Posts Tagged Education
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.
I’ve been playing and enjoying collectable card games for 20 years, now – yeah, I’m old, shut up. While Magic: the Gathering has always been my main game, I’ve tried and enjoyed several others over the years. One of my favorites was always Pokémon, but at my age (I said shut up!) almost none of my peers play. The only way I could enjoy a game was to go to a tournament and play almost entirely against children. Since that’s as awkward as it sounds, I haven’t played in years. Now there’s a solution to that problem. And unlike Magic’s foray into iPad, Pokémon TCG allows a great deal of freedom. –Jade Walker
Almost a decade after its launch, the classic time management franchise Diner Dash has returned once again to cause stress headaches in a whole new generation of mobile gamers. It’s been about four years since the last entry in the series – Diner Dash 5: BOOM! – and PlayFirst has revamped the venerable workhorse into a mash-up of classic and all-new styles. And, for the first time ever, the series has embraced the free-to-play model. How well do Flo and the crew make the transition to freemium? Well, let’s take a look, shall we? You’d be hard-pressed to find someone these days who isn’t at least passingly familiar with the basic concept of Diner Dash. Players are in charge of Flo, a good-natured (but doubtlessly exhausted) waitress whose job is to seat, serve, and generally keep happy all of the customers of her restaurant – many of whom have specific quirks and needs. Unfortunately, as Flo is only one person with two hands, she can only do so much at a time. This leaves her sprinting about madly to take orders, make coffee, clean up dirty tables, and more, all before customers lose their patience and leave. You really have to wonder why this place doesn’t hire at least a busboy, right? –Rob Thomas
Sheep aren’t loaded with natural defenses. They’re great at standing around, chewing their cud, and waiting to be sheared. That’s about it. That’s why Air Supply – SOS calls on players to foil the Time Travel Company: a greedy organization that kidnaps sheep, robs their fluffy down, and makes clothing. Though these distressed sheep are quantum sheep, they’re still incapable of defending themselves. Do the right thing. Save Our Sheep (“SOS” – get it?). Air Supply is a shooter inspired by the classic ZX Spectrum game Jetpac. Players endure waves of aliens while catching the quantum sheep that fall from the sky. The sheep need to be returned to the rocket ship waiting at the bottom of the screen. Once the requisite number is loaded, the player gets to progress to the next level (often accompanied by a “sheepy hug” of thanksgiving). –Nadia Oxford
Like in the original, players control Rockford: a scrappy young spelunker exploring a series of caves. But these aren’t just ordinary caves; they’re full of gems, and to open up the exit Rockford must collect a certain number of gems before time runs off. From that description, one might think that gem-collecting would be, if not a difficult process, then at least one that took some thinking. But in Boulder Dash, most of the initial free levels can be beaten by tracing the most straightforward route through the dirt and collecting the obvious gems in plain sight. Players spend the majority of the game performing this deeply uninteresting act again and again. Sure there are a few enemies, but with Rockford’s ability to move basically anywhere and survive anything short of a falling rock, there’s far too little in the player’s way. It almost makes one wish the controls weren’t as smooth and forgiving as they are. Later worlds do ramp up the challenge, but the dull and lengthy introduction discourages players from grinding and earning the stars necessary to unlock the more interesting content for free. –Jordan Minor
Bug Mazing – Adventures in Learning‘ is a new title from Little Bit Studio, the developers known for their series of apps such as Bugs and Buttons, Bugs and Numbers, and a recent favorite, Bug Art. As the name may suggest, Bug Mazing is a maze app with a bug theme that includes activities such as working with numbers, letters, colors and tracing in ways that children will find engaging and adults will appreciate for their educational value. Nature is a big part of these apps and the landscape may either be beautiful and pristine with flowers and insects like bees and ladybugs or include worn details that are possibly less beautiful, but I find these details quite interesting. It also includes a fantasy adventure theme as well as bugs that are styled with different adventure elements, such as Indiana Jones’ hat and other details. A narrator gives encouragement while on each exploration and valuable coins and precious gems are collected as rewards. Each area of this app includes different levels of difficulty and unique bugs select. Do note the selection of languages that is also included within this app – always a nice touch. Multiple children can also keep their own games separate, which is good for at home or the classroom. –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:
