Best free iPhone games: 1-30
It's safe to say that Apple's given the gaming industry a square kick in the tender regions.
Despite their bluster, dismissing Apple in every way possible, Sony and Nintendo are both clearly concerned by the meteoric rise of iPod touch and iPhone as handheld gaming devices.
Although great games are the driving force behind the success of Apple gaming, low prices have also helped. Most 'premium' titles cost six quid or less, and many developers end up in a race to 69p, thereby providing games that'd cost 20 quid on a rival platform for the price of a Kit-Kat.
But what if you've spent the last of your cash on your shiny Apple object of desire? Can you get great games for nothing at all, or is the 'free' section of the App Store best ignored?
The answer is, of course, both, and the trick is finding the gems amongst the dross. What follows is our pick of the bunch - our top 70 free iPod touch and iPhone games.
Not so much an endless runner as an endless chopper, Timberman has your square-jawed (and, in fact, just plain square) lumberjack hacking away at a giant tree. You tap to move left or right, dodging deadly branches, and must chop at speed, lest your power meter run dry. Those in it for the long haul will find 30 Timbermen to unlock, including a certain large, angry, green superhero.
We've seen quite a few spot-kick flick-based efforts on the iPhone, but Tiny Striker also brings to mind old-school arcade footie like SWOS. It's all goalmouth action here, though, with you scoring from set-pieces, initially against an open goal, but eventually by deftly curling your ball past walls of defenders and a roaming 'keeper.
Run Sackboy! Run!
The wee knitted chap from LittleBigPlanet lands on iOS, in yet another endless runner. We should yawn and hit delete, really, but Run SackBoy! Run! is absolutely gorgeous, with stunning scenery based on the LittleBigPlanet titles. The gameplay's intuitive and simple, but inventive level design will keep you coming back time and time again.
Originally intended as a joke, Flappy Golf smashes Flappy Bird into Super Stickman Golf 2. But on playing the game, it's anything but throwaway. You get the crazy courses of Noodlecake's 'proper' golf game, but the wildly different controls (flap your winged ball left or right) force you to find new ways to tackle them. And the demented multiplayer race mode is an excellent bonus.
Another iOS platform game that relies on your ability to use a single dextrous digit, Mr. Crab finds the eponymous hero rescuing his kind from levels wrapped around towering tubes. It's all about timing, using scenery to double back and grab whatever you've missed, and, at certain points, figuring out how to defeat terrifying bosses. It looks fantastic, and there's surprising depth behind this game's stripped-back control system.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
The first iOS Sonic kart game worked nicely on the platform (a rare thing for the genre), and this sequel doesn't disappoint. You get plenty of dynamic, colourful tracks to speed around, grabbing power-ups and boosts along the way. Periodically, your kart will transform to become a boat or plane, adding further dimensions to the racing action. It's a bit grindy now and again, but you won't care when you're drifting like a loon across an aircraft carrier, before plunging into the sea.
Sausage!! Sausage!! Sausage!!
Sausage!! Sausage!! Sausage!! is another of Poppy's excellent one-thumb arcade experiences for iOS. A sausage falls at random intervals from the top of the screen, and you must catch it in your bun. It's absurd, bright, cheerful and oddly addictive.
This sweet survival game is full of character, as you assist a Victorian gent, out for his evening constitutional. The problem is it's a bit windy, and the gent's hat is in danger of blowing away during a gust — press the screen and he holds it in place. Each step increases your score and also the chances of seeing thoughtful comments from the hatted chap.
BaconBaconBacon feels a bit like Bejeweled slipped through a time-warp and collided with oddball British gaming humour from the early 1980s. Instead of gems, you swap pigs, and must smite vegans guarding them for extra points. Bonus pigs can be matched for extra sausages, or to fill a ketchup bomb.
In this insanely tough arcade test, you coax a finicky biplane through side-on levels of floating islands. The slightest touch on anything but a collectable coin or runway spells doom, and ghosts of previous crashes helpfully litter the way as you retry. IAP is available to buy coins for restart points, which in this case are tacit admission of your lack of gaming prowess.
Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary
The Boulder Dash series has a long pedigree, but this is the first time its co-creators have teamed up since the classic 1984 original. It's also the first time (in several attempts) the game has worked on iOS. The game itself is business as usual: dig through dirt; avoid boulders and enemies; grab gems. But it looks great, controls well, and even includes the original caves as an optional IAP.
Zombie Highway 2
The zombies in this title are surprisingly sprightly, leaping towards any oncoming vehicle and aiming to shake it until it flips, presumably whereupon they prise open the door and eat the occupant's BRRAIIINNZZ. You must fend them off, by scraping your vehicle against wrecks littering the highway, or blow them away with your gun.
Sky Force 2014
Sky Force 2014 celebrates the mobile series's 10th anniversary in style, with this stunning top-down arcade blaster. Your little red ship, as ever, is tasked with weaving its way through hostile enemy territory, annihilating everything in sight. The visuals are spectacular, the level design is smart, and the bosses are huge, spewing bullet-hell in your general direction.
Crazy Taxi City Rush
We imagine this Crazy Taxi rethink will alienate some fans of the original series, but plenty of the classic time-attack racer's feel remains intact. You zoom through city streets, picking up and dropping off fares against the clock; only this time, everything's largely on rails. It's sort of Crazy Taxi meets Temple Run, with plenty of upgrades and mini-games to master.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
At some point, a total buffoon decreed that racing games should be dull and grey, on grey tracks, with grey controls. Gameloft's Asphalt 8: Airborne dispenses with such foolish notions, along with quite a bit of reality. Here, then, you zoom along at ludicrous speeds, drifting for miles through exciting city courses, occasionally being hurled into the air to perform stunts that absolutely aren't acceptable according to the car manufacturer's warrantee.
What mad fool welds Boggle to tug o' war Risk-style land-grabbing? The kind who doesn't want anyone to get any work done again, ever, that's who. Letterpress is, simply, the best word game on the App Store.
You make words to win points and temporarily 'lock' letters from your opponent by surrounding them. The result is a tense asynchronous two-player game with plenty of last-move wins and general gnashing of teeth when you realise 'qin' is in fact an acceptable word.
We're pretty certain if there's one thing you shouldn't be using for a joyride, it's a jetpack that's kept aloft by firing bullets at the floor. But that's the score in this endless survival game with decidedly tongue-in-cheek humour, not least the profit bird power-up, a rather unsubtle dig at certain App Store chart-toppers.
Super Monsters Ate My Condo
Logic? Pah! Sanity? Pfft! We care not for such things, yells Super Monsters Ate My Condo. It then gets on with turning the match-three genre and Jenga-style tower-building into a relentless time-attack cartoon fest of apartment-munching, explosions, giant tantrums and opera. No, really.
Most developers create games from code, but we're pretty sure Hero Academy's composed of the most addictive substances known to man all smushed together and shoved on to the App Store.
The game's sort-of chess with fantasy characters, but the flexibility within the rule-set provides limitless scope for asynchronous one-on-one encounters. For free, you have to put up with ads and only get the 'human' team, but that'll be more than enough to get you hooked.
Developer Matt Rix is bonkers. That's the only explanation for Trainyard Express, which isn't so much a demo version of the wonderful Trainyard as an entirely separate edition.
The mechanics are great: draw tracks to lead trains to like-coloured stations, combining or crossing them on the way, as necessary. It starts out easy, but soon hurts your brain, and the 60 puzzles aren't repeated in the paid-for version. Bargain.
Three bushes make a tree! Three gravestones make a church! OK, so logic might not be Triple Town's strong suit, but the match-three gameplay is addictive. Match to build things and trap bears, rapidly run out of space, gaze in wonder at your town and start all over again. The free-to-play version has limited moves that are gradually replenished, but you can unlock unlimited moves via IAP.
Real Racing 3
While Asphalt 8 aims squarely at arcade racers, Real Racing 3 goes for the simulation jugular. Its stunning visuals drop you deep into high-quality racing action that sets new standards on mobile devices. Plenty of cars and tracks add longevity, although do be aware the game is a bit grindy and quick to hint you should buy some in-app cash with some of your real hard-earned.
