Thursday 31 May 2012

To the Farm: Free Kids language Building App with some serious credentials

Backed by the Spanish Ministry of Culture Sanoen's new App : To the Farm has now been released for free on the app store. This is Sanoen's second app that we've come across and liked their first kid's app. Coincidentally we have just been playtesting apps for children up to the age of 5 and that's just the age group that To the Farm is aimed at.
Lovely handcrafted Patchwork Graphics

So not one playtester but two have been involved in our app review, a three year old and a one year old. Reactions from both, and from myself are wholeheartedly positive.

The three year old's initial response to one of the intro page's graphics was "He looks like me, Daddy." With such a positive initial response the app could only but be a winner. And indeed even the one year old responded enthusiastically with mcuh slamming and battering of the iPad as her favourite animals trooped across the screen.

From an adult's perspective the kid's educational app is really well designed and thought out, with some serious credentials and thought going into the mechanics behind the improve your vocab app (and more). To give a good idea at the market that the app is aimed at we've taken this quote straight from Sanoen's own app:

All the kids favourite animals are there
with many modes of play
"And now, for the very youngest readers, we’ve created To the Farm!, a vocabulary book designed to stimulate language development. Recommended for children from 0 to 5 years of age, it features various user modes adapted for the age of each child and music and sound effects guaranteed to delight budding digital natives. We’ve also included educational advice provided by our professional consultants in education and early childhood stimulation techniques. We’ve designed an application that allows users to choose the most appropriate reading mode for any child in the 0 -5 age group."

As mentioned some serious thought has gone into this with educational consultants of some standing being drafted in to lend credence to the app:
 "Our educational consultant, Escuela Hamelin International Laie,, has collaborated in the creation of this guide, which is designed to provide orientation regarding the modes recommended for each age group as well as additional information about early childhood stimulation. The theory of early childhood stimulation was developed by Canadian educator Glenn Doman. What exactly is early childhood stimulation? We can define it as the exploitation of the learning capacity and flexibility of a baby’s brain for the development of its cerebral functions by means of a series of stimuli that capture the child’s attention. This teaching method is used to stimulate the cognitive development of children up to the age of six. It’s important to keep in mind that this method is not designed to make children memorize all the images and words they have seen and heard, but rather to stimulate the areas of the brain related to the senses of sight and hearing."

It must also be pointed out that the app functions in various ways depending on the needs and age of the child. The graphics particularly are a lovely patchwork creation evoking memories of childhood felt play and making the educational app seem more a work of craft than hard programming.
Of particular note is how the app can even be used to teach both young and old words from different languages, as with a touch of an onscreen button the app can reads out the name of the animals in English ; German; Chinese and other languages

Three thumbs up from the adult play tester and our two junior testers.

Simple but Fun IOs Games and Utilities

Aside from being an amazing business tool, the iPad and IPhone are brilliant for gimmicks and quick easy , fun apps too. This factor has led to a new breed of app developer , not concerned with high end 3D graphics for the IPad nor Dolby 5.1 surround sound iOS games, but just celebrating the fun side of being an iPad and iPhone user.
 Thumb Wizards is one such developer who is really rocking the fun side of ios apps, we've had privileged access to their plethora of fun apps which includes such standard items as well polished Sudoku games but also music utilities and even fun translation apps.

 We've had hands on with the "Speakin Scottish " app for the last few days as an example of ThumbWizards awesome library of apps and can report that the app is just as fun as it sounds, making legible English into some obscure Scottish brogue, perhaps just for the heck of it, but if you ever find yourself in Glasgow with an IPhone to hand Speakin Scottish could actually prove to be a useful Translation app too! 
 We'll bring a more hands on review with the fun lingo app that has been made famous enough to feature in the Scottish Sun in a follow up article on which the developers at Thumb Wizards have been kind enough to grant us a few promo codes for loyal readers.
Apps to celebrate Diamond Jubilee
Celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee
by Speaking British too! Another Fun
Thumb Wizards App
 So watch our pages carefully over the next few days for a big Diamond Jubilee App give away ( our Uk readers know what we're talking about) also standby for an exclusive interview with Thumb Wizards and in the meantime head on over to their website to see the brilliant IOS apps that they have to offer.

Gamebook: Warlocks Bounty...Decide Your Path.

Are you new to the gamebook genre or curious as to what it might be? Walocks Bounty for Android may be the game to help you with that. Experience a story of the magics and knights and goblins era. You are a powerful wizard and dire situations call for your help. Meet Mythical creatures, some helpful, others not. Summon your own creatures. Find clues and items. Sorry, my writing style is nothing compared to the writing in the gamebook. It certainly has the language and terms of the feudal days mastered. This along with creatively enticing storytelling takes you on your journey. The NEW android app is available on Google play with a full version and a FREE lite version. Betrayals and twists may or may not occur. Your decisions in the game decide which path your adventure takes, who and what you meet, what you find and more...

Page background and fonts are in Old English as they should be
A big advantage to reading versus seeing the world of a game or story, is that your imagination is allowed to let you see the world as it's suppose to be according to you(with some input of the author(s))...and not the way someone else wants you to see it by attempting to render it in 3D or 2D. Your imagination can be so much more real. Your mind reads and understand that there's a dragon, so you see and know a dragon is there. Just adding the word "mythical" instructs your mind to change and make your imaginary world more mythical, very hard to do with graphics in my opinion. It's difficult to disagree with yourself, as that is the natural way you interpret and translate the world from words.

This isn't to say that the mood and tones of scenes isn't aided by music and sounds. Some scenes have music that is really appropriate. From eerie to dramatic. The artwork is decent in a very acceptable way.

