iCraig – so-so for sofas, but lacks laughs

April 28, 2009

iCraig: a  dedicated app for browsing craigslist.

Price: free |  Version: 1 | Developer: Splashdata

Is it useful?  Depends where you live. Craigslist is well establised in America, and in the UK it has a healthy showing in London at least. But in our provincial city there is practically zero uptake. Would it find me a sofa in Oxford?

icraig1

Hmmm, no. Lots of Scientology magazines, no sofa! [ Note: we re-ran this test after publication and this time a sofa did appear, without the spam. Must have been a hiccup – ed]

iCraig is very much cut-down from the craiglist website, restricted to some of the mainstream Craigslist catagories.
Which means we are missing out on the entertainment of Craigslist – the psychological voyeurism of reading “rants and raves” (warning, usually racist / stupid), the comedy and tragedy of Missed Connections, and the overall wtf factor (NSFW).

Furthermore, iCraig does not have the “flag this post as spam / porn / etc” function, so you can’t be a good craigizen with this app.

Worst of all, you can’t post. So no selling on the go.

So what do you gain over just using the web version? Well, Bookmark lets you save particular searchs for quick retrieval – meaning you can quickly re-run that sofa search when on the go.  But there must be a web service that could notify you of changes to particular searches, surely?

iCraig does give you some speed advantages over using the website (at least if you are on 3g), in exchange for far less functionality and less entertainment. ]

Alternatives: goCraigsy (pay), Craigster (pay). Both let you post items.

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Party Whistle by Ideo Toy Lab

April 15, 2009

It moos, it crows, it baas…they forgot the turkey noise though

Price: $0.99/£0.59

I’m a big fan of Ideo, a reknowned design and innovation company, headquartered in Palo Alto, California. Amongst other things, they are known for designing the first Apple mouse and the Palm V PDA. I’m also particularly keen on their much lauded internal culture, which fosters a spirit fun that in turn leads to an environment where innovation and collaboration are allowed to blossom.

One part of Ideo is Toy Lab, who have turned their hand to iPhone apps. The first of these is called Party Whistle that promises to help iPhone users “celebrate whenever and wherever they want. Just blow into your iPhone’s microphone and enjoy the realistic sounds and animations of a party whistle. Party Whistle is filled with fun, little surprises that can transform the dullest occasion into a rocking whistle party!”

Party whistle

Party whistle

Once the app loads, a rolled up party whistle is seen at the bottom of the screen. You know the type…you blow into a plastic mouth piece that buzzes while simultaneously inflating a rolled up paper…erm…tickler. Blow into the microphone and the party tickler unravels and the whistle makes that cheesy noise. All you need is a paper hat and you’re having a rocking time, if you believe the spiel. Blowing into the mike subsequently, will make random farmyard noises (moos, clucks etc.) and sometimes the tickler will inflate and either explode or shoot off like a balloon.

The rolled up tickler

The rolled up tickler

Apart from using your finger to unravel the tickler…ahem…manually, that’s about it really. You can tap the info symbol and see your “Party score”, which seems to increment each time you blow the whistle and make the Toy Lab logo make a few silly noises.

Inflated tickler

Inflated tickler

Party Score

Party Score

It only costs $0.99 and I didn’t even pay for it because James gave me some cash to install it on my phone because the speaker on his phone isn’t working. However, I still feel ripped off!

If you go to the Party Whistle website, you can see a demo of the app and that’s all you need really. Use the dollar you save and go buy a coffee.

Having said that, I am a lot older than Toy Labs’ stated audience for the app, 2-6 year olds. So if you have a pre-schooler that you want to loan your iPhone to, they may well enjoy it. Likewise, if you can connect with your inner pre-schooler, then you may also find that Party Whistle is value for money.

Store link for Party Whistle | Developer site: Ideo Toy Labs Party Whistle (demo).

Version: 1.0 | Size: 4.4MB | Tested on: iPhone 3G, 2.2.1 | Works on: iPhone with 2.2 software update


1 Billion App downloads jamboree

April 12, 2009

Update: some kid in the US won it. Well done, that child.

