Having grown up in the ’90s, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition is one of the many games I look back on fondly. Before the release of Goldeneye, NBA Jam is what my friends and I would play nonstop. Packed with outrageous dunks, an over-enthusiastic announcer, and violent gameplay that only vaguely follows the rules of basketball, NBA Jam single-handedly created a new genre of sports games that is still mimicked to this day.
Late last year, the NBA Jam franchise was revived by EA Sports with a new game releasing on the Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3, and just a few weeks ago, a trimmed down version of the game was released on the iTunes App Store. Does it live up to the NBA Jam legacy?
Like all good arcade games, the basics of the game are incredibly simple and easy to pick up. At its core, you’re playing a 2-on-2 game of basketball, but the traditional elements of basketball are nowhere to be found. There’s no such thing as double dribbling, fouling is encouraged, and every player (even Steve Nash) has the ability to jump dozens of feet in the air to perform awe-inspiring dunks. If a player manages to make three baskets in a row, he’s designated ‘on fire’ (denoted by the ball literally being on fire when he touches it) and given unlimited turbo, even more ridiculous dunking abilities, better jump shots, and the ability to goaltend at will.
For a mobile game, NBA Jam offers a substantial amount of gameplay. It has the standard quick play option if you want to just pick a team and start playing, but you’ll also find a familiar (if you’ve played previous games in the series) campaign mode, where you pick a team and play successive games against every other team in the league until you’ve beaten them all. Like most modern games, NBA Jam also comes with the requisite achievements, giving any achievement hoarders out there something to work for.
Unlocking achievements also unlocks extras such as cheats, different ball skins, and, most importantly, classic players. Not all of your favorite NBA legends will make an appearance, but there’s bound to be at least a few you’ll want to unlock.
Noticeably absent, however, is any form of multiplayer. Part of the fun of NBA Jam is playing with your friends, and, unfortunately, that’s not possible at this time. We can only hope that it’s patched in at a later date.
As in most console-to-mobile ports, NBA Jam features the dreaded on-screen control pad. Controls make or break a game on a touch-only platform, and I’ve given up on plenty of games because of shoddy controls. Thankfully, NBA Jam doesn’t fall into that category. Part of this is due to the control simplicity. With only three buttons to manage (turbo, pass, and shoot) plus the onscreen analog stick, your fingers don’t get lost.
Of course, without any tactile feedback, it is possible for your fingers to start to wander. Also, since some screen real estate is necessarily taken away to make room for the controls, it’s possible to run into instances where the game action takes place right under your fingers, making it difficult to see what’s going on. These issues can be overlooked, however, as they don’t crop up frequently enough to mar the experience.
Graphically, NBA Jam is simple but adequate. The low-poly bodies are topped by heads with unnaturally high-resolution scans of the players’ faces pasted on. The heads don’t really rotate in any natural way, so it’s not uncommon to see Exorcist-like moments where a player’s head appears to be facing backwards. Somehow, though, it all manages to fit into the NBA Jam style.
In true NBA Jam form, codes can be entered to play as hidden (mostly political) characters. Old favorites like Bill and Hilary Clinton are joined by newcomers Barack Obama, Al Gore, Sarah Palin, and more. How can you not enjoy a game that lets you dunk on Sarah Palin?
NBA Jam for iOS is a return to the series’ roots, which is where I feel it’s strongest. Classic, accessible gameplay makes NBA Jam a must buy for old fans of the series and newcomers alike. Lack of any sort of multiplayer is a bummer, but you’ll still find plenty to enjoy. NBA Jam is available for download in the iTunes App Store now for $4.99.
Indie developer Blendo Games released their latest game, Atom Zombie Smasher, a couple of days ago. With a name like that, how could the game possibly be bad?
Atom Zombie Smasher, as the name implies, is all about smashing zombies. You are tasked with cleaning up your area’s zombie (or Zed, as the game calls them) infestation and evacuating any survivors. To start, you are only given a rescue helicopter, but as you continue to evacuate territories you gain mercenaries to aid you. These mercenaries run the gamut from the incredibly useful (snipers and a roving band of soldiers) to the only useful in certain situations (zombie bait and road blocks).