Battles are more involving then the white backgrounds in the cards suggest
The battle system is not that hard to get the grasp of. Cards are well designed and the items proportions seem correct. Descriptions of effects of items are clear and easy to view during battle. The Battles are fun but a bit too random. Some skills and tactics are involved in deciding to use magic or physical. Which type of defense to use, and whether or not to drain mana from the opponent. If you have to press the Home button to do somethine else, you might be able to come back into battle. I haven't fully tested if the game saves in a hidden file on exit, or if I just haven't cleared the temporary information yet by using more RAM.

I don't feel like I've gotten that much stronger at the end of the game. The characters stats has only change a few points going into the final battle. Of course, maybe I started out strong already, but I was hoping to get at least twice as strong by the end. This may be due to the story engulfing me like RPG games so that I have that expectation of becoming over 10x stronger. Maybe new installments or future related games could have this feature. Although that would involve more balancing of levels and stats and cards, meaning more time and designing. 

There also isn't very much tactics involved. Battles seem to be mostly determined by luck. Persistence may be required because the tides may turn as both you and your opponents cards change. Even as you get better, some battles are just hopeless until one of your retries randomly gives you the better cards(way better). I feel I should have more control of the battles with my skills and strategies. I've had card game experience with Yugioh nonprofessionally and the Pokemon Trading Card Game on Gameboy, not that I expect games to be that in depth. Long ago I sort of made a Pokemon Gamebook, except the story was in my head while a map with the routes had locations with monsters listed.

Loading buttons from one scene to the next takes longer than expected considering each scene is a set of text(image) with a few buttons. However, all these investments would have to be considered with the application's pricing of course. The developer Emil Bakalinov of Attic Squad Games has in the description on Google Play "Book 1     Revenge of the Sorcerer     By Jonathan Green" might be hinting of other books? 

Written by Jonathan Green – a veteran of the gamebook genre having penned numerous titles for many popular franchises, including Fighting Fantasy, Doctor Who, Star Wars and Tin Man Games’ Gamebook Adventures                -Taken from Google Play

The replay value may be a little low, but that isn't to say that the first time was not fun, because it was fun. There is a feature that describes what you may had missed in your journey compared to a fully completed one. MY SUGGESTION FOR THE READER IS TO TRY THE LITE VERSION AND SEE WHAT I MEAN. (although that would make the full versions start a little less appealing, you can rush through those scenes rather quickly). For less than $3 the full version isn't an arm and a leg and seems reasonable. It's a really interesting game.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

New Kids Educational App for Free

A few months ago we published a review for Sarah Little Fairy from Sanoen . The Developers do a fantastic line of childrens' educational apps and are releasing another free Kids app on iOS tomorrow. Here's the teaser article for the app, stay tuned for a Gametrender review very soon:

Press Release for New Free Kids App from Sanoen

This Wednesday 30th of May our second app will be available in the App Store: “To the farm!”
It consists of an educational app that stimulates the language of the smallest little kids (from 0 up to 5 years old), with original illustrations of farm animals and speech in 6 languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Catalan and Chinese.
It is a funny way for the children to learn vocabulary. With 5 modes adapted to different ages:  - BITS mode - Reading words mode - Easy spelling mode - Spelling mode - Reading sentences mode.

We also offer a guide for the parents to make them easy the use of the  free app and some pedagogical tips from Hamelin International Laie School, our advisor in education and early stimulation.

We offer a launch promotion: the "To the Farm" will be free until the 10th of June!
Here you have the App link (available from Wednesday 30th of May):

Banking App Guide : How to use the Pingit App

If you're money savv you probably do at least a bit of your banking via the Internet. Going one step further it now seems that all you need is a Smartphone and a clever banking app to be fiscally aware. One of the more astute banking apps is from Barclays. Here's a quick picture guide showing how to use Barclay's Pingit Banking app. All reports we've had have said that Pingit is completely reliable and safe. Pingit is heavily encrypted so shouldn't present much of a security risk. It is also very easy to register for Pingit Banking as our quick and simple Pingit Guide shows.

How to using Barclay's Pingit Banking App

Mobile Banking Apps
How to Use Barclays Pingit App

Monday 28 May 2012

Developer Brief for renowned Twitter RPG

What is Tweet RPG:

Tweet Rpg is a renowned and unique Twitter game that is looking to make the jump to becoming an Android and iOs app. This brief covers the details of what Tweet Rpg is and what the creators requirements are for a collaboration with an app developer. If you would like to either sponsor Tweet Rpg's jump to becoming an app or want to become the creator of the app then please contact us and we'll forward your details on to the Twitter game's creator.

Goal: To find a suitable developer to collaborate with to create a Tweet RPG phone app.

 Intro to Tweet RPG Tweet RPG is a Twitter-based role-playing system, where followers vote to shape the progression of adventure narratives. Story updates are posted twice daily on week days, with a story choice at the end of each update. When the voting session closes, the choice with the most votes is used to carry on the story. There are also opportunities for individual players to take control of the story alone, stat tests to add an element of risk into the game, and a combat mechanic for facing enemies. Each adventure involves additional content as well, posted on the Tweet RPG blog –

 There is an extended prologue and epilogue for each story, as well as a 'character creation' process, and regular story summaries to help people keep up with the action. The stories cover a variety of genres – so far we've done medieval fantasy, space opera science fiction, and neo-noir mystery. Current Engagement Three Tweet RPG adventures have been completed so far, with a fourth currently underway. The first adventure, King Slayer, had 27 people who got involved, and the most recent adventure, Time to Die, had 60 people who got involved. 60 people have joined in so far with the current adventure, Hack 'N' Slash Hero – most of these have dropped in for a few votes, with a highly engaged core of roughly 20 players who vote on every choice. 

Who Plays Tweet RPG?

The Tweet RPG players are spread geographically across the world, mainly in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. Most have English as a first language, and they appear to be a mix of ages and genders (these are observations rather than hard facts).

