iPhone Games – Tiny Wings and Bejeweled Blitz

22 04 2011

It’s no secret that today the iPhone is considered one of the top gaming platforms out there. Certainly overshadowing standard console games in sheer numbers of games, and, without any hard evidence to support it, I’d hazard a guess it has the most games of any platform short of PC’s.
Having those tens of thousands of titles to choose from, how do you pick out the ones worthwhile? Well, I’m here to continue my ongoing series on iPhone games, with two more recommendations.

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Addicting iPhone apps : Medieval and Warfare, Inc.

18 03 2010

If you’re looking to preserve some of that spare time you have gobs of, perhaps it would be best to skip this post. Because I’m going to talk about two of the most addicting games I’ve come across for the iPhone. The first is just fun, the other is… well, you’ll see.
**Medieval**
This game from Brisk Mobile follows a well know simple ‘castle’ game, as implemented by a thousand flash games on the net. What makes it interesting is the variety of weapons available, the smooth animation, and the delightful artwork. I’ve been playing it pretty much dead on steady for the last 2 months, and have gotten up to level 143 – and it’s *still* challenging. Not sure how they’ve managed it, but they do.
**Warfare Incorporated**
This one has done me in. It’s hard to describe it without using the obvious connection, but… it’s Starcraft for the iPhone.
The game is a recreation of the normal ‘real time strategy’ genre, scaled down and modified to run on the iPhone. You have group unit selects, goals, manufacturing, buildings, and vehicle types. You have upgrades to units and to buildings. But unlike some of the other (rather lame) attempts on the iPhone, Warfare Incorporated has managed to make a decent plotline that, while not particularly riveting, at least keeps the game flow going. With 3 levels of difficulty and about 30 levels for the full game, the single player scenarios are quite engrossing.
To add to the wonder, [Warfare Incorporated](http://www.warfareincorporated.com) allows a form of downloadable content – you can play maps that other players have generated, as well as play against other players in realtime over the net. I personally haven’t explored those options yet, but I look forward to doing my own ZERG RUSH! against other players.
Both Warfare Incorporated and Medieval are available in the iPhone app store.





Review: Altec-Lansing Backbeat 903 – Best Bluetooth Headphones Evuh?

17 02 2010


Ever since I got my iPhone 3g, and jumped to OS 3.1, I’ve been searching for the best arrangement of comfort, functionality, price, and audio quality in a set of bluetooth headphones. I’ve tried the Apple earbuds, but I find them extremely uncomfortable. Several others have come down the Amazon.com-driven mail pipeline, but until now, I wasn’t completely happy with the results.
The Altec-Lansing Backbeat 903 (also available from Plantronics under the same name is a permanently linked pair of on-the-ear headphones that provide A2DP and HFP profiles to a bluetooth host (such as an iPhone). The tether between the headsets is part antenna part audio wire. It does not hold the headphones in place, it is simply an interconnect. The headphones sit on the back of the earlobe (similar to older Jabra designs), with an audio component placed over the ear canal (slightly inside it, in fact, but not putting any weight on it).
Personally, I find this arrangement excellent, and I’m bothered that it’s not more widely implemented (in fact Jabra appears to no longer make this style, sad).
The Backbeats use a pair of behind-the-ear components. Each side has an adjustable rubber centerpiece that I found quite comfortable and unobtrusive. The left earpiece contains telephone controls that allow a simple pickup / drop of incoming calls. The right earpiece has music and volume controls.
Of all the headphones I’ve played with, the Backbeats have the most intuitive control setup. In general use, just tapping the outside of the right ear piece triggers ‘play/pause’. Tapping the outside of the left ear piece answers / drops phone calls. Volume control is via a sliding control on the bottom of the earpiece. The right-left functionality means you don’t need to remember what little doodad to fiddle when a call comes in. Left side is phone, right side is music. Simple!
What really brought it all home for me was the comfort level of the headphones. I’ve worn them for 6-8 hours a day for the last few days without feeling any discomfort. Even better, when not listening to music, the non-earfilling ear piece means I can leave the headphones on and carry on a normal conversation. One particular enjoyment was spending an entire day skiing and listening to music, where the simple outside button was easily tapped even through a ski hat and while wearing gloves.
The volume level and audio quality is excellent, even with background noise and wind – I had no problems hearing music while zipping down a trail at 25mph.
In summary, I would highly recommend these headphones to anyone who is looking for lightweight, comfortable bluetooth headphones for their iPhone or other A2DP equipped device.





I Dig It – iPhone Digging Game

16 07 2009

It seems like there’s a steady stream of games flowing into the Apple Appstore. Some are awful, some are obviously simple reskinning of existing games, but if you don’t mind sifting through the dross, you can find some true gems. “I Dig It” from InMotion Software is one of those gems.

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The Portable Stack – Is there a place for the EeePC?

5 05 2009

Recently I was successfully marketed to by Woot.com and aquired an Asus EeePC 900 Linux netbook. For those who are not familiar with these puppies, they’re hyper-small fully functional ‘laptop’ computers, scaled down to be the size of a hardcover book. The Netbook article on Wikipedia is a good summary of these devices.

