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Livescribe 3 Smartpen Review

Livescribe 3 Smartpen Review

The Livescribe 3 pen is something that I initially dismissed. I just didn’t think there was a way it would work as well as it was shown. Turns out I was 100% wrong. It’s magic.

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The Livescribe 3 is a Bluetooth enabled pen with a little infrared camera in the front that tracks what is written and stores that as a sort of digital ink. That ink can then be dictated to an iPad/iPhone with the free Livescribe+ app and a Bluetooth enabled iOS device. What results is nothing short of amazing.

Once the writing/drawing/doodle/whatever that has been written on the special notebook and has been transferred to the iOS device, then the real magic starts. Whole pages or just sections can be emailed, transferred to Evernote, turned into calendar events or reminders, etc. And if the handwriting is legible (i.e. better then mine), any written words will also be converted to text for easy searching and emailing.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 3.07.25 PMAnother really good feature of the device is the audio recording feature. When recording audio, it will be synced to the written word/drawing. The written words are magically time stamped as written to match up with the audio that’s being recorded. So during playback, touching a word will skip the playback to what was being recorded when that word was written. Great to quickly scrub to a particular section in a recorded interview or lecture.

There are some concerns with the Livescribe system though. For one thing the system only works when using special notebooks. These notebooks have tiny, nearly invisible dots printed on the pages that allow the IR camera in the tip to track where the pen is and what is written. It’s core to the way the whole system works and is a requirement. Too bad, really. But it’s just how it is.

content_sec1_imageThe pen is also a bit larger than a normal pen. The barrel is slightly wider than even a large ball point pen. Easy enough to get used to, but it may be a concern for those with smaller hands. Small negatives aside, the Livescribe 3 pen is pretty amazing and something I look forward to adding to my mobile arsenal.

It’s hard to believe, but Livescribe 3 is magic in both theory and in execution.

Highly Recommended.

Posted in: Hardware Reviews, Reviews

Tagged with: $149.99, Hardware, hardware review, Livescribe, Livescribe 3 Smartpen, Smartpen

Review disclosure: note that the product reviewed on this page may have been provided to us by the developer for the purposes of this review. Note that if the developer provides the product or not, this does not impact the review or score.

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Unpossible Review

Unpossible Review

Unpossible is much better than its English!

Unpossible is another fantastic minimalist arcade survival game in the vein of Super Hexagon and Pivvot, this one adding in the wrinkle of being in first-person. Essentially, the game is the same as any other arcade survival game: don’t hit the obstacles. Simple as that. The obstacles and the way they’re laid out is anything but simple, though.

Unpossible-iPhone-widescreen-screenshot-no-banner-5There’s three difficulty modes: Simplicity, Futile, and Ultra. Simplicity starts out very easy, and it can be a bit disheartening at first for the player looking for a challenging experience because it’s fairly easy. However, things really jump up at Futile, where getting the requisite 60 seconds to unlock the next game mode is very difficult. And Ultra difficulty is, in fact, ultra-hard.

These all come in daily modes, as well. These are actually just modes with the same design for 24 hours each that can be repeated endlessly, as opposed to the typical implementation of the mode being meant for one blind run daily. These at least have their own leaderboards, and can be a sort of practice at the game.

The graphics are fairly basic, but they’re very stylish with the black-and-blue color scheme that’s used. The smooth framerate is great for the game. There’s Kamcord video sharing, but this halves the frame rate, so it’s a trade off. There’s the standard Twitter and Facebook sharing as well.

Unpossible‘s touch controls work great – the MFi gamepad controls are especially wonderful on the SteelSeries Stratus (which has great joysticks). Tilt is also an option, one that the developer prefers. Any way players want to control the game works well. Just from top to bottom, this is a well-constructed game.

Unpossible-iPad-screenshot-no-banner-3Some of the hazards in the game can be incredibly difficult to try and avoid because they require knowing which direction to spin in as soon as one is past the previous hazard. There are some cases where, due to the camera positioning and curvature of the path, these can feel next to impossible – at least at the default sensitivity. They really just require practice in order to master them, and the instinct to always be ready to spin out of the way of them. Even with this little annoyance, the game still does an exceptional job of promoting that “just one more round and I’ve got a high score” this time feeling that these arcade games need to have to be great.

While I admit that challenging arcade games hit my buttons, as my favorite games are ones with short sessions and high replayability, Unpossible is a wonderful example of its genre and is a must-buy.

Posted in: Games, iPad Apps and Games, iPad Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

Tagged with: $1.99, Acceleroto, arcade survival, Bryan Duke, Games, minimalist, Unpossible

Review disclosure: note that the product reviewed on this page may have been provided to us by the developer for the purposes of this review. Note that if the developer provides the product or not, this does not impact the review or score.

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Hitman GO Review

Hitman GO Review

Hitman GO is not the obvious way to do a mobile version of the Hitman series, but it’s an incredibly creative and fun game in the long-running franchise.

Hitman GO is one of the odder big-name games that I can remember in recent memory. It takes the core tenets of Hitman, and turns it into a strategic board game. It’s a unique choice with a unique presentation to match, and while it’s certainly odd at first, it comes together beautifully. This is an intelligently-designed, wonderful experience.

