Get Your Game On: Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time!

When Plants vs. Zombies 2  was first announced as a free-to-play sequel to the smash hit original, many feared it would deter some of the fun and addictive gameplay they enjoyed from its predecessor. But will the convenience of in-app purchasing (for buying extra plant food to help you advance to more levels) attract or repel you from this iOS exclusive Plants vs. Zombies follow up? Read on to find out!

How To Play

If you are familiar with the original Plants vs. Zombies  then you’ll be right at home playing the sequel (and if you aren’t were you living under a rock?). The object of the game is to collect suns in order to accumulate points. The points correlate to different packages of seeds which you can drag onto the board to prevent the zombies from reaching your house – from right to left. Choose from sunflowers (who do not kill zombies but provide you with more suns), peashooters, wall nuts (who provide armored protection), cabbage-pults, and more. If you fail to kill any approaching zombie you’re backed up by one lawnmower per lane.

Remember Crazy Dave? He’s back! While on a quest to find a masterful taco (hey who doesn’t love a good taco?!) he accidentally teleports you to past, including places like Ancient Egypt and the Wild West.

What’s New?

This is a sequel, so something has to be different, right? Well, besides in-app purchases (more on that later) not much is new. PopCap  has given the zombies an upgrade for the sequel, who can attack you in different ways besides the traditional slow zombie walk to the house. Killing new glowing zombies give you new power-ups, which can give you a real advantage when you need it the most – particularly when a huge wave of zombies is approaching.

What I Like

The most appealing part of Plants vs. Zombies 2   is its easy-to-play and addictive gameplay. I found it to closely resemble a dumbed-down version of Tower Defense  (that is until you get deeper into the game). The artwork and music are visually and audibly pleasing as well; this game will definitely look great on a retina display iPad (I played it on my iPad 2 and it still looked great).

What I Don’t Like

The game is free-to-play with available in-app purchases. You can buy your way to advanced levels, or even buy extra plant food to give you more of an advantage to kill an onslaught of zombies. All is great until you reach the deeper levels, where it becomes increasingly difficult to advance to higher levels without  purchasing more food. I personally don’t mind the “freemium” app model, but if you’re the type of player who likes to beat games (seriously who does that these days?) this game will likely frustrate you.

Buy/Don’t Buy

Yes, you’re right. I already mentioned the game was free. But it’s up to you to spend your hard earned dollars to cheat (sorry, I mean advance) your way to the top of Plants vs. Zombies 2 . It’s fun and free (mostly), give it a shot and let us know in the comments what you think!

Get Your Game On: Dropchord

Remember how fun it was to spend your afternoons after school at the arcade? Okay, maybe you’re not as old as I am. But that’s okay, because Double Fine’s new arcade-style high score game Dropchord brings together a hypnotically visualizing, musically intense game. With heavy beats and awe-inspiring graphics, read on to find out how well it plays on the iPad. 

How to Play

You play Dropchord  with thumbs placed firmly on both sides of a center circle. By doing so you create a line that is used to clear objects on the screen. The motion, oddly enough, reminds me of flossing your teeth. If you let go, the game immediately pauses, something you might find odd on a touchscreen device. The object of the game is to strike through the objects while avoiding the occasional “scratch”, hitting them lowers your health rating and cuts your line.

What I Like

I enjoyed the upbeat pace of the game and the fact that you have to stay focused to continue playing. We often enjoy casual gaming on mobile devices, so it’s refreshing to see a game that requires your full attention while not having to play through a deeply involved storyline. The game is simple, strike through the objects and avoid the scratches. It’s as simple as that, yet at the same time stay focused on getting the high score. Again, this type of gameplay reminds me of classic arcade games, even the layout and the interface resemble old school gaming.

The music and visuals are also very appealing and quite addictive to watch. I was just as amused with the spiraling effects and the fast music as much as I was trying to get a higher score than my wife (who was also quite addicted to the game).

What I Don’t Like

Dropchord  can be a bit difficult to play at first glance. I found the controls a bit difficult for such a simple game, but it does get easier after a few tries. Constantly holding your thumbs on the iPad is something I am not used to, and playing the game on your lap while sitting on the couch can be a bit difficult. I found it easier to play on a hard flat surface.

I also found the font used to be overly futuristic and at times illegible. And as nice as the music and beats are during the game, I expected them to closely match my gameplay. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between the music and the visuals with the gameplay itself.

But/Don’t Buy

Despite the difficult controls and the disjointed music and graphics, I found Dropchord  to be a joy to play. As I mentioned earlier, even my wife found herself addicted to the game. It sells for $2.59 and is definitely a BUY. Its nostalgic design just brings back too many good memories spending my allowance at the arcade.

Leap Motion on the Mac: Review

Every few years a new technology is unveiled that gives us a glimpse into the future of computing. The newest such innovative technology is arguably the touchscreen, particularly ones on the iPhone and iPad, which have reshaped the way we use and interact with our mobile devices. When you think of the way we might interact with our computers in the future, one can’t help but think of sci-fi movies and the use of gesture-based interactions, similar to the XBox Kinect. Enter Leap Motion, an innovative little device that aims to give you gesture-based controls for your PC and Mac. Read on to see how it works on an iMac.

