Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Apps I Enjoy for Apple and Android: Strategy Games

I get asked a lot from Geek Squad customers and others what some good apps are to get once you have a tablet or smartphone. When a lot of these people say "good apps" they mean "free apps." There are a lot of obvious candidates for amazing free apps like: Netflix (if you have a subscription), YouTube, Pandora, Kindle, etc. Instead of listing free apps, I'd like to give a list of some of my favorite paid apps. This post will feature strategy games that I picked up on sale that are great for wasting hours of your life in one sitting.

1. Kingdom Rush

Kingdom Rush is a tower defense game. Enemies (including goblins, trolls, spiders, the undead, etc.) are trying to make it to an end point and steal one or several of your twenty hearts (life.) Along their path, you can place various towers to slow them down and eventually kill them. Towers include a barracks (with three soldiers), archers, mages, and bombers. With each kill, you get an amount of gold that allows you to upgrade the towers. There's too many angles and aspects to explain it all here, so hopefully my basic information gets you a feel for the game. Here's some screenshots from their official website:

If you manage to beat a level without losing any hearts, it gives you a three star rating and then unlocks two additional modes to play the level over: Heroic and Iron Challenge. Heroic usually gives your towers a level cap and sends six super waves instead of twenty smaller ones and the Iron Challenge usually locks one or two tower types from even being built. Both Heroic and Iron Challenge give you one heart so you can't even let a single enemy through. Great for general-minded strategists (while I've beaten all the levels on normal, I'm still making my way through the Heroic and Iron Challenge modes.)

Pricing on this has ranged from free (only for a day or two) to $2.99. I picked it up for my iPad when it cracked the top 10 paid apps and was on sale for $0.99. I stopped playing after I beat the initial set of levels (including the Heroic and Iron Challenges) but then started playing again recently when an update brought some new levels and possible achievements. It's definitely worth a few bucks, as I've played this game for hours and never found it boring. I didn't find a legitimate version for Android (though it is available through third party app systems), but check it out in the Apple App Store:

iPad Version
iPhone Version

2. The Room

The Room is a straight-up puzzle game. You're locked in a room with a strange box. You have to solve small puzzles on the box in order to move in to the next level of the box. This game made me nostalgic since I grew up with puzzle-solving games like this (it's in the same vein as Myst, The 7th Guest, Connections, and The Last Express, though it's much shorter.) For most, it won't take more than a few hours to solve the entire puzzle box and make it to the center. Try to make it through without cheating; it's a lot more fun that way. It'll take longer to solve without Google but you'll feel better about yourself afterwards (I was tempted to cheat at a couple of points, but I eventually got through on my own.) Here's the YouTube trailer:

Since its release in September of 2012, The Room has sold more than one million copies. I don't think I got this when it was on sale, meaning I paid the full $1.99, but it was worth it. This is another one with no legitimate Android version yet, but you can check it out in the Apple App Store:

iPad Version
iPhone pocket Version

3. Summoner

Since I've given you two Apple only games, I figured I'd give you one that's only for Android. Summoner is an amazing strategy-based game that, if I were to break it down to its simplest form, is like Magic: The Gathering on a chess board. I'll confess at this point that the programmer behind Summoner is my brother, but if I thought his game was shit... I would have told him (obviously in the nicest way possible) and I wouldn't be recommending it here. It's not. I promise.

You begin by picking two elements and then gaining energy from those two elements each turn. You can use the energy to summon monsters from that element (or save up and summon monsters that require energy from BOTH elements.) Once you have monsters summoned, you use them to attack your opponent's monsters and then their life. There's a campaign mode with pre-set challenges or you can play against the computer. There's both a free and a paid version and I have the paid version on my Android smartphone. It got me hooked to the point that I wanted the full content. While I haven't played it in a while, it's a fun game that I sometimes pull up on my phone when I'm waiting for installations or downloads to finish and it's a good way to kill time. Here's some screenshots from Summoner:

If you think Summoner may be your type of game but you want to try it out first, download the free version. I'll give links to both versions below.

