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Apps: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, NBC 2.5.1, Sago Mini Monsters + Square Cash 1.3

Games based upon movies have a reputation for mediocrity, but Gameloft’s past track record with superhero movie games was solid enough that we didn’t expect Captain America: The Winter Soldier - The Official Game ($3) to stink. The movie-inspired title suffers from a variety of bad decisions, ranging from a boring overhead camera angle to confusing controls, repetitive action and an in-app purchase-heavy upgrade push, all taking away from what should have been a slam dunk companion to the well-regarded film. Captain America and a small team of AI-controlled S.H.I.E.L.D. agents walk — generally upwards from the bottom of the screen — through environments populated with groups of enemies, and you’re supposed to use an overly complex combination of virtual buttons, taps, and swipes to dispatch them. Swiping on things throws a shield at them, while tapping on them or on-screen buttons will throw punches and special attacks, including grenades, sniper rounds, and other support from the agents you choose. Too much of an emphasis is placed on managing and upgrading the team, and too little on making the levels fun rather than just a series of nearly mindless brawls with too little visual pizzazz. We’d advise skipping this one.

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NBC Universal has added a few things to its free NBC app in version 2.5.1. Most notably, the app now features Airplay Mirroring, letting users watch NBC shows on a television using Apple TV. Considering that Apple TV doesn’t have an NBC channel, most users would previously have had to sign up for Hulu Plus to watch NBC shows. The update also offers “trending clips,” which includes clips from NBC late night shows including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Saturday Night Live.

Adobe debuts Lightroom mobile for iPad

Adobe has officially introduced Lightroom mobile for iPad, a subscription-required tablet version of its photo editing and management software. Lightroom mobile lets users enhance smartphone photos and RAW images from DSLR cameras, as the new app can handle “virtually any image format.” The new app will also be coming to iPhone “within the next year.”

Lightroom mobile syncs seamlessly with Adobe’s Lightroom 5 on the desktop — in fact, Lightroom 5 is required to use Lightroom mobile. A Creative Cloud service membership is also required to use the app, with the least expensive option at $10 per month.

iLounge Game Spotlight: FTL: Faster Than Light

Although it’s not a brand-new game, FTL: Faster Than Light ($10) has just been released for iPad by Subset Games. The winner of several awards and accolades, FTL is a space-based RPG that encourages quick thinking, and punishes failure. It’s the kind of game that allows players to get further and further as they put more time into it.

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Once installed, FTL encourages going through a five-minute tutorial, which is a smart idea. With controls and information spread all along the top and bottom borders of the screen, this walkthrough does a good job of explaining what’s where, and how to play the game. Your task is to control a spaceship, viewed from a top-down perspective set against the expanse of space; this is the main action screen. You must hop from location to location, avoiding the rebels that are tailing you.

 

Apps: AmpliTube Orange, Fantastical 2, IFTTT 2.0 + Monument Valley

IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube Orange ($15) is a new version of the studio recording app, featuring the look and sound of the legendary Orange amplifiers. Like the standard AmpliTube app, AmpliTube Orange is a guitar/bass multi-FX processor and recording studio that connects a guitar to an iOS device using various IK Multimedia products. But IK says the new app was “developed with careful guidance from the tone gurus at Orange to ensure the authenticity of the sound.” The app lets users pick from six amp models and three stompbox models. Users of the original AmpliTube app can get Orange gear models through in-app purchase.

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Flexibits’ popular Fantastical 2 calendar app has launched for iPad with Fantastical 2 for iPad ($15). Fantastical 2 features a dashboard with multiple views, background app updates, and TextExpander support, in addition to plenty of other features. Users can set dates, times and geofences on reminders. Notably, Fantastical 2 supports other calendar services, including Apple’s built-in Calendar app. The app even offers dictation for making events; dictation isn’t supported on iPad 2, however. Fantastical 2 for iPad is currently on sale for $10.