Most current desktops do not have the functionality of a touchscreen, unless you own an Apple Magic Trackpad for your Mac or a brand new all-in-one touch Windows 8 PC (let’s not go there). But gesture-based controls aren’t yet available for any computer. Leap Motion launched as a kickstarter project last year raising over a whopping $30M for this gesture-based controller, with the minimum contribution costing $80. It seems the masses are ready for the next generation of computing on desktops, but how well does it work?

What’s in the Box

Leap Motion ships in small and attractive packaging, something Apple fans can appreciate. Inside the box are the controller and two USB cables – a short and long one. The controller is a small rectangle with a black glass screen wrapped in aluminum, with a little green LED to the right indicating it is powered and connected. It looks as if it was made to match my 24″ 2007 iMac (minus the grey colored cable).


Setup is a breeze. Simply connect the controller to your Mac’s USB port, then log onto Choose the Mac download installation .dmg file, then install it like any other Mac app (you know, before the Mac App Store days). Immediately after the installation completes, an app called AirSpace launches. Think of this as a Launchpad for the Leap Motion, populated with an Orientation App and four included apps. There’s also a shortcut for its very own App Store, apps that come built with Leap Motion functionality. The Orientation app immediately launches after that, which guides you through a basic tutorial on how to use it. The gesture-based controls are very easy and intuitive, however, I found myself re-doing the Orientation to do the drawing tutorial three more times (more on that later).

How Does it Work?

The controller’s sensors are facing upward with two cameras and three infrared LEDs. It senses an areas of approximately one meter hemispherically. It tracks your fingers – something important to note – in the observed area, unlike the XBox Kinect. So don’t expect to perform any Tom Cruise Minority Report movements across your living room floor just yet. Gesture based controls are used in apps, and there are already third party apps that are aimed at using gestures for normal everyday computer use.

What I Like

Most apps available that I’ve used are either games or music apps – both of which are really fun to use. I found the preloaded Lotus app the most fun to use. You make music based on hand and finger gestures. Apps like these are a natural fit for something like Leap Motion. The sensitivity is impressive, the slightest movement makes delicate and intricate sounds. 

I also enjoyed the free New York Times Leap Reader app. As fun as a music app is for the Leap Motion, I believe in order for it to gain traction with the general public it has to be able to help us with everyday computing tasks. Reading the news is one of those tasks. The app is limited (paywall alert!) as it only has a handful of articles. Simply twirl your finder in circular motion to the right or left to navigate through news cards, then hold the pointer on any article for a small period of time to select it (a gesture commonly used in Leap Motion apps). Then use the same twirl motion to scroll up and down the article, then shake your wrist when you’re done to return to the main interface.

I downloaded a free third party app called BetterTouchTool that allows you to create gestures to control core aspects of OS X. I created two-fingered gestures that move windows to the right and left, and there are tons of available options for the Mac desktop. Think of this as Automator for your hands and desktop. I can see apps like this taking off and being very useful, as it’s quite satisfying to move windows and apps around with a simple gesture. 

But what I like the most is the overall fun factor this device provides. I haven’t had this much fun on my Mac (or any desktop computer for that matter) in years – perhaps this is its biggest feature. I felt like I was learning to use an entirely new type of device altogether, the experience was like no other. I found myself standing most of the time, something I have never done with any computing device, and that is always a good thing.

What I Don’t Like

When Steve Jobs got on stage to announce the Macbook Air in 2010 many wondered if the new device would have a touchscreen. To the chagrin of many in attendance, Steve Jobs said “you can’t touch your laptop’s screen…or your arms will fall off“. After playing the preloaded game Dropcord on Leap Motion, I agree with the late Mr. Jobs wholeheartedly, as my arms were burning after only a few minutes. Perhaps this is the intention of the app, either way I don’t believe this to be very ergonomic.

I found Leap Motion’s controls to be erratic, often I’d repeat the same gesture two or three times. And when the device doesn’t recognize the gesture, I’d often become frustrated and repeat the gesture faster than the previous, decreasing the chances of the device to understand what I was doing. This is the first iteration of the hardware and software, I’m sure with a few hardware and/or firmware updates and better apps the experience will improve over time.

But perhaps the most frustrating aspect is the counterintuitive nature of the gestures in some of the apps. Remember the drawing tutorial in the orientation app? I repeated the orientation three times and not once did I feel comfortable with the gestures. I often at times motioned gestures of a touchscreen, swiping and trying to press on objects which registered nothing in the app. The New York Times app, albeit easy to use after a couple of tries, includes gestures I find not as intuitive as ones you’d use on a touchscreen device. Perhaps mimicking touchscreen controls will help assist new users adapt to such a new way of interacting with their computer.

Buy/Don’t Buy

Rarely do I recommend first iterations of devices, and unfortunately the Leap Motion is no exception. For $80 this device reminds me of the Magic Trackpad when it first launched. I remembered how counterintuitive it seemed to use trackpad gestures on my Mac. Over time i got used to it, but I still haven’t fully replaced my mouse with it, as every once in a while I’m using an app that requires me to use the good old mouse. I did say I haven’t had this much fun on my Mac in a long time, which is true. But for a relatively steep price and a limited amount of apps, it may be wise to wait and see if more apps and improved functionality await Leap Motion’s future.