LEGO The Lord of the Rings' transition to iOS is impeccably smooth, even if you'll miss out on some of the more exciting moments from the Mac version. Guiding Frodo Baggins and his crew of heroes on the path to Mordor works amazingly well on the smaller screen of an iPad or iPhone — and when the ring is finally cast into the fire, you'll still want to return to the fold to grab all of the elusive collectibles in Free Play mode.
If you search for endless runners on the App Store, you’ll find a slew of games in all sorts of settings, using a variety of people or animals as subjects. Buddy & Me is another one of those games, but rather than emphasize challenge and dynamic action, what sets it apart from the pack are its gorgeous art, less intense gameplay, and charming, light-hearted feel. You play as a boy who dreams about running through the forest with a large, flying dog-like creature helping him.
Riding the success of Disney Infinity's huge console launch last month, the Toy Box app for iPad allows players to build and test their creations from inside Infinity's creation mode, and then transfer it all back to your console. It benefits from the intuitive nature of touch controls and portability that the tablet allows, but struggles with keeping a constant frame rate even when dealing with a low number of items in your world. That takes some of the shine off of the experience, especially when transitioning from a glossy home console game.
It doesn't take an Apple Store Genius to figure out that kids love iOS devices (and the iPad in particular), which makes it a bit puzzling why it's taken Cupertino so long to create a section just for them.
Serious music-making and song-sequencing apps on iOS tend to fall along the more complicated end of the spectrum, requiring many hours of tweaking, fiddling, and experimenting before you can master them. It's rare to find a song-crafting app that aims squarely at the younger set and strives to inject a bit of lighthearted fun into the process. Luckily, StarComposer bridges that gap fairly well. It packs a simple, streamlined presentation and enough musical variety to keep its intended audience tinkering away with lots of silly songs, but a couple of head-scratching design decisions keep it from being truly great.
Sometimes licensed games leave you scratching your head in confusion at their bizarre muddling of a beloved pop culture franchise. Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM Pocket adapts a popular trading card game based on the Yu-Gi-Oh manga and anime series into an entirely different trading card game, just barely managing to string together something moderately enjoyable in the process. Battling wits with virtual and real opponents is both fun and challenging, but there’s not enough depth to keep you interested for long.
There are plenty of free iPad apps for entertaining toddlers, but few have much real educational value. This isn’t a problem for Learn with Homer, an app created by top literacy experts that overflows with well-crafted early learning content. Aimed at ages three to six, Learn with Homer makes reading fun and instructive. Upon launch, up to three different little ones can customize the app with a photo from the front-facing camera, which is then decorated with one of several virtual “thinking caps.” It’s a fun way to set the stage for what lies ahead.
Just as Disney has long made drawings come to life with its many classic animated films, the Disney Animated app makes what could have been a solid, static book feel exuberant and entertaining as an interactive experience, full of behind-the-scenes footage and touch-based activities. The iPad app explores the long history of Disney's in-house animation efforts, breaking down the process step by step while explaining its many aspects using more than just words.
Since film reboot The Muppets was released in 2011, the furry creatures have skyrocketed back to a level of popularity they haven’t enjoyed since the 1980s. My Muppets Show gives players the chance to put on their own titular performance, inspired by the classic television series, by tackling myriad tasks around the stage. While the Muppets themselves are true to form, the gameplay is of an ilk we’ve seen many times before with no real improvement on the basic design.