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This Week at 148Apps: September 22-26, 2014

Posted by Chris Kirby on September 29th, 2014

Your Source For The Latest App Reviews


Every single week, the 148Apps reviewers search through the new apps out there, find the good ones, and write about them in depth. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Want to see what we've been up to this week? Take a look below for a sampling of our latest reviews. And if you want more, be sure to hit our Reviews Archive.


Cursed Treasure 2

Previously a browser-based game, Cursed Treasure 2 is a reasonably enjoyable Tower Defense title. There’s a catch though – it’s not overly original, mostly incorporating elements we’ve seen elsewhere. For a change, you play the bad guys attempting to stop the good guys from retrieving the treasure from your castle. Each level offers a series of positions for you to place your towers and attempt to wipe out the ensuing hordes. Different colored terrain offers up different types of tower and you can’t mix and match. Besides restricting you to certain places amongst the landscape, Cursed Treasure 2 also restricts the types of tower you can use. There are only three, although they can all expand into more powerful forms over time. --Jennifer Allen


Leaf on the Wind

The snappy, spicy nights of Fall are well on their way, which makes this as good a time as any to play a game like Leaf on the Wind by Pangea Software. This colorful physics/puzzle game involves piles of leaves dancing on the wind – the kind of thing that makes people think of pumpkin spice lattes, apple-picking, and of course, decorative gourd season. However, while Leaf on the Wind‘s graphics are pretty and calming, its gameplay makes the blood race a little bit. In fact, it’s a tricky game – a little too tricky in parts – leading to some needless frustration. --Nadia Oxford


Goblin Sword

Goblin Sword is an action platformer set firmly in the medieval fantasy genre. You will control the blue-haired protagonist as he double-jumps and hacks his way through forests, caves, and castles, slaying beasts and collecting gems. The game features a ton of stages, though each level is quite short – you’ll easily beat most in under 2 minutes, making them excellent bite-sized servings. Goblin Sword has a colorful, cartoonishly retro aesthetic, and the music matches the visuals nicely – if you aren’t sick of the pixel revolution in gaming (and you shouldn’t be, because it’s great), you’ll find a lot to love about its look and feel. The controls are fairly tight, and I never felt as though the controls were at fault when I accidentally walked into a spike pit or got hit by an enemy. --Andrew Fisher


The Strongest

It’s only human nature that we all face a certain point in our lives when we just want to punch something. Anything. That’s where video games come in; they’ve always presented a healthy outlet to safely unload all of that frustration. Laboratory’s The Strongest is one of the best recent examples of note when it comes to channeling all the good that can come from indulging the thralls of mindless aggression into a gauntlet of cerebral challenges. --George Fagundes


Astropolo

Astropolo is a creative new app with a space travel theme that allows children to help astronaut Polo travel from Earth to planet Tropy. Astropolo includes eight mini-games that children will find fun and unique. Adults will appreciate these activities for their educational benefits as they strengthen areas such as fine motor and problem-solving skills. Although these games are intuitive to play once understood, written directions will need to be read in order to be followed – be it by the user or an adult working alongside the child. A short video of the gameplay of each of these sections is also included that children can follow, even if they are not up to fully reading the description – a really nice touch that also may give a few hints on the best way to play these mini-games. --Amy Solomon


Other 148Apps Network Sites

If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:

AndroidRundown

TruGlide Pro Universal Stylus

There was a time the stylus was a sign of having arrived. Why? This was before smartphones, when Palm and WinMo battled to win the PDA market. True capacitive touchscreens as we know them were not on the scene yet, and a good stylus was more important than having fingers. Then, in 2007, a lot of that changed. As screens get bigger, brighter and more responsive, styli have made a comeback. As tablets and smartphone (and everything in between) become more comprehensive means of data entry, and creatives use digital tools to output thought, having tools that mimic traditional modes of data entry is especially invaluable. This is where tools like the TruGlide Pro Stylus are potentially worth their weight in gold. --Tre Lawrence


enCharge Power Jacket Case

You’re device battery is probably not bad. Wait… hold the rocks for a hot second. I understand that y’all smart-device newbies think it’s bad, but trust me: power management has come a long way. There is still so much more that can be done, yes, but if the amount of OEM batteries I have carried over time is an indication of the progress we have made (three down to zero), I think we can gently tap ourselves on the back. It wasn’t too long ago that I foreswore devices with non-user serviceable batteries; my last two devices actually had/have sealed batteries. Go figure… having a device that lasts 24 hours on one charge might not be that futuristic after all. Still, being prepared is the name of today’s mobile game, and this is why external batteries seem to be the most talked about mobile accessories. Finding device-specific cases that double as external power sources is also an option, and the enCharge Power Jacket Case looks like the tool many a user could get used to… as a semi-permanent tool or ad-hoc solution. --Tre Lawrence


Empire Run

Will Empire Run be different enough to stand out from all the other endless runners out there? Endless runners need to pack some great content to be noticeable in the Google Play Store. Either that or they must have a great theme or graphical appeal to have a chance to be downloaded. Because there are lots of endless runners out there. Perhaps to much – but that is for another rainy day. The endless runner Empire Run is a game that does things right: it has a very nice graphical style and offers some nice gameplay tweaks, in its attempt not to be overlooked by the public. --Wesley Akkerman

And finally, this week Pocket Gamer played Angry Birds Transformers (and discovered the best pause screen in a mobile game), found 24 amazing iOS puzzlers, figured out how to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7, made a gamebook, reviewed Anomaly Defenders, and reviewed the new Super Smash Bros game. Read all of this, and more, right here.

For Better, or for Worse? How the New App Store has Started to Affect Developer Submissions

Posted by Rob Rich on September 29th, 2014

With the release of iOS 8 (finally), Apple has made some noticeable changes on the App Store - bundles, videos, and Testflight integration, to name a few. Many of these additions will make things friendlier for App Store shoppers, but how has it been affecting developers? I asked George Ko (Quantum Sheep), Brandon Pollet (F5 Games), and Nadav B (NAFNA) what they thought of Apple’s changes to the developer submission process, and their answers were rather illuminating.


