September 26th, 2011 by

If there’s one thing Penny Arcade seems to enjoy, it’s unleashing imaginary robots. So it is with the Decide-o-tron, a game recommendation app they recently added to the app store. The red robot imports data from your XBL and PSN accounts, mines it, and spits out recommendations.

Decide-o-tron does a passable job of making recommendations (except when it suggests a game you own on another platform), but that’s not the cool feature. Instead, the app’s remarkably comprehensive release list steals the show. I’ve long puzzled over how to add a ticker box to the site that tracks the next and last five new releases. I never quite worked out a way to do it without wasting half my life or paying Amazon to do it for me. Decide-o-tron beats me to that punch and adds handy features like filtering by genre and ESRB ratings. So at least somebody has that covered.

The app’s impressive database stretches all the way back to the GBA, so it also makes a decent library management interface, if you need such a thing. You can also rate your games to optimize the recommendations, though it’s fairly time-consuming to rate any substantial number of games. It’s actually simpler and generally more impressive to exploit the app’s “more games like this” button It’s secreted away inside the game descriptions, but does a remarkable job linking related titles together.

The Decide-o-tron has been available for a while now, though it wasn’t really usable until a crash fix upgraded it to unstable. There’s also a lot of room to grow, with the obvious missing feature being Steam integration. PC games are included in Decide-o-tron’s database, but you can’t import your Steam library, saving yourself hours of data entry.

Oh, and if you’re scoffing that it can’t possibly be hours, that just means you haven’t lived through a Steam sale. I’m not sure yet whether I envy or pity you.

Digression aside, Decide-o-tron also lacks common connectivity features. There’s no way to recommend games to friends, locally or otherwise. Decide-o-tron books no face and cannot tweet. In fact, the app’s sole concession to connectivity is the power to export your wishlist to email. Y’know, so you can re-input the list on Amazon, where people can use it.

I’m a little hard on the Decide-o-tron, but it’s only because it has such potential. Still, the app’s superheroic release date tracking already justifies its existence, and the devs can always add features, like a software engineer. For the time being, I wouldn’t say the Decide-o-tron will be a cornerstone of your gaming apps, but it’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Oh, and it’s free.

Edit: You can find a succinct (and scathing) evaluation of the technology here.


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