3D Fireworks

User rating: (4 votes, average: 4.25 out of 5)
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3D Fireworks is a pretty cool visual show that’s probably best suited for desk jockeys and frequent fliers on Air Bud. The bored office slave with a recharging cradle could let it run all day like a screensaver, and the bored stoner could just stare at it nonstop until the pizza guy finally shows up.

This app has one character flaw that I’ll harp on in a bit, but it does come with some nice viewing options. You get to control the color of the sky to simulate three different times of night while random fireworks get launched upwards, there’s a pause button in case you just can’t bear to miss a single explosion, and you can also move around the sky while the bombs are bursting in air.

The best feature, of course, is the ability to produce your own fireworks displays by tapping around the screen… and this is where The Flaw starts to become apparent. As far as I can tell, tapping is the only way to ensure that you get a great show. When the fireworks are just launching on their own they don’t come anywhere close to filling the screen and almost always seem to be off-center. It’s possible to position yourself for a “good view” and then lock the camera in place, but that view never lasts long. It’s like the self-launching rockets are absolutely determined to put on a half-assed show.

In most ways I think KDR Software did a nice job on 3D Fireworks. The sound is limited which I like, the graphics are great, and the ability to play while the iPod is running is key.

It lacks an oooohh-aaaaahh sound option which I think would be hilarious to add in, but first on my wishlist would be adjusting the auto-play to produce spectacular, screen-filling shows… or at least incorporate some options to control the size and frequency of the auto-rockets. 3D Fireworks is already a pretty good app for tapping out a show, but a smarter autoplay engine would make it great.

A “lite” version that provides a limited fireworks show is also available.

Beatbox

User rating: (4 votes, average: 3.75 out of 5)
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In case you’re too old (or too white!) to know what beatboxing is, it’s the art of literally using your mouth as a musical instrument. Beatboxers are known for doing a lot of percussion and record-scratching turntable noises, but the great ones can make sounds that mortal humans just shouldn’t be able to produce.

Razorcom LLC’s Beatbox app is basically a beatboxing keyboard laid out in grid format. Push a key and get a weird noise, and if you’ve already fired up the iPod you can beatbox along with the music.

Beatbox is a super-simple app so there’s not much to say about how it works… again, push a key and get a weird noise… but if I were to add an imaginary feature aside from the obvious “record a track” request, it would be the ability to record your own beatbox sounds and assign them to keys for playback. The 16 sounds that come with the app all sound good to my untrained ear, but if your heroes are named Blake Lewis and Butterscotch then you’re probably dying for someone to make this possible.

In the meantime, you’ll just have to accept Beatbox for the fun beatboxing toy that it is.

Marriage Calculator

User rating: (7 votes, average: 3.57 out of 5)
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When BarnacleJive Software asked me to review Marriage Calculator my first instinct was to respond with the letters L-O-L, but then I figured it would be a good excuse to call my recently-married friend in New York and grill him about marital details that are none of my damn business. I called him alright, but calculating his marriage didn’t even come close to yielding anything juicy and, quite frankly, it was pretty boring.

Marriage Calculator is supposed to compare your circumstances versus statistical data from the U.S. census, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and studies conducted by universities. It does that… I think… but even after the recent v1.1 update it feels like a pretty shallow evaluation on the scientific scale and a huge snoozefest on the entertainment scale.

These are the factors taken into consideration by Marriage Calculator:

  • State where the marriage takes place (probably assuming you live there, too)
  • Age of each spouse
  • Living arrangement: apart, shacking up, or married
  • How long you’ve known each other
  • Loose estimate of your communication skills on a scale of 1-5
  • Education level
  • Children from previous marriages
  • “Have own children before marriage” (referring to out-of-wedlock bastards, I guess?)
  • Economic class
  • Marital history: never before, married once, widowed, or multiple
  • Religious beliefs
  • Race

Um, this is all great, but I have a big suggestion for BarnacleJive:

MAKE THIS TEST FUN!!!!

Right now it’s about as exciting as filling out a DMV form, and I think most would agree that the iPhone will never be a credible source for a truly meaningful evaluation of a relationship… at least not for people possessing half a brain or more. Marriage Calculator currently provides results based on a 12-point evaluation, but even if it becomes a 100-point evaluation it’s still coming from your damn phone!

