Over recent years, mobile games have become more than just a quick distraction for when I have a few minutes of downtime. I have come to enjoy these unique experiences quite a bit, and even prefer many of them on iOS as opposed to some that are now also available on Steam. The key to a great iOS game is something that’s paced right for the platform, and has a smart use of motion or touch controls.
Quick disclaimer: Wear headphones! I can’t stress this enough; the games are meant to be fully heard, and not out of a single tiny speaker. If this isn’t something you typically do, you’d be surprised how much doing so can add to the experience.
There have been some iOS titles over the past few years that will stick with me for a long time; I immediately think of Capybara Games’ Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and Ziggurat by Action Button Entertainment. The former is a game to play in the dark, an adventure to really sink into; while the latter is a quick, high-score focused game with a subtle depth that is always refreshing to find in the App Store. There were some excellent iOS releases in 2013 too, here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. Keep in mind that I played all of these on my phone, so I’d imagine many of them are even more enjoyable with the larger screen of an iPad.
Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous [$2.99]
The original Tilt to Live was one of my early favorites on the first iPhone I ever owned. I had always hated any type of motion controls, but developers One Man Left changed my outlook on that. The game sports a silky smooth tilt control scheme. Tilt to Live 2 is a lot like the original; a high-score arcade style game in which you control an arrow, trying to kill as many dots as possible without getting hit. The sequel includes some awesome and unique weapons, boss fights, and some extra modes. The art is crisp and vibrant, and the music and audio is great. I kind of hate that title though.
This game is a perfect example of simplified controls that work extremely well for a touch screen. I would call Slayin’ a 2D arena game, the goal is to stay alive as long as possible, while maintaing a combo of kills to increase your score and money earned along the way. You level up and purchase upgrades that only last until you die, at which point you have to start over. The only controls are giant left/right buttons, and an equally huge jump button. Your little character holds his/her weapon out in front of them, so you just need to make sure that you’re hitting the enemies with your weapon and not your body. It’s a clever control scheme, and it plays quite well.
Star Command [$2.99]
Experience the overwhelming panic in the life of a spaceship captain. Star Command puts you in charge of a crew and a ship as you travel through the galaxy, encountering mostly hostile ships wishing to blow you to smithereens. Pick which rooms to build and crew to hire. It sounds just like FTL on paper, and they are similar, but Star Command has you making more precise movements and contains more infantry combat. The only downside to the game is that you’ll end up repeating a lot of the same conversations, in sort of an Infinity Blade-style prestige mode. But you continue growing your ship and crew, and the fights keep getting tougher. I had trouble putting this one down after downloading it on the night of its release.
Knightmare Tower [$2.99]
It’s time to save some princesses yet again, but this time you’ll be jockeying a rocket and bouncing off monsters’ heads to work your way up a dangerous tower. Knightmare Tower is another extremely smooth controlling game, with tilt and one-touch gameplay. And it’s fun as hell.
Prepare to be hooked by the constantly dangling upgrades within reach. The increasing sense of empowerment is what kept me wanting to play, getting a new sword or potion upgrade helps you ascend further on your next run, making it quickly satisfying. Download this and I guarantee you will sink an hour into it immediately. It won’t take you but a few hours to obtain all the upgrades, but once you do, the endless mode is unlocked and it becomes a fight for the top of the leaderboards.
Colossatron: Massive World Threat [$0.99]
Halfbrick started off rough last year with Fish Out of Water, which had all the high production value you’d expect, but lackluster gameplay and very little depth. I was surprised, and at first concerned as I started playing Colossatron. After getting to some of the more difficult levels, I started to realize the depth of this almost match-three style action game. As a robotic alien dragon-thing automatically moves around the city, destroying everything in sight, you’ll add nodes of different colors to combine and create different types of weapons to destroy the city. It will take some time to master, and you’d better know my homie Roy G. Biv if you want to make it to the end, because there is little guidance in terms of color combinations. It’s bursting with production value and has that classic Godzilla or Rampage feel.
Kingdom Rush: Frontiers [$0.99]
An iOS list wouldn’t be complete without a tower defense game. Kingdom Rush: Frontiers is best in class for the genre, toting a huge list of RPG-style upgrades, enemy types, and tower variants. You’ll also take control of a character that you can move around the map at will. It plays a big role in the game, and there’s a lot to focus on when things get really crazy. Even some towers have infantry that you need to control to a degree; their placement can heavily change the tide of the battle. If that doesn’t sound fun enough, it’s got some like…totally cute art n’ stuff too.
Ridiculous Fishing – A Tale of Redemption [$2.99]
I wish fishing was this awesome in real life. The gameplay of Ridiculous Fishing happens in three phases: avoid fish as your lure quickly sinks, grab as many as you can on the way up, fling them into the air and shoot ’em with guns! I love the polygonal art style, and just like Knightmare Tower, you’ll always want to play one more round to earn that next upgrade.
Nimble Quest [Free]
NimbleBit’s most recent release takes the simple concept of Snake and makes it way better. Your “snake” is made up of multiple heroes, each with a different attack type. As you play, you will recruit more heroes, increasing the size and badassery of your snake. Clever swipe controls and cute pixel graphics make this game easy and fun to play. The arena mode adds a competitive high score element, you can even join up with a group and try to make it to the top together. See how many kills you can rack up in one run, and try to earn all the heroes; I don’t think I’ve actually completed everything yet. But I do intend on hopping back into the arena again soon.
This is only a handful of the great iOS games that came out last year. I hope you found something here to enjoy, and I’ll continue to keep you informed of anything you must download in 2014!