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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Music gadgets for gift ideas

We’ve talked about gadget gifts and stocking stuffers, and here we have two items that are great for the tech-savvy people on your list who like to create music.

GuitarConnect Pro

This cool device from Griffin Technology (pictured above) is designed to work with any instrument that has a ¼ inch jack (including guitars, bass guitars, electric violins, keyboards, etc.), GuitarConnect Pro was created to turn iPad or iPhone into a compact performance or practice rig. A built-in gain control wheel allows the user to adjust the strength of the instrument’s input signal. Users gain a high-quality, all-digital connection from guitars and other instruments directly into GarageBand and other audio apps. It’s a simple yet very powerful device and music lovers will really appreciate it. And, it fits nicely into a holiday stocking!

Korg nanoKEY2

Here we switch to keyboards, which is a very popular way to create music. The nanoKEY2 is built with 25 keys and allows full control of pitch. It’s one of the devices in the NanoSERIES2 which are all compatible with GarageBand. Imagine how much fun music-lovers can have playing around with this device.

Even if someone hasn’t tried to create their own music in the past, devices like these two above offer an easy way to get started. They spur the creative process, and for that reason alone they make great gifts.

  

Stats galore: Bill James Baseball IQ app

Baseball fans love their stats, particularly fantasy owners looking for an edge. Whether you’re a certified stat geek or your fantasy league’s reigning champ, you could spend hours digging through the vast pool of information found in the Bill James Baseball IQ app. Created by Steve Selfors in collaboration with noted historian and stat savant Bill James and developer American Eagle, Baseball IQ sets itself apart from other statistics-based baseball apps by putting the sport’s endless stream of useful data into the hands of its most rabid fans with full color graphics that are easy to both navigate and understand.

Say, for example, you want to see how Toronto’s Jose Bautista, the game’s current home run king, has fared against Yankees ace CC Sabathia throughout his career. Well, for starters, that’s just too simple for this app. In fact, with a few clicks, you can see Sabathia’s lifetime stats against every hitter on Toronto’s roster (Bautista, incidentally, is 0-30 against the large lefty with 14 strikeouts…yikes). Want to see a location breakdown for Bautista’s 14 Ks vs. Sabathia? Check out the K Zone chart. Wondering how those numbers stack up against Bautista’s stats against other Yankee starters, or any other pitcher in the game over the last year? Last two years? Last three years? Check. With Hit Locator, you can see where Bautista is most likely to hit the ball in certain situations (against particular pitchers, in a specific ballpark, with an 0-2 count, etc.), and with Hit Zone, you can see the location of pitches in and around the strike zone where Bautista tends to get his hits. Of course, these breakdowns are available for every player in the game over the last three years, and the app also allows you to stack one player’s stats up against another’s over a set time period and against particular teams and/or pitchers. Pretty cool.

But we’re just scratching the surface here. The bottom line is, you’ll find stats on the Bill James Baseball IQ app that you won’t see anywhere else, giving you the knowledge you need to impress your friends at the bar while continuing to dominate those same friends in your fantasy baseball league.

  

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