A way to go

A way to go

Apple are about to shift their 1 billionth app. The customer who hits the lucky 1,000,000,000 get all kinds of prizes, including a MacBook Pro and $10,000 of iTunes store credit.  We at Applick think we are a shoo-in to win it!

Right now looks like about 59,000,000 downloads to go till they hit the magic number …at 100 downloads per second…carry the three… denominator….  = sometime Saturday afternoon GMT?

Full details here: http://www.apple.com/itunes/billion-app-countdown/

And you can enter without purchasing here: http://www.apple.com/itunes/billion-app-countdown/entryform/


Losing hurts so good: geoDefense

April 6, 2009

I sat down to do a quick comparison review of some Tower Defense games that are proliferating like creeps on the iTunes store – I was going to look at the the popular and venerable FieldRunners (£1.79, and very much worth it) and some of the free ones like Tap Defense, but after I found a hot tip on a  RockaPaperShotgun comments thread about geoDefense, that plan went out the window – geoDefense ate all my time.

Gameplay: dangerous blobs travel along a winding path to get to your … things you are defending. You must stop them, with the help of 5 towers that you can place next to the enemies path. The towers (mostly) then shoot the bad blobs as they zoom past, creating lovely fireworks.

boom

You must make quick decisions about which tower to deploy where,  when to upgrade, and when to restart.  Which is often, as geoDefense can be very, very hard.

Each level is in effect a puzzle – some seems so restricted that only a few tower placements will yield victory, and the rules seem to shift in un-obvious ways.

Lifespan: There are 3 difficulty levels and 30 unique levels.   Either due to my own incompetence or the developer’s sadism, certain levels may take many, many attempts to perfect. I’ve nearly cleared Hard mode, but there are bits of Medium that seem impossible.  The developer has promised that solutions to each puzzle will be posted on their website, but no sign of them yet. Annoyingly, having nearly finished this review I’ve just discovered that there is a “novice” mode that makes the game easier. Where was that last night at 2am?

win1

Graphics: “retro but modern” – if you know EveryExtendExtra or Geometry Wars you might know what to expect: it’s Tron but more explodey.

Sound: reportedly great, but my speaker is broke. It’s still fun silent.

Usability: the “resume” and “restart” button placement on the pause screen has befuddled me a couple of times and made me lose progress; this is mostly moot as the pause button itself is really difficult to activate – perhaps its my gelaskin‘s fault.  Menus in general are fiddlier than they should be and would benfit from better sizing and spacing.

Addictiveness: Everyone has their own gaming Kryptonite – my fellow reviewers can tell you war stories about months-long quests to catch that one special FlickFish Fish, or the hundreds of hours sunk into landing planes in Flight Control.  geoDefense was mine – I’m at least 5/10 on the Symptoms of gaming addiction scale as a result.

Verdict: a genuine (if uneven) challenge, a treat for the eyes, and “one-more-go-till-dawn” time-stealer of the first rank: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
There is also 59p light version featuing 6 levels – check that out.

Store link for geoDefense | Developer site: Critical Thought Games (screenshots, videos).

Version: 1.1 | Size: 2.7MB | Tested on: iPhone 3g, 2.2.1


Flight Control

April 5, 2009

UPDATE: version 1.2

What’s new: 2 new maps to compliment the original airfield. One is an island themed  map that retains the standard jet, the jumbo jet and the helicopter BUT adds a seaplane with its own water runway. There is also an extra helicopter landing pad. The second map is much more interesting: an aircraft carrier with the 4 new aircraft. There’s a bomber plane (think standard jet), a fighter jet (think jumbo jet), an old-school WWII type plane (think bi-plane from original map) and a Chinook helicopter. The landing zones are much tighter on this map and the aircraft carrier actually rotates when you re-load the map. It gets fast very quickly.

Anything else: A fast forward button was added so that you can get through the first few landings more quickly. It can also provide some fast and furious fun (especially on the aircraft carrier map) if you want something slightly different. A quick save function has been implemented as well. All these features tie in very well with the interactive online scoreboard.

*          *          *

What’s the big idea: What’s the fastest route from point A to point B? Ok, we all know that…but what’s the safest way between 2 points?? That’s what Flight Control is asking you as it brings the stresses of air traffic control to your fingertips.

