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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.


The Successor to Wunderlist Is Here: Microsoft To-Do

Microsoft To-Do is the official successor to Wunderlist, the popular task management app acquired by Microsoft in mid-2015. Microsoft unveiled To-Do today in Preview, which is essentially a public beta. The service is built on Office 365 technologies, but according to ZDNet it is available to anyone with a Microsoft account; Office 365 is not required.

To-Do launches today on several major platforms, including iPhone, Android, Windows, and the web. Unfortunately iPad and Mac versions are not available at this time, but Microsoft says those apps will be available in the coming months.

After spending some time with To-Do on iPhone, my initial impressions are that it's a beautiful, simple task management tool that very much feels like a worthy successor to Wunderlist.

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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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Game Day: Pocus

Pocus is the latest mind-bending puzzle game from Ankara-based developer Gamebra.in, a husband and wife duo that is known for their challenging puzzles. The game shares a common visual style with Gamebra.in’s earlier titles but has the most in common with the hit game Hocus as the names of the two games suggest.

Whereas Hocus is about navigating a cube around a variety of Escher-like geometric structures, Pocus is always played on three sides of one or more 3D cubes. Each side of a cube is composed of a 6x6 grid. Most of the squares in the grid are gray, but others are black or other colors. You play as a red with a black dot on it. The goal is to move your red square across the three sides of the cubes to collect green squares.

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Tomates Time Management: Elegant Pomodoro Timer for Mac

If you're a fan of the Pomodoro Technique, you'll be interested in Tomates Time Manager. Version 4 is a great-looking menu bar app with detailed reporting, Touch Bar support, and a handy Today Extension.

If you're not familiar with it, the Pomodoro Technique is a timer-based way of getting work done in 25-minute sprints with short breaks between, and then a nice long break after a set of four. I first tried the Pomodoro Technique many years ago and it worked well for me, but I didn't stick with it. Over the years I went back to it a few times, but it still didn't stick. It was only last year when issues with my ADHD caused me to desperately need a system exactly like this.

There are a plethora of good timers available for Mac and iOS, including the elegant Zen Timer on Mac (which I've mentioned here before) and Focus Time on iOS. What sets Tomates apart is the combination of elegant design and powerful utility. It allows customizable work and break times, Work Series counts, alarm sounds, and handles task names and reporting.

Version 4 introduces a Today Extension, providing an overview of your progress right in the Today View of Notification Center, tracking your tasks and sessions along with trophies for reaching your goals.

Reporting is also enhanced, with both task and time-based reports. The time-based reports can show today, this week (or this workweek), this month, or a custom time period. The reports can also now be printed or saved as beautiful PDFs. I'll admit those reports aren't something I really need hard copies of, but they are nice looking.

Lastly, version 4 adds Touch Bar support so you can work with the timer from the Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro. Manage and reset timers, and reset the session and goal counters with a tap.

Head to the Mac App Store to check out Tomates Time Management. $2.99 US isn't a bad price to pay for something that could change the way you work.


Ulysses 2.8 Adds Touch ID Security and More

The Soulmen released version 2.8 of Ulysses on iOS and macOS today. The headline feature of the update is Touch ID support, which gives users the option to lock Ulysses automatically as soon as it is closed or after one, three, or five minutes. If your iOS device or Mac doesn't support Touch ID, you can require Ulysses to use a password instead. I don't have any particularly secret documents in Ulysses, but there are some documents I would prefer to keep private. With Touch ID, it's so easy to unlock Ulysses that turning it on was a no-brainer.

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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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