Reviews of a Few Mobile Games

Clash of Clans

Clash of Clans

The wildly popular iOS strategy game was released for Android earlier this month. It uses the free-to-play model, giving players the option of buying gems (which allow them to buy shields, builder’s huts, etc.) without being obnoxious about it. Clash of Clans is more PVP-oriented than other city-building games I’ve played. There are trophy leagues that promote players for successful attacks of other players’ villages. You also steal other players’ resources when you attack their villages.

Clash of Clans Store
Clash of Clans store

While I still “play” Clash of Clans, I’ll probably quit soon. Without using gems, you’re limited to 2 builders and upgrading buildings and defenses can take multiple days, so there isn’t much to do other than attack other people. Attacking involves selecting some or all of your troops and dropping them off somewhere on the map. You can’t control your troops at all, so they often do stupid things like ignoring the cannon that’s firing at them to destroy a worthless building. Granted, different types of troops behave differently, so there is some strategy in the order you send the troops, but the game is much too passive for me.

Plus, I felt like not enough information was given to the player and I found myself looking things up online all the time. How many resources can other players take when they attack me? Are some buildings more important to protect than others? How does donating troops to clan members work? My generosity got me kicked out of a clan for donating troops because they were apparently too low leveled. I had no idea.

Free on Android & iOS

Knights of Pen & Paper

Knights of Pen & Paper

Knights of Pen & Paper Battle
Knights of Pen & Paper battle

Knights of Pen & Paper is a turn-based pixel art RPG that was modeled on Dungeons & Dragons. Sadly, I haven’t played D&D, so I can’t really compare the two. The player controls the dungeon master and up to 5 players at the table. You can customize the players by choosing from multiple classes (cleric, rogue, knight, necromancer, etc.) and personality types (nerd, little brother, hipster, grandma, etc.). You explore the map, completing quests and fighting monsters along the way.

Knights of Pen & Paper is a great little game. I love its sense of humor and references to other games and pop culture. The simple mechanics might get boring after a while, but you can switch things up by adding new classes that you unlock along the way. Gold is the currency in Knights of Pen & Paper and although you can buy gold for real money, the game never prompts you to and I haven’t ever felt a need to buy gold. There is plenty of content, too; I’ve spent hours playing this game and there’s still more to do.

$2.99 on Android & iOS

Osmos

Osmos

Osmos is a beautiful, minimalist physics-based game. You control a mote and try to collide it into other, smaller motes to absorb them and become larger. If you collide with a larger mote, you get absorbed and lose. You lose mass as you move, though, so you want to be conservative in your movement. Features like antimatter and gravity/orbits keep things interesting.

Osmos Multiplayer
Osmos multiplayer

I got Osmos after it was named #7 in Reddit’s Top 25 Android Games list. It’s well-designed, addictive, and manages to be both relaxing and challenging. After noticing that it supported multiplayer, I had my husband pick it up, too. Multiplayer is a lot of fun! The gameplay is the same, except the one of the motes is controlled by the other player, who is trying to absorb your mote.

$2.99 on Android & iOS

Plants vs. Zombies 2

Plants vs Zombies 2

After first releasing on iOS, Plants vs. Zombies 2 released on Android last week. Plants vs. Zombies 2 stays true to the original gameplay, while adding things like new plants and zombies and a new, less linear map. There are three themed worlds: mummies, pirates, and cowboys, each with its own levels and themed zombies. There are new mechanics, too, like plant food that briefly makes a plant more powerful and power-ups that use touch gestures to help you get rid of zombies.

PvZ 2 Worlds
PvZ 2 worlds
PvZ 2 Map & Keys
PvZ 2 map & keys
PvZ 2 Power-Up
PvZ 2 power-up

Unlike the original Plants vs. Zombies, the sequel uses the free-to-play model. In the store, you can buy coins (up to $99.99 worth in a single purchase), plants, upgrades (increased slots, extra sun, etc.), and the keys you need to unlock certain plants, bonuses, and levels. I love Plants vs. Zombies, but I feel like PopCap is too aggressively pushing in-app purchases in this sequel. The keys that you need for progression are a rare drop, so it seems like you’ll have to do a lot of grinding if you aren’t willing to fork over the cash. You also need to pay to unlock several plants; there is no other way of getting them. The in-game currency (coins) is only good for purchasing power-ups (which are expensive).