Twitch games are an addiction of mine now, so checking out Entwined Challenge was destined to be. The visuals rely on simulated distance perspective; to start, the two flying beings are colored red and blue. In the distance is a circle with colored segments; the colors of the segments are generally red, blue and green. the flying beings can be controlled by thumb gestures on either side to move along the axis of the circle, so that each flying being is guided through a matching color segment. As progress is made, the game adjusts too; for example, where the color segments were stationary, they begin to move, forcing the player to make adjustments and quicker decisions on the fly. While the concept remains simple, the developer does a good job of delicately layering levels of difficulty upon the easy-to-understand premise, and it flows well, with no major deviations to distract from the chase of excellence. –Tre Lawrence
Yes, batteries in mobile devices have gotten better, but in the spirit of being prepared, it just makes sense to have a backup plan. Way back when, getting a couple extra OEM batteries was sufficient. Now, sealed batteries are more commonplace, and having multiple devices at any given time is not unheard of; in any case, all those extra batteries start to add up. Nah, it makes sense to have a portable battery, and when it comes to mobile power solutions, few are as capable of Antec; hence, checking out the new LifeBar 10 Portable Charger is far from a chore. –Tre Lawrence
Health tools with a mobile component are especially compelling, and as such, we jumped at an opportunity to check out the Withings Smart Body Connected Scale. The black (white is an option) review unit Withings sent us is pretty much ready to go. At first glance, the first thing that comes to mind is that somehow, the product pictures do not do it justice. It looks like a chiseled dark colored slab. frankly, it look dashing, managing to be modern without being Jetson-silly. The full dark look is accented, and the silver center piece highlights the whole package. The expected display is digital in nature, and still manages to effect art. The battery compartment is at the bottom of the unit, and there is a tab preventing the batteries from cycling; beneath that are two buttons for syncing and selecting units. It looks like a “traditional” scale, but clearly wants people to know it has an extra trick or two up its sleeve. Officially, it comes in at 12.8 x 12.8 x 0.90 inches and 4.62 lbs. –Tre Lawrence
And finally, this week Pocket Gamer covered Apple and Google’s big announcements, wrote a massive guide for The Silent Age: Episode Two, tackled GamerGate, and picked 11 iOS games that you may never get to play. All that and loads more, right here.
Learning is so much more rewarding when it’s also fun. That’s part of the reason why recent educational app, Grammar Pop HD, garnered such a positive review from us last week. The brainchild of Mignon Fogarty, otherwise known as Grammar Girl, we were lucky enough to have a chat with her to find out more on how the game, as well as the persona, came to be.
148Apps: What’s the story behind Grammar Girl? What made you decide to embrace that title?
Mignon Fogarty (MF): When I was a science editor, I saw my clients making the same mistakes over and over again – little things, such as using “a” when they should use “an” or misusing commas. Podcasting was new at the time, and I decided to also do a quick, simpler writing show because I saw that there were so many people who needed writing help.
Much to my surprise, the Grammar Girl podcast took off right away and essentially took over my life. I worked like crazy for about six months trying to do both Grammar Girl and the science writing and editing, since that work paid my bills, and when I finally got my book deal with Macmillan and we formed the partnership to grow the Quick and Dirty Tips network, I was able to switch to Grammar Girl full time.
The name Grammar Girl just popped into my head and I knew it was perfect right away. I believe it works because of the alliteration and because “girl” is a nonthreatening word. People have a lot of anxiety about their writing, and a lot of the grammar advice out there is delivered in a high-brow or condescending way. Being Grammar Girl sends the message that I’m friendly and approachable.
148Apps: How did Grammar Pop come about? What was the inspiration for creating a game like this?
MF: After finishing my last book, I wanted to do something different. People were playing games on their tablets and phones – I was playing games on my tablet and phone – and it seemed obvious to me that there should be a game in which you match words with their parts of speech. In fact, I was incredulous when I looked for such a game and found that it didn’t exist.
So on a plane on my way to Macmillan for a different meeting, I sketched out the initial idea for how I thought the game might work. They wanted to do it, so we went about investigating ways to make it work. I ended up coding it myself with a tool called Game Salad and working with Margo Goody, an artist at Macmillan.
148Apps: How important do you think it is to make learning fun?
