Saturday, July 30, 2011

AAQR: Star Chart ($3.23)

Global constellation mapImage via WikipediaSorta like Google Sky Map but with a lot more visual flair, Star Chart lets you explore the constellations in the sky and find out details about them.

In AR (augmented reality) mode, just start the app, then point the device up at the sky and look for matching things. It will highlight the constellations (complete with illustration and lines), as well as any significant astronomical objects such as galaxies, planets, and nearby stars. Pan the phone and let it act as a virtual portal. You can even engaged the red-tinted "night mode" to preserve your night vision.

In normal mode, just swipe / drag the view to desired spot. You can choose to hide or show lines, illustrations, and such.

Good app if you are an amateur star watcher, or have interest in the field. Good companion to a decent telescope. My only complaint? Size. Just over 2 MB download expanded to over 14MB app (according to Titanium Backup). Still, it's nice.

http://www.appbrain.com/app/star-chart/com.escapistgames.starchart
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AAQR: Jamie's 20 Minute Meals ($8.11)

NOTE: This app was given away free for one day on Amazon Appstore

Jame's 20 Minute Meals is a series of lessons on cooking basics from Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef, that also teaches cooking basics and prep basics. It has video, pictures, and descriptions, as well as recipes that scales from 2 to 4 people, and even creates a shopping list for you. It is a well polished app, though the price seems to be a bit high.

App itself is almost 3MB. When you run it, it needs to download ANOTHER 80MB worth of data (photos and such), and even then, the videos are pulled / streamed separately.

The photos are nicely done, as are the instructions, which seem to be out of the cookbook. Videos are nicely done as well, clear instructions. Should produce some decent results.

I just don't know about having a phone or tablet in the kitchen with all that oil and smoke and all that. :D

http://www.appbrain.com/app/jamies-20-minute-meals/com.zolmo.twentymm
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AAQR: GRave Defense HD (free, $1.99)

GRave Defense is a "fixed path" tower defense game. It has a cute story, and it has a few interesting features such as multiple entrances and exits, and some of the weapons are interesting, but that's about it.

(To clarifiy, I classify tower defense games into "grid" vs. "fixed path". This one is fixed path variant: multiple entrances and exits. )

The story is typical nuclear apocalypse, humanity survived by hiding in vaults. Outside, the landscape has recovered... except for all these nasties mutated into unknown forms. Your job is to build defenses to block the incoming hordes. Blah blah blah. There's X number of lives in the city and there are some militia as final defense. Your job is to make sure as little as possible (preferably none) reach the city/village/whatever.

The fun part about this game is there are usually multiple entrances for the nasties, and multiple exits, so you can't rely on just a few turrets, but have to space yourself out because you don't know which path the nasties will be using.

Your turrets are air only, ground only, or both. A ground-only turret won't engage air targets. Each turret can be upgraded several times (usually 5) and gets vastly improved firepower, and the upgrades are relatively cheap compared to the turret cost. Typical gatling is about $250, and each upgrade is like $25-30. Some of the more expensive towers can cost a LOT of money. A freeze tower is like $2500.

Later you see nasties that can damage your turrets, but you can place mines to block them.

Graphics are quite good. The sprites are detailed enough though not that animated. The scenery is cute, but the scale seem to be a bit off.

Music and sound... average. Techno track is boring, and sound doesn't mix so turrets all shooting just makes a cacophony of sounds any way. Turn it all off.

Hardware wise, it runs fine on my OG Droid, which is saying a LOT, as most HD games often don't run on OG Droid with only 256MB of RAM.

All in all, GRave Defense brings a few new wrinkles to the Tower Defense genre, and is a well polished game, and should satisfy your thrist for "another round" of tower defense.

8 out of 10

http://www.appbrain.com/app/grave-defense-hd-free/com.artofbytes.gravedefence.hd.free

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Friday, July 29, 2011

AAQR: Nemus Launcher (home launcher)

Nemus Launcher, from the folks who brought you the VERY eye-candy-ish Regina 3D launcher, is sort of the opposite of Regina. It's light weight (just over 1 MB), yet quite nicely featured. However, its various limitations makes this a very niche choice.

Nemus Launcher gave a very good impression: it feels quite snappy with very smooth scrolling. It has a good looking "dock", which can be configured by simple drag and drop. Just drop an icon onto the dock and voila, that's it. The icons are also full sized, not shrunken version like in other launchers.

It also let you know the app drawer is getting refreshed with a the spinning circle behind it. The app drawer is also improved: it can be used to manage running apps and a shortcut to "Manage Apps" choice under settings / applications. The app drawer can be shown in two styles, the normal vertical list and the Samsung style horizontal "paged" style.

The "screens" (panels) on the desktop can number from 3 to 9. There's an edit screen that lets you easily adjust the order, add more panels, remove panels, and so on.

Its folder support is impressive... Basically stealing the iOS style folder management. Just drag one shortcut onto another to make a folder. It doesn't have sorting or "starred / favorite" tagging.

However, there's a few problems. First of all, this app is portrait layout ONLY. It will NOT go into landscape mode EVER. It does NOT react to orientation sensor. Second, it is somewhat crash happy, at least on my OG Droid. I've seen it FC numerous times, even as I go into and out of settings. Third, it is virtually undocumented. There is no mention of the app on the NemusTech home page (in fact the whole page is in Korean).

All in all, Nemus Launcher is a smooth launcher that is pretty good if you stay in portrait mode most of the time. It makes folders extremely easy. Indicator on the app drawer to let you know it's refreshing is also very neat. On the other hand, no landscape and occasional FC makes this launcher a bit niche for me.

