Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Space Hoppers Promotional work

So I've been asked to help promote Space Hoppers! Space Hoppers is an iOS game that makes use of the latest technologies to deliver fun and active gameplay! I awarded Space Hoppers my Hibblejaybob Gem Award for it's innovative gameplay. You can check out my full review here, or you can head over to the app store and see for yourself! (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/space-hoppers/id929582857)

Here's my review video:

And here's my summarised App Store Review:
"Space Hopper's multiplayer concept is unique and well executed. You connect up other Apple devices to an iPad or Apple TV, creating a local multiplayer similar to Wii or Kinect games. The gameplay is fun and simple, making it great for audiences of all ages.

It's perfect for parties or other social gatherings, particularly since there is also an option to customise the characters and setting to photos you send in, to make the occasion even more special.

The developer also lets you distribute your customised version of the game, which is perfect as a marketing tool for companies, organisations or groups.

Space Hoppers: a great concept and well worth a look!"
- Hibblejaybob (5 Stars)


Space Hoppers promotional work (non-impartiality notice)

Just a quick line to inform everyone that I'm now working alongside EOTIS to promote Space Hoppers! My review and the majority of the script for my latest vlog video were written before I was contacted by EOTIS, but obviously I'm putting this out there for to let people know of the situation. Although my promotional work will largely be independent of my own gaming work, here & on my channel, there will be a few instances where articles & videos will be done for the benefit of our promotional goals. Of course, in such instances, I will make the involvement with my work very clear. I will also likely be using my social media links (Facebook, Twitter & Reddit) to help with the promotional work.

If there are any questions or concerns regarding my involvement with this promotional work, please email me at hibblejaybob@gmail.com.

New Hibblejayvlog Video

So here's my first proper Vlog! This was due last week, but due to a combination of some interesting news and my dog being unwell, I decided to postpone it to this week. The first topic I wanted to cover was the interesting concepts behind the two smartphone apps I've reviewed recently. You can check out the video below, or if you don't fancy looking at my phugly face for 5 minutes, you can read the transcript below. I've also put on a few bloopers at the end of the video too! Don't forget to check my various other links, and let me know what you think of the video! Sorry the video is a little dark, it got a lot darker than I expected and I didn't notice!!!!!



Various Links:
Review Videos:
Space Hoppers: http://youtu.be/wOLphrCo44w
Solve-It-Blocks: http://youtu.be/aZmMeYhCCLk
Reviews:
http://hibblejaybob.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/space-hoppers-review-smartphone-game.html
http://hibblejaybob.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/solve-it-blocks-review-smartphone-app.html
Company Websites:
http://www.eotis.com/
http://www.solveitblocks.com/
App Store:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/space-hoppers/id929582857
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/solve-it-blocks/id958941440?mt=8
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.solveitblocks.solveitblocksapp
My Links:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hibblejaybob
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Hibblejaybob
Blogger: http://hibblejaybob.blogspot.co.uk/
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/hibblejaybob

Transcript:
(Transcript is based on my notes for the video, and may not be exact or grammatically correct)
Hi Everyone and welcome to Hibblejayvlog, this is my first vlog with some actual content in it! Apologies that this video is a week late, my dog was ill last week, as well as some other news which I'll talk about near the end.

Today I want to talk about the concepts that have gone into 2 of the smartphone games I have reviewed recently. I reviewed a game called Space Hoppers back at the start of January, which has some interesting ideas behind it and this month, I reviewed another app called Solve-It-Blocks which the concept of an educational app has been done before, but the amount of research that has gone into it is amazing, and I'll talk more on that later. If you've not read my reviews or watched the review videos, I'll link them in the description for your viewing pleasure.

Starting with Space Hoppers, the primary concept behind it is Physical Group Gaming, or PGG. the EOTIS website describes it as "play in the virtual and real world together", and that's a perfect summary of what Physical Group Gaming is. The basic idea is that you use an iPad or Apple TV as a screen and you connect other iPads or smartphones up as controllers. Using the built in accelerometers, you become the controller, tilting the device and jumping about to make your character move around the screen, as you try to collect all the bubbles. Having played and reviewed the game, and looking into the concept further, two big things stand out me.

