microsoft-solitaire-collection_1103438575_ipad_01.jpg>Since there were not a lot of new releases during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, I decided to wait a week for this post to get all the notable titles over the past two weeks instead. We had quite a few kids titles come out as well as some great iOS ports and another fun Asmodee digital board game.

A staple of a time-killer on Windows-based PCs since 1990, the Microsoft Solitaire Collection brings the Microsoft’s five classic solitaire games to a brand new platform…iOS. Sure, there are already plenty of free (and paid) solitaire apps and many of them are probably better and flashier too. However none of them can offer the sheer level of nostalgia that this collection provides to long-time Windows PC users such as myself. The five variations included in the collection are Klondike, Freecell, Spider, Tripeaks and Pyramid. The app plays very much like those classic Windows solitaire games that you’ve enjoyed on your PC for the last 25 years. Microsoft has even recreated the iconic slinky-like card stack victory animation that so joyously plays when you win. With so many more modern mobile games competing for your attention, Microsoft smartly added some daily challenges with 4 levels of difficulty to keep you coming back. The only thing that seems to be missing (at least in this iOS release) are some of classic card backs, but hopefully they’ll be added somewhere down the line.

amateur-surgeon-4_1039971965_ipad_05It’s been over 3 years since [adult swim] entertained us with their third installment of the somewhat twisted, but thoroughly entertaining Amateur Surgeon surgery simulation series. Now they’ve teamed with Burke & Best for this irreverent 4th adventure with the mad Dr. Bleed and his unorthodox surgery techniques. The biggest game in the series to date, Amateur Surgeon 4 contains over 100 patients on which to operate and features remastered and retooled levels from Amateur Surgeon 1-3 as well as brand new content. Unlock and recruit over 30 different surgical partners, each of whom has a ‘unique set of skills’ which may prove invaluable during the right surgery. I’ve been excited for this game since I got a sneak peek at PAX East earlier this year. This is easily the best this series has ever looked and the updated free-to-play mechanics don’t really get in the way of the fun. Whether or not you’ve played any of the previous titles in the series, start booking an OR, because Amateur Surgeon 4apollo-justice-ace-attorney_1136993233_ipad_02Originally exclusively a Nintendo DS title when CAPCOM first launched Apollo Justice Ace Attorney in 2008, this fourth title in the Phoenix Wright franchise now makes its way on to iOS. Set several years after the events of the previous Phoenix Wright titles, this game shifts the focus from Wright to a fresh face, an up-and-coming rookie attorney named (as you probably guessed) Apollo Justice, who also just so happens to be Wright’s apprentice. The game employs similar gameplay to that of the Phoenix Wright games in that you are trying to get all of your clients judged to be NOT GUILTY by investigating cases and then properly cross-examining key witnesses. Using the evidence you’ve collected, you try to find (and jump on) any inconsistencies in the witness testimonies. Speaking of testimonies, this game introduces a neat new mechanic known as the Perceive System, which is triggered when you are looking at the witness during their testimony. You focus your attention on various parts of the witness’ body, looking for “tells” or nervous twitches which you can then call them on to catch them in a lie and force them to tell the truth. While arguably as a whole I didn’t find Apollo Justice quite as good as previous titles in the series, I think Phoenix Wright fans will certainly enjoy this one, especially if they don’t own a Nintendo DS. One last thing I should mention is that the pricing model on the game is a little curious. For 99¢ you get the app which includes only the first half of Apollo Justice’s first case, then for $14.99 you can unlock the whole shebang, or for $1.99 you can get the rest of the first case or you can purchase the three other cases for $4.99 each. What amounts to essentially paying for a demo may irk some people, so I figured it was worth mentioning the pay structure.

le-parker-sous-chef-extraordinaire_956251102_ipad_02Your secret meringue recipe has been stolen and its “immense power” is being harnessed for evil by the King and his men. And if that wasn’t bad enough, his daughter, the princess (and love of your life), has been kidnapped and now it is up to you, Le Parker: Sous Chef Extraordinaire to get both the girl and your recipe back. It’s a challenging platformer which encourages repeated play with multiple tasks to complete in each of the game’s 32 levels. Race through the levels trying to complete speed runs, or take your time to explore levels as you try to collect all of the macarons (those classic small French pastel colored meringue cookies) and/or find hidden cooking utensils. It is immediately apparent that a nice level of thought and detail has gone into the level design to properly accommodate all three of these play modes. There is no single or correct path to complete a level. As you explore (and likely die a few times) you’ll discover shorter (and sometimes safer) routes which will allow you to shave of valuable time in a speed run or uncover the hidden objects. The controls are pretty solid on touch-screen devices with easy left and right movement and a jump button. Though playing on the TV w/ either the Siri Remote or Apple TV Remote Apple proved to be a bit frustrating. If you are going to play on the TV, I’d recommend using an MFi controller. If you are a fan of platformers or speed run games, then this one should be right up your alley.

