The Causes of iPad Disappointment



Letdown. Disappointment. Anticlimax. These words have appeared in nearly all the first articles written about the newly unveiled Apple iPad, barely a day old in the world. The reasons are not entirely important in the long run, but many of these stories themselves will admit that expectations were raised beyond reasonable levels, that Apple had no hope of impressing everyone the way they did in 2007 with the first iPhone. This environment of fanciful conjecture and presumptuous theorizing was the result of an industry’s decade-long fascination with getting the idea of a tablet computer to stick – seemingly against the wishes of the consumers meant to buy them – and the belief that Apple can succeed where other companies embarrass themselves. They’ve done it before, after all.

It never helps that Apple says very little about what it’s got until it’s got it. The veil of secrecy provides theatrical levels of entertainment at every event; charged affairs where people whoop and whistle from the moment Jobs takes the stage. As press conferences go, they overdeliver. But on the eve of events as the iPad’s debut, such enthusiasm cuts both ways, and the company is left with the unenviable task of managing expectations without any direct communication – a task that has become increasingly hard over the past few years.

In the beginning, Macs were a relatively quiet business; high profile products that most people saw but never considered owning. The success of the iPod energized Apple’s public image, and eventually sensational moves like the decision to cancel its hottest product, the iPod mini, in favor of an impossibly innovative new replacement, raised the bar not only for its hapless competitors, but for the company itself. Even then, the shifts from small to smaller iPods with color screens where black and white displays were once standard, were no indication of the iPhone’s shape or form before January 2007. That device’s unprecedented introduction, so many orders of magnitude beyond what had been expected of Apple (a phone that played music, and that wasn’t as ugly or challenged as the Motorola ROKR, would have sufficed for many), changed the pre-event guessing game forever. Do one magic trick, and you’re always going to be asked for more.

Consider that at the time of the iPhone’s release, touchscreens were not a new technology. Palm’s PDAs and countless phones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system had touchscreens for years, and were fairly well liked. Yet as the tech world watched Steve Jobs scroll a contact list with a flick of his finger, it was impossible to make the connection between that and the experience we had become accustomed to. The older technology, resistive touchscreens, required styluses or fingernails, with scrolling conducted with bars that were clicked and dragged. A series of small innovations (capacitive touchscreens, direct contact momentum scrolling, and a smoothly-animated graphical interface) combined to redefine the way we expect to interact with handheld computers today. It’s a classic Apple play: refine existing technologies, add advancements in software, and produce an entirely new class of product.

Given the rise of ebook readers like the Kindle, and the continuing efforts of PC makers to fashion smaller and cheaper computers from low-power CPUs like Intel’s Atom, it was only natural to think that Apple would soon do the same for the popular netbook category or a tablet*. It would be another game changer equal to or greater than the iPhone, we began to hear. In the days leading up to January 27, a quote attributed to Steve Jobs was circulated, to the effect that the tablet would become his greatest achievement. John Gruber of the Daring Fireball blog predicted that Apple was ‘swinging big’ with a new product that one would buy instead of a laptop. Others dreamt of new multi-touch interfaces that would further bury Microsoft’s second stab at tablet computer, shown to be an HP “slate” running Windows 7 without any modifications that might make operation with a finger possible in lieu of a mouse. In all fairness, many of these outsized rumors were based on the presumption that the tablet would cost up to USD$1000. What could possibly cost that much, close to a full computer, except a full computer? It would be ironic if the thousand-dollar figure was leaked by Apple to increase the impact of the final $499 price point, only to backfire by raising expectations.

These pre-announcement assumptions by enthusiasts and tech writers are now par for the course, as are the disappointments that follow each new product revelation. The iPhone 3G largely met expectations because it corrected the one deficiency that kept the original iPhone from greatness**: the speed at which it accessed the internet. It also coincided with the opening of the platform with the iPhone SDK, which led to the app-happy state of affairs we now enjoy. Regardless, complaints about the low resolution camera, unremovable battery, etc. continued to get a public airing.