I kind of like the idea here, but I think the execution is far too serious and it’s also very limited considering the $1.99 price tag. I can see that Marriage Calculator wants to rise above all those juvenile “love calculators” and provide real info, but I’m not convinced that a market exists for “real” relationship info that’s as sterile as an operating room and generated by a mobile device.

If redeveloping this product were up to me, I’d be looking to strike a balance between fun questions and real data, and I’d also give serious thought to including several “evaluations” in one app to justify the price. After rephrasing the marriage evaluation, I’d throw in a Will-You-Get-An-STD evaluation that uses FUN questions about sexual habits to generate a somewhat realistic assessment based on CDC data. Then I’d write a How-Soon-Will-You-Croak quiz, a Should-You-Be-on-Welfare quiz, and a How-Big-of-a-Slut-Are-You quiz, among others… all phrased in funny ways and based on real data so that I could laugh at my friends with authority at how much they suck. Then I’d pay $1.99! Maybe even more?

For what it’s worth, Marriage Calculator does offer a “lite” version that only asks for state, age, living arrangement, race, and class… not sure how much you can (or want to) glean from that, but it’s free to try.

Forever in the hole

User rating: (No Ratings Yet)
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Sorry for all the non-review posts lately, but I want developers to know that I’ll probably be playing catch-up forever. I’m getting so many review requests these days that unless I go at this full-time the average wait for a review will probably be two weeks or more! A good problem for me to have, I suppose.

As it is, I only have a couple hours a day for playing with apps and writing about them, plus I’m doing Quick & Free stuff to balance things out and that sets my calendar back a little more.

If you’re a developer and you’ve sent me the cost of your app via PayPal, you will get reviewed or, if I decide that I’m not qualified to review it, I’ll send you a refund.

Thank you for not plotting to kill me.

iDream

User rating: (21 votes, average: 3.05 out of 5)
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iDream is the third… and hopefully the last… “sound machine” to get reviewed here. The other two are aSleep and Ambiance.

The best thing I can say about iDream is that it isn’t terrible! That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but the reality is that it does basically the same thing as aSleep and Ambiance but slightly differently and with a much more limited sound catalog.

iDream comes equipped with ten sound loops, a timer, “visualizations”, and English, Spanish, German, and Russian translations. The sound loops are all good and seem to be longer and more layered than what you’d find in those other apps, and the timer goes up to 90 minutes which should be enough for most people… but the visualizations are laaaaaaame! Sorry Wirntec, I gotta call it like I see it.

I was imagining the visualizations would be something like what you’d find in iTunes or Windows Media Player, but it’s really just a screen that changes colors. iDream’s App Store description talks about “optical stimulation” and “phototherapy” but, call me crazy, this extra feature does nothing for me. It’s nice that you can adjust the color depth and speed, but I still don’t have much use for this feature unless I somehow find myself needing sound effects and a trippy flashlight at the same time.

The only way I see iDream competing with aSleep and Ambiance is if it (a) carves out a niche of awesome sound loops that you can’t get elsewhere, or (b) extends the list of sound loops to at least 30 or so. Or both? The sounds that are currently included really are pretty good… in any given sound there are probably five or six tracks playing at once, maybe more.

Visualizations are something else that could be a reason to buy, especially if they could go beyond a changing color screen. I may think they suck, but others might really get into that.

Again, iDream isn’t bad, it’s just limited when compared to the competition. When I’m using one of these “sound machine” apps to fall asleep I usually stick to the same three or four sound loops that I like, and I suspect a lot of people are the same way. It could totally be worth $.99 if you like outdoorsy-sounding nature noises which would describe most of the sounds included. If you’re not sure about whether to buy, iDream does have a “lite” version available which includes three sounds.

Here’s the full sound list in the current version:

  • Campfire (available in iDream Lite)
  • Country Meadow  (available in iDream Lite)
  • Gentle Ocean  (available in iDream Lite)
  • Log Cabin
  • Mountain Stream
  • Ocean Night
  • Rockie Mountains (contains burping and farting noises)
  • Severe Thunderstorm
  • Spiritual Sounds
  • Wolf Creek

Ok, the burping and farting in Rockie Mountains is probably from some exotic bird or frog. I just prefer the idea of falling asleep to a chorus of bodily functions.

I’m on Technorati now

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Q&F: Fake Call Roundup

User rating: (6 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Whether you actually need an excuse to ditch that fugly blind date or just want to goof on your friends, you need a “fake call” app! You never know when it’ll come in handy. Here’s a quick look at three of the ten fake callers I found in the iTunes App Store.

