All posts by Chris Dodds

Chris Dodds is an IT freelancer and part-time writer based in Oklahoma City, OK. He is passionate about solving problems at the intersection of people and technology and is looking forward to the coming Singularity.

How to stay secure on public Wi-Fi


Credit card numbers? Check. Website logins? Check. “Private” chats between cheating spouses? Double check.

Spend ten minutes in a coffee shop snooping on the “Free Public Wi-Fi!” and you’ll see all these things and more. Airports, libraries, parks? Same situation. Hotels are a little different, though. All the bandwidth is being taken up by people streaming porn, so there’s not much else going on.

Granted, this is the same type of traffic you’d see on a private, secure network, but in that setting you’re probably going to have a little better idea of who you’re sharing the network with and there are controls to keep potential criminals out.

Public Wi-Fi is exactly that, public. You are sharing it with everyone else in the local area, just like Jenny, that nice girl you went to highschool with who just wanted to feel pretty. For someone who’s interested in stealing financial information or identities, it’s an appealing target, mostly because it’s so easy to exploit. I wouldn’t even call it hacking, it’s more “collecting” – monitoring the network for unencrypted information and capturing the info that looks interesting.

Protect your neck

That being said, public Wi-Fi can be relatively safe to use if you take the appropriate steps to secure yourself and use a little common sense.

    • Starbucks is not a good place to balance your checkbook. Context is everything and there are certain places for doing certain things. Doing your online banking on public Wi-Fi is just a bad idea. Even if you’re taking steps to protect your laptop, there are too many factors that are out of your control to justify the risk. Restrict financial and other “sensitive” activities to networks you trust (like the one at your house).
    • Use a VPN service. A VPN (virtual private network) service will protect your internet traffic inside a secure tunnel out to the internet so that someone snooping locally won’t be able to see anything other than you connecting to the VPN service. Good VPNs aren’t free, but if you’re a heavy public Wi-Fi user, the cost is definitely worth the security you gain. I personally use a service called Cloak that works on Mac and iOS devices. If you’re not a super-awesome-Apple-user like me, I’ve also heard good things about StrongVPN.
    • Know what you’re connecting to. Although they can easily be spoofed to match the name of a real Wi-Fi network, it’s important to pay attention to the names of the wireless networks you use. Much in the same way that an e-mail titled “Free Money Waiting For YOU!” is probably spam, a wireless network named “Free Public Wi-Fi” is likely a scam.
    • Look at the physical signage wherever you are visiting. Starbucks uses AT&T to provide their Wi-Fi (It says so on the front door.), so the network there is called “attwifi”, not “starbuks” (The laziness that’s paired to Wi-Fi snooping is often paired with stupid.). Just being on the right public Wi-Fi for the location will keep you more secure. If you’re reading this thinking “Well, Mr. Smartypants, what if someone has exactly mimicked the name and setup of a real network and is performing a man-in-the-middle attack?” – see points 1 & 2.

When in doubt, bail out

Ultimately, if you doubt the safety or validity of a Wi-Fi network, don’t use it. It may come as a surprise to some people, but there are other things to do in public than surf the internet. If you’re presented with obviously unsafe options for wireless, maybe it’s a good time to strike up a conversation with one of the people around you. Read a book. Or maybe you should just sit quietly and contemplate your existence and how to become a better person.

Image Credit: Ed Yourdon

Three steps for taking better smartphone pictures

If there’s anything that photo sharing apps like Instagram have taught us, it’s that there are a lot of people who are really bad at taking pictures. Never before have so many poorly-lit, out-of-focus, over-filtered images been shared to so many people. In all likelihood (and backed by a statistical sampling of Instagram), you’re part of the problem.

I’m sorry that I have to be “that guy”, but you’re pictures suck. This is tough love. I care about you and I know you mean well, but no matter how tasty that burrito is or how cute your cat seems to be, the photos you’re taking just aren’t doing them justice.

Don’t worry though. Together, we can make them better. There are three simple things you can do that will make your smartphone pictures, if not artful, at least a lot less awful.

