Archive for the ‘iOS’ Category


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NES30 Bluetooth Gamepad

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
nes30-6 Manufacturer: 8Bitdo Current Retail Price: $39.99 Last year we reviewed 8Bitdo's great take on a wireless Bluetooth Famicom controller, the FC30. This year, 8Bitdo has expanded its offerings to include a similar controller, but this time based on the classic NES controller. Does their NES-style controller live up to the lofty reputation they have established for themselves with the FC30 or is it a quick cash-in on their early successes? Read on to find out a bit more. Even more-so than with the FC30, the NES30 impresses with its packaging and general presentation. With a very high-end almost Apple-like feel, when you first get the NES30 you're greeted by a box designed to look like an NES console itself: nes30-1 You open it up and your NES30 is sitting right there surrounded by a good-quality cardboard shell of sorts: nes30-2 If you pop that off, you'll find the helpful and nicely printed (although perhaps slightly less well translated) manual booklet featuring the 8-bit mascot 8Bitdo seems to have made for themselves: nes30-3 And at the bottom you'll find the USB charging cable (a much more convenient micro USB this time) and bonus keychain nicely individually packaged: nes30-4 The USB cable is an additional step above the ones included with the FC30 controllers because it has custom 8Bitdo moulding, but the keychain (while still a nice bonus to sweeten the deal) is unfortunately exactly the same as the ones included with the FC30 and was not customized for this particular release: nes30-5 The NES30 comes with an Xtander mobile device stand just as its predecessor did and they're functionally the same with the only difference being the grey colour scheme: nes30-xtander So, did 8Bitdo learn from its missteps during the early days of the FC30? Happily, yes. Very much so. After unboxing the NES30 and using the simple instructions to update it to the latest firmware v2.2, I'm happy to report that we experienced no connectivity issues whatsoever with any of the devices or methods we tested. Using the following simple directions: nes30-instructions We were able to use Mode 1/Mode 5 perfectly on our Windows 8.1 computer, Mode 2/Mode 5 perfectly on OSX 10.9.4 and Mode 3 perfectly on all of the apps we had handy with iCade controller support. We experienced none of the hiccups that occurred with the launch FC30 units before their firmware updates were released. Better still, the Wii mode feature exclusive to the FC30 and NES30 worked a treat and allowed us to use a perfect facsimile of an NES controller (albeit with more buttons overall) to play NSMB Wii.  We tried to connect it to a Wii U out of curiosity and while it did seem to pair with the system, we were unable to get it to actually register any button presses in NSMBU.  Perhaps 8Bitdo will work out Wii U pairing in the future to allow for Virtual Console games (or games like Shovel Knight) to be played, but until then the Wii functionality is plenty impressive on its own. $40 may seem like a lot of money for an NES-styled Bluetooth controller from a smaller electronics company, but even more-so than the FC30, the NES30 is a masterfully built controller and worth every penny. It looks, feels, and functions pretty much perfectly and comes with great packaging to boot. Aside from perhaps a greedy want of Wii U support, there's absolutely nothing more we could ask from the NES30 and if you have any interest in a blissful stroll down 8-bit memory lane or just want a classic-styled controller to use with your PC/Mac/iOS/Android device, it currently doesn't get any better than the NES30. [taq_review] A review unit was provided to us by its manufacturers.

NuGuard KXs Screen Protector for iPhone 4/5

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

KXs_iphone4Manufacturer: Newer Technology
Current Retail Price: $9.99 ("Case Friendly" 4/4S) / $10.79 (Full Size 4/4S)

Let's face it, there are thousands of kinds of screen protectors for smartphones these days.  I personally have paid everywhere from about $2.00 to $30.00 for screen protectors of varying quality for my iPhone over the years.  Not all screen protectors are made equal either, each one seems to tout a different feature: anti-glare, extra clarity, multiple Hs of hardness, even extra-oleophobic surfaces.  I even ordered "Diamond" screen protectors once thinking that they would be "tough like a diamond" and when they arrived they were so full of sparkles that they considerably obstructed the iPhone screen.  To compliment their NuGuard KX line of slimmer protective iPhone cases (that we quite liked) NewerTech recently launched the NuGuard KXs line of screen protectors for the iPad, iPhone, and even Galaxy S4.  These screen protectors (or "screen armour") claim to go a step further in protecting your costly devices' screens by adding a moderate level of impact absorption into the mix.  Does the NuGuard KXs follow in the footsteps of its namesake or does it just blend in with the screen protecting masses?  Read on to find out how impactful our impression is of this new screen protection contender.

