‘Angry Birds Transformers’ Review – Unfortunately, Just As Meets The Eye

Say whatever else you will about Angry Birds [$0.99] creators Rovio, they know how to make fun, accessible games that have a lot of personality. There’s no question that they’ve done just that, once again, in Angry Birds Transformers [Free]. It’s not terribly deep, but it’s enjoyable to play and its sense of humor is in exactly the right place, paying respect to the Transformers license while still gently poking fun at it. I walked away from Optimus and company a while back because sometimes it’s not a good idea to revisit your childhood favorites, but playing this game brought back a lot of good memories for me. So, congratulations to Rovio, it’s a nice game that uses its admittedly strangely-matched license well, and does so without retreading the default Angry Birds template, as tempting as that likely was.

Unfortunately, Rovio is also rapidly developing another consistent trait, and it’s not something I’m all that thrilled about. Paid Angry Birds games aren’t doing it like they used to, and attempts to launch new paid apps outside of the franchise haven’t gone over too well, either. The big money is in the free-to-play side of the store, and Rovio has picked up sticks and moved over there in earnest, leading with the strongest punches they’ve got, Angry Birds spin-offs. It’s all well and good to get fun games for free, but sooner or later, something has to pay the bills, and that’s where things have gone wrong with games like Angry Birds Go! [Free]. It’s probably little surprise, then, that Angry Birds Transformers also suffers from its need to make some money. Rovio still hasn’t quite gotten the hang of how to balance its monetization techniques, leaving us with a game that might pull you in, but all too soon puts up a paywall high enough to be incredibly discouraging.

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It all starts off fine, at least. You get an amazing opening animation that tells the story, setting a pace the presentation does a nice job of living up to all throughout. It’s a really nice-looking game, and the birds and pigs mesh with the Transformers designs better than you might expect. The music and sound effects go right for the G1 feel and hit home perfectly. The basic gameplay is actually a pretty clever twist on the classic knock-em-down Angry Birds set-up. You’ve still got pigs in structures made of various materials, but rather than fire shots from a static slingshot, you’re constantly moving forward, blasting away at the background pigs from the foreground. Some of the pigs will shoot back at you, and sometimes structures will fall into your path, taking away some of your life meter. Each of the characters has a different kind of shot, and they all fit fairly well with how each character performed in other games. The stages all run different lengths, but none of them are longer than a few minutes. After clearing them, you’re rewarded with coins and pigs, which can be used to upgrade your characters and unlock new ones.

Your character will shoot wherever you touch, and the press of a button can transform them to help them move faster, which is helpful in the case of falling objects. Eventually you’ll unlock other powers for each character, also activated by the press of a virtual button, but you’ll have to charge those up with energon first by shooting background objects. It’s simple, straightforward, and fun. It doesn’t last, sadly. Soon you’ll notice some timers on the stage map, indicating when you can challenge that stage again. Perhaps it’s when you go to upgrade past the first level on a character and notice it puts them out of commission for increasingly long periods of time. Or maybe it will hit you when you look at the skyrocketing prices of opening up new sets of stages or unlocking new characters. Whatever it is, eventually, you’re going to realize that there are a lot of obstructions keeping you from enjoying this simple little run ‘n gun.

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Naturally, there’s a premium currency you can use to massage some of these issues away, and the game does offer a lot of ways to earn it initially, using a Gameloft-style achievement system that yields the precious material. It spends pretty quickly, but there’s not much purpose for it beyond hurrying along timers, so I guess you can use it at your leisure. You’ll also sometimes find it around the map after clearing stages. Oddly, the gems and timers are the least of your worries. It’s the huge amounts of coins you’ll need to open up new stages that will probably be the end of you. Opening up new stages requires you to have a certain accumulated level between all of your characters, which will cost you either coins and time, or just gems. Then, once you’ve reached the required level, you still have to spend coins to actually explore the area and open up the levels. Cleared levels will generate coins over time that you can harvest, but even with that, the amount of coins you need versus how many you’re earning is completely out of proportion. Yet, even if you wanted to go the whale route, you can’t, because there’s no way to buy coins, and if there’s a way to change gems to coins, I couldn’t find it.

