Earlier this year I recommended two games for iOS that I hadn’t actually played on iOS and I’m here now to un-recommend. But both of the games are amazing and you should play them, just on different systems.
Aquaria was released for PC in 2007 and won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at IGF that year. I played it around 2009 and fell deeply in love with the game. It was adapted and became available for iOS a few years ago and after recommending it I finally bought it for my iPad mini. Everything about it was the same but just as soon as I got into the areas where combat is required I died. Over and over again. You respawn at points very close to where you die but it was still frustrating. Why did I like the game so much upon the first play through? A little bit of memory jogging and I remembered why – with the PC version you can gently hack the settings so that your character takes damage less quickly. You’re not invincible but needing to regain energy comes at a much more reasonable pace for me. The other reason that playing on a computer has a bit of an edge is simply that there are keyboard shortcuts for triggering common things in the game that come in very handy. (One tip: If you are playing on iOS make sure you pick up your first pet before you head out to Open Waters to explore beyond the initial area of the game. Not having that was part of the reason I was expiring so quickly and why I was frustrated to the point of not continuing.)
General review: In Aquaria you play as an creature who lives in underwater caves and has no memory. You set out to make discoveries and during the course of play you uncover the history of yourself as well as a set of long lost civilizations all wrapping up in the story of the creation and downfall of a god. The game is vast and takes a long time to play. You are in an open world, meaning you can venture into almost any area of the game at any time. There are a few features that block your way until you gain new abilities but those abilities also unlock some fast travel systems later on which is great because you will be revisiting areas. There is a map and a note system so you can mark areas to return to. The game can be at times delightful and spooky and just when you think you cannot possibly find anything new everything changes completely, and then it changes again. I adore the feeling of exploration in this game, there is an amazing amount of space to search and most every area has a secret to reveal to those who look closely. If you get stuck or want hints the forums at Bit Blot are very thorough. The character development, soundtrack and story all lead to most people, including myself, having an emotional attachment. It’s one of those games to dive into in the depth of winter or if you break a bone and are immobile for a while.
Bonus points for the main character and most of the secondary characters being well developed and powerful females. Game includes impressively vast open world exploration, puzzle solving, combat, resource gathering and crafting and an amazing story and soundtrack. For game nerds I’ll point out that one of the developers went on to create a game called Spelunky, you might know it?
Available for PC, Mac and Linux (DRM free). Also on Steam.
Aquaria was made by two developers, check out their other stuff: Alec Holowka’s projects can be found at Infinite Ammo and see Derek Yu‘s site.
The Cave is a game by my beloved Double Fine that I hadn’t played yet but was on my radar. I bought it for my iPad and got stuck almost right away because the tablet controls are terrible. I was so frustrated I pulled up a bunch of reviews and the majority of them echoed my later conclusion – the game is great but the tablet controls are unsatisfactory and it’s worth playing the game in a different form.
So next I bought the game for my OUYA and loved it. The game is funny and sarcastic. In the game you choose three characters (out of an available seven) to go in and explore the cave, or rather, The Cave. Each character has a different set of abilities and can reach different parts of the cave. As you progress you learn the stories of each character, and they aren’t always what they seem. The playthrough isn’t terribly long and you can replay choosing different characters to reach different parts of the cave, though there are a few areas you will play through during each pass, which can be a little repetitive the third time you play (if you want to play all the characters). My favorites were the Twins, the Scientist and the Explorer.
Bonus points to the developer for making half the playable characters female. Game includes plot driven exploration, puzzle solving and humor. Available on Steam and OUYA.
Double Fine has been up to some interesting stuff lately, I cannot wait for the second half of Broken Age and their older games are well worth playing, there is a special spot in my heart for Psychonauts which I didn’t play until a few years ago.
