TouchMyApps » rating-slap http://www.touchmyapps.com All Things iPhone and iPad for those who like to Touch. iOS App reviews, News, New Apps, Price Drops and App Gone Free Fri, 03 Jul 2015 01:57:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.8 Block Blasters in Review – This Is Why You Shouldn’t Play With Bombs http://www.touchmyapps.com/2013/01/23/block-blasters-in-review-this-is-why-you-shouldnt-play-with-bombs/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2013/01/23/block-blasters-in-review-this-is-why-you-shouldnt-play-with-bombs/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 22:25:15 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=71783 I love physics puzzle game, but there is certainly more than a fair share to choose from.  Still, if one seems to offer something new or do something proven really well I’m more than happy to give it a shot.  In the case of Block Blasters you get to use various forms of explosives to shuffle … Read more]]>

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I love physics puzzle game, but there is certainly more than a fair share to choose from.  Still, if one seems to offer something new or do something proven really well I’m more than happy to give it a shot.  In the case of Block Blasters you get to use various forms of explosives to shuffle the board around, so who wouldn’t want to give that a go?  Unfortunately, while the game is conceptually intriguing, in practice it’s more burdensome than anything else.  Imprecise controls, frustrating puzzles and annoying sound effects highlight what should have been a fun little puzzle game.

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The red blocks have invaded, and it’s up to you to boot them out while keeping the green blocks safe.  Thankfully you have a limited supply of bombs and dynamite at your disposal, but skillful hands and a sharp mind will guarantee that the resources you have do the trick.  Tap to place a bomb and you’ll immediately see the effects as blocks go flying.  Tap to place a pack of dynamite and you get three seconds to either mock the blocks or do something else.  The nice thing is that the game is real time, so you can set a pack of dynamite and then use a bomb while the dynamite is counting down.  If you do it right you can even redirect a block in mid air with another bomb.

There is no scoring or achievements in Block Blasters.  All you have as a measure of “completion” in the game besides actually finishing each level is collecting the three stars that reside on every level.  The way the game starts out that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an issue.  Unfortunately before long it becomes a bit troublesome, especially once the green blocks are introduced.  You know, the ones you have to protect?  They are still impacted by the events that transpire, and if one of them crosses the boundary on either side of the screen the level is lost.  There are eventually stone blocks that get tossed around but don’t get destroyed with one blast and gold blocks that barely move on impact.

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Normally I would welcome the challenge, but I find it so difficult to set the explosions precisely where I want them that I’m often just thrilled to pass a level.  Combine that with the fact that there is no reset button on a level and I very rarely find myself caring about going back to collect all three stars once I’ve passed a level.  For someone that thrives on collecting stars, that’s never a good sign.

The graphics are pretty standard for this type of game.  The red and green blocks are cute, though not nearly as animated and some other puzzle games I’ve played recently.  In fact, the whole visual setup seems pretty stiff, and there is no animation in the background at all.  The sound effects are actually kind of irritating, which makes this the second game in a week where I’ve felt compelled to turn the sound off.  At least the other game had some decent background music, though, whereas this one has none.

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Unfortunately, in the end I wasn’t very impressed with Block Blasters.  It’s a fairly run of the mill physics puzzler to begin with, and when you throw in troublesome controls and lackluster aesthetics, I find it very hard to recommend giving the game a try.  In a fledgling game market it might be a different story, but with all the physics puzzle games at your disposal, there are much better options than this.

Slap It Rating - 2/5

App Summary
Title: Block Blasters Developer: G3zar Studios
Reviewed Ver: Min OS Req: 5.1
Price: $0.99 App Size:
  • Certainly not the worst game I’ve played
  • Bombs hard to place precisely
  • Graphics aren’t very animated
  • Sound effects are annoying
  • No background music

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MF Player Pro-radical HiFi in Review – Certainly radical http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/02/03/mf-player-pro-radical-hifi-in-review-certainly-radical/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/02/03/mf-player-pro-radical-hifi-in-review-certainly-radical/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2012 15:48:48 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=66234 If you want radical sound from your iDevice, you could pop in Iggy Pop’s New Values. Or, if you can’t keep pace with Iggy, why not check out MF Player Pro-radical HiFi. It is a ‘radical’ break from the traditional clean-cut – and often labelled ‘sterile’ – Apple sound. It’s an HiFi app in every … Read more]]>

If you want radical sound from your iDevice, you could pop in Iggy Pop’s New Values. Or, if you can’t keep pace with Iggy, why not check out MF Player Pro-radical HiFi. It is a ‘radical’ break from the traditional clean-cut – and often labelled ‘sterile’ – Apple sound. It’s an HiFi app in every sense of the word, and it’s radical in all others. The most obviously radical feature of MF Player is its most radical price, a gnarly 1.999 pennies. And that’s the clincher, really.

But let’s not spoil the rave yet, my party animals. There is praise to get through first. Namely, there are too few apps that are seriously designed for iDevice audiophiles. EQu has been a favourite of mine till now, and Equalizer (TMA Review) has grown up to be nearly perfect. MF player sports some of the lovely effects of a parametric EQ, but also adds its own flavour. While there isn’t a parametric EQ built in, the effects of MF Player are only really attainable by very very expensive EQ hardware, or impeccable settings.

MF player sports live audio positioning settings: SPEECH, Hi-Fi, and LIVE. These aren’t the Sony sort that suck out the highs or lows and turn your ear drums inside out in emulating sitting next to a party of drunk forty year olds at a Depeche Mode concert, baptising themselves with the remains of cheap beer and the chocolate bars they snuck in.

No.

The positioning settings themselves are pretty interesting. I expected the SPEECH setting to boost vocal frequencies, HiFi to take a pretty straight path for music lovers, and LIVE to mess with bass and treble enough that, as Radsone says, vehicle and docking system speakers sound ‘better’. I was only partially correct. Strangely, I found that SPEECH was the most natural setting, differing little if at all from stock MF player sound. Hifi rides the middle ground surely, but it introduces more spice to the high end, and LIVE is the most spicy.

