Thursday, December 30, 2010
9:50 AM Evan R.
Solomon Dark is a misunderstood man. After being picked on for most of his dreary life, this poor young boy decided to get back at everyone by immediately becoming some demonic necromancy dude once he became strong enough to do so. He now sits on his throne, annihilating anyone who dares to storm his castle.
So now that you have a bit of background on Raptisoft's Solomon's Keep, you might be wondering what makes it different from every other dungeon hack in the App Store. The answer is pretty simple: not much. As an up and coming wizard, your job will be to storm the keep and take out Solomon. Gameplay revolves around you clearing out floor after floor of monster infested rooms. As you go along you'll collect experience points which you can use to level up and gain stronger skills in your skill tree which can then take up to three separate paths depending on your initial play choice. Level design is muted and decently boring at best, with little to no change appearing at all throughout your journeys. To clear things up: While the level designs will have different shapes, the actual environments will never, ever change. Graphically, Solomon's Keep is a dark, dreary game. The frame rate is consistent, which is a bonus, but when you're looking at anywhere from 2-5 hours of gameplay to get through a run of the keep, having a dark, dreary environment that keeps the same design can get boring. Fast.
Solomon's Keep retails for 99 cents in the App Store. As a bonus, there is a light version available that will let you try it before you buy it. Because of the way that this app presents itself, it is definitely recommended that you take them up on that offer before you go and shell out a buck for the full app. Personally, with the glut of dungeon hacks available in the App Store, you could definitely do better for your buck. Solomon's Keep is decent, but nothing spectacular enough to really warrant the purchase.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
9:30 AM Evan R.
I'm usually pretty good with my electronics. For those moments that I'm not, though, I usually prefer to have a case on my iDevice. While getting something for my iPhone was easy enough because of the shear saturation that is currently pervading the market, it's been a bit tougher in terms of finding something for my iPod Touch 4th Gen.
Which brings me to the point of this post. The following are cases that I've had the pleasure of fooling around with over the last few months. This post will give a brief opinion on each one. They have NOT been donated for promotional purposes (although, hey, would be nice in the future haha). I'll add more to this list as I go along and get more cases, so bookmark this for further use. I'll eventually get around to doing one of these for the iPhone 4, so don't worry if you're iPhone only. Without further ado:
Sleek and decently protective. Radioshack currently has these for 19.99 on sale, while normal MSRP is usually in the ballpark of 29.99. I like the case at 20 bucks because it focuses primarily on keeping the sleek design of the iPod while giving a nice matte finish on the side. It does a good job of protecting against scratches as well. Just make sure to clean the darn thing out once in awhile this way the debris that WILL GET IN won't put scratches on your precious chrome. $30 puts it into the Incase Slider range, but for $20, you won't really find a better slider. Get it while it's cheap!
Generic silicon case, but it retails for a mere $7 at your local Wally World. Comes in a pack of 3, as well. If you don't mind going through the Ebay/Hong Kong route, I'd just get one of those because of the reduced cost. If you do mind doing something like that, though, these are probably the cheapest cases you will find stateside. When I first got the case, I was pretty disappointed in the way that they managed to pick up lint. After further inspection, though, I've found these cases to have a nice, soft touch that is easy to grip while providing decent scratch protection to boot. The ports are lined up well. If you really want something to hold you over until the better cases come out, and you really don't want to go through ebay, these are a good place to start.
Same as always. Soft inside, hardshell outside. Bottom piece is hit or miss depending on how you use the case, while I definitely recommend that you get a lighter color (white) if you have a problem with visible scratches. Otherwise, good quality in a tough market. A load of color choices, but as I said, stick with the lighter colors.
Haven't gotten it yet, but if it's anything like the iPhone 4 version (or even the previous iPod Touch version), this case will definitely give your ipod the layer of protection that you've been looking for. Pricy to say the least -- like, dump your bank account pricy -- but you won't find better protection.
Monday, December 27, 2010
6:02 PM Evan R.
