Welcome to the first half of our latest edition of iOS Gems! Today, we’re taking very quick looks at a bunch of different apps and games, including several edutainment titles for kids, a few games, and a few useful apps for adults. Since there are so many titles to cover, we’re looking at six here, and five more in today’s second Gems piece, linked here.
Our top pick in this collection is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally Appisode from Disney—a must-see app for parents and young kids. Read on for all the details.
Developed by Nosy Crow, which previously wowed us with its Cinderella and Three Little Pigs interactive storybooks, Bizzy Bear Builds A House ($2) is a short but charming little book featuring cartoony animals performing construction tasks. Kids are led through a handful of animated 2-D screens in which Bizzy Bear drives different types of supply and clearing trucks, talks with friends, and contributes to the finishing of a home. Featuring universal iOS support, this app is equally readable and usable on both tablet and pocket device screens, with art that’s Retina Display-optimized for iPhones and iPods, with adequate, non-Retina detail for iPads as well. While there are too few pages to the book, each less complex than in the earlier fairy tale stories, each page is filled with spoken dialogue, and easily discernible touch points for interactive truck movement. Fans of Nosy Crow’s prior work should definitely consider checking this out given the low price; young kids will really enjoy what’s here, so long as they’re prepared for the brevity. iLounge Rating: B.
With an iPhone-sized UI and no special iPad interface, Color Splash Studio ($1) by MacPhun is a very simple, almost single-purpose photographic app—it loads your choice of new camera, photo library, or Facebook photos, removes the color from the image, and allows you to selectively restore the color in places of your choosing for dramatic effect. Additional filters enable you to apply comic-like thick edges, sepia/greyscale/blue-tinted color schemes, and enhanced saturation and hues as desired. There’s nothing extraordinarily fancy about Color Splash Studio, but it does streamline functionality that you can’t as easily access through iPhoto; if you really enjoy playing with selective desaturation of images, it’s worth seeing. iLounge Rating: B.
Mobigame’s Edge titles dropped a cube into isometric-perspective levels that ended when the cube reached an exit point. HeroCraft and Creat Studios’ Cuboid: 3D Puzzle Game Free (Free) instead places you in control of a domino-like rectangular block that’s twice as long as it is wide, within levels that challenge you to hit the hole-shaped exit with the block’s shorter end in as few moves as possible. Your block can’t fit though the hole unless it’s turned the right way, and has plenty of opportunities to accidentally roll off the completely open edges of each level, falling through to its death. Initial levels consist solely of firm stone tiles, but as the levels progress, you’re introduced to collapsing wooden tiles, buttons, bridges, and teleports adding to the challenges. Cuboid benefits from an atypically impressive 3-D graphics engine, complete with attractive textures and lighting effects that go well beyond Edge, as well as an epic-styled soundtrack that has Egyptian overtones; the game’s price tag and universal iOS support are also plusses. The only issues are some bugginess on certain iOS devices, repetitiveness in the levels, and pop-up ad banners, though the issues are easy to forgive for the zero-dollar price. iLounge Rating: B.
Conceptually, Bugun Software’s Display Recorder ($2) could be a holy grail for some iOS users—particularly developers—as it enables something that heretofore was extremely difficult: realtime video capturing of whatever is happening on your iPad’s, iPhone’s, or iPod touch’s screen, as well as whatever’s coming out of its speaker. Files are saved as M4Vs and displayed in a list that’s easy to access, share to YouTube or your photo library, and delete as necessary. But the word “conceptually” is key here, as in practice Display Recorder is buggy and less capable than it sounds; though it nicely runs in the background and attempts to capture as much as it can, the app separately records video/screengrabs and audio in a manner that’s seemingly unsupported by iOS software, and thus finicky. On current iOS devices, the frame rate is sluggish, 3-D games are barely captured if at all, and some apps will crash rather than running with Display Recorder in the background. Numerous settings enable you to downscale the audio and video, however, reducing the strain on your device to increase compatibility. There’s good reason to wonder whether this app will remain in the App Store at all, but for the time being, it’s here and semi-capable; users who are willing to take the risk on it getting yanked will be surprised at how much it can do, and disappointed only when it falls somewhat short of its potential. iLounge Rating: B-.
Though it could easily have charged for this app, Disney for some reason opted to release the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally Appisode for free, and the results are extremely impressive: this new iPad app looks and feels like a fully interactive version of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse television show, themed around a road rally where the Mickey Mouse gang cooperates to make it through different environments. While the Appisode is very linear, progressing though a series of 20 TV cartoon-styled segments, each of those segments is laden with so much video, audio, and lightly touchable content that parents and kids will be blown away by all that’s here. Some parts require light voice participation—a “yes” or “oh, Toodles” that’s monitored with an on-screen sound meter—while others have kids tap or swipe through mini-games. With more than enough story, animation, and entertainment to feel like a complete episode of the show, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally is one of the best free apps we’ve ever seen in the App Store, and worth grabbing right away for any young child with iPad access. iLounge Rating: A.
Mobigame’s Zombie Carnaval ($1) is a major departure for the well-known developer of puzzle titles—a 2-D endless running title with a little more depth and graphical pizzazz than the average title of its sort. The theme here is comical and cartoony, placing you in control of a zombie who runs down a platformy road biting as many people as possible. In the process, you assemble a fast-moving and frequently depleted horde of followers that need to jump over and stay under explosives littering the screen, dodging some cars and helicopters while attacking the people inside other vehicles. As a player, all you’re doing is touching anywhere on the screen to make the zombies jump at the same time, but the timing of your jumps is critical, and influenced by occasional power-ups that transform the horde into double-jumping ninjas, more powerful football quarterbacks, or UFO-aided attackers. Like Jetpack Joyride, there are objectives and incentives to keep playing over and over, as well as seemingly randomly-generated levels filled with coins to collect, though the madcap soundtrack and oddly-rendered characters detract a little from the cool factor of the experience. For the low asking price, endless running fans will enjoy this, but Zombie Carnaval would have been better if it was edgier. iLounge Rating: B.
Thousands of additional iPhone, iPod, and iPad app and game reviews are available here.