Contra has never been easy. Like many of Konami’s old-school ‘80s arcade games, the punishment in this run-and-gun series is designed to come quickly and often, as you attempt to break through endless hordes of enemies using only your reflexes and aim. Death is only a hit away, so winning means memorizing every attack pattern the game throws at you. If and when you screw up – losing one of the few precious lives given from a finite supply of continues – the loss really hurts. Strip that necessary roughness from Contra’s bones and all that’s left is a sad husk trading on a venerable name. This is essentially what Contra: Evolution does.
Rovio’s new “Stars” label was designed to snatch up and release indie games with promise, but we weren’t sure quite what to expect from the Angry Birds maker's publishing efforts. As the first of the so-called Stars, Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage luckily lives up to its lofty billing and sets a high bar for those to follow. It’s a quirky, inventive, and colorful physics puzzler that deserves every bit of visibility the mobile publishing giant can give it.
From the very first version, Instagram became a fixture on our home screen and throughout our days, and in the nearly three years since, we've used it constantly to share a small window into our daily lives – and peer into those of our pals, as well. Vine essentially used the Instagram template to deliver a similar social sharing experience with video earlier this year, but with the new 4.0 release, Instagram one-ups its biggest competitor by adding its own video-sharing ability, with many additional features giving it a notable advantage.
Imagine waking up in a strange house and having no recollection of what happened to your wife, your friends, your job, your home, and the rest of your life as you know it. Only by meandering through the darkness and stumbling upon grim clues can you begin to piece together the horrific tale that lies at the heart of Home. But exactly what that tale is depends on the choices you make and how you perceive each twist you encounter along the way. An experiment in interactive storytelling, Home is equal parts unsettling and puzzling. It's an absorbing – albeit terribly brief – journey that will ultimately leave many of your burning questions unanswered.
Throw a virtual rock inside the App Store and you'll hit any number of titles touting support for venerable Microsoft Office documents, but all of them have one problem: They're not from the folks in Redmond. That situation has finally changed with the arrival of the poorly named Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers, a free mobile companion for Microsoft's productivity suite. While the app mostly performs as advertised, it has Achilles' heels on both feet: First, it's limited to users of the company’s $9.99-per-month Office 365 service, and second, it's only for the iPhone and iPod touch – at least for now.
Very few educational math apps have recognizable characters, but the newest such iOS edutainment game from JumpStart features animals from the Madagascar series of animated films. Madagascar Math Ops balances education with fun by rewarding good math skills with an Angry Birds-like physics game, in which you hurl the penguins – who are wearing jetpacks – at obstacles in order to free the other animal characters.
A computer may still be the desired platform with which to have a true multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) experience, but when you’re on the go and have a hankering for some genre action, your phone is quickly becoming the next best option. No stranger to online games, Zynga is the latest developer to throw its hat in the mobile MOBA market with Solstice Arena, a free-to-play title that provides the ideal balance of portability and strategy without skimping out on what makes the style of play so fun to begin with.
Like its predecessors, Gangstar Vegas takes many of its cues from popular open-world action games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row, offering plenty of story-driven missions and a large setting to explore. As such, you can expect to drive around in stolen cars, engage in gunfights with random thugs, and perhaps even run over a pedestrian or two. It may not win any awards for innovation or originality, but this robust copycat offers plenty of pick-up-and-play entertainment if you can overcome its unreliable controls.
It's tough to be wowed by a notes app at this point. From Evernote to Drafts, we've tested them all, and surely you have already developed a system that you're comfortable with. But when three of the industry heavyweights form a sort of developer super-group, it's pretty hard to ignore the fruits of their labor. The brainchild of Dave Wiskus, Brent Simmons and John Gruber, Vesper – named for the specialized martini ordered by James Bond in Ian Fleming's first 007 book – is not just another notes app for your iPhone. With a minimal interface and few features, it aims to change your approach to mobile note taking by stripping away the clutter and focusing on finding your thoughts quickly and effortlessly.
We'll come right out and say it: Marvel's Avengers Alliance can be a chaotic mess in moments. First finding life as a casual Facebook social game, this superhero-themed RPG battler gets off to a rocky start, thanks to complex underpinnings that are awkwardly explained and an obtuse storyline that feels utterly disjointed at best. When character interactions aren't dripping with clichés, they sometimes lack coherence altogether. Despite all of this, there's something about the nerdy RPG combat between classic superheroes and oddball foes that still strikes a chord.