Weird + Small Apps 26: Blockit!, Bump’ny, Farm Idol, NoTap SMS, Pzizz Relax, Swakker Doodle
It’s not the most exciting Weird + Small Apps edition we’ve ever published—in fact, there are fewer recommendable apps in this batch than most we can recall—but there are six new releases to be seen below, complete with one that did merit our general-level recommendation.
The best app in the collection this week is Swakker Doodle, a collaborative doodling program for iPhone and iPod touch users. Read on for all the details.
Blockit! ($1) from Spendthrift Studios is amongst the simplest games we’ve yet seen for the iPhone and iPod touch: there’s a ball in the center of the screen, and a constant stream of arrows coming right towards it. You touch the arrows or an area immediately next to them to neutralize them before they touch the ball, which has a lifebar to indicate how many more hits it can take before popping. Futuristic music plays in the background while you tap away at the arrows, which are faster and more numerous as you change difficulty levels; there’s no animation when the ball is popped, or other sort of frill save for numbers appearing as you touch the screen. Modestly developed and low in frills, Blockit! is a demo-quality title with a nice enough audio track and fast-enough finger-tapping action to rise very slightly above a D-caliber rating. iLounge Rating: C-.
A classic bar game adapted for the iPhone, Bump’ny ($2) from Bump’ny Company gives you control over a “shooter”—a coin that gets placed on a table’s surface, which you’re supposed to bump with the heel of your hand to move the coin upwards. The table is divided with a series of horizontal lines, and you need to get five coins past the first of the lines and inbetween each set of two lines drawn on the table. You succeed if at least one coin occupies each free space—the “bed”—and can either play alone or with a friend. As with Blockit!, Bump’ny is relatively low in frills; apart from simulated crowd noise and little sound effects, it doesn’t do much sonically, however, the gameplay is interesting, and the developer has included three different table and coin skins and small rule variations—including a two-player mode—to increase the title’s appeal. iLounge Rating: C+.
We’ve previously been charmed by some thoroughly well-developed, inexpensive musical children’s books for the iPhone, and now there’s Farm Idol ($1) from PawPaw, which isn’t quite as useful but has its own cute little concept. You’re presented with a scrolling landscape with a farmer, a cow, a rooster, a duck, a pig, and a sheep in a line, with the ability to focus the screen on one of them at a given moment. You can either tap the animal to make a plain sound, tilt the iPhone while tapping to change the pitch of the sound dynamically, or hit keys on the left of the screen to change the pitch. As much as we wanted to like this app, the sound effects are only decent—the constant background chatter of a farm is more interesting than the noises produced by tapping on individual animals—and if it wasn’t for the cute but very flat art, this title wouldn’t have even caught our attention. It’s a simple five-animal soundboard with a nice interface. iLounge Rating: C.
SMS text messages are, in a phrase, an almost complete waste of money and time—particularly for iPhone owners who have access to e-mail, instant messenger software, and other forms of app-based communiction. That said, some people continue to rely upon text messages to communicate with friends or family via their cell phones, and NoTap SMS ($4) from Stefano Barbato is an application that seeks to make texting easier—on a full-sized computer keyboard. The concept isn’t totally ridiculous: you load the app, which gives you a security code, and then enter that code at NoTap’s web site. Whatever you type on the web site gets sent to the iPhone app, which is supposed to then copy the received text to the iPhone’s clipboard, launch the Messages app, and let you paste the typed message yourself. It’s a workaround for those who find even the iPhone’s landscape keyboard to be too much of a chore to use, however, when you consider the amount of added cost and labor in buying the app, launching it, going to a computer and typing messages, and copying and pasting its content into text messages, you’d be better off just dealing with the keyboard on the iPhone if you can possibly do so. Additionally, on one occasion during testing, the app wouldn’t launch Messages at all; this was remedied on a restart. Given the price and limited utility here, this isn’t an app we’d consider recommending. iLounge Rating: C-.
There are lots of different relaxation applications out there, all generally comprised of the same components: soothing music and a relaxing voice track, designed to lull you into sleep. Pzizz Relax ($3) from Pzizz Technology is another example of the genre, with ambient audio tracks that can be set to play for between 10 to 90 minutes, along with a voice that can provide an introduction, mid-track suggestions, and a wake up cue, or leave out either the middle or all of the cues. We’re not going to rate this application, but will say that its audio track and voice are both legitimately pleasant and sleep-inducing—a little like the music of Vangelis for the Blade Runner soundtrack, mixed with bells, gentle ocean waves, and the like; you can decide whether that’s worth paying $3 for. iLounge Rating: NR.
Last this week is Swakker Doodle ($1) from Skwakker LLC, which is essentially a simple doodle-drawing program with a few neat little twists. The core of the app is a one-screen touch-based drawing tool with the ability to change your brush size and color, plus an eraser that that wipes clean whatever one finger touches. As boring as that might be by itself, the app includes 11 backdrops, including hangman and tic-tac-toe templates, the appearance of a napkin or sticky note, and so on, as well as the opportunity to collaboratively doodle (or play) with a friend who’s also using the application, and share images you’ve created by creating an account. For the price, this is a nice little app, and worth trying if you enjoy making and/or sharing simple sketches with friends; a greater array of sketching tools and backdrops would be even better. iLounge Rating: B.
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