2012 Revue: 15 iOS Games Worth a Second Look
In the iOS market new games are being released in massive numbers every single week, to the point where it can be nearly impossible to keep track of all but the most popular of games currently available. It certainly doesn’t help people any when the list of what is presently popular is often being skewed by the common practice of mediocre ‘Freemium’ software offering players IAP money in exchange for an undeserved five-star rating. To that end I will now be remembering a collection of games from 2012 – listed in alphabetical order – that I personally believe to be worth considering a second time, assuming you haven’t already purchased them.
Oozoo Inc’s Brandnew Boy proved that you truly can have a complex, fully-3D, good looking action beat’em up on your iOS device that controlled flawlessly; and you don’t even need an ultra high end iPad or iPhone to run it on. With a control scheme that felt a bit like Super Mario RPG meets World of Warcraft, players rhythmically tapped their way to pugilistic bliss as they managed and clobbered overwhelming odds coming at them from all sides. While the game did have some issues with the cost of high end weaponry requiring rather grindy amounts of money, Brandnew Boy was such a pure delight to play that having to replay earlier stages – a chance to also strive for performance recognition medals – never ended up feeling like a chore.
Then of course there’s the fact that they later made the game better by adding a separate endless battle challenge mode, as well as an alternatively playable female avatar – replete with her own unique move set – for people to re-experience the game in a whole new light with.
If you haven’t already experienced Sega’s reckless taxi driving arcade classic – where players are challenged to thrill customers in order to earn some Crazy Money – then it’s high time you rectify that by picking up the recent polygon-perfect port of Crazy Taxi on your iOS device, and you should probably still do it even if you already have played the game! The iOS port faithfully brings every last detail of both cities – as well as all of the challenge stages – from the Dreamcast edition to a completely portable format for the very first time, while this time also including an all new feature that lets you play the game with a custom soundtrack of your own choosing if you’d rather not use the already included music. This package is finally rounded off with an intelligently handled tilt and button based control scheme that lets players successfully pull off all the same crazy tricks they used to do with a controller on the Dreamcast (admittedly, long time players might experience some relearning pains with this part)!
If you thought every last possible good variation on the idea of falling block puzzles had already been done, then Dawn of Play just turned everything you know on its head when they created a wholly brand new experience by flipping Tetris on its own head as well. This new falling block puzzle – known as Dream of Pixels – challenges players to stop an advancing wall from hitting the bottom by rapidly chiseling out various tetrad shapes as they are listed, but great care must be taken for all new ways of thinking must be employed or the playing field will quickly turn into dangerously unsalvageable chaos. As if an already massively addictive unique new twist on the concept of Tetris alone wasn’t enough, Dream of Pixels further features 100 different slower paced puzzle challenges where players are tasked with perfectly demolishing pixelated imagery using a non-randomized list of mandated cuts.
Would you think that throwing Illusion of Gaia, Secret of Mana, most any Korean MMO, and the purely touch screen interface of an iOS device into a blender would equal anything worth looking at by the time the process was done? Well, you certainly would think that if your game development company happens to have the curious name of FourThirtyThree, as you just released the massively critically acclaimed EpicHearts. With three different playable characters featuring wildly different fighting styles, a diverse variety of detailed and unique locations to journey through, a lengthy story filled with plot twists and intrigue, and a functional virtual button setup that lets you successfully manage a wide variety of special attacks, it really is no mystery how EpicHearts received so much acclaim.
Would your further believe on top of everything so far stated that EpicHearts is being offered for absolutely free, yet also features a difficulty curve that ramps up progressively rather than going straight into impossible within the first 30 minutes? Well, it’s still going to be the truth whether you choose to believe that or not: for a gamer would realistically have to put more than 20 hours of play time into EpicHearts before it reached a point where the Grind-Vs-IAP wall began to feel heavy handed. I can honestly say I have no qualms with a developer potentially asking for money after delivering that much quality entertainment for free, and yet even then it’s still set up so that you can power through on pure will power alone if you’re skilled enough.