Apps: Comedy Central, Endless Numbers, Shazam 7.5 + Tabular Mobile

Comedy Central has released an all new free app. The app features full episodes available the day after airing — generally provided that you sign in with a television provider. There are, however, a number of shows which don’t require a sign-in. Some of the network’s most popular programs, including The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, South Park, and @midnight, are all available for free viewing. The Comedy Central app also includes some archived shows and stand-up specials.

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Following Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader, leading childrens’ app developer Originator has debuted Endless Numbers (Free*), and it’s even better than its predecessors — something that we wouldn’t have thought possible. While the focus is seemingly on a specific number your child selects, the app uses each number as a chance to teach sequences, rather than just matching one number to its outline. You pick a number from a ferris wheel filled with different characters, then do several activities for each number. Pick 5 and the numbers 1 through 5 need to be matched on screen, followed by matching the numbers to a simple addition problem, then by interacting with an animated character or set of characters representing the number. As was the case with the past titles, the animation and audio are both fantastic enough that it’s hard to object to the $4 in-app asking price for numbers 6-25; 1-5 are included in the initial free download.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Sometimes You Die

Sometimes You Die ($2) is a new minimalist puzzler/side scroller from Philipp Stollenmayer. Unlike most games, in which a player’s death is usually a setback, Sometimes You Die lets players benefit from dying. Many of the puzzles seem to require such sacrifices.

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It’s clear from the very beginning that Sometimes You Die is a different kind of side scroller. Players use onscreen controls to move a simple boxed cursor — a greater-than/less-than symbol — through dark levels with ominous music, voiceovers, and omnipresent typography. You can move left, right, and jump. Some players may linger on the words in the background longer than others, as Sometimes You Die attempts to make you question basic tenants of gaming as you’re zipping and jumping around. The animation is sparse but smooth.

Apple getting 30 percent of Office 365 in-app sales

Microsoft’s Office for iPad apps went on sale Thursday, and it’s been revealed that a cut of the Office 365 subscriptions sold within the apps are going to Apple. Apple confirmed that Microsoft is paying the customary 30 percent cut to Apple for in-app sales of the subscriptions, Re/code reports. Apple previously rejected a Microsoft SkyDrive update which offered storage subscriptions due to Microsoft’s disagreement on the 30 percent cut. Microsoft has now apparently acquiesced to Apple’s demands.

Microsoft also announced that it is offering free Office 365 subscriptions to the first 50 people who bring their iPad into Microsoft retail stores, starting today. The free subscriptions will last for one year. As noted in the fine print, customers must participate in Microsoft’s “Put My iPad to Work” social campaign to be eligible — whatever that is.

Apps: Game of Thrones Ascent, iTunes Movie Trailers 1.4, Star Wars: Assault Team + Twitter 6.3

The strategy game Game of Thrones Ascent has come to iPad from developer Kongregate. Based on the wildly popular George R.R. Martin novels and HBO show, Game of Thrones Ascent already has 2.5 million online players. The game will be updated with new quests each Monday following new Sunday episodes on HBO — season 4 of the show starts April 6. While free to play, Game of Thrones Ascent does feature a number of in-app purchases.

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Apple’s free iTunes Movie Trailers app has added a number of features in version 1.4. iTunes Movie Trailers now allows users to read Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews directly in the app. Users can also add a movie to the Favorites section to be notified when the film is released in theaters or on the iTunes Store, and links to trailers can be shared using AirDrop. The customary bug fixes and performance improvements are also included in the update.

Microsoft announces Office for iPad

As expected, Microsoft officially announced Office for iPad today at an event featuring new CEO Satya Nadella. Office for iPad will go live at 2 p.m. EST today with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in the App Store. For free, users can download the apps to read and present documents. With an Office 365 subscription, users will get to create and edit documents.

Update: Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for iPad are all live in the App Store.

