Game: Epic Mickey
Developer: Junction Point Studios
Release date: Holiday 2010
A while back I reported on a new Wii title called Epic Mickey. After playing the expansive demo at E3 I am so happy to report back that Epic Mickey is everything I hoped it would be. In fact, it was my favorite game of the show! The visuals, the controls, the characters, and the environments all blend together to make an exciting Disney experience with our good pal Mickey Mouse at the helm.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what type of game Epic Mickey really is. It takes cues from platformers, role-playing games, and third-person shooters, even. It meshes 2D and 3D gaming to produce stunning color and black/white visuals that stem from classic Disney history. The first part of the demo took us to Wasteland, a place where old, washed up, and forgotten Disney characters hang out. Characters like the pirates Smee from Peter Pan and Scurvy Pat are there to give you tasks to perform. In a beautiful cut scene that features 2D paper animation, Smee is crying because all of the pirates are being turned into robot monsters. It is up to Mickey to save the pirates from their demise. At the Wasteland I was instructed by Tiki Sam (he looks sort of like Goofy) to find three masks that are hidden throughout the area. There is a lot of trading and bartering that goes on between all these different characters; one decision leads to another and this all eventually lands Mickey in the appropriate situation to help stop the machine from destroying the pirates. Your decisions to either help or ignore the characters around you will affect the outcome of the game.
The game is split into three different areas: quests, transitions, and actions. Wasteland is a quest area; it’s a place where interact with other characters to complete certain tasks. Transition areas take place in-between quest and action areas and they usually contain special items and collectibles that will help Mickey elsewhere in the game. The transition area I jumped into was a movie reel and it transported me to a 2.5D sidescroller based on Mickey’s first appearance in 1928′s Steamboat Willy black-and-white cartoon. There are about 40 of these sidescrolling adventures in the game; they are all based on classic Disney cartoons. Playing through Steamboat Willy was a ton of fun. I am really looking forward to discovering all the other transition areas in the game. There’s nothing like classic Disney lore.
At the end of the Steamboat Willy level I jumped into another movie reel that brought me to a new area in the game called Skull Island. This is an action area where Mickey will run into enemies to defeat and conquer and it’s the place where I’ll find a way to stop the machine from turning the pirates into robots. My first mission is to find three anchors to save Smee’s ship from sinking into the ocean. There’s no better time to talk about controls then right now. In the game Mickey wields a magic paintbrush. Paint is used to create objects in the environment. If you stumble upon an area and you’re stuck, more than likely a spray of paint will reveal a bridge that connects the gap to crossover. Paint thinner is used to destroy objects around you. It can also be a helpful tool to find hidden objects that reside inside rocks or trees. Throughout the game there are clues guised under dark silhouette shapes; if you keep your eyes open for these subtle hints you can use your brush to uncover what’s there. When it comes to enemy interaction you have one of two options. You can use paint thinner to erase them or paint to strategically turn them into friendlies who will fight for you. Mickey can also collect objects called “sketches”. In the demo I picked up a TV sketch; at one point during the Skull Island sequence the TV sketch was used to distract an enemy. Mickey literally places a TV in front of an enemy and while he was distracted by a scene from the original Steamboat Willy cartoon I picked up a missing anchor piece. Humorous, fun, and effective.
At its core, Epic Mickey is a true-to-form roleplaying game where your decisions will effect the way other in-game characters perceive you. If you use paint thinner to erase elements from the environment around you more than you use paint to create, characters will take notice. In this case, they will be less friendly and willing to help you solve missions. In fact, a little green sprite named Terp follows you around and lets you know what type of “play style” you’re currently engaged in (too much thinner or paint or a mix of both). And since your decisions alter the game, you can literally play through it numerous way and every time will play out differently. With intuitive controls, an engaging story with fun and challenging missions, and spectacular visuals, expect Epic Mickey to take over your living room when it release this holiday season exclusivel for Wii. The game truly is a sight to behold. And and if you’re a fan of Walt Disney creations you will certainly not be disappointed.
