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Kingdoms will always be in peril and brave heroes will always be needed. However the format in which they do their “fighting evil” thing can vary wildly. In Pixel Kingdom they do so by meeting the approaching hordes head-on in a three lane defense. And they look so freaking adorable doing it, too. Pixel Kingdom is a fairly straightforward lane defense game for the most part. Players have a stock of various units they can produce and three lanes to produce them in. They’re all “paid for” by a mana pool that fills up over time, which can also be upgraded to fill faster by using more mana. Units are mostly of the melee/ranged attack varieties but there are a number of variations in-between to unlock and play around with. But what would the heroes be without their monsters? The various hordes of evil contain monsters both big and small. Some can knock heroes back, some weave in and out of lanes, and still others can slow a hero’s movement. Thankfully players have access to a cache of special equipment that can be purchased to make their heroes much more formidable. Assuming they have the coin to pay for it all, of course. --Rob Rich
The future is a very bleak place in indie adventure game, Gemini Rue. Clearly taking inspiration from some sci-fi greats such as Blade Runner, as well as a plethora of film noir, the game tells the story from two different perspectives. One part of the adventure follows a time-travelling assassin, Azriel Odin, as he attempts to find his missing brother, while the other part tracks an amnesiac man called Delta-Six, as he finds himself trapped in a hospital with no clue as to what exactly happened to him. And, of course, their fates overlap in a twisting narrative that will stick in one’s mind for a while to come. At its most basic, Gemini Rue is an adventure game full of the need to tap on items and combine them in some way. Really, though, it’s interactive fiction. The puzzles are hardly taxing, although I did find them interesting. Using more than just a combination of items, players have a communicator that ensures they can contact characters, as well as check their notes and conduct a form of research. It’s a small yet attractive feature, that gives players a sense of control far beyond simply offering up a list of objectives. In typical adventure gaming style, players have a choice of icons to determine how to interact with others, including the ability to look, use, talk or kick. --Jennifer Allen
Touch Press has been publishing astonishing digital books for iPad for as long as the platform has existed. With their earlier apps, like The Elements, The Wasteland, The Barefoot World Atlas and The Sonnets, the company shows a knack for taking a subject many consider dry or academic and turning it a multimedia feast that engages not only students, but anyone with even a passing curiosity in the subject matter. With The Orchestra, the team has raised its own bar, creating much more than a than a digibook. The Orchestra takes users on an exclusive tour of the UK’s Philharmonia and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen’s interpretations of eight classical pieces from composers like Hayden, Mahler, Stravinsky, and Beethoven in unparalleled fashion. The app is a two-part affair. The home screen guides users to the performances first. Each orchestral work is presented with several videos focusing on key musicians/instruments and on Salonen’s baton. These videos can be rearranged with intuitive gestures to focus on whichever appeals at the moment. Below that, users watch the score scroll by in sync. One can view the entire orchestration, a curated score that focuses on key instruments in the piece, and for those who don’t read music, there is a graphical representation using color-coded bars. --Lisa Caplan
In an App Store full of countless derivations of the same handful of genres, sometimes all it takes for a game to stand out is to just execute on one of those genres really well. That’s what Black Operations does and that’s why anyone interested in mobile real-time strategy should give it a look. Specifically, Black Operations is a 2D sidescrolling strategy game. The playfield is a linear plane with two bases on each end; to win, players must overcome what is essentially a tug-of-war battle to overthrow the enemy’s HQ. It’s a simplified take on real-time strategy that’s been proven successful on mobile phones, consoles, and pretty much anything without a mouse. However, Black Operations does throw in a few new elements to liven things up. In most games like this once a unit is spawned they march forward and attack until they die. Here, though, players use intuitive multi-touch gestures to tell soldiers to move out, retreat, or stay put. This opens up new tactical possibilities like having units rally around a newly-capture watch tower or drawing enemies out by sacrificing individual soldiers. --Jordan Minor
