App Reviews

Duck Hunt

A right fowl up

The carnivores amongst us may appreciate a plucked duck crisping up nicely under the influence of some fruity marinade, but unless you’re a member of the shootin’ and huntin’ fraternity it can be difficult to work up an appetite to blow them out of the sky. Unless, of course, we’re talking angry zombie ducks – the kind of avian scum that have ruined many a gentle summer evening around the village pond.

So with the little flying bastards in our cross-hairs we set out on a journey to recreate this modern version of the game from our childhood. In this scenario, the furious fowl are trying to escape from Dark Forest and you tap the screens to kill them. If they escape you lose a life, while a high kill rate gets it back. Bullets can be either manually reloaded or will reload automatically after a three second delay.

We were glad to say that the graphics and gameplay pass muster comfortably and using our thumbs instead of an NES gun didn’t spoil our destructive fun. As this is not an official adaptation, we don’t know how long it’s going to be there, so we’d advise you to download now.

At last, another opportunity to give those zombie ducks their comeuppance. Take it now before it’s withdrawn

Jamie Oliver’s 20-minute meals

Lovely, jubbly, grubbly

For all the cheeky chappy patter and granny-kissing charm, Jamie Oliver has managed to avoid nauseating the nation as much as he might. Perhaps it’s because he genuinely seems to care and his televisual adventures frequently put him at odds with fat morons of all ages who seem incapable of grasping his geezer guidance to not poison their own children with pies constructed purely of lard and two-headed chickens.

So we find ourselves quite generously disposed to his latest culinary adventure in the form of the Jamie Oliver 20-Minute Meals app.

It’s fairly intuitive to follow the recipes, which you can scroll through with the flick of the finger you’re not dipping in the marinade. It might not sound as snappy but ‘Jamie Oliver’s 30-40 minute meals provided you remembered to put the rice on’ might have been a more accurate title, but the quality, if not the timing, was vaguely on course.

The price is as cheeky as the man that inspired it but the results were good, however long they really took to make

Gun Bros

The odd-sounding name refers to its titular armed brothers rather than a delayed, if reasonable, response to take out the 80’s pop idols Bros. Once that’s understood, you’ll find it a straightforward action game which requires its two players to use dual virtual joysticks to do no more than shoot as many of their opponents as possible without a princess to rescue in sight. So frantic large-scale butchery rather than philosophical contemplation is the theme of this game for which you are supplied with an infinity of bullets matched only by the number of enemies willing to offer themselves as victims. The backdrop offers variety in the form of the ten planets on which the action takes place.  It froze several times, and the graphics threw up some bugs.

In true mercenary style, you gain more coins the more bad guys you vaporise, and coins only mean one thing in such a world: bigger better weapons. This is where the catch lies. Life being cheap here, the financial return is somewhat meagre. And there’s the rub. Real human money is required to upgrade your cache of arms so whether this becomes a premium game depends on your ability to control your virtual blood lust.  

The Moron Test

Now here’s a game to play in the privacy of your own home – at least until you’ve gained some mastery of it. Similarly, the sense of schadenfreude engendered by your nearest and dearest being classified as a moron will make it one you’ll be happy to pass around the pub or office.

It claims, rather unconvincingly, to draw upon ‘scientifically proven’ tests, but one way or another you’ll have your work cut out to rapidly attain genius status. But within the context of this app’s world, it offers more opportunity to upgrade your official brainpower from village idiot to coruscating intellect than the real world. The tasks mainly involve visual gags, plays on words, and some arithmetic, and will undoubtedly stretch parts of your IQ that might otherwise remain untested by your daily routine.

To be crowned a genius, you have to negotiate four rounds – a process that is somewhat speedier than anything you are likely to have achieved in your early scholastic career. While the 60p it costs may not put you off – the space it occupies might at a fairly greedy 9.2MB. Once, therefore, you’ve earned your intellectual stripes, you may use them to jettison the app and make room for something else more useful. Unless, of course, you really are a moron.

I Journal

Processing words into joy

This is an app with lofty ambitions. It’s based on the principles of the book ‘The Happiness Advantage’ which advocates – to précis and paraphrase – that writing stuff down makes life better. For those over 30, it’s a diary (with templates to help you get going), or to those under, a blog. 

By first creating a free account with, you allow syncing and the ability to view and edit your work on the web as well as Android devices. From here you can merge pictures and sound with your text. Gaining your happiness advantage over the other struggling saps out there can be done by drawing attention to certain aspects of your life: such as Gratitude, Exercise, Meditation and Kindness allowing yourself to move from task-based activities to those that are ‘meaning-based’. For those less inclined to hide their lights under bushels, you can share you new found happiness with friends and rivals using email, Facebook, or Twitter.

