App of the Week: Super Monsters Ate My Condo

Developer:
PikPok

Compatible with:
iPhone (3GS Minimum)

iPod Touch (3rd Gen. Minimum)

iPad

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:
$0.99

Available here

Wild man, just wild.

It’s about the only way to describe the original “Monsters Ate My Condo” released by Adult Swim and PikPok. It was a fury of colors, crazy designs, and lightning quick reaction times that was impossible to not get swept up in, and more than worth its $1.00 asking price. Now it’s back in the form of an appropriately titled sequel, “Super Monsters Ate My Condo”.

The basic idea behind the game is that you have to build a towering condo made up of multi-colored pieces, and keep it from toppling. To do so, you have to match three of the same colored leveled pieces to create a stronger bronze level. Three combined bronzes make a silver, three silvers a gold, and three golds a diamond.

Of course, to match level colors, you’ll have to discard those in the way. This is where the monsters come in. The monsters are intent on destroying your already shaking condo, and the only way to appease them is to swipe levels that match the monsters color their way for their consumption, and to get them out of your way. If you swipe too many levels of the wrong color, or neglect to feed one of a levels two monsters for too long, they get to smashing. Also when you match three of a same color, the monster on the level that shares that color goes away and is replaced by another.

That’s the general idea of the gameplay, but it only gets nuts from there. Because there’s also things like special blocks that can aid a player if used correctly, or cause some real damage if they aren’t disposed of quickly. The monsters also carry different super powers which aid the player and are activated by feeding the monsters special combo floors (the stronger the floor, the more effective the power). The trade off is you lose a strong level, but the payoff yields attributes like more time on the clock or preventing harmful blocks from falling while in use, so it’s almost always worth it.

New to the sequel is the game’s increased (and addictive) focus on objectives. You’re given three goals on the outset of every level, and completing all three unlocks a new set of objectives and also new elements within the game (such as special level blocks). You also unlock booster abilities and coins as you go along. The boosters provide a wide range of in game aids, while draining coins upon each use. In a nice little nod to ‘Team Fortress 2,” the coins can also be used to purchase a variety of hats for the monsters, which create permanent ability boosters, but cost way more. Also worth noting is the absence of the original game’s endless play mode, and instead the only game option is a timed two minute run.

To play “Super Monsters Ate My Condo” is to love it. You’ve played this basic type of game a million times before, and “Super Monsters” knows it. That’s why it goes out of its way to make sure that every intangible element of the game that isn’t just matching similar colored blocks is exceedingly well done. Level and character drawings, sound design, and the enticing mission based system all make “Super Monsters” already addictive gameplay become irresistible.

It’s not easy to play this game for just two minutes at a time, as you constantly challenge yourself to meet your own personal objectives, or those of the game. The core concept would be addictive enough on its own, but the way you are constantly rewarded for  diving into it deeper makes it impossible to put down. You’ll start to measure your life in two minute intervals, and catch yourself with the game’s images of dancing monsters in lederhosen and endless streams of blocks clouding your thoughts when you try to step away from it.

I not only don’t mind that “Super Monsters” continue to eat my condos, but gladly let them eat my dollar as well. This is the “One More Game” effect at its best, and makes for a clear app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: UHF Horror Movie Collection

Developer:
3DCGFX COMICS COMPANY

Compatible with:
Android Devices

Requires:
Android 1.6 or up

Price:
$0.99

Available here

So I’m jumping the gun with this one, but with October approaching rapidly, I can’t help but get excited for Halloween a little early.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the horror genre, no matter what the medium, even though I’m not entirely sure why. There’s something about a good (or even not that good) scary story that appeals to me more than just about any other kind. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a genre that has been graced with some diabolically creative minds over the years, whose visions of scares and atrocities that most would rather never hope to have cross their minds, manifest themselves into tales of terror that all celebrate, and contribute to,  the undeniable human quality that we just like to be scared.

If you have an Android device, you can help re-live some of film’s greatest horror stories with the UHF Horror Film app. A collection of public domain works, this app yields no less than a 130 movies of macabe that are available to watch in their full feature release versions. That does mean you can find a lot of these titles for free, but its very nice to find them all in one convenient location that’s always available. Also, while some of the titles available are understandably less than classic, even a lot of the bad ones are bad in the enjoyable way (which is a unique trait that horror movies, and maybe comedies, enjoy).

What really shocked me when reviewing the list of movies available on this app, though, is how many of these titles are worth full retail price. Movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” “Nosferatu,” “Carnival of Souls,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Haxan” and “Dementia 13” are included in the bundle, and are all essential horror viewing for one reason or another. But still, the real joy comes in taking a shot on random movies like “I Eat Your Skin,” “Driller Killer,” or “Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory” and seeing if you can’t accidentally unearth a new cult classic (Hint: In the cases of those movies mentioned, it’s not likely).

With additions like plot summaries, cast and crew information, reviews, and 65 episodes of the TV series “One Step Beyond” and “Tales of Tomorrow” thrown in for good measure, there’s an absurd amount of content available. You may never get around to seeing everything on this app, but since we’re talking about a cost per movie of $0.0076 , then there’s little reason to not give it a go, even if it is just to quell your Halloween jonesing on the go.

