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the Android Market and Compatibility

by Dave Loft

I’ve been mulling this over for the past week and wanted to share my thoughts on it. Ultimately what it comes down to is that there is no guarantee that the games your buying for your Android phone today are going to work on your next Android device. More apps and games are being targeted at specific devices. At Google IO in the market session it was mentioned that developers would now have even more control over which which device can access the game by not only chipset, screen size and android version but also the specific model.

So now a developer can build a compatible list or a not compatible list. An example of each that recently hit the market is the Netflix app which is limited to work on only five devices and Battleheart which currently blocks many Samsung and HTC devices. The worst part of this is that as the hacking community has shown running a rooted android with the hacked Netflix app can work on just about any device.

Blocking a specific model can result in blocking devices that may have been updated or are running custom software that actually fixes the issue that the device was blocked for. To take it even further a device may be blocked due just to performance issues. Something that a rooted device with a stock ROM running an overclocked CPU can often fix.

Ultimately these updates are great for the average Android user as it will reduce the number of times they will come across apps and games that do not work on their device. But it’s the power users that will ultimately have run into challenges from these changes.

Jump ahead one or two years after your first Android and you may find yourself in a situation where many of the games you have wont work on your brand new device. This will be especially true for anyone who owns a Tegra 2 based device or the Xperia Play. With so many games being made specifically just for those devices if your next device is not a Tegra device or the Xperia Play 2 it won’t work.

This also extends to any 3D game that specifically lists what devices it works on. Next year if you go and buy the latest and greatest phone that should easily be able to handle the game but the developer hasn’t added it to the list of compatible devices. As a result it won’t even show up in the market for you.

So going forward the argument that because it’s an Android device and you bought it from the Market doesn’t give you any guarantee. It kind of puts some perspective on the many arguments against buying from Gameloft because it won’t work on your next device. As it is, no matter where you buy it, there really is no guarantee it will work.

Google also introduced another update to the market, but this one could help alleviate many issues. They will allow a developer to have one listing for their game and it can hold multiple APK’s. This would be helpful for example if you currently own a Tegra 2 device, you would be given the Tegra 2 version. Then for example next year you buy the Xperia Play 2 and then when you hit the market to download your apps you would be given the appropriate version.

Unfortunately by the looks of things in the market this may be more of a dream than a reality. Many Tegra 2 games won’t work on any other platform and the one’s that do like Fruit Ninja and Guerrilla Bob have a higher price for the Tegra 2 version.

Thankfully most developers seem to have the right idea by just adding support to the Xperia Play in the regular version of the game. But I have to give a thumbs down to any developer choosing to build a separate version  for the Xperia Play.

Now before you get too worried about all this just bear in mind this is really only going to affect more advanced 3D games. Most apps and games should work just fine. This issue could also be helped if Google takes a stronger stance and more aggressively enforces the Android Market. The biggest thing Android needs is an all encompassing graphic layer akin to DirectX. This would alleviate the need for developers to write for specific chipsets and would greatly help eliminate compatibility issues. Going forward hopefully developers and Google don’t let things get too far out of hand.

Asphalt 6: Adrenaline is out of the shop and it’s firing on all cylinders

by Dave Loft

I had quite a few problems with Asphalt 6 when it first came out as I mentioned in my previous post. To summarize, it was too big at 1GB, took too much RAM at over 100MB, it had framerate issues, stability issues, control issues and achievements were not saved. To say the least, it was a complete mess. I had planned to write a review when it came out but instead I just ranted about how poorly done the Android port was.

Well here we are five weeks and two patches later and Gameloft has addressed all of my issues. It now uses less storage at just under 900MB and limits the download to 500MB compressed. It’s now down to 70MB of RAM, the framerate has improved, stability is great, control issues are gone and achievements are working. It is now in a state that I would consider release worthy and I am now going to give it a proper run through.

First and foremost it really is a great game and is easily the best Arcade Racer on Android. The physics on the cars feel a little off and fairly floaty but after a few hours with the game, that issue kind of fades away. Drifting is an absolute blast, once you get the rhythm down. Accelerometer steering is precise and feels just right and for anyone who prefers alternative methods of steering, you will be happy to see a few alternative options available.

The graphics are good, but look somewhat grainy, like it’s not taking advantage of the high res display on my phone. But then on some tracks this isn’t an issue at all. It appears to be the detailed textures used on some levels that have the issue and utilizing anti aliasing and anisotropic filtering would clear it up. Making up for the texture issues are the beautifully rendered cars, lush scenery, great filtering and weather effects. All of which come together to create a great visual presentation.

