PopCap’s Bejeweled (free) has gone through more iterations and updates over the years than any other iOS game we can recall, and some have made fairly substantial improvements to the core match-three game. The latest update 1.7.1 adds Poker Mode, a surprisingly addictive game mode that challenges you to make five-card poker hands by sequencing same-colored match-threes. For instance, three separate matches of three yellow gems will give you three yellow gem cards, which when paired with two matches of three orange gems will create a full house. To keep playing, you need to both vary your hands — repeatedly getting just one pair of matching cards isn’t enough — and avoid the skull head on a flipped coin, which appears more often if you repeat hands and can instantly end your game. It’s a great update to the classic title, but arrives with a major bummer: an unexpected timer that limits your daily games unless you pay a $3 fee to unlock the full title.
Just released as a video download last week, Disney’s hit movie Frozen briefly arrived with a free iBooks download of the Frozen Read-Along Storybook — a page-flipping story accompanied by full narration and the voices of Frozen’s key actors. But there is another Frozen storybook option for kids: despite the similar name and theme, the Frozen: Storybook Deluxe ($7) app doesn’t overlap anywhere near as much as we’d expected with the iBook story. While some of the art is similar, the story is told differently, with rich interactive animations and video clips from the movie. Storybook Deluxe also uniquely lets a child rotate the iPhone or iPad 180 degrees to hear the Frozen story from the separate perspectives of sisters Anna and Elsa. A reverse puzzle mode challenges kids to remove correctly-shaped ice puzzle fragments from a photo, while Snow Globe and Ice Crafting modes let kids draw pictures with snow and ice tools. Young Frozen fans should consider it a must-see.
Learnist: The World’s Knowledge At Your Fingertips is a new “crowd-sourced collection of knowledge” from Learnist, Inc. The app is free, but does offer in-app purchases for special features. Despite the broad description, Learnist is less like Wikipedia and more like a curated feed of news, features, and other items that can be read right away or added to a reading list. Users can find a number of links organized into separate topics. And there are a lot of topics — Learnist offers no shortage of material for a recently launched app. Learnist is an ideal app for the intellectually curious seeking suggestions.
Toca Boca AB’s newest kids’ app is Toca Pet Doctor ($3). A collection of mini-games for young children, Toca Pet Doctor features 15 different animals that need help. Curing the animals of their various ailments differs each time — while the dog needs fleas removed, the turtle needs tipped back onto its feet, and so on. Controls are intuitive and easy for young kids to understand. Like other Toca games, the artwork is cute and charming, and there are no distracting ads or in-app purchases.