Best app deals of the day! 10 paid iPhone apps on sale for a limited time

March 22, 2016 by macjeff

Everyone likes free apps, but sometimes the best ones are a bit expensive. Now and then, developers put paid apps on sale for a limited time, but you have to snatch them up fast. Here are the latest and greatest apps on sale in the iOS App Store.

The post Best app deals of the day! 10 paid iPhone apps on sale for a limited time appeared first on Digital Trends.

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Blackbox - think outside the box

March 22, 2016 by macjeff

Blackbox - think outside the box (Free) by Ryan McLeod is a new kind of puzzle game that has you thinking of creative new ways to solve puzzles without ever touching the screen. If you’re tired of the same old puzzle games on iOS, then Blackbox is something refreshing and different.

If you have followed my work here at AppAdvice, then you will know that I can’t help but love a good puzzle game. However, over the years, it seems that puzzles have become a tried-and-true genre, where developers go with the same old gameplay concepts and challenges, just don’t in a slightly different way. None of them have brought something completely different to the table in terms of iOS gaming, so while I love the genre, sometimes it starts to feel a bit stale. So when I got a message in my inbox regarding a new puzzle game that makes you think outside of the box, I was intrigued — what could this possibly mean? Turns out that Blackbox is a puzzle game that is unlike anything you’ve ever played before. So take what you know about puzzles on iOS and throw it out the window, because none of that will help you with this unique twist to the genre.

Visually speaking, Blackbox is very simple and fairly barebones, to be honest. It goes along well with the clean and flat aesthetic of modern day iOS, and fans of minimal design will fall in love. Blackbox, as the name suggests, features a crisp, black background that fills the entire screen, and neon lines, shapes, and dots contrast nicely against the darkness. There isn’t much else to the game’s graphics other than that, but the animations are fluid and smooth, making for a seamless playing experience. The game has no sounds or music, but that doesn’t detract from the experience at all — in fact, it adds to it.

Blackbox has over 50 distinctive puzzles for players to solve. They are not split up into various chapters like other games. Instead, they are color-coded, and you unlock more available puzzles as you solve other ones. The colors each have a different meaning, but one thing is for certain: they all utilize some aspect of your iPhone’s hardware, so you’re going to have to really understand how your device works in order to solve the puzzles.

The controls in Blackbox are special, because you will never use the screen to solve anything. You can tap on the screen to pause and return to the level select screen, or perform a 3D Touch on a compatible device to quickly go back home. But for actually solving the puzzles, you will have to figure out what the puzzle is asking you to do, and make use of the component on your iPhone to solve it. This ranges from using the device gyroscope and accelerometer to get colors on the screen to go where you need them to, using the mirror to reverse what is on the screen, adjusting the brightness of your device, tinkering around with the buttons and headphone jack, blowing into the microphone, and much more. This is just a sample of what I’ve tried so far, and I’m just a few puzzles in.

While the game certainly has a new perspective on puzzles, be prepared — some of these can be rather maddening at first, so you’ll have to return to it at a later time to solve if you can’t figure it out immediately. The game also has some hints that you can use, though they should be kept as a last resort when you just can’t seem to figure out what to do. Blackbox is a challenging puzzle game that requires brainpower, time, patience, and perspective to solve.

I’m still fairly early on in Blackbox, but I am in love with it so far. As a big fan of puzzles, this is the most invigorating new game I’ve played in a while due to the exclusive gameplay concept and controls. Plus, the minimalist visuals and text look fantastic on the screen. The developer is also actively looking for user feedback, so if you find something broken or have ideas for new challenges, make sure to let the developer know.

I highly recommend giving Blackbox a try if you haven’t already. It’s great to see someone come up with something that has yet to be done in the iOS gaming world until now.

Blackbox – think outside the box is available on the App Store as a free download for your iPhone only. There are in-app purchases for hints and an all-level unlock.

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March 22, 2016 by macjeff

Sparkwave (Free) by Crescent Moon Games is a fast-paced hex-style twitch reflex arcade game. If you enjoyed games like Pivvot, HEX:99, and SHREDD, then you will get a kick out of Sparkwave. Be warned — these twitch reflex games are definitely not for the faint of heart.