Fans of the ancient Pitfall series on the Atari might feel a bit short-changed, given that this comeback in the shape of a Temple Run clone diverges wildly from the platforming action of the originals. However, it's one of the best-looking endless runners on iOS, and if you persevere there are exciting mine-cart and motorbike sections to master.
Again, the forced Plus+ account sign-up is hateful, but it's worth persevering to get to this addictive game, where you "unleash the awesome power of your finger," according to the App Store blurb.
The aim is to drag your finger from the start to the finish of each simple maze. The problem is you're against the clock and obstacles litter your path. Great graphics and 200 levels of compelling gameplay ensure you'll be glued to your screen.
Almost entirely lacking in depth, Dactyl is nonetheless one of the most furiously addictive games on the App Store. A gloriously demented Whack-A-Mole-style effort, Dactyl merely tasks you with tapping red bombs to stop them exploding.
Almost immediately, though, red bombs arrive thick and fast, forcing you to keep track and tap them in order, to avoid the inevitable 'game over'.
Trace is a sweet, inventive platform game which has you navigating hand-drawn obstacles to reach the star-shaped exit. The twist is that you can draw and erase your own platforms, to assist your progress.
With an emphasis on time-based scores rather than lives and the ability to skip levels, Trace is very much a 'casual' platform game, but it's none the worse because of it.
Reminiscent of a twin-stick shooter mashed into an RPG with a really big wand, Solomon's Keep has your wizard battle endless hordes of supernatural foes, with the help of your thumbs and some in-game spells. It's a bit like an overhead Diablo, or, if you're getting on a bit, a powered-up Gauntlet.
Buganoids resembles a NES game where the author decided to mash together random bits from various arcade classics. You patrol tiny planets, blasting 'across' them to kill nasty bugs. The gameplay's reminiscent of Gyruss and Tempest, and although the controls sometimes feel a little off, the game's always fun for a quick blast.
Spider: Hornet Smash
Tiger Style's Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is an App Store classic, combining arcade adventuring and platforming action, with you playing the role of a roaming arachnid.
Hornet Smash includes a level from that game, but its main draw is the frenetic arcade minigame. Still controlling our eight-legged hero, the aim is to fend off attacks by swarms of angry hornets, while weaving webs and munching tasty lacewings for health boosts. Three environments are included in this compelling and innovative title.
One for pool sharks, Bankshot tasks you with sending your orb to a goal by bouncing it off of at least one wall. A few different modes are on offer in this attractive neon-style game, but the best is Blitz, a high-octane time-attack affair.
Best free iPhone games: 31-60
10 Pin Shuffle (Bowling) Lite
A curious mix of ten-pin bowling, shuffleboard and poker, 10 Pin Shuffle proves surprisingly addictive. You get two cards for each strike and one for each spare, and whoever has the best hand at the end of the tenth frame wins.
Quickfire Risk clone Lux Touch isn't exactly a champion in the smarts department - the AI's pretty easy to outfox - but it's perfect ten-minute fodder for Risk fanatics. The graphics are clear, the board is responsive, and the game's also universal, for if you want to install it on your iPad.
There are plenty of one-thumb copter games on the App Store, but iCopter Classic goes right back to the genre's roots. You simply use your thumb to make your copter bob up and down, surviving for as long as possible without smashing into something; and there are plenty of unlockable themes if you prefer, say, a bee, submarine, spaceship or football to a helicopter!
So you think you're observant? Cell Splat will test that claim to the limit. The game distills 'match' games to their purest form. You get a target shape or colour, and, against the clock, must tap all matching items in the well. Quite why this frantic, great-looking, fun, addictive game is free, we don't know; we just suggest you download it immediately.
Like Cell Splat, InvaderR streamlines and hones a popular game, but this time it's Space Invaders. Like Taito's original, aliens are out to get you, but in InvaderR you have it tough. While the invaders are content to stay out of reach, it's 'game over' the second you're hit by a projectile. This turns InvaderR into a compelling and exciting score-attack game.
Although it looks like a 1980s racer, Whacksy Taxi also has much in common with platform games. You belt along absurdly straight highways, avoiding traffic by dodging or leaping it. