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Backbreaker Football

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Mike Rithjin on February 22nd, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: ENTERTAINING
Backbreaker Football is one of the most entertaining games in the App Store. It doesn't offer a ton of variety, but it doesn't need to.
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Spore: Creatures

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Mike Rithjin on January 28th, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: DEVOLVING
"Spore: Origins" is unevolved, uninspired, and boring. More of the same, which wasn't a lot to begin with!
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Skater Nation

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Mike Rithjin on January 26th, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: ALMOST PRO
This poor man's version of "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" won't leave you doing backflips, but it does call for the occasional jumping high five.
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This is Definitely, Maybe, Sort Of, Official Tablet News.

Posted by Mike Rithjin on January 25th, 2010

Hooray! More news on the Apple product that nobody really knows exists. The good folks at Flurry Analytics, while doing some of their analyzing, noticed about 50 mystery devices being identified as "iProd" being used on Apple's Cupertino campus, and ONLY being used on Apple's Cupertino campus. What's more is that these devices are also running an unreleased version of iPhone OS, this one coming in the delicious 3.2 variety. You may be hearing this and thinking to yourself, "well it's just another iPhone." Flurry knew you would be thinking this, and responds by saying "It (the mystery product) doesn't follow the same naming string as iPhone devices and is showing up as iProd... We're triangulating on other data as well that gives us confidence that we are looking at a tablet." Flurry would love to release this "other data", save for the privacy of their customers.

[caption id="attachment_25778" align="alignright" width="599" caption="Absolutely, almost, sort of a graph for what the Tablet is going to do. This is also what an iPod Touch does."]


What's more, after looking at this graph for a while, you will notice that the graph is measuring how many times apps belonging to a certain genre were downloaded and used. It is not measuring the use of the apps overall, but only if they are downloaded and opened. Comparing this list to Apple's top 50 app list right now (paid and free), the 3 most downloaded genres are games, entertainment, and news. So really, Flurry's chart is showing us the downloading tendencies of most iPod Touch users.

Need for Speed Shift

Posted by Mike Rithjin on January 23rd, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Developer: Electronic Arts
Price: $6.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Game Controls Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
iPhone Integration Rating: starstarstarstarstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar


Even 3 billion-plus purchases into the short life of the App Store, there are those that doubt the ability of the iPod Touch and iPhone to be legitimate gaming devices that can stack up with their traditional counterparts. They point to the unorthodox business model of the app store, its crazy pricing scheme, and top 25 charts filled with crapware and exclaim that it's destined to fail. I would contend that as long as games like Need For Speed Shift are being made, the app store is here to stay.

The few complaints I saw about NFS Shift in the reviews on iTunes were about its $6.99 price point. Really? If you want quality apps, you should be prepared to pay for them. You wouldn't go to Target to buy a Nintendo DS game and then try to haggle with the salesman. In fact, feel fortunate iPhone gamer. Need For Speed Shift at Best Buy will leave your wallet feeling $29 dollars lighter. This discrepancy in pricing is consistent for almost all iPhone games.

[caption id="attachment_25674" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The 1st person viewpoint is the way to go."]


NFS Shift is a perfect example of what iPhone gaming can be; graphically polished, easy to learn, and fun to play for two hours or ten minutes. The race types are just diverse enough to keep you interested for a long period of time. There are 7 different types of races. Circuit, sprint, driver duel, eliminator, time trial, drift, and driver face off. Sure, the rules vary a little bit for each one, but in the end the idea is the same; drive fast.

NFS Shift is polished, but the good folks at EA also decided to throw some glitter and stickers on their shiny creation. It didn't really need the glitter, thanks anyways. Just like its console counterparts, as you progress through more races you earn profile points in two different categories; "precision" and "aggressive". Things like sticking to your racing line, doing an entire lap without going off the track or crashing into opponents, and mastering corners will earn you precision points. Crashing into opponents, drifting, and generally just driving like a four year old will net you aggressive points. Earn more points to level up. The only time the points will help you out is to help you earn stars to unlock new tracks, and when you reach level 20 and you unlock a Maserati. As you progress through levels you will also earn pieces to a personalized badge depending on whether you used a predominantly precise or aggressive tactics, neither of which matter too much.

There are 20 cars and 18 tracks to unlock in Chicago, London, and Tokyo. The variety of cars is pleasing enough for an iPhone game and they all handle differently enough to justify upgrading from one to another. There is minimal customization to the cars, with just a few bodykits, rims, and color changes available, along with performance upgrades to the top speed, acceleration, tires, suspension, and nitrous.

The controls are fairly tight and delightfully simple. The car accelerates by itself, tilt the screen to turn and touch the screen to brake. Once you add nitrous to your car, there is a small red button in the bottom left hand corner of the screen you tap to turn your nitrous on and off. There is also an option for manual shifting, but it's not really my cup of tea. If you do prefer manual shifting, a mere swipe up or down on the right side of the screen will allow you to change gears.

