Knights of Pen & Paper 2 ($5) — Retro style games are becoming popular items on iOS devices, hearkening back to an era when 16-bit graphics were the norm, and games had to rely merely on sophisticated gameplay. In this particular case, a classic RPG genre is melded with pixel-art in a turn-based meta-game that emulates old-school tabletop RPG play on your iOS device, where players get to portray both the party and the game master. You get to build your party with characters of your choice, meshing modern-day stereotypes such as goth and hipster with human, dwarf and elven races and typical RPG character classes. Build a dwarven hipster thief, an elven goth mage, a human rocker paladin, and more, and then send them on quests and combat encounters of your choice, delving through dungeons and crafting powerful items. Between the customizable characters, equipment and crafting system, dozens of locations, side quests, and dynamic dungeons, Knights of Pen & Paper 2 features plenty of variety to keep you engaged, and is chock full of pop culture jokes, making it an amusing play as well.
Mortadelo & Filemon: Frenzy Drive (free) — Hapless Spanish comic book heroes Mort & Phil come to iOS in this free-to-play racing adventure that has them zooming their way through busy traffic and fighting off bad guys. Players can choose from a variety of customizable vehicles as they fight to save the city from the evil forces of Jimmy the Freak. The game definitely has a cute and silly cartoonish feel to it, with the underlying theme of two well-intentioned but not particularly bright protagonists weaving their way crazily through busy streets and aimlessly trying to save the day as they go along. Weapons include such inventions as the mighty death ray, bomb-throwing slingshot, and plasm carbine, and Mort can don laughable costumes to provide gameplay bonuses and rewards.
Nitro Nation Online (free) — Following an enthusiastic reception when it debuted on Android last year, this popular drag racing game makes its way to the iOS platform. Featuring high quality 3D graphics, a variety of race modes, and over 40 different customizable cars from Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Mercedes-Benz, the iOS version also adds three exclusive vehicles in the form of the Mini John Cooper Works, the classic Ford Shelby GT500, and the Italian super sports car Pagani Huayra. In typical drag racing game fashion, the races themselves are all about revving up, accelerating, and shifting, so the real key is in choosing the best car for the job and souping it up by tuning gear ratios, upgrading engines, reducing weight, and more. Players can apply standard upgrades as well as redrawing and creating blueprints that can be traded on the in-game Marketplace with other players to try to create the ideal, perfectly tuned racing machine. Eight different car attributes can be adjusted, and 33 unique upgradable components are provided, while players can perform in-depth tuning with realistic dyno graphs. Players can race in single player modes, or join into multiplayer races with weekly team events and hundreds of different achievements. While the free game offers in-app purchases to buy cash for vehicle parts, it also boasts no waiting time to upgrade or refuel a vehicle, and no “pay-to-win” features.
Sunrise Calendar (free) — This major update to the popular Calendar app adds a very interesting new “Meet” feature designed to more effectively facilitate organizing meetings by making it easy to select and share open time slots in your schedule. One of the more unique applications of iOS 8’s custom keyboard plug-ins that we’ve encountered, Sunrise Calendar 4.0 basically adds an additional keyboard that can be called up when composing an email, iMessage, or really just about anything else, to quickly select and share available time slots. This virtual “keyboard” displays a three-day scrollable calendar view that you can simply tap on to propose available meeting times, as well as controls for adjusting durations and even suggesting a meeting location. Once done, the information is stored on Sunrise’s servers and a link is pasted into your message, ready to be sent to your invitee. The recipient can then respond simply by clicking on the link in any browser and accepting one of the proposed times, which gets automatically added to your iCloud, Google, or Exchange calendar via Sunrise. For folks with busy schedules, it’s definitely a very clever way of handling what can often become a never-ending email thread when trying to figure out where something as simple as a coffee can be squeezed in.