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This Week at 148App: March 23-27, 2015

Posted by Chris Kirby on March 30th, 2015

Spring Roars In At 148Apps

How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. 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. Take a look at what we've been up to this week, and find even more in our Reviews Archive.


Final Fantasy Record Keeper

There’s no denying that Final Fantasy All the Bravest received a rather unfriendly reception on the App Store. There’s also no denying that people are going to be inclined to think of Final Fantasy Record Keeper as more of the same.I’d urge you not to write it off so quickly, though. While it’s not an all-star tour de force like, say, Dissidia, it’s still a decent stroll down Memory Lane. There’s some mumbo jumbo about paintings of the various Final Fantasy universes being guarded in one location, and said paintings are being corrupted while some sinister influence is spreading across the land. The two might be (read: totally are) related. Really it’s just a tenuous excuse to let players romp through 16-bit recreations of classic Final Fantasy moments throughout the series. And I’m okay with this. --Rob Rich


Star Squad Space Rescue

When you think of bullet-hell games, you think of waves of bullets coming at you - and also the waves that you can inflict upon others. Star Squad Space Rescue isn’t like other bullet-hell games, though. Those waves might keep coming at you, but you don’t have anything to fire back in defense. Instead, Star Squad Space Rescue is all about ducking and weaving your way around such attacks, and hoping you can survive longer than last time.That means that Star Squad Space Rescue is an often tense game to play. It is, however, very simple to learn. You use your finger to move the ship around, enjoying the fact that it offers a mercifully small hitbox. That means you can quickly move through very small gaps, and you’re going to need to, a lot.-- Jennifer Allen


Impecca Bamboo Bluetooth Keyboard

Yes. It's a keyboard. Yes, it has a unique, natural finish.It's Impecca's Bamboo Wireless Keyboard.The styling is interesting - the bamboo finish all but defines the product from the get-go and the wood exterior tops the keys and most of the top surface, with dark brown lining on the sides. The grain of the wood is probably the best aspect of its appearance, with a polished feel that is almost surprising; the natural imperfection creates a somewhat regal look.It seems compact, but it comes as close to being a full-size keyboard as any portable unit. Coming in at 11 x 6.6 x 0.6 inches, it is only a hair smaller than the typical Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. It's full QWERTY, and mimics said Apple keyboard closely with regards to layout, with six rows that encompass function keys, numbers, and option/tab buttons. At the top right there is a LED for battery level and Bluetooth. The bottom has the same bamboo finish, and there is an extra ledge that allows the otherwise flat keyboard to be raised at the front. Towards the front, right around dead center, there's a micro-USB port for charging. --Tre Lawrence


Mr. Jump

The idea is as simple as the name. Mr Jump has to jump from platform to platform, in order to progress to the next stage. He automatically runs with your taps dictating when he jumps and how high. It can’t really get much simpler than this. That doesn’t mean it’s easy though, not by a long shot.Speedy reactions are vital here with mostly everything harming Mr Jump. Even bouncing off a wall will cause him to fail the stage. He’s that sensitive. The first level simply offers you one form of jump, while the second stage introduces a way in which to form a double jump. That explains the difficulty increase along the way.You’ll die frequently as you go along, but the restart button is quick, giving you an indication of how far you’ve got in a stage, and urging you to go that bit further next time. And you will, you’ll keep chipping away at the stage, keen to get further and come across something even harder along the way. --Jennifer Allen


CARROT Weather

Over the past couple of years, the CARROT series of apps have done a great job of berating you while also motivating you to complete all manner of things from getting up on time to clearing your To-Do List. While its latest instalment, CARROT Weather, can’t change the weather (no matter how angry it gets), it is an entertaining way to get the facts.Starting out, there’s a choice to go with your current location or to pick out a different place, a small but important touch. As soon as you pick a place, you get the full grumpy CARROT experience. While some voice intros can be simply ‘weather forecasted’, there’s also the inclusion of such delights as ‘I’ve got a collection of 6,241 fingers that were lost to frostbite’ to indicate that, yes, it’s pretty cold in Chicago right now. --Jennifer Allen


Adventures of Poco Eco

Controlling curious explorer, Poco Eco, you wander your way around some delightfully designed levels by tapping on where you want him to go next. Being challenged is rare as Adventures of Poco Eco - Lost Sounds is more about exploration than conquest. Progressing to the next section is usually a matter of running over a button to activate it, thereby moving a platform to form a path for you. A small red spirit guides your way, showing where you need to head to next.Around a dozen levels are there and, admittedly, they won’t take hugely long for you to complete. Anyone who’s played a platformer before will know what to expect when it comes to button tapping and wandering. It’s clear that Adventures of Poco Eco - Lost Sounds is aimed at those who haven’t played many (if any) platforms before. -- 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


