iPhone 4 Game of the Week – Puzzle Agent

The era of point & click games is near obsolete. But Thanks to the iPhone we’ve seen a revival of the gameplay take wide acceptance. The Secret of Monkey Island has seen itself come back in new form complete with voice over & 3D rendering. But what makes this game rightfully stand on its own is the creativity and ingenious approach of the people behind the game. Firstly you got Telltale games consisting of the original think tank from Lucas Arts who, over a decade and half, have given us games like Monkey island, Sam & Max series, Wallace & Gromit, Poker Night at the Inventory (a crossover poker game featuring their own mascots alongside Valve’s Team Fortress 2), and the webcomic Penny Arcade.

In June 2010, Telltale announced that they had secured licenses with NBC Universal to develop two episodic series based on Back to the Future and Jurassic Park.

Further series based on licensed properties were announced in February 2011, including series based on the comic book series The Walking Dead and Fables in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment and a series based on the early King’s Quest adventure games by Sierra On-Line.

Telltale as a developer follow the episodic game philosophy and are acknowledged by critics as the only who happen to be getting the formula right. So things are looking pretty sunny for them as is evident with the recent critical acclaim the Back to the Future games are garnering.

Coming back to their new IP Puzzle Agent, which is a collaboration with indie comic artist Graham Annabel. The game claims to be influenced heavily by the works of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and the Coen brothers (most notably Fargo) and in my humble opinion, also the X-files. So if you ever thought movies like Mulholland drive, Eyes Wide Shut and The Big Lebowski should have been translated into games, well here’s your twisted dark fantasy come true.

The game follows a linear adventure/puzzle format with humorous well drawn out cutscenes with spot-on voiceovers. Fans of the Professor Layton series should feel right at home for it seems to be a homage to Level5, whereas they opted for the quaint English countryside, Puzzle Agents treads on American soil around the town of Scoggins, Minnesota.

iPhone 4 App of the Week – Tap DJ

Say what you may about the short comings of digital music, but its been reviving the music industry since 98, steering the course of what maybe the oldest form of entertainment known to man.

It has introduced many new artists who started off as a garage band to eventually see them perform to a packed audience at the Garden, Wembly, Coachella and Glastonburry.

Countless record labels have been saved from the brink of bankruptcy purely on a bad calling of theirs when it came to signing overpriced artists that just ran out of steam and got lost in the transition somewhere with the sudden shift of dynamics to the digital era of techno,lounge,progressive, Drum N Bass and Dubstep.

There has been another leap which has been in the creation or dissection of music, insteps our aural Savior the DJ (disc jockey) they come in many shapes and forms some are tubby like a baby panda others skinny and rakish like the missing link between man and insecta if ever there was such a distinction in genealogy, on the upside there has been an influx of female DJs “So good on you ladies finally some eye candy woo-hoo!”.

Tap DJ is an app that lets you fulfill you dreams at being a disc jockey its simple to wrap your head around, a pretty mirror of an actual mixing deck complete with bells and whistles; retailing for a meager two dollars it smashes scratched vinyls in the face of other desktop apps that can retail for around fifty dollars or so. You can tell attention to detail was taken here for even the apps Icon art is a tiny turntable that’s dare I say it “sweeeeet” to look at its rendered in 3D giving you the illusion of depth and honestly should win a mac design award purely on app art as nothing comes close to it.

Its fully integrated with your iPod library thus neatly displaying your library according to artists, songs playlists, albums,uploads and does far better a job then the native iPod app, apple should surely learn a thing or two from these guys. Tracks can be procured using USB and WiFi transfer also.

Of course DJ-ing would be nothing without sampling so under this tab you’ll find the usual array of bits and bobs such as blow horns, countdowns, sirens, drum loops of all manner ranging form Arabic to funky, cheesy one liners and even the deep throat sound offs from a Issac Hayes a.k.a. Chef (south park) knock off.

iPhone 4 Game of the Week – Save Toshi DX

The new gaming generation hasn’t been kind on the Japanese gaming industry; the once leading giant had a steady run for two decades
1985-2005 its glory days of Megadrive SNES & PS2 are behind it. Frankly put the land of the rising fun’s gaming reign has ended, it sees a similar pattern being mimicked by its auto industry where it’s heavily driven by US sentiments or western ones to be precise.

