Do you know what’s scarier than a thin, scrawny disheveled, pasty little girl whose face is hidden by her hair and comes at you like Boris Karloff in the original 1932 Universal release of The Mummy? It has to be the panic caused by the emergency closing of the Bay Bridge. There I was Wednesday night making pretty good time from the East Bay to San Francisco until I hit the MacArthur Maze. Suddenly, everything was black at the entrance of the span with cones and cops strewn all over the place. The only things illuminating the bridge itself were the lights outlining its frame and the brake lights of the last hundred cars trying to get over to The City. 2 hours later, as I finally reached the driveway to my house, all I could think about is the horrific experience of stop-and-go traffic with impatient, overaggressive drivers edging through lane after lane, who thought they were making progress. Surprisingly enough, from this experience, it seems the baton for jackass drivers, outside of delivery truck and taxi cab drivers, has passed from BMW to Toyota Prius owners. I guess it’s not too much of a stretch after all: the majority of both groups are self-righteous, condescending buttheads anyway. Yet, I survived it all and was able to tell my tale here because honestly, I was able to play Bendroid’s Mystique. Chapter 1: Foetus for a good portion of my commute. A 1st person horror-survival game reminiscent of Silent Hill, this nightmarishly atmospheric and moody game focuses on you waking up in a bathroom (sound familiar?) and not knowing why or how you got there. Blood stained walls lead you to escaping out into other areas to put the pieces of the puzzle together. But you have to be careful as a sinister environment can only lead to potentially disasterous conclusions. Plus, there is a thin, scrawny disheveled, pasty little girl whose face is hidden by her hair and comes at you like The Mummy. But unlike me, you won’t have the side effects of a massive traffic jam to hide behind. Highly recommended. Play the sequel for more. Price: Free.
Growing up in the U.S., you hear about mahjong one of three ways: your Jewish friends, your Chinese friends, or, barring that you are from either of those two groups yourself, your “other” Asian family. While I do fit this last category, I must tell you that everytime I have seen other people play mahjong, the rules are different or has some mind-numbing variations. Yet, all in all, the game is usually played like gin rummy where you hope to get sets of three of a kind or three consecutive numbers in the same suit by drawing, discarding, and/or saving your opponents’ discards. It’s definitely a fun and exciting game requiring both a hint of luck and some skills, which you can improve over time. However, looking for a similar translation in videos games has been difficult as most mahjong games are puzzle/solitaire games, which are not at all the familiar game I know and love since I was a kid. Enter the iPhone: Taiwan-based Joymaster Corp.’s Mahjong Fairyland was released earlier this year, but with marked improvements in their updates as a result of listening to their userbase, the game is now to a point where anyone can learn how to play it in mere minutes. With a fairy tale theme with cute characters, play the classic 16-tile game, which is popular in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, and parts of Southeast Asia. Excellent graphics, smooth touch and swipe controls, and some light customization will keep any level of player engaged. Price: $1.99.
Growing up, the younger of my two older sisters had a big influence on me. As we were only 8 years apart, we had our ups and downs fighting as siblings do, especially since she was the baby of the family until I came along. In between getting on each other’s nerves, we did have our peaceful moments, which strangely enough came to us in the most tense of times: watching scary movies. While my sis would watch any scary movie imaginable, I believed she was quite the connoisseur knowing the difference between camp versus a real thrill fest. After all, we had Bob Wilkins (R.I.P.) and John Stanley to thank for Creature Features on KTVU as we were growing up. So, we were battle hardened so to speak as the 80′s came and went producing some of the finest (Poltergeist and The Thing) and worst (Silver Bullet anyone?) flicks in the genre. Yet, through it all, we both knew the best way to scare someone is by telling them a scary story in the dark, especially at night, with just a flashlight or a candle providing the only source of light. With Halloween fast approaching, I’m reminded of my sister once again through an application like Ghost Stories From Around The World by Joe Kwon, Inc., which takes user submissions of supposedly true accounts and adds them to an easy to navigate archive. It’s pretty ingenious really: new content provided by users just like you and me that is used to populate an entire paid application. But the real winners here are the users themselves, who now have a creative outlet to make good scary stories just in time for Halloween. A well-made app with the promise of new content daily, I wish my sister was alive to enjoy it with me… But I’m sure she already has in spirit. Rest in peace, sis! Price: $1.99.
Are you looking to spice up your library of word games? Yes, I said ‘WORD GAMES!’ Millions of people cannot be wrong, right? If I hazard to guess, there are probably more people playing crossword puzzles, word search, Jumble-type, and Scrabble-like games around the world than World of Warcraft and any combination of the current Top 10 video games regardless of platform… Is that sweat on my brow? I must be feeling the heat of Tetris, but I still stand my ground. Do I have evidence? C’mon, I run a self-funded indie website with friends. Yet, deep down inside, you know I speak the truth. So let me throw some more knowledge at you: Yes, you can spice up your word game library with this little gem from Phonagle, outWord. In this game, your location determines how close or far you are from letters that you can use to create words. Play against other users in your vicinity who can also pick up desired tiles. So you must be quick when obtaining desirable letters as you never know who lurks. On top of that, using red letters and creating long words helps you score big to outdistance your previous high scores or those of others. Overall, a fun original game born out of an excellent concept and well executed. Highly recommended. Price: Free.
Whether it’s eating pan fried milkfish at home, sauteed white fish in Choo Chee Curry at Zabb Cuisine (Thai), or even grilled salmon at Riva’s Fish House, my family loves to eat fish. Obviously, in this day and age, we consume fish in moderation because of recent toxicology reports where mercury levels in fish have risen almost exponentially. Plus, we’re conscientious on what kind of fish we do eat because of overfishing and how it has harmed the environment, which has led us to buy products like albacore tuna because of it’s sustainable fisheries. Now, I wouldn’t call myself a conservationist or an environmentalist, but considering we do love eating fish, we just want to make sure they’re still around in the future. A good way to have an impact is using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Guide, which is an application that helps you make sustainable seafood choices at your favorite restaurants or local market. Using it’s Seafood Watch Program information, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s trusted recommendations are provided to you in a quick and easy regional guide outlining the best seafood in each area of the country. Updated regularly, a huge plus for sushi lovers is the Sushi Guide, which not only gives you the best choices of seafood to eat, but also lists fish by Japanese name along with it’s common name. Highly recommended. Price: Free.
It’s funny to see old 80′s arcade games show up on the iPhone. Regardless if they are the originals, copycats, or updated versions, I like them for the most part, even if only for the effort alone. It shows me that people still remember the classics, even those which were a bit obscure, and can rethink its implementation with a new platform, especially in terms of controls. Well, while not obscure from my point of view, since I sunk so many quarters into it as a kid, Lunar Lander by Atari was an excellent game, which I always thought would translate well for any platform. However, in these modern times of 3D engines, frame rate, and guns, as evidenced by the comments from bonehead gamers in the App Store, not everyone pays respect to the classics. Nor the idea of paying for iPhone games for that matter. Yet, if you’re like me, I highly recommend paying for J-Squared Software’s Lunar Module 3D, which does pay homage and more to it’s inspiration. In this updated version, the objective remains the same: you control a lunar module as it free falls to the moon’s surface, but you need to control the direction and speed of its descent by strategically using thrusters and angles. Completely in 3D using actual photos of the moon, play 9 missions in 5 authentic lunar environments. The coolest part: the lunar lander seemingly is inspired by the Apollo series of lunar modules and contains real mission audio. Very entertaining, a must-have for the retro gamer in all of us. Price: 99¢.
In honor of the NBA season starting in a couple of weeks, I’m gonna take a short break from Games and talk about Great Big Apps’ free informational Lifestyle app, Nice Kicks, which gives readers updates on sneaker previews, reviews, and stories from avid fans. Pulling from their website, not only to get info on your fave kicks, but also new releases with hands-on details, which may entice you to go on your own adventure in search of high quality and/or limited availability product. Furthermore, see photos of soon-to-be-released shoes as well as specific details as they become available. But most entertaining are the stories you’ll read of people just like us and their experiences looking for specific kicks. Covering most of the major brands, such as Air Jordan, Nike, adidas, New Balance, Puma, Converse (now owned by Nike), Reebok, Supra and Vans, Nice Kicks is an exhaustive resource for consumer information, which should help you make a more conscientious purchase in the future, especially given the economy and the likelihood that manufacturers are tighening up their lineups and production runs. While it is a bit heavy on the Nike side of things, the app is nevertheless presented with crisp, clean graphics and content, all for free. Overall, very handy and informative. Price: Free.
When I saw Meridian’s Against The Fire!, I was reminded of the first video game that I ever saw, which featured fire fighting as a theme. Granted, it was set in the future and the cast of characters were wearing body armor (a la Evangelion), but there is no denying that SEGA’s Burning Rangers, which was one of the last games released for the SEGA Saturn, made fire fighting more interesting than just a retelling of the movie, Backdraft. In comparison, this visually sharp top-down iPhone action game also accomplishes this feat by personifying the fires as little monsters creating havoc in your hometown of Waterfront. You play as a novice fightfighter, Andrew, who has zero experience, and therefore, is left behind by his team as these fire monsters run amok throughout the city. Suddenly, the alarm rings and there is a dispatch to rescue people at a nearby hotel. With only your wits in hand besides a hose, try to rescue as many people as possible, while extinguishing each and every enemy in sight. Overall, with approximately 50 levels to play, a variety of enemies, upgrade items, great controls, and awesome visuals, Against The Fire! is alot of gameplay for every level of gamer for the price. Recommended. Price: 99¢.
I’d apologize if it wasn’t for the fact that I couldn’t really be sincere about it. Yes, I’ve been away from the site working hard at my day job, but that wasn’t the reason. The absolute truth? Okay, well, honestly, it’s football season. There, I said it. I’ve been watching college and pro football every opportunity I get and if you add the end of the regular baseball season, preseason NBA hoops, and the start of the NHL season, you’ll understand why I’ve been away for quite awhile. Yet, I’ve re-committed myself, especially after seeing a slew of great games being released, such as blastination by bithoard games. Start off with a simple premise: collect all objects in each level using a ball, which you must direct by creating temporary barriers with swipes of your finger. Basically, the barriers act a bit like stationary paddles and platforms which you use to bounce the ball off of at angles to get all objects. The faster you are, the more points you get as well as the treat of a frenetic pace, which gets your heart pumping. Great graphics, especially the visual effects, just adds to a player’s drive to play even more. An exceptional game through and through for such a low price. Price: 99¢.