asphalt-xtreme_971233157_ipad_01.jpgThe last week of October was a lighter week of new releases, so I decided to just cover the past two weeks in one post hilighting the most interesting new apps and games released in the past 14 days or so.

I’ll kick off the post with a couple of free-to-play racing games. First up is Asphalt Xtreme, which is Gameloft’s latest entry in their wildly popular Asphalt franchise. I forgot how much I LOVE this franchise. Featuring the same style of award-winning, high-octane racing, drifting and nitro boosting you expect from the series, this time around, thing get a little grittier as the action goes offroad, putting drivers behind the wheels of monster trucks, dune buggies, SUVs and more as they trudge through mud, over dunes, and dip through canyons, racing to the finish line. With over 30 vehicles to unlock, loads of race types, an extensive single player campaign and 8-player multiplayer matchups, there is loads of racing mayhem to be had. Races are challenging and you have to stay on your toes if you want to stay out front. A must-have.

gear.club_949870726_ipad_02.jpgNext up is Gear.Club, a gorgeous racing game in which players purchase, upgrade and tune authentic and exotic racing machines to be the fastest on a wide variety of scenic tracks. A bit more traditional and subdued than Asphalt Xtreme and this one seems to rely more properly positioning yourself on the track and beating out competitors through skillful weaving rather than Asphalt’s combination of nitro use, shortcut finding and simply smashing other players off the road. Races in this one seemed a little less challenging that Asphalt and once you got out front, it was pretty easy to stay there. That being said, there is definitely a market for each of these games and both of them are worth checking out to see which appeals to you more.

pinout_1108417718_ipad_01.jpgMediocre (Smash Hit, Does not Commute) returns to the App Store with a rather neat endless pinball game called PinOut!. The goal of the game is to make it through an endless set of pinball table segments (before time runs out) by tapping the left and right sides of the screen to trigger your paddles and strike the ball. If you miss the ball and it rolls between your paddles, then you’ll have to re-do segments, eating away at valuable time. If you reach certain check points (think Pole Position or a classic arcade racing game) more time gets added to the clock and along the way certain ramps will offer time boosts and or other powerups. You always feel that time crunch, especially when you make a mistake and have to re-do segments, so proper steering and control of your ball critical if you want to last as long as possible. The game is decked out in neon and features a rad synth soundtrack (somewhat reminiscent of the Stranger Things theme). The game is free-to-play, and like many of Mediocre’s other free titles, only features a single, optional IAP to unlock a checkpoint system so you don’t need to start over from the beginning each time.

the-trail-a-frontier-journey_1147002179_ipad_02A pleasant surprise for me this week was The Trail – A Frontier Journey. A real departure from their usual freemium fare, Kongregate has teamed with legendary game designer Peter Molyneux (and hist studio 22cans) to craft a fresh, unique and original feeling experience. Though, experience is the key word here as it feels like less of a game and more of an activity. Players take on the role of a young (and pretty green) frontier explorer, setting off on a cross-country journey toward the town of Eden Falls. As you walk/run along the trail you’ll discover goods that can be collected and added to your pack. However, movement uses up energy which can be replenished either by eating food scavenged along the way, or by reaching pit stops where you can craft, trade and sell goods. By collecting, crafting and trading you can acquire better gear and supplies which you’ll need to survive the journey and build your settlement at the conclusion of your quest. I’ve only just started playing and I’m not sure how much longevity it’ll have on my device, but so far I find it to be oddly interesting for a time waster, though as I said, I usually don’t like this sort of game.

