The iPad is built for multitasking, but Apple's idea of it can be somewhat limiting. The ability to quickly switch between apps is nice, but what we're really waiting for is a Dashboard-style environment for widgets; if not to truly multitask, then at least to access our important data at a glance. Morning is a bit like a stripped-down version of Status Board, sporting a set of panels that present the information you need to start your day without jumping around to a bunch of different apps. It looks great, with bold fonts, bright color themes, and crisp graphics, but ultimately its interface is just too simplistic to be taken seriously.
Limbo begins in darkness and near silence and doesn't stray much from either over the course of the side-scrolling adventure. It also doesn't feature any text beyond the menu screen and credits, save for a gargantuan neon hotel sign that punctuates the quest, nor does it mention the controls or detail any of the puzzle mechanics you'll encounter along the way. What could feel aimless is instead thoroughly gripping, as Limbo's brilliant and atmospheric quest makes exploring the unknown feel thrilling, terrifying, and ultimately fulfilling.
To die-hard news junkies, word that Google Reader would be put down like a sick animal came as quite a shock. Developers instead saw this as an opportunity to fill that gaping hole with something fresh – a challenge the new owners of Digg quickly attacked with their own shovels. The result is Digg Reader. It's not a separate product, but rather a feature bolted onto the existing web service and now added to the free, universal iOS app. For existing Digg users, the app offers the best of both worlds: All the Top Stories they know and love, plus favorite RSS feeds rescued from Google Reader. Sadly, it's rather short on features and functionality for RSS power users.
Like many iPhone users, we were blown away by iOS 7’s completely overhauled, gesture-based method for organizing and viewing photo libraries. Apparently, the folks at PhotoSocial were equally enthusiastic, rolling some of Apple’s ideas into version 2.0 of its own Photoful app. As in iOS 7, Photoful displays images based on the date they were taken, rather than organizing them into albums the way current iPhones do.
Another year, another welcome iteration of Wizard of the Coast's venerable card-battling franchise. Last year's iOS debut of the delectably nerdy spell-flinging card game really hit the sweet spot for longtime fans itching for a portable version of Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers. At a quick glance, Magic 2014 may seem like more of the same — and it is, to an extent — but many subtle refinements, tons of new cards, a fresh campaign to battle through, and a sealed deck mode (that finally lets you construct your own custom decks) makes this latest installment well worth another dip into your coffers.
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.