Editor with the 148Apps Network since August 5, 2010
Dad, Mac Head, Gamer. Rob lives in Anchorage, AK, and commutes daily to the intarwebs to edit and write about games and gaming. His previous incarnation was as the Executive Editor at The Portable Gamer, and brings that experience with a good dose of humility into his current tasks at 148Apps.
+ Dual Stereo Speakers
+ Long battery life
+ Great audio cues for connecting
– A bit muddy on the low end
– Needs a single carrying bag
The Supertooth Disco Twin is a pair of great-sounding, rechargeable, stylish bluetooth speakers that connect to an iPhone or iPad with ease, allowing for full stereo sound. Each speaker alone is a fine mid-sized wireless speaker with a long battery life, but put two of them together and you have a portable sound powerhouse.
The Disco Twin speaker set is basically a pair of Disco II speakers, each weighing in at 16 watts of sound. Together, the pump out a stunning 32 watts of room-filling sound. It’s rare that you’ll find me turning a portable speaker down because it’s too loud, but these babies had me dialing it back on occasion.
The sound spectrum here is fairly good, with a solid if muffled bass response and decent mids and high range response. Audiophiles shouldn’t use portable Bluetooth speakers in the first place, but these do a fairly good job of sounding like more than a simple portable speaker, especially when separated and in full stereo.
Connecting these bad boys is a simple process, and there are great audio cues from each speaker to denote the on, off, and full stereo states. The left speaker is the master when connecting both, and when powered on, it says, “Left,” and then the right speaker says, “Right,” in a pleasant female voice. The speakers also say, “hello,” and “goodbye” when powering them on or off. It’s a nice touch.
The speakers come with a cloth bag for each separate unit, as well as a AC wall wart to charge the internal batteries. The battery life is relatively long when fully charged; I was able to listen to a full afternoon of music without draining them at a medium volume. The manufacturer promises 3 to 4 hours at high volume, and up to 10 on medium, and I’ve seen nothing to discount that.
The Disco Twin Bluetooth speakers are a delight to use separately or in concert as a full stereo portable speaker system, and they provide a decent sound quality and great volume for the price. I highly recommend them for those music lovers who want a bit more from a portable speaker.
If you’ve played Eve Online, you’ll feel right at home in Vendetta Online, an upcoming space-themed MMO for the iPad. It’s been out on Mac, PC, Linux, and Android for a while now, and is finally polished enough, according to founder and CEO, John Bergman, to make its debut on the iPad. Bergman sat down with us today in the last few hours of GDC to show off the gorgeous space sim, which includes guilds, a vast trading economy, and some fantastic space combat features. Keep your eyes on this game, as Bergman hopes to release it sometime this Spring.
One of the cool things about coming to GDC is seeing the upcoming games with a ton of potential even before they’re available in the App Store. Forge Reply Games, from Italy, showed off its in-production, early-alpha game based on the work of Joe Dever, the author of the successful series of young adult gamebook adventure novels (Lone Wolfin the 1980s. Dever is writing a new sgtory for this one, and it includes more than just reading and dice rolling, with puzzles to solve and turn-based combat in full 3D rounding out the package. Forge REply’s Alessandro Mazzega told us that they were looking for a publisher for the final push to finish and market the game, hopefully this year. Keep an eye on this one; we surely will.
Autodesk is a well-known software company that makes the programs that game designers and developers use to create the games you play and love, from indie hits to AAA console and PC titles. They’re taking a step closer to the consumer realm wiht the 123D series, notably 123Creatures, an app for iPad that lets you design a creature from the wireframe on up, letting you realize your designs in true 3D, which can then be sent to a 3D printing service from within the app itself. Cool stuff, really.
We stopped by the Neurosky booth today at GDC to learn more about the Neurosky brainwave interface, a light headset with a single sensor that rests on your forehead to pick up brainwaves. The current sensor can detect different states of mind, like meditation and attention, as well as facial gestures like blinks. The company is looking for more developers to use the technology for their apps and games. We got a short demo of a real toy helicopter ball (in the video below) and a game in which the player switches between two mind states to lift and then throw an in-game truck at his or her opponent.
Game Insight, a free-to-play game publisher, is launching Dragon Eternity, a fairly deep high-fantasy MMO to iOS today. The game should be live within the hour, and will be free to download. The time we spent with the game today showed us a game with depth and casual appeal, with cross-platform play built right in. We’ll get a review up soon, so stay tuned.
Roblox is an online sandbox game with the tools to let users create their own gaming worlds, complete with physics, weapons, and environments using consumer-level creation tools. There’s a website, too, which uses a youtube-like portal interface to help players publish their games easily, and find other games and worlds to play in. The iOS version is taking off, said CEO David Baszucki, and becoming a core part of the company strategy for cross-platform gaming, as all versions of the game have the same code base.