Games: Kinect Adventures! & Kinect Sports
Developers: Microsoft & Rare
Release date: Fall 2010
Let’s start with Kinect Adventures!, shall we? This Kinect game includes a bunch of mini-games, and I got to step into two of them. ”River Rush” puts you and a second player inside a raft that you must navigate through heavy rapids. Controls are simple: lean left and right to guide the raft and watch out for obstacles like big rocks; lean forward to make the raft go faster; leap into the air with your partner to make the raft jump off ramps to collect tokens for extra points. During the demonstration, the Microsoft rep instructed us to side-step left and right to steer the raft; I’m told it can be navigated either way. The second “adventure” I played was a mine cart obstacle course. While you’re traveling at a steady speed atop a mine cart you must jump (for speed), duck, and side-step to watch out for obstacles like metal padded bars. Collect tokens along the way by configuring your body into various positions.
Kinect Adventures! also includes a “camera moments” that pop up a number of times during the mini-games. A small camera icon alerts you when the game is ready to snap a photo of you in action. At the end of each game you are shown a quick montage of your jumping and spinning motions during peak moments of gameplay. They come complete with captions that relate to the action; if it catches a big jump it might say “impressive air”. Think of it like the pictures that are taken at theme parks during big drops on a coaster. Once the photos are saved, you have the option to share them with friends via email or Facebook. That’s right–now you can embarrass yourself in new ways!
Next up is Kinect Sports. This game is a Wii Sports knockoff for sure, but is it a worthy contender? It packs six sports in total–bowling, ping pong, volleyball, boxing, soccer, and track & field. Within the track & field section I did some running-and-hurdling. Ready for the controls? Run in place to make your avatar go and jump to avoid the obstacle beams. The fast your run in place, the faster your avatar will run on-screen. It’s like using the NES Power Pad but without the pad! This mini-game was a lot of fun, though it was frustrating at times. I had some trouble leaping over the obstacles; it’s all about the timing and I just didn’t catch on. My partner, on the other hand, managed to make almost every jump. Guess I need some practice. Besides that minor issue, I was whole-heartedly satisfied with my experience because it resulted in a great workout! By the end of the race my partner and I were almost out of breath and on the verge of sweating (it was hot in the Microsoft cube!). The results screen shows you a sped up video replay of your running and jumping action and then shows your avatars too with some Chariots of Fire playing in the background. Since I only got to the play a track-and-field game it would not be appropriate to say Kinect Sports is better or worse than Wii Sports. The verdict will have to wait until we all get our hands on the game this fall.
Game: Joy Ride
Release date: Fall 2010
Joy Ride is a simplistic racing game made specifically for Kinect. Setup is easy: Stand up and hold your arms out like your holding a steering wheel. That’s it. You don’t ever have to worry about gas and breaking, the game controls that for you. To steer your car left and right, simply use your hands to steer an invisible wheel in front of you. This might sound kinda lame to you Gran Turismo and Need for Speed hardcore games, but it’s actually a decent amount of fun. Obviously Microsoft is going after the casual set of gamers and late adopters to the modern video game craze with Joy Ride, but with motion maneuvering via Kinect this game will likely get all types of gamers off the couch at least a couple times. Virtual steering works surprisingly well. Beyond just steering around a racetrack, Joy Ride comes complete with speed boosts and in-air tricks. For an extra boost, bring your arms to your chest (still in steering wheel configuration) and quickly thrust them back out to standard position. To perform a stunt, move and turn your body in different ways after you fly your car into the air off a ramp. The car will mimic your body movements; for example, if you lean forward the car will do a front flip and if you spin around the car will spin. You can combine all these different moves to gain bonus points. The game has two modes that both support up to two players: racing and Stunt Mode. In the latter mode, you and another player steer your cars on a half-pipe to pull off as many tricks as possible to collect points. Again, this game is tailor-made for people who rarely play traditional video games, but casual and even hardcore gamers will want to get in on the fun at some point, trust me.
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release date: Fall 2010
Oh this might just the cutest game I have ever put my hands on. And thanks to the Kinect for Xbox 360 requirement, you can take that statement quite literally. Once the game boots up you are prompted to select from over 40 different virtual animals to interact with. I selected a cheetah pre-named Skittles. I’m told that players will have the option to personalize their pets with a name by speaking into Kinect’s built-in mic. After selecting the cheetah I called out “Skittles!” to bring it on-screen. By tapping my knees and calling out its name, Skittles recognized my presence, ran up to me, and left breath marks on the screen. I was able to use simple hand motions to wipe the foggy spots off the screen. If you hold your hands out towards the screen your pet comes closer to you for a scratching session. This part was particularly stimulating; it actually feels like you’re reaching out and petting an animal. Virtual hands appear on-screen to show the motions in real-time.
