Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride creator Halfbrick takes on publishing duties for Band Stars, a charming but shallow game by Six Foot Kid that lets you climb the charts and conquer the music world. It takes after Kairosoft’s (Game Dev Story, Dungeon Village) unique flavor of management simulation, with compulsively simple mechanics that have you calling the shots on combinations of genre, lyrics, and musicians — all in search of a viral hit that will launch your band into ever more illustrious levels of stardom, rising from local to national and ultimately global success.
Over its last two iterations, the Assassin's Creed series – primarily known for letting players climb on historically significant landmarks and get stabby in different time periods – has increasingly become known for something unexpected: 18th century sailing and naval combat. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, with its focus on Caribbean piracy, embraced wooden ships to the point of making them central to gameplay and plot — and now we have spinoff Assassin's Creed Pirates, which is set entirely aboard them.
Vine and Instagram make it easy for would-be filmmakers to create brief epics of the imagination using just an iPhone, with no traditional editing required. But those looking to expand their horizons will find far more creative options with a modestly priced app from the creators of FocusTwist. Presumably a play on the word “vignette” as much as it is a nod to Twitter’s micro-moviemaking service, Vinyet delivers 23 real-time cinematic filters along with a host of pro-end features, like stop motion, time-lapse, animated GIF export, and more control over captured segments.
Our productivity folders are filled with apps we once loved: Pretty utilities with minimal interfaces and slick navigation that were quickly supplanted by the next great to-do app. Tasky+ comes awfully close to being that next great option. Built around a concept that's as smart as it is simple, the to-do and reminders app combines intuitive gestures with brisk date recognition that strips your life down to the moments that matter.
One-man indie studio Damp Gnat (a.k.a. Reece Millidge) has proven itself a purveyor of experiences that are short, sweet, and sensationally stunning. Last year’s single-screen iPad mini-golf course in Wonderputt made a strong mark, and it’s followed up in the exquisite Icycle: On Thin Ice – a 2D platformer that bears a similarly impeccable sense of design, yet explores altogether different territory. The result is an unforgettable, humor-spiked affair in which you’ll guide a half-naked man on a bicycle through an array of surreal challenges.
Skulls of the Shogun, a game about a recently slain samurai fighting his way though the afterlife, is nothing if not slow. Its bright palette, bawdy humor, and straightforward concepts suggest an easy, breezy turn-based strategy game, but large maps, limited moves per turn, and cutthroat enemy armies combine to make skirmishes feel long and drawn-out. Don’t mistake “slow” for “meticulous” or “tedious,” though, as Skulls of the Shogun is neither, opting instead for a series of tense, chaotic, down-to-the-last-man tête-à-têtes.
Zynga’s Skateboard Slam pulls out some solid tricks and coasts over the finish line without ever breaking a sweat, although its upgrade and level unlocking systems seem cynically balanced to drive additional in-app purchases. In a fun, surprisingly deep, but ultimately somewhat frustrating experience, you stack up gnarly trick combos and race through four vibrant worlds of 10 levels each in a challenge-based single-player campaign, along with multiplayer match-ups.
PDF Expert 5 builds upon the foundation established earlier this year by the company's revamped Documents (formerly Readdle Docs). Where that free, universal software is a jack-of-all-trades for viewing nearly any kind of media, the developer’s latest iPad software aims to give desktop applications a run for their money. Previous versions have delivered most of Adobe Acrobat’s core functionality, including the ability to mark up pages, fill forms, and move or delete pages within a document. On the Mac, such full-featured software costs upwards of $200 – but PDF Expert manages to one-up Acrobat with this version.
The periodic table: Every element known to man, organized and presented in an elegant, but arguably dry and boring way. Looking at numbers and letters aligned in a table doesn't really convey what each of those elements does, or what its respective function is. Of course, you could read about them, but The Elements in Action from Touch Press goes much further, letting you see every element — sans the ones that are extremely radioactive, or have an absurdly short half-life — via well-presented videos.
Darklings' endless arcade-style approach uses gesture controls to deliver an experience that keeps you coming back for more. Using just your finger, you’ll need to draw the symbol that appears above a monster’s head to destroy it before it gets too close and knocks you out. That may sound easy, but with constant waves of enemies coming at you from all sides, plus the ever-present temptation of collecting as much currency as you can, it makes for one challenging and addictive game.