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Richard Moss

Freelance writer covering technology and video games for AppStorm, Mac|Life, Polygon, and several other publications; Content Editor at Archive.vg. @MossRC on Twitter.

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There’s a special feeling to exploring strange alien worlds, especially when you get to do so in a turtle-like space craft with multiple rockets that propel you in several divergent directions. More than that, though, it’s fun to goof around in what amounts to your very own digital sandbox.

Crashed Lander plays like a cross between arcade classic Lunar Lander, Commodore 64 favorite Space Taxi, and the bizarre Flash game QWOP. It’s challenging in just the right way, where patience can overcome any lack in finesse. And you can check it out right now, if you have Unity Webplayer installed.
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Have you ever wanted to use a character or symbol in a document or program, but not known what it’s called or how to find it? You could trawl through a list or chart, trying to recognize it among hundreds or thousands of others. Or you could point your web browser to Shapecatcher.com.

Few single-purpose web apps are as elegant and useful as Shapecatcher. It takes your hand — or mouse — drawn approximation of the character in question, then spits out a list of possible matches. It’ll save you time, make this one little aspect of your life so much easier, and wow you with its ability to recognize the crudest of drawings.
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Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty birthed an entire genre of video games. It wasn’t the first real-time-strategy game, but it standardized the formula and set the foundations that future titles such as Command and Conquer, Starcraft, and even RTS/role-playing hybrid Defense of the Ancients were built upon. Why the history lesson, and what does this have to do with Web.AppStorm? You can now play the RTS progenitor online, in your web browser.

Dune 2 Online faithfully reproduces the groundbreaking classic, which remains just as addictive as it always was. Some aspects of the game have aged terribly, but judging from my time with the port it’s far more accessible than the typical RTS on the market today. Now let’s go over what made it great in 1992, and how well it transitions to the browser in 2012.

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There are some fantastic web apps made for Google Chrome, thanks to the Chrome team’s dedication to showing off the power of web apps in their browser. We recently took a look at the new Chrome Legos, and 100,000 Stars is another great Chrome app that’s recently come out, fresh from the minds of the Google Data Arts Team.

It’s an interactive visualization of the stars in our “neighborhood” of the universe, and it’s an incredibly humbling and beautiful experience. You don’t have to use Chrome to run it, either — I had some success with the latest version of Firefox, and any browser that supports WebGL should be able to run it.

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Remember Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing? Wouldn’t it be cool if someone wrenched it out from its stuffy confines of edutainment and wrapped it in a colorful, more “gamey” and fun package?

Turns out, they did, sort of. Typing Karaoke is like a prototype for a Mavis Beacon meets SingStar game, and it’s fantastic — both as an aide to improving your typing skills and as a fun way to pass the time.
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Have you ever wanted to play god to a tribe of virtual people? Veteran game designer Peter Molyneux created a genre focused on just that in 1989 with Populous for Amiga, DOS, and a bunch of other platforms. Populous turned out to be one of the most influential games of all time, mixing terraforming, strategy, tiny autonomous people, warfare, and godly power-wielding unlike anyone before (and few after).

Reprisal, a free web game (with paid desktop versions), recreates Populous for a modern audience. More homage than clone, despite the obvious similarities, it’s fantastic proof that a 23 year old idea can still be fun, addictive, and fresh. There’s catchy chip tunes music, 30 levels, a separate Skirmish mode, and cool pseudo-retro graphics that simultaneously bring nostalgia and a wow factor. (more…)

Let’s face it: most amateur and small business posters and fliers are terrible — mismatched fonts, bad alignment, garish color schemes, and that’s just getting started. They are made in a hurry by people who don’t know what they’re doing. Then they get posted on a local bulletin board, and who looks at those?

Tackk makes it easy to quickly create fliers, posters, announcements, web pages, and other simple fire-and-forget notes, and share them on the web. It has a beautiful, clean design, and plenty of room for customization. It has its own virtual bulletin board to share your filer, in addition to social network sharing options, and you can print your creations out to stick on a real bulletin board if you wish. Let’s take a closer look to see if it holds up to scrutiny. (more…)

Twitter has long come under fire for not allowing its users to download their old tweets, and for arbitrarily limiting the time you can go back in search. There are plans to let users download their complete archive of tweets by years end, but we have no concrete information about how that’ll work. And many of us want more than just the raw data; we want a way to format, analyze, and automatically archive our Twitter lives.

These 12 web apps, tools, and services will help you on your way to a backed up, readable, and easily-studied Twitter existence. (more…)

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