As with any NewerTech product, the packaging that the KXs comes in is cleanly designed and functional.  When I opened up the packaging I mistakenly thought that I had accidentally received two protectors in the package instead of one, but that is just how thick the KXs is.  When I realized there was only the one I became skeptical at how the touch screen was supposed to still work with something that thick on it. 

Having recovered from my initial wave of skepticism I followed the usual screen protector application steps and the installation went almost without a hitch.  I say "almost" because while there were almost no bubbles to speak of I discovered that there was a plastic "plug" of extra clear plastic in the cut-out hole for the phone's earpiece and forward-facing camera.  These are usually easy enough to spot on screen protectors for iDevices, and I had indeed actually noticed it beforehand, but even though I had taken a tab of plastic out of the hole already, there was still some remaining there after I had already installed the screen protector.  I flicked out my handy electronics-oriented pocket knife and managed to pop not one, but two more plastic plug things out of the hole before it actually went all the way through to the device.  It seems that each of the screen protector's three layers' plugs had to be removed and having taken out the thickest one at first I had failed to notice the other two parts until it was almost too late.  I saw nothing in the installation instructions about punching out these bits and I think that everyone would probably benefit from their future inclusion therein.  It's also worth it to note that as with all iPhone screen protectors, having the KXs on your phone impedes the use of touch styli; this is especially true of the KXs because of its additional thickness.  Overall, though, the KXs was one of the easiest screen protector installs I have done. 

My second qualm with the KXs became apparent shortly after its installation.  I requested a "case friendly" KXs model because I use a protective case with my iPhone, but it turns out that I probably should have gone for the full size one instead.  I expected there to be perhaps a half-millimetre perimeter around the protector after its installation, but I ended up with my half-millimetre on the right-hand side and a whopping two millimetres or more on the left.  While it does still technically cover my entire screen, and indeed means that I was a millimetre or so off in my centring, it's still just on the far side of too small, enough so that I would recommend the "full size" protector for people with all but the most thoroughly bulky iPhone cases.  The smaller "case friendly" size may be beneficial for people who would rather not take off their open-faced cases before installing the guard, but everyone else should live through paying the 80 cent premium for the full-size version.

With "hanging chads" and slight bezels aside, the KXs is a truly impressive screen protector.  I can't vouch for its ability to stop hammers and ball bearings like in its promotional video, but I can say that feels really nice as you drag your finger across it.  Its tactile attributes are hard to describe, but it feels at least as good (if not better) than my previous favourite iPhone screen protector feel-wise, the otherwise horrifically expensive and difficult to handle InvisibleShield.  The protector's clarity is superb and any wayward finger/face prints wipe off of it easily on a soft t-shirt without taking extra damage like some of the lesser protectors I've been using recently.  Through all of my daily game playing, Reddit browsing, texting/emailing and tinkering I never even noticed a missed tap or swipe.  I suppose I shouldn't have been so quick to judge the KXs because of the extra junk in its trunk, because its that junk that's providing the extra protection without sacrificing touchscreen functionality.  Ringing in at just under $11, I can safely say that if you're in the market for a more expensive and higher-quality screen protector for your iPhone, the KXs should be at the very top of your list.

[taq_review]

A review unit was provided to us by its manufacturers.

Punch Quest (iOS) – Usagi Plays

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Logan experiences a world of Rabid Goaticorn Attacks and PUNCHING on his iPhone.

We won't punch you if you don't like/comment/subscribe, but we can't promise we won't think about it.

