Freaky Friday – For You

Freaky Friday – For You

Aug 26, 2011

You might think that Freaky Friday is a cynical column. One that goes out of its way to find the very worst things in the Android Market, just so it can pour scorn on them from a very great height, laughing at their ineptitudes and rubbing their faces into the mucky sputum of their ambition. You’d be right as well.

This week’s app proves that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, some people should not be allowed to be left to their own devices. It’s a recipe for trouble, and that trouble, in this case, has manifested itself as poetry. Poetry for Stephanie.

By the looks of things, some poor soul has decided to express their love for Stephanie via the medium of a publicly accessible marketplace. That same poor soul also decided that the best way to express that love, is an acrostic. There are no words that can describe how bizarre this app is.

You’re treated to a sickly sweet picture of hearts and love and other nonsense, along the top of which, emblazoned in glittery pink letters, is the name Stephanie. Click on each individual letter and you’ll be treated to an amazing poem about how Stephanie is great and moves planets with her loveliness.

After the poem has been fully displayed, and you’ve let its imagery of dancing moons and stars and other crap wash over you, you tap again, and get a picture of a rose. Awwww. Hearts melt, true love exists, vomit, vomit, vomit.

Part of me thinks that as I type this, For You is installing malware onto my phone, which is one of the reasons I’ve not linked to it below. The rest of me hopes with all of my heart that this is real, that someone thought the best way to make Stephanie fall in love with him was to make her an app.

If you’re Stephanie, and you’re reading this, please, get in touch. I have to know if this worked.

UPDATE: Before I got a chance to get screenshots to For You, it was taken off the Market. This makes me think it was real. O. M. G.

Freaky Friday – Morse Torch

It’s been a while since we featured an app that was actually worth what you pay for it on Freaky Friday. Which is telling, considering most of them are free. This week though, we’re going to break that duck, mainly because the first app we came to when trawling through the Market for weird stuff was actually quite good. Go figure.

The app in question is Morse Torch, which, unsurprisingly, turns the flash on your phone’s camera into a Morse code device. It’s the amalgamation of outdated communication and modern technology that someone might have been waiting for for a very long time.

It’s incredibly simple to use. You set the brightness and gap between flashes, then type in your message and push the big red on-screen button. The button turns green and your flash, er, flashes out the message, finishing when the button turns red again. Nothing to it.

Of course, it might not be flashing out the message you put, but some subliminal order to destroy all phone lines, but that’s a chance you’re going to have to take. Or you could just check the code being flashed, I don’t know.

There probably won’t be a time when you actually need Morse Torch, unless you ever find yourself stuck up a mountain or lost at sea, but it’s still a neat little app that you can have a bit of fun with. Send messages to your friends over short, dark distances, confuse boat captains, that sort of thing.

It’s nice to be able to end a Freaky Friday post without some pithy comment about how terrible an app is and how it’ll probably bring about the ruin of Western civilization. Instead, I’ll end by suggesting that Morse Torch is a perfectly decent Morse code app that, if you’re into that sort of thing, you should download now.

– – ..-. -.

Morse Torch is available now, for free, from the Android Market

Freaky Friday – Weight On The Moon

Freaky Friday – Weight On The Moon

Aug 12, 2011

This week’s Freaky Friday app hovers around the fringes of actually being pretty interesting. It skirts the border of “huh?” and “ooh!”, never quite managing to build an effective base in either of those two areas. On the one hand, it’s incredibly pointless. It’s also about space, and space is cool.

The app in question is Weight On The Moon, and it does precisely what it says on the digital tin. It tells you what your weight would be on the moon. Not just that, it also tells you what your weight would be on the seven other planets in the solar system, as well as Pluto, which isn’t a planet any more, and the sun. Which is the sun.

You type your “earth weight” into the app and it produces a number in a flash to let you know what you’d weigh on the heavenly body of your choosing. The problem is, it doesn’t tell you what unit of measurement it’s using. Pounds and stone, kilos and grammes, knives and forks? The app’s also a bit of an uggo, although by the standards usually set by entrants to the Freaky Friday hall of shame, it’s the Mona Lisa.

With a bit of spit and polish, Weight On The Moon would be a pretty nice app. Certainly not one you’d be ashamed to whip out and wave in front of your friends at those high class dinner parties you almost certainly never get invited to.

The problem is, you’d only whip it out once. “Hey guys, look at this, I can tell you how much you weight on the moon!” Your audience will no doubt be suitably rapt, and have a good giggle for all of a minute. If you ever, ever try it again though, you’ll just become the moon weight guy, shunned in polite society and made to go and sit on your own in the corner and talk about your boring space mularkey.