For a mobile internet browser, Safari is pretty awesome. Unlike some of the other mobile browsers that I've had the displeasure of using, Safari is crisp, clean, and gets the job done in a fairly efficient way. If Apple would decide to implement flash (which apparently will never happen as long as Steve remains the king of the apple trees), Safari would probably be the best browser I've ever used on a mobile platform. But alas, this isn't a review of Safari, but rather a little trick that I've found over my use of it.
Basically, picture yourself sitting on the homescreen of your iPhone or iPod (for testing purposes, I'll be using my iPod today). You're too lazy to open up Safari and type in the website that you want to access, so you simply move on with some other task. For those of us that that little widget applies to, there's a little trick that will simply put the website that you're looking to access as an app on your home screen that can be accessed without much work at all.
Step One: Access the website that you're looking to bookmark on your home screen. As long as you can access it in Safari, you can put a bookmark to it directly on your home screen.
Step Two: You see that little arrow on the bottom middle of the screen? Tap it. Not too hard right?
Step Three: You'll now see a small menu as pictured above. Click "Add to Home Screen" to continue on to the next menu.
Step Four: Name your new app whatever you'd like to call it. I prefer to keep it short, as if you make it too long it'll be shortened on your screen, which will make your elaborately planned name useless anyway.
Step Five: Profit. The app is now made, and you should be able to use it as a bookmark to whatever site you made it for. Told you it was easy. And yes, my wallpaper is awesome. Just wanted to throw that in there.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
8:23 PM Evan R.
Merry Christmas from TheAppNook! Regular posting activities will be resumed as of Monday, December 27th!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
5:08 PM Evan R.
Barely scraping by with the minimum texting/voice plan for your iPhone? Have an iPod Touch and just want to text (or call if you have the new 4G with a mic)? TextFree with Voice by Pinger may just be the app for you. Working on a primarily for-free basis, TextFree with Voice does just what the title may imply: TwV provides a free texting alternative with the option for an extremely cheap VOIP service thrown in for good measure. Menus are designed well enough and emulate the iPhone interface that you're probably used to using, while users are also given a real phone number to use for texting and calling. Gone are the days of having to text with an absurdly weird email address in order to keep up with your friends. Here's the big question, though. Is it reliable?
Yes and no. In the time period that I've been testing the app out, texting speed generally came in at the average rate that you'd expect texts to be sent and received at. Calling quality, though, was heavily reliant on the type of connection I was operating under. For example, while under a strong WIFI signal TwV calling would come through crystal clear with limited interference. Users on the other end of the line could not tell that I was using a third-party calling feature, which was a definite bonus. However, under an average signal (which is what should be expected in most circumstances), TwV was definitely a bit laggy. While it was still serviceable, it probably would not be something that you'd want to replace your calling plan with, no matter how cruddy AT&T can be. It should be noted, however, that minutes are cheap to buy and can even be earned for free if you download certain apps, which is something to keep in mind when making a decision.
I like TwV as an app for iPod Touch users who want to text and possibly call depending on your device. It can be a serviceable app for people who want to save money on a real calling plan with their carrier (if you have a cell-phone), and can also open up the possibility of texting and calling if you don't have a cellphone to kick around. I don't like TwV for iPhone users, though, mainly because the age old dilemma still holds true: If you have an iPhone and are spending an absurd amount for one, why skimp on the texts and minutes if you really need them? Unless you really, really, really (emphasis on really) want to save money, I can't recommend this app for someone who already has the built-in features of the iPhone ready to be used. It is neat to play around with, and if money is that much of a problem, it can be a serviceable alternative while you are in the process of recovering financially, but I still think that the iPhone's built-in features are steps ahead. I mean, that is why you got the phone instead of the iPod, right?
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
8:31 PM Evan R.
Every once in awhile I come across an app that is simple but addicting -- a perfect game to play with a mobile device such as the iPhone. Jetman happens to be one of those apps. Originally finding its home as a gimmicky Facebook app, Jetman was ported over to the iPhone platform quite some time ago by a developer by the name of Mobilisimo. The concept is simple enough: Your job is to guide Jetman through a never-ending tunnel filled with floating bricks. Hit one of those blocks and it's game over. While you technically can't win at Jetman because it's a never-ending experience, I've found myself playing this little gem in the oddest of places simply because it's extremely easy to play a round or two while you're waiting for something. Waiting for a meal at a restaurant, sitting through a lecture, waiting for the bride to come down the aisle at a wedding...anywhere, really. Also of note is that Jetman is not a battery drain at all, making it perfect for on the go gaming. Since this app is free, you really have nothing to lose by checking it out. So what are you waiting for?
