Astronut iPhone Game Mini Review

Here’s a nice free game for the iPhone called Astronut. The point is to get your spaceman across the finish line of each level while avoiding various obstacles. Here’s a short gameplay video:

I would give the game an 8/10, but I haven’t played the premium levels yet. If you’re interested, download the game here.

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WackyLands Boss – iPhone Game Review

Here’s a quick video overview of a game called WackyLands Boss for the iPhone. I picked this up about a week ago, and so far it’s great. A lot of the game hinges on unlockables and customization, which is great because it gives you an incentive to keep playing.

It’s only $0.99 in the app store, and you’ll get hours of gameplay. I’d give it a solid 8.5; the experience is unique and pretty addicting, but gameplay can get a bit repetitive. Be sure to check it out.

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(It’s on Like) Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong is one of the most recognizable, furry faces in Nintendo’s crew–heck, he was the first villain to face off against Mario. But unfortunately, he hasn’t truly lived up to his name since his platforming days on the Super Nintendo (ok, DK64 was good too).

Lucky for us, that’s all about to change. Thanks to Retro Studios, the geniuses behind the rebirth of the Metroid series, DK and his barrel-busting pal Diddy are heading back to the treetops for another go in Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii.

Fans of the franchise will instantly recognize the game’s unmistakable feel. There are bananas galore, more blast barrels than you’ll know what to do with, and of course you can collect K-O-N-G in every level. Even old animal friends like Rambi (pictured right) will make an appearance and help you along your way. Did I mention that the soundtrack is perfect too? 

But even though Retro is going for throwback, the game still looks new and well-polished. I think that old fans of the SNES titles will appreciate a lot of the subtle references, but that overall it will feel like a new experience.

According to those who have played the game, it’s going to be tough. So long-time fans, don’t underestimate what this reboot can do. If you don’t have much experience with the Donkey Kong franchise, don’t be deterred; it’s a colorful run-and-jump game that’s fun for any age, and it’s something that everyone should experience.

The release date for Donkey Kong Country Returns is set for November 21. This one should be in everyone’s library. Until then, this trailer should tide you over:

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Microsoft Wants to Put Kinect in your Computer

We’ve heard what the critics have to say about Microsoft’s Kinect project and its debut on the Xbox 360. And while there are still a few bugs to work out, it looks like Microsoft isn’t going to stop at gaming.

According to Kotaku, Microsoft is looking a the bigger picture with Kinect in terms of voice recognition and body mapping. Kinect Creative Director Kudo Tsunoda wants us to look forward to a world where computers can understand and interact with their users. He makes the point that right now, any voice-recognition technology has to be activated, or that it isn’t always listening. Instead, Microsoft’s long-term goal is to integrate everything so that you’re constantly plugged in.

The Next Step

Putting vocal commands in computers is the next logical step, and with Kinect Microsoft already has the framework to do that. Plus, they can enter the multitouch field without the actual touching. This way they can bypass the main issue that Apple is having with integrating iOS with it’s computers: reaching out to touch your computer screen is awkward. Maybe Steve Jobs should have jumped on the Kinect technology when he had the chance in 2008.

I think that we’re going to see a big struggle in the coming years to integrate technologies–i.e. television, gaming consoles, cell phones, computers. We’ve already seen Microsoft broaden their market share with the Windows Phone 7, plus they  just opened their first retail shop in Minnesota’s Mall of America, right across from an Apple Store. That means that Microsoft is copying Apple’s business model, and it looks like it’s working.

To read the rest of Brian Crecente’s insightful post on the future of Kinect, head on over to Kotaku. What do you think? Will we be yelling commands at our computer screens within the next 5 years, or is it just a pipe dream?

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The Reviews are in: How Does the Xbox Kinect Stack Up?

On Thursday the Xbox finally entered the realm of motion-controlled gaming with the release of Kinect. For those of you who don’t know, Kinect is a camera that senses where your body is in space, allowing you to use it as the controller. It also has a bunch of other cool features, like voice commands and facial recognition (this video from G4 is a nice breakdown of what the device can do, and I’ve also included it at the end of the post).

