27 June, 2013

So I went for a walk

...and according to some random calorie counter page thingy I burned four hundred calories. In other words, a drop in the ocean. They should just get rid of the calculator code altogether and replace it with this text:
Don't bother counting calories. One 75-minute walk isn't going to do jack for your fitness, weight or life expectancy. Start eating less and start moving more often. Sincerely, calorie counter thingy.
It was nice to begin with. But then I started thinking that the stupid path signs were screwed up and I might be going the wrong way. So I was grrr-ing in my head. And I didn't want to stop and look at Google Maps because that defeats the whole purpose of getting my heart rate up. And then it was getting too hot and sweaty to enjoy (24° Celsius at 5.40am, wtf Finland) and I finally gave in and looked, and I was going the right way, but had already taken a pretty big detour. So I walked back on a more direct route, feeling all dizzy and annoyed.

Good: Found enough cans to cash in and buy an orange juice and a banana. Resisted the chocolate aisle.

05 June, 2013

Ticket to Ride Android App Review - Days of Wonder

Yeah, it had to be done - SOMEONE needs to write a review for this new Android app, because when I went searching to find a review for the new Android App for Days of Wonder's Ticket To Ride game, I couldn't find one! Since I'm conceited, I am assuming there aren't many reviews online yet (we could never claim my Googling skills were to blame...)

I must admit up front that I own the classic Ticket To Ride board game, but I'm still quite new to it. Having said that, the board game is a total blast (and you should buy it for yourself). It is a fabulous mix of strategy and simplicity. If you've only ever played board games with a dice, you're in for a treat. This is a game that even young kids can learn to play and yet it can give real enjoyment to adults, and somehow it still satisfies that one person at every gathering who simply must figure out the best way to win (you know who I mean - every family has an Uncle Steve who gets so serious about a game you have to wonder if they're even having any fun). You don't need to adore trains, either, although, if you do, you'll like Ticket to Ride.

The first time I played it I went looking for an Android app afterwards. You can imagine my disappointment to learn it wasn't yet available on Android at the time. You can imagine my fury to learn that iPhone users had one. (Sniff.) Fortunately our prayers have been answered and Days of Wonder have released the Ticket to Ride app for Android. Yay! Winnar!

Board Game
If you've never seen the original classic board game, it's a map filled with destinations all over mainland North America. Your task is to complete routes between certain cities, by collecting the right kinds of cards to fill them (matching by colour). You collect, say, three matching orange cards, then place your little plastic train widgets onto an orange section of track to show that you've claimed the tracks between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, and nobody else can get that same track. You're holding several long distance route cards, and this little section is a part of your long-distance route. Once you fill up all the sections on the long-distance route, you score the points listed on your card (perhaps your route card goes all the way to Los Angeles, so you need to get the next section as well). No dice are involved - apart from which cards you draw, nothing more is really down to chance, but to brains. It's a little complicated to explain the scoring, so an awesome aspect of it being in an Android app is that the app does the scoring for you. More awesomeness! More win! Lots more winnaring!

The music fits well with the app, even if you're not a big fan of background music. One thing that bothered me was the constant jumping and pausing - I felt a bit like I was streaming video on a 28K modem. I'm running the game on a Samsung Galaxy S3 with Jellybean and a ton of free space (hardly an old or lame phone just yet), and the game constantly lags, so it won't be long before I just turn the music off to keep my sanity. Yes, it's the entire app lagging and not just the music, but as long as I can't hear it I'll cope :)

As expected, absolutely beautiful artwork. Days of Wonder do not disappoint in the aesthetics department. Those of you familiar with the board game will know it's on the large size, which makes things interesting to fit into a smartphone screen, and yeah, if you're old and ancient like me (in your 30s) you will be squinting to read the text, especially the destinations on the map. Fortunately, with continued play you'll get to know what is where. And kindly, they've included a handy zoom function, which will get a ton of use by Yours Truly. If you're good at geography or grew up in the USA, you probably know where... um, some place named Duluth... is anyway. For the rest of us, lots of squinting, zooming and practice, hey?

I really, really, like, REALLY love the board game. Having said that, it is so disappointing to me just how confusing the hand-holding tutorial part is at the very start - and I'm someone who knows how to play. Just as you're learning how to control your own cards, they point at something different. So - if you don't know the Ticket To Ride board game works, definitely go to YouTube first and watch a bunch of videos on how the gameplay progresses. Then you'll have a fighting chance of following the "how to work this baby" part at the beginning of the Android App. It definitely improves as it progresses. It feels good once you understand where everything is, and is relatively simple to control. Thumbs up for the interface itself.

What can I say - it's the Ticket to Ride board game, put into an app, so it's awesome. I might even like it better than the board game because it doesn't involve actually trying to corral my family into one room at the same time. The game itself gets this as a recommendation: two surly teenagers who were torn away from their computers and forced to try out Mum's new board game actually wanted to stay and play it a second time. What better testimonial is there than that?

Days of Wonder - Ticket to Ride app for Android

5.43€ / $6.99

Post Script: the game doesn't always turn off when you forcefully "sleep" your phone. I pressed the side button to turn off the display, and the music keeps jumping back on for a second or two then disappearing. Possibly related to it lagging on my phone... possibly.