The game offers a number of ways to play. With Free Race you will be given an option of four modes; Normal Race, Beat ’em All, Elimination and Collector. Beat ’em All requires that you knock out a set number of opponents. Just smash your car against theirs and push them into the edge of the track will usually do the trick and is followed by a pleasing slow motion ‘Elimination’ animation. Get used to taking out racers this way as you will need to take out a few racers in each race to rank higher. In Elimination, races the last racer will be eliminated every 30 seconds till there is just three left. With Collector your goal is to collect the most special items and to win, you will need to get out first quickly. In Career you will have four additional modes; Dual, Time Attack, Drift and Under Pressure. Under Pressure is just like Beat ’em All, except that you have limited respawns.

The game has 42 cars ranging from the Mini Cooper to the Bugatti Veyron, all of which can be customized with paint jobs, decals and performance enhancing parts.  The game provides 11 leagues, 55 events and 12 courses to sharpen your skills on. Then when your ready you can take them online and race with up to six people, locally or over the internet. This game does not disappoint in the value for dollar catagory.

This has been my go to game for the past week whenever I have had time to sink my teeth into it. It’s not the game I pickup when I have a couple minutes while waiting, as it takes too long to load into the game and get racing. But like many Gameloft games, it is the game I go to when I’m looking for a console like experience. The depth of gameplay is beyond most smartphone games and easily provides the same amount of content of a game ten times it’s price. If you like arcade racing games, then Asphalt 6 is a must buy.

Score: 9.0

Official Website: Gameloft.com

For those interested, the game is only for high end phones and must be purchased from Gameloft directly. Games can be paid with credit card or PayPal and with some carriers, carrier billing is an option. Any game purchased can be easily re-downloaded by heading to gameloft.com on your phone and selecting ‘My Downloads’ at the bottom of the page. Login with your email or phone number and any game purchased available for that model will appear. Gameloft games will occasionally check for updates when launched and download them automatically if needed. 

email:  android.support@gameloft.com
phone: 1-800-910-3186

Portal 2 Available Now!

I’m too busy playing the game right now to do anything more than a picture and a few sentences. I will definitely write up a review in the next week or too. Now back to Portal 2 and if you haven’t yet bought this game, what is wrong with you?

Guerrilla Bob is well dressed but doesn’t have anything to say

by Dave Loft

I’ve had Guerrilla Bob for about a month and while it’s easily one of the most polished games on the Android market, it just doesn’t posses the longevity to keep me interested. Now to be fair, that would describe most mobile phone games and is exactly why they’re typically priced below $5. I guess I’m just looking for a console experience on a phone and one I know can be done.

I love the graphics in the game and the visual style reminds me of TF2. The textures are clean, beautifully put together and they’re not very detailed. But it works within the style of the game. To go with the smooth graphics is an equally smooth framerate that makes Guerrilla Bob a joy to play.

Cross compatibility is a big part of the marketing behind Guerrilla Bob and is one feature few games have offered. It is unfortunately only local multiplayer and the lacks the essential online multiplayer required to keep me playing the game.

Controls are plentiful with options to auto-aim and multiple dual stick configurations to choose from. If your new to dual stick games, or just want a simpler experience on your mobile, auto-aim is a great place to start. Once you get good at the game you can set the difficulty to hard or just turn off auto-aim.

The game offers ten guns and four characters to choose from, but with only one to start the game. You will unlock more as you play and getting all the guns can take quite a while.

The game offers a few ways to play; arcade, survival and mercenary. Arcade and mercenary are the same game but it changes how weapons are unlocked. In arcade you need to find new weapons hidden throughout the level. While in mercenary mode, you make money by taking out enemies to spend on your weapon of choice. With these two modes your goal is to move to the end of the level and your only job is to shoot. Survivor is the same gameplay in an arena and your scored based on how long you can survive.

What you soon realize is that all of the options available are pretty much the same. I feel if your gonna do just a shooting game, your gonna need more than ten guns. If you want to make your game more than just a shooting game some extra gameplay elements would go a long way. Just steeling ideas from your standard fps will do wonders. Vehicles, mele combat, stealth, cover, defend here, attack this, find the key, disguise as an enemy, something, anything. It just won’t stand as long without another leg to use.

To be fair. this really is me just wanting more complexity from mobile games and that’s something many people don’t care for. Taking into consideration what type of game Angry Mob was aiming to create with Guerrilla Bob, they have definitely nailed the mechanics of the game. It’s when you compare Guerrilla Bob to other shooters available on the Android Market that it becomes a more compelling product. It may have nothing on games like Modern Combat, but it’s really not trying to either.

