One of the challenges facing educational game developers is how to strike a balance between lessons and fun. Too much teaching, and the game ceases to keep a child’s attention; too little, and it becomes just another game. That’s one of the reasons Slice Fractions is so great: it has mastered teaching kids about fractional math without having overt lessons to do so. Slice Fractions tasks players with clearing a path for a woolly mammoth to get from one side of the screen to another.
Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider reboot (newly ported to Mac by Feral Interactive) is a game about searching: for ancient relics, forgotten tombs, and undisturbed grottoes, yes, but also for the self-assurance necessary to transform from a shy archaeologist into a brutal killing machine. Lara Croft's baptism in blood — her own and, often, her enemies’ — takes place on a fictionalized Yamatai, a hidden Japanese island full of pristine forests, snowy mountain ranges, and a sect of violent cultists who worship the shaman-queen Himiko.
Tablet DJs have long been happy with the two primary players in that sandbox: Native Instruments’ Traktor DJ and Algoriddim’s djay, the latter of which launched a stellar sequel not long ago. Both are digital spinning powerhouses, but carrying around a large library of music has always been a limiting factor for covering all potential sonic bases. That’s where Pacemaker is trying to carve out a unique niche: it’s the only iPad DJ software that comes with Spotify support.
Kahuna is a tactical, one-on-one board game about controlling island territories. The physical boxed set, originally published in 1998 and still available today, doesn’t look like much – a modest deck of cards, a few plastic pieces, and a minimalistic game board. But what initially appears to be a simple game of token placement quickly reveals itself as a meditative test of strategy. USM’s universal iOS version of Kahuna not only capitalizes on this clever design, but also adds a distinctive thematic flavor to the experience.
The loss of Google Reader and the dawn of Flipboard-style news apps have tested the resolve of many RSS fans, but at least one champion for the medium hopes to change the way we read news on our iPhone with "a little peace each day through quiet, careful reading." That’s the lofty philosophy behind Unread, an RSS-based reader app that promises to "surprise and delight" users. Unfortunately, the first part of that equation came with the realization that there is no native iPad support – a shame considering that’s where the bulk of my reading is done, aside from perusing a few headlines while on the go.
To carry the breakfast analogy through to its full extent, Force of Habit’s retro-styled tower defense/shoot-‘em-up hybrid Toast Time comes with a glass of insanity and a side of ridiculousness. It’s utterly bonkers and lightning-fast right from the start, with a typically British kind of over-the-top silliness and tongue-in-cheek humor, though there’s a solid mechanic at the core. Your singular preserve from a ruined breakfast is Terry the toaster’s projectile bread slices, which you fire at inter-dimensional, time-rushing beasts intent on sneaking off with your morning meal time (seriously).
When it was released in mid-2012 for the iPhone, Launch Center Pro promised a better way to navigate between apps, utilizing URL schemes to unlock the hidden shortcuts our favorite apps already use to make calling, texting, and emailing seem so seamless. Now that Launch Center Pro has arrived on the iPad, we can finally unleash its full power. With a familiar interface and a tremendous library of supported apps, the productivity app feels right at home on the larger screen, even if it doesn’t always take advantage of it.
On the surface, Paper looks a lot like what might have happened had Facebook invented Flipboard before Flipboard got the chance, and then slapped on a moniker rather too similar to an existing hugely popular (but entirely different) iOS app. Move beyond the snark, though, and you realize something surprising: Paper makes using Facebook almost pleasurable again. Facebook on desktop ceased to be fun a long time ago, and even the once-streamlined mobile app is increasingly full of cruft. The idea with Paper appears to be to strip everything back, bring stories to the fore, and turn the Facebook experience into a kind of edited newspaper.
Eliss Infinity hurls you into an abstract universe where you sort planets for obliteration. They materialize somewhat randomly on the screen and must be manipulated by your digits, making them a suitable size to dump in “squeesars” that periodically appear and wink said planets out of existence. Naturally, there are twists that hamper any thought that you’ll be done with your planet disposal within mere minutes. This upgraded and expanded version of one of the App Store’s best early games remains fresh, tactile, and truly terrific today.
The art of color grading film or video typically involves expensive hardware out of reach to the average producer, assuming he or she could figure out how to juggle all of those buttons and trackballs to begin with. Thankfully, manipulating all the colors of the rainbow can now be done from the palm of your hands. ColorTime 2.0 isn’t a true replacement for costly color grading hardware, but it does let iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch owners manipulate color using a gesture-based interface that deftly tackles even 1080p HD video content in real time.