By holding your hand out for a prolonged period of time in the bottom right-hand side of the screen you can call up a menu. Scroll through the menu Minority Report-style with swipe gestures. Select an activity by holding your hand on an icon for about three seconds. Next up I entered tricks mode where you can make your pet mimic your every move and perform dozens of tricks. When I jumped three times in a row, Skittles jumped higher and higher; the third jump resulted in a Matrix slo-mo perspective sequence. When I held my arms up and stood on one leg, Skittles copied my exact positioning. Then when I fell to the ground Skittles played dead. Very neat!
The last activity in the demo was an obstacle course that involved jumping, running, ducking, and balancing movements to get Skittles from one end to the other. This section of the game plays out more like a workout if you ask me. And of course, to get Skittles to run the course faster continually scream his name.
All in all, Kinectimals is the perfect game for little girls who always wanted a pet but could never have one for some reason or another. With Kinect support, players will have a blast raising their own virtual pet by speaking its name and interacting with it by means of simplistic hand and body gestures. Oh, and there’s this: At the Project Natal Experience, Microsoft reps gave out tiny stuffed animals with scannable codes attached. Instructions reveal that players will be able to hold up their stuffed animals to the Kinect camera and transfer their tangible pet inside the game to play with it. Again, little girls will go crazy over this game. Look for Kinectimals to release alongside the Kinect this fall.
Game: The Fight: Lights Out
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date: November 2010
Another PlayStation Move launch title is The Fight: Lights Out, or Wii Sports Boxing on steroids. Using two Move controllers you are in control of a street fighter. Though motions are not 1:1 (your on-screen character does not imitate every action you make), the game does a good job at picking up specific boxing moves like punches, uppercuts, and body and elbow shots. The more fluid and deliberate you make your punches the better PS Eye transfers your motions on-screen. By holding down the main Move button on the controller you can control the direction in which your character moves. Predefined “dirty moves” can be called up by pressing the trigger button. Check out that double-hammer fist special move! The game is also physics-based; in the demo this means that you can use one Move controller to push your opponents arm out of the way to make room for a clean punch with the other controller. If you defeat your opponent you get the opportunity to “finish him” with a special move. In the demo I played this involved my character lightly tapping the opponent to make him fall over and pass out on the floor. I’ve also heard that another finishing move will involve blowing your opponent over by physically blowing into the PS Eye’s built-in mic. After the fight is over a results page lets you know how many calories you burned during the length of the fight.
Overall I really enjoyed playing The Fight. When I first picked up the controllers I wanted to beat up my opponent to a bloody pulp with frantic punch gestures and flicks of the wrist. Quickly I learned that fast movements resulted in poor feedback on the PS Eye’s end. Once I settled in and started to strategically produce counter-punches the experience became a whole lot more realistic and fun. I also like the black-and-white style with splashes of red when blood is drawn. With the promise of a character customization studio, a single player campaign, an online multiplayer mode, and the ability to bet on games and use your winnings to purchase in-game items, The Fight is panning out to be a solid launch title for the Move.
Game: TV Superstars
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date: November 2010
TV Superstars is a party game that places a customized avatar into a number of mini-games based on reality shows. Before you jump into a game show, you are required to customize an avatar using the PS Eye. You step up to the camera and take three pictures of yourself with neutral, smile, and angry faces. After your face is placed on the head of the virtual avatar, you can play around with the size/shape of the head, hair color/style, and skin tone. Then you are asked to record a personal message to go along with your avatar by speaking into the mic (which is built into the PS Eye). Once your character is complete you can jump into one of three game shows, Let’s Get Physical, Frokstar, and Big Beat. Due to time constraints I only played the first game.
Let’s Get Physical resembles a Japanese physical challenge show and places your avatar into the challenges. In the “Wheel of Heroes” mini-game you hold the PS Move controller in one hand a shake it back and forth in a running motion to make the avatar run and jump over obstacles. In “Airheads” you pull back the Move controller to spring yourself out of a slingshot and you have to position the controller to match the silhouette figure on screen. If you match it up correctly your avatar will fly through the window and you’ll move on to more challenging orientations.
Though the customization aspect of this game is intriguing and quite comedic, the controls were a bit irritating. In “Airheads” I had trouble matching the controller position to the silhouette figures. I had to keep reminding myself that PS Move (in combination with the PS Eye) does not track your entire body like Microsoft’s Kinect. The PS Eye camera only detects the glowing orb atop the Move controller. So as hard as you try to position your body to match the silhouette configurations on screen you won’t get anywhere unless the Move controller is maneuvered the right way. Simply put, this game would be a lot more fun if it was made for Kinect, not for PS3.