Ever since Super Hexagon, I’ve fallen in love with the challenge of the twitch reflex genre, and while they can be infuriating most of the time, I still keep coming back to them. I think that the mobile platform is perfect for the genre, due to the simplistic controls provided by touch screens and the fact that a lot of games are best enjoyed in short bursts throughout the day. Whenever I have a few moments to spare, I like being able to pick up my phone, launch a twitch reflex game, and test my reflexes for a few minutes at a time. For me, it’s fun and it’s rather nice when you’re able to best your own previous high score because you’ve been doing better at the game over time. That’s why twitch reflex games will always have a spot on my iPhone, so when I heard that Crescent Moon Games was coming out with a new addition to the genre last week, I had to check it out myself.

Sparkwave, like many other games in the genre, features a gorgeous, minimalistic art style that looks sharp and crisp on Retina screens. While the game starts out with a dark colored background with light specks that represent stars, the colors change as you get further along the tracks. The background colors range from darker tones to more vivid hues, but they all have rather nice color gradients that go together seamlessly. In the foreground will be hexagons of many different sizes that appear as you move, forming a trail for you to follow in your spark-covered ship. Even though there can be many colors appearing on the screen at various times, your ship will always be recognizable due to the bright, contrasting color. Animations in Sparkwave are smooth and fluid, which is absolutely necessary for a twitch reflex game, of course. There is a quirky EDM soundtrack that is fun to listen to, and will appeal to fans of the EDM genre. Sound effects add a nice finishing touch to the game’s audio package.

As with most twitch reflex games, Sparkwave only has one game mode, and it is essentially an endless run to see how long you can survive. The objective is to fly as far as you can without hitting annoying obstacles (dark tiles) that show up along the way. The game moves quickly, and the track will form as you go, so it can be rather unpredictable at times, especially when you encounter random angle shifts that change the direction of the entire path, forcing you to react rapidly. There are crystals to collect along the way, which can be used to purchase additional spark colors for your ship, or some booster items from the shop. Since the game is free, it does show ads every now and then between runs, and you get five free continues per day at the cost of watching a video ad. If the ads bother you that much, you can always opt to get the in-app purchase for removing ads.

Controls in Sparkwave are simple enough: tap the left half of the screen to steer your ship to the left, and tap the right half to go right — you will move forward automatically. You can do short taps to move just a little bit, or hold your finger down to move continuously in that direction. But since the track moves rapidly and can shift position at any time, I would recommend sticking with quick, short taps for better control.

I’ve only spent a short amount of time with Sparkwave so far over the weekend, but I’m finding it to be an enjoyable twitch reflex game when I need my fix. The visuals are sleek and gorgeous, the music is fun, and the fast-paced gameplay means it’s addictive and challenging at the same time. However, if you’re the type of person who will rage quickly at these types of games, then it probably isn’t something you need to go grab, but if you want a challenge test of reflexes then it’s a great addition to your collection. I just wish that the game was a bit less ad-heavy and didn’t have restrictions on the number of continues you’re allowed per day. I’ve also noticed some crashes after viewing an ad to continue, which is annoying and can be frustrating, so hopefully the developers fix that in the near future.

Despite the minor flaws, Sparkwave is a delightful game for fans of the twitch reflex genre. You can find Sparkwave on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for free with in-app purchases.

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Dream Machine : The Game

March 22, 2016 by macjeff

Dream Machine : The Game ($0.99) by GameDigits Ltd is an optical illusion puzzle game that is similar to the likes of classics like Monument Valley. If you are looking for a fantasy puzzle to help you escape from reality, then you should give Dream Machine : The Game a try.

Even though I spend several hours of my day on my 3DS for handheld gaming, I still do my fair share of mobile gaming on my iPhone. After several years here at AppAdvice, and going through hundreds of different games on the App Store, I must say that one of my favorite genres is still the puzzle. There’s nothing like a good puzzle to help me unwind after a long and stressful day, and after the likes of Monument Valley, I love finding a game that is more about the experience, in addition to solid gameplay. When I saw Dream Machine on the App Store, I was instantly reminded of Monument Valley — it’s clear where this game got its inspiration from. However, there’s enough differences between the two that allow Dream Machine to stand on its own.

