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Geocaching is not for the casual urban adventurer. The concept is simple enough – seek out a hidden treasure by following a specific set of GPS coordinates – but there's a reason why it never caught on in the mainstream. Not only does it command a giant commitment of time and energy, but there's also a pretty steep learning curve for new users. Wonderground is geocaching for the rest of us. Created by General Electric (yes, that one), the scavenger-hunting app challenges users to explore their favorite cities with the promise of the ultimate reward: Knowledge.
To wit, the knowledge gained isn't too far removed from a Wikipedia entry (crowbarred GE references aside), but there's a certain pleasure derived from following Wonderground's clues to obtain it. A bold interface will keep you engaged during the blandest of treasure hunts, and a leaderboard injects a level of competition that adds some extra motivation to get over the toughest of hurdles. Based on the web app with the same name, Wonderground forces you to get out into the world if you want to play. Points are earned for unlocked discoveries, which consist of navigating to various points of interest and scanning objects based on a series of clues. Most discoveries are fairly easy to find by following clues, but once you reach your goal, scanning the statues and signs (by using the iPhone's camera) can be a little tricky.
While we had fun scavenging, Wonderground is extremely limited, offering missions in just five U.S. cities (like Boston and Chicago). And unlike the web app – which allows you to explore locales with your mouse – the iPhone app won't let you play unless you're within a five-mile radius. Also, the advertised feature to create personalized missions is curiously MIA; the developer says it's due out in a future update.
The bottom line. Wonderground makes geocaching simple and fun, but only if you're lucky enough to live near a mission.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Sleek interface. Fun way to learn obscure facts about popular cities.
Limited locations where it works. Some difficulty with scanning discoveries. Personalized missions feature isn't included yet.