This week's sponsor

Shapego

Beautiful Word Clouds for iPad and iPhone


Posts in reviews

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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.


LookUp Review: The Modern Dictionary

When considering a traditional dictionary, the words “fast” and “beautiful” don’t come to mind; even our digital dictionaries, sometimes coming in the form of iOS' Look Up feature when highlighting a word, don’t do a great job of looking good, providing all the relevant information, and appearing in enough time to make it worth the process.

With LookUp, I’ve found things to be different – it’s a dictionary app built on convenience, design, and lots of information.

Read more


Picky: Music Rediscovery Through Powerful Filtering

My music collection is too big to browse in Apple’s Music app. With over 15,000 songs, browsing by track is out of the question, and because I have only one or two songs by many artists, scrolling my entire artist list is impractical too. As a result, I typically use search to find songs in the Music app. The trouble is, search only works if you already know what you want to hear, and it hampers rediscovery of music you haven't listened to for a while. Apple Music’s algorithmically-generated ‘My Favorites Mix’ helps with this, but sometimes I would rather discover old favorites on my own. For those times, I turn to Picky by Charles Joseph.

Picky lets you filter and sort music in more ways than you can probably imagine. Add to that the ability quickly queue up songs from anywhere in the app, and the result is a powerful music utility that is perfect for getting reacquainted with your favorite tunes.

Read more


Game Day: Glitchskier

I love puzzle games and have seen some great ones debut on the App Store recently, but now and then, I want to play something different. This week, different meant Glitchskier, an endless runner-style arcade shooter by Shelly Alon. It has an off-kilter video game glitch aesthetic and challenging gameplay that together, hooked me immediately.

From the get-go, Glitchskier takes you back to early PC hardware. The screen is distorted to look like you’re playing on a curved, low-resolution CRT monitor. If the CRT look is too much for you, it can be turned off in settings. In the background, a dull hum and whir of electronics and fan blades add to the atmosphere. It’s an opinionated design that goes all-in with the retro PC look, which may turn off some people initially, but drew me in as soon as I started playing.

To start Glitchskier, you double tap a Windows-style folder and then glitchskier.exe. The gameplay is reminiscent of spaceship shooter games like Galaga. You maneuver your spaceship by dragging your finger around the screen. At the same time, the environment advances down the screen, endless runner-style. That, and the enemies that descend from the top of the screen, make avoiding your ship’s destruction difficult.

Your guns shoot automatically as long as your finger is on the screen. The more things you destroy, the higher your score climbs. As you move through the landscape, there are also weapons to collect that help you defeat enemies and bosses. Make it far enough, and you begin to unlock different colored themes too.

Part of the novelty of Glitchskier is the environment through which you fly your spaceship. The screen is littered with computer glitch obstacles like random characters that form barriers. The chaotic universe and enemies relentlessly descending on you is disorienting at first, but quickly becomes familiar and comfortable when you figure out what can be blasted to bits and what you need to avoid.

The unforgiving onslaught of enemies keeps you on your toes and requires split-second decisions. The sense of urgency is heightened by a synth soundtrack that fits perfectly with the game’s aesthetic and reminds me a little of the excellent Stranger Things soundtrack. But Glitchskier is more than just an homage to 80s arcade games. Beneath its carefully-crafted design is a fun game that’s easy to learn and extremely hard to master. The combination of the two sucks you into Glitchskier’s crazy world in a thoroughly entertaining way.

Glitchskier is available on the App Store for $1.99.