Dec 092010

Flight simulations have traditionally been an area where few developers manage to succeed – things like plane choice, realism vs arcade physics and other issues make creating bad games way too easy.

Fokker Skurge is unique as it focuses on WW1 aviation. It offers two planes which handle slightly differently:
0a Fokker Skurge   the review

These two planes will then take you through a total of six missions, which will see you fight Zeppelins, enemy bombers and fighters as well as flak installations:
1a Fokker Skurge   the review 1b Fokker Skurge   the review

The graphics are extremely real for an iPhone game:
2a Fokker Skurge   the review 2b Fokker Skurge   the review

Flight physics are decent – except that there is no way to change the throttle setting. Furthermore, gun ammo seems to be unlimited:
3a Fokker Skurge   the review

Unfortunately, the controls are your main enemy. Tilt control tends to work well – but it requires on-screen feedback. And there is none of that in Fokker Skurge:
4a Fokker Skurge   the review

This review looked at the program on a first-gen iPod touch. The developer did their job well, as the product worked perfectly and didn’t lag or stutter.

In the end, Fokker Skurge is an especially sad disappointment. Its graphical engine is excellent, creating an amazingly beautiful flying experience. Unfortunately, the difficult-to-master controls make enjoying the experience difficult – you usually find yourself kissing the ground sooner rather than later.

If the developer would release an updated version of the game with some kind of tilt feedback and a longer campaign, the game would be a must have. As it stands now, it is mediocre at best…

Sep 102010

Puzzle games were among the first genres to hit mobile devices – games like Astraware’s infamous Bejeweled have become bestsellers. Spinballs wants to combine puzzle and action…but can it impress?

Spinballs is played on a grid made up of balls – these balls must be rotated to create groups of at least three adjacent balls. These can then be removed by pressing the button at the bottom of the screen, refilling the timer in the process:
0 Spinballs for iPhone   the review

The four large bubbles on the sides can be charged by destroying groups of balls close to them – when enough balls have been loaded, the charge becomes available:
1 Spinballs for iPhone   the review

Charges have extremely interesting features. One of them stops the timer, the other doubles the score. The two other charges clean up the playing field.

This review looked at Spinballs on a first-generation iPod touch.

In the end, it is difficult not to like this game – addicting to the extreme. Definitely get the free trial to see if you like the concept – the price of 2 USD is more than ok…

Sep 012010

If you have app stores, you have astroturfing – this age-old rule has been valid ever since the first ESD opened its store and added a rating system.

Unfortunately, the recent FCC rules for online news services also affect astroturfers. The New York Times (a questionable source for mobile, but usually OK on legal matters) now reports that the FCC has settled a case against a PR firm which openly admitted to writing reviews for its clients:

The Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday that a California marketing company had settled charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by having its employees write and post positive reviews of clients’ games in the Apple iTunes Store, without disclosing that they were being paid to do so.

Even though small-scale cases of astroturfing are unlikely to be noticed, better move your server to Panama if you plan larger campaigns…

Aug 182010

Penreader has mobilized books and dictionaries in the past. They are thus well aware of the “added features” – for example, three random definitions are shown on the home screen of the app:
 Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2010 for iPhone   the review

Searching for terms is done via the iPhone-standard search box. Searches are completed in less than 10 seconds:
 Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2010 for iPhone   the review

Terms are shown in “categories”:
 Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2010 for iPhone   the review

Some terms even contain images – these images seem to be stored locally, which means that the program can be used without an internet connection:
 Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2010 for iPhone   the review

Finally, entries for terms can also be sent via email:
 Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2010 for iPhone   the review

This review looked at the program running on a first-generation iPod touch running iOS3. We saw no stability issues during the review.

In the end, people who have used the book version of the Encyclopedia Britannica will probably be happy about leaving the tome at home. For them, the price of 20USD is ok. For a Wikipedia head like me, the short definitions found in the Encyclopedia Britannica are not worth the cash…

Jul 232010

Even though Apple’s iTunes Store does not have the conversion rate problems known on other stores (like Nokia’s infamous Ovi), Apple has nevertheless decided to increase the amount of free apps available by integrating an advertising solution into iOS.

According to the iPhoneDownloadBlog, a filter application has now become available for jail-broken devices:

. However, if your iPhone is jailbroken, head over to Cydia and add the following repo:

When you’re done, search for iAdKiller on Cydia and install the app. Finally, reboot your iPhone or iPod Touch, and voila!

As this move directly threatens developer’s earnings and thus the entire business model, I am sure that an extremely agressive reaction from Apple will follow. Watch closely…

Jul 052010

Centralized databases full of credit card records, etc are precious – it thus should come as no surprise that the iTunes App Store has been the target of all kinds of attacks recently.

The latest symptom was one Vietnamese publisher pushing 41 books into the top-50. TNW now has an interesting report starting out as follows:

On Sunday we reported details of how one specific app developer had managed to hack iTunes users accounts and use them to purchase his own apps – making it to the top of the iTunes charts.

As the story has developed, the problem has grown far more serious than initially thought – not just that one particular developer and his apps – the Apple App store is filled with App Farms being used to steal.

This post will give a complete run down of what we know and will be continue to be updated as we learn further details.