Game: SOCOM 4
Publisher: Zipper Interactive
Release date: November 2010
The SOCOM franchise is one I hold very close to my heart. After going through an obsessive phase with SOCOM II on PS2, I have been looking for that same fantastic experience to make its way to the PS3. After getting some hands-on time with SOCOM 4 (which is developed by SOCOM II publisher Zipper Interactive), I am excited to share with you that this next iteration in the SOCOM franchise is going to be a winner.
With TV Superstars and The Fight: Lights Out Sony is branching out to the casual set of gamers who just want to grab their Move controllers and jump into a quick and easy to maneuver game. SOCOM 4 exists to prove that even hardcore gamers can get in on the Move action without sacrificing traditional strategic gameplay that SOCOM is known for. With the Move controller in one hand and the Navigation (sub) controller in the other, you control a character called Ops Com who leads a squad into a war-torn Southeast Asian environment. Wait, this doesn’t sound like SOCOM, you’re thinking. Well, it is! In addition to a robust online multiplayer mode that supports up to 32 players, SOCOM 4 packs a true single player story-driven campaign that places you in command of a squad. The demo dropped me into a battle with lots of gunfire. With a tap on the D-pad I can rally the squad around me and direct them where to go. Overall the Move controls add a level of precision that goes way beyond what the DualShock 2 controller allowed for in SOCOM II. The subcontroller’s analog stick moves your character around, and the Move controller is used to line up the reticle, set up a shot, and take it. Although SOCOM 4 will be playable with a standard DualShock 3 controller you’d be crazy not to want to at least try the Move controls. It’s really not a gimmick in this game; after sitting down with it for a nice chunk of time I’m confident in saying that Move support is going to help SOCOM develop into a better and truly immersive game. Calling in an airstrike has never been this much fun.
I’ve been talking so much about the single player and motion control goodness that I haven’t even touched upon the stunning graphics yet! SOCOM 4 looks amazing. The environments are highly detailed and quite destructible. If you shoot at a car window glass will shatter into tiny pieces and the shards will gracefully fall to the ground. All new intense single player; 32-player online gameplay we know and love; precise Move support; and gorgeous graphics–SOCOM 4 will become my next gaming obsession.
Note: Sorry about the degraded sound quality in the video above. Our mic was having some trouble during this interview.
Game: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Publisher: Kojima Productions
Release date: Available today (PSP)
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker takes place after the events in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The game controls are different from Portable Ops, the last MGS title made for PSP. Thanks to ad-hoc and WiFi support, Peace Walker allows for co-op experiences within the campaign mode. Check out the brief demo above to see how the analog nub and D-pad control Snake in this game. Since the demonstration only featured the tutorial level found at the start of the game, I was unable to go through all the motions of the game. However, from what I saw and was told, Peace Walker is not only a great PSP title, it is being considered one of the best MGS games in the franchise. As a big fan of creator Hideo Kojima and all the work he’s put into the MGS games over the years, I am very much looking forward to picking up a copy of Peace Walker and advancing the back story of Solid Snake.
The Nintendo booth at E3 was filled with Wii, DS, and 3DS software. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was contained in its own section. Attendees were directed to wait in a specific area to gain some hands-on time with the game demo. A bunch of other first-party titles were playable in their own sections, too, and they include Metroid: Other M, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Mario Sports Mix, and Wii Party. Other notable titles that were playable at the booth: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Pokemon Wii, Sonic Colors, Epic Mickey, GoldenEye 007, NBA Jam, Just Dance 2, Dragon Quest IX (DS), and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (DS).
Mario Sports Mix looks and feels just like another Mario sports/party game, so it’s a ton of fun. The game has beach volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, and ice hockey games and each supports up to four players. In volleyball it’s 2-on-2 and you flick the Wii-mote up to serve and hit the ball and the nunchuck to move your player around. Basketball works similarly to Mario Hoops 3-on-3 for DS. After you set up a 2-on-2 game, dribbling is not required; you can pass the ball and flick the Wii-mote up when you’re near the basket to jump and shoot. You can also collect items and use them to trip up opponents. For both these games there’s a special meter that fills up during the course of the sport. Once it’s filled, you can make your character use a special move that’s essentially a free point because they can’t miss it. (Think of it as a gamebreaker from NBA Street.) Though I was unable to play the other sports, I am confident in saying Mario Sports Mix is yet another fun party game starring our favorite plumber. It releases next year.
