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The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Lucy Ingram on December 13th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: TEDIOUS TIMELESS CLASSIC
Tedious level designs and time-consuming game mechanics frustratingly tarnish this timeless classic.
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Little Critter Collection #1 Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 8th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Little Critter Collection #1 is a wonderful universal app that, as the title may suggest, contains ten Little Creature applications which adapt previously published stories of the same titles.

Written by Mercer Mayer, a favorite children's book author from my childhood, I am thrilled that these Little Creature stories have been brought to life in these applications. Even if adults don’t know this series of books by name, the illustrations will be quite recognizable to many. Although not one specific animal, these stories are focus on the day in the life activities of highly anthropomorphic creatures which are a variety of small mammals that, to me, look like hamsters or guinea pigs.

The main character in these books is a little boy, known as Little Critter (later becoming an older brother), who tells these tales of growing up in the first person always in a way that is most identifiable to children, especially those of preschool age. I admire how these stories are written from the point-of-view of this young child, allowing children to deeply empathize with his trials and tribulations as a boy learning about his surroundings.

Titles such as I Was So Mad, When I Get Bigger, I Just Forgot and All By Myself do an excellent job of tackling complex emotions which are wonderfully expressed, making the Little Creature always relatable (although not always in the right) and allowing for wonderful open-ended conversations.

Just Me and My Mom, Just Grandma and Me, and Just for You explore the interpersonal relationships that Little Critter has with the people who love him best - his family.

The New Baby, Me Too and The New Potty are lovely stories about sibling love that are charming and tender as well as honest in their approach to emotions such as jealousy and patience - themes within these stories. They focus on Little Critter and his relationship with his baby sister as she becomes a member of the family, develops into a toddler who wants to do everything her brother does, and meets the universal milestone of potty training.

The illustrations of these stories are simply terrific, as I greatly admire the emotions expressed within the facial expressions of these characters, especially those of Little Critter’s mother as she sometimes has moments of disapproval when seen in the background of these illustrations that adults may appreciate even more than children do.

Like other Oceanhouse Media apps, these apps include narration as well as the ability to read these stories to oneself, and auto play is also an option.

It is worth noting that the narrator who chooses to speak for Little Critter does an excellent job, perfectly realized for this series of stories that could not be more spot-on in expressing the emotions Little Critter experiences, including frustration and even mild repulsion in a way that is pitch-perfect.

Oceanhouse universally does a great job of adapting printed books into apps, panning and zooming into the pages, and recreating the effect of one getting a closer look at the illustrations as this technique draws the attention of readers to specific areas that relate to moments being told within this story. Subtle yet effective sound effects are also at work here and are very nicely done, especially the baby sounds included within The New Baby.

Another element included within each story is the chance to find hidden animals on each page - a detail also found within the original stories themselves.

I honestly purchased the majority of these titles myself when they were first released so I know firsthand how much use my son has gotten from this series, and I am excited to make room on my phone as this app takes the place of the ten other books, with the Little Critter icon so eye-catching that my son's attention is drawn to it where he otherwise may not have paid attention to it a folder of these apps with such gusto.

I am really glad that Oceanhouse has chosen to create collections that one can purchase instead of developing a “reader” of sorts that creates a specific bookshelf of apps that one must buy within in-app purchases - something that not always a fan of as the main "reader" icon is often not eye-catching enough for my son to become interested in the apps within, and I worry about accidental purchases as well as my son desiring more apps that are basically advertised, as well as the lack of reviews on iTune for the in-app purchases one may be interested in.

Although I know first-hand how great this price is for ten of these apps, I can also appreciate how some families may not be able to purchase an app with such a price tag. Because of this, I am really glad to see that these apps as single purchases are still available for families who may want to add a specific story to their library, possibly without wanting to commit the time needed to download a free "reader" app to then make purchases through.

I have been very pleased to see the apps that the prolific developers from Oceanhouse Media have created based on popular books already in print. They have been on my “To Watch” list from their early days. I can’t wait to see what other titles will be next.

Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #2 Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 23rd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #2, as the name suggests, is a wonderful collection of Dr. Seuss interactive storybook apps, including some of my personal favorite Dr. Seuss stories of all time.

This application may be of most interest to readers who are new to the Dr. Seuss series of applications developed by Oceanhouse Media. These storybooks, as do the other stand-alone Dr. Seuss apps and the other Oceanhouse Media storybook applications in general, include professional narration as well as the ability to read these books to oneself. Auto play is also included that, along with the included narration, turns these pages automatically - great for the youngest children to enjoy these stories on their own.

The original illustrations from each of these stories are included, with the use of panning and zooming to allow one to see the details of each wonderfully Seussian drawing up close, guiding the eye of readers to specific points of interest within the page as the text is displayed. The words within these stories are highlighted when read, a nice touch children trying to follow along will enjoy. Do tap on individual words to hear them again, even when the narration is not in use - a wonderful inclusion that enables young readers to pronounce words they may have trouble with. Whole paragraphs can also be tapped to be heard, as well as the objects and characters on every page which are labeled with both a written word and a spoken one, yet never talking over the included narration - a nice touch. Lovely sound effects are also included that bring a lot of richness to these stories without distraction.

I am a fan of Dr. Seuss stories, but I have to admit that I find them sometimes hard to read out loud with ease as I am not great with tongue-twisters in general, as are some of these popular books. Therefore, I love having the chance to sit back and listen to these stories with my child, as the included professional narrators do a better job than I.

Five stories within this collection are included - specifically Hop on Pop, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Green Eggs and Ham, There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, and Dr. Seuss's ABC.

Readers may know about each of these classic stories, but I am happy to go over each one for parents who may not know some of these titles.

Hop on Pop is my favorite Dr. Seuss book to read out loud and a real classic book in our house. Published in 1963, this book was originally subtitled “The Simplest Seuss for Youngest Use,” and really rolls off the tongue as children listen to and later read this simple rhyming story - a series of short whimsical phrases really, that introduce phonic sounds in a charming way that one would expect from Dr. Seuss, brilliant at keeping the attention of children and never in a way that is at all condescending - often a criticism I have of other phonics-based books or early readers for younger children.

I love Hop on Pop because here, kids learn not only about phonics but about the deconstruction of languages as wonderful Seuss illustrations depict lines such as “Mouse House.” This is further described as “Mouse on a House,” very different from “House Mouse” and also more fully explained as “House on a Mouse” complete with wonderful illustrations that fill in the context of these nonsensical lines from this story. Children will love the various characters met within these pages, as well as how every few pages or so a new story element to this phonics book is introduced - wonderful for the attention span of toddlers as well as for children of any age.

There has been a lot of hopping on pop at our house when this book has been read as a classic book or via this application as my son loves to act out this passage from this book. I look forward to my son reading this book out loud, and some day to his own family.

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back - all things considered - may be the most memorable Seuss story from my childhood. Here, Sally and her brother, characters from the first The Cat in the Hat, are busy shoveling snow at their house as the Cat in the Hat lets himself into their home, eats cake in their bathtub, and leaves a huge pink stain that needs to be cleaned. When the Cat chooses to use inappropriate household objects to clean the pink stain, he transfers the stain all over the house, confounding this pink stain problem as it grows and grows, introducing other little characters, cats A to Z as well, for an epic ending that I really enjoy.

The narration within this section is crafted by the wonderful John Bell, my all-time favorite narrator who does an amazing job reading Seuss, in a delivery most wonderful, conversational and adding so very much to this story, expressing the brother’s frustration over the Cat’s antics, as well as the drama that insures better than any other person I have heard read Dr. Seuss - much like a Shakespearean actor reading Shakespeare in a way that greatly boosts the comprehension of the audience.

