Iron Wars: iPhone’s Battle of the Balls

Price: $.99     Score: 8/10     By M. SchustermanIron Wars - AppMania

Two things make or break a good old-fashioned blowing-stuff-up game for me; controls and an actual understanding of the purpose of the game. In the case of Iron Wars, the latter is great while the former is a bit lacking.

Designed by AppMania, this game is “an exciting battle between fabulous iron balls,” a description which I could not love much more. After a bout of immature giggling, I opened Iron Wars. It’s definitely got the futuristic look, cool graphics and “ready to rumble” music thing going, which I appreciate. I tapped “Campaign” and then “Tutor,” reading through all of the instructions carefully.

Joystick on the bottom left, tap bottom right to shoot. Easy enough. The “Mission” window informed me that this was a “DeathMatch,” that I had two enemies, and that the “Victory Conditions” mandated five frags.

First off, the levels look fantastic. You’ve got an overhead view, but there’s dimension – I fell down into a pit and thought I was trapped until noticing the stairs. The sort of 3D feel makes it more interesting, particularly when you’ve got to shoot stuff.

The joystick works great; rolling your ball around is easy. (Yup, I’m milking that joke for all it’s worth.) But I initially had an issue with shooting. There’s ammunition to pick up and other weapons to use, but since I started off armed with a gun I naturally tried it out first. There’s a laser coming from the ball so you can see where you’re aiming, but it’s so skinny it gets lost in all the other graphics. Same goes for the bullets; tiny and white (I’m not kidding), they blended in with the background so much that I thought I was shooting blanks. But when you get a hold of the other weapons it’s easier to see, although the laser is still super thin.

There are multi-player options, 32 levels and three different game types, so you get a lot of bang for your buck with this one. While I do wish it was a little easier to see where the ball is aiming, the game is overall well-designed, in particular the depth of the levels.

Iron Wars [iTunes Link] requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.


ToneRack: Fresh New iPhone Ringtones

ToneRack iPhone App

ToneRack iPhone App

Price: $1.99    Score: 10/10    By M. SchustermanToneRack - CellBubble

While I’ve always found the ringtone selection on my iPhone to be sort of disappointing, it didn’t bother me enough to go trolling for ringtones. I didn’t want to spend money on one, a lot of the websites that offer them are shady and it seemed like too much of a hassle in general.

ToneRack, an app designed by CellBubble, offers a selection of high-quality, original electronic ringtones simply and with no in-app purchase. The interface is easy to navigate, and the ringtones are divided into three categories for you to browse.

All of the sounds are electronic, ambient and well-produced; many of them put me in mind of the first few seconds of a techno song, the kind that causes people to crowd the dance floor when it starts to play. The “Alarms” category has a few video game-like sounds, “Beats” has (as you might guess) trance, house and just general dance beats, and “Ringers” is divided into two categories; “Premium Ringers” and “X Edge and Melodies,” which range from arcade sort of noises to melodic lines.

The sounds are truly unique, ideal if you just can’t have the same ringtone as everyone else. As you check out a ringtone, you can tap Play/Pause at the bottom, add it to your download queue, or download it right there. If you want to download several, it’s best to add them to the queue, then tap “Downloads” at the bottom to get them all at once.

Because Apple requires that ringtones are synced through iTunes, the ringtones don’t download straight to your iPhone. Once you tap “Download,” you’ll be asked to enter your email address twice (and ToneRack saves it after the first time). My ringtones arrived instantly in my inbox, along with a set of very simple instructions. I downloaded the tone to my desktop, drag it into iTunes, connected my iPhone and synced. The ringtones appeared in my settings under “Custom Ringtones.” The entire process, once I’d chosen my ringtones, took less than a minute.

For two dollars, this is an outstanding collection of completely original ringtones. I recommend it for anyone looking for a different tune for their phone.

ToneRack [iTunes Link] requires iPhone OS 4.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.


MultiPong Catapults a Classic into the 21st-Century

Price: $.99     Score: 9/10     By A. PapachristosMultiPong - Febo Studio

Since the classic video game Pong was released in the 1970’s, technology has advanced at lightning speed.  What once required an entire room of its own now fits in the palm of one’s hand.  And with the invention of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Apple has revolutionized the way we interact in both the social and gaming sphere.  MultiPong by Febo Studio brings the classic Pong concept into the 21st-century with its multiplayer interface and HD graphics, spicing up the action for the modern game enthusiast.

When you arrive at the main screen, you will see an array of neatly arranged buttons above and below the game’s center graphic.  To the top left, users will find MultiPong’s iPod integration controls.  Create your own playlists and manage your iPod all within MultiPong’s user-friendly interface so you can groove while you game.  To the right, choose one of four available skins: Standard, 8-bit, White and Pop.  This will allow you to customize your screen’s appearance.

Move to the bottom and users will find the ‘Start Game’ buttons to the left.  Here, users may play single player, battling against the A.I. Computer, or two-player for those playing on an iPod Touch or iPhone.  Those using an iPad can play with up to four people, making this an exceptionally interactive application for devices of such a small size.  Users can then connect to Game Center, where they can input their recent scores and see how they rank on MultiPong’s overall leaderboard and list of achievements.

To the right, users will find the most important button.  Here, the Rules section explains the game’s general information, including the main objective, types of game play (A.I. Computer, Competition, Multiplayer) and the various modes available for those playing Competition or Multiplayer style (Classic, Flash, Crazy, Dual, Baby, Death-ball).  The Bonus section of the rules maps out exactly what each bonus marker and bumper signifies so you can maximize your success during battle.  The Scores and Stats buttons are self-explanatory, as they display your history.

