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iLounge Game Spotlight: Rules!

Rules! ($2) is a new puzzle game from TheCodingMonkeys. A polished puzzler, Rules! looks to establish ground in the competitive and crowded territory of casual puzzle games on iOS.

Grabbing early attention hasn’t seemed to be a problem for Rules!, as it’s catapulted to the top of the puzzle game charts and has hit the top ten for all games. It’s a quick-play puzzler which, at first glance, will remind some gamers of the equally exclamatory Threes!— but it has unique gameplay of its own. Developers TheCodingMonkeys may be best-known for converting board games Carcassonne and Lost Cities into iOS games.

Apps of the Week: Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings, Godus, Oceanhorn 2.0 + More

New Apps

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings ($3) — PBS Kids has just released Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings. The app, based on the show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, has a variety of activities for youngsters. Kids can draw, play mini-games, step into the feelings photo booth, or sing along to their favorite songs from the show — all concentrating on different feelings. This is a well done app with lots of content and great voicework; the activities are intuitive, even for younger children. If you’ve got a Daniel Tiger fan in the house, they’ll enjoy Grr-ific Feelings.

NFL Now (free) — The NFL has released its anticipated NFL Now app, also expected soon as an Apple TV channel. Until then, the iOS app allows for AirPlay to an Apple TV. NFL Now claims to offer “hundreds” of new videos daily in a personalized stream. Currently, fantasy football and training camp videos are the focus. Users view the app’s content in portrait mode, and the app automatically switches to landscape mode for video. Only some content is available for free — full highlights and unlimited access to the NFL Films library cost $2 a month for USA, Mexico, and UK users, and $5 a month for the rest of the world.

Redesigned Foursquare 8.0 removes check-ins

Foursquare Labs has updated its free Foursquare iOS app to version 8.0. As expected, the redesign has eliminated location check-ins — the feature which first brought Foursquare to prominence. Users looking to check in can now only do so through Foursquare’s separate Swarm app. The new Foursquare is focused on tips and location discovery, as the app aims to find places and things based on a user’s specific tastes. Changes can be seen immediately upon updating, as the app now features a new icon, and a bright pink-and-blue color scheme.

App Store saw record numbers in July

Apple has told CNBC that its App Store set record revenue numbers this July. The App Store also reportedly had a record amount of customers making transactions in the same month. It’s an interesting release of information — the company doesn’t usually make a point of publicizing specific monthly sales — with curious timing, considering the almost-simultaneous report of a new iPhone event having been scheduled for September 9. In another unusual twist, Apple CEO Tim Cook then tweeted about the news, linking to the CNBC story.

2K bringing BioShock to iOS this summer

2K announced today that it’s bringing the hit game BioShock to iOS this summer. The critically acclaimed first-person shooter, originally released in 2007, will offer touch controls, as well as full MFi game controller support. No exact release date or pricing information is now at this time, though 2K’s announcement noted that BioShock will be a “premium priced mobile game.”

Facebook promises monthly iOS app updates

Facebook has released version 13.0 of its iOS app to the App Store, with update notes promising that the social network will now bring regular updates to the App Store “every 4 weeks,” while explaining how to enable iOS 7 automatic updates to stay current. Facebook notes that “every update of the Facebook app includes improvements for speed and reliability” and that any other new features will be highlighted within the Facebook app itself, suggesting that users will no longer need to check out the app’s App Store page for the latest release information. The Facebook app has received very frequent updates since version 6.0 debuted in April 2013, and moved to a new version numbering and monthly update pattern this past February. Version 13.0 marks the first time the company has made any official commitment to a regular iOS update cycle.

iLounge Game Spotlight: 80 Days

80 Days ($5) is an interactive fiction adventure from inkle based on Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in Eighty Days. This game brings steampunk into the story as well, as players try find the quickest way around the globe through exploration and conversation.

In 80 Days, you inhabit the role of Passepartout, valet to Monsieur Fogg. It is your duty to help Fogg circumnavigate the globe — this is done largely by talking to locals and exploring new cities. This is game is heavily centered around reading. Though the in-game art is very nice and adds to the proceedings quite well, graphics are not the star of the show. It’s all about the story, which resembles a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Unlike those old children’s books, however, the timeline in 80 Days is fluid and constantly changing. Though you will make many, many choices that affect the game, you are often a spectator as well.