Upon loading Atom Zombie Smasher, stylish graphics and swanky music bombard your senses. Like Blendo Games previous releases, everything about the game oozes retro. The soundtrack and comic book style providing the game’s minimal back story feel like they were ripped straight from the ’60s.
Once you actually get into the gameplay, the graphics are simple but elegant. Pinkish dots on the map represent zombies while yellowish dots represent the survivors. Buildings of various size fill the procedurally generated cities. Your rescue helicopter probably features the most detailed graphics in the game.
Strategic planning is the main draw of Atom Zombie Smasher. On each ‘mission’ you are only allowed certain mercenaries, so taking advantage of the strengths of those mercenaries and minimizing their weaknesses are key to success. Mess up on the planning stages and watch as all of the survivors slowly get consumed by the zombie horde.
I found the game to be a bit difficult on the default settings, but thankfully plenty of options exist to tailor the gameplay to your liking. From the options screen you can turn on things like Casual mode (or Hardcore mode if you’re crazy) or enable an option that unlocks all of the mercenaries from the start. If you really want to customize your experience check out the Mods option, where everything from the speed of humans and zombies to how long the sniper takes between shots is adjustable.
If you were wondering about the term ‘procedurally generated cities’ mentioned in this article, it’s the hook that gives the game high replay value. Nearly everything is randomly generated, which means every campaign will play out differently. In each game you get access to certain mercenaries at different times, and each city has a different layout.
If Atom Zombie Smasher sounds at all interesting (and who doesn’t find nuclear weapons and zombies interesting?), check out the trailer below or download the demo at the game’s official page. If you enjoy the demo, support awesome developers and buy the completely DRM-free full game, which works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
It’s been over a month since we last heard from Federico Carnales, developer of the awesome Android homescreen replacement application LauncherPro. He’s been busy completely rewriting LauncherPro from scratch, but recently found time to push out an update to the current version that adds some very cool screen transitions.
For the uninitiated, LauncherPro is one of many homescreen replacements available for Android devices. These replacements run over the top of your device’s default homescreen and often add new features to improve the Android experience. For example, LauncherPro, among other things, lets you set the number of homescreens you want, adds a new app drawer, and allows you to hide non-removable applications (V-Cast applications, anyone?) from your app drawer if you’re not willing to root your device in order to get rid of them completely.
To check out the new transitions, update LauncherPro to the most recent version, hit the Menu button on your phone and click on Preferences. Click on the Homescreen Settings submenu and you’ll find a new option for Transition Effect. Here you can choose an awesome new transition, and you don’t even have to restart LauncherPro to try it out!
Excepting the Cube transition, which is still a little jerky, the new transitions are just as fast as the stock scrolling transition. Of course, that could also just be due to my ancient Motorola Droid.
In his latest blog post Fede also promises another update soon that will add to the growing list of goodies available to those who have paid for LauncherPro Plus. If you haven’t given LauncherPro a go yet, there’s no better time than the present! Scan the QR Code below to be taken directly to LauncherPro’s Android Market page.
You can also check out a quick demonstration of all the new transitions in the video below.
The holidays are right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me you haven’t even thought about starting to shop for gifts. In the past this situation might have ended with you in tears at the mall, desperately fighting against throngs of soccer moms and biting children, hoping to grab the last of whatever this year’s best seller ends up being in the final days leading to Christmas.
This year, however, with our series of gift guides and the convenience of online shopping, you can buy gifts for everyone on your list in between matches of Call of Duty.
Gamers can be a tricky bunch to buy for. Taste in games varies wildly, and if you’re unlucky you might accidentally buy Kinect Sports for someone who was hoping to play Fallout on Christmas morning. Talk about embarrassing.
Thankfully, some games have near universal appeal, that any gamer would be happy to find in his or her stocking. I’m here to tell you about these games, one for each of the major systems available today.
Do you have someone on your list who likes Legos? Of course you do, everyone likes Legos. It should then follow naturally that everyone likes Minecraft.
Minecraft has been around for a while now, but this past summer it saw an explosion in popularity, and it seemed like every PC gaming website on the planet was giving their take on the indie sensation. All this attention didn’t come without a reason, and Mincraft – though it’s still in the alpha stage of development – manages to live up to the lofty expectations set by its success.
