Hey y’all. This App Recap is long overdue. Super long overdue, and I apologize. Life has really gotten away from me recently, and I lost track of time. So I’ve only just finished this up, but I loved what I had already wrote. That being said, I’ve left the intro as it was and I hope you’ll just play along. Thank you, truly, for being so patient.
Welcome back! It’s been a couple weeks since we last spoke. Hopefully, you’ve come down from your Thanksgiving food comas and your Black Friday highs, and you’re ready for the approaching New Year! But before we get too excited for the holidays ahead, I wanted to stray from the norm this month and give thanks to the apps that built me. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, and look at some of the best mobile games and applications that have ever crossed my path. In fact, let’s stray even further and look at ten of them! There’s just so much to be thankful for! From my first iPod to my current iPhone, these babies changed my life, and some of them continue to influence me to this day. So thank you, sincerely, to each and every one.
It’s hard to believe I’ve never mentioned Shazam in an App Recap before. If for some reason I have, I apologize for including it twice, but it’s truly worth the attention. Shazam is most certainly a household name these days, and not just for the Zachary Levi superhero movie of the same name. After being purchased by Apple in 2018 and even having its own game show hosted by Jamie Foxx, if your phone doesn’t have Shazam installed, you’re a fool. Shazam is one of those must-have applications that I just could not live without. Having the ability to identify any song recording within seconds is such a first-world-problem, yet I find myself running into it every single day. Not to mention the inclusion of lyrics in real-time, music videos, and even saving your Shazams in its own Spotify playlist – this app does it all. How Shazam works will forever be a mystery to me; almost as confusing as how I ever lived without it.
Freshman year of high school was especially difficult for me. Coming to a new school – comprised of 13 towns – from my hometown in which my best friend had just taken his own life… it was hard to trudge through freshman year. But I found myself falling in love with a new mobile game, Jetpack Joyride, which kind of saved my life throughout the school year. I recall playing it at lunch, and even under the desk during some particularly boring classes. The endless list of objectives made each side-scrolling run more enjoyable than the last. The wide array of power-ups and the humorous collectibles provided joy to my days and kept me from becoming too gloomy, as life warranted at the time. I was happy to find that Jetpack Joyride is still entertaining almost eight years later, and it’s still compatible with current devices. Whether or not it’s still updated and dishing out holiday-themed items, I’m not sure, but the core game is still as brilliant, comedic, and satisfying as it was before.
From Christmases, to car trips, to shit-mases, to “getting stuck in the snow in a car” trips, Heads Up! does its duty as the most approachable and captivating mobile party game. Based on the simple premise of “Here we have a stack of random nouns pertaining to a specific theme, let’s see how many I can guess in 60 seconds,” the Ellen DeGeneres-made app is still a blast to this day, whether you’re hosting a family gathering or drunk in a dorm with friends. I can think of numerous occasions when I’ve busted this baby out over the years. From playing with friends at lunch in high school to playing with my family on vacations, nothing beats seeing how little a person knows about movies, literature, or simple charades. Heads Up! brings out the worst in people, in the best way. To make things even better, the game records every round for instant replays. This game is a must-have if you’re a frequent party-goer.
I knew this month would be fun because I can finally shine some praise on those apps that always have my back. Spotify has not only supplied me with endless enjoyment since 2012, but in 2019 it literally brought me to tears. My custom Spotify Unwrapped – a personalized recap of my year using the service – was so incredibly well-made I couldn’t even contain the joy I felt inside. Being able to listen to nearly any song at any time is a godsend I didn’t think would ever be possible. Being able to toss my personal iTunes library to the wayside and enjoy hundreds of songs (for a small monthly fee) is just brilliant. Not to mention it’s how I’ve listened to nearly a hundred musical cast albums and counting, as well as paving the way for other digital libraries I use daily like Netflix, VUDU, and Movies Anywhere. The future is now, folks.
One of my personal favorites, Overcast is the best way to listen to podcasts on your phone, hands-down. Originally recommended to me by my uncle, this app streamlines the podcast listening experience in such a fantastic way. Not only does it organize your new podcasts, downloads, and things you’ve listened to into their own sections, but it also supplies you with helpful tools for each podcast. Voice Boost makes things sound crisper and clear, while Smart Speed shortens silences, automatically speeding up and slowing down the podcast whenever necessary. On top of this, speed can be increased up to three times what’s normal, allowing you to listen quicker than ever before. Technical stuff aside, Overcast is where I’ve found some of my favorite podcasts, from NPR’s Serial to Gilbert Gottfried’s show. I may have come looking for The Comedy Button, but the library is limitless and I’ve been hooked to Overcast ever since. Also – since I know you were wondering – of course the VGU Player’s Club Podcast is available for streaming on the service. Enjoy!