There was a time when 8 of the 10 best games on leading platforms where Japanese brewed & the western entries were novel like EA’s annual sport tittles with an occasional sim or RTS by any other developer. The big dogs where Konami, Capcom, Sega, and Nintendo.

Whereas the show dogs were companies like Psygnosis, Crystal Dynamics, Core, Bullfrog, Akklaim, Shiny; all of which are now defunct and hardly made the transition to the Xbox or ps2. It’s a rarity to see a game solely coming out of japan taking wide acceptance in a western market as lately even sacrilege tittles like Final Fantasy XIII has seen heavy criticism.

It’s like sushi enthusiasts frowning upon a California roll or wasabi mayo calling it an unholy mix. That however is not the case with save Toshi it’s a delightful balance of eastern-western gameplay it is a refreshing take on popular 2d physics puzzlers like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope & the breakthrough storm charting tiny wings which I’ll review next week.

Nitako the developer behind Toshi is an indication that Japanese developers are now focusing on the IOS platform which for us gamers holds much promise in the coming months as more intuitive colorful games in the fashion of the Wii & DS will make their way to our palms. Frankly put I’ve seen games out of japan seeing favorable results on handhelds like monster hunter, Pokémon, kingdom hearts even final fantasy tittles have seen more sales than it’s big brother HD ones.

Save Toshi’s saving grace is the injection of colors that would put skittles, jellybeans, a kiddie paint workshop to shame that coupled with its J-pop sensation starlet Toshi-San who loves to bust a move on the dance floor clad in her colorful kitsch highstreet-high school fashionability.

She’s cheery, responds to your inputs like an elated high spirited anime character that has a crush on the smoldering senior in her school. You’ll hear her saying things like “save me handsome”, when You accidentally flick her off with a ball from an elevated platform which she often teeters precariously she’ll say “look you got Toshi all wet” in a cute affable tone expertly voiced by a Japanese voice actress.

The premise is very plausible if you sip jasmine ice tea with fried tempura for breakfast. Toshi loves to dance but has forgotten how to walk & will find herself standing on platforms supported by beams, suspended hinges, ice blocks etc. the idea is to use few balls to knock these beams & platforms to hurl Toshi onto the dance floor, fewer the balls used higher the scores & ratings. The controls are responsive and simple Tap at your intended targets which come in the form of structural support like wood, glass, ice, concrete, TNT crates & hinges,  swipe your finger around to get a rotational view of your environment to best tackle the puzzle. The level designs have a steady learning curve, some might have you scratching your head for minutes others an hour or so, until a friend takes over putting you out of your sweet torment.

Luckily like all popular games out there is a free version, if you choose to expand which you most certainly will want to then the full game which gives you 100 levels, new costumes, background music & levels to unlock all adding to your experience thus giving you lasting appeal and replay value.

The redeeming merit of the game is that all my friends seem to have taken Toshi to heart but to really put it to the test I coyly planted this in the hands of one such individual who to me is a balanced hybrid of eastern western schools of thought, his wall rack is adorned with countless  figurines by Japanese toy makers & American ones, on one end you’ll see Gundam Mechas alongside a street punk version of the hulk with a purple Mohawk, dog-tag collar & high rise chucks, he drives a grey-import racing pedigree albeit in its American form the stellar Acura NSX (Honda NSX), on certain weeks of the month he sports a Fu manchu the others a goatee, he cherishes the read of Ronin the graphic novel by Frank miller on gloomy days.

