Thursday, September 30, 2010


Deadly Chambers

Platform: Android

Read all of my past Android app reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech -- click here.

RATING:
4 out of 5

PRICE:
$2.99

TASTY:
One of the few solid first-person shooter games for the DROID, taunting you to enjoy a Goldeneye-like experience on your smartphone.

BUMMER:
Bland textures and repetitive game play can get tiresome after a while.

COOL:
Sporting 3D graphics, unique camera switching controls to get a better view of the action, and the ability to use on-screen multi-touch and physical keyboard controls, Deadly Chambers is a solid shooter that’s a welcome addition to the Android Marketplace.

REVIEW:
First person shooter fans, take note. Battery Powered Games’ Deadly Chambers has arrived, and the developer’s can certainly be commended for bringing us an old-school Goldeneye experience with a horror twist. Grab the free version to get a taste.

Sporting 3D graphics, room-to-room enemy slaying, along with both on-screen multi-touch and physical keyboard (thank you!) controls, here’s an app that’ll have you strafing and switching weapons like mad to keep up with the ever-respawning baddies, including ghouls, skeletons, and more.

You’re dropped into the role of Dr. Chambers, who’s just been kidnapped and dropped into a maze, and you’re forced to fight your way out while being taunted by your captors. (Hey, if these games were required to pass a coherent narrative test, most would fail!)

You start with a handgun to slay oncoming enemies, then a rifle, and so on, with a total of 18 in all as you progress through five unique levels of game play.

Even starting on easy (there’s four levels of difficulty in all), the bad guys are sometimes difficult to line up, and you’ll find the controls take some getting used to, and strafing your enemies -- side-stepping, running , and firing simultaneously -- is critical to avoid a quick death.

The basic design and textures of most rooms could have been taken right from any level of the original Goldeneye. Tan brick floors and tan rock walls are the norm throughout. They certainly fit the bill, but adding some variety in future updates would be welcome.

That said, the ability to change camera views from over-the-shoulder (third person?) mode to true first-person view is a welcome addition. Each camera tweak gives you a different view of the action and can sometimes mean the difference between clearing a level and perishing.

Word to the wise: If your DROID has a physical keyboard, give it a try. The Settings area gives you a solid overview of which key does what, and if you’re like me, you haven’t played many games using your directional pad lately. The multi-touch controls on-screen are equally solid, but movement can be tricky.

More tips: Don’t tap the fire button – hold it down to lay down some serious attacks. Running low on ammo? Click the Wep (weapon) button to switch to another, well, weapon. When you begin a level, you’re given the chance to add up to three guns to your inventory. (Be choosy – the only way to swap guns is to restart a level.) From laser rifle to shotgun and bazooka, you won’t be lacking in the firepower department.

Grab health kits as they drop to patch yourself up, dodged the ranged attacks of your foes, and switch weapons as you go to keep your ammo topped off. The end-level bosses are unique and can take a few moments to figure out, which was a welcome challenge given the repetitive nature of the game.

Overall, if you’ve got some time to kill, enjoy late-90’s-era shooters with basic textures, Deadly Chambers is sure to satisfy.
P90X Yoga X | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Stretchy, pose-y goodness. After getting over the first 15-20 minutes, you feel this one all over. In a good way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mobile Andrio

Platform: Android

Read all of my past Android app reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech -- click here.

RATING:
4 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
This free Super Mario Brothers clone will have you collecting coins and ground-pounding enemies across several levels of game play.

BUMMER:
Controls can be difficult; remapping to your physical keyboard improves playability greatly.

COOL:
A free Super Mario game for my phone? Sign me up!

REVIEW:
If you’re a hardcore techie, skip Mobile Andrio and read by review of Nesoid instead. That app allows you to install and run original Super Mario NES titles on your phone, which is critical for gaming purists. That said, if you want to grab a free clone of Super Mario Brothers and start playing without all the techie mess of loading ROMs, Mobile Andrio is for you.

The game fills your DROID’s screen with familiar platforms, coins, and baddies, along with touch screen controls for running, jumping, and more. Your thumbs will take up a portion of both sides of the screen; taking a few moments to remap the controls to your DROID’s physical keyboard makes all the difference in the world.

If you’ve ever played a Mario title (who hasn’t?) you know exactly what you’re in for here. Collect the coins, render a little “death from above by plumber” and make it through each level to progress.

My son spent hours playing this game on a recent road trip, despite some small frame rate issues and occasional control issues. Just goes to show, classic run and jump gaming never, ever gets old.
P90X Back & Biceps | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Rocked my 50 (lawn mowers/Cogdon Locomotives), 40 (bicep curls), and 20 (all others/round 2) pound free weights to add to my firepower. You know, the guns. The ordinance. Got tickets?

Gratz to P90X and Tony Horton for 200,000 "fans" of P90X on Facebook. If you're not yet a fan, get ye to the page and click it. Now.



Deb and I are reading through the Harry Potter series with William, and the above (all FB mockups) caught our eye. Silly stuff! Who said the Internets aren't magickal?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nesoid Lite
Platform: Android

Read all of my past Android app reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech -- click here.

RATING:
4 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Brings all original Nintendo (NES) games to your smart phone!

BUMMER:
Works best on DROIDs with physical keyboards, though an on-screen ‘board is available for other models. Finding and installing game ROMs from the Internet can be tricky for non-technical DROID owners.

COOL:
Finally, original Mario and other NES games on our DROIDs, complete with excellent loader software and save/load game capabilities!

REVIEW:
Gaming on the DROID has been somewhat lacking to date, at least in terms of the quantity of titles to choose from. But lament no more, as a solid Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) emulator has been burning up the sales charts on the Android Marketplace for several weeks now.

If you’re new to game emulator software, an explanation is in order. Simply put, the free and paid ($1.99) versions of Nesoid are standalone apps that allow you to play original games (called ROMs) on your device. The trick is finding ROMs online to move to your phone, and copyright is dodgy, given that you should own the actual original NES title in order to legally download and play the ROM on your phone.

Once you get your ROM(s) in place (Super Mario, anyone?) the app’s built-in loader software makes it easy to pick a title and place it into memory. The paid version gives you the ability to save your game at any point in any level and pick right up where you left off at a later time. Sound can be an issue; the more complex the tune, the more likely it will cause a ROM to slow down or get super-choppy at times. Thankfully, turning off the tunes clears things up considerably.

The controls can be tough to master, given then the trackpad isn’t implemented. Instead, 1, A, Q, W control up, down, left, and right, while O and P stand in for the B and A buttons. Finally, delete and enter are employed for select and start. You can tweak these as you wish, but for most of us, these will work just fine.

If you’re familiar with game emulators and don’t mind getting your hands dirty moving ROM files to and from your phone, Nesoid will greatly expand the gaming potential of your smart phone by bringing some oldies but goodies to your device.

Monday, September 27, 2010

RockPlayer Universal
Platform: Android

Read all of my past Android app reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech -- click here.

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Take your favorite videos files with you on-the-go for smooth playback on your Android device.

BUMMER:
Works on 2.1 or higher OS versions. The better the CPU of your phone, the smoother the frame rate. Copying files from your computer to your DROID can be a chore.

COOL:
Finally, a solid excuse to start filling up that integrated 16G’s of storage most DROID owners received for free with their new device.

REVIEW:
Movie lovers, rejoice! RockPlayer Universal from Redirect Intelligence is a killer app, making it easy to play back your entire library of video files (including DIVX, AVI, XVID, MKV, RMVB, MP4, MPG, and many more) right from the memory card of your DROID.

Finally, a solid excuse to start filling up that integrated 16G’s of storage most DROID owners received for free when signing up with their local carriers in the United States. That said, copying files could take some serious time, even over USB 2.0. But let’s face it, that’s a minor price to pay for ad-sponsored playback of our video libraries.

Once you’ve moved a movie or two onto your phone, fire up the app to browse the file structure of your device. Just click on a file to begin playback. My original DROID (A855 or D1) played back every file I could throw at it, though clicking the left-most control to shrink the image size by 20% or so greatly cleaned up the frame rate.

The audio is crisp, the controls are basic and perfectly matched to the application, and the display even thoughtfully shows you both the current time and your battery level, so there’s no need to leave playback to check the clock or be sure you’re phone battery isn’t tanking.

The app offers dual mode playback: Normal mode using LGPLed FFmpeg parts to support various formats, and System mode using hardware capabilities for better battery performance.

The app can be used free with visible advertisement, or you may pay $9.99 to support the developers and get you free updates for life along with future enhanced capabilities (none yet.)

This is a must-have app for all serious movie buffs who need to take videos files with them on the road. If I could give this app 100 stars, I would!
P90X Chest, Shoulders and Arms | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Tons of push ups this morning, peppered with free weight work and lots of tricep flexing. Yea, I'll admit it -- love to see these muscles pop in the mirror. And, bonus, they burn fat, too. Loving the P90X, as always, as I continue through Year 4 and beyond. Heck, one might even call my routine downright "consistent." Excellent.

