J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is a fount of inspiration, and beyond upcoming Hollywood blockbusters, there's sure to be no shortage of tie-in video games. But considering the amazing reference material – a tale of adventure with dwarves and goblins – it's a shame The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth is so unabashedly boring. It's a typical, free-to-play conquest sim with a veneer of Tolkien influence.
Duo Pinball aims to bring some of pinball's physical sensation back to the lap-based home experience, letting you affix a plastic dock to the back of any iPad — or less ideally, an iPhone or iPod touch — fire up a compatible app, and make use of the built-in plunger and side buttons for a seemingly more authentic feel. Powered by three AAA batteries and a Bluetooth link, the device pairs effortlessly and is easy to use, plus it'll hold your iPad snugly while you mash the deep blue flipper buttons — but the resulting sensation is less enthralling than expected.
You know what they say about idle hands. With the holidays barreling down at us full speed and the lull of winter setting in, keeping busy with fun and interesting new crafts is a great way to stave off the seasonal doldrums while also saving on those credit card-busting shopping sprees. If you fancy yourself the creative type, now is the perfect time to start a new project. Why not grab some of these inventive apps to inspire your artistic side?
Traveller’s Tales continues to churn out LEGO platformers based on licensed franchises with varying results, and with Feral Interactive bringing many to the Mac. Frankly, despite a cute tone and easy-going gameplay model, the games have grown a bit stagnant in the originality department. But LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes manages to break the mold, creating an engaging world you’ll want to return to in search of those elusive plastic blocks.
Originally released on the PC in early 2009, the enhanced Gold Edition of Creative Assembly’s Empire: Total War finally storms the shores of Macs thanks to Feral Interactive, delivering 18th-century conquest strategy action to fans of the longtime series. Your goal: to lead one of 12 empires and control a specified number of territories on the historically accurate maps before each match ends.
Back in 2000, Jet Set Radio was nothing short of groundbreaking, with slick cel-shaded graphics, a fantastic soundtrack, and a skate-punk aesthetic that seemed daring in the pre-Grand Theft Auto III era. Twelve years after its release on Sega’s Dreamcast console, it’s been popping up again on nearly every available gaming device — including, most recently, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
If you’re the type of fantasy role-playing gamer more accustomed to orcs and fearless paladins, sliding into the role of an anthropomorphic panda bear is admittedly difficult. But Blizzard has done a fantastic job of creating an engaging story around World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria's Pandaren race. And its new, Asian-inspired continent, with its detailed shrines and stoic monks, may be some of Blizzard’s best work.
Sometimes, it feels like it’s hard to say anything new about the Call of Duty franchise. Foreign extremist group threatens the world, the hero shoots scads of terrorists in the face — you know the drill. But Black Ops manages something unique. New additions to online multiplayer offer an incentive to keep returning to the well, the zombie-blasting mode returns in a big way, and the entire affair is wrapped in one of the craziest, most exciting narratives in the series.
Playing to the powerful pull of both puzzle solving and card playing, Chip Chain mashes up match-three puzzles with poker aesthetics in an inventive way that's highly addictive, yet accessible to folks who have no clue what a royal flush is. While the gameplay itself has very little to do with the actual game of poker, it scratches a different kind of itch that carves out common ground between card sharks and casual players alike.
Flea Symphony is the new iOS game from The Odd Gentlemen, which previously developed the Victorian-styled Xbox Live Arcade puzzler, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Like Winterbottom, Flea Symphony seems delightfully preoccupied with a bygone era, but its gameplay feels surprisingly fresh. In each level, you need to save the fleas flying out of the bells of musical horns by catching them in basket. The trick is figuring out how to do it in time to a set percussion beat.