In terms of visuals, Dream Machine is beautiful, though there will be some criticism that it looks too similar to Monument Valley. The game sports a minimalistic aesthetic with softly colored backgrounds and 3-D rendered geometric shapes that form the Escheresque-style architectures. From a distance, the layouts appear simple and straightforward, but upon closer inspection, you’ll be tricked and deceived by the optical illusions. Things are not always as they appear, but Dream Machine still manages to be a beautiful package on your Retina screen. There’s a bit of a hazy overlay to the stages here, making it feel even more like a dreamscape and living up to the name. Animations are smooth and fluid, and there is an ambient and atmospheric soundtrack that is delightful to listen to as you play. For the best experience, grab your earbuds or headphones.

Dream Machine : The Game has an elementary but still interesting storyline, which I believe is designed to help make you think about things from a different perspective. In the beginning, you’ll see many small robots that are all working on their typical job in a cold and inhumane factory. Then you notice one robot fall asleep on the job, which is taken into account of immediately. After just a few moments, your robot friend is in a world full of new machinery, and it becomes a journey of breaking free from conformity at the workplace and finding freedom for your robot buddy.

Like typical puzzle games, Dream Machine is split up into different chapters that have their own set of levels. Some stages will be short and straightforward enough, while others are a bit more lengthy and take some more time to complete. However, one thing is clear — while the game looks like Monument Valley, the gameplay is closer to what you would find in Back to Bed, another Escheresque puzzle game. That is because your little robot character moves forward automatically, taking turns when necessary, so it’s your job to help guide him to the end of each section of a puzzle.

The controls in the game are simple and easy to learn. As the robot moves, you can tap on it to turn around at any time. If you tap-and-hold down anywhere on the screen, your robot will stop walking until you lift your finger. A 3D Touch allows you to change your robot’s speed, which is useful when timing is necessary to get across bridges and other gaps. When you see levers, switches, and wheels, just interact with them using your finger — they’ll affect the architecture in some way and form, so you must learn what they do first and use them to guide the robot to the end of the stage. As new mechanics are introduced, there will be instructional arrows and tips that tell you how to do them.

Another thing that sets it apart from other games of its calibur is the fact that there are boss battles in Dream Machine. The bosses will be the oppressors that demand conformity from all, but in a game about getting your freedom, all you can do is rebel and fight back.

While Dream Machine can be just another relaxing puzzle game, players are rewarded for being speedy when it comes to completing stages. The faster you are, the more “cogs” you’re awarded at the end of a level. These cogs are used to get upgrades for your robot, which mean faster completion times and better scores on the global Game Center leaderboards. With these factors taken into consideration, Dream Machine has a bit more longevity and replay value than the rest, which is nice.

I’ve only spent a bit of time with Dream Machine : The Game so far, but I’m rather enjoying what it has to offer. Yes, the graphics are beautiful though almost clone-like of Monument Valley, but the game adds a whole new layer of depth to the established game mechanics that Monument Valley popularized so that Dream Machine stands entirely on its own. Personally, I think Dream Machine is just a much welcome improvement over a classic, and there is plenty of fresh new elements to the game that will make you want to keep coming back. I’m not sure how long the game is since I’m still in the beginning, but I’ll be playing this one through to the end and eagerly await any additional level packs in the future, if that’s what the developer is going for. Seriously, Dream Machine is a great addition to any optical illusion puzzle game fan.

I highly recommend not writing off Dream Machine : The Game just because it looks like Monument Valley. The game has a familiar style, but plenty of new mechanics that make it into its own challenging game. You can find Dream Machine : The Game on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for just $0.99 for a limited time only. There are no in-app purchases.

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Letterboxd – The social network for film lovers

March 21, 2016 by macjeff

Letterboxd – The social network for film lovers (Free) by Letterboxd is a social networking app for those who love film. If you consider yourself a big fan of movies and want to socialize with other like-minded individuals, then Letterboxd is the way to go. It joins the ranks of other apps like Plot and TodoMovies 4, though Letterboxd has been around for several years as just a website.

