Tuesday, November 30, 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!)

Hello, 40. Just a number. Time to pause, reflect, and plan for the next 40.

With a little luck, lots of hard work, sacrifice, love, and caring, the remainder of this short life will be judged worthy by my wife, son, and all those to come.

Started the first day of mid-life with a very full Plyometrics workout with my old friend, Tony Horton. Join us, get in the best shape of your life, and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as you get stronger, healthier, and smarter.


Top Android Games by Category

Hop into a virtual cockpit – on earth or in space – to enjoy this week’s list of the very best shooter games for your Android device.

From old school space invaders offered up in two distinct, fresh flavors (original and extra-neon), to a bevy of plane shooters that will challenge even the most experienced gamers, you’ll be addressing any pressing alien extermination needs and punching holes in enemy aircraft in no time, on the go.

ANDROID APPS

Invadroid: A retro gamers delight – Space Invaders on your Android phone, anytime, anywhere. Let’s call it “original” flavor…

Radiant HD: A neon-flavored scoop of Space Invaders, served in a tasty cone sporting a full graphical redesign and tons of upgrades.

Sky Force: Dodge and roll your plane across colorful battlefields in this addictive, no-cost vertical shooter.

Sky Force Reloaded: Take the Skyforce to the next level, adding fresh graphics, additional levels, and more.

MiniSquadron!: There’s nothing small about this crazy-fun 2D side-scrolling arcade shooter. With more planes than you can shake a stick at, amazing graphics, and tons of replayability, it’s time to take to the skies!

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

ANDROID REVIEWS

Invadroid (FREE)

I’m old enough to remember playing my very first game of Space Invaders, on the Atari 2600 if memory serves. Fast-forward a mere 32 years to today, with the fine gentleman at Sprakelsoft.com successfully porting the original (with some distinctive graphical upgrades) to the Android platform. Invadroid is free, ad-supported, and every bit as fun as the original. Can you take out all the aliens before they reach your bases? Of course you can. Remember to take cover under the bunkers above you, dodge incoming fire, and stay frosty. Control your space plane with your D-pad or touch points on the screen. We’ll call this the “original” flavor of Space Invaders…

Radiant HD

Radiant (in both its free and HD iterations) offers up a tighter, “neon-flavored” version of Space Invaders, enhancing the alien enemies and obstacles with painfully bright-colored edges. Even your little ship is a luminous white, moving cleanly across the play field to dodge asteroids, shoot up the marching aliens, taking out flying saucers, and handling the bosses high above. Just like the original, you’ll need quick reflexes to take out your enemies and grab falling bonuses and credits to purchase upgrades and more. Toss in a quality soundtrack, a full story mode complete with text bubbles (and embedded hints), plus truly radiant graphics from start to finish, and you’ve got yourself a tasty alien shooter treat that keeps on giving.

Sky Force ($3.12) & Sky Force Reloaded ($3.12)

Since the early days of Galaga in the local arcade, we’ve been blasting away at never-ending streams of enemies who vertically come our way at us down the screen. Sky Force and Sky Force Reloaded brings this familiar top-down vertical shooter, with its familiar dodge, roll, and shoot-fest controls, to your Android device. You’ll auto-fire your way through each level, keeping a close eye on the percentage meter. Didn’t take down enough baddies? Too bad, start over kid. And don’t get cocky, because this app gets crazy-hard on, well, Hard mode. Drag your fighter over the battlefield to collect power ups and shield boosts, all while taking in the scenery. So if you’re itching to take on an entire army all by yourself, give Sky Force an install. Once you max out the levels, grab Reloaded to revel in upgrade graphics and additional levels.

MiniSquadron! ($2.99)

This action-packed, loopy and luscious arcade shooter features 50 fabulous mini planes and eight levels of crazy-fun combat. Sporting wifi multiplayer ability, MiniSquadron! successfully boils down the flight sim experience into a 2D side-scroller with uber-responsive multi-touch controls. In fact, the easy control scheme will keep your plane flying right, and if you hit the sides, no worries – you automatically loop back into the playing field. Later levels offer up a massive amount of silly-fun laser beams, cluster bombs, missiles, and more. These tend to cause considerable friendly fire among your AI foes, adding some comic relief to the mayhem at times. Blast everything in sight, enjoy the crash and plane destruction effects, and revel in each unlocked plane and gadget. There are many hours of game play waiting for you in this welcome addition to the Android Marketplace collection of quality games. Give the LITE version a try, and you’ll quickly want the $3 full version.

Monday, November 29, 2010




Happy Birthday, William!

Hard to believe it's been 9 years since you came into our lives... Here's to 91 more!





And now my time to turn 40. Here's one wife's thoughts above. Love it.

P90X Chest & 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!)

What a way to end my 30's. Excellent, tough upper-body workout. In my second week back on the Tony Horton Express -- P90X -- and starting my 5th year of this little New Year's resolution made crossing from 2005 into 2006. How's that for consistency?

Headed to the doc early today and had the best physical of my life. Perfect blood pressure. No medical problems, nothing to diagnose or worry over. Got some advice on the hip/muscle pain I get from time to time. Got a special lipid profile to be sure my perfect cholesterol numbers are really as perfect as they seem. Was told some of the numbers on a standard profile are mathematically derived, and not based on actual blood numbers. So, an expanded test to be sure everything is in order, especially given my family history.

I was very much not looking forward to tomorrow -- the break into my 40's. For many little reasons.

Now all of that has evaporated. I'm not sure there's any more fitting way to bridge into true middle age by having a perfect physical. Makes me feel proud of the accomplishment, and gives me drive to stay on target.

Onward! And thanks Tony Horton and P90X. It's your nutrition (Shakeology) and awesome workout DVDs (start with Power 90 for 90 days, then hit P90X for 90 more) that gave me the platform to make this success. Get your items today (order) and join me as your free coach.


Mobile Sports News

RATING:
4 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Scrapes a variety of sports news outlets and presents the latest headlines, scores, and commentary on your trusty Android device.

BUMMER:
Ad-supported, pulls only from NBC Sports and ESPN.

COOL:
Along with standard sports news headlines and scores, the app does a excellent job of connecting users to sports blogs as well.

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
ESPN Radio
ESPN ScoreCenter
NFL Mobile
Sports News
Top Sports News
US Sports News
Mobile Sports News (Sky)

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

REVIEW:

There’s no shortage of sports news apps in the Android marketplace. Enter Mobile Sports News, a plain-vanilla offering that does an admirable job of scraping and formatting the latest headlines, scores, and sports blogs postings right on your phone’s small screen.

The mobile websites for ESPN and NBC Sports are this app’s primary sources of data. I found the content to be fresh, timely, and rendered for easy reading. Scores were up to date (thanks NBC!) and I was especially glad to see seven popular sports blogs represented in the app.

Headlines and the latest news are available for NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Soccer, College Football, ND Central, Tennis, Golf, Motor Sports, College Hoops, Olympic Sports, Horse Racing, and “Other Sports.”
Don’t let the plain interface scare you away. Mobile Sports News sticks to its strengths, and is a welcome addition to any sports lovers phone.

