Android Games Review

Game Review – Tiny Death Star and Heroes of Dragon Age

I don’t talk about or review Android games very often here, mostly because I’m usually the last guy to try one.  But I want to speak about two games today, and the sharp contrast is enjoyment that has nothing to do with the games themselves.  Both Tiny Death Star and Heroes of Dragon Age are based on franchises I enjoy.  Both games are technically ‘free to play’ as well but oh, that’s the rub, isn’t it?

wpid-Screenshot_2013-12-12-18-36-25.pngTiny Death Star is game by Nimblebit via Lucasarts, a Star Wars spin on the company’s Tiny Tower.  The 8-bit pixel graphics are cute, with animations to match.  You need coins (earned from the levels you build as the game progresses) to buy new levels, and each one costs more than the next.  However, as more levels means more cash, there’s a progression.  The ‘bux’ (the currency you can buy with real money) can be earned by playing the game as well as by spending real cash.  It never seems like it’s hopeless if you want to get the updated elevators or whatever else you can buy with bux without spending real money, but if you want to, go for it.

That’s a stark contrast to EA’s Heroes of Dragon Age.  What amounts to a collectible card game with 3d graphics, I had a lot of fun building my squad of heroes and creatures.  The missions weren’t much more than a wall of text and a battle screen, but I enjoyed it.  Until I got to the first mission on the Carta map.  It’s got me ground to a halt.  I’ve been going back through the missions again, grinding away at the missions to get the crystals you can use to buy new randomized characters, but it still hasn’t helped.  There’s no progression, it just stops.  I am fairly certain that what I need is one more high-end character, but it might take weeks of useless grinding until I luck out and get something the one thing I need.  It stops being fun, and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

Heroes of Dragon Age interested me as I hoped it would tie in to the forthcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition in some way.  It comes off feeling like a blatant cash grab for impatient DA fans.  Tiny Death Star is fun just on it’s own, but that can be enhanced optionally with cash.  Guess which one I’m still playing?

Review TV

The Legend of Korra Book 2 – A Rough Start

Spoilers, if you must know.

I meant to write these weekly, but hey, there’s a ton to process here!  The first two episodes set the stage six months after the defeat of Amon.  Korra can airbend, Mako’s a cop on the fast track to detective, and Bolin’s remade Fire Ferrets are terrible.  Asami is barely keeping Future Industries afloat, looking to make a deal with an eccentric businessman.  Everyone comes together in the Southern Water Tribe for the Solstice Festival, including Korra’s parents, her Uncle (and Water Tribe Chief) Unalaq, and his twins, Desna and Eska.  Unalaq throws a huge snowy blanket on the proceedings when he decries the Southern tribe’s lack of spirituality, and then offers to take over teaching Korra about spirits.  Seems there are marauding spirits that normal bending has trouble defeating, but he can ‘calm’ them.  Korra decides to let Unalaq teach her instead of Tenzin.  Feels! as the fandom says.

Part two, The Southern Lights, has Unalaq taking Korra to the South Pole to open a ‘Spirit Portal’, with the idea that this will help settle the spirits that are angry with the Water tribe.  There is drama when Korra finds out that her father, Tonraq, had been banished from the North when he and some troops destroyed a forest and angered spirits there.  Also, Tonraq and Tenzin worked to keep Korra safe (or trapped, in her mind) as a child in the White Lotus compound.  She sends him away.  Korra does manage to open the Portal, and the Southern Lights are restored.  We also see Tenzin and Pema taking the family on their ‘vacation’, starting at the Southern Air Temple, with Kya and Bumi tagging along.  Jinora seems drawn to Grandpa Aang’s statue, and another one, a very very old one.  The episode ends ominously, with Northern troops of Unalaq’s entering the Southern capital to help it “get back on its righteous path”.