You can get started today as well. Click here, get P90X, and join me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Top iPad Games of the Week
Week of Sept. 26

You can read all of my past iPad reviews at Appolicious -- click here.

Apps Discussed

Danger Derby: Good things come in small packages, including this seriously fun top-down miniature car racing title.

We City for iPad: Grow your small suburb into a full-fledged city with this addictive free game from the makers of We Rule.

Karate Champ XL: The 80’s classic arcade game gets an upgrade and loses none of its charm. BEGIN!

Nat Geo Games: Kingdom of the Blue Whale iPad HD: The puzzle app you and your significant other have been waiting for. Perfect for a chilly afternoon, snuggled up in front of the fire.

Reviews

Danger Derby ($4.99)

Grab a friend and get ready for some seriously fun top-down racing action on your iPad. Danger Derby offers simple controls, brightly rendered graphics, and increasingly difficult tracks that will challenge you to keep the pedal to the metal while mastering the curves and obstacles to beat your opponents to the finish line.

You can tackle the tracks on your own, or grab a friend and go head to head. In fact, even in single player mode a second racer can “drop in” anytime and join in on the action with a click of the screen.

There are four distinct racing modes available: arcade, free play, challenge, and mirror. Arcade pits you against three other AI cars, and winning a race gives you access to car upgrades. (Trust me, start with handling before putting points into speed and acceleration.)

I found the controls easy to use, and with a few minutes of practice I was successfully making sharp turns without too much trouble.

Free play gives you total control, allowing you to choose between seven pre-loaded tracks, setting easy, medium, or hard difficulty, as well as tweaking the number of laps and opponents, plus the number of upgrade points to apply to your car before the race begins.

Challenge is much the same, but removes the ability to set laps and opponents, but adds a ghost racer you can follow to visualize the best possible lap around each course. Get the best time and master those tracks!

Once nice feature found in Options is My Music. Que up a bunch of road-ready tunes, tweak your play list, and enjoy hours of personalized music while racing against your family and friends, or random stranded travelers wherever your journeys take you this holiday season.

We City for iPad (FREE)
Fan’s of ngmoco’s We Rule will feel right at home in We City, essentially a recasting of the basic elements of ruling a small tribe of farmers with a much larger community of city folk. The new app, free just like its predecessor, is fun, easy to play, and brings back memories of the first iteration of another popular game series – SimCity.

As a longtime player of We Rule, I find We City to be more enjoyable, both visually (the smaller, clearer overhead view is excellent) and in terms of how the game progresses over time.

Starting out, you’re given a small patch of land with a few homes and a factory. Factories are the key to the game, giving you the opportunity to churn out an ever increasing number of products which, when shipped just after they’re made, give you much-needed cash and experience points.

After a few minutes of producing goods (starting with potato chips and quickly moving on to video games, action figures, motorcycles, and more) you’ll be able to place new homes, trees, and even a second factory and a town hall. With each level up, you’ll be given access to more unlocked buildings to place, things to make, and more.

The key to your success is logging into the app when your factories are done producing their goods. This can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes or hours. You’ll want to keep Push notifications turned on so you’ll be automatically alerted to events in the game, otherwise the products will spoil and you’ll earn nothing for their production.

You may also skip the wait and use “zap” to speed up production. You’ll earn zap points as you level, but quickly run out after 20-30 minutes. This is where ngmoco is hoping you’ll part with some real-world cash to keep things moving along: 30 zap costs $4.99, 70 is $9.99, and so on.
However, the game gives you little reason to speed things up by buying these virtual points.

Sure, more zap means more buildings, faster production, a bigger city that much faster, and quicker leveling, but ultimately there’s little point to getting to the higher levels quicker than others. There’s no game play objectives to meet or networking tools built-in so you can show off your city. Let’s hope both things make it into future updates of this potentially addictive title.

Karate Champ XL ($1.99)
Take a trip back to 1984 and experience one of IGN’s top 10 most influential video games, Karate Champ, updated and refreshed for your iPad!

Back in the day, the original title was one of the first side-scrolling 2D fighting games in mall arcades. The all-new XL edition takes full advantage of your Apple device, offering retro fun along with a satisfying two-player, split-screen play mode.

The bottom of your screen is populated with a pair of traditional joysticks: red for movement, blue for attacks. Combining the pair yields a huge variety of combos, which (thankfully!) can be learned in the much-needed Practice mode.

Matching fists and feet with a live opponent is crazy-fun, with 12 different battle locations to enjoy, full wifi and Bluetooth support to enable two-player fights across two iDevices (or split screen on a single iPad), plus the original sound effects.

My favorite mode? Toggle the large mode in Settings to get an even better view of your 8-bit karate masters duking it out. An app for the ages to be sure. BEGIN!

Nat Geo Games: Kingdom of the Blue Whale iPad HD ($2.99)
The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are turning color, and pretty soon many of us will break out a sweater and cozy up to the nearest heat source. For my wife, that means puzzles, and the more the merrier.

This year, she’ll be enjoying Nat Geo Games: Kingdom of the Blue Whale iPad HD, which brings all the enjoying of puzzle making to our iPad, without the hassles of missing pieces, warped edges, or sacrificing kitchen table space for weeks on end.

National Geographic offers up a huge collection of underwater images (50 in all), each of which can be virtually cut into puzzles ranging in size from 6, 20, 30, or 43 pieces in all. You can even choose to show the pieces in “classic” style, or add smoother, rounded edges via the “elegant” option.

The iPad’s multitouch interface allows you and a partner to assemble pieces together in real time, and once you complete a puzzle you can post a photo of the finished product to your Facebook wall. Plus, the app can turn any photo stored on your iPad into a puzzle with a tap of the screen.

Here’s a perfect way to while away a cool, crisp afternoon. Blanket and cup of cocoa are optional, but recommended!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tuneably

Reviewer: Tim McLain
Platform: Android

RATING:
4 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Pulls together several popular music discovery outlets into a single-app experience for nary a penny.

BUMMER:
If you simply want to listen to your favorite bands and discover similar artists for free, you’ll do better to tune into the Last.fm app. (Also free!) YouTube video results were hit or miss.

COOL:
Recent update included the ability to add live dates to your phone’s calendar.

REVIEW:
Music fans have a growing collection of no-cost Android apps that make it easy to follow favorite bands, watch music videos, find tour dates, purchase tickets, and discover similar artists.

Add Tuneably to the lineup, boasting an integrated last.fm, YouTube, BBC Music, and Bands in Town experience.

In fact, that’s exactly what you get in terms of an app experience here. Input your favorite bands or artists, then swipe across each viewing pane to read more information, watch YouTube videos (results were hit or miss), listen to tracks, view event information and buy tickets, and view similar artists.

Along the way you can link off to Wikipedia, the band’s official website, MySpace, or Last.fm to read more about the act, view fan and official sites, then listen to tracks recorded by the band and similar artists.

It’s certainly refreshing to have all this capability mashed into a single app. Sure many DROID owners can access each individual online destination rolled up here and conduct similar searches, but I’ll give Tuneably extra credit for saving me and other music fans a bit of time.

My favorite use for the app is to quick track down similar artists. Sure Last.fm does a darn good job of letting me listen to my favorite bands, but I have to wait for it to feed me similar artists and their tracks while listening. With this all I can skip to the Similar pane and scroll through a succinct listing without the wait.

The most recent update includes the ability to add live dates to your phone’s calendar, so you’ll never miss a show. If you're a serious music fan, grab this app and give it a go.
P90X Legs & Back | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Two words: Wall squats. Nice!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

MSN Talk

Reviewer: Tim McLain
Platform: Android

RATING:
3 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Makes it easy to conduct one or multiple chat sessions via MSN Talk when you’re on the go with your Android device. If MSN is your default instant messaging platform, then this app is for you.

BUMMER:
Some users report increased battery drain, frequent disconnects, and out of sync contacts (some friends showing as offline/online when they’re not.) Recent update fixed crashes on original DROIDs when the app was minimized. No file transfer or video chat features.

COOL:
Clear, crisp MSN Talk interface for your DROID. Latest update adds the ability to open chat sessions with anyone in your Yahoo! contacts.

REVIEW:
The MSN (Windows Live) Messenger for Android app crams group chat, offline messaging, and landscape viewing support into a user-friendly interface that makes chatting with your online friends quick and easy.

You can even conduct several chat sessions at once and swipe between each.

That said, I did notice my battery life decline a bit during one extended chat session. The app tends to update in real-time, and is likely taxing my data connection.

Recent updates have addressed this issue to a degree, so this may very well just be in my head. (Let’s face it, my original DROID (A855) loves to drain the battery as fast as it can. Evo owners, consider yourselves lucky!)