 Overall Function/Design The purpose of a Tweet RPG phone app would be three-fold: firstly, to enhance the gameplay experience, secondly, to provide easy access to supporting info i.e. inventory etc., and thirdly, to provide the players with additional fun elements alongside the main adventure. The app would not replace the current Tweet RPG format on Twitter. The main capability that the app would need to have is the ability to draw information from Twitter – from the Tweet RPG Twitter feed, lists, favourites, and followers – and to send tweets from the user's Twitter account (to vote in the story decisions).

It would also need to store the catalogue of Tweet RPG content i.e. story articles, 'how to play'' articles, etc. The design/layout of the app should offer the user instant access to the most pertinent information i.e. current story update/decision, with easy access to back-up information. This could be through a central start-up screen, with sliding tabs from top, bottom, left, right, for additional information. Visual themes could relate to the genres which Tweet RPG works with e.g. fantasy, science fiction, noir, horror, etc., showing the broad mix of stories. Engaging ways to interact with text should also be included. Features Essential features (part of a free trial app):
• Current story update/options on screen at start-up
 • Voting through radio buttons with optional comment box (sends vote as a tweet)
 • Access to current character stats/inventory (including large HP counter on start screen)
 • Vote closing countdown timer
 • Access to 'how to play' articles Premium Features (part of a full app):
 • Personalised alerts/remainders – for 'vote closing soon' reminder or 'quick vote' alert
• Current story timeline
 • Access to current story summaries
 • Access to other player's votes/comments
 • Access to previous vote results
• Access to previous stories (possibly hold back – see 'further development')
• Character creation tool (when needed for a new adventure) Further Development These are features that could be added further down the line, once the overall structure of the app is firmly in place and people have engaged with the concept:
 • Minigames integrated into 'completed' stories – rather than playing through the previous adventures by making decisions (like a gamebook), players must complete minigames to progress to the next section of story. Minigames could relate to the story events e.g. a speed-based game for a 'SPD test' within the story.
 • Player versus player battle arena – using a simple character creation mechanic (see Hack 'N' Slash Hero character creation – ), players can build characters to battle against each other.
Concept could work in a similar fashion to 'Draw Something' i.e. player sends a challenge to another player, they choose one of their characters to respond, the battle automatically plays out (using Tweet RPG's combat mechanic), the winner gets points! There could be a league table and perks to purchase with points.
 Revenue Plan As stated above, a free trial version of the app could be offered, with limited functions, as well as the full version. There could also be the possibility for integrated apps in the free version of the app e.g. every time a vote is sent, an ad is shown.

We're very excited to be getting behind the developer of Twitter RPG and have been doing our little bit to dispense advice. The Dev obviously has a massive presence on Twitter and we hope that you'll at least show your support by becoming a Twitter follower of Tweet RPG. Also eventually we hope to get a Kickstarter type campaign going so again if you wish to donate we'll pass on the creator's details . And of course if you're an angel or an incubator or a dev who want's to get behind an already established game property please let us know.
(We've recently covered a similar RPG  app and see Twitter RPG making just as much of a splash)

Is the iPad good for making music?

Being a creative writer we're always looking to use technology to explore other ways of being creative. When touch screen devices became de rigeur we were quite enthused by using initially the iPod touch and later our Xperia Play phone to make music. Common apps that can help a budding musician and are quite fitting for touchscreen devices are the numerous free pianos, keyboards and synthesisers that are available for both Android and iOS. Now that the iPad has become the touch screen device of choice we have access to even more laymans ways of making music due touts enhanced processing power and larger touchscreen being a more viable interface. Many traditional makers of musical instruments and particularly gadget orientated manufacturers of devices like guitar pedals, synths, Mackie Mixers , sound bars, and other devices are realising this and responding in kind. Aside from common apps that are available for the iPad like Garage Band and DjMix we're putting this article out as a general feeler for the musos community that consistently use iPads for their music and song creation. If you're one of those iPad using musicians or Dj's we'd love to hear what apps you find useful. Feel free to add your comments as we expand this article to become a comprehensive guide to making music on the iPad.

Educational Apps for 3 to 5 Year olds

Looking in particular at children's apps for 3 to 5 year olds, our recent playest is of the app Abby'sPre-School learning. Abby is the eponymous monkey starring in many of 22Learnings children's educational apps on iOs. As a character driven learning app the choice of a monkey avatar sees quite appropriate.
 Our young play tester responded quite enthusiastically to Abby the Monkey with dialogue consisting of phrases in response to the Kid's app such as "What's that monkey want now ?" and " You silly monkey" being often hear responses to the app. Activity wise the educational app seems to be pitched just right for per school children , as of writing the app is being tested by a 3 and a half year old and all activities are in his reach and are just challenging enough to warrant some brain strain but not frustration.

Reward wise the child can expect the normal enthusiastic response from Abby for correct actions and every few levels the child has the ability to choose different wagons for the train that Abby will ride through the next levels, a colourful sticker book can also get a chosen addition every few levels. The premise is simple and if it was an adult pitched app I would describe it as mini game based as there is no set story, just related activities that correspond to child based app learning. The child has the task of getting a host of passengers for the aforementioned train over a series of levels. The way this is accomplished is through various activities pitched at pre school learners.

 Completing simple sequences, matching toys to their shadows, matching numbers to colours and other simple cognitive activities are on offer.
 What I found quite compelling about the app is that while the child was quite happy to play Abby pre school learning on the family iPad by himself , it was equally a bonding experience to sit with him and assist him with more strenuous learning games.

 Whilst much is written about iPads and smartphones being used as a poor substitute for baby sitting and good parenting I actually found it quite useful to assess my child's abilities in both numeracy and shape.
 And pattern recognition while sitting with him and using this educational app. In conclusion we recommend 22learnings Abby series of apps to improve and refine your 3 to 6 year olds abilities

Sunday 27 May 2012

The Psychology behind Children's Apps

Look on the AppStore or GooglePlay to find children's educational apps for free, or even paid for educational apps and you might be in for a longer look than you bargained for. in this article and subsequent we'll be looking at educational apps for 3 to 6 year olds, both on IOS and Android. We've particularly chosen this age group as the Gametrender editor's household has ready made app testers for this market. We will be considering What psychological hooks and motivations make a good child's app.We'll base our findings on actual psychological studies ,
 We'll look at different website to help us to decide what apps are good for kids and of course on our actual app testing. So to start with we'll point you in the direction of any app by developers Duck,Duck,Moose who besides having an hilarious name also make apps that are pitched just right for Young kids.