Tip: If you’re a rabid fan of soccer (European football) be sure to pick up the Sky version of this app from the marketplace. The same interface is put to play on mainland sources of football news, garnering that app an even larger number of positive reviews from the more civilized nations of the world.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


3G Watchdog for Android Phones

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Like a trusty watchdog, keeps a close eye on your mobile Internet (data) usage. A must for all Android owners who don’t have unlimited data plans and want to be sure to stay under their monthly cap.

BUMMER:
Comparing monthly usage numbers on your bill vs. the app may reveal some discrepancies. Verizon customers may get slightly better data using the My Verizon app shipped with your device.

COOL:
As the month wears on and your online usage piles up, a colored icon in your notification bar changes from green to yellow to red. (Hint: Red means you’re nearly out of bandwidth!)

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Network TrafficStats Lite
Network Monitor

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

REVIEW:
With AT&T and Verizon Wireless now both actively selling tiered data packages, some pundits think the days of flat-rate, unlimited Internet access plans are numbered.

Recent surveys show that while carriers are convinced that the average consumer likes to choose between small, medium, and large data caps, most consumers aren’t thrilled with the reality of having to track their data usage to be sure they don’t break the bank.

If you’re one of the growing number of Android owners saddled with tiered access, 3G Watchdog is your new best friend. Just install the app, and instantly your incoming and outgoing traffic is monitored down to the megabyte.

This free apps best feature? As the month wears on and your online usage piles up, a colored icon in your notification bar changes from green to yellow to red. (Hint: Red means you’re nearly out of bandwidth!)

Comparing monthly usage numbers on your bill vs. the app may reveal some minor differences. It’s best to disable your access when you get close to your cutoff (within a few MB’s.) Verizon customers may get slightly better data using the My Verizon app shipped with your device.

Saturday, November 27, 2010




Top iPad Games of the Week

Got your fill of turkey and stuffing last week? Good. Because you’ll need gobs of couch time to recover from the holiday feast and give each of this week’s top iPad games a thorough workout.

Harry Potter fans have a pair of new apps to test their knowledge of the movie franchise and explore Hogwart’s through a new LEGO adventure.

RAGE HD comes blasting onto our devices with a gory, graphically ground-breaking shooter on rails that won’t break the bank. It’s a quick 30 minute romp that puts developer ID on the top of the nascent mobile gaming empire (graphically, anyway), with lots of room for improvement (more content, please!)

And finally, Plunderland draws a line in the sand for iPad game development and schools us all in how the device’s unique built-in control schemes can be put to the very best use, in this case taking us on a pirate adventure we won’t soon forget.

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

Before we dive into this week's reviews: Let's Play Words With Friends on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. My Username is Timothymclain -- click here to get the free app and start a game!

iPad Apps Reviewed

RAGE HD: Can you survive this post-apocalypse game show that doubles as a gory shooter on rails? From the folks who brought us DOOM and Quake, RAGE HD joins an elite group of truly console-quality games for the iPad.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4: An instant classic. Hop on the Hogwart’s Express and experience more than 40 levels of LEGOs adventure, beautifully rendered on your iPad.

Plunderland: Arhhh mateys! Don’t miss this seafaring side-scroller that hits the mark with perfect, original controls, gorgeous graphics, and 17 levels of pirate adventure to explore.

Scene It? Harry Potter HD: Think you know everything there is to know about the Harry Potter movies? Put your trivia knowledge to the test. (But fellow Muggles, and be warned: There be spoilers ahead.)

iPad Reviews


RAGE HD ($1.99)

Keep your legs and arms inside the virtual car for this groundbreaking post-apocalyptic shooter on rails/game show. You’ve never seen graphics like this before on your iPad, and developer ID (who brought us DOOM and Quake back in the day) haven’t been shy to show off their ground-breaking graphics engine in the run-up to this week’s launch. (Watch for more on the console iterations of the game in the coming months.)

RAGE HD starts off silly, and gets more ridiculous with each passing minute. The game starts with an over the top game show introduction, welcoming you to the first episode of Mutant Bash TV. You’re unceremoniously dropped into the action, feet welded to a set of rails, forcing you to take a very linear path through each level.

Thankfully, you’re fully loaded for bear. Er, mutants. In this alternate reality, you’re filming three 10-minute episodes of the show in mutant-thick locations, so you’ll need to shoot first and leave the questions entirely by the wayside.

The stunning graphics fly by so quickly there’s barely enough time to take in the visuals, let alone hit the bonus targets, pick up prizes and cash, and take out the baddies before moving on to yet another room. You’ll need to dodge thrown bricks in addition to carefully aiming and shooting, and the camera swings around wildly as you progress.

As it stands, RAGE HD is worth the $1.99 cost of admission, if only to see the future of iOS gaming, today. Clocking in at exactly 30 minutes, there’s room for improvement: New levels, leader boards, free-play mode with the ability to control our speed, and even a survival mode to keep the mutants coming over a much longer period of time. ID, are you listening?


LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 ($4.99)

For several years now, the good folks at Traveler’s Tales (and Warner Brothers) have been successfully melding the worlds of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman with the LEGO universe. The end result is a long list of both financial and critical successes spanning every major console and handheld device to date, and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is a worthy iOS addition to the list.

I can honestly say that this new title is one of the very best games for kids on the iPad.

The app successfully transports players into the world of Harry Potter. The lush musical score, presentation of familiar characters from JK Rowling’s popular boy-wizard universe, and ever-changing environments from the most memorable scenes in the book series all add up to a thoroughly enjoyable experience across more than 40 levels of game play.

The game offers movie-quality CG cut scenes wedged between the LEGO-inspired levels. You’ll take on the role of Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Hagrid the Gamekeeper, Harry Potter himself, and other characters, each of which bring special abilities to help you solve puzzles, interact with portions of the levels, and more.

As with the other LEGO games in the series, you’ll spend a great deal of time taking on quests, building objects out of LEGOs to solve puzzles or progress across the levels, collect objects and other items, along with collecting the usual bag loads of LEGO studs, hidden hats, and even spells.

The mini-games also shine. From potion-making to jigsaw puzzles, each short experience break up the action and adds even more luster to the overall Harry Potter/LEGO experience.

That said, the game isn’t perfect. You’ll need to play through each level in its entirety before your game is saved. So be sure to set aside 10-20 minutes when you load the game to be sure your progress will be saved.

Secondly, the control scheme involves dragging your finger across the full length and width of your iPad’s screen to control your character’s movement. There were more than a few times where I couldn’t see what was going on since the back of my hand was blocking the view. With some practice, you’ll learn some tricks for keeping your hand out of the way.

That said, if you and your kids are fans of either Harry Potter (who isn’t?) or LEGOs, this is one app that will get played often and for long stretches at a time. At $4.99, this is one Christmas present that will keep you and your kids glued to your iPad for many weeks to come.



