App of The Week: Jar on a Bar

Compatible With:
iPhone 3GS
iPhone 4
iPhone 4S
iPod touch (3rd Gen)
iPod touch (4th Gen)
iPad

*Requires iOS 4.0 or greater

Price: $0.99 (Buy it here)

There’s really nothing original to “Jar on a Bar.” Aesthetically, it immediately brings to mind “Angry Birds,” and the basic concept is so dated that they used to call it “Jenga.” But that doesn’t matter, because for a mere 99 cents, you get one of the most addictive puzzlers to come to the app market in some time, originality be damned.

Let me backtrack a bit and explain. “Jar on a Bar” stars a fish in a bowl trapped precariously atop a ready to fall stack of pallets, glass, and other increasingly nefarious obstacles. Your job is simple: Get that fish to the ground and back into the water without breaking the bowl, all while trying to spill as little of the water in it as possible for bonus points. Sounds simple, right? Well, as you can imagine, as the game progresses through its 60 plus levels, things keep getting more and more complicated, until the point that this game of “Jenga” becomes a real mind-twister.

I mentioned “Angry Birds” earlier, and that’s because at its core, the game’s main concept of removing various obstacles to reach your goal is highly reminiscent of that classic app. However, “Jar on a Bar” is more about manipulation than destruction. Its well implemented physics system accounts for everything from weight to momentum, and forces you to master it before you can make any progress in the later stages. You may have to push a block to a certain point to gain just the right leverage, or momentarily put the fish in danger in order to set up the right move correctly. You not only have to consider your next step at all times, but the next several after that as well. It creates just the right combination of on your feet decisions and long term strategy that makes the best puzzle games so memorable, and executes it very well. There is also an in-app store but, while it does feature some cool objects, overall it doesn’t add much to the core gameplay of “Jar on a Bar.” The good news is it doesn’t have to, and it far from hinders the experience.

I could be wrong on this, but I don’t expect “Jar on a Bar” to take over the world like some of the games that inspired it have. However, the 99 cent asking price is a steal, turning this into a must-buy for anyone that has half an interest in puzzle games. Quite simply, it is one of the best and most addictive new puzzlers, and overall app games, I’ve come across in a while, and it is a more than deserving app of the week.

  

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Game Review: “Forza Motorsport 4″

Jeremy Clarkson’s opening monologue for “Forza Motorsport 4″ explains that the car guy is an endangered species. Chased out of his natural habitat, cut down by laws and regulations, and ostracized from society at large due to his love of speed and adrenaline, he remarks that the only place left, the final frontier for this endangered species, is in the virtual world with “Forza 4.” The question then becomes if the virtual world can recreate the enjoyment of the physical one.

If you are judging by visuals alone, “Forza 4″ comes close. Crisp, razor sharp resolution and detailing highlight the unique aspects of every car in the game. This differs from “Gran Turismo 5″ since only a few “premier” cars got the high resolution treatment in that game. Also, there is the “Auto vista” feature. Here, you can take a painstaking look inside and outside of a variety of cars, taking in the minute details rendered in jaw-dropping detail.

Having a pretty face is one thing, but offering entertaining gameplay is a different matter entirely. Here, the “Forza” experience really starts to pull away from “GT5.” First off, you don’t need to be a car guy to enjoy the game. Game settings are adjustable from beginner to simulation levels so you can be comfortable in whichever level you fall under. Second, “Forza” doesn’t beat you over the head with technical bureaucracy. There are no license tests, long loading times, or a never-ending bog of petty races to get through before you get to the good stuff. Just hop in and drive.

Plus, you can drive whatever you want, wherever you want. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, muscle cars… nearly everything under the sun is available to you. You also don’t even need to race. You can take photos, create paint schemes, and participate in a multitude of other activities. Just like in the real world, you don’t necessarily need to be a speed freak to enjoy the hobby, but it does help.

When you do start driving, “Forza’s” fantastic physics engine really starts to shine through. Developer Turn 10 took simulating the cars so seriously, in fact, that they contacted Pirelli to be able use their tire simulation software for the game. This is the same equipment F1 teams use to develop their tires, so of course it is insanely accurate.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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