We've got picks for both the core and casual iPad players this week, starting with Assassin's Creed Recollection, a digital collectible card game inspired by the hit open-world action franchise. It's a slick spinoff that requires ample strategy, but if you're seeking something simpler, we've also got Bag It! HD – a light puzzler about bagging groceries. It's plenty approachable, what with its cute cartons of milk and cartoon-faced baguettes, but it still packs a solid challenge within.
Game: Assassin's Creed Recollection
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK
On consoles, the Assassin's Creed franchise has refined and expanded its open-world action with ample success. Previous attempts to distill that formula down to something smaller and simpler on iPad and iPhone have yielded unremarkable results, however, with a couple meager side-scrollers and a top-down take on the multiplayer experience seen to date. Assassin's Creed Recollection – the latest iPad-exclusive effort – succeeds because it doesn't try to dumb down or cherry-pick familiar play elements from the core series; instead, it takes the well-liked characters and settings and applies them to something fresh: a collectible card game (CCG).
It might seem like a stretch, but Recollection feels about as logical an extension as you'd expect from a videogame CCG. Compiling decks composed of characters (and general character types), actions, and locations from the series, you'll fight it out against an online opponent or AI foe in territorial battles spread across three areas on the game board. Dominating two-thirds of the board secures victory, and it's done by amassing points earned by playing locations, attacking with warriors, and using special ability cards, which shake up the common flow of play. In typical CCG fashion, every card has a cost, and you'll earn gold steadily over the course of a game. Less common, however, is the moving timeline that keeps players from sitting on their hands and over-thinking maneuvers, making this a more active card-dueling affair than expected.
Beyond online matches, the game includes a 20-mission story mode that can span several hours. Individual matches typically tap out at 10 minutes or so, which is a perfect size for an iOS experience. While the sharp artwork and menus impress, actually navigating around the app can be confusing, and we noticed lengthy pauses at times, plus a post-match screen that stranded us without access to the main menu. Additionally, deck building is surprisingly unclear, and it's tough to earn in-game money without spending some real-life cash; unsurprising considering how many iPad games thrive on in-app purchases. Still, this is a worthwhile first stab at an Assassin's Creed CCG, and certainly worth a buck for fans of the core series or other card games.
Game: Bag It! HD
Buy it now from the iTunes store: US / UK
As any longtime bagger can attest, bagging groceries is as much an art as it is a science. Not only must you arrange items by weight and consistency to avoid damaging goods, but it's also your job to make the most of a tiny space, lest the customer walk out with more bags than necessary. Mundane real-life activities often hold the key to surprisingly engaging videogame experiences, and Bag It! HD is no exception, transforming the everyday tightrope walk that is grocery bagging into a puzzle-solving approach with cartoonish goods and numerous play options.
In its initial stages, Bag It! HD is focused simply on filling each bag with all available groceries, attempting to avoid squashing or dropping items by arranging eggs, milk, bread, cereal, and more in harmony. Moving items into and around the bag is as simple as dragging and dropping them within the grid, plus you can rotate items by holding one finger down and slowly swiping with the next, and despite the dazed or frowning faces seen on misaligned food, it's usually fine to leave a carton of eggs upside down in these bags. As the core skills are imparted, the game starts offering multiple bags – further challenging you to maximize the placement within each – and timers that force you to work quickly in each stage. Plus, bonus medals (needed to unlock later stages) are awarded for optional objectives, like matching up like items or fully avoiding breakage within the bag.
Later level sets offer stellar variations on the theme, however, such as flipping the script and actually trying to smash groceries, solving tricky pre-set puzzles, or attempting to bag as long as possible without breaking a single item. Bag It! HD's core design is incredibly simple, and it does a great job of explaining the basics before taking off in some more advanced directions, with some of the puzzles (and the endless bagging mode) sure to challenge even regular genre fans. Paired with solid aesthetics and universal compatibility for this HD version, Bag It! is one of the more interesting original puzzlers seen on iPad and iPhone in recent memory.