iPieta [App o the Mornin’]

iPieta (iOS/Android: $3) is  huge app, both in scope and size. At 181 MB, it demands a hefty chunk of real-estate. (By comparison, Cut the Rope only takes up 22 MB.) But it earns its space by placing a staggering library of documents and prayers at your fingertips.

The documents are divided into four sections: Bible, Calendar, Prayers, and Veritas.

The Bible tab includes the full text of both the Douay-Rheims and the Latin Vulgate. You can access these separately or as an interlinear page, alternating English and Latin line-by-line. Each chapter displays in a single scrolling page, and it’s fairly easy to scroll through the entire bible, individual books, and verse-by-verse.

The Calendar section offers both Ordinary and Extraordinary calenders, with the ability to switch between the two by shaking the device. Date, feast, readings, and liturgical color are all indicated, with each day linked to the text of the readings.

The selections included under Payers is vast, with separate sections for Divine Mercy, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Passion, Mass, Eucharist, Stations of the Cross, Devotions to Jesus, Holy Spirit, and vast selections of Marian prayers, novenas, saints prayers, common prayers, and more. These can be bookmarked for quick retrieval, or accessed through keyword searches. In addition, many of these prayers come with optional audio files which can be downloaded from ipieta.com and added to your device. This adds another 664 MB to the install, however.

Finally, there is the Veritas tab, which is just … well, look at what’s included:

  • Works of St. Augustine and St. John Crysostom
  • The complete Ante-Nicene and Nicene Fathers
  • Council documents from Nicea to Vatican II
  • The last 200 years of Papal Encyclicals, up to Caritas in Veritate
  • The Summa Theologica, Catena Aurea, and The Catechetical Instructions by St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Haydock’s Biblical Commentary
  • Baltimore Catechisms #1, #2, and #3
  • Catechism of Christian Doctrine (Promulgated by Pope St. Pius X)
  • Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis De Sales
  • The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas Kempis
  • True Devotion to Mary, Love of Eternal Wisdom, Friends of the Cross, and The Secret of Mary, by St. Louis Marie de Montfort
  • The Dialogue, by St. Catherine of Siena
  • The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, The Way of Perfection, and the Interior Castle, by St. Teresa of Jesus
  • Treatise on Purgatory, by St. Catherine of Genoa
  • Instructions on the Catechism, Selected Explanations and Exhortations, Excerpts of Sermons, by St. Jean-Marie Vianney
  • Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, Spiritual Canticle, and Living Flame of Love, by St. John of the Cross
  • The Roman Catechism (also knows as The Catechism of The Council of Trent or The Catechism of Pope St. Pius V)
  • The Dolorous Passion, by Ven. Catherine Emmerich
  • Fathers of the Church (Eerdman’s version)
  • Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola
  • The Sinner’s Guide by Ven. Louis of Granada
  • The Rule of St. Benedict
  • Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
  • Confession of St. Patrick
  • Abandonment to Divine Providence
  • The Cloud of Unknowing

So, yeah. Do I really need to say much more than that?

All of it is searchable. And all of it costs … $3. I mean, seriously people: THREE BUCKS!

Axe in Face [App o the Mornin’]

This is older game–from way back in 2011–but still a lot of fun.

If you want to get me to buy your game, just go ahead and name it Axe in Face (iOS: $1). Works every time.

If you want to be doubly sure I’ll buy it, make sure your main character looks like a tiny Viking Yosemite Sam, and have him in a perpetual state of axe-slinging rage as he tries to protect his well-tended bed of flowers.

Yes, that’s what Axe in the Face is all about: a red-bearded, highly irritated little cartoon Viking determined to kill as many marauders as it takes to protect his daffodils. All he has is his axe, some fire, a couple of powers bestowed by the gods, and a heart filled with rage as he faces wave upon wave of foes. If any enemy gets past him and begins to trample the flower bed, the level is lost.

The control is based upon an effective line-drawing system to determine the throwing path of the axe. Just trace a line (however convoluted) and then remove your finger to unleash the axe. It follows its path and then returns. The blade cuts through enemies like butter, hewing head from torso. If the path passes through a fire, then you have a flaming axe, which is just the ticket for taking out enemies hiding behind trees.

Enemies move at different speeds, and some have different defenses, which makes timing each strike a tricky business. It also makes setting up and executing elaborate strikes quite satisfying when they mow down multiple enemies at once. The two god powers are lightning, which fries 3 foes at once, and ice, which slows the enemies.

Blue Carrot games has put out a first rate little app, with a good sense of humor and colorful art. There are 32 levels total, and they get challenging rather quickly. This is a fun game, but it’s also a hard one.

