Welcome to Weird and Small Apps #18! This week’s eight apps include five $1 games and three scattered types of mini-apps: a crash scene accident report generator, a Japanese emoji stamping application, and a third-party interface for Google Hot Trends. The highlights this week are the inexpensive iPhone and iPod touch games, as several of today’s titles, including Blue Block, are interesting because they actually have a neat play mechanic that justifies their low prices.
Our top pick this week is Water Toy, but Blue Block and Guess! rate general recommendations, as well. Read on for all the details.
Martin Demers’ title Blue Block ($1) is a straightforward one-screen puzzler with a set mission: free the blue block from a maze of strictly motion-limited white blocks. Everything you need to do is handled with slide gestures, and every level is similar: there’s a hole in the wall for the block to slide through, and you just need to clear a path through the white blocks to make that possible. The challenge is in those white blocks, which slide only a little on set paths, and each puzzle scales up in difficulty from the last by requiring more moves to free the blue one. While we’d have liked to see more variation in the levels, the simple fact is that only one level could occupy you for an hour, and there are around 40,000 levels here. Good luck making it through even the Medium level ones. iLounge Rating: B.
Guess! ($1) from J2sighte feels a little like Nintendo’s Wario Ware series, distilled to the point of near oversimplification. Every screen has a visually overwhelming collection of objects. There’s a timer that ticks down way too quickly. You need to guess how many items are on the screen, NOW, with only 10 seconds to complete your assessment. That’s it. The closer you guess to the actual number, the better your grade is. And though the game is certainly not going to win any awards for depth or sophistication, it’s set to three classical audio tracks and includes 50 different levels, 20 of which get played at any given time. Oddly charming and compelling until you run out of levels, it’s the sort of app that we’d like to see expanded into something even longer and more diverse. iLounge Rating: B.
There’s something about the premise of a game called Idiot Test 3 ($1) that just strikes us as a turn-off from moment one. But there are apparently a lot of people who want to see whether they’re idiots shopping at the App Store, because Nexx Studio and other developers have come up with titles like this that are actually ranking in the top 100—a competing title called “The Moron Test” is currently in the top 6. The idea: you’re presented with a collection of simple tap tasks to perform quickly, and insulted if you don’t do them properly. See buttons? Tap one once, the second twice, and the third once. Shapes? Small triangle first, red square, but now don’t touch the circle. It’s that sort of stuff, combined with a “ha ha” sample from The Simpsons if you fail, and relatively plain artwork that looks as if it took little time to assemble. Here’s a hint on how to prove you’re smart: the idiot test actually starts before you tap on the Buy App icon at the App Store. iLounge Rating: C-.
We wanted to like ThreadBound ($1) from NeverBored Studios. The fantasy theme and the simple concept are cute enough: use drag and rotate gestures to reposition a dragonfly as a bridge or wall, so that it can help a perpetually walking on-screen character move from platform to platform towards a spiderweb exit from the stage. Optionally, guide the character to collect berries for extra points as he walks. What undoes ThreadBound is the roughness of the graphics, which aren’t very impressively drawn or animated, the derivative gameplay—it’s sort of like Touch Physics, Lemmings and the like—and the oddly open approach to the concept of challenge. There are no mandatory berries to collect, so the game can be played with relatively little skill, and thus too little Sonic the Hedgehog-like thrill of gathering things that chime. For a buck, it’s not bad, but it’s not very good, either. iLounge Rating: C.
Note to developers: Lousy Games is not exactly a confidence-inspiring company name. But Water Toy ($1) is actually a cool little idea, transforming your iPhone or iPod touch into one—actually, thirty—of those inexpensive plastic and water kids’ puzzles that relied upon little balls, fluid dynamics, and your motion to steer the balls into targets inside the plastic shells. Like all smart developers, this one treats the iPhone OS as an opportunity to expand upon the theme rather than limiting the player to the constraints of the original plastic shells: here, some of the targets are moving, there are air bubble generators to complicate things, and there are amusingly drawn backdrops as you play. For the price, this is a very nice little title, and one that deserves even more and more creative levels. iLounge Rating: B+.
Just wrecked your car and need to document it? There’s an app for that. And in concept, Andreas Kostuch’s iPhone-only app myXident ($4) is actually a smart one. Rather than trying to pry a notepad and pen out of your crumbled vehicle, the developer provides you with a collection of questions regarding the scene, the people involved, your car, and your “opponent’s” car—a translation issue, we’re guessing—as well as the opportunity to use the iPhone’s camera to document the damage on the scene. There’s even a sketch mode to let you use arrows to show what happened. But between the numerous spelling errors, the app’s crashes, and the mediocrity of the sketch mode’s execution, myXident comes across as unfinished, and certainly doesn’t feel like it’s worth $4. There are also the bigger questions of whether people really have the interest or foresight to keep apps like this sitting around, awaiting accidents, or whether they’re likely to jump into the App Store first thing after an accident to download something like this. For the time being, we wouldn’t recommend doing so, but at a better price and with a better interface, the idea wouldn’t sound so crazy. iLounge Rating: C-.
We typically rate all the apps we feature in this column, but have decided not to do so for StamPa! ($2) from Sepv Corporation. As little as we were enthusiastic about this app for our own purposes, it’s a culturally specific program: an app that lets you stamp Japanese emoji icons onto photographs, as well as letting you add a mosaic or blur effect to these images. It has an undo feature, and an automatic face detector, enabling the mosaic or blur to be automatically applied rather than manually positioned. Useful? Not to us, and the interface is initially a little confusing. But for Japanese users accustomed to e-mailing out icon-laden photos, it might be interesting. iLounge Rating: NR.
Last this week is Trendz ($3), an app from e-Lips that doesn’t do much for its asking price. The concept: it captures current Google Trends phrases and floats them on the screen so you can see what’s being searched actively at the moment. You can click on any of the phrases to be taken to Google’s Hot Trends page, Google’s overall search results, or the first search result. And you can bookmark phrases. Though the concept of presenting information in this way is interesting enough, and Google could certainly attract attention to its Hot Trends results by offering a free app like this, the idea of paying anything for such simple functionality strikes us as ludicrous. Here’s Google’s page; click for free and enjoy. iLounge Rating: D+.
Hundreds of additional iPhone app and game reviews are available here.