Archive for March, 2011

Angry Birds Rio – An Angry Bloke Review

Angry Birds Rio

Writing a review for the new Angry Birds game seems something of a redundant excercise. By the time you read this about a bajillion people will have already downloaded it. Even those who haven’t yet grabbed the latest installment from Rovio will know exactly what to expect.

So why review it?

As of three months ago 50 million people had downloaded Angry Birds. Today that total stands at a staggering 100 million and that figure will surely get a boost once the planned xbox 360, ps3 and Facebook versions are released. The range of Angry Birds plush toys have shifted 2 million units, Mattel have a board game due for release in May and there are even plans to move into animation & feature films. Angry Birds is truly a gaming phenomenon in motion, in time (if not already) it could very likely be listed alongside Mario, Sonic et al as a gaming icon of it’s generation.

So why review it?

The release of ‘Rio’ has heralded an interesting series of events within the Android scene. Rovio decided to give a timed exclusive to Amazon for the launch of their new Android App store. It all seemed very exciting, Android users would have a new outlet for Android apps. The consumer would have the option to ‘shop around’.
And then came the launch.
It soon dawned on everyone outside of America that they would not be able to enjoy Rovio’s latest release. In their infinite wisdom Amazon had limited their new marketplace to the U.S. Understandably, those unable to get the app felt hard done by. What didn’t help matters was the way those people (myself included) had to jump through hoops and make adjustments to their Amazon accounts before being told they weren’t invited to the party.
For a product with a hungry worldwide audience this was probably not the best approach. I’m genuinely surprised that given the openness of the Android platform there wasn’t an outbreak of virus/malware infested fake ‘Rio’ apk files just waiting to be installed by unsuspecting users.
I don’t blame Rovio for this, I blame Amazon. One of the main complaints against Android is fragmentation and here they are fragmenting it further based solely on location. Even now, having launched their cloud music service, there is still no known date for when the app store will be available to those outside the U.S.A. Considering how Android is perceived as a platform that is in fierce competition with iOS, this current move by Amazon appears to do more harm than good.

So why review it? So where is this bloody review?

Thankfully Rovio have released Angry Birds Rio on the Android Marketplace so now all those non-Yanks such as myself can enjoy the latest installment. I had dubious thoughts about it being a tie-in with the forthcoming movie ‘Rio’ but surprisingly the theme is a good fit for the franchise.

Seriously, worst stacking of cargo EVER.

The gameplay is the same as before but there are enough tweaks and touches to warrant losing more nights of sleep whilst trying to three-star each level. Compared to ‘Angry Birds Seasons’, ‘Rio’ has a gentler learning curve making it a great jumping off point for any newcomers to the franchise.
The graphics have also been updated, nothing revolutionary but the scrolling foregrounds and beefed up menus are enough to keep the series looking fresh.
On the subject of keeping things fresh Rovio have already planned a series of updates which will become available over the course of 2011. As usual it’s a worthwhile free download.

That’s it? That’s the review? It was more a rant about Amazon than a review of Angry Birds.

Yeah sorry about that. I had to get that whole Amazon thing off my chest.

That’s ok. It was truly a dick move on their part.

Yes, yes it was.

Ok so now you’re just talking to yourself. I think you need a lie down.

So do you.

Haha, very funny.

About This App Version Reviewed : 1.0.0
Requires Android : 1.6 and up , Category : Arcade & Action , Size : 13M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Just when you think you’re out, Rovio pull you back in. Rio is an enjoyable new chapter in the Angry Birds franchise. Bring on those updates!

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File Expert – File It Under ‘Must Have’

File Expert

A few days ago I recieved an email from the team at GeekSoft giving me a heads up about ‘File Expert’, their File Management app. I’ve been a firm user of Astro File Explorer ever since I loaded up my Android handset for the first time so I was sceptical about what ‘File Expert’ could do for me. Boy was I wrong.
For a free app, File Expert is absolutely packed to the rafters with excellent features that total up to an install size that’s smaller than it’s competitors. As well as the usual copy/paste/move operations and useful zip/compression options Geeksoft have also included a decent app manager. There’s also a choice of views (standard or grid) and support for thumbnails which makes browsing your photos easy work.
The best stuff though comes with the networking functionality. Using a wi-fi connection you can easily manage your files via a web browser or an FTP program like Filezilla. There’s also an SMB client which allows you to control your host computer from your phone. I have to confess that I have no clue about how to set up this kind of network so this is a feature you’ll have to try out for yourself.
There’s not much ground to cover in terms of a review for File Expert, it’s simply a great toolbox app that’s designed to help you manage your files on your handset.
Go try it.

