A fistful of apps: WideNoise, Labyrinth 3D, Penalized, Pure Sleep, Army Knife

Instead of rounding up 16 apps in one review, I'll just tackle five. Links from the title of the app take you directly into iTunes and the App Store.

WideNoise measures the noise in an area (using the mic on an iPhone, of course) and registers that online with your location. WideTag will show you regions of loud and quiet on a global, interactive map. My area shows "feather" because I took a recording in an empty house. The app looks like a prop from Fallout, with distressed metal and an analog meter, and I found the readings to be comparable to Decibel, which I've reviewed before. This might be good for finding quiet places in urban areas, provided people take the time to use it. I'm not sure $1.99 will have this flying off the virtual shelves, either.

Wooden Labyrinth 3D is exactly that, the classic game of a metal marble in a wooden, moving maze. We've seen several iterations of these on the store, but I think this version nails it. The physics are superb, the 3D is flawless, and the soundtrack is relaxing and pleasant. Plus, unlike real-world versions, you don't have to keep dozens of wooden mazes around -- there are several themes in the game which lead to several puzzles in each theme. In short, you're looking at a wide range of gameplay in this one app. My only complaint is one of organization: I would have preferred groupings based on difficulty, or some way to know how hard a level is before launching it. Is it worth $2.99? Considering the polish and replayability, I'd say yes. True, there are freebies out there, but none match the elegance of this app (and some which cost more aren't as good).

Penalized is billed as an "adult" party game, but it's a bit less provocative than you might think. There's no explicit adult content, this is merely hinted at. The game is a series of challenges, like "Impersonate Ray Charles" and if the player can't perform the challenge, they must be penalized somehow. The adult part is in the penalty, so removing a piece of clothing is an option. So is chopping a cord of wood, you know, adult stuff. Penalized does include a lot of challenge cards in 6 categories, but the $1.99 may seem a bit much. Especially if you carry around a deck of challenge cards in your pocket already. This is also something you could cook up with TileStack, I think.

Keep reading for Pure Sleep and Army Knife, two apps I use on a daily basis.


Tesla Software has been busy creating an entire line of isochronic beat audio apps. They've got one for focus, one for meditation, and now one for sleep called Pure Sleep. If you've used binaural beat apps before, this is a similar idea: audio that affects your brainwaves, aiding you in relaxation or alertness. My results vary, but overall I like these. The AmbiScience series from Tesla is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch.

From a detailed how-to in the app, to just the right amount of settings and sounds, to the superb audio quality, they are very nicely crafted apps. The sleep app costs $.99, which may have you wondering why buy it when you could buy their Brain Power app, which also includes a Sleep feature. The primary difference I found was a "Deep Sleep" frequency in the Pure Sleep app. It's lower, so my guess is you go into a deeper sleep with it. Otherwise, the Brain Power app is a better buy, since it rolls up the others in a convenient (if hefty) package.

Instead of having four or five apps, you can distill the functions into one with Army Knife, my favorite app of this group. Apple recommends developers stick with single-purpose apps for performance and usability purposes. That's a fine idea, but I'm also a fan of simple tools that make sense being logically grouped together. Army Knife combines the following: caliper, protractor, ruler, flashlight, heartbeat counter and ultrasonic whistle.

Each app works great (the flashlight includes a flashing S.O.S. light), and the whistle is great fun at family gatherings. We tested the frequencies on some teenagers, and us old folks realized just what all those rock concerts have done to our hearing... Well, that and the ravages of time. Army Knife loads faster than some flashlight apps, honestly, and for that alone it has won a permanent spot on my iPhone. Handily worth the $.99 that's being asked.