Wednesday, May 30, 2012

OtterBox Blues

I eagerly anticipated the arrival of an OtterBox protective case for my new Samsung smartphone.  My sister has one for her phone which is similar to mine.  The phone, that is.  Amongst all the rave reviews I had heard about the OtterBox, not once did I hear that there are two type of OtterBox cases: The Defender Series and the Commuter Series.  I received the latter.

As I opened the box I saw right away that this one was different.  I had been expecting a front and a back that snap together with a built in screen cover.  What I got instead was a rubber layer that grabs the sides and covers the back, a hard plastic layer that covers most of the rubber, and a separate stick-on screen protector.  First disappointment.

"Oh well," I thought.  "Lets try it."

I have one of these sticker type screen protectors on my Kobo Touch, so I'm familiar with the concept.  This one refused to go on straight.  It is also very under-size, the edges of the sticker clearly visible all the way around.  It looks cheap!

Worse still, where the Kobo has a matte screen, my phone has a very glossy screen.  Every flaw in the application is immediately and glaringly obvious.  I have tried cleaning and reapplying the protector four times now.  Somehow a little speck of dust always finds it's way under there.

I would be tempted to just go without the sticker except for three things.  One, the rubber forms a wavy frame around the screen.  Two, the plastic has rough unfinished edges.  And three, most infuriatingly, the screen on my phone (supposedly made of scratch proof glass) already has scratches. . .

I'm done.  This one goes back tomorrow.  I hope the Defender is better because these are supposed to be the best cases available.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Angry Birds In Space

Hmm, Angry Birds goes retro sci-fi. . .

Yesterday I downloaded the demo for Angry Birds: Space.  I admit that I did so with some prejudice, expecting perhaps a simple palette swap.  Afterall, as Penny-Arcade so aptly illustrated, how could the usual sling shot physics work in space?

Well, I'm happy to report that it does work!  While there are some levels where gravity plays no role, most levels are built around small planetoids complete with their own gravity and atmosphere.  This makes for some complex and interesting trajectories.  Rovio has added a short predictive line to the interface to help you place your shot, but the larger and more complex the level, the less this line will help.

The atmosphere is an interesting element.  Mostly it serves to show where the effect of gravity begins, but it also is essential to the pigs who can not survive in the vacuum of space.  There is no explanation as to how the birds are able to survive in space (or why the slingshot's planetoid does not have gravity), but pigs must either live within a planetoid's atmosphere or within a small bubble of air.  Should that bubble pop, the pig will flash freeze and then shatter.

The pigs in bubbles, especially when placed above the atmosphere of a planetoid, are oddly reminiscent of the star child from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  On some levels though, the bubbles are given antennae and are clearly meant to represent old school space helmets.

As an added bonus, you can pop the bubbles on the level selection menu and freeze the pigs there as well.

There has been a sprite swap for the birds in order to bring the retro sci-fi theme together.  The red birds have been given a black mask, the blue birds a lightning cap.  The yellow birds, which are not used in the demo but shown in the cut-scene, are now purple with a Cyclops-esque visor.  The black birds have been dressed in orange suits with wide round collar and they have been given a ponytail that is lit on fire like a fuse.  The big red birds, which also do not feature in the demo, are now big green birds (no relation to boomerang birds).

There is also a bonus level included with the demo that pays tribute to Space Invaders.

Final Thoughts

I installed and played this demo on my computer.  I'm not sure how these expansive levels will look on a tiny iPhone or smaller android phone.

There also seemed to be a long wait at the end of the level of each level.  Presumably this is due to the complex physics.

All in all, I'd say that this is a great addition to the Angry Birds franchise.