Surprise! The Rules Have Changed!

George Ko
With all the changes to the App Store that had been announced back in June when Apple officially revealed iOS 8, it’s not all that shocking to think that there might be a few more boxes to check off when submitting a new app. However, it seems as though there wasn’t a whole lot of forewarning.

According to Pollet, “I didn’t have any real warning about the submission changes. I’m sure the information was out there but I just happened to log into iTunes Connect last week and the entire interface was different.” Nadav had a similar story, and said, “we have been given access to iOS beta 2 as of June 20, yet, as to submission guidelines, I can find no info.”

“I think that, while Apple transitions from the old system it had, there will be some mistakes and oversights made,” Ko offered, “This is understandable, but it kinda sucks to be uncertain about things when trying to get a game out!”

Breaking Up With My iPhone 4S -or- Surfing the Back Edge of the Tech Wave

Posted by Rob Thomas on September 26th, 2014

I still own an iPhone 4S, and the arrival of iOS 8 and the new iPhone 6 line pains me.

First off, I should explain that I’m not some half-committed neo-Luddite with a knee-jerk fear of new technology. I actually picked up my iPhone 4S on the day it launched - it was shiny, new, and top of the line. It was like basking in the glow of a new relationship, where everything is perfect and you're so in love. Then, a few months later and through no fault of my own, the person whose family plan I was a part of flaked out and I found myself bereft of service and unable to afford the deposit required to spin my old number off to its own line. My still-relatively young significant other then began its new life as an extra beefy iPod Touch.

Image Source: Nerdrepository.com

I was phoneless for the next couple of years, then eventually acquired a prepaid on a different carrier because it was both cheaper and I wouldn’t be locked to a contract. After enduring months of terrible service (including not being able to get a signal at home, within almost-literal spitting distance of the second-largest city in the state’s downtown area) I finally found out that not only did my old carrier offer prepaid service, but they had just recently allowed the iPhone 4S to be activated on it. I was elated. I could have my phone back again!

But our rekindled romance was short-lived. Once the thrill of having a signal anywhere I went wore off, I immediately began to feel the immense weight of my three years away.

In the interim, Apple had launched and fully iterated the iPhone 5 and and was gearing up to move along to the impending iPhone 6 and the concurrent launch of iOS 8. As I worked my way back into the world of iOS devices, I began to feel increasingly like a relic from a bygone age. Most new apps were not only optimized for iPhone 5 and up, but an increasing number just flat-out wouldn’t run on my old hardware at all. And with each new iOS update, that hardware - already rapidly spiraling towards obsolescence - ran just a little bit worse. Also, my prepaid plan won’t support the 5 series phones at all.

And so, I’ve begun to eyeball the postpaid world once again.

Now mind you, even if I had the money I wouldn’t have been one of those people who obsessively acquires each new phone the second it comes out. I’ve always believed in getting my money’s worth out of a device before moving on. In fact, if I had upgraded a year or so back to, say, a 5s, I could likely be singing a completely different tune at this point. Maybe I wouldn’t yet feel that an upgrade was in order. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Now, after an arduous process that took several hours the other night, my iPhone 4s groans under the strain of running iOS 8. Some features are nice (the integrated Siri song ID via Shazam, the pull-down text message reply from the lock screen) and work more or less as intended. But beyond that, things chug and sputter along slowly and hiccups, glitches, and freezes are far-too frequent. I know some of this is inevitably the bugs that accompany any initial roll-out of new operating systems, but I would be extremely surprised if a fair chunk of it wasn’t due to the fact that I’m running it on a three year old phone that just doesn’t have the muscle to properly support it. And if I thought I was being left behind before with the iPhone 5 app optimization, well it’s about to get even worse.

And that’s to say nothing of the new hardware itself. I got to put my hands on it a few days ago and I was pretty impressed. I feel like the size issue has been overstated by a lot of people. Despite being a pretty big guy I have surprisingly small hands, but even the iPhone 6 Plus didn’t feel too gargantuan for me to hold reasonably. And despite the fact that it’s an ounce heavier than my 4s, it actually felt lighter. And then there's the fact that the regular iPhone 6 actually is lighter, despite being considerably bigger. The recently reported bending controversy doesn’t especially concern me either as I don’t wear super-tight pants. And even if I did, I’d most likely normally stash the phone somewhere else, like a jacket pocket or my messenger bag, rather than forcing it uncomfortably into somewhere it would have problems fitting in the first place.

While I loved (and still do love) my 4S, I just feel that our relationship has run its course. We had some laughs together and created some great memories that I will always cherish, but I think it’s time that we move on and see other people.

Six Dos and Don'ts for Taking Care of Your New iPhone 6

Posted by Nadia Oxford on September 25th, 2014

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It's the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, both of which hit North America on September 19.

As might be expected by this point, the iPhone 6 is an expensive chunk of technology. You need to talk to it softly, pat it gently, and reassure it as necessary. Here are six tips for taking good care of your new friend.

Also included: Blatant suggestions on what not to do with your phone, regardless of whatever that "fwd: fwd: fwd: READ THIS APPLE FANS!!!" email suggests.


How to Clean your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus


Image Source: LifeProof

DO: Use a soft, dry cloth. Like most open-face electronics, the iPhone 6 collects fingerprints as efficiently as a 12-year-old collects Pokemon.

DON'T: Use a scouring pad. Or a rock. Or your cat's fur. Do not spit on your screen and rub it in your shirt. Do not hand your iPhone to your child, for handing anything to a child is the exact opposite of cleaning it.

How to Charge your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus


DO: Use the provided Lightning cable. Plug it into a USB port, or use the prong extension to plug it into a wall socket. Proceed to twiddle your thumbs for the next hour or so.