the-forgotten-room_1107537631_ipad_01.jpgIf there is a studio that does creepy point and click adventure games well, it is Glitch Games. Their latest release, The Forgotten Room, is a chilling adventure which follows the exploits of John Murr, a paranormal investigator hired to look into the disappearance of a 10 year-old girl named Evelyn Bright, who went missing inside a creepy old house while paying hide and seek with her father. Put on a pair of headphones and prepare for some thrills, chills and goosebumps as you spend a few nights in this mysterious home, uncovering its dark secrets and sorted past. Glitch has done a sensational job with the audio in this game with realistic floor creeks, and other unsettling sounds setting the ambiance perfectly! The game utilizes Glitch’s fantastic adventure game engine which includes an in-game camera which allows players to take photos of the clues they find and the rooms they visit, eliminating the constant need to backtrack to previously visited locations which slows down many other games in this genre. Also, once again Glitch doesn’t pull any punches and solving the puzzles wont be easy, deciphering clever wordplay and a little thought and trial and error will be required to make it through this one. If you are up for a challenge and don’t frighten easily, then this is definitely one to check out.

dexter-slice_1163143178_ipad_01.jpgBased on the 2010 multi-touch dexterity puzzle game Slice HD, Gazillion Entertainment has teamed up with Showtime to launch a brand new spiritual successor to the game themed around everyone’s favorite Forensics Expert/ Serial Killer, Dexter Morgan in Dexter Slice. The game features the same iconic puzzle gameplay where players must deftly use one or more fingers to carefully slide, push or hold sharp blades out of the way to reveal and then trigger all of the exposed buttons. In this new release, players are Dexter Morgan, being coached, chided and congratulated by their foster dad Harry (voiced by the original actor, James Remar). The puzzles start off fairly easy, only requiring a few fingers, but as you make your way through the over 120 levels, the difficulty starts to ramp up, getting more intense and requiring a bit more flexibility and more fingers. Even though you are not really getting hurt, when those sharp knives spring in and cut you (and you see blood splatter) you can’t help but jump. I really enjoyed the original game back when it launched and as a Dexter fan (except for the series finale) I really like the theme of this release. According to the developers, an update is planned for next month which sees Michael C. Hall reprising his role as Dexter as well as the addition of “new levels and additional game features”.

Now let’s get away from the spooky, and look at a couple of kid friendly titles.

toca-life-farm_1156121311_ipad_01.jpgFirst up is Toca Boca’s fifth title in their brilliant Toca Life imaginative play series, Toca Life: Farm. Now it is time to check out life on the farm with 29 charming new characters (and animals) and four new locations including a barn, farmhouse, field and general store. Your kids get to play and explore the farm, gathering eggs from their chickens, milking their cow and growing all sorts of crops. They get to tend after animals (and even clean up their poop!). My girls absolutely love this app; my younger daughter Claire especially enjoys milking the cows and playing with the various musical instruments. Both girls enjoy recording little skits they make up wit the characters and playing them back and watching them like little cartoons they made up themselves. This is an excellent series of apps which get your kids to use their imaginations and creativity to have fun rather than just staring, mindlessly, glassy eyed at their iOS device screens. Another big winner for Toca Boca, highly, highly recommended!

me-by-tinybop_1126531257_ipad_01.jpgTinybop, another prolific children’s app developer is back this week as well with Me by Tinybop. A bit different offering from Tinybop’s previous apps, Me is a storytelling app where your child can create a sort of digital scrapbook of their life with words, pictures, photos, audio clips and animated GIFs. They start by creating avatars for themself and each member of their family and then the app prompts them with little tasks to get them to reveal information about themself like their favorite color, a fond memory, a favorite joke, a funny story, or places they like to visit. Some will be words, some recordings, some are pictures drawn by the child in the app. Since it always has a fresh batch of questions/quests the child always has something new to do or think about. My daughters (ages 7 and 9.5) love the Tinybop apps, so I installed Me on both of their iPod touches and each dived right into it with boundless enthusiasm, delighted by each new question and task to complete. I sat on the couch as each was using it next to me and it was fun to hear how they answered the questions and I learned things about them that even I didn’t know. There were questions I may have never thought to ask, or ones it might be like pulling teeth to get them to actually vocalize an answer to me, yet they gleefully answered the app via drawings or recordings. It was like a digital diary where they felt free to express themselves openly. Me by Tinybop is a fun way for both parents and children to learn more about themself and each other and it serves as a sort of time capsule capturing a snapshot of your child. One important thing to note is that “anything and everything your child creates in the app is not shared outside of the app unless you or your child chooses to. Tinybop does not collect or share personal information about your child.”