While Apple Maps may be the scariest app currently available, it doesn’t come close to having the sheer entertainment value of the UHF horror film collection, my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Apple Maps Replacement Edition

Developers:
Lumatic – Lumatic Inc.

Waze – Waze Inc

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:
Lumatic – iOs 5.0 or later

Waze – iOs 4.0 or later

Price:
Free

Available here for Waze and here for Lumatic

I don’t like to use the words resounding, embarrassing failure to describe something unless I have to. For one thing, it’s just not that nice and, for another, I like to maintain the integrity of such a phrase, so when it is used you can really appreciate the effect. With that in mind I won’t use it for the new Apple Maps app, but I just wanted you to know that the thought did cross my mind, so you have an idea what we’re dealing with.

Instead I’ll describe the new “Google Map Killer” as a crushing disappointment. Mostly because some features show such promise (the Yelp integration and some of the layout is nice), while other aspects of the app are shamefully bad (just look at some of these screenshots, or this head to head with Google Maps). What’s worse is, Apple has effectively blackballed Google Maps from iO6, and therefore the new iPhone 5. While there are ways of getting around this problem, it is a joke that the superior Google Maps isn’t an easy option as it should be.

Until Apple Maps gets its act together then, you are going to need some replacement apps for map and navigation needs. In fact, to replace the functions and features of Google Maps, without paying a service fee for some of the full fledged navigation apps, you’ll actually need a couple of apps to make up the difference.

The first App I recommend then would be the free Lumatic City Maps. While somewhat limited in scope (it only covers 24 major cities and is mainly for public transportation, not driving) if you do live in an area that support it, it’s a must have. Lumatic handily keeps track of all public transportation options with nice, real world photos, and both transport time estimates and schedules of bus and subway arrival times. The best feature of this app is actually a tie. I can’t decide between the way that selecting a business will automatically provide Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, and Wikipedia information, or how when providing directions, the app will actually reference locations in the area. For instance, it may say make a left turn passing the Starbucks on your right. It feels like a very organic way of providing directions and nicely highlights why this is such a fun and practical app if you live in an area that supports it.

If you don’t, or if you need driving directions, you are going to have to look elsewhere. Luckily there is another free app called Waze that admirably handles those duties. A popular app for a while now, Waze has honed itself into a fine tuned navigation assistant that also features some fantastic layouts and graphics. It’s turn by turn directions are competitive with any app out there, and its location search feature is not only comprehensive, but actually outshines some of the other major apps, especially Apple Maps, in terms of results and information. The integrated social features also allow drivers to communicate updates with each other, and the latest version even shows the price of the gas stations around you so you can choose the cheapest option. Even better, Waze provides gas discounts to certain stations along the way.

I was really hoping that Apple Maps would be as great as Apple was hyping it up to be, so I would have an easy selection this week. While I haven’t given up hope it may one day be worthy, in the meantime I wouldn’t recommend relying on it for any practical purposes. Luckily, you won’t have to navigate your world, or the app market, blindly, thanks to the combined efforts of Waze and Lumatic Maps, my apps of the week.

  

App of the Week: Bastion

Developer:
Supergiant Games

Compatible with:
iPad

Requires:

iOS 5.1

Price:

$4.99

Available here

As the Summer of Arcade kicked off in 2011 for Xbox Live, one of the headline games was a title called “Bastion.” Like just about every other indie title ever made, it arrived without much hype and drew little more than curiosity based on the tantalizing art style. But as soon as it hit the marketplace, both critics and fans found themselves completely immersed by a game that realized that sometimes there is an inherent value in style over substance, if you happen to be the most stylish thing in the room. It went on to post impressive sales figures, and find itself on short lists everywhere for game of the year.

And now it’s coming to iPad.

If you never got to experience “Bastion” originally, it’s a story of a protagonist known only as the kid who awakes one day to find that an event known as the “Great Calamity” has wiped out just about everything he’s ever known. His only hope is to search out a communal safe haven, known only as the bastion.

“Bastion” is an action RPG in the style of “Diablo.” From there, it immediately defies categorization. Letting the simple and addictive style of the genre take care of that burdensome concept known as gameplay, “Bastion” instead focuses its considerable efforts on…well just about everything else. You’ll immediately be drawn in by the games art style, which features well rendered hand painted environments and characters. Color has seemingly abandoned video games as a whole, and to call “Bastion’s” style a breath of fresh air contradicts the fact that the only way to really describe the look of the game is breathtaking.

Coupled with this graphical onslaught is some of the best sound design ever put in a video game. This is mostly due to the games gruff narrator who manages to comment on just about everything in the game, whether scripted or otherwise. What initially seems gimmicky, and could get annoying, instead becomes vital as it contributes to the game a unique storytelling style that reminds you of a storybook fantasy tale. When not being entertained by the narration, you may take the time to notice that the music is not only appropriately atmospheric, but also stands well on its own accord.

