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148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - The App Store's Experimental Gaming Gems of the Year

Posted by Jennifer Allen on December 30th, 2013

Cynics would have you believe that the App Store is full of Match-3 puzzle games, Endless Runners, and attempts at stealing money through a multitude of in-app purchases. OK, so the App Store isn't perfect and those games are certainly out there (and a plentiful amount of them are still fun!), but that's far from all that's available.

In the spirit of it being the end of the year and the ideal time to look back at what the App Store does so well, I took a look at some of the best experimental delights out there. These are titles that are a little bit different from the norm, either in terms of having a very open ended storyline or through offering a way to interact that's unconventional. As many of us wind down for the Christmas and New Years break, it's the perfect time to relax and try something a little different.

Luxuria Superbia


For the shy or easily embarrassed, Luxuria Superbia is a title that's perhaps best played away from less open-minded members of the family. It's a musical and visual journey requiring one to stroke and touch the petals of a flower, watching and reacting accordingly to how the game responds to sensuous touches. It's a title that could well make one blush as they play it, but it's also the perfect example of what the touch based interface of the iPad and iPhone can truly offer when experiencing something different.

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - The Year's Best Minecraftlikes

Posted by Rob Rich on December 30th, 2013


Minecraft has been a full-blown phenomenon for quite some time now and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the sandbox builder, it’s influence is undeniable. Lots of games have tried to replicate its success with varying degrees of success, but what’s interesting is just how different many of them turned out to be. Some are 2D, some are 3D. Some implement more structured gameplay like tower defense elements on top of all the user-defined construction mechanics. A few almost feel like a randomly generated Metroid. Heck, some even incorporate a ecent number of RPG elements.

Honestly, there’s been quite the creative crop of blocky sandbox games on iOS for a while now, and this year was no exception. So naturally we decided to put together a list of some of our favorites.

Minecraft - Pocket Edition


Minecraft - Pocket Edition was actually a little late to its own party on iOS. When it first arrived it fell far short of expectations, but just like the PC original it’s been steadily improving ever since. What was once a simple 3D block placement exercise has been fleshed out to include enemies, crafting, fishing, and more. Of course since the PC version has continued to grow the iOS port still hasn’t managed to catch up, but it’s made some really incredible strides.

Junk Jack X


It would be easy to take a look at Junk Jack X and dismiss it as nothing more than a 2D Minecraft, but nope. It’s actually a very well-made 2D adventure with a heavy emphasis on crafting, exploring, and combat. This sequel of sorts also managed to add multiplayer, animals that can be raised, clothing, character customization options, and a whole heck of a lot more. There are numerous planets to explore (and actual incentive to explore in the first place), and your inventory is tied to your character as opposed to the world so you can bring all your stuff with you while you travel.

The Blockheads


Initially I expected The Blockheads to be nothing more than a 2D Minecraft (see a pattern emerging?), but oh my goodness I could not have been more wrong. Instead of a rehash minus a dimension, we have an incredibly unique take on sandbox crafting. One that hits all the right world exploring and building notes, while also incorporating sim-like elements as players guide their little Blockheads around the environment. What’s even more awesome is that they’ll continue to perform queued up actions even while the game is turned off! So even if you can only drop into a game for a few minutes it's still possible to get quite a bit of stuff done.

Terraria


Terraria was one of the first “It’s like Minecraft, but” games, and just like pretty much everything else on this list it’s definitely not that simple. It’s more of a massive randomly-generated adventure game. Complete with NPCs to buy items off of, rare loot drops, special bosses, dungeons, and more. And this iOS port is no slouch. Some concessions had to be made (because of the touch screen, of course), but it's been adapted to the new platform quite well.

Growtopia


What’s interesting about Growtopia is that it’s designed to be an MMO of sorts, but with a crafting motif. Well, it’s actually “splicing” and not “crafting.” Players combine items to generate totally new ones, which are then grown from the ground. It’s a little weird and a little different, but you’ve got to admit it’s also pretty intriguing. Just be aware that, as it's an online game, you'll have to learn to live with the constant inclusion of other players.

Block Fortress


I freaking love Block Fortress. It’s this compelling mix of random level generation, resource management, base-building, and wave defense that never fails to entertain. Materials earned from harvesting and fending off waves of enemies can be used to improve your arsenal and bolster your defenses, and there are quite a number of defensive options at your disposal in the first place so you'll be busy for quite a while. The upgradable everything that players can tweak using resources saved up from their various playthroughs also sweeten the deal significantly.