Squids in Space

Creativity in Apps
Appstore creativity gone Wild with...Squids!
The Appstore is a brilliant canvas for developers creativity to run wild and one of the newest and quirkiest puzzle apps we've come across really pushes out the boat on this front.

There's just something rather sinister about squids. They live in  batholithic  depths far beyond human ken, the size they can grow too is unknown. Old sailors tales even speak of the cunning saucer eyed beasts growing as large as sailing ships and dragging human craft down to watery graves with their tentacled limbs. Even renowned early 20th Century horror writer HP Lovecraft based his otherworldly Shub Niggurath old Gods on a squid like form in his macabre Cthulu Mythos. Now it seems that there is no end  to these leviathans cunning as they've made it on to an iOS app none the less, and have trumped human kind by having vastly superior Space faring capabilities!
HungrySquid with a compelling and deep storyline
and highly artistic graphics
So Squids in Space based on these very weird denizens of the deep as you are what do you have to offer the app world? Well firstly the storyline behind S.I.S is darkly brilliant and really adds to the mood of the app, so much so that the Squids will be featuring in an ebook soon! The developer clearly loves his work as the artistry and extras such as the aforementioned app based iBook and even a stunning free soundtrack really make the app stand out.

The soundtrack contributing to the squiddy puzzle games atmosphere is great and backed up by some colourful but moody artwork. The app plays out in the form of a puzzle and like its subject matter is quick to grasp but has hidden depths of Marianas Trench Like Proportions.

As an app tour de force clearly showing a developer's love and unleashed creativity we highly recommend HungrySquid buy it or expect a suckered tentacle in the night...

Android Casual Gaming with Real Life Rewards

Connect 'em Up on Android
using the power of Facebook
Google Play is well known for its casual games and its social gaming. Well we've come across an interesting hybrid of  a Facebook type Android app that we'd like to christen a "Connect 'em Up Game".

Interested in how Android apps can give you real life rewards? Well we're unfortunately not talking big league competitive (Android) gaming like the Koreans for mega bucks rewards, but nevertheless the rewards are very substantial for playing rising connect 'em up star: "Facebook Dating Game Spacebook" and those rewards are the most earthy of them all, play and connect with random strangers to make new friends. Hence our pithy entitlement of Spacebook being a Connect 'em up.

The premise is simple and borrows heavily from Space Invaders and numerous other one screen space based shooters from gamings legacy. Playing out in a very simple Facebook FLash Game type fashion Facebook tasks you with bumping your floating orb Spaceship into other craft to gain access to their Facebook profiles. no, this doesn't mean that it's a fun app to hack Facebook profiles but just a fun way to make new friends in the social sphere.

In a very clever twist if you get enough points the "UFO's" that you destroy can even be famous peoples' Facebook profiles. Your enemy craft can even be filtered by Gender too which makes Spacebook a fun and interesting way to use your Android phone to connect with others.

Connecting the game to your profile is simple and the game adds another dimension by having points, numerous levels and an interesting variety of obstacles and enemies to avoid too. A very clever idea that will appeal to fast Space game fans and social butterflies alike.
Download Link: Facebook Dating Game Spacebook

Saturday 26 May 2012

Adding Famous names to Apps

David Hayes Latest Fight on iPad
Controversial Boxing App
Storms the Charts
What is the winning formula for making a top selling app? Here at Gametrender Fortress we work with a lot of app developers and have a great relationship with many devs from indie to megastar (OrangePixel being some of our bigger contacts).

We're not just about telling you about the latest and greatest Android and iOs apps but also dispense a lot of advice to devs about how to increase their market share for their apps and games. We've still to hit on a winning formula for what makes a best seller app though. 
 All of which leads me to talk about David Haye's Knockout, from our friends at Grubbyhands who more recently have become more well known for their love in platformer "Boy Loves Girl". Whilst initial fame for the one man app development studio came from the original boxing app of the same name : The sequel is continuing the success. As Grubby Hands App Spin Doctor Guru Jody says:"I'm happy to announce that our new release 'David Haye's Knockout' has topped the App Store charts. In less than a week we have claimed the number one spot in the Arcade, Sports and Games Charts and number 2 in the All Apps Charts, we are extremely proud and would love you to share our news " Is the fact that it is a tight game with amusing sound effects and an intuitive move and pich system responsible for the fact that the boxing sim has risen so quickly up the app charts or is the name of the famous boxer David Haye's responsible for the fan favourite iOS boxing sims popularity. Again to quote from the games makers and Mr David Haye himself: "“Also, it's clear to me that people are attracted to the game because it's a little edgy and controversial, and far angrier than 'Angry Birds'. There aren't many other games out there that can be ended by a smashed bottle across the face. Whether we like it or not, controversy sells, and I'm no stranger to controversy " So if you want to be an app millionaire and have a famous celebrity as a friend who you want to title could be soon that you too could be the guvnor' and wearing the large gold medallions and signet rings;as you make your millions off of famous stars endorsing your apps! 
Now in some strange gaming based Trash Talk Haye's updates the way that boxers goad their opponents, technology sure has come a long way since the days of Ali's ringside jibes! " Within the game Haye consistently jibes his rivals and even uses secret weapons to defeat and destroy his enemies.

“So much fuss was made about the bottle in my hand in Munich that I decided to have some fun with it,” Haye, reportedly, told The Sun.

