Game Dev Story

Version: 1.1.1
Compatible: iPhone, iPod, iPad - iOS 3.1
Price: $4

Pried myself away from my phone to write this review and I’m not freaking kidding. I decided it was time to say good bye to my money when I played through the Lite version five times and dreaded the invisible wall that blocked my game company’s progress from infinite greatness.

Synopsis? Okay, you take control of a small game company at first, starting off hiring talent and making small games and with increasing profits make even bigger games. You increase your staffs talents and abilities the better you do which makes your games even better. It’s a fun sim game where you don’t dread each and every decision ala sim city. The art style is charming, the presentation is amazing and the gameplay absolutely compelling.

How good can this game possibly be? I missed a bus stop because of it. I went way over my break because I had to see a game through to the end of development. I woke up extremely groggy because I needed to purchase the license for the next big console. If you can’t handle addiction stay away from this game. If you want to be pulled in Plants vs. Zombies style, be thankful you can take this to the john with you. 

Absolutely amazing.

Tilt To Live

Tilt To Live

Version: 1.7.3 (1.5.2 HD)
Compatible: iPhone, iPod, iPad - iOS 3.0 (iPad - iOS 3.2 HD)
Price: Lite Version Reviewed - $3 ($5 HD)

Tilt to Live is an oddity on my iOS gaming deck. It’s something I can safely play for a few minutes a month and be content yet somehow wonder what differs between the Lite and the Soul-Suck Version. It’s entertaining and addictive but when I forget its there I hardly touch it.

Skip to the synopsis! It’s a game where you control an arrow and move said arrow with gyroscopic movements with the device. Namely, tilt the iPad/iPhone/iPod to avoid red dots of death and use power-ups to fight back for massive damage. The name of the game is survival and a High Score.

Fun for the whole family! Well made and certainly a testament to the hardware. But I’ll be honest, I’ve been getting on fine with the Lite version and keep wondering how the full can enrich my life. When the moneys plopped down I have this expectation bar that rises and it can’t be good for a laugh anymore, it HAS to be good for a laugh. Call me cheap but bang for the buck for the consumer is the element to this review.

A dollar or two seems reasonable but the admission price for the full show is quite steep and it’s not even a one size fits all. How much better can it get beyond what I’m seeing? Apparently 4 more game modes, several power-ups, wireless multiplayer and more achievements. I’m having fun now, so why congest it with more weight?

For now I’ll sit with content with what I’ve got and merely toy with the idea of crossing that line into the green.

SketchBook Mobile

SketchBook Mobile
Version: 2.0
Compatible: iPhone, iPod, iPad - iOS 4.0
Price: $2

I reviewed the iPad version of SketchBook to much ass kissing/kicking and labelled it the essential staple of the Canvas Apps for the iPad. But what about it’s older little Brother? I’ll be honest, this App and the original Touch was my vision of a paperless future for my personal self. Since High School I’ve been the type to take about a Dollar Store Notepad with me everywhere. I jotted down notes and doodles for later. The Notepads coils would always get bent and eventually eat away at the paper until paper came flying about.

To this day I have a big pile of notes I have to type and digitize so that I can finally chuck them out for good. I think I got a bit off track. My dream was for the slick touch in my pocket to have my doodles in one App, Notes in another all in one place without the pocket lint or giant amount of typing piling up. I’m proud to say I’m getting closer to that dream and would like to show my previous self the iPad and blow his puny little mind away.

I used to use this App extensively when reaching for the iPad would be a nuisance (breaks at work or waiting at a bus stop for 5 minutes without a bench) with my Pogo Stylus on an iPhone 3G. The amount I could possibly do with it is quite astonishing. It takes getting used to the screen size and there’s a slight learning curve but you can take your doodling to another level with this. If you have an older iOS device be gentle, it’ll lag when you do a lot of painting. Be nice to it and it’ll be nice to you.

When I upgraded to the iPhone 4, it took my preexisting sketches and expanded the canvas to twice the size and gave me twice the layers. The layers were helpful but I can’t get used to the giant canvas. It’s like looking through a 3D TV which has a massive room projected. You have the better capacity for zoom and I’m sure some would welcome the change with the power but I was essentially looking for a notepad to draw on.

My main gripe but it’s to be expected with the screen real estate is the cluttered tools. It’s tiresome to change the tools, layers, etc but with only a pencil tool and zooming, you get some great results.

