Knights of Pen and Paper

Knights of pen and paperI played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons between the ages of 9 and 13. Entire weekends were devoted to dungeon crawling and monster slaying. I painted miniatures. I subscribed to Dragon magazine. The fact that I lived overseas and there wasn’t much else to do may have has something to do with my interest. But the truth is I just plain enjoyed it.

I eventually outgrew joining a party and going adventuring, but I never outgrew my love of fantasy and adventure and still fondly recall playing D&D. Except for that one DM who gave my favorite Elf ranger lycanthropy even though they are immune.

Knights of pen and paper characterAlthough I have played a lot of RPGs since then, none has quite captured the flavor of a weekend of dungeon crawling like Knights of Pen and Paper. It is a pretty basic rpg. You get quests. You slay evil doers. You get treasure and xp. What makes not so wicked fun though is the game plays out like you are sitting down with a DM and a group of players. Your “characters” are players who are playing a character class like cleric or warrior. There is even a DM making comments and rolling dice. As you travel between locations, the background swipes away and brings in a new one, but the game table, the DM and your players remain.

Knights is a fairly simple game with 8-bit style graphics that shouldn’t be as much fun as it is, but if you ever spent hours playing through a module, you will appreciate the simplicity and love that went into recreating that feeling. Definitely worth getting.

For iPhone and iPad.

Touchfire – The Touch Type iPad Keyboard

When I travel I hate carrying stuff on a plane so I try to leave my laptop at home and take my iPad instead. The problem is that typing on the iPad sucks, so my creativity takes a dive. Unless I take a bluetooth keyboard, but then I might as well have just taken my laptop.

Enter the Touchfire, a gel keyboard that sticks to the front of your iPad with magnets and gives you true touch typing. I haven’t bought it yet, but boy am I tempted.

Gel overlay keyboard

Marathon on the iPad

Joyous day!

Bungie’s Marathon, for which I upgraded my Mac to a Quadra 840AV in order to play it back in 1994, has been ported to the iPad by Soli Deo Gloria Productions. The best part about this game? Totally free. Bungie released the source code to the game a while back and Marathon die hard Daniel Blazek undertook the effort to bring this seminal Mac title to the iPad.

I’ve been playing now for hours and have found the touch controls to be super responsive. If you can look past the antiquated graphics, the gameplay in Marathon is truly wonderful. For the time, it was even ground breaking.

If you remember Marathon fondly, this is a great way to play the game again. If you’ve never played, now is your chance to pick up a game that defined Mac gaming for years.

Bungie recently released the source code to the remaining Marathon titles as well. I’m personally hoping to see a Marathon Infinity port, with multiplayer, so I can whip out my flechette gun and flame thrower and toast some bobs.


The ipad an iPhone have largely replaced consoles for me as a primary gaming platform. The one knock on them is the lack of physical controls. But that has changed.

I saw this really neat gadget at MacWorld called Fling that gives ipad gamers a physical analog thumb stick. Or two, if you prefer. It is a little plastic doohickey that sticks to the ipad with suction cups and has a capacitive touch device mounted inside a flexible center. It looks flimsy as hell, and may well break easily, but I got one and mounted it on my ipad this week.

I love it.

It makes games like Star Battalion, Galaxy on Fire and Speedball soooo much easier to control. The gizmo obscures some of the screen, but it is totally worth it to get that precision game control.

I will be trying it on Rage HD next.

Xenome Episode 1

I recently bought an iPhone 4 and was looking for a new game to play to make me feel better about switching phones in less than a year.

A new title in the App Store, Xenome, caught my eye. It promised an open world environment akin to Borderlands and Fallout 3, two games I love. There was no free version to try, and no reviews yet, but “what the hell” I thought, and downloaded.

Poor controls mar what might otherwise be a great game.

First let me say that the developers have done a lot of great stuff in this game. Good design. Good story. And it is evocative of both Fallout 3 and Borderlands. But after about an hour and a half of struggling with the controls, I just gave up. The game utilizes a dual joystick set up, but the responsiveness just isn’t all that great. I had a very hard time getting where I wanted to go and getting the camera to swing where I wanted it to so I could see who or what was attacking me. The hud is also painfully cramped. So much so that it is a real pain to access all the additional screens to manage inventory, quests, etc.

I didn’t dislike the game, but I didn’t really enjoy playing it either. I’m hopeful that a later update will make the controls more responsive and the camera more fluid.


There are a lot of action games on the iPhone, but not all of them are great. On a whim, I downloaded Alive4Ever because I love killing zombies. I really, really do. If you played iDracula, the game will immediately feel very similar. It is a top down shooter with movement controlled by your left thumb, shots with your right.


Alive 4 Ever

What sets this game apart is that it isn’t just a shooter. Alive4Ever incorporates a number of RPG qualities, like experience to level up your character. You can also collect equipment to change your character’s stats. But the thing that really makes it better than the average top down blast fest is the missions. Some are straight up kill the zombie affairs, where others require you to retrieve survivors, vaccine, gold, or a combination of the above. The catch is that when you’re retrieving something, you can’t use your more powerful rifle, you have to switch to your handgun. It does add to the challenge.

As you make your way through the levels, you accumulate cash that can be used to buy better weapons, from shotguns, to assault rifles to pistols. Having a variety of weapons to choose from going into different missions makes the game feel deeper.

I’m a big fan of this little gem. If you like action, pick it up.

Note: I don’t give ratings. I only write about products that I think you should get, or that you should avoid.