Features & Use
Whether someone likes curling as a sport is obviously a question of personal taste. Many people find it extremely boring despite the fact that it's an official Olympic sport. Curling is as much about team coordination and precision as it is about tactics. I'll try to concentrate on this particular app rather than the sport itself. At start-up the Play! Curling main menu appears and includes:
- Player vs. Android: Play a round against the computer.
- Player vs. Player: Play a round against a real player.
- How to: Opens up the Help Section. Here you'll find information about the history of the sport, scoring rules and navigating the app.
- Option: Toggle the music and sound effects on/off, adjust the number of moves.
When playing a round against the computer, you have to at first decide whether you'd like to make the first move or let your opponent do so. For the purposes of this test, I decided to take the first turn.
Right after you make your decision, the target area of the game is displayed to you: a bull's eye made up of a blue outer circle and an red inner circle. Now you have to place a guide flag in order to make your slide more accurate. You simply move the flag to where you would like it to be using your finger. Some may find it irritating that the flag is always displayed a bit above your finger when your moving it. This is actually done for a very simple purpose: to improve the placement of the guide flag so that's it's not covered up by your finger.
Once you've placed the flag in the right position, the camera zooms back out to the starting line on the ice. The stone is located in the center and a think blue line marks the trajectory between the stone and the flag. You have to try and have the direction of your shot line up with the blue marking. Before that you also need to select your spin.
A small window appears on the playing field above the stone where you can carefully adjust the spin by selecting the corresponding arrow. If the arrow is placed in the middle, the stone gets no spin at all. The further left or right you point the arrow, the more spin your stone gets in that direction. It takes a lot of practice and patience to get the spin just right!
Finally, you determine the direction and power of the slide by pressing your finger on the stone and moving it right or left. A big red arrow shows the direction the stone will take. While you're adjusting your direction, a small blue bar on the right displays the power of your shot. It's similar to pool and bowling games on cell phones and PCs. You can't move your finger off the screen once you've selected your shot's direction! To slide your stone as close as possible towards your guide flag, you have to make sure your stone has as much power as the line with the flag displayed on the power bar.
To get the best shot possible, you have to let go of the power just at the right second in order for your stone to reach its target.
Did I forget to mention something here? The brooms, of course! The frantic sweeping you see at a real curling game has been very well- incorporated into Play! Curling. The camera follows your shot from the moment you let it go. In the small green area in front of the stone you can sweep back and worth with your figure, simulating the sweeping of brushes from the actual sport.
Like in real curling, the sweeping has two functions: to reduce spin (if you over did it with the spin) or increase the sliding speed (if your shot was too weak).
Warning: The stone must stay within the boundaries of the ice rectangle. Otherwise, the stone is removed from the playing field.
In curling the aim of the game is to slide the stone as close as possible towards the center of the target circle. Points are only counted once both players have used up all of their stones. The scoring works like this: only stones that are within or touching the blue ring get counted. In the end, only one team gets all of the points while the other team goes home empty handed. A team receives a point for every stone that is close to the center than an opponent's stone.
Here's a quick example: Player #1 has three stones inside the circle and player #2 just one. Two of player #1's stones are closed to the center than the stone of player #2, which equals two points for player #1. Player #1's third stone is more off-target than the stone of player #2. According to this scenario, player #2 gets no points at all because none of his stones are closer to the center than one of the opponent's stones.
This is where tactic plays a real important role in this game. You are free to try and knock the other player's stones out of the ring, but it may be also useful at times to leave stones outside the ring to block incoming shots.
The computer plays fairly the entire time, but a couple of difficulty levels would make this game a bit more exciting. It should be said that the player with the last shot has a huge tactical advantage over the opponent. I would therefore recommend to make the game a bit more challenging by having the computer always take the last shot (meaning that you always take the first turn). In general, I find the game to be a bit too easy.
Also, the background music during the game gets really annoying because it repeats the same pattern over and over again.
Screen & Controls
The controls are well-done and you get the hang of it after a couple of test shots. A good suggestion would be to have the shot direction and shot power adjusted separately. Otherwise people are going to have difficulties adjusting both at the same time.
Speed & Stability
Nothing to complain about here. The animation is smooth and no crashes occurred.
Play! Curling can be downloaded for free from the Android Market. Ads are displayed only in the How To sections.