Wii Party. Simply put, this game plays just like Mario Party, with the main difference being that your Miis star in the gameplay instead of classic Nintendo characters. You’ve got the dice to roll by flicking the Wii-mote up, there’s the game spaces you move across to reach for stars, and obviously the plethora of mini-games to keep things interesting. I played a mini-game that involved balancing a growing stack of presents. Party games support up to four players. In addition to party games, Mario Party also includes pair games (co-op) and house party games (these use the Wii-mote in various ways). The game drops later this year.
Donkey Kong Country Returns brought me waaaaay back to the good ‘ol days, if you know what I mean. Though it’s a brand new side-scrolling platformer made exclusively for Wii and its motion controls, it feels as if you never dropped the SNES controller. Thanks to the classic soundtrack and familiar environments, DKC Returns plays like a true modern DK game. If you’re playing single player, Diddy rides on DK’s back; in multiplayer mode the characters are controlled separately. And get this–if player two is having a hard time getting through the level, Diddy can jump onto DK’s back and go on a ride to the end of the level (all the while shooting peanuts to fend off nearby enemies). Diddy also has a jetpack in this game, allowing him to briefly fly to reach hard to get items (such as collectible stars). Both DK and Diddy share a ground pound attack that can help fight enemies and reveal hidden items in the environment. Sure, the DK experience is different thanks to motion controls but it’s most definitely a new one that I’m really looking forward to playing. DK has finally returned. Coming this holiday.
GoldenEye 007 is being described as a reimagining of the original classic shooter from N64. This time around the game stars Daniel Craig takes over the starring duty from Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. The game features a new single player campaign that follows the GoldenEye story but from a different perspective, Craig’s instead of Brosnan’s. At the booth I played the multiplayer demo. Thanks to an aesthetic facelift, the graphics look polished and the environments are more inviting. The muliplayer modes you’ve come to know and love, such as deathmatch and team deathmatch, are back, as well as character favorites like Odd Job and weapons like the coveted Golden Gun. Multiplayer is expanded with online functionality; you can connect and play with friends over the Internet and there’s an achievement system that involves experience points and unlockable items. I happened to play with a Classic Controller, and I was told other methods of input (with the Wii-mote/nunchuck) are being considered. 007 releases this November.
After a flurry of rumors Nintendo finally revealed its next handheld to the world with the 3DS. Its overall design does not depart from its predecessor the DSi. There are two screens; the top is 3D-capable (widescreen 3.5 inches), the bottom is touch-sensitive. No glasses required! Button and camera positioning remains almost the same. New additions include a home button, a Slide Pad (it’s an analog nub), a 3D Depth Slider that allows you to control the 3D effect from 100% to totally off, and a third camera positioned next to the one on the front allowing for 3D picture-taking. It also packs an accelerometer and gyroscope. All in all the 3D effect was quite pleasing and added a new sense of depth to the demonstrations and trailers. It definitely takes a couple minutes to adjust your eyes to the screen but once that’s done the depth perception becomes a welcome addition to gameplay. Your initial reaction will be “woah, this is neat.” It’s worthy to note that there is a 3D boundary when you’re holding the device in your hands. If you tilt the 3DS ever so slightly or try to have someone else watch what you’re doing from a slight angle the 3D effect gets completely distorted and essentially disappears. As for the analog nub, it feels and works similar to the PSP’s nub and will likely make for some new interesting control schemes for 3DS titles.
Speaking of games, the 3DS section of the Nintendo booth did include a couple playable games but they were extremely barebones and there only to give people a glimpse into the 3D effect. Samurai Warriors 3D had me fighting off an incoming army of ninjas. Thought the 3D effect was there, the gameplay was rather stale and did not make for such a great experience. On the other hand, StarFox 3D brought a sense of nostalgia over me and I quickly became immersed in the playable demo as I took flight in the skies and shot lasers at enemy planes. A vast amount of 3DS handhelds were loaded with 3D environments that you could only explore by manipulating the camera angle with the nub. Resident Evil Revelations cutscenes look fantastic in stereoscopic vision. All in all, the 3DS is an impressive piece of hardware and I’m excited to see how Nintendo continues to build on the platform as we near its release in 2011. 3D is starting to become a trend in the movie industry and now in video games thanks to the PS3 and 3DS. It’ll be interesting to watch the competing companies vie for the top spot with one bridging the gap between 2D and 3D gaming with glasses and the other doing it without them.
