Stories from America and an airplane combat game: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include an program that lets you explore episodes from an extremely popular radio show and a sequel to a hit arcade airplane combat game.

If you've been following tech news this week, you probably saw the story of how an Apple engineer accidentally left an iPhone 4G behind at a bar. The story has been written about all over the tech sites, so I'll let you read all the details they were able to uncover about the device from the linked story by Erica Ogg. But for a different take on what led up to the iPhone 4G being lost, check out this "shocking" video over at the Buzz Report...It's great having coworkers with a sense of humor.

This week's apps include an app that lets you explore episodes from an extremely popular radio show and podcast and a sequel to a hit arcade airplane combat game.

This American Life ($2.99) lets you listen to episodes from the popular public radio show going all the way back to the show's launch in 1995. The first screen lets you select from the radio show archive; TV shows shown originally on Showtime; a favorites section so you can save ones you like; or you can listen to episodes based on popular contributors. The app also has buttons across the bottom to find the latest shows (new shows are automatically downloaded to the app), a listing of all shows, a section for live streams, and a link to the blog. Basically, if you're a fan of This American Life, this app has everything you could want.

More than just a public-radio listening app, This American Life gives you numerous features to help you explore the archive of episodes along with detailed descriptions of each episode to make it easy to pick ones you want to listen to. One word of warning: there have been reports of crashes on this app, but they are working to iron out the bugs. I had a couple of crashes initially, but after rebooting my iPhone I have had no problems listening to shows or navigating the various features. Let us know in the comments if you have problems with this app. Overall, if you're a fan of This American Life, or enjoy well produced stories and interviews from people across the US, this app is an excellent choice.

MiniSquadron Special Edition (Free) is the free sequel to the hit game Minisquadron, a 2D cartoony airplane dog-fighting game with excellent gameplay and tons of new content. Just like the original, the control system consists of an onscreen joystick on the left and a fire button on the right. In the game, you'll need to battle through 12 waves of different types of airplanes to complete a round. Completing rounds unlocks new airplanes (there are 50 new planes to unlock), each of which will have unique weapons, varying flying speeds, and other perks that will help you in the more difficult rounds. You can also choose between a few different game types including Classic, to go through the game and unlock new planes; Survival, where you'll need to fight of wave after wave of enemies; and Multiplayer, where you can have one-on-one dog fights with your friends over a Bluetooth connection. Sadly, there is no online multiplayer.

MiniSquadron Special Edition has a decidedly psychedelic theme, with battles taking place in front of fantastical backgrounds, and an early level that even has cats flying around to distract you from incoming planes. The thing that I like about this game (as well as the original) is the amazingly effective onscreen controls. The frenetic gameplay requires you to pull off amazing looping maneuvers to deal with the onslaught of enemies, and you almost always feel in control. Overall, MiniSquadron Special Edition is an excellent sequel to Minisquadron with an enormous amount of content and plenty of fun gameplay to keep you coming back for more. Frankly, I'm amazed (but extremely happy) that it's free.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Have you had any issues with This American Life? Are you amazed that Minisquadron Special Edition is a free game? 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.