In its current form Minecraft is a pure sandbox style game. There are no goals to accomplish except those set by yourself, and you can do anything you want, whenever and wherever you want. All the geometry in the game (including your character) is based around the simple Lego-style block, which can be combined with other blocks of different types to form new objects. Punch a tree for long enough and a block of wood will fall out. Combine two blocks of wood and you get a stick. Combine that stick with blocks of coal that can be mined, and you end up with a torch that can light your path.
Blocks of material can also be moved around to create structures in the game world. This comes in handy, as you can build yourself a house to protect you from the monsters that come out during the game’s nighttime.
On top of how fun and engaging Minecraft can be, until it’s final release the game can be bought at a discount. That means you can afford to buy yourself a copy as well!
Peter Molyneux, the mind behind the Fable series, is a bit of a controversial figure in the world of gaming. He’s the man responsible for some of the greatest games in the history of the PC, including Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, and Black & White. More recently, however, he has a habit of making claims that his games cannot possibly deliver on (see his Wikipedia entry for more information).
Thankfully, Fable III manages to live up to most of the hype and offer an enjoyable gaming experience. If you played Fable II, you should feel right at home as you’ll be slinging the same spells at the same Balverines, working to level up your melee, ranged, and magical arsenals.
On top of the familiar gameplay, your character now also has to deal with the day to day management of a kingdom, with your decisions influencing the direction the game takes. Heavily tax your citizens and let criminals wander freely and the world responds by becoming visibly poorer. Take the opposite strategy and watch as your kingdom flourishes.
Fable III isn’t without its flaws, but is absolutely bursting with charm that makes it impossible to not enjoy, making it an excellent holiday gift for that gamer on your list.
Ok, I lied a little bit earlier. Gran Turismo 5 might not have universal appeal, but to the right person it might be just what they’re hoping for, and it’s definitely going to be a big seller this holiday season. Does the person you’re shopping for make their own motor noises while cruising around town in their purple Dodge Stratus? Get them Gran Turismo 5 and they’ll love you for life.
Any car/driving/racing enthusiast will find plenty to do in Gran Turismo 5. The fifth iteration (obviously) of the critically acclaimed driving simulation series Gran Turismo, GT5 is a game that’s been in the making for six long years. It boasts a roster of over 1000 cars (though some are more detailed than others), and you’ll be doing everything from go-kart racing at 75 MPH, to learning about NASCAR from Jeff Gordon, to, of course, lots of racing in cars you’ll never be able to afford on real world tracks you’ll never visit.
Gran Turismo 5 certainly isn’t perfect, but it still manages to succeed on a level never before seen in a racing simulator. If you want to know what went on during those six years of development, hop into your favorite supercar and take it for a spin around Nürburgring. As you open up the throttle on the track’s long straightaway, taking in the beautiful scenery, the roar of the engine loud in your ears, you’ll know you’re playing something special. Or at least whoever you buy it for will.
Ah, the memories. Four kids huddled around a tiny TV. Each looking at their quarter of the screen, pretending not to look at anyone else’s. Ripping each other apart with RCP-90s and blowing each other to bits with the dreaded proximity mine. That one kid who always (annoyingly) picked Oddjob. If you played video games in the ’90s, you know exactly what I’m talking about: Goldeneye. The name alone brings back waves of nostalgia.
Unlike Perfect Dark for the Xbox 360, Goldeneye for the Wii isn’t a direct port of the N64 classic. Instead, it’s more of a re-imagining. Throughout the game you’ll see some familiar areas, but there’s plenty of new ground to cover and people to shoot. Additionally, Pierce Brosnan’s visage has been replaced by the most recent actor to play James Bond, Daniel Craig.
Multiplayer can be enjoyed by up to four people on one console, split-screen style, or you can opt to take the more modern approach and play with up to seven other people online. All your favorite classic characters make an appearance (yes, even Oddjob), and even the one-shot-one-kill Golden Gun returns to wreak havoc. Any classic gamer on your list lucky enough to get it will certainly enjoy Goldeneye.