Fake Caller by Hot Potato does what it says it’ll do, but the current version has one major flaw. You can set it to ring at a specific time or after a delay of (x) minutes which is great, but the big problem is that the “incoming call” looks nothing like the iPhone’s call screen! Apparently this will be corrected with a pending update, but still… come on! Shoulda been done right the first time around.

Chances are the poor sap you’re fleeing from won’t notice the difference in the call screen, but I’d advise against taking a chance on getting busted. You also have to choose the name of the phantom caller from your Contacts list which limits the goof-potential.

Fake Caller also has a “premium” version for $.99 which gives you the luxury of remembering your fake call settings.


Ok, this one isn’t free but it was when I installed it a few weeks ago.

For some reason Magic Tap makes you go into your iPhone’s Settings menu to set up your fake calls which can be kind of a hassle. When your phone rings it’s totally believable, but my feeling is that setup should have been built into the app itself.

Call timing is currently limited to an interval ranging from 0 seconds up to 10 minutes, and the App Store description lists “get missing calls” and “proximity sensor” as features, but I have absolutely no frakkin’ idea what they’re talking about. One thing Fake Calls does right is it’ll repeat the fake call if you hit “decline”.

Magic Tap says they’re donating “10% of the earnings” to a charity called Mi Sangre Foundation. If you really want to help out, my suggestion would be to give them the full dollar and get a free fake caller!


This one is my personal favorite. It’s ad-supported, but Excelltech, Inc. did a nice job on their free Fake-A-Call. It lets you set a specific time for the fake call to ring, or you can shut the timer off and activate the fake call with a quick double-tap anywhere on the screen. Whether you “answer” the call or decline it, it reverts to a black screen so you can double-tap again if you’re really hamming it up.

The background image has to be chosen from a preset list, not your camera roll, but that doesn’t seem like a big deal to me since the incoming call looks as legit as any. Still, it would be nice if this could be fixed in a future update.

 


Quick & Free (Q&F) is a new review category. Comments and suggestions can be posted here.

Obama Ain’t The Only One Who Wants Change

User rating: (48 votes, average: 3.44 out of 5)
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This is totally off-topic but my friend Aaron insists that if I put this picture out there in the wild it’ll get forwarded to 50 billion people! I kind of doubt it, but I’m always up for trying stupid publicity stunts.

Last weekend I found this guy sitting near Milwaukee/North/Damen in Chicago while I was walking my dog. Photo was taken with my iPhone of course.

Come on people, let’s make this picture FAMOUS!! Forward it to 500 of your closest friends and they’ll worship you for living on the bleeding edge of internet hilarity.

Just click the box and copy the URL:

I paid him three cigarettes to take this pic!

I paid this guy three cigarettes to take this pic!

 

Keywords for the search engines to munch on: Obama sign, funny Obama pic, homeless guy with Obama sign, homeless Obama dude

Galactic Invasion

User rating: (8 votes, average: 3.88 out of 5)
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Since yesterday I’ve spent about 6 hours playing this damn game! Considering that I’ve got the attention span of a 1st grader, I’d say that’s a pretty good sign that Galactic Invasion is awesome.

The object of Galactic Invasion is to keep the alien critters pouring out of the Mother Ship from making it to the ground. Each alien you eliminate earns you some money for buying new weapons, and the game ends when too many of them make it past your defenses.

My first impression of this game was damn this is slow. The aliens must be hungover or something because they really take their time in making their descent, and the weapons also fire at a relatively slow pace. Eventually, though, you’ll feel like the aliens can’t move slow enough as they start to sneak past your guns.

The challenge of Galactic Invasion is in how you arrange your weapons and how you spend your money. You want to keep the aliens in the air as long as possible, so you need to arrange your weapons in such a way that the bad guys have no choice but to float past your whole arsenal of guns which may be cheap-but-weak or expensive-but-powerful. Individual weapons can also be upgraded (at a cost, of course) which is absolutely key if you expect to have any success in this game.

Another thing to consider is that some weapons fire a lot faster than others. Firing speed is expressed in an odd way, with the speed rating being a measure of time between shots. This means that a weapon with a speed of 4 is faster than a weapon speed of 6. Keep this in mind when you’re setting up your galactic maze of death.