Finally I’ll round out the post with a couple of digital board game apps, one of which is a digital port of an award-winning physical board game and the other is a completely original game exclusively made for digital platforms.

lanterns-harvest-festival_1155269699_ipad_01.jpgLanterns: The Harvest Festival is Dire Wolf Digital’s long-anticipated mobile port of Renegade Game Studios’ and Foxtrot Games’ Mensa Select Award-winning two-to-four player tile laying game set in imperial China. In Lanterns, players take on the roles of artisans, decorating the palace lake with floating lanterns. Players take turns placing lake tiles, each of which depict different color arrangements of lanterns. When a tile is placed on the table, all players then receive lantern cards based on the color arrangement that is facing them. This keeps all players engaged on every turn and creates a nice risk/reward element as you try to get the colored lanterns you need, while (hopefully) not giving the other players the lantern colors that they want as well. Sets of lanterns (4 of a kind, 3 pairs of differing colored lanterns, or one of each of the 7 colors of lanterns) can be traded in to earn honor points and the winner is the artisan who has earned the most honor before the festival starts (ie. the end of the game). The sooner you trade in a type of set, the higher the worth of that set. There are a few additional rules like special tiles with platforms on them which can earn you favor tokens which can be traded in to allow you to swap colors of lanterns, as well as ways to earn additional lanterns on your turn by matching sides of you tile with an existing tile. The game is really easy to learn and Dire Wolf Digital’s adaptation (especially on the iPad) is fantastic, with a beautiful soundtrack and animations as well as an intuitive interface. It supports local and online play, with the option of AI players. A stellar presentation and a must have for any digital board game fan’s virtual bookshelf.

space-food-truck_1161791726_ipad_02.jpgLast, but certainly not least, we have Space Food Truck. Successfully Kickstarted and released on Steam earlier this year, One Man Left has brought their charming cooperative, culinary sci-fi 1-4 player digital board game to the iPad. Players board the Galaxy Gourmet work together to explore the galaxy to find the ingredients needed to prepare three recipes (hopefully) before their ship takes on too much damage from a plethora of attacks and unfortunate events. The game starts with each player selecting one of four roles: Captain (charts your course), Chef (crafts the recipes), Scientist (researches new abilities) and Engineer (repairs and upgrades the ship). If you have fewer players, then each can take on multiple roles. The core gameplay is deck building , where each character has their own deck of cars which they cycle through to try to complete their tasks. Each deck starts with 10 cards, with at least one new card being added each turn. It plays like your standard deckbuilder with a current hand of face-up cards which may be played, and when played, these cards go into your discard pile which is shuffled and drawn from again when you run through your cards. There are ways to permanently delete cards from your deck to cull it and optimize it. Just about every action you take is initiated by playing a card from your hand. These card may be ingredients for the recipes, or allow you to repair damage, jump to other planets, move throughout the ship or many other things. Each card has two stats: power and a worth. At the end of each turn, characters must visit the Zapmart to purchase one or more new cards. The “worth” value of every card in your hand and every card you played the previous turn are added together to give you an amount of currency you can use to purchase a card in the Zapmart. Constant issues will keep creeping up which may require characters to move throughout the ship. When two characters are in the same room, one may give another a card from their hand. It’s a challenging game, trying to balance damage control with exploration and ingredient gathering. I’m curious to see how it’d be with other players, but I have only played it solo thus far, taking on all of the roles for myself and I am really enjoying it. As anyone who has played (or seen) Outwitters would expect, Adam Stewart’s artwork is absolutely fantastic; both the cards and creatures look amazing, adding so much character and personality to the game. Space Food Truck offers procedurally generated worlds and there are multiple difficulty levels allowing for great replayability whether you are playing offline or online with asynchronous play. I recommend checking this one out.

And that will do it for this week…enjoy!

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