Fancy to-do lists and a unique platform game: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a comprehensive and customizable to-do list program and a simple, but challenging game where you use a grappling hook to escape treasure filled caverns.


The evolution of the app store witnessed another milestone recently, with the release of a game that doubles as a very effective advertisement. One of my favorite iPhone games of the year, Firemint's Real Racing, just got a Lite version that doubles as a promotional tool for both the app and an outside company. Real Racing GTI (Free), sponsored by Volkswagen, lets you race on a few of the tracks of the full game using the 2010 Volkswagen GTI. You only get a small taste of the action in the full game, but it should be enough to help you decide if you want to spend the money. You also can choose between several different paint jobs on your GTI.

Though there are plenty of movie-based game apps, and other promotional offerings at the iTunes Store, this particular marriage of a popular racing game with a large car company really strikes me as a great idea. It will be interesting to see if more companies start using the iPhone app store as a way to effectively promote their products through context-appropriate game titles (not just simple ads). I could even see other car companies promoting a new line of cars using the same or similar titles. In any case, if you haven't tried Real Racing, check out Real Racing GTI to get a taste of the game and to get a look at the 2010 Volkswagen GTI inside and out.

This week's apps include a comprehensive and customizable to-do list program and a simple, but challenging game where you use a grappling hook to escape treasure filled caverns.

Awesome Note
Notes can be displayed using thumbnails so it's easy to find specific notes (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Awesome Note ($3.99) lets you manage messages, memos, and ideas in several unique ways. An intuitive interface lets you use themes to help categorize information the way you want and get to the information you need quickly. Awesome Note includes a few demo categories (shown as folders) that you can use to see how your notes and info will be laid out. You can create new folders by hitting the add folder button in the lower right, selecting your preferred color, and adding a title. Opening a folder displays your notes for that category laid out as thumbnails so you can quickly find the specific note you want. You can also configure the program to display to-dos as a running list or as a separated list with completed items on top.

Once you have your category folders set up, simply open a folder, add a note, and start typing using the regular portrait view or in landscape mode by turning your iPhone sideways. You can also customize your notes by choosing from a wide variety of themes and fonts. When your finished, you can easily drop your note into other category folders or e-mail the information to whoever you want. Overall, if you are looking for an easy-to-use to-do list manager and note taking app, the folder-based note management and customizable themes of Awesome Note make it a worthwhile option.

The first level acts as a tutorial so you can learn the controls (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

HookChamp ($2.99) is a fun (and funny) platform type of game where you swing through caves carrying stolen treasure using your trusty grappling hook to get to the exit. The game offers fairly simple graphics and reminds me of older console platform games. The control system is extremely easy to pick up and understand, but takes some practice before you'll be able to swing smoothly through the caverns. Along the way, you'll need to pick up gold coins, some of which require you to be creative with your high-flying grappling techniques. As you progress in levels, the action gets more difficult, as you'll be chased by a giant unnamed ghost-like creature with large teeth. Some of the most exciting parts of the game are when you're on the run, trying to swing your way to safety.

Once you've managed to escape a level with your treasure, you'll be able to enter a shop to buy equipment that will make your escapes easier and maps of new locations to plunder. You can buy items like the shotgun, for example, that you can use to slow down the chasing ghost. You also can buy better shoes that help you run faster, or even rocket shoes to make you fly higher. If you like the swinging action of classic arcade games like Bionic Commando, or if you're looking for a platformer that doesn't require you to remember too many buttons, HookChamp has just the right mix of challenging gameplay, item collecting, and fun character dialog to keep you entertained game after game.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Do you think we're going to see more sponsored versions of popular games like Real Racing GTI? What's your favorite note-taking app? Do you have harrowing stories of escape in HookChamp? 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.