Overall I found the app easy to set up, discovering contacts and their status was a breeze, and lag between sending and receiving messages was on par with the standard desktop experience.
P90X Yoga | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 200 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Fired up Yoga, and before my coffee could brew I had a visitor -- a sleepy William who's feeling ill.

Got him comfy in front of the Wii with some Iron Man animated, and I groaned and creeked through 40 minutes of yoga. Both of my hips are sore and my darn left heel/Achilles's was making things difficult. Despite all of this, I came out of it feeling more limber and relaxed than I have in weeks. Grunted like I haven't in many months -- yeouch.

Word to the wise -- Yoga is good. Do at least 30 minutes of it 1-2 times a week. Heck, I'll bet once you pass the 35 mark, yoga is the key to avoiding injury as well as keeping yourself flexible and able to keep pushing play over the long term.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

FxCamera

Reviewer: Tim McLain
Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Let’s you apply five super-cool effects to the photos you take with your DROID, then save and share them with your friends.

BUMMER:
Doesn’t offer additional effects – yet.

COOL:
Finally, a free camera app that’s quick, produces clear images, and enables auto-rotation before you save the final image. (Hey Google, get these features into the stock Camera app, please!)

REVIEW:
Take your mobile photography to the next level with FxCamera, a fun, free app that makes it a snap to take pictures and apply several special effects, including:

PolaNDroid “Vintage Film”
ToyCam
Fisheye
SymmetriCam
Warhol
Normal


I found the app to take noticeably clear, crisp images, with an added auto-rotate feature I desperately wish the stock photo app could handle as well. (I think I’ve lost count of the number of photos I took, uploaded to Facebook, and then had to rotate by hand into the proper rotation.)

My favorite part of the app is its fun interface. Simply swipe through large, colorful thumbnails showing each of the image effects. Click a small camera icon to fire up your phone’s camera, take a picture, and then wait 3-6 seconds for the image to process. Easily discard, save, or share the final product, and proceed with another image.

The entire process feels faster, cleaner, and crisper than my DROID’s stock camera app. The end result looks several times cooler than standard shots, and being able to rotate the image prior to saving it is critical.

To put it plainly, I’ve found my new stock photo-taking app for my DROID. A must-download!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


CNBC Real-Time

Reviewer: Tim McLain
Platform: Android

RATING:
4 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Free app from a trusted leader in business news makes it easy to keep tabs on 1 to 150 stocks in real-time. (Did I mention it’s free?)

BUMMER:
A simple overlay powered by CNBC’s mobile website. The stock cnbc.com website (and iPhone version) offer far more information and data.

COOL:
Quick, clear, concise data on the top stocks in your portfolio. Handles stock price data and trends deftly, with quicker updates than any other free app tested in the Android Marketplace to date.

REVIEW:
There’s no shortage of free apps that let you tap into stock information. CNBC’s Real-Time app, though, offers a custom interface that taps into the TV channel’s mobile website to deliver updated stock quotes directly from NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) faster than any other app I’ve tested to date.

Setting up custom watchlists (up to five lists containing 30 stocks each) is straightforward, and the business news crawl works well after the last update. Charts, company news, and standard related financial data is all here. To find current quotes, just enter a symbol into the search box. Easy!

In a recent online interview, CNBC vice president of digital technology and products Scott Drake said, “Real-time market data is a differentiator and necessity for investors in today’s complex market. Our mission is to provide users unprecedented access to the real-time information, market news, and analysis they need on all platforms and on every device.”

That said, CNBC’s first foray into the Android Marketplace leaves some things to be desired. Most notably is the lack of features found in the iPhone version, along with many features available as a registered user of cnbc.com. Let’s hope these are coming in future updates.

Still, if you’re looking for an app to keep you connected to the latest data and news related to your 5 or even 150 stocks, you’ll find yourself tapping into this app often while on-the-go and away from your PC.
P90X Plyometrics | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 200 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Lasted about 30 minutes until my left heel/Achilles's tendon flared up. Not taking any chances, so ramped down and petered out about 40 minutes in. Better than nothing, and it's discouraging, but I like standing/walking, thank you very much.

Monday, September 20, 2010

P90X Chest & Back | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 200 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Alrighty then... New week, new workouts. Back in the saddle. Reset button pressed. DING.

Left heel Achilles is feeling better. Not 100% all the time, but very close. Taking 'er easy in any case. Don't want a tendon tear. No sir.

Chest and Back went about as well as I could expect. In fact, thinking through the ol' pull-ups, can tell my back muscle memory is coming back. Ripping out 3-4 reps isn't nearly as tough as it was last week.

Good stuff. Onward!

Top iPad Games of the Week | Sept. 20

See all of my reviews for iPad and Android over at Appolicious.com. Appi-yummy.

Apps Discussed

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD: Long-awaited open world adult title offers compelling main story with solid side missions and mini games.

GT Racing: Motor Academy HD Free: Hardcore racers, take note. GT Racing (free) offers a small set of tracks and cars that clearly demonstrate why this is one of the top racing apps on the iPad today.

Geared for iPad: Feel like a cog in the machine? We all do! Revel in it with this deceptively simple puzzle game.

Arriving HD – Gravity Puzzle Game: Draw shapes on your screen to solve physics-oriented puzzles. Not for the faint of science!

Reviews

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD ($9.99)
After several delays, the much-loved GTA series makes its HD debut on the iPad, and it was worth the wait. Coming in at just $9.99, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD offers upgrades visuals and a compelling story line, mixed with a generous collection of side missions and mini games, far surpassing its $40 Nintendo DS or PSP cousins.

Fans of the original titles in the series will welcome a return to the top-down game play style, while iPad purists will appreciate the attention to detail when it comes to basic and advanced controls. Though when things get intense (car jacking, anyone?) I found myself missing turns and running into buildings when my fingers slipped off the proper screen real estate. Practice, young hoodlums, practice.

You’ve likely not seen better graphics in any iPad game app to date. It’s clear that the designers at Rockstar spent copious amounts of time rerendering this version of Liberty City, sawing off the rough edges and reveling in the shading technology available in the device. The end result is a clean, modern looking cityscape, with all-new lighting effects and explosions that bring the entire game up a few notches from its non-HD versions on other platforms.

The mini games are a highlight of the title. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were multiple games that all accomplished the same end result. For instance, there are several ways to hotwire a car, not just one. A lesser title would offer one way to do something, then copy/paste throughout. Not Rockstar.

After slaving away on the main story for a while, I decided to untether myself and explore the sandbox. I was rewarded with plenty to do, and the feeling that I really was very much in control of where the game was going and how things were progressing.

All of that said, this is an adult game. While Apple likely demanded a fair amount of gore and language to be cut from the app, there’s still plenty of innuendo and blood to spell a definite “keep away from kids” rating.

GT Racing: Motor Academy HD Free (Free)
On your mark, get set, GO to the App Store and grab this freebie! GT Racing: Motor Academy HD Free offers a small set of tracks and cars that clearly demonstrate why this is one of the top racing apps on the iPad today.

But casual racers, beware. There’s a steep learning curve to climb, so if you’re not in the habit of calling a car your “whip” you’ll likely find things difficult to master.

Fire up your first Arcade race and a few seconds off the line you’ll be stuck by the clarity and jaw-dropping details in the scenery. The visuals are bright, with top-quality rendering detail all around.
Gameloft even gives you the opportunity to change the entire racing interface. Resize and move any element you wish. Plus, you can drag the camera around in your replays to watch your races from any angle. With more than 100 unlockable cars to choose from with thousands of aftermarket parts and upgrades to purchase, there’s no end to the customization.

That said, I found it difficult to master the controls. After down-shifting to Career mode, I found it easier to slowly ease myself into the game. Each challenge gave me the chance to practice braking, cornering, accelerating, and generally getting better at staying on the track and out of the stands. Career mode also rewards you with unlocked vehicles and tracks, helping you slowly build your winnings to get better and better at the title.

If you’re looking for a “jump in and race” arcade racing title, this isn’t it. You’ll need to learn the controls and have a healthy dose of patience to enjoy the title. But with a little time and practice (and the full $5 version), you’ll no doubt be mastering each track and crushing the competition. (Now, where are the keys to my car. I mean whip.)

Geared for iPad (FREE)
Puzzle game fans, take note. Boasting more than 150 custom levels, you’ll be dropping hand-drawn gears into place for days to solve each challenge. Best of all, for a limited time, Gears for iPad will cost you absolutely nothing.

This is a unique title with a style and feel all its own. You’re dropped into an open area with a paid of gears rotating on each side of your screen. At the bottom you’re given a set of different sized gears, which you drag and drop into place to fill the void.

There’s no “snap to grid” in this app, so gravity is very much in play. Every pixel counts in terms of placement, and there were times my placements led to a full-blown collapse. No worries! Just pick up the pieces and start dropping them into place once again.