Realising the power of gaming, like no other professional boxer has done before, Haye’s use of ‘David Haye’s Knockout’ has certainly taken sport and gaming to the next level"
  What do you iOS/boxing game fans think?

DIY App Creation and App Success

How to make Apps
Award Winning Apps
Chad Mureta Announces Launch of App Empire Business Training Course :  Chad Mureta, author of "App Empire", founder of four iPhone app businesses, and co-founder of T3 Apps, has announced a special event starting May 24th, 2012 - the release of his "App Empire : The Automatic Appreneur" training course.
 Chad Mureta's App Empire book is a best seller of how he profits daily from the Apple App store and now that he is creating the App Empire: The Automatic Appreneur  training program, even more people will be able to copy his new strategies and make money doing it.
The app course will teach aspiring app creators and entrepreneurs how to build a mobile app business without the need for technical or programming skills.  In the course, Mureta will be teaching students the system he used to build and sell three profitable app companies. Those who enroll in the course will also have access to specialized software designed to accelerate app research, development and marketing.
For those who wish to get buy App Empire and get immediate access to the program or get the latest training should visit his official App Empire website here.

Take Me Home (FREE Friendly App)

The title of this FREE app doesn't really tell you what the game might be about. I can tell you however, that the game is really fun and definitely more than you would expect from a free app. 
The gameplay and graphics remind me of the popular Cut the Rope application, it's a game mechanic that really works well and is carried over quite nicely into this app making it one of the better free apps similar to Cut the Rope. 
Help Bubu reach his destination in each level. The presentation is clean and colourful , very appropriate to this type of free puzzler app. 
The background music with some very well scored sounds of nature is nice and comfortable to listen to. The apps music is a great mood enhancer and makes you feel free and friendly. Most levels can be finished with a variety of different routes. 
In fact, to get the most gold you need complete those levels with different routes to collect the coins. Each time you finish, the game records which coins you have collected so you may concentrate on getting the other coins. Only one coin is needed to go to the next level. The developer, Droidhen Publisher, has done a great job with the beautiful artwork. The animations and sound effects are smooth and don't feel cheap or out of place at all.

How to Play
Download of course (on Google Play). Tap the starting point and BuBu, the pink thingy, rolls out. Use accelerators and friendly bugs to get Bubu to your endpoint while collecting one or more coins. Accelerators are small stone tablets with a fish fossil or bone imprint on them. The fish points, like an arrow, toward the direction of which it will accelerate or shoot your Bubu when they come in contact. Touch controls are registered accurately.

Strategy and practice will be needed for the more complicated levels. Level 21 was where I got stuck momentarily. Although the developer states that coins are needed to proceed to higher levels and I didn't concentrate on getting most of the coins until some time after level 21, I haven't yet come across the point where gold was a problem.

After finishing a level, the route you took is replayed to you, the coins you've collected are shown at the bottom right of the screen. Bubu appears more like a ball in the game than in the title screens art. But that's not a problem as he still looks cool in the game.
 In the title screen he looks like a pollen with texture. This is a game I highly recommend. It's well developed and I don't have any suggestions for it (rarely happens) because it seems like a completed version of what it's suppose to be. Wait...there is a minor one. 
Where to find hints in the Take Me Home App
I don't think the app told me What and Where the HINT button was. I accidentally used my coins by pressing the hint button on the first level (It's the yellow light bulb).  There are hours of available gameplay. It's even a great minute killer with a quick start up time. I definitely did not regret downloading this Android App.


Thursday 24 May 2012

Six Guns (Cowboys and Monsters?) - FREE

Gameloft, Gameloft, Gameloft. If you've been keeping up with my articles recently you've heard that developer before. That's because they make stunning games. Take Six Guns for example. The graphics presented are close to detailed, almost HD, PC games. Sometimes I forget for a split second that I'm on my phone. Other games may have one scene or one arena that is this detailed, but this game has a world of dungeons, abandoned buildings, caves, fields, and mountains. Okay, you don't really go onto the fields or mountains, but they are there for you to see. If you love Red Dead Revolver and it's Necromantic Follow Ups then this App is really going to blow you away.
 One unexpected feature of this Android application was the inclusion of monsters such as vampires and zombies and gargoyles. Western Sound effects are present, from your horses footsteps, gunshots, wild animals, wild wild west background music and haunting noises. FREE. To offer an app of such similarity and quality to Red Dead Revolver for free is amazing.  I don't think we will see the end of Gameloft any time soon.

Race them horses. No grooming is necessary.
Quick Rundown
At first glance, the look of the game reminds me of the popular Red Dead games. I haven't played them but, I've seen a few tortures. Unfortunately this game doesn't have much you can do to the roaming cowboys besides shoot them (and their horses). Don't try this in real life.
What you can and Can't do in 6 Guns
No Lasso, grabbing, cutting, or choosing which part of the body to shoot.

What are the missions in Six Guns?
 However, the Android App has plenty of simultaneous MISSIONS to keep you busy. Some of these missions are COLLECTING MISSIONS, where you collect items across the games environment. You ACCEPT QUESTS or MISSIONS by pressing on your minimap to open a bigger map. Icons representing missions will show up on the map. Press on them to see the details of the mission and choose whether or not to accept. Once you accept, you can click on an icon below your minimap to go directly to the mission(instead of running or riding to get to that location). This is a really helpful and neat feature. A cowboy game wouldn't be as complete without the option to ride a horse. Press the horse's icon outside of battle and it will walk up to you in a second, unless it is already on your screen. Reminds me of the old Zelda Games from Nintendo 64. (I haven't played a newer one.)

These monsters and 3D environments are detailed.

The main protagonist occasionally whistles the theme song of the Die Hard Movies, The Ants Go Marching.

Wolves, Bears, Condors, Foxes and more roam their habitats, oh and monsters too.

Change your looks with new clothing.
 Screenshots don't show the easy to see HUD.

 The startup screen (top of article) kinda looks like Clint Eastwood. Not a bad person to look like when trying to be a cowboy.