Rubicon’s Great Big War Game – the sequel to their already famous Great Little War Game – provides players with a high quality turn-based hex-board strategy game that is both impeccably balanced and accessible to beginners, and is furthermore humorous to boot with all the hilarious dialog the soldiers spout forth as they are commanded about the battlefield to their deaths. Players that take up the Generalissimo’s orders to “find the first nation that isn’t us and invade them” will find a whopping 50 campaigns – all of them with heavily varied terrain and objectives – for them to tackle in the game’s story mode, more than enough to justify the asking price tag of Great Big War Game. However, the fun does not stop there since Great Big War Game – fully living up to its name – also features an online play-by-post match making service that enables armchair generals everywhere to succesfully get their war on long after the main campaign has ended.
Take heed developers everywhere in the iOS scene wondering how to create a ‘Freemium’ game that will actually make players want to stick around and possibly go for IAP money, for I must admit that Haypi Dragon is a game I’ve regularly been playing – completely of my own volition – for a long time since I wrote my original review. Haypi Dragon features a well crafted – and positively addicting – blend of Worms meets Angry Birds, featuring both offline single player puzzle stages as well as online multiplayer death match gameplay. Furthermore, the game has received so many regularly released massive content updates – all of which have improved the gameplay in various ways – that my original review is no longer truly an adequate description of how Haypi Dragon now stands.
Admittedly it still has that one problem where you stand a good chance at randomly being assigned to go up against players way out of your league during an online match, but otherwise Haypi Dragon’s experience is pure gold and only getting better all the time.
One wouldn’t think a hyper popular children’s cartoon show about a roid-raging man bashing in the face of evil with a magical sword, filled to the brim with “Fabulous Magic Powers”, would have a hard time getting a long line of tie-in video games released. However, He-Man fans can tell you that they have suffered 30 long years without virtually any games to speak of – let alone a single good title – a fact that Chillingo finally sought to right with He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe. Finally adults everywhere – of whom are still young at heart – can at long last realize their childhood fantasizes by controlling the fabulous He-man as he slashes and bashes his way through over 29 varied stages, as well as a plethora of lovingly crafted set piece boss fights – each of them completely unique – that truly make intelligent use of the source material.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you to defend Castle Greyskull from the evil machinations of Skeletor – perhaps because you heard the original release had controls that weren’t always perfectly responsive – then fear not as Chillingo has since added a far more responsive alternate virtual control setup, as well as the further ability to now optionally play as He-Man’s mighty sister: She-Ra!
Bytesize Games definitely proved that they were serious about their company’s name earlier this year when they released the delightful Little Labyrinths, all so that gamers everywhere could endlessly delight in GETTING THE CHEDDAR! The game barrages players with a non-stop deluge of procedurally generated mazes for them to solve by drawing a path with their finger in a race against the clock, yet to score the big points players will have to engage in classic arcade style ‘Risk Vs. Reward’ gameplay in order to pick up bonus items most commonly found off the beaten path. The game is further complimented by a whimsical array of mix-and-matchable unlockable sceneries – heroes – and objectives, obtained either through in game money or IAP purchases (none of which thankfully have any impact on the competitive online leader boards).
Is it really possible to have an RPG upon the iOS filled with over an hour of high quality hand animated cut scenes filled with quality voice acting and singing, a battle engine filled with a variety of spites running about attacking each other with meticulously animated tiny attacks, a variety of locations that are both rich in tiny details and positively unique from each other, furthermore containing a plot delivered with impeccably written characterizations that feel like real people you might actually meet, all while there being an astounding 60 hours of gameplay at these staggering levels of quality?! Gamers everywhere recently learned that the answer to all of these questions was a resounding yes – delivered by a sassy talking flying cat, no less – when SoMoGa recently released an unyieldingly pixel perfect of Lunar: Silver Star Story. Now gamers everywhere can have an uncompromised portable edition of Alex’s quest to be the best Dragonmaster that there ever was, this time without being forced to suffer through the unfortunate difficulty increasing gameplay ‘tweaks’ that plagued the original US release.
As an extra perk if you previously turned down this title on the belief that the only proper way to experience a pixelated classic is by way of a controller, the developers have since added support for the iCade 8Bitty (as well as tightening up a wide variety of other minor issues that plagued the original release).
