Archive for category iPod

Infinity Blade – Game Review

If you think that games on the iPhone and iPad are all puzzle games about cutting the rope or flinging birds at pigs, and wish that there were something more exciting, visually impressive, and more violent (You can’t help it, you’ve been desensitized by TV, right?) then you should try the impressive Infinity Blade. Originally there was a free demo that showed how amazing the 3D environment could be rendered on an iOS device, but now it’s a full-blown game. The title is completely apt because essentially you play a knight in a fantasy realm trying to get to the top of a castle where you face the evil God King (this isn’t much of a spoiler because it happens right away when you start the game) and you end up dead very quickly. Fortunately, your descendant (who’s got the same equipment, gold, experience as you did) comes back to try again. Along the way into the castle and up its tower, you do battle with a number of enemies (though not a very large number of enemies) before you face the God King again (and probably die again). This cycle keeps going again and again until you defeat him (and even then it goes on).

What makes this game good is firstly the graphics. The 3D CGI is amazingly sharp and you really feel a sense of the virtual depth. The characters, their weapons, armour, etc. are really imaginatively-designed and look good (My favourite enemy is called a Wood Jester, look for him!). The gameplay functions perfectly for a player like myself. I like things simple. I don’t like having to manipulate 10 different parameters, or perform a complex series of gestures just to get my character to do something. Instead, there are two arrows at the bottom corners of the screen to allow you to dodge to the left or right when the enemy attacks. There are also blocking moves, parries, stabs, etc. To attack, you just slide your finger over the enemy in a slashing motion. Again, the graphics are nice and fluid. On top of all that, there are spells that you perform by drawing a certain pattern on the screen with your finger once your magic gauge is full. Even on my iPad 1, the responsiveness is excellent, and my knight moves quickly and responds to all my commands (for the most part) immediately.

As you continue to fight, after each victory, you get gold and experience. The experience also goes towards mastering your weapons and armour (which is actually kind of a bad thing because there’s a gauge on each item which fills with experience points and as they fill up, they increase your overall experience and allow you to level up. Unfortunately, once you master an item, there are no more points added to your overall experience, so levelling-up goes much slower until you can buy and equip more items. Items cost gold, but there is a way to make in-app purchases for more game-gold in exchange for real-world cash. If you have the patience to spend many virtual bloodlines to do it, you probably can earn the gold in the game world eventually without shelling out more actual dollars.

Anyway, after you level up and get good weapons and armour, you will probably defeat the God King. Unfortunately that doesn’t automatically get you to the next level (I thought that surely the Infinity Blade which the God King uses would have been given to me and then I could use it to unlock the second level in the basement, but I have to earn the gold to buy the Infinity Blade myself — and it’s not cheap!). Anyway, once you get the Infinity Blade, you put it into a small obelisk in the castle basement which then opens three more doors to the Deathless Kings cells (this is the new content that was part of a free upgrade from the company). The Deathless Kings are even tougher than the God King, and pretty cool looking to boot.

As far as tips go, it was a great tip that I got from another blog which recommended that after a certain point, I should restart level 1 (keeping all I had acquired) because the enemies would be easier now that I’d levelled up and I could get more gold and experience quicker than ever. Another tip is that a healing ring is a must-have for any big battle. It allows your knight to become almost deathless himself.

Unfortunately there are a few flaws to the game as well. I already mentioned problem with mastering items. Another problem is the repetitiveness of the game (but that can actually be fun because you’ll become a better fighter by learning how each enemy fights). It would be nice if there were more paths within the castle, more choice. Also, maybe because it’s such a large app to have in RAM, it crashes not-infrequently. Thankfully your progress will likely be saved in the system so you can come right back to where you left off.

