App of the Week: Organ Trail – Director’s Cut

Developer:
The Men Who Wear Many Hats LLC

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Android Systems

Requires:
iOS 3.1.3 or later

Android 2.1

Price:
$2.99

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

“You have Died of Dysentery”

Nothing was worse than seeing this message pop up on the Apple screen at the library we used to play “The Oregon Trail” at in grade school. Maybe the first couple of people to fall to it got away without too much ridicule, but as soon as one of us discovered what dysentery was, we became unstoppable forces of mocking nature. There were many ways to die on the “Oregon Trail”, but the only one you truly feared was the dreaded dysentery. It’s not like it was ever your fault either. If there was a “wash your hands after using the bathroom” button, we would have used it.

If you can’t relate to what I’m talking about then I truly pity you, because you missed out on one of the greatest gaming experiences of all time. What made “The Oregon Trail” so great was the many gameplay options and features, and how even playing the game right wasn’t a guarantee for survival. Even better, the vaguely historical setting meant that it was a game you could play at school, and at the aforementioned libraries. It’s one of those games where you can tell right away if someone grew up with it or not, because if they did, all it takes is a mere screenshot to bring a grin to their face, and set them off on a bombastic recollection of nostalgic memories.

Well if you did, in fact, never get to share that experience, then developer The Men Who Wear Many Hats has your back, thanks to some funding by Kickstarter. Because they are bringing back the old school gameplay of “The Oregon Trail” but infusing it with the harsh reality of the zombie apocalypse. Now truthfully, I’m getting a little tired of the zombie genre, but every now and then something will pop up that resurrects the style much in the same manner as the decaying dead that populate those titles.

“The Organ Trail” (huh…clever) is one of those instances. From the menus, to the basic gameplay, to the perfectly recreated graphics and sounds, “The Organ Trail” shamelessly apes “The Oregon Trail” with admirable accuracy. The basic goal is the same. You and yours traverse the country in search of a better home, while battling the dangers of the untamed world. But rather than just throw a couple of undead sprites your way and port “The Oregon Trail,” the developers have completely re-imagined the experience of that classic as it stands in this new world, and along the way have managed to perfectly recreate the experience of the original, while still making sure that anyone who grew up on the original game enjoys the near flawless ratio of nostalgia to the joy of a fresh game experience.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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App of the Week: Turf Geography Club

Developer:
Hyperspace Inc.

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:
Free

Available here

I feel like real estate tycoon is one of those universally appealing job titles. I mean sure, according to the History channel’s lineup, any ordinary blue collar position can apparently draw national interest, but the life of a real estate magnate will always hold a certain mystique that other careers just can’t touch. Personally I believe it’s got to be the “Monopoly” effect. That game caused people everywhere to realize that given the opportunity, they will compete for hours with their closest friends and relatives just to acquire a prime piece of property, even if it’s through greed and devious cut throat means.

Now, thanks to developer Michael Tseng, the thrill of real estate wars via a game are back in a big way. His new app “Turf Geography Club” (or just “Turf”) uses a loose relationship with “Foursquare” to allow users to check in to their favorite places (“Foursquare” can also be used to add new properties and check on current ones). But unlike “Foursquare,” the goal isn’t to become a virtual mayor. The mission here is instead world domination, as users look to own the property they check in at.

It works like this. You go to your favorite spot and check in. This gives you coins. Got friends? Good. They can help you earn even more coins by checking in too. With these coins you can then purchase a virtual recreation of that property. Not only that, but since it’s yours, you can spend coins on it to make new additions like signs, condo extensions, and all manners of random item enhancements that make the spot  uniquely yours. Once you’ve built your property up, you have the option to sell it at a higher value to other players, and use the profits on new ventures.

I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t this mean that one player could conceivably get ahead of the game and own an entire city? Well they could, if it wasn’t for the slot system. See, if you notice a bit of property that you want, but someone else owns, you can steal it from them by using coins to buy a slot pull. If you win the slot pull, you take the property. If you lose, you try again. The more a player spends on a property, it becomes much more difficult to steal it from them. Also if the owner doesn’t keep up with things like repairs, the property becomes easier for others to take. It’s a game about timing and management, with the end goal being to control your own world, and maybe a few other pieces as well.

