Looking to the future

Spoiler alert! I will be turning my attention away indefinitely from iPad Envy to pursue other projects. The blog will remain active and if I find any great apps, i will review. Just not every week.


I’m not sure the spoiler doesn’t say it all. As I mentioned last week I am working on a project pitch to Amazon studios and a couple of other projects. In addition, I will be promoting my newest novel Raising Hell. And, I’ve spent more than two years positing here and many developers still want me to review but don’t want to send promos. So I am indefinitely suspending regular posts.

Speaking of Raising Hell, if you’ve ever enjoyed my blogs you will love the novel, and it’s only $1 (cheaper than most apps).

I will still occasionally post reviews of great apps I stumble across (or awful ones to avoid) and I still plan to review holiday apps. So I’m not leaving entirely.

Besides, the next two months will be far more exciting watching Romney lob dirt at Obama, Obama lob dirt bag and Romney complaining about how unfair the Democrats are with their negative criticism.

I am inviting fans to contribute to an ongoing creative exchange around Raising Hell at .g.d.i. Monday. In the next couple of months you can show off your own drawing or writing skills.

I’ve enjoyed writing and hope you’ve enjoyed the blogs.

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TV Guide gets better

Spoiler alert! Both TV Guide and Supermagical are four stars or better.


I'm down to crunch mode to get Raising Hell to release on Amazon and the promotional site running, so I'm keeping it short. Especially since this week's editor's choice is an upgrade of an old program

TV Guide

The upgrade is definitely worth the free price. This version not only keeps track of your favorite shows and channels but actually organizes them into a daily viewing guide if you wish. This saves a lot of trouble tracking items in the usual volumes of data. If you want to see if your favorite shows airing tonight are new or repeats, you can find out at the click of a button. If you want to see only tonight's lineups of your favorite channels, you can track them on a single screen with no other channel information to sort through.

If you just want to see tonight's listings for the channels you watch, you can filter out the hundreds of extraneous channels with one command. I've waited for years for this.

Supermagical

Supermagical adds to the match ball shoot em ups with power up fairies and wizards, totems to unlock levels, and a magical map that also unlocks puzzles. But you can only shoot balls of select colors once or twice and then you have to buy colored “candies” to shoot more. If you want to use your magical friends, you may have to buy soda pop. The game is cute and engaging, and the in-game purchases aren't as expensive as with other games. The mini-puzzles weren't that challenging.

The graphics are colorful and engaging. This should be popular with younger players and fantasy buffs. But I prefer Atlantis Sky Patrol.

You can invoke the powers of allies to destroy monsters you can't target normally in Supermagical.

Jenny Manytoes rates TV Guide and Supermagical

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to Supermagical. TV Guide is a Best Buy.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
Posted in 4 Stars - Purr, Arcade Games, Entertainment | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ball blasting with Moki

Spoiler alert! iBlast Moki 2 is a thinking game. You have to figure out where to place tools and nudge them into place if you're off. It's free and only really costly if you're stumped and need to buy an answer. Four Stars.


iBlast Moki 2 follows a long standing tradition of physics puzzle games where understanding vectors and momentum goes a long way toward helping you to the next level. There are games I like more, such as Casey's Contraptions, but it's free and definitely worth trying.

The object of the game is to get Moki to the portal to the next level. You can place bombs, jumping bombs, magnet bombs, sticky bombs as well as ropes and balloons to help you get him where he needs to go. The trick is figuring out where to put them. The faster you get him to the portal, and the more daisies you collect on the way, the higher your score.

The object of iBlast Moki 2 is to get Moki to a portal to the next level. You do this by placing a variety of bombs to guide him into complex tunnels and over steep inclines. Not to mention through trap doors and over water.

If you've played the game before, you know the formula. Place an object one pixel in the wrong direction and Moki could bounce off the edge and into nothingness. You can earn points to unlock new levels in five different locations, currently up to a hundred. You can also unlock the entire map (although not their levels) for a dollar upgrade.

The further you get, the more tools you have at your disposal. Soon you could be placing six or seven items and juggling Moki and four or five friends to escape bandits and pirates. The only catch is that you have to pay for solutions; a dollar unlocks solutions for five different levels. I've seen games with more expensive solutions, but the cost can add up if you lack the patience to visit a problem several times.

You can also create your own levels and play levels from other players. The level editor is one of the best I've seen in terms of features (although placing and sizing objects can be clumsy). You can reshape land, change materials, add decorations and plants and decide which tools to use.

The levels editor is rich but slightly clumsy. You can build a large map that moves Moki across multiple screens and add any number of decorations.

iBlast Moki 2's thinking level is moderately high and action level is moderately low. Once you place the bombs you can only watch the level play out, and then tinker if Moki fails. On the other hand, I get a bigger charge out of other games. If it weren't free for the initial download, I might rate it lower, but it's worth the time to try.