Sitting down with Christian Dickert of dreamfab ga(Chasing Yello) today was a delight, mostly because his company’s card battler, TriDek, isn’t hight fantasy themed. The conceit here is that the future brings gene-mod creatures to televised professional sports, letting you build decks and battle it out in a hybrid real-time and asynchronous card collecting battle game. Look for it to hit iOS and other mobile platforms soon.
Set some twenty years after the events of Ultima 4, Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is a completely redesigned, fully realized MMO for your iOS device. Our time with the game at GDC this year showed an amazingly faithful full-on MMO on the iPad, something we haven’t seen to this day. The game should release in the next few months, and we’ll be keeping our beady little eye on it until then.
We had the rare honor of sitting down with Paul Trowe, one of the original Leisure Suit Larry producers, to talk about his upcoming iPad game, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, a remake of the original Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. The new title, set to release in the next few months, is a complete re-do of the title, with all new puzzle solutions, art, music (by Austin Wintory, no less), and writing.
The signature double and triple entendres are there, both in the actual dialogue and in the artwork. There are tons of Kickstarter backers created as characters in the game as well, making this truly a community-driven game.
Big Fish Games previewed their new match three game, Zombies Zombies Zombies, for us today. The mechanic actually works well, here, as you tap same-color zombies in triangle patterns to have your apocalypse survivors blow hem to smithereens. There are a ton of fun power-ups, and playing it was super easy to get into, and very satisfying to play. Look for it to come out this summer.
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on March 26th, 2013 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
James Liu sat down with us today, and demoed Boxcat Games’ first iOS game, Nameless: The Hackers. An impressively well-written, story-based twelve hour RPG in the style of Final Fantasy, set in the world of computer security and international hacking. The team is three guys and a bunch of freelance artists, so make sure you check this one out now, in the App Store for a sale price of $1.99.
SEGA showed off a bunch of new games today at the Games Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. One promising iPad/Browser game, developed by Gogogic Games, is Godsrule: War of Mortals, a city-building, battling, real time combat game that’s playable on iPad and any desktop browser. We’re excited by the depth of strategy we saw, including character upgrades, real-time battles, and clan-based trading and resource production. This one should be out in the next couple of months.
Pangalore, the gaming studio behind Knightly Adventures, sat down with us today to share the new game, ZooVale. Built in HTML 5 for maximum compatibility, you’ll be able to play the game on desktop and mobile browsers, as well as your iPad, seamlessly across platforms and with friends. You’ll build a village, collect and breed animals, and battle your way in Adventure mode. It looks like great fun, and should be out in a couple of months.
Halfbrick (Jetpack Joyride) gave us an early look at its new Game Dev Story meets Rockband game, Band Stars. Choose a genre, band members, and lyrical topics to create hit songs and build your following. Train musicians, keep them well supplied with energy drinks, and you’ll have a dream team rockin’ in no time.
Pixowl Games (The Sandbox) showed us their next big game, Greedy Grub, a sandbox, city-building game awash in comic artist, Laurel Duermael’s whimsical and beautiful artwork. Look for this next big thing from the Pixowl folks in the next couple of months.
Josh Boggs of Australian gaming developer, Loveshack, showed us an early build of Framed, a beautifully designed puzzle cum comic-style storytelling game. We played through the first few episodes, moving animated panels around to change the outcome of the story in each level. The studio hopes to build the game out to a feature movie length in the coming months.
We sat down with Thomas Bleyer of Ravensburger, the veteran of board games both analog and digital, for a quick coffee meeting this morning. We took an early look at Las Vegas, a new game from the studio that involves dice and a frenetic pace. Check the VIne video below for a sneak peek, and be ready to check the full game out in a couple of months.
If you’ve played any of the Bloons TD games, you know how frantic–and downright fun–the tower defense with balloons and monkeys game can get. With the upcoming Bloons TD Battles, from the Ninja Kiwi/Digital Goldfish dream team, you’ll get to test your skills against real opponents on the same iPad or over the internet. Get ready, ’cause its gonna get insane.
Had a great chat with Dave Pottinger of BonusXP Games today at GDC, and he showed us an early build of his company’s new title, Caveman Smash. It looks adorable, and has quite a bit of depth to the strategy involved in each level. We’re looking forward to this one, for sure. Caveman Smash should come out within a month or two.
Hardware Design Rating:
Integration with iPhone Rating:
+ Super light and slim
+ Extra battery life on the go
+ Keeps all iPhone 5 ports accessible
– Not quite a full extra charge
– Occasional disconnects
The iKit NuCharge is entering its final week of promotion on the Kickstarter website, and it’s already garnered twice the amount of its original funding goal. There’s a good reason for this, of course. The NuCharge is a well designed, light, slim battery case that can offer almost a full extra charge of the iPhone 5 battery case for a reasonable price.
