Hotel Dash (Lite version free, full version £1.79: iPhone)

Hotel Dash

Time management games for the iPhone are two a penny these days but some stand out from the pack more than others.

Hotel Dash, from the people who brought you Diner Dash, Wedding Dash and even Soap Opera Dash, is most definitely one of the latter.

Taking on the role of a hotel manager your task is to guide guests into rooms, rush them their luggage, take them room service, towels and whatever else they may require, all the while ensuring that they don’t wait for so long they get disgruntled and leave again.

At first glance this doesn’t look that impressive but get a little deeper into it and you’ll actually discover that this is very appealing indeed.

The gameplay is fast-paced and enjoyable while the characters themselves are cute (and the various facial expressions they pull when things aren’t going their way adds to the fun. Give it a try (but we warn you now, once you’ve started playing you won’t be able to stop).

Commodore Comeback!

commodore64

Ben Heck may have fashioned his modern computer equipment to look like a retro bit of kit, but how about getting your hands on a retro bit of kit that works like modern computer equipment? Well now you can – sort of, at least.

Because the Commodore 64 – that monolithic beige computer which was the must-have gadget of the mid-80s for any self-respecting gamer – is about to make a comeback, and while it might still look clunky and old-fashioned, it’s very much a 21st Century machine.

The new-fangled Commodore 64, which is due on the market later this year, resembles its 1980s counterpart with a large keyboard, chunky casing and rainbow logo – and nostalgia fans will be delighted to know that it will play all those classic old 8-bit games such as Last Ninja and Mutant Camels.

But here’s the thing. The 21st Century Commodore also has 2GB of DDR3 memory (which can be expanded to 4GB) , has wireless internet, a USB slot, can play DVDs or Blu-ray discs (and be connected to modern TVs or monitors) and is also compatible with Windows. So in spite of the novelty factor you are actually getting a serious machine for your money.

At the moment it’s only available from the Commodore USA website, with the 64 priced at around $595, but with worldwide shipping available those of us in the UK can get our hands on one too. And while we’re at it, how about a comeback for its nearest rival, the good old BBC Micro B?

Back to the 70s….sort of

Ben Heck retro console

Modern technology is a wonderful thing but there are times when we all miss those gadgets of bygone days – but one man has taken matters into his own hands and come up with a nifty little machine that looks like an Xbox might have looked had it been invented in 1977.

IT expert Ben Heck (who is also star of his own gadgets and gizmos show on YouTube) used his own Atari 2600 – the classic console which brought Space Invaders, Pac Man and other games to your living room and combined it with Xbox circuitry to produce as the Daily Mail  puts it, ‘a modern games console with a wooden veneer and a classic 1970s look’.

If you’re technically minded and want to try it yourself, you can check out Ben’s instructional video below:

Or if you want an easier life you could just give your iPhone a retro feel instead with this 1980s ‘brick’ style case from Thumbs Up.

Tesco Finder (FREE: iPhone)

Tesco Finder

Tesco Finder

There are all manner of shopping apps available for the iPhone, whether you want your groceries delivered via Ocado or whether you want to keep an eye out for discount vouchers within your immediate vicinity.

However one of the most ingenious is the app offered by Tesco which allows you to not only keep an eye on your local branch of the store, but also informs you what’s in it and where you can locate it.

Tesco Finder offers the sort of information you might expect, such as telling you all the local stores within a certain radius of your home (and you won’t be surprised to discover there are loads of varying sizes), but it goes further than that, allowing you to make shopping lists by telling you what products are on sale in each store and actually helping you to locate them as you do your shop (provided you’re not in a Tesco Express, as it isn’t offered for the smaller branches). For example, if you’re looking to buy a bag of sugar, simply key the relevant information into the phone and it will tell you exactly where in the shop you can find the sugar. It will do it for everything on your list in fact.

All of which is a marvellous idea given that it allows you to get on with your shopping speedily without having to worry about finding anything (or finding a member of staff to point you in the right direction). Sadly, it stops just short of actually paying for your shopping on your behalf, but we guess one can’t have everything.

Samsung Galaxy Tab (£399)

Samsung Galaxy Tab

Samsung Galaxy Tab

When you have a product that is as successful as the iPad, it’s inevitable that other companies will try to cash in on the craze and launch their own versions of the tablet PC, in a bid to take a bite of out of Apple’s share of the market.

PC firms such as Dell and Acer have already produced their own versions, and Blackberry will cash in on the tablet craze later this year with the Playbook. But one of the higher-profile alternatives is the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has a good go at rivalling the iPad – although if we’re being honest it is not without its flaws. And while the Tab is a more than acceptable substitute, it’s not necessarily a preferable one.

The main disadvantage here is that it is a lot more compact than its rival, and in fact my initial impression upon seeing it was noticing just how small it really was. While there is appeal to be had from the fact that it’s thin enough to fit in your back pocket, on the downside you’re looking at a much smaller screen than you might on other tablet PCs – seven inches to be precise.