Nyrius Songo HiFi Wireless Music Receiver

The review sample we were sent is the retail version, and contains the Bluetooth puck, power adapter, auxiliary to RCA cable, standard 3.55mm audio cable and documentation.Now, once out of the box, if the main piece surprised me with its size — and it did, as I expected it to be a tad bigger — it definitely surprised me with regards to the weight, being only 2.4 ounces on a frame of 3.2 x 2.8 x 0.79 inches officially. The main unit is a rectangular cuboid, crafted in hard black plastic that is only broken up by required labeling, company logo and input/connection ports.The ports are for power, 3.55mm audio out and, interestingly enough, optical input. --Tre Lawrence


Kenu Stance Micro-USB Tripod

When it comes to a cool accessory, give me one that is small, portable, and effective. You know, just like what the Kenu Stance Micro-USB Tripod claims to be.To give one an idea of how compact this tripod is, it just about fits in the palm of one’s hand. Out of the box, it is fairly nondescript, with brushed sinc-alloy making up most of the legs. It possesses a neon green topper (the MicroMount, made of “grilamid” composite material) that fits into a micro-USB port; similarly colored thermoplastic rubber covers the end of the legs. At first glance, it is clear that the the legs are somewhat irregular, but are engineered to lay plush together when the unit is not being used. Altogether, it comes in at 0.94 x 0.47 x 3.1 inches and only 1.2 ounces. --Tre Lawrence


Jabra Sport Wireless+ Headphones

As we like to say, being connected is a privilege, more and more aspects of our lives are becoming portions of IoT, and our smartphones are becoming the de facto hubs. This is so very obvious in the area of fitness and health, where accessories are quite the rage.With Jabra’s Sports Wireless+ Bluetooth Headphones, we get to see a formidable option from an industry vet. --Tre Lawrence

Final Fantasy Record Keeper Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on March 27th, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: SOME OF THE BRAVEST
It’s not exactly the ultimate all-star gathering we might’ve hoped for, but Final Fantasy Record Keeper is a decent nostalgia trip.
Read The Full Review »

Great Moogley Moogle! Nexon Korea is Developing FINAL FANTASY XI for Mobile

Posted by Jessica Fisher on March 20th, 2015

Final Fantasy fans are you ready? Nexon has been chosen to develop a mobile game based off of the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI! The original game was set in Vana'diel, a high fantasy world, 20 years after the Crystal War. Players had access to 5 different races: Elvaan, Hume, Galka, Mithra, and Tarutaru. Nexon has not revealed much about the upcoming title, but they certainly seem happy about it.

“We are thrilled to partner with SQUARE ENIX to bring this amazing franchise to mobile audiences around the world,” said Owen Mahoney, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nexon, in a press release. “We are excited to strengthen our partnership with SQUARE ENIX by adding one of their most successful titles to our portfolio, as we continue to leverage our game development and global publishing expertise to provide high-quality experiences to gamers around the world.”

This mobile version of Final Fantasy XI is planned to be released in 2016.

Check Out the Trailer for the Upcoming FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper

Posted by Jessica Fisher on February 26th, 2015

DeNA and Square Enix have announced that FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper is currently in development. The game is a combination of all of the past Final Fantasy games and allows players to relive their favorite moments from the series. You'll be able to build a team of classic characters such as Tidus, Lightning, and Cloud, and customize them with a ton of iconic gear, powerful spells, summons, and weapons. [Editor's Note: Hopefully it won't be another All the Bravest...]

"FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper delivers the ultimate FINAL FANTASY experience for the dedicated and passionate fans of this franchise and we are excited to work with SQUARE ENIX to bring it to players worldwide this spring," said Shintaro Asako, CEO of DeNA West, in a press release.

FINAL FANTASY: Record Keeper is set to release in spring, but if you can't wait you can pre-register at FinalFantasyRecordKeeper.com to receive updates about the game and unlock special in-game characters including Tidus from FINAL FANTASY X.

Terra Battle Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Lee Hamlet on October 27th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: TERRA-IFFIC
With an excellent battle system and diverse character roster, Terra Battle is ever expanding and endlessly playable.
Read The Full Review »

Record Keeper and World Wide Words - Two New Final Fantasy Games Arrive on iOS in Japan

Posted by Ellis Spice on September 30th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Pocket Gamer reports that two new free-to-play Final Fantasy games from Square Enix have sneaked their way onto the App Store in Japan - Final Fantasy: Record Keeper and Final Fantasy: World Wide Words.

