So you’re one of those hardcore gamers I’ve been hearing about, right? Well, I know you might snicker a bit at some of the casual games I review around here, but I also have a PS3 fat (backwards compatibility, baby!), Wii, Nintendo DS, and a gaming PC sitting in my living room, along with a veritable graveyard of much beloved consoles in my past, so trust me when I say I’ve got the chops to review an app that claims it was created with gamers in mind.
Just to be perfectly clear, GameTapp isn’t at all connected with GameTap, the online network that specializes in classic and older video games, a rather unfortunate fact I thought the developers would try to avoid or at least address. Anyway, yeah, not the same thing.
So then what is GameTapp? Well, it’s a hybrid news and review aggregator for video games. Load the app and you’re greeted with icons for X-Box 360, PS3, Wii, PSP, Nintendo DS, and PC. Select one and you’re taken to entries for all of the latest and greatest games. From there, you can quickly find links to their various reviews, an average score, and handy links to related videos on Youtube. Icons along the bottom let you easily switch to the latest gaming news, a search feature, or an option to connect to Facebook or Twitter.
From an aesthetic viewpoint, this is a pretty slick app. The interface is attractively spare, all black and gray digital chic, and easy to use, but once you dig in below the surface a bit, problems start to emerge.
As a review aggregator, GameTapp would be an impressive little tool, like a shiny, iPhone-friendly Metacritic, if not for two unfortunate missteps. One, the browsing option is extremely limited. Once a game is off the front page, you must resort to the search function. Two, the search is painful at best. Having to type with a touch screen is awkward enough, but the search is absolutely intolerant of errors or acronyms, so typing in “GTA” turns up nothing at all, and do you really want to type “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” on the iPhone? Yeah, I didn’t think so. There’s also no way to just browse by title or release date. A bad search or limited browsing might have been forgivable, but the two combined are a recipe for headaches and cursing.
Unfortunately, the news aggregator is even less impressive than the review area, as you only have access to the current headlines, with absolutely no way of accessing older stories. It’s front page or forget it. And news stories are not segregated by console type like the review section, which makes for a rather cluttered and unsatisfying game news experience. Like the Facebook and Twitter options (And why are these even here? I don’t really get it.), the news feels like it was tacked on at the last second.
If I were calling the shots, I would immediately lower the price, improve browsing and search options, and just dump the news portion entirely. I might also direct some energy into integrating shopping links, because the app would be so much more valuable to me if, while I was reading up on the latest new games, I could also quickly compare prices from Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, etc. As it is, I think GameTapp is a really, really good idea, but it feels like the developers bit off way more than they could chew.
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