After I beat the final boss, I’ll have to look back at how distracting this game has been. I’ve spent many hours playing this game, and enjoyed every minute. (4 out of 5)

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Flight Control – Game Review

Flight Control is a simple game for iPhones/iPod Touches that is addictive and a great time killer for the subway ride, the doctor’s office, or wherever you want to distract yourself for a few minutes. Using your finger, simply trace the path that leads the appropriate planes to the correct runways. Easy, right? Yup it’s all a breeze until the airspace starts to crowd with aircraft, and the big planes with their speedy engines start to fly in from all directions. One of the best features of this game is that it gives you the option to either use the game sounds or keep playing your own music in the background — too many games prefer to replace that Lady Gaga song that I had been enjoying … darn you Bejeweled 2! Anyway, as I said, this is a nice little game that you will enjoy anywhere you bring your iPod (except you might want to avoid playing it on your next flight… I’m just sayin’).

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Pocket God – App Review

Imagine you are a powerful Polynesian deity, able to wield your infinite might over a tiny island nation of palm-frond-wearing natives. You control the sun and the moon; you manipulate the clouds and storms; they worship you and fear the wrath of your mighty lightning. Omnipotence sure feels good, don’t it? Well, with Pocket God, a really cute pseudo-game from the iTunes app store, you get a taste of what that’s like.

It’s a very simple concept: there’s an island on the touch screen, complete with coconuts and idols, and a shark waiting in the water for the little cartoon natives. If you tap on the coconut, it drops out of the tree. With your finger you can lift the natives high into the air, or drop them into the sea (if you dangle them over the shark, it might just jump out of the water for a snack). You can even manipulate gravity by turning your iPod upside-down. If you’re feeling vengeful, you might toss a few islanders into the nearby volcano — try three of them. (Don’t worry, you can easily create more — you’re God,)

It doesn’t take long to do all the things that you can do, but the animations are extremely cute. The best part is that the updates are frequent, and each update brings new features and new activities that you can do. The latest update added the feature where tapping on the moon brings a vampire bat to your island to bite one of your little friends — you can guess what that’s going to lead to. Just wait until the sun rises in the morning — ouch!

This is one of those fun little apps that are great to show your friends, plus you may become addicted to trying out all the activities. I hope they keep adding on the updates. Til then I think I’ll chuck a few more thunderbolts their way. Hey, not actual islanders were harmed in the making of this game. We’re cool.

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My Favourite Free iPod/iPhone apps

When you get to the point of having many screens of iPod/iPhone apps (I’ve got eight pages going right now), you really know the important ones because they’re the ones on your homepage. They’re the ones that you use on a regular basis, maybe even day-to-day. Surprisingly for me, most of these are actually free on the App store. They’re not all new or recent, but they are definitely my go-to apps. Here are a few of my favorites:

ShapeWriterWriting Pad a.k.a. ShapeWriter

Surprisingly I think my favorite free app is one that does something that the iPod already does out of the box — type notes and e-mails. The twist with ShapeWriter is that you move your finger around the keypad to spell out your word. For me this is much better and more efficient than the tapping of the virtual keypad on the native iPod mail or note app. It’s actually even kind of fun. Sometimes there is a possibility of multiple words so ShapeWriter gives you a few choices to select from. When you’re done typing, or rather sliding, words you can either save the note or you can export it as an e-mail to the Mail application (which is a weird kind of loophole in the “No cut and paste” problem with iPhone/iPods, anyway). I find this very handy and I use it for all my typing on the iPod where possible.

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Weather Eye

This one is just a replacement for your standard Weather app that comes with the iPod. It comes from the Canadian Weather Network and I think it looks better and has more information than the standard Weather app. I don’t know if it covers all of the US cities or other cities around the world, but does a good job with Canada. It’s free, so you can compare it for yourself.

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Check Please

People make fun of tip calculator programs as if they were the losers of the App store. While I wouldn’t pay serious money for them, since this one is free I find it actually very useful. Sure, you could just use your Calculator app to figure out the amount of tip and how much each person at your table owes, but this one does it all for you in a nice-looking, easy-to-use package. I’ve tried a couple of other free tip calculators, but I think this one is the best. There’s a banner ad loaded (actually a few of these free apps have banner ads) but you can still use it if you don’t have an Internet connection, and I don’t think it too distracting.

