VSCO Cam Review

VSCO Cam Review

Feb 27, 2014

When it comes to image capture on mobile devices, competition is fierce. Better hardware, more megapixels, yes, but almost more importantly, better image manipulation tools. This is the space VSCO Cam is looking to fill.

Starting the app starts a device optimization sequence; after this, the app menu appears, and it gives us a clue as to the app’s core functionality. The app menu is rated in greys and blacks, besides the Camera button, there are tabs for Library, Store, Settings, Journal and VSCO Grid, and these tabs are set in a slide-out panel that can be hidden on the left.

The camera function is probably the most important, and selecting it opens up the shooting utility. This specific vsco1environment is minimalist in nature, with menu and sizing buttons. There is also a toggle to important pictures for manipulation. Taking a picture is as simple as it is on any smartphone camera (obviously); VSCO Cam‘s assumed value is mostly in its ability to tweak images.

And, at first blush, that value is high indeed. The option set is superb, allowing for the user to actually create pre-sets that can be applied to pictures. Further, there is a slider that can be utilized to perfect tat particular look. Picture tweaking utilizes elements like temperature and exposure to create balance, and the comparison feature is phenomenal, as it allows for before/after checks by long-pressing the edited image. For folks looking to get a hand in selecting the perfect combination of tweaks, there are preset packs available via in-app purchase.

The app also covers the social angle, allowing sharing via social networks and via its own aforementioned VSCO Grid. The latter is an interesting concept that makes sense, allowing folks to discover and be discovered. This is social aspect adds to the attraction of the app.

It’s a third-party app that is fluid and actually fun to use, and is great for all ages.

Talon for Twitter Review

Talon for Twitter Review

Feb 25, 2014

May the Twitter space battles go on; they bring us options like Talon from Twitter.

Getting things going is a simple matter of authorizing Twitter from within the app and giving it a few moments to sync up one’s data. The first thing that jumps out is the styling of the app; the default theme is subtle but determined, with soft grays superimposed on a black background. Twitter handles are handled in orange, and most other text in white. Outside this default theme (“dark” in settings) here is a “light” one (mostly white tweet bubbles on light grey background) and “black” (grey on black). Text size and fonts can be tweaked, and there is an option to load an add-on theme, or to make one’s own using an external theme building app. Looking at the whole package, it’s hard not to appreciate the attention paid to customization options.talon1

Functionally, most information is a gesture away. The default page is the ubiquitous Timeline view. Swiping to the left reveals Mentions and Direct messages after that. Long-pressing a tweet allows it to be manipulated via favoriting, retweeting and replying.tapping a tweet automatically opens up a reply window with mentioned profiles pre-populated. Tapping the menu button gives a few more options like quoting. There is also a three-line menu context nestled in the top left corner, which allows for navigation to one’s profile, trending topics, user lists and more. It’s set up logically, and most operation sequences should be intuitive to Twitter vets.

This app does not have push notifications; we have Twitter’s api policies to thank for that. Instead, it uses a listener option to keep users on top of twitter information. It works with TwitLonger, emoji and even Pebble.

The app allows for two Twitter accounts, which is definitely a plus.

It’s a great looking app, packs a lot of functionality, and seems well worth the $1.99 price tag.

Litho Review

Litho Review

Nov 12, 2013

It’s safe to say that there’s no shortage of apps designed to make photos taken using brand new technology look like they were taken centuries ago. In this digital world we live in, it looks like we still crave for analogue media.

That’s why this review for Litho was written on paper and then faxed into Android Rundown HQ.

Litho is, as the introduction may have alluded to, an image altering app. If you don’t know how these things work then listen up. You can crop and re-size images, apply filters to make your photos look ancient and you can also apply ‘stickers’ to give your creations that unique look that can only be acquired by scribbling on a moustache or some glasses. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can use a combination of all of these features.Litho1

What’s quite impressive is the ability to place textures and filters on top of each other. Like a mini-Photoshop, Litho allows you to layer your effects and images until you get the result that you want.

Whilst Litho treads old ground in terms of what’s been seen before in image editing apps, it’s safe to say that Litho is extensive in what it offers. A huge selection of filters and textures can be applied. There’s also an editing mode that gives you full control over alterations you’re making if any of the preset options on offer don’t take your fancy.