There have been quite a few great new apps released for kids and I just wanted to take a moment to highlight several of these.

glitch-fixers-powerpuff-girls_1116215882_ipad_01Superheroes Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are back in action, battling the Amoeba Boys and their internet troll minions in Cartoon Network’s programmed-movement, action puzzle game Glitch Fixers. The game was inspired by the “Viral Spiral” episode of the cartoon series in which Blossom and Buttercup have been uploaded to the Internet by Bubbles and they don’t have their powers. Using a series of basic commands, procedures, and loops, players must program the movements of the girls such that they reach and attack the various “mutant memes, Internet trolls, and spam bots” before they can corrupt the Internet. I can see this game as being a fun way to introduce kids to logical thinking and the basic blocks of programming.

space-by-tinybop_1126517945_ipad_01Next up is Tinybop, who has released Space by Tinybop, the 8th app in their Explorer’s Library series. As the name suggests, this one tackles the solar system with an engaging set of activities to encourage kids to explore and learn about the sun, moon and 8 planets and what makes each unique, their surfaces and cores. Featuring Tinybop’s typical, well-polished presentation, Space couldn’t have been timed better as my 9 year-old is just finishing up a month-long science unit in her 4th grade class where they were studying the planets. Needless to say, she was super-excited for this interactive supplemental material to reinforce what she’s been reading and learning about in class. It is certainly another well-made funutainment app by Tinybop!

little-briar-rose_1160731868_ipad_03Aimed at a younger crowd, Little Briar Rose is a cute point and click adventure game set in the Sleeping Beauty fairytale universe and adorned with a beautiful stained glass aesthetic. Players take on the role of a seemingly endless series of Prince Chramings attempting to solve puzzles to make their way through the cursed castle surrounded by brambles, to awaken their sleeping princess. This is a nice introductory point and click adventure without being overly easy. That being said, really young players may need a little assistance figuring out some of the puzzles. There is a hint system, but Mom and Dad may need to provide a little guidance as well.

eric-carles-brown-bear-animal_1132542642_ipad_02.jpgPerhaps you remember it from your own childhood or if you have kids, then no doubt you’ve read them Eric Carle’s very popular book Brown Bear, Brown Bear. it certainly was a popular title in our house when my girls were younger. To mark this best-selling book’s 50th Anniversary, StoryToys Entertainment Limited has recently launched Eric Carle’s Brown Bear Animal Parade, a brand new interactive app for kids which brings the book’s colorful characters to life in beautiful 3D versions of Carle’s distinctive art. Your children get to tag along with Brown Bear as he explores his world and comes across his hued animal friends like Red Bird, Yellow Duck, Green Frog and more. Children get to bring color to each of these iconic characters and are sure to giggle as they sing along with the music and record their own voices/animal noises for each of the characters and there are loads of little hidden, touch based surprises to find. Eric Carle’s Brown Bear Animal Parade is a fun new way for your little ones to experience this childhood favorite. So Reader Reader what should you do?…I see an App Store calling for you.

toca-life-stable_1156110079_ipad_01.jpgFinally for kids titles we have another fantastic new entry in Toca Boca’s popular Toca Life series of imaginative play apps. Toca Life: Stable transports your child into the world of horses, as they get to groom and care for them in the stable, ride and show off their skills in the arena, go for an adventure in the forest or buy supplies in the shop. Along with these new locations Stable features whole new adorable cast of characters (twenty-four of them). Other non-horse related activities include motorcycle riding, camping out under the stars with your sleeping bag and more. As I’ve said numerous times, my girls absolutely adore the Toca Life series of apps. My younger daughter has been having a blast with Toca Life: Stable, using the app’s recording feature to make up and play back all sorts of imaginative equestrian adventures. There is so much to do and play with in this app that your kids will be using their imaginations for hours and with no third-party advertising or in-app purchases, parents needn’t worry about a thing other than perhaps getting your kids to give up their iOS devices when it is time to stop playing.

kathy-rain_1118514499_ipad_01.jpgKathy Rain was originally released on Steam in May of this year and now mobile gamers are fortunate that Raw Fury has decided to publish this well-made classic-style point and click adventure game on iOS as well. The game follows the adventures of Kathy Rain, a strong-willed, journalism major who is forced to face past demons as she returns to her hometown of Conwell Springs to investigate the mysterious death of her grandfather. With a thrilling narrative throughout and with an interesting and somewhat unorthodox lead character who is an intelligent, quick-witted Joan Jett type, cigarette smoking biker chick, you know you are in for something different. The game is very well crafted with and easy to use interface, engaging dialog and challenging puzzles. It gives players that nostalgic feel of 90s point and click adventure game, but with high modern production values. The graphics look great and voice acting is superb. You needn’t look any further for your next point and click adventure fix, Kathy Rain really delivers.

colt-express_1140513212_ipad_02.jpgFinally, that brings us to the highly anticipated, Colt Express. I’ve found that best digital board gaming experiences, not only capture the excitement of the physical game, but also make the effort to transform it into its own, complete experience with fresh new content and/or gameplay that might not be otherwise possible in an analog-only experience. Transforming an eye-catching physical spectacle such as last year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, with its numerous 3D trains was no easy feat. Obviously up for the challenge, Asmodee Digital has once again done an excellent job with their latest digital adaptation, transforming this chaotic 3D train-robbing, programmed movement game into a fun mobile gaming experience. Not only does the app do a fantastic job of explaining the rules and flow and of the game but it ads its own little touches including digital comics and a brand-new way to play. Those wanting the standard Colt Express experience can challenge other local, AI or online players to see who can grab the most loot. The game plays smoothly and the small footprint mean now you can have all of the fun of Colt Express anywhere you go. However perhaps the biggest star of this digital release is the puzzling new story mode which sets forth interesting new challenges and goals to complete. These will radically change your strategy and the way you approach each new game along the way. It also acts as a great way for you to not only learn about each of the game’s characters and their special abilities, but to also get some experience with them and not just stick to the same character over and over again. Another must-have for any digital board game fan, keep up the stellar work Asmodee!

That’ll do it for this week….enjoy!

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