Last year’s iPhone 3GS was roundly criticized for being an unexciting upgrade, retaining the same looks as its predecessor with little more than a megapixel and speed bump, effectively delivering the previous year’s expected iPhone but late. It went on to become a huge success. The buying public is immune to disappointment, it seems, perhaps because they don’t read blogs that sell them pipe dreams.

The iPhone 3GS announcement, and the internet’s lukewarm reactions to it, would be a good analogy for what’s happening with the iPad, except nobody hoped for the next iPhone to summarize a decade of engineering efforts. Like the iPhone 3GS, the iPad initially appears to be an evolutionary product, being based on existing technology Apple has repeatedly shown in public. It’s faster and more powerful, but not radically different from known territory. At first sight, it’s hard to imagine what the changes mean in actual use. You might think you can live with the old model and how things used to be. That’s a shame.

Apple is positioning the iPad as a third pillar in their portable product lineup: more than a smartphone, less than a laptop, yet better at some things than either of the other two. This instantly invalidates the idea of buying one “instead of a laptop”. Clearly you are meant to have both. It syncs with a Mac or PC the same way an iPhone or iPod does. It’s a secondary computer, but it’s also an appliance (see Farhad Manjoo’s articles on Slate.com – here and here).

It sends email, it plays games, and it will be fantastic for Twitter, but in my opinion, the iPad in its current form holds the most value as an interactive document, or to use a term repeated many times last night, an ‘intimate’ way of experiencing media. Despite having no plans to purchase a Kindle DX or similar reader I suspect that I will fall in love with the thing the moment I hold a book-sized slice of full-color webpage in my hands. As Manjoo writes, “Everything about it—its size, shape, weight, and fantastically intuitive user interface—feels just right.”

With the first iPhone, Apple understood that touch interfaces are an emotional experience. Pressing the pad of your finger to a virtual page (in Eucalyptus, for example) and turning it fools some part of the brain that isn’t dedicated to understanding a screen is not the same thing as paper. It’s satisfying, even though a facsimile of a real experience. It’s more realistic than using a fingernail, which one never applies to a real page, and more personal than a stylus. My guess is that if capacitive touch of that quality wasn’t available, the iPhone project would never have gotten the green light.

I submit that the iPad takes one more step towards solidifying the illusion of digital media with real, physical presence. It’s not just a bigger iPhone, it’s an iPhone big enough to pass for a printed page and fool your mind. A frame that holds websites with long-form writing, augmented with video and animation, that we can hold lazily, effortlessly, in our hands or laps like the glossy magazines or newspapers they approximate, is nothing short of magical, to borrow another marketing word. If the iPad became transparent like a slab of glass when turned off, wouldn’t be exactly like the science fiction movie ideal of a portable computer? Don’t you want to live in the future? I say use your imagination.

And yet more frustration sprang from the absence of anticipated features, some of which are explained by the iPad’s positioning as a third pillar, while others invite more guesswork and predictions. Q. Why doesn’t it have a camera? A. It’s not for photography, and videoconferencing is the realm of a phone. Q. Why doesn’t it have USB ports/connect to an iPhone for syncing and tethering? A. It’s not a primary computer. Q. Where’s the multitasking and improved notifications? A. iPhone 4.0?

I believed that an update to the current iPhone OS, version 3.2, would be announced during yesterday’s event, which didn’t happen. As we know, the iPad runs a version of the OS with this number, but for the next 60 days it’s not something you can buy. That gives a 60-day window to expect iPhone OS 3.2 to be released for existing iPhone users. Will this bring some of the iPad’s new features to the iPhone, like the iBooks reader and iBookstore? My guess is no. These will remain exclusive iPad features for the time-being. In that case, iPhone OS 3.2 might only bring a few bugfixes and trivial UI enhancements. I believe Apple is already looking ahead to iPhone OS 4.0, to be announced in the March-May window, and released in concert with the next iPhone model. Improved notifications are a must, and I’m fairly confident they will be present.