MF: Grammar Girl is all about making learning fun!
148Apps: What has the feedback from players been like?
MF: I get great feedback from parents and teachers who use Grammar Pop and say it has really helped their kids learn parts of speech. It’s not a chore to get their kids to play it; the kids love it and learn parts of speech without even realizing they’re learning.
148Apps: What’s next for the Grammar Pop series of games? Are there any plans for new installments or updates?
MF: We came out with a special Winterfest edition for the holidays, and we’re getting bids right now to expand the game with more levels.
Thanks to Mignon Fogarty for taking the time to answer our questions. To find out more about Grammar Girl, check out the Quick and Dirty Tips website.
Grammar Pop is available now for iPhone and iPad.
(Image of Mignon Fogarty courtesy of Quick and Dirty Tips.com)
Released: 2013-10-11 :: Category: Education
Expert App Reviews
Week-in and week-out, 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.
A surprising amount of apps and games like to think that they can change one’s life. In reality, a select few can actually accomplish something that huge. Most of the remaining few might change small elements, such as providing encouragement for those trying to exercise more or give up a bad habit. SuperBetter is part of an even smaller group: it wants to change and improve everything about one’s life. A lofty ambition but one that I reckon it can accomplish, with the willingness of its users. One such glimpse into the importance of SuperBetter comes from this Ted video from game designer, Jane McGonigal, explaining just why the app can help so much. It’s fascinating stuff and ideal context. Essentially, SuperBetter is about turning life into a game. –Jennifer Allen
Oh, look, Layton Brothers Mystery Room. Sounds interesting. The name Layton has pretty much become synonymous with puzzle-solving brilliance. The Professor had a knack for solving most of the world’s problems with a little logic, and that talent has apparently been passed on to his progeny. Alfendi Layton, however, is not his father. Mysteries are still a key feature for this particular Layton’s adventures, however Alfendi and his new assistant Lucy Baker (Detective Constable) are out to solve murder mysteries. Two of which are available for free right from the start and seven more that can be purchased for an additional $5. The each case involves mulling over suspects, inspecting a recreated crime scene (because Alfendi is something of a shut-in), questioning suspects/witnesses, and piecing it all together until a solid accusation can be made. In fact, aside from the world and characters Layton Brothers Mystery Room actually bears little resemblance to earlier games in the series. –Rob Rich
Limbo, the 2010 Xbox Live Arcade release that also made its way to other platforms, has finally come to mobile. For those who have not experienced this haunting puzzle-platformer, this is as good a time as any to jump in. Limbo is dark and mysterious, thanks in part to its silhouetted art style that renders most the world in black and white. There’s little guidance given, as players just kind of have to start running, and taking on the challenges that face them, from tricky jumps to finding ways to dispatch enemies, and avoiding traps. This is very much a horror game, as plenty of opportunities to scare the player are presented. Seriously, this game is nightmare-inducing. The deaths in the game aren’t particularly gory, but they are rather gruesome. That it’s a kid on the receiving end of most of the carnage is part of what makes it unsettling. That, and some of the things that are encountered in the world of Limbo. –Carter Dotson
Other 148Apps Network Sites
As some readers may have noticed, I do not personally review many word games. Very few word games gain my attention because I am terrible at these types of puzzles, finding them for the most part frustrating and demoralizing. Therefore, it is quite a compliment from me to have enjoyed reviewing Coolson’s Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet as it is a word game that has won me over with a charming narrative, wonderful sense of style and an abundance of whimsy that I have greatly enjoyed. –Amy Solomon