I’ll explain the spice later.

Both the twenty dollar version and the free version of MF Player are easy-breezy to control. You can scrobble, change volume, shift tracks back and forth, repeat, shuffle, and play and pause from the main screen just like the Music app. To turn effects off and on, tap the museflow logo under the title bar. It’s generally easy.

Here’s where my detractor voice cuts in. Similar to Equalizer, you must add songs or albums or playlists from your music library through Apple’s standard song browser that games sometimes use. In other words, this music app doesn’t directly access your music library. WTF? I would much rather not have to go through the extra step. Radsone, you CAN let the app access the device’s library from the start. This is a music app.

If you quit the app from the springboard, music fades to black rather than lurching to a stop. Nice touch. What isn’t nice, however, is when you want to pause a song, go back to the beginning, and have a bit of peace and quiet before the music starts again. Every time you hit back, or scrobble back to the start, music starts to play again whether or not the pause/play button is pressed or not. WTF? It’s annoying and contrary to the interface of every piece of audio equipment I’ve used, both kitschy and refined.

The other problem is that MF player eats up battery. MF Player probably eats battery about twice as fast, maybe faster, than the stock Music app. If you’ve happily been using Equalizer or EQu for a while, however, you’ll know that this just comes with the territory. Sound enhancing software and tiny batteries are always at odds with one another.

But that’s just silly talk.

The big question that any self-respecting audiophile should have ask is: is MF Player worth it? I’ve still not figured that one out. The basic difference in sound is distortion. (Oh yes, here comes the spice.) MF Player does wonky things to the audio signal from about 300Hz and above. The overall effect is a brighter, more exciting sound, one that will have its fans. Reviews in iTunes (who wrote this stuff?), and indeed, Radsone’s own marketing page tout MF Player’s ability to separate instruments. Sure, it’s a psychoacoustic world we digital audiophiles live in, so why not? The skinny here is that the twenty bones basically go into an audio mask. That’s all.

There isn’t any more space around instruments than there ever was before. Radsone didn’t re-record your albums for you, or hire better musicians. The did compress certain frequencies, however, and enhance others. That’s it. It may be enough for you. Table pepper is cheap, and does wonders for mashed potatoes. Chilly peppers cost more punch harder in the gut. Tweaking certain frequencies (adding chilly pepper) does emphasise different things in music. That’s probably why (according to Radsone) Korean radio stations (many of whom go out for spicy food for lunch) adopted Radsone technology in their broadcasts. Good for them.

Here you can see the 'purdy square waves on my busy desktop. On the left is the SPEECH setting, on the right, is the LIVE setting, and in the middle is the HiFi setting. Speech deteriorates the square wave the least, and HiFi, the most. Evidently, the one in the middle is supposed to sound the best. Welcome to psychoacoustics

The final bit of vitriol is this: with MF player, you have OFF/ON settings, and three levels of ‘better’ to throw at your music. For 20$. Not really a problem from a business perspective, but it feels like a much cheaper app. Maybe it should be. Maybe Radsone should think of lowering the price. I might cap my bottle of vitriol.

For me, computer says no.

Radsone are asking at least ten dollars too much for what Han Solo would describe as ‘tricks and nonsense’. I don’t like to get down on apps for their price; perceived worth is different for every person. The problem for me may be that my headphones are good; they don’t need more spice. Still, if you feel that there isn’t enough sparkle in the high end, and you, you could fork over 20$. Radsone will thank you.

I’ve already shed my yearling audiophile husk. I listen to Earsonics SM3 and Westone UM3x. Heck, even my MEElectronics M6 make my iPhone sound great, and they work on any stereo anywhere. My advice: save your 20$, buy better headphones. Or, keep your crappy headphones, buy MF Player, feed a two dollar coin into a metal masher, mix, and enjoy.

Slap It Rating - 2/5

App Summary
Title: MF Player Pro-radical HiFi Developer: RADSONE
Reviewed Ver: Min OS Req: 4.1
Price: $19.99 App Size:
  • easy to use interface
  • easy to identify sound differences
  • easy audiophile bait
  • antiquated library browser
  • pause is a temporal term
  • sound ‘enhancements’ are just frequency masks
  • battery life drain
  • way too much money

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Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds: Minigame Adventure in Review – Isn’t That A Long Title? http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/01/16/jeff-waynes-musical-version-of-the-war-of-the-worlds-minigame-adventure-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2012/01/16/jeff-waynes-musical-version-of-the-war-of-the-worlds-minigame-adventure-in-review/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2012 15:18:55 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=64276 The War Of The Worlds is one of those properties that in my opinion has never really been used to its full potential, except for possibly the radio broadcast that scared a nation in 1938.  I must admit that I never would have dreamed of anyone turning the saga into a musical, however, let alone … Read more]]>

The War Of The Worlds is one of those properties that in my opinion has never really been used to its full potential, except for possibly the radio broadcast that scared a nation in 1938.  I must admit that I never would have dreamed of anyone turning the saga into a musical, however, let alone making a mini-game extravaganza out of said musical.  Sadly, the concept is much better than the execution and little things like interface inconsistencies and constant crashing make the game not very much fun to play.  Boring mini-games don’t help either.

The game is divided into 12 chapters – one of which has not been released yet – each chronicling the related segment of the musical.  In most cases you have the option of skipping the story, though I would not recommend this since often the story is the best part of the sequence.  The story is told through silent videos that are overlaid with a narrator speaking, and it actually works quite well.  Once you get into the games themselves, however, things start to fall apart.

