When Temple Run hit the App Store in summer 2011, it didn't look like much -- no thanks to its pixelated, original PlayStation-level graphics and unremarkable visual design. But the old adage about not judging a book by its cover holds true with free iOS games, as well, as its genre-shifting 3D twist on the traditional side-scrolling runner made it an absolute sensation, racking up more than 170 million downloads in the time since. With new sequel Temple Run 2, Imangi Studios needn't worry about making a bad impression, thanks to dramatic visual improvements and welcomed gameplay enhancements.
The world would be so much more entertaining if a trip to the local cafe could be interrupted by goblins, and if chests of loot were stored around every corner. Life is Magic seeks to augment the real world by introducing location-based RPG elements, but in the process replaces our everyday grind with another kind of grind entirely. The game's location features are visually impressive, overlaying a fantasy filter over real-world maps wherein local stores become equipment warehouses and restaurants turn to taverns.
True foodies love to document each chapter of their culinary journies to enjoy later, which makes a service like Evernote a match made in heaven. The developer also recognized the potential for just such a marriage and the result is the slick, if occasionally inefficient, Evernote Food. It's a customized mobile solution for organizing recipes, saving favorite restaurants, and keeping a mealtime journal, all powered by the company’s popular cloud-based “second brain” service. And now it runs natively on iPad, in addition to iPhone and iPod touch.
Developing a spiritual successor to one of the most reviled licensed games in history might not be the best way to generate positive results, if ShaqDown is any indication. Like the laughable Shaq Fu before it, which transformed eccentric NBA star Shaquille O'Neal into a hand-to-hand fighter during the early days of his career, ShaqDown again turns the now-retired hoops legend into a violent warrior, this time tasked with pummeling zombies. And much like the game that inspired it, Shaq Fu is an occasionally amusing but mostly irritating experience.
It's staggering to think that Hundreds began life on anything other than a capacitive interface, but this multitouch magnum opus has unexpected origins as a mouse-based web game. Granted, the ball-expanding puzzler has been revised and refined significantly since that inauspicious debut, resulting in an experience that is perfectly centered around the touch of a finger. Brought to the App Store by a dream team of indie designers, including those behind favorites like Canabalt and Gasketball, Hundreds is one of the smartest and most satisfying touch-based games I've ever played, particularly on an iPad.
Style and attitude are two ingredients found in abundance throughout the first chapter of The Journey Down, a fresh HD reboot of a quirky freeware PC adventure that makes a comfortable transition to the touch screen. A heavy Caribbean influence shows up through the catchy reggae soundtrack to the main character's thick accents and beyond, giving this point-and-poke trek some fresh flavor. It's a nice change of pace from average genre fare.
In the world of console gaming, the Skylanders franchise – spun off from the once-popular Spyro the Dragon series – has been one of the biggest surprises over the last couple of years, enthralling kids and adults alike by letting them collect physical figurines that can be imported into the game using a portal peripheral. Following a couple of digital-only iOS entries, Skylanders Battlegrounds finally brings a similar experience to iPhone and iPad, though while the toys and process are much the same, the game built around it struggles to captivate.
Despite sharing the name and much of the content from one of the year's most prominent Nintendo 3DS games, the iOS version of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is not quite the same experience. Rather than serve up a smattering of classic songs from the entire core Final Fantasy role-playing series, complete with story elements and familiar cinematic clips, the App Store release pairs the tap-and-swipe rhythm formula with a free-to-play shell that lets you pick and pay for exactly the tracks and characters your want. But trying to compare the two directly proves a losing proposition both for players and creator Square Enix.
When an earlier incarnation of You Don't Know Jack hit the App Store last year, it captured the look and spirit of the long-running trivia favorite -- including the risqué subject matter and abrasively hilarious narration -- but its single-player-only approach eschewed the multiplayer mentality that made the series such a beloved institution. Luckily, Jellyvision went back to the drawing board and came back with an inventive asynchronous take on the formula, which near-perfectly recreates the fantastic feel and flow of the bigger versions in mobile-friendly, bite-sized chunks.
KitCam is the most thorough and well thought-out camera app I've used to date. For under two bucks, KitCam offers 60 different lenses, films, and frames to enhance iPhone images (even more are available as in-app purchases), and with the latest version 1.1, photos from your existing library can also be edited or enhanced with the app's bag of tricks. Most are also available for up to 1080p HD movies shot with KitCam’s slick video camera mode.