Category Archives: Gadgets and apps

Ticket to Ride for iPad (review)

One of the great things about the iPad is that it lets you play your favourite board games without the hassle of setting up the board. I’ve already reviewed Carcassonne and Samurai, and last week a new board game appeared for the iPad and iPhone: Ticket to Ride, adapted by Days of Wonder.

Ticket to Ride is a popular board game that involves (you guessed it!) trains, tickets and stations. The goal of the game is to complete your tickets by linking two cities. Some tickets have a lot of points (longer routes) and some have few (short routes). You also make points by laying out tracks–the longer the better.

I played the actual board game once, not long before it came out on the iPad, and I had lots of fun. So I didn’t hesitate to pay the otherwise hefty 6.99$ for the iPad version.

Unfortunately, this is only for the original US map version. The game keeps the more interesting boards (Europe and Switzerland) in in-game buys (3.99$ and 1.99$). But then again, it’s worth paying out a little extra for the more interesting strategy of the Europe board.

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After you’ve learned the rules through the tutorial (easy and straightforward), you can play solo, online, multiplayer on wi-fi (requires a friend with the game as well) or pass-and-play. Online playing assigns you a random opponent, so you can’t choose to specifically play with your friends, which is a shame. Carcassonne does it well enough, and I wonder why Days of Wonder didn’t include this function.

The gameplay is quite intuitive and it’s easy to manipulate the cards and tracks on the map. I haven’t had any problems choosing the right track, even in tight spots in the Europe map. The game goes pretty smoothly, especially with AI opponents–I can finish one in about 15 to 20 minutes. It’s longer against human opponents, but they also take longer to think!

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The only thing that really bother me is the music, especially on the American map. But that’s easily solved by just turning the sound off.

If you’re in the mood for a simple yet always interesting game that mixes strategy and luck, Ticket to Ride is a great choice. The price is a bit high and you need to pay extra for more maps, but in the end it’ll come cheaper than the actual tabletop game.

Happy riding!

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Memorable Wines (app review)

So it’s Tech Thursday again and I want to tell you about a nifty little app I’ve had for a while–and never used until last week.IMG_0423

Enter Memorable Wines by Memorable Apps, a great app to remember the wines you taste. (They also have one for meals and one for beers.)

Since I’ve decided to review the wines I taste, I thought I would start using Memorable Wines to store pictures and information about them while waiting for next Wine Wednesday. MemWines lets you store all the basic info about your wine: color, winery, varietal, vintage and appellation. You can also add a photo, a voice memo and tasting notes. You can also tag it by occasion: at home, in a restaurant, in a winery, etc… There’s even a “Try it” tag for the wines you eventually want to try.

IMG_0424The design of the app is simple but elegant. It’s really easy to navigate, too. When you have a good number of wines stored, you can sort them by type (Red, white, rosé, sparkling and dessert) to see just those in one category. Since I only have 3 wines in there I haven’t had to use that function yet, but I assume it’s going to be handy when my collection grows. There’s also a search bar if you’re looking for a specific brand or winery.

I can see this app being useful as much for amateur wine tasters as professional ones. The voice memo is an especially useful function for wine tastings, where pencils and notepads aren’t really practical.

(And now, you have a sneak peek of the next two wines on my review list!)

Memorable Wines (and all other Memorable apps) goes for 1.99$ in the App Store. And they are working on a new one, Memorable Crafts…

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Mindbloom

This weekend I looked up this recent website called Mindbloom.

It’s an inspirational social network that has you perform certain tasks or actions to grow a “life tree”. As you read inspirational quotes and schedule (and tick off) tasks in different areas of your life, you can grow a strong, green tree that gives you seeds to spend on more images, videos and tasks.

Which part of your life would you like to nurture?

For iPhone users, there’s also an app called Bloom to give you timely reminders to drink water, call a friend or have a healthy snack.

Improving different aspects of your life is easier when you can see you life tree grow every time you do something. I certainly plan to use it to work on different sides of my life that I feel I need to work on.

Let me know if you get a tree, and let’s be friends on the site!

