NightStand – Digital Clock App

Written iPhone Alarm Clock App Review

Price: $0.99    Score: 7/10    By Shaun Campbell Night Stand

Nightstand is a really simple app, but a very popular download in the App Store.

Nightstand is an app that essentially turns your iPhone screen into a digital clock display. The time (and day) are shown in an attractive luminescent blue, and can be viewed with your phone in portrait or landscape mode.

It’s a really useful app if you don’t happen to have a clock radio/alarm AND you have a dock to place it in. Not very useful if neither of those two apply to you.

If your iPhone isn’t plugged into the wall, leaving the screen on all night just to display the time is a sure way to eat up all your battery power.

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EyeTricks – Optical Illusions App

Written iPhone Optical Illusions App Review

EyeTricks is a free app that is best filed under ‘novelty’.

EyeTricks is basically a collection of just that –  optical illusions that play ‘tricks’ on your eyes. Some of them you would no doubt have seen before, but there is certainly some originality here. There are 30 illusions in total – each with its own instructions.

The pop-up instructions are necessary, as different tricks require you to do different things in order for them to work. For some illusions you need to stare at a certain point, or move the screen or even “look at a bright light”.

Some of the illusions are definitely more effective or more engaging than others – one I was impressed by was called “Coral Reef”. Here’s how it works:

  • You stare at black dot in the middle of a picture. (the picture is an orange outline of a reef)
  • After 30 seconds of staring, you tap the screen.
  • All of a sudden the picture of the coral comes into full color.
  • Look away from the black dot though, and you realize that it’s a black & white photo!
  • Your brain created the color – it was never there!

I’m not sure how often you’ll use EyeTricks, but in my opinion, the novelty factor it provides (however short-lived) warrants checking it out. I showed a friend of mine the Coral Reef illusion and they were blown away.


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Review of Darts for iPhone

Written iPhone Game App Review

Darts is a dart simulation game developed by Fictorial LLC. Darts is one of the most popular free-to-download games currently available on the Apple App Store.

Darts brings the ubiquitous pub classic to your pocket, and does the job fairly well. It’s a must for any fan of the real thing. The game features an intuitive touch based control system, whereby finger swipes are used to launch darts at a virtual dartboard.

Darts uses a targeting cross-hair to enable the player to select which score they’re shooting for. Doubles and triples are naturally harder to hit, and call for finer speed control. You are able to vary dart speed by simply changing the speed at which you swipe your finger.  Be careful though – if you don’t get the speed right, you may end up falling short or overshooting the board completely!

It does take some time to get used to the movement – don’t expect to be scoring triple 20’s on every throw in your first game.

Darts has two main game modes: practice & competition. Practice mode uses only basic scoring and is designed for sharpening your dart-throwing skills. Competition against computer A.I. has three difficulty settings and two main game types – X01 and Cricket. In X01 your aim is to reach a score of zero before your opponent, by subtracting the score of each throw from the initial total (available totals: 301, 501, 601, 701, 1001). The object of “American Cricket” is to hit the numbers 15 through 20 and the bulls-eye three times each. I found the A.I reasonably easy to beat on ‘easy’, but ‘master’ was near impossible (for me anyway).

Darts features excellent graphics for a free game and utilizes a nicely rendered physics-based 3D view of the dart’s flightpath for each throw. The dartboard is attractively modeled and the scoreboard (situated at the base of the playing screen) is simple and unobtrusive. Sound effects are also simple, but effective. There is a re-assuring thud as your darts hit the board, and the sound of your points accumulating the scoreboard after each throw. That’s all there is sound-wise, but really all that’s needed in a game like this.

There is enough complexity and game-options in this app to make it worthwhile, and enough simplicity to make it enjoyable. If you’ve never played darts, it’s definitely a good way to learn the rules of the game. Those people with a real interest in darts will find this well worth the download.

Darts requires iPhone software update v2.1 and is available now from the App Store.


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TapDefense Review

Written iPhone Game App Review

TapDefense is a tower defense game developed by the LL Group. At the time of writing, TapDefense was number one on the most-downloaded list in the (free) Apple App store.

TapDefense is a strategy game. The concept behind TapDefense and most other tower defense games (like Fieldrunners) is to build towers and/or other obstacles to prevent the ‘enemy’ from traveling from point A to point B. If you fail to stop them from reaching point B – you lose.  In Tap Defense, your enemies are creatures from hell (although its hard to tell from the animations).

TapDefense screenshot

Point A in this case is the gates of hell and Point B, the gates of heaven. Your job is to protect the pearly gates from the approaching hordes using a variety of towers, each with specific abilities and strategic uses. The route that the enemy takes in TapDefense is fixed, and the game map is divided into the enemy path, and your building area (see image).

Towers cost gold in TapDefense – and gold is earned by slaying demons, succubi, locusts and other hellish creatures that pour out of the gates of hell in each level. In the beginning of the game you only have a limited selection of towers to choose from (three in total) – but by advancing through the levels and earning ‘halos’ you can unlock more advanced towers which give you more options when it comes to strategy. Gold accrued is cumulative throughout the game, and you earn interest on unspent gold at the end of each level.