The other concern, third-party app multitasking, is far and away the number one demanded feature for the iPhone OS amongst people I know, but I’m becoming ever more skeptical that it will materialize. Apple has invested heavily in push notifications as an alternative, too much for it to be merely a stopgap measure. With the iPad, which Apple is attempting to push as a viable machine for occasional work (more than a smartphone, less than a laptop), the lack of multitasking is even more apparent. If I’m writing a document in Pages and need to move back and forth quickly between a website, email, and a notes app from which I might want to copy information, iPhone OS 3.x requires me to switch in and out of the Home Screen each time, closing and reopening the apps.

The non-multitasking answer? Persistence and a quick launcher. iPhone OS 4.0 could enable a system-wide method for saving an app’s state (what you’re doing in it) when you quit, and having it restore upon the next launch. And according to Gruber, everyone who’s laid hands on it agrees the iPad and its new A4 processor are incredibly fast. Add that combination to a home button double-click that pops up a list of your last five apps, and you’re effectively alt-tabbing between running applications without the battery drain.

iPhone OS 4.0 will be a big deal when announced, whatever it actually does, and Apple understandably couldn’t show its features yesterday as part of the iPad. But because they share the same OS, it stands to reason that whatever the iPhone gains from here on out will also be on the iPad. Being that the iPhone is incredibly important to Apple and already accounts for 32% of smartphone profits worldwide while receiving rapid software development both from within the company and out, it’s inevitable that the iPad’s image will soon evolve beyond that of an underwhelming giant iPod touch.

~

* Legend has it that research for a “Safari Pad” tablet wound up becoming the basis of the iPhone, so it’s possible that the universe is completely backward.

** It’s worth noting that the original iPhone was also criticized for its camera, built-in battery, price, and not supporting third-party applications, Java, Microsoft Exchange, MMS, copy and paste, etc. despite being ridiculously ahead of the pack in terms of miniaturization, engineering, web browsing, media playback, and user experience. After three years, competitors have yet to match the software or browsing. Someday, the iPad’s reception will probably be remembered in a similar way.

iPhone app review: Ramp Champ

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)

Ramp Champ (Game)

Price: $1.99
What it is: A carnival of sadomasochism.

Every retirement home has one old man who used to be a championship boxer, tough enough to still knock out two young men bigger than him. Likewise, every group of cowed nerds has among their numbers one who will eventually arm up and shoot up the school in a black trenchcoat. Ramp Champ has a lot in common with these people.

It lives amongst the feeble pursuits most call “casual games”, a candycoated term cooked up by executives to describe alternative entertainment for normal people – those don’t play first-person shooters and airplane simulations eight hours straight at a time – or as we like to call them, “games for pussies”. But don’t be fooled by the company it keeps. Ramp Champ is a prison-hard motherf*cker. I suspect it broke out of hardcore gaming prison and into casual gaming prison just because it was bored.

Ramp Champ is like the serial killer who wears thick glasses and tucks his striped shirt into his pants and talks with a feigned speech impediment and holds a boring desk job at a government agency, but really goes home every night and becomes like Christian Bale or something, with ripped muscles from pumping rusty iron in his basement and hunting animals in the woods naked.

So what looks like an innocent game of skeeball is actually an elaborate psychology experiment. I mean, it must be! The physics simulation suggests that you have full control over where the ball goes, if you’re good enough, and then when you need to score the most, it lets some blind Parkinson’s patient take over the shot. But sometimes, it does exactly what you expect, making the time spent smearing goat’s blood on your own face seem completely worth it. It frustrates, it makes a mockery of your so-called skills, and it’s completely addictive. I know because I’ve mastered it at the cost of my sanity.



Slammer Rating: 4/5 shivs

Buy Ramp Champ in the iTunes App Store.