The Terrifying Building in Eyeville is a thoughtfully written and wonderfully illustrated children’s storybook app. This is a very personal storybook developed by Joel Grondrup as his daughter was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the retina. The Terrifying Building in Eyeville is an allegory for this cancer as a small man named Kanser arrives in Eyetown after falling off the back of a truck during a rain storm. He knocks on the door of Mr. Nice and asks if he can start building onto Mr. Nice’s home as he is a traveling builder who looks for houses to build onto. –Amy Solomon
The best games, for me, are ones that are simple, easy to control and, more or less mildly infuriating. It’s why I pulled my hair, shedding years while playing Super Hexagon. It’s probably why I find Space is Key so intriguing. It mocks me. To my face. It’s evil. Space is Key is about as simple as they come. Looks-wise, it uses switching primary colors with opposing hues to highlight obstacles. The color changes do an interesting job of creating a psychedelic atmosphere reminiscent of Super Hexagon that doesn’t internet with the gameplay. –Tre Lawrence
Warmly is an atypical productivity offering from The Chaos Collective that seemingly wants to make the descriptive term “alarm” a misnomer by changing the way we do alarms and wake patterns in the first place. The opening user interface is a clear cut celebration of simplicity, and hints at the design elements that govern the entire app. It gives a scroll-through window for setting the time (with an AM/PM toggle), and nine (9) big square buttons. After a scheduling check-off and an off and ok button, THAT’S IT. Laid against the soothing yellow backdrop, the relatively minimalist viewers are hard not to like. –Tre Lawrence
Nevosoft’s LandGrabbers is a fun hybrid game that is surprisingly dependent on strategy and quick thinking. The land that makes up this game is ably represented by effective graphics the encompass several mythical environments. In the first stage, the 3D graphics do a good job of giving life to the structures, and further down the line, the scenery becomes even more intricate; rolling hills, stone bridges and shrubbery all add up to cushion the action in a reasonable looking shell. –Tre Lawrence
At some point, most of us have messed around with a Brain Training game or app, such as the ones popularized on the Nintendo DS. It’s often fun but, more importantly, it’s potentially great for boosting our brain’s power in some way.
On the App Store, one ideal way of doing that is through the use of Lumosity. It’s an app that offers plenty of different ways of boosting one’s problem solving abilities, attention to detail and even mental flexibility. Crucially, research has also found it helpful as a neuropsychological rehabilitation tool.
Our interest piqued by such significant research, we were able to have a brief chat with Lumosity’s data scientist, Dr. Daniel Sternberg, who explained more:
“Lumosity [is] based on neuroplasticity, a science grounded in 25 years of neuroscience research, which has found that the brain can change and reorganize itself given the right kinds of challenges. One of the most important things you can do for your brain is to keep using your brain in new and challenging ways. Lumosity‘s games are designed explicitly with the goal of building core cognitive abilities, such as memory and attention, which are abilities that help you function in your everyday life.”
Gathering plenty of user feedback through multiple rounds of testing, the app has taken around 18 months to complete with a recent redesign also being implemented.
Having had some time with the app, I was quite impressed with its tracking abilities, in particular. It’s quite fun to use with five different games each day focusing on different cognitive functions, and the results prove quite interesting. It’s not cheap, requiring a $79.99 yearly subscription, but given the years of research that has gone into figuring out how to enhance the brain’s potential, it doesn’t sound quite so expensive. For those with cognitive problems, it might be all the more appealing.
To find out more about the science behind Lumosity, as well as various situations in which it has been applied, check out the project’s blog. The iOS app itself is a free download, but don’t forget the subscription.
We Are Your App Review Source
Need to know the latest and greatest apps each and every week? Look no further than 148Apps. Our reviewers comb through the vast numbers of 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.
