December 29, 2009

Handpicked 2009: iPhone and iPod touch Games

The App Store has come a long way this year as Apple expanded the capabilities of its software yet again, so while it's not going to be too far-off to see Bluetooth multiplayer as a standard game feature, there are still a lot of single-player games that are very well-made, and for others, also compatible with older models and firmware.

Racing Games
1) Real Racing

Firemint's racing sim has an amazing cockpit view (although the recently released Need for Speed: Shift for the iPhone does have a good cockpit view as well as far as I know) and the flexible controls are what probably set the standard for control settings in iPhone racing games. I advise you to turn off the Break Assist though.

For $5, you get a lot of courses, cars and multiplayer as well as video replay upload which is very cool.

2) Asphalt 5
Gameloft's recent competitor also features some very good graphics, good controls, lots of licensed cars and tracks, and multiplayer.

Also 5 dollars, it's a pretty hard choice to pick between the two best racing apps in the App Store, but graphics-wise and controls-wise, I think I prefer Asphalt's. Still, there is no cockpit view.

But damn, the graphics are sight to behold, especially for 3rd gen iDevices.

Strategy/Puzzle Games
1) Geodefense Swarm
Tower defense games are nothing new on the iPhone, but Mission Critical's Geodefense series is a very addicting tower defense game that features a unique wiry aesthetic.

And contrary to the screenshot above, the game also features tons of weapons so you can defend against the creeps.

Still, the game can get pretty hard. Heck, I'm stuck in level one on Medium.

2) Flight Control
I know I'm featuring another Firemint game, but the popular, but cheap path-tracing game is an addictive one.

While the game can prove to be inane for some, it quickly ratchets up the pace and makes everything hectic.

3) Cooking Dash
This addictive game is easy at first as it literally handholds you through the relatively frustrating process that is the whole game, but when the game progresses, it releases you from its grasp and increases the difficulty to the point of insanity.

It's a near perfect port of the PC game, and also contains all 50 levels. Just added recently was a Challenge Mode as well.

The gameplay is also the same and goes along in a step-by-step process. However, I won't really go into detail about that for now.

Really, just the process of being able to achieve an Expert score is one of the game's most rewarding aspects. It also has an addictive upgrade system though.

4) Peggle
Peggle is a brilliantly addictive puzzle game from the makers of Zuma and Bejeweled, and the iPhone translation is pretty solid.

It's not as fast as I'd like it to be, but the core gameplay elements and modes are still there to make for a game of much replay value. Damn, it's addicting.

5) Labyrinth 2
A very well-made puzzle game, Labyrinth 2 is what all people want in a sequel. It manages to mesh the strengths of its predecessor to the new concepts it introduces.

It can be frustrating and hard sometimes, but for the price, it offers a load of features that make the offer irresistible.

Arcade Games
1) Canabalt

One of the best indie games of the year, Canabalt is a simple, yet exhilarating game that only requires you to jump by tapping anywhere on the screen. Avoiding obstacles as you go faster requires some adjustments to your timing, and attaining the highest score you can achieve is basically the biggest factor of the game's replay value.

When I'm bored, this is the first game I boot up, and it entertains me every time. And for 3 dollars, you're basically encouraging the developers to work more elements into the game, as it already has more features than its free Flash counterpart.

2) Geospark

A really simple quest to high-score-dom, Geospark is an addictive game that you'll definitely like to play during a commute or while waiting in line. The soundtrack is great and the presentation is simple yet effective.

The game goes like this: tap to make a symbol vanish, and combine multiple quantities of the same symbol to rack up your score. That's it. But I'll be damned if I didn't say that it didn't waste hours of my time.

3) Doodle Jump
This basic, but addictive iPhone game relies on tilt and your hand-eye coordination to rack up a high score.

Featuring a basic "doodly" aesthetic, the platformer-cum-high-score-focused game has next to no end ala Canabalt, and you have to tilt the iPhone to the direction you want the thing to jump, otherwise, you fall.

To liven up the gameplay, the game also features some power-ups like shields to defend yourself from monsters and black holes, springs, trampolines, jumping boots, and even a jet pack.

4) Dragon's Lair
This legendary relic of 80's arcade gaming started the laserdisc game craze that caused people to drop quarters 'til dawn- and for good reason: it looked awesome to control the fate of a star in an animated cartoon, hand drawn by former Disney cartoonist Don Bluth.