The first one is sociability, smartphone games and smartphones in general are seen to be quite antisocial nowadays, How often is it you hear "look at everyone standing around on their phones, not talking", etc. Well, Space Hoppers aims to change that by getting everyone playing the same game, together on their smartphones. And the key point there is the interaction: It's not everyone playing singleplayer, not talking together. It's a punch of people playing the same game, in the same room, bounding around the place having fun, and it seems absolutely perfect for kids parties,
student's parties, office Christmas parties.

And that brings me to my next point on the PGG concept. While I don't consider myself to be particularly in with the smartphone app scene: Space Hoppers, for the first time that I've seen, really elevates smartphones to the stage currently occupied by the Kinnect and the Wii and so on, providing the smae lever of fun and interactions, without the need for a console. If you were going away on a holiday, few people would take their consoles away with them but how many people would bring their smartphones and tablets with them? Probably most of them. So there's the argument of accessibility. Could this be the start of smartphones becoming the norm for group entertainment over  consoles?

The final major concept behind space hoppers is the customisation. EOTIS, the developer of Space Hoppers will let you send in your photos, and they'll make a customised version of the game just for you, with the characters and scenes now things from the photos you send in. They will also let you distribute that customised version of the game, making it perfect for adding a personal touch to parties, or even marketing as part of a group or organisation. EOTIS are also keen to see the PGG concept continue, and will work with game developers to expand upon the content and mechanics of Space Hoppers, into a completely new game. All this information and more, can be found on the EOTSI website, which I'll link below.

The 2nd app I wanted to talk about today is Solve-It-Blocks, which is a developmental app primarily aimed at kids. Educational & developmental apps are not a particularly new concept, but this is the first app that I've seen that you can clearly see the progression from classical children's toys, into a modern environment. The app has been constructed in such a way that is also fun and engaging as a game for all ages in it's own right. The app is the smartphone application of the real world Solve-It-Blocks which have are already marketed for schools and nurseries. The thing that caught my eye here is the amount of research done in the development of this concept. I think it's great to see the application of research done at university level, into real products, and the quality of those products are great too. The developers have really done an amazing job of bringing the concept to life and you can find out more about Solve-It-Blocks and the research behind it in the links in the description.

A final word from me with some news, last week I was asked by EOTIS to help promote the Space Hoppers app for iOS. My original review and most of this script was written before the company got in contact with me, but obviously, I need to get that out there for the sake of being clear on impartiality. And of course, if you are interested in checking out either of the apps I've discussed today, you can check out my reviews for them in description, or you can head over to their app store pages and find out for yourself!

So that's all for today, hope you enjoyed my video. Don't forget to like, comment and subscribe, and I shall see you next week! Bye!

I'm doing a Vlog!

So apparently I managed to forget to actually do a post informing peeps of my new Vlog, despite managing to do a post that Vlog was going to be late.........

So in case you missed it, here's my introduction to vlogging!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Delayed Post

Due to my dog being unwell, the inaugural Hibblejayvlog (the first non-introduction anyway) will be delayed. Should hopefully get it out before next Tuesday!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Just Flight are awesome!

So I'm a moron. Just Flight are doing a 2 for £12 pick-'n'-mix offer for the next 3 days (See the offer here), and I treated myself to the DC-8 and A320. It was only the next day, that my retarded-ass realised that I already owned the A320 and was now sitting with 2 copies of the bloody thing....... Just Flight's response was fantastic, however; responding within 5 minutes of my email, I was offered and received a replacement product for the A320 - a product also on the 2 for £13 offer - at no charge. This was as fantastic as it was speedy!

It's all too easy to whine and moan about bad service, so I though I'd celebrating the great service you can get. Good work to the team at Just Flight!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Solve-It-Blocks Review (Smartphone App)

Publishers: Apple iTunes
                   Play Store (Google)
                   Amazon
Developer: Future Fossil (http://futurefossilstudios.com/)
                   Solve-It-Blocks (http://www.solveitblocks.com/)
Released: 2015
Platforms: iOS
                 Android
Price: Free (with Microtransactions)
Websites:https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.solveitblocks.solveitblocksapp
               http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plan-It-Cube-Limited-Solve-It-Blocks/dp/B00SFROH1S
               https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/solve-it-blocks/id958941440?mt=8
Summary
Solve-It-Blocks is an educational app, primarily aimed at the development of young children. That being said, the gameplay is fun and challenging enough that it functions well as a smartphone game in its own right, as well as a "brain trainer" for adolescents and adults. In Solve-It-Blocks you solve block puzzles by arranging the blocks on a 3x3 grid, with the correct side up. In the 2D mode, you do this by arranging for the correct face and swapping other blocks to get them in the right positions. In the 3D mode, you have the additional challenge of 'gravity', forcing you to solve the puzzle from the ground up, much like you would do in the real world. In either mode you can pitch yourself against the clock or against your own memory. In the timed mode, you earn your stars by solving puzzles within a par time, with the solution always available to you. In the memory mode, you have as much time as you need, instead the solution is hidden from you and you are scored against how many additional times you need to reveal the solution.