This week’s episode, Civil Wars Part 1 (note the plural there), shows how the Southern Water tribe reacts to Unalaq’s ‘help’.  Not well, you can imagine.  He blocks the port, leading some (including Varrick, the businessman working with Asami) to agitate for rebellion.  There’s a ton of family drama everywhere, with Korra first thinking her father was one of the rebels who attempt to kidnap Unalaq, to seeing her uncle arrest her parents not long after she helps rescue him.  Back with the airbender family, Ikki runs off after Jinora and Meelo pick on her.  This leads Tenzin, Bumi and Kya to go searching for her, with some uncomfortable conversations about Aang’s parenting style.  Bumi and Kya think he favored Tenzin, you see.  Speaking of uncomfortable, Bolin has some trouble with Eska – he wants to dump her, but can’t.

There is a ton of interesting set up here, and I’m hopeful that the next episode, Part 2 of Civil Wars, begins the payoff.  Korra had JUST convinced Unalaq to give the rebels that tried to kidnap him a fair trial instead of just detaining them (real world parallels much Bryke?), but now that it’s her parents?  I love that Jinora’s going to get some face time this season, she seemed to get the short end of things with Ikki and Meelo being the more active kids in Book 1.  My personal theory is that the spirit portals were closed to help KEEP the balance between the spirit world and the physical/real world, possibly dating back to the first Avatar who we meet later.  From the Book 2 trailer, we see Wan Shi Tong and his library – researching the portals?  Or the first Avatar?  I can’t wait to find out!

Review TV

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch – Season One

Since we finally bit the bullet and signed on with Netflix, I decided it was high time to re-watch my favorite Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine.  There are a few rough patches, but I enjoyed S1 quite a bit more than I anticipated.

Some general thoughts first.  Bashir was so annoying at first, wasn’t he?  I don’t know how O’Brien put up with him long enough to become friends.  I did enjoy Dax’s bemused handling of his ‘attentions’ however.  Kira’s strident nature cooled though I thought that fit with her pretty well anyway.  I’d actually forgotten how important Keiko’s school ended up being.  The episodes are all standalone, for the most part, but did do a solid job of introducing or fleshing out some of the characters and races (like the Ferengi and Trill).  Oh, and it was kind of difficult to see how much abuse was heaped on Nog early on.  And how Rom could transform from such a poor father to a sympathetic character.

I’ll list some individual thoughts on each episode:

