Like other popular games ported to iOS, Minecraft: Pocket Edition has spawned an abundance of "me too" clones attempting to cash in on the game's prolific momentum. Block Fortress certainly looks like just another carbon copy to throw on the pile, but it's a very different experience once you dig beneath the surface. Instead of grand exploration and adventure, this frenetic tower defense game mixes first-person shooter combat, base building, and an addicting RPG progression and unlocking system to create something that feels fresh and fun.
There's no shortage of iPhone and iPod touch music players in the App Store. They all basically do the same thing, but each one presents your tunes in a unique way, using clever interfaces and bold fonts to make your music look as good as it sounds. Many of them subscribe to Dieter Rams' principles of good design, but as far as we can tell, only one pays direct homage to his timeless vision. To say T3 Player is inspired by Rams' Braun radio is like saying the iPhone 4S is inspired by the iPhone 4.
Liberation Maiden has all the makings of a title by Goichi Suda (a.k.a. Suda51), the eccentric creator behind console games like Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer7. In this iOS shooter, you play as a Japanese schoolgirl named Shoko and blast robotic terrorists aboard your flying mech suit; on top of that all, she’s also the president of New Japan, set 100 years in the future. Its bizarre premise brings with it shooter action that’s beautiful to look at and fun to play, but ultimately leaves you hungry for more.
Sonic the Hedgehog's rough modern history on consoles is well-documented, and his traditional iOS entries have likewise been hit-or-miss. Lately, Sega's tried to improve the blue blur's fortunes on the App Store by pairing his iconic look and abilities with tried-and-true mobile formulas. Sonic Jump aped the Doodle Jump formula with middling results, and now Sonic Dash aims to put the hero into a behind-the-back endless runner. While it's certainly a better thematic fit than the former title, this awkward entry never quite finds its footing.
Arturia was the very first company to get Moog’s permission to recreate the classic analog synthesizers for the desktop almost a decade ago, and its first iPad app is a slick, thick-sounding marvel that's true to the original hardware, including being easily programmable, very playable, and sonically lush. One of the coolest things about the original MiniMoog synthesizer was that it combined extreme ease-of-use with a uniquely rich, signature tone that persists as magic aural mojo to this very day, and the iMini does a stellar job of bringing that goodness to the iPad for a reasonable price.
There are plenty of places where OS X and iOS overlap. Files can be shared with ease through iCloud-enabled apps, Messages keeps our conversations in sync, and even our open Safari tabs can be viewed across our MacBooks and iPhones. But there's nothing on the touchscreen side that really replicates the experience of handling files on our Macs. The aptly-named Files App might be the closest thing to Finder that iOS will ever see.
Thanks in no small part to the perpetual success of Angry Birds, the puzzle game has mutated its own amazingly popular block-breaking sub-genre. Not content to simply ape the competition, Toy Story: Smash It! takes that concept into three-dimensional space, and in doing so makes for one of the best games of its kind on iOS devices. It's a simple concept that makes great use of a familiar property: Buzz Lightyear lobs balls at toy block play sets in Andy’s room, attempting to knock over all of the squeak-toy aliens in as few throws as possible.
For as much as we ask of our calendars on our phones, they’re really only as smart as we make them. If we forget our friend’s birthday, it’s because we didn’t input it; if we’re late to a meeting, it means we messed up an alert. Tempo Smart Calendar, the first of what is sure to be a new generation of calendar apps, aims to take user error out of the equation. It also integrates with your social schedule like no other calendar. Along with usual iCloud and Google syncing, Tempo scans your email, contacts, and Facebook friends to generate a complete picture of your life, from tomorrow’s presentation to next month’s ski trip.
Shaking up the classic hard-boiled detective story formula with a supernatural twist, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller's gritty adventure game yarn about a psychic FBI agent makes a bold attempt to set itself apart from the status quo. Colorful language and violent encounters punctuate this tightly wound murder mystery geared towards more mature players, but while Episode 1: The Hangman has some pretty intense high points, it gets bogged down by dull stretches and technical issues.
As it stands, 2013 isn't looking like a particularly stellar year for games based on the Aliens franchise. Alien vs. Predator: Evolution is not quite the high-profile disaster that Aliens: Colonial Marines was on other platforms, as it does a valiant job of creating a longer-form brawler for iPhone and iPad – but the game is sadly plagued with consistent crashes and occasionally infuriating mechanics. Somewhere under the problems, there may be a really enjoyable title here. But without some polish, Evolution will remain a mediocre allusion to a beloved old PC game.