To tie it all up with a little pink ribbon, this is as good as it gets in my opinion for Sketching Apps on the iPhone/iPod. Once you get this, you’ll see no reason to drift off and search for any other (although I have yet to dabble with Brushes on the smaller scale but it’s $5. WTF!) Once again I advise the use of a stylus. I always have one with me purely for the Sketching/Graphic Design aspects of my Tech Setup but if you only want to do some finger painting prepare for frustration.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Cubed Rally Racer

Cubed Rally Racer
Version: 1.1.1
Compatible: iPhone, iPod, iPad - iOS 3.0
Price: $2

Racing games on iOS are something I have high hopes but tend to be extremely weary with unfortunately. It’s now programmed in my brain that 99% of them have a control scheme of tilting my iOS device like a moron to simply turn. And by turning I mean sliding across the track into a wall because I’m not tilting correctly enough as it seems. Call me old fashioned but I like pulling left to go left. Several high definition and extremely pretty games I get for the iPhone or iPad follow this pattern and I get turned off very quickly to the point where I don’t believe it’s worth my time.

Cubed Rally Racer doesn’t follow this trap and I find myself playing it quite frequently when I have a minute. It doesn’t follow many other things actually. Let me start by saying what kind of game it is. It’s a racing game from a fixed camera in the sky angle. You guide a small polygonal rally car across several randomized tracks (levels) with increasingly difficult (and unusual) obstacles. It can be a pretty intense game or extremely laid back but overall quite an enjoyable experience.

It plays like an old NES racing game and can be frustrating but as you learn and master the control scheme will leave a satisfactory aftertaste. There is an HD version (I’ve yet to try it) but can’t see this is as a big screen affair simply because of the pick up and play aspect to it. Like Angry Birds you can pick it up and play it quickly for 5 minutes before putting it away.

Graphics are charming, controls are weird at first but become natural after trial and error. My biggest gripe however is with the atrocious and I mean GOD-FREAKING-AWFUL music. It’s got one song, one song alone, and it’s terrible and annoying. Think of the worst alarm clock sound you’ve had to deal with, loop it over and over and imagine it accompanying you over the course of every part of this damn game. You start the race, it’s there. You’re racing, it’s still there. You completed the race! Good for you! Here’s some pain for your trouble.

Sound off.

In the way of modes, there’s an arcade mode where you progress through the levels. Pretty standard. There’s a mode that lets you go on a never ending track to see how far you’ll go to get a higher score. Then there’s the secret Cow Mode where your accelerator is stuck and you have to manically manoeuvre through a wide grassy track, dodging obstacles to get as far as possible for a higher score.

Highly recommended. I look forward for more from these Devs to expand this App or any more they might have up their sleeve.

Byword for Mac

Byword for Mac

Version: 1.3
Price: $10

Let me say this now, I waited a long while for iA Writer to come to the Desktop. I checked every damn day and couldn’t find any sort of news source or outlet to track the progress so all I could do was check the Mac App Store day after day. I grew impatient of Pages and OpenOffice because of the clutter. Call me simple minded or easily distracted but I like to look straight ahead and focus on the task. Thats how the horse wins the race after all. I went to what was currently available and put money down on a good horse (what’s with me and the horse analogies today?)

Byword for Mac is iA Writers doppelganger. When I first got it I had to check if it was from a different company or maybe they released it under a new name and logo but it wasn’t. Full screen with only the bare minimal of options (that are tucked away only to be needed to make tweaks to the interface.) These adjustments consist of black against white (and vice versa), how wide the paragraphs are, how many lines you want to focus on, font and default text format.

If you wish to know how much I thrive by this App, all my writing is done through Byword. Its simple, looks good and is easily accessible. I don’t need to mess with paragraph formats, images, margins and all that palaver. Even now that the Ai Writer Desktop App has recently been unleashed onto the world I feel cautious about it. It’s one of those things that it’s only necessary to have one and if you’re on a budget right now I’ll recommend Byword without hesitation because it’s almost half the price.

I still aim to get it to make the comparison however if you have the iPad iA Writer App and want one for the Desktop and are torn, Byword does exactly what the iA Writer does just on the desktop. In fact, the iA Writer iPad App and Byword go hand in hand I find as I implemented both into my Dropbox cloud setup.

If you’re write a new piece on the iPad App, save to Dropbox. Then from your Mac, open up the file from Dropbox and resume with Byword (and vice versa.) Of course I recommend backing up these files onto solid hard disk just to be safe.

Bottom line, I’m in no rush to get the iA Writer App because Byword is everything I need. I think $10 was a bit harsh but if it’s biggest rival is asking for far more it becomes even easier to recommend.

World Charts

World Charts
Version: 1.0.1
Compatible: iPhone, iPod, iPad - iOS 3.0
Price: Free

I’m one of those people on the look out for new music constantly. My appetite is ravenous and consistently digesting whatever content comes my way. Some albums are so good they’ll last more than two weeks. To keep myself from staying in dry spells for much too long (I’ve been going through a lot this year) I try to find what’s new or sample everything. I have a few Apps that let me do just that but not very many (to my surprise) let me know what’s on the charts across the globe.