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
5:06 PM Evan R.
Way back when when online multiplayer in Halo first came out, I loved it. Loved it. Played online constantly, really. As the series evolved, I slowly came to recognize one of the key features that every online shooter seemed to possess: live voice chat. And boy, did I have fun with that. You know, some people seem to get some type of power trip when they realize that all that the person on the other side of the screen can hear is your voice, and because of that they think it's quite funny to drop every cuss word in the dictionary down the proverbial toilet of their microphone. This, of course, got me thinking of a great way how to shut those guys up, and that great way came in the form of a voice modulator. Darth Vader, anyone? Usually the response was simply either a disconnect or an eery silence, but at least I got my point across.
And while that's nice and all, at this point you're probably wondering what the heck this has to do with Star Wars: Imperial Academy. Well, let me tell you. A, Darth Vader is on the app's insignia, and B, this app is an online FPS. There you go. That's about where the similarities end, though, because unlike a hefty bunch of other FPS titles out there today, Star Wars: Imperial Academy is a rather weak entry into the genre. And no, it's not because I can't use my voice modulator to shut cussing idiots up, either.
Quite honestly, SW: IA is a pretty fun jaunt when you first open it up. Let's face it: While the quality of apps has certainly increased over the years, the FPS genre has still been left practically untouched aside from a few exceptional titles like Nova or Battlefield: Bad Company. SW: IA capitalizes on the fact that it is an FPS (especially a Star Wars one), and because of that it features many of the amenities that most people would expect from the genre. Essentials such as multiple levels to treck across as well as a few gun and armor modules to equip are all present, as well as an extremely basic single player mode to fool around in if you do not have access to an online connection. The menus to get online are simple enough to navigate, and after you input your initial info, starting a match is a breeze. After playing the game for a few minutes, though, the problems that are present truly begin to rear their ugly heads.
Firstly, the controls on SW:IA are simply horrid. Terrible. Trash type. Controls are handled via two virtual sticks, and while that sounds good in theory, in practice it's really not simply because your thumbs will take up 1/3 to 1/2 of the screen. As you can probably imagine, this makes playing the game quite the chore, especially when you're trying to see who's shooting at you from around a corner. Secondly, while there are a couple of levels to play, none of those levels are extremely large except for one or two sparse ones. It was almost as if the developers purposely made the levels small in order to allow players to rack up more kills, which takes some of the skill of playing away. Thirdly, the weapon balance in SW: IA is extremely flawed. Every player online will probably use one of three weapons, all of which have the potential to kill you within a shot or two. While there are multiple weapons to choose from, you know full well your online opponents won't cater to your need for variety. Finally, the way in which players are allowed to level up is daunting if you're not willing to shell out a few dollars in order to recharge your "Elite" (bonus EXP modifier). Leveling literally takes forever, and the time needed in order to recharge your elite without spending money is excessive.
Each and every one of those problems contributes to making the mess that is SW: IA. The concept of playing as a trainee in the Imperial Academy is pretty cool, but the fun basically stops there. While I realize that the app is free, do yourself a favor and avoid this game. The force just isn't really strong with this one.
Monday, December 20, 2010
3:19 PM Evan R.
Ever wanted to rock out on your iPod or iPhone to a track from Lady Gaga (let me throw up now, but whatever) or Linkin Park? Tap Tap Revenge 4 may just be the app for you. Taking a direct page out of the Guitar Hero handbook for success, Tap Tap Revenge 4 is everything a musical fanatic could wish for. If you already own one of the previous iterations of the app, though, is an upgrade to this new title worth it? Maybe.
For those of you who have never played a Tap Tap game before, the concept in and of itself is pretty simple. With a song booming in the background, your job is to tap the little bubbles that slide across the screen in perfect sync with the aforementioned music. As you tap more and more notes successfully, a small combo meter will fill to your left, which will eventually hit full and proceed to bestow you with a power-up to further increase your multiplier. Other little upgrades may be present here or there, but that's the basic gist of it all. While the game sounds simple, there are a variety of difficulty settings to bring challenge to prospective players, which makes sense considering the game without them would probably get boring fairly quickly.
