16 Feb

Airbrushing: an app for impossible beauty

There has been much controversy surrounding airbrushing over the last few years. I read a very interesting article on BBC News describing the effects on an adult, fully aware of the practice. The psychological effects on impressionable children and teenagers will be, of course, decidedly worse. Since technology has been making it easier and easier for anyone to edit out imperfections in photos, I decided to try it on myself.

I am a Photoshop… err… professional, but I didn’t want to show what an expert can do. We’ve all seen the evidence in fashion and gossip magazines; women with flawless skin and absolutely no flab practically 2 hours after giving birth. I wanted to show how technology has made this impossible beauty available to everyone. I downloaded the app Perfect365 on my iPhone (also available on Android) and set to work on one of my pictures.

First off, I chose a photograph that I was already quite happy with. I think I looked alright in it, until I started to change things.

I smoothed out my skin, I even got rid of some of my moles (which, lets face it, make me who I am). I even made my face slimmer, eyes whiter and larger. I may have gotten a little bit obsessed with making changes. I realised it was effecting me, someone who prides herself on not being overly image-conscious, a woman of substance and not superficial.

airbrush1

Before and after

The thing is, I realise the ‘after’ photo looks fake. I realise that it is so altered that I can only now class it as loosely based on me. But still, there was something that made me want to try making one of my most loved memories and most hated pictures better.

The story behind this one is being on a lovely holiday to Paris, eight months pregnant, and after dragging myself up 200-300 steps to the top of the Sacré-Coeur wanting to take a lovely picture of me with the glorious view. Except you can imagine what I looked like after this feat. This calls for Perfect365…

Airbrush2

See? Addictive. I know a lot of friends who Photoshop secretly. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes it’s just intuition. The odd spot here and there, a stretch mark, a bit of excess flab. Where does it end?

photo-2

Making me perfect: even my cheeks shrunk.

The app works, a little too well maybe. It was so easy to make changes with a number of different selections and a slider for more extreme editing. The app has a colour palette for choosing makeup and even some rather fake looking wigs to top it all off.

The face slimming section surprised me. I had previously learned to live with my round, slightly chubby face. Is feeling this way down to new technology? I don’t think so. We need to be responsible with the way in which we use programs like this. We need to tell our children they are beautiful, because they are. There is technology out there saving lives and doing amazing things, beautiful things. This is not one of those things.

If you do decide to download this app and try it for yourself, do so at your peril. It could cost you your self-esteem, and in this day and age it is rather hard to build back up.

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15 Dec

Escape the Titanic: A “Free” App

It’s not. I’m going to start off by saying it most definitely isn’t free.

Escape-the-Titanic

I downloaded this app because I love the film, and it was on the trending list on Android Play. But after playing a really fun, well-designed puzzle game for maybe twenty minutes (I wasn’t timing, but it didn’t feel like long), I got to a stage where it asked me to pay to continue with either answers or hints. They are both paid-for options. The other option was a tiny ‘no thanks’ link at the bottom. Naturally, I pressed ‘no thanks’ and waited to continue without my answers or hints.

mzl.lblbdyqg

It took me back to the main menu. I pressed the play button and it the same ‘answers or hints’ screen loaded. You can’t progress without paying for hints. It’s 61p for hints, and £1.85 for full answers. So, not a lot for the hints but as this review from Gamezebo points out, the hints are just basic instructions and not at all helpful.

But I wouldn’t know. I refuse to pay for a game that calls itself free. And a quick scan of the reviews on the Android app store reveals that a lot of other people have felt duped by this too. Okay, so you get a few puzzles for free, but it should at least come clean in the description.

As for the few puzzles I did play, I did think it was fun. I like a good puzzle game as much as the next geek, and the imagery was great too. I felt like a cartoon Jack Dawson.

It’s a shame it was advertised as free, when it should have just been advertised as 61p. It’s better to have less people downloading the app, than making everyone annoyed by it!IMG_2737

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15 Dec

Free Theme Park game in app store

Theme Park app by EA

Theme Park app by EATheme Park, originally released back in 1994, was a firm favourite of mine. I remember spending a fair few evenings constructing and managing my amusement park on my second hand Playstation.

So when EA released the Theme Park app, I had to give it a go. On Android and in the iTunes App Store, Theme Park starts off just as fun as I remember. Yes, the control isn’t as easy on a smartphone as it was on a console, but the game is still great. The only thing I’ve found, as with a lot of these free apps, is it takes a long time to get anywhere with the game and it begs you to pay for stuff at every opportunity. I’d rather just pay a flat rate for the game instead of paying for tickets.

As I said before in my Candy Crush review, I don’t like paying for upgrades. I will buy games, and I will buy apps if they are particularly useful (although I’ve yet to find one that falls into this category), but I won’t buy tokens, tickets, coins, or any other paid-for item on a ‘free’ app.