DON'T: Use your microwave. Not unless you want to risk killing yourself in an inexplicable quest to own a stinking, molten chunk of plastic, aluminium, and circuitry. Seriously folks, just because a press release is written in Myriad typeface doesn't mean you should do what it says.

How to carry your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus


Image Source: The Mary Sue

DO: Purchase a protective case for your device; preferably an amusing retro tribute that resembles a Game Boy or an NES control pad. Keep your iPhone in a bag or purse pocket that's separate from coins, keys, and gremlins.

DON'T: Stick your iPhone 6 in your back pocket, as aluminum and bum-heat don't mix favorably (the validity of this rumor has yet to be debunked or verified by Snopes, but when is it ever a good idea to keep electronics in your back pocket, anyway? Hint: Never).

How to share your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus


DO: Be generous about letting your friends examine your iPhone 6. Understand their need to do so; touching an object is the most primal way of memorizing its texture, shape, and curves. You should probably stop any attempts to sniff or taste the iPhone, however.

DON'T: Hiss and rear back when your friends reach for your iPhone. Or, if you must do so, at least try and prevent your eyes from flashing yellow and constricting into cat-like slits.

ALSO DON'T: Hand your iPhone 6 to your child. We've already discussed why.

How to eat with your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus


Image Source: MacSkins

DO: Sit your iPhone up at the table, put a bib on it, and offer it a scone.

DON'T: Smear peanut butter between two phones and take a bite.

How to properly show off your iPhone or 6 Plus


DO: Lift up your phone slowly and carefully while humming the "Sunrise" theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Before presentation, review your position with the Earth's sun so that its rays may catch and glint off the sexy aluminum backing.

DON'T: Drop the bloody thing.

Big, Gaudy, and Expensive - Why the Apple Watch is Kind of "Meh"

Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 25th, 2014

Whenever a shiny new gadget comes out, the same question runs through my mind: "Will this become an indispensable part of my tech arsenal, or will it be a glorious waste of money?" Things rarely seem to fall in between – either they change everything, or they change nothing.

Sure the idea of the Apple Watch is intriguing, but as I started my research into the device, the first hurdle I ran into was held in the first image I saw of it; the thing is huge and ugly, with a huge and ugly price tag to match.

I have a lot of mobile devices: my iPad, my phone, and my Shine fitness tracker. Investing in something that boils all of those things down into a single fashion accessory might sound appealing at first but the reality is that, as a part of my daily wardrobe, it just doesn’t fit. In order to be able to have a functional touchscreen, the smallest possible face for the Apple Watch is 38mm. That's kind of large for someone like me who has small wrists. Sure, it would let me reenact scenes from Dick Tracy (and that’s cool enough to merit serious consideration), but with its metallic 90s style Casio band and massive face it just looks plain silly. If Apple wants to not only become a part of my lifestyle but a part of my appearance, they are just going to have to try harder. Yes, I know they offer other bands, but the current iconic design is neither formal nor cool, and that just won’t do.

In truth, though, I haven’t worn a watch for several years now. With so many devices that keep time already taking up valuable room in my pockets, I haven't felt the need to wear one. Once again the point would be to minimize the amount of stuff I carry, and in that regard the Apple Watch is intriguing - especially as more apps become available for it.

But appearance aside, the biggest hurdle for getting excited about the new Apple Watch is that price. At $349, it’s unreasonable as a substitute for a bunch of tech gear I already own. Also, considering it needs to paired with an iPhone, which I do not presently own, the Apple Watch would be useless to me unless I bought one of those, too.

At the moment, the Apple Watch really doesn’t offer anything truly new to justify itself. Perhaps after the watch is released and a few generations pass I'll find it a more worthwhile investment. By then the price may drop and my old gear will be out of date and in need of an upgrade anyway. Until then, I think my Dick Tracy impressions will just have to continue to rely on my good old (free) imagination.

How iOS 8 has Improved My iPad Experience

Posted by Lee Hamlet on September 24th, 2014

After a solid week of use since its debut, here are my personal impressions of how iOS 8 has refined and streamlined the way in which I use my iPad on a daily basis.

Today is Looking Good


The improved Notification Center is by far my favorite feature of iOS 8 on iPad. The now fully-featured Today screen is finally at a place where it should have been years ago: as an integral part of the iOS experience and adding a whole new spectrum of usability to iOS devices.

On an iPad, a device typically chock-full of apps and games, this feature is even more appreciated. From the lock screen I can get an overview of the most pressing news stories (via News Republic), pop culture or meme-inspired articles that are perfect for passing a few minutes (BuzzFeed), a much more attractive weather report (Yahoo! weather), buttons for launching different functions in Evernote, customizable app shortcuts with Launcher, and a shortcut to where I'm up to in the book I'm reading with the Kindle app. It acts as a real hub of activity, allowing me to view my apps at a glance rather than closing and opening each one systematically.


Better Connectivity


AirDrop between my iPad and my MacBook (running the Yosemite beta) is also a long-awaited feature I'm happy to see added to iOS 8, and is a much more direct way of transferring files between the two. Answering calls on my iPad if my phone is on charge is also a massive plus, meaning I rarely miss those urgent calls from work when my phone is in the other room.

A combination of the new-and-improved Notification Center, the updated Spotlight search, and a rejuvenated Siri will definitely silence some of the critics that previously questioned iOS' productivity or speed of use, as the home screens have become more of a directory than the be-all-and-end-all of the iOS experience (to me at least).


Better Luck Next Year


I'm still waiting for the Control Center to allow for some customization in the same way that the Notification Center lets you edit widgets (for example, a button to turn off data easily) and take proper steps towards becoming a mini settings menu. Hands-free Siri is a great touch, but until Apple comes up with a way to make it work without the constant use of a charger it's not particularly helpful unless you're sitting next to the plug socket.


iOS 8 has taken great steps in moving towards achieving true multi-device connectivity, as well as making the whole interaction process a lot more multi-faceted. As more apps add support for notification widgets, it'll become even more capable.

