'He-Man': A simple but fun digital diversion
By Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY
2:30 PM

spacer To help commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Master of the Universe, there's a new He-Man game at the App Store.

A partnership between Mattel and game publisher Chillingo, the 99¢ download is a basic side-scrolling brawler that pits He-Man and other characters against Skeletor and his henchmen throughout the kingdom of Eternia.

While not very challenging, He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe – yes, that's its official name – is ideal for younger kids, even if they've never been exposed to the animated He-Man television show, live-action movie, comics or other merchandise.

Played through seven different realms of Eternia, the game has you controlling He-Man in a colorful 2D world. You'll mostly run from the left side of the screen to the right, while hacking-and-slashing against enemies to protect the secrets of Castle Grayskull from the malevolent Skeletor. You'll also jump on ledges, avoid obstacles and collect items such as crystals (currency), hearts (health) and power-ups (to increase your character's abilities).

Using touchscreen controls on the left- and right-hand side of the screen, the game is easy to control on the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Players will learn new moves over time – including swiping up for an uppercut or swiping down for a whirlwind strike with his sword. He-Man can call on help from other characters for quick bursts of added strength or magic attacks. This comes in handy when you battle against a tougher boss character, including Beast Man and Trap Jaw.

Too bad you can't stop an attack mid-move, which would've been handy to change direction or strategy. Because you can't alter a move you've already initiated, you might take some damage if your calculations are off a tad. Lose three hearts and He-Man perishes. Also be aware there's an option for in-app purchase at the game's Store, such as 99 cents for 20,000 crystals, which can be used to buy health, upgrades and other goodies.

Fans of the franchise can also look for hidden He-Man lore from the '80s, such as comic book covers and product art, spread throughout the nearly 30 levels.

The cartoon-like game is fun and lengthy, but it's not very difficult. Therefore, younger or novice gamers should enjoy the simple and straightforward action, while nostalgic types should get a kick out of the familiar characters and locations.

Rated:3 out of 4

ScanToPDF Mobile: Free app quickly scans docs, creates PDFs
By Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY
10:16 PM

spacer As someone who increasingly relies on my iPad for business, it's amazing what this tablet can do that a laptop cannot.

For example, a new app called ScanToPDF Mobile FREE can take a high-quality scan (i.e. picture) of a document, instantly make a PDF out of it and email it off – all within about 15 seconds. Seriously.

While you'll see a small banner on your PDFs after the 30th one created – with the company's website in red -- this UK-based download is simple to use, fast and free. (Or you could pay $2 for the full version of ScanToPDF Mobile, without a banner.)

Similar to other scanning and PDF creation apps, you can use a photo already stored on your iPad's gallery or snap a photo with the rear-facing camera; the quality for text is excellent on the new (third-generation) iPad. Once the photo is snapped you can tap to create a PDF as-is, or better yet, use some of the built-in editing tools to crop, rotate or brighten up your document, photo or whatever else you've scanned. An option in the Settings area lets the app automatically enhance the scan for you. You can also adjust PDF file size (three options) and automatically convert scans to grayscale.

Other features include the ability to choose the default PDF page size (A4, Legal, Letter, etc.), create multipage PDFs, add or delete pages from existing ScanToPDF Mobile PDFs and add PDF tags for document indexing (author, title, keywords, and so on).

Once your PDF has been created you can access anytime from within the app, rename it, move it up or down the list of PDFs, or tap to email to someone. One thing I couldn't figure out was how to upload to an FTP site from within the app, which is a feature listed on the iTunes page for the app.

Overall, ScanToPDF Mobile FREE is a fast and high-quality scan-to-PDF app that includes features found in many paid versions, such as the various editing and sharing options. If the watermark bothers you after the 30th PDF creation it's still worth the price of a cup of coffee for the ad-free version.

