Tag Archives: apple

A Third Handheld Competitor, You Say? Madness!

<Note: If you enjoy this blog and wish to read more of my writing, please visit my new web site: www.zestfulcontemplation.com, for my most recent work and other fun stuff, including the first of my iPhone game reviews hinted at in this very article. Thank you.>

I am fully aware that in most hardcore gaming circles, announcing that you believe a phone can be a truly capable gaming device will get you roughly the same type of odd stare as if you announced that you thought the box containing the pizza was just as tasty as the round pepperoni-covered treat within.

Here I stand before you, however, ready to face your odd stares (yes, I can feel them through the Internet – I’m special that way) and announce that I think a phone can be a capable gaming device.

In fact, I’m going to do one better.

I think that the iPhone can provide a satisfying gaming experience on par with or better than the PSP or the DS.

There, I said it. Now let me explain.

The key to this madness lies in understanding that all of these various devices have their strengths and weaknesses.

The PSP is a powerful little bugger. It’s essentially a PS2 in a much smaller container that you can hold in your hands. Its software catalog is a bit lacking and it doesn’t provide you with many experiences you can’t get elsewhere, but it does have some nifty titles and a lot of power in a portable form.

The DS has a much larger selection of titles and an interface that provides for experiences that can’t be had elsewhere, giving you a reason to play even if you don’t travel often. On the downside, it’s lacking in power and most games available for it don’t do much to show off the true potential of its innovative interface.

I fully believe that the iPhone carves out its own little niche in the gaming world that makes it just as viable a competitor as either of these two other systems. It may not provide the depth of gameplay or keep you hooked for as long as its rivals, but that’s why it works – it does something different and it does it well.

Perhaps its greatest asset is simply the fact that, unlike the other portable consoles, you’ll likely have your iPhone with you wherever you go. This makes it maybe even the ultimate portable gaming platform, as it provides a fully capable gaming experience wherever you happen to be without you even having to remember to lug around a separate gadget.

It should be noted that this is less true of the iPod Touch, of course, which is just as capable of a gaming machine, but lacks some of the natural convenience of its phone counterpart.

Why the iPhone works so well as a gaming device is simply that the whole experience revolves around its portability and its constant connection to the Internet.

Most of the games might be more simple than what you’d find elsewhere, but they work fantastically for small, pick-up-and-play chunks, which is exactly what you want on a phone. They’re also much cheaper on the whole (you’ll almost never pay more than $10 for a game, and most are $5 or less) so the simplicity is far more acceptable. If you dig around, it’s more than possible to find a game for under $10 that gives more gameplay value than something you would have bought for $30 on the DS or $40 on the PSP.

Additionally, since the iPhone is connected to the Internet at all times, whether that be through a Wi-Fi connection or the cell phone data network, it facilitates the ultimate in impulse buying (especially when you combine its ever-present net connection with cheap game prices). Simply browse the App Store and download a new game – from just about anywhere – right onto your phone and immediately begin playing it. It’s incredible how addicting this becomes, especially when there’s so much good stuff to play.

Interestingly, both the PSP and DS are putting forth efforts in the area of instant purchase, downloadable impulse buys, but neither comes anywhere close to what’s already available on the iPhone. The PSP Go will bring the ability to download full games to the platform, but their larger file sizes, the higher price of the device, and the lack of much interesting to play all hold it back. The DSi now has a download service of its own, but let’s not mince words here – it sucks. Nintendo has a lot of work to do here.

I’m not arguing that the iPhone is a perfect platform. No gaming device is. Like any successful platform such as the DS, Wii, or PS2, the iPhone has its fair share of crap cluttering the App Store. The fact that there’s no easy way to find the best stuff in the store right now is a shortcoming indeed, as most of my gaming finds are discovered with the help of external sites. Also, like its innovative gaming peers the DS and Wii, many titles try to cram experiences or control types that just aren’t suited for its lack of buttons and the titles that truly take advantage of the platform are somewhat rare.

Still, the iPhone’s focus on control via only touch screen and motion sensors is far from a detriment. Even I was skeptical at first, but the lack of options forces developers to be creative and, when approached correctly, can make for some innovative and fun experiences literally not possible on any other platform. Sure, there’s plenty of titles that resort to a virtual D-Pad (not all of which are bad, mind you), but there are others which use multi-touch, creative touch screen controls, tilt controls, or some of these combined, to make titles that wouldn’t work anywhere else.

Of course, the most important part of any gaming platform is its library of games. No matter how much I try to convince you that the iPhone should be taken seriously, none of it is going to mean anything until I can prove that its great features and convenience are also backed up by things you’d actually want to play.

