Gesture-based music control and a challenging tower defense game: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a program that lets you control your music library through screen gestures and a new open-field tower defense game.


If you're a strategy gaming type of person, you know there is no shortage of tower defense games in the iTunes Store. It shouldn't be that big of a surprise, I suppose, because the iPhone and iPod Touch touch screens might be the best interface for games of this genre. Using your finger to choose and place towers couldn't be more intuitive. But even with the huge amount of tower defense games, some manage to rise above the rest. One of my apps this week is a sequel to one of the more popular games in the genre, and after having played several rounds, I can tell you it's definitely worth the price for tower defense fans.

This week's apps include a program that lets you control your music library through screen gestures and a new open-field tower defense game.

A four-finger tap locks or unlocks the screen (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

FluxTunes (99 cents) is a simple but extremely useful app that lets you control your music using onscreen gestures. Simply start up FluxTunes and you'll have access to your music just like running the iPod, but now you can use a number of different gestures to switch songs, change playlists, and much more.

FluxTunes is particularly useful when you don't have time to go through the regular controls such as while driving or when you have it in a shoulder strap while working out. Touch and drag your finger up or down to raise or lower the volume. A swipe to the right or left skips to the next song or skips to the previous song. A two finger swipe to the left or right switches between playlists. You also can touch and hold your finger in place to get the full list of available gestures. Anyone who uses their iPhone to play music while driving or those with limited vision will appreciate this simple, but effective new way to interact with your music library.

GeoDefense Swarm
Sometimes littering the grid with missile launchers is the only way to win. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

GeoDefense Swarm (99 cents for a limited time) is the sequel to GeoDefense, the hit tower defense game I wrote about in a previous post. The original game became known as the thinking man's tower defense game, requiring players to work out a strategy for the more challenging levels (and they were very challenging). GeoDefense Swarm continues in this tradition with another very challenging tower defense game, but moves the game from a set-path type of experience to an open-field game where you need to create your own maze of towers for creeps to navigate through.

GeoDefense Swarm has 30 playable levels split between the easy, medium, and hard categories, all offering the same vector-based graphics, pixel bursts, and warp effects found in the original. But now, along with the open-field gameplay in a hexagonal-grid, certain tiles have new properties to make the game even more challenging. Some tiles heal creeps or speed them up, forcing you to develop a strategy to stop creeps before getting to these tiles. Another type of tile can only be used by creeps, requiring you to work-around these tiles while trying to slow their path to the goal.

Along with the new maps and tile types, you get a new tower to experiment with as well. Called the Thumper, the new purple tower gives off waves of damage in its immediate area. Upgrades to the Thumper increase the damage and add a higher frequency of waves. Overall, GeoDefense Swarm is an excellent followup to the original game, but just like the original, might be better suited to those with a lot of experience in the genre or at least a high threshold for frustration.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Are you happy to finally find an app that lets you switch songs easily while doing other things? Is GeoDefense Swarm too hard for its own good? 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.