You can play any chapter at any time, but if you follow them in sequence the first chapter is done up adventure game style, and it is quite fun.  After that sequences include such things as manipulating light to strike a particular lens, escaping a laser beam while collecting other survivors, and reclaiming land from the “red weed” via an Othello style game.  In theory this should work because it means there would be something for almost everyone, but the reality is that only some of the games work well, and not all of those are interesting.  Of the seven chapters I’ve played I didn’t care for three of them at all, and the light manipulation and Othello games were just weak implementations of each genre.  The adventure game was decent, and a Tap Tap Revenge style game was enjoyable only because the music was good.

Control schemes depend on the game being played, and for the most part work well.  However, games that require tilting to move your avatar don’t.  The explanations of how to play the various games aren’t always the best, and most of them are over in a matter of a couple of minutes.  In cases where they aren’t you might wish they were.  One game in particular requires you to first stave off Martian invaders by moving your troops around a board, killing the machines one by one.  The next phase of this game requires you to move your troops around the board while trying to get the Martians to kill you.  Not only does that not make sense, but when the game crashed on me during the second phase, I had to repeat the whole thing over again.

That was a big issue for me.  The game crashed on me at least 4 times, two of which were after a clean boot.  Plus, this game was the only one I had played after that reboot.  I don’t expect games to be perfect.  Even some of my favorites like Dead Space (TMA Review) have crashed on me once or twice.  So many crashes over so little time playing, however, is not all that acceptable to me.

The visuals are a mixed bag.  I like the cut scenes, and while I believe they are actual videos with live people, sometimes they appear to be computer generated.  Either way they are the best part of the imagery.  In some cases the mini-games are actually decent, like the adventure game segment.  More often than not, however, it feels like the graphics were ripped from an intermediate level game development book.  The audio is okay for the most part, though many of the mini-games don’t have music playing in the background, which is a bit odd given that this game is based off of a musical.  The music between games is quite nice, though, and in some cases helps tell the story.  The other high point of the audio is the narration, which is very nicely done.

I would really love to recommend this game.  I think the concept is sound and the use of mini-games to convey the action parts of the story is quite creative.  Unfortunately, the stability issues and lack of polished production value greatly diminish any positive value the overall game has.  Add to that the fact that a large percentage of the mini-games aren’t much fun and there’s not much to give a thumbs up to.  I would consider grabbing the game if it ever goes free, but at the current asking price I’d save your cash.

App Summary
Title: Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds: Minigame Adventure Developer: Softeq Development Corporation
Reviewed Ver: Min OS Req: 4.2
Price: $4.99 App Size:
  • Interesting concept
  • Cut scenes look good
  • Music is neat
  • Many mini-games aren’t interesting
  • Several mini-games don’t have in-game music
  • Tilt controls aren’t very good
  • In-game graphics tend to be blah
  • Crashes too frequently

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Cryptic Keep in Review – Treasure hunting the boring way http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/08/14/cryptic-keep-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/08/14/cryptic-keep-in-review/#comments Sun, 14 Aug 2011 21:15:17 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=56261 The extremely low entry barrier onto the iOS development scene ($99 and a Mac) is both a blessing and a curse for a number of reasons. On one hand it allows indie developers with original ideas to make a grab for the proverbial “millions”. On the other, a significant chunk of the 300K+ of apps … Read more]]>

The extremely low entry barrier onto the iOS development scene ($99 and a Mac) is both a blessing and a curse for a number of reasons. On one hand it allows indie developers with original ideas to make a grab for the proverbial “millions”. On the other, a significant chunk of the 300K+ of apps on the App Store are complete and utter crap. That’s why sites like TMA exist – to sort through the dung to find the gold. Unfortunately, Cryptic Keep is not shiny…

Cryptic Keep is a classic puzzle-centric adventure game in the traditions of Myst (TMA Review) and the like… or at least it tries to be. An ancient keep has remained untouched for centuries, ever since the legendary king Telvonus sealed it with a spell to safeguard from the invaders. The only way to enter – the Sword of Ire – has been hidden in his castle, never to be found again. Until now that is…

On the surface Cryptic Keep seems to be rather a traditional puzzle-centric adventure. You explore a deserted castle and its surroundings, trying to find a way inside the keep and onward. Some of the puzzles are inventory based while others involve some simple mini-games. The execution quality is the main issue though. Playing Cryptic Keep I felt like it should be a free Flash title on the web rather than a full-fledged paid iOS app.

The puzzles are quite simple and the most trouble you’ll come across is some pixel hunting. I did encounter one place where I had to resort to some brute-force hacking, but mostly simple attentiveness to the environment will be enough. And since there are very few actual hotspots on each screen you won’t find yourself overwhelmed by information in any way.

The graphics are as disappointing as the rest of the content. The rendering quality is pretty bad and don’t even think about expecting any Retina-display goodness. The colours are quite bleak and boring and give a strong impression that the visuals have been reused from a mid-nineties shareware title. The interface also has very Flash-game feel to it, with each item having a predetermined slot in the limited inventory as well as the god-awful pixel-hunting.

Even for a die-hard adventure fan like myself, Cryptic Keep has been a complete and utter disappointment. The simple and unappealing storyline, the boring puzzles and outdated graphics would be ok for a free Flash game, and not a very popular one at that. But for a $1.99 iOS release that is simply unacceptable and I’d advise any gamer to stay well clear of Cryptic Keep.

With this I declare Cryptic Keep officially touched!

Slap Rating - 2/5

App Summary
Title: Cryptic Keep Developer: 3D Methods
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $1.99 App Size: 40.52MB
  • Nothing really
  • Lame storyline
  • Simple and boring puzzles
  • Pixelhunting
  • Outdated graphics

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A Knights Dawn in Review – The dusk of side-scrolling Tower Defense http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/06/16/a-knights-dawn-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/06/16/a-knights-dawn-in-review/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2011 17:00:28 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=53557 A few years back when the Tower Defense genre had just only started to make its first baby steps on the App Store, a game took the Crown by storm. Still regarded as one of the best Tower Defense titles of all time, Defender Chronicles – Legend of The Desert King gave birth to the … Read more]]>

A few years back when the Tower Defense genre had just only started to make its first baby steps on the App Store, a game took the Crown by storm. Still regarded as one of the best Tower Defense titles of all time, Defender Chronicles – Legend of The Desert King gave birth to the side-scrolling TD genre, additionally offering a compelling story and deep RPG elements. Now, sometime later a wannabe successor – A Knights Dawn – strives to overtake the bar set by the famous ancestor.