With that in mind, keep an eye out for many more iPhone game reviews here in the future. I already have a number of them written and ready to go, and many more I want to write after that. I am anxious to prove to non-believers that we have a true contender on (or rather, in) our hands.

It may be different, it may be easy to dismiss as too “casual” or too simple, and it certainly isn’t perfect, but I’ve had more fun and spent more time gaming on my iPhone recently than my PSP and DS combined. Hopefully more people will see the light as I do someday.


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So Apparently iPhoto’s Faces Feature Isn’t Perfect

Having just installed iPhoto 09 recently, obviously one of the first things I did was to test out its spiffy new ability to detect faces in your photos. Well, let’s just say that it’s not quite perfect. I’m not saying it doesn’t work at all, but… well, just see for yourself.

Ok, so I’ll give it credit that this Christmas present label Santa is kind of technically a face, at least, but that doesn’t mean it’s not amusing anyway. And yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I did tag another picture of said label Santa before this, so maybe this is actually an endorsement of the feature, not the other way around.

So this picture isn’t exactly one that I would normally be anxious to show off in a public setting, as it shows my apartment’s bathroom after a rather unpleasant plumbing accident. I’ll just leave the details at that. Still, the fact that iPhoto somehow found a face in this thing is more than worth putting this ugly pic on display.

And finally, apparently my family’s Chicago river cruise tour guide from a couple of summers ago resembles a plastic light-up Halloween skull that my roommate and I decided to name Yorick. Almost makes me feel sorry for the guy. I mean, you can’t deny the resemblance.


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Shiny New Xbox Pretentiousness

I’ll admit it.  I didn’t think that Microsoft was capable of creating a good user interface anymore.

Well, as long as we’re being honest, I’ve never really thought they were terrifically talented at making user experiences that lacked a certain degree of utter failure.
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When I first saw the “New Xbox Experience”, I thought it was the most unnecessary, ripped off, needlessly shiny Fisher Price toy that any console maker had come up with.  The overly pretentious moniker made me want to punch everyone who actually called it by that stupid name square in the nose.  I couldn’t wait for it to come out so I could bash Microsoft about their terrible user interface that they forced down my unwilling throat while stealing away my precious blades with a smug grin on their face.

You know, I guess that sometimes it’s good to be completely and utterly wrong.

The actual end product that I find myself using now is terrific.  Not only is it less cluttered, better organized, and more visually appealing (without being distractingly so), it also is worlds snappier than the sluggish blades it replaces.  As much as I like shiny things, and the NXE is definitely a wonderfully shiny thing, its luster is not my favorite feature.  The increased performance is my favorite part of the whole thing by a long shot.

I mean, seriously, I actually had fun playing with the menu when I got to download it a couple of days early due to my beta application a while ago.

I had fun.  With a menu.  Fun.  Menu.

Does not compute.

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I guess it’s not totally fair to say that I’ve never enjoyed toying with a menu experience before, because I certainly did just that when I was salivating over my beloved iMac (my first Apple computer) when it arrived almost a year ago.  But menus that are designed so well that they can foster such a positive response from users as to be sources of enjoyment in and of themselves are incredibly rare.

And as long as we’re discussing a connection with Apple….

Okay, sure, the NXE steals more than a few ideas from Apple, Sony, and Nintendo alike.  It’s not 100% original and innovative, it’s true.

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But seriously, what the hell is?  Just about every work of human creativity borrows something from another work of human creativity.  That’s the great thing about creative freedom: you get to take what you’ve absorbed from other places and put your own unique spin on it to make something truly yours.

It’s damn near impossible to make something totally original these days, and so while some of the general elements are certainly borrowed, since they allowed Microsoft to build an interface that ultimately tops any of the sources it borrowed from I think it’s hardly fair to hold it against them.

The bottom line is that the NXE is a truly pleasant user experience, and while it’s certainly not perfect (a clear indication that the marketing department has the rest of the team by the balls is when the starting channel is not the one that lets the user play games, but rather the channel that exists solely for the purpose of shoving ads down the user’s throat), it tops its predecessor in just about every way even when the old and busted blades weren’t terrible enough to make a redesign a necessity. Microsoft stepped up to the plate and fixed what many, including myself, didn’t realize was broken even though they didn’t need to.

Good on ‘em, I say.

But I still harbor malicious thoughts against those who actually call it the “New Xbox Experience”.

What a stupid name.

[Post-article note: After searching for images to accompany this article, I have come to the conclusion that there are exactly three images of NXE on the entire Internet and all of them are old.]

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