Plunderland ($2.99)

Grab your iPad and set sail on a haunted ship for an epic adventure on the high seas!

Complete with a rag-tag pirate crew, you’ll sail between 20 ports in all, grabbing as much loot as you can along the way, taking out British redcoats, and lobbing shells at numerous targets.

Right out of the gate, you get the feeling that you’re in for something truly unique and special. The overall presentation is spare in terms of navigation, and that plays to the iPad’s strengths. After all, your device natively understands when it’s tilted.

In Plunderland, your crew boards your ship, and immediately you want to tilt your iPad to the right to make the boat set sail. Sure enough, off it goes! Tilting your device back to left makes you slow down, then change direction and sail in the opposite direction.

As you sail the ocean blue, you’ll come across rival boats piloted by dreaded redcoats. Using your finger, you can easily aim and fire your cannon. Sink a ship, or hit island-based targets, and special coins and other items will drop. Sail close to these items and finger-press each one in turn to haul it onboard. Loot is what the pirate life, and this app, is all about.

Don’t forget that you can pick up enemies and hurl them to the ground, send them to Dave Jones locker (drown), set them on fire, and worse. Of course, these are just paper cut-outs, right? No harm done.

Overall, the cut-out graphical style is a treat, and with a mammoth content update planned for early next year, now’s the time to get your pirate on. Arrrr!


Scene It? Harry Potter HD ($4.99)

Do you or your kids secretly wish you could attend Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Are you hopelessly addicted to the book and movies?

Or, at least, do you count yourself as a true fan of the series, and enjoy trivia games?
Living up to its billing, Scene It? Harry Potter HD is truly the ultimate companion app for aspiring witches and wizards who can’t get enough of JK Rowling’s unique world.

Crammed with more than a hundred video clips from the first six movies along with hundreds of trivia questions wrapped up in 30 quiz sets and 16 unique puzzle types, there’s more than enough content here to keep enthusiasts glued to their iPad for days to come.

The game takes full advantage of your iPad’s brilliant screen, offering up HD video clips from Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince.

Plus, a trio of game modes – single, group play, and mutiplayer – makes it easy to get your game on alone or with friends and family. Multiplayer allows for head-to-head local challenges via Bluetooth or wifi, while group play makes it dead simple to set up an in-room (one device) trivia tournament.

[SPOILER AHEAD] My biggest piece of advice? If your kids haven’t seen the last movie, don’t let your 8-year-old fire up this app like I did. His first trivia question? A clip of a certain somebody killing Professor Dumbledore. Who was he? (We’re reading through Goblet of Fire as I write this, and the look of shock on his face was one for the ages. Don’t make the same mistake my friends.)

In all honesty, it was clear that my Harry Potter trivia skills were (and still are) in serious need of brushing up before I give this app another go. As with any trivia game, if you’re up to date the subject area or franchise, you’ll have a blast. If you’re a little rusty, some homework might be necessary to excel.

Netflix, my old (now all-streaming) friend, here I come!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Camcard Lite (Business Card to Phone Contact App) Review

Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
Limited Free Version (Small # of Scans, Unlimited Scans Version $14.99)

TASTY:
Convert business cards into phone contacts using your DROID’s camera. Easy as pie!

BUMMER:
Has conversion issues for poorly-taken photos. (Be careful when taking your snaps and you’re unlikely to encounter any issues.)

COOL:
The next time someone hands you a business card, use this free app to take a picture and add it to your contacts in one easy step.

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
MobiReader
BizSnap

REVIEW:

Rolodex users, wake up and smell the 21st Century. Camcard is a powerful, easy-to-use business card reader that uses your phone’s camera to convert paper cards into new electronic contact files in your Android phone.

In my limited demo, I encountered zero read errors or other issues. I held up several business cards to the camera lens, allowed the auto-focus to kick in, took a picture, and the software was 7 for 7 in capturing all the card information and inserting it into fresh contact files.

If you’re in global sales, there’s a good chance the app can handle most of the languages you’ll encounter (12 in all presently), and the ability to edit the imported information makes the process flawless. The app will even auto-rotate images to do a proper import, and crop out background text that may be in the image with your cards.

As with all camera-based apps, you’ll want to take care to place cards on a plain surface before taking a picture, avoid moving your hand when taking each snap, and keep the card as big as possible in the viewfinder before capturing an image.

If you’ll only scan a handful of cards each week, the Lite version will work just fine. If you take in more than 10-15 each week, you’ll want to pony up for the unlimited version which costs $14.99.

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

Thanksgiving Gratitude



"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."—John F. Kennedy, Jr.

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."—Albert Einstein


iPad 4.2.1 Update + Folders + Backups = FUBAR

Grabbed the new iPad 4.2.1 update the other day. Excellent feature list -- multi-tasking and FOLDERS being the best additions.

Up until this update, I had 20-30 apps spread across 4-5 screens. Individual icons for single apps. Sorted to a screen each for each type -- most often used, games, news, etc.

After installing the new update, I made a few folders and WOW, suddenly I realized I could load dozens more apps onto the device and sort them into fresh folders.

Within two hours, I'd loaded more than 100 apps and had them nicely sorted into folders. I backed up my device and figured I was all set.

iTunes (running 10.1) surely recorded both the apps AND the folders I'd just sorted them into. Right?

Not so much.


After adding about 12 more apps to also sort into my new folders, I synced and headed back to my iPad.

FUBAR'd. There were 5-10 new folders with 1-2 apps in each, renamed things I haddn't set, and all my apps were unsorted and thrown into more than 10 screens. Ouch.

All that work. Lost.

If anyone else has this problem email me with a fix and I will publicize it -- timothymclain at yahoo.com.

I'm contacting Apple support (post here) to see what I can do stop this.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

P90X Shoulders & 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!)

Rdio Music Service

Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
Free Trial ($4.99 Web, $9.99 Unlimited)

TASTY:
A fresh streaming music service that finally makes it easy to save songs locally (play offline) and listen to the artists and genres your friends like (think social!)

BUMMER:
Free trial lasts a fleeting three days. Saving songs for local playback requires a finger press on an icon for each song you’d like to capture. That’s right: One press per song, no automated harvesting here, folks.

COOL:
For the cost of a few cups of coffee, listeners have access to a broad array of artists and genres, with the ability to save songs for playback offline.

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Thumbplay
Last.fm
Pandora
Slacker Radio
Grooveshark
Rhapsody
Spotify
MOG

REVIEW:

iTunes. Love it or hate it, we all know and hate/like/love its most basic functions. That is, it allows us to save all of our tunes in one place, sync it to our Apple-blessed devices, and take those tunes with us wherever we may roam.

Rdio joins the mobile music fray with similar capabilities tied to a subscription model (think Rhapsody, Last.fm, Pandora), but with a few twists that may make the service your go-to app for all things music on your Android phone.

All the basics are here. Choose your favorite artist or genre, press play, and let the streaming begin. With so many sources available (and more coming online weekly), there’s no longer a need to sync your local collection and MP3’s to your phone.

