Tag Archives: games

MyTown iPhone Game Review

The multitude of functions of the iPhone have introduced a whole new range of games.  MyTown, made by Booyah,  is one that combines location (GPS), map information (where buildings and businesses are) and social networking together to be a location-based game.  Some think of it like Foursquare, or an expanded version of Facebook’s checkin facility.

But I like to think of it as real world Monopoly that you play on your phone!  Sounds geeky right?

Booyah claim that it’s the most popular location based social game ever.   Big call!

I think the original idea was when you’re at some place (cafe/restaurant/business/anything), that you fire up MyTown and check in to say that you’re there.   You get a bonus for checking in to properties when you’re actually physically closer to it.  You can also receive items for checking in at places.

Radio City Music Hall - one of my properties

The next aspect to the game is purchasing properties.  At first I didn’t get this at all.   I mean why would you want to buy your local deli, cafe, bar, etc?  It’s definitely one way of saying “I like this place!”, but buying virtual properties lets you earn rent and create items.  Rent gives you money which lets you upgrade and decorate your properties.  Items lets you earn more money or items.   There’s only a fixed number of properties you can buy and you’re also constrained by how much money you have (well, the initial parts of the game) – but you unlock “slots” more as you play the game more.

Since MyTown must host a massive database of every property in the world (HA!), they can keep track of how many people check in at each one and calculates a popularity rating which can affect the current “price” of the property.

Besides upgrading, buying and selling properties, you can also create “items” at your properties – depending on what type of business it is.  I don’t see the point of this side of the game unless you’re into levelling up.  I’ve persisted for a while – for exmaple, getting my Gas and Convenience to 16 skill points.  But so what?  So I can unlock more items?  Little Miss 11 plays this game too but hasn’t even touched this side of the game.

Creating items and increasing your skill level

So when I started playing, I just had a few local popular businesses.  Then I started checking in more often when I was out and about around Perth.  And adding places like Burswood Casino, Subi Oval, Greens & Co, etc to my property portfolio.  But I wasn’t earning much cash at all.

Burswood Casino

Then I found out how you can “game” the system. 

Seems like you can turn off Location Services on your iPhone/iDevice for MyTown (or just play it on a non-GPS iDevice), and then when you start up, it asks you which city you are in.  You can put it any city in the world! 

Turning off Location Services for MyTownChoose any town you want!

It seems to make sense to buy the most popular properties in the game, and they seem to be the ones that are closest to the default location of each city.  Actually, if you look at the list that comes up, many people end up choosing Abilene, Texas and then checking in and/or buying the first properties on this screen or anything closer than 100m to where you are in Abilene, Texas.

Choose properties less than 100m away

Take a look at Abilene Educational Supplies!   The problem with this now is that the property rankings in MyTown have nothing to do with how popular the property is in real life at all.  In my eagerness to get more money, I ended up buying properties like this in the U.S. (Bitsy’s Flowers, Quiznos, Hoofbeats), and famous tourist destinations like the Apple Store in New York, Statue of Liberty, etc.

Hoofbeats - one of the most popular and valuable properties

And now I don’t really play the game much anymore.

I think they need to do a few things:

  • Stop people checking in and buying places that they aren’t actually at.  It means the whole property popularity thing has no meaning.   But then again, it’s a game right?  Not some official data collection service.
  • Change the UI.  The styling, colour and graphics need to be slicked up.  Maybe it’s meant to be targeted towards kids – in which case it’s fine.  
  • Perhaps see who just checked in at a location like Facebook or Foursquare?  But maybe this is not the intent of the game.
  • Increase the social aspect of the game.  At the moment I can “visit” someone else’s set of properties and send them a message, but that’s about it.  Would be nice to see common properties, or set up tasks/challenges like We Rule Quests or FarmVille.

For older players (like me!), I think I’ll be content in just checking in in Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare.

More info here:  http://www.booyah.com/products/mytown

Mah Jongg with the Aunties

We had just finished lunch at my Wifey’s parents house.   The taste of spicy curry was still swirling in my mouth.  The kids were screaming and running around the freezing pool outside, trying to escape the humidity of the evaporative air-conditioning.

It was suggested that we play some Mah Johngg, a Chinese tile based game sort of like Gin Rummy.  I had played before when I was a kid, but I have always been apprehensive to play with the Aunties.  My speed of play would be too slow for them, they’d have to explain the rules to me, and help me read the Chinese characters that I can’t read.

But I was allowed in!  I quickly tried to memorise all the numeric character tiles.  I couldn’t be bothered about the winds.

And then it was on.  A whole $1 at stake! 

At the end of the first round, I was up 30 cents!  The aunties couldn’t believe it.  Beginner’s luck?  How could this Australian born Chinese even know how to play mah jongg? Was it bad for me to win?  Would that be disgracing the older generation?  I didn’t care – I made 30 cents and I could feel the tendrils of gambling addiction starting to creep into my body. 