Star Wars Pinball Pack 1 (PS3/PS Vita)

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

starwarspinball

Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Genre: Pinball
Players: 1
Console Reviewed: PS3/PS Vita (PSN)
Also Available On: Xbox 360 (XBLA), PC/Mac, iOS, Android
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Progress: Played each board several times on both systems and achieved decent high scores

Zen Pinball 2 and its inexplicably numerous variations on just about every currently available platform is about as ubiquitous as a pinball platform could possibly be.  In most of its forms, the core Zen Pinball 2 platform is free with extremely protracted demos of a few available tables included, so you're expected to purchase packs of pinball tables to get any real gaming experience out of the game.  The first three of ten planned Star Wars themed DLC pinball tables for the Zen Pinball 2 suite were launched recently with designs based on Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the character Boba Fett and the animated TV series The Clone Wars.  Is the Force with this first batch of pinball tables or do they belong to the ever-growing dark side of licensed Star Wars video games? Read on to see how we liked our pinball Jedi training.

Off the bat, one of the best features of any DLC for Zen Pinball 2 is that if you buy it via PSN from either a PS3 or a PS Vita, it is "Cross-Buy entitled" meaning that you get it for the other system too.  This is the first Cross-Buy entitled product on PSN that I've played and I have to say that it's quite a great feature that Nintendo would do well to looking into with the Wii U and 3DS.  I thought that I would spend most of my time playing Star Wars Pinball on the PS3 because of the bigger screen and better graphics, but the portability and touch controls on the PS Vita won me over in this case and I ended up setting my highest scores on all three tables on the PS Vita.  The only difference between the two versions of the game were that the PS Vita version (understandably) looks a good deal worse than the PS3 version and the PS Vita version sported the ability to control the paddles with a touch on either side of the screen, a method I found much more personal and responsive than using the shoulder buttons on either system. (It never really says anywhere, so I only discovered it accidentally, but you can also rotate the PS Vita 90 degrees to get an elongated view of the table, which is pretty neat if a bit uncomfortable to hold.)

Zen Pinball 2 does its damnedest to try and emulate the experience of playing on a physical pinball table.  The sounds and mechanics are spot on even if the ball physics sometimes take a back seat to convenience or showmanship depending on the table.  Also clearly visible from most of the generously many view options is a classic pinball-style Dot Matrix screen that shows everything from your score and progress to extremely pixellated movie scenes just like in the days of yore.  While for pinball purists these considerations may be a relief, from a gaming point of view there is no reason that they couldn't at least have included an option to have a more updated and colourful status screen.  Just like many of the great physical pinball tables, the Star Wars Pinball tables in this pack make liberal application of all of your favourite Star Wars noises and sound bytes.  The only problem here is that even though Zen Studios was given full license from LucasArts, I swear that they went the cheap route and had most (if not all) of the supposed film sound bytes impersonated instead of taken straight from the films.  I didn't notice at first, but the more I played the more I noticed that the distinctive voices of characters like Han Solo and Yoda really did not at all sound like they did in the movies.  I'm not certain if this was a cost-cutting decision or not, but I hope that for any future Star Wars tables (if they occur since LucasArts' untimely dissolution) that they go with real movie clips rather than poor facsimiles.

The Empire Strikes Back (TESB) table was the one I was most excited to play, but it ended up being the one that I disliked the most.  TESB table requires much more precision than its pack-mates and despite several attempts I was never able to complete any of its five movie-event themed missions.  This is the table on which the impersonated voices are most prevalent too, but compared to your average virtual pinball table it's still a decent amount of fun.  My highscore on this table was just over 6.2 million.

The Clone Wars (TCW) table, with the license I care the least about, ended up being far and away my favourite of the three. TCW table is much more fast-paced than TESB table with plenty of wire tracks winding about.  You can have a great time just shooting the ball about and watching the lively 3D character models have lightsaber battles all over the table. After hitting some things that I am uncertain of a bunch of times a path to a mini-table above the regular table can open up too allowing you to rack up a ton of bonus points if you're careful enough.  I'm not familiar with the voices from the series, so I can't say if they were as poorly impersonated as the ones on TESB table, but everything else on this table is spot-on.  My highscore was just under 48 million on this table, so I was proud to be in the top 5000-ish or something players on the leaderboard.