Developer:O Imaging
Rated:3.5 out of 4

'The Last Express': Extraordinary game is on the right track
By Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY
1:53 AM

spacer The only thing better than finding something new and awesome to play at the App Store is when a classic game you once cherished gets resurrected for the platform.

Such is the case with The Last Express, an award-winning story-driven adventure from 1997, created by Jordan Mechner of Prince of Persia fame.

The PC adventure game holds up very well 15 years later, now optimized for touch controls on the iPad's 9.7-inch screen but also playable on iPhone and iPod touch.

On the brink of The Great War, The Last Express is staged during a turbulent summer of 1914, on a European train ride from Paris to Constantinople. The entire game takes place on the last journey of the Orient Express over three full days and nights, and places you in an immersive, atmospheric adventure filled with good 'ol fashioned mystery and danger.

You are Robert Cath, a young American summoned by his close friend Tyler Whitney to join him on the train. He arrives late and barely makes the train, only to find Tyler murdered in his car. Cath quickly assumes Tyler's identity to reveal the killer and eventually finds himself woven in a complex web of suspense, betrayal and political intrigue.

There are 30-odd characters, including a memorable Austrian beauty, a German arms dealer, a North African antiques dealer and a Russian anarchist. The characters move about on the train as if they were real passengers, going about their business and talking in their native language.

You'll sneak into compartments, eavesdrop on conversations, pick up items for your inventory, solve puzzles and interact with suspects to solve the game. That might take some time: This adventure is quite long at about 15 to 20 hours. Plus, your actions might affect other characters' behavior, therefore if you take a wrong turn you might opt to "rewind" to a previous point in the story.

The game is played mostly from a first-person perspective. The unique and attractive "rotoscoping" animation was achieved by filming real actors and actresses and then drawing on top of the characters and set pieces, frame by frame.

As with the original game, The Last Express is playable in five languages -- English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. New to the iOS game is the ability to earn achievements, a new hint system and unlockable character biographies and cinematics.

Aside from the relatively high price of $5 for an iPad game, the only complaint is a lack of subtitles -- there's a lot of dialogue to catch so it would be good to read it and maybe even refer back to it in a journal. Plus, be aware the game is a hefty 1.6 gigabytes in size, which might be too big for those on a 16GB iPad.

Overall, The Last Express is an extraordinary adventure that plays just as well today on an iPad than it did back in the '90s on a Windows 95 machine.

Rated:4 out of 4

Sirius XM Internet Radio: Newly updated app rocks on iPad
By Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY
1:25 PM

spacer iPad owners who love music have no shortage of excellent streaming services, such as Pandora, Spotify and Rdio, just to name a few.

But don't dismiss satellite music giant, SiriusXM. Its newly updated SiriusXM Internet Radio app for iOS and Android delivers a lot of bang for the buck – especially if you already have a subscription to the satellite service.

Much better than its predecessor, the new app offers a ton of on-demand content, including access to more than 200 shows (such as Howard Stern, Tom Petty's Buried Treasure or The Opie & Anthony Show), along with streaming music from multiple genres with digital video recorder (DVR)-like functionality to pause, rewind and fast-forward through the audio streams.

In fact, a feature called "Start Now" lets you scrub back up to five hours of programming on many of its 120 channels. This "time-shifting" comes in handy if you want to hear talk radio programming from the beginning of a show. Or, perhaps you heard a song you loved two hours ago while in the car and want to hear it again on your iPad when back at home.

Another feature called "Tune Start" always plays songs from the beginning of the track when you land on a new station – instead of catching it in the middle or near the end. It's optional, but highly recommended, and something you can also do on the SiriusXM Lynx Portable Radio ($249.98).

If you're going somewhere that doesn't have Internet connectivity to stream SiriusXM content, such as on a transcontinental flight, you can also download some shows to listen to offline -- stored on your smartphone or tablet's internal memory. Unfortunately, this only works for spoken audio channels instead of music, likely due to licensing restrictions.

