Connect with the 21st century social media phenomenon that is the Olympic Games on your mobile. Whether you’re a fan or a sceptic, there’s an app for you.
Athletics 2: Summer Sports
Free trial, then £1.99 on iOS or £1.49 on Android
If you would rather have a go yourself, instead of just watching others, you can even do that on your phone – well, in virtual 3D at least. ‘Athletics 2: Summer Sports’ features 30 Olympic events that you can play by tapping and tilting your phone. As well as running, jumping and other athletic events, these include shooting, cycling and swimming events, among others. This broad list means that as well as individual events, you can play the combined events of the triathlon, quadrathlon, pentathlon, heptathlon and decathlon.
(As an aside, although the app is subtitled ‘Summer Sports’ and Rio 2016 is officially the Summer Olympics, Brazil is in the southern hemisphere so the Summer Games are actually taking place in the Brazilian winter.)
Each game takes place in a 3D view, complete with crowd noise and music, although of course the actual on-screen gameplay is very much in 2D. The gameplay is simple to grasp yet harder to master, pitting the player against a roster of computer-controlled rivals, and will have many players coming back for try after try. There is also a competitive two-player mode.
There are a few caveats. One is that is huge – almost 100MB to download, plus the free version is actually just the full version with all the individual games present but only three unlocked and available to play (100m sprint, long jump and archery). Rather churlishly, the publisher has also added adverts to the free version. Another is that while you can play in the colours of 30 different countries, it exclusively features male competitors – the publisher has produced games featuring female athletes in previous years, but not yet for this edition.
Dumb Ways to Die 2: The Games
Free with ads, Android, iOS
On the other hand, if you’re among those who think that the Olympics are a gigantic ego-fest run by and for a self-important and money-hungry clique, you might prefer this very silly set of games from Melbourne, Australia’s Metro Trains. The original set of Dumb Ways to Die was developed as part of a railway safety campaign. This second Games-themed version (they are careful not to mention the O-word, presumably to avoid exciting the IOC’s lawyers) appeared in 2014 – and has been updated several times since.
As the title implies, all the games in the app are potentially fatal to your potato-shaped little character. They include hurdling, where the hurdles are electric fences carrying a lethal voltage, a relay race where the baton is a lit stick of explosive, ice curling with landmines, and a sort of reverse javelin event where you have to avoid falling javelins rather than throw them.
There are also lots of more generic mini-games or challenges for your enthusiastic but accident-prone character, from dolphin rodeo and jumping the shark, to potion-stirring and manicuring the dragon. The gameplay with all of them is rapid – each challenge is very brief, and the app whizzes you through them with considerable speed. Lose all three lives on a set of games, and you can try again; get through and you can unlock extra characters or win tokens for extra games.
A multiplayer arena lets you challenge your friends, and there are railway safety challenges as you move between the themed game zones. There are also interstitial ads, but they are easy enough to skip past if they don’t interest you. Overall, this is an inventive and challenging game, and if it suits your sense of humour it could be addictive.
Go To Travel Guides
GoTo Rio: Rio de Janeiro Guide
Free on Android, iOS
If you’re heading for Rio, there is of course lots more to do than watch sport. You might not want to flash an expensive smartphone around too much while you’re there, but you can do a lot of research ahead of time using apps such as GoTo Rio.
This photo guide offers listings of top places to visit and things to do, plus it offers booking links for tours and hotels and a mailing list for discounts and offers. It is also both free to download and free of overt advertising, though its husband-and-wife publishers will be getting revenue from the links in their apps and on their website.
As well as the obvious Rio destinations such as the giant Christ statue, Copacabana and Ipanema, GoTo Rio covers destinations in several other neighbourhoods, and it includes maps, videos and plenty of atmospheric photos.
One nice touch is that more or less all of the content is original and was generated by the couple behind the app – there is no sense that it is simply cut and pasted from Wikipedia or some other public-domain source. The pair each offer their different perspectives on each destination or sight too, which lightens the tone.
One interesting contrast is the Rio Official Guide app, created and maintained by the city’s own tourism department. Again, it is worth a look for ideas, but be warned that it is much more overtly commercial, with entries often written like adverts, plus quite a lot of the content seems only to be available in Portuguese.