So when he took to this game like a kid on the other end of an ice lolly eating marathon I knew that the japs had sent their secret weapon a nano-ninja which stealthily used its bushido to cut itself above the competition and the scabbard that the blade rests in is shiny & well crafted.

iPhone 4 App of the Week – Google Translate

Last year when Steve Jobs showcased the iphone4′s FaceTime tech to the world, he was as giddy as a school boy saying he tapped into his childhood days of watching Star Trek on TV, where he imagined the possibility of a time where jet packs and video telephony were widely available in the not so distant future. Well, the tech did arrive decades later only to see the boy now in his mid 50′s heading a tech corporation with a moniker as C.T.O. (Chief Thinking Officer) still playing it cool in his now trademark look in Levis 501′s and black turtleneck, a true testament to his or any generation that “even hippies do dream of electric apples”, without the aid of contrabands mind you. He did somehow manage to bring video calls to a broader spectrum of the world thanks to the ever rising popularity and fondness of the Apple brand.

One thing, however, that eluded his dream and was more of mine, interestingly enough, also spurs from the Star Trek universe; that being a universal translator that has saved the hinds of many Enterprise crew members when interacting with alien life forms; coming second only to the teleporter. You see, negations often fail with other intelligent life as is the case they either find you smug looking, or your goatee doesn’t sit well with their scaly tentacles protruding from their chins. So Scotty does come in handy.

For us non-Trekkers however, with no foreseeable future in deep space, comes fresh out of the Google Labs the very brilliant Google Translate; an app that just opens the world to you fresh with possibilities to socially interact with people who speak and write dialects foreign form yours.

Google Translate has all the world’s leading languages: Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, German, Korean, Italian, Swedish, Finish, Afrikaans, Portuguese, Arabic, Hindi and countless more. Almost all of the popular languages have full audio support as well, with a few notable ones, like Persian, to be added soon. I was surprised at the voice-over talent used here, I’m talking authentic native speakers with proper accents, pronunciations and the warmth often not found in most automated voices. Just to give you a breakdown in numbers, you can translate text between 57 languages! It also boasts voice recognition, so you can translate by speaking into the mic instead of typing it out. This, however, is limited to 15 languages it can identify through speech recognition. And lastly, you can listen to your translations spoken aloud in 23 languages presently.

The Japanese voice over talent had me on the floor nestling into a fetal position finally feeling the warmth and acceptance of Gaia (Japanese deity likened as Mother Earth). That was my very first reaction, the second was more hormonal driven one, with a sinister grin across my face (falling only short of the Joker’s) towards the possibility of charming the pants off coco caramel Goddesses hailing from japan, Spain & France; a humble list indeed.

Me and a former alumni who’s fluent in Japanese both written and spoken in the three more popular forms, have often discussed the possibility of scouring the streets of Japan, Shinjuku district or Akihabara street interacting with fellow Otakus & Cosplaying girls, having a merry old time. The only predicament that would come about from any such pleasure or business trip is that one would have to channel their thoughts and emotions through an interpreter, and depending who that is, could work for you or against you. I’ve often been to destinations where I could swear my guide was in cahoots with souvenir stores and cabbies, skimming more off me and at the same time ridiculing my eager photo clicking of just about any structure that registered as a significant landmark in my mind.

Just to give you an idea, a digital translator, one that’s limited to English and Japanese with audio support, retails around $400 or more approximately, which also totally eliminates the other popular business and widely used languages at popular holiday destinations around the world.

Google Translate offers more dialects than any of the commercially available devices, and overtime will see more revisions being made through updates. New languages will be added with full audio support and speech recognition that presently exist only in text form.

I’ve monkeyed around with the app in just about any language that I have a vague, fragmented grasp of, and I’ll assure you it’s spot on with the accents. The Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and French accents astounded me the most; the Hindi one gave me a chuckle or two for as a native it’s amusing at the very least.

The presentation is very simple with a blue palette, similar to color schemes found in other apps such as Google search, which, by the way, is also a recommended download as it has voice recognition, allowing you to generate search results only through a mere blurb. The translated excerpt can be enlarged to full screen, say if the person on the other end is hard of hearing, or you simply do not have the audio support of the language. It’s easy to copy & paste text to other apps such as email, text messages, etc. Also, the most commonly used translated phrases by you is under Favorites, coming in handy on the fly.

