Tag Archives: iPad

OnLive to bring console games to iDevices

OnLive, Inc. provides a service that allows people to play console quality games on any Mac or PC equipped with just about any video card.  It logs key inputs and streams the resulting actions back to the user’s screen.  No hard drive space is required other than 10 MB for the application itself.  There is also a unit available called the MicroConsole that plugs into HDTVs.  The MicroConsole has a controller much like that of the XBOX 360—it’s comfortable and works well.

The service itself has a wonderful interface where you can watch others playing games in the Arena, view 10 second “Brag Clips” that people have recorded of their gameplay, purchase games in the Marketplace, or launch a game with ease.  All loading times are very fast; OnLive has strong processors to run all of the games well.  With a very fast Internet connection the video quality is incredible—it looks as if it’s right on the computer and it isn’t streaming.  When other people use your network, OnLive detects the signal strength and automatically adjusts the video quality.  Despite this, there are occasional frames dropped in the process.  The only game so far where this has been a problem is Mafia II.  I’ve seen some momentary lag not caused by my Internet quality or video stream, but instead from the processors at OnLive.  Loading within the game itself could cause this, or maybe there were a lot of people online—it’s another rare occurrence that was barely noticeable, and did nothing to hinder my gaming experience.

OnLive is free to browse; any game on their servers can be played for 30 minutes.  The trial can be played an infinite number of times with no charge.   There is an affordable gaming option.  It’s called the PlayPack Bundle, a package of 70+ games that costs $10 a month.  It can be cancelled at any time, and the selection includes some fantastic games.  There are also many games available for a full subscription, providing access to the whole game until it is no longer on their servers, a minimum of three years.  All of these games can also be rented for either 3 or 5 days.

While these options are nice, the games are offered at premium prices.  There often are great sales; just keep your eyes open.  So far, what I’ve seen of the games shows me a lot of great potential, except that the selection isn’t very large yet.  I’m convinced this platform is going to be huge, so I think it should gain enough momentum to have a huge library not too long from now.

Now here’s the cool news, OnLive has a playable app coming to iDevices before the end of the year!

Currently there’s an app available for the iPad that lets the user watch Brag Clips and view the Arena, but it’s nothing compared to what’s coming.  Soon we’ll be able to carry console games in our pockets, and play them whenever we want!  The graphics of these games will blow iDevice games out of the water with options such as Borderlands, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and Batman: Arkham Asylum.  It’s also great that the small iDevice hard drives will only need to have a tiny application to launch these games.

There are only a few foreseeable problems with this app: controls, screen size, and signal strength.  A solution to control issues is that each game will need it’s own custom set tucked in the sides of the screen.  If controls are approached meticulously (as I’m sure they will be) your thumbs won’t cover much of the viewable part of the screen, and each game should feel as natural as any one native to the iDevices.

The games available on OnLive were all designed for much bigger screens and as such they will have a large amount of detail visible at all times.  This could potentially be a big strain on one’s eyes when playing on one of the smaller devices.  I’ve also noticed that iDevices have a much shorter Wi-Fi range than computers.  To get great video quality a strong network connection is needed, and you’ll have to be closer to the source.  One can assume that the games will be playable over 3G, and that they will look just fine.  The same goes for 4G, but even better.

OnLive is an ambitious and innovative service that brings incredible graphics to systems that couldn’t handle the processing themselves.  While all of the video is streamed and is dependent upon a network connection and its strength, the hard drive is not filled with games.  It’s coming to the iDevices, and it’s going to be great, as long as the controls are addressed carefully.

Weird Worlds – Return to Infinite Space Review: Something like a roguelike in space?!

It occurred to me once that Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space would make a pretty cool addition to the iOS gaming scene. Happily, it must also have occurred to someone whose opinion actually matters, because Weird Worlds is now available for iOS exclusively for the iPad. And I’m calling it the first notable release of 2011~!!

Have you ever wondered how a roguelike might play out if, oh say … the dungeon were instead the black of space? And your rogue were replaced by a starship? If ponderings such as these keep you up at night — I never sleep at all, I spend so much time thinking about such things — then Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space may be just the answer you’ve been seeking.

Weird Worlds is a game of space exploration and survival, set in a randomly generated universe each time you play. Beginning the game, you are given the choice of three starships in which to make your explorations of Sector Prime: a Science Vessel, a Pirate Corvette or a Terran Frigate. You may also set parameters for your universe including map size, nebula mass and enemy strength. You are given a limited number of years in which to explore the created universe — 20 years on a Medium sized map — and must return to the Glory system within that time to report your findings, else suffer stiff fines for defaulting on your contract.