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - A Year of Finding Familiar Addictions on iOS

Posted by Andrew Stevens on December 30th, 2013

One year after another, everyone always gets consumed with the latest and greatest games. People are usually focused on what’s next, and that was the case for me as well in most situations. However, after not giving much appreciation to shmups on iOS, my mind was changed after reviewing Danmaku Unlimited 2 earlier this year. All of a sudden I didn’t mind the idea of using my finger to play shmups rather than my previously preferred method of a console controller. This year, being focused on the present also reminded me of previously-released games and making a journey into familiar addictions; but this time on iOS.

One of the best things about shooters is that they usually come with a good scoring system for the leaderboards. I love shooters, so I am greatly addicted to high score runs and placing myself near the top of the rankings. So naturally with my new found love for shooters on iOS came an even bigger addiction to placing as high of a score as possible on Game Center leaderboards. All of a sudden I wasn’t just reviewing games like Danmaku Unlimited 2, Plasma Sky, and Liberation Maiden; I was learning to master them by earning a respectable placement on the leaderboards and then sharing that with friends.

I pretty much did my best to put up a quality time or score on all games I reviewed this year that came with a leaderboard. 2013 was also a year of Game Center addiction.

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - The Year's Best Apps and Games

Posted by Chris Kirby on December 27th, 2013

Whoever said perfection is overrated obviously never got a five-star review on 148Apps. It doesn't happen often. Just take a quick look through our reviews and you'll see lots of well-deserving Editor's Choice winners, but most only reach four-and-a-half stars. In fact, in all of 2013 there have only been ten five-star reviews. Take a look at some of what we considered the best of the best this year.

Jool


Jool is a unique 2D platformer that features a bird and his evil alter ego. Collect items, earn points, and survive. --Michael Carattini


Year Walk


Year Walk is a haunting adventure game from Simogo that blends a dark world and involved mythology together to create an absolutely amazing experience. --Carter Dotson

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - A Few Noteworthy Children's Apps From Throughout the Year

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 27th, 2013

Recently the writers at 148Apps chose some of their most used apps of 2013. Although I focus on apps for educational interest and storybooks for children, I was given the opportunity to list applications that I personally use and could not live without as an adult. Here is my embarrassing confession: I really don’t use my iPhone and iPad much in that capacity. If I were to be asked to name a well-known utility, lifestyle or entertainment app, I would be at a loss as I find my devices are best served when I need my son safety tucked away in his room as I make important phone calls or do other errands without distractions. To me, these are productivity apps.

No parents are proud of the fact that they sometimes ask their child to give them enough space to prepare a meal, call a plumber, or put out other daily fires, but in my world this is an unpleasant necessity. Because of this I have a list of apps - here focused on releases from 2013 - that will engage my child for a nice stretch and where I can feel comfortable with him spending his precious time on. These apps don't necessarily have to be educational in the most concrete way of thinking, but must further some aspect of his development such as logic or creativity.

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - Top 10 Local Multiplayer Games

Posted by Campbell Bird on December 27th, 2013

When people think of multiplayer gaming experiences nowadays most envision players sitting alone, staring at a screen, and maybe (just maybe) communicating with other players from across the world using a microphone or chat window.

Of course this isn't how it's always been. In the days before multitudes of multiplayer games took advantage of the internet, playing games with other people was social experience. People would gather around a TV or game board and interact with each other; both in the game world as well as reality. This layered interaction - with its ability to have player actions outside of the game create meaningful consequences on the world inside the game - adds a richness and complexity that is unmatched in most online games. Of course, this isn't to say that the ability to hop into matches with anyone that is immediately ready, willing, and able to throw down through the power of the internet doesn't have its own set of advantages, but rather that there is still inherent value in local multiplayer.

Luckily, there seem to be a number of game developers out there who agree with that sentiment. 2013 was a surprisingly good year for me in terms of enjoying local multiplayer experiences on iOS. With a slew of great board game ports, as well as more unique experiences best enjoyed with good game-playing company, I spent most of this year either scoping out the latest Playdek releases or digging into the back catalogue of overlooked awesomeness from years' past. Because of this, I decided to make a list of my favorite titles that scratched my local multiplayer itch the best. Although all these games may not be from 2013, here's what I had the most local fun with throughout the year:

10. Kingdom Builder


Kingdom Builder is a quick-and-dirty worker-placement game, at least in its iOS form. Players have to build their kingdoms based on terrain cards, and random elements like scoring cards and the modular board design can help keep it feeling fresh. Kingdom Builder is good for local play mainly because it is a port of a board game, and it is a relatively quick play. I know its a bit of an older game, but it's has been made more playable within the past year and is worth revisiting.

