App of the Week: MTA Subway Time

Developer:
Metropolitan Transit Authority

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up

iPod Touch 3rd Gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

Free

Available here

My app this week is really only for residents of NYC. Everyone else, please feel free to proceed to the nearest sexy lady picture you find on this site.

Are they all gone?

Good.

So you know how annoying it is trying to catch your subway train on time right? Even though they stick to a supposed schedule (unless it’s the C train, the slacker of the transit system) sometimes your morning bagel takes a little longer to toast, or you have an unexpected stop and chat, or it’s raining and you debated for too long to call in or not, or maybe (as you told your boss) the train truly was running late, and your morning is now officially in peril.

It happens far too often, and even though the MTA has updated platforms with arrival estimates, and support a host of apps to help, it wasn’t until the recently released MTA Subway Time app, that straphangers now have the ability to get real time train schedules.

The app currently supports 7 lines (1-6 and the 43nd S), and provides updated arrival times of the major lines as they occur. The arrival times include trains running in both all directions, and has data for both arriving and upcoming trains. Along with that, you also get the usual train routes, work updates, and all other information you would need in actually organizing your commute.

It’s not the world’s prettiest app, and is very basic in its current stage, but should still be immediately downloaded by any commuters of those lines, and really by all straphangers in anticipation of additional lines being added. Never before have commuters had this kind of accurate information available to them at any time, and the only reason it doesn’t feel more impressive is because it seems like something that should have been done long ago.

You can’t overstate how welcome this app is, and as the MTA chairman Joseph Lhota described it, represents a “day that generations of dreamers and futurists have waited for”. While I wish the app could give false updates to my boss that are more in line with my current, personal schedule, this miracle program arrives right in time to be named by app of the week.

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

App of the Week: Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Developer:
David Galindo

Compatible with:
iPad 2 and up (including iPad Mini)

Requires:
iOS 3.2 and up

Price:

$2.99

Available here

While some will disagree, cooking is often a rewarding, useful, and relaxing endeavor that all should have some measure of skill in. Not only is it a great creative outlet, but the end result of a well done meal is rewarding in several ways. The same, however, can not always be said of cooking in a high profile, high volume, high pressure kitchen where the work is grueling, thankless, and sometimes cruel. Yet many in the business will tell you the challenge of it is strangely addictive, and that there is no greater satisfaction than a well done shift, and consistently making the perfect meal.

Now there is an app called “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” that perfectly captures that mix of emotions. The iPad version of the PC title of the same name, “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” is a restaurant management game that separates itself from the sizeable number of similar titles out there by being insanely detailed, and ridiculously tough.  The very basics of the game see you taking incoming orders and building them via the simple recipe prompt. As the orders pile up, you’ll find yourself having to manage several meals at once (done through a upper corner quene), prepping some while others finish,and always being careful to get to everyone in time without ruining a meal.

It would be an intense enough experience, but where the game separates itself is in the almost anal nature it takes towards its subject matter. You don’t just cook and serve meals, but you also must handle back of the house work like setting rat traps, washing dishes, and taking out the trash. It’s not all grunt work though, as since this is also your restaurant, that means you are the chef, owner, and manager. This is where things get really exciting, since you are tasked with buying food for the day and building a menu that must be familiar, yet fresh, and always evolving. You must deal with food costs, menu changes, special requests, challenges (including “Iron Chef” like competition invites), and even the occasional robbery all while running the day to day activities of your restaurant (a day in the game takes 6 minutes in real time). Ultimately your efforts are in the pursuit of increasing your restaurant’s star rating and public buzz level (and of course purchasing restaurant upgrades) in order to move on to bigger, better, and more challenging venues.

Nothing comes easy in “Cook, Serve, Delicious!”, and during the game’s rush hour moments, things can seem downright impossible. While the actual cooking mechanics aren’t as detailed and interactive as games like “Cooking Mama”, it’s the fact that you are tasked with managing everything, and that everything is so richly detailed, that makes the game so very worthwhile. Building a popular, yet inventive, menu in your own style, and being able to eventually serve it almost instinctively is one of those gaming nirvana feelings that never grows old, because it is always difficult to achieve. Thankfully the challenge doesn’t derive from the touch controls (which are well implemented), and the game’s appetizing graphic style and catchy soundtrack are a constant and welcome presence.