Get closer

A sure-fire way to take a horrible picture is to try to “fit everything in”. Sure, you want to capture an image of your friends, but you’re also trying to get the mountains in the background, the sign they’re standing next to, and the blueness of the sky. To get all these things in the frame, you’ve walked backwards thirty feet from your friends.

The resulting picture is a chaotic mess that’s not very interesting. Nothing stands out. The photo is just a random assortment of things and is probably out of focus.

Fill the frame with the subject.
Fill the frame with the subject.

Try this instead: pick one of those things (probably your friends) and use it to fill the frame. This means you’re probably going to be standing five feet away from your friends instead of thirty. The context of the moment you’re trying to capture will still be there, even if you feel like you’re compromising. Picking a subject to take a picture of instead of trying to capture everything will give you a photo that’s a lot more interesting and intimate.

Put the light behind you

Unless you’ve got some artsy plan to document the shadows of the world, you need to develop an awareness for light – you need to know where it’s coming from. A lot of potentially awesome photos are ruined by a complete lack of light-awareness by the photographer. They arrange their friends in front of a lamp and then everyone is sad when the resulting photo is a bunch of shadowy figures standing in front of what looks like the sun.

I only have two hands, so this isn't the best comparison, but you get the idea.
I only have two hands, so this isn’t the best comparison, but you get the idea.

Whether the light source is the actual sun or the bulbs in a ceiling fan, you want it to be behind you, ideally casting a soft light on whatever you’re trying to take a picture of. Lighting is a complex subject and there are a lot of different things to consider, but just getting the light source out of the frame will significantly improve your photos.

Less is more

Can you put a lo-fi-sepia-vignette filter on every picture you take? Yes. Should you? No.

While filters can add interest to some photos, they often just make a bad photo worse. If the picture doesn’t have a clear subject, or is out of focus, or is poorly lit to begin with, most filters are just going to suck out any of the remaining detail.

Number 2 is actually my favorite.
Number 2 is actually my favorite.

Instead of using filters as a crutch. Try adding more interest to your photos during the act of taking them. Experiment. Get up close to your subjects. Frame them from odd angles. Get above them, or below them. Most importantly, figure out what your smartphone’s camera can’t do and work within those constraints. Figure out how much light it needs, where it focuses best, and how it handles motion.

Do these things and you’ll be making the world a better place, with better, more interesting photos that are worth caring about. Please, I beg you, do these things.

Getting stuff done with Remember the Milk

I have many titles. Chiefly, I am the King of Procrastination. As I get older, I’m also becoming the Duke of “Sorry, I Forgot All About That”. It’s not necessarily because my memory is getting worse, although that’s likely. It seems more to do with just having a lot more to keep track of than when I was in college and thought I was busy.

To deal with both problems, I became Lord of Lists. Everything I need to do gets documented in some way. For a long time, these were mainly pen and paper lists. Some still are. There are times when pen and paper are just faster.

I went through a lot of to-do list apps trying to find one that I liked, and the truth is, I hated most of them. Many feel bloated and in some cases it took longer to enter a task than it did to actually complete a task (Omnifocus). Others were close to what I wanted but were just a feature or two off (Wunderlist).

Ultimately, I settled on Remember the Milk as the best compromise of features and low friction.

No Corinthian leather

Remember the Milk (RTM)’s appeal is largely in its simplicity. The interface is clean, if a bit dated at this point. According to RTM’s about page, the interface was inspired by early versions of GMail.

Remember the Milk
Some dummy tasks. Sometimes I do forget to eat though.

Inputing a task is very similar to what you would do if you were writing on paper. Instead of typing in a description and clicking a bunch of checkboxes or drop-downs to set details (Although you have the option to do this.), RTM supports natural language input. So, you can you in something like:

Take out trash every Monday @Home #chores

Taking that input, RTM creates a task called “Take out the trash” that recurs every Monday with your home as the location and “chores” as a tag. You can add as much or as little info to a task as you want. There are no required fields other than the description, which as basic as it sounds, is a big feature. Most task apps require input in several fields and that really slow things down when you’re trying to quickly jot something down.