Apps of the Week: NPR One, Crazy Taxi: City Rush, Interactive Alphabet 4.0 + more

New Apps

Beehive (free) — Beehive - The Social Network Filter from Kendall Innovations is that rare thing: a new social networking app that should be useful to certain people. The app takes your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, and lets you narrow them down to the friends you care about most. All of those updates can then be viewed from the single Beehive app. Most appealing to those who would be interested in this sort of thing is the app’s anonymity. You never have to worry about deleting or unfollowing friends — just pick who you want to follow within Beehive, and they’ll be none the wiser. Additionally, Beehive doesn’t require an email address, or even the creation of an account. It’s also ad-free. Not all users will find such an app necessary, of course, but for those looking to cut down on their social networking time without missing anything important — or without offending people — Beehive might be the perfect answer. Right now the app is built for iPhone, but an iPad version will be coming soon.

NPR One (free) — NPR’s new NPR One app curates a stream of public radio news and stories for the listener. The app’s bizarre, meandering description describes NPR One as “a handcrafted experience” while noting the app also delivers the big stories of the day. Basically, it’s a different way of accessing public radio through a somewhat personalized set of recommended stories — users must sign in using their Facebook, Google, or NPR accounts.

Popular Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain returns to App Store

Apple has reinstated popular Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain to the App Store. It’s not an entirely unexpected move, considering Apple recently started allowing Bitcoin apps back in the App Store, after making a change to its App Store Review Guidelines. Blockchain was originally pulled from the App Store in February. Nicolas Cary, Blockchain’s CEO, told Bloomberg that Blockchain’s Bitcoin wallet has 1.9 million users.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Modern Combat 5: Blackout

Modern Combat 5: Blackout ($7) is one of the most high-profile iOS games to be released this year. Blackout is the latest first-person shooter in Gameloft’s Call of Duty-esque series, and this time around, there are no in-app purchases to be found. However, an internet connection is required to play at all times.

As Modern Combat players will expect, Blackout has a great presentation. From the seriously impressive, detailed graphics, to the immersive sound and all of the requisite bells and whistles one would expect, there’s no doubt that Gameloft’s newest is a truly premium title. It’s important to note the frame rate during the game was solid for us on an iPad mini with Retina display, whether in single-player or multiplayer mode.

Apps of the Week: ShipAntics, Modern Combat 5, This American Life 3.0 + more

New Apps

Matter ($2) — Photo app maker Pixite is back with Matter, a new app that allows users to add 3D effects to photos. Those effects come in the form of various 3D objects — users have the ability to change the traits of the objects, as well. A video feature allows users to create short animated loops of the object within the photo. To us, the objects look a bit “prog-rock album cover,” but to some that’s likely part of the appeal.

ShipAntics: The Legend of The Kiki Beast ($2) — The prolific StoryToys continues to move in a new direction with ShipAntics: The Legend of the Kiki Beast. Unlike many of the developer’s storybook apps, this is a full-fledged adventure title for young gamers. Though the gameplay is mostly in simple point-and-click style, there are plenty of puzzles and cartoon cutscenes. This app is chapter one of a three-part series, with chapter two coming as a “low cost” in-app purchase in the future.

Tips app debuts in iOS 8 beta 4

Apple’s new Tips app has debuted within the fourth beta of iOS 8. The app shows people how to use the device with a list of tips, each consisting of around a paragraph of text plus an animated image. A list of six tips is shown initially, with the first being “Quickly respond to a notification.” Users can like/unlike tips and share tips, as well. All of the tips at this point are iOS 8-specific.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Bio Inc.

Bio Inc. ($2) is a new game from DryGin Studios that’s being billed as a “biomedical strategy simulator.” The game challenges players to create the ultimate illness. It is decidedly not for everyone.

Some have compared Bio Inc. to Plague Inc., for obvious reasons. But where Plague Inc. tasks you with developing a plague to bring about the end of humanity, Bio Inc. is focused on one patient at a time. You name a person, see his health weaknesses, and set about trying to kill him by assailing him with a wide range of ailments. It’s a morbid premise that becomes more macabre as the game progresses.

EU criticizes Apple for in-app purchases (Update)

The European Commission said that Apple has “provided no concrete and immediate solutions” to in-app purchase problems, Reuters reports. Payment approvals within the App Store are still a sticking point for the EU. Google, on the other hand, was praised by the commission for taking measures to improve their in-app payment issues. “Over the last year we made sure any app which enables customers to make in-app purchases is clearly marked,” an Apple spokesman said. “We will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns.” Apple drew heat from Italian authorities in May for advertising free apps that required in-app purchases for continued use. The company could face legal action if the company is seen as breaking EU consumer protection law.

Update: Apple issued a response to Engadget, in which the company points out the strides it has made regarding clarifying in-app purchases. The statement concludes: “Our goal is to continue to provide the best experience for our customers and we will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns.”