To be honest though, you’ll most likely never need to use these advanced editing features. Every tool is so well labelled and easy to use that most of what you’ll ever want to do to a picture will be easily done with a tool in Litho.

One minor complaint with the menus is that they’re not very responsive. There’s always a slight pause to any input. It never makes the process of editing images annoying and it won’t exactly get in your way, but it is noticeable.

One other barrier to you and your perfect image is the fact that some of the textures, effects and other features need to be purchased. It’s safe to say that for most people, the freely available content will be more than enough, but this is an app that needs to make money. So that’s how it does it.

The final part of any image’s journey through Litho will be deciding where to save your image. Considering that saving an image is no longer enough, we all know it’s about ‘sharing’ anything you make. Luckily, if you’re so inclined to do so, Litho makes sharing an absolute breeze and offers compatibility with all of the major social networks as well as some of the minor ones.

WordPress, Google+, Twitter, the list goes on. If you want to upload to a service that isn’t present in Litho you may want to change what service you use.

With Litho you have an extremely feature-full app that manages to cram in a lot of functionality whilst maintaining usability. Some of the content needs to be paid for, but considering there’s so much that’s given to you for free, it’s hard to feel aggrieved by this decision. A great app.


Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy Review

Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy Review

Nov 1, 2013

Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy is one of those games that brings a lot to the table in many ways. Flight simulation games can sometimes be either overly involved or control-challenged; finding that comfortable middle ground can be tough.

First of all, it is a pretty hefty download; we’re talking about just under 2GB unpacked according to Goog. Off the bat, at first glance, the graphics make it seem worth it… it looks good. From the aircraft themselves to the way the sun reflects off the endless the sea in the background, detail is definitely paid attention to. If you are able to look at the planes and not want to fly one in real life, check for a pulse.

The tutorial does a good job of hitting the spot. It is broken down into several different lessons, each with an air1emphasis on a category of flying. They are fairly thorough, and are a fun way of getting acquainted with the game. And the one teaching controls is definitely appreciated.

Guiding the plane combines monitoring measurables like speed and altitude. Virtual joysticks controls banking in either direction, as well as dives, ascents. and airspeed. Realistic-looking gauges make up a lot of the background, and I like the various views that are and changeable at the tap of a button. Other sections of the tutorial deal with skills like dogfighting, and the finer points of evading the enemy as well as taking them out. Basic skills are taught using understandable terms, and in this, the tutorial is a bona fide, fun part of the game.

The actual gameplay itself comes in single and multiplayer flavors. There are missions, plenty of dogfighting and defensive sets.In some variations, it can get chaotic, with lifelined craft taking up a lot of space on the screen, but for the most part, it is a lot of fun. The IAP system is in place and fully stocked.

It’s intense, but its strength is that the intensity can be controlled by the user. The controls do take a bit of getting used to, but the scenery and gameplay helps overcome that.

BBM for Android Review

BBM for Android Review

Oct 24, 2013

Yes, BlackBerry (formerly RIM) has had better days. The iconic technology company made devices that signified corporate success and helped shape the smartphone market. It’s current troubles are well known, and the company and its devices have arguably lost some of their previous luster.

One piece of the BlackBerry ecosystem that has always been well regarded is BlackBerry Messenger, its eponymous messaging system. Its always-on nature, perceived reliability and PIN-based connection service is almost universally respected, even by non-BlackBerry device users. So, when BlackBerry announced that it would be opening up the hitherto proprietary messenger to iOS and Android users, ears perked up.

One less-than-optimal launch attempt and a successful follow-up try later, we have it: BBM on Android.bbm1

The app itself has stylings similar to BBM on BB10, with black, blue and white making up most of the color presentation. The menu button is part of the bottom dock, and it, along with the status bar, bookend buttons for Chats, Contacts and Groups. Space feels well-used; no cramped over-used space is present, and the white background mostly complements the chatting “surface.”

The sign-up process included a queue, but folks that already had the prerequisite BBIDs got in relatively early. The sign-in generates the well-known PIN, and soon after, I was up and running. By default, the app puts a persistent notification in the notification pane, which I did not like, but it can be toggled off in Settings. It’s friendly with barcodes with regards to joining groups and adding contacts and there are several other ways to effect connections, including via NFC.

The good things are still there: read and delivered confirmations, instant transmissions and group chat functionality. I especially like the last feature; in my mind, no modern day chat client is good without it.

