App of the Week: Hundreds

Developer:

Semi Secret Software LLC.

Compatible with:
iPhone (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

$2.99 (on sale)

Available here

In what has been a surprisingly deep week of quality apps, hopefully signaling a new year of the same, it was a tough task picking one to spotlight. There is one, however, making some serious noise and gaining quite a following from sites like Kotaku who already name it their, admittedly pre-mature, game of the year.

It’s called “Hundreds”, and if you give it a minute it would like to take over your life. How? Well, like so many other great puzzle apps, it starts with a simple idea. In this case, it is taking a grey circle (or circles) with the number zero in the center, and pressing down on it while the number grows until it reaches a hundred (in the case of multiple circles, the numbers must collectively add to be a hundred). With me so far? Good, because this is where it gets fun. You see, while holding down on a circle it turns from grey, to red. Should that red circle touch pretty much anything, you lose. At all times you must be aware of the location, numbers within, and size of your circles to try to find the right balance of when to manipulate what circles where. It’s an idea very easy to grasp from just a quick video demonstration.

Humorously the first level is a lone circle you must do nothing more to than press down upon until it grows to a hundred. It’s the game’s tutorial level as from there, it spends the rest of its 100+ levels exploring every possible way to throw the concept in your face, and torture you with the relentless difficulty it is capable of. As a fan of level design, I was blown away with the sheer, there’s no other word for it, audacity of the puzzles in this game. It’s clear the developers are overachievers, and they will leave you in stunned silence at the outset of most every level while you appreciate how difficult of a challenge you are facing.

By using random movements, dynamic obstacles, and good old constraints, “Hundreds” forces you not into a zen like state to best it, but rather an actively contemplative one. It gives you plenty of time to consider your next action, and its consequences, and then in the heat of making your move forces you to dynamically adjust the expectations of those actions. It’s like a pitcher giving the batter all the time in the world before politely asking if he’s ready to swing. Even then, he would have no idea what’s coming, and little time to adjust.

The word you’ll hear about “Hundreds” is addictive, and rightly so. It is addictive. Buy what impresses me most is the effortlessness of the entire experience. It’s a puzzle prodigy of sorts, in that it so easily does everything well that you forget the real effort being put into every aspect. Yet even down to the cryptic messages in between stages, there isn’t an idea here that wasn’t carefully considered and implemented.

In the end “Hundreds” may just be another addictive, clever mobile puzzle game in a, thankfully, long line of them. But that it never makes you feel like you’re playing something that has come before is the real joy of the game. “Hundreds” may not be one in a million, but it is equal or greater to all of those titles that paved the way, and is a constant joy, not to mention my app of the week.

  

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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.

  

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: Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe

Developer:
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

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

iPod touch 3rd gen or up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.0

Price:
$5.99

Available here

 

With their endless capabilities, your iPhone and iPad were designed, and marketed, under one simple banner.

The world in your hands.

It was a lofty goal that has, of course, been achieved. With the mind boggling specs, features, and of course applications, there is little of the world that isn’t available to you at high speed and incredible clarity thanks to the iDevices. Now though, there is at least one app out there that says that’s not good enough and would like to give you not the world in your hands, but the entire universe.

Thanks to it, now, as James Bond tried to warn us, the world is not enough.

Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe (and no, not that Brian Cox) is based around the four part TV series of the same name where Professor Brian Cox takes viewers on a tour of the known universe with incredible thoroughness and mind boggling visuals. The app aims for the same goal as it allows users to explore the entirety of the known universe with full information and visuals for everything along the way. A lofty goal that it not only achieves but does so in a capacity that is almost impossible to fully understand.

For instance, you start off on a 3D map of the universe, using your fingers to zoom and interact with it. On the top of the screen is a scale option which will allow you to control your viewing capacity of the universe, and ranges from the end of it all, to a zoom in that will let you view the sub-atomic particles that make up everything that is known. On the bottom of the screen is a bar of information that will provide texts, videos, and more about anything you can find and will also let you quick jump to certain things. There is an almost impossible amount of media available on all subjects, with much of it being tied to the miniseries that boldly tried to explain the going ons of the entire universe in an entertaining manner, and nearly achieved it.

