Of Shields and Spears

Lately I’ve been playing a highly accessible puzzle-rogue-like game called Hoplite.

Simple graphics and ever-increasing difficulty make this a quick and easy game to learn, but a very difficult one to master.

You play the role of an adventurous Hoplite — a citizen warrior of ancient Greece city-states. You’re questing in ever-deeper dungeons looking for the Fleece of Yendor whilst avoiding doom at the hands of various dungeon inhabitants.

Each level is a smallish hex map with lava obstacles, opponents, a temple and an exit to the next level down. Defeat the opponents, heal or receive a boon at the temple and journey onward. Simple right?

Well, yes, and no. Depending on the number of enemies and your strategy, your journey could end on the first level, or you could retrieve the Fleece and win, or hang on to the fleece and quest even further.

I find myself coming back to Hoplite daily, for at least one or two rounds. As you can tell by the shot at the top, I’ve managed to recover the Fleece once (yay me!), but am wondering what lies beyond…

Hoplite is available for Android and iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch).

Enjoy this fine gameplay video.

 

iOS 7 Launch – A busy day today

iOS 7 will be released later today, and I’m looking forward to it!

Update: But first, a public service announcement. Don’t forget to BACKUP YOUR DATA (thanks for the reminder Ryan!) Here’s a great how-to from Apple’s support site.

From what I’ve seen, this update of the venerable iOS operating system will be the best yet, not in terms of huge technological leaps and flashy features, rather in terms of subtle usability improvements that really make sense, such as the new way your pictures are grouped, and AirDrop (ok, that’s a new feature for iOS, but it has existed awesomely in OS X).

One thing I’m not so certain of yet, is the number of clicks it seems to take to do certain things, such as back out of a folder in multitask view. I was kind of hoping there’d be a swipe command to get you back to the top level of the desktop, not a button press. My thinking is that buttons can wear out, but the multi-touch swipe tech will last longer.

As well, this week you’ll have noticed a flurry of application updates as developers get their software ready for today’s launch of iOS 7. Being interested in electronic music and photography, here’s a couple of useful articles on upgrading and app compatibility:

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see real-world experiences as iOS 7 goes live later today. If you’re upgrading and feel like sharing, let me know what you think!

I’m quite enjoying Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol!

Yep, I’m having fun with Ace Patrol, as you may have seen in my previous post, it’s a light single/multiplayer, World War I strategic combat game. Airfights consist of up to 8 combatants, four per side, and vary depending on aircraft, pilot skill, and game difficulty level.

Ace Patrol is currently only available for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone in the Canada iTunes store, during this pre-launch period, but it will be available worldwide on May 9th.

I’m having a blast, check out the ingame images below:

Immelmann your way to victory in Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol for iOS

After checking out PocketTactic’s piece on the limited (to Canada) release of a new Sid Meier game, I thought I’d take a little time tonight and check out Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol for iOS, especially there’s not a lot of game info either on 2K’s page (they’re the publisher) nor on FireAxis’s page (they’re the developer).

Basically Ace Patrol is a turn based World War I air combat game — in the style of the old Avalon Hill games from late in the last century. You move your aircraft a hex or two at a time during your turn, maybe shooting, and then your opponent does the same.

Actually Ace Patrol kinda reminds me of Richthofen’s War in some of the missions and turn mechanics.

Unlike Richtofen’s War, turn progress happens much quicker with missions unfolding in a campaign sequence mirroring major battles of The Great War.

I’m not going to write a full-up review as the world-wide release of the game doesn’t happen until May 9th. For some reason, the Canada iTunes store was selected to test-launch the title so is available there currently. So I’ll  just touch on a few of the things I found interesting about my brief play with the game.

  • Jaunty music — I rather liked the soundtrack. Cool music and, if you stay on the store or other static menus, you hear some sort of aviation background chatter and noise after the music ends.
  • Good graphics — the aircraft are kinda cartoony, but overall it works. The map is rendered nicely and the animations are pretty smooth.
  • User Interface – the 3d rotation around your aircraft and the battle is intuitive and essential to understanding what’s happening in the flying furball of combat.
  • Four nations and campaigns — An abridged British campaign comes free with the game. The complete British campaign and three others are available as in-app purchases.
  • The turn-based movement mechanic forces you to think a few turns ahead and attempt to anticipate the flow of battle.
  • Single and multi-player through turn handoff or local network play.

So yeah, to summarize, Ace Patrol is fun, and yeah, I’ll be playing it quite a bit more, and perhaps investing in some of the additional content through the in-app purchases.

Whoops! Almost forgot the price breakdown of  some of the in-app purchases, followed by a cool gameplay video ( 20+ minutes!)

 

Using your iOS device for offline navigation

One of the coolest and possibly the most expensive feature of an iPhone or iPad is the maps / navigation feature.

Pocket Earth iOS icon

On our recent vacation to Maui, we wanted to have live maps, but not have to rack up expensive data to do it. A bit of Internet sleuthing turned up PocketEarth, a very cool app that performs exactly as advertised — delivering offline navigation and mapping without a live internet connection.

Using Pocket Earth, I simply:

  • downloaded relevant maps while at the condo or before I left home
  • created routes I’d likely use
  • added potential points of interest
  • saved everything to my iPhone

And it worked like a charm!  Here’s a map of the stretch of West Maui where we spent a lot of time.

West Maui map in Pocket Earth

And here’s a bit on how it’s done – from the support forum:

PocketEarth is designed for offline use and makes it easy to avoid data roaming costs by allowing you to download maps and routes in advance and use them offline, even with GPS.  Here is some information and suggestions to make sure you don’t get charged!

GPS usage is always free, however downloading data is often not!  To avoid expensive map downloads, we recommend downloading all of your destinations in advance from a WiFi connection. Please see this forum post for information on how to download entire countries or regions with PocketEarth.
Once you have downloaded all the maps you may need, you can disable downloading to be sure PocketEarth won’t download anything. Just go to Settings > Network Mode and change it to Offline Mode or WiFi Only.
Alternately, you may wish to prevent all of your apps from using up your limited and expensive data plan, not only PocketEarth.  While the Airplane Mode will certainly do this, it will also prevent all GPS usage! Fortunately there is a better solution which will still allow you to use the GPS in PocketEarth and other apps while preventing cellular downloads: In the device’s mainSettings App, just go to General > Network and disable either Cellular Data completely or just Data Roaming and it will prevent expensive data usage while traveling abroad.

Please note that using the GPS “offline” (when both WiFi and Cellular are unavailable) works well, but may take longer to find your initial location. From our experience this is usually 30-40 seconds, but in some cases can be up to 2 minutes.

My thoughts
Quite simply a no-brainer purchase. For $2.99 (CAD) in the iTunes store, this is likely one of the best navigation and mapping purchases I’ve made. Regularly updated, community supported, and uses a lot of open data sources. Hard to beat that.

 

A great couple of weeks to be an iOS gamer

sw1.jpg

Three exciting games were released for iOS devices in the last week and a bit. One was from a well-established computer and console development juggernaut. One was from a (now) blockbuster company that made their name on the iPhone and iPod Touch. And the final one from a small but respected Canadian design house, is currently taking the iTunes App store by storm – becoming Game of the Week on launch day. And if you’re planning to pick up an iPad 2 tomorrow, you might want to make these your first downloads :smileyhappy:
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