December 27, 2010

New iPhone for Christmas? Download these games first

Yeah, your brand-new iPhone does a lot of great things to help you stay productive. It’s great for checking emails and staying up on Facebook, and even translating words and taking photos with its camera. Oh, and you can make calls with it.

But one of the most interesting and deepest functions of the iPhone is its gaming ability. There are tons of gaming apps in the iTunes App Store, and while many of them are a little mindless and not too impressive, many more are phenomenal -- making innovative use of the iPhone’s touch screen, internal gyroscope and other hardware.

But how to wade through all the sub-par games to figure out what’s essential for your new game machine/cell phone? We’ve done the hard work for you: below are 15 games you should check out right away to get the most out of your iOS device.


Infinity Blade ($6.99)

Yes, the price tag’s a little steep compared to other games, but there’s a reason for that -- Infinity Blade is the best-looking game available on the iPhone, bar none. This one-on-one sword-fighting action game has a tendency to get addictive, looks great and packs a decent challenge. If there’s a game to show off what your new phone is capable of, this is it.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light ($6.99)

Guardian of Light is a pitch-perfect port of the game of the same name that was available for download on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. With two-stick shooting elements, a top-down dungeon crawling feel, and a crazy amount of puzzles to solve and challenges to complete. Best of all is a great cooperative play mode that uses a Wi-Fi or 3G Internet connection and demands some intuitive teamwork and puzzle-solving strategy.

Eliminate Pro (Free)

The best part of this hardcore first-person shooter from ngmoco is that, like lots of its other games, it’s free.Eliminate is an online-only multiplayer deathmatch game that makes use of tilt and touch controls to play. It’s filled with in-app purchases, but you can’t beat a free chance to take on enemies all over the world, wherever you are.

N.O.V.A. 2 ($6.99)

N.O.V.A. 2 is the sequel to Gameloft’s iPhone clone of the Xbox 360’s Halo franchise, which contains quality graphics and first-person shooter action, using a combination of tilt and virtual controls to take the fight to various aliens. There’s also an online multiplayer deathmatch mode that’s a lot like Eliminate, but with a story driven single-player campaign to back it up. The original is also available for $4.99.

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Plants vs. Zombies ($2.99)

When it comes to strategic tower defense, there aren’t many better offerings than Plants vs. Zombies are attacking your lawn, and the only way to defend it is by planting various types of plants that block, blast and shoot the encroaching undead. The app packs 50 levels and was Apple’s choice for iPhone game of the year.

Osmos ($2.99)

An imaginative game with a great soundtrack, Osmos is one of those apps that shows the innovative thinking that’s happening on the iOS platform. You control a single-celled organism and work through puzzles by absorbing other organisms, unless they’re bigger than you are, in which case, they absorb you. Osmos takes quite a bit of strategy and light-touch precision to master, and is one of the best games available on the iPhone.

Flight Control ($0.99)

This is one of those apps that’s super-simple and yet tough to put down. Your job is to guide various airplanes to their appropriate runways by tracing a line from the plane to its destination. The planes then follow the flight path you laid out for them, and it’s up to you to keep them from crashing into one another. Flight Control is also available in a recently released free version so you can try it before you buy it.


Trundle (Free, with in-app purchases of additional levels)

An interesting physics-based platformer that has you moving a gear around various levels by tilting your iPhone and jumping by tapping. You’ll solve environmental puzzles each time you advance to a new screen, with the only score being your need to explore further and master more of the game. Trundle offers a significant portion of the game for free, with more levels available for in-app purchase.

Pix n’ Love Rush ($0.99)

This pretty 8-bit style platformer with a great soundtrack is perfectly designed for mobile gaming. You control a little monster and work through endless, changing stages to collect “plus molecules,” while avoiding enemies and minuses, in order to better your score. Pix n’ Love Rusheven includes a five-minute mode to be just the right bite-size game to play when time is short. It’s easy to learn but tough to master.

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor ($2.99)

Spider is actually two games in one: it’s part platformer-arcade game in which you control a spider using touch controls, swiping to jump and building webs on different pieces of furniture in an abandoned house. The webs catch you bugs, which you eat to advance to the next stage. But at the same time, as you explore the house, you’ll slowly uncover more and more information about what went on there -- adding a mystery element to your bug-munching spider fun.