A Knights Dawn is a rather basic version of a side scrolling Tower Defense game. The story is rather vague and details the adventures of a would be group of adventurers, thrown together by fate on a journey to defend their homeland from the hordes of invaders.

If you’re not familiar with side-scrolling Tower Defense, it is a genre where you look at the approaching enemies from the side rather than a top-down view. Here the enemy hordes come in a single huge wave and travel across levels and winding stairs in an effort to reach the exit. And you have to stop them from doing so by placing troops at key points, marked by banners. Accurate placement is very important, as at later levels the bad boys come from multiple entry points that cross and converge closer to the exit. I do have to note that it’s often quite hard to determine where the entry and exit points actually are, so you might have to sacrifice an attempt just to check out the movement paths.

The variety of your troops is reasonably limited to 6 different units. I was a bit surprised to see 3 of them unlocked already for the first level and 5 for the second. The units follow the same guidelines, as established by Defender Chronicles and come in ranged and melee varieties, with some attack specifics for each. Each one has 5 levels of upgrades with a special attack unlocked at max upgrade for all but the most basic fighter. The balance of the units unfortunately is quite poor and I found myself using almost exclusively the basic ranged and dwarf melee attackers. Overall the game’s balance is simply horrible, with the second level (at the easiest difficulty) already being next to impossible to conquer.

Probably the only truly positive aspect of Knights Dawn is the graphics. Both backgrounds and models are carefully and lovingly drawn with superb detail, looking especially nice on the iPhone 4 and iPad. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the interface. While the concept is intuitive – a radial menu with options after a tap on the hotspot – the active area for each option seems to be far larger than the actual image on the screen. This more often than not may lead you to accidentally selling a unit or two, for which no confirmation dialogue is requested.

Looking simply gorgeous from about 100 meters away, A Knights Dawn fails miserably up close. The horrendous difficulty level, poor unit balance and frustratingly inaccurate controls far offset the visual feast that is the game. If you’re desperate for a side scrolling TD, go for the classic Defender Chronicles instead. And unless the developers address the aforementioned issues in a big way, I’d advise that you stay away from this one.

With this I declare A Knights Dawn officially touched!

Slap It Rating - 2/5

App Summary
Title: A Knights Dawn Developer: VisionaryX GmbH
Reviewed Ver: 1.001 Min OS Req: 4.2
Price: $0.99 App Size: 99.78MB
  • Crisp detailed graphics
  • Universal app
  • Extreme difficulty
  • Poor controls
  • Imbalanced units

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The Relic in Review – Not your model hack’n’slash… http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/05/27/the-relic-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/05/27/the-relic-in-review/#comments Fri, 27 May 2011 17:29:19 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=52625 It seems the Gauntlet fame just can’t let some developers sleep peacefully at night and occasionally we get a title that screams for attention. Sometimes, though, these screams are more like moans, depending on the time, effort and, most importantly, thought put into development process. The Relic, being one of the latest attempts, tries and … Read more]]>

It seems the Gauntlet fame just can’t let some developers sleep peacefully at night and occasionally we get a title that screams for attention. Sometimes, though, these screams are more like moans, depending on the time, effort and, most importantly, thought put into development process. The Relic, being one of the latest attempts, tries and succeeds to look good on the screenshots. But how does it feel hands-on?

The Relic is a very action oriented action/slasher with a slight tinge of RPG. The story is a bit on the vague side but you are returning from the dead in a deep dungeon and a spirit calls out to you. As you rise through the levels the occasional ghost drops pieces of information, highlighting the predicament you’re in and finally sending on a quest to retrieve the long lost Relic.

The gameplay mechanic makes an effort to suck you in… by offering small levels with blocky room and lots of monsters to plow through on your way to the exit. The baddies drop out of thin air, randomly re-spawning even in areas already cleared out, which can be quite frustrating. And the developers even try to further peak your interest by adding levels with the goal other than mindless extermination of everything in sight — levels where you have to instead destroy an enemy spawning device and THEN exterminate everything moving while on your way out to the nearest exit.

To help you in your emmm… “epic” struggle you’ll have a battleaxe to decimate the enemies. But wait, there’s more! For killing enemies you’ll get… kills… which you can then spend on upgrading some stats (very limited) or unlocking some skills (also a very limited selection). The skills involve offering various kinds of ranged attacks and try to add some variety to the gameplay. But the speed and feel of the game doesn’t actually allow for it and in most cases you’ll just run around like a neutered bull, hacking at foes.

The graphics, though appearing to have potential on the screenshots, look bleak, blocky and outdated in real life. So while the game boasts support for the Retina display and the iPad as well, the poor design of the game does not allow that to make a difference. The interface offers a virtual joystick for movement control, a melee attack button, a magic trigger and a potion release. Sadly, they’re nowhere near as responsive as they should be for a hack ‘n slash and it’s often quite difficult to make your protagonist do what you want him to even in terms of simple movement. As such, you’re bound to run into things inadvertently and possibly even get stuck in the scenery.

The Relic is a bold attempt at the glory of Gauntlet, giving an excellent impression from the screenshots and the description. However, it fails miserably once you get some hands-on time with it. Even without the mucked up controls and outdated graphics, the horrible game design is as far from the balance and polish of the legendary arcade classic as we are from Alpha Centauri.

With this I declare The Relic officially touched!