For its critical transition to the iPad, little is lost. All of the game’s content is available, and looks and sounds great. The controls could have been an issue, but by using a minimal amount of touch buttons, the developers have managed to make things as painless as possible, and after the first few levels you will rarely find yourself fumbling with the controls. In fact, the only reason I couldn’t recommend the iPad as a platform for “Bastion” is because when everything in the game (the addictive action, the stunning look, and the encompassing sound) all come together, it’s very easy to get swept up in the title and thus lose track of the world around you, making “Bastion” something of a public hazard. Also, much like the original title, you may find yourself wishing that you had an invisible narrator commenting on your every action through the day, only to be continuously disappointed there isn’t one.

There doesn’t exist enough games with the simple beauty of “Bastion,” and there are even fewer on the iPad. In 2011 “Bastion” for the 360 was a candidate for best game of the year. In 2012, it’s still got enough going for it on the iPad to be my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Fantasy Football Edition

So I’d like to take this time to admit that I have a fantasy football problem.

That’s right, I’m that guy. The one with multiple teams, and a small fortune invested in their outcomes. The one who will watch every game to follow my players, and root against lifelong favorite teams if one of my guys needs to get be an extra point or so before the late games. Hell, I once introduced fantasy football into a conversation about a friend’s dad being hospitalized due to malpractice by saying, “Hey, speaking of dropping the ball, what do you think about Dez Bryant against the Eagles this week?”

Luckily I live in a football and fantasy crazed society that supports this sickness. More than support it, they allow it to successfully infiltrate other aspects of your life by providing awesome mobile apps so that you never have to sit through another social obligation or work day without having the ability to request trades, and change you roster for the 5th time in a week. Of those apps, here are the most essential ones that you will need come time for the new season.

For Your Overall Needs – ESPN Fantasy Football 2012

Available for iOS here, and for Android here

So, there’s a lot of sites you can play fantasy football on, but I say if you’re going to spend a disturbing amount of your life during football season watching the same SportsCenter over and over until the new one kicks in, you might as well stick with ESPN. Quite simply, this app allows you the full range of features you would get by logging into your ESPN league (trades, roster movements, league news, etc.) but of course here you have all of that power in the palm of your hands. Best of all is the notification alerts, so you’re never behind on an injury update, or smack talk opportunity ever again.

If you’re going with fantasy football through ESPN this year, then this is the most essential app you can download (and if you’re not, be sure to snag your host site’s alternative). Just try not to spend the whole day considering your WR loadout for the week, just because you have the ability to change it at will.

For Your Draft – Rotowire Fantasy Football Draft Kit 2012

Available for iOS here

If the draft isn’t the most important part of your fantasy football year, it sure is the most exciting. Watching your roster come together from the all star impossible selections of the first few rounds, to the vital sleeper picks of the late rounds, all while trying to beat your friends for the most bragging rights is the best part of any season. As my 2010 year proved, however, sometimes flipping a coin between tough decisions is not the best way to go. In that case, I have to recommend the unrivaled help provided by the Rotowire Draft Kit.

This is a smart draft app of sorts, as it allows you to set recommendations based on your preferences, and can actually adjust player rankings based off of your league settings and your needs according to the draft progress thus far. You’ll also find the usual range of stats, recommendations, and upset picks all tied together by a clean interface that allows you to smoothly navigate the various app features while keeping up with the draft thus far.

While this app won’t prevent you from picking the sure thing player gone bust, or keep your first two running back picks from blowing their ACL’s in week one, it is otherwise the closest you will come to a fool proof draft day.

For the Compulsive – Fantasy Football 12’ HD

Available for iOS here, and for Android here

From Bignoggins Productions, this is one of the most popular fantasy football apps available. It offers the same add/drop, roster changes, news updates, and trade abilities as the host site apps, but the difference here is you can manage your ESPN, Yahoo, and NFL.com teams all via this app without having to move back and forth. Plus, since you will be second guessing your every move throughout the year, this gives you another available outlet for recommendations and news.

If your fantasy obsession has taken you to the darken back alley that is owning and managing multiple teams over multiple leagues, then there is no more essential app available then this one.

For the Hell of It – Paper Football 3D

Available for the iOS here, and for Android here

Look, it’s quite possible that every one of your star players will go down and you’ll miss out on every great free agent pick up of the year leading to the dreaded winless season. It happens.

It’s at times like this that you need something to remind yourself that football is supposed to be fun. And since the official NFL Madden app will probably just remind you that Darren McFadden just will never stay healthy, and you should probably just stop drafting him already (sorry…still working through some stuff here), why not dial it back another notch and go back to the simplistic days of paper football. It takes the basics of the game (points, mostly) and gives you a reprieve from the brain crushing numbers of fantasy ball, while providing your methadone fix of the game that you most desperately need.

While I can’t guarantee that these apps will make you a lock to win your league this year, with Calvin Johnson most assuredly going down to the Madden curse, we could be looking at another topsy turvy anything can happen kind of season. Which is why you may soon find yourself needing my first four picks in this round of app of the week.

  

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