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Apps: Build-A-Truck, Cut the Rope 2, Infinity Blade III 1.2 + Ridge Racer Slipstream

Duck Duck Moose’s new Build-A-Truck ($2) allows kids to — you guessed it — build a truck. Children can create a truck, then add paint, decals, wheels, and all sorts of other crazy contraptions to their vehicle. Kids can then race their truck, which is legitimately fun, and the design chosen for the vehicle affects how the truck drives. Collecting stars during the racing game lets kids unlock additional objects to customize the truck.

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Cut the Rope 2 ($1) is ZeptoLab’s sequel to the popular Cut the Rope. The new game offers 120 levels, and five new characters, “the Nommies,” each affecting gameplay in their own ways. Other new gameplay tweaks have been added — Om Nom can sometimes even be moved now. He can also be customized with new hats, if you’re into that sort of thing. Fundamentally, the gameplay and graphics are extremely similar to the original titles, but the new levels are neat.

Apps: Angry Birds Rio HD 1.8, Camera+ 5, Disney Animated 1.0.4 + République

Rovio’s Angry Birds Rio HD is now free in version 1.8.0. The game also has added 26 new levels — 20 standard levels and 6 bonus levels to unlock. Two new characters have also been introduced into the game: Stella, with her bubble blower, and Rocket Bird, who appears in the new bonus levels.

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Camera+ ($2) from tap tap tap has updated to version 5, which introduces “The Lab” — a collection of cool new photo editing options. The new features include an adjustable clarity filter, auto-straighten, tint adjustments, soft focus and film grain effects, blurring, sharpening, and more, all designed to make real-world practical photo editing as easy as possible. An iOS 7 wallpaper creation feature is also present. Dozens of icons within the app have been redesigned to match iOS 7, as has the app icon itself.

App submissions must be iOS 7-ready by Feb. 1

Apple has announced on its developer website that all new app submissions as of February 1, 2014 must be optimized for iOS 7 and built with the latest version of Xcode 5. The submission standard includes all new apps and app updates. As a result, there will likely be a surge of app updates before the deadline, as developers race to tweak their apps before Apple starts rejecting apps based on the use of pre-iOS 7 software elements, as well as older versions of Xcode.

Apps: Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up, Tomb Raider, UltraTuner + Yahoo Weather 1.5

Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up ($4) lets children participate in the “making” of a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Kids can draw a handful of objects that can appear in the short cartoon, which is titled “No Service!” You can then watch your creations appear and interact with them, including scenes in which Mickey and Donald Duck swap clothes, and Mickey has to hide behind objects you’ve created. Timeless and deliberately silly, the Mash-Up app is good as-is, but could really benefit from additional shorts for kids to play with.

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The classic 3-D adventure and shooting game Tomb Raider ($1) from Eidos/Square Enix is now available in the App Store. Interestingly, it’s being billed as Tomb Raider I, which suggests that the sequel will be available at some point. The full game from 1996 is included, in addition to two extra “Unfinished Business” chapters included in the 1998 Tomb Raider Gold re-release. Tomb Raider supports iOS game controllers, as well as on-screen input, though the controls remain as dicey as they were decades ago.

Apple releases ‘Best of 2013’ on iTunes

Apple has released its “Best of 2013” list on iTunes. The annual best of list highlights Apple’s favorites and best-sellers in apps, music, movies, books, TV shows, and podcasts. In apps, Apple selected Duolingo, the free language learning app, as its iPhone App of the Year.

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Apple’s iPad App of the Year was Disney Animated ($10). The iPhone Game of the Year and iPad Game of the Year are Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing — A Tale of Redemption ($3) and Frogmind’s Badland ($4), respectively.

Apps: Angry Birds Go, GTA: San Andreas, The Room 2 + Sonic 2 3.0

Angry Birds Go! (free) takes Rovio’s furious fowl to a new realm — the racetrack. The fully 3-D cart racing game marks the first time the birds have moved beyond the traditional 2-D side-scrolling play environment, raising the prospect that we’ll see the now famous characters in all sorts of games as time goes on, a la Mario. Unfortunately, Angry Birds Go! is a pretty standard racing game with little to set it apart from the masses besides the graphics, which are really quite impressive; the gameplay is surprisingly limited and overly structured to gradually introduce new characters and upgrades at a plodding pace. Additionally, the freemium title is shameless in waving pay-to-play opportunities in your face, filling the tracks with coins rather than power ups and creating unnatural cart upgrade incentives to compel players to spend money.

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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ($7) from Rockstar Games is the long-awaited iOS port of the popular PlayStation 2-vintage sandbox game, featuring all of the adult-themed content and impressive audio of the original title. The iOS version of GTA: San Andreas features dynamic lighting enhancements, improved character models, and enriched colors, in addition to the enhanced vehicle models originally introduced in the console game. Support for iOS game controllers is built-in, but the button labeling is a bit awkward during use. There are three different standard control schemes, and dual analog stick controls allow for full camera and movement control. Rockstar Social Club Members get cloud save support, as well. Unfortunately, the game appears unstable at this point, as we’ve experienced a lot of crashes; reset your device if you want to improve your chances of stability.