I only hope that in the coming months Google will incorporate the option of translation via imagery or live video feed through augmented reality support, where one can focus using the camera on a street sign, newspaper, books, fliers, tickets, documents etc. And that it will end up with translated text such as other image recognition text translators which retail on the App Store, but are mostly gimmicky and glitchy. Google already has Google Goggles (part of their Google Mobile App) where it scans movie posters, books, just about any household brand, luxury goods such as watches , handbags, FMCG products, celebrities and gives an astonishingly accurate result through its findings. Just try using it on your shoes or anything that an evil corporation has manufactured and it will show you its roots. Such addition to Google Translate would be the unicorn at the end of the rainbow next to a pot of gold minus the demonic leprechaun.

It amazes me how much the iPhone has enriched my life with its array of useful applications coming in full use of my practical life time and time again. I recently had a loved one planted with an iphone4 who up until now is a staunch Sourberry user, and I saw the gleam in her eyes coming only from a handful of apps on her iPhone 4. It was the very same look that Pikachu has before going into battle with a trick up its sleeve, or when it sees a dinner table laden full of its favorite treats. So my take is, you Apple lovers go out there and reach out to those friends in need who type away on tiny QWERTY and small screens, and tell them that there happen to be other fruits out there that one should savor.

iPhone 4 App of the Week – Beluga Messenger

Life’s always more fun in a pack of friends that are dear to you, to be able to share your daily triumphs, trials & tribulations with them can be rewarding. If we’ve learned anything from the great groups of our times such as the X-Men, dirty dozen and the goonies,  is that it’s all about packs of likeminded eccentrics and weirdoes sharing a common purpose in life on the hush hush in hopes of not being ridiculed or becoming social pariahs. Synchronicity on the move, that’s exactly what Beluga Messenger delivers, a forum for groups on the go.

Only having discovered this app less than two weeks ago it is now a permanent fixture in my niche circle of friends who are big on tech, games, cars, all things shiny with an LED screen and prefer animated Japanese girls over real women, and have body pillows in their possession. This a new fad picking up global steam due to the large number of man child’s out there refusing to part with their escapism thus ending up spooning with one every night. they come in an array of pillow cases of all your favorite anime/video game/sci-fi characters ranging from bubblegum pink hair gun wielding buxom beauties to the more bizarre alienesque looking blue haired demi-gods with fangs & crimson eyes but no Disney Princesses for all intensive legal purposes. In their defense even some celebs such as James Franco happen to cuddle up to one every night, a merry bunch indeed they are.

So to finally find an app that binds our daily social feeds within this particular circle of “friends” that I’d steer away from having much interaction with on Facebook that has your colleagues, sane friends, real women and family members is a God send.

We can post links, pics and write lengthy messages with no word limit. It also allows me to track the whereabouts of members within a Pod which constantly updates as they contribute to it. The layout is simple & clean, each Pod you start can have different members under it. You can add/remove/invite (email, SMS, FB, Twitter) them as you please. You can title your pods, attach a pic for significance and add an event, date, location to it as well. Under the Maps tab you’ll be able to see where exactly all contributing members happen to be and this data constantly updates as a member moves around the city, this comes in extremely handy when you’re organizing an event such as a birthday, wedding, baby shower, or simply catching a movie at a mall, and would like to know where each member is if you need to delegate a task.

It’s a perfect companion to clubs & associations, be it the book club, nature watch, motoring enthusiasts of all manner, neighborhood watch, school projects even if you’re planning a mini coup on an island (think LOST) or peaceful protest rally; this is your app.

One scenario I see this coming in extremely handy is while holidaying in a foreign city and needing to keep a brace of your loved ones whereabouts; whether you all happen to be catching different modes of transport to your hotel, or moving about in smaller pockets to different sightseeing locales. A massive flea market where everyone has split up to do their own shopping but is constantly aware of what the other is on the lookout for, and if happen to chance into a better bargain at a different stall, can notify the member of a better deal to scoot over by using the map.

It’s a mix of an instant messenger and a location based app such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Kickball. It’s fast, reliable and never crashes; you get instant push notifications the nanosecond someone posts to it. When using the app you really get a sense of a global quality medium such as Facebook or Twitter, knowing in the back of your head that a massive server sitting in an undisclosed location is tending to your Pods. I thought Whatsapp was better and faster, but this will surprise you with its blistering speed.