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - Why Core Gaming Had a Great Year on Mobile

Posted by Carter Dotson on December 26th, 2013

It's easy to look at mobile and see it as a wasteland for content; particularly with all the casual, free-to-play games, and especially the ones that seem to de-emphasize actual gameplay in favor of stronger monetization. That's only if you're not paying attention. Serious, core games - some even free-to-play - had a great year on iOS.

Oceanhorn was hyped for a good reason: it was beautiful and ambitious. That ambition didn't entirely pay off in my opinion, but for the game to have succeeded financially is a huge step forward for gaming on mobile.

It also felt like the barriers between mobile and PC/console games started to blur a bit. Frozen Synapse, Mode 7's highly acclaimed PC strategy game, landed on iPad at last. Limbo received an excellent port. Leviathan: Warships brought cross-platform online play - and the best trailer of the year. Space Hulk was not perfect, but it made for an exceptional transition.

But perhaps few did it as spectacularly as XCOM: Enemy Unknown. That game proved that it was possible to take a massive console and PC title - a fantastic modern take on one of the greatest strategy games of all time - and put it on mobile without losing any of the experience. Firaxis also absolutely stuck the landing with Sid Meier's Ace Patrol and its Pacific Skies followup; original games that went to PC later.

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - High Quality iOS Ports

Posted by Rob Rich on December 26th, 2013

As 2013 starts to wind down, people naturally begin to reflect. That and anticipate 2014, but that’s another set of words entirely. Anyway, as I began to think back on the year one major theme kept popping into my head: the increased power of mobile hardware and the way it’s been used to create some truly impressive adaptations of games from other platforms.

What’s really blown me away about all this is just how faithful these ports have been. In some cases concessions had to be made with the UI or the graphical details, but a good many of these games are nigh indistinguishable from their console/PC counterparts. Heck, some of them actually fare better than the originals!

So with this in mind, we present you with our list of notable iOS ports from 2013 (and maybe a few that came out earlier because they’re just that awesome).

XCOM: Enemy Unknown


It’s hard to kick-off a list like this without XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Simply hearing that one of 2012’s best strategy games was bound for iOS was exciting enough. However, this was no rush-job or some bare-bones freemium cash grab. Firaxis somehow managed to shrink the game down with only a few extremely minor changes (i.e. slightly less detailed visuals, fewer maps overall, and fewer soldier customization options). The flip-side to that is the inclusion of touch controls that were a perfect fit for the gameplay.

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - Documenting Your Year With iOS Photography Apps

Posted by Jennifer Allen on December 26th, 2013

For the past two years I've been recording my life with photographs. Every day, I've taken a photograph with my iPhone before sharing it via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For the most part it's fun to do, for a multitude of reasons.

It enables me to share my life with friends and family that I don't get to see as often as I'd like. It sparks conversations about whatever happened that day. More importantly, it means that at the end of the year I can look back at what I did and savour those memories. It's pretty much a photo diary in that case. Of course, some days it can be tricky. Not every day of the year can be fascinating, meaning that sometimes I have to get creative. And yes, sometimes I succumb to the ease in which I can snap a photo of my pets or my freshly cooked meal. It's a cliche, but it's surprising how many people enjoy looking at food even despite all the cynicism.

I use many different apps for such a purpose. While few (excluding Instagram) are used every day, they're a handy arsenal of tools just waiting for me to improve a photo in some way. I've made myself a rule that I only use iOS apps to adjust photos and it's working out for me well.

148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up - 148Apps' Staff Discusses Their Favorite Underappreciated Games

Posted by Carter Dotson on December 26th, 2013

It's easy to list off the best games of 2013, and often such lists contain a lot of crosstalk between different publications. So this year, instead of just giving off another similar list of the best games of the year, our staff has decided to talk about their favorite games of the year that might not have been the best sellers or the most popular. In no particular order, this is our list of some of our favorite under-appreciated games of 2013.