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Release date: 2011
In terms of control, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a stellar improvement over the last Zelda game for Wii that was ported from GameCube, Twilight Princess. The game requires the Wii MotionPlus add-on and true 1:1 motion is the result. Though the short demo at E3 did not share details about the plot of the game it did help introduce how you will control Link for the better part of the game. The Wii-mote is your sword and the nunchuck acts as the shield. At all time you’re constantly whipping out your sword and shield to fight off enemies. To bring them to the forefront it’s as simple as a quick forward moving shake of the controllers. Most of the enemies came in the form of plants and the game makes it super easy to figure out how to kill them. Plants open their mouths horizontally and vertically; so if a plant opens its mouth vertically you take out your sword and slice vertically to kill it. Slice and dice is the name of the game here. After learning how to kill the plants with your handy-dandy sword you quickly learn that you have a bunch more weapons at your disposal. Hit a button on the Wii-mote and a menu pops up enabling you to select from weapons like a slingshot, bow-and-arrow, and a whip. Many of the weapons, namely the sword and bow-and-arrow, work exactly like they do in Wii Sports Resort. It’s pretty clear that Nintendo ported these 1:1 actions from that game to this one. But that’s not an issue, really; I always enjoyed Swordsplay anyway. Link can also throw bombs into the middle of growing baddies and boom they go. With the aid of a map I was able to find my way through the plants and to a door with a wandering eye. I was instructed to spin the Wii-mote (my sword) in a clockwise circular motion to confuse the eye to enter the door. The demo concluded with an oversized scorpion boss. To kill it the game hinted at slicing your sword at its pinchers. I had very low health and ran out of potions so I died before I could kill the big baddie.
All in all Skyward Sword is definitely turning out to be a solid Wii title. Before this year’s Nintendo press conference all we had was a teaser poster and now there’s a trailer and playable demo. As a long-time Zelda fan there’s not much I can complain about. The precise motion controls are a welcome addition to the franchise and a more cartoonish-looking Link and environment make the game feel less like Twilight Princess and more like uber-successful titles Ocarina of Time (my personal favorite) and Wind Waker. There’s no cell shading here, but the graphics feel more friendly and colorful when compared to Link’s last outing.
Check out Engadget’s thourough hands-on with Spawn Labs’ HD-720 box. This device allows you to stream your Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Gamecube games from your console to your PC. It releases this November for $199.95.
Mobiles.co.uk goes hands on with the LG BL-40. Check out the new LG Chocolate and its slick user interface in the video above.
Russian tech bloggers over at Mobile@Mail.ru have given the LG BL40 some hands on treatment we have all been waiting for. This cell phone looks delectable. See for yourself in the gallery below.
On June 6th, Palm will be releasing its brand new smartphone device called the Palm Pre. It will be available for Sprint for $199.99 after you sign up for a 2-year contract. I got a sneak-peak hands-on with the Pre this afternoon. To sum it up, the Palm Pre is simply the first cell phone that will truly rival the Apple iPhone. Both the exterior and the UI are extremely sleek and modern. Although the physical keyboard is rather small, the keys are bouncy and raised to make typing with them not too much of a hastle. I was able to run a number of apps including Calendar, Email, SMS, Photos, Camera, Music, the browser, SprintTV, AmazonMP3, Google Maps, and YouTube. The App Store was open, but I was unable to download apps from it. Synergy, Palm’s signature way of bringing together everyone’s contact information into one entity, is quite impressive. When you search a contact name, you get more than a picture of them, their phone number, email and address information. Tagged with their name is also their AIM, Facebook, and other social networking services, if they have them, of course. Think of it as a a bundle of ways to contact a person, all found in one place. The “cards” are very fluid in motion. You can easily flick an open app to the side for later use, or up and out of the way to exit it. All in all, I am very excited for the launch of the Palm Pre on Sprint. According to some rumors, the Pre will soon be available on other networks, such as Verizon, in the coming months. Here’s hoping Palm will make a move Apple did not take advantage of–opening their device to a number of networks, to get a Pre in as many hands as possible.
Check after the break for the gallery of pictures. They include the front and back of the device, as well as the official packaging of the phone. (Click here for more…)