7 out of 10


http://www.appbrain.com/app/nemus-launcher/com.nemustech.launcher
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

AAQR: TED Air

Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseTED Air is one of the many different TED clients for Android. (There's also TED Talks, and TED T). This one seem to be the top of the game, as it supports selectable subtitles, search, and of course, share.

It's not bad, and the interface is pretty polished.

As these features are mostly the same, it's down to personal preference. Try the other two.

http://www.appbrain.com/app/ted-air/com.ogqcorp.tpa
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AAQR: Archipelago (game)

Archipelago is one of those simple games where you basically send units to attach the enemy. Each of your "islands" produce planes. You tap your island, then another island, to send HALF of your planes from the origin island there. Islands can be yours, theirs, or neutrals. The idea is to conquer ALL the islands.

The interface on this one is a little iffy. I can't seem to make it send a single fleet from multiple islands. The game also crashes quite often. Even free, it's problematic.

http://www.amazon.com/Maribou-Inc-Archipelago/dp/B004RJYNXK/ref=pd_sim_dbs_mas_6
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

AAQR: Delicious: Emily's Taste of Fame (game)

Emily's Taste of Fame is basically Diner Dash with a few more mini-games, and a bit more back story.

The premise itself is absurb. Emily, on the way to Hollywood to host her own cooking show, had her car broken down in the middle of nowhere, and was forced to work at a diner to earn enough money to get her car fixed up so she can get to the show. But will she? (Not if you don't play well!)

The mechanics are exactly the same: the counter has some ready made items: cola, donut, coffee. There's a burger station where you can build your own burger (top and bottom buns, lettuce, meat patty, and cheese are optional. Later missions adds ice cream machine, waffle station (you have to "cook" the waffles and add the right toppings), and more. Each person comes in, orders, and you need to fetch the right stuff and serve the right people. You need to serve to-go, sit-down, and drive-thru. Speed is key! You also need to clean up the dishes!

As you earn more money, you can spend some of the money on decorating the diner, which will give you some benefits, such as the clients having more patience to wait for their stuff, bigger tips, and so on.

Frankly, this game seriously needs some tutorial for the newer minigames. The burger one is obvious, but the waffle and ice cream stations are not. The premise itself is also absurb. All in all, it felt like an also-ran.

http://www.appbrain.com/app/delicious-emilys-taste-of-fame/com.realarcade.DEL
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AAQR: Lingrove (game)

Given away on Amazon App Store for a day, Lingrove is a word puzzle that is a bit like Mastermind, but with 5 letters (that must form words), not simple colors. You enter 5-letter words and you are told which letters are used and in the right place, and which letters are used but NOT in the right place. You have exactly 5 chances.

I never was very good at word games, such as Scrabble, so I was struggling with this one. There's a story to unlock, but there are a LOT of puzzles to solve.

Interesting, but not THAT interesting.

http://www.amazon.com/Future-Network-Solutions-Fzc-Lingrove/dp/B0058OE9CS
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

AAQR: QQ Desktop Pro (Home Launcher)

QQ Desktop Pro (actually the app's in Chinese) is a decent if not spectacular launcher. At 1760KB in size, it's not exactly lightweight, but its performance is quite respectable.

BEWARE: The app is in Chinese, so it's not for everybody.

Once nice thing it does is it will look for backup files left by other desktops and import them to restore your desktop layout. I have Launcher Pro installed and it was able to restore my desktop config.

The dock's background can't be changed, but it does have 4 static shortcuts. Just drag and drop another icon to the spot and voila, it's configured.

It comes with a few built-in widgets such as memory / purge widget and a "toggle" widget similar to "Power Control". However, it used a 'blue on white' theme instead. In fact, the entire app uses a white theme.

You can choose different transitions, import config from other launchers, and choose two styles of app drawer (Samsung style, or Windows Phone 7 style) . It also has a few links directly to QQ's download app store, and other things.

Worth trying for sure.

http://www.appbrain.com/app/qq%E6%A1%8C%E9%9D%A2pro/com.tencent.qqlauncher
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AAQR: Farkle Dice (game)

NOTE: Farkle Dice was given away one day on Amazon App Store.

Farkle Dice is a very simple game of chance with some strategy involved. The rules are simple, and you can actually buy the physical game (with real dice) in some B&N stores (that's Barnes & Noble). This is the Android virtual version, with AI players.

The rules are simple, and you will have a hard time beating even the regular "Steady Sam" AI until you figure out the strategy on how it should be played.

Graphics are simple, and typical game only lasts a few minutes. So you can slam a quick game in.

Is it worth money? I don't know. Depends on how much ad you tolerate. Give the free version a try, at least.

http://www.appbrain.com/app/farkle-dice-deluxe-(ad-free)/com.smartboxdesign.android.farkle.dice (paid version)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sorry about ANOTHER unplanned outage... And Updates

My apologies about lack of updates in the past week. I've been VERY VERY busy on various problems, personal, business, and other. I still have various items on my to do list.

But don't worry, there are more reviews in the pipeline, including more home launchers, more apps, and more live wallpaper reviews.

So stay tuned.

AAQR: Sinister Planet (game, no rating)

This game does not run on my OG Droid. The title "loading" screen pops up, the progress bar goes to 1/5th, then after 3 seconds, it "quits to launcher", no error message.


http://www.appbrain.com/app/sinister-planet/com.neosoft.SinisterPlanet