I have a PS3, but the truth is, I haven’t played a game on it in at least a year. Maybe longer. Unexpectedly, iOS has become my favourite gaming platform on the market. The iPhone and iPad are powerful devices, very capable of some intense gaming experiences, while also offering a massive platform to entice even the most casual of gamers. The iPad Mini in particular is great, with it’s nicely sized screen and light weight. More to the point, there are some excellent games available for iOS and Android devices and I want to tell you about some of them.
(Where games are available for Android, I will make note.)
The Free Games
F*ck free games! Take your Candy Crush, and your The Simpsons Tapped Out, and even your Kim Kardashian game, and toss them in the virtual garbage. Just be careful not to toss your phone in the garbage, because that’s expensive. Free games are usually terrible, and the only non-terrible ones feature diabolical in-app purchases. They essentially aren’t games at all. They’re addiction-feeding machines, not too different from slots, designed solely to entice you into paying 99¢ every time you run up against an arbitrary wall. They are the scourge of gaming and should be abolished. Don’t play them.
The Casual Games
Everyone loves a good casual game. I know this because my mom is addicted to 2048 and my dad is at level 487 on Candy Crush. Only, those are awful games.
If you like 2048, what you should be playing is Threes!, developed by Sirvo, which inspired all the clones. Threes! operates on a similar concept of sliding numbers and adding them together. The mechanics, though, are slightly different and far more thoughtful, making for a game that is both more challenging, and also more strategically engaging. It’s also got a cute style, and each number takes the form of a little monster that makes a sound when you first create it. (also on Android)
If action is a little more your speed, I’d recommend Duet, by developer Kumobius. The concept is amazingly simple. Two dots on the screen fly toward obstacles, and you rotate left or right to avoid them. The game gets progressively challenging, with later levels including more obstacles and even obstacles that become invisible. There are also extra modes, including daily levels and an endless level to really test your skills.
Ridiculous Fishing, by Vlambeer, is the most… ridiculous casual game on the market. You play as a fisherman looking for redemption, casting a line into the lovingly designed 2D ocean deep, avoiding fish on the way down, then trying to catch as many as possible on the way up, only to throw them in the air and shoot them with weapons you acquire throughout the course of the game. It’s a little insane, and also amazingly fun. (also on Android)
For those who like a little side-scrolling action, the best game to play is Limbo. It’s a dark, atmospheric game ported from the PC, featuring beautifully designed levels, and a surprisingly scary and affecting “story.” It’s one of the best games released in the last few years, and it’s totally accessible, even to those who aren’t usually good at these sorts of games.
Badland, a game developed by Frogmind, and clearly inspired visually by Limbo, is another excellent side-scrolling experience for mobile devices. You play as a floating little creature, avoiding obstacles, multiplying and trying to find a way to the end of the level. An added bonus is that there are new levels being added on a regular basis without needing an in-app purchase (also on Android)
Then there’s Type:Rider, an incredibly unique side-scroller that’s almost a mix between Badland and Limbo, but with the addition of typography. The whole game is about typography, with each level representing a different stage in the development of type through history. And when you beat a level you get access to a virtual book chapter that explains some of that history to you. It’s maybe the nerdiest game I’ve ever played that doesn’t feel nerdy at all. (also on Android)
The Room and The Room Two have been very successful in the Apple App Store, and for good reason. The games are super simple in concept. You are in a room, standing in front of a puzzle box. Your job is to open the box and get out of the room. The atmosphere is cool and dark, and the puzzle boxes are almost always satisfyingly tricky. (also on Android, and the sequel too!)
My favourite recent pure puzzle game is Monument Valley, in which you lead a little character around levels based on optical illusions. The game looks extraordinarily cool, and it’s even more fun to play. My only complaint is that I wish there were more levels available, but it’s been hinted that there are more to come. (also on Android)
Then there’s, Hitman Go, a take-off on the famous Hitman games (and Timothy Olyphant movie), but morphed into a charmingly silly puzzler that looks like a board game. The goal is to evade capture turn-by-turn while trying to assassinate a target by knocking him over like a chess piece. It’s adorable. (also on Android)
The Cream of the Crop
Those looking for something more immersive and challenging are also in luck. Originally released on the PC, the adventure game Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP features beautiful pixelated graphics, a cool atmosphere with excellent music, and a laid back tone that encourages a slow gameplay style. Solving puzzles and piecing the world together is the goal, and all that style makes it wonderfully fun to spend the time doing so. It’s one of the very best games of the last decade, and well worth playing on an iPad. (also on Android)
Next up is Year Walk, a creepy little adventure game, with one of the more impressive visual schemes I’ve seen, with locations that move about like paper backdrops. It’s the kind of game you play with headphones on in the dark and scare yourself half to death. The puzzles are sometimes a little obtuse, but this game is all about style anyway. Style and Nordic mythology. What could be better?
From the same developer as Year Walk, Simogo, also comes one of the more creatively conceived games ever made for mobile devices: Device 6. The game reads like a novella, literally, with words on the pages telling a story. Only instead of just reading, the player scrolls around, rotates the screen and follows the text as it moves in different directions, leading to puzzles that can only be solved by going back and re-reading. The game is a little short, but it signals what’s possible when the controller and the screen are one and the same. It’s also a perfect example of games as art.