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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tap Master: Simple, Colourful and Fun Free Tapping Game for Android

Tap Master intro screen.
Image provided by developer and used with permission.

Tap Master is that rare tapping game, one I can play. It has to be said that I’m worse than useless at all these side-scroller or up-scroller games where players have to guide their character through a maze of obstacles. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a smartphone at the time Flappy Bird came out, or maybe it’s just because I’m hopeless at tapping games, who knows?

Tap Master game screen.
Image provided by developer.
Used with permission.

But Tap Master is different. A 5 x 5 square of coloured dots, and all players have to do is tap all the dots of the same colour as indicated. No moving screens, although the dots change colour when they are tapped, assuming they’re the colour the player is supposed to be tapping. The further on in the game, the more dots are the same colour, it seems to me. That does at least make tapping them easier, as there is more margin for error on the part of fat-fingered players. Each round is against the clock though, so there’s no time to hang around.

Scoring screen from Tap Master.
Imge supplied by developer.
Used with permission.

For those in the know about gaming, it will not be surprising to learn that the developer of this little gem is based in Kazakhstan. The mighty Tetris was developed by Alexey Pajitnov from the then USSR over 30 years ago, and its influence still resonates in the former Soviet areas today. Tapping games are also ideal for mobile phones, as the tap or swipe reflex is intrinsic in the use of these touchscreen devices.

Certainly Tap Master adheres to the standard rule that a game should be easy to learn and difficult to put down. The highest score at time of writing is 264, although it is not clear whether this is on the current version of the game or not. The latest release from late December 2015 has a start timer of 10 seconds per game, so this will naturally limit the score per game that players can achieve, at least for starters. If the high score is taken from the cumulative number of game or taps, this would be a much easier figure to reach than the number of points possible in a single game.

Tap Master is an ideal coordination game for all ages, and I can imagine it being used in preschool to teach young children about reflexes and colour recognition, or in a recovery and rehabilitation program for people with dexterity issues or brain injury. In-app purchases are available, so long as players reach that stage. Most of the reviews so far are 5* positive, perhaps not unusual for a game that is so easy to play. This game should not be confused with the similarly named Tap Master Modrian or Tap Tap Master. If it doesn’t have dots, it’s not the game I’m writing about here.

The developers reckon Tap Master is a good brain training game, as well as improving hand-eye coordination. No matter a player’s level, once signed in with Google, there is a leaderboard and social media sharing buttons. Due to the speed of levels, it’s great for playing on the move, when waiting for a bus, or in a few spare minutes before a meeting. It’s certainly a good game to play when smartphone users are bored, needing a quick break from something more important, or looking for a game they can leave or finish quickly.
Tap Master logo. Image supplied by developer and used with permission.

Tap Master: the addictive game players didn’t know they needed until they tried it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Android App Review: Random Quotes App and Widget

Random Quotes logo. Supplied and used with permission.

The Random Quotes app, available for free on Android through Google Play, features inspirational, knowledge-enhancing and humorous quotes on various topics.

Instead of needing to follow a Facebook or Twitter feed, Android phone owners can have the app (also available as a widget) on their phone and set it up just as they want it. Users can select quotes by author, topic or keyword and have the opportunity to change font and background with a few clicks. A word of advice though; the demonstration video suggests the settings tab is at the top right within the app, whereas on the version I downloaded, Settings was accessed via a tap on the shortcut button on the phone, bottom left.

Random Quotes has been available for at least 18 months and is now on version 5.6, which was released at the end of November with fixes for minor bugs and improvements, according to the developers. On the Google Play page, there is a video demonstrating how easy it is to use and showing how to access the various areas to search and change settings. Android phones with version 4.2 and above can use the app as a daydream setting when charging. A new quote will be displayed every hour. Users simply need to enable the app as a source for the daydream stream in the appropriate settings on the phone.

Reviewers mainly seem pleased with this latest version. Any lower starred reviews are for earlier releases and as the developers have made changes, so the bugs have been ironed out slowly. The daydream setting, accessible while charging the phone, is popular, as is starting the day with a quote. It is easy to share favorite quotes via social media, with links to all the major platforms. The author attributions are also hyperlinked so interested readers can research more about the origins of the quote as needed. Quotes come from a wide variety of sources, including Shakespeare’s plays, the works of Dickens, ancient and modern authors, scientists, philosophers and celebrities.

This piece is just one of several reviews of this app available on the web. Downloaded between 5,000 and 10,000 times across its history, the app has generally received positive reviews for the amount of work which has gone into it. Random Quotes has an extensive database of quotes with simple customization to make it feel a little more personal. The app runs smoothly with an uncluttered layout and is easy to work once users have found out where all the menus are.

For anyone who needs a ‘Quote of the Day’, an inspiration to meditate over, something to inspire an article, or just an interesting few minutes, Random Quotes is recommended as an easy way to find that quote.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Nvidia Shield gaming tablet - a tablet built for games

Nvidia Shield gaming tablet, cc by 2.0 by Maurizio Pesce at flickr

The Nvidia Shield Android gaming tablet from Google is a specialist bit of kit. The most recent version is the mark 2 (the original version now being called the Shield Portable), which is an 8 inch tablet with resolution similar to the famed Nexus 7. The mark 2 is lighter than the original version of the Shield but still relatively heavy for a tablet. Users like me who have a tendency to put things down just about anywhere will be happy to hear the back of the Nividia Shield has an anti-slip surface to keep it safe. In common with many tablets the Shield also has front and rear facing cameras and a selection of USB, HDMI and MicroSD card ports. Just don’t try using it to take photos in front of me at gigs, or I might become rather annoyed rather quickly at my view being blocked by someone else’s tablet.

The Shield runs a standard Android operating system; its power comes from the Tegra K1 processor inside. Despite that power, the battery should last around five hours for gaming or ten hours for surfing/watching, according to official figures. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me, especially as my 18 month old Android phone has much less power but lasts around the same length of time.

Prices on have yet to be finalised, as that area of the site is still under construction. But previous articles elsewhere online have offered a price between £240 and £340, which, given the power of the tablet, is not out of the way. The device is available as a 16GB WiFi or 32GB 4G LTE version, both of which support WiFi streaming from a PC on the same network. (The wireless controller is an additional outlay.) Users can also stream games remotely, which requires knowledge of router protocols and available bandwidth speeds. Depending on a user’s available bandwidth and speed, the tablet may drop out at times, just as all connections will do when the signal is lost. Sometimes the presence of online gaming partners appears to hold a lower speed connection in place, according to some users. This may be because the remote connection circumvents the connectivity issues somehow.

Users are recommended to upgrade to a top spec router (5GHz dual band preferred) for optimum performance in both WiFi and 4G LTE modes of the Nvidia Shield. There are over 100 games capable of running on the Nvidia Shield tablet, plus emulations, but as always, some are better rendered than others. And all of this depends on the strength and capability of the internet service. My personal guess is that seasoned players of remote multi-player games and/or MMORPGs will already have all of those tweaks and more besides.

It may seem as if the company is making players pay out for having the full package on the Shield, but gamers can be funny about having things bundled together, and would rather buy what they want for their individual preferences rather than having every conceivable add-on thrown in for free. (I never use the stylus that came with my phone, for instance, whereas my father will only use a stylus.)

Horses for courses, as always with gadgets, but if gaming is important to you then the Nvidia Shield is a distinct contender for the latest tablet gaming experience.