Plants Vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time
You can’t ask for a better sequel than this. When Crazy Dave wants to eat a taco all over again (a really, really tasty taco) he invents a time machine that lays down fresh ideas for battling zombies across the sands of Egypt, the Pirate Seas, and the Wild West. Each theme is like a separate game with its own stylized artwork, musical score, and wacky cast of characters and gags.
Pharaoh zombies will steal your sunlight in Egypt. The pirate undead will try to corner you into narrow spaces using cannons and zombie parrots on the high seas. The Wild West gives your plants mine carts to ride between squares as prospector zombies use dynamite to jump a claim on the land behind your defenses. Each world has its own map of levels that you can revisit for special challenges to collect keys and stars to unlock new extras.
Unlike other Free-To-Play games which delay their action unless you keep making in-app purchases, Plants Vs. Zombies 2 really is truly free, allowing you to play it from start to finish, just as you’d expect. The twist is that you can now buy add-ons that will make the game easier or allow you to skip ahead to different sections without having to put in the time to get good enough to do it normally. For $5 you can skip ahead to the Wild West. For $4 you can start each game with extra sunlight. It’s an honest arrangement that should earn the creators the money they need while treating their fans with respect.
The humour is delightfully goofy. You can use your fingers to pinch the heads of off zombies or flick them away. There’s a hot chili that will give the undead dangerous flatulence, and a barb-wired zombie that managed to get into a coop and now spews zombie chickens when hit. The Wild West, Pirate Seas, and Egypt are just the first in a new series of time travel themes. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
Breaking Bad Alchemy
Enhanced with time-lapse photography, panoramic views, and 3D models, Alchemy goes way beyond the usual behind-the-scenes book treatment for AMC’s hit television series. There are photographs from the show you can tap on to apply the straw lens filter used to achieve Breaking Bad’s signature tones. There are audio samples that demonstrate the musical themes for each character along with costume pictures that point out their colour palettes.
Yes, there are interviews, both in print and in audio, with creator Vince Gilligan and his staff and trivia games, episode summaries, and a look at the show’s use of science. Interesting touches include a tumblr for fan art, an interactive colouring book, and a Facebook promotion called Walt’s Wisdom.
360 degree panoramas let you step into the show’s many sets. 3D computer models reproduce the up-close details of props like the Heisenberg hat and teddy bear eyeball. A funny, but rather odd use for video is a clip gallery containing every death scene from each season.
All of this material is being updated with new downloads as the last season plays out. It really is an exceptional example of how you can use a digital book format to tell an interactive story about something that is visual in nature.
Picture HAL, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey as your personal alarm clock and you’ve got the idea behind Carrot (as in carrot and stick). The app uses a female computer voice to speak to you sweetly when you wake up on time and reprimand you with psychotic vengeance if you dare sleep in.
At first she will gradually try to wake you with gentle, happy computer music. If you fail to react or worse, hit the snooze button, her screen will go red and she’ll switch to blaring sound effects. If you keep snoozing, she might resort to disruptive dubstep music.
Turning off her alarm isn’t easy. She’ll put you through some disorienting moves such as turning your phone upside down, shaking it, flipping virtual switches, or caressing her virtual eye before she’ll go into off mode.
This is all part of a reward-and-punishment system. Wake up on time and you’ll earn points towards unlocking extras, including the clock’s settings, alarm songs, or even a bedtime story. Hitting the snooze button means you’ll earn fewer points when you do wake up and the alarm will switch to annoying effects instead.
Carrot is both an effort to tap into the dark humour of many science fiction movies and a determined alarm system for those who need a harsh routine to get up on time. Carrot’s personality is definitely a little broken/insane/deviant. At one point she’ll threaten to kill a cat if you don’t wake up while another morning might see her promising to let you eat ice cream for breakfast. Obviously this is not an app for kids.
I found Carrot to be an entertaining toy full of surprises with a twisted sense of humour. Waking up to it once was funny, but I admit I can’t see myself going through it as my day-to-day alarm clock.