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


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:
Con­tin­ue read­ing “A great couple of weeks to be an iOS gamer”