Don’t be the moon guy. Don’t ever be the moon guy.

Weight On The Moon is available now, for free, from the Android Market

Asteroid 2012 Review

Asteroid 2012 Review

Aug 8, 2011

Some games take a while to get used to, but more often than not they’re all the richer for that. It’s sort of like wine. They need that time to breathe, so that they taste that little bit sweeter once everything clicks. Asteroid 2012 almost fits into that category, but it falls short in a few key areas.

The game is a simple 3D space shooter that sees you utilising the accelerometer in your phone to control a pretty decent looking spaceship. Your task is to shoot asteroids, avoid the attentions of other spaceships and generally survive in the grim darkness of the remarkably close, yet technologically superlative future.

At first, you’ll think the tilt controls just don’t work. You’ll wave your phone around and your spaceship will explode and you’ll get angry and swear and go to bed without any supper. If you persevere though, you’ll realize that the controls are far subtler than in most other titles, requiring only the slightest of movements for the desired effect.

Once that’s settled in your mind, you’ll find yourself having some fun with Asteroid 2012. It moves at a different, calmer pace than most other games, and there’s no real way of telling if you’re doing things right or wrong. Then another spaceship will turn up, kill you and you’ll get frustrated and stop playing.

Sometimes, Asteroid 2012 feels more like a tech demo than a complete game. It’s fun in small doses, but after too brief a time, it becomes a bit of a chore. There’s obviously a lot of talent and time gone into making the game, but not enough of that time has gone into making it fun. With a few tweaks and a clearer objective, Asteroid 2012 could be a very impressive little app. As it is, it’s just a little too lacking in those key areas.

Freaky Friday – Telescope

Freaky Friday – Telescope

Aug 5, 2011

Sometimes, you just have to throw your hands up and admit defeat. You have to take a step back and realise that no pithy introduction paragraph is ever going to be able to convey just how monumentally stupid an app is. In fact, the only recourse for a phone and technology journalist is to slowly and carefully explain precisely what an app does and why it is the single most useless thing they have ever encountered in their long years on this earth.

The app in question is Telescope. Its one function, if you can even call it a function, is that it zooms. It zooms to exactly the same resolution as the camera already on your phone. You’re downloading an app that does something your phone already does. And already does better. So why would you even bother?

It’s difficult to attempt to fathom the rationale behind Telescope’s existence. Most apps are created to fill a gap in the market, because someone sees something that a phone or a tablet doesn’t do and decides that they should make it do that. Or, they think they can create an app that does something that’s already possible, but better.

Telescope seems to take the opposite approach. The developers have found something that Android devices already do, and decided to make an app that does exactly the same thing. The only blessing is that it’s free, so no one’s going to make any money out of this ridiculous excuse for an app.

Who knows what doors Telescope will open? Perhaps app creators will start building applications that allow you to make crackly, easily disconnected phone calls, or ones that send SMS messages with characters missing. Maybe you could give your whole phone the same treatment by repeatedly jabbing the screen with a pen. The sky’s the limit, and thanks to Telescope, you’ll be able to zoom in and see it.

Telescope is available now, for free, from the Android Market.

Zombieville USA Review

Zombieville USA Review

Aug 1, 2011

In the highly likely event that zombies ever take over the world, smartphone users will be best equipped to deal with the undead apocalypse. Not just because smartphone users are the smartest and best looking bunch around, but because we’ve been indoctrinated by a steady drip of zombie slaughtering games.

The latest in this long, shambling, flesh-devouring line is Zombieville USA, a simple side scrolling shooter with gorgeous cartoon graphics and lashings and plenty of gore and viscera. You choose one of seven zom-pocalypse survivors, and have to make your way through the titular town, slaughtering all the festering green skins that get in your way.

Each survivor has their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the SWAT guy does more damage, but his melee attacks are useless, whereas the clown has hardly any health, but will find you lots and lots of money. Money that can be spent on weapon upgrades and health in the store between levels.

You blast your way through the town, occasionally joined by other survivors, shooting anything that moves, ducking into houses to steal money and ammo from inside them and “borrowing” snow ploughs and other vehicles to mow down the slavering zombie hordes.

Zombieville is a fine example of simple gameplay done well. Each of the different survivors offers a different experience, ranging from the simple to the spectacularly difficult. There might not be much variation in the gameplay, but it still manages to be a lot of fun.

If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like running around, clearing the world of the undead menace, then Zombieville isn’t going to be for you. If, on the other hand, you like your zombie games with cutesy graphics, brilliant soundtracks and a wicked sense of humour, then you should pick it up without delay.