I also admire the use of sounds here for a great effect as a “voom” is needed to finally clear the pink stain from the house, and the added sound effects used here to further illustrate this moment for me are perfectly realized.

It is worth noting that the ABC cats try to use guns to “kill” the pink stain during this story - something that has bothered some parents in the past - is an issue that personally does not concern me as the guns seen in the illustrations are obviously cork-guns, and John Bell does a great job keeping these moments light and silly.

Looking back, I think this pink stain actually scared me, but as I far as I can remember, I mean this in a very good way.

Green Eggs and Ham is a delightful story about Sam I am who will not take “no" for an answer as he hounds a grumpy character to try Green Eggs and Ham, although this character has no interest in doing so. Sam I am is quite thorough in his trying to get his friend to try them in a variety of creative and whimsical ways, such as with a mouse, in a house, in a box, or with a fox. The answer is a resounding “no” until this other character is broken down and is willing to try the dish and actually likes them. The additional sounds used in Green Eggs and Ham are yet another example of how sound effects can bring so much to these stories, as Sam I am and the friend travel near and far, braving the elements as well as various means of transportation, with effective sound effects to match.

There’s a Wocket in my Pocket is a fun way to introduce children to all the objects found in their homes with the use of fun rhyming creatures that children will enjoy. I especially liked the included creature noises used, really bringing these nonsensical characters to life.

Dr Seuss’s ABC’s is a delightful way to teach children their letters as well as other words that start with the same letter in question, getting to know classic oddball Seussian characters along the way. Although not found in the original book of the same name, the individual app contains an extra last page full of interactive letters that is missing from this collection - an odd omission as this last page brings more interactive elements for children to enjoy. I hope this last page can be added to this collection in the future.

I highly recommend this app to families who have not yet built a library of these individual Dr. Seuss applications. Readers may have sticker shock when first looking at the price of this app, but it is a great deal for a compilation of five wonderfully written, illustrated and now digitally adapted for iPad and iPhone.

Oceanhouse Media Releases the Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1 - Thing 2 Sure to Follow

Posted by Rob Rich on February 3rd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Having spent a decent portion of my retail career involved in the children's section of a bookstore, I think I have a solid grasp of what makes for popular literature among parents and their children. There's always one or two "flavors of the week," but there are also those that always sell. Where the Wild Things Are. The Velveteen Rabbit. Virtually anything written by Mo Willems or Sandra Boynton. Sitting proudly at the top of this list are the works of the undisputed monarch of children's literature, Dr. Seuss.

Theodor Seuss Geisel's stories have been adapted for all manner of medium, not surprisingly including iOS. Oceanhouse Media has been offering special adaptations, referred to as "omBooks" for portable Apple devices for quite a while now. These special not-quite-ebooks allow users to flip through their virtual pages normally, have the stories read to them at a set pace (not unlike a movie) or a hybrid of the two that narrates while emphasizing key words.

While individual Seuss classics have been available in this form for quite some time, Oceanhouse has released their first-even multi-title collection. The Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1 features five of (arguably) his most well-known works: The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The FOOT Book, Mr. Brown Can MOO! Can You? and Fox in Socks. Five classics, no waiting. Well, depending on one's WiFi speed, anyway.

This collection is on the App Store right now for $11.99. I know it may seem like a lot, but buying each of these omBooks individually would cost around $15 or so. And that's after the price drops in celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday. Anyone with an appreciation for all things Seuss should certainly check this out.


+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Jason Wadsworth on January 23rd, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: DOUBLE EDGED SWORD
Fight furiously fast-paced battles with your warrior or weapon of choice in this iOS port of a 3D fighting classic.
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iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on July 26th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: POSITIVELY RADIANT
Cave releases great shooters. Cave released DEATHSMILES. The chain remains unbroken.
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Chaos Rings Ω Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on May 31st, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: FAMILIAR
It's easy to think that Chaos Rings Ω is just more of the same, but those who stick with it will find it's a worthwhile RPG that can stand on its own.
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Producer is Ready for the Big Time

Posted by Blake Grundman on January 27th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

I can't even begin tell you the number of times that I have seen the credits roll for a film and seen someone credited as a producer, then silently ask myself, "What the HELL does a producer actually do?"  After doing a little research, the results are mixed depending on the person that is asked, but pretty much the consensus is that producers on a film can be in charge of doing damn near ANYTHING.