Once you dive into actual game play, maneuvering your paddle becomes second nature, as nearly everyone who has access to an iPhone or iPad has surely had some contact with similar games.  MultiPong features five different sized balls, a number of them bouncing around the screen at once to provide an additional challenge.  Personally, the modern tweaks have a pleasing overtone, making this game much more exciting than the infamous original without deviating from the concept that ushered in a new age.  So push aside the Atari for just a while and reacquaint yourself with the classic

For a video demonstration of MultiPong, click here.

MultiPong [iTunes Link] requires iPhone OS 4.1 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.


Keep Your Tunes Current With Nomis

Price: $1.99     Score: 8/10     By M. SchustermanNomis ~ the music release notifier - Taprockets

The more bands and artists you listen to, the more difficult it can be to keep up with the newest releases. Nomis, an app designed by Taprockets, attempts to keep you up to date by compiling your artist list on your iPhone and updating a list of the latest albums each time you launch the application.

It really is a no-fuss design; open the app and the compilation begins. Once it is complete, you’ll see a list of the latest albums of your favorite artists, complete with title and CD cover. Tap on the album and you’ll see a list of tracks from that album, along with the option to download individual songs or the entire album from iTunes. Selecting one of those options opens iTunes and brings you straight to your selection to download as usual.

Nomis has nice graphics with a retro, searching-through-my-records feel. I did experience a crash or two when I tried to move from viewing an album’s details back to the main menu. And it’s worth noting that those are your only two options; you can’t remove a new album from the list if you already own it but do not have it on your phone, and there are no options to sort or organize, nor is there an option to search for something new by a particular artist. As a result, if there are several updates, some of which you already own (or don’t want) and some of which you don’t know about, you may have to scroll a bit to find those.

However, simplicity is not a bad thing. Open the app, take a quick scroll, see if there’s anything new and download what you like. If you find yourself missing out when your favorite artists release new albums, Nomis is a good deal.

Nomis [iTunes Link] requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.


Stay on Budget With LohasMoney

Price: $2.99     Score: 9/10     By M. SchustermanLohasMoney ( All-In-One Money Planner ) - InfoMind

There are simple budget organization apps, and there are those which require a bit of an investment, with more features as a reward. LohasMoney is the latter.

Designed by InfoMind, this app is a complete system for recording payments, income, bills and pretty much any other financial data you might want to keep track of. While I confess that I stumbled around for a few minutes figuring it out, I did enjoy the graphics – LohasMoney is incredibly visual.

It’s not that it’s complicated to use, it’s just that there is so much information, so many options you can enter, that getting started can be (or at least was for me) a tad overwhelming. At the top of the home page, you can navigate by day, week, month or year. Or you can select “Tab” at the bottom for a different way of viewing the data. Entering a payment, either incoming or outgoing, is simple and can potentially be quite detailed. You can take or choose a picture, enter the total (multiple currencies are supported), create a category, add an account type and customize the icon, add a date, time, vendor, notes and choose whether or not the expense is personal or business.

Once you’ve entered the info, it’s displayed in an uber-organized way that those who live for buying color-coded protector sheets and binders at Office Depot will adore. The home page displays your current expense, income and budget data, along with a nifty bar that shows income over expenditure and expenditure over budget. In “Settings,” you can change the currency, the UI theme, set a passcode, perform email back-up or back-up over wi-fi or 3G…it almost seems endless, the things you can do with LohasMoney.

For the price, I think this app is a great deal. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for one app on which to record everything the earn and spend in great detail. While fully learning it takes some time, I believe LohasMoney is worth the investment.

LohasMoney [iTunes Link] requires iPhone OS 3.1.2 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.


Tell Facebook What’s On Your Mind

Price: FREE     Score: 9/10     By M. SchustermanWhat's on your mind - Glm Global LLC

I’m not a fan of the Facebook app, and I’m pretty positive I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve had to delete and download it more times than I can count thanks to constant crashing, and while the interface is fine, I’d expect more out of a company with that kind of money.

So when other equally priced (aka free) options come along, I pay attention. What’s On Your Mind, designed by Glm Global LLC, claims to allow you to “use Facebook as Twitter.” While I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean exactly – perhaps that it displays status updates in a fashion similar to tweets? – it does allow you to easily post updates, photos and videos to your Facebook page.

On the main menu, you can tap “Custom” to write and post your own update. You can also tap “Twitter trends,” which pulls up the six most recent tending topics and inserts them in your Facebook status update. The “Say It Loud” feature is interesting; enter a title, choose whether you want your location published, enter any tags, then tap “Record” to create a message of up to 30 seconds. You can play it back before uploading it your page – a feature that, as far as I know, is not offered on the Facebook app.

Then there’s all the options for those who love posting updates just to post them. I am not one of those people. However, the posts are fun to browse through. In addition to several prompts, such as “The truth is…” or “…is driving me insane,” there are dozens of complete “Funny Statuses,” some funny, some sort of funny and some outright offensive and obviously intended to get comments. Which, of course, is all some people want.

By tapping “My Posts” at the bottom, you can see all of your posts and comments (though not “likes”), or you can try “Friend Posts” to see everyone else’s updates. And here is one of What’s On Your Mind’s coolest features – tap “Album View” and stick your iPhone in its dock (optional) to watch a real-time sort of slideshow of status updates. There’s even a stop/play button at the bottom so you can pause on specific updates. And if watching updates flow by is truly your ideal form of entertainment, you can tap “Playlist” at the top to create a list of songs to accompany your update slideshow.

Simply because it appears less prone to crashing than the Facebook app, I’ll most likely be using this one for regular updates in the future. It strikes me as being a particularly good app for anyone for whom posting updates is mandatory, regardless of having anything important to say.

What’s On Your Mind [iTunes Link] requires iPhone OS 4.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.

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