Brainchild of Ben, Lucy and Jonathan, former staff of Google and Microsoft who were collectively responsible for much of the development of Gmail chat, Google news, Google docs and Msn explorer; so you know you have experts steering the course of this app. Even the icon which sports a friendly white whale which is indicative that soon the app will have a global presence, and the term Beluga will not conjure up images of caviar or the marine animal it’s named after.

This app, which is currently available for the iPhone & Android smartphones, is soon hopping to be multi-platform & will one day be available on a Sourberry and Nokia.

There was a study done recently suggesting that all these bubbling social media apps will be squat like flies and only a notable handful will remain. Well I can assure you a day will come when you’ll hear this while on a ferry ride, not from the mouth of crazy Ahab (a.k.a. Captain) but from one of your own loony bin friends while peering into the water, breaking the early-morning silence of huddled commuters to work “There she blows!–there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill it is Beluga!”

Harman Kardon MS 100 Audio System Review

January 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Apple, Audio Equipment, Gadgets, Reviews, Spotlight

Music over the years has evolved so much that it now has its own pockets of movement, genres and offshoots. You got the gook in the eye anemic looking emo-screamos, hip hop RnB loving blinged out tanned variety, death metal/black metal choker wearing tattooed freaks, nostalgic 30 year olds in their big comfy hoodies & chucks.

The way we choose to listen to our music has also departed from the norm, majority of us resort to our mp3 players & headphones. It’s a very individual approach to soothing our troubled selves in today’s times.

“In a mobile age sound quality steps backwards” NY TIMES

“The good enough revolution: where the cheap and simple is just fine” WIRED

Those were some of the quotes from the leading publications to describe the “MP3 effect”, a phenom used to support the acceptance and decline of sound quality.

This is the very same reason the audio industry believes Generation Y is apathetic towards sound quality, automakers are arguing over less audio content  and audio marketing is using “MP3 Effect” as a justification to make audio products cheaper that are just “good enough” for the reproduction of MP3.

The same study conducted by Stanford University also indicates when given a chance to hear and compare differences in sound quality, higher accurate reproductions are preferred; it’s just a matter of educating the masses presenting them with better equipment and formats.

The Harman Kardon MS 100 is a complete high-performance audio system. With a CD player, FM tuner, dock for iPods, iPhones, integrated loudspeakers, and auxiliary inputs for other audio products. It has also been awarded by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and now happens to be in their Permanent Collection.

Firstly let’s speak of the style: it’s piano black in color, shaped like a modern day amphitheater and has this other-worldly fluorescent blue light peering through a frosted top which feels more at home with the Tron Legacy design philosophy then the official line from Monster.  It could easily grace the study of Wayne manor or an upper Eastside penthouse in NYC. The buttons on the unit are stealthily placed on the side; there are enough dock attachments to cater to every release of the iPod and iPhone range.

Its direct competition is the B&W Zeppelin & Bose SoundDock10, both models come from revered pioneers in the audio world, so the competition is stiff. However, to sound less geeky on you, the MS100 fairs better than these units in overall comparisons and can play significantly louder (+6db louder) without any dynamic compression.

Now for the bad part; the remote looks like it belongs to a 14 inch Goldstar (now known as LG) TV circa ’95, it is that hideous, completely eradicating the sophistication that Harman was aiming for. Add to the fact that the B&W Zeppelin Air is out, which supports Apple’s Airplay.  For me this is an essential feature as I’ve realized I cannot part with my iPhone4 for more than 10 minutes as the social media apps keep vying for my attention, which leaves me with 3 & 1/2 songs heard. So it’s imperative in the age of wireless that we have to be given Airplay support, especially when asking us to part with our hard earned green. The mainstream of our music devices happen to be from Apple so get with the plan.