The journal that drags the diary from beneath the floorboards and onto your social network!  

Blast Monkeys

Monkeys, bananas, cannons. Enough said

Animal lovers and fans of artillery will delight in the opportunity to combine the two in the pursuit of the simian Holy Grail – a ripe bunch of bananas. And there are more of you out there than you might think – two million downloads and counting suggests that the public’s appetite for this sort of entertainment goes way beyond firing angry birds at obnoxious pigs.

The name given to the titular monkey by his digital handlers is Moki and we are told his only real concern in life is getting full on no more or less than three reasonably ripe bananas. Whether, for instance, he reads Nietzsche or not, remains unknown, but certainly he appears to be happy enough existentially despite the limited diet and unusual feeding method. 

The willing monkey guineapig is fired banana-wards from a cannon with a bunch earned for each completed level. The surrealism is advanced by passing bubbles, which allow your monkey’s head to float about for no particular reason. Levels increase sharply in difficulty after the first few stages as new obstacles appear around you.

Advertising on the game is relatively unobtrusive and contributes to it costing you nothing. Thirty new levels have been added and loading times cut although it takes a bit longer the first time you use it.

Who needs angry birds when you have ordnance-friendly monkeys to feed?

Fruit Slice

Fruit for knife nuts

You can have a lot of fun with a fruit. This premise has held true since time immemorial and is consolidated here with this free fruit-bashing extravaganza that is clearly based on the popular Fruit Ninja.

The main difference here is that samurai have replaced the ninjas, whom aficionados of eastern fighting folk will tell you are an altogether more honorable class of warrior. Like the Gestapo, they looked good in their fancy uniforms, and possibly practiced their sword skills by reducing random exotic foodstuffs to pulp. Or not. It’s hardly our job to trace the game’s historical roots, nor its characters’ motivation.

What we do know is that your fruit slices are made with a flourish of your finger across the screen if you are to avoid the angry bombs. Not sure why they are angry but then again a ‘good-natured’ bomb might consider itself in the wrong job. Anyway, more fruit slices, more points, but no prizes; if you want it explained pithily.

The game modes add a little variety. With Pipeline, fruits must be chopped up in a particular order, while One shot requires you to take out whole bunches with, that’s right, just one shot.
If you’re a natural chopper, you’ll love this slice ‘em up, be they bound for cyber chutneys, fruit salads or breakfast cereals.


Laser quest

Refraction is not a simple game for simpletons so if you’re not part of its target market, look away now. Yes, I’m talking to you! Okay, you can stay for a bit, but don’t interrupt.

For not only does Refraction require you to exercise a little lateral thinking, but it’s not a facsimile of some game that’s created legions of digital addicts across the phone-bearing world.

Prisms and mirrors are its tools and the Euclidian science of geometry its inspiration so it’s a far squawk from the dubious anthropomorphic delights of angst-ridden avians and peevish pigs. (And no, prism is not where you’re sent when you’ve been bad.)

With these thoughtful tools, you hit balls by manipulating lasers, and these are the kind of lasers that aren’t easily fooled. Even the basic levels are relatively complex and the controls are not that easy to get the hang of either. Multiple solutions are offered for each of its 120 brain teasing levels with decent graphics and controls to keep you honest.

If you’re just not getting enough change from a pound, you can always plump for the free lite version, which still offers you 20 relatively heavy levels and a fair demand on your capacity for logical thinking.

Beware, genuine logical thought required. No pixellated animals were harmed in its making or playing

NHS Direct

Not an app for the truly sick  

This app provides an uncannily accurate reflection of the bricks and mortar service bequeathed to the blitzed British population as part of the post-war settlement.

It’s a marvelous idea but it doesn’t always offer the best service and sometimes you have to wait… and wait. For starters, it took a while to become available, but now that it’s here, it’s disappointing that its most readily given advice is to ring NHS Direct.  So those without this app will be that much higher up the queue to get through on the phone.

Anyway, forgetting the body for the moment, the process won’t tax your mind too much. Under Nature of Problem you select your illness of choice, which is followed by several pages of information about the NHS Direct, the condition of the patient, and how to go about dialing for the emergency services. All possibly useful when you have time on your hands, but perhaps less so when your swollen appendix has inflated with pus and is ready to blow.

As it turned out, our mystery illness was re-directed to the NHS call-back service so we’ll assume that gangrenous swelling on your old man isn’t a priority for treatment. Free medical care ain’t what it used to be.

Much like its inspiration, it’s a great idea that lacks the support to make it work properly.

TechRadar Magazine 2007