Thursday, April 23, 2009

Plate Pursuit. ($0.99, version 1.0)

iTunes Link.

You're probably familiar with the premise of this game. You're in the middle of I-15, sister to the left, brother to the right, dog jumping from one pair of legs to the other, one parents driving while the other looks at the map, and every two minutes "Are we there yet?" Someone comes up with the idea of counting license places to pass the time and, paper and pencil handy, half an hour goes by.

Now you can do the same thing with your iDevice.

Plate Pursuit automates the recording of license plates as you pass them on the road (just make sure the person driving isn't the one playing!). It also incorporates state trivia, a very nice touch.

When you fire it up, you get to the main menu. From there you can start a new game, resume a previously started game, change the settings, view your achievements, and get some help. Help explains the game and the settings, which is great as at first I thought a setting meant something but wasn't completely sure.

Achievements include number of plates found, points won, and how many questions you have gotten right in a row. In settings, you can turn the sound effects on and of and you can reset the game. You can also turn the badge counter on and off. The badge counter is a nifty feature that shows in the game's icon (in the Springboard) how many plates you have found in all your games. It looks the same as how many updates are available for your currently installed games on the app store icon.

If you choose to resume a game you get a list of all started trips. This is great because if you go to a major city you can have a game for that trip and then other games for side trips. You can delete a trip by doing a left-swipe over the trip name and then tapping delete (or tapping anywhere else on the screen to get rid of the delete button).

When you start a game, you get to select a trip name and then you get the Alabama plate in front of you. You can't swipe left to go to the last plate alphabetically (great if added but not a deal-breaker). If you have found that plate before, you get a little number in a circle on the top right of the screen. If you tap on it you get a trivia question. There's three possible answers. You tap once to select an answer, and once more to submit it. Answer it right to get more points and if you answer it wrong you lose points (30 points per question added or subtracted). If you answer it (right or wrong) the plate counter goes up. You can cheat a bit and cancel out of it and tap on the plate again to get a different question, so if you don't know a question you can swap it out without losing points. It'd be great for the same question to be displayed until it's answered.

Once you answer the question or click cancel you go to the main screen. You can also click Found from the trivia question screen to raise the plate counter and get 10 points added to your score without having to answer the questions (which means the question itself is 20 points).

From the plate screen you can click on the top right button to go to the main menu or on the top left button to bring up an alphabet bar and go quicker to a state plate. This is an awesome addition for those times Utahns happen to be following Alabamians. Great great great addition.

There's no music and not much in the way of sound effects. A little flipping noise when you click on a plate and get a question, and right-answer and wrong-answer noises. That's about it.

The Good: No more paper and pencil, and the addition of trivia questions more than doubles the replayability.

The Bad: It'd be great if the badge counter could be trip-specific and it remembered your last-played trip, instead of counting all plates found in all trips. There could be a setting option to count all plates or just plates found in the last trip played. The trivia portion needs to be reworked a bit also. It repeats questions too much. It should keep tabs on what questions it has asked per trip and skip those already answered correctly. If it runs out, it should just show "No more questions!" somewhere around the plate in the main screen, and if you touch the plate it just increases the plate counter. Lot less annoying than answering for the tenth time that the abbreviation for Nevada is NV. It also needs a lot more questions! It would also be great to have the option of keeping tabs of questions already answered on a per trip basis or globally. If I already know all the questions I don't want to answer them all over again each time I start a trip.

The Ugly: Found a bug. If you go to Resume Game, swipe left to bring up the delete button, and then press back to go to the main menu, buttons become unresponsive if you go back to Resume Game. You won't be able to select a game or swipe/delete. You will have to exit the app and restart it, and it will work again.

Bottom Line: Can't go wrong for a dollar. Fix the trivia side and can't go wrong for $3. Especially if you travel. I find myself using the app just the trivia side.

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