This past month I’ve partied like a beast, have come to many a realization that most people have bad taste in music; their playlist can lead to endless hours of sensory torture. My own preference to Dubstep as a genre is my very own, not all Rock stars from the 90′s sound as good as they did on MTV, and are not impervious to aging like “The Stones”, especially when donning Kid Rock gear looking like Iggy pop, sharing the same spa. As I ate my overpriced inedible burger from one hand and the other lighting a flame swaying to “November Rain”, by the end of it my mind can only frame the famous expression coined by one sergeant Roger Murtaugh “I’m too old for this STUFF!” but you Gen-Y kids have a responsibility to protect the audio legacy and stop settling for the substandard being pushed down our ear drums.

For testing I played out Deadmau5 and the Daft Punk Tron soundtrack in 128kb AAC format to see what wonders it does with it; I was overwhelmed, so any of you playing FLAC,WAV, PCM/LPCM, OGG, MKA & APE should be in for a treat!

Sometimes a music system is not all about the sound, it’s a piece of furniture that blends with your décor; phonographs were ostentatious, enamoring at times a sense of pride that was taken in the craftsmanship, And hey, all those pretty girls going gaga over all those multi colored iPods is proof that that music at times need not only sound good but look the part too, and Harman Kardon succeeds in this ideology with the MS100.

iPhone 4 Game of the Week – Spider : Secret of Bryce Manor

How do you begin to describe a game that is so novel in concept, style and play mechanics? This game has garnered so many accolades and game of the year awards it’s a shame you’ll never hear anyone mentioning it among the slew of games out there.

The protagonist is a common house hold spider who is coming to grips with what the life of an arachnid entails and has you at the helm teaching him the ropes to forage for food, protect from hazardous surroundings and becoming aware of its natural predators, in this case hornets. That’s not the half of it; the overarching story is one of intrigue and mystery.

After the initial tutorial you jump six months into the story, something ghastly has taken place at Bryce manor, it’s abandoned now and is a former remnant of its glory days. As you chart your journey through this beautifully created art world that’s laden with at times cheery summer days to morose spooky interiors right out of a Tim Burton sketchbook; the secret will reveal itself as you go along leading to a conclusion coming out of your on deductive reasoning. The only way one can sum up the experience is to take the initial 25 minutes of WALL-E with no dialogue, a sense of abandonment with an ominous sense of forbidding, replace it with a six legged freak on an adventure set within a stately manor from The Corpse’ Bride and you end up with “Spider”.

The artwork, mind you not graphics, is what reels you from the get go. The artists, if given funding, should really go into animation; if not of movies then at least a line of children’s story books with an edge that stems clear from the Peter Rabbit’s & Winnie the Pooh’s of the world, purely so we can have offspring with creative streaks and dark brooding underlay like Wednesday (from Adams Family) minus her morbidness.

The music is unlike any you’ve heard, a very fresh mix of electric piano, guitar, drums and some sampling but softer and mood driven, it’s like throwing Jamie Cullum on the piano, Joe Perry on the guitar and drums let’s take Adam Clayton all performing before dignitaries at a banquet, like the hired band of the evening toning down things a notch.

The controls are really responsive, I reckon the designers must have observed frantic hand gestures of corporate monkeys flicking and swiping their fingers rummaging for emails, because this spider can do whatever a spider can. You can toss him across the screen, make web-traps to ensnare lil’ bugs to munch on, trail your finger around to mosey along surfaces and leap head-on into hornets to slay them.

I only wish that the unheard of indie developers keep making games like these for our Apple range because it adds to endless hours of joy coming from a rectangular contraption initially meant for making calls, but now has become my personal Arcadia. So go ahead and grab our iPhone 4 Game of the Week – Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor.

iPhone 4 App of the Week – inClass

January 16, 2011 by  
Filed under App of the Week, App Reviews, Apple, Mobile Apps, Software

“Toga Toga Toga!”

To many of us who are in the professional careers now, the 80′s & 90′s is mostly a blur. Any recollections of academia we have form our school or college life has almost no scholastic value. For as you spawns of the new millennia are blessed with the advent of social media and smart devices thus leaving you spare time to emo out.

inClass is what digital calculators would have felt like when first introduced in schools back in the day. It’s such a remarkable revolutionary app that it could easily be asking $25 upwards in contrast to the many apps that jump on the bandwagon only to leech off your allowances; this free app in that regard is like a gracious scholarship from an Ivy League faculty handed out to any that’d seek its potential.

inClass is an app that is part scheduler part journal which keeps track of your coursework, terms, classes, tasks homework, reference material and lecturers.