Before its release, the original Scribblenauts was set to be quite possibly the greatest game of all time (I might be exaggerating slightly). It allowed you to think of nearly any object, type it out, and watch it appear before your eyes. Particularly tough enemy got you down? Instantiate a time machine, take it back to the past, and ride back to the present on a freaking dinosaur and eat the problem away. Or just summon Cthulu and watch as one of the Great Old Ones demolishes your opposition. Only your imagination (and the game’s nearly bottomless dictionary) stood in the way of solving all the puzzles the game had to offer.
Unfortunately, infuriating controls and some lame levels marred an otherwise enjoyable experience. This year, Scribblenauts is back, bigger and better than ever.
Super Scribblenauts manages to solve most of the problems of the first game. The annoying touch-based only controls of the previous installment can now be replaced by more precise d-pad controls if you wish, and the level design is much improved. Additionally, adjectives can now be attached to objects you summon. Why wield a simple sword when you can instead brandish a much more intimidating flaming sword? Almost anyone can find joy in playing Super Scribblenauts, making it a perfect gift.
The God of War franchise is known for its stellar gameplay and polished gaming experience, and this excellence carries over to its latest mini form, Ghost of Sparta.
Just like in past incarnations of God of War, you play as the demigod Kratos, and like usual you’re mad as hell. Thankfully there are legions of mythical creatures just waiting for you to hack and slash them to bits and release some of your anger.
And boy is that hacking and slashing pretty. Somehow God of War‘s developers have managed to cram the graphical quality of a PS2 game into the aging hardware of the PSP. Ghost of Sparta is one of the must-have games for Sony’s portable console, so it’s a safe purchase for that special someone on your list.
If you’re having a tough time deciding what to get, take the easy way out and buy the gaming equivalent of a gift card. All three of the major consoles have an online service where plenty of downloadable games are available for purchase, so they’re bound to find something they like.
While iTunes might be most recognized for its music store, there are also plenty of games available. If your giftee owns an iPod Touch or iPhone, an iTunes gift card makes a great gift idea.
That’s it from me. If you have additional suggestions for good gifts for gamers, feel free to leave them in the comments section found below!
The internet is without a doubt one of the greatest and furthest reaching inventions in the history of mankind. It allows for near instantaneous communication with people on the other side of the planet (and even in outer space). Internet connectivity has become so ingrained into our everyday lives that it’s often hard to imagine life without it.
Nearly every single day of my life begins and ends with the internet. I turn on my computer first thing after rolling out of bed and check my e-mail and Twitter feed. Throughout the day I keep connected through my smartphone; I talk with friends on Twitter, keep up to date with the latest news, and kill time between classes thanks to sites like Reddit. At work I use the internet to find solutions to tech support problems. As the day winds down, sites like Hulu let me keep up with my favorite TV shows without having to adhere to strict television schedules.
When the holiday season rolls around the internet becomes even more invaluable. Instead of having to brave the inevitable holiday rush (and, God forbid, socialize with strangers) or resort to something drastic like shopping at a 24 hour store at 3 am, I do most of my holiday shopping online from the comfort of my computer chair. Not only is it easier, faster, and more convenient getting everything delivered to you, the internet offers a much larger selection and you can even save money in the process.
In smaller cities, you’re often at the mercy of the retailers. If you’re shopping for something specific and lucky enough to find someone who carries it, you get the pleasure of paying whatever price they set. By shopping online you’re almost guaranteed to find what you’re looking for. Even better, shopping around is much easier on the internet. Many things can be found brand new for lower prices on auction sites like eBay, and there are entire sites dedicated to compiling lists of the lowest prices for products.
The internet has single-handedly changed the way we live our lives. As it continues to evolve, I look forward to seeing how it impacts our society in other positive ways.
No, that is not a typo. If you grew up in the 80s or 90s (and maybe even if you didn’t) you probably remember playing some version of The Oregon Trail, likely during your early years of school. Advertised as an educational game, to children it was more an excuse to shirk classwork in order to hunt unnecessarily large amounts of game (only able to carry back 200 pounds? 1200 pounds of buffalo should do it!) and see if it’s possible to make it to Oregon stocking nothing but bacon.