I wish I could have spent the bulk of this review gushing over the great little bits of fanservice, or the enjoyable progression of building up your team over time, or even the way the game finds a way to retain the essence of the gameplay from the main games while giving it a spin that makes it feel like something new for the series. I would have loved to have written paragraphs about the awesome visual touches like how when you’re low on life, the play area is covered with a filter to simulate VHS tracking problems. Instead, I’ve spent most of yet another review writing about how an otherwise thoughtfully-designed game has botched its attempt to create a sensible free-to-play model and turned into something you’ll enjoy for a day or two and then toss in the virtual trashcan. Maybe Rovio will end up tweaking this thing back to a sensible form at some point, because it’s really just a problem of numbers right now, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

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If you love Transformers or Angry Birds, or best of all both, you’ll probably get an hour or two of fun out of Angry Birds Transformers. Beyond that, you’re going to have to have a lot of patience for timers and grinding coins. For some people, that’s not a problem, I suppose, but I’ve got a pretty high threshold for grinding and even I was turned off here. It’s a free game, so there’s likely little harm in giving it a try just to soak up some of what it does well, but just be prepared going in that the good times will last about as long as Starscream’s reign of the Decepticons did.

Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 17:00 in Applications | Comments (0)

Yosemite’s Continuity features: Handoff and the price of progress

Since Apple released OS X Yosemite, I’ve gotten one question that’s bubbled to the top above everything else: How can I get my older Mac to support Handoff features? You can’t, at least not easily, and that’s leading some to trumpet “forced obsolescence.” Not so fast. Let’s have a look at what’s really going on here.

Handoff features — stuff like being able to start a document on your iPad and continue on your Mac, make a phone call from your Mac, and so on — require a Mac of relatively recent vintage: 2012 or newer, according to Apple.

You can find the complete list on Apple’s web site. Reading the “Feature Requirements” section may make your head boggle a bit.

Innovation versus convenience versus user experience

Handoff technology in iOS 8 and Yosemite is an incredible innovation. It makes iOS devices and OS X devices work in concert together in ways that they can’t do individually.

Handoff is also a delicate dance that requires a persistent connection between both systems. To keep that persistence from draining your battery-powered devices like the iPhone and MacBook Air, Apple made Bluetooth 4.0 (“Bluetooth Low Energy”) a core requirement.

You can buy a Bluetooth 4.0 USB interface for just $10 or $15 on Amazon.com, but adding Bluetooth 4.0 to your Mac isn’t enough: That doesn’t get Handoff features working.

Some creative Mac users working on very specific Mac configurations have been able to trick Yosemite into thinking that their Mac is equipped with hardware that it isn’t, but this involves working in the terminal and modifying system library files that most of us shouldn’t go near. If you really want to learn how to do that, have fun with Google, but that’s a Gordian knot we don’t don’t want to go anywhere near on iMore.

The bottom line is that Handoff support is baked into the operating system. I believe the OS is looking at things like machine ID and chipset to figure out if Handoff should work. My guess is that Apple’s done this because it can only guarantee that Handoff features will work as advertised on those systems — that other machines with third-party hardware, hacks or workarounds just don’t guarantee the same quality of experience that Apple wants to support.

Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of Mac users on the sidelines, at least until they upgrade their machines. A lot of Mac users who have upgraded or plan to upgrade to Yosemite. Most seven-year-old Macs can run Yosemite, provided they’re running at least Snow Leopard, have 2 GB of RAM available and 8 GB of hard disk space.

And all those Macs get the benefits of the new flat interface, new applications, and many other under-the-hood improvements that make Yosemite a great operating system. They don’t, however, get some of the other benefits that Yosemite imparts to people with newer Macs.

“Forced obsolescence,” cried some. “Apple’s punishing us for not buying new Macs!”

We hear the “forced obsolescence” clamor almost every time Apple releases a new device or a new operating system. We heard it about iPhones just a short time ago. But there’s a delicate balancing act going on here between innovation, convenience, and providing the user experience that Apple customers expect and demand.