Whenever I have the time to spare, I love watching a movie, and I’m sure that many of you do as well. Lately, though, I haven’t had much time to go to the theater every week like I used to, and while I’m at home, I’m busy trying to catch up with television series rather than movies. Still, I enjoy film quite a bit, and I like to use apps to help me keep track of what I’ve seen, what I need to see, and what others think of certain titles. I was familiar with Letterboxd for a long time, but honestly I barely used the website because it’s just much easier to use an app on my iPhone, since it’s always with me. Now that Letterboxd has finally released their iPhone app, I had to check it out for myself.

Visually, Letterboxd’s iPhone app is beautiful, just like the website. The dark background of the app helps place the focus and emphasis on the movie poster artwork, and the steel blue gray navigation bar at the bottom provides some nice, complementary contrast to the overall dark theme. Even if you’ve never used Letterboxd before, if you pick up the app and sign up for a free account, everything is pretty organized and straightforward, so there isn’t a lot to learn. Letterboxd is also fairly fast and responsive to your touches, and the subtle but fluid animations add a delightful finishing touch to the apps’s visual package. What drew me in to Letterboxd’s website originally was the fact that it was beautifully designed, and the same can be said for the iPhone app that has been a long time coming.

As mentioned previously, you will need a Letterboxd account to use the iPhone app. Fortunately, signing up is free, but there is a Pro account that you can sign up for that includes extras like “Year In Review” pages, IMDB activity and list import, and other advanced options. The Pro account is $19 a year, and there is also the Patron tier account for $49 a year that lets you show up on their Patron page, net an exclusive patron profile background, and more. But Letterboxd can still be fully enjoyed with just a free account, so don’t worry.

Since Letterboxd is still a social network at its core, you’re going to want to find friends and other people to follow. You can search for individual members with the search section, along with films, reviews, lists, and actors. However, there is currently no way to connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts within the app itself, so you have to do this on the website. And even then, the service did not give me a list of friends who are already using Letterboxd, so I think the process of finding friends to follow is a bit cumbersome at the moment. Hopefully this is streamlined in the future.

One of the first things you’ll be asked to do in Letterboxd is to go through a scrollable ribbon of movie posters and take some action on each title (if applicable): mark as watched, liked, rate it out of five stars, or add it to your watch list. You can do multiple actions on a single title, and doing this allows the app to get an idea of what you like or don’t like, as well as start your lists.

The main view of Letterboxd will be the “Popular” section, where you can see what films are popular on the network this week, as well as see new activity from friends. You can switch over to the “Reviews” section in Popular for user reviews from friends, and even see what “Lists” are popular this week.

If you’re looking for something in particular, then the Search tab lets you find films, reviews, lists, and people by keywords, or you can browse through movies by what is considered most popular, highest rated, most anticipated, or opening soon. These sections give you scrollable ribbons of movie posters as well, and you get the standard four action options (Watch, Like, Rate, Watchlist) when viewing each title. If you want to go more in-depth with your opinion on a film, you can always view the movie detail screen and then tap on the “…” button to access the “Review or Log” option, so that it is recorded in your movie diary. Each review can also be marked with “I’ve seen this film before,” “Contains spoilers,” and you can share a link to it on Facebook if need be. I really like the option to mark a review as containing spoilers, because let’s face it — spoilers ruin everything. So the option for a visual warning is definitely nice to have. If you just want to jump right to adding a new entry to your movie diary, just tap on the “+” button in the center of the bottom navigational toolbar, search for the movie, and then write your review.

Each movie detail view gives necessary bits of information like release year, director, synopsis, trailers, cast, and more. There are even Letterboxd features like seeing what the average star rating is for the film, as well as how many people watched it, reviewed it, or added it to lists. Letterboxd is incredibly detailed with stats and packed with information, so it is nice to be able to have all of this in a mobile-friendly package.

I’ve been using Letterboxd for about the past week and have been finding it to be an excellent way to discover, rate and review, and talk about films with others. I just wish that the process for finding friends on Twitter and Facebook was more streamlined and available in the app, so hopefully that is changed in the near future.

I highly recommend giving Letterboxd a try if you’re a film aficionado. The website has been fantastic and the app was worth the wait. You can find Letterboxd on the iPhone App Store for free. A basic account is free, with more features available in the Pro and Patron tiers.

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