Why I Don't Want to Upgrade to the iPhone 6 - or iOS 8 for That Matter

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 23rd, 2014


I've been living with my iPhone 4S for the past two years or so, and if I was living in a world where I wasn't bombarded with new phone announcements and people of the general public caring enough to upgrade constantly, I wouldn't think my phone was obsolete. It's a great feeling phone that does everything I want it to - plus a lot of stuff I don't care to do. It's not perfect, but neither are iOS 8, the iPhone 6, or the iPhone 6 Plus, so why spend the hundreds of dollars every year or two?

I'm not even going to attempt to answer that question. I'm merely using it as a rhetorical device to illustrate that the past two years of announcements of Apple hardware and services have not moved me to throw money at them, and here are a few reasons why.

This Week at 148Apps: September 15-19, 2014

Posted by Chris Kirby on September 22nd, 2014

Expert App Reviewers


So little time and so very many apps. What's a poor iPhone/iPad lover to do? Fortunately, 148Apps is here to give you the rundown on the latest and greatest releases. And we even have a tremendous back catalog of reviews; just check out the Reviews Archive for every single review we've ever written.

Goat Simulator

Looking for a serious goat simulation game involving a bit of grazing, some goats screaming like humans (YouTube it), and a bit of mild milking chucked in for good measure? First of all, what’s wrong with you? Secondly, there’s none of that to be found in Goat Simulator. Rather, it’s about what would happen if an invincible and inexplicably angry billy goat went on a rampage through a countryside village. Players are free to explore the small but largely destructible environment with its challenges, collectibles, and quirks at their leisure. There’s a lot here, from goat slingshots, to goat sumo wrestling, to a sacrificial offering (that last one was unexpected, right?), and it’s great fun to discover what the world has to offer. --Lee Hamlet


Kitty Powers' Matchmaker

Cheers, loves. Looking for snuggles, cuddles, and beyond? Miss Kitty Powers is ready to hook the lovelorn up with the good stuff in Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker. Well, to clarify, Miss Kitty Powers will be on the sidelines offering advice – and snark. It’s the player that needs to get their hands dirty by digging up clients’ interests, matching up personalities, and finding them ideal mates. Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker is a dating/matchmaking sim, which isn’t a rare species on mobile platforms. What makes it special is its fast pace, its payoffs, and above all else, its wildly weird sense of humor. --Nadia Oxford


Dragon Quest I

There are legends that are told time and again; the sort of elemental tales that, in one form or another, define an entire genre. These stories are copied, referenced, and remade endlessly, all because they represent a fundamental part of our shared culture. For RPG fans of any age, one such tale is Dragon Quest. If you loved Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, the Mana series, or any of the hundreds of other awesome old-school RPGs out there, you owe at least a little to Dragon Quest. Originally released in 1986 for the Famicom/NES as Dragon Warrior, Dragon Quest for iOS is an updated remake of a truly classic game. The visuals strike a great balance between looking like something from an early-era RPG (palate-swapped enemies FTW!), but are still cartoony and fun. The music is good, though you will get sick of the horn trill that sounds at the beginning of every random encounter. The script, written in a faux-Shakespearian tongue, is charmingly full of ‘thees’ and ‘thous’, making for a fun, campy experience. --Andrew Fisher


Plunder Pirates

Another week, another Clash of Clans style game, right? That’s what you’re probably thinking when looking at Plunder Pirates, and who could blame you. It does look a lot like yet another one of those kind of games. Fortunately, Rovio Stars has a few tricks up its sleeves, ensuring that Plunder Pirates has more going for it than you’d expect. Starting out, it’s a lot like any base building game. You have an island with the basic structures already in place, and it’s down to you to develop it and become the greatest pirate out there. Or something like that. This is done through a number of different methods. Developing each building and upgrading them while also placing new things is vital. --Jennifer Allen


Kunin

There are no frills or microtransactions in Kunin. It lives or dies by the sharpness of its steel and the strength of its twitch arcade gameplay. But from that trial it emerges a nervous yet nice test of ninja reflexes. In Kunin, players try to keep their little ninja alive as long as possible by deflecting oncoming knives and throwing stars. Tapping each side of the screen causes him not only to jump but also face that direction. Turning the right way is crucial because threats come on all sides and strikes from behind are lethal. --Jordan Minor


Pizo Animals

Recently I came across some puzzles that are now too young for my six year old son – jigsaws that fit into wooden-backed frames instead of being boxed like the larger puzzles he now enjoys. Much to my chagrin, I realized that many of these puzzles were missing a piece or two, making them unacceptable for charity donations. I still remember the frustration of trying to keep all of these puzzle pieces together that even when completed did not sit well enough in their frames to keep these puzzles intact. Because of this, during his time at preschool we began to work on a lot of puzzles for the iPad and iPhone where the loss of pieces was no longer a concern, allowing them to be enjoyed while laying in bed or on the go. Even better was that, typically, different levels of difficulty were included within these puzzle apps that would grow with my son. Because of this I am always happy to test new puzzle applications, and I am eager to let parents know of a new puzzle app, Pizo Animals. --Amy Solomon


Other 148Apps Network Sites

If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:

AndroidRundown

Soccer Fitness Gols

Sometimes, we get apps to review that are so natural to use. As a licensed soccer coach who has played and coached The Beautiful Game most of my life, I have an intimate understanding of how seriously fitness impacts the sport. It’s an important, and there are quite a number of wearables aimed at this segment. In any case, checking out apps like Soccer Fitness Gols not only feels natural, it feels like its my duty. So there. The app itself is simple in design, with bright green, turf-like graphics making up the main background. The developer uses different shades of green in places to contrast the mostly white main screen text. The UI, as noted, is simple, and uses mostly uses taps and some gestures as the main modes of navigation. --Tre Lawrence