Above: What you’ll see when you become a ramp champ. Each of the levels’ three goals filled in with a yellow dot.


iPhone app review: Paper Toss World Tour

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)

Paper Toss World Tour (Game)
Price: $0.99

What it is: Same sheet, different cans.

The original (and free) Paper Toss introduced a new casual game genre so shallow, it threatened its own sequel possibilities. A ball of paper is flicked into a bin. To increase the challenge, the bin could be moved farther back, and a fan provided wind. What more could be done?

Fortunately for the developers at Backflip Studios, that question had already been answered by millions of poncy fat cats who regularly jet around visiting manicured gardens that charge thousands of dollars a year for the privilege of hitting little white balls into holes: change the scenery.

The result is Paper Toss World Tour, an armchair tosser’s dream. Wait, that came out wrong. By virtue of having 8 different cities to visit, the game finally has something that resembles a career mode. You begin in a Japanese Zen garden, and unlock others from there. The distance between paper and bin varies in each city, and you get some nice environmental effects like the sandstorms in Egypt. I only wish they’d included Singapore as the final stage, whereupon missing the trashcan, SWAT teams materialize with shotguns and rottweilers to end your career. Oh well, there’s always the next version.

Confusing New Ratings System: 3/5 and B+

Buy Paper Toss World Tour in the iTunes App Store.
Get the original Paper Toss for free in the iTunes App Store.

Below: The original Paper Toss game.

Below: Paper Toss World Tour

iPhone app review doublebill: Birdhouse & Twitbit

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)

Birdhouse / Twitbit – $3.99 & $4.99 respectively


Why Pay? It starts with a free app, Twitterrific or TwitterFon for most people, and for awhile it seems like you’ll never have a need for one of those “Pro” Twitter clients that your geekier friends talk about. Reply a message here, send out a cute quote there, it’s all good. Cut to a couple hundred followers later, and you’re riding the doubt train harder than a doped up pop star with 50 concert dates to deliver. You need a little something extra to keep your edge. You ask your live-in doctor for one of these:


Birdhouse is like a Twitter ninja. A ninja who’s spent his entire life learning to unsheathe his blade, stab a man, and put it away again in under half a second. He can’t climb walls, farts loudly all the time, and is 99% colorblind as well as good ol’ regular blind, but if the man you want assassinating is right there in front of him, there’s no one else you’d sooner hire.

You can’t read tweets or search hashtags in Birdhouse. You can’t see who’s mentioning you, and you sure as hell can’t see anyone’s avatar pictures. You can’t see anyone, period. But what you CAN do is train up a hundred of your best jokes, sharpen them on the stone of Favrd destiny, and then go out to cut some motherfuckers up. The downside: if you don’t have any jokes, it calls up your ex-girlfriends to make fun of your package.


Twitbit almost didn’t make it onto my list. Its first version was a little bit like Rain Man, you know, but I won’t get into specifics because people tend to send me hate mail when I talk about the retard in that movie. Suffice to say, Twitbit showed up a little over a month ago with a single winning trick up its sleeve: Push Notifications.

For example, you could be doing something else on your iPhone, like making a kick-ass playlist of Billy Joel and Air Supply songs, but if someone tweeted “@sangsara your music library sucks, faggot! Btw I’m sitting behind you on the bus”, you’d get it immediately as a pop-up on your screen. The rest of the app was a little behind the curve until a recent update added threaded DMs, a photo browser, saved searches, and many other refinements. The result is one of the best general purpose Twitter apps five bucks could want to buy. Plus, chicks dig the fat bird on a speech bubble-egg icon.


Birdhouse Rating: B
Twitbit Rating: A

Buy Birdhouse on the iTunes App Store.
Buy Twitbit on the iTunes App Store.




