Animal Jam — Play Wild (free) — WildWorks brings its popular kids’ web-based kids game and social network to the iPad in this new app, allowing kids to join up and play while on the go. Featuring educational content developed in association with National Geographic, including videos, animal photography, and fascinating animal facts, the iOS app provides the same immersive experience for kids, letting them chat with their friends, play games, and learn more about animals and nature. Kids can customize their animal avatars and explore the entire game world for free, and will be able to earn unlimited in-game currency by exploring the virtual world of the game, allowing them to customize their dens, host in-game parties with friends, and more. Parents can expand the game by purchasing premium animal avatars that unlock educational multimedia e-books. WildWorks also plans to continue to evolve the Play Wild world, adding more lands, animals, mini-games, and other elements to add further customization.
Final Fantasy VII ($16) — Fans of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise will likely be thrilled to see the seventh chapter appearing on iOS, although as with Square’s previous editions, Final Fantasy VII carries the usual collector’s price tag, and a retro game design that only fans of the classic version will likely appreciate. If you’re nostalgic for the original Final Fantasy VII, this definitely won’t disappoint, but it’s worth noting that it remains absolutely true to the original, right down to the graphics, sound, and console-like on-screen controls. Navigating menus still uses the virtual d-pad, and naming your characters doesn’t even use the iOS keyboard — you’ll be left tapping the d-pad to cursor around an on-screen letter grid. If you’re a hardcore Final Fantasy fan, or even just a fan of retro games in general, you might find the game worth the steep price of admission, but don’t expect anything here that pushes the envelope.
WonderBox (free) — Duck Duck Moose is back with an app that breaks some new ground by providing educational and controlled social features which allow kids to explore fascinating and educational topics while creating fun works of art and imagination — and sharing those creations with a closed group of friends and family. The game includes more than 3,000 videos, maps and other content curated by educators, with more content added daily, and encourages kids to get creative with everything from designing their own avatar to making talking creatures, recording their voices on animal-grams, designing a treehouse, and much more. Parents can setup a controlled list of friends and family to allow kids to send out emails to share their creations, along with an parent-monitored inbox that allows friends and family to message back. The app is completely free with no in-app purchases — in-game currency is used for some aspects, but is totally earned by tasks and actions that kids take in the game.
Square Cash (free) — Square’s micro-payments app gets a nice update that adds Apple Watch support so you can now send cash to your top contacts even faster. You can quickly pay nearby folks straight from your wrist and approve requests with a single tap without even pulling out your iPhone.
Swarm (free) — Foursquare’s standalone check-in app gets a major update that brings back the Leaderboard from the old Foursquare app, which lets you to compete with your friends to see who is wandering around the most on any given week, with “coins” as the score metric now in place of the older points system. Prizes can be awarded when you finish near the top of the leaderboard. A new Inbox view combines messages and notifications, and a single “Friends” tab now combines the worldwide and nearby views so you can see what your friends are up to at a glance. The “Here Now” section is also back so you can quickly see everybody who is checked in at your current location.