PvZ 2 Store
PvZ 2 store
PvZ 2 Star Challenge
PvZ 2 star challenge
PvZ 2 Getting to the Next World
PvZ 2 getting to the next world

 

Plants vs. Zombies 2 has a lot of nice improvements over the original game, which give the game more variety. I like the addition of  the star challenges, which award stars for completing objectives in previous levels. I also like the plant food mechanic, but I’m not a fan of the power-ups, which feel cheaty and awkward to me. My biggest complaint about the game is the annoying in-app purchase system. Fortunately, most of the store purchases should be unnecessary with good strategy and tactics. I’m worried about having to grind for keys, though. At least the star challenges will provide variety when replaying old levels.

Free on Android & iOS

Rayman Jungle Run

Rayman Jungle Run

Rayman Jungle Run is a 2D sidescroller platform game. Unlike other similar games, it’s not a “run forever until you die” type of game. There is a goal at the end of each level that you need to reach before it sends you to the next level. While running, jumping, flying, and punching your way to the goal, you collect firefly-like “lums” to boost your score.

Rayman Jungle Run Worlds
Rayman Jungle Run worlds

I just got Rayman Jungle Run today, so I haven’t played it enough to give it a thorough review. The graphics and music are great and the touch controls work well so far. There are 7 different sections, which each have 10 different levels, and each section focuses on a different ability. You unlock achievements and art as you play and the compulsion to get a perfect score on each level could keep people playing for a while, even after completing every level.

$2.99 on Android & iOS (Currently on sale for $0.99)

Reddit’s Top 25 Android Games

A list of Reddit’s Top 25 Android Games voted on by gamers in the androidgaming and android subreddits was just published. I haven’t played all of the games (and some were new to me), but I’ll do a quick review of the ones I know:

Triple Town
Triple Town

#22: Triple Town [Free]
Super addicting match 3 game in which you try to build up a city. Fun fact: I almost worked on the development of this game (my former employer was the original developer).

#20: Angry Birds [Free]
This physics-based action puzzle game has become a mobile gaming staple. You slingshot birds at pigs in the original version of the game, but there are other variations in the Angry Birds franchise that introduce other themes and mechanics.

#19: Kingdom Rush [$0.99]
Although there’s nothing particularly innovative about this tower defense game, it’s made really well and is definitely worth the $0.99. If you’re interested, check out my review of Kingdom Rush.

#18: Dots [Free]
This minimalist puzzle game is pretty addicting considering how simple it is. Match as many dots as you can, as quickly as you can. I didn’t get sucked into this game, but it was fun to play for a little while.

Jetpack Joyride
Jetpack Joyride

#15: Jetpack Joyride [Free]
I’ve spent more time than I care to admit playing this endless side-scroller made by the folks who made Fruit Ninja. It’s a one button game in which you run through a laboratory collecting coins and avoiding hazards. The missions, achievements, and upgrades like gadgets and costumes keep things interesting.

#9: Terraria [Free demo; $4.99]
While I haven’t spent a lot of time playing the mobile version of this action-adventure RPG, I loved the PC version. It’s like a 2D version of Minecraft. I wrote a more detailed review of Terraria when the Android version came out earlier this month.

#6: Super Hexagon [$2.99]
This minimalist action game is equal parts frustrating and brilliant. Gameplay is incredibly simple; you steer your cursor through endless hexagons, but don’t be surprised if it’s “Game over!” almost as quickly as you began. I wrote a quick review of Super Hexagon along with the other games from Humble Bundle with Android 5.

World of Goo
World of Goo

#5: Plants vs. Zombies [$0.99]
This tower defense game is another mobile gaming staple. Stop the horde of zombies from reaching your house by planting rows of zombie-killing plants. I love PvZ and its sequel is going to be available for Android soon.

#1: World of Goo [Free demo; $2.99]
In this physics-based puzzle game, you build structures out of balls of goo. The various levels offer new and interesting challenges as you create bridges and towers to get as many gooballs as you can to the end.

Games I’ve been meaning to try out:

Looks like I have some more games to add to my list now, too!

If you have 18 minutes to kill and would rather watch a video review of the Top 25 games, the Redditor who put the list together also made a video:

Link to the list: Reddit’s Top 25 Android Games

New Nexus 7 Tablet (2013 Version)

Nexus 7 (2013 Version)I watched Google’s announcement of the new Nexus 7 live last Wednesday, eager to see what changes they were making to my favorite device. Most of them were leaked online beforehand (like the rear camera, notification light, and the 1920 x 1200 resolution that makes it the highest resolution tablet on the market). I wasn’t expecting the Chromecast, though, which I’ll save for a later post after mine arrives. 😉

So how does the new 2013 Nexus 7 compare to the old 2012 Nexus 7?

