Best Windows 8 apps this week

windows-app-growth

Sixty-eight in a series. Welcome to this week's edition of the Best Windows 8 apps series.

After last week's negative growth we are seeing a slight increase in apps this week. It is nothing to brag about though, as the total number of apps increased by 50 only, but still better than negative growth.

Several categories have seen negative growth this week, including the paid section of the games category, the free entertainment section, and the News & Weather category.

Apps have been removed from store in the past couple of weeks, and while it is not clear if Microsoft is actively removing apps, it is the main reason why there has been negative growth or only slight growth as new apps do get released to the store.

The total number of apps reached 105,559 applications this week. 82,774 of those are free apps, while the remaining 22,785 apps are paid or desktop programs.

The total number of free apps decreased by 15 this week, while paid applications increased by 65 at the same time.

Red Stripe Deals

The following deals are available this week. All apps are at least 50-percent discounted.

App of the week

Watch ESPN

watch-espn

Watch ESPN is a free app that makes available live streaming video from ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3 and a selection of other ESPN channels.

Access is determined by the TV provider, which means that the live streams are only available to users from the United States, and only if the TV provider is supported.

The application displays information about live TV on the front page, as well as links to sports and channels.

You can check out upcoming coverage or replays for a variety of sports, including all major leagues, cricket, soccer, auto racing and more than a dozen others.

Other apps

Sweets Mania

sweets-mania

Sweets Mania is right up your alley if you like to play games like Candy Crush. The game uses the same mechanics of the smash hit.

Create chains of at least three items of the same color to remove them from the board. Larger chains yield special items that can destroy larger areas of sweets on the board.

Goals range from beating a set score in levels to clearing all jelly fields or collecting candy.

The game uses a time-based system that awards you one new life every 30 minutes.

Web Engine

php-renderer

Web Engine provides you with a basic PHP environment that you can use to run PHP code.

While it is not comparable to a PHP development environment, it can be quite useful to test basic PHP code, or use it while you are learning the language to write basic code.

The program displays the code on the left, and the preview of the code on the right, but only after you have saved the PHP file to your local system.

Jewels of the East India Company

east-india

The game looks like a Candy Crush clone at first but you will realize soon that it plays completely different. While you do need to clear marked fields on the board, you do so by chaining gems of the same color.

You race against the clock to clear all special tiles on the board. Special coins appear when you create chains of five and more which are wildcards that you can use to create larger chains.

Additional game elements, such as chains that need to be broken or chests that need to reach the end of the board are introduced early on to keep players motivated.

The game is free to try and the full version is available as an in-game purchase for $4.49.

Crowdwatch

crowdwatch

The app provides you with options to track thousands of private companies that are raising capital.

It displays trending issues, recent breakouts and an activity feed on the front.

You can use the search option to open the profile page of a company of interest. Here you find information about the company's business model, an overview that includes important information such as its legal status, industry or minimum investment, as well as contract information.

American Airlines

american-airlines

The official American Airlines application for Windows 8. Use the app to search for flights, check your trips, or look up a flight status.

The application seems identical to the American Airline offerings on the Internet, with two main distinctions. You can use the share option to quickly share deals and travel info, and the live tile feature brings deals and special offers directly to the Start Screen of the operating system.

Carcassonne ($4.99, free trial available)

carcassonne

A faithful adaption of the board game Carcassonne (without extensions). You can play against up to five human or computer opponents in the game.

Place tiles with roads, cities, monasteries or fields on the board, and place followers on them to gain points for them during the game or at the very end of it.

3D Chess Master

3d-chess

3D Chess Master is a chess game for Windows 8 that is free to download and install. The app offers 25 different levels of computer opponents that range from really bad to challenging.

You can set a time limit for the game, check stats, load or save game states, and watch the AI make its decision.

The ads that are displayed while you play may be distracting however.

Flap Flap

flap-flap

One of the many Flappy Bird clones that appeared in store this week. It is a super-simple game in which you have to press the mouse button or tap on the screen to flap the wings of the bird to gain altitude.

Your only task in the game is to avoid the obstacles on the map. When you hit a column, it is game over and you have to try from the very beginning again.

Glacier Blast

glacier-blast

Glacier Blast is a challenging puzzle game in which you have to break all ice that is displayed on the board. You use so-called ice breakers to do so. Ice breakers have specific forms which need to fit over the ice that you want removed.

While that is easy at first, it quickly becomes challenging in later levels when there is lots of ice on the board.

You can play the game as a single-player game, or join multi-player battles for the high score.

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