The difficulty is customizable, so casual to hardcore puzzlers are covered. You can skip to any level (after unlocking them), progress is saved automatically as you move ahead, and a time tracker mode is available.

Arriving HD – Gravity Puzzle Game ($4.99)
Once you’ve mastered the relative simplicity of Geared for iPad (above), it’s time to take off the kid gloves and revel in the full physics engine available in your iDevice. Arriving HD offers a simple premise: Move the dinosaur egg from one part of your screen to the other, where a magical gem glows with the power to help it hatch.

To move the stationary egg, you’ll need to do two things. First, draw lines and objects of any size on your screen which will drop into place to span gaps between the egg and the gem.

Next, repeat the same process to drop different hand-drawn shapes onto the egg to set it in motion. Not to worry, the shell is plenty thick!

With nearly 30 levels, four distinct scenes, and the ability to play your own music while you play, there’s plenty to enjoy in the app’s initial launch. The developer has promised a slew of new levels and tweaks in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Friday, September 17, 2010

San Francisco Bay:
The Unseen Sea




Worth a watch -- one of my most favorite places on the planet. Hi Julie and Steve!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Zinio App Review
Platform: Android


RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE (Beta)

TASTY:
Delivers your favorite print magazine titles to your computer or mobile device, automatically reformatting graphics and text to be easily read on any size screen, and adding fresh video and animations to bring magazines into the 21st century.

BUMMER:
Android version currently in beta, no ship date announced as of early September 2010.

COOL:
Skim printed pages, then click the “read” buttons to view articles in plain text. Easy on the eyes!

REVIEW:
Although not available for download via the Android Marketplace as of this writing, the numerous showcase videos and articles I’ve read all point to the same conclusion: the Android version of the Zinio software will bring a powerful, easy-to-use electronic magazine reader to your DROID in the near future, rivaling the iDevice and PC editions in terms of functionality and ease of use.

Earlier this year, Jeanniey Mullen, Chief Marketing Officer at Zinio, demoed the DROID app for CTIA attendees in Las Vegas. Subscribers to the Zinio service will be able to access their digital subscriptions, browse thumbnail covers of the latest editions, then click through to view each issue in a double-page graphical page view.

Clicking on a specific page brings it into view. If an article appears on the page, a large “read” button appears at the bottom. Clicking it reveals cleaned up plain text, which is easily read by scrolling. No pinch and zoom reading here (iPad developers, I’m looking at you), and the app also did a standup job of remembering which page she was on when she changed to another title.

Landscape and portrait mode is available, and all major publishers are working with Zinio to use their apps across all mobile platforms to deliver content to customers.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Shazam App Review
Platform: Android


RATING:
2 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Use your phone to identify any song being played around you! Then buy the track, get tour info, lyrics, search for YouTube videos, and more.

BUMMER:
Free version offers only a 7-day trial of all features with unlimited tagging. Once your trial ends, the app goes overboard seeking payment to unlock all tools. Annoying.

COOL:
Makes it super-easy to discover new artists, read album reviews, tap into complete discographies, and even snag ringtones.

REVIEW:
Thanks to the Internet, it seems we have thousands of ways to discover new music, bands, and performers. Shazam is a welcome newcomer to the space, turning your DROID into a tool for capturing the new beats, melodies, and lyrics that surround us, and then connecting us to information about the song.

Grab the free trial version, then prepare to go on a musical journey. (I knew all that “Rattle & Hum” viewing would pay off someday. Thanks Bono and crew!)

When you hear a song you can’t identify during your favorite TV shows, webcasts, or radio, click the Shazam logo and feed it 30 seconds of the track. The sample is uploaded to their servers, and a few seconds later a positive ID is presented. You’ve just tagged yourself a new song, and the name of the artists and the track are saved in your My Tags folder.

Every tagged track offers you the chance to buy an MP3 via Amazon, watch a YouTube video of the song, get tour information, view similar recommendations, and read the lyrics. Plus, links to Facebook and Twitter are included, along with biographical data, album reviews, the ability to share the track via SMS or email, and ringtones.

That said, the Shazam free version offers a 7-day trial (too short) with all features turned on and unlimited tagging. Once your trial ends, the app goes overboard seeking payment to unlock all tools. Annoying.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Justin.tv Broadcaster App Review
Platform: Android


RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Makes it easy to record and share high-quality video with your Android phone anywhere, anytime. No setup required!

BUMMER:
We’ve had to suffer with competitor’s Ustream and Qik waiting for Justin.tv to arrive. Seriously.

COOL:
The most rock-solid video recording app on the DROID today, boasting higher quality recordings, easy online sharing, with a polished interface. Plus, you can chat with viewers of your live recordings in real-time through an overlay sitting on top of your live video.

REVIEW:
Ask any die-hard DROID user which app they’re using to record, stream, and share video, and Qik or Ustream are the most likely responses. After spending an afternoon with Justin.tv’s oddly named alternative app, I can safely say that we’ve got a new king of the hill.

Why? Let me count the ways:

1. Justin.tv supports hardware encoding that’s optimized for 3G/4G networks, recorded in high resolution, and streamed in real-time to online viewers.

2. Sharing is built right into the app, no need to set up your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or other social media accounts at the developer’s website.

3. Justin.tv supports live text chat, which is overlaid over your live video streams.

4. Your recorded video is saved automatically (“forever” according to the developers) with no need to choose this option.

For months, I’ve suffered with low-quality video recordings hampered by even lower-quality indoor cell reception and thus blocky or halted streaming, using Qik to record trade show demonstrations and customer interactions in our booths. The app tended to seize up if I wasn’t on a rock-solid connection, and some recordings sounded OK but had only a few frames of actual video, with long pauses in between.

Now with Justin.tv, my days of using Qik are over. Justin.tv runs smoothly no matter the connection (works just as well via wifi as it does via 3G/4G), with much higher-quality recordings that don’t suffer from pauses, stutters, or blocky sections. If your data connection is degraded, the video quality is stepped down until your signal gets stronger, while the frame rate remains constant. Once your connection gets better, your video is stepped up automatically.

And once a video is finished, it’s already live on the Justin.tv website, with no need to take extra steps to upload the final file or wait for processing.

The app is perfect for professionals and amateurs who want to use their Android device to record and share high-quality video on the go.

Whether it’s your daughter’s soccer game, your son’s musical performance, or your company’s latest product demonstration, Justin.tv makes it easy to record and share video.

There’s currently no better solution in the Android Marketplace. A must-download.
P90X Shoulders & Arms | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 200 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Ouch. Went to bed last night with a bag of ice under my left heel. Yea, Achilles's pull in full effect. Painful, swollen, making noises, definitely putting a damper on all cardio activities.

So, still brought it this morning with Shoulders and Arms. Two weighty workouts in a row back to back... better than not doing anything, right folks?

Top iPad Games of the Week | Sept. 14

See all of my reviews for iPad and Android over at Appolicious.com. Appi-yummy.

Apps Discussed

Steve Young Football HD: A laugh-out-loud football romp that proves “football and the iPad go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Seriously, I just said that!”

Killer Pool HD: The first must-have pool app for the iPad will snooker you into hours of satisfying gaming goodness.

Guns’n’Glory: Yeehaw! This Wild West take on the familiar tower defense theme is worth all three sawbucks for sure.

Blocks!!: Nearly-perfect Lego building app brings these familiar blocks into the 3D space of your iPad.

Reviews

Steve Young Football HD ($4.99)

Hall of Famer Steve Young is the wise-cracking hero of this seriously silly iPad romp. Clocking in at just under $5, is Steve Young Football HD worth your wings and beer money? As Steve’s avatar would say, “Duh. I am Steve Young. Buy me. Seriously, I just said that.”

There’s more than 80 levels to explore here, ranging from the basic (aim Steve at the end zone to grab stars and score touchdowns) to the crazy-fun (play against your friends via wireless by throwing down land mines, unleashing wild pigs, digging holes, and setting off earthquakes.)

As Vaporware Labs says, “You haven’t played football until you’ve played it in a pinball machine.” You’ll go up against seriously demented fans, tornadoes, and wild pigs to get into scoring position. There are four unique arenas to play in, from the standard Paradise Field to, yikes, the aforementioned Pactari pinball machine.

The icing on the cake? Every single penny of this silly app purchase goes to the Forever Young Foundation, which helps kids with serious physical, emotional, and financial challenges via athletic, academic and therapeutic resources. Catch a glimpse of the game introduced by the real Steve Young reporting live from… 2070? Yep.

Killer Pool HD ($1.99)

The best pool app in the App Store, Killer Pool HD sports rich graphics, dead-on physics, smooth controls that are easy to pick up, along with five different games that will snooker you into hours of satisfying gaming goodness.

First, choose your poison – 8 Ball, 9 Ball, Killer, Black Ball, and OctoKiller. If you know what those are, you’re seriously addicted. If you don’t, you may want to do a quick Google search to get the jist of the rules. Not every game offers the basic rules inside the app. Guessing this will be fixed in a future release.

