temple-run-2_572395608_ipad_01As we creep closer to Apple’s holiday App Store lockdown, we are still seeing a steady stream of new releases and big updates for some old favorites.

Let’s start with a couple of notable updates…

First, Imangi Studios’ massive hit auto-runner (over a billion downloads), Temple Run 2 has received the first in a big series of planned updates that will be rolling out over the coming year. The wintry Frozen Shadows update lays the groundwork for future content by blanketing the usual Temple Run jungle-scape in snow and ice. More than just a cosmetic change, there are a few new obstacles to contend with as well as new artifacts and a new Demon Monkey. There is even a fun new “ice luge” are in which players must tilt, turn, jump and duck to avoid obstacles while surfing down the icy landscape “on an overturned gigantic Demon Monkey skull”. With some rather stunning new art and a great season-appropriate theme, this update may just get you running again with this iOS classic which may have otherwise fallen off your radar.

infuse4This week FireCore’s stellar media player app, Infuse has made it’s way to the Apple TV as Infuse 4 and (as expected) it is brilliant. The app offers quick, easy access to all of your home media files w/o having to first convert them or run any sort of proprietary third-party server software (like AirVideo’s solution). I have been hoping and waiting for this as previous use model of running the software on my iPhone or iPad and air playing it to the Apple TV wasn’t the most convenient and would sometimes suffer from buffering issues. And the best news is that if you already own either the Free or $9.99 (Pro) versions of Infuse 3, then you can just go to your purchased apps section on the Apple TV and pull down the app for free. An update for the iOS device versions of the apps (to bring them up to version 4) is expected sometime next year.

Onto the new stuff…

rayman-adventures_1043589663_ipad_01.jpgThe first new release of this week is Ubisoft’s Rayman Adventures. Previously released only for the Apple TV when Apple launched its latest generation of hardware, Rayman’s third outing on iOS finally makes its way to the iPhone and iPad as well. Specifically designed with simple tapping and swiping controls that fit well with both the Apple TV’s fancy new touch remote as well as mobile device touch screens, this is both an accessible and entertaining free-to-play action platformer. The game certainly trends toward the easy side, which may disappoint more experienced gamers, but my 8 year-old seems to be enjoying it just fine. I think I actually prefer this one on my iPad vs. the Apple TV.

dominion_948405722_ipad_01.jpgAfter years and years of waiting and teasing, Donald X. Vaccarino’s ground-breaking deck-building board game Dominion, finally (and officially) makes its way to iOS as a native app. Previously Dominion was playable on iOS devices via an unlicensed Dominion app and via an HTML5 web-based version. This new app very closely resembles the HTML5 release and allows for cross-platform online play against 1-4 human players, or play against AI bots in campaign or practice games. Credited with birthing the deck-building genre, it is awesome to see this game officially on iOS. However, even with the base game being available for free, it is still all not rainbows and unicorns as the app requires players to have an always-on internet connection to play and the physical game’s big box expansions (of which there are quite a few) will cost you a pretty penny to unlock digitally at a price tag of $89.99 for the whole shebang. Not even mentioning connectivity issues, these two issues alone are causing a lot of low review scores and I fully expect to see developer Making Fun adjust the pricing of the expansions to something more reasonable in the (hopefully near) future. It is certainly still worth checking out for the solo base game experience, especially if you want to learn Dominion or ever wondered what it was all about.

sniper-fury_978759625_ipad_01.jpgA couple of weeks back, Hothead Games released Kill Shot Bravo and this week, Gameloft has just released their own free-to-play sniper shooter called Sniper Fury. Let’s not beat around the bush, these two games are remarkably similar, with multiple mission types culminating in that slow, satisfying bullet time kill shot. Both games force you to incessantly upgrade your equipment to keep playing, but Sniper Fury does allow players to attempt missions even with a less powerful gun, it just may take more shots to kill your targets. However, Sniper Fury’s energy meter seemed to run out much more quickly for me, leaving me without anything to play until it recharged. Finally, Kill Shot Bravo user-pannable kill shot cam is far superior to the static one in Gameloft’s new offering. Both games have their plusses and minuses, but overall I felt like Kill Shot Bravo gets the slight edge. That being said, if you are really into sniper games, then (space allowing) you might as well just download both so when one’s energy meter is recharging, you can play the other.