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Musical Games for iPad

I’m a sucker for musical games. I used to be a musician in high school (flute) but I don’t play anymore. However, I’m a fan of rhythm games like Elite Beat Agents for the Nintendo DS, Dance Dance Revolution (I have a version for the Wii), and Just Dance 2.

However, there are a lot of good musical games to play on the iPad, and I’ve been checking out some of them lately. Here are three favourites.

Tap Tap Radiation

I’ve already mentioned Tap Tap Revenge in an earlier post, but I haven’t talked much about its iPad iteration, Tap Tap Radiation. It’s the same principle–three bubbles to touch in rhythm with the music. However, the bubbles move around and the game takes full advantage of the iPad screen.

The only issue I have with Tap Tap Radiation is that you can’t get new songs just by playing, like with Tap Tap Revenge. You need to buy new songs if you want them. At least there’s one new free song every week with the iPhone game.

Pulse

Pulse is an absolutely gorgeous musical rhythm game that’s much more difficult than it seems. Notes appear around a pulsing circle that indicates the rhythm of the game; it’s like playing the notes directly on a musical score. Hitting a note at the right time will release a pulse of beautiful cat paw, leaves or stars… whatever the song calls for.

Even the easy-level songs are quite challenging, I find. The music is original and ambient. I wish I could play the same song at different difficult levels, but there are enough songs to keep you busy for a while. And since it’s called “Volume 1”, I suspect there’s a “Volume 2” in the works!

Fractal

Fractal isn’t exactly a music game, but music plays an interesting part in it. Fractal is a puzzle game in the “connect 4” genre. It’s actually quite interesting and sometimes even difficult. You can play several modes (campaign, arcade, etc) for a different type of game.

Basically, there’s an ambient techno score that slows down as you approach the end of your “pushes” (turns). I’ve only started playing it but it’s got me really addicted, whether I want to spend an hour pondering over a puzzle or mindless push during a 5-minute break.

Do you know a good musical game for iPad? I’m always open for suggestions!

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Aquaria for iPad (review)

Aquaria is an old-ish (2007) PC video game that was just transferred to the iPad and released this week. I got it on Friday, and I must say I am absolutely addicted now.

Aquaria is a traditional 2D action adventure game, the type that doesn’t get made much anymore. Set in a fantasy underwater land called, you guessed it, Aquaria, the game lets you control Naija, a fish/humanoid hybrid who’s about to lose her innocence.

Compelled by a desire to explore the world around her, Naija discovers a kingdom full of fallen races, evil gods and magic. Her power comes from something called “The Verse”, which lets her sing songs to bind objects or change her form. She visits old temples, lost cities and lush forests; she even ventures on dry land and in the deepest abyss of the ocean. Through her adventures she discovers who she is, learns about long-dead races and even makes new friends.

Screen capture from Bit Blot.

This game has great controls (very intuitive on the iPad) and using the Verse to change form is really quick and easy: just slide your finger across the notes to sing. Firing while in Energy form is as easy as tapping the screen with a second finger; the blasts find their own way to your enemies.

The music is absolutely wonderful and stays with you even long after you put it down; the graphics are complex and obviously done with a lot of care. It’s easy to get immersed in this beautiful world and forget everything else around you. There’s a lot of gameplay, but it’s not only about killing everything; in some areas you can just swim leisurely and enjoy the view and the music.

Although it’s easy enough for newbies to pick up, it’s also challenging enough for more experienced players. And at 4.99$, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t get it. I promise you, you will love it.

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The Pomodoro Technique

Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique?

An Italian graduate student came up with it while trying to stay focused on his dissertation throughout the day. He started using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (or pomodoro) to time 25 minutes of work and a 5-minute break.

I started using this technique last week with a nifty little app that’s also called Pomodoro. Snuck in a corner of your top toolbar, it counts down 25 minutes and then a 5-minute break.

It’s customizable too: you prefer a 20-10 schedule? Go ahead. The program also plans a 25-minute break for every 4 pomodoros.

For those of you who use Things or OmniFocus, Pomodoro can also link to your current tasks. And you can keep yourself accountable by automatically tweeting when you start and finish a pomodoro!

I’ve actually made a lot of progress in my productivity since I started using it. I do much more in a day with the little ticking clock than left to my own devices. I hope it keeps working because I do so much more these days!

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