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TUAW's Best of 2012 Personal Picks: Randy Nelson

2012 was the first year I can remember where I didn't make a single new hardware or accessory purchase. Software, though, was another story. If there was a notable iOS app released this year, chances are good that I have it -- and I've made a list of favorites to share with you. I'm also an avid gamer (and a pretty discerning one, at that) so you'll find my absolute top iOS titles among my picks.

Google Maps (Free)

Seeing as my car's built-in navigation system decided to bite the dust this year, the ability to use my iPhone as a suitable replacement skyrocketed in importance. Apple's Maps in iOS 6 was adequate, but since I still have an iPhone 4, that meant turn-by-turn directions were out of the question. Enter Google Maps, which not only provides turn-by-turn guidance that's better than my now-deceased dedicated navigation system, but one-ups Apple Maps in every respect. I really can't get over how complete it is -- and still totally free.

Fantastical (US$3.99)

I'm trying to be a more organized individual heading into 2013, and part of that is making sure I keep a good schedule. My iPhone's pre-installed Calendar app is certainly adequate, but I really wanted something that gave me a way to see what's on my plate at a glance, and made it easier to add new items. Fantastical takes care of both these needs with aplomb. Its natural language event entry is a snap and its day ticker view is ingenious. You might even say the app is fantastic.

Clear ($0.99 for a limited time)

If I need notifications for important to-do items, I stick with Reminders. But if I just want to jot down a quick list of groceries or components I need, Clear really is the perfect app. It's entirely gesture-based and a breeze to use. It's also easy to read at a glance, so I can hopefully keep from running into obstacles and people while using it at the store. Note that I said "hopefully."

Tweetbot for Mac ($19.99)

There was a lot of fuss around pricing a Twitter client at $20 when the Mac version of Tweetbot launched, but as someone who's used it ever since I can honestly say the premium is more than worth it. Tweetbot is the slickest Twitter app I've ever encountered on any platform, and possesses all the functionality I could need. If you've been on the fence about this one, I really don't think you'll be disappointed if you commit.

The Walking Dead: The Game (episode one free for a limited time)

Created by the adventure game mavens at Telltale Games, The Walking Dead is a five-part episodic video game treatment of Robert Kirkman's zombie-filled comic book series (which is probably best known as a hit show on AMC). As someone who plays a lot of games, and is a huge fan of the adventure genre, there's not much that surprises me -- but The Walking Dead did. In addition to just offering a great story and compelling characters, the series actually gives the many difficult choices you have to make lasting consequences. There are surprises around every corner, and it tugs at your heartstrings like no other title released this year.

Dream of Pixels ($0.99 for a limited time)

I'm a big fan of puzzle games, especially those that are easy to pop into while I'm out and about waiting in lines or taking a train. Dream of Pixels fits that bill perfectly, as an inverted take on Tetris where you have to remove shapes from a pre-existing wall moving down the screen. It's a simple title, but one I found myself getting engrossed in time and time again. It was the cause of many a "Sir? Sir? Sir, may I take your order?" moments this year.

Rayman Jungle Run ($2.99)

Endless running games are a dime a dozen on iOS, but Rayman Jungle Run isn't really like the rest of them. The best way I can describe it is a traditional platformer where you don't have to worry about moving your character. The game does the running for you, but you still need to be pretty adept at leaping across chasms and timing every move just right. The levels are designed to offer a perfect degree of challenge and the visuals look good enough to eat. Just trust me when I say that you don't want to be seen licking your iPhone's screen in public, especially at places you frequent.

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