App of the Week: HabitRPG

Developer: OCDevel

Compatible with: Android Devices

Requires: Android 3.0

Price: Free

Available: here

When it comes to self-improvement apps and myself, I have to reference the classic movie “Office Space” and say that it’s all a question of motivation, in that it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I don’t care.

Most self-improvement apps show you a lot of graphs and statistics, but don’t exactly do much to motivate you besides the desire to see a series of graphs and statistics that reflect the new, and better you. Sure they may help keep you in line, but that’s about the extent of their involvement.

“HabitRPG” is a website, and now Android app, funded by Kickstarter that takes a gamification approach to the subject, by turning your self-improvement into a role playing game. Basically what you do is create a virtual 8-Bit avatar, and set a series of goals. If you accomplish those goals (for instance “Do 50 push-ups”), then you get to award yourself points. Fail to accomplish those goals however, and you have to take away hit points from your character. Gaining enough points, allows you to reach new levels, buy new equipment, or put them towards any number of custom rewards you set (Like “Watch 2 hours of Netflix”), however lose enough points and your character can “die” resetting all of your progress.

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While it’s a system that is more dependent than others on you being honest with yourself (especially when it comes to removing points for missteps), and there are some interface issues that could use some ironing out, the basic idea this app is built around is generally inspired, and a great overall use of the gamification idea to inspire you to be more productive.

Turning you into a virtual RPG character, and your life into a quest, is certainly an effective tool for those looking to make some serious lifestyle improvements, but honestly for most this will serve as the absolute coolest to do list available. A big part of that has to do with the expansive system of tasks and rewards the app allows you to enter, all of which can be tied into game elements that may be simplified, but provide a rewarding experience all the same.

In fact, it’s easy to imagine the intended use for this app is for the user to start using it as a simple checklist for their life, and gradually add more and more to that list as you go along until you find yourself becoming better and better and finally reaching your ultimate goal at a progressive pace. Kind of like…well…an RPG.

Not quite a game, but much more than the usual planner, “HabitRPG” is a hybrid app that gets it right, and at the very least deserves a spot on the Android device of every gamer with a to do list. For making your routine anything but, “HabitRPG” levels up to my app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: Swype

Developer: Nuance Communications Inc.

Compatible with: Android devices

Requires: Android 2.2 and up

Price: $0.99

Available here

The keyboard of your mobile device is something you can’t even call a feature. It’s more of a given and, as such, you probably never really put much thought into it, or consideration into using any but the one your device came with.

The developers of Swype seem to be aware of that mentality, and for years have been working on a keyboard alternative that would merit that very consideration. While they made their name initially (and literally) because of a trace to type featured dubbed Swype, that feature has since become standard for many android devices, and have forced the team at Swype to develop a product not dependent on a single feature, and worthy of the app’s long anticipated Google Play debut.

They’ve done it too. With the trace feature no longer its ace, Swype instead focuses its effort on making a keyboard that is not only faster than others (Swype was used to set a Guinness Book record for texting) but more accurate as well. While this is best exemplified in its abilities to do things like learn the type of language and lingo you use to offer better text prediction, its intelligent sentence editor, or how you can do things like change to a keypad style layout for numbers, it’s more of general design philosophy than anything that is exemplified by a single feature.

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That isn’t to say that Swype doesn’t have some flash though. Since being bought by Nuance Communications, Swype has incorporated that company’s Dragon Mobile Assistant feature, which is integrated into the keyboard and allows you to verbally dictate a message, or any input, with a kind of accuracy you really don’t see from other similar programs, and provides yet another reliable input feature for your buck. There’s even a planned feature which will incorporate the languages and unique dialects of any area you are in, and use them to further enhance the text prediction feature.

I’d be lying if I said Swype is a sexy or exciting app, or one that is easy to properly do justice to by describing it. It isn’t, and you can’t. What it is though is a monumental improvement to maybe the most essential of functions your mobile device is capable of, and at its must have introduction price of $0.99 (which unlocks it for your phone and tablet) is cheaper than other comparable apps like Swiftkey, yet doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of functionality in the process.

