One of the most popular iPhone apps of 2008 wasn't a game or productivity app, or even a random sound maker. Surely many iPhone users reading this post have downloaded the app called Koi Pond, or have at least seen it on a friend's iPhone. It's one of the first programs I start up whenever I'm showing off my iPhone because it combines excellent ambient sound, crisp graphics, and you can make waves and "feed the fish" by swiping or touching the screen. There is no real goal to Koi Pond beyond enjoying watching simulated fish swimming around, yet somehow, if you play with it for a few minutes, you feel oddly at peace.
This week's apps include a new program from The Blimp Pilots (developers of Koi Pond), and a game released recently that lets you revisit one of the classic sci-fi movie moments.
Distant Shore (99 cents) from The Blimp Pilots is a truly unique app with only two goals: send messages in bottles to people around the world and read messages in bottles that wash up on the beach. Like Koi Pond, the graphics in Distant Shore are crisp and the sounds of ocean waves and seagulls as you walk along the beach have a calming effect. Walk by common beach scenery like towels, surf boards, and lounge chairs as you hunt for shells. Collect five shells and you are awarded a bottle in your inventory that you can use to type out a message. When you're finished, you launch your bottle into the ocean. You'll also come upon bottles other users have thrown into the sea and it's exciting to find out what people write in their messages.
As I tested this app, I started walking along (little footprints mark the sand as you move) and collecting shells and sending fortune cookie-like messages in my bottles. Before I knew it I had spent about 15 minutes meandering along the beach searching for bottles and shells. I don't know how The Blimp Pilots do it, but they have succeeded once again in making a mesmerizing iPhone app most people will enjoy.
LightBike (99 cents) lets you join in a race just like the classic light-cycle races in the movie Tron. Race against three other light cycles in single player mode; against a friend head-to head on one iPhone; or against a friend over a local Wi-Fi network on two iPhones. For those who have never played, you steer by tapping the left or right side of your touch screen as you build walls to try to box in the three competitor bikes--all while trying to avoid their attempts to trap you before the 40-seconds on the clock runs out. You can touch the screen to give yourself a momentary boost that's great for quick passes. Once all the other cycles have crashed, you win the round. Though you can't race other players over the Internet, the developers assure users that Wi-Fi Internet racing will come in a later release. Check out the free version for a taste of the LightBike action by visiting the iTunes App Store (link will launch iTunes).
What's your current favorite iPhone app? Do you enjoy the zen-like calm of walking the beach in search of shells? What would you like to see in an iPhone or iPod Touch racer? Let me know in the comments!