Every month, we bring you our pick of the best new apps and games to land on the App Store – so as the nights draw in and the days get colder, what better time to join us for some quality smartphone and tablet-based entertainment?
In this month's selection, we've got mind-sharpening brain training, a lightning-fast dash with the much-loved Sonic the Hedghog, and a truly unique take on the 'vintage photography app' genre! Best of all, they're all free – so fire up the App Store and take your pick.
This ‘endless runner’-type game isn’t particularly original – but it does put a fun spin on the tried-and-tested Temple Run formula.
You’ll take control of the iconic blue hedgehog – or one of his pals Knuckles, Tails or Amy – and race around a 3D track, picking up golden rings and other power-ups as you go. As you do, you’ll need to swipe up, down, left or right to dodge various obstacles and gather even more goodies.
So far, so standard. But what makes Sonic Forces different is that as well as racing against the clock, you’ll also be matched with up to three other real players from around the world – all competing to complete the same course at the same time.
As such, it combines elements of a racing game with its more familiar endless-running features, adding an interesting competitive edge. That said, there’s no direct communication between players, so it should be safe enough for kids to play – although we’d always recommend adult supervision.
In truth, though, even grown-ups might find themselves weirdly entertained by shoving a small blue hedgehog around an obstacle course. Why not give it a try for yourself and find out?
Giphy are well known to many social media users for their popular animated GIF search engine and keyboard apps – but this latest app is their strangest yet.
Essentially, this takes advantage of the powerful ‘augmented reality’ features of iOS 11 to let you decorate the world around you with hundreds of flashing, pulsing, dancing animated GIFs!
Just fire up the app, point your camera around your environment, Giphy WORLD will detect floors, tables and other flat surfaces – and let you decorate them with GIFs to your heart’s desire. Be sure to take a little wander around to get the full AR effect: you’ll be able to walk around your decorations as if they were actually there.
Finally, be sure to take a video – so you can show the world just what your bedroom looks like when adorned with several dozen Pikachus.
The concept of ‘brain training’ has been around for a while – but this excellent app is a smooth and highly polished way to give yourself a little mental workout whenever you need one.
Covering subjects like memory, numeracy and attention, you’ll need to complete increasingly challenging minigames against the clock to measure your skills – and of course, the app records your results and tracks your scores over time, so you get a really clear view of your progress.
The presentation is really impressive, and the high production values set Peak apart from other, similar apps. The free version is definitely worth your time, and features tons of activities and games – and if you really take to it, a monthly subscription option unlocks even more games and detailed statistics.
Landing somewhere between a rhythm-action game and a musical toy, Magic Piano is an enchanting app that’s fun for all ages.
You start by choosing a song, then it’s time to play! As your chosen song starts to play, the ‘notes’ cascade from the top of the screen to the bottom – and all you have to do is tap them as they fall to play the song.
Depending on the song’s difficulty, this can either be a relaxing, meditative exercise – or a frantic struggle to keep up! It can certainly prove a challenge, and in our case we found it much easier to get to grips with on the larger screen of an iPad, rather than an iPhone.
In any case, if you love rhythm action games like Guitar Hero, Magic Piano is a great take on the concept for your phone or tablet.
Ever since the dawn of Instagram, we’ve been inundated with apps that aim to recreate the look of vintage photography – but Darkr is the first app we’ve seen that attempts to reproduce the process of shooting on film and using a darkroom.
As such, it’s as much a ‘simulator’ as it is a photography app: you’ll need to shoot your photos through the tiny viewfinder of a virtual camera. Then you’ll need to produce a virtual ‘test strip’ to choose the best exposure, then process the developing shot using the traditional techniques of ‘dodging’ and ‘burning’.
If that all sounds like an alien language to you, you needn’t worry. The app includes step-by-step tutorials and pictorial explanations of all the traditional analogue photography features it includes.
That said, this is no casual photography app. While it can produce some great pictures, it’s really more of an educational tool – even something of a ‘game’. In other words, it won’t appeal to everyone – but if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about traditional photography, Darkr is an interesting and accessible way to do so.