The Organ Trail is a re imagining of the classic game, except set in the present day and with zombies. It features throwback graphics and classic controls (no mouse here, just selecting numbers from a menu). Instead of contracting dysentery, party members might come down with a bad case of the T-Virus. Zombies are your prey instead of rabbits and elk (though I don’t think you’ll want to carry any back to eat), and forget about fording rivers, on the Organ Trail you’ll ford seas of zombies.
If you remember how The Oregon Trail played, you’ll feel right at home. Instead of spending money at the beginning to gear up for your trip, you spend hours scavenging for certain supplies. Once on the road in your station wagon, various random events, both good and bad, interrupt your progress. You might find extra gas in an abandoned vehicle, or yes, one of your party members might get dysentery.
Cities and landmarks are interspersed along the way, giving you a chance to trade with others or buy extra supplies. Once you get near the end of the trail, the game becomes a balancing act between your dwindling supplies (do you trade your last remaining spare tire for some desperately needed food, or just cut the rations of your party members?).
Though still technically in Beta, Organ Trail offers plenty of fun and an excellent way to burn about an hour. My final score upon arriving in Oregon was 2290, are you able to beat that? Let us know in the comments section!
If you liked The Organ Trail, look back at previous Friday Fun articles and see if anything catches your eye!
Home screen replacement apps are one of the many benefits of the open nature of Android. They provide speed and functionality above and beyond what the default home screen can offer. Unfortunately, due to the nature of how home screen replacements work, some issues can arise. One persistently annoying issue surfaces when the entire home screen needs to redraw itself when you return to it after closing an application.
If you’ve ever stared at the above screen for more than ten seconds, you know what I’m talking about. You wait patiently while your home screens are slowly repopulated with your multitude of shortcuts and widgets.
This happens because home screen replacements are treated just like any other application to the Android operating system. If they aren’t the active application (i.e., if a different application is running on top of it) they wait patiently in memory. If the running application requires more memory, the home replacement app might be killed to free up memory. When you close the active application to return to your home screen, it needs to redraw itself since it’s no longer in memory.
Needless to say, watching a blank screen for half a minute can become incredibly annoying if it happens frequently enough.
What Can Be Done?
As you might have gathered from this article’s title, there are a few things you can do to reduce this occurrence.
Most home screen replacements, like LauncherPro, offer the ability to automatically rotate your home screens if the accelerometer detects that the phone is rotated. This can be handy at times, but depending on how often you use it, it might be more trouble than it’s worth and takes up valuable memory. Auto rotation can usually be disabled in the settings for the home screen replacement (in LauncherPro, it can be found in the Behavior Settings). Note that this doesn’t affect any individual applications that auto-rotate, like browsers, the alarm clock, or Car mode. Changing this setting only affects auto-rotation when on one of the home screens.
Some home screen replacements also contain an option keep themselves in memory (found under General Settings in LauncherPro). I’ve had limited success with this feature, but it’s worth trying to see if your results vary.
For those with root access, even more tools exist to help alleviate home screen redrawing. If you’re running a custom ROM like CyanogenMod, it might have a built in setting (like the one above) to keep the current home application in memory.
Another option is to try increasing the VM heap size. This causes the operating system to garbage collect less often, which in turn means your home screen replacement has less chance to be booted from memory. Changing the heap size can dramatically alter the performance of your phone, so use it with care. On my Motorola Droid I increased the heap size to 32M and haven’t noticed any negative side effects yet. In CyanogenMod, this setting can be found under Performance settings (as seen in the picture above). Note that changing this setting requires a reboot to take effect.
If you still experience a high number of redraws after trying the steps above, you can try reducing the memory footprint of your home screen application. By reducing the total number of home screens, your home screen replacement requires less memory to run. Widgets can also be memory hogs, so if you’ve loaded up your phone with tons of widgets, try dumping some of the less necessary ones.
Home screen replacements are an awesome addition to the Android experience, but can sometimes take a bit of work to manage. Do you have any other suggestions on how to reduce redraw? Let our readers know in the comments section below!
Last week, Firefox Mobile officially entered its beta stage, bringing along with it tons of improvements and a much better user experience. While not quite ready for primetime, Firefox Mobile is shaping up quite nicely.
What Has Changed in the Past Six Months?