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Cut the Rope ($0.99)

Another simple, yet nearly impossible to put down, puzzle game, Cut the Rope’s premise requires you to do exactly that -- you must cut the ropes holding food morsels strategically, so that they swing and avoid obstacles to reach the mouth of a little green monster you need to feed. The levels get progressively harder, working in more and more elements like bubbles and walls. At only a buck, Cut the Rope is in the running for one of the iPhone’s best casual games.

Angry Birds ($0.99)

There’s a reason this is the No. 1 paid game in the App Store: Angry Birds is a physics-based game that’s a pretty fair mix of easy and challenging. You’ll pick it up fast, but Angry Birds will keep you blasting through its 195 levels as you use a slingshot and various different birds to exact revenge on a group of egg-snatching pigs. Each level has you trying to destroy structures that the pigs are hiding in by strategically crashing through them -- it’s tough to master, and you get a lot for a dollar here.

Sudoku 2 (Free)

It may not be crazy in terms of graphics or physics-based controls, butSudoku 2 is exactly the kind of game you’ll want for a plane ride or car trip. Featuring puzzles that escalate in difficulty, this version of sudoku is plain and simple which makes it ideal. It’s also available in apremium edition for $2.99, which throws in online leaderboards and a points system.


Tap Tap Revenge 4 (Free, with in-app purchases of additional tracks)

If you’re familiar with Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero or Rock Band, you’ll understand Tap Tap Revenge right away. It’s a rhythm game in which you tap specific spots on your screen along with the music -- keeping the beat and thinking fast results in a higher score. With tons of premium track packs, plus free songs added all the time, there’s always a new song to play.


Real Racing 2 ($9.99)

Real Racing 2 feels like an expensive one, until you see how realistic and faithful this game is with its racing. There are more about 30 real cars include, and the game has some of the most impressive 3D graphics on the iPhone so far. It also supports up to 16 racers in its online multiplayer mode.

by Phil Hornshaw Yahoo Games December 27, 2010

New iPhone for Christmas? Download these games first

7 Predictions for the Gaming Industry in 2011

The video gaming industry made great strides this year. What’s next? Here are my predictions for 2011.

It’s been a hell of a year. In 2010, motion hardware such as Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move made their debuts, the Nintendo Wii stayed put but still held its own, and the first 3D handheld gaming system was introduced. And let’s forget that smartphone gaming took the market by storm.

Against that promising backdrop, let’s polish up the old crystal ball and take a look at some predictions for 2011. My projections for the next year are based on news I’ve seen recently, gut feelings and even some wishful thinking. You’re invited to add your own predictions in the comments. Let’s take a look at what I think the new year will have in store for the gaming industry.

1. On the Road Again

Mobile gaming for smartphones and handheld devices will continue its explosive growth in 2011. Adding fuel to the Apple App Store fire will be Windows Phone 7, hitched up to Xbox Live and packing plenty of graphics punch. While Microsoft’s nascent platform won’t be able to hold a candle to the App Store yet, its inauspicious beginning is not going to predict what will happen in the long run.

2. Backfield in Motion

Motion gaming hardware will continue to fly off store shelves, but I’m not sure if the titles will be able to keep up. Meanwhile, the porn industry will continue parrying with Microsoft, trying to slip in racy games to the consternation of the Redmond giant (it has already started). It’s hard to hold back the pornmeisters, though, bellwethers of technology since VHS tapes.

3. Flash Crash

Developers of HTML5 will make great inroads in 2010, continuing its rise into eventual domination of browser-based gaming. Of course, Flash and Silverlight will still have a place in the online gaming universe, but HTML5 will continue its onslaught, especially into the mobile arena (new game engines like Impact are already leading the way). Hate HTML5 but love Flash? Thanks to Apple and its unstoppable power in the mobile marketplace, you might be standing on the wrong side of history.

4. Wii Want HD

Even though Nintendo emphasizes the quality of its gaming experience over the technical quality of its graphics, an HD gaming platform from the company is long overdue. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said that a Wiisuccessor wasn’t in the offing yet, declaring last June that the company would announce a new console when it runs “out of ideas with the current hardware and cannot give users any more meaningful surprises with the technology we have.” In my opinion, one of the last surprises remaining is that Nintendo’s flagship gaming console is still running standard-definition video.

