This Week's Best Apps

In this week's rip roarin' round up: Windows, on your iDevice; stop-motion animations, created; frogs, cared for; Sims, following their dreams; and much more!

iPhone

Beyond Ynth: Let me explain"

In Beyond Ynth (and Beyond Ynth HD, for the iPad), you play as Kribl, a chipper little insect who solves puzzles in four brightly animated worlds. But don't let the cutesy look fool you - these puzzles are tough.

Maybe it's just because I'm used to playing iPhone games that only require half my attention while I'm trying to keep from bumping into people on the train, but Beyond Ynth's unique brand of puzzles - basically tipping big blocks from one side to the next to strategically gain access to platforms and openings - require not only some precise tapping but some serious planning too.

It can get frustrating at times - like when you tip a block one time too many, closing off some crucial entry point and forcing you to replay the entire level - but the puzzles are so cleverly constructed that you never have that sinking feeling that you have outsmarted the developer.

FDG Entertainment, the group behind the game, claims that it was "one year in the making", and while the graphics are very nice and the game has a high level of polish (nice little narrative, pleasant music, etc), it definitely seems like a good amount of that time went into making sure the levels were tough enough to truly be challenging.

It'd be nice if it was a universal app, but such is life - Beyond Ynth is $5 and Beyond Ynth HD is $8.

StopMotion Recorder: Let's hear from Sam, our stop-motion auteur:

We know how good the iPhone 4's camera is, but what else can it do besides snap pics? With the StopMotion app, make some pretty kick-arse amateur stop-motion movies. My own attempt was sad, but the app is powerful.

StopMotion works by laying out a viewfinder grid, allowing you to manipulate, bit by bit, whatever objects you're working with, keeping them more or less aligned. The app can either snap frames automatically (at adjustable intervals) or capture with a touch instead. (The app's dev told us a clap-activated feature is in the works, which sounds fantastic).

After capturing each frame, you're left with a "ghosted" image of the previous one overlaid, making it easy to see how much or how little you wish to deviate, for varying smoothness of animation. If you mess up a frame, don't worry - you'll have the option of rotating or deleting it altogether after you're done capturing. Once you're satisfied, send the video on its way through an impressive number of export options: email, YouTube, Twitter or just to your camera roll.

$1.19

Justin.tv: Justin.tv's free iPhone app was just updated, allowing users to broadcast live right from their iPhones. Use the front or back camera, broadcast over Wi-Fi or 3G, and share links on Twitter and Facebook. Because oversharing is caring.

Worldy Wings: Jason Chen will be your pilot for this app review:

Traditional shoot'em ups, shmups, are awkward on the iPhone, because your left thumb covers a quarter of the screen and your right thumb covers another quarter - bad when you need to see every single bullet heading for your ship.

So instead of having to drive your ship with your hand, you drive it by tilting your phone in the direction you want. It's less precise, but you do get to see the entire screen, which is vital for shmups. (You also have the option of using screen press mode, which you'll actually end up doing anyway, for more precision in flying.)

Also gone is the outdated strategy of having to repeatedly press or hold a button to shoot. Worldy Wings just has you shooting the entire time, something most players do anyway. You just tap the screen when you want to set off a lightning attack.

With only two difficulty levels, three planes and five missions, the game is way too short. But it's $2.49 ($1.19 until September 20), and 1942/Raiden fans will love it.

The Sims 3: Ambitions: The newest Sims expansion pack to be miniaturised for the iPhone, you can now pursue one of many careers - firefighter! teacher! etc - which involve all sorts of minigames (and, as with any job, punctuality). This new expansion also lets you have babies! Which you have to take care of while you're succeeding at your fancy new job. I kinda want the Unambitions Sims iPhone game, where you wear sweatpants and watch Food Network. $6.

Pocket Frogs: One of those insidious freemium games that tease you in until you get addicted and just start pouring your money in, but instead of, like, farms, it's, like, frogs! Basically you collect frogs, breed frogs, feed frogs and trade your frogs with your friends to enhance your frog collection - but all of this is strangely addictive, with nice-looking froggies and all sorts of options to beautify your habitat. Just try to resist the in-app purchases!

iPad

Parallels Mobile: Parallels users, listen up! To accompany the recently released Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac, the Parallels peeps have released Parallels Mobile, a free app that lets users poke around on their Windows machines right on their iPhones and iPads.

There's a little bit of lag involved, but otherwise you can start, stop and access all the virtual machines you've set up through Parallels Desktop, right from your iOS device. That means printing things to connected printers, checking what's up in Outlook, and, yes, seeing all those lovely Flash elements on all your favourite websites. Just don't expect them to be that snappy. The app is free, so if you're a frequent Parallels user, it's definitely worth a look.

Also available for the iPhone.

Steve Young Football HD: In addition to having the best commercials ever, Steve Young Football for the iPad is probably the most amusing (and liberal) take on pigskin we've ever tried. There's a huge number of unique "fields" and its multiplayer - whether you're playing two people to one iPad or with two iPads on your home network - is especially fun. Hike! $6.

Android

Fruit Ninja: Another popular iPhone port, comes over to Android and brings the simple, addictive fun of chopping up fruits on your phone. The premise of the game is simple: fruits fly on screen and you slice them by swiping your finger. Slice as many fruits as you can while avoiding bombs. It has OpenFeint support too, so you can see where you stack with the rest of the world. Lots of fun for $US0.99.

Mini Info: A nice system monitor app/widget for Android that displays battery charge, memory and/or SD memory information in the widget and more detailed analysis of CPU and RAM monitoring, network, brightness and volume. It's free, so if you geek out over percentage levels and bytes, give it a run.

Comic Reader Mobi: Comic Reader Mobi supports RAR, ZIP, CBR and CBZ files, and you can stream comics from WebDAV server. What's neat about this app is that the whole page is always displayed on the screen; when you need to read the text, you tap the specific panel and then an overlay that's optimally sized will pop up. That way you can still see the entire page but also be able to read the story. Mark Wilson calls it the "best comic book app" available. It's on the expensive side at $1US4.99, but you should trust Mark Wilson.

We are so crazy about apps right now you wouldn't believe it. If you have recommendations, tips or just want to let us know about your own app, drop a note in the comments or shoot me an email.