  • Episode 1 and 2 – Emissary (two parter):  A great start to the show.  Some action, some mysticism, and deep thinking.  Really liked having Picard as the link from TNG to DS9, and how it fit with Sisko’s background.
  • Episode 3 – Past Prologue:  This episode gives you some detail on Major Kira, and the Bajoran occupation.  Helpful if you don’t remember everything from the Ensign Ro episode of TNG, and it provides a base for the three-episode arc to start season two.  The most notable part of this episode is the introduction of Garak, the Cardassian tailor left behind when his people abandoned their occupation.  He’s a favorite of mine.  Also features the Duras sisters, which I’d forgotten.
  • Episode 4 – A Man Alone:  Odo is accused of murder, after a crime only he could commit appears to have taken place.  A good character look at Odo, and his personal philosophy.  Also introduces Keiko’s school, and the Jake/Rom friendship, both of which become important later.
  • Episode 5 – Babel:  An aphasia virus, spread by the food replicators, ravages the station.  It’s from a failed attempt to sabotage the station by the Bajoran resistance 18 years before.  Your typical ‘find the cure just in time/medical jargon’ episode, notable mostly for showing some touching moments between Jake and Benjamin Sisko.
  • Episode 6 – Captive Pursuit:  A hunted alien becomes friends with O’Brien.  They help him escape, of course.
  • Episode 7 – Q-Less:  Q’s only appearance on DS9, along with Vash, the treasure hunter Picard romanced on Risa.  She tries to auction off Gamma quadrant merchandise, but the most valuable item turns out to be a life form that drains power from the station.  Best known for Sisko punching out Q.
  • Episode 8 – Dax:  Dax is accused of murder, but not Jadzia – a previous host, Curzon, the one Sisko knew previously.  Helpful for understanding the relationship between host and symbiont for the Trill, in case you didn’t remember that from the TNG episode that dealt with them.  Doesn’t explain why Trill look different now, though.  If you like Law and Order, you may enjoy this one.
  • Episode 9 – The Passenger:  To be honest, I skipped this one.  Something about an alien criminal transferring conciousness to try and escape custody.  You can only take so many mystery/police procedural plots.
  • Episode 10 – Move Along Home:  Yeah, skipped this too.  A ridiculous premise, to be honest.
  • Episode 11 – The Nagus:  Now we’re talking!  I honestly love Grand Nagus Zek, and this is a great introduction.  Rom finally gets a name.  Jake teaches Nog to read (seriously, nobody thought a future Ferengi businessperson needed that skill?).
  • Episode 12 – Vortex:  Hints for the future – is Odo alone in the universe?  What’s a ‘changeling’?
  • Episode 13 – Battle Lines:  Kai Opaka, the Bajoran spiritual leader, is ‘killed’ yet not killed on an alien planet.  Setting the table for future spiritual conflicts.  Enjoyed this a lot.  Good stuff for Kira here.
  • Episode 14 – The Storyteller:  A rather odd tale that mostly serves as a backdrop to two different friendships – the Nog/Jake one, and the (future) O’Brien/Bashir one.
  • Episode 15 – Progress:  Brian Keith stars as farmer guy, whose farm is standing in the way of progress.  The moon he’s living on is going to be tapped for electricity, somehow, but it’ll cause it to be uninhabitable.  Character building stuff for Kira.  See her realize that being part of a government and making the tough choices is not always easy.
  • Episode 16 – If Wishes Were Horses:  Another strange one, where a group of aliens causes the crew’s thoughts to manifest.  Molly O’Brien conjures Rumplestiltskin, for instance.  Hear about how baseball dies in the future.
  • Episode 17 – The Forsaken:  Lwaxana Troi visits DS9.  She likes Odo.  There are other plots, O’Brien dealing with an alien program shutting down station systems (It’s like a puppy, apparently.  Kind of silly.), and Bashir babysitting some other ambassadors and rescuing them from the station’s troubles.  But I really liked the Odo/Troi interaction here.  A bit of vulnerability from both sides.  Wish we could’ve seen more from her and Odo.
  • Episode 18 – Dramatis Personae:  Another ‘alien psychic entity’ causing the people on the station to act out a previous conflict.  Eh.
  • Episode 19 – Duet:  This episode was a highlight of the rewatch for me.  Though the sickness or whatever that could only be contracted at this one time seems really odd.  A Cardassian comes to the station with that disease, causing Kira to accuse him of being a war criminal.  But all is not what it seems.
  • Episode 20 – In the Hands of the Prophets:  Keiko’s school becomes a battleground as Vedek Winn accuses Mrs. O’Brien of blasphemy.  Winn’s followers bomb the school, and Sisko brings Vedek Bereil into it.  It’s a great set up for season 2, and really shows just how dastardly a villain Winn is – always done with a smile and condescension that cuts like a knife.

While the season suffers in comparison to later ones, thanks to it not really being part of any great arc, there are some great episodes here.  Much better than early TNG.  I’ve already started Season Two so expect to see that soon.

Featured Movies Review

Lightning Movie Reviews – Skyfall, Wreck-It Ralph and The Man with the Iron Fists

Spoiler – this is the ‘room’ where the ghosts from Pac-Man live

I have been to several movies lately, and have been remiss in reviewing them.  I aim to make up for that now.  Here are my quick hit thoughts on the movies in the title.

