I grew up in the 80s, so I know how close we came to total nuclear annihilation when the WOPR computer became self-aware, as we saw in the 1983 documentary WarGames. The only thing that saved us back then was Tic Tac Toe, a game that became the savior of all humanity just by being stupid and largely unwinnable.
Tic Tactics by Hidden Variable Studios Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: Free
Tic Tactics aims to solve its predecessor’s “what the hell, we’re bored” factor by adding eight more boards and some much-needed lateral thinking.
The holy grail of mobile devices like the iPad mini, in my opinion, is a bulk-free, cable-less charging system that can position Apple’s diminutive tablet in various ways.
iPad mini Charge Case and Stand by iPort Category: iPad stands Works With: iPad mini Price: $99.95
The iPort Charge Case tries to make this dream come true, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. While the iPort stand can indeed hold my iPad mini in both portrait and landscape orientation at a wide range of viewing angles, the need to place my gorgeously designed device into a bulky plastic case sort of kills the whole idea of “mini.”
The iPort Charge Case and Stand does indeed have some very valid uses in and around the home, but ultimately, due to the way it changes the use experience of the iPad mini, it isn’t quite the world-changer it hopes to be.
I’m usually turned off a game by overbearing mustache adoration, but Puffington appreciates much more than the very impressive mustache supported by the dapper protagonist. You play as Puffington, a sea gentleman who is dismayed when ruffians kidnap the lovely lady worm he’s set his eyes on. Like any love-stricken fish, Puffington sets out to rescue her by collecting coins and gizmos scattered through increasingly tricky levels.
Puffington by Hojo Studio Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone 5 (other devices soon) Price: Free
Puffington is a platformer, and plays like the underwater levels in the Super Mario Bros. games. Tapping the screen makes Puffington inflate, which will make him rise up a bit. Tapping repeatedly will give you a burst of speed which is handy when you’re trying to outrun the edge of the perpetually scrolling level.
Baby Lava is on a rampage. He’ll fly as far as he can and burn whatever lies in his path, but won’t give a thought to how water spells his doom. Once you fire the lava blob out of the starting volcano, you must carefully guide him across tropical islands where he can burn up helpless vacationers and pineapples to keep his fire burning. If you run out of energy, or touch the water between the islands, your fire will go out and Baby Lava turns into a blackened hunk of rock.
Baby Lava Bounce by Jared Bailey Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: Free
Baby Lava Bounce plays a bit like Angry Birds crossed with endless flight games like Whale Trail. Your objective is to gather enough energy to collect various idols which you offer up to the volcano. The only control you have is tapping to crash the lava down against an island. If you land on a flat surface, tapping again will let you hop a short distance. If the lava lands on a slanted surface, he’ll shoot up into the air. This will give you much needed lift, but can also make it much more difficult to maintain your energy level.
Livescribe 3 Smartpen byLivescribe Category: Works With: Price: From $150
Spoiler: Writing with ink on paper is still way better than stabbing at a hard glass screen with a soft rubbery tip. Double spoiler: writing with a ballpoint pen which records your every stroke for searching and editing on your iPad is amazing, and way better than taking photos of every page you finish just to feed into Evernote. Third spoiler: No matter how good the hardware and the AI behind the scenes, a crappy app lets everything down.
If I have to put my new iPhone 5s in a case because I forgot to buy AppleCare+ during the first 30 days and I’m terrified I’ll drop it on its face, then I want that case to be sleek and simple and made of leather. The CalypsoCase Loop is all of those things.
CalypsoCase Loop by CalypsoCase Category: Cases Works With: iPhone 5/5s Price: €89
Handcrafted by a team of skilled craftsmen in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the Loop is a beautiful slip-on sleeve made of only the finest leather that provides your iPhone with all the protection it needs when it’s not in use. It has laser-cut titanium foundations that retain its shape and offer impact protection, and a soft inner lining that lovingly caresses your iPhone’s aluminum without marking it.
The Loop is available in four colors, and it’s priced at €89 (approx. $120) with free shipping. Let me tell you why it’s worth that price tag.
The Shivah: Kosher Edition by Wadjet Eye Games Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: $1.99
“A goy came up to Rabbi Moishe to ask, ‘Why do rabbis always answer with a question?’
To which Rabbi Moise replied, ‘Why not?’”
First released in 2006, The Shivah is a noirish, murder-mystery adventure game centered around a money-deficient New York synagogue. Its hero, Russell Stone, is not a hardbitten private investigator or a disgraced former police officer like the genre typically demands. He’s a cynical rabbi with a heavy conscience who stumbles into the investigation completely by accident. It sounds odd, and it is, but it also totally works.
Now, developer Wadjet Eye Games has released The Shivah: Kosher Edition, an updated iOS and PC version of the original game with all-new graphics and music. If you’ve never played the original and you’re a fan of adventure games and (well-meaning) Jewish humor, it’s a great take on the well-trod genre.
I mentioned high-concept games with evocative titles earlier this week when I reviewed Tilt to Live 2, and here’s another one.
Don’t Shoot Yourself! by Ayopa Games Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: $0.99
Don’t Shoot Yourself! is a quick, often frustrating little game in which the name says it all. You control a little ship (I guess) trapped inside of a series of shapes. Your main goal is to keep moving for until a number on the right side of the screen counts down to zero, and all the while your little guy is firing bullets all hither and thither. Your secondary goal is not to fly into any of those bullets.
If it sounds daunting, that’s because it is. But it’s still a game worth trying if only to see if you’re up to the challenge.
The best puzzle games either have a single rule (Tetris: “Make lines.”) or a few basic rules based on things we know innately or intuitively (Where’s My Water?: “Dig holes, water goes down, steam goes up, poison is bad.”).
Flux Free by Zen Develop Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: Free
Flux Free is a new iOS title which falls into the latter category. It’s a shape-matching game built on a few basic concepts like color theory that keep it from becoming obtuse even when all of its mechanics are in play.
That’s not to say that it’s incredibly easy, but you’ll never spend any time trying to remember how anything works. And it’s smart and fun, so that’s good, too.