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Posts in reviews

Game Day: Evergrow

Many of the best games I've played on iOS recently remix elements of existing genres in new and unexpected ways. Evergrow by Imagility does just that, mixing puzzle, action, and tower defense elements into a fun, colorful game that keeps things interesting by throwing new details at you throughout the game.

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RAW Power Review

RAW Power is a powerful image editor reminiscent of Aperture that takes Apple’s discontinued pro photo editing tool a step further than Apple ever did. Whether you use RAW Power as a standalone image editor or as a Photos extension, what strikes me most about it is that with a little experimentation and patience, it’s accessible regardless of whether you consider yourself a pro user.

Before Photos, Apple had two photography apps: iPhotos for average consumers and Aperture for pros. In 2014, Apple discontinued Aperture. Around the same time, Apple evolved iPhoto into Photos, bringing the macOS and iOS apps that go by that name closer together from a feature set standpoint. That left pros and ‘prosumers’ who relied on Aperture in a bind. There are alternatives like Adobe’s Lightroom, but if you preferred Aperture, you were out of luck, until now.

RAW Power, by Gentlemen Coders, has a stellar pedigree. Its lead developer, Nik Bhatt, was Senior Director of Engineering for Aperture and iPhoto, so it’s safe to assume he understands Apple’s RAW engine. What sets RAW Power apart from something like Aperture, though, is its flexibility. Images can be edited non-destructively either in the standalone RAW Power app or from within Photos because RAW Power’s full functionality is also a Photos extension.

Like many people, my photo library is a mixture of thousands of images taken over many years that were shot with a variety of hardware, including old point-and-shoot digital cameras, a variety of iPhones, and a Sony NEX-5N I got in 2011 for a trip to Patagonia. I enjoy photography and have improved beyond taking simple snapshots, but I’ve never gone too deep into the technical side of it. Nonetheless, for special occasions I still shoot RAW images on my Sony camera to give myself maximum editing flexibility when I process my photos. RAW Power’s Photos extension fits my mix of photos and approach to editing perfectly by offering pro tools that are available on my command as an extension from within Photos when I need them, but stay out of the way when I don’t.

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Moment Review: Get the Right Shot

In my early pick for 2017’s “App Description of the Year,” Moment’s Eun Seong Kim tells a story about his frustration and disappointment after the dreaded “Storage Almost Full” message caused him to miss an exciting moment at a Toronto Raptors basketball game. It’s an elevator pitch that ends with the question that drew me to Moment: “What if I could keep video recording but only capture the last 5 seconds?”

I instantly identified with Kim's hypothetical. When I’m shooting video, I’m often only looking for the 5 or 10 seconds of action, but I'm stuck with a multi-minute clip that I have to edit. Moreover, even though my iPhone has plenty of storage now, there’s a real chance I will run into the same problem in the future.

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Overcast 3.0: iOS 10 Features, UI Changes, Easy Queuing, and an Interview with Marco Arment

Overcast, Marco Arment's popular podcast app for iOS, is defined by an interesting dualism: its essence has remained remarkably consistent with the original version released three years ago; at the same time, Arment has periodically revisited Overcast's design, features, and business model to build a superior listening environment for a larger audience.

The same judicious iteration permeates Overcast 3.0, launching today on the App Store. With improvements to episode management, visual changes aimed at modernizing the interface, and an evolution of the existing subscription-based model, Overcast 3.0 is another thoughtful combination of new ideas and old tropes, which converge in a refreshed yet instinctively familiar listening experience.

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Game Day: Causality

There is a certain amount of ‘trust me, just play this game’ involved with recommending Causality by UK-based Loju because it’s such a brain-meltingly complex puzzle game that it’s hard to explain in writing. In many respects, this game has to be experienced to understand it.

Causality blends time manipulation with a familiar grid-based puzzle game in a way that transcends other games in the puzzle genre. The result is a fresh, compelling game that stands out from the pack.

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Take to the Course with OK Golf

I’ve never had much interest in real golf, a sport that requires more money, patience, and dedication than I will allocate to anything besides my significant other and Apple products. I have to admit, though, that I’m a sucker for anything on the videogame golf spectrum, from the ultra-simplistic Desert Golfing to Wii Sports’ golf.

Much of what I enjoy about golf videogames appears in OK Golf, a zen, bite-sized take on the genre. It’s no mini-golf simulator, though, and its distinction will leave you immersed in a tiny world of varying terrain and challenging gameplay.

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Hidden Folks: A Whimsical Game of Exploration

Hidden Folks, by game developer Adriaan de Jongh and illustrator Sylvain Tegroeg, is a relaxing diversion into beautifully-detailed, hand-drawn worlds. The object of the game is simple: find people, animals, and objects in huge illustrated landscapes. After you’ve found enough items in each area, the next one is unlocked and ready to explore.

The comparison that comes to mind immediately is the Where’s Waldo book series for kids. But there’s a lot more going on here than that suggests, and this is not a game that’s just for children. Hidden Folks comes alive with whimsical animations and over 960 silly mouth-generated sound effects. Each of the fourteen hand-drawn, black-and-white scenes is vast and full of minute details that make finding each item challenging.

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TwIM: Instant Messaging Built on Twitter Direct Messages

Last December, BuzzFeed reported that Twitter built and killed a messaging app. It wasn’t the first time rumors circulated that Twitter was working on a messaging app, but for whatever reason, none has ever been released. That left a void that developer Andrew Hart has filled with his new iPhone app TwIM, a modern messaging app built on top of Twitter DMs.

There’s a lot of friction involved in trying a new messaging service. Not only do you have to want to try the service, but you have to convince friends or family to try it too or you'll have no one with whom to chat. That’s a significant disadvantage that TwIM sidesteps for anyone whose contacts are already on Twitter. What’s more, TwIM sets itself apart from the built-in direct messaging functionality of other Twitter clients with better content handling and support for the latest iOS features like Siri, interactive notifications, and 3D Touch. That gives TwIM a shot at appealing not only as a messaging app, but to anyone who wants a better direct messaging experience.

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TodayFlights: A Flight Status Widget for macOS

Data detectors are a feature of Apple’s OSes that recognize information like phone numbers, addresses, and airline flight information and make them interactive. For instance, clicking on a flight in Mail or Notes on a Mac opens a pop-up window with a map of the flight path, whether the flight is on time, departure and arrival times, and other information.

Developer Josh Parnham reverse-engineered the private APIs Apple uses for its flight status data detectors and built a macOS Today widget called TodayFlights. The widget displays the same interface and information as Apple’s data detector but in macOS’s Notification Center. To enter an airline name and flight number, all you do is click the info button at the top of the widget and enter both. Like Apple’s data detector, you can click on one of the cities to zoom in on that portion of the map. In addition, clicking on the bottom section of the widget cycles through departure and arrival times, remaining flight time, and flight duration.

It’s surprising that Apple hasn’t implemented flight tracking as a Today widget. As TodayFlights demonstrates, it’s the perfect sort of glanceable information for which Notification Center was created. Because TodayFlights is built on private APIs, the widget could break if Apple changes those APIs without notice, but until that happens, TodayFlights is a handy addition to Notification Center.

TodayFlights is a free download on Josh Parnham’s website.