Our review unit came with the battery module, a brushed aluminum face piece, and a slim clear plastic case that fits snugly on the iPHone 5, and to which the other pieces snap onto te back of. The Li-Ion Polymer battery pack is surprisingly light and thin, adding a small amount of thickness to the iPhone when snapped into place. The brushed aluminum face plate is attractive enough to use when the battery module is either charging or when I didn’t want the little bit of extra bulk. The battery pack is easily removed, though the aluminum face plate takes a bit of effort to slide off when attached.
The NuCharge has a fairly flimsy kickstand on the back, which works to hold the iPhone 5 in a landscape orientation. It’s functional, but doesn’t feel as solidly constructed as the rest of the unit. The battery module is charged at the bottom of the unit via an included micro USB cord.
Other battery cases I’ve used offer a pass-through charging system, which the NuCharge does not. It will not charge the iPhone while the battery pack itself is connected. This isn’t a deal-breaker, as the iPhone 5 lightning connector is accessible at the same time, allowing for a dual charge scenario.
Once the battery case is fully charged, it’s a simple matter of removing the recessed Lightning cable from the back of the battery unit and connecting it to the iPhone’s own Lightning port. The rubberized connector cable feels solid and rugged, ensuring regular use for a while to come. The NuCharge was able to bring my iPhone up from 10% or so up to 94% several times over many days, which is a respectable amount considering the low weight and profile of the entire unit.
The one issue that cropped up during a few of my charging tests was an odd disconnect of the charging system. I’d have the Lightning cable connected to the bottom of the unit. The cables felt solidly plugged in, but the unit didn’t charge the iPhone until I either re-plugged the cable in or fiddled with the charging button. It didn’t happen every time, but enough to be a concern. This was a pre-release unit, however, so here’s hoping the retail version won’t have this issue.
Ultimately, the combination of solid features make the NuCharge a fantastic bit of kit, giving iPhone 5 owners that extra full battery of charge for a competitive price. While it’d be great to have just a bit more charge in the module, the weight and slim profile more than make up for it.
+ Innovative design
+ Louder than similar speakers
+ Charges Devices via USB
– Sounds a bit tinny
– Too easy to drain the battery
The RockSteady XS is a portable, micro Bluetooth speaker designed for use with any audio source that supports the Bluetooth 3.0 protocol, including iPads, iPhones, and other mobile or computing devices. It also includes a audio port for a line in, and a full-sized USB port for audio in and device charging, as well. There are a host of buttons on the front of the unit, which can be used to play, pause, forward, or reverse playback with many audio apps, like Pandora, Music, or Rdio.
The design of this mini speaker is interesting, in that the main speakers face out the two sides of the unit, one on each end of the rectangular casing. There are also holes in the top of the speaker, as well. Overall, this gives the RockSteady XS a distinct advantage over other speakers I’ve tried, with a 100db loudness that belies the diminutive size of the device. There’s a good deal of volume that can be applied before things get distorted, as well. The sound itself is fairly well-balanced, with a tendency for a brittle, tinny sound without some EQ from the sound source, especially at higher volumes.
The speaker itself is made of aluminum, making it both tough and light. There’s a removable battery on the bottom, and you can purchase more from Killer Concepts, making this a great option for someone who needs longer than one battery’s worth of life. In my use of the RockSteady XS, I found the battery life to be similar to that of the other devices I’ve used with an afternoon’s worth of listening at loud volume, on average.
My one big issue with the RockSteady XS is the battery on/off toggle. When I forgot to turn the unit off, which happened more than I’d like to admit, the battery continued to drain while the speaker sat on my desk, or in my bag. There really ought to be an auto-off feature to prevent typical user error like this, though it is nice to be able to definitively know if you’ve turned the speaker off, as well.
Bottom line, the RockSteady XS is a loud micro Bluetooth speaker with an innovative, rugged design that should meet the needs of many a listening environment, from outdoor picnics to dorm parties or hotel rooms. The great utility of the device is a bit offset by the sometimes tinny sound quality and the easily-forgotten toggle switch, but is still a great value considering the removable battery, the 100db sound volume, and the ability to charge a device from the back of the unit.
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on March 14th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Please don’t use the fact that this app is on your iPad to hold the tablet up and record your kid’s play, that concert you’re at (especially when you’re sitting in front of me), or the birth of your child. Honestly, use the iPhone if you must take video. That said, it’s pretty cool that the direct capture and upload to YouTube app is now on iPad and iPad mini.
What’s New in Version 1.2
New for iPad and iPad mini. Film a video and instantly make it YouTube-ready with background music, auto color correction, and auto stabilization. You can upload your video to YouTube and share to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ at the same time
Today, 3D Realms and Interceptor Entertainment announced Duke Nukem II for iOS, scheduled for release in April of this year at a cost of $1.99. This classic side-scroller, originally launched in 1993 by Apogee Studios, set the stage for the series’ iconic violence and tongue-in-cheek humor.