In Record Keeper, players take on the role of an Apprentice that jumps into paintings that take them to famous scenes from previous games in the series. The battle system is similar to that found in Final Fantasy: All The Bravest, with players getting to fight alongside Cloud Strife, Zidane Tribal, Luneth, and more.

Meanwhile, the word-battling RPG World Wide Words features the same art style as Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, with players given the task of typing out words to perform attacks against monsters and fast typing rewarded with more powerful attacks.

Nothing has been announced regarding the release of either of these games outside of Japan, but both can be found on the Japanese App Store now and are free to download.

Dragon Quest I Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Andrew Fisher on September 18th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: THINE QUEST AWAITETH
Its historical significance aside, Dragon Quest 1 is a fun, campy, difficult, thoroughly old-school RPG.
Read The Full Review »

E3 2014 - The 7 Biggest iOS Highlights of E3 2014

Posted by Rob Rich on June 19th, 2014

As nice as it was to see such a strong representation of mobile games and devices at E3 this year, it also means more work when trying to figure out which were the most noteworthy. Seriously, there was a lot of great stuff on display and picking just a few to highlight wasn’t easy. With that said, here are our notables from E3 2014 in no particular order.

Phonejoy

I stumbled upon the Phonejoy completely by accident, but I’m very glad I did. It’s nice and compact, well-made, and easily attaches to iOS devices of any size and in any orientation. Unfortunately the version that’s available now isn’t MFi, but one is in the works - and you can be sure that once we find out about a release date we’ll be sharing that info with you. Until then, the current Phonejoy model will still work just fine with other games that still support third party controllers like the iCade.


Final Fantasy VII G-Bike

Square Enix has apparently been developing an iOS game based entirely around that Golden Saucer mini-game from Final Fantasy VII without bothering to tell anyone about it. For shame, Square Enix. But while Final Fantasy VII G-Bike seemed to pop-up out of nowhere, it’s definitely looking like a badass runner/driver/whatever you want to call it. Would that other 3D runners had this game’s sense of style and production values!


Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

I’m a Monster Hunter nerd, sure, but the reason Freedom Unite has made the list is because it genuinely impressed me. It looks like a fantastic port, plays very well, and even manages to add a couple of elements that the original PSP release was missing - namely legitimate online play and a lock-on feature. As someone who’s already sunk hundreds of hours into the original Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, I simply can’t wait to get my hands on this one when it officially comes stateside.


The Gamevice

I’ve yet to get my hands on the final version of the Gamevice, but the “beta” version I was able to play around with last week was definitely cool. It’s uses are sadly limited to only the iPad Mini, but the combination of controller and iOS device make for a great handheld gaming setup. And because the Gamevice is essentially in two separate pieces that attach on either side of the Mini, it should also be pretty easy to tote around. Just in case.


Hitman Sniper

Between Hitman Go [GET LINK] and now Hitman Sniper, Square Enix Montreal is definitely a developer worth keeping an eye on. What could have been something as basic as a first-person shooting gallery with a Hitman theme is actually a very clever (and unorthodox) approach to something sort of like a puzzle game. It isn’t just fun to play around with the various interactive elements in each level, either. The constant competition with other players who are close to your rank on the leaderboards also acts as a great incentive to keep aiming (*rimhot*) for the high score.


Just Dance Now

I don’t dance, and there’s about a 99% chance I’ll never play Just Dance Now when it comes out, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by what I saw at Ubisoft’s booth last week. The game is being developed with accessibility as its main focus, which is something I wish more developers took the time to consider. And not only is it being made to work with older iOS devices, it’s also supposed to take it easy on your bandwidth. So it’ll run on your old clunker and won’t double your phone bill if you end up playing over 3G/4G. Seriously, big thumbs-up to Ubisoft for this one.


???

Image Source: whatculture
I can’t name names, I can’t mention developers, and there’s a good chance I can’t talk about genre. But if I’m obscure enough I don’t see the harm in saying that this thing I played that I can’t go into detail about was actually a whole lot of fun and probably the biggest surprise for me personally at the show. I know that’s not much to go on but it’ll all make sense in time. Suffice it to say, when a developer really cares and knows what they’re doing just about anything can be a hit.
[Please note that the game in-question has nothing to do with Futurama. I just like Futurama and needed an image.]