In many ways “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” reminds me of the recently released starship simulator “FTL” where your dream of running a starship (or restaurant in this case) is quickly burdened with the reality of doing so. Yet thanks to some ingenious design, and a well implemented balance of challenge and reward, “Cook, Serve, Delicious!” provides a long journey that proves the thrill that comes from overcoming true adversity is often greater than that of any pre-conceived fantasy notions you may have had on the subject. It goes beyond your ideas of the genre, and serves up a tasty app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Christmas HD

Developer:
DualBoot Games

Compatible with:
Android Systems

Requires:
Android 2.2 and up

Price:

$1.99

Available here

I have a confession for this entrant of app of the week. My choice isn’t really an app at all.

No, friends wait! Put down your torches and pitchforks and hear me out. While not strictly an app, and more of a wallpaper, this entrant is related to Christmas, which I think we call all agree is pretty bad ass.

And you know what? So is this wallpaper. It’s a live wallpaper that comes from the good people at DualBoot Games and is called Christmas HD. As you may have guessed, it’s in celebration of Christmas, and over the course of five screens depicts a home that is decked out with all of the classic decorations. Besides being extremely bright and colorful and active, the wallpaper is also filled with many, many details. You’ve got a calendar that serves as a Christmas countdown that updates every day, a steaming mug of hot chocolate with rising steam, a copy of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” resting on a comfortable lounge chair, snow gently falling outside the window, stockings hanging by the roaring fireplace, and a plate of cookies laid out by a note for Santa just to name a few. No classic sign of the holidays was left by the wayside, and that warm feeling that can only be described as “Christmasy” is impossible to avoid as you scroll through the wallpaper with a childish smile.

What really sells the wallpaper are the customization and interactive options available. Everything from the name on the stockings, to the photo on the mantle, to the message on the note, to the decorations on the trees and more can be customized via the surprisingly deep wallpaper menu which simply lays out a very welcome variety of options for the user. Even better, you can interact with a variety of the items on display in unique and unexpected ways, that will have you touching and swiping all over the layout just to see what may happen.

There’s an almost infinite amount of wallpapers available, and around this time of year, many of them are Christmas related. None of them, however, compare to Christmas HD. It’s vibrant, it’s clever, and it’s absolutely loaded with customizable details, the discovery of which are pleasantly comparable to the experience of opening a Christmas present. It’s constant presence on your phone is a cheerful reminder of the best time of the year, and the amount of fun clearly had making it is instantly recognizable in the amount of fun you will have using it.

For most of the year, this wallpaper may come off as confusing, unnecessary, and somewhat of a bad investment at $1.99. However, it’s hard to think like that when you’re in the heart of “Christmas-mania”, and for this brief time period it’s the best wallpaper money can buy, and makes for a very merry app of the week.

  

App of the Week – GTA: Vice City

Developer:
Rockstar Games

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Android Systems

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$4.99

Available here (for iOS)

*Temporarily unavailable for Android

I was only a child of the 80’s in the strictest of technical senses, so I don’t share the same nostalgia for the decade that some do. However, it’s still entertaining to look at the 80’s objectively as you wonder what the collective masses of Americana were thinking, and if the mounds of cocaine being passed around enhanced the bad hairstyles and pastel color patterns, or merely numbed the pain of them.

I do however have a fond recollection of the growing up with the “GTA” series in my teenage years, and among those games, I have the fondest memories concerning the 80s influenced “GTA: Vice City”. Hot off the heels of the groundbreaking “GTA: III”, “Vice City” did many of the same things as its predecessor, but added more weapons, missions, characters, rampage options, in-jokes, cars, and everything else that makes the GTA series what it is. In fact, many fans still consider “Vice City” to be the peak of the series to this day.

And now it comes to iOS and Android systems courtesy of Rockstar, to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the game’s release. The conversion carries all of the usual aspects such as enhanced graphics (which look phenomenal on the iPad), custom radio station option (always welcome),and re-worked touch controls (which are always hit and miss for the GTA mobile series, but are serviceable). Other than that it is more or less the same game.