  • Skyfall – This is an amazing movie, but not for the reasons you’d expect for a Bond movie.  Sure, there’s action, exotic locales, babes and all the usual trappings.  But it’s a very personal story for Bond and M, one that might just tug at your heartstrings a bit.  Also, if you are one of those Bond purists who decried the Craig era Bond going away from some classic elements from the 60s and 70s movies, the end to this one should feel like wrapping up in a warm blanket.  I won’t say more because *I* wasn’t spoiled about any of this, and you shouldn’t either.  See this movie.
  • Wreck-It Ralph – Shifting gears a bit, I took my kids to see this a week or so ago.  It’s a wonderful movie, playing well with your classic video game friends and foes, and using the associated tropes to tell a good story.  Try and catch all the references – I never had a Sega system of any kind, so some of the obscure characters from that side of things escaped me – but stay for the great characters.  Ralph is a big lug who’s easy to root for, forced to live in the dump by the ‘good’ characters in his game.  Vanellope is actually not as annoying as the trailers might make you think, and the love story angle with Fix-It Felix Jr. and Sgt. Calhoun is hilarious (but still rings true).  Find some kids and take them.
  • The Man with the Iron Fists – This was obviously made by someone (The RZA) who loves Quentin Tarantino’s movies, but learned all the wrong lessons from them.  The action is obscured and hard to follow.  The humor elements are out of place.  The hero character is under-developed.  Only Russell Crowe seems to be having any fun (and it’s almost worth it just to see him) but this is a ‘wait for SpikeTV’ type of film.  Seriously, it’s going to be one of their favorites, I’m sure.

I hope that helps, and if you have any other questions, comment away!

Featured Review

Continuing Game Review: Dragon Age 2

Note:  Continuing means I will revisit this as I get farther in.

Of course I couldn’t avoid Dragon Age 2 for very long, considering how much I loved Dragon Age: Originsand all the related DLC/expansion content.  So here I am, almost through with Kirkwall (pre-Deep Roads expedition), and enjoying it quite a bit.  I’ll put the rest after the jump as there may be SPOILERS.

Featured Review

Kung Fu Panda 2 – Sequels 101

I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 this weekend with the kids at the Movieland 8, and we enjoyed it immensely.  Even my 3 year old sat through most of it with rapt attention, except for the times when I let her little popcorn tray get empty. ;)  Kung Fu Panda 2 is an excellent example of a sequel – something I’ve thought a lot about if you’ve been reading along here.  Here’s a few things I thought Kung Fu Panda 2 did that should be an example to future sequel makers:

  • DO introduce a new character or two to shake things up…but don’t overdo it.  When I say character, I mean a main character.  KFP2 had a new, interesting villain and a couple of new masters to team up with.  It did not overshadow the core returning characters, however.
  • DO NOT undo or ignore the previous movie.  I truly hate when a movie takes a character that had finally achieved their goal, won the day, got the girl, settled down for a long life…and uproots them and destroys it all for the sake of not having to think up a new idea.  Many movies (especially animated ones) are set up well for sequels on purpose, which is fine.  But if the movie was not set up for it, you’d better make sure you have a good reason for these characters to go back at it.  I still hate Men In Black 2 for spending a whole subplot on getting Tommy Lee Jones back when the movie would’ve been fine following Will Smith and a new partner.
  • DO show that character growth can happen off-camera.  Unless your movie starts minutes after the previous entry in the series (Quantum of Solace style), time has passed.  Po and the Furious Five had obviously learned to work well together and had a true kinship now.  It really bugs me when a character that seemed to grow in a previous film (or episode of a TV show) is the same lackwit nutjub he was in the previous installment when the sequel rolls around.
  • DO NOT be a Disney direct to DVD sequel.  Seriously, not many of these are good.  If I see a direct to DVD Tangled 2 I will be kicking Mickey’s doors down to beat the snot out of  ’em.

Got any other sequel suggestions?  Just avoid them altogether?  Comment away!

Featured Review

Movie Review – X-Men: First Class

Went to see this movie Saturday night (had a busy weekend and needed the time), and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Great, not REALLY SUPER great, but one of the better comic book movies.  Lightyears beyond what Brett Ratner could do, that’s for sure.

