Crack Conductor

To be honest, I’ve never really considered myself to be much of a casual games fan.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy casual games or appreciate the skill and effort that goes into making them. I really applaud the work of those who’ve made the App Store what it is today – and those who’ve learnt how to create casual magic in their bedrooms and garages. It’s no easy task distilling fun down to its purest essence in a simple mechanic that scales in complexity without losing its easy accessibility. But whilst I have enjoyed the many casual games I own, I’ve never really been as hooked on them as some of the other genres that have captured me in the past – RPGs, RTS, Adventure Games.

Enter The Voxel Agents, an Australian developer based in Melbourne, who have the art of creating pure casual funĀ down pat.

I downloaded Train Conductor when it was available for free on April 20th and promptly bought Train Conductor 2. In the first game you move through cities in Australia – in the second, you move through the U.S. Finally I understand what all those people are talking about when they say they can’t put Angry Birds or Doodle Jump down. I thought both those games were awesome – but I never found it hard to put them down. Very different story with Train Conductor…

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Like all good casual games, the core mechanic is simple, but engaging: you have a number of train tracks on the screen (you start with three) and trains enter the screen from the left and right with numbers above their engine that tell you which track they need to be directed to. A swipe will create a temporary track to send the train on its way – but you have to make sure the trains don’t run into each other. Tapping a train will switch between stop and start. Of course, things scale up from there.

The first game has only five levels but you can also switch to night mode and play with ghost trains that don’t crash into each other, effectively giving ten levels. I felt its size was perfect – you get the satisfying sense of completion and the gameplay is such that you can dive back in and play it some more without feeling like you’re rehashing old ground. If I’d purchased the game for $1.29(NZD) I’da been more than happy with the experience I received – but for free, it’s almost a crime.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on The Voxel Agents in future!

You can download Train Conductor from iTunes (free over Easter!)

5 Acoustic Guitar Covers That Reinvent Classic Songs

These covers prove that you can make anything sound beautiful if you play it on an acoustic guitar ; ) – from a hip hop party stomper to a 70s rock classic and everything in between.

Oi! besides hiding gates to alien worlds under the sand, archaeological evidence shows that the ancient egyptians also had necked instruments with fret markings – early precursors to the modern guitar. Instruments with a passing resemblance to the modern guitar are visible as far back as Babylonia, circa 1850 BC. If it’s lasted that long, it must be good ; ).

1. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”

by Rodrigo y Gabriela

The mexican thrash acoustic duo strike again with this beautiful rendition of the 70s classic. Most guitar stores will break something over your head if you dare to pluck even the first few notes from the Led Zep original but somehow I think they’d have a different reaction on hearing Rodrigo y Gabriela’s version…

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2. Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”

by Newton Faulkner

I’ve already posted a live version of this song done as a duet with Stevie Ann but english muso Newton Faulkner’s cover should be on this list anyway. Here, he takes Massive Attack’s ethereal pop epic and creates a raw, earthy rendering that strips the song back to the essentials without robbing it of its power.

If you don’t like the live version embedded here you may prefer the Director’s Cut of the released video.

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3. Toto’s “Africa”

by Andy McKee

The prodigiously talented Andy McKee busts out his usual virtuosic combination of rhythm, tapping, strumming and picking to create a surprisingly layered rendition of the synthy pop original.

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4. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’”

by John Mayer

This live version features on Mayer’s Live album/DVD “Where the Light is” – released at the beginning of this month. John turns the song into a subtle introspective number and makes you fall in love with it in a fresh new way…

If the embedded video is broken, click here to go to the official video on Youtube.

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Download Guitar Pro file (.gp5) from here – intro (including chords). The rest of the song is made up of picking variations of the same chords so should be easy enough to jam on from here.

5. Outkast’s “Hey Ya”

by Matt Weddle of Obadiah Parker

I know this version has done the viral rounds for a year or two now but it’s one of the classics and it spawned a whole lot of emotive acoustic cover imitators thanks to its surprisingly touching rendition of a stonking, uptempo Outkast original.

This is a clearer audio recording than the original that made the rounds but it’s out of sync with the video somewhat.

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Honourable Mention

In memoriam – a “heartfelt” cover of a Tupac classic. The scrilla even makes a poignant appearance in the time honoured tradition of rappers the world over.

Note: Parental Advisory.

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