Paint with layers and defend the earth: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a new painting program and a great new game that refreshes some of the stand-up arcade classics of old.


Before I get to this week's apps, the folks over at Public Radio Exchange let me know there's a new version of Public Radio Tuner (which I've featured here before). Now called Public Radio Player, this new version has been redesigned from the ground up with a new interface, added station schedule information, and new On Demand radio shows you can stream. Past episodes of This American Life, Fresh Air, and many other popular public radio shows can now be streamed whenever you want to listen.

At the iTunes Store, I noticed a lot of the comments mention the new version of the app is much slower to load than Public Radio Tuner. Upon first loading the app, it locked up on the loading screen for me, but after a restart I experienced no problems whatsoever with loading the app, streams, or the on-demand features. Please let me know in the comments what your experience is. Fortunately, downloading the new app to your iPhone doesn't replace the old one, so if it doesn't work right now for you, you can always go back to Public Radio Tuner.

This week's apps include a new painting program and a great new game that refreshes some of the stand-up arcade classics of old.

Use the button in the lower left to access the layer screen (Credit: CNET)

Layers ($4.99) is a touch-to-paint program that's a lot like Brushes, an app I've talked about before, but with a few more options. With Layers, you get eight different brush types, a color wheel, an eye-dropper (to select onscreen colors), an eraser that has its own transparency settings, and the ability to use layers like in Adobe Photoshop. The layer functionality and interface is truly impressive, with a 3D isometric view of your layers so you can tap to pick which layer you want to work on. You also can use a fill option to fill in specific layers with a chosen color.

When you're done with your painting, Layers offers a few options for how you can share your picture. You can send it to your photo library, save as a duplicate, e-mail as a flattened JPEG image, or even e-mail as a Photoshop (PSD) file so you can keep your layers intact when you transfer the painting to your desktop computer. As an added bonus, you can download the free Layers Replay Viewer (developer's site) for Mac OS X and watch a replay of your painting in a QuickTime movie. If you're an artist or just enjoy playing with colors to see what you can create, Layers offers the most options available for touch painting and what you can do once your done with your piece.

Earth Vs. Moon ($3.99) borrows from old arcade hits like Missile Command, Space Invaders, and Pong to make a new fun and challenging game on the iPhone. You start off by playing the Story mode, in which it is your job to defend Earth by tapping on the screen to fire rockets just ahead of incoming missiles. In these stages, you'll also be able to hit UFOs that heal portions of Earth damaged by missiles and fire at strange aliens that get dropped off by enemy spaceships. Every few levels, you get a chance to play other game types. In Moon Armada levels you'll have to fight an alien armada that looks a lot like Space Invaders, but you'll shoot the armada using your three Missile Command-like gun satellites. In Moon Ball Battle, you'll play Pong against a giant spaceship by redirecting the ball using rocket explosions from your satellites. In all there are 5 different game types to challenge you--most based on old-school classics--as you move up through levels

Earth Vs. Moon
Sometimes losing is as fun as playing the game--these guys have a good sense of humor (Credit: CNET)

Like any good arcade game, Earth Vs. Moon gets much harder as you progress. Fortunately you also can swipe the touchscreen to fire a barrage of rockets to hit more enemies (at the cost of ammo), or touch one of your gun satellites for a momentary shield (also costing ammo). As you complete more levels, you can unlock a couple of different game modes including a old-school "get the highest score" mode or you can play each of the variations of the game found in the story mode.

As I played Earth Vs. Moon, I couldn't help but think the touch screen is probably the best possible interface for a Missile Command type of game. Not even the original track ball can compare. In any case, with several game modes to mix up the gameplay, and an excellent touch-screen interface, this game should appeal to fans of the classic arcade games it emulates and new comers who like a unique and varied challenge.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Are you having problems with Public Radio Player? What do you think of Layers or Earth Vs. Moon? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.