App of the Week: Bondsy

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Developer: Bondsy Inc.

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod touch 3rd gen and up, iPad

Requires: iOS 5.0 or later

Price: Free

Available: here

One time in college (no, wait, it’s not that kind of story) I needed a new part for my computer, and went to the only computer repair place in town. The guy there said he had a part, but wasn’t sure if it worked, and didn’t want to charge me much if it couldn’t. Instead, he just asked if I could get him some hoagie bread for his lunch, because he forgot his at home. I did, and the part was mine.

Of course it didn’t work, but that is still the day I learned the joy of the barter system.

If you too miss an age where the trading of goods and services wasn’t tied up in the arbitrary value of money, then consider the new app that allows you to to exchange pretty much anything for pretty much anything, called Bondsy.

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Bondsy features a pretty simple set up that allows you to post a photo of a good or service you’re looking to give, write a brief description of it, and provide what good or service you are looking for in exchange. In turn, the people who are interested can ask questions or make a counter-offer.

What separates Bondsy from services that offer something similar, such as craigslist ads, is the fact that the only people you will be dealing with are either friends or friends of friends, thus removing some of the nasty anonymity of exchanging goods and services on the internet, as your friends are, probably, unlikely to try to pawn off a soiled mattress, really amateur guitar lessons, or glued together chair on you (again, probably).

We all have extra stuff laying around that may not be worth the hassle of eBay or necessarily fit for Goodwill. What Bondsy does is put a value back into that former junk, and allows you to keep it in a trusted circle where the exchange has a little more security. Even better, with money out of the equation, there is a lot more creativity involved with the value behind every offer, bringing some fun into previously useless items, and creating an auction house type atmosphere amongst your friends.

And fun is really what this whole thing is about. Even though you stand the chance of scoring some cool stuff, it’s really about the fun that comes with bartering with your friends over it. Imagine a scenario where someone you know having some great extra game tickets, and a bidding war of goods and services starting over them, and you can see the potential of Bondsy, and why it is my app of the week

  

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App of the Week: Wrestle Jump

Developer: Otto-Ville Ojala

Compatible with: iPhone 4 and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod touch 3rd gen and up, iPad 2 and up, Android devices

Requires: iOS 4.3 or later (Android version depends on device)

Price: $1.99 (free on Android)

Available: here (for iOS) and here (for Android)

When you really think about it, great gaming apps usually come in some pretty odd forms.

For instance we’ve seen apps that make ninjas slice fruit, or feature birds suicide bombing entrenched pigs set the world on fire, while glorified versions of Pictionary and Scrabble have destroyed free time and traditional social lives. It’s a history that should have taught me that at any time, from any concept, the next great gaming app can emerge.

Still though, I never would have imagined that a two button game with luchadores joined at the arms fighting to bash the other ones head would have been that game.

But wouldn’t you know it, “Wrestle Jump” is truly great.

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Though strange, the concept of “Wrestle Jump” couldn’t be simpler. You and a conjoined opponent (computer or real) battle for supremacy by trying to force the other ones head against the nearest solid object. Doing so gets you a point, first to five points wins, and you can add to the pandemonium by activating ice sections and wind.

The only control available to you in “Wrestle Jump” is a single arcade button (used to propel your character’s legs, and make them jump), but there is a layer of strategy involved that isn’t immediately evident. The game is really all about defense and momentum, as mashing the button as fast as you can usually results in losses, while timing and situational awareness win the day.

Yet, there is also a chaotic randomness to “Wrestle Jump” that negates even the best strategies. A hit can come at any time, which can be either highly satisfying, or incredibly frustrating depending on what side you’re on, but it applies equally to both players and rarely feels unfair. Instead, it lends an unpredictability to every contest that provides a part of the game’s appeal.