Agenday Smart Calendar

Making everyday business activities easier is a worthy goal that definitely earns developers a spot in heaven. With Agenday Smart Calendar, PGi might have a chance to go up yonder. The use interface is appropriately businesslike, with the default soft hues and flashes of orange. The welcome screen is tastefully crafted, with weather, date and meetings that are planned for the current day. The date bar is scrollable, and there is a calendar button nestled to the top right, along with the familiar Android-standard three-button menu access. Tapping on a specific part of the weather information leads to Weather Underground, from which more specific weather information can be procured. Altogether, the UI feels clean and intuitive, and avoids the pitfall of being too cluttered. --Tre Lawrence


Super Monkey Ball Bounce

Super Monkey Ball Bounce has a lot of problems, and being a cash cow is just one of them. It is a shame to see what Sega has done to the once beloved series of challenging games. When you love Peggle or games like Peggle, you will clearly enjoy Super Monkey Ball Bounce. That game doesn’t just take inspiration from Peggle, it rips it off completely. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing; one can better steal something good, than make up something bad. It is all in the details; and with details, I mean stuff like themes, power ups and level design. And that’s the part Super Monkey Ball Bounce doesn’t fail to be enjoyed by gamers. Because the base is pretty good. --Wesley Akkerman

And finally, this week the chaps at Pocket Gamer went big on iOS 8, with loads of tips and an investigation into Apple's new Metal tech. Plus, the guys across the pond looked into iPad virtual reality, the future of Minecraft, and asked if 2014 was the year mobile gaming grew up... Read all about it right here.

This Week at 148Apps: September 8-12, 2014

Posted by Chris Kirby on September 14th, 2014

Expert App Reviewers


So little time and so very many apps. What's a poor iOS devotee to do? Fortunately, 148Apps is here to give you the rundown on the latest and greatest releases. And we even have a tremendous back catalog of reviews; just check out the Reviews Archive for every single review we've ever written.

Kapsula

Kapsula isn’t an easy game by any means, but it is an appealing one. It combines the obvious mixture of racing and Match-3 gameplay, because that’s a partnership that we’ve all been waiting to see! It sounds odd, but it works by relying upon some very fast reactions and quick decision making. You control a car as it races across some futuristic-looking landscapes. The visuals are quite crude but they match the theme well, adding a kind of beauty to such simplicity. Controls are a matter of tapping on either side to move around and that’s as complex as Kapsula gets. The tricky part is moving at the right time. While racing along, various colored gems called kapsulas (hence the name) appear. Drive alongside one and you snag it to the side of your car. The trick here is to match it up with another of the same color to earn points. --Jennifer Allen


Spider-Man Unlimited

There’s no shortage of endless runners on the App Store. Good endless runners, though? Now, there’s a trickier thing to find. Spider-Man Unlimited is one of those rare delights, made all the rarer by the fact it uses a popular license and still manages to be enjoyable. It’s a narrative led running game, which means it’s split into two parts. There’s the Endless mode that lives up to its name, but there’s also the more structured story mode that offers up some reason to run. Divided up into issues, issue 1 involves you tackling the Green Goblin while issue 2 pits you against the Vulture – with future issues coming soon. --Jennifer Allen


Ninja Warrior Temple

Ninja Warrior Temple understands that the way of the ninja is never an easy one. It takes skill and insight bordering on the supernatural: a perfect melding of body and mind. But while its clever designs show its mind is in the right place, the slippery controls suggest the body still needs work. Ninja Warrior Temple is a textbook “masocore” game where players take on super short but devastatingly difficult platforming challenges. While early stages use fairly formulaic layouts like “jump over spikes in an incredibly tight time window,” the game soon reveals its smarter tricks. --Jordan Minor


The Nightmare Cooperative

The Nightmare Cooperative is a dungeon-raiding puzzler and strategy game that forces players to think on their feet while taking multiple factors into account at once. Taking place over 12 levels through 4 zones, players must navigate their team over a checkered game board via up and down swipes that control the whole team at once, moving past deadly enemies and fiery pits. Of course, there is the option to fight back by either bumping into enemies repeatedly or by pressing the special ability button. Enabled by the collection of potions, each character class has their own special ability – including healing, brute strength, and long-range weapons – that will help with getting their teammates and themselves to the exit in one piece. --Lee Hamlet


Gro Flowers

As readers can imagine, my son is fortunate to have a chance to test a variety of educational apps that I download as part of my review process. Typically for him, this is alone-time when he chooses not to have a lot of interaction with others as he becomes deeply involved with an app of his choice. Gro Flowers, an app from a favorite developer of ours – Gro Play – is a unique case, as my boy invites me into his world while working with this application. It’s a lovely combination of art and ecology, allowing children to decorate their own flowers to later be pollinated by bees that also produce honey in need of being caught as it drips from the hive. Do shoo away bug spray bottles with a tap, keeping the bees safe and happy. I would first like to point out that Gro Flowers, along with other Gro Play apps, allows multiple players to explore and interact at the same time – working together decorating flowers as well as dragging bees to like-flowers in the interest of pollination, as well as collecting honey and discouraging the use of pesticides, making this app a lovely exercise in cooperation that my son really enjoys sharing with others. The pacing of Gro Flowers, also like the other Gro Play apps, is a little on the slow side compared to arcade games some children play with these days, but I do admire this choice. It allows my son to slow down as well – a lovely nod to the time it takes nature to grow a field of flowers or create honey one drop at a time. --Amy Solomon


Other 148Apps Network Sites

If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:

AndroidRundown

Appointment with F.E.A.R.