The service turns the entire sync-and-go system on its head. Instead of forcing you to purchase and upload songs to your phone, Rdio is the first service to let users save individual songs from the service to their phone. The songs can then be listened to via your phone even when you’re not connected to the Internet.

That means you can, over time, save dozens or hundreds of great-sounding songs on your phone, downloaded directly from the service. So long as you maintain your subscription ($9.99/month), your library will play back anywhere you and your DROID go.

Add in the social experience that lets you view friends and tastemaker play lists, shuffle modes, play list builders, and more, and you’ve got yourself a worthy competitor to all the established players in the online music subscription landscape to date.

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ReBirth for iPad
Mix dance tracks through virtual sequencers and other hardware... Wow!



Pick up a default track, and start tweaking the nobs and sliders. That's all it takes to mix your own dance track, mess with the bass, add high and low notes, and all the rest.

I'm sure once I figure out how to copy/paste sequences and tweak and entire song I'll post the results right here in the ol' iPad review/tech blog. In the mean time, if you like to mix your own tracks and make music on the go, it's hard to beat ReBirth.
P90X Plyometrics | Workout

P90X - Plyometrics from Erik Luchauer on Vimeo.


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!)

It's interesting -- when I don't workout, I have trouble with my energy levels and overall feeling of well-being. When I skip (on a trip, sick, etc.) I have more issues staying focused, waking up in the morning, avoiding general aches and pains, and I tend to get a slight runny nose in the a.m.

Even when I get lackluster sleep, am feeling run-down (no energy), or don't feel any interest in exerting myself, I always feel 1000% better after putting in a full P90X workout.

Hence today. Back in the saddle, Day 2 of a brand new round, and I started sluggish and tired. Here I am at the end, well-fed, and my body is singing a bit like a tuning fork. My brain is sharp, my limbs (legs especially) are feeling strong, and my lack of sleep last night is gone.

Thanks Tony Horton and P90X -- not to mention the entire Beachbody crew -- for this amazing gift of P90X. In-home fitness for the real-world, it works, and keeps on working, four years on for me.

And now for something complete different...


Wandering around post-nuclear war Nellis Air Force Base near New Vegas (Fallout) last eve, walked by a Mister Gutsy guard 'bot, who mutters to me out of the blue: "Once a Republican, always a Republican." Nearly lost it!

Seems the robots get all the political commentary in the Fallout series, including the Chinese Communist-hating monster bot (Liberty Prime) at the end of Fallout 3.

Hear his best lines here...

Monday, November 22, 2010



Tanks! for DROID Phones

Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
$1.60

TASTY:
It’s Battlezone on your Android phone!

BUMMER:
Mastering the controls present a real challenge; be sure to try both modes.

COOL:
The first must-have tank battle game for your phone adds depth of field, stellar graphics, and even enemy helicopters to take the Battlezone experience to the next level.

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Super Tank
Tanks
Burst Tanks
Warfire
War Zone Lite

REVIEW:

When I was a teenager, Battlezone was all the rage. This arcade and early console classic put you in the seat of a tank, and your task was simple: navigate through the landscape and take out the enemy tanks coming your way.

Tanks! both upgrades and enhances the Battlezone experience right on your Android phone. Gone are the flat, gray vector graphics. In its place are neon-colored replacements, rendered in front of a thoroughly modern background of mountains and sky line, which add critical depth of field and a feeling of motion to the action.

Add in a healthy supply of aerial baddies (helicopters) and tons of enemy tanks, and you’ll be shooting your way through this battlezone with reckless abandon. Be sure to try both control schemes. The standard mode is harder to wrap your brain around, but does offer superior control once you climb the learning curve and gain some experience.

Pro Tip: Rapidly tap the screen to fire lots of bullets all at once (unlike the original, continual rapid fire is encouraged), and be sure to lead your targets. The helis and tanks tend to move, a lot, and you’ll need to fire your bullets just ahead of them to score solid hits.

How many bogeys can you take out? Tanks! is the first must-have tank battle game for your phone that takes the Battlezone experience to the next level.

Read all of my past Android app reviews at Appolicious and Yahoo! Tech -- click here.
P90X Chest & 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!)

Back in the saddle for a new round, post-aborted Shuttle launch trip and a short bout of the flu.

Starting from scratch, maxed the time, and took my time ramping up the reps to get me through round 1 and 2 in the their entirety.

Some pretty downright ugly unassisted pull-ups. I used to be able to crack out 10 with no chair easily. No longer. Time to get back there, slowly, with time. I will succeed.

P90X Review

Sunday, November 21, 2010


ESPN Fantasy Football 2010

Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
$4.99

TASTY:
Tap into your ESPN account on the go, tweak rosters, handle trades, adjust lineups, and more.

BUMMER:
No support for live drafts, free agent player sorting is weak, and no push notification support for the latest info, points scored, etc. (Rumor has it that push notifications are close at hand in an upcoming update.)

COOL:
Takes the ESPN mobile website to the next level, offering well-organized menus, rosters, player data, and the latest scoring information via a fresh app experience.

SIMILAR APPS IN THE MARKETPLACE:
Fantasy Football Cheatsheet

REVIEW:
Tens of thousands of rabid fantasy football fans rely on ESPN’s popular fantasy football website (standard and mobile) to set up their teams, make trades, and more. ESPN fanatics packing an Android-powered device should run, not walk to the marketplace and pick up the official ESPN Fantasy Football 2010 app.

Logging into your ESPN account is a snap. Once logged in, you can view your team(s), pull up rosters and make swaps, adjust lineups as soon as players are sidelined by injuries (or just sucking out on the field), view current scores, and handle trades.

In the background, ever-present data is just a finger-press away, including schedules, message boards, team information, standings, and more.

Where the app really shines is real-time roster management. Controls next to each player make it easy to swap in newcomers as needed; opening each player card displays current stats and injury data all in one place.

You’ll never hit the virtual field with an injured player (or one on a bye week!) ever again.
Sure, most of this can be handled via your laptop at the bar on gameday, or via your mobile Web browser.

But the layout, functionality, and user-friendly design of this app will win you over, save you time, and keep you at the top of the leaderboards.

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aweditorium for iPad
Video Review



Grab this iPad-exclusive, new artist/music discovery tool for free from the App Store (link).
Top Android Games by Category

With the pro football season pressing full-steam ahead, the World Cup and World Series a recent memory, and plenty of hockey games left before the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s never been a better time to grab the best Android apps catering to these favorite past times.

Toss in the very best fishing simulator for a mobile device, and you’ve got yourself a solid list of the top sports apps for the Droid.

ANDROID APPS

Backbreaker Football: Boils down the NFL experience to its most intense. Can you run the ball back for a touchdown?

FIFA 10 by EA Sports: Action-packed, customizable European football action on your Android device, minus the vuvuzelas.

Fishin’ 2 Go: I’d trade the best day at the office for the worst day of virtual fishing with this worthy smart phone fishing simulator.

