Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Order Up! To Go

Order Up! has none of the usual trappings of freemium games. You don't tap something and then wait half an hour to tap it again, nor do you pay real money in order to tap it sooner. Instead, it's a ridiculously fun and addictive and complete restaurant sim for your iPad which, inexplicably, costs nothing to play. I guess there are ads, but disabling them is only a buck; I sprung for that option without even thinking about it.

You play a chef who has just landed on the island of Porta Bella, and you're trying to work your way up the culinary food chain by owning and operating your own restaurants. At the start of every game day, you place your food order and consider upgrades to your menu and restaurant. Then you go inside, and customers start showing up. When you tap a table, you get their order, and then you have to cook it. The better you do, the higher your profits. It's Lemonade Stand meets Cooking Mama.

Of course, the only reason to compare this game to Cooking Mama at all is because that's the cooking game people know. Really, it's much different. Where Cooking Mama is about home cooking -- lovingly prepared, with time taken to get everything just right -- Order Up! is about restaurant cooking. This is high-pressure, short order cooking, where you're preparing four dishes all at once, bouncing back and forth between work stations, trying not to burn things, trying to get everything to come out at the same time. And god is it ever fun. It's split-second time management, where every new table is a chance to squeeze another second of precious efficiency out of yourself. Burgers on first, or sautee beef for the chili? Is it too soon to start the omelette? How much prep can I get done while the onions are cooking? Crap, how long have these fries been down?!

Order Up! was a full retail game on the Wii, and I absolutely loved it. Amazingly, the freemium iPad version is even better. First of all, there are two new locations -- Burger Face has become a proper playable restaurant where you can scrape together some extra money if you accidentally go broke, and Kung Fusion is a completely new Asian restaurant. Secondly, they've turned it into a proper business sim. Instead of just buying spices and upgrades, you now have to place food orders and try to decide what to buy based on the number of guests you expect and the relative popularity of your dishes. Running out means you'll have to fall back on less profitable standbys. It adds a much needed strategic element to the game, making it more than just a pack of mini games.

Order Up! To Go has proven the iPad. It controls great, it looks great, it's fast and fun, and there's enough to do to keep you busy for weeks. This is a complete game, the kind of thing that goes directly toe to toe with the stuff Nintendo would charge you forty to fifty dollars for, one of my favorite Wii games right there on my lap wherever I go. And it's free?!

What a lovely surprise this was.


Sunday, January 22, 2012


The Sims Freeplay

The Sims Freeplay is a game about a group of indistinguishable grunts who live together in a slave compound, growing onions and occasionally taking breaks to eat, shower, urinate, and drink coffee. Sometimes they screw for my amusement. And I can't get the achievement for watching a movie at midnight for some reason.

I'd rather play Tiny Tower.


Sunday, January 01, 2012


So I Bought an iPad

The iPad is an amazing device. I've often thought of my MacBook as a computer for people who don't like computers; in that vein, the iPad is a computer without the computer.

It's like a magic rectangle that turns into anything you want. The screen is large enough, the speakers are loud enough, the touch interface is versatile enough... it's a camera, a TV, a radio, a word processor, a web browser, a game console. It just turns into these things, magically. True, it's not as portable as the iPod Touch, but it's large enough to replace your laptop for many functions while still being small enough to just tuck in your hand and carry from room to room. And it's not just a device with features added to get a bullet point on the box; it does everything well. To the point that it could work as your primary device for many functions.

Well, almost. It's a bit big to be a camera, a bit small to be a TV, a bit quiet to replace your stereo setup, a bit fiddly to be a word processor, a bit Flash-less to be a web browser, and... a game console? We'll get to that.

I still prefer my laptop for windowed multitasking -- chatting on IM while surfing the web, playing a game, or watching a movie. And the world isn't completely wired for the way the iPad works.


I bought a wireless keyboard to go with it, but I honestly don't use it very much. This is partly because it's just another piece to carry around, which makes it kind of awkward. Partly it's because the main word processing app, Pages, doesn't prioritize plain text documents very well and doesn't sync automatically with documents on my laptop, which makes it less useful to me than I'd thought it would. But partly it's just because the touchscreen keyboard really is that nice. It's nearly as quick and nice to use as a physical keyboard for some applications -- IM, web posts -- but I wouldn't use it for things that require a lot of fancy characters -- emoticons, programming, HTML.

On the other hand, the Smart Cover is a clever little add-on; I'd call it mandatory. As a screen cover, it's okayish; its magnet doesn't hold it very firmly in place, so it's liable to flap off unless it's actively held in place somehow. Its real strength is as a stand. It rolls into a triangle, and you can use it to prop the screen up into one of two useful positions: one as a sort of raised keyboard, and one as a sort of monitor screen.

Of course, what I'm interested in are the games.

The Games

I've downloaded dozens of games for this thing already -- some are iPod games with universal support that I already owned, but quite a few are games I bought specifically for the machine.

Thing is, this has the potential to be a monster.

There's a whole debate over whether traditional console makers need to be worried about something like the iPad moving in and taking over, and there are people who argue that these are different worlds. They point to games like Angry Birds and Robot Unicorn Attack and argue that the iPad isn't for big league games.

I'd like to point out that you can play Puzzle Quest on your iPad. It's like the DS game, except the screen is huge and everything is gorgeous. You can also play a number of games from Telltale -- Wallace and Grommit, Back to the Future, Sam & Max, Jurassic Park. You can play Scribblenauts. You can play Lost Winds. You can play Grand Theft Auto III. You can play Minecraft. (Creative mode anyway.)

These are big, cool games. They are relatively inexpensive. Traditional console makers need to be worried. In fact, there's only one move left for Apple to make if they want to own the video game market. It's right there in front of them.

All they have to do is release a wireless controller.

I mean, I can understand why they haven't already. Elegance is their thing. They don't want to complicate this machine with lots of stupid doodads, they don't want to take the step backward, fine, whatever. The point is, people are making games that I would much rather play with a physical controller. If I could stick my iPad and two controllers in a bag, take it on a trip, and call it my game console, I would be elated. Imagine if I could just prop it up on a counter, pull out the controller, and play Atari's Greatest Hits wherever I wanted. I would buy more games for this system if this option was available.

Just putting that out there.


So now that I have an iPad, what ever will become of my Kindle? Am I just going to crumple it up and throw it away?

Pff, no.

I admit, I haven't used my Kindle as much since getting my iPad, but it still fills certain needs for me.

The Screen -- Despite being in black and white and refreshing slowly, the Kindle screen is just a lot nicer in many ways. The glow from the iPad's screen does make reading for long periods of time kind of difficult. And I do often find it useful to use it outside.

Wireless -- The Kindle has free 3G. True, the web browser is slow, but it's functional. If I'm out of the house and I want to look something up or post a tweet, it's free of charge.

Size -- It's smaller. Lighter. Cozier. As easy as it is to pick up an iPad and take it anywhere, it's even more convenient to take a Kindle.

Games -- Much as I love the color and speed of games on the iPad, there's still a place for the games that I love on my Kindle. While you can play Fighting Fantasy and Choice of Games on an iPad, they're just suited better to the more bookish look and feel of the Kindle.

So there it is. Now I'm a really for real tablet owner. Can't wait till it's obsolete in eight months!


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?