Jake Underwood

82 posts on MacStories since December 2015

Jake is a contributor at MacStories, a public relations major at Ball State University, and an iOS app fanatic. His life is full of listening to podcasts and playing Nintendo games, as well as watching sporting events and spending too much money on Apple products.

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Vignettes Review: I Need a Moment

Vignettes is, without a doubt, the most bizarre game (and app) I’ve ever purchased in the App Store.

The goal of the game – I think? – is to turn one object into another by twisting, rotating, tapping, and shifting your perspective of the object. If done correctly, you’ll transform a phone into a bowl, a light bulb into a lamp, and your brain from a completely functioning organ to a steaming pile of gray mush.

That’s about all there is to Vignette. The more you discover new objects, the more objects you'll want to find. As you proceed through the game, you’ll begin to unlock keys that will start you at different points in the game, reveal secrets, and let you interact with more objects.

That probably sounds incredibly generic, but that’s because it's incredibly difficult to put the concept behind Vignettes into words. It’s an experience, one that feels halfway between a game and an art project where the end object is to trick you to spinning your real-world chapstick around, hoping it transforms into something else (and yes, I did this!). There are almost no in-game instructions, either, so you’re left to your own devices from the outset.

However, there’s something really intriguing about the whole experience; although Vignettes is one of the most frustrating games I’ve played this year, the reward of discovery keeps me coming back the app even when I don’t think I want to. I get lost in its worlds, unable to comprehend exactly what puzzles I’m solving, but solving them nevertheless. Each puzzle is its own super weird and fun journey. I haven’t been so entranced by a iOS game in a long time.

Vignettes is available on the App Store for $2.99.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go lie down.


Fill in the Gaps with Polycolor

Some games don’t require a manual. They won’t bring out your inner rage, send you searching for answers online, or require you to ask your friend for help. Instead, they challenge you quietly, providing a gaming experience that’s equal parts difficult and soothing.

Polycolor is the epitome of the relaxed puzzle genre, a game so basic that it requires almost no explanation. Here’s why: all you have to do is fill in a pattern so that none of your three colors touch one another, yet the picture is fully colored. You select either red, blue, and yellow, assign it to a shape, and work your way toward a piece of art that signifies your accomplishment. As you continue in the game, you’ll be restricted to only a couple of moves to complete the task.

For an example, take a look below.

Although the premise is simple and early levels don’t pose much of a challenge, polycolor has grown on me as I continue to work through its 70+ levels. It’s a game that requires little physical effort, but increased mental exertion while progressing. Still, I've found that it's perfect for tapping away during moments of boredom or peace.

If you’d like to give polycolor a try, you can download it in the App Store for $0.99 (universal).


Outflow Review: Simple Subscription Tracking

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I’m a huge fan of Bear, the minimalist note-taking app developed by Shiny Frog. To show my appreciation and grab an extra feature or two, I pay a monthly subscription fee of $1.49, a price so low that I forgot that I paid it at all.

It’s a similar story for other services, too – $5 each for Pocket Premium and Apple Music slip out of my bank account monthly without much thought. But that’s where the cheap stuff ends, and the expensive subscriptions begin: $15 for HBO Now, $15 for a Spotify family subscription, and $20 for the Adobe Creative Suite. After all of this, I’m at $71.49 a month for software, some of which I’m rarely putting hours into.

Because my subscriptions span different platforms and renew at different times, I’ve been looking for ways to track where all my money is going. With Outflow, I’ve found a new way to do that.

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Sway Review: Meditation Through Movement

It’s 11:30 p.m., and I’m waltzing, rather awkwardly, around my room. If you were to walk in, you’d see me performing the slowest of slow dances, my iPhone clutched in my left hand, my AirPods nested in my ears, and my feet shuffling over my small, blue carpet.

What may look like a drug-fueled trip is my attempt at meditation using Sway, a movement-based mindfulness app for the iPhone. Since I picked it up over a weekend, I’ve been setting aside moments of my day to perform my tiny routine and attempt to center my mind.

I think it might be working.

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My Reasons Review

I’m a creature of habit, both positive and negative – and one of my most evident habits is the absurd amount of Diet Pepsi I drink. Although it’s not the worst habit I could have, it’s still concerning, especially considering that my water intake is embarrassingly low.

However, habits are hard to form and break, requiring effort, consistency, and constant motivation. While it’s nice to cheer yourself along through the journey of change, we often fall short of our goal because we forget the reason we started.

My Reasons for iOS and Mac is a productivity app that collects the things that motivate you and reminds you when working on your habit. It’s a tool that may just help me kick my Diet Pepsi habit – and some of your habits, too.

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Organizing Windows with Magnet

When I switched back to the Mac for most of my work a couple of months ago, one of the biggest selling points of macOS was window management. The differences between macOS and iOS make comparing them difficult, but I've learned to prefer the way the Mac presents information to the iPad's split screen functionality.

That’s not to say, however, that managing windows in macOS is perfect. While macOS's Split View makes for a better multitasking experience, it can fall flat when working in three, four, or five apps at once.

Magnet, a Mac app by developer CrowdCafé, is what built-in window management should be like on the Mac. It’s a smart, robust tool that will make your desktop look better than ever.

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Food Genie Review: The Perfect Restaurant Selection Tool

When I’m going out to eat on the weekends, I often run into the same dilemma: my friends and I can’t decide where we want to eat. For the most part, we are all pretty flexible, but narrowing down a wide range of options takes more time and causes more frustration than we’d prefer.

Food Genie cuts the unnecessary back-and-forth by offering random suggestions based on criteria set by the user. Through location data, restaurant identification and a spinning wheel of food, your next set of weekend dinner plans can be a lot less stressful.

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