Like I said, “Foursquare” has been running with the idea of checking into your favorite places for a while, and other apps like “My Town” have let users create their own world from real world locations for years. Where “Turf” pulls ahead of the competition is through its style, and its simplicity. “Turf’s” 8 bit art style makes it immediately visually appealing, and the level of unique customization options available reminds me of “Team Fortress 2″, a game that illustrated the effect that a deep level of add on’s can have to a game’s longevity. Also the design insures that users in small areas aren’t left out of the fun, as one user can grab an iron grasp on the hottest property in town, with everyone working to snatch it from them, as they continue to build and build it putting it further out of reach. The appeal for major city users is, of course, more obvious, as the entire metro area (from bodegas to bars) becomes a virtual battlefield for those seeking total domination.

I’ve covered a few fun apps here so far in this article, but “Turf” is the only one so far that I’m ready to call a must have for any reader. Not only is it built from a solid background derived from “Foursquare,” but it’s incredibly obvious from all of the little design decisions present that the team behind “Turf” is ready to make this app their own thing. Personally, I can’t wait to see what both user contributions and developer additions are going to do to an app that is already poised to become a sensation.

In a game that’s all about properties, “Turf” has already snagged a lofty one that no amount of slot pulls could ever take away from it. That’s its place as my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Solar

Developer:
Hollr, Inc.

Compatible With:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:
iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

$0.99

Available here

With all of the entertainment and social distractions that smartphones provide, it’s hard to remember that they were originally conceived with the simple intention of providing a tool to help the hyper active through their lives. In that respect, there are a few essential apps that everyone must have on their phones, no matter how far the technology may have come. They’re apps like schedule planners, calendars, and metal band name generators, which have all become standard regardless of the user.

But just because an app is standard, though, doesn’t mean it has to be ordinary. Consider the weather app on your phone. Everyone has one, everyone uses it, but unless you’re one of those guys who spends their free time watching mudslides in Honduras on The Weather Channel, using the basic weather app probably doesn’t constitute the highlight of your day.

Thankfully Hollr, Inc. and their app “Solar”, are looking to change that. “Solar” provides all of the usual weather information (current temperature, forecast,etc), but does it in a genuinely engaging way. Using a minimalist design, “Solar” uses a dynamic color palette on each half of the screen to represent the current weather conditions. The top half shows the weather, while the bottom half reveals the temperature, producing a stylish visual for your phone. Scrolling up on the app provides a forecast for the day, that also modifies the screen design appropriately to match the expected weather, and scrolling down gives you the three day weather report. Extra functionality is provided by double tapping on the screen to set up multiple weather locations, which can then be accessed by scrolling left and right on the app. More than any single feature though, the main selling point of “Solar” is its ability to turn one of the most basic features on your phone, into the most stylish.

Even though this app is discounted right now to the low, low price of 0.99 cents, you probably have some reasonable doubt about buying a weather app when so many good ones are available for free. Plus, for all of its incredibly slick design features, “Solar” still does include the standard text read-out weather temperature as its go-to measurement, and lacks some of the more specific details of competitive apps. But the fact is, you really only have two options for how to check the weather each day. Like a guy who’s trying to see if he needs an umbrella, or:

And if you fall into that later category, the only way to really do it is with “Solar”, my app of the week.

 

  

App of the Week: Twist

Developer:
Twist and Shout Inc.

Compatible With:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:
iOS 4.0 or later

Price:
Free

Available Here

Do you know somebody that’s just impossibly perfect? They’re always impeccably dressed, are constantly in a good mood, and never seem to be late?

That last one’s just not natural. I mean, I rarely intend to be late (unless its work, school, or dreaded social obligations), but things just happen sometimes. Yet for as inevitable as running late is, it still manages to complicate your life in tremendous ways, as the act of running late has seemingly become socially understandable, but the acceptance of having to wait on someone running late has not. So what’s the answer? Do we all just work to become that perfect individual who leaves on time, anticipates delays, and keeps to their word?