Let’s talk games. I have a PS3, a PC, an OUYA and an iPad. In wintertime I want games to play in my living room so the PS3 and the OUYA are my focus, otherwise I am often looking for something to pass the time on a flight so I look for games for my iPad. My PC gaming has fallen away with the exception of a few extended story lines or games bought through Steam or Kickstarter (Dreamfall Chapters and Broken Age part 2 are what I’m currently anticipating). With all these platforms I’m only slightly aware of all the games out there that I know I’d like. (Even doing some link gathering for this post has led me to some gems that have been around for a while but are new to me.) Lately I’ve been depending on the podcast The Indoor Kids for game recommendations, and they do an amazing job but their focus as been on Xbox lately. I’m looking for a website or news source that is curated enough to not be overwhelming, my usual sources – Jay Is Games, Ars Technica, Touch Arcade – are often more information than I can parse.
So, I’m curious! Where do you find yourself looking for new games? What platform do you prefer? What news source do you trust?
· comments  · 05-14-2014 · categories:iphone · technology ·
So, something in our house sprung a leak last weekend and I found water dripping down into my sewing room. We’ll be spending the week watching our ceiling get ripped out, dried up and rebuilt. We’ve been through this before and yes, it’s the same ceiling but a completely different cause this time. Let’s pretend none of this is happening and talk about video games instead!
I’m going to admit I have not finished this yet. I tend to play iPhone games in public situations (on the bus, waiting in line) and this one will require that you either have a keen memory or the ability to take down some visible notes (codes) to enter later on. That said, it’s worth playing with your headphones on as this mostly-text game uses audible as as well as visual cues tell a story, and the game requires you to rotate and tilt the screen to advance. This game is stylish and fun. It’s won a bunch of Best of 2013 awards and I agree. Awesomeness. $3.99 in the app store.
This is a fun combination of fill-in-the-word and future fiction. You are a viewer into a series of digital conversations between an all-seeing dictatorship, a rebel group and a friend caught in the middle. Your only clues are the context of the story you’re reading. It can be frustrating if you just cannot get one of the words and you are prevented from advancing. That said, if you just don’t know the answer it’s easy (too easy?) to Google and find a spoiler in return. This is one of those instances where if you love the story it’s worth engaging a friend to Google the answers and give you more gentle clues. $2.99 in the app store.
This is a simple game that uses Bluetooth to detect other players nearby and whoever reacts first can pick the others virtual pocket. It’s amazingly fun to get a notification of somebody nearby while you’re riding a bus or arriving at a party. But, there aren’t nearly enough players yet which is why I need you all to play. It’s got the potential to be epically fun. Free.
Home Sheep Home 2
I heart everything that Aardman Studios does so I’m a wee bit embarrassed that it took me so long to play their Home Sheep Home 2 puzzle platformer involving Shaun the Sheep and his usual suspects. In each screen you’ve got to solve some puzzles to get three sheep to the exit. Each sheep has a different ability, one jumps high, one pushes heavy things, one fits through small spaces, and you’ll need all three to solve each level. The soundtrack, humor, personalities of the sheep and the crisp sound effects make a very charming game that is balanced with just enough difficulty. As you progress there are new elements presented (gravity!) and as you play there are collectibles for us completionists. That said, if you tend to play casual games in a web browser some of the levels are available online: Underground, Lost In London, as well as the original Home Sheep Home. $.99 in the app store. (Home Sheep Home 1 is also available for $.99 but know that it’s a much shorter game.)
This is similar to Shaun the Sheep, you have to get the snail to the exit on each screen. You click to move things out of the way, manipulate gravity and the like and in each level there are three stars hiding. It’s not as stylized as Home Sheep Home but it makes my problem solving pleasure centers happy. You can play a bunch of Snail Bob games online for free and if you’d like to try it out Snail Bob 5, A Love Story is a good representation of what is in the iPhone game. $.99 in the app store.
· comments  · 02-24-2014 · categories:iphone · technology ·
Did you hear? The Netflix iPhone app launched today. It’s pretty cool. If you have a Netflix account it lets you watch from your streaming queue, it even loads the information on which episodes of a series you’ve already watched, or watched part of. You can search for new movies and add them to the instant queue or start watching right away. What you cannot do from the app is access or add to your regular queue. (I hope they make the Netflix Mobile site snazzier soon.)