Although these ghosts looks scary now, they are even scarier with the volume up.
Guide to Six Gun's Monsters
Those "ghosts" might actually be vampires, but those seem more ghostly to me.  The ones in the caves pictured above looks more vampire-like and zombie-like to me. Although the scenes are uncommon, the screenshots aren't captured rare glimpses in the game(or intro or concept art) to fool you into thinking the game looks better than it really does. The addition of supernatural or unnatural creatures is a really great twist that I wasn't expecting in a cowboy game. Sometimes the camera is on the side a like in the Batman Arkham games.

These are great screenshots, taken right from Google Play.
Finally a Cowboy Game that uses the  Xperia Play Controls
I personally found the physical controls really hard to master on my Sony Xperia Play. For those who aren't using the Xperia Play Optimized controls, maybe you will have a better time. Playable, but uncomfortable. Using touch screen controls is still an option. One minor issue thing I noticed about the game was that pressing the physical "back" button in the menu's work, but if you can't go back anymore instead of closing the menu the games asks if you want to exit the game. In a 3rd person roaming game, camera controls are important. Luckily the right touchpad has your back on that one. Aiming can be difficult without joysticks or a mouse. The auto-aiming helps out a lot.

On one of my last missions, I was in a cave with multiple levels. This is nice that not everything is on one level, however the ghosts weren't really sure what level they were on. Adds less of a platform controlled feel though and more of a "realistic" feel, which is nice. I do wish it has some more Oregon Trail features like getting money for hunting. It is quite difficult to get good amounts of money to advancing your items in the game, unless you're talking about advancing very slowly or taking the FREE out of the game. Although the game combines same quest items, it doesn't combine bullet packages. Also, as far as I can tell(I've only gotten the 2nd weapon with upgrades on my first), there aren't many interactions with other people or characters in such an open world. No words are exchanged between you and a sheriff except one line when you shoot em. All in all, this game is an Editor's Choice on Google Play for more than one reason. Experience it for yourself. Giddy up Cowboy...or Cowgirl.


Wednesday 23 May 2012

Free Conference Calls for Android

Free Android Conference App
GroupCall for Android
While conducting a personal social call on Facetime for iPad a while ago I lamented the fact that Android, my business mobile of choice didn't have such an easy and multi featured app for tele conferencing and communicating via face and voice .
Led on by my business needs to find a comprehensive conferencing app for Android I was lucky to stumble across GroupCall.

While the iPad more than fills the vortex for personal communication needs I find that for business purposes Android and its ability to function  separately from an iTunes type environment is certainly the OS of choice for business needs. And big business, or in our case a hardcore app review website , definitely thrives on communication.

And communication has to, of necessity due to the nature of Global App development, be worldwide; quick; easy and cheap.

Easy to use Android Conference
GROUPCALL for Android ticks all these boxes and more, more because the new Android conferencing app is free. With a communication app we always approach the word "free" with some scepticism as it usually involves some sort of complicated setup and  legal-eese ridden terms and conditions with a complex sign up. 
Groupcall has none of these complications and is just a delight to use and is our conferencing app of choice for Android.
Download the free Android Conference App from Google Play:

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Great Action Game for Android (Dungeon Hunters 3)

Gameloft has been great at bringing way above average looking games to Android and especially some of the best looking games on Xperia Play. This time the developer gives us Dungeon Hunter 3, an action arena game with great HD 3D visuals and is also one of the best Dungeon Type games for the  Xperia Play . 

How to beat Dungeon Hunter 3
Upgrade your current weapons and skills and Super attacks. Or purchase higher leveled weapons. Both weapons and skills require your character to be at a certain level before you unlock them.
What are the different classes in Dungeon Hunter 3?
Choose from the classes of Astromancer, Trickster, Shaman, or Warlord.
 Enemies remind me of the evil minions and ogres from the God of War series and an old Lord of the Rings game for XBOX. There are 16 arenas to fight in. Sound effects and voices(grunts and celebrations) sound like the way they should sound.  The Game is FREE on Google Play.
You may choose male or female.
Do you need Money to beat Dungeon Hunter 3?
Some user reviews state that the Android application requires you to use real world money in order to get very far in the game. I strongly disagree as I have played for over 3 hours for free and still haven't reached my limit yet(although I may be getting close with my character at Level 28). There are a few levels I cannot defeat on World 1. But World 2 has some lower levels that I can beat. The higher the levels, the harder they are. Each world is a little more difficult than the same level in the previous world. I believe every world has about 4 arenas. This is where it can get repetitive really fast.

 (Possible spoiler: The same arenas in later levels have other attacking obstacles added. Although that doesn't add much of a new feeling for long.)  

Why Complete the Dungeon Hunter 3 Daily Challenge?
There is a Daily Challenge that gives a bonus once you finish the terms and accept the bonus. That with a key every 20 min or so helps keep the game's free playability up. Keys are needed to accept a chest of gold and experience(based on performance) at the end of each level. I think the free version has a maximum of 5 keys, but you shouldn't really be able to all 5 keys before more keys are given to you anyways. Unless you are playing way too much. I guess that's one way to keep you in check. The class I picked was a Trickster, or archer. This may have allowed me to play in a safer way and progressing further in the game than with other classes.

The well designed in-game menus also have information and explanations on many aspects of the game. Lots of apps don't have explanations this helpful. I'm not sure how but every few days you get a crystal, high value, currency, that is usually bought with real world money. Upgrading an item doesn't happen right away after you pay for it. The stronger the weapon, the longer the waiting period for the upgrade. 

How long until your weapon is upgraded?
For example, some of my upgrades have taken over 4 hours. After you purchase new equipment, make sure to press equip. The game doesn't automatically equip them for you. Items and equipment in the store are described really well to let you know of it's stats and effects and those of your current equipment for comparison.