Once you get a game fired up, you’ll take turns adjusting your view, aiming for the correct balls, then using the power meter in the lower-right corner to adjust the power of your strokes. The play is clean, landscape mode is recommended, and single player, two player, and multiplayer modes are available.

If you’re hunting for a pool app, then Killer Pool HD should be your go-to game. Here’s hoping additional rules are added soon, and tweaks to the basic view are made to round off the final edges of this gem.

Guns’n’Glory ($2.99)

As if the first hardy Americans to journey West in search of a better life didn’t have enough to worry about (dysentery, anyone?) Guns’n’Glory forces them to endure a tower defense-style ordeal, complete with mobile units, bandits, plus gringos- and Indians-for-hire.

You’ll start by standing in the center of a dry, trenched maze. Settlers enter from the sides, rushing through the maze to get to the other side. Pinch-zoom the field to zoom in, then single-tap your virtual Jesse James or Butch Cassidy closer to edge of the maze to snipe the poor souls running through.

Tapping on each helpless adventurer unleashes your fearsome pistol, and with each senseless killing you’ll earn cash to hire the slumbering bandits peppered through the area. (One nice tweak would be the ability to see how much each gringo-for-hire costs without having to tap them to check.)

Once you get a few gringos on your side (the loco dynamite-throwing Mexican is over the top fun), you can tap them to upgrade them up to three times.

Later on, you’ll also get a shot (literally) at taking out stage coaches and gold trains. With enough filthy lucre earned, you can even set up cannons and (gasp) steam trains kitted out with Gatling guns to really murder your victims in style.

This Wild West take on the familiar tower defense theme is worth all three sawbucks for sure, and a free trial version is available for download in the App Store. Go West, young people! (Or not!)

Blocks!! ($1.99)

Everywhere you turn these days, there’s a Lego game. Whether it’s the raucous Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Harry Potter-themes adventure games, or Lego Rock Band (family goodness for sure), my son and I have been on the lookout for a simple 3D block placement app.

Blocks!! has finally arrived, and the iPad’s user controls make placing, stacking, and rotating the blocks and Lego figures on a virtual board a whole lot of fun, with some minor drawbacks.

I found the camera to be reversed (with no way to reset it) and it took a few minutes to figure out how to access all the blocks. Hint: Click and hold on the top four buttons to bring up a side menu. When you find the new block type you wish to use, select it and it will fill the available slot.

The undo button is insanely useful, and deleting mis-laid blocks is a simple affair. You can stack blocks up to six standard blocks high, and even make them hang in mid-air. (How? Stack up a bunch, then delete them from the bottom up, leaving the last one in place. Magic.)

The added social media sharing buttons (post an image of your creation to Facebook or Twitter, and even email it to grandma) and save/load controls are a welcome addition to the interface. Lost? Click the ? in the upper right-hand corner to bring up the user manual.

With some tweaks to the view controls, more block types, fixes to some block stacking issues, and the ability to save small sets of blocks in a specific design (say a roof or pillar) for easy copying and pasting, and Blocks!! will be a must-have for the millions of iPad-owning Lego lovers out there.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Motivates Us @ Work?
Surprising results... (Video here)



P90X Chest & Back | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 200 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Came into this morning too excited to sleep -- why? Spent Wed. - Sun. last week avoiding exercise, giving my left heel time to not hurt when I walk (ugh) and my right hip to be less out/sore. I blame the heel on not stretching enough for my monster bike ride from Apex to Durham on the American Tobacco Trail on, irony, Labor Day.

The hip? No clue. This is something that has come and gone since I moved into my second year of working out in 2008 then started working behind my stand up desk for 8-11 hours a day here in my home office. It's like a phantom pain, moves between my left and right hip, literally in the center of my buttocks (yea, I said that) right where I'm guessing my femur meets my pelvis. It's a soreness, causes me to sometimes not be able to walk all that well, and randomly moves between the cheeks.

So, last evening, went to bed with firm resolve -- pain is just weakness leaving the body, right?

So after five long lost days of "healing" it's time to put away the purse and work the ol' bod. Get back into the shape I was in after my second full round of P90X. When pull ups, 12 reps at a time in a row, was easy. When push ups, 25 reps at a go, were also do-able. I was so excited to get back on the horse that I slept terribly, anxious for the 5:25 a.m. alarm. Seriously.

So once I brewed some extra-strong Joe (thanks Peet's) I was barely able to eek out 10 bad form pull ups, without a chair. Yea, for the past few rounds, I convinced myself that I was in "maintenance" mode, so pulling up a chair to make pull ups easier would be OK, right? Not. Use it or lose it -- and I've lost it.

So I tried my best to forget the rest and do my best. I ended up, second round hitting like a bad dream, also ratcheting down my push ups a bit.

Ok, so I'm at the start of another curve. No problem. I'll push play, repeat my mantra in the header of my blog (see top) 10 times each day, and will be back where I was in 90 or 180 days.

It's just time. I've got the drive. I will be successful.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

9/11 X 9 Years On
Trance Composition, powered by Seline HD for iPad



Download the MP3 -- 9/11 X 9 Seline HD iPad Mix -- by clicking here/FREE USER.


The iPad Orchestra from Alex Shpil on Vimeo.



Watch above -- see what happens when you use several iPad's and combine several virtual instruments using the app into an orchestra. Wow.

Tutorial video @ YouTube:

Saturday, September 11, 2010


9/11: Nine Years Later
Another dual day in the life of the McLain's:
Both recalling 9/11, and celebrating Deb's birthday...


Friday, September 10, 2010


Interpreting criticism
From Seth's Blog: Bookmark it, read it, live it.

Rejected Heartfelt criticism of your idea or your art is usually right (except when it isn't...)

Check out this letter from the publisher of a magazine you've never heard of to the founder of a little magazine called Readers Digest:

But, personally, I don't see how you will be able to get enough subscribers to support it. It is expensive for its size. It isn't illustrated... I have my doubts about the undertaking as a publishing venture.


Of course, he was right--given his assumptions. And that's the except part.

Criticism of your idea is usually based on assumptions about the world as it is. Jackson Pollock could never have made it as an painter in the world as it was. And Harry Potter was rejected by just about everyone because for it to succeed the way kids read would have to change.

The useful element of this sort of criticism isn't that the fact that people in the status quo don't like your idea. Of course they don't. The interesting question is: what about the world as it is would have to change for your idea to be important?

In the case of Readers Digest, the key thing that changed was the makeup of who was reading magazines. Most of the people (and it was a lot of people) who subscribed to the Digest didn't read other magazines. And so comparing to other magazines made no sense, except to say, "this is so different from other magazines, the only way you're going to succeed is by selling it to millions of people who don't read those magazines." And Starbucks had no chance if they were going to focus on the sort of person who bought coffee at Dunkin Donuts or a diner, and the iPad couldn't possibly succeed if people were content to use computers the way they were already using them.

Keep that in mind the next time a gatekeeper or successful tastemaker explains why you're going to fail.

Thursday, September 09, 2010




Grades: Student Organizer (Android App Review)

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
.99

TASTY:
The key to excelling in college is getting organized; this app makes it easy and inexpensive to stay on-track, focused, and tracking every important aspect of your academic career on your DROID.

BUMMER:
Useful only to students in the United States.

COOL:
Integrates seamlessly with your calendar(s) to provide reminders and deadline information at the touch of your screen. Offers super-flexible grade tracking for the inner-Dean’s List Wannabe in all of us.

REVIEW:
Whether you’re new to college life or a veteran university student, you’ll find lots to love about Grades: Student Organizer (.99). The app makes it super-simple to enter your class list, input daily homework and long-term assignments, track exams and other assessments across the semester, then wrap it all up with custom GPA and grade tracking.

The calendar integration (both with your phone and Google Calendar) is impressive thanks to recent updates from the app’s attentive developer, and the ability to add direct links to each professor’s website and email address is critical.

The secret sauce of Grades is its ability to enter custom grading information for each course, whether your instructor weighs your grade based a mix of tests, homework, and tests, or a total-points system. Extra credit and grade scales are easily implemented as well.

Finally, the days of a $20 paper planner are numbered. You’re already using your DROID to stay in touch with friends and family; now you can use it to get a handle on every aspect of your academic career and never miss another assignment or exam for a mere buck.

An instantly useful app, just in time for another academic year! Don’t miss it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


P90X Plyometrics | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)



Zero History William Gibson iBooks Buy for iPad Tim McLain

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Post 1000: P90X Diamond Delts | Workout
Fitness Blueprint | Insanity/P90X #10 (Get P90X or start with Power 90)
Personal | Weight: 197 (Shakeology Snack Added)
Tracking Calories (iPad App)
Working at my Stand Up Desk (plans) (Why you should, too!)