Which is exactly why it’s here. After working out the kinks from the 3D conversion in “GTA:III”, but before becoming burdened with the RPG elements of “San Andreas” or the misguided attempts at realism with “GTA:IV”, “Vice City” ran with its chance to perfect the “GTA” formula, and never looked back. It’s story is still the tightest in all of the series, the voice acting is also among the best (featuring Ray Liotta’s best performance of the last decade), the soundtrack is a hit on all stations, missions are creative without becoming burdensome, the vehicle selection (which included motorcycles and helicopters) is top notch, the weapon variety is fun, the property buying system is inspired, and the use of the over the top 80s with the over the top “GTA” series is a match made in heaven.

Of course you still get the usual “GTA” brand of mayhem, which regardless of the game in the series, is always entertaining. The touch controls will always keep the mobile versions from becoming the definitive version of the games, but they’re about the only thing that isn’t better than the original. One quick note though is that the Android version is having some technical difficulties at the moment and isn’t currently available for download. However, once it is, this is a strong recommendation for all platforms, and a must buy for iPads.

Eventually you can see “Scarface” too many times, listen to Thriller only so much, and don your Don Johnson jacket for the final time while still getting away with it being considered ironic. In those moments, you need an 80’s fix that will never go out of style, and “GTA: Vice City” is just that, making it the app of the week.

  

App of the Week: “The Walking Dead: Assault”

Developer:
Skybound 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:

$1.99

Available here

Between the amazing 3rd season of the AMC show, and the groundbreaking, incredible, indescribably inventive Telltale Games adventure series, we’ve been treated to more “Walking Dead” goodness this year than anyone could have possible anticipated. Yet for mobile developer Skybound, it wasn’t quite enough as they now bring us yet another reason to celebrate the increasing influence of the Robert Kirkman comic series on the digital world with their gaming app, “The Walking Dead: Assault”.

The game, much like Telltale’s, is based off of the original comic, and not the TV show, which is immediately evident by the appealing visual style, where most everything in the game is smartly presented in black and white except for aspects of characters, items, and blood. It lends a very necessary immediate appeal, and produces that always appreciated (if unwelcome) “someone looking over your shoulder while you play” effect.

Unlike the Telltale masterpiece though, this game is centered more on action than character interaction, as it employs a squad based  mechanic (think “X-Men Legends”) that feels right at home in this world. At its core, it doesn’t stray far from the usual tropes of the genre, as you select a group of 4 characters and take them through a series of levels completing mandatory and optional objectives, while fighting off waves of enemies. Along the way you can improve character and group attributes, acquire a range of supplies and weapons (melee and ranged) and take advantage of character’s unique abilities and group effects such as always hitting head shots for a short period of time, or increasing overall group damage. It makes the careful selection of your group vital and entertaining.

Outside of standard mechanics, the game incorporates some specific aspects of the zombie apocalypse nicely through elements like the sound detection system, which allows you to use environmental distractions to draw zombies (though too much noise will bring down the fury of the entire horde). It also does a nice job of compensating for the limits of the touch mechanics, and everything from managing the group, to managing the camera, is handled smoothly. Meanwhile, features like your group auto firing when enemies are in range help keep the action from being upset by poor design, and really show off the potential of this type of game on the mobile format when done well.

“The Walking Dead: Assault” is designed to perfection, which is great since underneath it all is an intensely fun adventure that’s multiple sections and objectives provide a lengthy experience that satisfies that immediate “kill all zombies” urge, but also lends some real substance to the proceedings with the leveling and ability functions. Thanks to the style and execution of the game, the constant bombardment of action never really feels repetitive, and the story of the comics is well implemented through comic book panel interludes.

Right now the game is only the first in a planned series of chapters, but even if more weren’t on the way, this title would be an easy recommendation. Zombie games are a dime a dozen, and mobile squad games rarely work out as they should, but of course it’s the “Walking Dead” series that again breaks new ground. Much like pulling the trigger on a walker, anyone with a slight interest in this game can’t afford to hesitate and should snatch this app up at the introductory $1.99 price.

It was Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” that theorized that when there is no more room left in hell, the dead will walk the Earth. While that was meant as a warning of the end of days, in this case it’s a welcome happenstance that lends us the chance to play “The Walking Dead: Assault”, a no-brainer (pun very much intended) app of the week.

  

Related Posts