Notes can be taken in any form, whether it is audio, video, photo or written notes, the app ingeniously associates them with your current sessions. HD recording is also available for you medical or art students when it comes to filming dissection of frogs soaked in phemaldehyde for later viewing on your LCD’s. Alarms (offline) as well as reminders can be set to constantly update you on due dates, submissions, exams etc. Levels of priority can also be attached to these to indicate the immediacy of completion.

Forwarding of notes is like sending paper planes off into the yonder; one can post notes on Facebook, send them out as an email with all media attachments up to a size of 15mb and common inClass users can easily get notes in-app via email link from classmates, coming quite handy when you’re ill or just busy charming the pants off a hottie.

Backing up is easy and helps when you’re running out of space with all the HD recording or large media files, iTunes file sharing allows you to transfer everything onto your computer and boom, and it’s all there. There is also a faster alternative in a state of emergency or when changing devices, you can email yourself a link of your backup and when you use your new device all files are restored, although this does not include your media files, and is only limited to text.

From its simple layout and presentation it stays clear of dreary functional apps that would fail to hold the interest of someone like me who suffers from ADD & ADHD. Its bamboo backgrounds, leather bounded term books, notes that are right out of a notepad or moleskin, felt marker fonts, neon highlighters and doodled art evokes the feel of something personal and essential. And the only way I see you not bettering off of this app is if you are not the bankable sibling of the family, or happen to be a social delinquent in the making.  The new wave of tech and apps ushers hope that one day schooling will become second nature to the youth.

I can rest easy now knowing that the future is in good hands, leaving me to reminisce of simpler days when Mario was big in japan, Cowabunga was the “it” word, my only friend was a sunflower called ICQ that greeted me in the late hours of the night in his familiar tone “eh-oh!” and my most memorable day has to be when Ferris and I bunked school only to culminate our day with a hip-shaking, head-banging performance before a wild crowd to “Twist & Shout!”

So go ahead and grab our App of the Week, inClass!

Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner Review

January 9, 2011 by  
Filed under App Reviews, Apple, Reviews, Smartphones, Software

“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” Han solo

In a galaxy far far away, something epic was penned that has entertained us for decades and will keep on doing so through numerous iterations over the course of time. Whether you buy into the folklore or not, it has made its impact on our lives. There are those among us who await the arrival of functional light sabers as industrial power tools or mere swordplay baboonery, keeping themselves eagerly informed through blogs of its ongoing development.

Then there are those who  approach it as a reference on looming daddy issues and wish their fathers, when disciplining them, would do so in the Vader fashion through James Earl Jones’ now infamous asthmatic voice “I’m your father” to stamp their authority on your hind.

The new release of this cash cow from THQ Wireless sees itself incorporating the best of the iPhone’s hardware – accelerometer, tilt sensor, gyroscope (iPhone4 & New Gen iPod Touch), Retina Display; the trump up its sleeve being A.R. (Augmented reality). A new form of visual infotainment, the initial apps that sought its use were for tourists and on-the-go apps where upon focusing on certain landmarks, books, movie posters, distinguished art pieces, music album sleeves or FMCG products, relevant information would appear via popups within the live feed of your environment. For example, focusing on a poster would jump you to an IMDB style profile of the movie or a trailer; landmarks would list a history on the architect and the historic significance of the site you stand on. Well known apps for these purposes are Layar & acrossair.

But in recent months we’ve seen this being adopted for games, which for the most part are indie, or catering only to Japanese audiences. This is the very first time a well known license has stepped on the heels of this tech and the end result is nothing short of cosmic gold dust.

