Fast, Fun, Strategic Gameplay – Boom Beach

With little fanfare and even less warning, SuperCell has released hack for Boom Beach for iOS and Android — and while it’s almost a complete change from its predecessor Clash of Clans, Boom Beach is a great addition to the quality lineup of realtime strategy games on the company’s black box. No longer 2D or turn-based, this game on the mobile isn’t as deep as might be expected, but it’s fast, easy to learn and the battles are incredibly fun. For gamers who’ve been hesitant to tackle strategy gaming or old pros who want some lighter fare, this is a great title to spend some time with.

SuperCell’s Boom Beach has spanned almost a year now since its launch, with three major updates, six minor ones and a whole line of characters beings added. The combination of slow-paced, turn-based strategy gameplay and RPG-style development, along with financial juggling and Headquarter upgrading, hit every control freak’s hot buttons at once.

The game dynamic is an original one, since you could conceivably learn the troops and buildings right to the end of the game is less than an hour. You’d get your ass handed to you, but you could do it. The rest of the map pieces are attached to a half dozen or so artifacts spread around the archipelago. You can access your map at any time, and when you think you know what base you are going attack, then you implement your best strategy during attacks and hope that you will be successful.

You don’t want to just go attacking everywhere, however, since training your troops may take some time depending on what you are training. As you run around the archipelago gathering troops, getting in battles and finding resources, the days slowly tick away. There’s plenty of time for exploration and side adventures to beef up your strength before you have to go toe-to-toe with Dr. Terror, but the harder difficulty levels cut down the day count severely as well as upping one’s level.

Battle is the only thing that is still turn-based, but even it has been given a huge 3D facelift. The characters line up across from each other in whatever order you decide, and the classic balance of archery, magic and brute force that has always marked Boom Beach comes into play. This is great stuff.

There are some downsides to the game, however. For one, there’s no Headquarter management at all. Capturing a base just adds to your resources — which is used to not only buy troops but to build structures. Last but not least, the manual’s pretty poor and leaves a great deal to the player to figure out. None of these details take away from the overall experience, however, which is one of fast, fun, strategic gameplay.

 

Something for those Music Lovers

We could go on for hours about the evils of proprietary software for encoding and management of MP3s. We could complain incessantly about non-standard media and its various inadequacies, but since both of these (nightmarish at times) issues are wholly prevalent in the world of MP3 players, we’ll skip them for the moment. The Duo Aria is a good idea, flawed by a poor user interface on the unit and in the software, and hamstrung by its niche — cars with cassette decks owned by fans of digital media.

Let’s get all the bad news out of the way — and frankly, it’s a couple of paragraphs of bad news. First up is the cassette-shaped unit itself, designed to slot into any cassette mechanism and play back your MP3s. It’s sort of cool, but kind of (and necessarily) big and heavy. There’s no LCD display, so your only indication of what’s playing is through speakers or headphones — you can’t manage tunes on the device itself.

And although you can use this with a Mac, it requires so much screwing around that it’s not worth it, so it’s Windows-only — another problem with using proprietary software. After all, this uses USB and should be compatible with any USB computer. Oh well. And sadly, the USB connection hardly translates into blistering transfer times. Using the included Duo Aria Manager software is not only an imposition, but also a drearily slow process.

If you can get over some of the initial clunkiness, there’s some good news too. The unit comes complete with everything you need — a car lighter adapter that charges and powers the unit in-car, a battery charger (the battery can be removed from the unit to charge separately) and a separate AC adapter. Naturally it ships with a USB connector and some rather poor in-ear headphones — another complaint that could be leveled at all MP3 players.

Now down to the real meat of the matter. Even while reviewing this, we were weirdly hard-pressed to find a writer with access to a cassette deck. The problem is that most people interested in MP3 collections actually have CD players — but weird niche though that is, it doesn’t affect the overall rating of this product negatively. In fact, if that’s the purpose you desire — an MP3 player that you can stick in your cassette player — then it’s pretty good: expandable and capable. For all other MP3 needs though, there are much better players out there, which are also cheaper, better featured and smaller.

Xbox One Against its Competition

Lately the Xbox One has come under a lot of scrutiny from the mainstream financial press. Outlets such as Fortune and Bloomberg have weighed in on the chances of the Xbox One, with most of them offering cautious to skeptical opinions on its chances. But one thing they do agree on is that Microsoft has never tried to take on a marketing project this big before.

At the recent keynote address during the Tokyo Game Show, Bill Gates said that the Xbox One launch was going to be the biggest in Microsoft’s history, eclipsing even the massive Xbox 360 launch of the previous years. But Microsoft was simply launching a product into a market it already dominated, to an audience of largely middle-aged guys. Now it’s trying to break into a much more competitive market, and appeal to a much more fickle audience of hardcore gamers.

Can the company do it? We have heard early plans of what Microsoft has in mind, but the big media blitz isn’t going to start until next month’s E3. In the meantime, we’ll take a look at some of the basic strategies of the other big platform providers to see what they did right and what they did wrong.

How Microsoft Should Sell The Xbox One?

  • Show The F’ing Games! — Microsoft should do a kick-ass version of the Halo pr trailer for movie previews, or show the opening Munch movie on TV — but tell the audience that if they want to see these new movies, they’ll have to play them on the Xbox.
  • Don’t Ignore The Hardcore — Nintendo may be content to own the younger market (and why not, it’s hugely profitable), but Xbox One will need to attract the hearts and minds of early adopters to get and maintain a foothold in the market.
  • Be Cool — Sony had the brilliant idea of putting PlayStation 4 in clubs and bars to make it seem cool. Microsoft should steal that idea and do everything it can to endear itself to the young trendsetters.
  • Don’t Be Funny — Unless Microsoft has gotten Spike Jonze to do its ads, video game humor doesn’t play big with mainstream audiences. Instead, stick to speed, style and, of course, sex.