone last Thursday, all I’ve wanted to do is play it nonstop.
To put this in perspective, you’re talking a guy who has all of the video game consoles, a gaming-ready PC, a Kindle, a Blu-Ray player, Netflix, a backlogged DVR of TV shows, and a sports fan. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of entertainment that I could/should have been plowing through instead.
Nope, I had to max out my Infinity Blade character first.