Like all parents in the digital age, we have a couple of folders on our iPhones and iPads dedicated to our young children, filled with apps designed specifically for their growing minds. At first blush, Petting Zoo – an interactive picture book created by New Yorker cartoonist Christoph Niemann – seemed like one more cutesy app for our collection. But once we started playing with it, we realized that we were enjoying it almost as much as our little ones.
Like Bejeweled Blitz before it, PopCap's Solitaire Blitz takes a classic game premise – in this case, the single-player card game Solitaire – and emphasizes bite-sized play sessions with amped-up game speed within a free-to-play structure. And just like the Bejeweled variant, Solitaire Blitz is a Facebook favorite that's an excellent match for the iPhone and iPad, not to mention incredibly tough to ignore.
While Gameloft's past Order & Chaos games had players fighting off monsters in massively multiplayer online battles (Order & Chaos Online) or defending their bases in multiplayer online battle arena matches (Heroes of Order & Chaos), the new Order & Chaos Duels turns combat into a strategic game of cards. Featuring all of the lore and fantasy the franchise is known for, Duels offers plenty of rich card-dueling action, but is marred by a freemium structure that makes for a frustrating deck-building experience.
If you've ever dreamed of talking like a robot while warping at high speeds through hyperspace, then look no further: Vio lets you simultaneously fulfill both of those wishes. Part toy and part tool, this bizarre musical app takes a little tinkering to get a feel for, but it's a blast to play around with for a while once you figure it out. Using your iOS device's microphone, Vio transforms your voice and other sounds it picks up into a musical mish-mash of sci-fi robotic craziness.
Recording and synthesizer apps aren’t the only options in the musical arena. Tablets have inspired an entirely new type of musical app, and Chordion is an excellent, visually sophisticated example of this app genre. It's a creative tool that makes it easy to try out different musical shades and chord structures with maximum ease.
Video games are an ever-evolving medium, and as such, certain genres seem to fall out of style as the years pass. The match-three tile puzzler – arguably perfected by PopCap with Bejeweled 3 – isn't exactly redefining the interactive experience, but Alien Hive proves there's still room for innovation in an otherwise well-worn, casual-focused concept. Blending two simple gameplay ideas with a relaxing, cartoonish aesthetic works – for the right player.
Our iPhones can do so much right out of the box. With the exception of a few games that we can't live without, most of our favorite apps are merely better versions of the stock apps that come installed with iOS: Fantastical, Tempo, Clear, Camera+, etc. CaptureAudio is no exception, serving as an upgrade for one of the least-popular iOS apps, Voice Memos. It wouldn't be too hard to improve upon Apple's barebones sound recorder, but CaptureAudio's fantastic interface and versatile indexing features make the built-in option look downright useless.
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is more than the average add-on piece of downloadable content so prevalent in video games these days. Blizzard approached the second iteration of its massively popular real-time strategy game as a trilogy from the start, each portion allowing you to delve deeper into the gameplay and backstory of StarCraft's three warring factions. Heart of the Swarm is a beautiful dive into the slimy muck of the Zerg, and the centerpiece of an inevitable conclusion to a three-part story.
Getting marooned on a spooky alien world full of creepy crawlies and other unfriendly inhabitants might sound terrifying, but it turns out to be a welcome detour from the dull depths of space in Capsized+ for iPad. Exploration and survival in this beautifully hand-drawn 2D platform shooter make for a satisfying balancing act, one made all the more interesting by the diverse ways you can traverse and interact with the harsh planetscape.
Developed by Angry Birds creator Rovio, The Croods is a village-building game inspired by DreamWorks’ latest CG animated film. With these two studios behind it, you might expect the game to be a sure thing, both as a promotional tool and as a fun iOS game for all ages. Instead, this freemium title isn’t the least bit charming, and all it seems to want is your money. Your objective is to create resources for the prehistoric Croods family by trapping, taming, and caring for wild animals, but the game downplays its characters in favor of a hollow gameplay approach.