For those of you who have played Tap Tap before, there are a few new notables worth mentioning. First and foremost, Tapulous has decided to add full Game Center support, although the ability to earn achievements is strangely absent from this early release. With Game Center, you can play online verses other players, as well as have a chat window among other things to communicate with said players. I guess it depends on your luck, but nobody really paid attention to these features when I decided to try out the online mode. Moving along, Tapulous has also included full retina display support, as well as a slicker (although more cluttered) interface to navigate menus. A new set list was also supposed to be included as well, but with four Tap Tap games out now, it was starting to get hard to keep track of all of the downloadable content to begin with, so whether or not you really enjoy them will depend on how involved you've gotten in the game.
Which brings me to my big sticking point with Tap Tap: the DLC. Once you get past the meager amount of songs that are available to play, most of Tap Tap Revenge 4 becomes one big in-app purchase. For those of you who don't mind paying for the premium content, this probably won't have much of a down-turn on your Tap Tap love. For those of you who hate the idea of having to shell out a truckload of money to enjoy an app, this will probably annoy you to death. It's pretty sound business on Tapulous' part in order to make some money, but still.
If you can look past that little niggle, you'll like Tap Tap Revenge 4. It's a fun app with a ton of stuff to do if you're willing to pay for the extra content, and the online support really only helps its cause. Retina display graphics are a plus, as well as Game Center support. Some achievements would have been nice, but just the fact that they decided to even add Game Center support is a good step in the right direction. If you're on the fence about whether to download or not, realize that this is a free app. If you don't like it, it's a pretty easy maneuver to simply delete it off of your system. It is kind of hard to fully recommend an app that makes someone pay such a high price to fully enjoy it, but if you can look past that, Tap Tap Revenge 4 is the music app to get.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
2:56 PM Evan R.
Ah, the farm/pasture/let's look after sheep life. Beautiful serenity, life is truly perfect in the world of TowerMadness. Being as a perfect reality doesn't really make for a great app, however, something had to go wrong. Something had to, well, interrupt our wonderful world of sheepy goodness (yes, I made up that word). That something happens to be invaders looking to steal your sheep, which will inevitably lead to you, as the player, trying to drive off said invaders with a unique host of weapons.
If you've ever gotten into the tower defense genre before, you should fully know what to expect from TowerMadness. All of your standard features are here, from multiple levels of difficulty to a diverse cast of weapons from which you can use to defend the sheep. If you've never played a tower defense game before there might be a bit of explaining to do, though. Basically, waves of enemies (in this case, aliens) will be dropped off at one point on the map. After they depart from their ship, they'll make their way over to your sheep pen in an attempt to steal your sheep. In order to stop them from doing this, you'll erect a defense force in the form of multiple different weapons ranging from cannons to lasers to even nukes. Each weapon can be further upgraded to increase damage and firing potential. After you either prevent the aliens from getting your sheep (or they manage to get 10 of your sheep), it's game over.
In concept, it sounds pretty simple. In practice, it's actually extremely addictive. One reason why I love TowerMadness as much as I do is simply because you can pick it up, set your defensive force, and put it down for a few seconds while the game plays out. Constant attention does become a necessity as levels progress, but for the most part, TowerMadness allows the player to play without giving up large portions of your life in order to so. This allows it to be perfect for bus rides or short jaunts, which is practically a necessity with the way our society continues to progress.
Graphically, TowerMadness is on full 3D plane. It looks developed, and while it can get a bit pixilated at times, nothing is really detrimental to the experience. Colors can look a bit washed out, which may or may not annoy some people. Also, being as though the game is graphically intensive, you'll be paying a price for those pretty graphics at the cost of your iPhone's battery life. Honestly, it was like watching a the gas needle on an old truck trying to get up a hill plumet towards the E sign. That being said, there is a cost to pay with everything, and if you do like the three dimensional plane that TowerMadness provides, the battery drain could be worth it.