Baseball Superstars 2010: Batter up anywhere, anytime with this feature-rich baseball blaster.

Hockey Nations 2010: Hit the ice with this six-on-six hockey arcade classic. Master the controls and go for the hat trick!

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

ANDROID APP REVIEWS

Backbreaker Football ($2.99)
Football season is half-spent, talk of the playoffs is in the air, and there’s never been a better time to get your spin/juke fix while on the go via Backbreaker Football. Unlike its console counterparts, which can take weeks or months to master (think Madden’s maddening array of control options on both sides of the ball), this Android app is all about simple, fun arcade pigskin action. Forget even mastering basic or advanced plays on defense or routes on offense.

In Backbreaker, you’re dropped right into the action as a receiver. You’ll need to use the accelerometer (think tilt) on your phone to spin, juke, or side step your way through oncoming defenders.

Can you avoid the rush, breakaway from the pack, and score perfect touchdowns, complete with showboat moves?


FIFA 10 by EA Sports ($4.99)
The World Cup may be over, but the soccer action never stops on your Android phone. FIFA 10 delivers the total soccer experience, crammed onto your phone’s small screen. And therein lies the only real problem with the game – players are so small and rendered in such a way as it’s hard to tell one player from the next.

Once you get into a match, however, the app comes to life. Once you learn the controls, moving the ball up the field, taking shots on goal, and taking a few penalty shots adds up to a ton of footie fun. With tournament, manager, “be a pro,” training, penality, and friendly modes, along with integrated multiplayer modes and special rewards and profiles, there’s something here for ever soccer fan. Except, thankfully, vuvuzela’s.

Fishin' 2 Go ($2.25)
We’ve all played flight simulators. You know, where you take control of photo-realistic planes and pretend to know what all those buttons and dials do? Fishin’ 2 Go, believe it or not, is a fishing simulator. You’re confronted with images of a real-life lake. After choosing your lure and bait, it’s time to get it wet. To cast your line, hold your finger down on the screen, tilt your phone back as if you’re getting ready to cast, then move your arm forward to send your line flying into the water. To reel in your line, drag your finger across the screen until you get a bite. Tire the fish and keep your ‘taughtness’ level out of the red and you’ll bring home quite the catch. With multiple waterways to choose from, realistic sounds and water effects, and tons of gear choices to make, now you don’t even have to leave the office to go fishing.

Baseball Superstars 2010 ($4.99)
If baseball is your sport of choice, Baseball Superstars 2010 should be on your phone. No other baseball app offers so many game modes – exhibition, season, My League, homerun race, mission, match play – along with the ability to customize six players.

During play, there are dozens of unique items to unlock, along with hidden characters and even entire teams to uncover. Match Play offers one of the most compelling game play options, allowing you to go head to head against another online player, taking turns to hit/defend. Plus, the ever-present leaderboard allows you to post your wins for all the world to see. If you can get over the cartoonish character renderings, this will be your go-to baseball app for months to come.

Hockey Nations 2010 ($4.99)
Like Backbreaker Football, Hockey Nations is an arcade simulation catering to hockey fans everywhere. Gone are the litany of controls in the console offerings, instead this beauty of an app delivers a solid six on six 3D experience.

With some serious practice with the controls (think touchpad, touchscreen, and D-Pad), and tweaks to the rules in the options menu, you’ll be high-sticking your way to a goal before you know it. Quick Play, Exhibition, Practice, League, and Tournament modes are available, with 14 national teams from around the world pre-loaded for your hockey pleasure.
Top iPad Games of the Week

iPad Apps Reviewed

Trucks and Skulls HD: It’s Angry Birds for metal heads and testosterone junkies. Who doesn’t like to smash nitro-burning monster trucks into heaps of giant skulls on “Sunday, SUNDAY?!”

Virtual Villagers 2: The Lost Children for iPad: Grow a small village in your iPad, even when you’re away from your device. How will you lead your tribe?

Moffee RPG Dice HD: Take your dice games (think D&D, Magic: The Gathering, etc.) to the next level with this iPad dice simulator.

Trade Nations: Make a village on your iPad, then grow it into a thriving city. Assign jobs to your citizens and take in the eye candy.

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

Before we dive into this week's reviews: Let's Play Words With Friends on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. My Username is Timothymclain -- click here to get the free app and start a game!

New iPad Reviews


Trucks and Skulls HD ($1.99)

You’re a total wimp if you play Angry Birds. There, I said it. Once you play a few levels of Trucks and Skulls, you’ll realize that you’ve gone soft, at least when it comes to the physics puzzle apps you’re playing these days.

Lobbing cooing birds into snorting pigs is all well and good. The developers over at Appy Entertainment are betting you’d much rather launch nitro-burning monster trucks into giant skulls, who explode into mushroom clouds of radioactive goodness when they’re trapped between falling objects or rammed by your vehicle.

I had you at monster trucks, didn’t I?

The concept is identical to that miffed bird game. One or more skulls are encased in various glass and wood structures on the right side of your iPad. You’ll need to adjust the angle and velocity of your available monster trucks to send them up your ramp and across space, bounce into obstacles, then crash into said structures or skulls.

Did I mention that when skulls are successfully crushed or hit they explode into crazy mushroom clouds?

The all-metal soundtrack, though repetitive, sets the stage for hours of testosterone-boosting app enjoyment. As you play, you’ll unlock a series of trucks, each with distinct armor, speed, payloads, weapons, and more.

Pro tip: Watch where you aim, because many levels are loaded with lava, which tend to swallow your falling trucks. “That’s right, Trucks & Skulls is LOADED with lava… because EVERYTHING is BETTER with LAVA!”

The icing on the lava? The game comes with a ridiculously full-featured level editor. Name and create your own levels, then send them to your friends. Take that, Angry Birds.

Sorry birdies. There’s a new physics puzzle king in the App Store. Don’t miss it!


Virtual Villagers 2: The Lost Children for iPad ($3.99)

Has this ever happened to you? You’re living on an island, and set off to explore one day. After entering a nearby cave, you slip on some rocks, fall into a fast-moving river, and end up in a crystal clear pool on the other side of the island. This isolated spot is thick with kids. Orphan kids.

Where are their parents? And why are they so willing to work and do research for you, learning how to survive and thrive as a cohesive village?

First off, you should know that the game supports up to five villages, so your entire family can enjoy this instant iPad classic. It’s perfect for kids and adults alike. Once you’ve settled into the game, you’ll need to pick up and drop your villagers onto structures, trees, and other spots to set them to work.

Tweak their skills to increase production and building speeds, research new technologies to fight disease and hunger, and watch for prompts along the way to discover the secrets of the island and where the heck all the parents went to in the first place.

There’s puzzles galore, tons of collectibles to be found, and fresh surprises each time you load the game. Once you’ve got your village humming, remember that your residents will continue making progress on their given tasks over time even when your iPad is turned off.

Check back at least once a day to keep the kids happy, fed, and working hard to survive and thrive in your little paradise.