Yushino


This was the one game that I kept coming back to on a nearly-daily basis. The mix of addition and Scrabble is something that appeals to my former life when I studied mathematics. It rewards pattern recognition, and smart play, rather than cheap obscure word usage. That I'm also really good at it doesn't hurt. - Carter Dotson

Space Agency


Space Agency is an amazingly fun game for those of us who have watched the space program since, well, forever. While it's a very lightweight simulation of a space program, it does require a fair bit of strategy, timing, and even a bit of luck. The challenges it presents have players going from the extremes of keeping a spacecraft in the air for a few seconds to multi-planet orbit missions where space station pieces are swapped out. All presented in bite-sized, mobile-optimized gameplay for space geeks like me. - Jeff Scott

The Five Hottest Rides In Real Racing 3

Posted by Blake Grundman on February 26th, 2013

With Real Racing 3’s stateside release right around the corner, we figured it might be fun to take a look at the game’s extensive lineup of vehicles and pick out a few of our favorites. When a game has over 40 real-life vehicles to choose from, the competition is bound to come down to the wire. So in no particular order, we present to you the five hottest rides of Real Racing 3.

Porche 918 Spyder Concept

Planned for release in September of 2013, this beauty accelerates from 0-60 in a mere three seconds, can stop on a dime and starts out at a beefy 200mph. The most remarkable thing about this piece of motorized madness is that it in real life it burns up the track with Porche’s first ever hybrid, 580 horsepower engine, buoyed by the aid of two electric motors outputting a healthy 243 horses apiece. But be warned, this beast is going to set you back almost $850,000 in in-game cash, so start saving your pennies early and often.

Pagani Huayra

If there were ever a car that epitomized high speeds and sleek design, this bad boy would take the cake. Its twin V-12 engine manages to produce a staggering 730 horsepower that to start top out at 222mph, but when upgraded can exceed 230mph. The Italian produced dream machine is also highly touted by the good folks over at Top Gear, having crowned it the fastest street-legal vehicle in the program’s history, completing their coveted track in 1:13.8. As mind blowing as that may be, it also comes with a bit of sticker shock as well, because it will set you back 1.35 million big ones to park this in your in-game garage.

Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4

Though it may sound odd to say, the Aventador is a bargain relatively speaking, clocking in at only $597,700. Without question, it is one of the crown jewels of Real Racing 3’s S Class. Originally put into production back in 2011, the vehicle’s availability is extremely limited, with only 4,000 ever planned on being produced. The in-game model has a top speed of 217mph, and a 0-60 in an impressive 2.9 seconds, making it one of the highest performing cars under three quarters of a million dollars.

McLaren F1

Originally dubbed as, “…The finest driving machine, yet built for the public road,” this extremely specialized vehicle was one of the most beloved and coveted sports cars ever produced. Despite production on the model ceasing way back in 1998, it is still thought by some to be one of the most perfected pieces of machinery on the planet. The $1.25 million price tag not only reflects the car’s rarity, but also its performance as well. Starting out with a 234mph cap speed, you can only begin to guess how high it can go with the help of a few, albeit expensive, part enhancements.

Koenigsegg Agera R

Last, but most certainly not least, this Swedish supercar begins to blur the lines between vehicle and rocket. Don’t let its sleek exterior fool you, because this slice of heaven is just as much about performance as it is about perception. Holding an impressive six different land speed records, this is the type of finely tuned excellence that can accelerate to 300kmh in only 14.53 seconds. Needless to say, but a top speed of 273mph is not going to come cheap. In fact, it is so expensive that it can only be purchased using 800 in-game tokens, not even cash! To put that amount into perspective, it would cost $99.99 in real life money to purchase 1000 race tokens, so watch your wallet. Perfection comes at an extremely hefty price.

Don’t worry, this is just the tip of the gas-guzzling iceberg. There will be plenty more affordable hot rods awaiting you when Real Racing 3 launches later this week. Until then, keep those engines revving, gearheads!

148Apps' Best Apps of 2012: 10-1

Posted by Carter Dotson on December 28th, 2012

This is it. Our favorite apps of 2012, the ones that took our devices to new levels of usefulness. Have your own picks? Tell us below in the comments!

10. Fantastical: What makes the iOS version of this Mac calendar app so great? Jennifer Allen says that it’s because of its natural language features. “Adding an event is a matter of tapping the plus button, like with many other calendar apps. Usually, this is where things get slow and cumbersome with users having to slide through times and dates to find the right one. Fantastical makes it so much easier. Users just type what’s going on. Meeting Joe for lunch tomorrow at 1pm? Type that in and the app understands perfectly. … Excluding typos, it’s tough to fool Fantastical, it’s that accurate.”