Advancing through the levels increases the difficulty of the game, with each successive level adding something new or different. Fast moving monsters, or creatures with resistances and high hit-points challenge the player, in addition to increases in the actual number of enemies you have to confront. As you earn gold and halos, there are a number of improvements you can research to help shore up your defense. These improvements include tower upgrades (increased attack, range, fire rate) and gold interest rate upgrades, so you can earn money faster.

There are three levels of difficulty in TapDefense, but even ‘easy’ provides a challenge with 42 different levels. Increasing the difficulty decreases the length of the enemy path such that you have less time to bring down your opponents before they reach the end-zone. The GUI is quite intuitive and uses a simple 3 button system along the bottom of the screen by which you can construct towers, access your upgrades and also the main menu.

The graphics in TapDefense are basic and a lot less polished than those in say, Fieldrunners. There is also no sound. I don’t think that this detracts too much from the game play however, and you’ll find that TapDefense is actually quite addictive, despite its simplicity. Besides, TapDefense is a free application and Fieldrunners costs $4.99.

All-in-all, TapDefense is a solid app and well worth a look.


*TapDefense has just been updated to v1.1, with several bug fixes. v2.0 is in the pipeline.

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DigiDrummer Lite – Drum Simulator App

Written iPhone Music App Review

DigiDrummer Lite is a free drum emulation app for the Apple iPhone. It’s basically a stripped down version of DigiDrummer, the full-featured older brother.

DigiDrummer Lite provides you with a basic virtual ‘kit’, on which you can fool around and create some simple beats. This “Lite” version comes with a kick (bass), snare, open/closed high-hat, tom 1, tom 2, crash cymbal and ride cymbal.

The pieces of kit are only visually identifiable in this app by their labels – the graphical interface represents each piece via a touch-sensitive circle (practice pads for those of you who know what they are).

As far as accuracy of sound goes, it really is quite reasonable for an iPhone application. My only complaint here is that the relative volume of the individual pieces is a little bit off. The bass kick is just not loud enough, and the high-hat is probably too loud (relatively).

DigiDrummer Lite in action:


Unfortunately, due to DigiDrummer Lite’s “Lite” status as a free application, it really lacks any of the cool functionality of the paid-app version.

I’ve listed here the main features missing in DigiDrummer Lite but available with the full version:
– Choice of drum sets
– Recording and Playback
– Storage of beats in a “Beat Library”

So yes, those are some cool features…but its up to you to decide whether you think they’re worth paying for.

In the end, DigiDrummer Lite is a free app. And with that in mind, it does what it intends to do reasonably well. If you’re a drummer then you’ll probably find it more interesting (or frustrating). Otherwise, you’ll probably only get a few minutes of novelty out of it.


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Lightsaber Unleashed App – Feel the force on your iPhone

Written iPhone Game App Review

Lightsaber Unleashed is a free Star Wars light saber emulator for the Apple iPhone. It is one of the most popular and downloaded apps in the App Store.

Nearly every kid growing up has played “light sabers” at some point in time. Now every big kid around has the chance to turn their iPhone into that iconic Jedi weapon (well, kind of).

Lightsaber was developed by Lucasfilm Ltd. and is actually a very savvy marketing ploy for the new Star Wars game The Force Unleashed, which just so happens to be available on iPhone, amongst other platforms. Upon opening the app, an advertisement for the game pops up and lasts for almost 10 seconds before you can use the light saber. It is a little frustrating.

The in-your-face advertising aspect aside, Lightsaber is still a really cool app. Ultimately, it serves no purpose beyond the simulation of a light saber, but that is function enough for my needs.

Once loaded, the main screen for this app presents you with a few options. You can deploy your light saber by tapping once on the screen – which initiates a graphic and the characteristic sound from the movies – a novelty unlikely to ever wear out. The screen takes on the appearance (color) of your chosen light saber and begins to hum gently.

The Lightsaber app uses the built-in accelerometer to sense your movements. Slowly move the iPhone, and it will sound as if a light saber were passing through the air in front of you. Swing quickly and it responds with the sound of two light-sabers clashing. Very cool. By holding and maneuvering the iPhone in much the same way you would were it a real sword, you can generate the sounds of your own little light saber battle.

The other features that come with the app don’t really add much more to the functionality. There is dramatic music that you can turn on and off (which I actually thought was kind of neat), and there is also a character selection screen. You can choose from some familiar names like Darth Vader and The Apprentice or some not-so-familiar ones like Rahm Kota and Maris Brood.  The only real outcome of character selection is a change in the color of the light saber – Darth Vader of course has red, but other characters you can choose from have green, turquoise or blue. You can also create your own custom character and light saber if you so desire – you can use RGB sliders to create a unique color and there are four different hilts to choose from.

In the end, the “features” are just padding – but Lightsaber Unleashed is still a great app for the iPhone and a must-have for any Star Wars fan. [rating:4]

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