Appointment With F.E.A.R casts the player as a hero with powers of their choosing out to stop an evil meeting of the minds as the criminal organization known as F.E.A.R meet in three days to hatch an evil plot to take over the world. Players begin by picking their powers. What powers they have affects the story great deal. They may be able to fire energy blast from their hands or simply be a Batman like gadget genius with no actual superpowers besides being clever, among others. A few of these feel a bit half-baked though. The engineer type doesn’t really get enough chances to use his gadgets and the mind reader doesn’t get to really read minds, more just use their physic skills to hurl objects at enemies and so on. --Allan Curtis


Help Me Fly

There is no shortage of puzzle games in all of the app stores, including the Google Play Store. But finding that must play puzzle game, might be a challenge. Don’t look any further, because we’ve found one. Puzzle games and app stores: it’s like a combination made in heaven. And why wouldn’t it be? Most of those puzzle games are easy to understand, offer a great challenge and have some pretty user-friendly interfaces for us to enjoy. A good puzzle game has all of the above mentioned elements and I’m glad to say that the game Help Me Fly vg fits right in to the description of a good puzzle game. It even has some solid looking graphics that are easy on the eyes. --Wesley Akkerman


Angry Birds Stella

The new Angry Birds Stella game just came and that can only mean one thing: it’s time to give the birds a swing again. Only this time, we’re swinging female birds with more tactics at their disposal. With every new Angry Birds installment I always ask myself: what did Rovio do this time to not make me think this game is just like the one before? The gravity mechanic in Angry Birds Space was a first for me, thinking the developer actually did something to improve the basics of the game. And now, I’ve got the same feeling. Angry Birds Stella is, to be very direct, a new Angry Birds game that builds upon the basics of the core of the franchise and really offers something new. --Wesley Akkerman

And finally, Apple made headlines on Pocket Gamer, too. The guys have got tech and size comparisons for the new iPhones, and thoughts on the Apple Watch's gaming potential. Plus, a preview of Space Age, along with reviews of Goblin Sword, Phantom Rift, and more. Read everything right here.

Get Ready for the iPhone 6 - Amazon Trade-in Program Locks in Used Gadget Prices Until October 10

Posted by Ellis Spice on September 12th, 2014

With the release of the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch just around the corner, Amazon has announced a special offer for their Trade-In Program. If you submit an item before October 10, that price will be locked-in for the following 45 days after that submission, with these gadgets currently worth the following amounts:


  • iPhone 5S - $400 for 64 GB

  • iPhone 5 - $350 for 64 GB

  • iPad Mini - currently at $150.75 - $261.8 based on model and memory size

  • Samsung Galaxy Gear - $71.40

  • Pebble Steel Smartwatch for iPhone - $100

This offer for the Amazon Trade-In Program is set to last for the next month, through until October 10.

It's Not Enough - Wanting More From the iPhone 6 Announcement

Posted by Jennifer Allen on September 11th, 2014

So, the new iPhones have been announced and we’re all excited, right? Well, maybe not entirely. It’s a funny thing being a self-confessed fan of a company and its products. While I don’t see myself as a blind fan to Apple, over the years I’ve happily owned 2 iPads, 1 MacBook Pro, and 3 iPhones. I’ll no doubt end up with another iPhone at some point soon too, but that hasn’t stopped me from feeling a little disappointed by the news of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Much of it, I suspect, is down to wanting something life-changing again. The original iPhone, for me at least, was life-changing. Besides eventually leading me to a position where I’m writing this very article, it felt amazing to own one. The sheer potential of what I could do with it was amazing. I think every new iteration, I want that feeling again. Maybe I just expect too much.

As someone who prefers their phones smaller, I’m at a tricky crossroads. The iPhone 5 is big enough that it’s caused a permanent dent in my jeans’ pocket. Its camera is good enough that I’ve taken photos just as the sun is setting and it’s still somehow made it look like much earlier in the day. I do want the speed boost, though. I’m impatient. I like things to react as quickly as possible.

The other features? Not so much.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are set to be thinner and offer a better HD display, which is great. It’s not a deal-breaker, though. I’ve got an iPad Mini Retina which covers that, if not quite as well.

Camera wise, things are looking better. At least when it comes to the iPhone 6 Plus’ optical image stabilization, which looks fantastic. The iPhone 6’s improvements, however, are good but not awe inspiring. I want something I can show off to others and they can immediately see the difference and think ‘wow, I want one of those’. It looks like I’ll have to go for a bigger phone in the form of the 6 Plus if I want that.

Touch ID and fingerprint technology is great, but much like the contactless payments via Apple Pay, it’s not something I can see myself using every day. It’s just a nice quirk. A little bit like Passbook.

The biggest delight to come from this for me is the battery life. My iPhone 5 needs charging every night now and was never great two years ago. It’ll be good to not be so reliant upon my charger again. Still though, where’s the wireless charging? Now that’d feel futuristic and it’d be so practical, too.

It’s a tough one to call. Besides better battery life and multi-user support (seriously, where is that? I want to be able to switch to a guest account, hand my phone to my young cousin, and not be worried that they’ll dig around in the wrong places), I’ll admit I can’t list a plethora of things I want to see in my phone - but then I never can. That’s why I don’t work in research and development. Those exciting changes are what I’ve enjoyed about new iPhones. Being told a new idea that’s made me think "I never thought of that. Awesome, I can’t wait."

I’ll eagerly buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus at some point in the future because I want the speed boost, but I’ll be honest: what I really want is something that I can point out to folks and yell "See? See how awesome that is!" and I don’t feel like I’ve got that this time around. Instead, I’ve got steady but a little bit safe. Is it a matter of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?" Maybe, but I've still got that itch for revolution rather than evolution.

Redbubble is Now Offering Preorders on iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Cases

Posted by Rob Rich on September 10th, 2014

For the unfamiliar, Redbubble is a good place to find great artwork - and then have it slapped on a phone case, T-shirt, pillow, etc. And now it's a good place to find cases for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

You can preorder your case now, but they won't start shipping until 9/19 to coincide with the iPhone 6 launch. Still, there's a rather gigantic assortment to choose from, with prices varying depending on the individual artist's markup.