In the interest of “full disclosure”, BitWit, Inc. just started advertising Galactic Invasion on this site under the Sponsors section to the right, but that has nothing to do with why I love this game. The graphics are great, the sound is great (no cheesy arcade music!), and it’s just hard enough to make for some very addicting gameplay.

In future updates I’d really like to see an option for faster gameplay, a global scoreboard, and a Reset button… sometimes you screw up and just wanna start over… but even in its current version Galactic Invasion is worth every penny of the $1.99 price tag.

(Brag about your high scores here!)

Click to check out Galactic Invasion in the iTunes App Store

 

THTouch

User rating: (4 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5)
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I haven’t played any other Texas Hold ‘Em apps, but THTouch is so good I’m not sure I need to.

Right away you can get a sense of this game’s quality just by looking at the title screen. Launch the app and you get the THTouch logo which quickly flips itself 90° to let you know that it’s time to rotate your iPhone to landscape view. Simple but impressive! Little things always count in my book.

THTouch won’t teach you how to play Texas but if you have a basic understanding of the game it’s really easy to get into it, and the gameplay is easy thanks to Pit Garbe’s unique control wheel that magically appears when you hold your finger on the screen. In fact, if you play enough, you won’t even need the wheel… just slide your finger right to call a bet, up to bet/raise, or down to fold. All of the motions are the same as what you’d do on the wheel, but the finger-slide is a nice shortcut. The only option I don’t see on the wheel is “check” which is done by double-tapping your cards, similar to what you’d do at an actual poker table.

Under Setup you get to choose how many players are at the table (up to 10), put in your name, switch between a green or a black table, and set the size of your starting chip stack, among other things. You can even flip the table 180° if that feels more natural for whatever reason.

It’s hard to find much to complain about in THTouch, but if I were to add anything it would be an easier way to go “all in”. Right now you have to select each chip denomination invidually which isn’t hard, but it can be kind of a pain if you have an odd amount. The video below shows the player using an “all in” option on the wheel, but it looks like that was just when calling another player’s all-in bet.

I’d also like to see a way to crank up the aggressiveness of the computer players. They seem to bet pretty conservatively, and when I’m playing Texas I usually bet like an idiot, so having a table full of morons would probably make the game a little more interesting.

THTouch’s graphics are awesome, the sound is minimal which I don’t mind at all, and you can listen to your own music while playing. If you want to play Texas on your iPhone you really can’t go wrong here. THTouch is easily worth a buck.


Don’t worry, there’s no crazy techno soundtrack on this game – it’s only in the video

Q&F: MazeFinger

User rating: (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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I’m not entirely sure of how I feel about MazeFinger. I can’t really make fun of it because it’s free and ngmoco, Inc. did a nice job on the sound and graphics… but at the same time I don’t see the appeal that’s lifted this app to #13 in the App Store’s Top 25.

The idea is simple: just use your finger to trace the path of a very basic maze, and do it fast. There are some obstacles that slow you down, powerups that give you more time for MazeFingering, and a scary robotic voice that tells you whether your performance was Awesome! or Weak!

MazeFinger is a good game, but I don’t think it’s “Top 25″ good. If you’re looking for an easy no-brainer game to try out, I guess it’s worth a look. It just didn’t hold my interest for very long.

If nothing else, I gotta admit that MazeFinger's graphics are pretty cool

If nothing else, I gotta admit that MazeFinger's graphics are pretty cool


Quick & Free (Q&F) is a new review category. Comments and suggestions can be posted here.

Q&F: BiiBall 3D Lite

User rating: (2 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)
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BiiBall 3D Lite is the free version of a pretty kickass 3D game. The object is to navigate your BiiBall through an obstacle course without touching the walls or hitting any obstacles. Movement is controlled entirely by tilting your iPhone this way and that, and you can also tap the screen to shoot obstacles out of the way.

This game is pretty hard, and if you’re as uncoordinated as I am it’s nearly impossible! But the graphics are great, the glowing stars make nice piano sounds when your BiiBall rolls through them, and overall you can tell that bootant.com poured a lot of sweat into developing a quality game.

If you can’t get enough of BiiBall Lite, the full version is currently on sale for $.99.

BiiBall 3D is best played when sober

BiiBall 3D is best played when sober


Quick & Free (Q&F) is a new review category. Comments and suggestions can be posted here.