Depending upon your ship choice, your primary and secondary objectives will vary. The goal of science missions to to catalog new lifeforms and to map as much of Sector Prime as possible. As a pirate privateer, your goal is simply to grab anything of value you can find: technology, alien artifacts, lifeforms, weapons and even hostages. And as captain of a military frigate, you are tasked to make First Contact with alien races, to determine whether they are peaceful or pose a threat to Terran interests; as a secondary goal, obtain any technologies, artifacts or information which may be useful for military purposes.

Embarking from the Glory system, Sector Prime becomes your playground as you venture from system-to-system discovering new planets, new lifeforms and many exciting space treasures. Travel amongst the stars takes time, however, and so it is always important to mind the date that you might return to Glory in time (the only way to ensure a good endgame score!).

There is much to be found in Sector Prime. New weapons and shields bolster your combat abilities, while allies may join your fleet to give you an even greater edge in hostile situations. Improved scanners can help you to make better decisions as you plot your course through the system, while faster propulsion drives will help to reduce your transit time between worlds, allowing you to explore more of the sector before your deadline comes looming. Drones can repair your damaged ship or provide other benefits, and artifacts and captured lifeforms may be exchanged in trade with other species, sometimes at currency value and sometimes in 1:1 trades regardless of an item’s inherent value (the Klakar are suckers!).

Events occur randomly as you travel the systems. You may encounter other lifeforms in healthy exchange, engage them in deadly combat, or encounter terrorists who will rob you of your cargo. There’s no telling what may occur in the black of space, where good decision making is the only thing that separates the living from the dead.

Likes:

Bite-sized Spacefaring: Most space games are epic in scale, such that you may never see the end of the game, if the game even has an ending; many do not. A game of Weird Worlds will rarely last more than 30 minutes, making it ideal for quick bursts of quality spacefaring.

Random Encounters: There’s a lot to see and do in Sector Prime, and you’re not going to discover all the game has to offer in a single go, nor even in several. I think gamers will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of content there is to discover in the game on return sessions.

Variety: The different ship/mission types vary the goals of each game and change the way the game is played. Military missions favor an aggressive approach, while science missions had better avoid combat whenever possible. The objectives of your mission will motivate you to trade differently, and so prioritize your explorations in different ways. Combined with the many diverse random encounters to be had, Weird Worlds provides excellent replay value.

Visual and Audio Presentation: Weird Worlds is a great looking game. Space is pretty, and the game is full of original artwork. Ambient radio transmissions, interference and ship chatter help to set the mood.

Combat: Combat happens in real-time, putting you in control of your fleet and issuing orders to attack or retreat. During battle, the view shifts away from the starmap to a zoomed-in, tactical view of your ship and the opposing forces. Here you can plot the movement of your ships, target opposing vessels, launch fighters and fire your weapons. Ships may be boarded, destroyed or run away from. Hell, if you get desperate you can even ram enemies with your ships!

Do you remember Warpgate and how it was an awesomely impressive game in almost every conceivable way, except having combat that dragged the game headfirst into the muck and grime of Yoda’s swamp, and not just any part of the swamp, but the part where Yoda poops? Combat in Weird Worlds is nothing like that. In fact, Warpgate would have been a much better game had it simply aped Weird World’s combat wholesale. Yeah Freeverse, I’m talking to you. Look here and see real-time, tactical space combat done right. Do you see how it doesn’t suck? Do you see how it doesn’t bring down the entire game?!

Dislikes:

Small UI Elements: With the iPad’s big, beautiful display, there’s really no excuse for so many of the user-interface elements to be so frustratingly tiny. Every one of the game’s buttons — cargo and ship access, help/description icons, text buttons, close window buttons, etc. — is just too friggin’ small. They’re difficult to hit with any accuracy at all, so it’s lucky that buttons are usually (not always) spaced out enough that there’s nothing else to hit by mistake. Star systems can be difficult to select on the map, and you will often have to stab repeatedly at your destination before it will register for travel. Enlarging the sensitivity areas around systems would really help the game out. These issues really should be addressed by the developer at some point, so here’s to hoping …

A Little Rough Around the Edges: Having been ported from desktop operating systems, Weird Worlds is still a little rough around the edges. You will catch some of the tutorials referring to mouse clicks and movements rather than touch-interface controls, such as in the combat tutorial. I’ve also experienced some lag and unresponsiveness when dragging items between my cargo bay and the shop. The game suffers from occasional frame-rate drops and stutters; as the game does not require fast reflexes, this is usually not enough to hamper play, though it is fairly annoying. Hopefully these are issues that will be resolved in the game’s first update, whenever that comes.

Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space takes out a new lease on life on the iPad. The game has been around for more than five years now, and holds up incredibly well to the ravages of time. The game is every bit as fun as it ever was, and makes an ideal fit for the iPad. While many of the UI elements are too small to be comfortable, the touch-interface is functional and does work really well for a game like this one; hopefully the developers will work to improve the interface in updates. Spacefaring gamers should definitely find Weird Worlds a worthy addition to their gaming library, and fans of roguelikes should also find a lot to like in the game.

Weird Words: Return to Infinite Space is developed by Digital Eel and Astraware Limited, and is available exclusively for the iPad [$4.99]. Reviewed at version 1.00.000 on an iPad.

Osmos Released on iPhone After Previously Being iPad Exclusive

iPad owners are now no longer the only portable gamers with the opportunity to enjoy Osmos.  If you haven’t tried out the game before, Osmos starts off by placing you in a relaxing environment with simple goals.  As a rounded piece of glowing matter on the screen, you grow by propelling yourself towards other smaller pieces of matter and absorbing them.  Larger pieces float around you as well and need to be avoided until you’re large enough to absorb them.  The big catch is that moving yourself sacrifices size, so movement needs to be used sparingly and strategically.  As levels progress, the challenges get more complex and different elements like gravity are thrown into the mix.

Osmos for iPhone comes with the expected controls of tapping to propel yourself, the ability to slow down time by swiping, and zooming by the familiar pinching.  Osmos also includes OpenFeint support.

The game is complimented by an ambient soundtrack that really works well to set the mood.  If you’d like to try a demo before buying, there’s one available for PC, Mac, or Linux at the official website that offers a couple of levels.  Also, the title of this article isn’t entirely accurate: there were desktop versions also available for $10 before now.  Nonetheless, the iPhone version is now available for $2.99.  We haven’t gotten our hands on this new release just yet, but if the iPad version is any indicator, this should be a solid port of a great game for those in the mood for a relaxing time.


Warpgate HD Review: Out of this World

I’ve never been a big fan of space traders and such on any platform; they never hit me as interesting.  Outer Empires MMO almost caught my attention into the space trading genre, but in the end, it didn’t capture me enough to keep playing over and over.  As I’m more into action and epic storylines, buying low and selling high isn’t exactly my idea for a game.

But Warpgate HD took me totally by surprise, as it plays like no other space trader I’ve played.  The storyline, one of a conspiracy theory of someone trying to create war between the N.S.E. and the Ecclesiastory, is intriguing and easy to follow.  Dialogue boxes are well put together so that the player can follow along with the story, and much of it is far from broken.

Along with an intriguing storyline, the action is present.  While the fights aren’t extremely complex and fleshed out, it’s enough to have you sitting on the edge of the seat, wondering if your skimpy ship can defeat the enemy.  All in all, this is a space trader you shouldn’t be missing.

Likes

Graphics: The background environments along with the ship graphics are very impressive, and I never knew Freeverse could produce at such a quality level.  Sure, I’ve played some of their Mac games and enjoyed them, but Warpgate HD looks absolutely beautiful; it sure beats Gameloft’s graphics out of the water.  You won’t find many flaws with the appearance, and if you do, I will be surprised.  This is the best-looking game I have seen on the App Store so far, and it should stay that way for a long time.

Sweet beats: The epic battle song/background music is well-composed, and it definitely added to much of the immersion effect.  During a battle, the background music helped you to get into the cockpit and fire those missiles, and while you’re cruising through the galaxy, epic music will still be playing to keep you alert and on your feet.  I thought the audio was very well done, and it definitely adds a lot to the gameplay.

Tons of things to do: Warpgate is, more or less, and open world space game.  There are so many locations to travel to, so many planets to land on, and so many missions to accomplish.  I usually like to finish the main storyline before moving on to the extras, but it would take so many more hours to visit everywhere.  While some people may find themselves overwhelmed with the sheer size of Warpgate, I found it to be welcoming and one of the most expansive games on the App Store.

Tons of things to buy: You have a lot to do and a lot to buy.  Ships, weapons, commodities; this thing is packed with items.  I have no clue how many weapons, ships, and commodities there are exactly, but I can tell you that there are A LOT.  There’s a new weapon and/or ship on almost every single planet (which should be way over 100).

Content: You won’t run out of things to do in a few hours, let alone a few days.  Over 100 main missions should last you more than enough time to get your $7.99 worth out of it.

This is a steal: $7.99 will get you a premium game on the IPHONE. A premium game on the iPad has been set by EA as $14.99, and Warpgate is much more than anything EA has to offer.  If you look at the price tag as expensive, I suggest you go see the doctor to check out your eyesight.