Overall, the app is fun, challenging and built from a great concept, with a lot of research behind it. My only criticism is that the numbers and letters are limited to the Latin alphabet, which affects usability where a Latin-derived language is not the local language (Arabic, Cyrillic-based languages, etc). Having said that, a great deal of time and effort has clearly gone into the 'flags' option, which effects the various flags shown on the blocks. In this setting, all countries are catered for, and even region specific flags are provided for the USA and UK. There is also a relatively limited number of levels (when compared to other smartphone games) available free, however each pack opens up 50 levels for just £0.59.

Whatever it is you're looking at this app for, I can highly recommend it! As a developmental app, it's fun and easy to use and a lot of research has been put into the concept. As a smartphone game, it's fun and challenging enough for teens and adults to really get engaged with. As a "brain trainer", I believe that the app - particularly in the 3D, Memory mode - can be used to help tackle the struggles of dyslexia and perhaps other learning difficulties.

Development
First order of business is talking about the apps intended purpose as a development tool for young kids. The modernisation of the children's building blocks concept is very evident. The teams behind Solve-It-Blocks have gone to great lengths to research and implement the concept, producing a physicial version and this smartphone app. You can find out more information, including the published scientific articles, on the Solve-It-Blocks website (http://www.solveitblocks.com/)

The app is brightly designed and easy to use, and the gameplay is fun, providing an engaging experience which is important for keeping young children focused on the puzzles. Similar to real life building blocks, the constant exposure to numbers and letters promotes learning of language skills. Flags, vehicles and colours also feature on the blocks, further enhancing the learning experience. It's a nice touch to be able to change the flags on the blocks, so the familiarisation of the flags can be in your region. As stated above, the alphabet and numbers are limited to English (the Latin alphabet), so users with non-Latin native languages will have to deal with that for the moment. I think that will mar usability in some regions, but hopefully that might be rectified in future updates.

Gameplay
Although primarily marketed as a development/educational app for children, Solve-It-Blocks makes a convincing stab at being a smartphone game in it's own right, with fun and challenging gameplay for all ages. At the tender age of 23, I found myself being more engaged with Solve-It-Blocks than I ever have been with any other smartphone game. I did genuinely find the gameplay challenging, particularly on the 3D, Memory mode. Looking at the comments on the Play Store in the short time the app has been released, it does seem to be proving popular as a game. The only thing I will say is there isn't any kind of leaderboard (for the time mode), but including one could introduce a competitive edge to the experience, which could be detrimental to the development and education processes for which the app is intended.

Dyslexia

As I said above, I found this app particularly engaging. As a Dyslexic who particularly struggles with short term memory recall, I theorised that continued use of the app may function like a "brain trainer", helping adolescents and adults to find strategies in dealing with Dyslexia and perhaps other learning difficulties. Particularly in the 3D Memory mode,I found myself really struggling to get those 3 stars, particularly in the more advanced levels. If you too struggle from any short-term memory issues, then this app constantly forces you to utilise your memory recall, and I feel that continued use could help improve your memory recall.

Note that in saying this, I am in no way an educational psychologist and my statement above is based on my own experience and my own Dyslexia profile. There is no replacement for qualified assistance in finding the right strategies in dealing with your own learning difficulties! I have, however, asked for feedback from the Educational Psychology department at the University of Edinburgh, I will publish another article with their feedback.

Note:
Due to the use of hyphens in the title, Solve-It-Blocks can be difficult to search for on the various App stores. I recommend using one of the direct links above, if you are unable to find the app on the app stores.

Scoring:
100% - Base score: great concept, good implementation.
-1% - Diverse flags, but only Latin numbers & alphabet available in current version.

