iPhone App Reviews

Composed on the 14th of April in the year 2011, at 1:45 PM. It was Thursday.

LUX Touch

A simple adaptation of Risk for the iPhone, this game is a pertinent lesson in empty addictions. The predictability of the AI opponents leads to a practical strategy only slightly more complicated than Tic Tac Toe, and can almost be reduced to muscle memory. The initial struggle for territory and adequate border defense rapidly becomes a tedious exercise in rolling over weakened, thoughtless enemies with a single, unstoppable army that often outnumbers the combined forces of every other player. The victory is unsatisfying and brief, an instant pop of “You won!” with a play again button beneath it and an advertisement for the full version of the game (I bought it. It’s no better).

Playing this game is more meditative than challenging. The greatest pleasures are toying with doomed opponents, especially if you can surround two or three of them and manipulate their internal battles, since they will never attack your vastly superior forces, and you can tease apart their algorithms as they struggle to be the last victims of your inevitable global genocide. It’s almost more interesting to kill yourself quickly and watch the remaining four armies fight amongst themselves, though this usually turns into an endless stalemate off the coast of Australia.

My usual two week attention span has somehow been bested by the simple pleasure of near certain victory over mindless armies. I suspect it’s an outlet of my brain that was insufficiently sated by killing ants in my childhood.

Grade: C

God Finger

Make little people. Build them little houses. Hit them with lightning bolts and earthquakes.

The lesson of this game is that omnipotence is boring, and it’s no wonder God, in his infinite power, eventually took to turning people into salt.

Grade: D

MySpace

A curious relic of a bygone era, wherein a man name Tom made several million friends, then sold Rupert Murdoch a half a billion dollar jalopy. The first mega hit of the social world limps along even unto the iAge, as empty of dignity and devoid of content as it was when it began. MySpace, in its heyday, was the internet’s awakening into true meta consciousness, all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Grade: D-

IMDB

It turns out there are two things I never knew I needed to know about actors, but it has become absolutely vital at all times to know the age and height of the bodies attached to the famous faces in my Netflix queue.

Is this person taller than me? Why do all those people look short or average next to Tom Cruise? Is David Bowie still aging well? How does this actress feel about playing the older and wiser teacher opposite students who are older than her in real life?

This is one of the most heavily used apps I own.

Grade: B

Maps

After Messages, this is the most used app in my phone. The other day someone wrote me an email and gave me his phone number in case I got lost. I blinked. Lost? Why would I buy Lost when I can watch it online?

Then it dawned on me. He must not have an iPhone.

$300 of the initial $600 I spent on the original iPhone was spent so I could stop getting lost in Brooklyn and the West Village. I don’t remember what it’s like to be lost, and it certainly never happens. Once, I would hit google maps, print out the location and directions, and follow the paper, feeling like a savvy and competent information age monkey. Now my phone knows which way I’m facing and gives me block by block instructions on how to get where I’m going.

I still enjoy random wandering, but I don’t get lost. For anyone who thinks this is an end to one of the last adventures left to our wired up modern lives, I say, “You haven’t had any adventures.” Adventures suck. People actually having adventures are generally just cold, hungry, and want to go to sleep. If they don’t, they’re crazy or not really having an adventure. I have no problem not being lost, and I have no problem going off the beaten trail if I know how to get back.

No, the real danger is that nobody will be be able to fold roadmaps in the future. But nobody knows how to do that anyway.

Grade: A

Phone

This cute little application replicates the experience of using a phone in the days before texting. For me, this is primarily used for ordering other people’s food and calling Time Warner when my cable goes out.

Text messaging, fortunately, has made vocal communication largely obsolete, and with it, all the awkward etiquette that goes with trying to communicate to another human being without being able to see their body language. Small talk, and indeed grammar and comprehensibility, are legacy tools of an inefficient culture, where it took two or three minutes to get a piece of information as simple as “what time are we going to the movies?”

Now small talk is just a waste of characters, and fake empathy can be achieved with a simple :(

Despite its antiquated utility, this app is essential as a place for creditors to not have their calls returned.

Grade: C+

Weather

The actual experience of temperature has become secondary to knowing what it is in the scale of your choice. While sitting in the sun lamenting the heat or hiding in a doorway from the wind, it’s neither properly too hot until it’s indisputably 101 degrees fahrenheit nor properly too cold unless the wind chill is 10 below.

Curiously, the relative nature of the experiences carries over into the interpretation of the numbers. How cold or hot you are depends on how cold or hot you’ve been in the last hour, the day so far, the current month, and the last five years. Feeling 50 degrees on your skin is blessed warmth in March, and a shivering blight in September, and actually seeing the number 50 on my phone creates similar feelings of good and evil in my mind during those seasons.

I recommend converting to Celsius, which makes temperatures more sensible even if you’re not used to it. 0 is a good turnover point for wardrobes, and small numeric changes in degrees can actually be felt when you step outside, so there’s a practical difference between 15 and 20, which in fahrenheit just get lumped under “why the fuck do I live here?”

Grade: B

Date Check

Want to see something creepy? Download this app and put in your parents’ phone number. Then never piss anybody off again.

This application has only worked once for me with any thoroughness, but that was enough to make me delete it. I put in the phone number for a girl I’d dated briefly and it came up with her entire nuclear family, her home address, her parents’ address, and her family’s estimated income and net worth. This information is out there, of course, but you should really have to be more dedicated to finding it than I was when I was sitting in a bathroom after getting bored of Sudoko.

Zombie Highway

As LUX Touch uncovers the existential emptiness of victory, so Zombie Highway presents the thrill of assured defeat. You drive down a desolate highway, populated only by abandoned vehicles and brain eating hitchhikers. You should count yourself lucky to survive long enough to run out of ammo, at which point you are limited to avoiding the zombies or scraping them off the side of your car by side swiping the wrecks on the road. Your best is not enough. You will die. And you won’t have gotten far.

There is no back story. The car is an opaque vessel of motion, its contents a faceless driver and perhaps others. It begs the player to ask, where did these misbegotten travelers come from? Where are they going? But there are no answers. The story is only a brief blossoming of awareness, coming to understand that we are in a car, the way is dangerous, and we will soon transcend this mortal coil in the form of human sushi, never knowing where we came from, why we were here, or where we were going.

Yet, as you view your armaments, one thing becomes clear.

Nobody with an AK-47, a Glock 9mm , and a sawed off shotgun is going gently into that good night.

I love this game.

Also, if you’re familiar with Gordon Lightfoot, “Carefree Highway” will forever become “Zombie Highway” running through your head in a warm baritone.

Grade: A+

Maine lawn ornament.

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.66! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.
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