Dislikes

Multi-touch scrolling: I might be doing this wrong, or the multi-touch may just be broken.  Zooming in with two fingers works perfectly fine, but when I’m trying to use my fingers to scroll left and right, it doesn’t exactly work.  I have to force my fingers to move the camera angle multiple times, and it usually refuses to budge much.  It does start to get annoying after a while, and if I’m doing it wrong, please correct me via comments.

Combat system: I think the combat could have been spiced up a bit more, as the one right now is more about monitoring your health and pressing buttons once they turn green.  The weapons themselves are impressive, but the combat could be improved with maybe no homing-missile system, a turn-based combat system, or something else that I can’t think of.  The current one isn’t bad, it’s just not good.

Earning the dough: Like the real world, earning money can be a pain.  Buying low and selling high is easy enough once you know where the cheap stuff are, but it starts to get pretty monotonous when you’re trying to turn $2000 to $10,000.  This is the “grind” part of the game, and while it’s necessary, I found it quite dull.

Warpgate HD is currently the best the App Store has to offer.  It has a few problems like I mentioned above, but the epic storyline, breathtaking graphics, and sweet battle background music makes this a game that’s unrivaled.  It would be nice if Freeverse updated according to the dislikes I had with the game, but again, Warpgate HD should be one of the must have games you need on your “magical” iPad.

Warpgate HD was developed by Freeverse, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPad.  The price is $7.99.


Geometry Wars: Touch Review: Beauty of retro made Modern

Activision, in my opinion, is still a bit iffy when it comes to iPhone games.  Call of Duty: World at War Zombies costs a lot of dough, and the content on that game is questionable.  It’s still a fun game, but again, I can’t bring myself to believe it’s worth $9.99.  Geometry Wars: Touch, on the other hand, seems to be priced correctly along with added modes for the iPad.

And with many gamers that have already played Geometry Wars on the Xbox and other platforms, the iPad addition is purely awesome.  This game was one of the main reasons I wanted the iPad, and in my opinion, it didn’t fail to deliver.  While the sparks and explosion effects aren’t as great as the Xbox version, it should stop the craving for Geometry Wars on a handheld.

Likes

Graphics: Geometry Wars has always been about the sparks (from what I can remember) and the colorful, retro graphics.  The iPhone, surprisingly, didn’t have many games that tried to copy this retro look, and many went on to have different themes and characters.  The graphics, while toned down a bit from the Xbox version, are extremely well done, and Activision did a good job of making Geometry Wars on the iPad feel like Geometry Wars.

Controls: The floating dual-joysticks felt comfortable when holding the 9.7 in. device, and I was surprised at how comfortable it was holding it in my hands.  I didn’t think dual-stick shooters would work on the iPad due to the iPad’s large screen, but Activision really made it work in my opinion.  The floating dual-sticks gives a user freedom to move wherever they feel comfortable, and while the bomb button placement is uncomfortable, the dual-stick controls themselves are surprisingly very comfortable to use.

Plentiful game modes: Geometry Wars: Touch has a lot of games modes, about 6, and all of them are unique and different in their own way.  All were a refreshing experience, and it would be easy to say that each would be the equivalent of a $0.99 game on the App Store.  They add a nice touch of variety to a genre that has been overly repetitive on the App Store, and you shouldn’t run out of things to do for a while.

Ooooo… Fireworks: The explosions and fireworks are the effects that I’ve been waiting for in a dual-stick shooter, and Activision delivered.  It would have been horrible if they didn’t add it, but hey, I’m just happy they did.

Dislikes

Bomb button placement: The bomb button is placed in the middle of the screen, and reaching for that button requires a bit of a workout for your thumb (or whatever other finger you would like to use).  Through my playthrough, it wasn’t EXTREMELY uncomfortable, but it could have been placed somewhere a bit more comfortable.  Even shaking the device to set off a bomb would have been a viable solution.

Local leaderboards: For some reason, Geometry Wars: Touch doesn’t seem to have a local leaderboard.  It records the best score of the session, but once you quit out, you won’t find those scores appearing again.  Please tell me if I am wrong and am missing something, but right now, I can’t seem to find the local leaderboards.

Geometry Wars: Touch is everything a Geometry Wars fan has ever wanted, and to me, it totally lived up to the expectations I set for it.  The bomb button placement was a bit awkward, and I would have liked some local leaderboards, but Geometry Wars on the iPad just doesn’t seem to be a game that you can skip over.  It’s priced correctly, plays wonderfully, and controls nicely.  What more could you ask for?

Geometry Wars: Touch was published by Activision, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPad.  The price is $9.99.