The bigger part of the game’s appeal though is the two-player mode. Hands down this is one of my all-time favorite mobile multiplayer games ever, and its due in large part to the fact that both players can share one phone (or better yet, tablet) to play it. It makes an already simple game even more accessible, and ensures that no “Wrestle Jump” round ever passes without a healthy amount of “Oohs and Aahs,” as well as abundant smack talk and sweet moments of victory. It’s everything you could ever want from a multiplayer game, and provides one of the greatest arcade style two player experiences since the golden age of arcade gaming.

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“Wrestle Jump” is an app you might play occasionally by yourself, but in the company of a friend becomes one of the most entertaining games of the year on any platform. It encourages a level of competitiveness that you don’t usually get from mobile games, and it does it without guns, cars, puzzles, or any of the other things you associate with the concept. Instead, this is head to head gaming distilled to its purest form.

Yes, “Wrestle Jump” is really that much fun. You could argue that its single player game is dull (it is) but you are never far from its multiplayer mode, and the sheer competitive joy it brings. Because of that mode, and with a little help from Google translate, I can confidently tell you that “Wrestle Jump” es mi aplicación de la semana.

  

App of the Week: Pizza Compass

Developer: Oak

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod touch 3rd gen and up, iPad

Requires: iOS 6.0 or later

Price: $0.99

Available here

A scenario.

It’s 2 A.M. and you’re the kind of drunk that usually only follows a particularly joyous event, or a particularly disastrous one. While concerns such as the bar tab you just threw on your credit card, and that black eye forming over a disagreement over that girl you don’t remember will soon dominate your thoughts, the only worry at the moment is where you can get a slice of pizza in this unknown part of town that you were highly familiar with only four shots ago.

While you can ask a stranger (unlikely and potentially dangerous) or navigate Yelp and Google Maps (not a chance in your current state), what you really need is a digital arrow that simply shows you where the nearest pizza is right damn now.

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Such is the purpose of Pizza Compass. Simply spin the app’s pizza icon and you’ll soon be directed to the nearest slice joints, and even be provided with a steaming pizza graphic when you’re in range. Should you have the need, you can also explore the built in map to view all nearby pizza places, and get photos, hours, reviews courtesy of Foursquare, and more.

Described as both a no frills app, and “the most important app ever made,” the makers of Pizza Compass are very aware of both the incredibly simple nature of the program, and the fact it is absolutely essential. You can easily make the well-reasoned and fact based argument that everyone with a soul enjoys pizza, and as such it is highly likely that at some point, you will appreciate having an app that cuts through the crap (as in other food that isn’t pizza) and gets you on the right path to enjoying the greatest thing to ever come in slice form (that’s right…suck it mere bread).

A further scenario. It’s now 2:30 A.M., and you’ve soaked up a medically advisable amount of excess alcohol courtesy of a hot and greasy peperoni pizza, all thanks to Pizza Compass. With the few brain cells left firing, you realize that Pizza Compass is in fact the app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Star Command

Developer: Star Command LLC.

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod touch 3rd gen and up, iPad

Requires: iOS 4.3 or later

Price: $2.99

Available here

Captain’s Log Stardate 90946.8

After years in development following a successful Kickstarter campaign, “Star Command” is now available for the app store, and provides a universe spanning strategy title, that offers the chance to chart the unknown and boldly go where no game has gone before.

Well…ok that’s an exaggeration.

In fact, “Star Command” has a lot in common with the PC indie hit “FTL,” right down to the Kickstarter origins, as both games task you with the same objective of traversing different galaxies and defeating some of the toughest scum in the galaxy through ship to ship battles, and onboard scuffles, all as captain of your very own space ship.

While the games may share a similar product description, where “Star Command” differs, and ultimately shines, is in the number of little things.

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For instance, the graphics are exceptional. Whereas “FTL” was all about minimalism, “Star Command” looks similar to old PC games like “XCOM” or “Syndicate” and gets the most out of its perspective thanks to a bright and detailed style. The cutscenes are also straight out of a Lucasarts adventure game, and really drive home the humor, danger, and even frights of the game based on the current situation.