9. 1Password: Remembering passwords, especially secure ones, is difficult. Thankfully, version 4 of this password app is extremely easy to use and also comes with extra features for easily filling out private information. As David Rabinowitz says: “The sheer number of different types of information 1Password can remember is extremely impressive and comprehensive. It can store all of the usual things, like identities, credit cards, login information and such. But, it can also remember driver’s licenses, social security numbers, software licenses, wireless routers, and even notes if there is something to store that doesn’t fit in one of the many included categories. The app also has some really impressive advanced features, like syncing to iCloud or Dropbox.”

8. Pocket: Read It Later underwent a stylish renovation with a new name, and the result was this dramatically-improved experience that’s now one of the best cross-platform reading list apps available. The app is perfect for keeping up with longform articles, and its integration with apps like Tweetbot means that it's easy to save an article to Pocket from iPhone, and read it later on the iPad. It’s for more than just reading articles, videos work extremely well with it as well. Now, to just solve the problem of having too many saved things to get through.

7. Launch Center Pro: App Cubby expanded out their popular Launch Center application for easy access to actions on iOS with this new Pro version that brings new features and a much-improved interface. Angela LaFollette says “Launch Center Pro is ideal for users who like to save time and works perfectly sitting in the iPhone’s dock. Once you use it, you’ll never be able to stop. It’s packed with a lot of features, and its intuitive and sharp interface both make it attractive to all iOS users.”

6. Adobe Photoshop Touch: While a stripped-down Photoshop experience has been available on iOS for a while, this expanded experience is the photography enthusiast’s best friend. David Rabinowitz says that “ Although it doesn’t offer as much as its full-featured older brother on the desktop, it’s the best photo editing experience available for iOS. Beginners who have never used Photoshop before won’t feel overwhelmed by the app. The desktop version is known for being extremely powerful and full featured, with an at times cluttered and confusing interface, but the tablet version really only includes the essentials.”

5. The Magazine: Marco Arment’s bi-weekly magazine, with several original articles from talented writers, is probably the best justification for keeping Newsstand around at this point. It has a fantastic minimalistic design as well, which is to be expected from the creator of Instapaper. The topics are varied and provocative, great for a short-but-satisfying read, and it's only available on iOS.

4. Sparrow: Apple rarely approves third-party mail clients, so the fact that this one made its way to the App Store is a blessing for users. Sparrow makes it easy to navigate one’s inbox, quickly seeing unread emails, easily going from one mail to the next, and getting to see just who’s emailing with Facebook integration. It was so good that Gmail acquired the dev team, and the Gmail app is already seeing the dividends of the acquisition. While new feature development has stopped, Sparrow isn’t going away, thankfully: it recently got an update for the iPhone 5 and remains perhaps the best independent mail client on the App Store.

3. Google Maps: You never know what you have until it's gone, and such is the story of Google Maps. Ever since Apple’s mapping solution replaced the default Maps app in iOS, which was powered by Google, suddenly people missed Google’s solution. Well, splitting the app away into a third-party release proved to be a great move: while it is yet to see iPad support, the transit directions are a huge help, turn-by-turn navigation has been added to the app, and it's just generally a better experience than it was before.

2. Tweetbot for iPad: Tapbots brought their Twitter client from iPhone to iPad this year, and while the iPad experience is great enough on its own, the synchronization is the app’s real strength. Being able to easily sync unread position between iPhone, iPad, and even the later Mac version is just an amazing experience that works exactly as it says on paper. It’s the best Twitter experience available, period. Enjoy it while it lasts, thanks to Twitter limiting the number of users that an app can have using Twitter.

1. Paper by FiftyThree: This drawing app is incredibly beautiful, allowing for pieces that look incredibly realistic to be brought to life in the app’s virtual pages. But it may be the fact that it’s actually so easy to use, even for non-artists, that it is extremely compelling. Jennifer Allen saysPaper by FiftyThree does for sketching and artistry as iA Writer does for the writer. It’s simple and unsullied by menu bars and buttons. Instead it’s all about expressing creativity.”

148Apps' Best Games of 2012: 10-1

Posted by Carter Dotson on December 28th, 2012

These are it. The cream of the crop of 2012. The best games that ought to be played. We're sure you have opinions on this – tell us in the comments below!

10. The World Ends With You: Solo Remix: This DS role-playing game was brought to the next big touchscreen gaming system. Spoiler alert: its unique art style, soundtrack, and gameplay, re-fitted for one screen, fit well enough to let the experience still shine. It is expensive but worth it, writes Jennifer Allen: "I’ve played many JRPGs in the past and there’s nothing quite like it. The iOS conversion is pretty good, even despite the screen restrictions, and it’s all forgiven when you’re wrapped up in the storyline so much. It’s an expensive purchase but one that will offer you dozens of hours of memorable gameplay. When you think of it like that, it really doesn’t sound so bad."