Well, thanks to the new app Twist, such self improvement is no longer necessary. Twist recognizes that you’re going to be late no matter what amount of traffic, directions, and planning apps you already have on your phone. Rather than combat the inevitable, Twist simply helps you adjust your life to accommodate it. Using a GPS system, Twist allows you to see exactly where your friends are en route to you, or vice versa, and can alert you as to their progress. Not only that, but the app provides an estimated arrival time, as well as functionality with other applications. An example would be if you see your friend is lost. You could use your phone to then send the appropriate directions from their exact location (especially helpful as it keeps them from having to use their phone in traffic, or in the middle of a crowded street). More than just serve as a social convenience, though, the developers of Twist are also using it in an effort to cut down on dangerous acts like texting while driving.

Very few of us can get through the day without meeting somebody, somewhere, in some fashion. Besides the life saving features it incorporates for people running late, Twist also allows for a tremendous level of communication between people meeting up, even if the timing is right. While it’s another app that borders somewhat on stalking if used in the wrong hands, it does mean we may finally be able to end the sitcom scenario of being late for your date and madly scrambling to keep them in touch regarding the wacky events that transpired leading to your tardiness.

For that, this is a no brainer app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Wrestling Revolution

Compatible With: Android 2.2 and up

Price: Free

Available here

When I was a kid, there was nothing cooler than pro wrestling. Turning on the TV to find larger than life individuals with cartoon personas wailing on each other to the delight of packed arenas was a sensory overload experience that few programs could match. Over time, though, the program aged, and so did I. Like the rest of the country at the time, I was captivated by the obscene brutality of the “Attitude Era”, and the new stars it created like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and The Rock, but after that pro wrestling just lost its appeal.

Still though, I’ve got enough nostalgic love for pro wrestling, that occasionally the right spark can rekindle that old passion for it. This usually happens when I play the “Smackdown v.s. Raw” games, as the series genuinely good multiplayer mode is easy enough for anyone to get into, whatever the source material may be. However, those games have become watered down over the years, as the lack of competition have forced them into such a complacency that the series has lost that light hearted, casual fun aspect that makes pro wrestling, in any format, so entertaining in the first place.

That’s why we need a revolution. “Wrestling Revolution” is an android app that offers a simplified touch control system that allows for all of the basic strikes, grapples, and special moves the sport is known for. It also has the standard match types like 1 on 1, tag team, and battle royals, along with the regular arsenal of usable weapons such as chairs, tables, and title belts. On so many levels, it is your basic wrestling game, just with touch controls that perform well enough to not get in your way too often.

So why is it my app of the week? Because it’s loaded with that pure fun I was talking about earlier. The roster is so good it’s criminal (seriously, you may have to edit some of the names, but the available likenesses make sure you don’t have to stretch your imagination too much) and their vibrant sprites perform a surprisingly good range of animations for the various maneuvers available. This game harkens back to the arcade style of the classic “WWF Wrestlefest”, and is all the better for it. The one feature that’s not a throwback at all, and is actually quite innovative, is the games “episodic” format. While this mode is still a work in progress, it actually boasts  updated weekly storylines that promise to make the game different every time you play it. The feature isn’t quite there yet, but parts of it are still leagues ahead of the same ole, same ole single player mode of its major league counterpart in terms of ambition.

There’s more to the game of course, such as create a character modes and the like, but in the end you want this app because it’s so much pure fun. While I can’t promise that it will make a believer out of non-wrestling fans, for a free app ($.99 for the PPV add-on), if you’ve ever had an ounce of love for the sport, and own an android, you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot. It’s may not be as technically sound as Mr. Perfect, as flashy as a Ric Flair entrance from the 80’s, or a complete revolutionist like CM Punk. It does, however, remind me of Andre the Giant. Obvious, blunt, but consistently entertaining enough to make it an easy app of the week.

  

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