“Before Duke Nukem 3D, before the sunglasses, before the one-liners, and before the strippers – many gamers never knew there was another incredible alien ass-kicking Duke game, a cutting-edge game for its time that still holds up 20 years later,” said Scott Miller, CEO and co-founder of 3D Realms.
I love how, at the beginning of this video, developer Jim Rutherford says, “This is just a little weekend hacking project we through together.” How modest!
Rutherford’s son is ten, and loves Minecraft. Dad decided to mess around with a Phillips Vue lightbulb, and connect it to an app running on his iPad that then connects to the Minecraft server and changes color and brightness in sync with the Minecraft day/night cycle. The app lets them set the time of day, debug the cycle, and even scrub through it, assumedly issuing server commands to achieve the effects.
Not only is this super cool, and would make my own 10-year-old son squeal with joy, but Rutherford has put the code up on github, a repository of open source code that anyone can access. If you’re a hacker/developer, be sure to head on over there and grab the code.
Just yesterday, digital comics distributor and app developer, Comixology, announced a new initiative which would offer over 700 free comics, many of them first issues and Marvel Now! comics, via their iPad platform. We were excited to share the news with you this morning.
Once we started looking, though, at the Comixology site, we found out that the huge demand for the comics has caused some technical difficulties over on the server side of things. The Comixology CEO, David Steinberger, wrote on the site, “We expected a high degree of excitement for the Marvel initiative – and had believed ourselves prepared – but unfortunately we became overwhelmed by the immense response. We’re still struggling to keep our systems up.”
Seems like a lot of folks were trying to access the free comics, and weren’t able to get their stuff. Steinberger continued, “To that end, we’re pausing the Marvel Comics #1 promotion for the time being. For those of you that want to take advantage of the offer – you will get your comics! Until we are able to reinstate this program in our systems, please click here and fill out (a) simple form, so you can be informed as soon as there is an update.”
The link to the submission form is here, so head on over and add your email to the list. We’ll keep an eye out, as well, and let you know when we see that the system, and offer, is back online.
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on March 6th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Agharta Studio’s second iOS game, Shufflepuck Cantina, has recently updated to version 1.6, with a plethora of additions, detailed below. Our reviewer gave this one a 4.5 star rating, saying, “Get past how closely the themes resemble a certain well-known sci-fi movie and how the cute soundtrack that plays as you enter the cantina sounds so much like everyone’s favorite cantina band, and there is a really well-made game here.”
- A shiny new floor, The Disco, is now accessible!
– 3 new opponents will ask for a beating there!
– 3 new special strikes to master!
– 60 new funny bios and opponent equipment to collect!
– Brand new equipment upgrades added to the inventory!
– Brand new Mini-Quest system added! (150 Mini-Quests in total!)
– More than 150 new missions!
– 22 new achievements for Gamecenter!
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on March 6th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
One of our favorite turn-based strategy multiplayer games of the last year or so, Outwitters, was updated today to version 1.6, bringing a ton of new maps, including three new 1v1 maps and two new 2v2 maps to test your strategic skills upon.
The maps are freely included with random map matchmaking, and can be unlocked for friendly and practice play as an in-app purchase for $1.99.
148Apps’ parent site, Pocket Gamer, has just announced that voting is open for their annual mobile games awards, The Pocket Gamer Awards 2013. This year is a bit different, as they’ve combined both the regular editorial awards with their annual Reader’s Choice awards to create one big über-award system. Head on over now and vote for your favorite mobile games on a variety of platforms.
Voting is open now and closes at 12PM (midday) GMT on the 18th March, with a special awards ceremony being held at GDC.
Plus if you Like this story on Facebook, you’ll be entered into our fantastic competition, which could see you winning either an iPad mini or a Samsung Galaxy Tab2.
So get your entry in now to make your voice heard, and help us decide which games and companies deserve the recognition.
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on February 28th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Click to see full size.
There’s a new issue out in Pocket God Digital Comics app today, which begins a five-part story arc about a mysterious force that is hunting Pygmies. Check out issue 21 today, right from the Pocket God Comics app, which will still run you a buck for this and all the back issues, newsletters, and such that come along with your purchase.
The Pygmies Strike Back, Part 1 of 5.
After Nooby hogged the spotlight all last issue, this time everyone gets a bit of attention. But of course, in the world of POCKET GOD, a bit of attention can be Dangerous! The tribes have figured out that someone or someTHING is hunting them. So it’s Fight or Flight time! And the group is split about how to deal with that.
And what about that mysterious artifact-thingy that Nooby found last issue? How will that play into the decision?
This story kicks off the new arc that will divide the tribes like never before!