You may not often consider your keyboard and ways to make it better, but the developers of Swype have, and they’ve used that information to create a keyboard that is my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: eBay Now

Developer:
eBay

Compatible with:
iPhone

iPod Touch

iPad

Android Devices

Requires:
iOS 5.0

Android 2.1

Price:

Free

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

There’s certain advantages and disadvantages to living in a big city that any resident will tell you. For disadvantages, there is the high cost of living, the crime rate, the human traffic (and motor traffic) all around, and in some places a smell so unique and horrific that you are afraid to identify it in the fear that by giving it a name, you also give it strength.

However there are the perks. The best restaurants and stores, world class architecture, an unlimited amount of entertainment options available around the clock, and the ability to have pretty much anything delivered to you.

That last one just got a big boost thanks to the launch of eBay Now. Available to residents of San Francisco for about a month now, recently the service has been expanded to New York and allows you to buy a large number of products from a variety of big name retailers from their eBay stores, and have it delivered to wherever you are, that same day, with an estimate that many of the deliveries will arrive in under an hour.

With a host of major retailers already signed up including Macy’s, Best Buy,  Target, and Walgreens, there are very few things you could want or need that are not now available to you for same day service, and the only limits of this app’s uses are seemingly your imagination as it pertains to what “have to have it here now” items you could possibly want.

And whether it be an impulse need for an epic NERF gun fight brought to you via Toys R’ Us, or a strong desire not to wash your socks in the near future that just leads you to ordering some new ones brought to you from Macy’s, there is now a wide variety of impulse purchase options available that are made all the better by the reported excellent speed, reliability, and support the service offers, which includes a GPS tracker of your delivery progress.

eBay Now is a significant release for the online retail giant, and shatters expectations of consumers when it comes to availability and speed of purchases even if they are used to living in a big city. eBay is looking to expand the service to more cities to come, so even if you are not in one of the included areas, be sure to keep an eye out for additional upcoming locations as this app comes through with its lofty promise and not only delivers just about anything you could want right to you, it also delivers the app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Curiosity

Developer:
22Cans

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

iPod touch 3rd gen or up

iPad

Android Devices

Requires:
iOS 4.3

Android 2.3.3

Price:

Free

Available here (for iOS) and here (for android)

Peter Molineaux has made his career off of hyping his titles to impossible degrees. From promising you the ability to play God with all that entails, to his infamous claim in “Fable” that you could plant a seed, and live to watch it grow into a tree, he’s defined by promising lemonade and delivering lemons.

Well, maybe that is a bit harsh as his titles are always interesting, even if they are never quite what you though they would be. He’s without a doubt one of gaming’s most unique minds, and he’s just released an app that might just be his most ambitious title yet. It’s called “Curiosity” and if you haven’t heard of it in your everyday life yet, you can expect that to change soon, as it is slowly taking the mobile gaming market by storm.

“Curiosity” is a game that starts with nothing more than a black cube. Zoom into the cube and you will see that it is comprised of millions of smaller cubes which can be removed with the touch of a finger. The goal couldn’t be more simple, as you are tasked with removing every single one of those cubes on one layer by taping them, in order to do the same on the next layer, earning coins for in game purchases that will let you dig faster.

That’s it. That’s the entire point to the game. Why would anyone want to do this? Well there are two reasons really, as it’s not just you chipping away at the seemingly infinite sized cube but rather thousands all working on a cube on each server, making this a pretty significant multiplayer title. The other is the vague promise that at the center of the cube is a life changing, mind blowing secret, which will only ever be revealed to one person, and that’s whoever removes the last cube first.

The whole “world changing” secret bit reeks of classic Molineaux, and will no doubt be a resounding dud. However, “Curiosity” is slightly different than the typical Molineaux hype job, as instead of promising the journey of a life time, he’s only promising the destination of a lifetime, and leaving the journey to those who wish to discover it.

It’s a key difference that is already paying dividends in the entertainment factor of the app, as the thousands that have played so far have already started creating sayings and photos of all kinds en route to the center of the cube. The sheer size of the structure makes it easy for a large number of hidden images and messages to be found, as every angle usually yields some new surprise, even if it is just a dirty word or two. Of course, they already go along with the hidden visuals the developers have put into each layer.

