Madden 11 (iOS): Never, ever ignore the silent switch!

Madden 11 splash screenThe draw of portable gaming is simple – life doesn’t always make it easy to be tied down to a TV (or your computer) for a full-on gaming experience. Sometimes, you get stuck in the car for four hours and need to play a little Pokemon to relax. Mobile gaming makes it even easier with no lack of quality time-fillers that are already in your pocket.

For many situations, portable gaming means a need either for headphones or for an experience without sound at all. It would, after all, be irritating if everybody in the line at Subway was playing Angry Birds with the sound cranked up on their phone. So most respectful people (that don’t have headphones handy) will switch their phone to silent mode. The problem comes in when disrespectful games choose to ignore this, and play sounds anyway. Like Madden 11 HD for iPad.

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Xbox SmartGlass and Forza Horizon: Cool Tech, When It Works

Forza Horizon logoBack in November 2012, Forza Horizon was one of the first games to get support for Xbox SmartGlass. If you’re unaware, Xbox SmartGlass is Microsoft’s “second-screen” technology for users to enhance their Xbox experience via a tablet. It’s cool stuff that I briefly talked about back in November when it first came out.

Forza Horizon is one of the seven currently-released games for Xbox 360 that actually supports SmartGlass – and the only one that I own – so I was excited to give it a try the other day. Its big feature in the game is to offload the map to your tablet, making it a little easier to navigate the game’s big open world. In my limited testing so far, this definitely falls into the camp of a promising technology that just doesn’t nail the execution.

Read on for more of my experience with Forza Horizon and Xbox SmartGlass

Super Stickman Golf: Accidentally Quitting Mid-Round

Main menu of Super Stickman Golf 2The original Super Stickman Golf by Noodlecake Studios is one of my favorite mobile games (links to stores available here). It’s a simple yet challenging way to pass a few minutes of time. Everybody likes mini-golf, right? Super Stickman Golf 2 picks up right where the first left off, adding a few new features and a bunch of new in-app purchase options.

Merits of the upgrade aside, there’s one particular issue with the game that hasn’t changed between the two versions, and it has caused me a tiny amount of grief a few times now. When playing a single player round, backing out to the main menu doesn’t save the player’s progress, and the game doesn’t do anything to warn them of this either. Just like Microsoft Word prompts users before leaving changes unsaved, games always should tell the player before they lose progress.

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SimCity: Tiny Maps and Tiny Zooms

SimCity logoSimCity has had quite the launch to be sure, ending with the resignation of EA’s CEO. Through all the drama, there’s an incredible game hiding in there. In fact, it’s a bit of a miracle that I escaped the mighty mining town of Woodville long enough to type up this article (just kidding, it’s actually running in the background).

The internet has a lot of complaints about SimCity, at various levels of validity. The UI hasn’t been one of them, and that’s because it’s pretty good. A favorite feature of mine is all the various data maps you can turn on. This puts an extra layer of data right on top of your city, no extra screen required. However, despite the small city size (a common complaint for sure), you still can’t actually see your whole city if you zoom out all the way, making all those sexy data maps a little less useful.

Read on for more about tiny maps and tiny zooms in SimCity

Dungeon Raid: We Need Invisible Fingers

Title logo to the game Dungeon Raid LiteAfter my article on 10000000 for iOS, I got a recommendation to check out a similar iOS title, Dungeon Raid (iTunes link). It’s a tile-matching game that has slightly different gameplay, but a common RPG element put on top. If you ask me, anytime you can solve puzzles and upgrade your weapons, it’s bound to be a good time.

And it is a good time. However…there’s one problem, while not unique to this game, that I’ve found particularly irritating here. The big benefit to touchscreens, of course, is removing that disconnect between you and your content that’s caused by a mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately, not only is your finger significantly bigger than a mouse pointer, it’s also attached to your hand. So when tapping items on the screen, your finger has a nasty habit of covering exactly what you want to look at.

Read on for exactly how this happens in Dungeon Raid.