Designers and Photoshop pros from an earlier generation will remember the venerable Kai’s Power Tool Photoshop plugins, and even though they’ve been M.I.A. for years, one of the wackiest of those plugs – the Fractal Explorer – has been reincarnated as Frax, a seriously cool graphics toy and perhaps the single most impressive bit of graphics code we’ve yet seen on iOS. Available in separate iPad and iPhone versions (iPad reviewed), Frax is a full-screen, interactive fractal playground, with a very fluid, straightforward interface and a decent amount of customization possibilities for generating a wide variety of truly attractive fractal graphics.
Strategy games may be popular on iOS, but too many perform a tired juggle of microtransactions and abstract gameplay that cranks out forgettable games that mainly differ by setting. Machines at War 3 marks a welcome departure from all of that. Its tactics may be simple, but its Command and Conquer-inspired real-time strategy (RTS) stands so far apart from similar offerings on the App Store that it's well worth the price of admission.
"Level 22" is not a glamorous name. It’s generic. It doesn’t inspire excitement. Without context, it could mean practically anything. So it’s the perfect way to reference a floor of an equally generic corporate tower, which also happens to be where you work. The trouble here is that it’s a weekday, and after a night of heavy celebrating for your birthday, you’re not at your desk. If the boss finds out you’re late, you’re fired. How do you keep your job? If you’re a fan of Hideo Kojima’s classic, quirky stealth-action series, Metal Gear Solid, you probably already know that your only recourse is to sneak all the way back up to your desk on the 22nd floor through increasingly complex scenarios.
From its days as a pedestrian tab in Music to its clunky, crashy standalone app, Apple has never given podcasts the attention they deserve. A number of top-notch developers have expertly picked up Apple's slack, so when we heard that the makers of the popular RSS reader Feed Wrangler had taken a crack at it, we naturally couldn't wait to check it out. There are essentially three main things that make up a decent podcast app: clean navigation, easy discovery, and seamless listening. Pod Wrangler dutifully checks off each of these boxes, with an utterly simple approach that gives it a leg up on its competitors.
Brightly colored Spandex and match-three puzzling might seem an odd pairing at first, but digging into Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign yields addictive super-villain smashing fun in abundance. Between collecting virtual comic book covers to unlock new heroes and leveling up your posse with RPG-style enhancements, this free-to-play battler hits the nerdy sweet spot without going overboard in the in-app purchase department.
Following a stellar effort last year, it feels like 2K Sports phoned in the latest mobile edition of its highly regarded basketball simulation series. NBA 2K14 is essentially NBA 2K13 (minus the commentary), albeit with updated rosters and a new mode focused on superstar LeBron James. It feels incomplete, thanks to awkward gaps in the presentation where you'd expect commentary, plus a host of other minor glitches and issues. But, as with last year's effort, there's a decent – albeit barebones – basketball simulation under the hood.
Bucking the annoying trend of freemium apps that bait and switch users into paying for initially free digital goods, JellyBus has wisely chosen to maintain two separate versions of its photo editing app: The free (but limited) PicsPlay, and a more robust Pro edition priced at only $3.99. While the free release is no slouch, PicsPlay Pro unlocks the developer’s full arsenal of 200 filters across 10 different themes, along with a wide range of editing features from basic crop and rotate to more sophisticated Color Splash, Tilt-Shift, Text, Stamp, and Border tools.
We use our iPhones to take dozens of pictures each day, but they don't all end up on our Facebook timelines. Many of the snapshots we take are little more than reminders; visual notes that end up lost in the sea of memories in our camera rolls. Notograph isn't just a place to store these random images – it's a new kind of note-taking app that ditches the keyboard entirely. Unlike most word-based note apps, launching Notograph doesn't pull up the last file you were working on. Instead, it automatically opens to the camera, making image capture quick and easy.
RealPlayer Cloud allows iOS users to upload videos and watch or share them from anywhere. The universal app is free with 2GB of available storage, with up to 1.5GB of bonus space available in 250MB increments after the first upload, share, or each device installation (up to four). Featuring a clean, easy to navigate UI perfectly matched with iOS 7, tabs sort content by Recent, My Videos, Collections, Sharing, and Web Videos, where Real’s Daily Top 5 and videos from Facebook friends appear.
FIFA 14 continues the fine form set by last year’s edition of the popular soccer simulation, mixing in a compelling free-to-play Ultimate Team mode and an all-new gesture-based control scheme that dramatically alters the feel of the game. It goes much further towards defining the mobile series as distinct from its console brethren, with both the new controls and the lightweight design providing more of a streamlined experience that’s sure to please casual players. There’s still plenty on offer for the hardcore, too – even without paying a cent.