Slap It Rating - 2/5

App Summary
Title: The Relic Developer: Clickgamer.com
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $0.99 App Size: 76.02MB
  • Universal application
  • Tedious and boring
  • Bleak graphics
  • Poor controls

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Soya Comics ~ Social RSS feed reader for all your favorite web comics in Review – A very limited RSS reader http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/03/18/soya-comics-social-rss-feed-reader-for-all-your-favorite-web-comics-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/03/18/soya-comics-social-rss-feed-reader-for-all-your-favorite-web-comics-in-review/#comments Fri, 18 Mar 2011 18:26:52 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=49905 How do most people start their day at the office? With a morning dose of coffee and check-up of their favourite news feeds, right? I don’t know about you but among mine is a daily dose of Dilbert. The mishaps of his office life that often dangerously remind me of my own experiences certainly give … Read more]]>

How do most people start their day at the office? With a morning dose of coffee and check-up of their favourite news feeds, right? I don’t know about you but among mine is a daily dose of Dilbert. The mishaps of his office life that often dangerously remind me of my own experiences certainly give me a boost of optimism about the future. And this daily check-up has just got much easier with Soya Comics ~ Social RSS feed reader for all your favorite web comics.

Soya Comics is a rather straightforward app, designed specifically for checking out the latest issues of various web comics, distributed via RSS feeds. It allows you to both manually add an individual feed or select it from a crowd-sourced catalogue of feeds.

The catalogue is quite expansive and currently lists most of the well-known web comics out there. To help with the exploration aspect, Soya, in addition to the whole catalogue, offers a What’s New, Popular and Featured lists as well. And to avoid the necessity of digging through the whole catalogue each time you want to see an update to your favourites, you can bookmark them to a separate tab too, simplifying access to them.

The comic view is nothing fancy – just the latest post (strip) from the feed displayed with a handy couple of buttons to switch to the next/previous comic from the favourites. Unfortunately that’s it – there isn’t even an option to check out older issues of the comic or any manner of gesture controls (apart from traditional Pinch-to-zoom).

The interface of Soya is very basic, with no bells or whistles we’re often used to in many other iPhone apps. As I noted, there is but the most basic pinch-to-zoom gesture support and the tabs almost feel redundant. All in all the app feels thrown together from sample components with little thought gone into the interface design.

At the moment I can hardly find anything to recommend about Soya Comics. Apart from the built-in crowd sourced catalogue of web-comics, it’s little more than a common RSS reader, and limited to pictures with no way to view past posts at that. The Google Reader web-interface is much better in almost every way imaginable and it’s free. But I still have to give the developer the benefit of a doubt and admit that the basic idea is sound. With a cardinally redesigned interface  Soya Comics may still find a place in the heart of the web-comic fan in all of us.

With this I declare Soya Comics officially touched!

Slap It Rating - 2/5

App Summary
Title: Soya Comics Developer: dBelement, LLC
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req: 4.0
Price: $0.99 App Size: 0.71MB
  • Crowd-sourced web-comic catalogue
  • Add your own feeds
  • Poorly designed interface
  • Not enough features to justify the price

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The Pantheon Cycle: Shrouded Aspect in Review – Simply doesn’t measure up to the competition… even one released 2 years ago. http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/02/25/the-pantheon-cycle-shrouded-aspect-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/02/25/the-pantheon-cycle-shrouded-aspect-in-review/#comments Fri, 25 Feb 2011 18:54:27 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=48672 A rare guest in our laboratory tonight, we welcome a member of the tactical turn-based strategy. The genre itself has seen various implementations on the iDevice, from the excellent Battle for Wesnoth (TMA Review) and Highborn (TMA Review) to the more obscure titles that have languished in the App Store. Personally I’ve always been quite fond … Read more]]>

A rare guest in our laboratory tonight, we welcome a member of the tactical turn-based strategy. The genre itself has seen various implementations on the iDevice, from the excellent Battle for Wesnoth (TMA Review) and Highborn (TMA Review) to the more obscure titles that have languished in the App Store. Personally I’ve always been quite fond of such games, ones that truly challenge the mind and strategic skills of the player. That’s why even despite the less promising screenshots of The Pantheon Cycle: Shrouded Aspect I still took it for a spin, hoping against hope it will prove me wrong.

The Pantheon Cycle: Shrouded Aspect is a classic tactical turn-based strategy with a light mix of RPG elements sprinkled on top. It features a detailed backstory, describing the unique world the developers created. The mythos, worthy of the Ancient Greeks details how magic was introduced into the world of men, stripped from 6 misguided gods. And now two unlikely adventurers, accompanied by their pet wolf, embark on a journey to find out why they’ve just been overrun by undead.

In Shrouded Aspect, you will mostly be doing 2 things – listening to and reading the intros and completing missions. I’m going to move to the latter in just a moment, but if you’re wondering why I mentioned the former – the interim cutscenes are text only and are long. And I do mean – really long – usually equal to about a page from a real-life book if not more. The missions themselves do not offer anything original – mostly you’ll have to kill all enemies on the map, split into hexagonal tiles, sometimes with an additional task to use some hot-spots while you’re at it.

You can choose up to 8 characters from your party to accompany you on the mission (though usually the number is limited to 4). Each has a bunch of skills, attributes and 3 equipment slots to customize, so at first glance it seems this should be interesting. Unfortunately almost always the first 2 slots for a mission are locked by 2 new characters introduced, allowing only 2 of the characters from your ever-growing party to participate in the mission. Considering only active participants gain experience and the only way to shift equipment – either new or existing is after the mission – this limits the opportunities to fully enjoy the RPG element quite a bit, especially since it requires 2 successful missions per skill level. And even though there are around 200 skills promised, they are split into about a dozen categories and most are weapon dependent, which further limits the real selection available.

