I had been put off in buying Limbo for iOS because of the $4.99 price tag (yeah, I’m cheap like that). Last weekend, the app went on sale $.99 thus presenting a buying opportunity. I shouldn’t have waited so long (that’s what she said). The visuals make the transfer completely unmolested from the original XBLA version. The minimalist aesthetic of the game is also preserved thanks to gesture-based controls: you swipe left or right to move accordingly and swipe upwards to execute the jump. To push and pull objects in the game world, you press down one finger to initiate the interaction then slide left or right either with that finger or another finger to manipulate the object. It takes some getting used to but ultimately isn’t that difficult to master. The moderate pacing of the game’s action and puzzle sequences also make it easier to control without any physical buttons.
All in all, this is a great purchase even at full price. I hope that this trend of well-executed console ports continues: they make a great case for the iPad as a serious gaming platform. I can’t wait to see how GTA: San Andreas looks later this month.
Media Players – Infuse and AVPlayerHD
The way it’s always worked for moving video content between desktop and iPad was through iTunes: you’d plug the iPad into your desktop then drag and drop the video files into your desired media player app.
One advantage that Android’s held over iOS for some time in the area of media management (and one that my Android-loving uncle never fails to throw back at me whenever I urge him to get an iPad) is the Android’s drag and drop functionality: you simply plug your Android device into your Windows PC then drag videos into the newly discovered device, much like putting files into a USB drive, no iTunes necessary. Thanks to these two media player apps: Infuse and AVPlayerHD, I finally have a response.
Both apps are quite similar in that each one supports a wide range of formats (.wmv, .avi, .mp4, .mkv to name a few), 720p and 1080p playback, and subtitles. The most modernising feature for me however is the ability to transfer files via wifi. Each app allows you to open up a file transfer server. Computers on the same wifi network as the iPad running the app can access this server through the browser in order to upload and download video content. No need to fish out cables or to open up iTunes (which has gotten more and more laggy for some reason).
Now the most significant differences between the two are in pricing and UI. AVPlayerHD is $2.99 to buy the app and all the features outright. Infuse is initially free but requires a $4.99 in-app purchase to unlock “premium” features like 1080p playback and support for more video formats. In the layout department, AVPlayerHD uses a list format for displaying available content which is better for larger libraries. Infuse uses a tiled layout with each video represented by a snapshot. Another feature that Infuse has over AVPlayerHD is that the app gathers metadata of popular movies and TV episodes displaying information like Genre, Cast, Director, Writer, as well as a short synopsis of the episode. I always appreciate little touches like this. I think they go a long way towards increasing the overall enjoyment of the app (and make one feel better about parting with $4.99).
In the end, you can’t go wrong with either one. Both apps offer a full-featured solution to watching videos on the iPad. The remote transfer feature decreases the iPad’s dependence on iTunes and brings it that much closer to being complete device.
With so many great iPad games coming out nowadays, I feel that I have to choose which games to play more carefully in order to have time to finish them all. Below is a list of what I’m playing nowadays and why each game stands out:
- Real Racing 3 – this game has been taking up most of my time, the first time a racing game has ever managed the feat since the original Gran Turismo. I’ll do a more detailed write-up on this at a later time but for now, three reasons why it’s so addictive: excellent visuals, solid racing mechanics, and a fiendishly executed free-to-play model (arguably the best I’ve ever seen in an iOS game) that exemplifies the concept of “carrot-on-a-stick”.
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown – the best AAA title of last year made it to the iPad largely intact. XCOM further distinguishes itself as a great mobile game by the fact that the mechanics have also been tweaked, making the difficulty in this version more forgiving. While this may not go over well for hardcore gamers, the decreased difficulty streamlines the gameplay, making it perfect for brief, 5-minute sessions while on the go.
- Oceanhorn – a highly anticipated title that was in development for almost two years, Oceanhorn is showing itself to have been worth the wait. The game’s production values are almost unmatched anywhere else on the App Store with a soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu, the maestro behind the musical score of the Final Fantasy series. Oceanhorn borrows heavily from the Zelda series and is actually being marketed as a straight up Zelda-clone. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with cloning a classic as long as the imitation is executed well and Oceanhorn certainly delivers.
- Epoch 2 – Epoch 2 is an on-rails shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by rogue machines. Mechanically, the game is almost identical to its predecessor with fluid action that’s well-suited to touch controls and does a good job of making you feel like a badass as you acrobatically dodge out of the way of oncoming gunfire. More significantly though, Epoch 2 expands on the sterile narrative of the original, adding spoken dialogue and a storyline that drives you to progress in the game. The shallow RPG elements and repetitive (though still well-executed) set-pieces hurt the replay value of this game though.
- The Room – I’ll admit that I’m late to the party on this one as this game was released a little over a year ago. The Room is a game where you solve a series of puzzles that are protecting the mysterious contents of a box. The visuals are photorealistic – this is the post-PC version of Myst. While it’s a bit on the short side, The Room makes for an excellent showcase of how the iPad differentiates itself as a top-tier gaming platform.
This is just a quick rundown of my thought process in choosing a music app. I’ll post a more detailed comparison of the above apps at a later time.
Coming from Android, the unity in design that iOS 7 represented was one of the reasons why I was made the switch. Thus I wanted to restrict my usage to the default system apps whenever possible. Still, I found that the Music app was lacking some key features that forced me to explore two alternatives: Spotify and Rdio.
I had used Spotify and Rdio in past, while I was still on Android, and their ability to provide music on demand was something that I feared the Music app would be sorely lacking in. Both provided music discovery through their respective radio features and, more importantly, music on demand. I had hoped that iTunes Match would help mitigate the lack of music on demand. I had a sizeable library on iTunes and was constantly adding to it through downloads of albums and individual tracks. It was through iTunes Radio that I discovered just what to add to my collection.
This workflow for adding music is cumbersome especially compared to how it would be handled in Spotify or Rdio. In either of the two, you can directly add a discovered song to your collection, ready for offline listening on your device. In the Music app however, iTunes Radio offers no similar feature unless you’re willing to buy the track outright for a dollar.
The design unity that the iOS 7 Music app offered was still enough to get me to overlook the cumbersome process of adding newly discovered music. Spotify and Rdio have yet to offer a redesign for iOS 7 (Rdio looks nice but still uses the old iOS 6 keyboard) and I found the design discrepancies to be jarring. Unfortunately, the Music app was also lacking in terms of performance. Music that would stream instantly on a 3G connection when using Spotify and Rdio would constantly lag when downloading from iCloud. There’s also this nasty bug that I’ve encountered when using iTunes Radio that resets my phone about 3 times out of 10 whenever I start a new station.
Given the cumbersome nature of adding new music as well as the glaring iTunes Radio reset bug, I’ve been driven back into the arms of Spotify and Rdio. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out which of the two will better suit my needs.