Now, to reiterate something – I am not a comic fanboy to the extent where I’m going to be upset that the continuity gets messed up, or characters have somewhat arbitrary changes.  Movies have to be different, and there is a balance the filmmakers have to strike between faithfulness to the source material, and making a good movie.  I will be talking about possible spoilers, so read on after the jump.

Early in the movie, we see something very familiar – Erik Lensherr being separated from his parents, the bending of the gate at the concentration camp, the rifle butt to the face.  The difference is we see what happens after.  Sebastian Shaw torments Erik, killing his mother when he can’t move a coin on command (he has no control over the power, only able to activate it when angry).  This is contrasted with a scene from Charles Xavier’s childhood, with him discovering a girl in his mansion stealing food, who turns out to be Raven (Mystique).  Somehow she ends up as a foster sister, which is odd because Xavier is 12 and not exactly in charge of things.

Anyway, we next see Charles and Erik in their early 20s.  Charles graduates from Oxford, and Lensherr is hunting the Nazis from the camp he was at, trying to find Shaw.  Xavier gets recruited to help the CIA do the same thing after an agent (Moira McTaggart) witnesses the Hellfire Club using their mutant powers.

The movie truly begins then, with Xavier and Lensherr recruiting mutants to their team, found by using a crude first draft of Cerebro (reel to reel tape!  line printers!).  Beast was already there (human looking other than his feet), Havok joins out of prison (this bothers the comic fanboys, as in the comics, he’s Scott’s (Cyclops) younger brother), Banshee, Mystique and others are all present.  They wear blue and yellow suits reminiscent of the earlier X-Men costumes.

The X-Men and the Hellfire Club take part in the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Sebastian Shaw trying to start a nuclear war to clear the world of ‘normal’ humans and leaving behind only their kind, the mutants, the ‘Children of the Atom’.  You know what has to happen at the end – Xavier and Lensherr split, the bad guy stopped, and Charles in a wheelchair.

A few of my issues with the movie (still spoilers):  Why does Xavier let Mystique go at the end?  At least try to reason with her.  And honestly the whole ‘Xavier is uncomfortable with Raven’s natural appearance’ thing seemed odd.  Also, Charles must be one HELL of an idealist to live in the 60s and think mutants will ever be accepted.  At this point Moira was still getting shit from her superiors at the CIA for being a woman, at one point one of them saying something along the lines of putting her back in the typing pool.  These people are going to accept Mystique, Beast or Nightcrawler?

I enjoyed the story very much on it’s own, despite the retcons and timeline quirks it brings up.  I highly recommend it.


Book Review – The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

I just finished The Dragon’s Path, the latest novel by Daniel Abraham.  Once, dragons ruled the land where the book takes place, but mostly what is left are the roads.  The city of Vanai, often used as a token swapped back and forth between empires, is again threatened by war.  It’s a war former hero Marcus Wester wants no part of, leaving town protecting a caravan of simple merchants.  Save one, Cithrin, ward of the Medean bank, who happens to be smuggling all of the bank’s treasures out under the guise of a simple carter.  The King isn’t doing much better, with the Severed Throne dealing with split factions at court – and when the son of a lesser noble house does the unthinkable in the siege of Vanai, the entire world is sent off-kilter.  And oh yeah, an ancient religion sets it’s sights on the King’s son.

The book starts a bit slow, introducing each character arc in turn, but picks up steam as the story leaves Vanai.  My jaw dropped at some of the twists, and the realization at the end…I should’ve seen it coming, but I missed it.  I won’t spoil it, but I knew I was engrossed when that detail had escaped me.  If you are a fan at all of fantasy novels with a gritty feel, this book is for you.  Read it.


Book Review – Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes
No, not scary at all, why do you ask? mwahaha...