As for the gameplay, there is a lot of it. After you’ve customized your captain, you are now responsible for hiring a crew, and assigning them to three different job classes, as well as building and customizing your ships weapons and systems, which are all acquired by using tokens that are earned along the way. Once everything is eventually in place, the game mostly revolves around combat, for which you are responsible for the command of every single aspect of the ship. When it’s time to fire the plasma beams, that’s up to you. When a team needs to be organized to fend off a boarding party, that’s up to you. And when all hell is breaking loose and no hope seems to be available, it’s again down to you.

That last one is important, as things can get out of control very easily. This is not an easy game by any means, as “Star Command” requires your complete concentration, and the ability to multitask like a machine, if you are ever going to have a chance of surviving. Your survival is the key too, as once the captain goes down, the game is over.

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Don’t let the doom and gloom keep you away though, as even at its most frustrating “Star Command” is an ambitious and extremely entertaining title that does a great job at promoting an atmosphere where anything can happen at any turn. Exploring the universe truly feels like you’re doing just that, since the variety of enemies and scenarios present at each location rarely, if ever, repeats, making each new adventure feel like some lost episode of “Star Trek.”

In fact it’s probably no coincidence that this game is coming out so close to the new “Star Trek” movie, as if you are a fan of that series, or of anything sci-fi, this app is a beam down from the heavens. It’s a complex, yet accessible and rewarding, adventure that requires several levels of active and passive strategies. Every effort proves worth it though, as it all contributes to a title that lets you experience what it’s like to be at the helm of your own sci-fi ship.

“Star Command” is the perfect type of strategy game for your phone, and with any luck will be the start of a franchise that will live long and prosper. For now though, this game proudly serves as my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Stealth Assassin

Developer: Erman Haskan

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod touch 3rd gen and up, and iPad

Requires: iOS 4.3 or later

Price: $0.99

Available here

While I always try to find the newest possible apps to bring to this column, occasionally an app can be missed for a few weeks. Sometimes it can be a mystery how this happens, but in the case of “Stealth Assassin,” it seems oddly appropriate that it would exist unnoticed.

In “Stealth Assassin” you take the role of the titular stealth assassin, and navigate 100+ maze like levels in order to take out your wandering green man target and escape within a time limit. There to stop you are a squad of roaming blue guards, with flashlight aided cones of vision, who patrol around the target, and swarm upon and shoot you if you cross their path. To help turn the tides are your abilities of super speed and invisibility, which drain your re-filling power bar.

If “Stealth Assassin” sounds, and looks, simple in its graphics, concept, gameplay, and plot, that’s because it’s based on a flash game series known as “Ultimate Assassin,” and flash games aren’t typically known for triumphs in any of those things. What they are known for are oddly addictive experiences based on somewhat quirky concepts, accomplished in a way so that they serve equal doses of fun to those playing for a few minutes, or those who find themselves oddly hooked hours later.

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“Stealth Assassin” retains that same experience in its transition to mobile. It’s got a little resemblance to stealth classics like “Metal Gear,” but oddly it reminds me more of a demented cross between “Pac-Man,” “Bomberman,” and “Hotline Miami.” At first navigating your way to the target and escaping is a simple, but satisfying, proposition, but the difficulty wastes no time in ramping up, and soon you’ll find every wit and reflex you have available working to complete the later stages. Doing so provides that perfect ratio of effort to satisfaction, that is only enhanced replay wise by the addition of achievements on each stage that tempt you to better your  best.

If there is a knock against “Stealth Assassin,” it’s  that the controls are touchy and take some serious mastering so they don’t interrupt your enjoyment. However, when you consider that this is a value title based around a very simple idea, there’s not much more you can knock “Stealth Assassin” for, as it gets the most out of its premise, and delivers a game that is worth considerably more than its asking price in terms of how often you’ll find yourself going to it when you have the free moment to do so.

Summing up “Stealth Assassin” is like describing the perfect real assassin. It exhibits no flash, and instead is quickly in and quickly out, leaving nothing but a job well done in its wake. For exhibiting the benefits of the professional execution of simplicity, “Stealth Assassin” is my app of the week.

  

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