The 2012 app gems awards

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The Room

Some games you use to waste time, and other games you actually sit down with your tablet specifically to play them. The Room falls into the latter category. The game sets its eerie mood beautifully, with detailed, painstakingly drawn, pseudo-3D graphics and an elaborate soundtrack. The gameplay itself is even better: The Room contains an intriguing safe, and your job is to break it open. To do so, youll need to solve increasingly complex puzzles, with little guidance. The game offers up occasional hints, but youll still have plenty of problem solving to do on your own. For instance, youll notice that a seemingly ordinary panel masks a tappable portion that grants access to a hidden section, and that tapping these buttons in the right order will open a secret drawer. The Room includes at least 3 hours of entertaining gameplay, and youll wish you could keep going when you finally finish.Lex Friedman4 out of 5 rating; $2; Fireproof Studios

Ski Safari

Ski Safari doesnt break new ground when it comes to the world of unending side-scrolling games. But Defiant Development gets the elements right in its Nordic-themed adventure, in which you have to keep a skier named Sven one step ahead of an onrushing avalanche. As with many iOS apps, a series of in-game challenges keep the gameplay interesting while also helping you to level up. But Ski Safari lets you tackle those challenges one at a time; if one is too hard, you can knock off other achievements instead of getting stuck on the impossible. Ski Safari lets you make in-app purchases, but it also makes it easy enough to collect in-game currency via regular gameplay. And Defiant Development has rolled out a steady stream of updates in the past yearnew costumes, power-ups, and race courses that keep you coming back to aide Sven.Philip Michaels4.5 out of 5 rating; $1; Defiant Development

Toca Train

In last years App Gems Awards, we sang the praises of apps from Toca Boca. So what earned the innovative maker of iOS kid games a return visit to the winners circle? Its philosophy that the best apps for children are ones that spark their imagination. Toca Train takes the simple toy train of childhood and re-creates it beautifully on the iPhone and iPad: As the train putters around the track, picking up cargo and passengers, your kids can create their own stories about the train and its payload. Toca Train provides a visually pleasing form of transport for kids imagination; where that ultimately takes them is up to them.Philip Michaels4.5 out of 5 rating; $2; Toca Boca

App Gems Hall of Fame

A few iOS apps have excelled for so long, have become so essential for so many of us, they've become classics. Here are this years Hall of Fame inductees.

Evernote

Evernote has developed an avid following. Evernote devotees use it for everything from keeping to-do lists to preserving photos of favorite bottles of wine. This year, the iOS version got a needed face-lift. Its still the do-it-all info-storage utility, able to store text, images, PDFs, and audio recordings, and it can still tag all that input for easier searching. But it now does all that with a friendlier design: Page-wide tabs organize notes by place, tag, and notebook, and search is more accessible.

The app is also faster. Most anything you want to do is just a tap or two away. Its easier to create new notes and to find old ones. And the lists of notes are easier to parse, thanks to a cleaner layout. Evernote has become one of the most distinctive and durable iOS appsearning it a spot in our Hall of Fame.3.5 out of 5 rating; free; Evernote

GoodReader

Apple might have forgone a file system on its iOS devices, but sometimes you still need one. Good.iWares GoodReader fills that role and more, offering the ability to organize files into folders, easily share them, and secure them with high-security encryption. Its also great for reading filesyou can annotate PDFs, add bookmarks, and convert PDFs into plain text. You can load text files, audio, video, images, and anything else iOS natively supports. You can also transfer files via iTunes File Sharing, the apps built-in Wi-Fi file-sharing, or services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and more. GoodReader isnt just goodits great.4.5 out of 5 rating; $5; Good.iWare

This story, "The 2012 app gems awards" was originally published by Macworld.

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