Apps: 12 Days of Gifts, The Animal Alphabet Singers, Drawing Together + FIFA

Apple has released its free 12 Days of Gifts app today — although it’s an annual release from apple, this will be the first year U.S. customers have access to the app. The app will allow users to download a free gift each day from Dec. 26 - Jan. 6. Those gifts could include “songs, apps, books, movies, and more.” Each gift will only be available for 24 hours.

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The Animal Alphabet Singers ($4) from Think Smart teaches children the alphabet through hand-drawn animated animals. Four separate learning modes teach kids the alphabet in different ways. Developers of the app include people who have worked on Sesame Street, Avenue Q, Between the Lions, and other popular productions. The app seems very basic at first glance, with relatively flat hand-drawn artwork, but the audio portion is stronger and actually pretty charming. Young children will like the funny ways the animals talk and sing letters.

New apps aim to fix iOS 7 wallpaper issues

Several recent applications have been released to remedy issues users have discovered with iOS 7’s moving wallpapers — namely, unintuitive changes in the ways iOS 7 resizes and positions photographs when used as wallpapers. Michael Belanger’s Fix My Wallpaper ($1) lets users zoom in and out on wallpaper photos, customize colors, and more. Wallpaper Fix ($1) from Bernhard Obereder promises quick resizing and positioning; this app locked up repeatedly during brief testing on an iPad Air. Another wallpaper resizing app is Brijit Sheelia’s Wallax ($1). All of the apps enable you to get a better sense of how an image will appear on the iOS device’s Lock and/or Home Screens, but one may have specific features that appeal to you.

Apps: Assassin’s Creed Pirates, Doctor Who: Legacy, Double Dragon Trilogy + Foursquare 7.0

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Pirates ($5) is an Assassin’s Creed game in name only, with only the most modest link to the console games. Instead of tracking down human targets from a first-person perspective, Pirates puts players behind the wheel of a pirate ship. It’s a turn-based naval battle game with very modest need for quick interactions, and players can upgrade their weapons, crew, and ships as the game progresses. You might enjoy it as long as you can distance your expectations from the Assassin’s Creed name; the graphics are extremely impressive, apart from the odd juxtaposition of cutout-like 2-D art atop fully 3-D worlds and ships.

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Doctor Who: Legacy from Tiny Rebel Games (free) has arrived, likely much to the delight of the multitudes of Whovians. A turn-based puzzle/strategy game, Doctor Who: Legacy lets players revisit old episodes from the TV series. Episodes from seasons six and seven are available at launch, with more episodes and characters to be added daily.

Startup uses iBeacon to allow Newsstand publication access

Exact Editions, a British digital publishing startup, is using Apple’s iBeacon technology to allow readers to access its titles for free in certain locations. A report suggests the tech could be used within a coffee shop or waiting room, as the publisher could sell multi-magazine subscriptions to businesses and locations. Macy’s also disclosed that it will be using iBeacon to trigger offers in different parts of its stores as part of a pilot program, and a number of Major League Baseball teams have expressed interest in using the technology within their stadiums. [via TechCrunch]

Apps: Jetpack Joyride 1.6, The Lonely Beast 123, LoryStripes + Shazam 7.2

Jetpack Joyride (free), the popular endless runner from Halfbrick Studios has updated to version 1.6 with a number of new features. Strong Arm Machine or S.A.M. mode turns the protagonist, Barry Steakfries, into a giant robot. Using S.A.M. five days in a row will unlock exclusive outfits — 16 new costumes in all. For a limited time, players can buy The Sleigh of Awesome, which is powered by rocket-powered robotic reindeer, as a $5 in-app purchase.

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James Kelleher’s Lonely Beast is back in The Lonely Beast 123 ($2), a counting app for kids. The big beast spends his days counting everything in his house, from 1 to 12. Mildly interactive scenes await children, who can listen to a voiceover by The Lonely Beast author Chris Judge. The app promises no in-app purchases, no third-party advertising, and no social media, making it a safe experience for youngsters; light tapping on screens activates voices and small animations.

Apps: Castle of Illusion, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Procreate, Target

Mickey Mouse fans have two new downloads to consider this holiday season. Based on the recent PC/PlayStation/Xbox re-release, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse ($10) is Disney’s completely redrawn version of Sega’s 2-D game released for the Genesis/Mega Drive during its heyday in 1990—a point at which the game was considered to be gorgeous but relatively simplistic. Not only is the game now fully rendered in realtime 3-D graphics, but the gameplay has been substantially overhauled to include simple 3-D movement and action sequences between the mostly side-scrolling 2.5-D sections.

Full voice narration has been added, as have some level themes that go way beyond the Sega original. That said, the gameplay is still deliberately quite simple—walk, jump on things, and toss objects—with exploration of hidden sections in levels as the major incentive for continuing to play. It’s a very good game for kids, though expensive, and many adults will enjoy it as well.

