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Flappy Bird. I hate you. You too Lumosity. You creep me out!

flappy-birdI work in an office of gamers.  That is to say, my coworkers play games on their iPhones.  Five days ago one of my coworkers recommended I play this “super addicting game” called Flappy Bird.  Apparently she gets into a lot of arguments with her casual gamer boyfriend.  After witnessing one of their spats, I decided to download it on my lunch break to see what was worth all of the fuss.

You play as a Cheep Cheep rip off who must be guided by your well-timed tapping.  By tapping the screen you bounce your big-lipped-ripped-off-art-asset through sets of Mario pipes — more ripped off assets.  Since the hit box around the bird is so horribly big, getting anywhere near a pipe kills you instantly.  That’s the entire game.  See the screenshot to the right?  Yep, you’ve seen the entirety of Flappy Bird.

I walked into the break room today during lunch, heard 6 people talking about Flappy Bird, then promptly turned around and walked the other way.  My high score is 4.  I made it through 4 sets of pipes.  How this game — essentially full of asset theft — makes $50,000 a day is beyond my ability to comprehend.  Then again, here I am spreading the word to many of you who as a result have already finished your downloads.  *Shakes his fist* Flappy Bird!

the-game

“It’s your turn. Play the game, Wesley.”

Then there’s this game or neuroscience thing called Lumosity.  Everyone plays it.  They love it. All around the office people creepily walk up to you and ask, “Have you tried this great game? You should really try it out.”  No! Get away from me!  I don’t want your brain sucking game!

Perhaps it’s not quite as addicting as the version which nearly crippled the crew of the Enterprise.  My boss is already tired of the mini-games because they never change.  If only he knew the depth of the parallels I could draw between his experience and my own deeper more involved gaming experiences.  Anyway, in Lumosity you basically keep your brain active by playing games.  I do the same thing but in my games I’m an assassin and I stab people; I prefer it over math.

The iPhone Gaming Generation

Nintendo 2DSI had an interesting conversation at work the other day. A few of us are really into video games so we occasionally slip into casual conversation about which console is our favorite or what old video games we wish we could play again.  I don’t know how we started, but the conversation turned to Pokemon and then to handheld gaming.

One of my co-workers, who is very open about not being knowledgeable at all about video games, asked, “Is the Gameboy still around?”  I gave him a 30 second history lesson on the evolution of Nintendo’s handheld systems — how Sega’s Gamegear  didn’t last, The Gameboy became the DS, etc.  He then asked, “Do people still buy handheld gaming consoles today?”  A question like that comes as a bit of a surprise because those us who game know that it’s still a huge market, albeit a struggling huge market in the last few years.

We then got talking about the iPhone (iOS 7 just came out) and the following statement was made:

“I don’t need a gaming console.  I would never buy one.  I have an iPhone.”    [Read more...]

STAR COMMAND – Set Phasers To Disappointment

Admittedly I didn’t know a whole lot about the game going in. I saw a trailer and skimmed over the Kickstarter page along with a few other articles. What I thought was going to be a deep and satisfyingly was instead shallow and broken. I honestly can’t believe I chocolate-rabbit’d myself so soon after writing that. I suppose I have to take partial blame for expecting too much. Wait… No, no I really don’t. They essentially promised as much in their Kickstarter campaign. Anybody who sunk any substantial money into Star Command must be fighting waves of nausea.

Star Command Review

Visually, the game is great. They did a fantastic job with the pixel art and the aliens and ships are fascinating to look at. They obviously went for a Star Trek feel and I think for the most part they nailed it. Unfortunately it just all goes downhill from here. The combat, ship, crew, and diplomacy (or lack thereof) mechanics are all bad. They really are. I probably shouldn’t make sweeping statements like that but I honestly can’t think of a single redeeming feature among them.

The entire game is based around tokens. Win a battle, get tokens, spend tokens on upgrades or crew. Good luck being able to afford anything, though, when you have to constantly replace your crew. Parts of your ship also use different types of tokens to dodge attacks and fire special weapons. The problem is that you not only need to wait for the rooms to charge up, but then you need to spend a token. Unfortunately you can only hold 2 tokens of each type at a time. After that you have to generate tokens, introducing an additional timer into the mix.  The same is true for shield regenerators, etc. It’s a completely stupid and broken system. I just don’t understand why they created, essentially, 2 different usage timers. It would have been great if they just let you buy and stock ammo, but there’s none of that.  Read on. [Read more...]

