Even if you have no musical abilities, your iPhone gives you the tools to create lush, multi-layered tracks in an instant, thanks to the proliferation of simple, speedy interfaces that require neither practice nor patience. Crossfader might be the best representation of this fact to date. With a brilliant concept that uses the iPhone's accelerometer to mix and mash popular tunes, the app won't teach you how to be a world-class DJ, but it will get your next party started quickly.
For such a relatively compact game, developer Ice-Pick Lodge’s Knock-Knock is often unwieldy, mixing and matching elements from survival horror, point-and-click adventure, and 2D side-scrolling games with a bizarre, metaphor-heavy narrative about mental health. The results are scary enough, but Knock-Knock suffers from a lack of clarity and focus.
If there's one thing that we’d change about iOS, it’s the keyboard. Back in 2007, we may have marveled at its flexible design, but today it feels antiquated—especially when compared to some of the alternative models we’ve tried. Unlike Fleksy or SwitfKey, Jot doesn't offer a new way to type; rather, it focuses more on text selection, sidestepping Apple's somewhat stale tap-and-hold method for a clever cursor-based concept, which dramatically improves upon the way we cut, copy, and paste.
Block Fortress: War tries valiantly to narrow the focus of its stellar, open-ended base building and first-person tower defense predecessor, but it misfires repeatedly and never quite lives up to its potential. Foursaken Media once again tackles a Minecraft-esque universe of war-torn block races, this time constructing a campaign around relatively linear battles wherein you have partial command of a hero and his minions, plus full control over the placement of defensive blocks, turrets, and bombs.
If you’ve ever fancied creating fine art—worthy of hanging on the wall alongside greats like Picasso or Van Gogh—on your iOS device, Brushstroke lets you quickly realize that dream in only a few taps. The universal app makes it delightfully easy to create a frame-worthy piece of art using the built-in camera or existing device photos. Once imported, the app walks you through five key stages: Paint, color, canvas texture, image settings, and sign, which lets the mobile artiste put a digital signature onto each work of art.
If you're an intergalactic space miner by trade, there are worse fates than getting stranded on a giant red planet rich with subterranean minerals, danger, and excitement. With nowhere to go but deeper and deeper beneath the planet's surface, Mines of Mars teases you along into its Metroid-style adventure by putting up subtle barriers and giving you a means to overcome them: mining. The balance between gathering, crafting, and exploring is well tuned to draw you in, even if other aspects of navigating the planetscape feel weak by comparison.
Without question, LEGO Legends of Chima Online is geared towards younger gamers. It is, after all, based on a toy line and a CG-animated TV show on Cartoon Network. But don’t write it off just yet — this is a massively multiplayer online action-RPG in which a driving motivation is to collect loot. In many ways, Legends of Chima Online is like a simplified Diablo, and that’s why it can work for older gamers, too.
As our iPhones have matured, so have our apps. What used to be a sea of simple utilities with very mobile mindsets has evolved into a rich landscape of powerful tools, which continue to amaze us with what can be accomplished on a 4-inch screen. Zippy is the sort of app that shows us just how far our devices have come. As a basic to-do manager, it does its job well enough for a recommendation, but developer Amit Wadhawan embraces the power and modernism of iOS 7 to pump a little pizzazz into the stale concept and put it over the top.
MLB.com At Bat was so ahead of its time, it felt as fresh during the 2013 World Series as it did upon launching in 2008, despite little more than a series of relatively minor updates between earlier versions. Still, Major League Baseball used the offseason to give the pro sports-leading formula its first major update. But while it brings a slew of visual changes that freshen things up for iOS 7, the overhaul is mostly cosmetic in nature, leaving a somewhat streamlined experience that doesn’t quite deliver the home run we hoped for.
Shattering a pane of glass can bring a moment of sheer joy — or abject terror, depending on intentions — but the resulting expense and hassle rarely balance out the fun. Smash Hit provides a remarkably vivid simulation of splintering glass, letting you toss metal balls at shiny digital sheets and watch the shards fly, but it’s not a gimmick app. That sensation instead forms the core of an entertaining and smartly balanced survival game, wherein precise timing and aiming let you continue crashing ahead through the colorful levels.