The always-on nature is somewhat of a double-edged sword for me because as far as I can tell, there is no way to mute individual chats; it’s all or nothing. For people in group chats, this can be irritating, because depending on how chatty the people are, there will be a LOT of notifications. Signing out isn’t intuitive either.

When compared to the big boys, like Google Hangouts, it’s clear that the videochat functionality is missed, particularly since it already exists on BB10 as BBM Voice and Video. I also disliked the fact that only one device can be signed into at a time; if you have multiple devices, or chat on desktop, BBM is currently lacking a bit.

But BlackBerry says improvements are to come; when measured as a traditional messenger, BBM is not shabby at all, and may end up being the crown jewel of a new BBRY. If initial downloads are an indicator, it may do very well in the cross-platform space.

Where’s My Water? 2 Review

Where’s My Water? 2 Review

Oct 17, 2013

Disney’s strategy with regards to the mobile space seems to be generously present. It has underwritten quite a few popular titles in the last couple of years, and Where’s My Water? was definitely a fan favorite. Where’s My Water? 2 is a sequel that is blessed with a good foundation in the Android gaming world.

For fans of the first iteration (or other Disney-made clones like Where’s My Perry), the gameplay will be very, very familiar: the basic idea is to get water through pipes so Swampy could have a much-wanted shower. The game follows the general rules of physics, and so the water is usually in an elevated position, with immovable rock and flexible dirt serving as barriers. To get the water to the penultimate shower pipe, it’s necessary to move the soft dirt, and this is accomplished by swiping away the dirt on by finger. The games gets craftier with advancement, and errant swipes can be costly, especially since the right water threshold must be attained for the Swampy to get enough water. As usual, swampy1the rock cannot be drilled/swiped away, and the rubber duckies are alive and kicking, and available to be “collected” by sustained water contact.

It looks much the same, but with seemingly more vibrant looks. The basic color palette remains similar, but there are a few more environments added in for effect: Soap Factory, Sewer and Beach. The animations are smooth; they retain the cartoon character without being overly silly. The sounds are whimsically appropriate, and all the media comes together quite well.

Probably one of the biggest changes with regards to the game is the addition of challenges. These are innovative flips in the gameplay that literally turn the game upside down. All of a sudden, ducks become untouchable obstacles, gates are to be avoided and more. In Duck Rush, one has to dig down frantically downwards before the water “disappears” while collecting as ducks on the way. There are hints, boosts and facebook functionality built in.

It’s an intense reboot, with a good deal variation that keeps it fresh. There is a lot of the same, and this might be a barrier for some, but the game is a nice one all the same.

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Review

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Review

Oct 7, 2013

… and it’s about time.

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is the Android port of the ever-popular console game that brings the intense kart racing action to the mobile screen. As is clear from the title, we get the world’s fastest hedgehog and 12 of his in-game cronies as optioned racing characters. The numerous environments are engaging, if a bit whimsical… but that is part of the game’s charm.

Anyone who has played this on a console will be relieved to note that the visuals translate well to mobile devices. The swathes of color are present, making the whole game look like the candy heaven it’s supposed to look light. The sega1animations are sharp and effective, and all the characters are easily identifiable to anyone with a smattering of Sonic knowledge.

The gameplay is standard racing fare; get your vehicle, race the opponents, collect boosts, avoid deployed traps and win. There are different types of vehicles, so there isn’t a fear of being confined to something as conventional as go-kart; if racing a banana (and yes, I am not using street-savvy slang to describe a yellow sports car. I am referring to the yellow fruit) is your flavor, this is the game for you.

The single player racing comes in different flavors: Grand Prix, single race, time trial and missions. I like that it is possible to play in multiplayer mode with up to four players online and local wi-fi; Facebook sign-up ensures that social friends can jump into the action too. The built in tutorial is great, with pointers to effect drifting. It should be noted that not all drivers and locations are available at the beginning; they need to do be earned. There is an in-app store, but isn’t needed to progress.

Gaming and interaction…this game makes it look easy.

Going Going Gone: HR Classic Review

Going Going Gone: HR Classic Review

Sep 17, 2013

Big hitting is the name of the game in Going Going Gone: HR Classic (From ESPN via TheAppsGames). It’s a solo homerun derby type game in which power and distance are the biggest predictors of success.