This isn’t forced obsolescence

This isn’t the first time a new Mac operating system has exposed features that are only available on specific Mac models. Remember AirPlay Mirroring?

The ability to show your Mac’s screen on your Apple TV first appeared with the release of OS X Mountain Lion in 2011. Mountain Lion, just like Yosemite, ran on a lot of Mac models. But only those made from mid-2011 on could use the AirPlay Mirroring feature.

Just like now, some Mac users complained about forced obsolescence.

But AirPlay Mirroring required a feature baked into the graphics hardware on newer Macs — specifically, encoding video using the H.264 video compression format, right on the graphics subsystem. That didn’t require the CPU to do the heavy lifting of getting video compact enough to stream over Wi-Fi. If you’ve ever tried to do video encoding on your Mac, you know that it isn’t a penalty-free process: It’ll eat CPU cycles voraciously.

There may have been a hypothetical way for some older systems to offload that work to the CPU, but that would have compromised the basic user experience in a way that Apple just isn’t going to allow. Better to chop the feature off only for that Mac hardware which will allow it to be done well rather than expose it on devices that can do it crappily.

Apple isn’t in the business of providing a crappy user experience for its products.

Better communication would have been nice

If Apple has made a mistake here, it’s in under-communicating.

Apple’s been hyping Yosemite features like Handoff since announcing the new OS in June. But until this past week, the company didn’t clearly articulate which Macs will and won’t support them. Handoff isn’t the only thing that older Macs are left out on, either: for persistent discovery and security reasons, AirDrop between Mac and iOS only works on newer Macs, too.

Setting expectations earlier may not have stopped everyone from complaining, but it would have at least given many of us the opportunity to calibrate our expectations accordingly.

As it stands now, though, many early Yosemite adopters are upgrading their Macs and then are surprised they don’t get all the new features. The message on which Macs work with Continuity features and which don’t is getting lost in all the noise.

What do you think? Is Apple forcing you to upgrade your Mac to get new features? Are you willing to live without Handoff for now, until your next upgrade? Do you think Apple should do more to support older Macs? Sound off in the comments.



Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 16:20 in News | Comments (0)

How to Setup Attentive Display on the Moto X (2014)

It’s hard to take your eyes off that Moto X, we know. The screen is just so big and beautiful! At 5.2-inches, the screen is a good bit larger than […]

Read More: How to Setup Attentive Display on the Moto X (2014)

Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 15:40 in Jailbreak | Comments (0)

Tim Cook praises new products, highlights Apple’s growth in letter to employees

Following the company’s quarterly earnings report, Apple CEO Tim Cook has published a new letter to employees, which covers latest products announced and touches upon the overall performance of the company. The CEO notes the recent iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launch as the “most successful” in the history of the iPhone.

Cook also talked about Apple Pay, iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, the latest release of the Mac operating system. Cook commended the software development teams behind the consistent user experience now available on both platforms, whether you’re rocking a MacBook Pro or the new iPad Mini 3.

To close, Tim Cook states he will be heading to Beijing for discussions to take place with employees, which will be recorded and published on the Apple internal website.

Check out the letter in full below.

Team,

Today we reported Apple’s highest September quarter revenue ever and our strongest revenue growth rate in seven quarters. These very strong results were made possible by your hard work and dedication.

Customers around the world are loving the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, quickly making this the fastest and most successful iPhone launch in history. The Mac set a new all-time record while the rest of the PC market declined. And the App Store was once again an important driver of our overall revenue growth.

Today we’re launching Apple Pay in the U.S., giving our customers a simple, secure and private way to pay. Later this week we’ll be shipping the new iPad Air 2, the world’s thinnest tablet and the most powerful iPad we’ve ever made. The new 27″ iMac with Retina 5K display, which we just introduced last week, is already being hailed as the best visual experience ever on a computer. This is an amazing lineup for the holidays.

The user experience across all our products keeps getting better, thanks to the deep collaboration among our teams. iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite have raised the bar for mobile and desktop operating systems, and they work together in elegant, intuitive ways that only Apple can deliver.

Later this week, I’ll be talking with a group of Apple employees in Beijing. We’re going to record the meeting so you can watch it on AppleWeb, and we’ll include questions from other sites. Please visit AppleWeb to submit a question and I’ll answer as many as I can.

