I’m no geometry teacher, but for my money, there could be no
better way of teaching real-world applications of angles and
estimates than by showing students how to blow stuff up with really
Cannon Challenge, brought to you by the good people at the
Discovery Channel, puts you in command of the U.S. Army’s shiny,
new Non-Line-Of-Sight Cannon. The game includes a link to an
article at How Stuff Works on the whys and what-fors of
the NLOS Cannon. The weapon, which is scheduled for deployment in
2010, is a real wonder of modern military technology. It has a
range of about 18 miles and can deliver all kinds of killer
ordinance, from cluster bombs to “fire-and-forget” seeker shells
that act like guided missiles.
The landscape-based game’s cannon isn’t nearly as sophisticated,
but it certainly is addictive. The object is simple: Destroy a
series of targets in a range of mountains and canyons by choosing
the correct shot angle and shell velocity. Change your elevation
and shell velocity by rolling your thumbs over the scroll wheels on
each side of the screen. Precision targeting, aided only by your
eyes and knack for gauging angles and velocity, becomes crucial as
the game progresses.
Economy is key. The farther you go, the more targets you need to
destroy with the same number of shells. Eventually moving targets,
such as helicopters and missile silos, are introduced. These
require not only accurate targeting but precise timing, as well.
You have 15 opportunities to clear each of 15 levels. Sighting
targets becomes more challenging as you move on. Too much velocity,
and your shell will go flying off the screen. You can follow the
arc of your shot and adjust your next shot accordingly. The plumes
of smoke from missed shots make excellent reference marks. Just
don’t waste too many rounds–the fewer rounds you fire, the higher
The app for the iPhone and iPod touch is a slightly scaled-down
version of a game available at the Discovery Channel’s Web site. Future Weapons,
which airs on the Discovery network’s Military Channel, featured
the cannon in an episode in the series’ first season. The handheld version of
the game is arguably better, with smoother controls and faster
transitions between levels.
I did notice that the iPhone version is not nearly as forgiving
with my shots–the shell needs to be right on target. A shell might
just caress a target on the Web version and I could score. But the
graphics, which include photographic backgrounds, are as gorgeous
and the sound effects are as realistic on the handheld as they are
on the game’s Web version. And as a bonus, the handheld vibrates
when you score a hit.
Cannon Challenge has a few flaws and one
significant-but-easily-remedied bug. The app repeatedly crashed
after I installed it. The game wouldn’t play at all. Only after
restarting my device would the game work. I’ve had no problems with
it since. That said, you cannot save your games. If you need to
leave the app to take a call, for example, all progress will be
lost. Even less forgivable, the game does not record your high
scores. My triumphant 170,000-point, 15-level game was lost the
moment I pressed the Continue button.
I’m sure my high score looks pretty amateurish in the world of
Cannon Challenge. But I plan to keep blasting away.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor’s site. From
there, you can follow the link to the iTunes App Store, where you
can download the latest version of the software.