Starting with the interactive tutorial, the game is quite fluid. I like that the developer finds a way to squeeze in some achievements into the teaching sequences. The hitting mechanism is explained adequately, and the dual stick controls make sense. One (the left) controls the hitting window, and the other invokes the swinging motion. When the two are in perfect sync, they make great music together. Additionally, it’s great, I think, that there is a degree of logic attached to the hitting mechanism; bad positioning not only causes strikes, but foul balls that tend to adheregoing1 to the rules of physics. With a bit of practice, hitting effectively is quite possible, and the engine is quite consistent, so a bit of strategy can be used to get the bonus points.

The 3D graphics are nice; the animations have flair, and feel alive. The use of color seems a bit muted in places, but the pop that accompanies special hits mostly make up for that. Perspective is great, and the wind-ups are things of beauty, and match the batting motion with regards to looking realistic.

The gameplay is basic progression. Homeruns score points, and achieving stuff like cycles (hitting in different parts of the park) and three in a row score bonus points and coins; the latter can be used to upgrade equipment and gear. Leveling up gets bonuses too, but play requires exhaustible/replenishable tickets. Of course, real cash can be used to expedite the acquisition of tokens and the upgrading of attributes.

Facebook friends can become part of the competition; there are tournaments, leaderboards and more.

Fantastic power game that doesn’t need one to be a BALCO customer to enjoy.

Golf Star Review

Golf Star Review

Sep 10, 2013

Golf Star is an epic career-minded golf sim from Android heavyweight Com2uS.

Simply put, the graphics are pretty good. There is something to be said for the effective use of virtual light and perspective to enhance the visual consumption. The swinging motion looks quite realistic, and the developer seems to have really studied related motion. The background imagery is nice too, with the requisite green coloring holding sway. The color separation works to shape the look of the fairways and such too.

Secondarily, the customization options are fun to manipulate, and options include the ability to adjust facial features and skin tone. This helps users develop somewhat of a personal stake in the game, I think.golf5

After one wades through the playing options, the play itself is logical… almost too much so, in fact. In single player, a lot of the gameplay is based on challenges. Their are enough, and there is a sense that they are achievable. The actual game mechanism is what is interesting. there is a gauge controlling power at the bottom, and manipulating it for the long drives involves precise dual taps: one to get distance and the other to tweak direction. When tapped at the right points, the screen announces the perfect shot and bonus points are assigned. The short game is intricate in different ways, allowing for wind elements and lay of the hole. Working the meter effectively takes some practice, but is relatively fun. The action segment feels well thought out.

The sundry items feel a bit busy though. There’s the heart system, for instance. Hearts are the currency for playing, and are a consumable resource. There are ways to earn them, but if one get into the game for a few games, they’ll be gone, at which point you can buy some or wait for time replenishment. There are upgradable attributes, of course, and they do make the game easier, but I would have likes a more straightforward equipping method. There are plenty of bonuses for doing the challenges and interacting with Facebook friends, for example.

In conclusion, fun game either long term or in the doctor’s office, and not too many games can boast that.

Klyph Pro for Facebook Review

Klyph Pro for Facebook Review

Aug 29, 2013

A true sign of Facebook’s reach is that developers work hard to make better portals for it than it can. This is usually a good thing, as it gives us an opportunity to check out apps like Klyph Pro for Facebook.

The first thing that will probably standout is how the app looks. After signing in with Facebook credentials and giving permission for posting and chatting, the shop goes straight into the newsfeed. It is easy to appreciate the clean, expansive look. There seems to be an emphasis on space that was quite appealing.

Additionally, the option set that governs the look of the app was interesting in its diversity. We all know howklyph1 Facebook looks with the familiar blue accents. What about green? The option to be a bit adventurous is there.

The customization options spill over into the amount of data that can be allowed to flow into the feed. Friends and pages can be made to restricted from the feed via tabs, which are accessible themselves from the menu slider button in the top left of the viewing area.

The navigation keeps Facebook’s familiar elements at the forefront, with the seamless ability to post and comment. Pictures and images take center stage. The developer clearly states the influence of Google+ on the appearance of the app, and yes, in my estimation, it is indeed there. There is a delicate balance that I think had to be maintained when doing stuff like this, and I think the developer traverses it relatively comfortably.

Klyph is a work in progress, and as such is missing some things that could make Facebook heavies howl (like chat). I was a bit disappointed that the “@” tagging convention doesn’t work — how else can I make fun of people and make sure they see it? I understand this is an API issue.

