Tag Archive: “iphone”

Five Apps I Like

Last weekend I reviewed some iPhone games. Here are some other apps I use, sans haikus. I am not including built-in apps such as Safari or Mail, nor am I listing every third-party app I’ve installed; presented here are just a few of my favorites. Title links go to the App Store.


Stanza screenshot

Stanza is a free ebook reader application by Lexcycle. I use Stanza mainly for reading the ePub editions of online short fiction magazines such as Lightspeed. Pictured above is the glossy “jukebox” view of cover art, but I typically browse my library in list view. You can group the listing by author or by user-defined collection, and you can sort each listing in various ways. The reading view is highly customizable (fonts, colors, margins – you name it) and the interface is fairly intuitive (tap left or right side to go back or forward, pinch to change size, press and hold to annotate or look up a definition). Somewhat to my surprise, I have become accustomed to reading white text on a black background – perhaps because it feels more comfortable when the iPhone is the only source of light. Turning on the “Display Styles” option under Layout settings helps preserve some importing formatting (such as distinct typefaces for questions and answers in interview transcripts).

Stanza plays nicely with Dropbox, also available for the iPhone, which makes it easy to keep your files in sync.

I would like if it was possible to perform a text search across the whole library, not just the current book.


This is a useful plain text editor by Hog Bay Software. You can title notes and organize them in folders. It is tightly integrated with Dropbox, so any notes you take on the go are immediately available on your computer, too (and vice versa). It works without Dropbox, too (useful even if you do have account, because you still take and save notes without an active connection – syncing is just deferred until it gets a chance). Free; you can pay a couple bucks to remove the unobtrusive ads.


Susquehanna and Chenango Confluence

There are a number of panoramic photo apps available. This is the one I have, and it’s great. Take a bunch of overlapping photos, select ’em, and “boom” – panorama. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s fun.

Poke around the company website – the people behind the program have some other interesting image processing projects, too.


Kinetic screenshot

The built-in Maps app is great, but Kinetic by Mothership is a nifty GPS logger for those occasions when you wonder “just how far is that ride” or “I wonder how fast I can bomb down that hill with a bike full of groceries”. You can customize the display with everything from signal strength to pace, but in my typical usage I just turn it on and pocket the phone (screen off) before hopping on my bike.

It’s fun to examine the logs. As you drag the progress marker along the bottom of the screen, corresponding markers on the map and speed/elevation graph show where you were and how you were moving at that point in your ride. I think there are some minor improvements that could boost the utility of the graph feature, such as a moving the value labels from the endpoints to the vicinity of the marker when zoomed in (at present, you can’t see the labels when zoomed in to look at the details of the graph).

Star Walk

Star Walk screenshot

What star or planet is that? Launch Star Walk, hold the phone up to the sky, adjust the brightness setting to approximate what’s actually visible, and tap the object in question to see its name and details. It’s a clever use of various sensors to simplify search based on where you are and where you’re looking. To be honest, I haven’t made many opportunities to consult it out under the night sky yet, but I think just playing around with it can help you learn where to look for things.

(For another example of the powerful convergence of sensors and portable processing mojo, check out Word Lens. I’ve tried the demo, which just reverses words instead of translating them – even so, given bright lighting, it’s space-age cool.)

Posted on Sunday, December 19th, 2010.

My Top Ten iPhone Games, Haiku Reviewed

I haven’t played many video games in recent years. I upgraded to a Mk. IV Apple Ansible this fall. For better or worse, the quantity of quality games available for iOS has since drawn me back into the fray. Here is a list of ten of my favorite iPhone games, sorted alphabetically by title, and reviewed in signature anoved.net haiku style. Title links take you to the App Store.

Chop Chop Soccer

Chop Chop Soccer Screenshot

Bobble-headed tots
compete beneath your fingers –
fakeout, flick, kick, score!

I like the simplicity of the controls and the art style of this fingertip futbol game. (Many sports games present a tedious amount of franchise or roster management – not so here.) If you’ve got the ball, you drag or swirl your finger on screen to dribble or fake out opponents. To pass or shoot, you just flick in the direction you want to kick. To try to steal the ball when playing defense, just flick towards it.

The screenshot about is taken with the “Action” camera mode, but I prefer the “Side” view because the orientation remains stable, keeping input simple.

Fruit Ninja

Fruit Ninja Screenshot

The Order of Chefs
is sworn to slice ripened fruit.
Swing your cleavers high!

It’s basically like Infinity Blade, except you’re slicing up food instead of ogres and assassins. I think the juicy exploding-fruit sound effects are my favorite part.

Infinity Blade

Infinity Blade Screenshot

Weave your sword just so:
thrust and lunge, deflect, cut low.
The God King, the foe.

I feel that this swordfighting game lives up to the hype surrounding its recent release. Powered by the same Unreal Engine showcased in the free Epic Citadel, it’s no surprise that Infinity Blade’s graphics, artwork, and cinematography are top-notch.

Critically, the gameplay is engaging, too. You confront various enemies in a cyclical sequence of duels. (There’s no time wasted trotting about in search of fights, much to the dismay of some among the App Store commentariat. Another thing the comment kids don’t seem to get is that it’s not “over” once you reach or even beat the God King.) Your success, especially against more powerful foes, is reliant on the details of your technique. You can survive by swinging wildly, sometimes, but the real challenge – and reward – is in refining your stroke and footwork to maximize damage dealt while minimizing injuries received. It’s hard to put down – “just one more round!”

