Sunday, January 13, 2013

Top 5 Discoveries of 2012: Apps

This is the fifth official list in my “Top 5 Discoveries of 2012” series. To see my music list, click here. To see my television list, click here. To see my books list, click here. To see my 2012 movies list, click here. To better appreciate my approach to making these lists, please read the brief introduction to this series (posted here).

Melanie and I have cheap cell phones. We don’t have newfangled smart phones that can be loaded up with apps. However, Melanie received a Kindle Fire for her birthday in 2012, and so apps have now entered into our life. For those who don’t know (Hi, Mom!), apps are basically just programs. The distinction doesn’t matter much. What matters is that apps serve a wide variety of purposes. Many apps are games, while others serve as utilities (e.g. maps, calculators, day planners, etc.). There are also entertainment and social networking apps that allow you to use Facebook, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and the like on your cell phone or other app-friendly device. Because Melanie’s Kindle has been used primarily as our official home video game system, nearly all of my app experience consists of game-playing. I haven’t played nearly as much as my kids have, but I’ll now present my top five app discoveries of 2012—from the least of my favorites to my favorite of favorites. All of these games were acquired for free from the Amazon App Store, so if they strike your fancy and you’ve got a Kindle or an Android device, you can get these for yourself.

5. Angry Birds

Naturally, the Angry Birds franchise is where my family got started. And, naturally, I loved the games from the get-go. I rarely play them now, but it would be a conscious exercise in cultural rebellion to deny them a place on this list and I’ve never been much of a rebel. If you’ve somehow never played Angry Birds, you can do so for free via Google Chrome’s Web Store. It loads up right in your browser window, and you can play it all day long. So, what are you waiting for? Flip the bird, already!

4. Scramble Touch

Scramble Touch was one of the first games my family acquired on the Kindle Fire. It is basically like Boggle, in electronic form. There are probably countless other apps that are knock-offs of Boggle, and for all I know, those games are much better. But Scramble Touch was the first app I felt somewhat addicted to and wanted to play over and over again. For a short while, I never had a bowel movement without spending some good time playing Scramble Touch.

3. Happy Jump

When I first played Happy Jump, I literally squealed with delight. It’s a rather absurd little game in which you utilize the tilt sensitivities of your portable device to guide a bouncing mold of red gelatin up a series of landings and platforms, some of which move. The goal is simply to get as high as you possibly can. The game is over either when your gelatin misses a landing or hits a bumblebee. Along the way, you collect coins, and your bouncing gets an extra boost whenever you collide with an apple. Like I said, it’s absurd. The gelatin never stops bouncing, so it’s surprisingly challenging to keep going. It is easy to find yourself saying “one more time” about a thousand times in a row, making Happy Jump a severe threat to your productivity. I should note that there is a very similar game called Ice Cream Drop wherein you tilt your Kindle (or phone, etc.) back and forth in order to guide a scoop of ice cream down a series of landings and platforms. I don’t find that game nearly as fun, but a variation of Ice Cream Drop exists called (no joke) Happy Poo Fall. In that version of the game, you are not a blob of slippery ice cream but a dollop of (again, no joke) feces. What kind of crap will they think of next?

2. Sky Burger

Sky Burger is another endless food-based game that utilizes tilt functionality and offers players no other goal than to keep going. In this game, you start with the bottom half of a hamburger bun, which you can slide back and forth along the bottom of your screen. Various hamburger toppings fall from the sky a la Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. If a topping lands on your bun, it stays there. If a top hamburger bun lands on your sandwich, the round is over. In order to finish the round successfully, you must construct whatever burger is on your ticket. In lieu of points, you get money for each requested topping you collect. You also get a “tip,” which increases as you nab correct toppings and decreases as you pick up anything else (including too many of the requested toppings). The tip also depreciates if you miss a topping that you still need. As you progress, the burgers become more complicated, which makes them taller, which makes it more difficult to avoid inadvertently grabbing a top bun before the proper burger is constructed. Fortunately, the sequence of toppings never matters. If the burger is supposed to have six pieces of cheese, four beef patties, and ten servings of pickles, they can be arranged however. It’s a good thing, too, because the burgers get much, much more complicated than that.

1. Army of Darkness Defense

I discovered this game only recently, downloading it on a whim while completely ignorant of the fact that it is based on the cult 1992 horror/fantasy/comedy film Army of Darkness starring Bruce Campbell and directed by Sam Raimi. When I realized it was tied in to the movie, I was stoked. Not that you need to be familiar with the movie in order to enjoy the game, but fans of the film will be in on the inside jokes that permeate the game. In the game, you play Ash, the one-handed hero who must protect the Necromonicon Ex-Mortis, or book of the dead (basically), from falling into evil hands. Utilizing your “boomstick” and other assorted weaponry, as well as by calling swordsmen, knights, peasants and a host of others to your aid, you must fight off the large swaths of skeletons that come your way. Those familiar with the wildly popular Plants vs. Zombies will tread familiar territory here, although Army of Darkness Defense is slightly more geared to the RPG (role playing game) crowd. You collect coins from your defeated foes, which can then be used to upgrade your armor, your weaponry, etc. Given that this game is available for free, it’s an absolute must-have. For fans of the film, it would be a sin to pass it up. The game utilizes genuine audio clips from the movie, such as Ash’s flubbing of a magical incantation to summon supernatural assistance. Downloading this game is a Klaatu Verata Nobrainer.

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