And heck, if you can't quite find what you're looking for you can always make your own account and upload your own illustrations and images. That's what I did.

[Editor's Note: I've been uploading my own designs to Redbubble for well over a year now. My portfolio is not the reason I decided to share this news, but I do feel it necessary to let everyone know that I have work posted to the site. - Rob]

Apple Pay Gives Users New Ways to Throw Their Money at People

Posted by Rob Thomas on September 9th, 2014

Broken livestream be damned, Apple barreled bravely forward with their highly anticipated press conference today in California. One of the biggest announcements to come out of it was the reveal of the new Apple Pay virtual wallet service.

Relying on an NFC chip mounted inside the top edge of both the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Pay will allow consumers to do away with all of the fumbling around with silly, outdated ideas like cards, IDs, and security codes. Working in combination with the Touch ID sensor located in the Home button, Apple Pay will theoretically make the payment methods stored in your stolen phone useless to thieves - unless they get the bright idea to begin lopping off fingers, I suppose. But even if that should be the case, there’s no need to cancel your cards on your way to the hospital as payments from the device can be shut off via Find My iPhone. Pretty nice to not have to deal with that whole hassle, I would say.

Apple Pay integrates with Passbook and can import the credit card that users already have on file with iTunes. Using the iPhone’s camera, they can also snap pictures of their other cards to add them to the options on file as well, but apparently the credit card number itself is stored on neither the device, nor Apple’s servers. Instead, each transaction will be authorized by a one-time use unique transaction number and a dynamic, shifting security code. Let’s hope this calms fears of trusting cash to the cloud in the wake of last week’s leaked celebrity selfie disaster.

Starting off, Apple Pay will work with all three of the major credit card providers (Visa, MasterCard, and Discover), as well as pretty much all of the major U.S. banks, totaling 83% of the consumer purchase volume. There are also deals in place for a growing number of retailers, restaurants, and other folks who want your money to use Apple Pay as it launches. McDonalds, Panera, Whole Foods, Walgreens, Staples, and more are already involved, with Disney, Chipotle, Sephora, Nordstrom, and others due by the end of the year.

Apple Pay is only available with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and is due to roll out in the U.S. this October, with the rest of the world still to be announced. Provided they can actually suss out the security issues, I have to admit this does sound like a pretty neat idea. A growing number of retailers have NFC readers at their point-of-sale and it certainly beats having to fumble with your ID when that one store decides to ask for it when a dozen others never bother.

What do you think? Are you ready to abandon your actual wallets just yet and trust that your iPhone’s battery won’t die during a particularly long day out? Let us know how you feel below.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Features and Specs - Stuff you Should Know Before you Preorder

Posted by Rob Rich on September 9th, 2014

Much to nobody’s surprise, Apple has officially announced the iPhone 6. Not just the 6, though. An even fancier (and costlier) model, the iPhone 6 Plus, is also on its way.

So, what’s this new iPhone all about?

To start with, it’s sleeker than the 5 and 5s. The entire phone is rounded off, with no real corners to speak of. It holds more of a charge - or is at least said to - for a 50% increase in energy efficiency. It’s also even thinner, with the iPhone 6 Plus coming in at 7.1mm and the iPhone 6 at 6.9mm - both narrower than the 5s’ 7.6mm. In other words, you’ll be even more likely to freak out and think your iPhone fell out of your pocket now.

The screen is “ion-strengthened,” and uses a new Retina HD display that shows the full sRGB color range. The iPhone 6 has a screen size of 4.7”, with a 720p Retina display at a resolution of 1334x750 - and 326 pixels per inch. The iPhone 6 Plus is, naturally, bigger and fancier. It sports a 5.5” screen at 1920x1080, 401 pixels per inch, and uses a 1080p Retina display. Both phones use the new A8 chip, which will result in even faster processing and graphics when compared to the 5s. Couple that with Metal, and it’s going to be interesting to see where iOS gaming goes from here.

And how about the service? Apple says the iPhone 6 will have wifi speeds that are significantly faster than the 5s, using 802.11ac. It will also have faster LTE, and supports over 200 LTE carriers. Perhaps most interesting is the addition of wifi calling, which will come in handy for those awkward moments when you lose cell service but still have a wifi connection. Don’t laugh, this actually happens to me a lot.

The iSight camera is still alive and well inside the iPhone 6, along with several enhancements. It now utilizes a new sensor (it can judge distance and elevation now), ƒ/2.2 aperture, 1.5µ pixels, and clocks in at 8MP. The new iSight also incorporates Focus Pixels, which are typically found in high-end DSLR cameras. Heck, the thing can even detect when subjects are smiling and blinking while in Burst Mode, and will automatically recommend shots based around that info.

The iPhone 6 will be available in silver, gold, and space gray, and sell for $199 (16GB), $299 (64GB), and $399 (128GB). The iPhone 6 Plus, meanwhile, is available in the same colors and will sell for $299 (16GB), $399 (64GB), and $499 (128GB). Both models’ prices include a two-year contract, and both will be available for sale on 9/19 - preorders begin on Friday, 9/12.

So what do you all think? What iPhone 6/Plus features are you most excited about?

This Week at 148Apps: September 1-5, 2014

Posted by Chris Kirby on September 8th, 2014

Your Source For The Latest App Reviews


Every single week, the 148Apps reviewers search through the new apps out there, find the good ones, and write about them in depth. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Want to see what we've been up to this week? Take a look below for a sampling of our latest reviews. And if you want more, be sure to hit our Reviews Archive.