E3 2014 - Square Enix Shows Off More Final Fantasy Agito and Reveals Final Fantasy VII G-Bike

Posted by Rob Rich on June 16th, 2014

Square Enix's booth was full of Final Fantasy type stuff this year, but it wasn't all about the MMO or the Disney crossover series. The RPG giant was also showing off a couple of mobile titles: the greatly-anticipated Final Fantasy Agito, and the "where the heck did this come from?"Final Fantasy VII G-Bike.

Final Fantasy Agito

Final Fantasy Agito is a pretty great-looking title that's already out in Japan, but now it's been confirmed for a US release as well.

In Final Fantasy Agito you'll be able to create your own custom character, take down various enemies for experience (naturally), craft better weapons, and team up with other Agito players to battle massive bosses. Sounds cool, no?

There's no official date set for a release, but Final Fantasy Agito will be coming to the US App Store for free and feature in-app purchases.

Final Fantasy VII G-Bike

Final Fantasy VII G-Bike was a total, although not unwelcome, surprise. Remember that mini-game from the Gold Saucer that involved riding around on Cloud's motorcycle while swiping at enemies? Well this is that but ratcheted up to a ridiculous degree.

G-Bike takes the core concept, heaps on a health dose of modern production values, dresses up the visuals significantly, and adds RPG elements like character customization. And it just looks sweet.

No release date has been announced yet, but it will be available as a free download with in-app purchases.

Final Fantasy VI Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Jennifer Allen on February 10th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: EXCEPTIONAL RPGING
One of the finest JRPGs comes to iOS and it's a sublime release, despite a few quibbles.
Read The Full Review »

Final Fantasy VI Arrives on the App Store with Recreated Graphics and a New Battle Interface for Touchscreen Play

Posted by Andrew Stevens on February 6th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: EXCEPTIONAL RPGING :: Read Review »

Final Fantasy VI is now available on the App Store as Square Enix brings the sixth installment in the series straight to your favorite iOS device. It features iCloud save support for iPhone and iPad play, recreated graphics, and a new battle interface built for touchscreen gameplay. It also includes the new magicites and events that were added in the 2006 remake, and some events have been optimized for touch control.

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Lucy Ingram on December 13th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: A FLAWED FANTASY
Remade for iOS devices in stunning 3D visuals, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years falls short of expectation.
Read The Full Review »

5 Years and Counting - The App Store Then and Now

Posted by Rob Rich on July 12th, 2013

Over one million apps have made their way onto the App Store during its five years of existence. A million. That's a pretty miraculous number when you think about it. However it's not the amount of apps we have to pick from that I find so fascinating, but rather just how much things have changed since 2008. Pickings were comparatively slim at first, and many developers were just starting to dip a toe in the waters of Apple's new smartphone.

On top of that, the technology itself has changed tremendously in a relatively small amount of time. It makes me wonder if anyone from 2008 would even recognize current iOS devices, and by extension the App Store. Would a newer Apple initiate have any idea what they were looking at if they somehow managed to take a trip to five years ago? I think it warrants a look at how the hardware, the App Store, and the apps contained within it have evolved.

2008 - The Beginning of the Beginning

The App Store's first year was a rough but promising one. The iPhone 3G rolled out to coincide with Apple’s new software venue and the original iPhone was still viable. The iPod touch was also present and accounted for, while the second generation appeared closer to the end of the year. Even at this point many developers were eager to push these early iOS devices to their limits, to make them more than just a phone or an .mp3 player with a fancy screen.

Handy apps like Pandora Radio, Last.FM, Facebook, and Yelp were to be expected, but that didn't make them any less impressive to have on a handheld platform. Others such as the intuitive personal organizer Evernote, the eerily accurate song-identifying app Shazam, eWallet’s convenient and secure account password management, and MLB At Bat with its extensive baseball coverage further capitalized on the particulars of the hardware and its general portability. Of course there were also some pretty unnecessary options out there, too. Flashlight kind of served a purpose but was also fairly pointless. It wasn't as bad as stuff like More Cowbell!, though.

At the same time, the games available on the App Store were beginning to show people that "mobile" didn't have to equal "mediocre." Sure there were a few simple ports of the odd classic such as Ms. PAC-MAN, Vay, and Scrabble, but there were also some impressive iOS renditions of popular console games like Super Monkey Ball coming out. Potential mobile gamers also had a few really special titles such as Galcon and Fieldrunners to tide them over. When all was said and done there were over 7,500 apps on the App Store by the end of the year, with more being added every day.