5. Bringing the Pain

Gears of War 3 will finally be released, but too bad it’s been pushed back from its originally announced spring 2011 release date (although there will be a beta version available in April). Now we’ll have to wait until at least September to play the real thing on the Xbox 360. Fenix, Dominic, Cole and Baird will bring the pain once again, maybe even eclipsing the grand debut of Portal 2, winner of a 2010 Spike Video Gaming Award for themost anticipated game to be released next year. Nevertheless, the Gears of War franchise is so valuable right now, its hoards of fans have enormous pent-up demand for the new first-person shooter. Its sales are practically guaranteed to break all records.

6. Apple Console

Apple will make an entry into the console market. The Cupertino company has nearly cornered the handheld market with its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad iOS-powered platforms. Why not parlay that dominance into a gaming platform that might be a simple evolution of its Apple TV “hobby?” How hard could it be to take a Mac Mini, install a serious graphics chip, get Apple’s ace iPhone/iPad designer Jonathan Ive to create the most beautiful handheld controllers in history, package the whole thing up with iOS and profit? For Apple, this should be easy.

7. Avian Anger

Those Angry Birds aren’t finished yet, even after continuing their steamrolling dominance over the App Store and Android Market with seasonal updates for Halloween and Christmas. Expect even more of those holiday refreshes with extra levels, taking on a love-dovey theme for Valentine’s Day and, of course, jumping all over that egg-strewn Easter holiday for all it’s worth.

7 Predictions for the Gaming Industry in 2011

FCC may regulate NBC takeover

WASHINGTON - The head of the Federal Communications Commission is proposing regulatory conditions to ensure that cable-TV giant Comcast Corp. cannot stifle competition in the video market once it takes over NBC Universal.

The conditions laid out Thursday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski are intended to guarantee that satellite providers and other rival television services can still carry marquee NBC programming and that new Internet-video distributors can get the content they need to grow and compete.

Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal could have profound consequences for the nascent market for Internet video, a market that could eat into Comcast's core cable-TV business if enough consumers drop their cable subscriptions in favor of low-cost alternatives online.

Genachowski wants to ensure that Comcast won't be able to use its control over NBC's vast media empire to withhold content from emerging online competitors such as Netflix Inc., Inc. and Apple Inc., locking consumers into costly monthly cable bills to get access to a wide range of popular programming.

He now needs at least two of the other four FCC commissioners to back his proposal, and is likely to make modifications to win the support he needs. The FCC is expected to approve the deal, with conditions, early next year.

The deal also faces scrutiny from the Justice Department, which has been working closely with the FCC and is likely to impose and enforce conditions similar to whatever the FCC ultimately approves.

Comcast is seeking government approval to buy a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric Co. for $13.8 billion in cash and assets.

The combination would give the nation's largest cable-TV company control over the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, popular cable channels including CNBC, Bravo and Oxygen, and the Universal Pictures movie studio. It would also give Comcast a roughly 30 percent stake in, which has become a popular online platform for broadcast programming from NBC, ABC and Fox.

Although Comcast already owns a handful of cable channels, including E! Entertainment and the Golf Channel, it has built its business on distributing television programming and providing Internet connections. The company has about 23 million cable-TV subscribers and nearly 17 million Internet subscribers.

Taking over NBC Universal would transform Comcast into a media powerhouse, too. Genachowski's proposed conditions are intended to prevent the company from trampling competitors once it owns content as well as distribution platforms.

FCC officials wouldn't disclose details about the conditions Thursday because commissioners were still reviewing the proposal, but two people outside the FCC described the terms to the Associated Press. They had knowledge of the details but spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

One measure aims to guarantee that satellite operators, phone companies and rival cable-TV services can still get access to NBC broadcast and cable channels, Comcast's regional sports networks and other must-have programming at reasonable prices.

Another condition would require Comcast to make NBC Universal programming available to Internet video distributors under certain circumstances. Imposing these obligations on Comcast would help prevent Comcast from stunting the growth of Internet video.

Yet another measure would bar Comcast from pressuring independent programmers into restricting online distribution of their content in order to get a spot on the cable systems.

In addition, Genachowski's proposal would prohibit Comcast from requiring consumers to subscribe to cable in order to get online access to certain NBC Universal content, including NBC broadcast programming.

The proposal would also require Comcast to continue offering an affordable, stand-alone broadband option for customers who want Internet access but not cable. This condition, too, could help drive the growth of online video by allowing consumers to cancel their cable subscriptions without losing their Internet connections.

by Joelle Tessler Associated Press Dec. 23, 2010 05:29 PM

FCC may regulate NBC takeover


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