Theme Park has therefore taken a very long time to progress.

EA Theme Park gameplay

There have been some other very angry reviews of this app, like this one from Jim Sterling on Destructoid.

I don’t feel that strongly about it. I still enjoy playing it, but I’m sure the nostalgia of the original game has a part to play in that. It’s given me the urge to dig out my old Playstation instead.

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03 Dec

Your photos on marshmallows: why do I love this?

Instamallows

It shouldn’t be great, but it is. Imagine getting a parcel you haven’t ordered, so you immediately rip it open with a mixture of excitement and confusion. The box reads ‘Boomf, Magical Mallows’ and you are still none the wiser. What is this? Opening the box reveals a set of 9 bite size marshmallows, each printed with a picture of you and your best friend on that amazing holiday you had last summer.

Boomf box

THIS IS THE BEST PRESENT EVER. Except that you have to eat them, or it’d be a waste, right?

I don’t know why I like this idea so much. It’s personal, it’s quirky, and I don’t even know what the point of having photos on marshmallows is but I would be thrilled to get some.

You order from the Boomf site, and choose your photos directly from your Instagram account. It’s a great extension of the Instagram app – a use for the collection of photos that would otherwise just stay on your phone.

So really, download Instagram if you haven’t already, and get snapping.

Instamallows

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02 Dec

I’m all Tapped Out: The Simpsons app review

Simpsons Tapped Out

I feel as a human being, we are all instinctively born with knowledge of the Simpsons. As a 90’s kid, the Simpsons has always been around, and probably always will be. When I first started playing the EA app The Simpsons™: Tapped Out I suddenly realised how many people I knew that were already playing it, and more importantly, how much further ahead they were!

This app was instantly addictive. I enjoyed reading the little storylines that go along with the quests, and I chuckled to myself when clicking on the different characters and hearing their catchphrases. I found that I progressed quickly in the beginning, which is important otherwise you feel like you are getting nowhere.

You know you’re hooked when you find yourself bragging to your other half, ‘I got the Chief Wiggum, have you?’.

As far as game play goes, it’s easy to get the hang of, and enjoyable, if a little repetitive. Therapeutic might be a better word. It’s a little like a Farmville/Sims mash-up, but much better. And you can make Nelson say ‘ha ha’ on cue.

 

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20 Nov

I hate love hate Candy Crush

I’ve been addicted to this app, Candy Crush Saga, since its 2012 release. Originally a Facebook game, it is theraputic as well as frustrating. King has done a good job of keeping me hooked, but I hate it too. I’ve spent too long shuffling little sweetie icons around my phone but somehow I can’t stop!

Candy Crush Saga for Android Screenshot

Candy Crush Saga screenshot

I only have two rules.

  1. Never ever post anything to Facebook (a great way to annoy your buddies).
  2. Never pay for any upgrades. I say this because where is the fun and sense of triumph in just paying your way through the game? It’s possible, no matter how many weeks/months it takes to complete that one level… and a lot of people have been caught out spending a little here and there, to find they end up with a bill that could have paid for their groceries that month.

I would advise not to even download this app unless you spend most of your days looking for things to fill your time with. I wish I hadn’t. I’m now stuck in an endless cycle of brightly coloured sweets. At the time of writing, I’m on level 320 and I would hate to find out how much time I’ve spent on the thing. It’s brilliant though. It’s so addictive and it is cleverly designed to give you a little victory just at the moment you are about to give up. The little animations in-between games are delightful and the whole app looks and works fabulously.

Try it, or don’t, but I can’t be held responsible for any time lost by downloading this app.

Someone actually made these. Stud earrings available from beadhappy08 on Etsy.co.uk

Someone actually made these. Candy Crush stud earrings available from beadhappy08 on Etsy.co.uk

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11 Nov

Bitten by the Bitstrips bug

Bitstrips example

Bitstrips exampleThe recently trending app Bitstrips definitely fits into the apps for fun category, for a while, and I would recommend a little play around with it just to make your daily Facebook statuses a little less dull. Until everyone has gotten bored of you posting whimsical cartoons about your life and have started posting statuses asking you to stop.

After opening up the app for the first time, you’re required to make an avatar for yourself, and possibly for your loved ones if you wish them to ‘feature’ in your scenes. There’s a fair bit of choice, and you can get your avatar to look somewhat like yourself, which is part of the fun really. Think Sims in cartoon form. And with a lot less control past this stage.

You will then get presented with a series of cartoon images featuring your avatar and, if you chose this option, your co-star. You can edit them by adding speech-bubbles and changing the humorous captions. Then you can share them in a number of different ways (20 times a day if you want to annoy a colleague you dislike).

I would recommend an ‘install’ on the basis that it gives some short-term pleasure. Just, please, don’t get carried away with this one.

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