Other points of interest include full Game Center/achievement support while also including a fun endless mode for those who don't wish to play in one of the provided difficulty levels. Regularly retailing for $3.00, TowerMadness is currently on sale in the app store for the cheap price of .99 cents. If you like tower defense games and feel as though you can put up with the battery drain that comes from the game being played on a 3D plane, TowerMadness is a good place to park yourself. If the battery drain may cause you problems, it may be in your best interest to look elsewhere. It's a good game, and one that can definitely be recommended for the price.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
1:43 PM Evan R.
Let's be perfectly honest: With the insane amount of portability that the iPhone/iPod Touch platform brings to the gaming world, you'd think that developers would make a more concerted attempt to take advantage of one of gaming's most heralded genres, the RPG. Most of what has hit recently has either been a poorly done over-priced port better served to be played on a console ('ello Final Fantasy), or something original but lacking in any depth whatsoever. So, what's a gamer looking for an RPG to do?
Get Ash, that's what.
Harkening back to the glory days of the original Final Fantasies, Ash is an iPhone turn-based RPG done right for a change mainly because it was actually built specifically for the iPhone. Everything, from control schemes to interactivity with the environment around you, was done with the iPhone's touch control in mind. For instance, instead of manually having to walk up to villagers in order to talk with them, you can simply tap them as you pass by in order to start up a conversation. Movement can either be handled directly by the touchscreen or via a virtual D-Pad located on the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Even in battle, menus are flawlessly navigated via spacious drop-down menus that can be accessed with startling efficiency. All of this makes playing Ash a joy, rather than a bout with frustration.
Controls aside, Ash is, at it's core, a turn-based RPG that handles much like the rest of its genre. Battles are of your standard menu driven variety, while players are given the ability to treck across a large landmass in order to get from point A to point B. Towns, dungeons, and the like are all present in Ash, as are shops and other points of interest that will let you augment your character's stats should you need a boost.
And you will need a boost, because Ash is hard. Unlike a lot of other RPGs that have come out recently, Ash actually tries to kill you. Really tries. Although they have nerfed the game a bit since it first came out (weenies), Ash will still require you to grind quite a bit if you expect to get passed the next area. The difficulty tends to ebb and flow as the game progresses, as while at some points you may be just fine, at other points, particularly whenever you enter a new area, you will die. A lot. Some people may be turned off by this, and if you're not a huge fan of grinding out levels, this game is probably not something that you'd want to invest a ton of time in. But, for those of us that actually like challenge, Ash provides it.
Moving along, Ash also rolls out a competent story to compliment its gameplay. Basically, you'll be following the tale of two wandering mercenaries with a clouded past. They eventually get drawn into helping people, which then balloons the story into other places. While there is nothing here that will truly WOW you, there's also nothing here that make you hate it, either. The characters are likable and there is just enough humor sprinkled throughout to make things semi-interesting. The game does end on a bit of a cliff-hanger which will probably lead to a sequel within a year or so from now, but to say anything more would probably spoil the story.
Wrapping things up, it should be noted that Ash does look and feel like an old-school RPG. The game has a distinct anime style to the characters, while graphics look like something right out of an old Final Fantasy. The music is redundant to the extreme, so better variety would have definitely been a plus. It's not that it's bad music -- they just repeated it way to often for its own good.
Aside from those little niggles, though, I like Ash. It's a refreshingly new RPG that will take you a bit of time to beat (12-15 hours, give or take), while still possessing everything that you could honestly expect from it. The graphics are good, gameplay is solid, and the touch control is a model of consistency that other developers could look to follow. Kudos to SRRN games for making an iPhone RPG worth playing. For $3.00, you could definitely do a lot worse.
Friday, December 17, 2010
11:52 AM Evan R.
Sometimes app developers make use of Christmas as an opportunity to pawn off a festive style of their main app to make a bit of extra cash. Not so with the happy Christmas elves located at Chillingo, who decided to spread a bit of Christmas cheer by giving away a free new level pack of their popular app, Cut the Rope. Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift Edition stars the absolutely adorable Om Nom. Om Nom likes to be on a perpetual sugar high, so your job is to feed him candy by "Cutting the Rope" that is keeping that candy away from him. Nothing has changed from the original version of the game, so all of the same concepts that you've probably gotten attached to playing the original are all present here. There are 25 levels available to test your candy feeding powers, as well as a few achievements thrown in for all of you achievement addicts out there. Is it worth downloading a totally separate app to play this, though?