Overall, that’s the theme of RTM – Lot’s of features and functionality like shared tasks, tagging, advanced filter searches, and prioritization, but they’re only there when you want them.

Any client you want, for a cost

I do most of my input using RTM’s web interface and mainly use the iPhone client for it’s geo-fencing feature (Which is very similar to iOS’s Reminders functionality.). If I’m near Walgreens and I have a task that’s tagged with Walgreens as a location, the mobile app pings me with a reminder. Other than that, I don’t really use the iPhone app and prefer either the web interface or the iPad app (which is basically the iPhone app, but less “squashed”).

If you think that you would be a heavy mobile user, you should probably spring for RTM’s $25-a-year Pro plan which allows you to sync your lists between devices and the web app. In addition to the official apps, having the Pro plan also opens up syncing to the dearth of third-party clients that have been written for RTM, including plugins for Outlook and GMail. There are even several CLI-based clients for people who might be looking for something similar to Gina Trapani’s Todo.txt app.

The fanboy wars are over: everyone lost

Android vs. iOS. Apple vs. Microsoft. Linux vs. everyone. These are the battles fought in blog posts, comments, and forums across the Internet. Pundits (both amateur and professional) stake their ground and declare that whatever company or product they’ve picked is better than the competition.

Everyone who picked the competition is not only wrong about the product in question, they are also wrong about everything else in life, and they should feel bad, and ultimately be devoured by an army of squirrels.

It becomes the pundit’s self-appointed job to convince the competing crowd why they are wrong and to proselytize the righteousness of the product choice they’ve made. But that’s not what’s really happening. No one is being convinced. Instead we’ve just got a bunch of noise in an echo chamber.

Fanboys are everywhere

Fanboy-ism exists in all realms of life, from sports to politics. An example: most people don’t watch CNN or Fox News for a new viewpoint or to learn something new. They watch for affirmation of the things they already think and believe. They want to feel secure in the conclusions they’ve arrived at so they surround themselves with viewpoints that echo those thoughts. They want to belong to a like-minded group.

Fanboy tech blogging serves the same function for a new generation. Android users read Android blog posts to affirm their purchasing decisions. iOS users do the same. And when their paths cross they start sparring because they believe that in order for their decision to be the correct one, they need to disprove the legitimacy of someone else’s preference.

Fanboy Battle
Android fanboys respond to criticism that the Galaxy Note is “stupidly big”.

And that’s what all this stuff comes down to – preference, which inherently can’t be argued. No one can be right or wrong in liking mac n’ cheese or disliking seafood. Even while you may be able to argue things like “too much mac n’ cheese will make you fat”, you couldn’t convince another person that it tastes bad.

It’s time to grow up

I like iOS and seafood. I hate Java (the programming language, not the Indonesian island) and most sports. But here’s the thing – I don’t care if you like something different. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not out to convince you that my decision is the right decision and that you are wrong.

I didn’t always think this way, I used to care a lot. In fact, I really hope all the IRC logs and newsgroup posts that document how big of a jerk I can be have been wiped out by an EMP blast. I’d be embarrassed to see them.

Attacking other people for their preference is childish. It screams of insecurity. Whenever I see it I think “Is this person really so small and uncertain they need to bring others down to feel better?” Because that’s what’s happening. It’s certainly way I used to feel. The fanboys on both sides are really just trying to make themselves feel better and less alone.

So here’s an idea for us tech nerds: Let’s all spend less time arguing about which platform or smart-device-widget-dongle is more holy and more time talking about the cool things those devices let us do and the things they enable us to create. Those are harder conversations because they require us to actually do something with our beloved devices, but they are definitely more interesting conversations.

Image credit: zhengxu

Game Review: Hundreds, a puzzle game with some new tricks

Puzzle games are delicate creatures. They require a careful balance of difficulty: too easy and players get bored, too hard and players get frustrated. To grab the largest audience possible, most puzzle games steer towards “too easy”.