I have a 3G iPhone and I’ve read that the Netflix app won’t work unless you’ve upgraded to iOS 3.1.3. Now, just in case you don’t know, if you have a 3G do not update your to iOS 4.0! (That would be the current one.) This causes all sorts of trouble for 3G phones. If you didn’t upgrade to 3.1.3 when it was out you have to do some fiddly upgrade and downgrade action to get there. This thread over at Ask Metafilter has some advice and links on getting your 3G phone to the iOS 3.1.3. The commenters there also say that rumor is the iOS 4.1 will fix the troubles for the 3G iPhones. Thank goodness.
The scene from my desk right now:
· comments  · 08-26-2010 · categories:iphone · technology ·
Here is an update on what apps I’ve been using lately, books I’ve been reading, and my absolute favorite iPhone case.
applications I use all the time
- Stitcher – I’m too lazy/impatient to download podcasts (I know.) so I use Stitcher to listen to them. With a super easy Favorites list it’s become all I need. (free)
- IMDb – We use it to play the “where have I seen him/her before?” game while watching Netflixed movies. (free)
- Convert – I think I saw this recommended over at Make, it’s got everything I’ve ever needed to convert, including bytes to kilobytes. It’s also handy for halving recipes that call for things in tablespoons. (99 cents)
- Public Radio Player – This allows you to listen to any streaming public radio station, but I mostly use it as a one-click way to listen to my local station. (free)
- NPR News –
It’s buggy and the interface is confounding and I want to like it but it causes me nothing but frustration. update: A recent upgrade has made this much easier to use, and relatively bug free. Much improved. But it remains the easiest way for me to listen to Morning Edition short of actually getting out of bed early enough. (free)
- (In case you’re interested here are my favorite podcasts: The Moth, Good Food, Splendid Table, Marketplace, WaitWait Don’t Tell Me, On the Media, To the Best of Our Knowledge, Sound of Young America, Dinner Party Download.)
applications I’m looking forward to getting to know better
- How To Cook Everything – All the recipes right there with me at the grocery store! ($4.99) disclosure: the HTCE app was a recent giveaway item on this site.
- Ratio – Michael Ruhlman’s ratios in handy, interactive-y form. I found myself stressing over quartering a large dough recipe recently and decided it was time. ($4.99)
- This American Life – The good: you can listen to any of the shows back to 1995! The bad: only when you’re within wi-fi or 3G network range. So, not in an airplane or my doctors office waiting room. ($2.99)
games I’ve been playing
- Babylonian Twins – This is currently consuming me, it’s a fun platformer that is challenging but never quite makes me frustrated. There are apparently secret levels to unlock but I’m still working on the final level so I’ll have to let you know. Highly, highly recommend this game. The story behind the game is fascinating. (free/$2.99)
- Archibald’s Adventures – A puzzle platformer that kept me completely distracted on the plane ride to Paris. The initial level set is far more fun than the additional sets, but there are so many it’ll keep you occupied for a good long time. (free/$3.99)
- Broken Sword – A classic point and click adventure game, updated with a parallel plot. I grew up playing the Sierra King’s Quest series so I really enjoy this, but I can see it feeling a bit slow if your parents bought you a Nintendo when you were a kid (lucky). Also, it’s set in Paris and I played it on the airplane to and from for my trip so I recognized locations in the game. ($4.99)
- Resquare – A simple, cleanly designed version of the ‘fit these shapes into this square’ style of game. It’s my current favorite for standing in long lines at the post office or bank. (free/99 cents)
- Flower Garden – This is more an entertainment thingy. It’s like having a pet garden that you care for. I didn’t expect to like it but I find I’m exited to check on my flower pots in the morning, birds chirp in the background and the flowers grow before your eyes, it’s all silly and charming. You need to grow certain flowers to unlock other seed packets and there are in-app purchases you can make to expand your garden (though I avoid in-app purchases like crazy). (It’s free right now!)
- Games I’m looking at: Giana Sisters, Domino’s Adventure, Dragon’s Lair.
- update: Games I’ve loved in the past, and keep on my phone, include Spider, Drop 7, Rolando and Glyder.
sites I read to learn about apps
- app.itize.us – Features little known but nicely done apps.
- Fingergaming – Game reviews, nice amount of detail and opinion.