With responsibilities that can range from managing the talent in front of the camera to keeping track of every member of the support crew behind the scenes, it is a miracle that more deaths do not occur during film production, just due to spontaneous head explosions.  Thank goodness that someone at True Hero Studio saw fit to create the new app Producer, the one stop shop for everything that these designated organizers could ever need keep track of in their cluttered minds.  Here is everything that the software claims to be able to handle:

You have a lot on your plate, casting, scouting, the budget; shoot lists and all your crew. You have emails going back and forth, you have un-confirmed crew and by the way what is the production schedule? Do you even have the right talent cast? Perhaps you do, but Is this information is all over your laptop. Why?

Keep it simple; be on top of it all.

At the very least, this seems like one of the most deep and flexible applications on the platform.  Anything that a professional filmmaker could ever need would be at their disposal, without the need for the excess baggage associated with PCs.

Plus, on top of everything else, for only twelve dollars, it is priced to fit the budget of Joe Schmoe indie director, while delivering features that would appeal to the Hollywood heavy hitters.  If you are looking to organize any film larger than a family movie, this should be a must own.


Redshift Review

By Kyle Flanigan on October 14th, 2010
Redshift is an astronomy tool for the iPad, combining both the sky from Earth and the vast space above into an impressive application built for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
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Assassin's Creed II Discovery Appears, Then Gets Pulled. May Smash Through $9.99 App Store Price Barrier On Its Return.

Posted by Arron Hirst on January 8th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Ubisoft has today debuted the sequel to their multi-ward winning Assassin's Creed game franchise, on the iPhone. Assassin's Creed II Discovery. According to the game's App Store description, the game carries the series on following Ezio on his travels to Spain as he scales cities, jumps rooftops and tries to rescue his fellow assassins.

But don't get too excited just yet.

Hitting the store late this morning, the game officially became the first ever App Store gaming title to smash through that $9.99 price barrier, blasting it's way into that previously rumored 'Premium' price band. Unfortunately, the game was pulled just a few hours after it's release, and is no longer available on the App Store .. for reasons unknown.

If the price holds up on the game's return to the store, it could in fact retain that title for itself. Priced at $11.99, Assassin's Creed II Discovery is reportedly exactly the same as that of the DS version, the main difference in this version however, compared to that of the original Assassin's Creed II Discovery is more of a side scroller adventure, rather than a fully-blown immersive RPG.

Luckily, Touch Arcade managed to snag a copy of the game before it was pulled from the store. Checkout their in-depth gameplay video of Assassin's Creed II Discovery in action below.

So, What's this deal with Ubisoft pulling the game? Where's the game gone? I hear you ask .. Well, we at 148 reckon the early pulling of the app could likely be due the game being approved by Apple yesterday, but Ubisoft having forgot to change the actual release date of the game on iTunes Connect, have realised later, causing them to panic and pull the app.

If you're not already aware, this is pretty normal practice for developers of the App Store. When submitting an app a developer like Ubisoft can choose and set a specific date in which an application becomes available to the public. This allows them not only to hype the app before its initial store release, but in turn, also work to specific set deadlines with regards to the marketing surrounding the title. It's likely this won't turn out to be one of those purposeful PR stunts, although it's not completely out of the realms of possibility.

First impressions of Assassin's Creed II Discovery have been mostly positive from what I've seen so far, however some people still believe that a price point of $11.99 could be a little too steep for what they're actually getting (if that indeed is the game's final price point).

Be sure to check out the games page for full game descriptions and screenshots.
What do you think? Is an $11.99 price point worthy of such a game?