Valiant Hearts

Humanity has loads of awful wars to tuck under its belt, but few were as grimy or bloody as the First World War. Appropriately referred to as “The Great War” during its tortured four-year lifespan, the conflict still dredges up images of trenches, sucking mud, lung-searing gas, and a bizarre clash of old war (horse-mounted cavalries) versus new war (machine guns, tanks). The First World War isn’t a period of time to be taken lightly or disrespected, but thankfully Valiant Hearts: The Great War by Ubisoft and Future Games of London treats its subject matter solemnly. The story driving this stark-looking puzzle/action game is packed with emotion, and its characters stick with the player long after the app is shut ff. Players are never asked to judge – only to observe the ongoing events. There are even history lessons galore, courtesy of succinct but informative in-game summaries and item collections. --Nadia Oxford


Heavy Metal Thunder

Heavy Metal Thunder isn’t like other game books. For one thing, you have to pay attention to it and the decisions you make. Some other titles, you can let your mind wander slightly or make a somewhat foolish decision and not be punished for it. Heavy Metal Thunder responds to any foolish call by smacking down on you – hard. It’s a satisfying adventure game, but don’t expect to complete it any time soon. The early stages ably demonstrate what’s expected of you. Plenty of different skills are available, giving you a fairly varied experience. You can choose to be a stealthy warrior or to be a charismatic leader with a plethora of options at hand. It’s not long, however, before the decisions you make can bring huge ramifications. --Jennifer Allen


Spring

For online shopping, websites are becoming increasingly old fashioned. After all, many of us are using phones and tablets to browse and surely an app designed for that discerning market is what you want? That’s the thinking behind the label-focused shopping app, Spring. It’s simple yet stylish, ensuring you can get all the information you want on a product and easily order it. The simplest way to sign up is via Facebook, with Spring promising to not post without your permission. You can then choose from a variety of different brands and labels to follow, so you can always see what your favorite designer is up to. A tabbed interface means you can easily switch between the options available. --Jennifer Allen


Tiny Tower Vegas

Tiny Tower was a big success, given its main draw was in enticing you to build a bigger skyscraper than your friends. It was oddly appealing and spawned many clones. Here we are then, with the true sequel of sorts: Tiny Tower Vegas. And this time around, there’s a bit more going on. The core aim is still there – you build new floors on your skyscraper in a bid to earn coins to carry on building new floors. Keeping each place stocked with stuff to sell is essential, with plenty of timers and checking in on how things are progressing. But this time around you don’t have people living here. Instead they stay on hotel floors, meaning you can additionally earn money that way, too. A lobby at the bottom of the tower provides a place for potential employees to hang out, with up to five sticking around at any one time. --Jennifer Allen


Tizzy ZigZag Cars

There was a bit of a reversal in our home recently, as I was eager to introduce my son to a new app that I had downloaded onto our iPad: Tizzy ZigZag Cars, a car racing app with a heavy use of physics. Little did I know that my son had already taken a closer look at it earlier and was more than happy to walk me through what he had learned about this application. Tizzy ZigZag Cars allows children to build their own simple car as they choose front and back tires as well as the body, keeping in mind that the car will be flipping over and continuing to race as one drives on the included courses. My boy and I appreciate that the selections include two sizes of wood and metal tires, as well as other choices that will directly affect how the car responds to the fantasy track that one will be driving on – possibly driving too fast and not maintaining enough control to collect star badges, or driving so slowly that you lose the momentum you need to move around the course. These tracks – fifteen in total – spread evenly over five different themes including space, candy, western, sports, and a colorful wood option. As the name may suggest, these tracks are reminiscent of the zigzag racetrack, also known as switchback or click-clack tracks, where gravity allows a car to roll down a series of ramps, flipping over to the reverse side of the vehicle as the car falls controllably to the next track to continue on. While these young children’s toys tend to be basic contraptions, the ZigZag tracks include a lot of interesting details that create almost a maze-like effect as one travels on a series of ramps – complete with loops, drops, and flags that will give the car a burst of speed when collected, as well as other themed objects it interacts with. --Amy Solomon


Other 148Apps Network Sites

If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:

AndroidRundown

Yahoo Aviate Launcher

The ability to customize is one of Android’s biggest virtues, and third-party launchers are a big part of the experience. Thing is, there are a lot of launchers on the scene; as such, new options by the Yahoo acquisition Aviate have to do quite a bit to stand out. Upon starting the app, one gets the “Simplify your phone” mantra, an invitation that is hard to ignore. There is a video intro and tapping on the blue “start” button opens up a three-page promo portion which eventually leads to the set-up, and after selecting Aviate as the permanent launcher, its ready to go. --Tre Lawrence


Game of Thrones Ascent

Finally, Game of Thrones Ascent is released on Android devices. But will the trip through Westeros be worth your time? Let’s find out. One of the coolest aspects of the Xbox 360 game Fable 3 is that players could make a string of decisions at the end of their adventure. Maybe it wasn’t the best solution for that game at that very moment, but the ability to decide what is best for yourself or others is a concept in video games I very much enjoy and appreciate. The Android game Game of Thrones Ascent starts with a couple challenges waiting to be tackled by choosing the option one prefers. A very strong start of the game. --Wesley Akkerman


Sumico: The Numbers Game

Who would’ve thought that solving math challenges would be so much fun? In my book, that can only be when the game’s design is top notch and with Sumico, from the Dutch developer Ludomotion, that is just the case. In Sumico, players will face some harsh math problems. That sounds utterly dull, but bear with me here. The game’s design is really flawless. At it’s core, it is solving math, yes. But this game offers clever use of the renowned Candy Crush design. Players need to solve those problems at a grid full of hexagons. On these hexagons are numbers displayed. Players need to combine them with hexagons showing typical math signs, like the plus and minus, etcetera. By holding the first number, swiping and combining it with a math sign on to another number, a sum is made and the answer shows up on screen. With the answer, it is possible to make a new sum. --Wesley Akkerman

And finally, this week Pocket Gamer picked the best iOS and Android games of August, investigated smartwatches and virtual reality, asked Rovio if Angry Birds Stella is just for girls, found the best gaming phones under $500, rounded up all the iPhone 6 rumors, and looked at a stunning monochrome heist game for iOS called Calvino Noir.