Weird + Small Apps: Cholesterol Coach, Face Fun, Maya & Reve Spot the Difference, myBalloon
Welcome to this week’s atypically short edition of Weird and Small Apps. Rather than showing off a smorgasboard of different titles this week, we’ve selected only four—most in the B-rating range, one below it.
Our pick of the week is Maya & Reve Spot The Difference, which we tested in finished form despite the fact that it’s slated for release in the App Store ten days from now. Hopefully it’ll make its way into the Store sooner than that.
We’ve previously looked at a number of “spot the difference” or “photo comparison” games, most of which have been fine but lacking a little in the sparkle department. While Valuewave’s new Maya & Reve Spot The Difference ($1, releases May 25) is more of the same, it’s actually well-executed enough to be worthy of attention—assuming that you like to compare cartoony graphics. Across 15 stages that are split into five easy and ten medium challenges, Maya & Reve actually turns out to be challenging around the second stage, forcing you to spot minute but not indiscernible differences in two side-by-side photographs. A timer runs between the pictures to let you know roughly how many seconds you have to finish locating the distinctions, and in the first levels, you’ll have 3, 4, or 5 to locate. Fail and you can retry the level over and over, but the differences change, making each level replayable and seriously challenging.
While Maya & Reve Spot The Difference isn’t a phenomenal title by absolute standards, it’s a pleasant little comparison game with a nice if repetitive audio track, good sound effects, and challenging levels. We liked the evolution of the theme and changes in background art as the stages progressed, too; the developer is promising 17 additional stages for a near-term update and a mirrored play mode, as well. Be aware up front that if you’re looking for a pushover of a comparison game, this isn’t the title for you, but if you want a challenge, you’ll be impressed for the buck. iLounge Rating: B+.
The only weird app in today’s roundup is myBalloon - Blow, Touch, and Play ($1) by Smaga Bakery, a balloon simulator for the iPhone. myBalloon’s concept is fairly obvious: you blow into the microphone of the iPhone and watch as a balloon grows in size on screen, using on-screen buttons to change the pressure on or block the valve. You can also rub on the balloon to “play” it like a rubbery instrument, or use the pressure pinches on the valve to release the air as a squeak. All of this is accomplished with a series of pre-recorded sound effects and animated photos that use a little bit of realtime graphics and audio generation to appear reactive to tilts of the device or movements of your fingers, so the results are photorealistic and sonically plausible but not entirely believable. You can blow the balloon up so much that it pops—a bug in the iPod touch 2G version’s microphone interface makes this happen accidentally sometimes—or bring it back to deflated form. While we’re not exactly sure why anyone would want an app like this one, myBalloon does a good enough job of what people would expect for the price to be better than okay; it just strikes us as being very limited in appeal. If you’re looking for a sight gag for your iPhone, it might be worth considering. iLounge Rating: B-.
Apart from its plain interface and the fact that its settings default to European measurements—a fact that throws off its graphs until you play with the settings—Cholesterol Coach ($3) by Pocket Pixels is a nice little application for those trying to improve their health through statistical tracking. As one might expect from the name, Cholesterol Coach tracks pertinent cholesterol levels over time and enables you to see visual one-, two-, or three-year charts of your progress, helps you to keep track of your next blood test and fasting requirements, and logs your exercise and diet activities—the latter complete with fat, dietary cholesterol, and salt breakdowns. It also includes a tool to help users determine how much their cigarette habits are costing annually, plus unit converters and LDL calculators. While Cholesterol Coach’s user interface really lacks in the visual department, using plain text-based menus and dialogue screens, plus some of the most bland graphs we’ve yet seen on the iPhone OS, the tools inside may help those in need of health management tools. The $3 asking price is too high for the level of polish and design that went into this title, but if it goes on sale or receives some UI improvements, we’d consider it worthy of a general recommendation. iLounge Rating: B-.
When Apple introduced the Mac photo management program iPhoto ‘09, one of its key new features was “Faces,” face detection software that enabled users to sort their existing photo collection by identifying the people in the images. Face Fun ($3) by Ab2labs is designed to capitalize on similar technology, automatically hunting for faces in the pictures on your iPhone or iPod touch, then presenting them to you as icons.
The problems with Face Fun are numerous. First, it does a poor job of identifying numerous faces in individual photographs, often leaving you with one or two faces from a crowd of people, with no way to detect more. Second, there’s very little to do with the identified faces: you’re given 18 pre-set “scene” images to superimpose a face on, with the payoff for detection being the ability to see someone plastered in a picture frame or on the monitor in a TV control room. Third, it has a confusing interface, with a mix of often non-responsive buttons, and an odd drag and drop requirement in order to add faces to images. Unlike iPhoto ‘09, which was a natural for face detection technology, it’s obvious that Face Fun was designed as a shallow and not especially impressive demo of how the technology could be added to the iPhone OS. It’s not worth $1, and certainly not worth $3. iLounge Rating: D.
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