Apps: City Letters, The Elements in Action, Endless Reader + Flighttrack 5

City Letters is a free app from Frugoton designed to teach the alphabet to young children. Kids learn how to identify letter shapes and sounds through tracing, as the app introduces reading and writing concepts through words connected to city life. A $2 in-app purchase gets users the whole game after testing the demo.

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Touch Press has released The Elements in Action ($4), a new app expanding the award-winning The Elements: A Visual Exploration. The Elements in Action features 79 video explorations of properties of the elements, offering a demonstration for almost every element. Though the new Elements works as a standalone app, it can also be used as a companion to the original — when both apps are installed, the two link together.

App Store search now accounts for typos

Apple’s App Store has improved its search engine, which can now find apps despite misspellings and other mistakes, such as extraneous spaces. The changes went into effect a few weeks ago, according to a report. As noted in the article, SEO app firm SearchMan found Google Play’s app search was getting far more results from similar misspellings earlier this year. More results were found in Apple’s App Store during a recent search, along with evidence the App Store is now correcting misspellings. [via TechCrunch]

GTA: San Andreas coming to iOS in December

Rockstar Games announced Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will be coming to iOS in December. Brand new touch controls and three different driving control schemes have been added to the mobile version of the classic game. GTA: San Andreas will also feature full iOS 7 controller support for Made for iOS controllers. No price information has been released at this time.

Apps: Animal Band, ESPN SportsCenter, Logitech Harmony Control + TouchGrind Skate 2

Animal Band — Nursery Rhymes ($1) is a new music app for young children from Storytoys. Kids can interact with eight animal characters to get them to join into a song, with each animal acting as a separate instrument. The four initial songs are classic nursery rhymes, including Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and The Itsy Bitsy Spider. It’s a simple concept, and a section with a third background for extra songs is shown as “coming soon,” but younger kids might find it entertaining.

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ESPN’s ScoreCenter has just become ESPN SportsCenter (free) in an update to version 4.0.0. The popular sports scores app has a whole new clean look. It’s also easier to navigate through the app and access the scores of your favorite teams. A news section is still intact, as well as a new “now” section, which is really just a curated ESPN-centric Twitter feed. Though there are other sports scores apps out there, this is probably still your best bet, especially if you’re into more obscure sports and leagues.

Clumsy Ninja released in App Store

Clumsy Ninja, which was featured in last year’s Apple media event for the fifth-generation iPod touch and iPhone 5, has finally made its way to the App Store as a free download. One of two high-profile game demos from Apple last year — the other being Infinity Blade Dungeons, which was shown at the third-generation iPad event in March 2012 and later canceled — Clumsy Ninja’s release was delayed for more than a year without explanation.

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The freemium game lets users interact with a kid ninja, letting you teach him a variety of tasks. He improves, learning new tricks and moves through his training. Impressive kinematic animation and cartoony graphics add to the fun factor of the universal release.

Apple Store for iPad released as standalone app

Apple has released an Apple Store for iPad app today, oddly separate from the iPhone/iPod touch Apple Store application released years ago. The new iPad version of the app puts a greater focus on high-resolution photos showing off the products, serving as a stripped down and reorganized version of the Apple Store web presence.

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Item selection screens are able to change quickly to provide topic-specific information on products, helping users to quickly see differences in cellular options for iPads and iPhones, capacity choices for multiple devices, and individual product availability by store location. The Apple Store app for iPad is available now.

Apps: Epoch 2, Find My Friends 3.0, GT Racing 2, Southwest Airlines + Word Girl

An anticipated sequel, Epoch 2 ($3) from Uppercut Games offers more Terminator apocalypse-inspired robot battles. The third-person shooter will likely appeal mostly to fans of the first Epoch, but it may not expand the audience much more than that. New weapons and features have been added, most notably including moving backgrounds and varied types of simultaneous attackers to fight against, all within an Unreal Engine 3-generated environment. But the gameplay remains relatively shallow and repetitive.

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Apple has finally updated its free Find My Friends app for iOS 7 with version 3.0. The new design is more iOS 7-esque, of course, losing the skeuomorphic leather stitching, and switching to a lighter, orange-accented design. Friends are now seen on the map in tiny picture circles, as opposed to just dots, and the prior version’s font excesses are gone.

Apps: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, KOF ‘97, Nest 4.0 + Oceanhorn

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving ($6) from Loud Crow Interactive features everyone’s favorite sad sack, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the Peanuts crew for this interactive book. Dialogue, music, and sound effects all come straight from the 1973 animated special, and the iOS interface has been substantially improved from prior Charlie Brown holiday apps. Three reading modes are available, and word highlighting and touch-to-speak technology are also included in the app.

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SNK Playmore has brought its classic fighting game The King of Fighters ‘97 ($4) to iOS. The fourth game in the classic KOF series, the ‘97 edition features 35 characters and new teams — hidden characters Orochi Iori and Orochi Leona are included from the get-go. Both the extra and advanced fighting modes are available, as in the original game. Both a four-button and six-button control scheme are available, and it’s possible to move the controls around the screen, and change the joystick/button sizes as well. Due to a bug in the control-moving system, it’s harder to set the buttons up properly on an iPad, but hopefully SNK Playmore will fix the issue.

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