Congratulations on the strong results we’ve achieved together. We can all be proud of the quarter we just reported, and the work that keeps Apple the most innovative company in the world.

Tim

Source: 9to5Mac



Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 13:20 in News | Comments (0)

Apple Looking to Produce More iPhone 6 Plus Units Due to Strong Demand in China

Apple may consider shifting even more of its iPhone production balance towards the iPhone 6 Plus due to higher than expected demand for the larger phone in China, reports Digitimes. The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus launched in China last Friday following a successful week of pre-orders, as the report notes that consumers have shown a strong preference for the larger device.

As a result, Apple may be forced to shift more production capacity to the 5.5-inch model, said the sources, adding that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus supply ratio is likely to change to 55:45 from 70:30 or 65:35 set originally.

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Earlier this month, it was also reported that Apple was looking to shift iPhone production balance towards the iPhone 6, while another report claimed that the iPhone 6 Plus may event account for up to 60 percent of total future iPhone 6 device shipments.

During yesterday’s Q4 2014 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus was “far outstripping” supply despite a satisfactory production ramp-up. Supplies for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have remained tight since the launch of both devices last month, as new iPhone 6 orders still show a shipping estimate of 7-10 business days while the iPhone 6 Plus is still showing a shipping delay of 3-4 weeks.

Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 13:20 in News | Comments (0)

iOS 8.1: ‘Text Message Forwarding’ Activation Requires iMessage Email Address

Earlier today, Apple released iOS 8.1 which introduced number of new features to iOS and Yosemite. One of the anticipated features was SMS Text Message Forwarding, which allows SMS messages received by your iPhone to be mirrored on your iPad or Mac running OS X Yosemite.

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Several of our forum members had difficulty activating the feature, as the required activation code would never appear on their Macs or iPads.

MacRumors reader Michael wrote in with this solution which requires an email address to be activated in iMessage:

…you need to have your email address turned on for iMessage on your iPhone in order to enable Text Message Forwarding. If you don’t, the numeric access code will not appear on your iPad or Mac during the setup process. As soon as you enable your email address for iMessage (you only need to do this on your iPhone) the numeric access codes appear as expected. Once you have text message forwarding setup you can disable your email address again in iMessage as it seems to only be necessary for the numeric access code setup step, not the actual text message forwarding itself.

MacRumors was able to verify this scenario and found that an email address does indeed have to be active on your iPhone for the activation message to properly be sent. In our testing, SMS messages were still received after the email address was removed from iMessage. The setting to add your email address to iMessage is under Settings -> Messages -> Send & Receive. Note, you may have to wait a few moments after adding an email address before the activation code will send.

Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 08:00 in News | Comments (0)

Meet Windows Central, Mobile Nations new home for everything Microsoft!

Mobile Nations is not only the home of iMore, which covers everything Apple, but Android Central where you can get your Google on, and CrackBerry for BlackBerry, but we have a site dedicated to Microsoft as well. That site was once-upon-a-time called WMExperts, and for the last while has been WPCentral, but today they’ve got an all new name to fit with their expanded focus: Windows Central. Yes, they’re still covering Windows on phones, but they’re also covering Windows on tablets, hybrids, laptops, and desktops, on the Surface and Xbox, and on the cloud.

It should be clear now that coming into 2015 there is just one Windows, running on the Surface, Xbox One, PCs, laptops and even your phone. At the urging of many of our loyal and active readers, over the last year we have steadily ramped up coverage — beyond our historical Windows Phone focus — to also cover Xbox, Surface, and general Microsoft news. The response to the expanded coverage has been excellent and this past year has also seen the site and our community grow by leaps and bounds. Amazingly, WPCentral is now not only the top Windows Phone site in the world, but we are also one of the top Microsoft sites too. The fact of the matter is if you own a Windows Phone, you are likely to possess (or be interested in) the growing ecosystem of Microsoft products.

Daniel Rubino and company have been killing it for a long time now, and they show no signs of slowing down. So if you love Microsoft and Windows, Windows Central is where you want to be!



Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 07:20 in News | Comments (0)

Apple Pay scores a home run with 2014 World Series support

Apple may have just scored a home run with Apple Pay as Major League Baseball will support the contact-less NFC payment system at a few stadiums in time for the 2014 World Series. San Francisco’s AT&T Park and Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium will be two of the earliest MLB stadiums to support Apple Pay, which launched on Monday alongside iOS 8.1.

Forbes reported that users will be able to buy concessions with their iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Pay:

Just in time for the World Series on Tuesday, MLB Advanced Media, the digital media company of Major League Baseball announced on Monday that MasterCard is bringing contactless acceptance to ballpark food and beverage concessions, enabling fans to make payments using a variety of NFC-enabled devices and services, including the newly introduced Apple Pay.

In addition to contactless acceptance at the two World Series ballparks, MLBAM and Tickets.com this year will deliver in-app support for Apple Pay when single-game tickets for the 2015 Major League Baseball season are scheduled to go on-sale in November. At that time, fans will be able to utilize Apple Pay when purchasing tickets in MLB.com At the Ballpark, the app developed by MLBAM that allows you to conduct concession purchases and seating upgrades while within a ballpark. At the Ballpark also leverage’s Apple’s iBeacon technology.

What do you think about the initiative? Do you think Apple Pay could help shorten the wait time in lines to buy a cold beer?

Source: Forbes



Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 07:20 in News | Comments (0)

iFixit tears down new Mac Mini, confirms soldered ram

Not satiated by iFixit’s teardown of the Retina iMac last week? Well then feast your eyes on their latest teardown adventure: the new Mac Mini.

Though this is the first refresh of the device in two years, one could easily mistake this 2014 model as a carryover, as the design hasn’t been changed at all; the 2014 Mac Mini features the same dimensions and nearly the same weight as previous versions.

One of the bigger changes with this new Mini, and something the internet has been abuzz over for the last few days, is that the RAM is now soldered to the logic board. Why Apple chose to do this is unclear, as it only inhibits end-user upgradability.

Finally, iFixit scored this new Mac Mini as a 6/10 on their repairability scale. It gained kudos for its lack of glue, and relatively straight-forward dissassembly process. However, it lost points for the use of T6 Torx screws, CPU soldering, and the aforementioned RAM soldering.

Head on over to iFixit for the full breakdown. And in the meantime, tell us what you think of the new Mac Mini. Are you considering an upgrade?

Source: iFixit



Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 07:20 in News | Comments (0)

Royals and Giants Stadiums to Accept Apple Pay for Concessions During World Series

attheballpark.pngKauffman Stadium in Kansas City and AT&T Park in San Francisco will accept the new Apple Pay mobile payments program beginning tomorrow with Game One of the World Series in Kansas City.

Fans who attend games at the two participating stadiums will be able to use Apple Pay to purchase food and beverages at concession stands, thanks to a partnership between MLB Advanced Media and MasterCard.

We thank MasterCard for its great involvement in bringing another simple and secure mobile technology to baseball fans,” said Noah Garden, EVP, Revenue, MLBAM. “Introducing this service underscores the importance of our on-going commitment to mobile innovations at Major League Baseball ballparks. Being able to build reliable, convenient and authentic technologies on their personal devices is no longer a nice-to-have option for fans. It’s central to their experiences.”

Enabled today through the iOS 8.1 update, Apple Pay is Apple’s new mobile payments service that is accepted at any retail location that supports NFC-based contactless payments. Apple Pay can also be used within select apps that support the Apple Pay API, allowing physical purchases to be made with a single tap.

Major League Baseball is an Apple Pay app partner, which means Apple Pay is being built into the At the Ballpark app. When single-game tickets for the 2015 Major League Baseball season go on sale in November, Apple Pay users will be able to purchase tickets with a single tap using the payments service.

Major League Baseball was also one of Apple’s first iBeacon partners, rolling out thousands of iBeacons at a range of different stadiums ahead of Opening Day in 2014.

The MLB At the Ballpark app can be downloaded for free from the App Store. [Direct Link]

Posted Tuesday October 21 2014 05:20 in News | Comments (0)

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