Our monthly recap looks back at the games we reviewed during November, with a total of 25 iOS and Mac games presented here in bite-sized, to-the-point encapsulations. And if you want to read more, simply click the link on each slide to read the full, scored critique and find the link to purchase each game. We covered a great array of entries this month, including big-name affairs like Star Wars: Tiny Death Star and Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies — plus Mac add-ons/expansions for BioShock Infinite and XCOM: Enemy Unknown — along with under-the-radar gems like The Shivah and Pathogen.
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.
So many of the little details surrounding Google Play Music for iOS suggest that the tech giant isn't so eager to win over iPhone owners as recent overtures might suggest. Never mind that six months passed before its iOS launch, but the in-app keyboard retains the design of iOS 6 and the skeuomorphic icon stands in stark contrast to its updated brethren. It's a shame, because there's a really well designed music app lying in store once you make it through such chaff.
If you appreciate the Beatles and John Lennon, you will simply adore this lavish, lovely app-based work of art devoted to the last truly creative period of Lennon’s life: the crafting of his final album, Double Fantasy. With truly innovative use of the iPad and iPhone as an entertainment consumption device, it’s one of the finest multimedia attempts we’ve experienced on the platform.
PikPok’s latest Flick Kick game offers the most complete and varied experience in the series so far, with the whole gamut of basic on-field soccer situations backed by team building, a curious tale of revenge, and a multi-division league structure. But you’ll have to battle through a barrage of ads or pony up some cash to make the most of Flick Kick Football Legends’ solid gameplay.
The Shivah opens with a question, simultaneously straightforward and cosmic: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Lead writer and designer Dave Gilbert attempts to answer it with fuzzy pixel art, a jazz soundtrack, and the restrained and cynical story of Rabbi Russell Stone, who takes it upon himself to investigate the murder of a Jewish businessman. Gilbert is well versed in noir-tinged mysteries, but The Shivah is understated and realistically grounded when compared to Wadjet Eye’s science fiction games (like the great Gemini Rue). The Shivah dispenses with many of the adventure genre’s more cumbersome traditions, too, leaving room for investigation to drive the plot forward instead of awkward, arbitrary puzzles.
With version 4, popular news aggregator Pulse fully embraces its corporate branding, with a new name, a fresh iOS 7-inspired interface, and a re-imagined way to read and find content. The first release may have been met with a loud backlash, but Alphonso Labs quickly responded to users’ complaints with a 4.0.1 update — and while it fixes many of the major gaffes, it still feels like a downgrade from the previous take.