Dungeon Hunter 3 takes a bit long  to load. You don't get the usual nice Gameloft Logo animation screen. That logo is small on the lower right of the all black screen. Then that nice High Definition picture on top of this article shows up while the game finishes up loading.

Quick Ways to Download Dungeon Hunter 3
TIP: if you press the Home button on your device during the game to quickly do another simple task, when you choose the DH3 icon to play again, it might not need to load. If you close the game through the games menu's it seems to clear it from your temporary memory and you have to reload the app, as with most games and applications on your smartphone.

According to user reviews Dungeon Hunter 1 & 2 were Action RPG games. This game is more Arena based, and is one of the best Xperia Play Arena Combat Games, it doesn't have a RPG element, like a story or world you can walk besides the arenas.You are not Role Playing in Dungeon Hunter 3. You read a little bit of why that place needs to cleared of monsters, and you just go attack waves of monsters. You can skip the little descriptions can jump right into the action. A minor issue or glitch that occurred was that when I was next to the walls, my arrows wouldn't come off my bow when shooting a barrel next to me. Easily avoidable and adjustable when it happens, take a step or two away from the wall.

Is this the best  Xperia Play Optimized Game?
Dungeon Hunter 3 is one of those rare games that really makes use of the SONY Xperia Plays physical game controls. Possibly the most well executed and natural feeling in my opinion. The L shoulder button is for a Super Fairy attack that has a long cooldown. You start each level with a Special, which is the maximum, and recharges when you use it. The R button is for potion, can only carry up to three potions at a time and can only resupply at the shop, outside of battle. Use the D-Pad or left Analog pad to move your character. Use the Right Analog pad to attack in any direction. Get this, press the Area Between the two Analog pads to switch weapons. Using that area is a unique feature that I have not run across before until this game. Press the Triangle, Square, X, O Buttons to use skills. I only have one skill so far so that is my speculation for more skills. Another minor issue I had with the controls was that once in a while my character wouldn't move. This could just be because I'm not really used to using the touchpads, as very few games use it.

The size of the Android App is a little over 2GB. That's a lot I know, but if that isn't a problem for you then this game is worth trying.  Dungeon Hunter 3 is really great for quick bursts of fast action fun that won't limit your progression in an hour or two. Try it out to kill a few minutes and see what I mean. 


Monday 21 May 2012

Dark Legends

Spacetime Studios presents DARK LEGENDS. An MMORPG for phones and tablets. Play as a vampire with customizable looks. Fight zombies. Buy stronger weapons and specials. Meet other human players. Solve mysteries unravel what is going on. Travel the night and town. Experience for yourself why this Android Application has an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 on Google Play with over 500,000 installs. 

Dark Legend plays like a game of it's own. To me it really comes off as a online flash rpg game where you read the story of what's going on, but with a bit of 3D work put into the action. 

The event, or story, will told to you in text. Reminds me of early Playstation 2 graphics or average leveled PC graphics.  Travel through different sites on the maps by pressing on an icon.

There are actually cutscenes in this game. Although short and not CGI, they are nicely done. The cutscenes don't tell the story, but it carries out a few simple 3D animations that shows what you are currently doing at that location. For example, there could be a cutscene can showing that you are breaking a door. Another cutscene can show you next to a person, with captions saying that you are interrogating that person.

There aren't that many customized items available. The games looks decent, but not great. Most cutscenes have your character running away with a blurry trail and a sound effect in a Edward from Twilight fashion. Maybe just that piece of information alone has gotten you interested. Dark Legends is Xperia Play Optimized.

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Indie Developer interview: Monster Mayhem

We covered popular indie Tower Defense Shooter Monster Mayhem, a while ago and now present the exclusive indie developer interview. Wannabee Indie iOS revs will love this one as you'll learn a fair bit about making the transition from more traditional older pc based programming to ios developing and also learn some fantastic tips on play testing your apps. Monster Mayhem is available on the AppStore now Hi Mark, just a few quick questions for you which we can try work into an interview type article publicising your apps: Why did you choose to develop for iOS? It sounds like this question is aiming at why iOS vs. Android or Web.  I thought that this was a hot market.  I was there to get the first version of the iPhone and first iPad and was an avid gamer myself.  On top of my affinity for this area because I was a user of their products, this was an area that was greatly expanding and also allowed smaller developers the tools to create some really great things.  You can take the tools like cocos2d and be up and going really quickly.  Plus – regarding iOS vs Android – the iOS was a much more controlled area that allowed for a better user experience and if we were fortunate enough to get some good games together, would allow for a much better potential revenue stream.  I've seen numbers like there are 600,000 apps on the Apple app store generating something on the order of $4 billion of sales, whereas there were like 400,000 apps on the Android store but they barely generated $400 million for the developers. 2. What is the hardest part of developing for you? I was an old-school programmer from back in the day, having known basic, fortran, and cobol before I left day to day coding and went into management for 15+ years.  As a senior manager in several technology companies, I never was able to get back into any coding.  The hardest part originally was teaching myself a whole new set of programming tools.  First I had to get up to speed with Object Oriented programming itself – which was a quantum leap up from what I was used to.  Then , I had to go through several books and tutorials on Objective C and the whole Xcode environment to learn how to do it for iOS.  In the middle when I realized one key feature of many games was connectivity to your peers, I had to go out and learn HTML5, PHP, and MySQL so that I could set up leader boards and other community features for my games on a web server.  Overall, it was like going through 15 years of software evolution in 5 months.  Once you get through it though, it's much easier.  I'm making adjustments to the next version of Monster Mayhem to do things that I couldn't even conceive of figuring out when I started it.  Now, something that took me a week to painstakingly sort through online forum after online forum to figure out might take me a couple of hours. 3.Have you had a positive reaction form the app store so far? It's been about what I've expected.  Since there are so many games out there that are on the site, it's very hard to get mind share.  We've had a slow but steady sales rate.  What I think is great is that we have sales in Russia, Germany, the UK, and Australia.  We've had a mini-flurry of people buying from Australia last week and it makes you wonder what in your game might appeal to that geography to cause that. The process itself was a little time-consuming to figure out, but once I got that first game submitted, subsequent versions were much easier. 4. How important is your playtesting? You mentioned you had groups of students testing your game-how much of their feedback do you use, where do you source your students from, what is their reaction to your games I think the play testing is vital.  I have groups of students from 2 high schools and 2 middle schools in the Southern California area who I seek regular input from.  I will make a revised build and distribute it to them and ask them what they think.  Since they are the exact target market for who uses iOS games, I take their feedback 100% seriously.  I think this is even better than a traditional focus group – these kids pull no punches and will tell you right off if they think a new feature sucks or is great.  Sometimes I think something would be really cool and then they'll look at me and say "Seriously?  That is incredibly lame…".  But often they then follow this up with "But if you did XYZ, it would be very cool…"  That is incredible input right from the demographic which is one of the top users of iOS games.  I also am finally able to start programming some of their cooler ideas, now that my skills are starting to get past the basic level. 5. Do you have any other projects planned for the future? Definitely.  I think we will continue to tweak Monster Mayhem to keep refreshing with new levels and some other new features, but we definitely have a couple more on the horizon.  We are thinking Zombies.  One is kind of like I am Legend meets Civilization – a strategy game with need to control resources and the like.  The other is a more advanced horizontal shooter – with a whole Zombie motif and a bunch of new graphics techniques. 6. Why did you choose this particluar type of game to develop? My play testers kind of led the way.  They identified several types of games that were cool in their minds and that many of their friends were spending time on.  One category that they said was great was something that you could just pop open and then spend 5 minutes as they put it "mindlessly shooting away…"  I was playing around with the prototype of Monster Mayhem at the time and showed it to a few of them and asked "Something like this…?"   I hope that answers your questions.  If you'd like me to elaborate more, I'd be happy to – just let me know.  Thanks!  