Unfortunately, this ain’t all. If you look at the units and some of the environment tiles separately, they seem to be reasonably drawn. But thrown together, the graphics have the look and feel of some rather amateur PC games from the dawn of the Windows era. And that goes triple for the interface – it’s simply horrible. It is completely counter-intuitive and very imprecise. It’s often impossible to select a unit if there is another one in front. Understanding the Energy/AP info display requires constant reference to the help menu; even when you do, it doesn’t make much of a difference because many of the game mechanics are not explained at all and will leave you guessing why your warrior can’t use the recently upgraded flame attack for his fancy long sword.

It really surprises me to see a title like The Pantheon Cycle: Shrouded Aspect hit the App Store at all. The game looks like a very early tech demo for a mediocre TBS/RPG. The developers have obviously been far too busy writing the deep and complex backstory, which I must admit is excellent, at least were it not for the horrendously long inter-mission briefings, to spend the time on creating a palpable interface or making the game look good, let alone polishing up the combat and skills system. At least the setting they created for Shrouded Aspect offers a solid starting point for future Pantheon Cycle releases, leaving some hope that good may still come out of all of this.

With this I declare The Pantheon Cycle: Shrouded Aspect officially touched!

Slap It Rating - 2/5

App Summary
Title: The Pantheon Cycle: Shrouded Aspect Developer: Gilligames
Reviewed Ver: 1.1 Min OS Req: 3.1.3
Price: $4.99 App Size: 80.29MB
  • Detailed and complex backstory
  • Poor amateurish graphics
  • Frustrating counter-intuitive controls
  • Impossible to change equipment except directly after a won mission and for the participants of it only

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AirPlayer in Review – Not to be confused with AirPlay… http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/02/07/airplayer-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/02/07/airplayer-in-review/#comments Mon, 07 Feb 2011 16:55:55 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=47748 About half a year ago you might’ve seen my incoherent but rapturous blabbering about Air Video, the app I’ve been relying on for watching movies and TV shows both on my iDevice and my TV via Apple’s AV Component Cable. Life has moved on since then and on one fateful birthday eve (quite recently in … Read more]]>

About half a year ago you might’ve seen my incoherent but rapturous blabbering about Air Video, the app I’ve been relying on for watching movies and TV shows both on my iDevice and my TV via Apple’s AV Component Cable. Life has moved on since then and on one fateful birthday eve (quite recently in fact) I was gifted with a full-blown NAS (ReadyNAS Duo) – a Network Attached Storage device for the uninitiated. Seeing as it fully supported DLNA network playback I immediately went shopping for an app to do away with the PC middle-device altogether between me and my lovely shows. And after some digging I rested my inquiring mind on AirPlayer, which looked like the perfect answer to my needs.

AirPlayer is an UPnP/DLNA client for your iPhone, iPod Touch and /or iPad. This is the technology that has been widely adopted over the recent years by various Audio/Video equipment manufacturers and is the de-facto standard for network audio and video playback, along with displaying photos. On the server side you can get a variety both free and commercial products that offer DLNA support available for almost all platforms imaginable, including a built-in version in Windows 7. And almost all NAS products have their own version built-in as well.

AirPlayer takes full advantage of the technology and after a short while of scanning the network, it recognized both the built-in ReadyNAS DLNA server and my Windows 7 laptop. Just a tap away was my complete library of videos, music and photos. The browsing experience is quite satisfactory, with all my media available both organized by my default folder layout and by the parsed DLNA tags, including stuff like artists or albums for music.

I had no issues listening to my music collection – AirPlayer easily handled my MP3s of up to 320bps with no stuttering or audio artifacts. I was a bit puzzled though as to why the devs decided to use some custom player for audio instead of the iPhone’s native one. My photo collection similarly presented no issues for the app, including high-res photos up to 10-15Mb.

Video playback was a completely different kettle of fish, however. Eating through converted h.264 mp4 files was a breeze, at least after I manually turned on QuickTime rendering in the options. All other formats were almost a complete disaster. I tried feeding AirPlayer almost everything but the kitchen sink – DivX and XVid, WMA, MKV mostly in standard resolution quality (around 624 by 352 pixels with 1Mbs bitrate), and sadly, the results were poor at best. The very first time I attempted watching a TV show (Xvid) in standard resolution, I got almost a slideshow instead of a video. After a reboot of my iPhone 4 the same video started out fine, but the audio fell out of sync with the image after only a few minutes. I won’t even talk about the 720p stuff – it was a disaster. And trying out standard quality MKV wasn’t much better, with the image freezing every few seconds.

But I was going to use it to watch videos on my TV, right? Having connected my iDevice with the AV cables, I was confused to have zero results and the videos still played back on my iPhone. A few seconds of looking through the settings and I found the manual TV Out toggle. One should note that it doesn’t seem to check that a cable is actually connected and tries to send the feed out regardless. This means that if you turn it on and have no TV connected you’ll only find audio out on the iDevice, with no image for no apparent reasons. And after I got through sorting out the settings and relaxed on my couch to watch some stuff, I was rewarded with a similar slideshow as I experienced trying to watch 720p on the device itself. Just to compare, playing the same videos both with TV out and from iPhone, I had no issues with AVPlayer (TMA Review) or xBMC, recently released on Cydia for jailbroken iDevices.

Unfortunately, it still seems that comfortably watching streaming videos other than pre-converted H.264 mp4 is only a dream. While boasting “streaming almost any formats of video from your media server, XVID, AVI, RMVB, MKV, MOV, MP4, M4V etc” AirPlayer falls short of providing comfortable performance even on the iPhone 4. And don’t even think about trying the TV Out. At least it does ok with music and pictures, though there are at least a couple free apps that can handle this part of the equation. To everyone else the only choice at the moment is to either stick with something that does conversion on the server side (i.e. Air Video) or jailbreak and enjoy the superb hardware accelerated xBMC, though it doesn’t have TV Out support just yet.

With this I declare AirPlayer officially touched!