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Flixster Movies

I’ve tried a number of different movie apps (the kind that give you listings and showtimes), even some that I’ve paid for, and I’ll probably do a comparison post of all of them at some point. The one on my homepage comes from Flixster (the movie-rating social networking site), and you have to actually be connected to the Internet to look at your information (which is a negative) but otherwise I find this one to be the best of them all. Not only is the information very accurate, you can set your favorite theaters, you have Rotten Tomatoes of Flixster ratings, and you can see recent or upcoming DVD releases as well. I think it’s the best designed movie app by far, what it really needs for its next update is an off-line mode for us iPod users.

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NetNewsWire

NetNewsWire is already one of the more popular RSS reader applications on the Mac, and it was one of the first to come out on the iPod as well. You need to set up an online account, where you register all your RSS feeds, but after that it does a very good job of updating and downloading all the latest headlines and even caches parts or all of the articles for off-line reading. It’s easy to use and I find it great for taking my RSS reading onto the subway.

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Instapaper

It may not look like much, but this app is very useful if you browse the web and find a lot of things that you want to read but just don’t have time. Coupled with a web bookmarklet for your browser, you just click on the Read Later link in your toolbar and Instapaper saves the page for off-line reading later. You don’t get any of the graphics or other bells and whistles, so if it’s a lot of fancy pages that you tend to go to, this might not work for you. But if it’s just posts and other kinds of text information, then this is great for saving articles. Just sync-and-go to take those pages with you anywhere. It’s the perfect companion to NetNewsWire.

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My Five Favorite iPod/iPhone Games

First of all, I know there are lots of simulation and action games for the iPhone. However, this review will not cover those games. I’m generally more a fan of the puzzle-type or quiz type games. I liked to think outside-the-box and exercise my brain rather than my coordination. So if you’re into that type of thing too, here are a few suggestions but you should check out from the App store.

Frenzic

Frenzic is kind of an action puzzle game. The objective is to make pies of six wedge pieces. The pieces come out of the middle and you have to decide which pie to put them in. It’s better if you can create pies of a single color but as the pieces come at you fast and quick, sometimes you just have to put them wherever you can. If you do well, you get power ups such as slowing down the clock, double your score, or nuke all the pies. This is a well-designed fast-paced game that I got really addicted to. I was playing this in the bathroom! (TMI, sorry!)

Parking Lot

Parking Lot is a port of a real-world toy game similar to the classic sliding tile game where you have to move pieces around to form a picture, but the objective here is to slide cars out of the way so that you can move the yellow Volkswagen out the exit. The levels go from easy to very difficult, where you might have to move many cars around several times before you can get the yellow car out. I think this is a great one for thinking outside-the-box.

The Plateau

This is a really polished version of the game that I had already played on the Macintosh before. You start with a bunch of balls connected by lasers/strings that overlap. You move the balls around until the strings no longer overlap any others. That’s how you clear the screen. It sounds very easy, but there’s a lot of strings and you need to move them in ways that you may not consider at first. This is another one of those brain-stretching ones.

Movie Challenge

I’ve tried a few quiz games, but this is the best one so far. The questions are all about movies, which I like. You need to make your way across the screen by answering questions correctly. You pick from categories such as comedy, sci-fi, actors, directors, etc. and there are different types of questions such as true or false, scrambled words, what’s the date?, trivia, quotes, etc. There are even some power ups to help you get the answers. One of the best things is that the questions are very up-to-date (I’m expecting some Slumdog Millionaire questions in the next update!). There are not as many of the graphical gimmicks as some of the other quiz games (no cartoon hosts or contestants) but I think this one has better questions and is more fun for a true movie buff.