With so many “play it and forget it” games in the App Store, Virtual Villgers 2 is a welcome, kid-friendly addition to your family iPad(s).


Moffee RPG Dice HD ($2.99)

It’s rare that a game app does more than one thing really, really well. Enter Moffee RPG Dice HD.

For less than the cost of a single 20-sided die purchased from your local card or comic book store, you can bring a full set of high-resolution gaming dice to your next D&D, Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, or standard board game experience. Plus, the app acts as its own standalone game, though a bit thin in content to be sure.

Opening the app, you’re confronted with a few choices. Which dice do you want to add to the screen? Choose from standard 4 and 6 sided dice, or choose to employ 8, 10, 12, or 20 sided dies.

Once on your screen, you can choose from several playfields (think fire, ice, soil, and water) to place your dice upon, then tap the screen to roll, or give your iPad a shake. You can even tilt your device to roll the dice around on the screen.

Whether you need to keep score during your next Magic game, have to roll a 20D to see whether that Magic Missile gets through your shield during your D&D crawls, or need a die to work your way around a Monopoly board (lost your original die, too, didn’t you?), this is one useful app that you’ll come back to time and time again.

Trade Nations (FREE)

Farmville and We Rule addicts will feel right at home in Trade Nations. All the usual game play elements are a finger-press away: Build homes, farms, and other structures, earning coin and amassing resources that are used to expand your fledgling nation.

And just when you think you’ve played this game before, you build a new home and out pops a citizen who’s itching to get to work. You’ll need to carefully assign each resident to specific tasks, from chopping wood, farming crops, and more. Plus there are mines to be sunk and minerals to be harvested, and sheep to be shorn for wool.

Adding a second person to each resource location will allow you to set one person to harvest, and other to ferry the items to a stockpile. Be sure to set this up with each resource, or you’ll need to reload the app frequently to do this manually.

As you progress, you’ll open up lots of new building possibilities, and be able to convert sets of resources into other items, which spin off even more crafting opportunities. Be sure to take advantage of the game’s new social invitation module known as the Friend Map. You can easily mine your Twitter followers and email address book to invite others to become your Friend and help you in the game.

Taken together, the employment and crafting trees set Trade Nations apart from all the other wanna-be social farming/village game apps. This depth rewards serious gamers with lots of time on their hands with an ever-expanding list of choices and decisions that make this gaming experience truly addictive and rich.

The only downside? To speed things up, the game offers sets of needed resources and other items for sale for real-world cash. Buyer beware before you set your kids loose in this virtual nation. You can certainly enjoy the title without boosting your experience in this manner, but you’ll need to be patient and thrifty, both in the real-world and in your virtual Trade Nation.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Top iPad Games of the Week

iPad Apps Discussed

Dragon’s Lair HD: The 1983 Don Bluth classic arcade game (it’s full of laserdiscs!) makes it way onto the iPad. A must for classic gamers!

EVAC HD: Neon puzzle maze app inspired by Pac-Man with fluid controls that offers a wholly original concept.

Casino for iPad: Play everything from Texas Hold’em to blackjack, slots, video poker, and more. Music and sound effects round out this winner.

Linkoidz: Fresh take on the arcade puzzle genre, challenging you to clear alien baddies from above with your gravity gun. Pray your energy shield doesn’t fail!

Before we dive into this week's reviews: Let's Play Words With Friends on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. My Username is Timothymclain -- click here to get the free app and start a game!

iPad App Reviews

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

Dragon’s Lair HD ($4.99)
A fixture in mall arcades across the U.S. in the mid-1980’s, Dragon’s Lair offered a groundbreaking arcade game experience that can now be had in glorious HD on the iPad.

Created by animator Don Bluth (The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, All Gods Go to Heaven), the game offered quarter-rich players the chance to navigate their way through a hand-drawn animated movie adventure on an extra-large screen.

In many ways, Dragon’s Lair forced the nascent gaming industry to begin moving away from simple sprites and bitmaps to represent the player on-screen to higher-resolution video animations that are the mainstay of today’s next-generation games.

Back in its heyday, the original game was so popular upon release that the laserdisc player at the heart of the cabinet would frequently fail and need replacement.

The iPad HD version offers an identical experience (minus the extra-large joystick and single button controls), complete with newly remastered video sequences transferred from the original high definition film master.

Take on the role of Dirk the Daring in his quest to rescue Princess Daphne from the evil dragon Singe, who’s holding your damsel in distress hostage in a booby-trap laden castle. Using the on-screen controls, you’ll need to time your jumps, steps, and sword slashes perfectly to get past each obstacle in your way.

And that’s where the game, like its original, gets a tad frustrating. You’ll likely need to take a deep breath and replay sections of the game over and over again to better time each successful escape from room to room and trap to trap.

Thankfully, there’s no quarter-munching machine in front of you this time, and I highly recommend playing with the lives set to infinite. I also found myself staring down at the controls just to make it through, and tended to miss much of the animated action as a result. (Getting back into my mid-80’s form will take much more time and practice.)

Best of all, each time you fire up the title and start over, you’re greeted by a truly random and entertaining experience that keeps things moving. There’s humor galore in both your death scenes (and you’ll see many of them) and in the crazy creatures you encounter and defeat along the way.

Despite its age, Dragon’s Lair more than holds its own on the iPad. The title worked perfectly on my iDevice, despite the one-star reviews you’ll see in the App Store. So lead on adventurer. Your quest awaits!

EVAC HD ($.99)
Don’t let EVAC HD’s obvious Pac-Man inspired mazes and controls fool you. This neon-colored maze game offers up a totally original experience, successfully meshing elements of arcade, action, and stealth titles into a wonderfully challenging puzzle game.

With more than 24 levels, it’s your job to navigate your little cube through the mazes, chased by the hyper-vigilant security forces who will take you down if you let them.

You’ll need to manipulate the environment to block the baddies from getting to you, while you focus on getting to the exit to move to the next puzzle. How fast can you get there? The online leader boards give you the perfect excuse to share and boast about your quickest escapes.

Although the controls can take some getting used to, this is one inexpensive game that looks beautiful on your iPad and offers a fresh game play style you won’t find anywhere else.

Casino for iPad ($4.99)
Come one, come all to Viaden Mobile’s Casino! Featuring 11 casino games, realistic graphics, a quality soundtrack and dealer voices, the only thing missing from this gambling experience is spending or losing real-world cash. And that’s a good thing!

Compete on the global leaderboards via OpenFeint and Game Center to be the earn the most virtual winnings.

Current game offerings include: American and European Roulette, Burning Cherry, Coffee Time and Red Dragon Tale slot machines, Casino Texas Hold’em and Poker Three, Blackjack Switch and Blackjack Surrender, Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better video poker machines. Craps is slated to be added soon in the next update.

All of the games look great, play fluidly, and offer just enough chances to win to be fun. I’ve found that the roulette table netted me the most winnings over time. Plus, the wheel animation is among the best in this worthwhile app.

