Friday, April 13, 2012

Apps of the Week: Angry Birds Space, Mass Effect 3 Datapad, Monty Python Holy Book of Days

Here are three iPad apps that have been keeping me busy lately... One is for Angry Birds addicts, one for Mass Effect 3 addicts, and one for Monty Python addicts. Perfect!

Angry Birds Space

Angry Birds Space has done the impossible. It has converted me, someone who couldn't stand Angry Birds before. Now I'm a fan. 

Like the rest of the human race, I've played Angry Birds before. And I didn't like it. I found it repetitive. The puzzles didn't encourage creative solutions as much as powering through each level by hammering the pigs with the birds until you got it right. Above all, the game made me angry.

Angry Birds Space changed everything. Game developers, take note. This is how to make a sequel. The game stays true to the game's bird lobbing mechanic, but there's now an additional twist. You are in space, and in space, there is gravity.

So with your slingshot on one planet and the pigs in shelter on the dark side of another planet, you launch your birds into space to be caught by the next planet's gravitational field. Or you launch it in the opposite direction so that your bird gets the pigs from behind. Or you send an exploding bird into an asteroid field to blow up and send a rain of asteroids into the pigs' planet's gravitational field.

It's a game mechanic that is nothing short of inspired, and most importantly, it's unbelievably fun. It's also incredibly varied and at times deviously challenging.

The only downside? $2.99 for Angry Birds HD is relatively a lot in today's app store. And the game ends too quickly. Which means you'll shell out an additional $0.99 for the additional levels. I can see this game siphoning small amounts of cash away from me on a regular basis. But I don't mind. Angry Birds doesn't make me angry anymore.

Mass Effect 3 Datapad

This app (which is free by the way) is both an interesting idea and a great solution to a common gaming problem. 

First let's talk about the solution to the gaming problem. Reading on your widescreen TV doesn't work; it's a pain. To make things worse, the game makes you read when all you want to do is kick some ass. So Mass Effect's considerable amount of codex entries mostly go unread. The thing is I really want to read the entries. And now I can do that on my iPad whether I'm playing the game or not. If you're an obsessed gamer or a Mass Effect fan, this app is really useful for this feature alone.

This app is more than just that though. It also includes a mini-game of sorts that ties in with Mass Effect 3's Galaxy At War. Command fleets to attack Reaper targets and you can improve your overall rating in Mass Effect 3. The mini-game plays a lot like a simple Farmville. It quickly becomes boring, but I found myself constantly going back to it to boost my rating. I'm a sucker that way.

Monty Python The Holy Book of Days

This app was created to accompany the Blu-ray release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Instead of putting all the extras on the Blu-ray, they put it in an app instead.

The results are mixed. It's a lovely little app that looks like Terry Gilliam himself made it. There's a ton of content in it -- enough to make any Monty Python fan giddy -- like outtakes, photos of the production, the script, and excerpts from Michael Palin's diary.

The high point is John Cleese's introduction, which is self-deprecating, and funny, and most probably true when he talks about what a miserable experience it was shooting Holy Grail.

The problem is most of us can live without all of this, all that content isn't particularly funny, and it doesn't make the experience of watching the film any better. If you're a Monty Python fan, it's still worth the $4.99 download. But if you're one of those guys, you've probably already heard all these stories before.

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