App Summary
Title: AirPlayer Developer: olimsoft
Reviewed Ver: V1.0.08 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $4.99 App Size: 14.60MB
  • No issues finding my UPnP/DLNA media servers
  • Nicely handles the audio and pictures stuff
  • Theoretically supports almost all video formats and TV Out
  • Horrible video performance for anything other than native H.264 MP4s
  • No auto-detection of required plug-in (native quicktime versus custom player)
  • No auto-detection of TV Out
  • Appaling TV Out performance

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BulleTrain .22 in Review – The Last Train To Nowhere http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/01/10/bulletrain-22-in-review-the-last-train-to-nowhere/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2011/01/10/bulletrain-22-in-review-the-last-train-to-nowhere/#comments Mon, 10 Jan 2011 19:11:26 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=46043 I love shooting gallery games, and the prospect of one that takes place on a moving train seemed like a cool no-brainer.  Conceptually it is, and I think this game was on its way to being ‘one of the IT crowd”.  Unfortunately the devil’s in the details, as they say, and BulleTrain .22′s details are … Read more]]>

I love shooting gallery games, and the prospect of one that takes place on a moving train seemed like a cool no-brainer.  Conceptually it is, and I think this game was on its way to being ‘one of the IT crowd”.  Unfortunately the devil’s in the details, as they say, and BulleTrain .22′s details are a bit shaky.  What might have been evolutionary features for this sort of game instead end up hindering the game play, and the overall experience just doesn’t feel right.

The plot summary of BulleTrain actually kind of mimics the current state of affairs in the United States.  Corporate greed leads to job loss and ultimately an employee going “postal”.  Of course that employee is you, and it’s time to set the Fat Cats straight.  To do this you must take down the BulleTrain in your truck / sleeping quarters that you’ve converted into a makeshift armory.  You’ll travel along the side of the train, shooting everything in sight until you’ve completed your tasks for each section of the train.  Then you’ll move on to the next section and so on ad nauseam until you’ve defeated the train or it has defeated you.

To start off with, the menu items are almost impossible to find unless you know what you’re looking for.  Why the secrecy?  Once I got into playing it actually took me 2 or 3 games before I figured out how you knew what your objectives were.  A simple dialog at the beginning stating “to see your objectives, look HERE” would have been quite nice.  To save you the pain I’ll let you know that how many of what you have to shoot is listed along the top right side of the screen.

Knowing what to hit and being able to hit it are two different beasts, however.  Throw accuracy out the window and just keep plugging away until you see lots of skulls and your requirements go down.  Between the jostling of the train, the fact that your targets often drift out of scope, and the further fact that things get way to small when the train zooms out, it’s pretty hard to hit the intended targets.  Once you’ve completed a section the damsel in distress will jump to the next section and the mayhem starts all over again.

Sadly, your “supped up” truck comes stock with a simple gun that requires a tap for every bullet fired.  You can occasionally get a power up that lets you tap and drag to fire like a machine gun, but that’s it.  The game needs more of a variety of power ups.  You can also shoot food to regain health, but that’s about it aside from all the bad guys.  The game is OpenFeint enabled with 17 different achievements, but I don’t think I could stomach the game long enough to get them all.  The last game I played took so long that I got bored with it while I was playing it.

The visuals are decent for the most part.  The train looks good, and the characters aren’t too shabby, though they don’t appear to have any faces.  The problem is that most of the time the characters are either too far away or too close to appreciate.  The background looks okay except for on the objects that are heavily blurred to simulate the speed of the train.  It’s actually more of an eyesore than a cool effect.

The sound effects are mostly comprised of an insane number of gunshots and a bunch of robot gunslingers that sound like girls when they get shot.  Ironically, the one girl in the game sounds like a guy pretending to do a girl’s voice when she speaks.  The music is okay, but it’s pretty typical Western fare and doesn’t do much to stand out.

Ultimately BulleTrain is the little engine that could’ve been.  There are some decent concepts within the game, but the train provides too much of a sense of motion, the targets a crazy hard to hit even on easy mode, and once you do start to get the hang of it the fact that the game is just one long train gets boring after a while.  I like where they were going, I just wish they would have gotten closer to the goal.

App Summary
Title: BulleTrain .22 Developer: Downsized Games Inc.
Reviewed Ver: 1.02 Min OS Req: 3.2
Price: $1.99 App Size: Size: 16.4 MB
  • Some decent concepts
  • Visuals are pretty good
  • Constant train motion gets annoying
  • Shooting is very inaccurate
  • Game gets boring quickly
  • Sound is blah

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Star Breed – Episode 1 in Review – There ARE gamebooks in the 24th century! http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/10/27/star-breed-episode-1-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/10/27/star-breed-episode-1-in-review/#comments Wed, 27 Oct 2010 15:48:32 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=41646 Amazingly, the age old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style gamebooks are having a surprise resurgence on the iDevice platform. We’ve seen both a re-imagining of the classics, like Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy titles (i.e. Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (TMA Review)) and original titles developed exclusively for the platform in the Gamebook Adventure series - Gamebook Adventures … Read more]]>

Amazingly, the age old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style gamebooks are having a surprise resurgence on the iDevice platform. We’ve seen both a re-imagining of the classics, like Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy titles (i.e. Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (TMA Review)) and original titles developed exclusively for the platform in the Gamebook Adventure series - Gamebook Adventures 3: Slaves of Rema (TMA Review). The creative folks over at Agni Studios feel there is room for more and have recently released their own interactive gamebook; this time set in space and titled Star Breed – Episode 1

Star Breed is an interactive gamebook, but with a few original twists. Two space ships have mysteriously fallen off the radar of the Dominion, but not before one of them sends a distress code, known only to the highest echelons of the military. A code meaning possible first contact. Some time later the ships have been located heading for a nearby star system. The fleet has been dispatched to meet them but it is going to be 18 hours too late. Meanwhile the local forces are preparing to meet the arrivers. Taking control of a young technician what will you encounter? New friends or dreadful enemies?