2009 - Moving Right Along

The following year saw even more impressive releases as Apple's digital marketplace began to expand. The second generation of iPod Touch was the bright and shiny new toy at the time, but it was followed shortly by the iPhone 3GS in June while the latest and greatest third generation Touch closed out the year in September. It all meant better processors, better CPUs, more advanced operating systems, and so on. All stuff that developers needed to acclimate to, but also stuff that meant they could push their boundaries even further. There was no loss of steam when it came to content, either: the App Store finished off 2009 with well over 100,000 apps available.

Many of the basic smartphone necessities were covered, but there was room for so much more. Especially while the technology was improving. Plenty of people used their iPhones as phones, sure, but with the addition of Skype they were able to enjoy the added functionality of instant messaging and voice chat without cutting into their data plans (so long as a wifi connection was present). Big companies were really starting to take notice as well. That same year Starbucks and many other big businesses threw their virtual hats into the ring with their own apps designed to make life a little bit easier for their iOS-using customers. Practicality was also becoming an even bigger focus. The Kindle app gave iOS users a practical e-reading option, and Dropbox was there being Dropbox. By which I mean "an awesome and super-convenient way to transfer files between multiple platforms." And this same level of refinement could be seen creeping into the games as well.

So many of the App Store's most notable games and franchises came out around this time. It was almost a mobile rennaisence of a sort. This was the year Real Racing first blew mobile gamers' minds, even causing some of them to question the legitimacy of in-game video footage until they were able to see the finished product for themselves. Zenonia was just a fledgling action RPG at the time, and while a lot of people liked it I doubt they knew just how many sequels it would spawn. The same goes for Pocket God, although with updates rather than multiple releases. Flight Control began to eat away at peoples' free time, Angry Birds and Doodle Jump hit it big (like, super big), and Myst and The Sims 3 further displayed the potential for major releases on mobile platforms. Oh, and Canabalt almost single-handedly invented and popularized a genre.

GDC 2013: Nameless: The Hackers Is The 12 Hour, Story-Driven RPG You Can Play With One Hand

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on March 26th, 2013
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: HACK THE PLANET :: Read Review »

James Liu sat down with us today, and demoed Boxcat Games' first iOS game, Nameless: The Hackers. An impressively well-written, story-based twelve hour RPG in the style of Final Fantasy, set in the world of computer security and international hacking. The team is three guys and a bunch of freelance artists, so make sure you check this one out now, in the App Store for a sale price of $1.99.


[vine bjKOBupeKE5]

Fantasica Review

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

Developer: Mobage
Price: FREE
Version: 1.2
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Playtime Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

[rating:overall]

Mobage has developed a bit of a “thing” for freemium collectible card games lately. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that there are a lot of them floating around now and it can be difficult to figure out which ones to stick with. Of course everyone already knows how I feel about Rage of Bahamut, but while it will always be my number one I feel confident in stating that Fantasica sits right next to it as number two.

Card collecting and enhancement is still the primary focus with this new Mobage title, but the formula has also been significantly tweaked in places. After the basics are covered in the tutorial players are given clearance to do whatever they wish, be it questing, training, fighting, and so on. Questing in Fantasica is like a simplistic game of tower defense: Enemies pour in and must be dispatched before they reach the exit, which requires placing characters along the path and putting their abilities to good use. Training is more of a simple lottery-style mini-game that has the player’s chosen leader character walking down a straight path, killing enemies to earn experience and finding treasure chests with cash or new characters along the way.

Unlike many other freemium games of this type, all actions aren’t tied to specific meters that refill over time. Instead, everything other than Training is tied to countdown clocks. Completing a quest of any sort initiates a cooldown phase, ranging from one minute to an hour or more, that can either be waited out or instantly refreshed with special items. I still haven’t decided how I feel about this method, but it seems to work pretty well all things considered. I’ve yet to get to a point where I’ve run out of things to do. It’s easy for me to get hung up on all the little elements that make Fantasica feel like more of a game than a browser-based affair, but I want to make sure I give the artwork and character designs their due. In short, they’re spectacular. And with good reason; it’s all been penned by Hideo Minaba. Yes, that Hideo Minaba.

As impressed as I’ve been with Fantasica I’ve still had a few issues with it. Mostly it’s that the menu interface is a bit busy which makes navigation a pain. I’m also not a fan of the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen since it forces me to actively search for my ally list, among other things. There are also certain concepts such as how defending against attackers works that aren’t communicated clearly at all.

I have to admit, despite the perplexing UI, Fantasica is a solid free-to-play. One with actual gameplay in it, no less. It’s too soon to tell whether it will surpass Mobage’s main juggernaut, but it’s certainly poised to make an attempt.