Partly because the tuning is difficult, it’s rare to see new puzzle concepts (the other big reason is that designing puzzles is difficult in general). Developers tend to play it safe, leaving gamers with a lot of boring games that retread old concepts.

Hundreds by Semi Secret Software, is a new entry into the genre that presents a great look and some new ideas. Unfortunately, in trying out their new ideas, the developers forgot to make the game engaging.


The premise of Hundreds is very simple – tap numbered bubbles until the sum of the bubbles equals one hundred. The bubbles grow as you tap them and if the bubble you’re tapping touches another bubble while you’re tapping it, you have to restart the level.

Each level adds different obstacles to make preventing bubbles from touching more difficult. Difficulty ramps up gradually, making the game friendly to casual gamers. Levels follow a pretty standard formula: A new concept is introduced, and the next few levels build on the concept before switching to a new obstacle type.

Hundreds is advertised as being relaxing, and I think it succeeds in that regard. A simple, muted aesthetic, paired with the ambient music and sound effects create a calm environment that other puzzle games would do well to mirror.

Math and spinning blades.
Math and spinning blades.

Unfortunately, I found the gameplay a little too relaxing, bordering on boring. While some of the levels were interesting, I struggled to play more than two or three levels at a time before becoming disinterested. The sense of engagement that exists in a game like Bejeweled (not the freemium Bejeweled Blitz, that game is trash) or even mahjong just isn’t there. I rarely felt compelled to keep playing.

One benefit to this lack of engagement is that the game is very easy to pick up and play in short bursts, which fits the mobile space well.

Pricing & availability

Hundreds is available for iOS devices through the App Store for $4.99.

Final Thoughts

I was able to get Hundreds on sale for $2.99 and looking back, I think it should have been a dollar less. For $4.99, there’s just not enough interesting substance or replay value. Maybe the cost is justified by the volume of levels, but I’d rather spend my $5 on a spicy chicken sandwich than the 100 levels of “meh” that Hundreds supplies.

Get back into comics with comiXology

Growing up, I was never a big comic book fan, partly due to limited options. The small towns I lived in didn’t have comic book stores, so I would only occasionally get a copy of X-Men or Batman at one of the local gas stations when they happened to have them.

The writing and stories paled in comparison to the books I was reading at the time (Lord of the Rings, Dragonriders of Pern, etc.), so comics just didn’t interest me that much. Some of the artwork was neat, but the relentless exposition and corny dialog turned me off. It’s the same reason I’m still not a very big anime/manga fan. For such a visual medium, it seems like comic writers hadn’t heard of the concept, “show, don’t tell”.

Don’t worry, bub. I’ll cut through this cage with my claws, made of adamantium, the strongest metal in the world!” – Wolverine, in literally every issue of X-Men. In case we forgot… I guess.

Wolverine - Marvel doesn't have a good press kit and is pretty litigious. Image Credit : NPS
Wolverine – Marvel doesn’t have a good press kit and is pretty litigious. Image Credit : NPS

Recently, I decided to give comics another try – partly because of reading Alan Moore’s Watchmen and partly because Merlin Mann won’t stop talking about how awesome Saga is on the Back to Work podcast (turns out, Saga is amazing). Enabled by technology, I’ve found some great comics that have made me revise my previous feelings.

Digital comics, for the win

So goooooooood. Image Credit: Saga - Image Comics
So goooooooood. Image Credit: Saga – Image Comics

Although I still prefer physical books to ebooks, comics are another matter. I never built nostalgia around physical comic books, so the migration to digital is easier for me than it might be for a long time comic book fan.

After reading digital comics on the high-definition retina screen of an iPad and comparing it to the few graphic novels I own, digital is definitely my preferred format. The lines are crisper, colors pop more, and the text is generally more readable.

Outside of that, the benefits and drawbacks are the same as ebooks: anywhere purchasing, a whole library in your backpack, and, unfortunately, DRM.