Here we go, post #1000. And a great day to kick-start a new round, my final before turning 40. It's a one week Insanity, next week P90X, and so forth, for 90 days. Already rocked the trail yesterday (check last post for a map/click through) and hit One on One Diamond Delts this morning.

Last round of the 30's and feeling FINE folks. Click the links above to get your own copy of P90X or Insanity and get with the program!

Monday, September 06, 2010


Top iPad Games of the Week | Sept. 6

See all of my reviews for iPad and Android over at Appolicious.com. Appi-yummy.

Apps Discussed

Heavy Mach. 2 HD: An immersive heavy mech RPG title that will satisfy fans of the long-running Mech Warrior series.

wwTouch - World War Touch: Deep Axis & Allies strategy game clone that supports up to 5 players battling for world domination.

ElevensHD: The global card game phenomenon comes to the iPad. Can you add to 11? Have at it!

Battle Bears Go: Smash TV meets Care Bears. The world’s first top-down shooter challenging iPad owners not to get hugged by teddy bears. Ever.

Reviews

Heavy Mach. 2 HD ($2.99)

The Mech Assault series took the original XBOX by storm back in the day. Now we’ve got the iPad, and Heavy Mach. 2 HD ($2.99) brings both the satisfying “build your own mech and blow things up” genre to our devices, with a generous helping of RPG features to boot.

Getting started is a breeze. Set up a new game, then get yourself to the first battlefield. A ready-made basic mech is waiting. This is very much a top-down shooter, so drag your finger across the screen to set a movement path for your mech, then click on an enemy tank to open fire.

You’ll quickly master drawing arc paths to keep your mech moving around enemies, dodging fire while laying down some serious fire. When an enemy pops, there’s a solid chance that it’ll drop some loot or upgrades. Be sure to scoop it up quickly by drawing a new path, or it’ll disappear.

Between missions, head over to the Equipment Shop to buy, sell, and equip upgrades. The usual mech fare is here – rocket launchers, machine guns, armor plating, repair kits, and various parts for each limb or foot of your walking death machine. Unique to the mix is the ability to buy a bot to accompany you into battle. This fits into a bot slot, offering extra attack abilities or loot grabbers.

As you work through the levels, upgrading and kitting out your mech will be critical. There’s gaps in the action, and only true mech heads will “love” spending time choosing and equipping the dozens of different items to see what difference each makes.

Honestly, I’m fond of equipping the basics, being sure I’m loaded for serious enemies, and find the general feel of combat fun and worthwhile. There are dozens of other $2.99 games in the App Store that aren’t worth your time. Heavy Mach. 2 HD is a bargain, and its depth and genuinely high fun factor will keep you fighting for many weeks to come.

wwTouch - World War Touch ($4.99)
If you’re an old school Axis and Allies tabletop game fan, and don’t mind beta testing a new app for developer Frozen Pepper, wwTouch – World War Touch ($4.99) is for you. Global domination is the goal, and only careful research, perfect unit placement, and a willingness to suffer through an unpolished interface will propel you to victory.

You and up to five friends take turns researching nine types of military units, all unique in their abilities to help you control land, sea, and air. Choose the massive global map for 5-person play, while focusing on a single region works better for small numbers of players.

My suggestion: When you load the app for the first time, turn your iPad to Portrait mode. Why? The interface doesn’t tell you this, but turning your device this way auto-launches the much-needed game manual. Read it, knowing that it could use some editing by a native English speaker. (It’s not entirely indecipherable, but you’ll need to read and experiment as play your first few games to get the basics nailed down.)

A sample turn involves several steps, which can all occur in any order you wish. You may want to double-tap on one of your territories to see what units are positioned there, then drag one or more units onto an adjacent enemy territory to attack. Once they’re committed, clicking the small red cross in the enemy location will cause the battle to commence. Once you’ve expanded your empire a bit, you may place factories or choose new units to produce between turns to help with defense, then end your turn and hand your iPad to the next player.

Critical to the game is the ever-changing newspaper. At any time during the game, rotate your iPad to bring the paper into view. You’ll quickly see how many territories you’ve lost, which countries you’ve grabbed from your enemies, and the most recent scientific breakthroughs.

If you’re looking for an immersive strategy game that’s almost ready for the spotlight (and want to get in while it’s cheap and the developer is open to your feedback) then give wwTouch - World War Touch a try.

ElevensHD ($1.99)
My extended family has bought more Hoyle Card Game titles over the years than I can count. ElevensHD ($1.99) brings a fresh new card game to the iPad – Elevens. Sporting a quality soundtrack, a “simple to learn but hard to master” rule set, and eye-popping graphics, this is every Solitaire player’s dream app.

You start with 22 cards in a play area, and an open card on the stack. The goal? Remove all the cards from the play area by selecting two or more that add up to 11.

The further back the cards are in the play area, the more points they’re worth when you’re making an 11 mashup. Can’t find cards that add up to that number? No worries. Just click the deck to flip another and keep trying.

You’ve got three short rounds to score as many points as you can. If you’re lucky (or smart) enough to clear the entire play area, you’ll be rewarded with unlimited bonus rounds.

Choose from Easy (no time limit, but less points), Medium (2 minute time limit, more points), Expert (75 second time limit, massive points), or Insane (60 second time limit, crazy points) to challenge your Elevens skill.

Card game lovers, snap up this newcomer to the App Store. Parents of young math students, here’s a replacement for flashcards that will get your kids mastering simple addition. Trust me (as I try to do simple math using my fingers, like always.)

Battle Bears Go ($.99)
Years ago, it was all the rage to insert avatars of Barney into first person shooters. Battle Bears Go ($.99) brings this familiar “kill the cute character” shtick to the iPad, shamelessly challenging the prepubescent teen in all of us that’s yearning to slaughter wave after wave of cuddly teddy bears making overly cute sounds as they do their best to hug us. To death.

The controls are surprisingly smooth and well done, until the screen fills with baddies. Lag and a somewhat small area of attack can make the harder levels challenging. Still, your left thumb moves you around the screen, while your right controls your direction of weapon fire. Tap and hold to spray bullets. Move from room to room, avoiding death hugs and systematically murdering wave after wave of bears.

Some bears are slow and hug-attack in packs, while others are obese and slow, taking lots more bullets before collapsing under the weight of their shredded, bullet-riddled stuffing. Power ups and upgrades will help you tear through the hordes, and be sure to try the two-player mode with a friend.

So long as you can master planting your tongue firmly in your cheek and have a good laugh at the basic premise of Battle Bears Go (think Smash TV meets Care Bears), this will be one app you’ll be laughing at (with?) for many weeks to come.
FlightTrack (Android)

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
$4.99

TASTY:
Track flights and see real-time plane data mapped to Google Maps. Plane nerds and serious business travelers alike, this app is for you!

BUMMER:
High price tag for infrequent travelers.

COOL:
Add a widget to your home screen to see real-time flight data without launching the app. Offers better international flight coverage than its competitors.

REVIEW:
Whether you travel extensively, have family and friends who fly often, or you just need to track flight information, FlightTrack is a must-have app for your DROID.

Using the app is straightforward. Just add one or more planes to track by inputting their flight numbers or route. Basic flight information appears, along with status updates, weather information related to both the incoming and outgoing airport, and any pertinent delays.

But FlightTrack really shines when you tap the Map tab. Overlay satellite imagery from Google Maps then display each plane’s current position and flight path.

The menu allows you to refresh all the data instantly, and even post the information to your Facebook Wall or Twitter stream. Now everyone in your family can see when grandma and grandpa are getting into town for the holidays! Plus, you can add a widget to your home screen to see real-time flight data without launching the app.

The app also makes is easy to find alternate routes and flights if you’re having trouble difficulties. This can really save time at the airport as you’re waiting in line to rebook a flight due to weather or other circumstances. This feature alone makes the $4.99 price tag look absolutely tiny compared to its usefulness.

Grab FlightTracker before you set off on your holiday travels this year, and you’ll see why DROID does.


Post 999: Labor Day 2010



Day to relax, Deb cooking up a storm for tonight, and a friend coming over for William. Will hit the trail this morning, churn out max miles (25ish) and be back in time for along afternoon.

Post 1000 tomorrow will see me back on track with a hybrid P90X/Insanity workout. Nice.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Bing

Platform: Android

RATING:
3 out of 5

PRICE:
$FREE

TASTY:
Combines six search functions (Images, Movies, Maps, Local, News, and Directions) in a clean, clear interface that makes using Bing a dream.

BUMMER:
Map data is out of date in some spots; grabs directions to locations along with a map, but no voice/turn by turn navigation functionality. Missing local gas price information currently found in Blackberry version.

COOL:
Sports the most user-friendly Image search and browse functionality of any search engine app in the Android Marketplace.

REVIEW:
You have to hand it to Microsoft. Not complacent to let their Bing search service live solely on the Web, the free Bing app brings some welcome search and mapping features to the DROID, wrapped in an easy-to-use package that truly helps users “find that they need, when they need it.”