Pocket Trains [App o the Mornin’]

Pocket Trains (Android/iOS: freemium) is insidious. It’s insanely addictive, just like NimbleBits’ previous games, Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes. Pocket Trains follows the formula of Pocket Planes, but does it even better. You begin the game with a simple map of Europe and a couple of major cities. These are connected by train tracks, with one train running on one set of tracks. As you earn more money, you can connect more cities, build more trains, establish new lines, and continually expand.

Money is earned by hauling freight from city to city. Freight that goes further, or has a higher value cargo, generates more gold. You can also pick up crates and bucks. Crates have train parts in them: get enough parts and you can build a new train. There are quite a few train models, and you’ll want to upgrade as you go to increase your distance, fuel load, and hauling capacity. Bucks are used to uncrate the train parts and expand stations to hold more freight.

As you begin to sprawl across first the map of Europe, and then the entire world, you find yourself relaying freight from one train to another. A high-value cargo may have to go from Moscow to San Francisco through a series of cities and train lines, switching three or four times before you can earn the money for completing delivery. Managing these lines and maximizing profits it a key part of the game.

You can expand to North and South America, Asia, and Africa, but each new region costs 50,000 gold, and the price for each new train line increases each time you build one. By the time you gave 12 trains running, you can be paying almost 40,000 gold for each new line.

Pocket Trains is a classic casual maintenance game, and that’s the key to its fun-factor. You can check in a few times a day or once a week, spend 5 or 10 minutes directing your trains, or half and hour messing with loads, and then forget about it. The trains rack up their miles, earn their gold, and refuel without any fuss, so you can focus on just managing and expanding the lines.

The game is free, but you can purchase bucks starting at $1 for 100 bucks and going up from there, as well as crates. This allows you move the game along faster, but I’ve expanded to a dozen lines on four continents and never spent a dime, so it’s possible to have a completely free experience if you’re patient.

As with all NimbleBits product, the visuals use a colorful, blocky 16-bit style, with little people on the train platforms and in the passenger cars. It’s quite a charming package, and a good casual game for people who just like to check in and fiddle with things for a few minutes throughout the day.

Dictionary.com [App o the Mornin’]

In the best of all worlds, I’d have complete access to the OED on my computer and mobile devices with all updates for a nominal price. This not being the best of all worlds, such a thing doesn’t exist, and the price for the OED web service is far from nominal. (Last I checked it was several hundred dollars a year.)

Lacking the OED, I’ve made due with Dictionary.com (free with premium upgrades, iOS/Android), and you know what? It’s pretty darn good.

Dictionary.com does what I need: not just standard definitions, but good definitions with synonyms, sample sentences, audible pronunciation, and word origins for many words. Their sources are various, and include the old Random House Dictionary, American Heritage, Harper Collins, and others. The word origins and historical samples for some entries seem deeper than those sources, which makes wonder if they’re deriving some content from the OED.

In any case, the apps are strong in the kind of features wordies like. It’s not all that often I need to look up a dictionary definition, so I use Dictionary.com more for noodling around and browsing, and it excels in this. They provide a word of the day, blog posts on unusual word topics, lists of trending words and recent searches, and various other ways to browse through content. A thesaurus is included, with synonyms available for each word, and voice search is built in.

The appeal of the system comes from the fact that the base package is free, but a fair amount of muscle can be laid on the bone if you buy some premiums. Ad-free, expansive sample sentences, idioms & phrases, grammar & tips, and various dictionary add-ons (large slang, science, medical, and rhyming dictionaries, including some art) are all available. If you use the in-app purchase bundles, you can probably unlock the entire thing for about $14, but the $5 premium version has most of what you’ll need.

My kids use it as their go-to dictionary for school assignments, and I like being amble to meander through this great language, hearing pronunciations of obscure words and learning useless facts about etymology. It’s already taught  me that parageusia means “an abnormal or hallucinatory sense of taste,” derived from the Greek “geus,” meaning “taste.” [Cue Johnny Carson voice] “I did not know that.

The Rivals For Catan [App o’ the Mornin’]

Klaus Teuber’s two-player version of Settlers of Catan went through a much needed streamlining and revision a couple years ago, creating a more balanced, user-friendly game.

The Rivals for Catan (USM, iOS: $4) uses the themes and setting of Catan, such as quasi-medieval village life; gathering rock, wood, wool, gold, brick, and stone; and spending it on upgrades. Instead of a map, however, each player has a town center made of cards in front of him, and begins with two settlements and a stretch of road. By drawing cards and spending resources, the player expands the road, adds and upgrades settlements, and constructs specialty items, such as buildings or heroes, that add resource bonuses or point advantages. The goal is to build enough to reach a set number of victory points.