That’s one thing to consider about this app. You can call it an educational tool, and it most certainly is, but its greater achievement is the entertainment. Professor Cox travels the world to capture events like the aurora borealis and a total eclipse in their most perfect forms. His experiments are both incredible exhibitions of the known, and fascinating explorations of the unknown, and it’s his love of it all that frames the entire app, and makes it half of what it is.

The other, arguably larger, part of the app doesn’t involve any pre-loaded media, but rather the joy of exploration. When you consider how much information and visuals are available for just the Earth alone on top of that same level of depth being provided for essentially everything we know about the large part of entirety, you could argue that much like the universe itself, there is no real end to this app. There certainly is no end to the fun it provides.

Which does bring up one of the minor sticking points of this app. At $5.99 it is a little more expensive than the usual app, but as you may have already figured out, it is hard to argue that you don’t get what you pay for. Also, while the app is now available for the iPhone and iPod touch, to truly appreciate it you really do need an iPad, preferably with the retina display.

That aside, if you have the proper set up and the funds what you get is an app that fills you with this otherworldly feeling that is like someone injected pure wonder into your veins. It successfully covers the bold topic of everything, with a careful wisdom and infinite amount of fun. There is no moon, star, landmark, black hole, sun, or planet that isn’t included for detailed exploration, and all of it is beautiful and fascinating.

Much more than a time waster, and something far greater than a textbook, there is no classification for this app that would easily explain or define it. Not only is it nearly everything about nearly everything, it is also my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Drive

Developer:
Create Digital Media

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

iPod touch 3rd gen or up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.1

Price:
$0.99

Available here

Don’t use your phone while driving.

From nationwide campaigns to motherly warnings, we’ve had that simple message drilled into our heads for as long as we’ve had cell phones. Most people know the dangers, and most agree with the idea in principle, but unlike other driving safe philosophies, like “don’t drink and drive” or “wear your seatbelt,” the idea of putting down your smartphone while driving is not catching on any time soon. You see it all of the time, and probably have been guilty of it yourself a few times, yet as much as it seems like common sense, it’s pretty obvious people are not in a hurry to stop doing it in mass.

Developers Create Digital Media seems to realize this and have created a compromise of sorts. If you are going to use your phone while driving, then at least limit yourself. They’ve removed your game apps, Facebook, keyboard, and Twitter, and have designed the app Drive, which trims your smartphone down to four main functions, all grouped together and handled by a beautifully minimalist design.

The functions are call, music, text, and map. Coupled with the large font, brightly colored ways they are displayed, the actual methods to using these features are also pleasantly simple and often require only bold gestures and swipes.

For instance, the music app allows you to change songs by horizontal swipes, and change the volume with two finger vertical motions (you can also play the music randomly via a shuffle playlist). Texts and calls use simple scroll and tap methods for going through your contacts, and for texts you are able to program general important statements for quick sends. The map features is maybe the least developed of the bunch, but it does provide integration with Apple Maps as well as standard directional functions and a nice, easy to view on the fly general map in tune with your current location.

The developers of the app are promising to keep developing all of its functions, with the map feature seeming to be a main point of emphasis with these updates. Even in its early stage though, Drive provides one of the more complete driver friendly apps I’ve ever seen as it successfully allows you to use the most important abilities of your phone without severely impairing your ability to drive. It’s an incredibly intelligent app, that with enough improvements you could evolve into a standard mode for all out of the box smartphones as it presents a realistic idea for handling the using your phone while driving problem, and also provides and alternative, simpler phone use option for any other times when your ability to use your phone to its full extent is hindered.

If you’re guilty of using your iPhone or, even worse, iPad, while driving then you owe it to yourself, and honestly other drivers, to give Drive a shot. Not only is it sleek, intuitive, and incredibly user friendly, it’s also my app of the week.

  

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