The Boba Fett table is kind of middle-of-the-road, neither as actively frustrating as TESB table or as generally awesome as TCW table.  This is the table of the three that I played the least, but it is probably the most activated animated of the three.  Boba Fett zips around the table pretty much the entire time and there are some nice visual touches like a Han Solo frozen in carbonite spinner located above a sarlacc pit.  Fans of the infamous bounty hunter will surely have a blast on this table if only for all of the movie references.

Whether or not you think three virtual pinball tables is worth $9.99 is up to you, but Zen Studios does make it a little easier to decide by allowing anyone to download the aforementioned extremely protracted demos of the tables before they commit to a purchase.  Considering both the amount of fun I had with the tables and the fact that you get them for both PS Vita and PS3 in one purchase, even though these tables don't all knock it out of the park quality-wise they're worth a play from pinball and Star Wars fans alike. (I just hope that if/when all ten tables are available that they'll offer discounts if you buy more than one pack at once.)

TLDR

  • "Cross-Buy entitled" meaning your $9.99 nets you the tables on both PS3 and PS Vita
  • PS Vita version offers touch controls and a possible vertical holding position
  • Structure is very true to classic physical pinball tables
  • Misses some opportunities to add video game zest to the formula (emulates a Dot Matrix display)
  • Lots of dynamic characters and ships flying almost constantly around the tables
  • Classic voices are impersonated instead of using sound bytes from movies
  • Empire Strikes Back table is precision-based, Clone Wars table is easier and speed-based, Boba Fett table is a mixture of the two
  • As a whole a good buy for both pinball and Star Wars fans alike

 Rated 8.3

A review code for this game was provided to us by its publisher.

NuGuard KX iPhone 4/4S/5 Case

Friday, March 8th, 2013

nuguard_kx_roulette

There are a lot of cases on the market for iPhones that protect them by surrounding them in thick metal, rubber, or both.  These cases, while utilitarian to some degree, always add an ungodly amount of bulk to your once sleek and portable device.  For many consumers, including myself, a huge bulky phone is too high of a price to pay for ultimate protection and peace of mind.  Newer Technology is attempting to bridge the gap between inconveniently bulky protective cases and the sleeker, less protective ones that many opt for instead with their NuGuard KX Protective Case line for the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5.  So is their new case as tough as nails or like nails on a chalkboard?  Find out what we thought about our time with the NuGuard KX after the jump.

Not that it particularly matters, but the review unit I received was the black on black colour called "Darkness" instead of the Roulette Red colour shown above.  I chose the red colour for the article header because it looks very sleek and shows the textures on the back of the case a bit more clearly.  The NuGuard KX comes in a total of eight different colours, so if nothing else you know that you can get a colour you like.

Build quality-wise the NuGuard KX is quite impressive.  The shell is basically rubbery plastic, but it's lined on the inside with slightly velvety "X-Orbing gel".  This futuristic gel, at least according to the MIL-STD-810G U.S. Military Standard testing that was performed on these cases, is able to absorb any impact your iPhone is remotely likely to receive.  There are also two waves of crosshatching along the back of the case that give you a bit of purchase when you hold it and a beveled edge that extends all the way around the front of the iPhone ensuring that the screen isn't the first thing to hit the ground should it be dropped.

Putting on and removing the case is a simple matter, but since it's all one piece there is no danger of it popping off accidentally.  When it's on all of the ports, switches, speakers, etc. are accessible as is expected from any competent iPhone case, but in some cases they're too accessible. 

When I put on the NuGuard KX for the first time and was inspecting it from varying angles I noticed the volume change indicator showing up on my iPhone's screen even though I hadn't consciously put my fingers anywhere near the volume buttons.  Upon further testing, I found that the +/- button extensions built into the case make those buttons quite a bit more sensitive than they are without it, and you don't even have to press right on the buttons themselves to activate them.  Pressing the area between the buttons on the case will randomly register as either a volume up or volume down, and pressing just above the + button also registers like a regular button press.  Pressing below the - button, incidentally, didn't resolve in any unexpected button activation in my testing, but I hardly need to say that this shouldn't happen at all. 

