Your bookmarks anywhere and a unique labyrinth game: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps--both 99 cents--are a utility to bring your desktop browser bookmarks to your iPhone and a surprisingly fun and challenging labyrinth game sequel.

iPhone (Credit: CNET)

With a virtual flood of new apps and updates coming in to the iTunes App Store every day, a few are bound to slip through the approval process that maybe should not have--or at least would not have passed muster with Apple guidelines. I personally don't think Apple needs to filter apps (as long as they work), but, at the same time, if they have a family-friendly vision of the App Store, I have no problem with that.

Two days ago an app that slipped by the App overseers was a real winner, but probably made a few too many people in high places angry. The app in question is called MiTube, formerly available to jailbroken iPhones only, that lets you easily search for and download YouTube videos. A couple of us here heard about MiTube (free) Wednesday morning, downloaded the app, then noticed later that it got pulled by Apple at around 7 p.m. By 5 p.m., MiTube was already No. 11 on the top-free-apps list.

I guess we all know why something like this usually doesn't get accepted. YouTube wants page views, submitters want to make money, and letting people download videos to local drives (like the iPhone) defeats their business purposes. It's sad, really, because as much as I'd like to recommend MiTube, it's no longer available.

Do you think Apple/YouTube/Google should let these apps get posted and not worry or do you think they have every right to keep these apps under wraps? Let me know in the comments.

This week's apps--both 99 cents--are a utility to bring your desktop browser bookmarks to your iPhone and a surprisingly fun and challenging labyrinth game sequel.

Xmarks

Not terribly exciting visually, but having all your bookmark folders on the iPhone is great.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Xmarks for iPhone (99 cents) lets you bring your favorite browser bookmarks with you wherever you go. Already a huge hit for desktop Firefox users, this simple utility lets you sync your bookmarks to the Xmarks server, then sign in from a different location to display your bookmarks and open tabs on another computer's browser. With this iPhone version, you'll be able to bring in your favorite sites or export your bookmarks elsewhere (depending on which location has the most updated list). Don't worry about erasing bookmarks in any location, though, because you can choose to save over what's on your computer, what's on your iPhone, or merge both.

Xmarks requires that you sign up to get started and you'll need to have it running on your desktop computer as well, but there are no extra fees and only the iPhone version costs money. If you're not someone who already saves a lot of bookmarks, this app probably won't be much use to you. But Xmarks for iPhone was a welcome addition for my app library; I so rarely save bookmarks when surfing the iPhone, and I've often longed to have my home desktop bookmarks available when away from the computer. Overall, if you have a big bookmark collection and want to be able to use them wherever you are, Xmarks is probably the best, and now you can use it on your iPhone, too.

Dark Nebula: Episode 2

In boss fights, you'll need to line up the orbiting fireball to hit your enemies.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Dark Nebula: Episode 2 (99 cents), the sequel to Dark Nebula: Episode 1, takes iPhone labyrinth games to the next level by giving the accelerometer-based game mechanic a platformlike feel. The object of the game is to tilt your iPhone to roll a marble through intricate mazes, over precarious bridges, and past dangerous obstacles to get to the level goal. Unlike other labyrinth games, Dark Nebula doesn't limit the action to what's on the screen when you start; you roll through a huge level as fast as you can, picking up bonus items, unlocking doors, and hitting switches to get to the goal. When you reach the end, you're rated on speed, how many items you picked up, and how many lives (or shields) lost.

All alone, this might be enough to keep you coming back for more, but to add to the intricate levels, with Dark Nebula: Episode 2 you now have a way to fight back against spiked baddies that chase you down. Rolling over a colored set of tiles gives you a fireball that orbits around your ball that you can use to hit bad guys. The color is important because only a fireball that matches the color of your enemy will kill it. Some levels will have you switching to different fireballs as you go, adding to the challenge.

I completely missed Dark Nebula: Episode 1 when it came out, but after having played Dark Nebula: Episode 2, I immediately spent another 99 cents to check out the first one. I wasn't sorry; both of these games are excellent and well-made time wasters.

If you're looking for something a little more than your average labyrinth game on the iPhone, both Dark Nebula episodes are worthy of your money. With fun and unique levels, a gold, silver, and bronze rating system, and global records to break, these will keep you coming back for more.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Do you think an app like MiTube should be allowed in the iTunes App Store? Are you happy to finally be able to bring your bookmark collection anywhere? What do you think of the Dark Nebula games? Let me know in the comments!

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