In the basic game, 7 victory points is the win limit, but The Rivals For Catan app includes all of the special card sets, adding new kinds of buildings that match various Eras: Gold, Progress, and Turmoil. These add subtle strategic changes and have a way of making the game, which is a really a face for points at its basic level, into a more interactive and cut-throat affair.

If you’ve played the original tabletop game, know this much: the app is 100% faithful recreation for the iPad, making good use of the game space. Your town center and cards are visible at all times, and you can toggle to see your opponent’s lay out with one tap. It takes a few minutes to get the hand of the gameflow and the way the interface handles resources by turning cards (thus mimicking the original), but after a tutorial and a few turns, the controls become quite natural.

Rivals includes hotseat and internet play (including GameCenter player matching), which is a welcome treat for those who don’t care for AI opponents. It’s a straightforward and clean adaptation of a fun little addition to the Catan family.

Lost Cities [App o’ the Mornin’]

The original tabletop version Rainer Knezia’s Lost Cities, originally released in 1999, found a loyal following, and even migrated to the Xbox about 5 years ago. The premise and design of Lost Cities is very simple. There are five archaeological “expeditions”, each represented by a different color: white, red, green, blue, and gold. Within the deck of 60 cards, there are 12 cards of each color. Nine are numbered from 2 to 10, and 3 are marked with a symbol to make them “investment” cards. The idea is a variant on solitaire: you “explore” an ancient city by placing cards in colored sets, from lowest number (2) to highest (10). Before pacing a number card, you may place 1 to 3 investment cards to double, triple, or quadruple your earnings.

Placing cards, however, has a base cost: 20 points for each investment card, and differing amounts for numbered cards. The idea is that starting a “dig” places you in debt, and you have to play the right cards in the right sequence to wind up with the highest value for each color location. At the same time, an opposing player is doing the same thing, with the victor being whoever has the highest point value. Since you either discard or play each turn, the game quickly moves through three rounds.

Like Stone Age, the mobile version of Lost Cities (iOS: $4) opted for the larger iPhone market rather than the more limited iPad audience, and the implementation works well. Adding considerably to its appeal is a strong set of online matchmaking options, complete with an active leaderboard for ranking players. The game has an unpleasant (and humbling) habit of tracking your games, so you can watch the downward-marching arrow when you lose. Since both the live and AI opponents tend to be formidable, this might be a regular occurrence, but it’s still fun to have this classic in a portable form.

Stone Age [App o’ the Mornin’]

The original Stone Age board game is one of the most popular worker-placement titles around our house. It’s fairly light, but has room for strategy, benefits from a good pace, and (with the exception of a leatherette dice cup that smells like a wet donkey) has exceptional production work. If anyone was looking to introduce Eurogame novices to worker placement, this would be a decent place to start.

The decision for Campfire Creations to port the mobile version of Stone Age (iPhone/iPad: $7) to iPhone first was a bit of a surprise. Most Eurogames of this scope have found their native home on the far wider screen of the iPad. Campfire Creations, however, had a different notion: if they could make a game like this work on the smaller screen of an iPhone, then they could easily upscale to the iPad, which they did a few months after release by making the app Universal with support for retina displays.

The decision was challenging from a design standpoint, but paid off with a sleek, compressed incarnation of the game that works perfectly on both phone or pad. By some weird alchemy, they’ve managed to squeeze almost all of the major board elements onto a single screen without making it over-crowded, and made judicious use of sub-screens and pop-ups to convey more information. Since then, they’re made it a hybrid game that supports both platforms.

Stone Age has 2 to 5 players competing to grow their little neolithic villages in population, wealth, and achievement. Each tribes begins with 5 workers, who can be placed at various spots on the board to perform certain tasks. They can increase production of goods, “mate” in order to create more workers, forge tools, buy special bonuses from buildings or boats, or place works on a variety of production spots (food, wood, clay, stone, gold).
The goal is to collect the most victory points by building structures and buying points, specialists, and technology. Along the way, you need to keep an economy going and make sure there’s enough food to feed your whole village, or else suffer a penalty.

The app version captures the game with a wonderful degree of fidelity, even though it deviates sharply from the layout of the board. This was a bold and wise decision, since it allows complex interactions with a minimal amount of tapping. The only active sub-screen is for choosing how many workers to palce for a certain resource. All the rest, including huts, buildings, and ships, are place on right on the main screen, with bonuses and benefits clearly depicted at a glance, and more detail provide via popups.