While the NuGuard KX does an admirable job of keeping its form factor down, it still clocks in at a good few millimetres thick and that's enough to prevent your iPhone from fitting into most iPhone/iPod docks without the assistance of a dock extender adapter which can run you another $6-$15 on top of the price tag of $35.  So, while it's definitely space age in thickness compared to its competitors, it's still a ways from not impeding with your iPhone's "un-becased" functionality.  The build quality and protection that the NuGuard KX brings to the table are unmistakable, but whether or not the extra peace of mind is worth the sensitive buttons and need for a dock extender adapter is up to you to decide.  If you're looking for the maximum amount of drop protection with a minimal amount of added bulk in an iPhone case, though, the NuGuard KX should certainly factor into your considerations.

TLDR

  • Has a sleek profile, especially for a shock absorbing protective case
  • Doesn't make the phone feel any heavier or bulkier than a slimmer case
  • Comes in eight colours of varying fanciness
  • Easy to put on/take off
  • Provides excellent protection due to "X-Orbing gel" lining and beveled front
  • Makes +/- keys very sensitive leading to accidental presses
  • Thick enough on the bottom to require a dock extender adapter for use with docks
  • Priced at $35.00 to compete directly with its less protective counterparts

Rated 8.0

A review unit was provided to us by Newer Technology

NuTouch Touch Screen Gloves

Friday, December 21st, 2012

nutouchgloves1A problem I'm sure is common to most people who live in colder climates in this day and age is that it's quite frustrating when you're shovelling snow or waiting for a bus and you can't use your smartphone without taking your gloves off and risking losing feeling in your hands for the rest of the day.  While there are several touch screen glove solutions floating around out there to ensure our hands live for another day, most will either run you between $20-$30 for a single pair or be of such poor quality that they're essentially useless.  This is where Newer Technology comes in with their $9 NuTouch conductive touch screen gloves.  Do these gloves keep your hands toasty-warm while letting you use your touch devices, or do they leave you out in the cold?  We'll touch on our time with them after the jump.

Saskatchewan is a uniquely perfect place to test winter wear of all kinds.  As I'm writing this it's -26 Celsius outside (about -15 Fahrenheit for silly people still using Fahrenheit) with "light flurries", also known as sun-tanning weather.  Anyways, during the winter months we're no strangers to needing to put a parka on just to go get your mail out of the mailbox.  Being someone who uses their iPhone a lot in these kind of weather conditions, I've often found myself freezing my hands into claw-like nubs while trying to do something as simple as checking my email while waiting for a bus. 

nutouchgloves2

Before going into the particulars of my glove testing, I'll talk about these gloves' specs.  As pictured above, they come in a dark grey colour and the conductive fingertips are slightly darker, but not to the point of looking silly.  The darker colour of the gloves make them fairly versatile as far as fashion is concerned.  I was able to wear them just as easily with my formal evening wear as I was with my every day stuff.  They're made of 52% Cotton, 24% Rayon, 10% Spandex and the conductive material for the fingertips takes up the remaining 14%, Silver Nylon.  Unlike many of their competitors, the gloves are conductive on all ten fingers, so if you're doing any iPad-ing in a cold environment, you won't have to hen-peck on the touch screen keyboard.  The gloves come in S,M,L,XL sizes ranging from 7 1/4" to 9 5/8" hand lengths respectively, or from smallish to Andre the Giant size.  For most things including hats, shoes, shirts, gloves you usually can't put enough Xs in front of the L for me, but my dainty hands clocked in as a M on the NuTouch size scale.  The large glove sizes show that these are meant for adults more than children. 

For testing, I replaced my usual red Canadian Olympic 2012 mitts with the NuTouch gloves for a week.  They experienced a dressy event, shovelling my driveway, knocking a large buildup of snow off of our garage, many random errands, and a single regular wash (even though it's recommended that you hand-wash them -- make sure to hang them to dry, though) over the test period and I was generally quite impressed at every turn.  Aside from it being a little more slick and not leaving fingerprints, there's no mechanical difference between using the gloves or not.  I never had to worry or even think about what part of the gloves were touching the phone, they always worked perfectly with my iPhone without any missed taps. 

