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.
With the incredible popularity of Minecraft, it’s not surprising to see other games expand upon its winning creation formula. Toca Builders is one such offering, but it uses the template for additional aims. This kid-oriented app from Toca Boca adds some interesting twists to the core concept of “building with blocks” and gives kids the chance to be creative while also employing problem-solving skills.
There's just something about weather apps. They all basically do the same thing, but no matter how many we download, we just can't resist the temptation of a new interface or novel concept. Foresee fits both of these criteria, so naturally we had to try it out. However, it's less a weather forecasting app than an outdoor planning one. It does display the current temperature and conditions in a city of your choosing, but instead of simply showing highs and lows for the next few days, it predicts how the weather will affect the various things you want to do.
Strategy games that combine city-building elements with player-vs-player combat are incredibly common on the App Store these days, and War of Nations doesn't shy from using the familiar free-to-play formula seen in everything from Clash of Clans to developer GREE's own Modern War. Fortunately, a handful of elements elevate it above the mass of clones, but progression glitches and a pricey cash shop make it a tough game to get deeply invested in.
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.
Pairing Disney's biggest original iOS hit with the company's most iconic character, Where's My Mickey? XL delivers another breezy physics puzzler that challenges you to guide a stream of liquid to the cartoon mouse. Skillfully utilizing a classic Mickey Mouse aesthetic with animated cut-scenes, the game maintains the winning gameplay formula that propelled Where's My Water? and licensed follow-up Where's My Perry?, though a lack of challenge makes it less memorable than expected.