Get clicky with it…

Generally I am not a fan of clickers as I usually find them mind-numbingly repetitive and almost always feel regret after playing them, like I just wasted a good deal of time playing them, but every once in awhile there is an interesting take that captures my attention…at least for a brief period of time.

frontier-defense_1040462294_ipad_02.jpgIf you are a fan of the endless clicker genre, then this week we have a couple of interesting looking clickers, starting with Groove Planet, which is part rhythm game, part clicker. You are attempting to build the universe’s first ever GROOVE PLANET. As the planet’s Mayor (I guess that’s a thing) it is up to you to raise the money (aka notes) to “compose” new buildings to attract more visitors, earning you more money. The more buildings you have and the more you upgrade them, the greater your audience will grow. Tapping the screen in rhythm to the music will also earn you combo bonuses and more notes. The game includes a number of beat pumping songs, but you also have the option of using music from your own library and the app utilizes Jamn Player’s chord recognition technology to “detect Chords and Keys of your songs”.

Frontier Defense is also a bit of a clicker mashup, this time with the tower defense genre. You are trying to defend your tower from wave after wave of attackers. Do nothing and your heroes will attack for you, but tap the dot below each of your deployed men and they’ll attack as fast as you can tap. Upgrade both of your heroes and tower to increase their attack damage and defense, and when things get really bad you can trigger one of your hero’s powerful special abilities. There are different types of heroes to unlock and additional towers to build. The clicker aspect adds a real frenetic energy to an other wise traditional tower defense game which would have otherwise been a somewhat passive experience.

pbs-kids-scratchjr_1047840202_ipad_01.jpgFor the young ones this week, PBS KIDS has launched PBS KIDS ScratchJr, a neat, playful app that teaches kids the basics of coding. Aimed at kids ages 5-8, the app allows children to create their very own interactive tales and games featuring their favorite characters from PBS series including WordGirl, Wild Kratts and more. It is just a matter of connecting special color-coded programming blocks which make the character on the screen move, jump, sing and dance. My girls have played with similar demonstrations at various kid-oriented science exhibits, so it’ll be fun for them to be able to experiment with this type of learning tool at home as well.

Also for the kids this week, the folks at Tinybop are back with The Monsters by Tinybop. Perhaps not as strictly educational as some of their previous offerings, Monsters still offers kids an engaging imaginative play experience. You start with a scary shadow which morphs into a nicely illustrated beast. You can then position or even pull off limbs and new different ones will grow. Add a mouth or two, eyes and other parts, or add fur and textures from a creepy catalog. You can even record your own words and sounds for the monster to speak. If my daughter’s mad scientist like giggling while putting her creations together is any indication, it seems like Tinybop has another winner.

maestria_1056681487_ipad_02.jpgMaestria is a new physics puzzle game which takes place in what appears to be Monument Valley-inspired surroundings. In each of the game’s levels you are trying to help Fugue bring back Harmony to eight different enchanting worlds. When you tap on the little girl, she will conduct the bells to ring and a wave of energy which emanates outward from her in all directions, ringing each of the colored bells as it reaches them. The goal is to ring each of the bells in the specified color order. Sometimes it is just a matter of positioning the girl in the correct starting place, other times the solution will not be as straight forward or may require perfect timing. In some levels you will have the ability to move one or more of the bells, other times you’ll be able to place a sound dampener to turn off the ringing or a repeater to echo the energy back in the other direction. There is a nice progression of complexity to the game with new elements being introduced to keep the puzzles challenging and interesting.

aralon-forge-and-flame_996136866_ipad_01.jpgFinally that brings us to Crescent Moon Games’ big new release of the week, Aralon: Forge and Flame. Nearly 4.5 years after the launch of the original Aralon: Sword and Shadow, Crescent Moon Games revisits Aralon with a big sequel to this 3D iOS Role-Playing Adventure classic. The Throne of Aralon sits empty, and the noble families of Callaheim struggle to control the future of the kingdom. Sporting an improved user interface (including 3D touch support) and optional MFi Controller support, fans of the original release will enjoy visiting this massive world with loads of items and weapons to collect, and new quests and side-quests to complete. Aralon: Forge and Flame looks to offer a good deal of gameplay for just $4.99.

And that will do it for this week…enjoy.

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