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January 18, 2013

App roundup: The five best Windows Store apps, according to a 13-year-old girl

Hi! David S here. I usually write things for the Windows web site. The headlines on the Windows home page, for example. “Download the new Internet Explorer”—yes, that was me. Anyway, I’m thrilled to be able to talk to you directly and tell you about some of my favorite apps from the Windows Store.

But I’d like to start with a list of the five best apps in the Windows Store according to my 13 year-old daughter. She’s embarrassed to be associated with anything connected to her dad, so I’ll just call her Kaia. Which is her real name.

Like most kids her age, Kaia has a relationship with technology that’s impulsive, intuitive, and fickle. She’ll try out a dozen or more apps in short order, immediately discarding anything that doesn’t hook her. She’s probably gone through more apps than an entire software test team.

So when she likes an app, she REALLY likes it. Here are my takes on her current five favorite apps from the Windows Store, in no particular order.

Top Girl

Top Girl app

High school already seems like a game. The app ingeniously takes the whole system of boys, clothes, and social status and turns it into a points-based contest with clear winners and losers. It sounds a bit ruthless, but the upbeat music and appealing graphics make it more good-natured fun than Hunger Games-style brutality.

Brain Cube Reloaded

Brain Cube app

There is a kind of story here—told in cute graphics on a retro television set—about a dystopian future in which a cube has been … abandoned on a pile of other cubes? It’s not clear, and it doesn’t matter. The main action consists of flopping and flipping this orphaned cube thing around a kind of shifting game board to reach the goal, while avoiding a variety of inventive obstacles. What makes it persistently fun is the simple act of flipping the cube, which is weirdly satisfying. Even if, like me, you’re terrible at it.

Nightmares From The Deep: The Cursed Heart

Nightmares from the Deep app

This game is equal parts spooky ambiance, problem-solving, and story-driven adventure. You play as a parent trying to rescue your daughter from an evil (and terrifying-looking) pirate-zombie character. The story is compelling, the graphics are mesmerizingly detailed, and the puzzles test your ability to pay attention and put together the twisted pieces of the villain’s past. You may even feel a little sorry for him by the end.

Dark Arcana: The Carnival

Dark Arcana app

This is another first-person game along the same lines as Nightmares from the Deep, with the same basic mixture of adventure and puzzle-solving. But this one is a LOT more scary. It’s one of the most genuinely creepy games I’ve ever seen. This time you play as a detective looking for a missing woman in a sinister carnival. The premise is pretty twisted, and it only gets more weird, with inter-dimensional travel, bizarre mini-games (see the above screenshot!), and a mysterious helper monkey.


Didlr app

“Didlr”? This should really be called DoodleShare or Sketchy Friends or something. No matter, the app itself is very charming. The idea is simplicity itself: make drawings and share them. The drawing tools are also simple, giving you a choice of color, line thickness, and opacity. After drawing something, you can share with other Didlr users (let’s agree not to call them Didlrs), and browse what others have drawn. Now if only they could do something about the name.

That’s it for now. Let me know what you think of these apps, and also if you (or your teenager) have your own recommendations.  I look forward to yakking at you again soon.

David S