- Touch Arcade – Game reviews, nice amount of detail and opinion. (Sometimes I mix Fingergaming and Touch Arcade up to be honest, but both are good.)
- Mobile Monday at Casual Gameplay – They try out a lot of smaller games the other sites don’t mention.
- (I’m always looking for sites that do a good job of curating apps and games, if you have one you like I’d love to learn about it.)
Kindle books (I still think the Stanza reader is far more pleasurable to use, but Amazon has the ease of purchase and delivery that has grudgingly won me over, at least when the book is significantly less expensive.)
- Waiter Rant – It took me years to finally buy this book to read, and I’m really looking forward to his upcoming book on tipping.
- Cleaving – This was a book that felt appropriate to read in a dark room while the glowing screen gave up intimate secrets.
- Interface and The Cobweb – Older Neal Stephenson books, I’m a big fan.
the quest for my favorite case
My quest ended with me going back to get new version of the very first one I bought. The case I love (pictured above) is the Incase Protective Cover, simply a rubber sleeve that hugs the phone all the way around. I love it because it’s grippy. When I drop my phone (which is rare, see: grippy) it simply bounces. The only downside is that the rubber makes it a bit harder to slide in and out of a pocket. Of most importance, though, is that the Incase rubber cover is the most comfortable for playing games. What can I say, I fully embrace my inner ten year old boy. They make a similar one for the iPod Touch called a gaming cover which I covet.
After I wore down my first Incase protective cover I tried a few hardshell cases and one other rubberized case, all of which I found too slippery to hold on to (admittedly, I’m a clutz). One hardshell case failed me when I dropped my phone and it cracked, luckily not the screen. (Wave Case I’m looking harshly at you here.) One final note, the Crystal Film made by Power Support has saved my screen from countless scratches, I like it very very much.
· comments  · 05-13-2010 · categories:iphone · technology ·
This is interesting! As a form of volcano relief Lonely Planet is offering a bunch of their city iPhone guides for free (they normally start around $16) through April 22nd (that’s in two days, so hurry!). This includes the Paris guide I used during our recent trip, and has an offline location aware map, which is fantastic to use while avoiding roaming charges. I’m not sure if all the city guides have them, but I would expect they do.
I found this news at David Lebovitz, who is offering his suggestions on 10 Things to Do If You’re Stuck in Paris. If you are stuck in Paris you have both my sympathy and my envy.
· comments  · 04-20-2010 · categories:iphone · links · travel ·
To celebrate the release of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything App for the iPhone Culinate would like to give away a version to five of you lucky, lucky readers. Quoting from their web page: “Everything you love about the cookbook: 2,000 recipes and recipe variations; 400 how-to illustrations; hundreds of menu ideas; and Mark Bittman’s straightforward cooking advice for simple good food.” It has every single recipe from the book, how cool is that? I use the How to Cook Everything book regularly so I’m very excited that I’ll have it available on my iPhone, especially when I’m standing in the store wondering what to make for dinner.
Just a note: If you don’t want to wait to see if you’ve won, the app is currently $1.99 at a special price, I don’t know how much it will cost later on. update: Also, the kind people at Culinate tell me that there will be a future app just for the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian book. They also report they are working on an iPad specific version of the HTCE app.
If you’d like to win a free app, please leave a comment with this post. If you’d like something to mention in the comment I’d love to know if you have a favorite Bittman recipe, either from HTCE or from his The Minimalist column in the NY Times. Obviously you’ll need to have an iPhone or iPod touch to take advantage of this one. The usual fine print applies. You’ll be chosen by the Random Number Generator, and I’ll get in touch if you’ve been chosen.
You have between right now and Wednesday, April 21st at noon, PST to enter. Good luck! Comments are closed and the randomly chosen winners will be contacted shortly, thank you!
· comments  · 04-19-2010 · categories:food · iphone · technology ·
· comments  · 03-26-2010 · categories:iphone · links · technology ·
· comments  · 02-18-2010 · categories:iphone · links · technology ·
· comments  · 01-26-2010 · categories:iphone · links · technology ·
I have the extraordinary luck to be headed to Paris in a few months. I’ll need a few things before I go.