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In PICME, my son’s likeness is used to create a boy character who delivers a piano to a friendly lion named Juno, who claims to be able to play, yet in reality needs to practice a great deal to be able to make true music with this instrument. There is much that I really appreciate in this interactive storybook. First, two distinct versions of this tale are included – a movie as well as a storybook, and although the plot of this story remains the same, I especially appreciate how the video is not just a straight animated version of the book. It is also a different yet related experience which adds more characters and nuances that work perfectly in this movie. The book, however, is a little more simplistic, making a nice, tight narrative that I equally appreciate. --Amy Solomon
I would like to introduce readers to a trilogy of dinosaur apps from the Ansel and Clair series of educational applications. I am a huge fan of these apps, as Africa and Paul Revere’s Ride, and now the dinosaur time periods have each been visited by Ansel, a travel photographer from the planet Virtoos and Clair, a Virtoosian robot companion in order to gather photos to teach about these moments in history back on their home planet. There are three sections broken up into different times, specifically the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, that each goes back to explore the world, learning about the unique dinosaurs what differenceates each of these periods seen in the landscapes of each of these apps, such as the Triassic period which was less green and more barren than the other periods of time --Amy Solomon
My son and I loved this first app – a children’s interactive application allowing one to explore five different truck and car-themed activities, as seen here in the review of this app. More Trucks includes four new scenes that children will also have fun with. Nice children’s narration will explain how these sections work, and parents and children alike will enjoy the familiar nursery rhyme-themed classical music that Duck Duck Moose is known for. These sections are uniformly bright and colorful, including the same stylized looks that fans have come to expect from these applications. --Amy Solomon
I’m a sucker for retro games. There is just something charming about going into the past with today’s hardware. I get especially teary-eyed when 8-bit graphics appear. Kairosoft’s Ninja Village is that type of tearjerker that I’m talking about. Set in ancient Japan, it it is a city simulation set during the period of feudalism. It’s craftily set as a unification adventure that involves ninja clans, so in one swoop, I was getting some awesome backstory angles to work with.
Yes, the game came with retro looks, down the pleasant (for me) shaky movements and blended color. I liked the detail the developer put into creating a fun-looking environment. The gameplay was a potent mix of civilization simulation and domination principles. Frankly, I really enjoyed the intricate nature of this title. Its game engine was pretty cool, and a lot of thought seemed to have been put into the basic logic. I was responsible for training and upkeep of my ninja warriors. A key component of this was the ability to manage my non-infinite resources. First, I had to do stimulate basic commerce to increase my funds; villagers needed food, and food also brought valuable cash when sold to merchants. I was able to build industry like farms and also able to build infrastructure for my growing clan. --Tre Lawrence
I realize that I am not the only person who misplaces their wallet, but I find it hard to believe that there are people on this earth who lose theirs more consistently than I do. For years I have been casually looking into different ways to help me organize my life, and there are a few products on the market that allow the user to remotely find their missing, tagged items. Obviously, the problem here is that these products, for the most part, are separate items and are just as prone to being forgotten and misplaced as the wallet itself. So why not put the device on the smartphone? Everyone has one and if implemented well enough it can work as a symbiotic relationship. Fortunately for all of humanity there is a project floating around on KickStarter right now that might be the world’s solution to the endless struggle to keep tabs on arguably the two most important items in the average person’s life. Called SmartWallit, this ambitious startup has developed a product that will ingeniously alert its owner if either the wallet or phone gets left behind. --Joseph Bertolini
The Jurassic Park franchise was the quintessential morality tale. It’s what we needed in the 90s: a reminder of the dangers of mankind subverting nature. Dinosaurs are interesting, and having a zoo full of them would be exceptionally cool, but only bad things could happen in the end. Keeping prehistoric beasts as confined pests is rarely a good idea, especially the carnivorous ones. Jurassic Park Builder, a game from Ludia Inc, is just the type of title that can fix melancholy. It put me in charge of developing theme park populated such as the one on the novel and movie it derives it name from. It was a park simulation with a twist. I was tasked with building and expanding space, as well as making sure my livestock flourished. The originating story was close to the original; I found dinosaur DNA fortuitously trapped in amber, and was able to create viable eggs with the DNA. From then on, it became a matter of suave management of resources. I got to pick whether I wanted terrestrial animals or aquatic ones. I also had to feed the creature based on defined diets. --Tre Lawrence