You'd have to be a new incarnate of the grinch not to.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
11:50 AM Evan R.
Yes, Angry Birds is an awesome app that everyone and their second cousin twice removed to the tenth should get. If you have it and have gotten bored of it, though (blasphemy, but whatever), XMG Studios Inc. has decided to give a new skin to our beloved birds, replacing perilous fowl with cute astronauts in none other then Cannon Cadets.
Cannon Cadets is, as I said earlier, an Angry Birds clone. For the five of you who have never tried Angry Birds before, the basic concept of the game is to destroy the pigs by any means necessary, even if it means wrecking the structures surrounding said pigs. In Cannon Cadets, you try to destroy the aliens while rescuing your friends who are caged in steel boxes. Big difference? Nope. The usual features of a level score, achievements, and level selector are all present, as are several different astronaut types that each bring a different skill to your cause.
If they just left it at that, though, the app would probably fall into the never-ending abyss of the app store, never to be seen again. No, XMG decided to do something a bit different, making use of a few features that even Angry Birds could use to copy. First of all, hats off to XMG for implementing a level design feature, as well as the ability to download the designs of other human players. This expands gameplay by a ton, and is definitely one of the highlights of Cannon Cadets. The editor itself is pretty deep, and you'll probably wind up sinking a good deal of time into it if you're one of those people who like to come up with maniacal ways how to annoy prospective players to death. Secondly, the graphics of Cannon Cadets look crisp on the iPhone/iPod Touch's retina display, which is a big bonus.
With that being said, though, it should be noted that without the level design feature, the game itself is pretty mundane. There are a few levels that can allow players to enjoy themselves, but in an overall sense, much of it is just, well, easy. You will fly through this game if you have any skill at all. Also, while the musical score tries to go with a techno type of feel to compliment the space atmosphere, it ultimately gets annoying once you've spent any amount of time with the game.
At any rate, if you already have Angry Birds and want something a bit different to keep satisfying your itch, you may want to check out Cannon Cadets, if only for the level design editor. If you were looking for something a bit more, you may be disappointed.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
11:39 PM Evan R.
Usually, you pay for what you get. TV's, appliances, cologne...yeah. Well, thankfully, that's not always the case with apps, as a game by the name of StarDunk wishes to prove. Created by Godzilabs, StarDunk is a free, addictive app that takes an extremely simple concept and makes it into something actually worth playing. Don't believe me? Read on.
StarDunk is, as its name implies, a game where you'll be attempting to shoot a variety of basketball-like projectiles towards a makeshift hoop on the other end of your screen. Score as many points as you can within the given time. Sound simple? Well, it really is/isn't. You see, while this game can easily be treated as a pick-up and play type of experience, doing so would really shaft how much creativity went into making StarDunk the addicting app that it is. For starters, there is an absolute load of different balls to make use of throughout the course of the game. Using these different balls adds both variety and challenge to gameplay, as while some balls make it easier to score by being smaller, others allow you to line up your shots by plodding along at a slower, more methodically challenged pace.
On top of that, there is also a rich power-up system that can be attained by lighting up the glowing panels behind the basket. Once the panels are lit, your ball will be bestowed with different abilities such as score multipliers, multi-balls, or even a larger hoop to make it easier to score "extra clean shots", the game's form of a real life basketball "swish".
StarDunk also features a multi-player mode, although the difference between that and the single player experience is minimal. Instead of just seeing your own score, you'll also be matched up with a bunch of other players, although unless you get really good at the game, you probably won't be catching up to them anytime soon. Other then that, the music is pretty bleh, while the graphics look up to par with everything else you could expect to see from the iPhone/iPod Touch's retina display.
All things considered, StarDunk is a great app for those looking to boost up their Game Center achievement library (yes, it is compatible), while still maintaining a good sense of fun through its ball variety. At free, it's definitely worth the download.