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.
Initially pronounced the best mobile mapping solution on the planet, the reimagined iOS 6 Maps has become a PR disaster for Apple, leading CEO Tim Cook to publicly apologize for the debacle. Google heard the frustrated cries of iOS users and, like a knight in shining armor, now comes riding back onto the iPhone with its own Google Maps app, a mere three months after being banished from the castle. But this isn't exactly the same app iOS users have loved since its debut in 2007.
Robots for iPad is equal parts creepy and cool, and it's one of the most informatively fascinating apps you'll find on the subject of artificial intelligence. Bursting at the seams with well over 100 real-world robots that range from freakish human lookalikes to quasi-sentient kids toys, this exhaustive app is a repository of incredible information about the history of our mechanical pals. Each entry features detailed photos, historical rundowns, tech specs, neat factoids, and embedded links to related articles about the robotic creation in question.
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.
When Gearbox released Borderlands in 2009, the studio managed to simultaneously combine the shooter and role-playing genres while creating one of the most enjoyable cooperative-play experiences ever devised. Borderlands 2 doesn't rewrite the book -- frankly, the changes are somewhat minor -- but when a formula works, sometimes a follow-up only requires just enough in the way of improvements and an expanded story to bring fans back to the fold.
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.
You may need a computer to play popular MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) titles like League of Legends or DotA, but the genre is starting to make inroads on other platforms. The first mobile MOBA of its kind, Heroes of Order & Chaos successfully brings the feel of the genre onto iPhone and iPad without sacrificing too much of what makes the game approach so much fun to begin with.
It's easy to lose perspective on a game like Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, particularly for those of us who enjoy lavish first-person shooters on consoles or computers. Gameloft's military shooter series seems content to mimic the immensely popular Call of Duty series from other platforms -- and Zero Hour boasts some serious parallels with this year's Black Ops II -- but despite its lack of ambition, the franchise delivers a big and entertaining mobile shooter at a fraction of the cost. And Zero Hour really does improve on the formula in small, but meaningful ways.
As dusty as the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rulebooks it's based on, Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition is a relic from gaming's past. For long-time tabletop RPG nerds like myself who get misty-eyed over the nostalgic glory days of rolling up a fresh character, recruiting a party of misfit NPCs, and gallivanting off in the Forgotten Realms to bash in the heads of some ne'er-do-wells, this antiquated fantasy adventure still hits a certain sweet spot. Baldur's Gate's classic sword swinging and spell flinging is well-preserved in this iPad port of the PC original, though it's perhaps a little too faithful to its roots for modern times.