Rymdkapsel is what we imagine playing an isometric, real-time strategy space game on the Atari might have been like back in the day – if the genre had existed then – and it's fabulous. The complexities that come from gathering resources, expanding your space station, generating new minions, and defending your galactic turf from waves of invading aliens contrast wildly against the simple 8-bit style aesthetic and tightly focused scope. There's a certain charm to its simplicity, but enough depth to back it up and keep you immersed in the fascinating task of building out your tiny space station empire.
Following a tutorial outlining its unique controls, The Drowning tasks you with a reasonable mission for a game about shooting zombie-like creatures: Clear out the area around a potential headquarters. Two minutes later, you might be confused as to why it's over when there are still enemies to slay. Soon, it becomes clear that that's all there is to the game's approach – a series of two-minute time attacks against endless waves of brain-dead enemies. It's not really a bad thing, as it keeps the game playable on the go, but you'll soon find that freemium drawbacks stack up in a hurry and take away from the enjoyable and uniquely controlled combat within.
No matter how well we position recording apps on our home screen, there are those moments when we just can’t open them fast enough – like when our kids say something adorable, or your boss rattles off a series of important sales figures at an otherwise boring meeting. Short of having your iPhone struck by lightning while driving at 88 mph, Heard is the only way we know of to actually record something that already happened. And it works really well. Using a simple, slick interface, the app stores a constant buffer of every sound your iPhone picks up, and with just a tap, you can save what you heard as far back as five minutes ago.
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.
If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s almost impossible not to see Pivvot as a response to the abstract dodge-or-die arcade design of Terry Cavanagh’s indie hit Super Hexagon. Both games require you to rotate a small on-screen point around randomized geometric shapes flying at you from changing directions. Both also use increasing speeds and nervy, thrumming soundtracks designed as much to distract as thrill. But where Hexagon’s tension and fear came from the panic of trying to guess (and keep pace with) its breakneck shape changes, the linear track Pivvot runs on changes its feel a bit.
Double Fine is a studio known (and beloved) for incredibly eccentric affairs, like Psychonauts, Costume Quest, and Stacking, but by contrast, Dropchord seems remarkably straightforward. It's an arcade-style high-score game released under the guise of a music game – which makes sense given its fantastic electronic dance soundtrack and visualizer-inspired look – but the beats and gameplay feel disconnected. So it's not a rhythm game; that's not a problem. However, the game approach itself never provides as strong of a hook as the presentation, feeling more like something to occupy you while you watch and listen rather than a central pull of the experience.
With a 24/7 news cycle constantly spitting headlines every which way, staying informed can be a daunting task. A bunch of apps have tried to solve this problem in unique ways, but the better they are, the quicker they seem to get acquired, shut down, and folded into other services. Wibbitz just might be the next candidate for a headline-grabbing mega-sale. With a delightful interface and spot-on article summaries, Wibbitz creates beautiful mini-videos of the day's news, combining photos, graphics, and fonts into a stunning package.
Riptide GP2 is a straightforward racing game on a platform full of them. Piloting jet skis – called “hydros” in the game – is a fun twist on the typical four-wheel affair, but the structure will be familiar to anyone who’s browsed the iOS racing scene. Luckily, the water effects contribute a real sense of speed and pace when combined with Riptide’s responsive controls, and there's loads of single-player content to enjoy.
If you could reduce the 20th century optical artist Victor Vasarely to his essence and jam him into your iOS device, you’d end up with Isometric, a sparse design app with a single creative element: the rhombus. There’s an old design adage, “less is more,” that seems to be the underlying philosophy of this universal app, which presents an almost Zen-like simplicity (in terms of interface and toolset), challenging you to make the most of its one basic building block. While this limitation is meant to be a creative motivator, we found it to be a little, well, limiting.
If Cold War is any indication, the Sky Gamblers series may have reached maximum altitude with last year's stellar Storm Raiders. Sure, there's still plenty of high-flying dogfighting action to be found in this latest entry, but there's a legitimate question as to whether this fourth outing on iOS is running on fumes after so many entries in a relatively compact span of time. Thankfully, Cold War does bring some fresh ideas to the table, and the online multiplayer still provides the best aerial combat on the App Store. But the core campaign experience of Cold War is a bland and tired-looking stroll through what is an otherwise fascinating portion of American history.