App of the Week: Let’s Go Rocket

Let's Go Rocket LogoName: Let’s Go Rocket
Platform: iOS
Price: Free

I’m always on the look out for fun new games whether they are for my computer or my mobile device, so when I ran across Let’s Go Rocket I was quick to check it out. This free iOS game is very simple. You are given a rocket and you have to navigate it through a series of obstacles. You can vary the speed of your rocket by either touching it to speed up or letting go of it to slow it down. Sounds simple, right? However, there are a lot of additional details that make this game quite complicated. First, you have to ensure that your rocket moves fast enough that it doesn’t drift off of the bottom of your screen. If it does, you lose. Moreover, you can’t move side to side at all, so avoiding obstacles is not as easy as it might first seem. And, there are a lot of different types of obstacles that will keep you on your toes. Along the way, you also encounter gems to gather and aliens to pick up along the way. To add to the fun, you can choose which rocket you would like to use when you first start the game and there are options to buy or unlock other rockets as you go along.

Though Let’s Go Rocket is fairly simple, I have found it very enjoyable and almost frustratingly difficult. Even when I know exactly what my objective is, the app manages to make achieving it difficult with the sensitivity of the controls and the limited range of motion for the rocket. The app indicates your best result on the screen as a sort of “finish line” that you can cross, which is a nice way to keep track of your progress and motivate yourself to keep pushing further. The artwork in the app is very cute featuring not only an array of rockets, but also adorable aliens and great backgrounds that make the game very engaging.

Let's Go Rocket Screenshot

Let’s Go Rocket is a good combination of simple controls, fun artwork and difficult gameplay elements. This makes it a nice option for both those who like casual games and those who want a bit more difficulty in their games. Though the app does include additional features that can be purchased, it can be played without these add-ons, meaning that it is a nice free option to recommend to teens at your library.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: Halftone and Halftone 2

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 10.20.06 AM
Name: Halftone and Halftone 2
Platform: iOS only
Cost: $0.99 (Halftone) and $1.99 (Halftone 2) and in-app purchases for square page layouts

Ever wish you were a cartoonist? The Halftone apps let you realize that aspiration easily enough. Named after the printing process for rendering images through gradients of black and white or color, these apps is easy to use and produce amazing effects.

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You begin by importing a picture or using your camera. You can choose different caption styles, speech bubbles (which can be layered) as well as a series of classic “stamps” to simulate action. Fonts include a range of easily legible comic-based styles, with three sizes. The whole set-up means you can create something worthy of the funny pages in mere seconds.
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App of the Week: Lenka

Lenka LogoTitle: Lenka
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

Lenka is an interesting photography app for those who want to create artistic photos with their mobile devices. The unique feature of this app is that it only offers the ability to take black and white photos. While this might seem like a limitation when compared to other photography apps on the market, in the end, it is what makes the app stand out.

Created by a photographer, Lenka clearly focuses on allowing anyone to take a beautiful black and white photo. Though it offers only a limited number of options, they are nice features that make sense for the purpose of creating artistic photos. For example, rather than offering a standard flash option, Lenka only offers the option to turn your device’s light on or off so that you have continual illumination if you opt to use the light rather than a flash. The other options that you can customize for you photos are the exposure level, contrast, and ‘temperature’ or tint of the photo. Each of these options is controlled by a slider that allows you to exercise a fairly subtle level of control over these levels. While the app autofocuses photos for you, it also includes a manual focus slider for users who want to exert more control over the focus of their images. Finally, another feature that demonstrates the level of thought put into this app is the option to take photo either by tapping a circle on the screen as is so frequently the case for smartphone apps or by pressing the device’s sound buttons. While this may seem like a minor feature, it is a nice alternative that can make it easier and more comfortable to take high quality photos. Finished photos are added to your Gallery within the app and can be edited by cropping, resizing, or rotating them and then shared to Instagram or exported to email, SMS, or Twitter.

Lenka Screenshot

Lenka is a great option for photography fans. It offers limited but excellent options that will make even newbies feel like accomplished photographers. I think this is a great app to recommend to teens who are interested in photography and want to add an artistic look to their smartphone photos. Playing around with the settings is a lot of fun and can create impressive final results.

Have a suggestion for App of the Week? Let us know. And find more great Apps in the YALSA Blog’s App of the Week Archive.

App of the Week: Last Voyage

lastvoyageTitle: Last Voyage
Cost: $1.99; currently on sale for $0.99
Platform: iOS 7.0 or later

Last Voyage, by Semidome Inc., is an abstract puzzle game inspired by science fiction movies. It features hypnotic, minimalist graphics that often consist of simple geometric shapes; but also more cinematic scenes that pay homage to icons like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Black, white, and red are the dominant colors throughout, with occasional surprise appearances by blue and green. The pulsing, 40-minute original soundtrack adds immensely to the experience.

astral Told in five chapters that can be played individually, or moved through in order, it has been compared to other cinematic games such as Monument Valley and Lost Sounds. While Last Voyage doesn’t present a traditional narrative, the idea that you are embarking on a mind-bending journey through the depths of space is strong and ever-present. Each player is free to imagine their own reason for the journey, and their own interpretation for each chapter.