Find out more via the URL below:

Feb 022010

After the recent – and, in some countries, highly controversial – pulling of a few Nazi songs of questionable copyright provenience, Apple now has another issue on its hide: an application called iMussolini.

This 1.99$ application is essentially a “YouTube for lazy folks”, allowing you to access a few talks and speeches from a historic Italian politician:
iMussolini iMussolini   more fun for Apple

Let’s get this out upfront: I don’t give a rat’s ass about politics in Italy. I am hosted in Austria, so no discussions about politics on this blog either (but feel free to drop some IOS4 shots – in that case, your a$$ is covered to China by the austrian constitution). Let’s look at the tech behind it instead.

Apple’s DopeWars / Baby Shaker decision set a dangerous precedent for the Cupertinian company: it showed that it – unlike other ESD’s – is willing to pull content legal in the USA out of its iTunes store if enough people are annoyed by it.

This means that Apple has to expect all kinds of “whining” from now on to the end of its days – whenever someone is unhappy with an app, he gets himself a few thousand followers, a few paid journalists and starts the party. Apple then has to decide – do I piss off the guys currently protesting in front of my porch, or do I risk pissing off another bunch of folks by pulling the application?

Either way, the situation is uncomfortable for Apple – what do you guys think?

P.S. Once again: this is NOT limited to politically extremist views. Female breasts, drugs and hating infants have also caused such parties recently…

Jan 102010

Unit conversion has always been a core competency of mobile phones – Nokia’s smartphones even ship with a basic converter in ROM. Apple’s products currently don’t – which is why Handy Converter was invented.

Start the program to get access to the “unit list” – it lets you pick what type of conversion you want to perform:
iphone unit converter 0 Handy Converter for iPhone / iPod touch   the review

For example, choose length to get access to the converter below:
iphone unit converter 1 Handy Converter for iPhone / iPod touch   the review

Various units of length can then be chosen:
iphone unit converter 2 Handy Converter for iPhone / iPod touch   the review

Unlike most other converters, Handy Converter also allows you to convert currencies – new course data must be downloaded manually:
iphone unit converter 3 Handy Converter for iPhone / iPod touch   the review

Fortunately, multiple data sources are available:
iphone unit converter 4 Handy Converter for iPhone / iPod touch   the review

This review looked at version 1.0 of the program on a first-generation iPod touch running OS 3.0. The program was extremely stable during our tests…

In the end, there’s little not to like about this app. If you consider it worth the asking price of 2$, don’t be shy and install it…

Sep 302009

Apple’s press department has recently sent out an announcement claiming that two billion applications have been downloaded from the iTunes App Store since its launch.

As the release contains some very interesting figures, it is reposted below for your enjoyment:

CUPERTINO, California—September 28, 2009—Apple® today announced that more than two billion apps have been downloaded from its revolutionary App Store, the largest applications store in the world. There are now more than 85,000 apps available to the more than 50 million iPhone™ and iPod touch® customers worldwide and over 125,000 developers in Apple’s iPhone Developer Program.

“The rate of App Store downloads continues to accelerate with users downloading a staggering two billion apps in just over a year, including more than half a billion apps this quarter alone,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “The App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it.”

Today, iPhone and iPod touch customers in 77 countries worldwide can choose from an incredible range of apps in 20 categories, including games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel. With the recently introduced iTunes® 9, it’s now easier than ever to organize and sync your apps right in iTunes and they will automatically appear on your iPhone or iPod touch with the same layout.

Any further questions?

Sep 222009

Namco’s Time Crisis franchise can be considered one of the oldest video game series on the market: almost every arcade world-wide has at least one of them in active service..and don’t get me started on the console ports. Namco recently ported their shooter to the iPhone – can it stack up?

The game is arranged into levels, which are subdivided into individual scenes. All enemies in a scene must be killed before the time runs out – if not, a life is lost:
stage1 Time Crisis Strike   the review stage2 Time Crisis Strike   the review

Time Crisis is unique for one thing: it allows players to ‘dodge’ incoming bullets while reloading by crouching. However, not all bullets must be dodged – only red ones can harm you:
redbullet Time Crisis Strike   the review

Enemies can be attacked by tapping them – some require multiple taps/hits to kill:
multihit Time Crisis Strike   the review

Thinking can sometimes save you loads of dirtwork. For example, hitting the fuel barrel in the middle eliminates all enemies quickly and efficiently:
fuel Time Crisis Strike   the review

The first and the third (final) level are governed by bosses. The first boss is a tank:
tank Time Crisis Strike   the review

and the second one is Namco’s infamous series villain Wild Dog:
wild dog Time Crisis Strike   the review

Namco has furthermore added a few so-called challenge missions:
challenge list Time Crisis Strike   the review

These consist of a specific target which has to be accomplished in a limited time – and tend to be impossible:
challenge job Time Crisis Strike   the review

Here are the controls:
controls Time Crisis Strike   the review

In the end, Time Crisis Strike definitely is the best iPhone game I have reviewed so far. Of course, more levels / weapons, a story and easier challenge missions would have been nice – but even the current implementation is excellent. People who enjoy rail shooters must take this one for a spin…