Birdhouse media:



Twitbit media:



iPhone app review: WorldView Live

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Name/Category: WorldView Live / Travel
Price: US$2.99 (free version available)


What it does: Displays live images from thousands of public webcams around the world

If you’re anything like me or Mr. T (that is to say you have travel issues), WorldView Live is a godsend. It costs less than a can of beer on a budget airline – believe me you’ll need more than one to get through the rocky screamfests that are equatorial updrafts, at least when I’m screaming – and gives you pretty much the same results as real travel. In fact, it’s even better. You get all the sights, from the majesty of the Eiffel Tower and Mount Fuji to the soggy streets of London, without having to suffer the French, learn Japanese, or get dragged into a hen night. You won’t have your passport or girlfriend stolen by a charming local, find your luggage switched with a transvestite’s, wander down a dodgy street late at night wearing said transvestite’s wardrobe, wake up in the morning with blood running… ok, you get the idea.

The app lets you search for webcams by city, keywords, as well as GPS/map location. Some are refreshed every 5 minutes or so, while others are live feeds that update every second. WorldView’s free edition lets you see many of the static cameras, while the paid WorldView Live version adds video and other useful features like search suggestions. Webcams.travel provides the images, and can be freely accessed from any computer. In essence, WorldView Live is a $2.99 native iPhone viewer for the site, but still one worth having if you care at all for looking out your window.


Rating: A-

Buy WorldView Live on the iTunes App Store.
Get WorldView (Free) on the iTunes App Store.



iPhone app review – Ferrari GT: Evolution

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Name/Category: Ferrari GT: Evolution / Games
What it costs: $0.99 (previously $9.99)


What it is: Last year’s racehorse, on its last legs


Why you should buy it: Racing games and first-person shooters are two of the most graphically intensive genres in gaming, so enthusiasts often look to them for examples of what a machine can do. When Gameloft released Asphalt 4: Elite Racing on the iPhone last year, it was hailed as a landmark achievement in iPhone graphics. It was as if a tiny digital Ronald Reagan had approached a programming barrier inside the iPhone and commanded digital Gorbachev to tear it down. A few months later, the company released Ferrari GT: Evolution. Built using largely the same technology, the new game had a (licensed) identity of its own: a slightly more serious driving simulation compared to Asphalt’s nitro-boosted arcade speedfest.


Why you shouldn’t: Racing games sold on great graphics alone don’t have any long-lasting appeal. Gameloft seems to recognize this, and the game is now being sold at a tenth of its launch price of $9.99. In the time since it ran its first lap, other more impressive driving games have run it into the ground, made it eat their dust, given it a flat tyre, put a banana in its tail pipe, upped its road tax, cut its brakes, siphoned its fuel tank while it parked in the drive-in theatre and made out, parked it in a shipping container meant to be delivered half the world away, and used it as a Bonus Stage prop in a game of Street Fighter 2. Or if you prefer, overtaken it.

Oh and the controls are a bit crap.


“But It’s Just 99 Cents” Rating: 3/5

Buy Ferrari GT: Evolution in the iTunes App Store.
Try Ferrari GT: Evolution Lite for free in the iTunes App Store.



iPhone app review – Facebook

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Name / Category: Facebook / Social Networking (v2.5)

What it costs: Free



What it is: A way to overshare while on the go.



Why you should get it: Last week, I was induced to join a cult called iPRAMS, or iPhone Radicals Against MobileSafari. Our group believes that it’s no coincidence MobileSafari’s initials are MS, which makes the iPhone browser part of the conspiracy that began in 1997 when THAT other company bought $150m of Apple shares. Under my newly sworn vows, I can no longer use the browser to access Facebook’s mobile website on my iPhone. Thank heavens for this app which does exactly what the website does!


Why you shouldn’t: iPRAMS recognizes the independence and diversity of all iPhone users, which includes those who might want to use MobileSafari and the Facebook website instead. So if you want to help the devil spread a thinly-veiled mobile version of Internet Explorer 8, go right ahead.



“But I’m Not A Member of iPRAMS” Rating: 2/5

Download Facebook for free on the iTunes App Store.