Remember this blast from the past? Temple Run is the first game I remember taking my high school by storm. I had just moved into this new school with 13 towns combined, and what brought us all together was a simple endless runner with motion controls and the wonkiest swipe gestures you could ever imagine. At least I think they were wonky. Maybe I just sucked at the game. Whatever it was, it was addictive as hell, and Temple Run quickly rose to fame throughout generations old and new. This game had tremendous staying power, with tons of unlockables, two Disney-themed spin-offs, and a sequel released two years later. If you weren’t playing Temple Run when it came out, you simply weren’t cool. It was Flappy Bird before Flappy Bird (shit, that reminds me, I should’ve mentioned Flappy Bird on this list). Even going back to it today, Temple Run still holds up and plays like a dream; a really frantic, anxiety-inducing dream.
Where would I be in life without the Image Comics app? Well to put it plainly, I probably would’ve never read The Walking Dead. I remember trying to read the first issue through Comixology, the leading comics app on iTunes, and struggling to figure it out. Is it like a Kindle, or is it basically just links to the Amazon marketplace? Never quite figured that one out. Thankfully, the Image Comics app put all the Image comics in one neat place, allowing me to read every Walking Dead, Outcast, and Oblivion Song issue, including the one-off origin stories. I could get lost perusing the catalog Image has on offer. It’s not that I don’t love, say, Marvel or DC comics. They have their own apps and they work just as well. But personally, I’ve always been enthralled by Robert Kirkman’s work, and it’s all thanks to this nifty app. I truly wouldn’t be me without it. So thank you, Image Comics.
Big Button Box
A genuine novelty app that made my upbringing even more fantastic, the Big Button Boxes of the App Store have a little something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a whoopie cushion fart noise to play as your dad sits down, or trying to make the kookaburras go crazy at the zoo by playing their call, there’s really nothing the Big Button Box can’t do. I remember leaving this app open throughout my life to make people laugh with a well-placed censor “beep” or the saxophone riff before Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” The Big Button Box is a genius little invention; truly one of those things that would make your grandparents be like, “they have all of those sounds in that little thing?” Ahhh, old people. But I digress. At a time I had at least 3 different Big Button Box apps on my phone, and I was better off for it. Now that I’m an adult, however, my parting wisdom is: keep this one out of your obnoxious child’s hands.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out
The game that started my love of city-builders, The Simpsons: Tapped Out was an absolute craze in my household. I’m talking Macarena-meets-Gangnam-Style-esque craze; that was the impact this game had on my sister, my father, and myself. But what’s not to love about an app that lets you build your own Springfield from the ground-up, complete with every Simpsons character ever, and a humorous plot derived from breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging the giant finger rebuilding the town? This was one of the first games I had on my iPad, and was also one of the first games to suck real-life money out of me. That’s right, Tapped Out was my introduction to microtransactions! So why is it on the list? Well, because without it I never would’ve played games like Marvel Avengers Academy or Disney Magic Kingdoms, both of which sucked a fair amount of money from me as well, but they also supplied me with endless enjoyment. I miss them all dearly and would jump back into them in a heartbeat. But sadly, that heartbeat is a bit too costly for me at the moment, and may conversely result in a heart attack.
Layton Brothers Mystery Room
Another great iPad game of yore, Layton Brothers sucked me in almost instantly, hot off the heels of discovering my love for mystery games. I believe I had just played L.A. Noire, and there was something that drew me to these big puzzles in which I had to solve crimes such as murders and thievery. Layton Brothers scratched that itch, and on mobile no less. Having never played a Layton game on the Nintendo DS, I was a bit confused as to the overarching narrative, but the episodic format had me hooked until the very end and made for some enjoyable replayability years later. An iPad game with similar episodic structure was Republique, which I recall being the first person to ever champion this game in public, and have subsequently never finished. I must get around to that. My point with this selection is to say that the iPad is a device not only for doing computer work such as Photoshop and spreadsheets on a smaller screen, but also for solving mysteries and playing games like Oceanhorn or Badland. Get yourself an iPad and you’ll see what I mean.
That was fun! I hope it was enjoyable for you, as well. I always love talking about nostalgia and singing the praises of things that built my childhood. Apps are a huge part of my life, and maybe now you can understand why App Recap means so much to me. I’m really looking forward to this new year, and giving this monthly column a bit of a makeover. But we’ve one last month to cover before we can leave 2019 in the dust. Don’t worry, though, I’ve saved something special for this grand finale. See you soon!