9. Outwitters: One Man Left's long-awaited turn-based strategy game proved to well worth the long-awaiting. Move units in such a way to avoid detection or be out of the range of the enemy. Imagine their horror as they realize that their opponent has set themselves up to win no matter what they do, and hitting submit is their doom. Such is the joy of Outwitters. Just hope that opponents don't consider the phrase "The only winning move is not to play" a valid strategy.

8. Super Hexagon: Where Terry Cavanagh's frantic survival game is in its relentless simplicity. It's all just spinning left and right no matter what, but then it becomes about learning the patterns of the different difficulty levels, and figuring out the approach. But yet, the hardest part is the execution, and not messing up. Spinning left and right has never been so difficult, and yet so ultimately rewarding.

7. Letterpress: Who saw Loren Brichter, most known for legendary Twitter app Tweetie, reinventing the multiplayer word game? This stylish asynchronous multiplayer affair was compelling because the goal was so different: each player was on relatively equal footing with the same 5x5 grid, but new strategies, and competing for territory formed from words played out. Just don't cheat.

6. Rayman Jungle Run: Why was this Rayman auto-runner so good? Perhaps it was the absolutely stunning 2D animation. Perhaps it was the charming music that set the mood of the game perfectly. Perhaps it was the ingenious level design. Perhaps it was the perfectly-honed progression curve, introducing new abilities steadily throughout the game. But maybe it's the fact that all of it came together so well in one game. Oh, and the game has used few in-app purchases, a shocking development considering they were all over the place in 2012.

5. 10000000: There's no reason why, just looking at this game on the surface, why is should be on a top games list. It's got a pixel art style, but it's hardly polished or detailed. It has the ugliest icon on the App Store. That anyone noticed it at all is really a miracle. But those who did notice it also noticed that they had no free time left. The way that different matches can affect the board means that each move has an impact, and often an unintended one. It's just way too easy to keep coming back and giving this one another shot to try and get to the eponymous ten million points total.

4. Angry Birds Star Wars: The franchise got a major boost in 2012. While there's only so many ways to tackle launching birds at pigs, the fact that Angry Birds Space mixed in so many new ways to tackle this eternal conflict was refreshing. But even better was that Rovio took an opportunity with what could have easily been a licensed cash-in and made it something that not only was nostalgic and just reverent enough to the source material along with its inherent irreverent characters and theme, but made it truly a Star Wars-inspired Angry Birds game. It sounded ridiculous, and at some level, still is ridiculous, but it rises above that.


3. Hero Academy: While exchanging words has been a staple of turn-based multiplayer games on iOS, Hero Academy was probably the first game that really mastered a combat-based gameplay on iOS. There was plenty of raw strategization, but there's also the poker aspect of not knowing what units your opponent has up their sleeve, exactly. Watching your team dance around after winning is extremely satisfying, after that other team's archer had taken so many with them. Dance little soldiers, dance indeed.

2. Punch Quest: Rocketcat Games and Madgarden made a game that clearly was meant to take refuge in its audacity: the idea of an endless puncher where skeletons, bats and orcs get punched in between rounds of riding laser-firing dinosaurs and gnome transformations could easily just be ludicrous. Making it fun and addictive is another challenge: the fact that the game is so perfectly controlled with just two fingers helps. That it contains a deep customization and skill-based system helps propel return sessions, along with the ability to see friends' customizations on the leaderboard. But the fact that the game just remains so simple and fun to play at its very core makes it one of the best games of the year.

1. Walking Dead: The Game: When compiling this list, there were many titles named as some of the best of the year by our staffers. Yet, one game kept popping up, and it was Telltale's take on the popular zombie franchise. It's easy to see why: the game presents players with ways to interact with their world, and define their character and fate in ways that other games do not. It's powerful and memorable, as Jennifer Allen explains: "I love games that offer an emotional experience which is exactly what The Walking Dead has offered. The fact that every decision has a repercussion, whether big or small, makes it all the more fascinating. It might not be a game designed for replaying, but that sole experience from start to finish is quite gripping if upsetting at times."

148Apps' Best Apps of 2012: 20-11

Posted by Carter Dotson on December 27th, 2012

We're at the middle part of our rundown of 2012's best apps. Agree or disagree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below!