Much more than the contents of the cube then, it is the community aspect that drives what is better described as a global social experiment than a game. Since the only real gameplay consists of removing a seemingly infinite amount of blocks one at a time (even if there are coin and combo incentives), the real joy comes in gaining a new layer, and exploring what players have done with the layer you are on. Every would-be-monotonous step is now instead one step closer and filled with wonder, and of course pure curiosity.

“Curiousity” is also very controversial, as many are saying it is a joke to call it a game, and consider it to be more of an elaborate prank than a form of entertainment. There’s also the issue of how many people are trying to join at once causing massive server issues, and preventing many from joining at will.

Faults aside though, “Curiosity” may represent a small step toward the future of mobile gaming, as it brings the whole world together for one common goal and lets the define how they get there. Whether you are in it for the hunt for the center, or just want to see what creative works others before you have done, I recommend trying “Curiosity” out while it’s busy setting the world on fire as it is, if nothing else, a memorable experience that may turn into something much more.

We don’t know when “Curiosity” will end, what will come of it, are what stories will be crafted along the way. For whatever the answers to those questions eventually be, it’s important to get onboard with “Curiosity” sooner than later if you want to find out, which is all the more reason for it  to be my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Devil’s Attorney

Developer:
Senri AB

Compatible with:
Android Devices

Requires:
Android 2.3 or up

Price:
$3.00

Available here

“If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.” – Charles Dickens

You may find this quote close to fictional lawyer Max McMann’s heart, if not on a plaque somewhere in his seedy office or written for keepsake to tuck away in his cheap suit. He’s the start of the new app “Devil’s Attorney”, and he is not necessarily a bad man, just a damn good lawyer.

“Devil’s Attorney” is an app similar in concept to the successful DS lawyer series, “Phoenix Wright”. The twist here is that you don’t play a crusader of justice, so much as a chaser of ambulances, as it’s pretty clear that McMann became a lawyer for the specific purpose of making a lot of money, as his clients are almost exclusively of the guilty persuasion (though he would strongly advise they do not make a similar plea in court).

The game is made up of over 50 cases where the player, as Max, has to out maneuver the prosecution and their witnesses. The court scenes are broken down into rounds, and you are given a certain amount of action points to spend on maneuvers like Cross Examination, Epic Speech, Mesmerize, and of course the always useful Tamper With Evidence. You’re trying to use your actions to “defeat” witnesses, and the evidence itself, by draining their hit points (call it “character assassination”) and taking them out of the game, making this very much like a traditional RPG. Once you run out of action points, your round is over and you have to weather the prosecutions attacks.

Appropriately, it’s not so much about the case as it is about the tactics.  You have to manage your action points well as you often either focus your efforts on one witness or evidence piece at a time, or spread the damage throughout. Win a case, and you’re rewarded with cold hard cash, which can be used to purchase new suits or furniture for your apartment, which in turn grants new abilities or enhancements to your current ones. So you could, for instance, swagger into your next case wearing a feathered pimp hat, zebra suit and monocle, while wielding a hammer for extra evidence tampering abilities.

The key to the entire game is its humor, which is strangely (yet successfully) rooted pretty firmly in 80′s pop culture. The actual court room mechanics works okay, but if it wasn’t for the insane amount of fun this game is having with everything from the bizarre cases, to the gut busting humorous dialogue, and the gaudy swag that doubles as upgrades, this might be a completely forgettable game. Instead it is that aspect that drives you to keep playing (and enjoying this game) until the final case is closed. It is a rare feature in a video game where you get to play the bad guy, and it is truly a welcome change of pace to be able to speak on behalf of some of the worst criminals imaginable all in the pursuit of the mighty dollar.

The constant amount of artistic style and comedy on display in “Devil’s Attorney” is a true joy. It’s a morally objectionable game that isn’t trying to be offensive, and instead milks a demented concept for all the black humor and enjoyment it is worth. I do wish the game were a bit longer, but what’s here is solid gold.

As your attorney I advise you to buy this game right away as well as check out the incredible 80’s style intro below. Afterwards, I don’t think I’ll hear any objections to this being the app of the week.

  

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