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App of the Week: PhotoMath

Photomath
Title: PhotoMath
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

From WordLens (now part of Google Translate) to Invisibility 3D, apps which use the camera as an input tool to harness machine intelligence always interest me. When one such app, PhotoMath hit the top of the download charts last year, there was some minor outcry among educators. Would students use the app to cheat? But while the PhotoMath app reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your phone and tablet in real time, it is far from the scourge of math teachers. Like Wolfram Alpha, it is a nice tool to have on hand when you can’t remember enough math to help students with their work.

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Within the app with an active camera, you can manipulate the size of the datawell to pick up the whole of more complicated questions, and the app solves advanced math problems including quadratic equations and inequalities. The app goes beyond solutions, anticipating the admonition to “show your work.” A red button opens the step-by-step process for doing just that. Continue reading

App of the Week: Fyuse

Fyuse LogoTitle: Fyuse
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

There are so many different photo and video apps available for mobile devices that it can to tough to keep up with them, but Fyuse is one that caught my interest pretty quickly. Fyuse is one of the recent apps to take advantage of the built-in cameras on iOS and Android devices to allow users to create media that is a cross between a 3D image and a video. The end result is a unique sort of image that is fun to create and a great way to record an event or location.

Once you have downloaded the app, you have the option to create an account or login via Facebook or Twitter. After you are logged into the app, you can check out content created by other users, either through the homepage, which offers featured images, or by searching through images created with the app using hashtags or usernames. Both of these are nice resources for seeing what you can do with the app and offer inspiration for new users. You can also connect with users through the app or by finding friends from your Facebook or Twitter accounts.

All of these features are just the background for the true purpose of the app, which is capturing the details of the world around you. Creating an image requires you to press and hold the recording button to reveal four arrows, up, down, left, and right. You must carefully select which direction you will move your device because you can only move in a single direction while creating an image. While still holding the button, you then move slowly around the object or view that you want to record. This step requires a bit of a delicate and steady hand to ensure that you get a smooth image, but it isn’t much more difficult than recording a clear video with your device. When you are done, you simply release the button and tap the image in the lower right hand corner of your screen to preview your Fyuse image.

This is a fun new option for creating dynamic images and I think it is one that will be enjoyable for all ages. It is definitely worth checking out. You can see it in action in the video below.

App of the Week: Kong

Title:  Kong
Cost:  Free
Platform:  iOS and Android

Kong iconWhen stories about Kong, a social media app devoted to selfie GIFs, started popping up in my news feed, I had some questions. Mostly of the “why?” and “really?” variety. I couldn’t see how a network of moving selfies could possibly be interesting or worthwhile. But I’m here to tell you I was wrong. This thing is super fun.

Set up an account and you’re introduced to the app through your home page, which starts as a grid of brightly colored boxes that are empty except for the top left square — a live feed from your front-facing camera (the only camera Kong allows you to use at this time.) The other boxes will eventually fill up with the feeds of friends you add through your phone’s contact lists or by following other users.

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App of the Week: Pursuit of Light

Title: Pursuit of Light
Cost: $1.99
Platform: iOS 7 or later

pursuit of light logoPursuit of Light is a game in which players have to move through a set of challenges in order to help the main character reach the light. The challenges get harder as the game play progresses and as higher levels are reached more trouble-shooting and critical thinking skills are required. The video below provides a brief overview of how the game works.


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App of the Week: Google Handwriting

Google handwriting

Title: Google Handwriting

Cost: Free

Platform: Android (4.0.3 or later)

Google Handwriting is an app that works as an alternate keyboard to give Android users access to data wells through your scribbles.

Apps like Penultimate and Evernote have long enable handwriting input for searching content, but Google is a more “full-featured” handwriting-to-digital-text tool.

The really exceptional thing about Google Handwriting is how exponentially more accurate the writing-to-text translations manage to be, however sketchy the writing, as demonstrated below:

Part of the reason for the prediction quality: Google’s optical text recognition has fine-tuned through Google Book project. Predictably, you can add your feedback on the accuracy of the handwriting translation to their database, but the default leaves this in-app reporting off. Continue reading

App of the Week: Adobe Slate

Title: Adobe Slate
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS 8 or later

adobe slate logoAdobe Slate is the latest in Adobe’s collection of free apps for iPads. (Adobe Voice was reviewed here in May of 2014.) With Slate it’s possible to create professional looking visual documents – stories, how-tos, research projects, and more. Creative Commons photos are available within the app or users can make use of photos that taken themselves. The 10 minute screencast below provides an overview of what Adobe Slate is all about and how it works.

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