Gameplay: This is of the “start slow and creep towards manic-ness” variety. Bottom line though is it’s fun. The object is to land 3 different types of aircraft to their respective runways—without any crashes taking place. You guide the planes by drawing flight paths to the runways taking care that aircraft won’t collide. The more aircraft you land, the more Flight Control throw at you. You will develop some simple strategies, i.e. if a plane comes in from this side, I will generally create this kind of flight path.

Controls: These are very intuitive. Simply tap an aircraft and in the same motion draw a path, connecting it to the runway. Aircraft colours change away from red to signal that a successful flight path has been created. Changing a flight path is equally easy: just re-tap the aircraft and draw a new path. The aircraft will automatically change its course.

Graphics&Sound: Flight Control uses a 2D top-down view. The slightly washed-out 50s-60s style retro graphics are a treat to look at and reflect the polished nature we’ve come to expect from iphone native games. The simplicity here only serves to enhance gameplay as there is just enough variation to satisfy without distraction. The game is low on fancy animations, i.e. no explosions.

Sound wise, Flight Control isn’t going to wow you. The initial menu music fades out quickly once gameplay begins and you are left with the beeping sounds of aircraft getting too close for comfort as well the sweet sound of those successfully landed! Ipod music has been enabled.

Depth: Possibly the only drawback of Flight Control. The game is by nature, repetitive and might leave you wanting more. That being said, the fact that it’s so simple works in its favour. Simple score keeping (aircraft landed) will leave you wanting to beat your score again and again—and you will surprised enough when aircraft collide to give it another go! Flight Control’s simplicity also means it’s great for short-burst gaming.

Final rating: Flight Control’s low learning curve, high flying fun, smooth graphics and great value for money make this one of the best native iphone games yet. It is perfectly suited for the iphone and itunes app store ideology we will surely see more aircraft and maps in the future.

Score: 7.5/10

iTunes store link: Flight Control | Developer: Firemint | Version: 1.0 | Price: £0.59 as of 25/03/09

Gametime: open-ended | Tested on: iPhone 3G, 2.2.1 | iPhone native: yes

Pics:



Darkroom. Stabilise your photos.

April 5, 2009

A short review for a simple concept: this app lets you take less blurry photos when shooting in low light on the iPhone, by forcing you to hold still before the shutter will release.

Developer: www.stepcase.com | Version: 2.1 | FREE

It goes like this:

1. Fire up the application.
2. Take photo.
3. A countdown starts

4. Once the sensor detects that you are relativly not-moving, it takes a picture (and automatically saved if you’ve enabled that option).

Any downside? Some users have complained that the app is slow at saving photos, and freeze-ups – these are both complaints that I could level at the default iPhone camera, but so far I have not experienced this in Darkroom.

The pro version includes a self-timer mode, and a bigger shutter release button (the whole screen), and costs 99c.

Other camera apps include similar functionality, but I like this one becuase it is single-serving: it does one thing, and it does it well.
img_0678
Test shot:Mike Kus, senior designer at Carsonified at Oxford Geek Night, in a dark room
Recommended: simple to use and genuinely useful.

Longevity: Good

Tested on: iPhone 3G, 2.2.1 | Size: 0.1MB


Ghost Camera Lite

April 5, 2009

This review is haunted! By mediocrity.

What they say: “Ghostly photo is great for livening up conversations at parties”.
In a nutshell:
Applies 2 different “spooky” effects to your snaps.

Things this app can do:

1. Put a scary face on things.

ghost1

2. Put ghost hands on things.

ghost2

That’s it.

The iPhone application store is stuffed with toy gizmos to add “fun effects” to your shots. I guess this is no worse than “Swap Heads ROFL” or “Tasch master 3000”, but the sheer lameness of the ghost effects elevate this application into the ranks of the truly pointless.

Incidentally, check out appliya’s catalogue for some truly mind-bogglingly low-rent application ideas – Meow Cam has jumped to the top of my “things to check out and see if they are as pointless as they sound” list, surely to become a regular feature.

Longevity: Nil.
Recommended
: No.
Price
: Free
Version tested:
1.0.1
Paid version: 0.59p, featuring extra ghosts and layout choices.
Developers: http://appliya-inc.com/en/

ITunes Link (please don’t)