With Thanksgiving taking over Thursday this week, Apple opted to loosen the floodgates a day early, and we’ve got several intriguing new iOS games to pull you away from mundane family encounters — such as the super charming Icycle: On Thin Ice, the surely absorbing Skulls of the Shogun and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, and quicker-hit entries like Darklings and Skateboard Slam.
Despite its 3D graphics, physics engine, and any marketing material you may have seen, Touchgrind Skate 2 is not a realistic skateboarding game. For one, there is no rider, only a pair of fingers spectrally guiding a deck through a series of blunt stalls, 50-50 grinds, and kickflips — it’s skateboarding by marionette. If there’s one aspect of Touchgrind Skate 2 that comes across as completely authentic, it’s that skateboarding is difficult and requires practice. Amazingly, that proves a pretty effective hook.
Spec Ops: The Line thrives on colorful, deliberate level design; its self-conscious take on the shooter genre (by way of Apocalypse Now), and its reversal of traditional player incentives. Originally released in June 2012 on other platforms, Spec Ops' recent release on Mac captures every concept from the original for better and worse. It's as well-built a package as any modern AAA shooter — crisp, quick, and brutal — albeit saddled with some stop-and-pop repetition and decrepit multiplayer modes. However, for all the game does well, the Mac port unfortunately limps along with sluggish and inconsistent performance.
Strike Force Heroes: Extraction is a noble – if uneven – attempt to replicate the classic side-scrolling console shooter. Likely due to the complexity of its control scheme, the genre hasn’t often been particularly well served on iOS devices, but Strike Force Heroes (HD iPad version reviewed; also available separately on iPhone) has found a few clever shortcuts. The result is fun to play in short bursts, even if the smoothness of some controls makes some of the weaker spots more glaring.
Running a clandestine agency devoted to fighting diabolical alien invaders is tough, but as XCOM: Enemy Unknown taught us, it gets a lot easier if you can steal things out of the enemy's playbook. And when those things include extreme genetic modifications and hulking robot exoskeletons — two of the biggest features introduced by the Enemy Within expansion — the fight doesn't necessarily get easier, but it does get a lot more interesting.
A reimagining of the 1990 Sega Genesis game of the same name, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a creative, whimsical platformer featuring the world’s most recognizable rodent. The action is as traditional as it gets — Mickey runs and jumps through predominantly side-scrolling levels, all the while hopping on baddies, grabbing collectables, and leaping over bottomless pits — but the gameplay stays compelling and fun thanks to well-designed stages, interesting environments, and ample charm.
In spite of its title, you won’t find hooded killers or acrobatic climbing in Assassin’s Creed Pirates (at least not at first). In fact, its main character, Alonzo Batilla, seems to never even leave his ship. Instead, this upcoming spinoff focuses entirely on piracy and simple naval battles, letting players explore a quasi-open version of the Caribbean in a story set around the same time as the latest entry in the series, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
When it came to Mac in August, BioShock Infinite represented a huge change for its venerable franchise. It switched up the combat, trading bizarre weapons for conventional guns and frenetic pacing; it gave players a constant sidekick, Elizabeth; and most strikingly, it moved the action from the undersea nightmare city of Rapture to the (deceptively) sunnier, airborne steampunk metropolis of Columbia. Burial at Sea — Episode One, Infinite's first story-driven add-on, represents a step back on a couple of those points, the biggest being that the setting is once again Rapture — although we get to see it as a gleaming objectivist utopia, before everything really goes crazy.
You probably remember the WWDC demo. Under the biggest spotlight on the grandest stage, Anki co-founder and CEO Boris Sofman unrolled an 8-foot mat and introduced the world to a new kind of gaming experience, one where the cars are real, but the reality is still virtual.
"If you look at toys from 20 years ago and compare them to toys today they are, minus a few differences, pretty much the same thing," said Hanns Tappeiner, co-founder and president of Anki. "We saw a big gap between (toys and video games) and we thought we could use robotics and AI to bridge that gap, to combine real physical things with some of the things we love about video games. And that's what we did with Anki Drive."
Gameloft surely hopes that GT Racing 2’s flashy lighting and obsessively modeled licensed cars will make it stand out from — or at least keep pace with — a recent surge of App Store racing sims, notably genre leader Real Racing 3. Lens flares and dust effects are well and good, but GT Racing 2’s visual fidelity threatens to overshadow its real strength: as free-to-play racers go, it’s got great controls. GT Racing 2 doesn’t reinvent the iOS racing control scheme, but it executes it better than most of its competitors.