Apps: FireChat, Photowall for Chromecast, Second Canvas Museo del Prado + Starbucks 3.0

FireChat is a new free app from Open Garden that lets users send messages to other nearby users without an Internet connection or mobile coverage, using iOS 7’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework to link users together. Users can see what FireChat users everywhere are talking about, or they have the option of creating conversations for just nearby users. The nearby chat function works best within 30 feet and may be ideal for events or private conversations between friends in a larger group. FireChat has limitations — it’s not possible to create private conversations, for one thing — but it’s an interesting idea with lots of potential.

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Google’s new Photowall for Chromecast is a free photo app described as a “Chrome Experiment.” Photowall lets users send photos from phones or tablets to a TV using Chromecast. The app takes users to a browser, where they can add pics one at a time. Anyone can participate using the provided link and code to make a live scrapbook of sorts. After the Photowall is finished, the app auto-generates a YouTube video of the experience. Google has some kinks to work out with the concept, but it’s a cool addition for Chromecast users.

Apple ‘related’ search spotted in App Store

Apple is apparently testing a new feature in the App Store that offers users related term suggestions when doing a search. A number of reports have noted the new feature, though it appears it was first spotted by developer Olga Osadcha. Osadcha found the feature while using iOS 7.1.

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It’s noted that not everyone is seeing the new feature as of yet — iLounge’s editors have yet to see the function pop up when using our devices. It’s possible that Apple is rolling out the feature gradually.

UK digital download taxes could increase in 2015

Digital downloads including App Store and iTunes purchases are due to see a tax increase in the U.K. under new laws next year, The Guardian reports. A new budget would force Apple and others to charge a 20 percent tax rate on such downloads. The budget closes a tax loophole that currently allows digital downloads to be taxed through other countries, with the tax rate sometimes dropping as low as three percent. Barring any changes, the new law is set to go into effect January 1, 2015.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Star Horizon

Star Horizon ($4) is a new space shooter from Tabasco Interactive. A graphically impressive game, Star Horizon puts players into the ship of space fighter pilot. The on-rails shooter supports iOS controllers.

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Star Horizon certainly looks like a premium title. With nice, clear graphics and an impressive frame rate, it looks like everything you’d want out of a space shooter. Your ship dips and turns on a predetermined track as you pass by larger ships and fire upon enemies — sometimes you’ll take one out and zoom by the wreckage.

Golden State first NBA team to use iBeacons

The Golden State Warriors are the first NBA team to roll out iBeacons in their home arena, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. Oracle Arena in Oakland uses iBeacons to push seat upgrades, as fans with the team’s smartphone app — and cheaper seats — are prompted to upgrade when in the arena. The article notes issues with the plan, including a lack of extra tickets, and an estimate that the majority of users don’t leave Bluetooth LE on regularly, preventing them from receiving the notifications. A January report noted that 20 MLB teams plan on having iBeacons installed in their parks by Opening Day later this month.

Apps: Cosmos, NCAA March Madness Live, NFB StopMo Studio + The Very Hungry Caterpillar

FOX Broadcasting Company’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (free) is a companion app to the new 13-part FOX series, Cosmos. The app offers a full view of an interactive cosmic calendar which visualizes the history of the universe throughout the year. Episode sneak peeks and synopses are included along with additional videos, as well as a production diary and bios of those involved with the production. The visually impressive app stands on its own, but it’ll be of more use to fans of the show.

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NCAA March Madness Live from NCAA Digital (free) has upgraded to version 4.0 for the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The app has been redesigned for iOS 7. March Madness Live lets users log in with their television provider to watch live streaming tournament games on TBS, TNT, and TruTV. CBS games don’t need a paid TV subscription. Live radio broadcasts, game alerts, live scores, and an interactive tournament bracket are featured in the app. Video highlights are also included, as users can track “unbelievable moments” in real-time from each game.