While the gloves are soft and comfortable, the only downside that I can think about them is that they're not terribly insulating.  Just like the regular cotton gloves that they would replace, they're more for temperatures around -15 Celcius or above.  You'll definitely feel the chill if you try to use them instead of something like Hot Paws when it's nearing -30.  NewerTech has thought of this, though, and right on the package it says, "Wear them by themselves, or as liners with heavier cold winter gloves."  That didn't originally make any sense to me (they won't magically imbue gloves put over them with touch screen interactivity), but when I gave it a swing while shovelling my driveway the cleverness of this mitt set-up dawned on me.  Firstly, it makes your larger gloves even warmer, which is great, or even allows you to wear slightly lighter gloves or mitts than you normally would because of the extra insulation.  When you want to do something on your phone, you just pop off a heavier glove like you normally would, but now instead of scrambling to do something on your phone before you need to start filing for a membership to the War Amps, you can take your time because the NuTouch gloves are there to protect your hands for longer than normal.

All-in-all, the NuTouch gloves work exactly as described and are a godsend for smartphone laden Canadians (and people in other cold places).  At a price that is anywhere from 50-75% lower than many of its competitors with top-notch build quality, NuTouch gloves would make a perfect (late) Christmas present for any techies on your list.

tldr-divider

  • Soft and comfortable
  • Work with most fashion attires for both sexes
  • Come in many large sizes
  • Work as well as bare hands with touchscreens (plus no fingerprints!)
  • A steal at $9, much cheaper than competitiors
  • Well-made
  • Could perhaps be a bit warmer

Rated 9.8

A review pair of gloves was provided to us by Newer Technology

This Is Not an App (iOS)

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

notanapp1

Progress: More or less completed all 50 pages

An author and illustrator named Keri Smith has put out a successful series of books including Wreck This Journal and This Is Not a Book in which many of the pages are largely blank and the reader is encouraged to do different creative things on each page.  Attempting to harness the creative potential of iOS devices, Penguin Group has released app versions based on these books and we were given the opportunity to put This Is Not an App through its paces.  Does the app open up a creative wonderland on your iOS device or is it just one of the many apps out there of questionable merit?  Read on to find out if we think it really is an app in spite of its claims to the contrary.

While having a mostly blank journal to encourage people (particularly kids) to use their imaginations and draw fancy things is a fairly novel idea, I had no idea about what to expect from an app built around the same principles.  I'll start off by describing the app in general before I get to my opinions of it.

The app presents you with 50 "different" (I'll explain the quotation marks in a second) pages that ask you to do anything from drawing something, to cataloguing something, to taking pictures of certain things, to recording your voice... and that's it.  You are given several different tools, but no tutorial on how to use them, so I didn't even know you could scroll the tool bar at the bottom until I saw it in different positions in screenshots of the app.  The tools themselves are varied enough, including three different drawing tools, a text tool, a picture taking tool, a photo library tool, and copy/paste tools, but there are also ones that are mostly pointless that I didn't even use other than to find out what they did including a smudge tool, a "make a fake crack" tool, and paint drip tool.

notanapp2

I had a modicum of fun with some of the pages, like the one pictured above where I included pictures from the photo library on my phone of (from left to right) a donut, a cat, a book on Identifying Wood, a sleeping beagle, and myself wearing headphones to represent the senses of taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing respectively. Or this one where I purposely misinterpreted the word "movement":
notanapp4

I found probably about 30% of the pages to just be so sappy or annoying that I didn't bother doing them, like the page below:

notanapp3

The reason I put quotation marks around the word "different" when I was describing This Is Not an App's 50 pages is that many of the pages are very similar to one another bringing the count of totally original pages in the app down closer to 40 or less.  For example: there are three pages that ask you to get someone else to draw something nondescript on the page, two pages that more or less just instruct you to email them to someone, and a single page that instructs you to do nothing to it.

You could say that the reason I didn't enjoy the app is that I'm not creative enough (sure, I only design original websites, graphics, and write articles for a living), but I never felt terribly engaged by the app.  Where selling a mostly blank book with creative ideas on the pages is a pretty cool idea, the concept does not transfer well into the app world at all.  What you get, even if you do humour the inane requests on every single page, is a glorified drawing tool app that provides the same or less amount of enjoyment that a truly creative person could get from a free app like Paper or Sketchbook Express.  I can't recommend this app for anyone at it's current $4.99 price when there are an almost infinite number of cheaper or free apps that can do the same or better job of encouraging creativity.