Linkoidz ($.99)
Quick – you’ve crashed landed on a decidedly alien planet. As you emergy from your wrecked ship, all you have is a simply gravity gun and unreliable energy shield.

As the alien hordes close in, you’ll need quick reflexes to grab nearby aliens, then shoot them back into place near their friends. Line up three or more of each species and, BOOM, they’ll explode and clear the way. Work too slowly and your shield will collapse, making you the aliens’ next meal!

Fans of Magical Drop will feel right at home here. The controls are super-easy to learn, and with a jaunty space tune playing in the background, you’ll need to work fast to clear the columns of aliens above you, all the while avoiding the obstacles and keeping a close eye on your energy shield.

There are five unique areas to conquer, and four play modes to enjoy: sprint (rack up the highest score you can before your shield drops in a given time), zen (Clear out a set number of baddies without worrying about your shield and maximize your score), endless (clear as many as you can with no time limit), or mission (work your way though the levels then defeat the boss).

If you’re not a fan of puzzle or matching games, I still recommend giving Linkoidz a shot. Here’s hoping someone picks up my emergency beacon soon so I can get off this blasted alien-infested rock!

Sunday, November 14, 2010



Library Anywhere from LibraryThing App

Platforms: iPhone/iPad and Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
Find and search your local library catalogs of holdings, place holds, review which books you’ve check out, fines, and more.

BUMMER:
Libraries must sign up for the service to add customized information to the service (including hours of operation, links to websites/blogs/social media channels), etc.

COOL:
It’s like having every local library in your area in your pocket! (Almost.) Patrons can rate books, videos, and other content items, and read reviews from others. Book-tastic!

REVIEW:
Library Anywhere is a free app that offers access to local library catalogs via your Android (or iPhone) device. The app makes it super-easy to search local library catalogs of holdings, view records, check and place holds on specific items, see what you’ve checked out, renew items, view fines, and more.

Plus, the app natively guides you to local branches using your phone’s GPS.

All enrolled libraries can also tweak their listings in the service, adding a logo, hours of operation, virtual shelf navigation, special event information, and more. Links to Facebook pages, library webpages, and other online outreach channels (think blogs, “ask a librarian” services, text chat channels, etc.) can be embedded for patron access.

If your local library has installed to LibraryThing for Libraries, you’ll be able to tap into integrated tags, access more than 500,000 reviews, view recommendations related to each item, and notes about other editions.

If you’re a frequent library visitor, be sure to grab this app, and encourage your local branches to get LibraryThing for Libraries up and running on their servers.

It’s a 21st Century upgrade that all cash-strapped libraries should make to stay relevant and accessible in the age of the smart phone.

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

Top Android Games by Category

While there may be no shortage of games available on the Android Marketplace, there is a need for organizing the “best of the best” titles in each category to make them easier to find.

Recently, we kicked off a series of app compilations that address this need. For my third installment, we present reviews of some the best shooting games for the DROID.

Apps Discussed

Shoot U!: Shoot your stick-figure rag dolls to hit the red star ball. Sound easy? It isn’t!

Cannonball: One of the best-looking games on the DROID, this wooden shooting-gallery game puts a sea faring theme on this classic carnival challenge.

Radiant Lite: Old-school Space Invaders, meet today’s Android phone. With a full graphical redesign and tons of upgrades, you’ll be hooked on this neon-bright alien shoot ‘em up from liftoff.

Armored Strike Online: It’s Worms meets Death Tank in this polished, turn-based military strategy shooter. With so many weapons to unleash, you won’t get bored shooting anytime soon. Trust me.

Android App Reviews

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

Shoot U! ($1.99)
With more than 90 levels of rag doll-physics powered mayhem, Shoot U! takes the traditional notion of the shooting game and stands it on its head. Literally.

In this hand-drawn game, you’re in control of a cannon, pre-loaded with a small supply of rag dolls wearing costumes that look a lot like spiderman, pandas, zombies, frogs, and more.

Use your point the cannon at a distant red ball, then press to fire. Your rag dolls (one or two) will shoot up into the air, interact with the obstacles in the way, and do their best to get to the destination.

Hit the red ball on the first go and you’ll earn extra points. Extra tries will slowly degrade your score, so be careful.

As you progress, each level offers a new challenge. Some have rotating wheels, bouncing balls, moveable objects, and stone walls. You’ll need to study the path, and sometimes fire a hail of dolls to break through. Other times, a single well-placed shot does the job.

Try the free LITE version or, better yet, drop $2 on one of the best physics/shooting games on the Android Marketplace. You and your kids will love it.

Cannonball ($.99)
If you’ve ever been to a state fair or carnival, no doubt you’ve walked past a shooting gallery. You know, a booth where you pick up a BB gun or laser rifle, aim it downrange at targets ranging from tin cans to animated props (think water cans, clocks, doors, and the like), then shoot as many different targets as you can before you run out of bullets.

Cannonball mimics this familiar real-world game on your Android device, instead challenging you to fire your cannon at pirate ships, sea monsters, rats with wings (I mean seagulls), and other things that fly, swim, or sail by your field of view.

The artwork is first-rate, with an early 1900’s looks and feel. Everything is made out of wood, and you’ll have to aim carefully to hit the ships and other targets as they cruise past. Each sports one or more colored target, with a given point value shown for hitting it.

My favorite? The large sea creatures that pop-up every now and again, sporting multiple point targets to nail. Sometimes these targets are on the end of the creature’s limbs, other times their bodies contain spinning wheels and other objects with more than a dozen chances to score.

For less than a buck, Cannonball is one of the best-looking (and sounding) shooting games available for your DROID. Pick it up today!

Radiant Lite (Free)
Who hasn’t played Space Invaders? Radiant beefs up this classic title, enhancing the baddies and obstacles with bright neon colored edges. Even your little ship is a luminous white, moving cleanly across the play field to dodge asteroids, shoot up the marching aliens, taking out flying saucers, and handling the bosses.

Just like the original, you’ll need quick reflexes to take out your enemies and grab falling bonuses and credits to purchase upgrades and more.

This is one top-quality arcade action shooter that will keep you playing for many hours to come. Toss in a quality soundtrack, a full story mode complete with text bubbles (and embedded hints), plus truly radiant graphics from start to finish, and you’ve got yourself a must-own title for your DROID. (The for-pay version adds more levels.)

Armored Strike Online Lite (Free)
Tank games are a dime a dozen in the gaming world. But I’m happy to report that Armored Strike Online is a totally original entry into this crowded field, offering up a turn-based strategy shooter that’s one part Worms and one part Death Tank.

You start on an uneven playing field, facing your foes. Choose your tank, kit it out with all available weapons (limited in the free version), then start firing at your enemies. You’ll each get a turn to try to damage each other, then switch weapons and continue to fire.

The controls are perfectly arranged to choose weapons, adjust your angle of attack, move your tank, and fire your ordinance. Plus, you can zoom in and out, and easily swipe left and right to view the entire play field.