Freaky Friday – FountainDrink

Freaky Friday – FountainDrink

Jul 29, 2011

If, like me, you won’t leave the house unless you’re certain that a specific brand of soft drink is waiting for you at your chosen restaurant/slop hole, then this week’s Freaky Friday app could be just what you’re looking for. Unless you don’t live in America, in which case, please stick around for the misguided attempts at humour and the pictures at the end.

FountainDrink is an app that lists a few of the major brand soft drinks, and then tells you whether or not you can pick them up at major brand restaurants throughout the US. Instead of doing this in a way that’s pleasing on the eye, it decides that ugly menus and poorly designed user interfaces are the way forward.

It’s weird, because the app could actually be useful if it gave more useful information. No one ever got to a restaurant, sat down, looked at the menu and then decided to leave because they couldn’t get Sprite. At least, I hope that’s never happened, but I have been wrong before.

Few Freaky Friday apps have potential, but if FountainDrink offered a more comprehensive service, then it might actually become a useful tool. I, for one, like to know what’s on the menu before I head out into the wilds of the food world. Forewarned is forearmed. And having forearms is important.

As it is, FountainDrink is a pointless little thing, drifiting along in the highways and byways of the Android Market, unloved and ignored by most. Maybe, if you’re the sort of person who only drinks a specific type of carbonated beverage, you might find some use for it. Then again, if you’re the sort of person who only drinks a specific type of carbonated beverage, you probably already know which restaurants sell it. Because you’re weird.

FountainDrink is available now, for free, from the Android Market.

Hyperlight Review

Hyperlight Review

Jul 29, 2011

In the far future, spaceships will be made from geometric neon shapes that will drift around cornered off sections of the cosmos, causing havoc to any unsuspecting gamer who accidentally stumbles in. This future history lesson is brought to you by Hyperlight, a new tilt controlled Geometry Wars clone for your Android phone.

Hyperlight is a joy to look at, a mix of deep blacks and vibrant neon angles that really make the screen of your phone come alive. That visual stimulus is backed up by some pretty solid gameplay as well, although there are a few niggles to contend with along the way.

As with almost all tilt control titles, the tilting isn’t quite perfect. If you start a game with your device held at one angle, you’re not going to be able to change that base angle until the game’s over. More often than not, that shouldn’t be a problem, but it does mean Hyperlight can’t really be enjoyed in the cramped confines of a train or a bus.

Once you get past the controls, there’s an awful lot of fun to be had with Hyperlight. In some ways, it feels like tilt control is the perfect method for dodging around space, doing your utmost not to get blown into a thousand pretty, sparkly pixels. You move your spaceship around the screen, grabbing power ups and avoiding the angry attentions of the hordes of other enemies floating around the infinite vacuum of space.

Hyperlight is one of those games that manages to blend old school playability with modern good looks and sharp programming. Even the tilt controls, once you’ve got used to them, aren’t as difficult or cumbersome as they are in other titles. If you’re looking for a good, old fashioned space-faring sim with a twist, then you could do a lot worse than downloading Hyperlight.

Freaky Friday – InspireMe

Freaky Friday – InspireMe

Jul 22, 2011

If you ever need cheering up, head over to the “lifestyle” section of the Android Market and tap through to the “just in” section. Some of the apps you’ll find in that bizarre, half-dark, neon-lit back alley of Android ownership will make you laugh out loud. If you’re feeling brave, you could even read the item descriptions. Comedy. Gold.

Take this week’s Freaky Friday app, InspireMe. It’s one of those apps that tries to make your life better. It doesn’t do this by replacing an outdated tool or finding a new and easier way to perform a task, but by filling your brain with new ideas and new ways of looking at the world. Every day, you get a quote, a meditation and a few questions you should ponder whilst meandering through your daily doings.

For example, today’s meditation asks whether we should stand up and take control of our lives, or be a member of the herd and do what we’re told to do. In certain situations, I think the herd mentality might win over. Like when crossing roads. No one wants to be an individual when they’re crossing roads. Or driving. I suppose being an individual on the train will probably ensure you never have to sit next to anyone though.

You can even share the thoughts and meditations for the day with your friends and loved ones. Again though, don’t do it whilst you’re crossing the road, because that’s going to be dangerous as well.

If, like me, you’re a hopeless cynic, then you’ll find InspireMe hilarious and a little bit creepy. Just consider this – if you’re an individual and you’re special and important and free thinking, why would you need an app, that posts the same quotes out to everyone who uses it, to tell you that. Chant with me now, “We’re all individuals!”

I’m not.