TLDR

  • This Is Not an App is hard to navigate, as no directions are given on how to use its numerous tools
  • There are small moments of fun to be had, but you could probably come up with similar things to do on your own
  • For $4.99 you get less than 50 original, mostly blank pages that most people would quickly blow through
  • Many of This Is Not an App's features can be better enjoyed through apps that are cheaper or free.

Rated 4.9

(out of 10.0 — see our review system outline here)

A review copy of this app was provided to us by its publisher.

WordTag (iOS)

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Genre: Social Word Game
Players: 2 online
Progress: Reached level 13

Social games and word games on iOS are a dime a dozen. Social word games? Maybe a dime per a dozen and a half. Juxta Labs' WordTag is one of the more recent entries into the social word game fray and promises to be like the popular app Draw Something except with words instead of pictures.  Does it do enough to differentiate itself from the crowd or does it fall by the wayside as so many other apps often do? Read on to see what we think about WordTag.

I was pretty interested when I first read about WordTag because I fancy myself to be pretty good with words.  Better at least than I am with my constantly embarrassingly bad drawing in games like Draw Something.  So, I took it for a test drive over the last week or so and had quite a good time.

The basic idea of WordTag is that you are given a choice of three words of certain coin value and you try to describe them without using a certain set of words that would help you the most.  For example, you could try to get your partner to guess the word hot-tub without using the words relax, warm, water, steam, bath or soak (or words that incorporate them like "bathe").  And end up with something like "a large indoor or outdoor basin filled with more than tepid liquid that people sit in for recreational purposes".  In this sense, it's very much like Draw Something, but it engages a different type of creativity that I am more attuned to, so I'd have to say I generally had a better time than with its spiritual predecessor.

Draw Something, a media darling not more than a couple of months ago, has largely petered out (much to Zynga's chagrin) as new and better things have come along and one of the apps stepping up to fill its space in our social phone lives is WordTag.  It's hard to say exactly what it was that made Draw Something become so tiresome after a few weeks, but Juxta Labs has at least taken some measures to attempt to prevent the same thing happening to WordTag.

For your $1.99 you get a handful of each item that helps you both guess and give clues to words such as one that will reveal all of the vowels or the first/last letter in the word you are guessing or one that can unlock one of the restricted words to either assist in your guessing or make writing your description a lot easier.  What I didn't appreciate, though, was the ever-present microtransactions that bare their ugly faces far too often in premium games these days.  Since you only start off with a few of these items, you burn through them quickly and are soon more or less required to purchase additional in-game currency (aside from the pittance you make from correctly guessing words) to obtain more of these items if you happen to require any extra assistance while playing.

Some of the other extra things that Juxta Labs incorporated into the game include badges you can earn (but apparently not show off to people you don't know) for selecting words from certain sets and increased coin payouts when you get on significant sized runs of correct guesses.  The things that prevent these elements from truly making WordTag a AAA iOS game, though, basically come down to poor execution: there's a "SV Bloggers" badge for getting people to guess the last names of famous bloggers, none of whom I've ever even remotely heard of, many of the badges require you to correctly use 20+ specific words that can only be unlocked for play by using another quickly spent item and are therefore impossible to get through regular play, I couldn't tell if others (even Facebook friends) could see your profile with the badges you've earned, and by default if you use Facebook to sign into WordTag it spams your feed with every word you describe and guess without telling you openly or giving you the option to disable it.

While I do have a good number of complaints with how it operates in its current version, the app overall is fairly slick and works well in most circumstances.  I had a lot of fun "using my words" to describe things in a roundabout way.  If you have $2 kicking around, you could certainly do worse than WordTag, and if you have a lot of Facebook friends that are good with words, there's a decent degree of entertainment to be had describing, guessing and earning coins.

  • A lot like Draw Something, but with a restricted word set instead of drawing
  • Has many additional bells and whistles including achievable badges and items to assist in play
  • Good presentation and generally functional app overall
  • Has fairly prevalent microtransactions even though it costs $1.99
  • Many of the badges are near impossible to earn and can't really be shown off

 

Rated 7.0

A review copy of this game was provided to us by its publisher.

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