Saturday, March 17, 2012

AAQR: IVONA high quality text to speech

Image representing IVONA Text-To-Speech as dep...
Image via CrunchBase
Tired of the robotic Pico Text-to-Speech engine built into Android and don't want to pay for SVOX? Now there's a new choice... IVONA Text to Speech HQ voices.

Download this new TTS engine, enable it in settings, and set it as default. It sounds MUCH MUCH better than the built-in one. And being the default TTS it is universal.

Indeed, if you download some proper apps, it will even read aloud ebooks for you (I use a pretty obscure one called CoolReader, which *does* support TTS, unlike Kindle / Nook apps. And you can also download additional voices. The American one sounds pretty good, and you can download a couple variants, such as Australian English, Welsh English, as well as a couple other European languages.

The American voice is VERY natural. If I didn't pay much attention I could have sworn it was just read very "robotic" by a real person. It's the "timing" that's off, but not off by much. And occasionally it pronounced the wrong word. For example, "Dr." is pronounced as "drive" (huh?!) when I made it read Sherlock Holmes.

Remember, download the main app, then download the voice installer, then run the voice installer to actually download the voice. Then SET the IVONA as your default TTS engine, then start using it.

Try it, you will like it very much. Really.
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

AAQR: Dead Space (shooter)

Dead Space comes to Android and during Google Play (re)launcher it's 49 cents.

You are Vandal, one of the mechanics who's helping the "church" do a few... special jobs. Unfortunately, you got ****ed when the power outage you caused on the order of the church allowed the NecroMorphs to invade the mining station. And now you need to make amends... by helping the real authorities save the station from the Necromorphs. You will be using the plasma cutter, blade, and saw disc launcher (and others) in your fight.

This game is a 3rd person "shooter" with dual-stick control... left hand controls forward/back and strafe left/right, while right hand controls look up/down and turn left/right. There's also reload (click on the weapon itself). The idea is to shoot the bad guys who spawn from seemingly nowhere. It's a bit like Resident Evil in its creepiness. There's also a lot about illusions and hallucinations, and double-crossing and so on.

Controls are just... weird, part of it is due to the improvised weaponry you are wielding. You start with the plasma blade/cutter. Takes a couple swipes to put the enemy down (once they're down but not dead you can do a "stomp")  The second weapon you get is the hand "torch", which shoots a beam, but has both a horizontal and a vertical mode (do quick tilt of the phone to "swap"). Some enemies are more vulnerable to one mode vs. the other (huh?!) And there's the saw disc thing. You shoot one of these off, and it'll spin like while held by a tractor beam, so you can slice an enemy multiple times as you draw the disc back and forth (until the timer runs out, all too soon).

You start out by simple navigating through the corridors and hit a power box or two. You may also run into lockers where you can grab stuff to help you upgrade later, improve one of the three weapons or upgrade your own suit which improves health.

When enemy manages to grapple you, you have a second or two to do a special swipe to remove them else you die.

The story is new chapter in the Dead Space mythos, on a parallel track of the main story.

Not a bad game at all, esp. for $0.49.

AAQR: Need for Speed Hot Pursuit (Racer)

NOTE: Currently on sale for $0.49, YMMV. Limited time offer.

EA is making a concerted push into Android game scene, and has commissioned many ports of their hottest properties, one such is Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, where you can race as either the law or the outlaw.

On either side, there are a series of events (divided into 4 "stages") where you can "win" individual events by scoring up to 3 stars (for full success). Though just one star is needed to "pass" the event. You can always go back and replay the event with a better vehicle. As you gain stature (by scoring "bounty" on both sides) you advance in level and gain access to better vehicles and tougher challenges.

Events are both sides are varied, with a few events that's not even found on the PC and console side. For example, the "law" side in NFS:HP on PC and console was often derided as lacking in events. So a couple events were added... including a law enforcement race. It's like rapid deployment (single car against the clock), except you will be racing 3 other lawmen to the finishline, and you CAN use personal pursuit aids, such as EMP and spike strips. (They won't use it against you, don't worry). Also, rapid deployment is now more like a checkpoint race where you need to hit each stage to get time added to the clock instead of just race all the way to the very end.

Graphics are quite good, though where the road and shoulder is weren't always quite apparent. Add to that quite a few "sharp" turns where you need to almost negotiate blindly, and other vehicles on the road, and things CAN be challenging. The trick is turn just sharp enough to make it through the corner, but NOT to drift, as drifting actually slows you down.

There's a TON of achievements, like using 25 seconds of nitro, drive 100 miles, crash into 10 cars, hit 10 EMP blasts, and so on, most of which have at least 3 if not 5 levels (like 5, 10, 25, 100, 250 seconds of nitro, for example).

The regular tilt control where the car auto-accelerates and you just control brakes, nitro, and the specials, while you steer through tilt, is quite workable. If you want ultimate control you can manually do the throttle (which allows better cornering).

All in all, the game can be a bit frustrating for those starting as the race themselves CAN be quite hard until they get the nuances of turning without drifting and so on. On the other hand, it is a very competent port and very usable while NOT an identical game to the console or PC (I have the PC version).

At 49 cents it's a STEAL. Get it (In fact, I think I like this better than Asphalt 6)

AAQR: Shadowgun (shooter)

NOTE: On sale this week for $0.49, YMMV

Shadowgun is one of those "one-man army merc blows up all sorts of nasties" game. It's a third-person shooter with "dual stick" where you can turn, look up/down, as well as go forward/back and strafe left/right. There's also "roll / dodge" button and the reload.

The story is typical: you're a wise-cracking merc where all problems can be solved with a lot of firepower. You're told to go find a doctor who supposedly stole some research and this big corp want it taken care of quietly. So you were just landing when your lander got clipped by a few missiles and you landed safely but you are not getting off until you take care of the problem. So you go into the facility, and found it's inhabited by some oddball "soldiers". Yep, cliche plot, as always. Later you'll see more monstrosities, making the whole thing feel like it stole liberally from the plot of Far Cry, except it's set in space on some alien planet. :)

The game itself is a "cover shooter". The idea is you shoot enemies preferably from behind cover of some sort, be it crates, blocks, and whatnot. If you "duck" as you approach it, it's cover. Cover comes in indestructible vs. destructible. Enemies occasionally sends out nasties that will just kamikaze you though, even if you're behind cover. Then there's the boss battles. Each boss has a weakspot you need to hit to kill it quickly. It's up to you to find it (hint: it's probably glowing).

The game is basically run between cover, kill enemies, dodge a few kamikaze bombs, find keys and doors, go through doors, unlock more areas, back track, and repeat ad infinitum. :)  Still, for 49 cents (while it's on sale) it's fun.

Update: met up with the 2nd boss, and it's **** frustrating as heck that I deleted the game.

You slowly progress through the tunnels, disable a couple barrier beams, and find yourself in the headlights of a giant mining crusher. What do you do? You run, of course. So how do you destroy this thing? You don't shoot it, and you can't bypass it. You have to run back, RE-enable the barrier beams one at a time, quickly enough so you don't get run over, and do this about FOUR times to fry this thing.

Except the game NEVER required rapid running before. I can always relatively leisurely go up to cover, shoot a couple bad guys, and slowly walk up to the next section. Thus, suddenly requiring you to run really fast, spin 180 to shoot a target, then spin 180 to keep running, is just RIDICULOUS! It's BAD GAME DESIGN!