Sunday 20 May 2012

Apps for Soldiers: Battlefield Trauma App on iPad

More and more iPads are being issued to soldiers, who find the Apple tablet an increasingly useful tool, off and on the Battlefield. This article is going to talk about a Battlefield Casualty Treatment app for iPad: Battlecare. 
I've used personal experience and military associates accounts for information and hope to give you an idea of where the idea of military apps for iPad are headed in the future. BattleCare is based on American soldier's experiences in Afghanistan, but authoritative sources I've used for info on this article are predominantly British Military in origin.

Realistic Battlefield Casualty treatment App
Firstly it really is no hype that soldiers are becoming more and more reliant on technology and that the iPad is swiftly becoming part of a modern soldier's deployment kit. Since mid 2011 British soldiers training at the Royal School of Artillery, the British army's Premier Artillery Training School have been issued with iPad's to help them with their lessons. Yes, even enlisted men have to have lessons! These are all of varying technical difficulty, ranging from the deployment parameters for Ballistic Protection radars, to exact measurements and explosive charges to be used in conducting high airburst artillery bombardments at distance. As Military equipment has become more complex , so has the need to learn about it's different aspects become crucial to its use. That's why an iPad with it's ease of use interfaces and big, bright touchscreen is a natural fit for soldiers' lessons and presentations.

Apps to replace IAMS; TAMs and
Soldier Crib Cards for Battlefield
Casualty Treatment
The specific military app that we are addressing in this article is to help medics and semi-trained medics save lives on the Battlefield. Just like any other military doctrine and literature, battlefield casualty saving drills are embodied in leaflets and handout given to British soldiers. Normally taking the current route of IAM's(Individual Aide Memoires) British soldiers will all be issued with a sturdy BCDT (Battlefield Casualty Drill Training) flipcard prior to any deployment. With easy to follow diagrams and flow charts these military First Aid Aide Memoires are expected to be deployed in high risk situations and used to save lives on the Battlefield. Of course they're a good idea, but considering that the average infantryman is loaded down with maps; routecards; ammunition check sheets; Language cards and other sensitive paper based Military documents, it's a bit unrealistic to expect this paper laden soldier to use his First Aid Crib cards to the best of his ability. 
That's where the idea of an iPad in a robust combat ready case comes into play. All of these pamphlets and literature giving soldiers useful war skills to draw on can all be encapsulated in iPad apps for ease of use. That's where the makers of BattleCare, CliniSpace come in with their First Aid App for soldiers.

BattleField First Aid App for iPad: BattleCare
The goal of the soldiers' app is to train in the basics of Battlefield Trauma Triage. With the essential question of which wounds are more life threatening to a soldier, Triage is the first stage (after supression of any enemy in the vicinity) of battlefield treatment, and of necessity must sort out soldiers needing immediate care and casevac to those who are still combat ready and might only have minor debilitating injuries. 
The setting for the app is Gardez on the Afghanistan border, and in the trauma learning app you'll play the role of Airman Collins, the duty Medic.

The app will guide you through the ABC (Airway ,Breathing ,Circulation) basics of treating a war casualty. A real trauma case is treated in the filed hospital and eventually casevaced from the area.
Where the app excels is in the gesture based interaction that asks you to use an army radio, mark triage tags and use essential life saving equipment.
Battlefield First Aid App: BCDT
What really impresses is that you won't just be selecting and dragging the medic's equipment to the desired position , but actually   using proper gestures like squeezing suction bulbs to drain blood and fluid and using finger swipe gestures to open the patients mouth to clear a blocked airway.

The graphics are realistic and show you the injuries of the patient in graphic detail, you're lead through the exploration of a soldier's injuries and taken through and evaluated on all the stages of treating a battlefield casualty.

The app really sets the benchmark for providing valid and relevant education to combat ready soldiers, and if the battlefield trauma app is anything to go by, I fully expect more app developers to be developing useful life saving and battle training  apps for soldiers.