Trism

Trism is a matching block game similar to Bejeweled or Tetris. You slide triangles across the board to match up rows of three of the same color. When you do they go away and make room for more to slide in. One of the differences is that with the iPod’s accelerometer you can control the direction in which the pieces slide. I know this is supposed to be a big feature, but I don’t see how it makes a very big difference. Nevertheless, this is a new variation on an essentially fun style of game. As you progress, there are both power-up pieces, as well as obstacle pieces. Locked pieces cannot be slid, and bomb pieces must be removed within a certain number of rounds. So if you’re tired of Bejeweled, or Tetris, you might give Trism a try.

That’s just a small selection from the vast number of games that are showing up for the iPhone/iPod in the App store every day. Many of them are free, or have light versions, but even the ones that cost money don’t cost much. They are a great way to pass the time on the subway or in a doctor’s office. Trust me.

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Suping up your iTunes experience

This all started when I was walking down the street with my iPod in “Shuffle Songs” mode. I was totally groovin’ and then suddenly a slow song came on and tanked my momentum. Yes, I know I could’ve just skipped to the next track, but it was kind of a bummer and I thought that there must be a way to make a playlist of only faster songs. There’s a BPM (beats per minute) info field on all my music tracks, but alas none of them have the info filled in. So I turn to the internet for more free software to help me supe up my iTunes/iPod experience.

bpmscreenshot_1.jpgiTunes-BPM Inspector (and Tangerine)

The solution I found for adding BPM information is called iTunes-BPM Inspector. It’s not a new program, but it’s good. A floating window appears with a button that you click while playing a song in iTunes. As you press the button to the beat, the program tells you the BPM of your clicking. Once you reach the correct number (the number turns blue), simply hit Set and iTunes-BPM Inspector will drop it straight into your track’s meta-information. It’s really very easy and iTunes-BPM Inspector even has a little graphic that switches and two little lights that toggle to the beat so you can test that you’ve got the number right. Once all the tracks have their BPM info, it’s a snap to create a smart playlist for tracks that have a certain BPM and up — pure uninterrupted strutting can commence! (By the way, it may seem like a lot of work to do this for each track, but it actually becomes kind of fun. There’s no easier way to get into a song than to tap the mouse to its rhythm.) There’s also a cool program called Tangerine which does all the BPM analysis for you (at a zippy 3 songs per second), but you have to pay $25 for it. For those of you without the time or inclination to do it all manually Tangerine’s an incredibly painless way to go (you might want to check out the free trial).

While we’re on the iTunes topic, I thought I would mention a few other little add-ons that I like to use.

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Sing that iTune!

If you are interested in lyrics, this free little Dashboard widget will grab them for you every time you play a track in iTunes. (It’s a bit of a trick because you have to switch on your Dashboard for it to do the lyric search, but that’s not too tough.) You can follow along with the song as it plays, or the widget also includes the option to write the lyrics to the audio track each time it finds them so you can take them with you on your iPod.
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Amazon Album Art

For those of us fond of album art (especially for using with Cover Flow, where we just can’t tolerate the generic clear square that appears when we don’t have album art for a track), this widget is perfect. Whenever you encounter a track that just doesn’t seem to retrieve any album art using the handy dandy right-click in iTunes (like Madonna’s Grammy-winning album, Ray of Light), just click on this widget and it will go to Amazon.com to retrieve all the different covers that it finds. Click the bar to set the album art in iTunes and voila!

Gimme Some Tune

This is another free program which you can set to run whenever iTunes is on. It will display a semi-transparent window at the bottom of your screen with the track info and album art. If you turn on a setting, it will get song lyrics for you as well. There are many other settings that you can customize to your own style (for example, one option will make the window vanish whenever the mouse pointer runs into it.)

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Bottom line is that while iTunes is a great program to use for your many music needs, there are a number of add-ons to make things even better.

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