It’s all about the ecosystem

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and try digital comics, you’re faced with a similar choice as ebook readers: Which ecosystem do you want to plug into? Luckily, the situation is simpler than Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon. For the most part, digital comic book stores are device agnostic. So that’s one less factor to worry about.

It really comes down to how many apps you want to install.

The “Big Two” comic publishers, DC and Marvel, signed on to the digital media revolution pretty early on. Both have had apps available for the past couple of years and both apps work well. However, if you want your pick from both catalogs, you’re stuck with installing both apps. It’s obviously not a big problem, but it is a little inconvenient.

The better choice is ComiXology, an app that actually provides the marketplace platform and app engine for both DC and Marvel. Using the ComiXology gives you access to both catalogs as well as many smaller, independent publishers.

The ComiXology Store
The ComiXology Store

Aside from selection, ComiXology also does a better job with bundling and curation. Curated collections benefit from the more diverse selection and I’ve been able to discover some really great comics through the feature. They also have a larger selection of free comics that’s better implemented than the DC or Marvel stores, using free first issues to try new series (or more cynically, to get them hooked.).

Room for improvement

I may have a slight addiction.
I may have a slight addiction.

One feature I’d love to see added to ComiXology, or any comic store really, is the ability to buy the remainder of a volume or collection after purchasing a few individual issues – something along the lines of iTunes “Complete This Album”. This is as much an organization issue as a cost saving one.

The other biggie, and a problem that still plagues ebooks, is that of DRM. At this point, it should be obvious that copy protection doesn’t prevent piracy. It only serves as a false reassurance to rights holders and an inconvenience to customers. ComiXology does away with a lot of the inconvenience of DRM by making your purchases available on most major platforms, but there’s still the issue of “what if the DRM servers go down?” When I buy content it’s with the expectation that I own it, not that I’ve purchased the option of viewing it.

Dive in

If you’re interested in starting with comics or getting back into them, it seems like now is a really great time to be a comics fan. There are some truly terrific stories being told: literary, pulpy, and everything in between. The art is also diversifying and maturing – I’ve found panels that I’d happily put up on a wall in my house (and my wife wouldn’t even mind).

The ComiXology notifications on my iPad have become the rare pop-ups that I don’t mind. Today one popped up that said “A new issue of Saga is available in the ComiXology store.” and my first thought was “Shut up and take my money.” Coming from a person who was very recently almost completely apathetic about comics, it’s a big change.

Game review: Jamestown, an arcade shooter for the modern age

The recent explosion of indie game development has produced a ton of amazing games and has revived several older game styles like the side-scrolling platformer (VVVVV and Braid being good examples). Unfortunately, those of us who were fans of arcade shooters like R-Type and Raiden have been left mostly in the cold.

Jamestown:Legend of the Lost Colony, an arcade-style shooter from Final Form Games, aims to correct that oversight.


Jamestown is a vertical scrolling shoot’ em up (“schmup”, if you’re fancy) which, according to Final Form’s website, is set on “17th-century British Colonial Mars”. The setting and narrative don’t make any sense, but they work as an excellent spoof on the horribly translated and often bizarre Japanese games in the genre.

Gameplay is simple: You are put in control of a ship. The ship has guns. There are enemy ships. They also have guns. Shoot the enemy. Don’t get shot.

Each level consists of waves of enemy ships followed up by a level boss. There are only a handful of levels available, but multiple difficulty settings, bonus challenges, and ship selections add variety to the game.

The brevity of a single play-through may not make much sense to someone new to the genre, but this is a game that’s meant to be re-played ad infinitum, building twitch skills and becoming in-humanly masterful at avoiding enemy fire.

Shoot the ships. No, not your ships, their ships. Image Credit: Final Form Games
Shoot the ships. No, not your ships, their ships. Image Credit: Final Form Games

The artwork, soundtrack, and gameplay are all excellent and fit together well. Pacing is perfect and it’s obvious a lot of work went into timing and designing each level.

Availability & pricing

Jamestown is available for PC & Mac via Steam, D2D, and GamersGate for $9.99.