At $3.99, this is an expensive game for sure. But given its level of polish, perfect implementation, and variety of levels, vehicles, and weapons, there’s nothing to stand in your way of pure shooting enjoyment on your Android device.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Sex Offender Tracker App

Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE

TASTY:
See U.S. sex offenders near you on a virtual map.

BUMMER:
Is set to turn into a for-pay service in the coming months, check http://www.life360.com for details.

COOL:
Sex offender data displays the name, address, list of charges, and color photograph to better inform you of those living near you.

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

REVIEW:
The folks at Life360 offer a suite of mobile apps to track your family while on the go, and recently added a free, standalone Sex Offender Tracker to their roster.

The app is clean, clear, and does exactly what its name implies. So long as you’re in the United States, firing up the app will force you to create an account with Life360. Once logged in, a map of your local area appears.

Pinching and zooming will move the view closer and further away. I was surprised to find an orange icon hovering over a home one neighborhood away from my present location. Clicking on it brought up the name, physical description, list of charges (second degree rape), and a mug shot of the offender.
Moving the map around, I found more than a dozen other offenders open for viewing, along with locations of police and fire stations in my area.

As you and your phone travel, you can set a refresh timer to automatically see offenders near you. Keeping this setting to the 15 minute default will save battery life.

Currently a free app, there’s no doubt parents and concerned citizens everywhere should download and install this program to be more aware of those around them.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Solitaire MegaPack

Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
$2.99

TASTY:
Packs 102 solitaire games into one solid, quality Android mobile app. A must-buy for all Android owners with even a pedestrian addiction to Solitaire!

BUMMER:
Minor nit in that the app doesn’t support portrait viewing mode.

COOL:
Tesseract Mobile, the app’s developer, is reactive to customer requests, frequently updating the app and adding new features.

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

REVIEW:
I have several family members (myself included) who are self-diagnosed Solitaire addicts. Now we leave our well-worn decks at home and enjoy a quick game no matter where we may roam.

From FreeCell (the Windows classic) to Klondike, Golf, Spider, and 98 more (that’s 102 in all), Tesseract Mobile’s Solitaire MegaPack is truly the cream of the crop of mobile Solitaire applications for your Android phone.

Playing each version of Solitaire is a snap. Once the cards a laid, just click a card to select it, then tap where you want it to go. Drag and drop is also enabled for each card swapping.

To move part of or entire card stacks, double-tap on the top of the stack, then tap where you wish to drop it. Double-tapping anywhere on the screen will put the stack back where you grabbed it from.

Don’t miss the Options menu, where you can turn on large card faces. If you’re getting up there in age, or simply want to make it easier to see each card, I highly recommend turning this on as your very first step upon launching the game. Choosing from the available backgrounds will also bump up the overall legibility of the cards.

The latest update brings a handy game toolbar (undo, redo any play), new sorting options make it easier to view all game types, smoother overall game play, and tons of user interface tweaks.

All of these items were direct requests from paying customers, and you have to give any app developer (thanks Tesseract Mobile!) full marks for listening, tweaking, and releasing a steady stream of updates to their already-popular offerings.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Homerun Battle 3D

Platform: Android

RATING:
4 out of 5

PRICE:
$4.99

TASTY:
Go head to head, DROID vs. iPhone, and compete to be the world’s top slugger!

BUMMER:
Some nagging performance issues on original DROID phones, forces 17MB download to your SD card upon install. Some reports of online cheating and difficulty in restoring high score and earned items after recent updates.

COOL:
One of the few Android-iPhone titles that just plain work via wifi. Potentially addicting!

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

REVIEW:
Finally, a developer that gets it. Homerun Battle 3D is one of the first truly cross-compatible Android-iPhone games that leaves the mobile turf wars aside, and immerses players in a first-rate experience that can be enjoyed no matter which phone you own.

Fire up the app, link to your foe (or go solo), and start swinging. The first time you hear the crack of your bat against a virtual gold ball, you’ll be hooked. The graphics are first-rate, and the side by side, picture in picture online match-ups are truly satisfying.

Hitting home runs takes practice. You’ll need to use your phone’s accelerometer to hit the strike zone to send balls over the fence. You’ll also need lightning-quick reflexes to tap the screen along with X to send your balls flying. Vibration makes things feel even more realistic, with a quality soundtrack and sound effects rounding out this top-quality offering.

As you earn gold balls you’ll be able to customize your uniform and the overall look of your avatar. Tweaking your jersey, cleats, glasses, and pants along with your glove, helmet, and bat adds to the feeling of achievement as you progress.

The only things holding back this game from a full five-star rating? Some players report nagging performance issues on original DROID and iPhones. There’s a massive 17MB download to your SD card upon install, and I’ve read some persistent reports of online cheating and difficulty in restoring high score and earned items after recent updates.

Obviously Com2us, the app’s developer, is working out the kinks. And with a recent content update on the iPhone, there’s no doubt a similar release will occur for Android sometime this winter.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Call Blocker Gold

Platform: Android

RATING:
5 out of 5

PRICE:
FREE (or $1.98/Silver License or $4.99/Gold License)

TASTY:
Take control of your DROID to better manage both incoming and outgoing calls and messages.

BUMMER:
All of the app’s features should be part of the stock Android OS. Yes, it’s that good!

COOL:
Easily set up groups of contacts, then control how and when they may contact you. (Block work calls on weekends, block friends from calling during work hours, and allow your family to contact you anytime.)

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

REVIEW:
It wasn’t until I’d spent some serious time with Call Blocker Gold before I realized its genius. Until now, my DROID worked just like my home and office lines, accepting any and all incoming calls 24/7/365.

Blocking specific numbers from calling your landline is a hassle, and I’ve run to answer robocalls and other unwanted calls far too often in recent months.

Similarly, incoming junk SMS and unwanted calls on my DROID during specific hours of the day have been wearing my nerves thin. But those days are behind me. Call Blocker Gold gives you, for the first time, total control over how and when you wish to receive messages and calls from your contacts. And you can easily block incoming calls and SMS, restrict outgoing calls, and more.

First up, I created two contact groups – one for family and friends, and a second for my work contacts.

When setting up each group, I could choose to also block SMS, and add an auto-reply message (think: Buzz off, I’m working! Call me after 6!)

Then I applied time and date parameters to each group, allowing my work contacts to reach me during the week between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., my friends to call me between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., and my family and friends to call me anytime. I added other allows for specific weekend hours as well for each group.

The app also allows me to block all unknown callers and SMS sources during business hours, store and search all old SMS, restrict outgoing calls based on contact and time, add password protection, and more.

If you want to get really crazy, you can block all incoming calls if they’re coming from people not on your contact list. (Use with caution!) You may also add rules to specific contacts so they can always reach you, never reach you, get a custom SMS reply if they try to message you, etc.

After getting everything set up, I realized just how lacking my stock DROID was without these features. Google, buy this app and integrate it into an upcoming release. It would greatly enhance our phones and provide one very compelling differentiator vs. the iPhone.

A must-have for anyone who wants to control incoming and outgoing communications coming to and from their DROID!