The original Kingdom Rush pretty much took the tower defense world by storm. Our own Greg Dawson thought very highly of it, in fact. Kingdom Rush: Frontiers is meant to deliver more of the same, with an emphasis on “more.” More towers, more heroes, more levels, and so on. But is more necessarily better? Actually it doesn’t really matter when the core experience is so awesome. Kingdom Rush: Frontiers is more or less the same kind of slightly quirky tower defense that fans of the original have come to expect. For the unfamiliar that means lots of funky upgradeable towers with branching development paths, high powered hero units that can turn the tide of a desperate battle, hordes of enemies designed to make a number of tactics seem ineffective, and a ton of humorous references to other video games. Players can construct towers on specific points, use coins earned by slaying enemies to improve them or even evolve them, then hope like heck they’ve planned ahead well enough because the game has a tendency to throw a few curve balls such as massive enemies creating new paths to guard partway through a level. They can also use points earned while playing to upgrade their towers’ effectiveness and teach their hero new skills. –Rob Rich
Trying new drinks is part of the fun of going out with friends, but it’s usually difficult to remember these drinks later. The iPhone has made it possible for users to log this information through apps, but there aren’t too many that cater to all alcoholic beverages. Shindig is a new drink journaling app that includes a long list of beers, wines and spirits. It’s a way for users to remember drinks they’ve tried, leave reviews, and share with other community members. It’s essentially an exclusive drink explorers club, where the only membership requirement is to take an oath to try new drinks, create fun and a little weirdness and to never drink alone. –Angela LaFollette
I have a confession to make – I absolutely love camera apps, and so when I heard that Realmac Software had released Analog Camera to the App Store, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! At it’s core, Analog Camera may just seem like the average camera app with filters built-in, in fact, most people might just dismiss it as another knockoff of Camera+, when in fact, this app could easily give Camera+ a run for it’s money. The flat interface of the app is absolutely stunning. If this type of flat interface is in anyway similar to what Apple is purportedly preparing for release in iOS7 then I would be incredibly pleased. The interface of the app allows users to easily understand the controls – although a brief and helpful tutorial is also available the first time they open the app. The filters that are included with the app all work very well, and users can preview what it looks like on their image by holding down on any filter to open a small preview of the potential result. –Ruairi O’Gallchoir
Other 148Apps Network Sites
With great enthusiasm, I would like to introduce readers to the new interactive book, The Poppin Princess. This is a marvelously crafted tale, unique in how this storyline is played out, yet also grounded with classic fairytale elements from stories such as Cinderella or The Princess and the Pea to create a perfect new story that children and adults will adore. The look of this app is lovingly stylized, with bold colors and perfectly realized illustrations to create the world of this kingdom, said to be “elegant, refined and sophisticated” – words I would use to describe the look of this storybook as a whole, yet also including a modern, almost indie quality as well. –Amy Solomon
Pettson’s Inventions Deluxe is a unique and highly engaging problem solving puzzle app for children as well as adults. Meet Pettson and his cat Findus, and help them build fantastical contraptions while keeping in mind the laws of physics as players add different parts to the machine-like cogs and belts as well as unique items such as a ramp made out of cheese or a flower pot. It is tempting to compare Pettson’s Intentions to a Rube Goldberg machine, and although I think this comparison has some merit, I do not believe it is spot-on as Rube Goldberg device solve simple daily problems such as turning on a light switch with the use of a convoluted and over-built invention. Here, however, there is more of a sense of nonsense as one may devise a way to open and close monster cages as the creatures when loose may scare an animal making it run, pulling a lever behind them, watering flowers to make them instantly grow which may lure a cow to graze, as well as tasks that could include washing a pig or making it snow around the house with the use of an ice cream cone and a windmill. –Amy Solomon
G5 pounds out yet another hidden mystery game, this one cloaked as a shadowy thriller. Welcome to The Secret Society. This first person adventure starts with a somewhat cryptic message from my Uncle Richard’s personal secretary, Christy, telling me he has disappeared, and asking me to come the mansion as soon as possible to retrieve a note left for me. The tutorial reveals I have this special power, like my uncle, to move inside of magic pictures. While learning the ins and outs of discovery, I do learn from Uncle Richard’s mysterious letter that he I have control of the mansion… and his seat on the shadowy Order of Seekers. –Tre Lawrence
While the NBA season is winding down with the NBA Finals (Editor’s Note: That will hopefully end with the San Antonio Spurs crushing the Miami Heat), with basketball simulations, the season does not ever have to end. This is why NBA 2K13, the port of the ever-popular console basketball game for Android devices, is potentially such a breath of fresh air. The actual graphics are, in a word, fantastic. The definition is superb, and there is a clear flair added. Movements are fairly realistic, with special care given to adequately replicate basketball movements. The background scenery was impressive, with exacting care seemingly paid to different NBA arenas. The animations are good as well; I especially like the little things, such as the ubiquitous daps given between free throws. The replay sequences are nice, and even the entertainment/timeout clips looked believable. –Tre Lawrence
After Earth HD is a game that follows in the trend of high-end movies that get companion games on mobile devices. As I’ve noted before, I like the concept… when it’s done right. Well, when Will Smith and son are affiliated, it should be awesome, no? It’s a running game, and it’s hard not to draw parallels with the de facto barometer of the genre, Temple Run. The story is simply a runway to the action. I was a young cadet granted entrance to the exclusive Rangers Training Academy, in the hopes of becoming a guardian of Nova Prime. –Tre Lawrence