I’m terrified of being without my iPhone for any length of time, even just for the books and games that will amuse me on long flights or train rides. This $15 iPhone charger is one I mentioned earlier, and it also made the Holiday Gift Guide for Geeks written by Mighty Girl. It gives two full charges. I might buy four. I’m also eyeing the Flexicord which I found over at NOTCOT, it’s a flexible USB cord that can work as a stand for your phone, and I’m betting it will prop up an iPhone well enough to allow me to watch movies. (Flexicord image used is from from NOTCOT.com.)
I already have one of these Bucky Ultralight masks but I’ll need another since Scott likes it too. I’m also going to get a Bucky Neck Pillow, previously I’d bought an inflatable pillow and it didn’t work out so well.
I will need books! Besides the Rough Guide to Paris I’m looking at The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City, to get myself in the right mindset, and Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, because I anticipate eating as much as possible while I’m there. And of course, I’ll have to get the PNW’s own Rick Steves’ Paris 2010. Oh neat, they are all available for the Kindle, I wonder if they would look ok on my iPhone’s Kindle app?
· comments  · 12-15-2009 · categories:iphone · shopping ·
· comments  · 12-1-2009 · categories:iphone · links · technology ·
I like this stand for my iPhone, it’s the Tiko Fold stand for mobile devices. It comes in four colors but my favorite is this translucent white. I use it everyday to hold my iPhone on my desk, and it’s saved it once from spilled coffee (thankyouthankyou). The Tiko is nice and sturdy, it’s really easy to adjust the angle, it’s got room to hold my phone even when it’s protected in a chunky rubber case, and it folds up flat so it’s good to use for travel too. My only reservation is that I wish it would tilt back a little further so it would be easier to watch videos when you’re stuck in coach all the way to Ohio. (I’ve heard from the creator and this is something he’ll be making happen in future versions.)
You can buy it on the Tiko website as well as on Amazon.
· comments  · 10-1-2009 · categories:iphone · shopping ·
· comments  · 09-30-2009 · categories:iphone · links · shopping ·
Some thoughts on throwies – Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. I’m glad to read this, though I admit I don’t fully understand most of it. I wondered about this when we were doing LED experiments for the reception.
Making the web faster. at Kottke
Quality Still Matters: Public Radio’s iPhone App | Wired.com. From the article: Another change Shapiro hopes for is that Apple would alter its policy regarding charitable contributions. “Until Apple resolves this gap between their interest in hosting other kinds of financial transactions but not charitable giving, we’ll have to come up with workarounds,” I would be more likely to throw NPR $10 through my iPhone than to call in during the pledge week I usually just avoid. Here is to hoping Apple allows them to accept cash money through their app soon.
Screens and Details of ‘Beneath a Steel Sky’ for iPhone | Touch Arcade.
FingerGaming » Serial Killer Sim Dexter: The Game Debuts in App Store.
FingerGaming » Silent Swords Brings Stealth-Action to the iPhone.
Crystal Cave Classic Review for iPhone | Touch Arcade.
HTML5 For Smarties – Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report. The bits of HTML 5 website makers need to know.
Electronic Catan | Ask Metafilter. Question on going about making a game board that triggers game pieces to light up when they are set down.
· comments  · 09-25-2009 · categories:iphone · links · technology ·
Here are the apps and games I love right now:
- TweetDeck You know, for Twitter.
- Monkey Island I never played the original and am digging playing this. You can switch between the new graphics and the original ones. I think the music is new as well.
- Spider, The Secret of Bryce Manor Super wonderful game, with a deeper mystery going on so playing it through a second time is still interesting. Spooky and a bit touching.
- Kindle for iPhone It isn’t as pleasurable to use as Stanza, but the ability to buy books easily has won over a few times.
- Skype for the iPhone Setting this up was easy and I was conferencing with no trouble.
- NPR News If only they had a “skip this segment” button. I think that is coming, then it will be the greatest thing of all things ever.
- Geared A nicely done gear arranging game. (I think it’s about to jump in price when new levels are added).
· comments  · 09-17-2009 · categories:iphone · technology ·