Suddenly I won another 40 cents!  Small fry think the Aunties.  Aunty across from me said she’s going in for the kill.  No point winning little bits at a time with a small number of doubles.  The real way to play is to win really really BIG. 

The afternoon was moving along and Wifey was starting to nag me to leave.  But I thought – one more game – I was up nearly a whole dollar!

But boy was that a bad decision – said Aunty across from me wiped us all out.  Suddenly I was down like 5 cents.  Where had my beginner’s luck gone?  Had Wifey stolen it with bad karma by saying I sholdn’t have played this round?

Wifey said I really had to go now before I lost more money and I reluctantly complied.  My mother-in-law took my spot and promised to win back big for us. 

On the drive home, I got an email saying she had won BIG for us!  Ahh..  I really am still a grasshopper – a young padawan Mah Jongg player with much to learn.

Beatles Rockband Fever

Something I never anticipated 2 weeks ago..  that Miss 8 and Miss 10 would suddenly know and be singing Beatles songs all the time.. in the car, at home, even confessing that they had Beatles songs stuck in their heads at school!

Yep, we bought Beatles Rockband and have been having a blast!  I just love how the songs are accessible to the kids, unlike Guitar Hero Metallica 🙂    OK, there are some really trippy ones, but in general, Beatles songs are catchy, have a great feel and have easy to pick up “happy” melodies.  

The kids’ favourites now include Yellow Submarine, Do You Want To Know A Secret, Eight Days A Week, Here Comes the Sun and I Saw Her Standing There.  And since we finished the whole game on the weekend with the help of some hardcore friends (and got the Day Tripper achievement!), they now know a decent proportion of Beatles songs!

Who would’ve thought…

Hacking the iPhone

I knew it..  I didn’t know anything about this until last week, but I should have suspected it all along.  There are clever and crafty people in the world that will try and figure out how to hack into anything. 

And they have hacked the iPhone.  I heard a while ago about how people bought iPhones from the US and got it to work on non AT&T carriers, like Australian mobile networks.

However, I didn’t realise what else this meant.  It seems that the term jailbreaking refers to the act of “hacking” into the iPhone, which lets you do 2 main things:
1) Run it on mobile networks it was originally locked to
2) Access the “computer” within the iPhone to install and run software that Apple doesn’t provide normally through its iPhone App Store

Having bought an iPhone with a plan on Optus here in Australia, I’m not really interested in the first point above.  But the second one is interesting.  People have ported all sorts of things to the iPhone.  Things that get me excited:

* MAME (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator) is a program that emulates many arcade machine cabinet games.  You can now play these games on your iPhone!  More info here:  http://www.iphone-hacks.com/2008/09/29/iphone-arcade-emulator-mame4iphone-released/

* NES App is the Nintendo emulator which lets you play many old Nintendo games like Mario Brothers, Bomberman, etc.   More info here:  http://www.iphonehacks.com/2008/07/nes-app-update.html

* Even PSX, the Playstation 1 emulator, has been ported to the iPhone – http://www.appleiphoneschool.com/2007/12/28/psx4all-playstation-for-the-iphone/

* Quake.  Have you tried Cube from the iPhone App Store.  Well, someone has ported Quake to the iPhone – http://justanotheriphoneblog.com/wordpress/2008/07/27/quake-for-iphone-20-out-now/.  

One of my first thoughts was – how are you going to play these games without a directional pad and only touch?   It seems that many of these emulators display virtual controls on the screen.  In fact, some “official” games from the iPhone App Store do this too, but I find it sometimes hard to use as you can’t “feel” where your fingers are.   It seems that some people have created a shell that fits around the iPhone with gaming controls called the iControlPad!  See here for more details: http://www.icontrolpad.com/

So what are the disadvantages?  It does void your warranty (see discussion here: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies-archive.cfm/1070240.html)

I’m just beginning to learn more about all of this,  but it seems that you can’t update to the latest Apple iPhone firmware and jailbreak your phone unless the people who write the jailbreakers have “hacked” the latest iPhone firmware too.   And once your phone is jailbroken, if you update your phone the official way (via iTunes), it will wipe out any custom applications you put on there.

In typical YouTube fashion – there are videos on there now that show you step by step how to do it. 

However, I’m still not totally convinced I should take the risk…

Guess who

Guess who!
Guess who!

After dinner on school nights, we usually ban the TV and encourage the kids to play a board game or card game of some kind.   Last night was Uno, but tonight was Guess Who!

Unfortunately having a 7 year old play a 9 year old does expose differences in logic and problem solving between the ages.   Guess who is an interesting game in that you need some problem solving skills to determine the best question to ask depending on what people you have left.   Our 7 year old is still asking semi random questions that don’t help all the time.  Like “Does your person have a moustache?” when all her remaining people have a moustache!   Cute 🙂

The other hard concept that comes up in the game is the double negative?  Like, “Does your person have a hat?”.  “No”.   This means you eliminate the people WITH hats.   Our little one still gets mixed up and sometimes eliminates the opposite!   One day it will click…