I wish I had more time to read, as I really enjoy it.  In fact, much of my formative internet time as a kid on up was spent in the discussion boards and later websites/forums for my favorite author, Orson Scott Card.  It was awesome – here was a whole group of people who spoke my language, who loved Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead as much as I did.  Among them was a man whose name I now know to be Ty Franck, half of the writing duo who makes up James S. A. Corey, the other being fantasy writer Daniel Abraham.  I guess this is the long way of saying that unlike the majority who read this review, I was much more familiar with Ty’s writing style than Daniel’s.

The book (first in a trilogy) is set within our Solar System.  Earth and Mars are at an uneasy peace, while the inhabitants of the asteroid belt are just trying to survive in the harsh, unforgiving environment, where you are completely reliant on shipments of gasses and water to keep yourselves alive.  It’s within this delicate balance that we meet Jim Holden, XO of the ice hauler Cantebury on the return trip from the rings of Saturn.  When the Cantebury gets nuked while Holden is exploring a derelict ship, it becomes clear he has stumbled onto a mystery someone is willing to start a war to protect.

The other half of the story is belter Detective Miller, working security on the largest Belt settlement, the asteroid Ceres.  The drunk, divorced Miller gets all the shit assignments, including the Earther partner, but gets fixated on a case no one wants him to try to hard to solve – a missing corporate heiress who’s gone native and joined a belter revolutionary group.  When the detective’s search points him square at Jim Holden, the two men must learn to work together before the entire solar system shakes itself apart.

The book is a bit of a slow starter, but it builds up momentum constantly, with plenty of action to be the counterpoint to the deep thinking.  There’s a bit of a Lovecraftian bent to the writing, though I won’t go any further as to avoid spoilers.  I will tell you that I had to keep reading until I finished it, and there was a solid ending despite being the first book in a series.  I’m eagerly awaiting the second book.  And to re-read this one when my Nook comes.  If you wish to purchase Leviathan Wakes, either click the link on the right of the homepage to pre-order a real physical book you can smell and feel, or click this link for the Nook eBook: Leviathan Wakes. If you like Amazon, go here: Leviathan Wakes. You can get it right away by buying Daniel Abraham’s The Dragon’s Path eBook. I’ll be buying a paper copy when available though.


Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

We had a rare grown-up movie night this weekend, and the group wanted to see The Lincoln Lawyer.  Mickey Haller, played ably by Matthew McConaughey, is a criminal defense attorney who gets his clients mostly from the realm of drug dealers, bikers and the like.  Until, that is, his name is dropped by a rich young man, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe) accused of beating a woman he met at a bar.  At first, he seems like the perfect client:  filthy rich and innocent…but as you might guess, it’s not that simple.

Marisa Tomei stars as Haller’s ex-wife, a prosecutor who ends up recusing herself from the case.  They have a daughter together, not to mention some sparks still fly.  Josh Lucas is the next prosecutor, who tries hard and has a few tricks, but gets thoroughly outmaneuvered by Haller in the courtroom.  John Leguizamo, Bryan Cranston and William H. Macy have roles as well, and do their part well.

The use of a old Lincoln as Haller’s office is a good metaphor for the movie, as the pacing was smooth, not too fast, not too slow.  The twists weren’t super-twisty, but the performances combined with the plot definitely held my interest (and everyone else that went had a similar thought).  If you like courtroom dramas, you could do a lot worse than seeing The Lincoln Lawyer.

Featured Review

Movie Review – TRON: Legacy

I caught a 3D showing of TRON: Legacy this weekend, and I love it.  I might just be their ideal movie-goer.  I did see the original TRON at some point, far enough back that I watched it on one of these bad boys.  My Grandfather liked to buy wacky things at auctions, and came home with a couple of CED players and a bunch of disks.  Anyway, I have dim memories of TRON being good to young me, and playing the games, but not much else.  So I was the ideal not-quite blank slate.

