Archives For Gaming

After three months on the market, the iPad has started to build up a decent range of games designed specifically for the tablet’s ten-inch screen. While I still think most of the apps have only scratched the surface of what the iPad can do, some of the top-played games in our household hint at the gadget’s potential as a primo gaming platform. Here are a few currently in rotation.

Laura Jones and the Gates of Good and Evil

I discovered downloadable Hidden Object games for the PC not that long ago, and while the genre isn’t terribly sophisticated, I do find it addicting. The best examples combine hidden object screens with mini puzzles of all varieties and at least a semi-coherent narrative. These types of games are perfectly suited for the iPad. The touch screen is convenient for navigation, and the ability to zoom in and out at will is ideal for object searches. My four-year-old daughter and I have started in on Laura Jones and the Gates of Good and Evil ($4.99) for the iPad, and if you skip quickly through the dialog, it’s quite a lot of mindless fun.  So far, Laura Jones is one of the few HD-branded (i.e. created for the iPad) Hidden Object games I’ve found, but I expect the App Store will be flooded with more before too long.


I love Scrabble ($9.99) for the word play. I hate Scrabble for the endless hours of waiting between player turns. Endless hours, that is, if you’re playing another human. Playing a computer speeds up the process considerably. And although the iPad isn’t the first platform for computerized Scrabble, it is the most convenient. I don’t want my netbook in bed with me, but I will curl up with the iPad for some nighttime Scrabble play. The screen is always oriented in my direction, moving tiles around the board is effortless, and there are even one-touch options for shuffling my letters and recalling the tiles to my virtual rack.

Flight Control

This is one for the aspiring air traffic controllers out there. Flight Control ($4.99) looks easy at first – control the routes of different aircraft (planes, jets, helicopters) by swiping your finger to create a flight path to the correct runway or landing pad. But as the aircraft stack up, it gets harder and harder to avoid a crash, particularly with different aircraft moving at different speeds. The graphics for this iPad game are fairly simple, but the touchscreen is crucial for quick maneuvers. To keep the game interesting, you can try out different fields of play. There’s even one level in 3D! But without the proper red/blue glasses (okay, so it’s low-tech 3D), I haven’t yet tested the three-dimensional game play.


My cell phone photos live in limbo. I like to take them, and occasionally show them off, but I rarely manage to transfer them anywhere for permanent keeping. So when I saw a tweet recommendation from Brad Linder for a refurb Polaroid PoGo Instant Mobile Printer on sale for $25, I gave in to impulse and ordered one on the spot. (Thanks, Brad)

The PoGo printer performs as advertised. It’s got an AC power adapter for charging, and connects to your mobile phone via Bluetooth or USB. After years of owning phones with the Bluetooth disabled, I still tend to forget about the short-range wireless option. But my Droid Eris paired with the PoGo over Bluetooth immediately, and after less than a minute of processing, I saw my first cell phone photo on a 2″x3″ printout.

The Pogo prints are decent quality, and the no-edge format distinctly reminds me of a Moo card. That said, the colors did seem to fade a bit after the first printing, and you certainly wouldn’t use a PoGo printer to win any photography prizes. For casual or craft use, though, the PoGo is great. Want to include a photo with a thank-you card? Or make a family-tree pictorial for a school project? The PoGo printer is a handy solution.

As with any photo printer, the big catch in the deal is the cost of the photo paper. Luckily, the no-ink Zink paper that goes with the PoGo Printer isn’t overly expensive. The cost for a 30-pack of 2″x3″ paper seems to range from just under $9 to $12. The Pogo Printer itself ships at regular price for $39 from Amazon.

We knew the E3 annual gaming conference would bring the announcement of Microsoft’s Project Natal, rebranded as Kinect, but few of us were expecting a refreshed Xbox 360 console. After years of unfulfilled Xbox 306 “Slim” rumors, perhaps we just gave up on the idea. But, MS has delivered.

The new Xbox 360 form factor is available first in the “Elite” spot ($300, 250GB, 802.11n), with a refreshed lower-end “Arcade” config to follow – once existing inventory has been depleted. The most obvious change is a sleeker and more compact enclosure, but Microsoft is also touting the fact that the new unit has been engineered be “whisper quiet.” Hopefully, they’ve also engineered away the red ring of death (RROD).

As attractive as the new case is, I’m disappointed that Microsoft wasn’t able to do away with a massive (and lit) power brick. Also, I’m a bit surprised to see they didn’t go down the Blu-ray path… to take on Sony. Had they, I’d probably have upgraded my primary gaming station. But, as it stands, I’ll wait on the lower end unit to bring Netflix, ESPN 3, and Windows Media Center extender capabilities into the bedroom.

Click to enlarge:

Marcus Penn took his brand spanking new Netflix Instant Streaming disc for a spin on the Wii.

As a Blu-ray owner, he doesn’t appear entirely satisfied with the video quality. However, even though the Wii is only capable of standard def resolutions, using component cables (480p) should provide a nicer experience than running over composite (480i). Unlike the PS3 and Xbox 360, I don’t believe there’s a television-esque remote available for the Wii. Yet Netflix (or was it Nintendo?) nicely integrates the Wii’s motion controller into the experience… Watch Marcus slide his queue around. (Of course, the directional pad can also be used for more traditional control. Which may be more efficient. For adults.) Unlike TiVo and Roku, but like the 360, the Netflix Wii experience enables genre-based browsing of content beyond your queue.

All in all, this seems like a decent upgrade for dual Wii/Netflix customers the low, low price of zero dollars.

If my inbox is any indication, it looks like a large number of folks will be receiving Netflix instant streaming discs for their Wiis in the next day or three. Running SD-only content off of disc isn’t quite as exciting as the Netflix Xbox Live app or even Roku. But it’s a nice freebie for Wii-owning Netflix subscribers (and their kids). Given I no longer own a Wii (due to the aforementioned SD problem and not enough compelling content), I won’t be able to provide a hands on in the near future. However, if there’s a shortage of streaming discs, I might be able to help someone out…