Size and appearance: The new version is noticeably thinner (8.65 mm instead of 10.45 mm). It’s also slightly less wide and slightly taller, which makes it not work with my old case while I wait for a new one. It’s also a bit lighter (290 g instead of 340 g), which makes it easier to hold with one hand. The side bezels are much smaller and the front camera has been moved from the center to off on the right side.

Screen: I was really interested to see what the 1920 x 1200 (323 ppi) screen would look like compared to the old 1280 x 800 (216 ppi) screen. To be honest, it wasn’t as big of a difference as I was expecting. The screen looked beautiful before and continues to look great now.

Hardware: The new Nexus 7 comes with a much nicer processor (according to reviews; I don’t know much about mobile processors) and twice as much RAM (2 GB instead 1 GB). For me, I also gain some storage space because I had the 8 GB 2012 model and the new 2013 model is either 16 GB or 32 GB (I got the 16 GB). The new tablet feels certainly faster than my old one, which is a very nice improvement.

Audio: There are some new stereo speakers in the 2013 Nexus 7, which sound much better than the old speakers. They’re also a lot louder, so even on the lowest setting, sound might be louder than you want it to be.

Camera: I haven’t played around with the new rear-facing camera much yet, because it’s not something I really care that much about. I took a photo last night in low light conditions and it turned out pretty grainy and awful. I took another photo today in good light conditions and it turned out okay. *Shrug* It’s obviously going to be better than nothing if you don’t have another camera with you.

I loved my old Nexus 7 tablet and the new 2013 version offers some nice improvements. Highly recommended for anyone in the market for a tablet!

Humble Bundle with Android 5

Humble Bundle is out with its latest bundle: Humble Bundle with Android 5. Humble Bundles are collections of DRM-free video games and you pay what you want for them. As long as you spend more than the average purchase, you also get a few bonus games.

The six games in Humble Bundle with Android 5 run on Windows, OS X, Linux, and Android. You also get the game soundtracks and, as long as you pay at least $1, you get Steam keys for the games.

The Games

I played each of these games for a little while (some longer than others) on my Nexus 7 tablet.

Beat Hazard UltraBeat Hazard Ultra
music-powered arcade shooter

The essence of Beat Hazard Ultra is that it creates levels for you based on your music and then you shoot away until the song is done. A lot of people seem to like Beat Hazard Ultra, but it didn’t do much for me… and it can’t play music from Google Music, which was a bummer. Maybe I’ll try it out on my PC later to see if I like the experience more.

Dynamite JackDynamite Jack
stealth action game with bombs

In Dynamite Jack, you play as a captured space marine who is trying to escape the mines where he is forced to work. You place bombs to draw the attention of the guards, collect crystals to try to reduce time, and make your way to the next level. It seems okay, but not really the sort of game I’d want to play.

NightSky HDNightSky HD
physics-based action-puzzle game

The basic idea of NightSky is that you maneuver a sphere around various worlds using physics. The interface is simple and intuitive and there are occasionally mechanics like pinball flippers, vehicles, and reversing gravity to keep things interesting. I don’t usually care for dark designs, but I enjoyed NightSky and it makes a great mobile game.

Solar 2Solar 2
open-world space sandbox game

Solar 2 is easily one of my favorites in this bundle. You start the open-ended game as an asteroid and after you crash into enough other asteroids, you become a planet. As a planet, you try to get asteroids to orbit you and after a while, your planet supports life and you get ships to defend you from asteroids and other ships. Absorb enough asteroids and you’ll turn into a sun, and so on.  Super fun. I ended up playing a lot longer than I had planned. 😛

The next two games are unlocked if you pay more than the average (currently, $6.65).

Dungeon Defenders Second WaveDungeon Defenders
action RPG tower defense game

With Dungeon Defenders, you get Dungeon Defenders: Second Wave on Android devices, which has a hefty ~700MB additional data download when you first launch it. You also get non-mobile version of the game and all DLC (downloadable content). The game with all its DLC is $49.99 on Steam, so you’re getting a great deal by buying the bundle. I first played Dungeon Defenders on the PS3 a couple years ago and liked it. I didn’t care for playing it on my tablet; though. Although the graphics were great, I felt clumsy using the controls and the build phase took too long. It’s a good game; I just don’t think it works well for mobile devices.