Fire up the app and use the voice-activated search to find the perfect restaurant, decide which movie to see nearby, view stunning images, and grab driving directions to local destinations.

On top of these rich features, Bing sports eye-catching photos matched with daily trivia questions on its home screen. Beauty and brains in a single app, from Microsoft? Miracles happen, folks.

The menu is clean and clear. Stocked on top of today’s image are buttons labeled Images, Movies, Maps, Local, News, and Directions. A standard search bar is offers at the top, complete with the now-familiar microphone button to enable voice queries.

The Images button brings up both a search box to find specific photos by keyword, and a set of four collections related to the image of the day. Each album is presented as a small stack of thumbnails. Just click on one and Bing provides a screen full of results for easy preview. Eye candy and serious browsing functionality blended together perfectly.

Movies brings up a list of flicks playing at theaters near you. Click a title and a synopsis appears, along with links to trailers and today’s show times for local movie houses.

News is your gateway to local, U.S. and international news of the moment. Based on your location, the app does a solid job of offering 3-5 recent stories in each category. It’s one of the best basic news apps I’ve used to date.

Local pops up a ready-to-go list of categories to choose from, including restaurants, shopping and services, nightlife, hotels, transportation, arts and entertainment, government and community, plus health and fitness. Once you find a local business of interest, reviews and an instant-call button appears, along with a map link.

Clicking through to get directions is painless and fast, and the maps (also available by clicking Directions or Maps on the home screen) are super-clear. However, without turn by turn voice navigation, being able to see and track a route visually seems very last year. That and only your passenger will be able to help get you from point A to B.

Finally, the app makes it easy to save searches and favorites to your Home screen. If you’re a Bing fan and looking for an alternative to Google’s suite of Android apps, Microsoft offers a compelling app in Bing. Adding missing turn by turn directions and voice navigation features for most areas of the U.S. will make Bing for Android a must-have application.

Until then, the Local and News functions (not to mention the quality Image search) make this a solid app all on its own.
Google Finance

Platform: Android

RATING:
2 out of 5

PRICE:
$FREE

TASTY:
Free access to stock quotes, business news, data charts, and your Google Finance portfolios via your Android device.

BUMMER:
Stock quotes are U.S.-only and does not display individual portfolio statistics (gain/loss/shares), both of which are available in the standard (and superior) browser version at http://www.google.com/finance. Some stock price information delayed by 5-15 minutes, users reporting inaccurate importing of some data from portfolios, some specific DROID models cause app to crash.

COOL:
The latest version adds the ability to sync multiple Google Finance accounts with your phone.

REVIEW:
Professional and amateur investors, take note. Google’s free Finance for Android app streams U.S. stock quotes, business news, and data charts to your phone, and syncs with your Google Finance portfolios. The latest version adds the ability to sync multiple accounts, making it a must-try for all Google Finance users who need access to data and trends on-the-go via their Android device.

That said, there’s a fair amount of “buyer beware” warnings attached to the app. Only U.S. stocks are supported, which makes it a no-go for all global investors (and, frankly, who isn’t these days?)

Plus, with the recent upgrades made to the Google Finance website, here’s hoping Google upgrades this app to match; importing your portfolios results in some data corruption issues, and you can’t see the net gain or loss to your investments as a whole.

Some quotes I viewed were more than 10 minutes old to boot. Plus, the service runs in the background, draining battery life.

That said, your mileage may vary. If you’re already using Google Finance to store and work with your portfolios, give the app a try. If not, the Android Marketplace offers many other apps to track stocks in a much more friendly, consistent way (Stock Alert anyone?).
Trillian for Android (Beta)

Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
$FREE

TASTY:
A single app to rule every Instant Messaging (IM) service, Trillian helps you stay connected to your online contacts in real-time across every major service.

BUMMER:
Currently in beta testing (pre-release). Android users can grab a copy of the current build via: http://www.trillian.im/get/android/

COOL:
A must-have app for all lovers of online chatting. No matter which IM network you use, Trillian has you covered both on your desktop PC and now on your DROID device.

REVIEW:
If you’re a fan of online chatting via one or more instant messaging (IM) channels, Trillian has long been the king of the desktop. Now Cerulean Studios offers DROID users access to the latest beta (pre-release) version of their mobile Trillian client. And as you’d expect, the app makes it super-easy to keep in touch with your contacts via AIM, Facebook Chat, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, ICQ and many others.

All of your contacts and accounts are automatically carried over to your DROID via the cloud. My AIM and ICQ accounts took all of 30 seconds to set up, and I was instantly chatting with colleagues via my phone.

The more I use the app, the more I appreciate their attention to detail. According to their website, Trillian for Android was specifically designed for Android, not just hastily ported from the PC version or another phone (iPhone?) Plus, devices as far back as 1.6 can run Trillian for Android, which means G1 users are still in the mix. At the same time, users with the latest and greatest phones can enjoy shiny high-res graphics.

Tabbed chat makes it easy to switch between simultaneous chat sessions easily by tapping the tabs. Landscape mode is also seamlessly integrated into the latest build, along with native support for your sliding keyboard.

Sharing photos taken with your DROID is a snap, along with the usual massive collection of emoticons. Plus, the developers threw in a “buzz” feature so you can put an extra exclamation point on any IM you send, making the recipients DROID buzz.

Bug fixes and new versions are released every few days. You’ll need to download the app directly from this link (http://www.trillian.im/get/android/) to get up and running, with a full-release version coming this later this Fall.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Inception Cat



Fighting off the last of this weird cold, post-vacation sunburn, and about to get back to business exercise-wise next week. Enjoy your Labor Day everyone!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Top iPad Games
Roundup: Launch to August 2010

Reviewer: Tim McLain

Apple’s iPad is a solid device for gaming. Need proof? Here’s a quick round up of some of my favorites this week, targeting shooter, line- and doodle-drawing, and turret defense fans alike.

Read all of my Apple iPad and Google Android application reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech.


AirAttack HD ($.99)

If the App Store had a dollar menu, this tasty little gem would be a must-nosh. I started playing video games at my local mall back in the day, pumping quarters into games like 1943. AirAttack HD ($.99) combines everything you like about this type of arcade shooter, and takes it to the next level on your iPad.

Rich graphics, the best soundtrack of any arcade game in my library, combine with super-simple controls to offer up an addictive “use your WW II-era plane to destroy all things Nazi in the air and ground” gaming experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Dodge your enemies and their bullets and grab floating coins, stars, and upgrades to kit out your arsenal. Don’t forget to click on ground targets to drop bombs, all while looking down on a top-to-bottom scrolling battlefield. It’s the best .99 you’ll spend in the App Store this week, or this month for that matter.

The Squadron: Curse of the Aztecs ($.99)
Speaking of WW II-era arcade games, The Squadron ($.99) brings familiar “line-drawing” fun (think Flight Control HD and Harbor Master HD) and non-stop Nazi destruction action to your iPad.

Looking down on a set battlefield, draw paths for your war planes and bombers to navigate, flying over the evil Nazi vehicles and other forces to stop them from getting to the center, where an alien weapon straight out of the last Indian Jones movie is just waiting to be triggered. Fail in your mission and, well, very bad things happen. Don’t let your planes intersect, and use your “kill all” super weapon at those critical moments to prevent the game from ending.

Doodle Blast! HD ($4.99)
My son is 8 years old, and he’s been using his pencil to draw all kinds of gun-wielding robots and tanks for as long as I can remember. Doodle Blast! HD ($4.99) brings these childhood drawings to life, giving gamers the power to crush everything in their path with an ever-growing tower of guns sprouting from the top of a tiny tank. Take out any Jeeps you see first, swat down those helicopters, and blow up legions of soldiers. How far can you make it? (Further than me, that’s for sure.) It’s all so crazy-detailed and unique each time you start a new level, you’ll want to play it again and again.

FieldRunners for iPad ($7.99)
You scream, I scream, we all scream for tower defense (TD) games. The game play is straight vanilla TD – FieldRunners ($7.99) fills every pixel of your iPad’s screen, providing a wide open space to drag out various tower types, which your enemies must navigate to get to the other side of the screen to exit. If enough of them make it across, you lose.

From gun turrets, to “sticky towers” to slow down your opponents, to missile launches and more, you’ll have no trouble dealing with the first 10-20 waves. Beyond that, it will take real skill to get to level 100.

Skilled TD players will enjoy the optimized graphics all fitting on one large battlefield (read: no scrolling needed to keep tabs on your kill box) and clicking on each turret to upgrade or sell towers is a snap. Controls are super-easy to master, there’s plenty of towers to choose from. A trio of game modes and difficulties are available for each map, all adding up to an A+ gaming experience for a mere $8.