20. DocuSign Ink: Getting signatures on important documents becomes a lot easier with this extremely handy app, allowing users to sign with their fingers or a stylus to be added to PDF documents or ones captured with the iOS camera. Angela LaFollette says its security and convenience are unparalleled: “What makes DocuSign Ink stand out from other apps similar to it is that documents are secured and protected from being copied, documents can be stored on cloud services like Box, Dropbox and Google Drive and the app converts PDF fields so users can fill them out with ease.”

19. Hueless: While we now have the ability to take photos with realistic color depth, there’s still something about black-and-white photography and the special composition that it requires that makes it stand out even today. Hueless makes this easy by providing real-time capture in black-and-white, as opposed to post-processing. There’s the ability to adjust color filters, exposure, and contrast while shooting, so that perfect shot is attainable the first time. While it may take old-timey photos, it still provides modern features like sharing to social networks, including Instagram. There’s no filter more hip than to have no color whatsoever.

18. Next Issue: This app and service combines the all-you-can-consume subscription model of Netflix with magazines, providing the latest issues of many publications available at a flat rate. Monica Stevens loved it: “I don’t have to pick through every stand of the supermarket endcap while my groceries get loaded onto the moving black belt. Next Issue’s mags don’t pile up on my nightstand, either. Next Issue’s offerings are also far more wide-ranging and enjoyable than Apple’s Newstand. Finding viable options for light flight eye-fare is tiresome when the choices are so few.”

17. Byword: The Mac text editor jumped to iOS in 2012, bringing with it a fantastic experience for quickly writing in plain text and Markdown. The latter is especially possible with its great keyboard toolbar for quick access to common formatting. The iCloud and Dropbox support means that writing can be taken anywhere, no matter its starting point. I personally type up everything I write in this app’s various permutations, even on the iPhone 5 sometimes.

16. Clear: This to-do list app eschews complexity, preferring a simple and stylish experience. Superior to writing things down on paper, for those who just wanted a very easy way to list what they needed to do and mark it off when they were done, Clear is the solution. Later updates provided additional themes and iCloud sync to the Mac version to free up those lists. As well, the app had a decided influence on other productivity apps that tried to mimic its minimalist design.

15. Bankr Personal Finance: This finance app makes the list thanks to it being not just handy for tracking expenses and monitoring budgets, but for its steady improvements through updates. For example, an update in October, which won our Editor’s Choice award, added Siri and Reminders integration to the app. Angela LaFollette says “There’s not much that this app can’t do. Honestly, I couldn’t find anything to not like about Bankr Personal Finance. ... All in all, it’s powerful, well-designed, refreshing and it just made my life a lot easier. Keep tabs on your money by keeping this app around on the home screen.”

14. Creatorverse: The creators of Second Life jumped on to iOS with a physics sandbox app that impressed our Lisa Caplan: “Creatorverse‘s unique sandbox style may mean it’s more fun for kids (or kids at heart), it’s the creative possibility that makes it so engaging. Whether uses wish to make a simple pinball-style game or a short animation, it’s a neat concept that lets users explore their artistic side.”

13. Readability: While it has existed as a web service for some time, the app is a fantastically engrossing experience for quickly and easily reading some of the internet’s best writing. Lisa Caplan praised it in her review: “It’s a pure, simple, and beautiful reading experience, particularly for longer articles and in-depth reports. Yes, Readability’s app was worth the wait. It’s also completely free, so download it.”

12. Things 2.0: A free update to the existing Things app, the new Things Cloud feature freed to-do lists from an individual device and made them available anywhere a user used the app. Ruairi O’Gallochoir says “…my love for Things was only reaffirmed with the 2.0 update. Users are sure to appreciate the Cloud Sync features, its amazing interface and its powerful task management tools. Although some may be deterred by its fairly expensive price tag, once you see past it and realise you are paying for an extremely well designed app you might be able to justify the decision with yourself.”

11. Jasmine: iOS 6 stripping out Google services entirely made for a great entry point for third-party developers to jump in with apps that improve on the official experience. Jasmine would be notable if only thanks to its sleek interface, but for two killer features: one, it can play videos that are otherwise made unavailable on mobile. Two, it can play the audio from videos after the app is minimized. The app’s core features are available for free in a universal app. It’s the best way to check out YouTube on iOS.

148Apps' Best Games of 2012: 20-11

Posted by Carter Dotson on December 27th, 2012

We enter the middle portion of our rundown of 2012's best games, covering numbers 20-11 of our favorite games. Have an opinion of your own? Let us know in the comments!