Super HexagonSuper Hexagon
minimal geometric action game

Super Hexagon is a super fun, quick, challenging game. You guide a triangle around by moving it left and right and you try to avoid the incoming, rotating lines. It’s a simple idea, but it’s really tough! The games are very quick (I got tired of hearing “Game over!” all the time lol) and there are only two controls (left and right), which makes it a great mobile game. Super Hexagon is ridiculously simple, addictive, and challenging… and another one of my favorite games from this bundle.

There are less than 12 days remaining, so if you want to grab the Humble Bundle, make sure you do it soon!

Google Nexus 7

Nexus 7I just realized I haven’t blogged about my tablet yet! I got my Nexus 7 four months ago, after some peer pressure at work. 😉

Prior to getting my tablet, I didn’t really see the appeal. Between my phone (Nexus S 4G) and my desktop computer, I felt like I had all of my computing needs taken care of. My phone was nice for playing games, social media, etc. while on the couch or out and about and my desktop was where I did just about everything else. Sure, it would be nice to have a larger screen on my mobile device, but would an extra 3″ make that big of a difference? Maybe a 10″ tablet would be more worthwhile?

Silly me.

My Nexus 7 has become my primary computing device. I use it for browsing the internet, playing games, emailing, social media, chatting, Google Docs, eReading, and even texting thanks to Google Voice. 7″ is a great size while still being extremely portable. I can hold it comfortably in one hand, which might be difficult for a 10″ tablet. I only use my phone for making phone calls and when I’m away from home now (my tablet is WiFi only). My desktop computer really doesn’t get used as much anymore, because I can do almost everything on my tablet, but I still use it for PC gaming, programming, and anything typing-intensive (like blogging).

One of the other things that was keeping me from getting a tablet was that I wanted it to have multi-user support, so that Nick and I could both use it. Well, he ended up getting his own Nexus 7 two months ago after seeing how much I used mine. 😛 Android 4.2 introduced multi-user support for tablets, though, so you can now have multiple users, each with their own homescreen, widgets, apps, scores, etc.

Nexus 7 CaseI got a pretty decent case for it, too: the Supcase Slim Fit Leather Case (in purple, of course!), which is only $13.99 – $17.99 on Amazon. Don’t worry if you don’t like purple; it comes in about a dozen colors. It adds a little weight to the tablet (the case is 6 oz; the tablet is 12 oz), but it’s still fairly light. All of the buttons and inputs are accessible and the tablet slides out easily when you want to take it out. The tablet is held in place with velcro, but the tablet never touches the velcro, so you don’t need to worry about scratches. There is no see-through cover over the screen; you touch the screen directly. The stand feature is a bit flimsy, but it’s good enough to serve my purposes and I don’t use the stand much anyway. The cover uses magnets to keep it closed and the tablet automatically sleeps and wakes up when the cover is closed/open.

I love my Nexus 7 and it is consistently ranked as the best 7″ tablet, so if you’re looking for a good last minute Christmas present or something to spend your gift cards on, I’d recommend the Nexus 7 tablet. It starts at only $199!

New Phone: Nexus S 4G

New Phone & Old Phone
New phone (Nexus S 4G) and old phone (Motorola RAZR)

A month ago, Nick and I (finally) gave in and got ourselves smart phones to replace the Motorola RAZR’s we’d been using for the last 5-6 years. We had been on a T-Mobile plan, but after it was announced that AT&T was acquiring T-Mobile, we decided it was time to switch plans and look for new phones.

We made up our minds to switch to Sprint and then went back and forth between Google’s Nexus S 4G and the HTC EVO 3D for a while before deciding to go with the Nexus S (the EVO 3D still isn’t even available). We got our phones the day they were released, May 8, two days before Nick’s birthday. 😛

So what do we think of our new phones so far?

One thing that’s great about our new phones is that they replace our crummy, outdated digital camera. And shortly before getting our phones, Nick accidentally broke our GPS navigator by slamming it in the car door, so our phones have more or less taken over for navigation, too.

They’re also handy when going shopping. Nick and I went to Kroger a couple weeks ago – our first trip since we got our smart phones. Before we went, we used the Kroger app to find coupons and apply them to our Kroger card. To keep track of our shopping list, we used an app called CloudList. While we were at Kroger, we used ShopSavvy to scan the barcode of an item and see if the price was competitive. We found out that local stores in the area sold it for approximately the same price, but we could buy it online through Amazon.com for half the price. 😛

Some other great apps are RunKeeper (which we use to keep track of our walks), the Amazon Appstore (free app every day!), and TuneIn Radio (for listening to radio stations on the go). As for games, I love Plants Vs Zombies and Bubble Buster, among others.

TL;DR Replaced my old flip phone with a new smart phone. New toys are fun. 🙂