About This App – Version Reviewed : 2.6.5
Requires Android : 1.6 and up , Category : Tools , Size : 855k , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : An excellent ‘work horse’ application. An essential download for anyone who needs to get hands on with their files.

Songbird – Not Tweeting, Not Angry, Just Singing.

Songbird

It’s been a while since a new music player caught my eye and this week it was nice to stumble upon ‘Songbird’ to try out as an alternative method of listening to music.
Already a popular desktop application, ‘Songbird’ comes to Android bringing with it it’s stylish purple design to take on the likes of Winamp and PowerAmp.
Everything about Songbird is tidy and clean, exploring your music collection is quick work and surprisingly flexible. Like Winamp, the ‘now playing’ screen can be accessed via a slide-up drawer which works excellently. The ‘now playing’ screen features all the usual controls as well as a unique Flickr button which activates a photo stream of the artist that’s currently playing. There’s also a Facebook ‘Like’ button that allows you to inform/annoy your Facebook chums about what music you’re listening to.
One of Songbird’s main strengths is the ability to easily create playlists. I’ve seen other music apps completely fumble the method of playlist creation but Songbird seems to have nailed it perfectly.
Sadly it’s not all thumbs up for Songbird, the home-screen widget kept locking up and would only come back to life with a handset reboot. Bear in mind this may not solely be an app issue, it’s possibly a compatibility issue with my Cyanogen rom.
Songbird is also lacking some of the cooler functions when compared to more established apps like ‘PowerAmp’ but the creators have promised a number of new functions and plug-ins in future updates (lock screen controls are top of my list).
Songbird may not yet be the ultimate Android music player but the potential is definitely there. It’s pleasant on the eye, simple to use and allows a strong degree of freedom on how you listen to your music.

About This App – Current Version : 1.0
Requires Android : 2.1 and up , Category : Music & Audio , Size : 1.2M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : It’s not quite up to the benchmark of the leading Android music apps but given a bit of time (and a few updates) Songbird could be the music app everyone is chirping about (groan!).

Crazy Squared – Crazy x Crazy = Frustration

Crazy Squared

“It won’t just drive you crazy, it’ll drive you crazy squared!” is the official pitch for Crazy Squared. Having played it for the last 30 minutes I’m not exactly feeling crazy, I’m more mildly annoyed. Crazy Squared is simply described on the Android Marketplace as ‘Snooker meets Pinball’. From what I can tell the aim is to tilt your handset so the blue squares collide with the yellow boxes, making them disappear. If you remove all the yellow boxes before the clock runs out the level is won.
You may have spotted the unsure tone there. That is because Crazy Squared is completely lacking anything in the way of a tutorial or some kind of obvious gameplay goal which seems very unusual for a puzzle game like this.
The main problem I have with Crazy Squared is that derives it’s ‘craziness’ from being utterly random. Parts of the scenery randomly appear and vanish at will and the blocks bounce around the screen with seemingly no relation to how fast they are actually travelling.

Hmmm, yeah. Random.

 

When I passed a level, it wasn’t down to skill it was more down to sheer luck. It’s was as if my input into the game was worthless.
On the plus side the game does run very smoothly which gives the main game a slick nu-school retro feel. Apart from the ‘bouncing’, the way the blocks react to your tilting handset is also well executed. Some of the menus are perhaps a touch basic but the music and sound effects help to beef up the overall presentation.
I found myself having a frustrating time with Crazy Squared, there is something of a good idea in there but it seems lost in flurry of random-ness.