The movie has been out long enough that if you wanted to know the story, you’ve already checked it out.  Sam Flynn, the son of Kevin Flynn, experiences his father’s disappearance, and grows up to be a brilliant but troubled young man with no interest in running his father’s company.  He pranks the board and releases the latest version of the Encom OS into the wild minutes before it’s commercial release – apparently Dad was a free software pioneer.  Alan Bradley pops in to talk to Sam afterwards, revealing he got paged from Flynn’s arcade, which has been closed for years.  Sam reluctantly investigates and finds his Dad’s lab hidden behind a classic TRON cabinet.  In what might be Sam’s dumbest move of the show, he tries the last command his father entered on his console, involving the words LASER CONTROL.  I don’t know about you, but if an unknown computer is warning me to make sure there’s nothing in front of an unknown laser before shooting, I might look to see where it is before I type ‘Y’ at the Yes/No prompt.

Anyway, Sam gets transported into the grid, and forced to fight in the games, which are AWESOME.  He is discovered to be a user and not a program, and gets rescued from the light-cycle game (versus CLU, his father’s alter-ego in the grid) by Quorra.  She’s a special sort of program that is an ‘apprentice’ to Sam’s father, who hides off grid.  They work to get to the exit before it closes (and CLU exits with an army to ‘perfect’ our world).

The battles and environments look very sweet, especially in 3D.  The Daft Punk soundtrack is every bit as good as you’ve heard and fits very well with the visuals.  The cameo appearance by them works well also.  Olivia Wilde is a vision as Quorra, the skin-tight lighted outfit is a far cray from the shape-hiding doctor’s coat on House.  Quorra has an energy about her that’s hard to describe.  Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn is hilarious, with a whole, Zen master meets Jeff Lebowski vibe.  Actually, the humor surprised me, in a good way.  I had tempered my enthusiasm after reading some other comments, but I needn’t have bothered.  Great movie.

Featured Review

Review: Sprint LG Optimus S

The time came this month, where I could get a new phone.  I wasn’t really planning on it, considering I loved my Hero and there’s no 4G here yet via Sprint.  However, I kept hearing AWESOME things about the LG Optimus S, and when it went on sale basically for free this past weekend, I couldn’t pass it up.  I’ve been playing around with it for a while now and thought I’d give some impressions.

First – it’s fast.  The processor isn’t near the EVO or anything, but it DOES have the same graphics chip as the EVO while still being faster than the Hero.  The end result (with a smaller screen compared to the monstrous EVO) is zero lag between screens, and quite solid performance in games (such as Angry Birds).  I’ve never once been left waiting long enough that I’d consider tapping an option or an app again, not sure it started.  Smooth.

Another improvement over the hero is buttons – the Optimus S has a whole mess of ’em, 4 on the face (Home, Settings/Menu, Back, Search), On the left is the slot for the SD card, the right has the volume up/down, a dedicated camera button (YES!) and a dedicated speakerphone button.  The top has a dedicated power button, along with a headphone jack.  For me, the buttons are a huge selling point, especially a quicker way to get the camera app open.

The experience is standard Android, rather than HTC Sense.  I thought I’d miss it, but I don’t.  The five home screens are plenty, and a year of experience with Android let me figure out what I really need on screen and what is fine to use a few taps and swipes to get to.  I LOVE the look of the interface, from the fonts used, the white color, the smooth animations, it all just feels above and beyond other phones I’ve used.

One thing I miss from the Hero is the LED notification light.  Seems like such a minor thing to not put on.  Beyond that, I could not be happier with the device.  I put my 8gb class 6 microSD card in, loaded it down with my typical apps (Angry Birds, AK Notepad, barcode apps, TweetDeck, Handcent, Yahoo Football and Hockey, SportsTap, and so on) and it’s been smooth sailing all the way.  Battery life seems solid, going to see what a full workday is like but normal weekend use has been what I’d expected from previous Android experience.

Listen, if you don’t have an Android phone, and Sprint is good in your area, get this phone.  Especially if you don’t yet have 4G, or don’t want to pay the extra per month.  Even without the discount, the $50 pricetag it carries for new service or an upgrade is super-cheap, and worth every penny.
Here’s a link to accessories for your Optimus S if you need them.