HitmanGO-3This is a turn-based affair, where players control Agent 47 along circuit-like boards where he can move one node at a time. He must make it to the exit without being spotted by the enemies on the board, who all move after he does, so they have an advantage, though each enemy has predictable behaviors. Thus, it’s about using their patterns and the limited tools available, like noise makers and disguises, to avoid and even take out the various enemies.

Thematically, Hitman GO is interesting. The whole situation is inherently silly: it’s the stealth and assassination gameplay of the Hitman series, but on a board game and in a world that feels intentionally artificial and plasticky. Everything is meant to feel like a figure on a board, with enemies removed by them getting swept off of to the side. But the internal logic of the game itself plays everything straight and serious, such as when “Ave Maria” plays on levels with important assassination targets. The way it’s presented makes it so that the silliness is on the player’s perception, not what the game says. It’s really quite an intelligent approach, and one that does well for the game because it doesn’t demean itself.

HitmanGO-7This intelligence spreads to the game as a whole: puzzles require the tracking and management of a variety of systems of enemy movement, realizing how each one will act, and where they will be when the player needs to get to a certain spot. This is a game that requires thought, it can’t just be mindlessly played. The need to complete other objectives in order to progress (similar to Wind-Up Knight 2) forces players to think in other ways, too – from completing a level without killing enemies to using as few moves as possible. It’s a clever game where solutions are often not obvious but can be deciphered.

It’s the entirety of Hitman GO that has left me feeling so enamored. It’s a game I see such intelligence in that I want to discover and decipher for myself, and the satisfaction that comes from pulling off the perfect stealth operation is immense. This might not be what people would expect from a Hitman game, but it’s so good as its own odd little being that it pretty much has to be played; not just because it’s a curiosity, but because it’s a darn good game, too.

Posted in: Games, iPad Apps and Games, iPad Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews

Tagged with: $4.99, board game, Games, Hitman GO, puzzle, puzzle game, square enix, strategy, Universal App

Review disclosure: note that the product reviewed on this page may have been provided to us by the developer for the purposes of this review. Note that if the developer provides the product or not, this does not impact the review or score.

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Monster High Ghouls and Jewels is a Freaky Fashion-Forward Match-3 Puzzler

Oh Monster High. You and your absolutely awful horror-themed puns. It’s enough to make the Crypt Keeper roll what’s left of his eyes. Still, it’s a popular enough series (even with the terrible puns) for Mattel and BluBox Games to have released Monster High Ghouls and Jewels: a match-3 puzzle game.

Ghouls and Jewels tosses you into the creepy high school as its newest student. You’ll have to enlist the help of series favorites like Draculaura and Frankie as you take on the game’s 100+ puzzles. You’ll also be able to customize the look of your own Ghoul by unlocking and purchasing new outfits along the way.

Monster High Ghouls and Jewels is available now for free.

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Players are required to utilize disguises, distractions, sniper rifles and even Silverballers to pass through levels. The design of the game itself is an interesting twist with beautifully rendered diorama-style set pieces locked onto a well-planned out set of levels. When you’ve had enough of Hitman on the PC and consoles, Hitman Go is ready once you’re out the house and mobile. Let us know how you get on should you download the game.

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The Seventh Sign: Hodappy Bird Released on the App Store

While simultaneously mocking and yet contributing to the App Store clone madness around Flappy Bird, Hodappy Bird has been released by Madgarden. And the whole Flappy Bird thing implodes upon itself. As Ryan Evans described it, it’s “the Citizen Kane of Flappy Bird clones.”

It’s the ultimate move of App Store ridicule, mocking them from within, Eli Hodapp of Touch Arcade fame now has his own themed version of Flappy Bird, and well, it’s a thing I guess.

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, this clone of a clone is meant to both capitalize on the Flappy Bird craze and also to poke fun at it. It’s basically Flappy Bird with all of the quaintness replaced by annoying free to play tactics. Methods like offering a continue for three coins – which can be gathered rarely by playing or watching video ads for other apps you probably don’t want to play. Nice touch putting the watch video ad button right where continue button should be. Skewering free to play and the clone madness in one game.

It’s all in fun and it is funny, sure. Is it a sad statement about the App Store? It’s that too. Is it worth your time, eh. Perhaps it’s a bit too much of an inside joke for most. Did you notice that Hearthstone is out?

The report by Bloomberg indicates that the song ID feature will be built in as part of iOS, likely as part of the iOS 8 update which is expected to be previewed in June at WWDC 2014. The integration with Siri will be such that you’ll be able to ask “what song is playing?” (or something along those lines) and the device will promptly listen for music and query Shazam’s database for a match. If a result’s found, you can bet there will be a link to download it from the iTunes Store.

Additionally, Bloomberg reports that Apple is preparing to expand iTunes Radio beyond its current US borders, something that competitor Pandora hasn’t been able to do thanks to licensing restrictions. Apple is also said to be weighing pulling iTunes Radio out as a separate app instead of its current position integrated within the Music app. iTunes Radio has come under pressure from music labels disappointed that the streaming service has failed to stem the tide of declining music sales in the face of streaming competition. Apple is said to be considering offering complete albums for sale in advance of wide release in exchange for not permitting individual track sales until that wider release hits.

There’s little doubt that iOS 8 won’t include new features and tweaks to Siri, iTunes Radio, and the rest of iOS — what do you want to see improved?

Source: Bloomberg

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