Apps of the Week: Overcast, Ingress, Endless Numbers 1.2 + more

New Apps

Google Analytics (free) — Google has released a new Google Analytics app that allows users to access their web and app data from an iOS device. For those not in the know, Google Analytics is a popular service that offers website owners detailed site traffic statistics. The app offers Real Time reports, which lets users monitor recent changes.

Overcast: Podcast Player (free) — There is no shortage of thoughtfully designed podcast apps made to replace Apple’s own app, which has been through many ups and downs since it was released. The latest, and perhaps most hotly anticipated, is Marco Arment’s Overcast. The app is currently iPhone-only, available as a free download. It’s fully usable as-is, although a $5 in-app purchase unlocks a number of features that enhance the experience, such as cellular downloads, a sleep timer, and unlimited playlists. The key features that help differentiate this one from the others on the market, apart from aesthetic design, are both audio engineering tricks that get unlocked when you spend the money. Smart Speed is a really cool tool; rather than increasing the speed of the podcast and making the speakers sound like chipmunks, it’s able to detect gaps and edit out the silence, saving you time in listening. Voice Boost does just what its name says, making it easier to listen to podcasts in cars or other environments where there’s background noise, without having to pump up the volume. Both Smart Speed and Voice Boost can be used for five minutes at a time before you decide to buy.

New Games

daWindci Deluxe ($3) — Mimimi Productions has released a new version of its popular, Apple Design Award winning daWindci game with daWindci Deluxe. The upgraded game — in which players paint wind, hurricanes, and lightning on screen to guide a hot air balloon through levels — now features full Retina support and new wind drawing mechanics. All new particle effects, crisper textures, and post effect shaders have also been added to the game. Considering the original daWindci is still $4, this is the one you want.

Paul McCartney re-releases five classic albums as iPad apps

Five classic Paul McCartney albums have been re-released as standalone iPad apps by Concord Music Group. All five albums include remastered audio and extra content, including interviews, photos, and video clips. The albums are: McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney, and the follow-up Ram, which also credits Linda McCartney; two McCartney/Wings albums — Band on the Run and the live Wings over America; and McCartney’s second official solo album, 1980’s McCartney II. All of the apps are $8 — a less expensive price than all of the respective albums within the iTunes Store. [via The Guardian]

PayPal 5.5 app update scans, stores loyalty cards

PayPal’s most recent update of its free iOS app has notably added the ability to digitize and store loyalty cards. Version 5.5 lets users carry virtual versions of an impressive variety of loyalty cards within the app. After selecting the specific retailer from a long but easily searchable list of participating vendors, including regional supermarkets, restaurants, and shops, you simply scan your loyalty card’s barcode or punch in the ID number to add a card to the app. The app’s login process has also been sped up, as well. This new update goes head-to-head with Apple’s Passbook, and considering the collection of supported vendors, compares favorably to say the least.

Apple launches iTunes Pass credit system in Japan

Apple has launched a new Passbook feature in Japan called iTunes Pass, allowing iTunes Store customers to add purchasing credit at Apple’s retail Stores. Once the pass has been added to the user’s iPhone or iPod touch, a Specialist at the Store can scan a code on the screen, accept payment, then credit the payment toward the iTunes Store account—a process that seems rather challenging compared with just buying Store credit directly from the device. “Balance is updated on the fly, available immediately,” notes Apple. It’s rather unusual for Apple to launch a feature like this in only one country, so it’s not clear if it’ll be rolling out to other countries, or if its perhaps a test of a future mobile payment system. [via 9to5Mac]

National Federation of the Blind praises Apple, looks to improve app accessibility

Responding to the fallout from last week’s problematic Reuters article, Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, commented on Apple within a blog post. Riccobono called the original Reuters story “provocative and poorly reported,” and Reuters issued a partial correction for the story. He writes that “Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company to date,” suggesting that the company’s operating systems are indeed addressing the needs of sight-impaired users. But he also points out the federation is asking Apple “to do more,” as the federation recently issued a resolution in which the organization called upon Apple to work with them in order to “ensure the accessibility of all apps,” which may develop incompatibility issues, reducing their functionality and creating issues for some users.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Beyond Gravity

Qwiboo’s Beyond Gravity ($2) comes to iOS after debuting earlier on a number of other platforms. A simple platformer, Beyond Gravity is “procedurally generated,” so that each run through the game is a completely different experience. The title is currently on sale for $1, as a special launch price.

Beyond Gravity puts you in the jumpy shoes of a space explorer who’s trying to pick up the missing parts of his spaceship. To do so, he must jump between constantly rotating planets, nabbing floating pieces along the way. It’s a clean looking game with neat art. No in-app purchases are included, which is always nice.

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