(Summary again)
Solve-It-Blocks is an educational app, primarily aimed at the development of young children. That being said, the gameplay is fun and challenging enough that it functions well as a smartphone game in its own right, as well as a "brain trainer" for adolescents and adults. In Solve-It-Blocks you solve block puzzles by arranging the blocks on a 3x3 grid, with the correct side up. In the 2D mode, you do this by arranging for the correct face and swapping other blocks to get them in the right positions. In the 3D mode, you have the additional challenge of 'gravity', forcing you to solve the puzzle from the ground up, much like you would do in the real world. In either mode you can pitch yourself against the clock or against your own memory. In the timed mode, you earn your stars by solving puzzles within a par time, with the solution always available to you. In the memory mode, you have as much time as you need, instead the solution is hidden from you and you are scored against how many additional times you need to reveal the solution.

Overall, the app is fun, challenging and built from a great concept, with a lot of research behind it. My only criticism is that the numbers and letters are limited to the Latin alphabet, which affects usability where a Latin-derived language is not the local language (Arabic, Cyrillic-based languages, etc). Having said that, a great deal of time and effort has clearly gone into the 'flags' option, which effects the various flags shown on the blocks. In this setting, all countries are catered for, and even region specific flags are provided for the USA and UK. There is also a relatively limited number of levels (when compared to other smartphone games) available free, however each pack opens up 50 levels for just £0.59.

Whatever it is you're looking at this app for, I can highly recommend it! As a developmental app, it's fun and easy to use and a lot of research has been put into the concept. As a smartphone game, it's fun and challenging enough for teens and adults to really get engaged with. As a "brain trainer", I believe that the app - particularly in the 3D, Memory mode - can be used to help tackle the struggles of dyslexia and perhaps other learning difficulties.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Banners, Scoring and Prizes



 

Banners:
In an effort to improve readability and to encourage more traffic through the blog, I've introduced banners to the top of review articles, like the examples shown above. Currently, I only have a few reviews on the site, and they are all positive reviews, but that is changing very soon!

Scoring:
Which brings me on to scoring. Since this blog started back in 2013, I've used a percentage system to convey my recommendation. I generally like to have an expectation vs reality approach to my reviews. So, for example, if I were to do a Call of Duty review, I expect that to be a mindless, simple FPS game and that's generally what I get from the experience, and so my review would generally be more favourable than some other reviews.

While I have used a similar system in my reviews up until now, I thought it time to come up with a more definite system to improve consistency in my past and upcoming reviews. So with my reviews,
 I always start at 100% and penalise for any issues I find. To standardise the penalties, I've come up with categories:
-1% - Trivial Issue - Something I don't like but doesn't effect the overall experience of the product.
-5% - Minor Issue - A minor issue that slightly detracts from the overall experience.
-10% - Major Issue - An issue that noticeably, regularly detracts from the overall experience.
Exceptional Issue - These issues are something so major it completely ruins the game play experience. I was going to standardise it at -25%, but then I decided that some issues can be so major they deserve a penalty well above that!

I am also introducing a standardised reward system that rewards products from some features. This will be used much less than the penalties as only features that impress me that are over and above my expectation of the product.
+1% - Minor feature over and above expectation.
+5% - Major feature over and above expectation.

I have backdated my reviews using the new banners and scoring scheme. In the future, I will list a products rewards and penalties in the review itself, however, I am electing not to backdate my reviews in that way. You can find our more on my scoring system here.

Award:
While coming up with my scoring system, I realised that it is possible for a product to receive several penalties, but still carry an outstanding recommendation from me. I've then created the wonderfully drawn Hibblejaybob Gem Award to give to products that have overcome my criticisms to still get a strong recommendation from myself.

For example, a product may get a good (>70%) or perhaps even an average rating because of some design flaws, but still be an absolutely must have product! Similarly, a product may have a good or gold (>90%) rating - but for one reason or another - will not receive the Gem Award. In this case, it's not to say I do not recommend the product, but in terms of games, there may be other similar games I enjoy/recommend more, and in terms of mods, it may be a fantastic mod but it doesn't contribute to the overall experience of the game for me.

This award is purely subject to my opinions of how I enjoyed the product, and unlike my scoring system, I will not specifically qualify why a product did or did not receive the Hibblejaybob Gem Award, as this award is more about my personal opinions than an objective critique. You can find out more about this award, including it's recipients, here.

B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty Eighth - A retrospective review





Publisher: Microprose
Developer: Wayward Interactive
Released: 2000
Cost: $5.99 (Good Old Games)

This was my first fully video review. B-17 is one of my combat flight sims of all time. This is a repost of my original article, in which I've included the video review, as well as given a score to the game.