Below: Facebook iPhone app

Below: Facebook site in MobileSafari

iPhone app review – Triazzle

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Name / Category: Triazzle / Games
What it costs: $2.99 on sale ($3.99 regularly)


What it is: A jigsaw puzzle with LSD-inspired effects


Why you should buy it: If you like jigsaw puzzles, triangles, and getting high, there’s no earthly reason why Triazzle won’t become your favorite iPhone game. You start by choosing either a 9 or 16-piece puzzle at one of four difficulty levels. A new puzzle is randomly generated each time. I’m not sure what it all means, but dragging pieces into place and rotating them usually makes me feel nice all over. Sometimes, the pictures on the edge of my piece actually match another piece next to it! That’s when it starts to get weird.

When a match is made, the pictures of frogs, butterflies, bugs, and turtles come to life and start to move around the board. They actually come out of the freaking pictures and crawl around on your screen!! It’s not a problem unless you’re hungry. One time, I had a really good conversation with this purple toad who told me to chill out when I was getting a little edgy.

“Dude, this game has no time limit or scoring system,” he said. “Whoaaaaaaa!” I replied. “So the point is just to kick back, listen to the far-out music, and see the world for what it really is? A system of control that you can escape with psychotropic medication?” I made another match and a turtle nipped at my fingertip. “Right on,” said the frog.


Why you shouldn’t: I forgot.



Rating: 5 rainbow frogs out of 5

Buy Triazzle on the iTunes App Store.

From sangsara.net
From sangsara.net

iPhone app review – Notespark

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Name / Category: Notespark / Productivity
What it costs: $4.99


What it is: The last notepad you’ll ever buy, as long as the site stays up.


What it does: Ever seen a sci-fi movie where people on trains read newspapers that are actually moving screens, like e-paper, and they download content from some awesome future internet? Notespark is totally like that, but for notepads. It lets you write down as many things as you want, on sheets of virtual paper that then fly off to a server somewhere for safekeeping. Later that night, when you’re back home in front of your computer and need to remember what that other commuter looked like in great detail so you can write her a Missed Connections post on Craigslist, you’ve got it right there on www.notespark.com.


What it doesn’t: It’s like, nearly the end of the noughties, and is anyone like, still taking TEXT notes? Are you serious? Why not just record a voice memo of yourself describing her cute clothes and sweet ass and intoxicating body odor, right there on the train in front of her? Or maybe snap a photo under the pretext of looking something up on Google, then jerking the lens in her direction whilst looking deep in thought or absorbed in the financial planning ad above? If you do go down that route – and it is a dark and contemptible one, believe me – Evernote will do the job. Just don’t ask Evernote to handle a bunch of words, because it’s like, totally retarded.


“Head in the Cloud” Rating: 5/5

Buy Notespark in the iTunes App Store.
But first, you might want to sign up for a free online account and test-drive their functionality at notespark.com. It’s many times better than the $1.99 Simplenote‘s online half.


Update: Notespark now supports SSL encryption on all connections, eliminating its gravest shortcoming (one that drove many to Simplenote). I’m told an update to the iPhone app is pending, while the website already has it in place.


iPhone app review – Birdfeed

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Name / Category: Birdfeed / Social Networking
What it costs: $4.99


What it is: Intentionally crippled Artfully restrained Twitter client.


Who it’s for: A small subset of Twitterers unfortunate enough to suffer from chronic design savviness – that is to say, they’re unable to use any app whose interface was not first sketched out in a Moleskine and then neurotically tuned at the sub-pixel level with symmetrical grids. Very few options exist for these pitiful but gifted consumers, and before Birdfeed came along, it was pretty much between Tweetie and Twitterrific. You know you’re one of them when someone mentions Birdfeed designer Neven Mrgan’s name and your first thought isn’t “wait, how do you spell that?”