The most noticeable improvement is performance. Firefox Mobile still isn’t as fast as even the stock Android browser, but speed and responsiveness has grown by leaps and bounds since the pre-alpha version I last looked at. Part of this is due to what the Firefox Mobile development team calls the Electrolysis project. Firefox Mobile now runs as two separate processes; one process handles the user interface, and the other runs scripts and renders web content. Future versions of Firefox Mobile will feature OpenGL hardware acceleration for even faster rendering.
One of the most attractive features of Firefox Mobile is support for Firefox Sync. This lets you share your history, bookmarks, and saved passwords across several platforms. Firefox Mobile still doesn’t recognize my phone’s hardware Shift key, but at least a software keyboard pops up this time so I’m able to sign into my account. Sync has matured quite a bit in the past half year, and it will make an excellent addition to Android’s mobile web experience.
Another nice addition is the Awesome Screen, which, as you might have guessed, is related to the Awesome Bar. Like the Awesome Bar for the desktop version of Firefox, it should make it much easier to find the page you’re looking for.
One thing that hasn’t changed since the last release is Firefox Mobile’s installation size. Even after moving to the SD card it still takes up a hefty 30MB. Thankfully the development team is upfront about this, and the technical reason for its large footprint is explained in this post by Firefox Mobile developer Matt Brubeck. The short version is that it’s being worked on and the size will dramatically decrease in future versions.
If you’d like to give Firefox Mobile a try, scan the QR code below to download the installation file.
One advantage that SATA added over previous connection standards is the ability to hot swap devices. This allows users to add and remove devices, such as hard drives and optical drives, without restarting the computer. While it is possible to manage these hot swapped devices in Windows, it doesn’t always work properly and can be a pain. Thankfully, there’s a program out there that takes care of all the heavy lifting for you.
HotSwap! (downloads are near the bottom of the page) makes it incredibly easy to manage all of your SATA drives. After extracting the downloaded file, double click the executable. You’ll notice a new icon appear in the notification area of the task bar.
By left clicking on the icon you can view all of the SATA devices currently attached to your system. If you want to remove one of the drives, simply left click it in the list. HotSwap! will allow Windows to finish any operations it might still be doing on the drive, spin the drive down, and safely eject it. A popup will notify you when your drive is safe to remove.
Adding new devices is just as easy. Of course, you might be wondering how you can add new SATA devices while the computer is running without opening up the case and plugging a cable directly into an open SATA port (which isn’t recommended, by the way). As you might have guessed, there is a solution.
Once you have the device connected, right click on the HotSwap! icon. There are a few options you can adjust in this menu, but the one you’re looking for right now is “Scan for hardware changes.” Windows will then install the necessary drivers and let you view and edit the contents of the drive just like any other storage device. When you’re done, just eject the device as shown previously. That’s it!
This week’s edition of Friday Fun is a bit of a departure from the usual games we feature. While it’s still technically a Flash game, The Day is more interactive fiction than it is an addictive time waster like most Flash games. Gameplay is incredibly simple, and much greater emphasis is placed on atmosphere and storytelling.
You play the role of Tia, a young girl celebrating her birthday. As a present, your dad gives you a card from a trading card game the local kids play. Shortly after, your friend stops by to explain the rules. Don’t worry, there’s no Magic: The Gathering level of depth to be found here, the rules aren’t much more complicated than War. Your goal is to battle each child walking around the town, acquiring their cards when you beat them.
You start to notice right away that things aren’t quite as they seem. Why did your father warn you about going near the trees? Why are their security cameras watching your every move? Why does a child’s card game feature such violent imagery? With such simple gameplay, you can devote most of your brain to pondering these questions.
The Day features standard pixel art, but it’s the music that really stands out. The jovial tune looping in the background provides contrast to the strange imagery presented. At one point in the game, spooky background noise makes the atmosphere that much creepier.
There are two ways to ‘win’ the game, and they’re mutually exclusive (you can’t do them both in the same playthrough). Don’t worry, though, you won’t spend hours on this one. You should be able see both endings in about fifteen minutes of total playtime. After finding both endings, commentary from the creator unlocks in the main menu. The commentary gives some insight into what you see during the game, and leaves you with more things to think about.
If you enjoyed The Day, check out the rest of our Friday Fun articles!