Jenny Manytoes rates iBlast Moki 2

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to iBlast Moki 2. But she would be happier if she could bounce the little creatures around herself. She would really enjoy it if they screamed really loud. But cats have a different kind of fun.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
Posted in 4 Stars - Purr, Entertainment, Games, Physics Games, Puzzle Games | Tagged | Leave a comment

Solar Walk sails through system

Spoiler alert! Solar Walk is about as nifty as an educational app can get. The graphics are nothing short of spectacular and the content provides students with a great way to brush up on the basics of the solar system. Best Buy.


When I was a kid, I loved astronomy. Or at least reading about astronomy and watching movies about astronauts. My dad was about as likely to cough up the money for a telescope as a lobster is to leap into a boiling pot on its own. So all I had was books, and astronaut movies on TV, because I didn't get to go to movies either.

Of course, the movies about space were in black and white and with lots of snow because we didn't have color TV or cable. And I had to wait until they showed up on Saturday afternoons or late Saturday nights. And science fiction movies weren't exactly reliable sources of information since the operative word is “fiction.”

It turned out that green women in bathing suits didn't live on Venus, and scaly monsters in rubber suits don't wander around Mars. But I had to read the books to learn that. And I had to check those out from the library because my dad was only slightly less likely to cough up for an astronomy book as he was for a telescope. So I had to settle for those dime astronomy books with the cheap cardboard covers you could buy from the bookshelf at TG&Y1

I was a kid, though, and I didn't understand any of this. I just liked astronomy books because the pictures of the planets were so cool. They were so cool I wanted to go into space myself. This was pretty much the response of a lot of kids, and it will be again when they download Solar Walk.

So let's get my petty gripes out of the way first. It's clearly a best buy at the current discount price of $1. When it jumps back to $4, I would like to see a little more content. Hopefully that will come in future updates. Still, compared to similar apps I've explored at more than twice that price, Solar Walk does an excellent job.

Nor should this book replace real astronomy books. But it should be good enough to get students interested and playing with models of the solar system.

The main interface is a fully rolling reproduction of the earth that you can spin on it's axis. As you follow the horizon line you will see the other planets in the solar system (this includes the sun and the recently declared faux planet Pluto). From this vantage point you can leap to the other celestial bodies, and continue to leap from planet to planet.

Solar Walk allows you to explore any planet and see the rest of the solar system from their vantage point. This view looks over Mars to its moon, the sun and several other planets. You can tap on any planet and jump to that location.

The interface allows you to read about different aspects of the planet, including space explorations, to explore its moons and cut away to the planet core to see its composition. (You can also jump to planets from a convenient popup menu). In addition, the app provides several subtitled videos exploring such phenomena as eclipses, tidal forces and phases of the moon.

These videos are far from the usual boring talking head videos. Rather, they contain detailed animations to illustrate the concepts. You may find more thorough information elsewhere, but rarely have I seen them presented in a manner so engaging and appealing.

You can explore each planet in detail and read about geography and even past space explorations. You can study the moons or cut away to the planet's core.

The model may not take your breath away, but it took away mine. The planets and moons are beautifully rendered, as good as any in the Star Wars movies, and the navigation is smooth and seamless. I had no problems exploring the model without even looking at the help files.


Far too often I find myself wanting more from an interactive educational app. Solar Walk leaves me wanting more, however, because it's just so good. If your kids have any interest in the solar system, Solar Walk is a great place for them to start. And if they can't remember anything from their textbooks, this could be a great aid too.

Jenny Manytoes rates Solar Walk

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Solar Walk. The model is so stunningly rendered she just wants to get in and knock those planets around, maybe even cart one off her mouth and hide it under the couch with all the other toys we can no longer find.

Fortunately, she can't. Best Buy.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
1TG&Y (the name was an attempt to turn the boring name “Toys, Goods and Yarn” into another three initial corporation) was the fifties equivalent of Walmart. It was replaced in Texas by Gibson's, then K-Mart and then Walmart. We used to call it a dime store. back

Posted in 5 Stars + Best Buy, Education, Interactive | Tagged | Leave a comment

Pitfall brings back old game glories

Spoiler alert! For a mere dollar, Pitfall is full out action packed fun. But polish your skills thoroughly because if you don't, it will cost a lot of money to get those level-up upgrades. Four Stars.


Before there was Lara Croft, in all of her 3DD digital beauty, back when character's were square pixels with a single pixel square head, there was Pitfall, an 8-bit jumping and swinging wonder. But no one remembers Pitfall because, well, Lara Croft was Lara Croft and she was unforgettable even before she was Angelina Jolie.1

Activision has revived Pitfall as a fully rendered game for the iPad for the remarkably low price of a dollar. The game mode is familiar. You run, jump, collect treasure and avoid getting killed. You can capture and ride leopards to speed you on your way.

Pitfalls is a modern upgrade of a very old console game by Activision. We're talking Atari era here. You have to react at the right instant or it's death and back to the beginning. Will this character make his leap, or did he wait too long?

As a reminder of the game's origins, each launch replays the ancient 8-bit large pixel graphics that many players will no longer remember.