While the iOS platform is known for commonly not being a good bed fellow for ports of platform jumping games, Normal Distribution LLC successfully flew in the face of traditional wisdom by releasing a beautifully playable port of a pre-NES classic: Montezuma’s Revenge! Back is the classic gameplay that previously vexed nearly ever Commodore 64 owner everywhere, with players once more being asked to navigate Pedro through 9 increasingly diabolical temples – each with its own layout – as they search for the ever illusive treasure horde of the great King Montezuma himself. While the deliberately slow and methodical gameplay might not appeal so well to modern gamers used to running full tilt through stages with guns blazing, there are no doubts that older players will be in nostalgic heaven with this particular rerelease.
Remaking a beloved classic into something completely brand new is always a risky venture, but Activision managed to knock one out of the park when they repurposed Pitfall! as a top-notch production value endless runner. Using a simple array of touch screen swipes and device tilting, players once more guide Pitfall Harry – still running after all these years – past an ever changing tour-de-force array of obstacles both classic and new. Particularly satisfying is how successfully long runs of Pitfall! leave the player feeling as if they have just lived through an escape sequence worthy of an Indiana Jones film, ensuring you’ll always want to try the game one more time whenever Harry finally meets his grisly demise.
Hope This Works Games will no longer need to wonder if combining the polarity switching motif of Ikaruga with endless runner like mechanics equaled a great idea, for their release of Polara has already proven that the answer was a resounding yes! Players looking for a heavier challenge will be absolutely delighted as Lara flips and shifts her way through 50 story missions – as well as randomly generated endless modes – filled with all manner of patience trying security devices, all while an extremely generous number of checkpoints ensures that no iOS devices will ever get smashed against walls during extended Polara gameplay sessions. For any out there whom find that there simply wasn’t enough challenging pain to be found in the main adventure, the entire game can be replayed with maddeningly difficult to reach bonus objectives strewn about that will truly put a gamer’s mad skills to the ultimate test.
NCSoft did something with Project 83113 that seems ludicrous to even think about, they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that true face of ultimate bad-assery was in fact: small, cute, pink and fluffy. In the game players take control of Belle – a four armed pink fluffy critter – as she runs, slides, and glides effortlessly through stages filled with complex death traps; all the while laying wasted to every last robot in her path with a satisfying arsenal of diverse weaponry, which she can even swap from mid-stage. The only thing that could have made the game even more perfect was if you didn’t have to deal with the five dreadfully slow paced espionage stages where you control Belle’s mechanical partner Rob, but I guess the world simply wasn’t ready yet for a game containing this much fluffy pink bad-assery without something tempering all that awesome.
I’m not entirely sure why such an impeccable masterpiece is currently offline on Apple’s iTunes store, a fact the deeply saddens me, but mark my words that you certainly won’t regret lunging upon Project 83113 should it ever return.
While ECA-Game’s Rock(s) Rider might have an oddly spelled named with the parentheses in the middle like that, it is an otherwise successful iOS clone of a particularly famous XBOX game – Trials HD - that is known for an utterly demanding need for high precision analog controls. While not allowing gamers to create and share their own tracks the same as Trials HD did, Rock(s) Rider does permit players to push themself to the limit as they drive their motorcycle – without once having to fight with unresponsive controls – through a plethora of physics puzzle based stunt tracks. Complimenting the gameplay is an array of amazing looking 3D graphics that never once go into slowdown, not even if the game is being run on something like the lesser powered iPod Touch 4.
Many hidden objects games on the iOS – or, more appropriately, on any platform in general – have become rather infamous for featuring abysmally low production values, but G5 Entertainment instead took the high road when they went all out with the real-time 3D graphics and voice acting that filled every last nook and cranny of Sinister City. Even more enjoyable than the game’s hidden object sequences, which are mercifully far less cluttered with wretched noise than some of the game’s contemporaries, is Sinister City’s plot: which is an absolutely preposterous cheese fest – filled to the brim with intentionally bad over acting – that will drive you forward out of a genuine desire to see where the plot will implausibly go next. I am absolutely serious here, the protagonist’s adventure to save his girlfriend from an evil vampire’s castle culminates in (BEGIN SPOILER WARNING) him helping his 500 year vampiric father-in-law-to-be achieve a lifelong dream of becoming a film actor (END SPOILER WARNING).