Hacked EA game site phishing for Apple IDs

An EA Games server is hosting a phishing site that’s asking for Apple IDs, passwords, and credit card information, according to anti-fraud Internet services company Netcraft. Two websites in the ea.com domain use the compromised server, which redirects users to the actual Apple ID website after entering their confidential information. It’s possible that hackers accessed the site using vulnerabilities in an outdated version of WebCalendar 1.2.0 software. Netcraft notes that it informed EA of the hack, but the server and content is still online. [via CNET UK]

Apps: Angry Birds Epic, Bears vs. Art, Facebook 8.0 + Sphero 3.3.37

In Angry Birds Epic (Free), just soft launched in the Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand App Stores, Rovio has brought its most famous characters into an unusual new genre: a tactical RPG where the birds navigate through a fantasy world, battling bad piggies along the way. Combat is handled in typical turn-based RPG style, and players can obtain various items to equip their bird warriors and rescue new characters to add to their party along the way—Epic’s goal is to incentivize upgrades, using in-app purchased Lucky Coins to speed along the process. Unfortunately, while the game tries to provide in-game clues to guide the player through various new UI elements, the gameplay is somewhat confusing—even fans of the tactical RPG genre may feel a little bit lost, say nothing of Rovio’s core group of casual gamers. That said, the game still provides some basic playing enjoyment even if you’re just forging ahead blindly and not really paying attention to specs and equipment.

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Also soft-launched only in Australia and Canada, Bears vs. Art (Free) by long-time App Store favorite Halfbrick Studios is a casual puzzle game with a simple and somewhat charming premise. You take on the role of a bear whose peaceful wilderness habitat has been invaded by a series of art museums. The goal is to go on a rampage and take out as much of the art as you can, moving through a series of individual levels representing different small museums. In each case, you guide the bear to smash a specified number of pieces of art with limited turns or time to do so. The trick: your controls can move the bear in any direction, but the bear will always move all the way to the nearest wall, with force. Make contact with a piece of art, and you’re given the opportunity to slash it with a bear claw before moving on to the next piece. Bears vs. Art is a fun and addictive little casual game that will likely provide hours of enjoyment; you needn’t cough up real-world currency to enjoy playing it.

 

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Microsoft Office to make iPad debut March 27

Microsoft will unveil Office for iPad at a March 27 event, The Verge reports. The iPhone and iPod versions of Office were released last June. Apparently, the iPad version will be similar, requiring an Office 365 subscription for editing. Document creation and editing will reportedly be supported in full for Word, Excel, and Powerpoint apps.

Healthbook app may monitor heart rate, hydration, blood sugar, more

Apple’s upcoming Healthbook app may track users’ heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep, and more, according to a new in-depth look from 9to5Mac. The article offers “complete recreations of screenshots” which appear to answer numerous questions as to what Apple is testing in health and fitness tracking. Bloodwork, oxygen saturation, and blood sugar sections of the app will monitor a user’s blood. Apple could also track hydration and respiratory rate using Healthbook, as well as sleep cycles.

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As one might expect, Healthbook will also be used in fitness tracking, to examine weight, activity, and nutrition. An Emergency Card section would store vital health information that can be used be a doctor or emergency technician in times of health crisis. It’s unknown how Healthbook will acquire the data, though the iPhone, iWatch, and third-party apps or devices could all contribute information. Healthbook could be released with iOS 8, but the report notes—likely for cautionary purposes only—that the app “could be pushed back to a future operating system version or cancelled entirely.”

iLounge Game Spotlight: Glorkian Warrior: Trials Of Glork

Glorkian Warrior: Trials Of Glork ($3) is a collaboration between developer Pixeljam and prolific comic book artist James Kochalka. A Glorkian Warrior graphic novel, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, will be released in a few weeks. The game is a colorful Galaga-esque shooter with a light dose of platforming, and a heavy dose of humor.

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The game’s graphics are the first thing gamers will notice. While fans of James Kochalka’s work will recognize Glorkian Warrior’s art instantly, the game’s look should be a breath of fresh air to everyone else when compared to most games in the App Store. It’s bright and colorful, and every character design is a fun treat, even when you’re shooting at them.

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