The running and jumping is a lot of fun as well. I don't really need to spell the formula out. You collect treasure and avoid pitfalls until you die. Then the game resets (or at least resets to the last checkpoint). Unlike many of the games, the terrain changes slightly with each reset. The pitfalls themselves don't change, just which ones you see and in what order and location. You can't simply win a level by muscle memory.

The pitfalls get more challenging the further in you get, as does the terrain. Once you master jumping and sliding you will face snakes and spiders. You can buy potions and tokens to extend your life and enhance abilities, but those can be costly.

No one will be surprised when the game takes you to the game store to entice you to buy healing potions, speed and other enhancements to make it easier to make it to the next checkpoint. Nor should it surprise you that many of them are one time use only that have to be repurchased. But you should be able to master the game without them.

You can also buy additional clothing and gear, another common feature in adventure games. Unfortunately, you also have to purchase tokens to restart the game from check points achieved. This is the main reason I knocked the game down from five to four stars. You can earn the coins to purchase gift shop items but you have to rack up thousands of silver bars, and that requires a lot of game play.

Graphics are exceptional and the game navigation is first rate. You maneuver by tilting and swiping and the game is one of the most
responsive I've played on iPad. I never had the game fail to react or overreact, but you have to be precise. A diagonal swipe or swiping up then down can produce unexpected results.

Jenny Manytoes rates Pitfall

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to Pitfall. It's fun and frenetic, and would be a five star game if you didn't have to buy the checkpoint resets.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.

1There are a few of us who thought the role should have gone to Rhona Mitra, who was one of the artist models for the character, especially because when she spoke with a English accent, it didn't sound as terrible as Angelina Jolie's accent. This may be because Rhona Mitra was, in fact, English. How bad was Angelina Jolie's attempt at an English accent? In the list of all time bad accents hers was topped only by Kevin Costner as Robin Hood and Uma Thurman as Emma Peel.back

Posted in 4 Stars - Purr, Arcade Games, Games | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Cartoon Network fails to launch

Spoiler alert! The alert and the review are the same this week. I've tried to load Apple's Editors' Choice Cartoon network unsuccessfully on multiple generations of iPads. Even after half an hour on one test it failed. No Stars.


This is the entire Cartoon Network experience so far. It's free, so you may have better luck. It couldn't hurt to try.

Jenny Manytoes rates Cartoon Network

Oh, wait. No, she didn't because it never loaded.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.
Posted in 0 Stars—Total Waste, Entertainment | Tagged | Leave a comment

Monster Life lacks luster

Spoiler alert! Monster Life outdoes its social network game competitors for sure activity, with breeding as well as fighting, but in the end it fails to fuel player passions. Three Stars.


It's possible that Monster Life will be a lot of fun for players with little or no experience with social network games, but, for all of its cuteness and color, players weary (and even leery) of yet another game asking them to fork over real dollars to grow their menagerie will lose interest quickly.

My main concern is the lack of an independent social network to store player data. I've had three games I actually like totally wipe my scores (and every thing else I earned) from game center with no way to restore them. There is no way I intend to invest effort in yet another game that could reset me to zero in a few weeks.

Monster Life does its best to combine cuddly with killing skills, an effort that rarely succeeds. Players breed monsters to defend their kingdoms from invaders. They feed them, pet them, play with them and then let them kick the shit out of each other in a number of training arenas. You can heal your injured monsters, but sooner or later you have to buy the healing gems.

If this screenshot looks familiar, you've played a game like this before. Probably several of them. Monster Life challenges players to build and expand their monster farm. You buy items from the store and upgrade them. Oh, yes, and spend lots of money if you keep playing.

You hatch them, of course, and then nurture them until they're mature enough to move into a habitat which you have to buy for them. Clearly these monsters are of a generation that never intends to make it on their own. You also develop a theme park with statues and attractions to lure tourists and pay the little monsters' huge feeding bills.

The sheer amount of activity to engage players suggests to me that social network games are starting to lose their luster. This should hardly be surprising. I've watched a number of good games simply be discontinued by their developers for lack of player demand. Which is another reason why I can't recommend investing in one. While it's frustrating to have a game you've spend money to play suddenly crash, it's even more frustrating when the developer tells you they're taking your money and running.

In a new twist on the social network game motif, you can send your creatures off to train and enhance their combat skills with head-to-head confrontations.

There is a lot to like about Monster Life. The characters are endearing, and the graphics fun to watch. The developers went all out on animation and it paid off. I just can't see it competing with the best of the games that have gone before.

I think game developers might be better off adding modules to games players have invested heavily in, rather than asking them to start from scratch and waste another fortune (probably bankrolled by unsuspecting parents).

Jenny Manytoes rates Monster Life

Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to Monster Life. It's okay, but if you want to spend money, you want better than okay.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she's in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she's very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it's okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don't think I need to explain this one.

 

Posted in 3 Stars - nap, Games, In-App Purchases, Social Networking Games | Tagged | Leave a comment