As a result the Galaxy tab often feels just too small for comfort, an awkward size somewhere between an iPad and an Android phone that doesn’t quite work as effectively as it should. The size of the screen makes web browsing tricky – hold it vertically and the page you’re looking at appears to be tiny, hold it horizontally and it cuts half of it off. Although there are aspects of it which work extremely well – YouTube, for example, provides speedy download of clips and pictures and streaming which are as good quality as anything you would get on your laptop.

And that’s not the only positive aspect of the Galaxy. It’s extremely easy to get to grips with, even for those users who might be less familiar with the touch screen format, the apps (which include many of those popular on the iPad, such as Angry Birds) are easy to download and use, the touch screen keypad is fine for basic tasks, and the 3 megapixel camera and video camera are refreshingly easy to use and also provide some of the best quality pictures that you’ll have seen from an Android device.

All of which is decent enough, but given the sheer brilliance of its rival you’re still left with the impression that the Galaxy tab is lacking something – it almost feels like the tablet equivalent of buying supermarket own brand baked beans when you really wanted Heinz. Although it’s hard to pinpoint what it’s lacking exactly – it could be the size or the general feeling that some of the features and functions aren’t quite as good as they could be, or that Apple has simply done them better. While it’s an acceptable alternative, it may well have to address the issues that it has and improve upon them in subsequent versions in order to avoid being lost in an increasingly crowded market.

Doodle Jump Hop Edition (FREE: iPhone)

Doodle Jump Hop

We’ve all come across Doodle Jump – that infuriatingly addictive game in which you have to guide a cartoon scribble up a series of platforms without falling down or falling foul of similarly garish aliens.

Well now there’s a new edition on the iPhone to tie in with the release of the Easter Bunny cartoon Hop (which those of us with small children will no doubt be dragged along to see during the school holidays). And while the format is the same, it looks very different indeed.

This time you’re guiding E.B, the Easter Bunny’s son (a cute looking rabbit in a blue check shirt) through the platforms, although Doodle The Doodler from the original version also comes along for the ride. Instead of aliens he is faced with a series of giant growling chicks which he has to see off by flinging Easter eggs at them. Otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual.

There’s not a lot of point to this app really – other than to promote the film of course, and if your kids are planning to see it then they’ll probably love this – but then again was there really any point to the original Doodle Jump other than as a time-wasting exercise?

This version loses some of the charm of the original in that the settings are much slicker looking, as opposed to the action taking place against the backdrop of an exercise book that someone has scrawled on – but the basic principle remains the same, and it’s still a lot of fun. Or at least it would be if we could last longer than two minutes’ worth of gameplay before falling to our doom.

Five apps you must download within five minutes of getting an iPhone

facebook in iPhone

Facebook on iPhone

So you’ve finally got yourself an iPhone, and have all those apps at your disposal – but with so many now available, where do you start? Well, you’ll have plenty of time to experiment with the more offbeat apps later on, but while you’re still trying to figure out your Facebook from your Fatbooth, why not equip your phone with a few must-have basics?

Facebook
Never miss another status update with the iPhone version of the social networking giant, which boasts a lot more features than the equivalent version for Blackberry and other phones – such as online chat for example. Pretty much the only thing you can’t do on this version is play Scrabble (you’ll need a Flash Player for that) or other games but it’s a small price to pay (actually it’s a free app) for having all that Facebook content at your fingertips. And of course you can use it to keep other people in touch with what you’re up to.

Skype
You may well have been using it on your laptop for some time but Skype is also available for the iPhone, and will give a new dimension to your conversations. Like the computer version the Skype for iPhone allows you to call, video call, SMS or have an online chat with your contacts – and is particularly useful if you’re calling long-distance family or friends. And given you can chat, instant message and videocall for free is one of the best bargains to be had.

BBC News
It’s always a good idea to have at least one news app on your iPhone and the BBC News one ranks among the best – it’s simple to use, has all the major stories of the day at the touch of a button as well as video footage (although you may need to be near a wi-fi connection to access this) – plus it’s all completely free. Just remember to pull down the screen to update it so that you don’t end up reading old stories.

Evernote
This nifty little free app allows you to make notes, save them and even sync them to your computer – so if inspiration strikes while you’re out and about, you need to remind yourself to do something or you just want to make a shopping list, you’ve got a place for all those random scribblings. A very useful tool – and much neater than writing everything down on Post-Its and sticking them to the fridge.

Angry Birds
You’ll get a free version of this on the phone anyway, but if there is one game worth paying (and at only a measly 59p) for then it’s this one, which has already become something of an iPhone phenomenon. The premise is simple – fire cute birds out of catapults in a bid to kill some mean green pigs who have stolen their eggs. Except it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds, given all the various forts and shelters your nemeses have constructed for themselves. Each level takes less than a minute, but with hundreds to master you may well be some time. And don’t expect to be putting it down any time soon.

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