Similar to the newly updated SiriusXM Internet Radio online player – played in a computer's web browser – the new app offers album art, song and artist information; the ability to search for shows or music by channel (though not artist or song title, unfortunately); and the option to replay a song or segment with a click or tap, or skip forward to hear what's next. The iPad interface is clean and easy to navigate with your fingertips.

If you're one of the 23 million Americans who already subscribe to SiriusXM satellite radio ($14.49/month), access to Internet Radio costs an extra $3.50 per month. It's too bad use of the app is not included with your subscription, but it's still less than many other music services – plus you also get a ton of sports, comedy, news and exclusive shows such as Howard Stern.

For SiriusXM Internet Radio without a satellite radio subscription, listening on a computer or mobile device will cost you $14.49 per month, which is on the steep side.

Developer:SiriusXM Radio
Rated:3.5 out of 4

'Hum A Song': Fun but flawed music game
By Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY
10:40 AM

spacer Take the familiar Name That Tune gameplay and add in turn-based multiplayer matches over the Internet a la Draw Something, and you'll have a pretty good idea of how Hum A Song works.

As the name suggests, the new iOS game – for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch – challenges you to pick a song from a list and hum a few bars into your device's microphone. Then, send it off to have an opponent try to guess the song, and you must do the same, too. Guess right and you'll both score points and in-game currency.

Hum A Song is quite fun – and a little embarrassing in a karaoke kind of way – but the multiplayer game hits a few sour notes here and there.

The first issue is requiring a Facebook ID just to play. Like many other gamers, I'm reluctant to do this as companies often abuse the privilege and blast messages out to your friends to market the game. You can play against a random person, but Hum A Song wants you to play against Facebook friends. An email address isn't an option either – only Facebook. Even Draw Something lets you play without giving out any personal information.

Once you start to play, however, it's easy to fall for the game's simplicity and charm. Once you find an opponent you tap a genre you're comfortable with – such as classic rock, country, pop, hip-hop, reggae and metal, to name a few – and then you're asked to hum a few seconds of the song and send it off to them to guess. You'll also receive a song to guess and can type in the name using the onscreen keyboard (such as "Stairway to Heaven" or "My Sharona").

Aside from getting a couple of empty sound files instead of hummed songs, the other issue I experienced is when you tap on a genre and change your mind because you don't recognize any of the songs to hum, there isn't a way to go back and pick another genre (or not that I was able to find). Instead, I had to tap to skip, then delete the opponent and look for another random player. Apparently you can preview the song in iTunes if you're not familiar with it – and you can buy the track, too, if desired.

The game is free to play but you can purchase virtual coins for real money, such as 800 gold coins for $1.99, to buy hints and other goodies. As part of a launch promotion, all song categories are unlocked and available to play. The game developer says there are more than 2,000 songs, and growing.

While fun – especially for those who love music – Hum a Song needs some work to make it worthy of a top spot on the charts.

Developer:Hibernum Creations
Rated:2.5 out of 4

Faker$: Put yourself on the cover of a magazine
By Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY
10:08 AM

spacer More than one million people are faking out their friends with Faker$, a free app that lets you put yourself – or friends and family members – on the cover of famous magazines, newspapers, movie posters, and more.

Yes, it's similar to those attractions at fairs and carnivals, where you can create fake magazine covers – but it's a blast to do it yourself on your iPad. Plus, you have a lot more options when it comes to designing and sharing your handiwork.

The French developer announced the App Store download milestone just recently, having achieved it in less than six months from the app's official debut.

Faker$ has you first choose what kind of phony publication you want to create. In the magazine category, for example, you've got parodies of National Geographic, People, Vanity Fair, Golf and Rolling Stone, to name a few. The logo, font and layout of each magazine is nearly identical to the real one but look closer and you'll see the name is spelled incorrectly – such as Vague instead of Vogue, Playtoy instead of Playboy or Uz instead of Us – but you can change the words back to the real deal once you start your creation.