Who it isn’t for: You call yourself a power user, and you expect your Twitter client to do useful things like show you who your followers are, and give you one-click access to different views via a thoughtful toolbar along the bottom of the main timeline. Well, if you dare ask for such niceties in Birdfeed, clearly you don’t get it. If you have to question why there isn’t a choice of themes, or any sound effects, or why you can’t view someone’s avatar photo at full-screen size, know that you’re a goddamned philistine and should probably apply for a job at Microsoft. With their legal department.

By the way, if your current app is something as godawful-ugly as Twittelator Pro, or to a lesser extent, SimplyTweet (seriously, have a look), I don’t think the creators of Birdfeed even want your filthy, filthy money.


“Art-School Snob” Rating: 4/5

Buy Birdfeed in the iTunes App Store.

From sangsara.net
From sangsara.net
From sangsara.net
From sangsara.net

* This review has been slightly amended for clarity. Some felt it was hard to tell whether I was poking fun at myself (and my own anal-retentive requirements), or slamming Birdfeed for possibly choosing form over function. I don’t believe that it does. It’s a swell app that makes a few tough choices and mostly gets things right, and the 4/5 score reflects that.

iPhone app review – I Dig It

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Title/Category: I Dig It / Games
What it costs: $0.99 (on sale, regular price $2.99)


What it is: A cool game for cool cats who dig diggin’


Why you should buy it: How often do you come across a game that puts you in the shoes of a poor, down-on-his-luck farmer given just four hours to pay off a mountain of debt and save his family from being evicted? And when you do, does that game then give you a hybrid bulldozer/excavation drill/jetpack machine with which said farmer may propel himself into the dark, igneous depths of the Earth’s crust in search of diamonds and rare metals? What? Get outta here!


Why you shouldn’t: Maybe you think this is too casual for a hardcore gamer like you. It does, however, have RPG elements (machine upgrades), and by connecting to Facebook for the trumpeting of achievements, is a little bit like Xbox Live. Maybe you’re a geologist, or a geothermologist, or work in the construction industy? Fine, you’re not going to like the digging physics. I mean, you can excavate ALL the soil beneath your farm, leaving your house, shed, and gas station floating above nothingness. I’ll understand if a man of science like yourself can’t just SIT IDLY BY and watch this problematic concept generate fun. There, there.


“Indie Diamond in the Rough” Rating: 5 out of 5

Buy I Dig It in the iTunes App Store.
Try I Dig It Lite for free in the iTunes App Store.



iPhone app review – Tradewinds 2

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Name / Category: Tradewinds 2 / Games
What it costs: $2.99 on sale (normal price $4.99)


What it is: A port of an old PC game about visiting ports.


Why you should buy it: Because you have an addictive personality and some misguided, internet-era obsession with pirates and the Caribbean that the makers of this game could not possibly have foreseen, and therefore exploited, back in the 1990s. Thank god for the iPhone, then, as the current rights holders and publishers will finally be able to make good on their foolhardy investment from nearly two decades ago. If they’re really lucky, their children will start calling them again. From jail.


Why you shouldn’t: If you already played Chocolatier, a game that shamelessly ripped off the look and gameplay essence of this classic title, you might not want to revisit the old sail-around-the-world-making-money genre. Of course, Chocolatier did remove all the pirates, sea battles, and general fun found in Tradewinds 2 in order to include a realistic simulation of chocolate manufacturing – complete with catapults, giant ingredient icons, and indoor ferris wheels. Tradewinds 2 also feels a little more ‘adult’, that is to say people drown at sea by your scurvy hand.


Alright, fine, I’ll give a rating: 4/5

Buy Tradewinds 2 in the iTunes App Store.
Buy Chocolatier ($4.99) in the iTunes App Store.

——-

Below: Tradewinds 2 (touching any of the buildings shows their names)

From sangsara.net

Below: Chocolatier’s port view

From sangsara.net

Below: Chocolatier’s action puzzle replacement for sea battles.

From sangsara.net