The underlying mechanics of Star Breed follows the basic interactive gamebook principles – you are presented with a situation and one or multiple ways to proceed, from which you have to choose one. Gone though are the age-old dice that serve as the core of many random checks and the combat system in other games. Instead Star Breed offers 2 minigames for the combat and hacking components of the game. Both minigames are a futuristic version of Whack-a-Mole, where you have to hit one of the 3 buttons, depending on the symbols on-screen before the timer runs out.

Playing Star Breed felt like reading a Sci-Fi action book. The story is almost completely linear, so more often than not you will find yourself choosing only out of a single option or multiple, with one of which being but a short diversion. There are no items or any other kind memorabilia, making the overall experience a bit barren. The various datapads scattered around the game, though having no real use of their own, do a fairly decent job of creating the atmosphere. The frantic minigames, however, have the reverse effect, jolting you to attention from the paced narrative. I’m still not sure whether this is good or bad, but for me it felt a bit off.

Graphically the game is what you’d expect – lots of text (though it does look gorgeous on the Retina display), no pictures (unfortunately), and a futuristic design. While for some aspects (i.e. when you plug in the datapad) the style looks authentic, I felt that for the general storytelling the developers could’ve spiced up the UI a bit. The minigames look fine, though it’s hard for me to imagine the developers failing on those, considering their simplicity.

Star Breed is a simplified interactive gamebook for the iGeneration, substituting intricate multi-path storylines and more or less deep dice-based combat mechanics with linear gameplay and frantic minigames. It maybe a reasonable title to start your acquaintance with the genre, though it’s far from the quality and standard set by the Fighting Fantasy or the Gamebook Adventures series. The only thing going for it is the sci-fi entourage, a first for the gamebooks I’ve seen on the iDevice, but unfortunately it’s far from enough to make it worth recommending.

With this I declare Star Breed – Episode 1 officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Star Breed – Episode 1 Developer: Agni Studios
Reviewed Ver: 1.00 Min OS Req: 3.1.2
Price: $2.99 App Size: 19.33MB
  • Sci-Fi setting
  • Easy-to-pick-up
  • Retina graphics support
  • Too linear with no inventory
  • Frantic combat and hacking minigames
  • Too action-oriented
  • No illustrations

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DEATH COP – Mechanical Unit in Review – Robocop never saw this coming! http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/10/21/death-cop-mechanical-unit-in-review/ http://www.touchmyapps.com/2010/10/21/death-cop-mechanical-unit-in-review/#comments Thu, 21 Oct 2010 20:44:47 +0000 http://www.touchmyapps.com/?p=41291 The genre of dual-stick shooters is so crowded at this point that to even be noticed, a game must really make itself stand out. Developers attempt various ways of doing so, trying different themes, gameplay features and bonuses. Those over at Blue Shadow Games have really gone all out with this regard and actually bundled … Read more]]>

The genre of dual-stick shooters is so crowded at this point that to even be noticed, a game must really make itself stand out. Developers attempt various ways of doing so, trying different themes, gameplay features and bonuses. Those over at Blue Shadow Games have really gone all out with this regard and actually bundled 3 different games under one title that is DEATH COP – Mechanical Unit.

Death Cop is a unique game, providing a dual-stick shooter, vertical scrolling shooter and first-person shooting range experiences all in one package. A new enemy has united the world, coming blazing down on a meteor. The remnants of an ancient civilization have come to Earth to find a new home for themselves. In a desperate attempt the citizens of the planet in peril have created an elite and state of the art squad of robotic units to fight the horde of bio-engineered monsters.

The core of Death Cop is, of course, classic dual-stick shooting. You control one of 3 Mechs, varying in speed, armor and firepower. A nice option is to customize the armaments of your unit out of 16 unlockable weapons of mass destruction. The Mech has 2 weapon slots and can have up to 3 weapons assigned to each of them to choose the one that fits the game situation the most on the fly. While some weapons have unlimited ammo (i.e. the basic machine gun or the saw) most have a limited supply, which will have to be replenished in game.

To make life more interesting the developers have thrown in a couple more additional gameplay modes. I’m talking about the shooting range and the vertical shooter. The former puts you in the cockpit of the Mech. You can pan the view around the gameplay area and promptly destroy enemies on screen. In the latter, your Mech gains rocket boosters strapped to its back and you have to maneuver to avoid incoming obstacles and destroy stuff as well. Unfortunately the game doesn’t allow as much customization in the additional modes, with the vertical shooter not picking up the Mech selection and the shooting range having both a fixed Mech and weapon. You do get experience for all three modes though, which counts towards the level of your Mech, defining the weapons available.

The technical side is the most iffy part of Death Cop. I haven’t been able to make it run on my iPhone 4 with iOS 4.0.1 altogether and on iOS4.1 is seemed ok for a while, but it went back to zero successful startups in the end as well. While it did run the graphics seemed decent enough. The controls are nothing out of the ordinary as well, though the analogue pads seems a bit on the smallish side and the view, on many occasions,  is zoomed in too much for comfortable gameplay.

Unfortunately Death Cop is another example how a good idea can be strangled by not enough polish. The game feels more like an early beta than a final release, with technical glitches, poorly polished controls and gameplay that just doesn’t feel fun. I don’t think at any point in the game I really felt compelled to go back to it, with the whole experience being a chore rather than joy. I have to give it to the devs – the 3 gameplay modes fit together quite nicely and definitely make the game stand out of the crowd. However they’re nearly not enough to make Death Cop worth recommending.

With this I declare DEATH COP – Mechanical Unit officially touched!

Death Cop Lite is also available as a free download. So have a look and see for yourself if the game tickles your fancy.

App Summary
Title: DEATH COP – Mechanical Unit Developer: Blue Shadow Games S.L.
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.1 Min OS Req: 2.1
Price: $2.99 App Size: 52.90MB
  • 3 games in 1
  • Nice graphics
  • 3 mechs for various playing styles and 16 weapons to choose from
  • Crashes on startup
  • Not fun
  • Not very comfortable controls

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