The gaming experience harks back to the good old days of Rebel Squadron on the PC. When you first took to the depths of the Death Star with Tie fighters hot on your tail; the only difference being your part of the Millennium falcon crew and the events kick off from Star Wars IV: A new Hope. On the presentation side of things you’ve got quality cut scenes from the movie, the soundtrack and background is by John Williams (at his best) plus you’ve got in-house sound production form Skywalker sound studios.  So yes, it reels you in whether you have a pair of cans on or not, it’s an auditory attack on your senses. There’s complete voiceover from the original movie that sits well with your gaming experience,  so you’ll have Han solo throwing insults at you, C3PO in his ambiguous fretting tone, Chewy with his Wookie hurls, R2D2 being his cute incomprehensible self and Leia being a Galactic princess.

On the graphical end the game is stunning, the color tone and palette is unmistakably Star Wars. I don’t know how many of you have realized this, but the color grey is heavily used in the franchise; from all the aerial fighters from the Rebel Alliance to the Empire, the Death star is a big ball of grey, asteroid fields, R2D2 and space itself is murky and grey, heck even a grey Jedi existed at one point!  “Grey Jedi”, a concept brought up by Lucas in reference to Qui-Gon Jinn. Some fans have taken it to mean that Grey Jedi do not see in terms of Light or Dark. Instead, Grey Jedi perceive that all else, including the Republic, and the Jedi Council, are secondary to serving the Force itself – no matter what the consequences – “I shall do what I must.”

The game, however, beautifully produces all these shades of grey amongst the backdrop of space with itty bitty stars in the distance, all on your iPhone screen. And when the colors come through bursts of sabers and Tatooine sunset backdrops, it is beautiful.

The controls are what you’d expect from the best smuggling ship in the galaxy, they are extremely responsive and if anything, you’ll get quite the workout if your device has the new gyroscope. Because the turret essentially maps your body movement, it’s the closest you can get to a game with an almost 180 degrees experience; it’s such an engaging experience.

And yes all puns intended, “The force is strong with this one”, so go get it.

iPhone 4 App of the Week – Skype 3.0

January 4, 2011 by  
Filed under App of the Week, Mobile Apps

Skype is a phenomenon that’s been sweeping the globe for seven years now, everyone is aware of its existence yet some people are still reluctant or just plain lazy to adopt it. This Luxembourg based entity is the brain child of the very same people who made the word kaZaa (p2p) a staple among our online lingo eons ago.

With the release of Skype 3.0 video support is finally here and it’s remarkable; having already clocked hours on the app I feel in a way indebted to the giant blue cloud “S” logo that could grace a toddlers product line.

Upon the release of the iPhone4 and the FaceTime app I was elated, thinking that voice calls would soon be a thing of the past; something like a CRT TV, which is an eye sore off late.

But FaceTime did not deliver as intended for our region, and at best it graces ads for Apple Corp. And frankly, I’ve given up on the wonky incompatibility, some iPhone owners do not have FaceTime within the native app depending on where they’ve purchased their handsets while others like myself have to resort to VPN in fear of not wanting to subject “my precious” (iPhone4) to jailbreak.

So in comes Skype 3.0 which works across the board and all it requires is a free download from the AppStore, a signup which takes under five minutes if you do not have an existing account, and is more easily done through in-app as opposed to our PC’s, with no proxy restrictions (from Etisalat).

The app is compatible with iPod touch, iPad 3G, 3GS and iPhone4. It works flawlessly between windows and Mac OSX as well. Devices without a camera will only receive video feed from the other end.

Both portrait and landscape mode is supported; the front facing camera on the iPhone4 keeps auto-adjusting according to the light around you and the results show, where as the rear camera just shines. The new Retina Display makes things just stand out; colors, faces, lighting all look upscaled, which is partly due to having the video size also reduced to the native iPhone 4 screen size. So much so, in fact, that it makes a Macbook Pro display look dated. The GUI is intuitive and lets you know of users who have video support with an icon.

In the past I’ve done outlandish field tests on a prior release of Skype, where on holiday I was in a moving car going up a hill above sea level in stormy weather running on edge and was speaking to a friend on the Euro train using 3G and got a good 20 minutes of talk out of it,  but none was as rewarding as  using a 1mb connection on both ends 1000km or so away from each other speaking to my little nieces from the comfort of home and it never felt mechanical or devoid of life for a minute.

And so we award Skype 3.0 our App of the Week.

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