ABOUT THIS APP  – CURRENT VERSION : 1.5
REQUIRES ANDROID : 1.6 and up , CATEGORY : Arcade & Action , SIZE : 3.4M , PRICE : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A puzzle game with random gameplay and a vague goal. Sadly it’s more frustrating than fun.

Speedx 3D FREE – It’s a Free 3D Free-For-All Freefall

Speedx 3D Free

Yep! You read that right, the future is here! 3D gaming has arrived on Android handsets. Although when I say 3D I’m not talking ‘Avatar’ 3D, think more along the lines of ‘The Beano in 3D’ and you’re there. If you have some old school green/red 3d specs tucked away somewhere you can pop them on and Speedx 3D Free can be played in super ‘in-yo-face-o-vision’. I managed to find my emergency 3D glasses, the 3D effect does work (kinda) but it’s not for prolonged sessions.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any cheesy 3D gogles hidden away anywhere, Speedx 3D can be played via your normal eyes. Whichever way you choose to play you are in for a treat because Speedx 3D is a graphical powerhouse of awesomeness.
Speedx 3D is a game with a simple goal, go really fast and don’t crash into stuff. It’s a tunnel racing game where you control yourself by tilting your handset from side to side. There are power ups you can collect that can protect your vehicle from impacts but for the most part you’ll be relying on your reactions. You’re going to need them because Speedx 3D is a pretty relentless game and it’s the better for it.
Previously, one of the biggest flaws I’ve had with driving games on Android handsets is with the controls. Touchscreen or tilt driving can be tricky at the best of times but SpeedX has this issue nailed. Without a doubt the tilt-sensor steering is absolutely flawless, the game does a perfect job of giving you the control you need to steer your way through the game. 

(Video courtesy of AndroidApps.com)

The graphics are truly excellent, simple in appearance yet it all moves so fast, I found myself gasping when the track opened up or folded in on itself for the first time with no hint of slowdown. This game could well look stunning on an Android tablet. Music and sound are also a perfect fit for the theme of the game, serving to enhance the futuristic setting.
There is so much that I love about this game. With each new try it keeps throwing new things at me to catch me out. Whether it’s how the tunnel changes in shape, how the obstacles move about, how the colour schemes alter in order to trip you up. To top things off there’s even OpenFeight support so you can check your high scores with your online friends.
Thumbs up also to HyperBees for keeping the ad-support strictly to the menus and allowing the game to run interruption free. The only downsides to Speedx 3D? It’s a bit of a battery drain but that’s understandable given how much processing is going on under the hood. Also, if you own a HTC Wildfire, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. According to HyperBees this game won’t run on your handset (although some Marketplace reviews do suggest otherwise).
We don’t actually give the app reviews on Android Apt any kind of score rating but if we did, SpeedX 3D Free would be a flat out 5/5.

About This App – Current Version : 1.12.6 / FREE
Requires Android : 1.5 and up , Category : Arcade & Action , Size : 4.0M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace , Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : An amazingly slick game. Simple but addictive and always a fresh experience with every game. For a free game it’s an absolute must try.

GRave Defense Silver FREE – You Say Defense, I Say Defence, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

GRave Defense Silver FREE

Tower Defence Games eh? They’re like Zombies. They’re everywhere! Now we have a game that combines both Tower Defence AND Zombies (well, mutated monsters but it’s all the same), how can I refuse such a double whammy?

Personally I’ve never really understood the point behind this particular game genre despite being unable to ignore it’s ever-growing popularity. A quick search for ‘Defence’ on AppBrain displays a whole gaggle of Tower Defence games based on all kinds of different themes.
Once I started up GRave Defense Silver for the first time I could see why there were so many Tower Defence Games. In no time at all I had become addicted to one them. Damn!

Things are pretty calm right now, it'll kick off before long.