Final Thoughts

The one piece that doesn’t quite work is the co-op mode. Huddling around a keyboard with three of your best bros, while true to the game’s arcade roots, just doesn’t sound like much fun (all of those bros take up quite a bit more space than they once did.). Even playing with two players on the same keyboard was a bit cramped.

An online co-op mode would take this game from “very good” to “almost perfect”. It’s possible that the high-speed, low-latency nature of the game may make this challenging from a technical perspective, but it would be an excellent addition.

Review: Steed, an attractive file transfer client for Windows

Utilities like text editors and FTP clients may not scream “sexy!”, but for us geeks who perform actual work with our computers, they’re critical tools. Unfortunately, these tools get so entrenched and build such strongly opinionated followings (people still use vi, for Pete’s sake!) that few developers try to build new, better tools.

A brave (or maybe they just didn’t know any better) trio of Frenchmen, calling themselves FrenchFry, decided that it was time to introduce something new into the stale world of Windows-based tools and just released a new file transfer utility named Steed. Inspired by their bravery, I decided to take Steed for a spin.


You may be asking “Why does this idiot keep saying ‘file transfer client’ instead of FTP?” Good question, jerk. I’m calling Steed a file transfer client because it does more than just FTP. It manages transfers for Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure as well.

Yes, I named my server Don Johnson. Don't judge me.
Yes, I named my server Don Johnson. Don’t judge me.

Another key differentiator from apps like Filezilla or WinSCP is that Steed’s interface isn’t a collection of seemingly random text fields and buttons. The interface looks to have been heavily inspired by Panic’s Transmit (my file transfer client of choice on Mac). Although not as polished as Transmit, Steed’s interface is clean and coherent.

I liked that Steed supports the sync of server settings via Dropbox and SkyDrive, which sounds like a small thing, but solves a big pain for folks who access lots of different servers. In that same vein, Steed’s bookmark management puts Filezilla’s Server Manager to shame by being much more user-friendly and a lot less Windows 3.1.

The less buttons, the better.
The less buttons, the better.

Most of my quibbles with Steed are due to its newness. FrenchFry tout Steed as being “beautiful” and it is much better looking than their Windows competition, but I don’t think it’s quite there yet. Some of the generic “templatey-ness” that plagues many .NET apps shines through around the edges.

The app never crashed on me, but I did manage to get it to throw some errors while trying to delete folders via FTP. Oddly enough, as soon as I restarted the application, it prompted me to download a patch that wound up resolving the errors I was seeing. So it appears the dev team is actively working on getting things cleaned up.

Final thoughts

I think the comparison to Transmit is an important one. For years, Transmit has been the de-facto file transfer client of Mac web and app developers, and Mac devs who’ve migrated to Windows have been clamoring for a Transmit-comparable file transfer client. Steed isn’t there yet, but it appears to be well on the way. I could see it being very popular in that crowd.

Outside those former-Mac devs, I’m less optimistic. For many developers, the free alternatives will remain “good enough”. If FrenchFry continues building modern features and adding polish though, they might stand a chance of cutting out a bigger niche.

Pricing and availability

Steed is available for a launch-price of $24.99 on FrenchFry’s website. A ten-day trial is also available.

Game review: Bastion comes to iOS, and brings style with it

I’m always worried when developers port their games from the original platform to a new one. Console to PC, PC to Mac, console to mobile; whatever the case, the results usually suck (especially Mac ports). The new platform rarely gets the same support or attention as the original, and the ported game usually runs much slower because it’s running through some sort of emulator like Wine or DOSbox.

That being said, I hope other developers are paying attention to Supergiant Games’ release of Bastion on iOS.  This is the rare case where the ported game may be better than the original.


Bastion is an action RPG in which you are put in control of a character named “The Kid”. An apocalyptic event has occurred in the near past and it’s your job to “make things right” by collecting various items throughout the game world. There are several mini-game challenges that help build proficiency with the different weapon types that are introduced, but you’ll spend most of your time running through the levels, killing monsters.