My only real gripe with this game is that it's sometimes a bit too difficult. On some tracks I simply got stuck on certain objectives and couldn't get enough stars to advance to the next track. A minor gripe would be the soundtrack. While the sound effects are pretty nice, the soundtrack is just good enough to keep me from turning it off. To beat this, NFS allows you to create your own soundtrack to race to, which is a welcome addition.

With this game on sale right now for $6.99, I would say that it's definitely worth a go. If you're a racing fan, you'll probably come to know this game as one of your favorites. If you aren't a racing freak but can appreciate the genre, then you too should get some enjoyment out of NFS Shift. It's not my favorite app, but it's definitely one of the most polished in my library, and absolutely takes advantage of the fantastic iDevice hardware.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock

Posted by Mike Rithjin on September 4th, 2009
+ Universal & Apple Watch App - Designed for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch

Developer: LexWare Labs AB
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarstar
iPhone Integration Rating: starstarstarstarstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarstar


There are few things in life I value more then my sleep. It's my best friend, my only love, the jelly to my peanut butter. I love to sleep. I do it a lot, and our interactions will surely suffer if I did not receive a decent amount of sleep the night before.

This was me a only a few days ago. I'm a new man now. Better, faster, stronger, and better looking if you can believe it. A problem that I had was that I usually am up pretty late reading, writing, playing video games and what not and usually need to wake up pretty early. This is an issue. It got to the point where I fought anybody who looked at me wrong. I was wearing pants around my head and shoes on my feet. I forgot English for a bit. My Madden skills took a steep dive. Then one afternoon, after a small temper tantrum, I was browsing the app store for alarm clocks and I came across this little gem. It's a mere $0.99 but I fib not when I say I would pay $50 for it. In order to truly understand the greatness of this app, we have to take a little journey. A journey into science... Science land.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock works using the iPhone's accelerometer to analyze your movement through the night. It detects your sleep cycles (hence the name SLEEP CYCLE Alarm Clock) throughout the night and after a couple nights fully determines what your sleep cycles are. You may be asking yourself "What is a sleep cycle Mr. Rithjin?" Well lets take a deeper trip into Science Land... Shall we? The average healthy human goes through a few sleep cycles through the night categorized into four different stages. Helpguide.org categorizes these four stages as such:

Stage 1 (Drowsiness) - Stage 1 lasts just five or ten minutes. Eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily awakened.
Stage 2 (Light Sleep) - Eye movements stop, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases.
Stages 3 & 4 (Deep Sleep) - You’re difficult to awaken, and if you are awakened, you do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes. Deep sleep allows the brain to go on a little vacation needed to restore the energy we expend during our waking hours. Blood flow decreases to the brain in this stage, and redirects itself towards the muscles, restoring physical energy. Research also shows that immune functions increase during deep sleep.
REM sleep (Dream Sleep) – At about 70 to 90 minutes into your sleep cycle, you enter REM sleep. You usually have three to five REM episodes per night. This stage is associated with processing emotions, retaining memories and relieving stress. Breathing is rapid, irregular and shallow, the heart rate increases, blood pressure rises.

So now that you understand these stages, you must also understand that there is a period when it is natural for the body to awake, and there are periods when if awoken, vital parts of your sleep cycle will be missed and you will turn into a flesh eating zombie. It's science. What the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock does differently for you is actually determine the most opportune time to wake you based on your body movements. You set your wake up time on the alarm clock and sleep cycle will pay careful attention to your body movements in the 30 minutes up to that specific time, and determine when is best to wake you up with a tune that gently caresses your ear drums and whispers "time to wake up Pooh Bear" in the voice of an angel. Then it feeds you breakfast.

No that's my mom... But in all seriousness, this app works. I don't know, I keep running through it in my head and thinking "well what if it in that 30 minute span there is no good time to wake me up?" or "what if this is voodoo science?" Friends, put these questions out of your mind, because it doesn't matter. The app works. I NEVER wake up the first time my alarm goes off. For the first week I used this alarm clock, I rose the very second the alarm went off feeling like I had just slept for an entire day. It's unbelievable. Maybe it's just something in my mind, but if it is, then I'm just fine with that because it works.

Oh and one last thing... This app is not a substitution for a good night's rest. It is helpful on nights that you don't get quite as much sleep as you wanted, but it's definitely not going to trick your body into thinking you got a solid eight when you only got four hours of sleep. I have tested it, and it will not make up for a lack of sleep. But it's not advertised to do so, so I'm fine with that.

I could go on and talk about the menus in this app (which are actually very nice) but that stuff doesn't matter. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock is $0.99 and you would be insane to not go and buy this app right now. It just works. Period. It does exactly what it advertises which is absolutely amazing. Again, in all seriousness, my days are much more enjoyable when I'm not worrying when I get to go home and pass out.