Once you select one of the unlocked covers, you can import a photo from your iPad, position it on the cover of the magazine, and then begin to edit the text of the publication name, along with headlines and captions. I used a photo of my wife for the cover of Helio! (Hello!) and wrote: "Exclusive: Kellie Saltzman dishes all!"

Once you've finished with your faux magazine cover you can save it, email it or post it to social networks like Facebook or Twitter. It really does look authentic at first glance, which is part of the fun.

While only a handful of templates are free to start, in-app purchases unlock additional content, such as 15 different newspaper covers for $0.99 cents or 50 magazine covers for $2.99. At the time of this writing, a new $0.99-cent Faker$ Cinema Pack was offered, giving you 35 movie posters you can customize, such as "Leave Actually" ("Love Actually") and "Jurassic Cat" ("Jurassic Park").

While it works and looks best on an iPad, the app is also supported by iPhone and iPod touch, and is available in one of six languages.

Faker$ is a lot of fun, especially for those with a sense of humor.

Rated:3.5 out of 4

Starring You Storybooks: Let your kids star in the story
By Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY
4:46 PM

spacer The brains behind those JibJab personalized greeting cards, such as Elf Yourself, are now letting your kids star in their own animated bedtime story books.

Called Starring You StoryBooks, the new iPad app has you choose from one of many different kids books (with one free to start). The next step is to import your child's face so it's superimposed on the main character. You can take a photo using your device or select one from your photo gallery; use your fingertips to enlarge or shrink the photo and rotate it around until you get a perfect fit. The process is similar to customizing the online JibJab greeting cards.

Now you're ready to flip through the storybook. The main character – which now has your child's face – will walk, run, swim, cartwheel and dance around the pages.

The free storybook, Dancin' Feet, has your character dancing through multiple dance styles. After the child or parent reads the text, they can tap the arrow in the lower right corner to flip to the next page or flick a finger across the screen like some ebook readers. In some cases, kids will see their name in the book, too.

In Pirates and Mermaids, you're helping mermaids recover some treasure stolen by pirates, while in Goofy Grownup you'll see your child's character try on silly hats and see a monkey prance around in underwear.

For all books – totaling nearly 20 so far -- the animation is fast and smooth, and the music and sound effects top-notch.

When you select another book, your child's face will already be on the hero or heroine of the tale, unless you opt for a different photo or child. You can get a free preview of each book (a few pages) before you're asked to pay to continue.

On that note, Starring You StoryBooks costs $7.99 each, or you can subscribe to a monthly subscription for $3.99 to access one book (which is a better deal). Subscribers can also purchase books for $1.99 apiece. According to JibJab, the top in-app purchases are Saving Christmas, The Alphabet Wrangler, A Perfect Princess Day, Ocean Commotion, Trucks and Backwards Day.

Starring You Storybooks is an excellent way to showcase the iPad as a platform for children's books, including the ability to customize the experience with your own photo and text. Because you can download and test-drive the app for free, with one free book to start you off, there's no excuse not to give this extraordinary app a try – especially if you have young kids or grandkids.

Developer:JibJab Media
Rated:3.5 out of 4

'Postal Pix': Upload photos, get prints in the mail
By Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY
10:21 AM

spacer The idea behind the newly updated PostalPix app is pretty straightforward: Whatever photos you take on your iOS device (iPad, iPhone or iPod touch) can be uploaded to the service to be printed and mailed to your door.

The free app first has you tap the size of the prints you want, such as a 4x6 (21¢ - 33¢, depending on quantity) or 8x8 square ($3.49 apiece). Once you select the desired size the app opens up all the pictures on your iOS device, from your Camera Roll, Photo Library or Photo Stream. Now tap the photos you want printed, which show up at the bottom of the screen, followed by "Done" and "Add to Cart."

The final step is to select the quantity of prints before proceeding to checkout. You can also tap to preview the photos before you confirm the order. Photos take a few business days to receive, and if you

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