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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
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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
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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