The only one that lets me do just that is World Charts. It’s a fairly simplistic App that requires too much explanation. Select one of the countries of choice (there’s a fair amount of choice) and it’ll tell you the current top 20 hits. Select the song and you get a sample, a Youtube link and/or a link to iTunes to buy the song. I found a few numbers across several countries of interest purely because of this App.

Current Countries Covered:
Hong Kong
(For those more obscure countries like my Philippines, better look elsewhere.)

It could be better absolutely but as it stands it is unrivalled across the entire App Store. It serves its purpose well despite looking bland and giving several bad Youtube links, but it’s ambitious. I favour it absolutely and it’s one of those rare Apps I frequent on a regular basis to stay in touch without accessing the computer or the Safari App.

It’s free, like it or hate it you won’t know until you try.

Baseball Superstars Appstravaganza

Gamevils Baseball Superstars Appstravaganza!

Time for this months Appstravaganza. With the days long and hot, everyone’s out and about for those alien things known as sports. I suppose I had research this bizarre phenomenon through virtual research over the internet. Or better yet why not experience it through a digital avatar through the conveniences of modern technology.

Baseball Superstars 2009
Fine I’ll drop the stereotypical nerd-speak and talk like a human  being. Truth is the App Store isn’t plentiful in the Baseball department, others didn’t seem worth pursuing and I’m extremely thankful for the Baseball Superstars Series because it helped me discover other Gamevil games which are just so gosh-darned good. I’ve not looked for other Baseball games within the time I’ve found Superstars since there really isn’t a need.

I realize this is an Appstravaganza but I’m going to cheap out because they are all basically the same game. So I’ll lay it all down as three games all the same with merely subtle changes but that’s not to say this whole thing will be a cakewalk. These games are HUGE! A dollar spent on any one can cost you 20+ hours of your life trying to conquer the full App.

A trend amongst Gamevil games is that they aren’t fond of touchscreen gestures or gyroscope controls. Swipe and rotate and all that don’t enter into it ever and this to some is a refreshing classic approach to iOS gaming. Instead what you have are on screen controls such as a gamepad and buttons (and nothing more.) If you have any experience with other games that use these it’s sometimes frustrating however it’s quite perfect for baseball when you don’t thrive on constant activity like say a shooter or any game of that caliber.

Baseball Superstars 2010
Hitting consists of waiting to press the hit/bunt/special attack button when you’re ready to. Pitching is selecting the pitch type and aiming it with the control pad. There’s no extensive movement for it to get annoying (although there has been the odd hiccup.)

It’s also customizable to your preference if you have big thumbs, small thumbs, left handed or what have you. You can change the size, placement and opacity of the controls around the screen which will take away any reason to complain.

Not your ordinary Baseball game. Its fantastical with special characters who have special pitches/hitting powers to throw an interesting twist into the game. Although you can play normally, this adds a bit of flavour to an otherwise standard game. It can be a bit annoying at times to suddenly deal with an aggravating, special pitcher in the heat of a game but as they say if you can’t handle the heat.

Several modes for what ails you, Exhibition, Season, My League, Homerun Derby, Mission and Match Play on all versions. I particularly enjoyed the My League mode and having just one batter to focus on and just batting time after time and strengthening my player. However theres a lot more meat in Season mode and I really should make the endeavour should I have more patience.

Baseball Superstars 2011
Simplistic enough to work on even older iOS devices. I was able to play BS2011 just fine on my iPhone 3G. Its looks are sprite based rather than 3D models and works rather well. It isn’t an acquired taste but I can see how some may be turned off by it. I think it looks charming yet it isn’t absolutely stunning or noticeable. It gets better with each progressive version and I may very well change my mind with the next rendition. As of now though, the gameplay is the winning feature of these games.

There is an HD version of 2010 for the iPad which plays and looks absolutely fantastic. All versions work well with iPad should you choose to go that way but portability pick up and play is the name of the game here (not figuratively, jerk.)

Oh good god I’ve never went to mute so fast. Even the sound effects are unbearably annoying no matter which version. It’s the one thing that they don’t manage to fix and I have no hope left that they’ll fix it either. Sad face.

Imagine if before each at bat, an annoying sound plays. Without fail. Every single damn time. That’s what happens. And that’s during the game. When you aren’t playing and are sifting through menus to get to the next game, then it has these annoying sounds that make me rush to the next game just to get away from it only to be reminded of the annoying fanfare sound before each play.

MUTE. How I love thee. (Or iPod App. Need the iPod App.)