It packs a lot, missing some goodies as of now, but it works well with what it does have, and does provide decent access to the world’s most popular social joint.

Crystal Storm Review

Crystal Storm Review

Aug 26, 2013

Pick 3 games are renown for being easy to understand. Bejeweled ensured that it remains a popular genre, but there are several challengers to the throne. Crystal Storm makes a good case to be the go-to pick 3 game, and that’s because it mostly does not stay pat; it is an adventurous title.

What sets this game apart are the elements included. First, the grid containing the colored jewelry is not necessarily square, so it looks a bit different. The duality of the gameplay is also refreshing; there is rapid fire gameplay that pits eyes and fingers against a time else clock, and there are slightly more relaxed levels that have a finite number of moves. I like the way these change as it keeps the senses in tune to the game.crystal1

The actual gameplay is similar, at first blush, to Bejeweled: find sets of three or more adjacent jewels of the same color, and tap them to dissolve them. Dissolving the jewels scores points, and dissolved jewels are replaced via virtual gravity from an unending supply at the top. The shapes of the playing grid generally lend themselves to the creation of interesting cascades, and a little bit of strategy can lead to advantageous swathes of same colored items. The gameplay is leveled; success opens up more levels and coinage. There are special power ups that can be unlocked or purchased with game coins as well; they help with garnering more points.

And it wouldn’t be a good pick 3 game without good artwork. The graphics are top notch, and the animations were effective at enhancing the game play. The jewels had a nice glimmer to them, and even the suggestion flashes were nice. The sounds match the gameplay, and can be toggled.

The game’s in-app store was very much a part of the game; losing the allocation of lives freezes play for a set time unless credits are purchased. It’s an interesting process that I didn’t mind too much; I mean, it makes the game that much more addictive. You can also boast about achievements on Facebook.

Familiar, but unique… this game is mostly wrapped in the attributes that make a winner.

Zinio Review

Zinio Review

Aug 7, 2013

Magazines and print in general have had a hard time of late. Sales figures that are falling through the floor and subscriptions being cancelled. It’s a real shame as a large number of printed publications contain some great content and host a number of fantastic writers.

Luckily, we’re now in an age where nearly every magazine has its own ‘digital edition’ now, but even this has caused problems. It can sometimes be confusing to figure out where to get hold of these digital copies and you may end up having to download a whole host of different ‘reader’ applications making the whole process a bit too messy.

Step in Zinio. The latest app that looks to bring all of your e-magazines under one roof, it offers a huge collection of titles from around the world and does it with a simple interface and a good range of personalization options.

Zinio offers content from (currently) 33 different countries and each country’s marketplace gets broken down into sections, such as sport and these get further divided to make finding the magazine you’re after really easy. Did I mention how many magazines this thing has to offer? When I say ‘loads’, I really mean it. The Zinio website mentions something along the lines of 5,500 magazines, but I’m not sure if this covers just English magazines or their international offering as well.unnamedCAAD2L7T

Prices are pretty fair. It’s been a long time since I’ve personally bought a magazine, as they’re roughly £5 a time now. So to see Zinio offering copies of Edge and GAMEStm for £3, as well as subscription offers that increase your savings further, it makes the idea of buying magazines a much more palatable and affordable affair.

It’s clear that buying magazines and the selection is great, but what matters is how the works when reading your content. It works fine, though I sometimes had issues where I was scrolling around the page and the app thought I wanted to turn to the next page. I soon got used to this and managed to avoid this after a couple of minutes of using the app.

Zinio also offers magazines in a plain text format, making any issues of scrolling around on a touch screen disappear. Whenever you are on a page that contains an article and not an advert, the word ‘text’ appears at the bottom of the screen. Tap on this and you’ll be presented with a list of the articles on the pages. Tap on the article you want to read and you’ll be presented with the content in a plain format. Personally, I found this extremely useful as some magazines like to get creative with their formatting. Paragraphs that are intersected with pictures and pull-quotes mayt work when the magazines in your hand, but I find scrolling around an article that’s laid out in a scattered way can be difficult.

On from that, there’s bookmarks that you can insert to make re-reading your favourite articles easy. It’s safe to say that Zinio does exactly what it sets out to do and does it very well. The range of magazines on offer is bound to please even those with the most niche of interests.