App of the Week: Manalyzer

Developer:
Xynyn

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:
iOS 4.2 or later

Price:
Free

Available here

On the subject of being a man, in the song “Mannish Boy” Muddy Waters had this to say:

“I can make love to you woman,
in five minutes time
Ain’t that a man

I’m a full grown man
Man
I’m a natural born lovers man
Man
I’m a rollin’ stone
I’m a man-child”

While that was Muddy Waters estimation of a man, it would be unrealistic to compare your only manliness based on the Muddy Waters scale. Still, though, I’m betting in a moment of channel surfing weakness where you ended up on a chick flick too long, or maybe settled for a light beer and a salad at dinner, the question has briefly crossed your mind.

Are you properly manly enough?

Luckily you need not wonder anymore, as one app now has the balls to tell you. From Xynyn comes the Manalyzer, or Manliness analyzer. Using photo analysis of your hands, and face, the Manalyzer uses figures and ratios determined by research done in over 25 scientific papers to take the analysis of these photos and assign a man score to you. The man score then correlates to five different categories (financial success, aggression, leadership, athletics, and innovation) to determine how much man you are, and what kind of man you will be. In the interest of fairness, there is also a mode that manalyzes women (though please note it is not advised that even a level 10 man try this on their girlfriend).

Now I know what you might say. That there is no way this app can accurately calculate how much of a man you are based on a couple of pictures. To these people I say, I scanned a picture of man great Charles Bronson, and came up with a 10.

That’s scientifically proven enough for me to man up, and name this the app of the week.

  

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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: Prismatic

Publisher:
Prismatic

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:

iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

Free

Available here

We live in a world of constant stimulation.

At no point in the day is the average person but mere moments away from an entire universe of information and entertainment both classic and current. You could call it overwhelming, but that doesn’t really seem fitting. Overwhelming would imply there is some kind of burden, when really it’s enjoyable how much we have access to, even if there is no good way to sift through it all, and find the bits most relevant and interesting to you.

New app Prismatic may have the answer to this dilemma. After you create your log-in through Facebook, Twitter, or G+ the app immediately starts learning about you and what you’re interested in. From there it begins to pull news stories from the world over and deliver them to you based on your interests. You can influence this story selection further by letting the app know what stories you like, and telling it various subjects, people, locations, or anything else you may be interested in. What’s even better is the app begins to  learn, and varies its selection eventually creating a constant flow of news made just for you.

Call it Spotify for news, and you’ve got the right idea. What’s even better is that it works as well as the famous music app. Of course, this isn’t a completely new idea for a program, as Google Reader and some other, similar apps have been offering this same feature for a while. Prismatic, though, is different because of how organic it feels. The layout of the app allows you to smoothly move between the stories themselves, and the features that let you input information to expand the stories the app suggests. When the app is working at its best, the effect truly feels like a virtual newspaper meant just for you. Better yet, you can share stories you find with friends, and them with you, allowing you to expand your interests and horizons even further.

Even in its early stage, Prismatic is an essential app. Even if you use it for nothing more than to gather your favorite topics in one place, it does it better than any of its competitors. But if you take the time to truly explore the abilities of Prismatic and create a news network with you at the center, then you are rewarded with a program that becomes as essential to check multiple times a day as your e-mail is. While I’m still waiting to see what great additions further development of this app will create, for now it’s still newsworthy enough for my app of the week.

  

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 »

  

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.

  

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