InspireMe is available now, for free, from the Android Market

Color Link Review

Color Link Review

Jul 22, 2011

Every once in a while, it’d be nice to see a puzzle game that isn’t grid-based, doesn’t have lots of brightly coloured blocks in it and doesn’t reward you for connecting blocks of the same colour. That’s the dream, but until then we’re going to have to keep playing games like Color Link.

Don’t get me wrong, Color Link is a good game, and it offers an interesting spin on a style of game that we’ve all been playing for a good long while. It’s just a shame that the game hasn’t tried to do anything different visually. The game mechanics would have worked equally as well in a monochrome swirl as they do in a multicoloured grid.

Those mechanics are simple. The on-screen blocks, as well as being different colors, also have different shapes emblazoned on their faces. You can swap any block with any other block that has a corresponding symbol, regardless of their colour. There are also blocks that explode, blocks without symbols and blocks without colours thrown into the mix.

Like I said, Color Link isn’t a bad game, but it does occasionally get trapped beneath its own ambitions. Early on in the game you feel like you’re having too many new things thrown at you at once, and they’re never particularly well-explained either.

There are some great ideas on show here, and Silly Cube, the team behind the game, clearly have a lot of talent when it comes to puzzle design and coding. What’s needed though, is a lighter touch, a slightly subtler approach to revealing the different parts and processes of the game.

Color Link is certainly worth a look. It adds a new twist to a genre that’s getting stale fast, and whilst it may look like every other puzzle game out there, it certainly doesn’t play like them. If you can get over the problems, you’ll find a rewarding and entertaining experience. And if Silly Cube can pin down their formula, their next game should be pretty impressive.

Imaginary Range Review

Imaginary Range Review

Jul 21, 2011

Look, there, up in the sky. Is it a comic? Is it a game? No, it’s… Well, it’s sort of both of them and neither of them at the same time. It’s more like an interactive hide and seek story with some missiles thrown in for good measure.

The “it” in question is Imaginary Range, a new concept in digital entertainment brought to your Android powered device by the good people at Square-Enix. In the simplest of terms, it’s a hybrid of comic and game. You read through a digital comic, tapping the occasional object in the scenery. Then, at specific points, you take control of the action, either missiles towards enemies or trying to find the hidden objects in a picture.

The story, such as it is, is ever so slightly nonsensical. Something about rips in the universe and a magic tablet that makes things comes to life. There’s also a scantily clad police officer, some tanks and a giant insectoid walker to keep you entertained.

The game portions of the package are exciting in their own way, and they keep the action moving along. You have to have a keen eye whilst you read, otherwise you might miss some of the clues and power ups you need to succeed when you’re in control.

Imaginary Range is an interesting new take on mobile entertainment, and it’s obvious that there’s a lot of scope for different stories and games to be intertwined in the same way. The problem here is that the story just isn’t interesting enough to keep you playing. You’ll find yourself skipping the story in order to get to the bits where you can actually do something.

With a few tweaks and a better narrative, Imaginary Range really would be a revolution, and it’ll be exciting to see what the team behind it come up with next. Even now, it’s worth a look, just don’t expect everything to be in the right place from the get go.

Twisted Arrows Review

Twisted Arrows Review

Jul 21, 2011

Logic games have been around forever. There hasn’t been a computer released in the last thirty years that didn’t have a brain-teasing, head-scratching, rage-inducing logic puzzler built for it, probably created by some evil masochist who hates all human life and wants it to suffer. That’s what Twisted Arrows wants to be, but unfortunately it falls just short.

The premise is simple. You have to move a ball from one point of the screen to another, using the tiles that have been laid out in front of you. Each of these tiles has a number of arrows on them, showing you the ways you can travel once you’ve landed on them. The twist is that when you land on one of those tiles, it’s going to spin round.

All of the tiles are different colors, and those colors represent the number of degrees they’ll spin once you land on them. It’s sometimes hard to keep track of which tile does what, and the game could really do with an always on-screen list that tells you, especially when one wrong move will lead to an untimely death and the single most annoying sound effect ever committed to code.

The thing you’ll notice whilst you play through Twisted Arrows is that, after the first few simple levels, it throws you straight into the deep end and expects you to be able to swim. Logic is often abandoned in favour of trial, error, and expletives, as you try and navigate an enormous maze of twisting tiles and hellish combinations.

It’s a shame, because the idea behind the game is impressive and interesting. What’s lacking is a smooth difficulty curve and a consistency between the mechanic and the player. With better designed levels, Twisted Arrows would be an excellent game, as it is, it’s a bit too confusing to earnestly recommend.