epic-zen-garden_915975445_ipad_01.jpgWhat a week this is for Apple!

iOS 8 launched today (Wednesday) and the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus start arriving on US shores this Friday! Apple has already updated the App Store with fresh new look and all new featured picks. There are plenty of new apps and games arriving this week, along with a plethora of iOS 8 updates for existing apps.

Let’s kick off the new app coverage with a free title that we first got a glimpse of at WWDC earlier this year, Epic Zen Garden. In case you’ve forgotten, this was the game that Epic developed as a tech demo to show off Apple’s new feature known as Metal. It allows developers to squeeze out all of the potential and performance of your iPhone by gaining direct access to the hardware (or what’s sometimes commonly referred to as the bare metal). Guess what…it looks beautiful. There have also been a number of updates released for other games today as well, which add Metal support.

plunder-pirates_845129661_ipad_02.jpgNext up is the latest game in the Rovio Stars publishing line, Plunder Pirates. The game has already spent a good deal of time in soft-release, but now this free-to-play social, pirate-themed building and battling game gets a worldwide launch. Fans of Clash of Clans style games will want to have a look at this one.

The next two titles are a couple of “runner” movie-tie in games to a two upcoming feature films.
(if the terms ‘movie-tie’ in and ‘free-to-play runner’ in the same sentence hasn’t already sent you screaming…read on)

First, from PikPok, we have The Maze Runner ™. Not very surprising that they chose to make a runner out of it, the game set in the universe of 20th Century Fox’s film (based on the best-selling novel) about a boy who wakes up no memory of the outside world and finds himself trapped in a massive maze with a group of other boys. I haven;’t read the book (or seen the film yet) but the game looks like your usual runner fare.

The other, The Boxtrolls: Slide ‘N’ Sneak is based on Universal Picture’s stop-motion animated film The Boxtrolls, about a young orphaned human boy raised by a group of underground, trash collecting Trolls, who tries to help save his nontraditional family and friends from an evil exterminator. This one looks like it has a good deal of IAP, so make sure your device is locked down before giving this one to a child to play.

beach-buggy-racing_882119723_ipad_01.jpgThe team at Vector Unit impressed us last year with their release of wave racer Riptide GP2 and now they are back with a speedy looking free-to-play kart racer called Beach Buggy Racing. Featuring some fantastic looking graphics, I’m looking forward to taking this one for a spin on my iPhone 6 Plus.

Vampire Tribunals is a neat sounding social game that takes advantage of the geo-location features of the iPhone. Instead of capturing monuments and/or portals, Vampire Tribunals “reveals the real world to be filled with vampires and demons living among us”. Half human, half vampire you have the ability to “sense demonic vampires that traffic among mankind”. Gain power by attacking these demons and establish allies to aid you in your quest. Though the game does use current location data, your path to becoming the world’s most dominant blood-sucking vampire isn’t constrained to just your immediate physical location,. You can transport yourself around the globe to track down victims. I’ve never been much for these types of games, but this sounds like a fresh take on the geo-location genre and there seems to be plenty of quests and seasonal tournaments to keep you coming back for more.

down-among-the-dead-men_903402226_ipad_01.jpgDown Among the Dead Men is a pirate themed adaptive adventure gamebook from inkle, the same guys that brought us excellent titles like Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! and 80 Days. You take on the role of the hero of the piece and play as “a male or disguised female – as a magician, a thief, a pirate, a governor’s daughter – and explore the high seas as you try to build up a crew and a ship hardy enough to take down to black-hearted pirate Skarvench and his ghoulish crew”. You had me at inkle…definite pickup for me at a mere 99¢.

Next up are a couple of puzzle games, the first of which is Huerons from publisher Bulkypix. Huerons are tiny colored circles and the goal in each level of the game is to merge all of the Hueron such that there is only one remaining on the board at the end. To merge them you simply tap on an empty cell next to one. The concept kind of reminds me of those cross or triangle-shaped peg-hopping puzzles you sometimes see on tables at restaurants. The game has a nice looking minimalistic aesthetic.

joinz_909350351_ipad_02.jpgOne of my personal faves, Noodlecake Studios is back with Joinz, a new puzzle game in which you are sliding randomly appearing blocks around a playing field trying to merge subsets into one of specified patterns to clear out the blocks and make room for more. It is a really fun and unique blend of luck, pattern matching and strategic gameplay as you try to last as long as possible before the play field is filled with blocks. There is no IAP, a nice ramp up of difficulty and loads of replayability. Joinz feels like the type of game that will really appeal to fans of Threes!. I highly recommend picking this one up and hope it does well.

Light in the Dark is an en-lightening (sorry couldn’t resist) puzzle game where you drag totems around to aim and blend beams of differing colored light to awaken the slumbering babies. There have been a number of great games on the app store like Helsing’s Fire that have used similar mechanics and they are generally quite entertaining. This one from Dreamgate Studios, looks like it’s got some nice polish too.

Exit Zone – The Alpha Matrix is a challenging looking 8-bit action puzzle platformer where players try to guide the red square safely through each zone by avoiding the white obstacles. 40 levels, a dubstep soundtrack and a trailer that makes you want to play…what more can you ask for?

Cartoon Network is bringing us more craziness with Jake in a fresh take on the classic game of snake called Treasure Fetch – Adventure Time. Make Jake grow and utilize his stretchy powers to “snake your way through the Grass Lands, Candy Kingdom, and Ice Kingdom”, avoiding traps and obstacles and collect loot. This is just weird enough to work.

ghost-blitz_810294906_ipad_02.jpgAs you may know, I love iOS board games and this week Terra Infinity brings us a digital version of the 2010 dexterity game Ghost Blitz. I had heard of the physical game before, but had never played it before trying this iOS release.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, five objects are laid out on the table, a white ghost, a red chair, a blue book, a gray mouse and a green bottle. A card is flipped into the center of these objects. On the face of the card is a scene involving several of the items. All players must quickly try to determine which of the five objects is NOT portrayed on the card by (neither having something in the picture of the same color as the object, nor the same object itself in any color) and flick the missing object toward him or herself. Correct grabs earn you one point with fast grabs earning bonus points, and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

The app allows you to compete either locally on the same device or with other players online, against AI players (of four differing levels) or any combination there of. There are also rolling timed competitions which occur every three minutes, where you try to complete a single-player game in the quickest time possible, with the most correct answers

Finally, JP weighs in on our last featured title of the night…Goat Simulator.

Seeing Goat Simulator pop up on the App Store shortly after I updated my phone to iOS 8 was a pleasant surprise. I love the PC version and it has sucked many, many hours of productivity from me as I try to make my goat do the dumbest things imaginable. The best part is that it can be played on iPhone as well as iPad. Definitely picking this one up, and I suggest anyone who enjoys zany goats smashing everything they possibly can in an effort for more points does the same.

Go to the second page of this post to watch the trailers for these games.