Needless to say, gamers have been excited about this since it was announced in June of 2009. But then Microsoft dropped the bomb: a $150 price tag for Kinect, and $50 per game. It seems like kind of a steep charge considering that you’re paying for what seem to be fairly shallow and gimmicky games. So is Kinect worth the expense? Let’s see what some news sources are saying about it:

Wired Says…

Essentially, that Kinect is flawed. While it’s a glimpse into the future of gaming–or the future of tech–the concept just isn’t completely fleshed out yet. They note that it feels unimpeded in comparison to the Wii and Playstation 3, which both use controller-based motion controls, but that it “needs lots of improvement before it advances from nifty gimmick to fully functional hardware.” Check out the full review here>>

Kotaku Says…

That Kinect offers a novel way to experience video games. But the question remains: is this just a gimmick, or can it be integrated in to real games? Kotaku also points out that Kinect did not launch with any power titles (i.e. Wii Sports), and that cost will deter a lot of gamers. In the end, they echo Wired: Kinect is the future, it’s just not fully cooked. Check out the full review here>>

IGN Says…

Don’t bother, yet. While IGN admits that using Kinect is a completely unique experience, they chastise it for complicated setup and lag issues. However, they make the important point that Kinect’s intended audience, casual gamers, won’t be judging it as harshly. It’s fun, but it’s not $150 fun. Check out the full review here>>

The Verdict

Play it at a rich friend’s house. While Kinect may be really, really cool, there’s no need to drop that kind of money on it just yet. Only time will tell if it becomes the must-have Christmas gift of the season, or if it integrates well with more professional titles, but until then, we can wait.

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Super Scribblenauts: did they fix it?

We all remember the story of 5th Cell’s Scribblenauts: it was the darling of the gaming media in 2009, boasting the ability to generate any item that the user could dream up. Was it gimmicky? Yes. But it worked, and it got everyone talking.

When people actually got to play the game though, there were some very obvious flaws. Not only were the controls terrible, but the input system actually felt pretty limited without adjectives. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to conjure up a giant, fire-breathing baby.

More words, more fun

The developers claim to have fixed all of the game’s issues in Super Scribblenauts, the Nintendo DS sequel, and it looks like they’ve actually done a pretty good job. There are a ton of new adjectives that you can use to spice up your noun choices–think flaming, water color, undead, purple, salty, the list goes on–and they make it a lot easier to insert your imagination into the game.

Throughout the course of Super Scribblenauts you control Maxwell (the kid with the rooster hat up there) and help him overcome various obstacles by conjuring tools. The best part is that these puzzles don’t have a set solution; the options are limitless. If you have a mind-block, there’s a new hint mode that will bail you out. Unfortunately the game still won’t recognize trademarked items or proper nouns.

Navigating Maxwell’s world

In the original Scribblenauts, players were limited to using the DS’ stylus to guide Maxwell through levels; it was clunky and ruined many a challenge. Luckily, in this iteration you get to steer with the d-pad, which handles more smoothly. You still type on the touchscreen though, which isn’t ideal.

So when do I get to play this awesome game?

Super Scribblenauts will be available on Oct. 12 for $30, a pretty small price for unlimited replay value. Personally, I’m going to wait until I can make Barack Obama face off against the Beastie Boys.

While you wait, check out this trailer. What to expect: flying bathtubs, sword-wielding cows and dinosaurs in top hats. 

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Nintendo announces features for new 3DS system

Nintendo wowed everyone at this year’s E3 with the announcement of the Nintendo 3DS, the next evolution of their handheld system that will provide a 3D experience without glasses.

The public has been excited and perplexed ever since – news outlets say that the technology is something you have to experience – but Nintendo recently held a press conference where they discussed the final features and pricing (for Japan, anyways)of the product . Here’s how it breaks down:

  • The 3DS will have both a motion sensor and a gyro-sensor. That means that the system will know where it is in space, and where you are in space, putting it on par with the iPhone and the Playstation 3’s controller.
  • The set comes bundled with a charger, charging dock, stylus, and a 2GB SD card. The nice surprise here is the SD card, because it means that the device will have external storage, opening the door for picture and video sharing, plus more space for downloadable games. Of course, this would be useless without…
  • An SD card slot which will accompany the game cartridge slot. While the cartridge slot seems like a given, its very important to note that the 3DS will have backwards compatibility. When Playstation got rid of the disk slot on the PSP Go, sales went from bad to dismal because players didn’t want to give up their old games.
  • There are two 0.3 megapixel cameras on the outside of the device, and one on the inside. This will allow the 3DS to take 3D pictures, and could even allow for 3D video chat.
  • We’re looking at a release date of February 26 in Japan and the system should be available in the US in March. The 3DS will set you back ¥25,000 in Japan, so expect to pay around $300 for it (no official price set for the US yet, but we’ll keep you updated).

Why it’s important

Nintendo beat everyone to the motion-controlled gaming market, and it looks like they’re going to revolutionize 3D too. Because, if you think about it, this is one of the only platforms where 3D really works: on a device that’s built for single-person use where the 3D effects actually add to the experience. Plus, you can’t go wrong with getting rid of those annoying glasses.

Expect to see a lot of innovative games come out of this new feature. Will it secure Nintendo’s dominance over Apple in the portable gaming market? My Magic 8-Ball says ask again later. In the mean time, check out the 3DS premiere video from E3 2010. It’s an over-dramatized and potentially traumatic tale of asian men being eaten by their gaming devices. Enjoy!

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