Tesla Model X driver dies in Mountain View crash

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A Tesla vehicle is at the center of another tragic crash, and the company is coming under renewed scrutiny over safety concerns as a result. The driver of a Model X has died after his electric SUV collided with a median barrier on Highway 101 in Moun…
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When a filmmaker discovered a mountain lion in his backyard, he made a documentary

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<em>One of the mountain lion cubs peers into a camera trap. </em>

The first time that Montana-based wildlife filmmaker Casey Anderson locked eyes with the mountain lion living in his backyard, he was close enough to hear her crunching on a dead deer’s bones. Then he noticed that she must have recently given birth. That was when Anderson knew he had to make a film about the mountain lion, whom he nicknames Mama Mo, and her three cubs: Eeny, Meeny, and Miny.

There was just one problem: mountain lions aren’t easy to spot. “I’ve been told 1,000 times that you can’t do a documentary about mountain lions,” Anderson says. “Anytime anybody has ever tried, it’s just a documentary about people looking for mountain lions — not actually finding them.”

So he turned to military-grade, thermal-sensing FLIR cameras…

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Apple Watch a hit on the mountain: 25% of Slopes app skiers and riders start tracking via wrist

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While third-party apps for Apple Watch remain something of a mixed bag, at least one developer has found a very popular use case for their watchOS app: Consumed by Code’s skiing and snowboarding app Slopes sees one-quarter of its users start recording rides down the mountain via Apple Watch.
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Review: ‘Alto’s Odyssey’ for iOS heads down the mountain as an excellent sequel to ‘Alto’s Adventure’

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"Alto’s Odyssey" makes a number of enhancements to the successful formula set out by "Alto’s Adventure" three years ago, resulting in an endless runner that will satisfy both players of the original and newcomers alike.
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‘Alto’s Odyssey’ Review: Once More Down the Mountain

Snowman returns to their breakout hit with Alto’s Odyssey [$ 4.99], and while they don’t veer too far from what worked in Alto’s Adventure [$ 4.99], they still find room for a few surprises while maintaining the engrossing atmospheric experience of the original. It doesn’t do enough new to change the minds of anyone that didn’t like the first game, but everything Adventure does right, Odyssey expands on it.

If you’ve played the heck out of Alto’s Adventure, you need to be patient. The game seems very similar at first. If you haven’t, well, you control Alto or one of several other characters on a sandboard as they go through desert environments. Yes, sandboarding is a real thing, and it’s awesome. You can tap and hold on the screen to perform backflips, and you need to land your flips safely in order to not crash. Land a flip, and you’ll gain a speed boost. Chain together a bunch of tricks, such as multiple flips and grinds, and you’ll get even bigger boosts. You can’t flip forward, so if you need to correct your position, you need to let go and hope you land cleanly on your board. Timing your flips is crucial to success in Alto’s Odyssey.

Part of the hook for Alto’s Adventure was that it was a backflipping endless runner like Ski Safari [$ 0.99] but really beautiful. And Alto’s Odyssey manages to one-up Adventure in terms of creating a gorgeous atmosphere. The desert environments are stunning, and the biomes that the game introduces all come with their own elements to differentiate them, and provide a unique flavor to each run. You might wind up in one biome for a few runs, before you eventually start to end up in other biomes, and it all feels rather natural. The storms and day-night cycle add variety to each run, and create for some gorgeous worlds. If you want to just enjoy the landscapes without fear of failure, you can just play the Zen Mode, and pick back up whenever you crash.

The new movement mechanic (which I’m not going to spoil because a large part of the game’s fun is in discovering things for yourself) adds a great new aspect to chaining together tricks, and in developing and maintaining speed throughout your runs. That’s the greatest strength for Alto’s Odyssey: the sense of feeling like your exploring a new world, not always knowing what you’re going to get next. I do like that the elder from Alto’s Adventure returns in a sense in Alto’s Odyssey, but lasts a much shorter amount of time.

Because of the multiple playable characters, I say the game should be more appropriately called Maya’s Odyssey, because she remains the superior character in the Alto franchise. Sure, she doesn’t pick up speed as quickly, but that’s not the key problem in the game, successfully landing backflips is a lot tougher. I suppose I understand that it teaches players to learn how to to backflip and to make smart decisions. But the game just gets to be a lot less frustrating with Maya and her ability to flip quicker than Alto can. If anything, I’d say that it’s easier to pick up speed with her because you can make more backflips with Maya than you can with Alto. But it also comes down to taste, I suppose. But much like in Alto’s Adventure, I find my self sticking with Maya. Of course, maybe Alto or one of the other characters you unlock is more your speed.

I wish the game awarded coins more quickly, because I’d like to buy the wingsuit earlier on than it is available. In fact, it feels like it’s quite possible to out-progress the game to a certain extent, and then it becomes about the grind to get more coins to unlock the wingsuit. I understand that the revival items are expensive, but they feel prohibitively expensive. The wingsuit is such a fun and unique part of the Alto experience, and I wish it was a bit more accessible to unlock. This is where other games include IAP for more coins, and I’m not going to lie, I’d have paid to unlock the wingsuit faster.