20. Girls Like Robots: Based on quality, Adult Swim Games probably had the best 2012 of any mobile publisher, with a succession of high-quality games with absurd premises. The silliness made it a great fit on a surface level for the publisher. The high quality of the game, which transcends its silly people-organization concept by just continuously iterating and evolving on it throughout the game, made it something special.

19. Polara: This endless runner mixes in the color-switching of classic shmup Ikaruga with endless runner gameplay. But it shines because it is never content to keep throwing the same tricks at players, as Eli Cymet explains: "Polara boasts tight and varied gameplay, and consummately constructed stages. Rather than rest on the laurels of novelty and squander the core mechanic, developer Hope This Works Games offers a new way to think about color matching in almost every level."

18. Polymer: Play the "One Polymer" mode in this unique sliding puzzle game from indie-musician-turned-developer Whitaker Trebella to see its genius: it encourages long-term strategizing and planning to make a high-scoring match, not just quick reactions like in other puzzle games. Sure, there's modes that require quick thinking as well that are plenty of fun, but the premise of One Polymer is what kept me coming back.

17. Pocket Planes: Nimblebit hates our free time. Last year's Tiny Tower was addictive. So was Pocket Planes, thanks in no small part to the fact that there was more surface strategy to employ, and the ability for players to have a say in their fate as they expand their airline's reach into a globe-traversing empire. Plus, what other game has people in frog suits flying planes? It's the only game on this list, for sure...

16. Need For Speed Most Wanted: If one game was to define how far iOS gaming came this year, EA and Criterion's racer, adapted to iOS by Firemonkeys, might be it. From being packed full of features, and looking absolutely amazing to boot, it's showing that the difference between consoles and mobile, at least on a technical level, is a rapidly-shrinking gulf. Yet despite the good looks, it is definitely a keeper for its gameplay according to Blake Grundman: "Even with the most critical of eyes, Need for Speed: Most Wanted is still easily one of the best racers on the platform to date. You would have to be crazy not to take this hot rod out for a nice long joy ride."

15. Organ Trail: Director's Cut: Often times, pixel art is used just as an art style, and not to convey an actual retro feel. Not so here. By combining the look and feel of an 80's PC Oregon Trail game, and combining its mechanics with a modern-day zombie apocalypse, the elements brilliantly wind up informing each other and forming a sublime take on a classic. Rob Rich feels the same way: "Virtually every aspect of Organ Trail: Director’s Cut oozes style and cleverness. Also pus. It’s a game that’s likely to please zombie fans as well as anyone who remembers the one without the green-skinned shamblers fondly. And it’s with no hesitation or trepidation that I suggest that everyone reading this should buy it. If they haven’t already, of course."

14. Ski Safari: There are endless runners, and then there's Ski Safari. I'll let Rob Rich explain why it made our list: "Penguins, snowmobiles, eagles, and yeti can all be used to put some real distance between the accident prone man and the avalanche. Not only are they useful, they’re also pretty funny. Watching the yeti run wildly or slide along on its stomach never gets old. The same can be said for seeing a penguin ride along on the fuzzy mythological beast." If a man and a penguin riding a yeti while outrunning an avalanche ever gets old, I will weep bitterly. An easy choice for this list.

13. Super Crate Box: It would be easy to forget that this was actually a 2012 title, since it came out in the first week of January. I don't forget sitting for hours on end, either on touchscreen or at my iCade, trying to last just a little bit longer, cursing out that disc gun, the giant walking green skulls, or the stupid fire pit at the bottom. Yet, after those countless hours, no game revealed itself to give the players the control over their fate, to be about pure skill far more than randomness, quite like this one did.

12. Fieldrunners 2: Remember 2008? That's when the first Fieldrunners came out. 2012 is like an eternity since then, but Fieldrunners is still a ton of fun. As Rob LeFebvre writes: "Fieldrunners 2 HD is a brilliant combination of action and strategy with a depth of gameplay that’s hard to ignore. I find myself thinking of solutions to particularly difficult maps while I’m driving, or showering, or making dinner for the kids." Just don't burn the food while protecting your base.


11. Mikey Shorts: The laser precision of the controls is a significant part of what made this so good: trying to shave fractions of seconds off one's time in order to beat a friend on the leaderboards could be nigh-impossible with virtual controls, nay it should be. But instead, it's about as perfect as it could be. Not bad for a first-time effort, and challenging friends to try and one up their times added a ton of value to this one. Plus, there's silly hats.