While Santa was making his own list and checking it twice this year, I was also making a list of my own. A list of the best iOS apps and games of the year — a look back at what occupied coveted spots on my home screen, or what app used the most battery life on my iPhone or iPad. As the curtains fall and 2014 draws to its inevitable end, and in lieu of any actual look back at the year gone by from an Apple perspective, these are the best iOS apps and games of 2014.
In no particular order…
I’ll be honest with you: I’ve never really gotten into the whole “iOS productivity” thing. When I’m out and about, I mostly use my iPhone as a portable Twitter machine, for emails, and that kind of thing — you know, the normal stuff. And when I’m at home, I have my trusty Mac for everything I need to do. But in saying all that, I recognise the kinds of innovative things people are doing with apps like Launch Center Pro and more recently, Workflow. We’ve come a long way since the days of no copy and paste on iOS, and now people are creating workflows for every imaginable thing. If you’re not into iOS productivity because it all just seems a little too hard, or like me, lack the imagination required for getting stuff done on your iPhone or iPad, there’s plenty of beginner’s guides to sink your teeth into. Or you can check out the built-in gallery for a few ideas to get you started.
Workflow is $3.99, on the App Store.
Before Hyperlapse, it was pretty easy to tell when someone had recorded video from an iPhone. There was always a telltale shakiness to the footage that gave it away, and no matter how steady you thought you were holding your iPhone, any movement resulted in the shakes. Then Instagram released Hyperlapse, and mobile video changed forever — and while that might sound a little melodramatic, ask anyone that’s used Hyperlapse for recording video and they’ll tell you how true it is. Hyperlapse’s incredibly impressive video stabilisation tech means there’s now no excuse for shaky video footage. I’ve started recording all my videos taken on my iPhone in Hyperlapse, and it’s basically indistinguishable from steady cam rigs costing much, much more than my iPhone. Hyperlapse isn’t integrated with Apple’s built-in camera app and does require additional processing time after you’ve recorded your footage, but those are small sacrifices to make for perfectly smooth video. Hyperlapse is so good, I often wonder how it’s even possible. The only thing it doesn’t do is prevent you from taking vertical videos.
Hyperlapse is free, on the App Store.
The first time I heard of Framed was early last year, when it was just a game under development by Australian-based Loveshack Entertainment, a company by three designers and developers from Firemonkeys who had decided they wanted to do their own thing. The first time I played the game was at the inaugural PAX Australia, and from that point on, I knew Framed was something pretty special.
The premise of Framed is simple. The game presents you with a particular scene — presented not unlike a page from a comic book, with multiple panels — in which your character is expected to escape and progress to the next scene. You’ll run into policemen, armed with pistols and the ability to stop you in your tracks. By re-arranging panels in the scene, you can change the order of events — this lets you sneak past policemen, take them out with a quick swing of your briefcase, or at one point, a disguise.
It’s easy to describe The Wolf Among Us, especially if you’ve played previous games by developers Telltale Games. Topping that list is The Walking Dead, a game which brought episodic content to the masses, although it was far from the first title to do so. The Wolf Among Us follows the same cell-shaded, episodic content interlaced with quick-time events formula that The Walking Dead brought to the table, and even though it’s a very different game from The Walking Dead, the core gameplay elements remain the same.
In The Wolf Among Us, you play Bigby Wolf, the big bad wolf of fictional Fabletown. You’re introduced as the Sheriff, the one that keeps the peace, and puts the Fables in order when they step out of line. Right from the get go, it’s immediately clear you’ve got something of a reputation among the folk of Fabletown, who themselves blur the line between fairytale and cold, harsh reality.
Wherever you look these days, there’s an app or game trying to nickel and dime you for every penny you have. They do this by offering up a smorgasbord of in-app purchases, which do everything from letting you skip levels, unlock additional content, or even allowing you play the game, in some extreme cases. For all the moaning and groaning every time a new title is launched with in-app purchases, you would think that in-app purchases are the worst thing ever to happen to apps and games.
But here’s the thing: not all in-app purchases are bad, and most of the time, I’m actually OK with them.
In-app purchases can be grouped into roughly two main kinds. The most popular seem to be the ones that unlock content (additional levels, chapters), or there are others that have a direct effect on gameplay (upgrades, hints, bonuses). Some apps also offer purely cosmetic enhancements, such as additional colour packs or sound effects. The official Pokédex app for iPhone pictured above lets you unlock Pokédex data for the various regions, and puzzle games with a built-in hint mechanic usually let you purchase an unlimited amount of hints for a once-off fee. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy every episode of The Walking Dead or every game in the Ace Attorney HD Trilogy, mostly because I know the games and have played them before, but those who are a little more cautious with their iTunes credit get the chance to try out the game before they take the plunge. If they like what they see, a once-off in-app purchase is right there.