EXO-Planet Elite ($6.99)
When I first connected my iPad to the App Store, my very first app search targeted 3D shooters. I was on the hunt for a familiar desktop gaming experience in the vein of Quake, Tribes, or Unreal Tournament from the days of my (relative) youth. EXO-Planet Elite ($6.99) was my very first game purchase, and after taking some time to learn the controls, I count it among my personal Top 5 iPad Games.

Taking advantage of the iPad’s now-familiar dual joystick on-screen control scheme, I was controlling my space warrior across various playfields using my left thumb, while clicking and shooting with my right. The graphics are solid, the soundtrack fits the bill, and the outer-space backgrounds give the game an enjoyable feel. The key? Your grapple gun. You’ll use it to attach yourself to far-off parts of the level, then shoot at your enemies as you’re reeled in.

Engage in PVP with other iPad owners, but start with a few rounds of local target practice to earn Scrip points to kit out your character with better weaponry, armor, and abilities. A solid gaming title that’s worth mastering.

There’s no shortage of worthwhile gaming experiences just waiting to be experienced on your iPad. This week’s top titles span traditional board gaming and strategy to shoot ‘em ups, gem mining, ship docking (?!), and even a solid space shooter, all well worth your hard-earned gaming dollars.

Civilization Revolution ($12.99)
With the App Store littered with one-play wonders, 2K Games bring a serious strategy gaming experience to a device in need of a solid game title in this genre.

If you’re a fan of Sid Meier’s series of Civilization strategy games, this is a must-have. The $12.99 price tag for Civilization Revolution may sound like a lot, but here’s what you get in return: hundreds of hours of game play, an exclusive world and scenerio creation tool, and an optimized gaming experience to draw on your iPad’s stellar graphics and unique control capabilities. It adds up to the most compelling Civilization title since Civ 3. (Don’t get my wife started!)

Start with a humble city, take out other competing countries, explore the world, create and upgrade your armies and cities, all the while expanding your empire to become supreme ruler. Win in all the usual ways – domination, economically, or socially – or make up your own custom scenarios. Civilization Revolution will have you gesturing your way to world domination and gaming goodness for many months to come. Comparing the iPad version to my Xbox 360 edition ($59) is hardly fair; the iPad iteration takes a familiar title wherever my family travels, and adds unique tools not found on Xbox.

We have a strategy game category killer for the iPad, folks, and it’s name is Civilization Revolution. Thanks Sid!

Small World ($6.99)
Fans of this ever-popular board game can now take their favorite game on the road! Small World ($6.99) makes it easy for 2-5 players to choose a race of creatures to take over land and grow their civilization (sound familiar?) on a planet that’s too small to accommodate everyone.

Leverage your race’s exclusive attributes and traits to snag zones of land and their resulting victory points. There’s no game AI, so be sure to have a friend or two along to play. With some minor things to fix in the future, this is an inexpensive way to get your Small World on anywhere you take your iPad. It’s one of the first board game to iPad conversions we’ve seen, with many more on the way in 2011.

I Dig It HD ($9.99)
Calling all globe trotters with a penchant for mining for precious gems and items lost to history! I Dig It HD ($9.99) takes you to five unique locations in need of pillaging by your custom digging machine.

Keep your eye on fuel, temperature, damage, cargo space, and oxygen as you tunnel through the earth, Dig Dug-style, to snag rare artifacts and gems. Sell your diggings to get more fuel and shields, plus upgrade and repair your rig. Watch out for geo-thermal vents, gas pockets, and worse! A treat for the eye and simple controls add up to a unique gaming experience that can only be had on your iPad.

Harbor Master HD (FREE; $1 per Add-On Map)
If you’re a fan of Flight Control HD or The Squadron, Harbor Master HD (Free) will be a welcome addition to your “line drawing” collection of games. In a nutshell, you’re a harbor master in control of a very busy shipping empire. It’s your job to draw lines in your iPad to safely dock incoming boats into their color-coded docks. Once they off-load their cargo, trace a line for them to follow to safely exit the screen.

Sound simple? Sure it is, until you’re helping 4, 6, 8, even 10 boats simultaneously. The free app comes with a simple port that will keep you on your toes for weeks to come. When you’re ready for more, grab six additional maps for just .99 each. These add-ons feature unique geographical challenges along with pirate ships, cyclones, and other obstacles that will challenge even the steadiest of nerves.

With crystal-clear graphics, auto-save/resume, multi-touch support so you can play with others, and a bouncy soundtrack, Harbor Master HD will be a family favorite for months to come.

Meteor Blitz HD ($4.99)
The age of dual-thumb shooters is upon us, iPad be praised. And no other top-down game can match the precision and sheer fun of Meteor Blitz HD ($4.99). The concept is simple – pilot your small ship through wave after wave of asteroids and enemies, blasting away in all directions. Add a flamethrower, ice cannon, and plasma gun to your arsenal as you progress, eventually strapping on the ever-popular gravity gun that will make mince meat out of anything crossing your path.

Try arcade and survival modes, then compete to top the global leaderboards. Now with auto-save and instant resume (plus customizable controls soon) this is a must-have shooter for every iPad gamer.

Whether you’re a pinball wizard or a fan of the zombie apocalypse, the iPad has a game to match your tastes. Throw in some 1970’s era Pong with upgraded graphics for the 2010’s, a pair of military strategy titles, and an accelerometer-powered tilt-fest, and you’ve got yourself a solid collection of iPad games of the week.

Pinball HD ($2.99)
If you’re a fan of pinball, run, don’t walk to the App Store and grab this instant classic. Sporting beautiful graphics, perfect physics, and solid controls, Pinball HD ($2.99) turns your iPad into a handheld pinball machine, complete with a trio of unique tables (The Deep, Wild West, Jungle) that will take you weeks to master. You’ll swear the game is in 3D, it’s that good. Even the soundtrack is unique and perfectly suited to each table. Pinball wizards, take note – feel free to shake your iPad to influence the ball; but not too much. TILT!

Plants vs. Zombies ($9.99)
Who doesn’t love zombies? Especially zombies who are perfectly comfortable to take up positions just off your home’s property line, walking in slow single-file towards your home in one of several straight paths. It’s your job to plant sunflowers (daytime) or mushrooms (at night) to harvest the power of the sun, which gives you energy needed to plant nearly 49 unique perennials that will each do their own unique form of damage or stop the zombies in their tracks.

Stop each row of baddies before they reach your home for a serving of brain pudding. Sporting quality graphics, a fanciful soundtrack, 50 increasingly challenging levels in Adventure Mode, 18 unlockable mini-games, and the ever-crazy Survival mode, this is one app you’ve gotta have on your iPad.

MultiPong for iPad ($2.99)
Looking for a kid-friendly multiplayer game for your iPad? MultiPong ($2.99) is here to take full advantage of your device’s expansive multi touch screen to keep your kids happy on a long drive. Fire up a new game, position your finger over a bumper, and slide it left and right to stop the shiny metallic balls from getting past. With five different ball sizes, eight unique bonuses like gravity, multi ball, and power), and a top-quality physics engine, this is an instant classic you can’t find on any other platform. If you were a fan of the 1970’s rotating-dial version, you’ll love this welcome multi touch update for today’s modern gamer. (Take it from a now full-grown kid who had the original back in the day.)

Modern Conflict HD ($2.99)
The concept of Modern Conflict HD ($2.99) is super-simple. Each map contains a number of color-coded military installations; tap on one, then tap on an enemy base to send your troops into battle. Your units grow larger in number the longer you wait, some filled with tanks, others with helicopters. There are 33 unique missions in all, spanning America, China, and Russia. Add in a random-map generator and special attacks, and you’ve got hours of fun that’s hard to beat for a mere three bucks.

Labyrinth 2 HD ($7.99)
I keep coming back to this title anytime I have a few minutes to burn. Why? Labyrinth 2 HD ($7.99) offers a truly unique gaming experience that takes full advantage of your iPad’s accelerometer. Drop your ball into a simulated wood maze, hold your iPad flat in your hands, then tilt it in every direction to dodge cannons, bumpers, magnets, fans, merry-go-rounds, lasers (yes, lasers!) and more to drop yourself successfully into the exit. The physics are spot-on, the graphics are rich, and an editor (available on your PC/Mac) makes it easy to author and share levels of your very own. Add multiplayer via wifi and Bluetooth and you’ve got yourself a smash hit app every iPad owner should pick up. Now.

Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front HD ($4.99)

If you’re a fan of Modern Warfare 2 or Battlefield Bad Company 2, you’ll instantly appreciate this portable WW II shooter. Sporting cinematic cut scenes, 13 levels set in five locations (Pacific Theater, Normandy, North Africa, Germany, Sicily), and a solid set of vehicles to commandeer, you’ll swear you’re sitting in front of your Xbox as you blaze your way through this title. Multiplayer battles for up to five friends are available in free for all, team deathmatch, and domination modes.

Taken together, you’ve got yourself a solid military shooter for your iPad, with features to spare.