App of the Week: HabitRPG

Developer: OCDevel

Compatible with: Android Devices

Requires: Android 3.0

Price: Free

Available: here

When it comes to self-improvement apps and myself, I have to reference the classic movie “Office Space” and say that it’s all a question of motivation, in that it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I don’t care.

Most self-improvement apps show you a lot of graphs and statistics, but don’t exactly do much to motivate you besides the desire to see a series of graphs and statistics that reflect the new, and better you. Sure they may help keep you in line, but that’s about the extent of their involvement.

“HabitRPG” is a website, and now Android app, funded by Kickstarter that takes a gamification approach to the subject, by turning your self-improvement into a role playing game. Basically what you do is create a virtual 8-Bit avatar, and set a series of goals. If you accomplish those goals (for instance “Do 50 push-ups”), then you get to award yourself points. Fail to accomplish those goals however, and you have to take away hit points from your character. Gaining enough points, allows you to reach new levels, buy new equipment, or put them towards any number of custom rewards you set (Like “Watch 2 hours of Netflix”), however lose enough points and your character can “die” resetting all of your progress.

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While it’s a system that is more dependent than others on you being honest with yourself (especially when it comes to removing points for missteps), and there are some interface issues that could use some ironing out, the basic idea this app is built around is generally inspired, and a great overall use of the gamification idea to inspire you to be more productive.

Turning you into a virtual RPG character, and your life into a quest, is certainly an effective tool for those looking to make some serious lifestyle improvements, but honestly for most this will serve as the absolute coolest to do list available. A big part of that has to do with the expansive system of tasks and rewards the app allows you to enter, all of which can be tied into game elements that may be simplified, but provide a rewarding experience all the same.

In fact, it’s easy to imagine the intended use for this app is for the user to start using it as a simple checklist for their life, and gradually add more and more to that list as you go along until you find yourself becoming better and better and finally reaching your ultimate goal at a progressive pace. Kind of like…well…an RPG.

Not quite a game, but much more than the usual planner, “HabitRPG” is a hybrid app that gets it right, and at the very least deserves a spot on the Android device of every gamer with a to do list. For making your routine anything but, “HabitRPG” levels up to my app of the week.

  

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App of the Week – Ravensword: Shadowlands

Developer: Crescent Moon Games

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up, iPod Touch 3rd Gen. and up, iPad, Android devices

Requires: iOS 5.0 or later, Android 4.0 and up

Price: $7.00

Available: Here for iOS, and Here for Android

 

You can hit a dinosaur in the face with a sword.

I know that any good porn director will tell you that you shouldn’t start a feature off with the money shot, but I just couldn’t find a way to ease that statement in.

In “Ravensword: Shadowlands,” (freshly available for Android) you have the ability, nay the privilege, to hit a dinosaur square in the face with a weapon of your choosing (mine being the sword).

Oh, and the game itself is an open world RPG that heavily resembles the famed “Elder Scrolls” series in several important and thankful ways. That open world also happens to be beautifully rendered with some of the best technical graphics a mobile system can offer, which are used to accentuate some particularly inspired visual artistic design, all leading to a thematically strong and diverse world that loads every inch with pure content.

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“Ravensword: Shadowlands,” definitely cribs heavily from the book of fantasy RPG design, as you’ll level up, complete quests, take on an incredible variety of enemies with multiple weapons, and even dabble in some magical combat enhancements from time to time. There is no getting around the fact you’ve been down this dirt road before, and ventured these same adventures.

It’s very likely, though, you’ve never experienced an RPG of this quality on a mobile system, and that is the difference. Whereas “Shadowlands” would just feel like an “Elder Scrolls” knockoff on a console, albeit an exceptionally well made one, on a mobile device, it is a constant wonder. Games of this high production value and depth usually don’t happen on a mobile platform, and even if they do, they rarely play so well, or come off as polished and executed, as “Shadowlands” does.

Thus every towering structure, open vista, inspired quest, and intense battle with an impossible creature is just that much greater, because by all rights something of this high quality shouldn’t exist in this format.

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All of that quality does come at a couple of costs. The first is a heavy amount of glitches and bugs throughout (though the developers are working on ironing these out), while the other is the cost of the app itself. $7 is no doubt more than you spend on the usual app, but considering the horror show that is the world of in-app purchases, paying one flat rate to unlock an entire (and gargantuan) game is actually not a huge burden when you consider this isn’t “Doodle Jump,” but an actual video game, for which $7 would normally be considered a steal.

“Shadowlands” is one of the best games I’ve played this year, on a mobile device or otherwise. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in every single other aspect possible. This isn’t a mobile game you’ll play until something new comes along, or while bored and about, but something you’ll find yourself going back to no matter where you are or what the circumstances.

Of course when you put all of that aside, you can still hit dinosaurs in the face with a sword. Epic mobile experience or not, that’s going to net you my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Manos – The Hands of Fate

Developer:

FreakZone Games

Compatible with:

Android Devices

Requires:
Android 2.2 and up

Price:

$2.49

Available here

Like many I first saw “Manos Hands of Fate” when it was parodied on the classic TV show, “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” After receiving some of the fiercest lampooning any film ever did on that show, it became widely accepted that “Manos” was indeed the worst film ever made. It was a movie where shots would last for an eternity, the plot was somehow both convoluted and non-existent, and usual film tropes like acting, writing, and directing were seemingly burned at the stake as heralds.

To quote “Mystery Science Theater,” It was a film where every shot “looked like someone’s last known photograph.”

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Naturally then the film became a big cult hit, so much so that it inspired its own gaming app based on the movie to be released for iOS last year. It’s recent debut on Android gives me another chance to tell you why you should play it.

“Manos” the  game is a product of two loves, one of which is obviously the movie, which is squeezed for every creative drop to create scenarios, characters, enemies, and levels (of course since that still doesn’t leave much to work with, it also borrows from other infamously bad movies). The other is a love of NES 8-bit retro side-scroller gaming, which “Manos’s” gameplay revolves entirely around.

Not just any games were borrowed from, though. In the spirit of the source material, “Manos” take many ideas from some of the worst games of that era, and therefore of all time. Enemies are annoyingly difficult and often have no context to being in the game, controls are loose, jumps can be impossible, boss fights require pinpoint pattern recognition, and you often have to start back at the beginning of the game. If you’ve ever seen an “Angry Video Game Nerd” review, you’ll immediately know what’s in store.

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So why does a game based off of a bad movie and equally bad games deserve your money? Because it pays homage to those two things so well. More than just lip service to fans of “Manos” or one particular video game, this app fondly recalls the charm of all bad movies and games with not just specific references, but it’s whole state of being. Besides, the game is never quite as bad as the ones that inspired it, and is often very playable, though extremely challenging.

The easiest people to recommend “Manos” to are obviously the fans of the film (for whatever reason they may be fans), fans of 8-bit gaming, or both. In principle, it’s the tale of a man named Mike trying to get his family out of a desert hell hole run by the mysterious master and his kneecap challenged servant named Torgo. In reality, it’s a dead-on perfect tribute to the lowest depths of nostalgia, and all put together produces an addictive game that defines being better than the sum of its parts and comes away with maybe the only positive award anything “Manos” related may ever garner, and that is my app of the week.

  

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