Some criticisms: the wheezes, screeches, and grunts uttered by the combatants do get a little tiresome (although my cat seems to like them). In the heat of battle, it can be frustrating when the dodge or block buttons don’t seem to do anything – but this is surely a matter of poor timing on my behalf, not any bug in the game.

Jet Car Stunts

Jet Car Stunts Screenshot

Boost into the blue.
Extend flaps, float, drift and twist.
Rubber chirps, grips – go!

The set-up is zany – you drive a race car with airbrakes and rechargable JATO around geometrical platforms situated in the sky – but the controls are nearly perfect. Steady hands are required to stick the landing on long jumps, but a quick boost or skid will snap you back on track. Just as much a puzzle game as a racing game, Jet Car Stunts nevertheless elicits memories of Star Wars: Episode I Racer, my favorite racing game ever.


Minigore Screenshot

Hikin’ in Hardland,
huntin’ furry lil buggers
who be huntin’ you.

Minigore is a frenetic “twin stick” arcade shooter that pitches you as hapless protagonist John Gore (or some other character) against unending swarms of fuzzy (and often firey) forest freaks. Individually, the monsters are easily dispatched – but in crowds, they’re overwhelming. Fortunately, your machine gun never runs out of bullets, and if you collect enough lucky charms, you can go nuts and trample the beasties as your own alter-ego beast.

The “twin stick” label refers to games with two [virtual] joysticks, one which controls your character’s movement and one which controls their direction of fire. In other words, you can aim and move in different directions at the same time.

N.Y. Zombies

N.Y. Zombies Screenshot

Building lights are out.
Thump and stumble in the hall.
Pump and shoot ’em all.

There are many zombie survival games out there. This is the one I have. It can actually be quite frightening. I like it.

In each level your task is to stand your ground until the creeps stop coming. You have a small arsenal of weapons at your disposal, which can be upgraded or exchanged between levels. You don’t run out of ammunition, but the weapons do take a moment to reload. You can switch to a different weapon while one is reloading, but if you’re not careful you can sometimes find yourself without any ready to fire – and a few seconds may be all it takes for the zombies to get you.

I think much of the suspense comes from the fact that enemies approach from all directions. This imparts a wary feeling of needing to look over your shoulder, so although your character remains stationary, you must constantly turn back and forth to keep the undead at bay.

Rat On A Scooter XL

Rat on a Scooter XL Screenshot

It’s Ratty! It’s Rat!
With helmet and Vespa and gas!
Go, Ratty, go and don’t splat!

Rat jumps his scooter from platform to platform collecting cheese. How far will he get before he falls? It’s up to you! There’s just one button: tap the screen to make him jump or, if he’s already airborne and he’s got the gas, to give him a little boost.

The scooter’s motor makes a delightful sputtering sound.

Real Racing

Real Racing Screenshot

Hug the line, off gas,
nick the curb strip, whip the wheel,
and drop the hammer.

Lots of tracks, four car classes, and a brisk sense of speed make this a great driving game.

Control method B (tilt steering with gas and brake pedals, no brake assist) is the only acceptable input method. Accelerometer steering feels more realistic than any joystick, keyboard, or console controller I’ve used. Cockpit view is important, too. The exterior camera somehow makes the handling seem less convincing to me.

Reckless Racing

Reckless Racing Screenshot

Back roads – good ol’ boys
gonna powerslide semis
down in the holler.

Top-down Hazzard county automotive mayhem. There’s a fun variety of cars and trucks to choose from, and detailed scenery to soak in as you gun your buggy through the mud and careen around the farmyard. I like the music.

Samurai II: Vengeance

Samurai II Screenshot

Artful Eastern land
of lilies, cogs, and honor
wants not for lost blood.

There are nicely illustrated introductions to the chapters of this game, which is itself rendered in an attractive cel-shaded fashion. The “steampunk” feudal Japan setting provides an interesting and generally soothing environment in which to, um, slaughter lots of bad guys. I haven’t quite mastered the timing necessary to consistently pull off the “combo” attacks, so it’s definitely challenging – but that’s a good thing. Your progress is saved after clearing each section of the level, which makes it feasible to work your way through the game in small increments.

Words With Friends

Words With Friends Screenshot

Spell like you mean it –
not just any word will do.
Fear my triple Q.

Words With Friends is like Scrabble, albeit with a different board layout and automatic arbitration of what is and isn’t a valid word. I’m afraid I’m a junkie. My addiction is fed by the fact that you can play multiple games at once, asynchronously, so it’s almost always your turn. Plus, you can take as much time as you want to mull over your move.

Unfortunately, it is also somewhat buggy. The amount of time spent “Sending…” each turn seems disproportionate to the amount of data that must be transmitted. Worse, games occasionally appear to be corrupted and prematurely lost. A “Repairing…” message sometimes appears, but rarely succeeds in restoring these games.

So there you have it, my list of ten favorite iPhone games. Hey, I didn’t say it was a list of ten and only ten games.

In my opinion (<soapbox>as someone who doesn’t pirate software and who happily pays for good software from small shops</soapbox>), iPhone apps are incredibly cheap. Nevertheless, checking in on Touch Arcade once in a while is a fine way to see what games are temporarily free or on sale – I bought many of the games listed above at a discount. “Lite” versions of many games are also available.

No promises (blogs can’t handle commitment), but maybe I’ll review some of my favorite non-game apps, too.

Posted on Sunday, December 12th, 2010.