Aside from the classic American style of the interactive damsel-in-distress story, the game features some of the most frustrating gameplay known to man. While people have finished the game without the Move Guide or whatnot, playing the game in its real style involves much memorization, as well as your reflexes, in order to progress.

It does recycle a few scenes here and there, but the main thing about this game is that it's just a frigging great port.

And quite frankly, the death scenes are half the fun in the game anyway so, even if you have to guess a lot in the game, you'll still have a lot of fun dying.

Hope you make it to the dragon in this massive 5 dollar game!

5) Space Invaders: Infinity Gene
This brilliant re-imagining of the decades old Atari classic features a basic look, but a pulsating electronic soundtrack.

With different kinds of weapons to choose from, and a whole slew of well-made stages, this Space Invaders is of much value. Not to mention, it has a crapton of unlockables.

While some people will be turned off by the auto-fire, the newbies will embrace it. It's addictive, fun and your head will bob as you pulverize those aliens.

6) Stair Dismount
It's kinda hard to categorize a game that's essentially an elegantly designed push-your-friend-down-the-stairs theory simulator. But anything that demands your psyche to get more points by being more creative with your sadistic pursuits is, in my book, a classic example of an arcade game.

Just recently updated to include some online leaderboards and new levels, Stair Dismount is an excellently riotous time especially when played with friends.

Rhythm Games
1) Tap Tap Revenge 3
Tapulous' long-running (well, for the iPhone's whole lifespan anyway) and flagship rhythm series takes a focus on the online aspects and introduces a premium store where all the known artists are. Still, there are tons of free tracks to download from the store, as well as some avatar clothing.

It's pretty robust all around, and even a score multiplier higher than 8x is introduced. So yes, great times. (Not to mention, it's free now.)

2) Rock Band
This iPhone translation of the plastic instrument game is well-done, even though the actual game uses pre-rendered footage instead of real-time graphics, and the songs are kinda low quantity-wise.

But just thinking about the way the developers were able to preserve the Rock Band experience on a tiny phone is kind of awesome, and by connecting to Bluetooth, up to 4 players are able to play together in one song. I know, I've tried and it works pretty well.

Platforming Games
1) Rolando 2
A significant improvement over its predecessor, Rolando 2 is an excellent platforming adventure through and through, featuring much more variety, much more levels and much more "exotic-ness" level design-wise.

While it features a lot of the same mechanics found in the first game, this sequel amps everything up and goes crazy with great ideas and more action-oriented sequences that are tons of fun. This game can rival any PSP or DS platformer any time.

2) Soosiz
Inspired heavily by Super Mario Galaxy, Soosiz is a gravity-based platformer that consists of tons of levels, nice controls and head-spinning gravity-based platforming.

If you've played the aforementioned Wii game, you'll get a good idea of how to play this one.

It's really that simple, but it can get really hard at time. Just pure platforming fun.

First Person Shooter Games
This high-profile Gameloft title, while ripping off a lot of high-profile shooter properties, is actually a pretty ambitious romp through space that's a lot of fun to both control and play.

It has excellent graphics, nice controls (but a randomly placed and uncomfortable Jump button) and a pretty generic story. Still, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying this title and it's worth every penny.

It benefits from newer hardware though, so the mileage of people with older iPhones or iPod touch's will vary.

The graphics just look so awesome...

2) Doom Resurrection
Also looking awesome is the debut of the venerable shooter franchise Doom on the iPhone, but this one is on-rails. True, Doom Classic is available for anyone who wants a fix of true-blue classic hell spawn shooting, but I haven't played that title enough to warrant it a nod for this post.

3) Wolfenstein 3D Classic
But if you really insist on getting that fix of retro shooting, look no further than the granddaddy of them all: Wolfenstein 3D.

Considered the father of the first-person shooter, you can't go any more retro than this game. But the more compelling part is the fact that the game also features what is probably the best control scheme of FPS's on the iPhone.

(And, of course, the fact that you can defeat the Fuhrer in his Mecha form applies)

Adventure Games
1) Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
One of the best games on the iPhone platform, this graphical revamp of the legendary LucasArts videogame is a joy to look at and play.

True, the game is a point-and-click game, but the thing that makes the whole shebang special is how funny it still is despite the pop cultural references.

Well-voiced, well-drawn, and well-made, this revamp is an essential game that everyone must play, because everything in it will charm the pants off of you.

Oh, and... it has pirates!

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