Summoner Free Version
Summoner Full Version

4. Plague Inc.

Here's an app you can get with either Apple or Android. Plague Inc. is a strategy-based game where you create a virus and then use it to kill the world. You choose what type of virus and then the country where it starts. It spreads and you indirectly guide and evolve it using DNA points that you earn over time. You can evolve symptoms, its lethality, its infectiousness, etc. Scientists will combat you by developing a cure. The more deadly your virus becomes, the harder they will work to end it. You complete each virus type and level by killing the billions of people alive in the world today. Here's the YouTube trailer:

I grabbed a copy of Plague Inc. when it started topping the charts of the Apple App Store at $0.99. It's still only $0.99 and definitely worth it. Links to different versions are below:

Android Version
iPad Version
iPhone Version

5. Plants vs. Zombies

My final recommended app for this post is Plants vs. Zombies and it's available for both Apple and Android devices. Plants vs. Zombies is a lot like Kingdom Rush in that you will have various types of zombies trying to make their way to the house across your yard and you act as... the gardener I guess?... and plant flowers and other plants that have seed-based attacks to stop them. You get energy to create plants by harnessing the sunlight (or there are plants you can create that spit out sunlight as well.) There are several different types of zombies that will attack. I got this on sale when it was a dollar or two off from the normal purchase price and, while it isn't my favorite app / game, it is still worth getting a copy if you haven't already. Here's some screenshots:

Plants vs. Zombies has had a few updates since I last played it so I might be looking into what they've added soon. For a comical strategy game, it's pretty solid. Links to the different versions are below:

Android Version
iPad Version
iPhone Version

So there you have it. 5 strategy-based games that I openly recommend to everyone who enjoys wasting hours of their lives. If you have anything to say about any of the above games, feel free to leave a comment below. I also wanted to add that everything stated above is my personal opinion and I don't get anything for recommending these apps. No one gives me a cut, so you can trust that I'm being honest here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Photo-Based Tours

I want to start by saying thanks to everyone who has been purchasing my e-books and audio books. The audio books mostly sell through iTunes so I'm guessing most of my customers won't see this... but I felt like saying it anyways. I've already sold over 2/3 of what I sold last year... and it's only March. So thanks everyone.

I also have three new books out that I haven't been promoting over all of my social media (meaning I mostly left Facebook and Twitter out of it.) The three include my collection of photos from traveling the Philippines, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Hawaii. The Hawaii photo tour is FREE today and tomorrow (3/15/13 - 3/16/13) if you want to click the link below and grab a copy. The two Traveling Asia photo-based tours are $2.99 each.

Traveling the U.S.: Hawaii This photo-based tour of Hawaii includes over 60 pictures from the following sites: Sea Life Park (Oahu), USS Arizona Memorial (Pearl Harbor), Hanauma Bay (Oahu), the Polynesian Cultural Center (Laie), and a nature hike (Oahu.)

Traveling Asia: Tokyo, Taipei, and Hong Kong This photo-based tour of Tokyo, Taipei, and Hong Kong includes over 90 pictures from several tourist sites and historic locations. A brief history or small amount of information is given before each group of pictures. Photos are included of the following sites: Tokyo: Temple of the 47 Ronin, both Tokyo towers, a Shinto temple, a Buddhist temple, shots from around Tokyo Hong Kong: the Men Mo temple, the fishing village, major corporate buildings, shots from around Hong Kong Taipei: Taipei 101 (2nd tallest building in the world), shots of Taipei while at one of the Taipei night markets

Traveling Asia: The Philippines This photo based tour of the Philippines includes a mini-guide to animals, food, shopping, and scenic shots from around the Philippines and tourist locations (such as the Banaue rice terraces.) This mini-guide won't cover Manila and mainly focuses on the north (Baguio, La Union, and Pangasinan.) I've included a few Tagalog words (with their English equivalents) and over 75 photos with brief descriptions.

For those who asked, yes, I'm still working on Minor Demons. I haven't done a whole lot with it lately, but I plan on finishing it some time this year. The preliminary drafts of the cover look ridiculously awesome. Making the photo-based tours has distracted me this month and finishing the final audio checks for my audio books took up a decent amount of time in February. Thanks everyone and I hope you're having a great 2013.