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.
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.
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.
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.