Guerrilla Bob is the shooter built for a touch screen phone and one that’s accessible to the masses. This is the style of shooter that will have the most success on mobile devices and Angry Mob has built the best of it’s kind. Hopefully they can take that success and return with a squeal that raises the bar well above the the competition, rather than just over.

Score: 8.0

Android Market Link: Guerrilla Bob
Official Website: angrymobgames.com

Dungeon Hunter 2 Spells a Winner

by Dave Loft

The sequel to Dungeon Hunter was recently made available for Android and it’s improved over the original in every way. I enjoyed Dungeon Hunter but I stopped playing after a couple hours. Dungeon Hunter 2 has sucked me into several hours of compelling gameplay and has shown me no sign of letting go.

When the game starts you have your choice of three classes; warrior, rogue and mage. Once you get going you will have a further options to customize with one of two specializations and dozens of skills. The game is easy to use, which really goes a long way to making it accessible. The menu and character customization screens are easy to navigate, which is often an issue with RPG’s.

The controls feel much better than the first, especially with the 3 spell buttons being separated which makes them much easier to hit in the middle of action. The only issue I had with control was often getting stuck on objects around the world.

One of the big benefits of the game is in it’s save game simplicity. Since your game save is done automatically. If you have to quit and take care of something more important, your right where you left off when your ready to resume. Which is essential for an RPG on a mobile phone.

For anyone familiar with the first game, you’ll be impressed to know that Dungeon Hunter 2 is five times the size of the first. The variety of levels and enemies are also more diverse, keeping things from getting boring. Dungeon Hunter 2 has a total of 14 Acts and a maximum character ranking of 100. My character was only at level 25 by the time I hit Act 9. So if you find it too difficult, just grind away till you rank up a few levels before taking on that hard to beat story mission. It’s surprising how quickly those earlier challenging enemies become a cakewalk.

The graphics in Dungeon Hunter 2 have improved greatly since the first one. The textures are crisp, the animation is smooth and the lighting effects are impressive. The framerate has dropped a bit from the first game but considering the style of gameplay, it’s not much of a hindrance.

My biggest issue comes down to the dialogue and character interaction. There are no voice actors at work here, so expect lots of reading. Considering the sheer amount of dialogue and the tradition of RPG’s to not use voice acting, it’s not surprising. But it would have been nice to have more camera angles and character animation during this interactions. It may be nit picky but it does leave the world feeling quite static.

It’s great to see them add online and local co op play allowing you to take your character online or off at whim. It’s a great experience when played with someone you know. But you will want them to be beside you when you play so you can coordinate better. Playing online and having no way to communicate with one another takes away from the experience and just makes it more difficult. I would love to see some voice chat capability, this is a phone after all. But it’s hard to fault the game for something that no mobile game has implemented thus far.

This is a traditional Action\RPG through and through and doesn’t make any changes to that tried and true formula. It really is just Diablo II for Android and ultimately it doesn’t get much better than that.

Score: 9.5

Official Website: Gameloft.com

For those interested, the game is only for high end of phones and must be purchased from Gameloft directly. Games can be paid with credit card or PayPal and with some carriers, carrier billing is an option. Any game purchased can be easily re-downloaded by heading to gameloft.com on your phone and selecting ‘My Downloads’ at the bottom of the page. Login with your email or phone number and any game purchased available for that model will appear. Dungeon Hunter 2 will occasionally check for updates when launched and download them automatically if needed. 

email:  android.support@gameloft.com
phone: 1-800-910-3186


Nova 2 is landing on Android soon

So every now and then I check out Gameloft’s site to see if any new games have been made available. Last night I noticed they added Nova 2 to the list of games available to Android with a release date of April 2011. Unfortunately as of the time of writing this the buy now button does nothing. I tried going to Gameloft.com on my phone but the game is not even listed.

It appears this is yet another confirmation in a string of confirmations going as far back as December that Nova 2 is coming to Android. According to what I read at the beginning of April the game is supposed to be exclusive to the Sony Xperia Play for the first month. So we shouldn’t be seeing it for other Android handsets till May. But my experience with Gameloft is that if they are making reference to the game on their site it’s a good chance we will be seeing it by the end of the week.

Keep checking the link below to see when it becomes available.

http://en.gameloft.ca/download-games/android-games/

Product Page
http://en.gameloft.ca/android-games/nova-2-android/?adid=117277

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