The Asus EeePC 900 is an ‘older’ version (hence the reason I got it for only $149) with 512meg of RAM and a 4 gig SSD drive. It has all the basic features you’d expect for a laptop – wifi, decent screen, touchpad, USB ports, good battery life (about 3.5 hours), etc. In all respects, it should be a geeks dream. A fully functional Linux box that is only a few pounds, and can run for hours.

So why am I considering handing it off to my son?

The main problem is that in the current portable computing environment, the ‘slot’ that Netbooks like the EeePC can fill is narrowing rapidly. On the ‘full laptop’ side, there’s a trend toward longer battery life, lighter designs, and stuffing all the functionality of a full desktop machine into a portable form. Many people don’t even have desktop machines anymore, they use their laptops for all work (that’s my situation). On the other side we have the emergency of smartphones like the iPhone (which I have). The iPhone is an enormously capable device. I can read my email, chat online, browse the web, play games – all the things I’d likely do on my laptop if it were small and light – the space that the EeePC and others are shooting for.

Even in the face of all this, I really did give the EeePC a try. I carried it around for a week, trying to see where I’d use it and where I wouldn’t. I never ‘clicked’ into it in any particular fashion, due to a number of obstacles that were either filled by my iPhone or by my laptop:

  • Very small keyboard
    The EeePC has a very small and somewhat wobbly keyboard. I have quite large hands, and though I could ‘shrink’ my hands down to type away, it took some serious concentration, and really only worked when the EeePC was flat on a desk and I was sitting in a proper chair. If I were in that situation, I’d just use my laptop.

  • Wireless twitchy
    This is probably a fault of the Linux distribution the EeePC uses, but I had all sorts of problems with the machine waking up and not reassociating with any available wifi (it wouldn’t even show networks available).

  • No LEAP support
    The wireless also could not use LEAP authentication on wireless. This meant I could not use the EeePC anywhere at the office. Total loss there – I was hoping to be able to bring the machine with me to meetings so I didn’t have to undock and haul my normal laptop along.

  • Update failures from Asus
    ASUS has broken their updater. The EeePC will not software update properly from ASUS’s servers. This is a real problem. There are workarounds, naturally, but it likely means there won’t be OS updates from the manufacturer anytime soon. The answer seems to be to use Eeebuntu, a version of Ubuntu linux designed specifically for the EeePC netbooks.

  • Touchpad
    I don’t like the touchpad. I don’t know why – I just can’t get comfortable with it. The two-finger scrolling is cumbersome and prone to ‘pausing’ (this compared to the two-fingered scrolling on a macbook, which is smooth as silk).

  • Yet Another Power Supply
    I have a problem with power supplies. If I’m going to carry another laptop, I have to have another power supply with me. So now I have 2 laptops, 2 power supplies. This is not saving me anything in weight in my backpack.

Given all these issues, I find myself either picking up my iPhone to twitter or check something on wikipedia, or get out my laptop if I’m going to do any real work.

So what to do? The current plan is to reload the EeePC with Eeebuntu and evaluate that. If it’s stable, is able to browse youtube, run Python’s IDLE environment, and play nethack, then it will be a perfect upgrade for my son, as he’s outgrowing his XO laptop.





Dear iPhone Developer Community…

26 03 2009

You see that switch on the side of the iPhone? That little switch that means “Be quiet, I’m in a place where a vibrate will do?”
Pay attention to it!
There is absolutely no excuse to write a game, app, utility, or tool that starts making sounds or playing music upon startup if that switch is set to ‘silent’!
At the moment, I’m talking to you, Ezone, and you’re Crazy Snowboard app, that, despite having the phone on “SILENT”, you start playing music loud and clear upon startup!
iPhone App Developers. PAY ATTENTION TO THE SWITCH!
Sheesh!





iDracula for the iPhone. iCarnage!!!

11 03 2009

Just a quick one before I head off to my next meeting. My latest addiction for the iPhone is called ‘iDracula’. It’s sort of a mix of Diablo vs Quake vs Robotron. The 19th century ‘van helsing’-esque setting is beautifully rendered, and the soundtrack adds the appropriate head-banging necessary for any good vampire slaughtering.
There’s a great video of it in action on YouTube.
One thing I have to comment on – this is the first interactive action game on the iPhone that I feel gets the controls right. They use a pair of ‘wheels’ on the screen – one for motion, one for firing. Given the iphone’s lack of any other gaming controls, this seems to be an excellent compromise, allowing very easy motion and action.
There are a few known bugs. Settings aren’t being saved between games, it’s occasionally tricky to switch weapons in mid-melee, and there are occasional pauses. I picked it up off the appstore during a sale for $1, but it’s easily worth a lot more than that.
I hope the developers do continue to update it – a larger play area, or a decent levelling mechanism (finish this level, waste the bosses, move on to the next level) would be a definite win.