The aim of ‘GRave Defense Silver’ is to prevent the horde of the undead making their way into your safe haven by installing and upgrading weapon emplacements. As you progress through each level more varieties of guns are available as well as more variations of zombies to use them on.
GDS makes an attempt to shovel in a story via a lengthy text based intro before each level. To be honest this approach comes off a little po-faced especially when compared to other zombie video game fare such as Left 4 Dead or Stupid Zombies (which we reviewed last week).
Once the intro is done the blasting can begin. The map layouts in each level are visually varied, they make great use of the space available on a mobile device and the scenery is very nicely detailed.
Gameplay runs smoothly with only minimal slowdown when the screen becomes packed with monsters making their way all over the map. There’s a pretty good difficulty curve with each level needing a few tries before survival is assured (which also adds to the ‘one more go’ factor). The only major compaint I have is regarding the collectable power-ups that occasionally appear. They sometimes don’t respond to your touch and they time out pretty quickly. Sometimes they’re gone before you even get a chance to notice them.
There’s two game modes, story and survival mode each with a range of difficulty levels to keep you busy. GDS also includes OpenFeight support so you can compare your unlocked achievements with your friends. There’s also a Facebook tab which to be honest I didn’t get involved with (I didn’t feel much like sharing my Facebook account).
I can’t deny that there’s something I find addictive about building and upgrading defences in order to take out wave upon wave of bloodthirsty zombies. More than once I found myself finishing a game GDS only to discover that I’d been playing for far longer than I had originally planned. For a free game, that can’t be bad.

ABOUT THIS APP – CURRENT VERSION : 1.0.0

REQUIRES ANDROID : 1.5 and up , CATEGORY : Arcade & Action , SIZE : 3.1M , PRICE : Free

Links : Android Marketplace , Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Well made, plenty of content to enjoy and very addictive. Worth adding to your Android game collection.

App Hunter – The Hunt Is On

App Hunter

Here at Android Apt we are all about the free apps, the kind of stuff you can grab for gratis and use straight away. Of the 100+ apps on my phone only a handful are actually paid or premium versions.

Yay! Cheap stuff. Get in!

That said, it’s nice once in a while to actually spend some money on an app, to actually take some ‘ownership’ of the product.
Buying apps needn’t cost the earth though and with App Hunter you can find the apps that are currently selling at a reduced price. As a result  you may find yourself saving some money when you hit the Google Checkout.
App Hunter is a light install and it operates with a simple yet quick interface. Opening the app takes you straight to the ‘On Sale!’ page. Apps are listed in pages of twenty entries and selecting an app takes you straight to its page on the Android Marketplace. As you may expect, pop-up ads do make an appearance on the bottom of the screen but thankfully they don’t get in the way of using the app.
The first time I ran the app my expectations were low. I was expecting offers on some pretty woeful stuff that otherwise couldn’t be shifted at a higher price. Imagine my surprise when these offers came up in just the first five entries.

  • Asphalt HD – Was $4.99, Currently $0.99
  • Bejeweled 2 – Was $2.99, Currently $0.99
  • Game Dev Story – Was $4.89, Currently $2.42
  • Touch Poole 2D – Was $4.99, Currently $0.99
  • ZombieBooth Was $1.41, Currently – Free

That’s pretty good stuff right there, premium apps and some hefty savings (I’ve already downloaded ZombieBooth, nice one). According to ‘Echo Lu’, the team/person behind App Hunter, the data base will update daily so there’ll always be new deals to check out. For those with no money to spend there are also tabs to search for the hottest and latest free apps. Whilst not as useful as the ‘On Sale!’ tab they are still handy additions to have available.
As suggested by ‘Patrick’ on the Android Marketplace, a ‘favourites’ tab would be a useful addition for a future update. Imagine if there was a way of bookmarking or ‘watching’ an app so you can be alerted when the price on it changes. That would be pretty cool. While we’re brainstorming, a way to share deals would be pretty useful, either via Twitter or Facebook or directly to people in your contacts list.
If you find yourself with some money to fritter away on an app or two ‘App Hunter’ is worth a look, it may even save you some cash in the process.

ABOUT THIS APP – CURRENT VERSION : 1.0.2

REQUIRES ANDROID : 1.6 and up , CATEGORY : Tools , SIZE : 103k , PRICE : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A handy tool for sniffing out Marketplace bargains. Already worth a download. If the potential for extra features is realised in future updates this will become an essential app.

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