[E3] Microsoft forgets E3 is about Games during Press Conference

Microsoft’s press conference was exactly what we don’t care about: Sports, Music, Fitness, and gimmicks.  It felt to us like Microsoft completely forgot that E3 was a gaming convention, focusing instead on multimedia and superfluous device integration.

They did bring a few games.  The show kicked off with some Halo 4 footage, and ended with  Call of Duty Blackops 2 that lasted too long.  We’re tired of Halo and Call of Duty, aren’t you? Neither impressed us beyond what we’ve seen from their predecessors.  A few trailers and gameplay of games we already knew about like Fable and Tomb Raider were just alright; Tomb Raider does give off an Uncharted vibe now, so you might want to keep it on your radar. Splinter Cell Blacklist was shown, but we cringed as we watched the franchise take a turn for all-out-action with a focus on ‘mark and execute’ mechanics that seemed to play the game on autopilot; At least Spy vs. Merc is coming back. It’s sad, but the best game Microsoft showed may have been South Park: The Stick of Truth.

Smart Glass was the best of the worst from Microsoft’s briefing.  Smart Glass allows mobile devices like the iPad, iPhone, Microsoft tablets/phones, etc., to integrate with the Xbox 360.  You can use your phone to control the Internet Explorer browser coming to Xbox, or take control of the multimedia features on the console.  Smart Glass also acts like a sidekick to some games by taking the place of what normally is found by pressing the back button — you know, that lore stuff or details you normally just gloss over.  Smart Glass lets your mobile device display stuff not on the Tv, and sometimes interact with the game on a minor level.

While a neat gimmick for multimedia integration, like seeing a map of Middle-Earth showing where the Fellowship is at in the movie, the gaming side of this feature appears pointless to us.   Kinect was never properly integrated into games, and now they’ve introduced a diametrically opposing tech.  We can’t figure out what they’re going to do to convince developers that this is something worth integrating into third party games.  Nintendo’s Wii U shown yesterday has Microsoft beat already by integrating right into the controller — a device meant for gaming.

Sadly, it couldn’t get much worse for Microsoft, but at least that means anything Sony brings will be interesting.

Mass Effect: Infiltrator (iOS)

The graphics on my iPhone 4 are pretty good. This screenshot doesn't do it justice.

From the creators of Dead Space for iOS comes Mass Effect: Infiltrator, a third person action shooter loosely set in the familiar Mass Effect universe.  You play as a Cerberus operative named Randall Ezno. Long story short, you turn on Cerberus because you disagree with how far they’ve gone with alien experiments.  That’s all I’m going to say on the story because… really, that’s all there is to say.  The story is the weakest part of the game which is shocking considering this is Mass Effect.

Infiltrator plays like Gears of War and other cover-system shooters.  You move cover to cover shooting lots of enemies.  The key to survival is to avoid being surrounded, keep the enemies in front of you, and use all of your familiar abilities and weapons to chain up style points for better rewards.

Improve your Galactic Readiness Rating and track your progress on the Galaxy at War map.

The controls of ME: Infiltrator are surprisingly good.  The game employs virtual sticks to move Ezno. Just touch the screen on the left to move him forward/back/left/right and on the right to turn and look around.  To shoot you tap the screen on an enemy to target them and begin firing, then direct your firing with the right stick.  This feels weird at first, especially to someone newer to these iOS shooters like myself, but I quickly became a pro.  Taking cover simply requires running up to a barricade.  To move from cover to cover you just swipe in the direction you want to go and Ezno does the rest.  All of the controls are responsive and intuitive.

See what your friends are up to via the in-game Origin connection.

Infiltrator is, at best, a decent mobile shooter game to play when you have time to kill; I’ve found myself playing between classes (or during the boring ones). The reason I would recommend it to ME3 players is because by playing and collecting intel items you are able to increase your Galactic Readiness Rating for your PC or console version of ME3.  Simply log into your Origin account under the options menu and your app is linked directly to your account.  You can even view your Galaxy at War map and see what your friends are up to via the in-game Origin connection.

Coming in at $6.99, Mass Effect: Infiltrator is pricey.  The gameplay is enjoyable and at times satisfying, but does get repetitive. Having the ability to improve your ending of ME3 by playing this on your iOS device on the go is awesome, and that’s where I find the real value.

MASS EFFECT™ INFILTRATOR - Electronic Arts