Good thing you can turn the sounds and music off and listen to your own stuff.

So what have we learned? Gamevil has an array of winning games on their side and this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you don’t want to spend big on the later versions, the older ones are cheaper so you have no reason to turn any of them down. It has pick up and play guaranteed. It has potential to wear your battery out while you spread your bony ass out across the couch to the dismay of family who intended to use said couch. I cannot recommend this game enough. It’s cheap! It’s fun! It’s simple! You’ve got nothing to lose! It’s one of those games I can guarantee you’ll enjoy. Even if it’s for one day, you can do much worse.

At least try before you buy to be safe. But that’ll just prove that I’m right.

Air Display

Version: 1.4
Compatible: iPhone, iPod, iPad - iOS 3.2
Price: $10

When I first bought the iPad, I had a list of things I intended to use it as. Once I made the initial investment in getting one, I started putting it through it's paces and making sure that it's capable of my arduous standards. When I was little, I was destined to be a mobile techie. I turned a blind eye to the Super NES and Genesis and took in hand the Game Boy. Picked laptops over towers. By nature I'm a mobile person but was jealous of the things home users could do. I wanted (dare I say it) to have my cake and eat it too. I dreamed of doubling my MacBooks screen capacity by having a second monitor with none of the cables and all the glory of breaking down another barrier between home computer and portable powerhouse.

And for those wondering, yes I am aware I can add a second monitor to my MacBook. But I'm not gonna take a monitor around with me on the go. Since my iPad is going around for the ride, it's convenient I have the option.

I bought this app expecting to display webpages, iTunes playlists or for chatting and it does all that and a whole lot more. Hell I didn't know that there were so many bonuses to the app either. How about it turns my iPad into a freaking graphic tablet!? This was a major surprise for me when I turned it into my main display and it would respond when I dragged my finger across.

An amazing thing no doubt however it takes me to the glaring flaw of this app. Lag. Maybe I'm being too hard on it and expect it to do more than it actually can. It's screen clarity was incredible when nothing was moving on screen and it's handy if you can put up with it's nuisances.

First was the lag and second is how finicky it can be. You have to set your screen lock on or if the iPad shifts, you'll lose the connection. You have to have a good router and wireless network or else you'll lose the connection.

Still this doesn't stop me from using it as a second monitor as I set it out to be and if I meet it's conditions it turns into my little helper. However sometimes I can't help but feel the things I'm displaying through it I can just do through the iPads apps anyway. In the end the app does as it advertises and it's fun to show off and use from time to time but you'd better put the hefty tenner down for the trip

iA Writer

Version: 1.3
Compatible: iPad - iOS 4.2
Price: $5

Simplicity in itself is a form of sophistication and complexity in my mind. I don’t mean that in a way that you cover jumbled Christmas light wires all over the tree so that all you see are the pretty lights and none of the ugly underbelly. I mean that simplicity is the entryway for bigger and better things that allows ease of access from the chaos of our minds into physical form. Even now trying to communicate how I feel or what I think on the most basic of things is difficult to get across due to the sheer fact that there are so many thoughts and feelings. However I’m thankful that I have a clean path to paint the canvas so to speak.

iA Writer is what the typewriter is to the writer of yore. Classic back to basics with the sheer simplicity of nothing but a piece of paper and the technology to put words to existence. All that’s left is the final piece, the human mind to conceive such words. The difficulties and trials of the modern age is distraction and with the concentration span at an all time low in this crazy, busy world it’s easy to get swept away. My attention span is one such atrocity that I could only beg to change into a laser beam of concentration.

Pages and other word processors that I’ve come across for the iPad are jumbled, intricate tools that can make you bring together words into a project while making it look professional. However in that, obtaining those words is the hardest part. Distractions are everywhere but iA Writer is different. It’s nothing more than a blank page set in black words to white backdrop. It counts characters and words and estimates it’ll take how long to read the whole project. You can save said words to it and extract from iTunes, e-mail or upload directly to your Dropbox.

One special mode is a FocusMode. It brings it up a notch even further and fades out the rest of the document so you can only focus on the one line you’re on. Nothing else matters in the world except that one line and that’ll bring you one step closer to putting your mind to the page. I have yet to test this feature either but it’s international friendly, allowing other languages to be seamless as all that I mentioned. iA Writers main objective is to get you writing and I certainly say it gets the job done.

iA Writer is an essential part of my iPads repertoire and my productivity set. Later I will mention how I pull everything together but for now, if you’re looking for a word processor and don’t want to shell out for Pages ($10 still isn’t a lot, but iA Writer is half of that) then iA Writer is worth a serious look. It absolutely will not fail you.