If you’re familiar with the original, you’ll know this would have been a trick with a full-screen iPad layout. That the developers did it iPhone-sized is a miracle, and makes Stone Age yet another welcome entry in the growing genre of mobile boardgaming.

Content: Nothing problematic. You add new people to your tribe by placing two figures in the mating hut, but it’s not like there’s some kind of mating animation or anything like that. You just get another person to place for the next turn.

ToodleDo Task Manager [App o’ the Mornin’]

I’ve lost track of how many task managers I’ve tested over the past two years. I can’t say “all of them,” because task managers are as common as match-three games in the App Store and online, but I can say “all of the major ones, plus a dozen more.” Some I used longer than others. None ever really worked for me, until I found ToodleDo (web based: free with premium options; iOS/Android/Blackberry: about $3).

Choosing a task manager is like choosing a pair of shoes. You have to try on several to find one that fits. What works for me may not work for another. It depends upon what kind of tasks you’re managing, if you’re collaborating with others, how you prefer to enter tasks, what platforms you use, what kind of tags and sorting you need, and how you like to be notified.

This was what I needed the software do: track writing assignments, including those with multiple parts (subtasks such as interviews and research); manage school projects (no longer needed since I finished grad school); track a section of the magazine I edit; try to slide in non-assigned (“spec”) work so that I don’t keep putting it off; and synchronize all of it among four devices: iPad, iPhone, laptop, desktop. It does all these things very well.

ToodleDo is free to try right here. The mobile apps cost extra, and upgrades are available to add features. I paid $15 to get subtasks for a year, but after working with them I found I could live without them and just piece out the different sections of an assignment task-by-task.

The strength of the app is in its ease of entry, scheduling/priority options, and management features. You can add a task quickly just by typing in “Quick Add Task” field on the web, or the “Add Task” field on the app.  It will add the task without any other data, or you can open up a simple submenu to set priority level and due date/time, assign to a folder, choose a repeat option, add subtasks, and set a notification alarm.

Once created, tasks can be searched and sorted in myriad ways, grouped into folders (Home, Work, School, Projects, etc), assigned to a hotlist, re-prioritized, and more. You can organize a list of tasks just about any way you’d like.

I like the ease with which you can attach documents, links, and blocks of text for each task. If you look at the web version, you’ll find some nice extra features on the tabs at the top: Notes, Outlines (simple outlining software), and Lists (field entry for making different kinds of customizable lists).

It’s simple, flexible system: a list with sorting and scheduling features. It works very well with the GTD system and other productivity techniques. It may be less or more than you need. Some people need massive collaborative software and project tracking, others are fine with a simple TaskPaper app. Some want slick mobile graphics, clever layouts, and all kinds of graphical flourishes. I wanted a sorted, data-heavy, scheduling list, and that’s what ToodleDo gives me.

Universalis [App o’ the Mornin’]

Universalis (Universalis Publishing, iOS/Android: $14) may be my most used app. A lot of people have different tools to pray their hours or get their mass readings. I bought a Universalis PC codeyears ago and have used the offline, app version ever since. Before I had a tablet and a smartphone, I’d turn the months into epubs and send them to my Kindle. Now, everything is in one place on both phone and pad.

Universalis

I prefer it to other options, for reasons partly functional and partly aesthetic. I like the way it looks and works: the text and page options, page turning, and selection features.

The Hour are all in the app with no need for a connection, and you can go as far back or forward as you like. It puts every page of the Hours on your device with a total overhead of 13 MB, and allows you access them with a discrete pair of menus: one for day, another for hour/reading.

The text includes both the NAB and the Jerusalem Bible (the one I use) with an option for the Grail psalms (ditto). It has all 7 hours: Morning (Lauds), Terce, Sext, None, Evening (Vespers), and Night  (Compline). It also has the Office of Readings, Mass readings, and text of the mass, with optional prayers for priests. There are notes on the saints of the day, and liturgical calendars for US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and more. There’s also an option to set up an email service to send particular pages every day.

I know many just use free apps for this, and that’s fine. Since I bought a code from Universalis, my app was free, but I still think I’d get it if I had to pay the $14. They issue regular updates, maintain a clean text, and do a lot of work to get this material out there free on the web. I don’t mind kicking back a little to pay them for their efforts.

Watch What This Artist Can Do With An iPad

Morgan Freeman: you know him, you love him, he could inform you that he’d annihilated a small village and that soothing voice would make everything seem okay. Here’s his face:

Know what’s impressive about that image? It’s not a photograph. Artist Kyle Lambert made it with his finger, and iPad, and the Procreate app. Watch this time lapse to see how he did it.