Game choices abound on Apple’s App Store

September 27, 2008

Steve Demeter has set one of those modest life goals for himself: He wants to be a millionaire by the time he turns 30.

And while this ambitious little alarm clock is rapidly tick-tocking toward the buzzer, it’s starting to look like the 29-year-old game developer just might slide in under the wire. After all, in the last two months alone Demeter has managed to rake in $250,000 – all thanks to his “cash cow.”

This particular heifer is a little something called “Trism,” a smart, stylish and devilishly addictive puzzle game that, for a mere $4.99, can be downloaded through Apple’s new virtual marketplace – a.k.a. the App Store – and played on the iPhone or the iPod touch.

“It’s a unique game,” Demeter says, trying to explain “Trism’s” many charms. “It’s not something you could get on another mobile phone or one of the handheld consoles out there right now.”

Roger that. As we reported last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently made a big show of how the iPod touch and the iPhone have become serious gaming machines – so serious that he seems to fancy them giving Nintendo’s handheld DS game machine and Sony’s PSP a run for their money.

And why not? Apple’s powerful devices boast beautiful, multi-touch enabled touch screens, an accelerometer that senses motion and Internet connectivity. And after its first 60 days in operation, Jobs announced that the App Store already had more than 700 games to offer.

Yes, iPhone and iPod touch owners have quickly found themselves awash in gaming choices – games from big-name publishers as well as lone developers working in their bedrooms, all of them trying to figure out how to spin the Apple devices’ unique assets into gaming gold.
Vivendi Games launched their “Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D” racing game while Sega brought its “Super Monkey Ball” franchise to the App Store. Earlier this month, Electronic Arts released an iPhone version of its mega-game “Spore,” and THQ delivered “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” for the iPhone.

And then there are the little guys like Demeter who made “Trism” almost entirely by himself, working late nights while also tending to a day job. Meanwhile, puzzle/role-playing game “Aurora Feint: The Beginning” was created by a two-person development team fueled primarily by caffeinated beverages.

But with all these choices from all these sources, the question remains: Are these App Store games actually any good?


Upgrade Your Xbox 360’s Hard Drive on the Cheap

September 26, 2008

Save $150 by upgrading your 20GB Xbox 360 hard drive to 120GB without buying Microsoft’s overpriced add-on.

Microsoft expects you to pay close to $200 to upgrade your Xbox 360’s hard drive from 20GB to 120GB. That’s about $150 more than a 120GB SATA drive actually costs. But with this slightly tricky hack, you can save a bundle while boosting your game console’s storage capacity to hold more music, video, and other media files.

You’ll need a DOS installation on a writable flash thumb drive for this hack. (The utility doesn’t work under Windows, and you’ll also be disconnecting your PC’s hard drive.) First, grab a spare USB thumb drive and copy the HP Drive Key Boot Utility to it. The utility is designed for HP flash drives, but it works on other types of flash drives, too. Also download and mount a DOS image file.

This hack is designed to work with a specific drive, the 120GB Western Digital Scorpio, model number WDGWD1200BEVS. You’ll be replacing the drive’s native firmware with Xbox-recognized firmware. You can track down the firmware online by doing a search for “hddss.bin 120 Xbox 360.” Place the hddss.bin file in the root of your DOS thumb drive.

Once you have these items and files ready, begin the upgrade by removing your Xbox 360’s hard drive from the game console.