Gameplay is straight-forward and seems to be a mix of equal parts Zelda and Fallout; it’s hack, and slash, and shoot. Weapons, skills, and even the buildings at your home-base can be upgraded as your character levels up.

Variety can be added to combat by mixing up different sets of weapons to match the fighting style you prefer. My preferred kit was the machine gun and a blow torch, whereas one of my friends liked using the pole-arm and a sniper rifle.

Bastion originally debuted on Xbox Live Arcade and was built around the Xbox controller. The crew at Supergiant have done an excellent job in revamping the control scheme for a touch device. The controls are intuitive, frustration-free, and fun.

Fightin' off a giant scumbag.
Fightin’ off a giant scumbag.
Image credit: Supergiant Games

If I were to choose one word to describe the game, it would be “polished”. The art design, music (seriously, this is one of the best game soundtracks… ever.), narration, and controls are all top-notch and draw you into the game. Played on the iPad with a set of good head phones, the gaming experience is more intimate than on a TV screen or computer monitor, more akin to reading a good book. This is where I think the iOS port improves upon the original. It’s a more personal experience.

Pricing & availability

Bastion is available through the App Store for $4.99. It’s also available on Xbox Live Arcade, Chrome Web Store, Steam (for Mac & PC), and on the Ubuntu Software Center. Sorry, Android users!

Final Thoughts

The one area of the game that falls short of the rest is the story, which is oddly something that many critics have praised. Compared to a game like Braid (or literally any decent book), the narrative is a tad generic and falls apart toward the end of game. If you come away from the game thinking “that was profound”, I recommend reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan as a comparison of something that’s truly thought-provoking.

None of this stopped me from pulling out my guitar and learning all the songs from the soundtrack though.

Game review: Zombie Tsunami puts you in charge of the zombie horde

Of all the benefits that technology has gifted us, an excuse to ignore our families during the holidays is perhaps the greatest. Historically, we relied on the warmth and cheer *cough* of our families and friends to get us through the cold winter season. But no more! Now we can bask in the warm glow of our LCD screen of choice, while huddling alone in a dark corner.

This holiday season, I’ve ignored my family by playing Zombie Tsunami, the latest project from Mobigame.


Zombie Tsunami is a joyfully silly platform runner similar to the popular Jetpack Joyride. The goal of each round is to build up your zombie horde by eating the brains of civilians and avoiding obstacles. It shares Jetpack Joyride’s simple touch controls – touch to jump, that’s it.


The simple gameplay doesn’t at first seem like it would lend the game a lot of replay value, but well-crafted missions and upgrade goals kept bringing me back. On iOS, the game utilizes Apple’s Game Center to coordinate challenges between friends, which is actually how I first discovered the game. One of my friend’s issued a challenge to me to beat his 52 brain score and off I went.

The game reacts to the size of your zombie horde by throwing more obstacles at you the larger your horde gets. Gather a horde of 30+ zombies and you’ll soon find it culled down to 3 or 4 by bombs and chasms that have been thrown in your way. This limiting keeps the game challenging and prevents players from just zerging through each round.

Braaaaaaaaaaaaaains! – Image Credit: Mobigame

An in-game market provides power-ups, cosmetic changes for your zombies (hats), and other gameplay bonuses. These can either be purchased with coins your zombies have collected during each round or by purchasing coin packs from Mobigame.

I’m personally not a big fan of the free-to-play-buy-in-game-items model, but Mobigame’s store is well implemented and I never felt like I was being pushed to buy coins or that I couldn’t compete without them.

Availability & pricing

Zombie Tsunami is available for free on iOS devices running iOS 4.3 or later.

Final Thoughts

My only big complaint about Zombie Tsunami is the inability to sync stats, progress, and upgrades across iCloud to all my iDevices. Although this is nothing I would have expected just a few years ago, it’s such a common feature now that I’m annoyed when a game developer doesn’t implement it.

Otherwise, this is an excellent free-to-play game with a lot of replay value. While it’s by no means innovative, it’s a great take on the Jetpack Joyride formula and a good way to escape from your loved ones during the holidays.