While I felt this way in Alto’s Adventure to some extent, the problem is that Alto’s Odyssey follows a lot of the same notes that the first game did. The new things it introduces are welcome, but I feel like this won’t change anyone’s opinion on the series, but it will make fans happy. There are still surprises to be had, but the idea that you can guess what’s next, or feel familiarity at something new, is just a little disappointing.

Snowman gave Alto’s Odyssey the full complement of iOS features, including iCloud support and Apple TV compatibility. The game works really well with the Siri Remote, and it’s nice to just sit back on the couch and play the game that way, versus holding up an iPhone or iPad.

Still, I think Snowman knows how to make a fantastic backflipping endless runner. The atmosphere is second to none, the physics do require an acclimation period but they feel fantastic over time. And the way that the game progresses and introduces new elements makes it a compelling experience to play over time, even if I wish it went a bit faster, or was more generous with the coins. And hey, a premium game without in-app purchases is a unicorn on the App Store, I’m sure there’s people wanting me to shut up about saying I’d spend money on coins.

If you liked Alto’s Adventure and want more of it, pick up Alto’s Odyssey. If you never played Alto’s Adventure and want an incredibly beautiful endless runner with intriguing progression systems, get Alto’s Odyssey. If you didn’t feel great about Alto’s Adventure, I doubt Alto’s Odyssey does enough new things to change your mind.


Grappling Hook Mountain Climber ‘Hang Line’ Gets a New Video

In June of last year, we posted the trailer for a sweet looking grappling hook game called Hang Line from industry veteran turned solo developer Ed Kay. June was an awfully long time ago, so if you’re like me you may have been wondering just what the status is of Hang Line. Well! Good news for us then as the developer has posted an update to our forums with some new info and a new video of Hang Line. Here’s a quick description from Mr. Kay about this latest vid: “This video shows a level about half way through the game, which is on a mountain that is characterised by having giant boulders which must be carefully yanked free so the player can pass onwards to the top. But the local wildlife don’t take kindly to climbers intruding… I hope you enjoy it!”

One of the more interesting things about Hang Line is how all the various elements can interact with each other, and as Kay further explains: “My aim was to make a game that was extremely easy to pick up but had a lot of mastery and tons of emergent gameplay. Every element in the game interacts with every other element. Goats can kick cats, cats can pounce on explosives, explosives can explode stalactites, stalactites can crush goats… When this number of systems are all interacting as the player swings and bounces around on an elastic grapple line – you never know what to expect. And to me that’s what makes it special.” Gah! Everything about Hang Line sounds so cool! It’s been in the works for over two years but it’s “very close now” so drop by the forum thread to register your excitement and look for this one hopefully sooner rather than later.


‘Monster Merge’ by ‘Down the Mountain’ Developer Umbrella Now Available for App Store Preorder

Umbrella put up its newest in-house title, Monster Merge, up for pre-order on the App Store for a release in March. Their title about combining creatures brings in some elements of puzzle games, with a heavy dose of idle game mechanics. You drag monsters of the same type together in order to level them up and discover more of the new monsters. As you merge monsters, you can start to expand your base of operations, and use your current array of monsters to complete tasks for you, while they also generate idle revenue for you.

If you liked Down the Mountain‘s [Free] distinctive art style, you’re in luck: Monster Merge uses a similar isometric blocky style for all the creatures. This gives the creatures a unique look, where basic monsters resemble creatures like spiders and snakes, but have a friendlier, more abstract look. As you get further in the game, you’ll see creatures that start to use different design, resembling orcs, dragons, and…skeleton wizards? This game’s gonna have it all. Or at least, it’ll have 30 unique monsters at launch, and there is plenty of potential down the road for the game to use more. How about some cameos from indie games or Down the Mountain? Eli showed up in that one, how about we finally put him to work for a change?!

Umbrella hit the map thanks in large part to the brilliant Boom Dots [Free], and steadily expanded from there with games like Down the Mountain, Wobblers [Free] and Back to Square One [Free]. The studio expanded into publishing in 2017, rapidly putting out a bunch of casual titles from other developers, and giving them the Umbrella polish and promotional push. The studio still does its own games, and Monster Merge is their latest original, in-house-developed title.

You can preorder Monster Merge on the App Store right now. I suppose pre-ordering a free game is kind of silly, but the way to look at it is that this way you know the game will get downloaded to your device the second that it’s available to download. I mean, think about all the other things you take for granted. Is pre-ordering a digital file, which is if not literally infinite (the sun will explode one day) then practically infinite, really the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to the absurdity of our modern existence?

You can spend the next few weeks pondering that question while you wait for Umbrella’s Monster Merge to release on the App Store on March 7th.