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 – GTA: Vice City

Developer:
Rockstar Games

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

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Android Systems

Requires:
iOS 4.3 or later

Price:

$4.99

Available here (for iOS)

*Temporarily unavailable for Android

I was only a child of the 80’s in the strictest of technical senses, so I don’t share the same nostalgia for the decade that some do. However, it’s still entertaining to look at the 80’s objectively as you wonder what the collective masses of Americana were thinking, and if the mounds of cocaine being passed around enhanced the bad hairstyles and pastel color patterns, or merely numbed the pain of them.

I do however have a fond recollection of the growing up with the “GTA” series in my teenage years, and among those games, I have the fondest memories concerning the 80s influenced “GTA: Vice City”. Hot off the heels of the groundbreaking “GTA: III”, “Vice City” did many of the same things as its predecessor, but added more weapons, missions, characters, rampage options, in-jokes, cars, and everything else that makes the GTA series what it is. In fact, many fans still consider “Vice City” to be the peak of the series to this day.

And now it comes to iOS and Android systems courtesy of Rockstar, to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the game’s release. The conversion carries all of the usual aspects such as enhanced graphics (which look phenomenal on the iPad), custom radio station option (always welcome),and re-worked touch controls (which are always hit and miss for the GTA mobile series, but are serviceable). Other than that it is more or less the same game.

Which is exactly why it’s here. After working out the kinks from the 3D conversion in “GTA:III”, but before becoming burdened with the RPG elements of “San Andreas” or the misguided attempts at realism with “GTA:IV”, “Vice City” ran with its chance to perfect the “GTA” formula, and never looked back. It’s story is still the tightest in all of the series, the voice acting is also among the best (featuring Ray Liotta’s best performance of the last decade), the soundtrack is a hit on all stations, missions are creative without becoming burdensome, the vehicle selection (which included motorcycles and helicopters) is top notch, the weapon variety is fun, the property buying system is inspired, and the use of the over the top 80s with the over the top “GTA” series is a match made in heaven.

Of course you still get the usual “GTA” brand of mayhem, which regardless of the game in the series, is always entertaining. The touch controls will always keep the mobile versions from becoming the definitive version of the games, but they’re about the only thing that isn’t better than the original. One quick note though is that the Android version is having some technical difficulties at the moment and isn’t currently available for download. However, once it is, this is a strong recommendation for all platforms, and a must buy for iPads.

Eventually you can see “Scarface” too many times, listen to Thriller only so much, and don your Don Johnson jacket for the final time while still getting away with it being considered ironic. In those moments, you need an 80’s fix that will never go out of style, and “GTA: Vice City” is just that, making it the 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: 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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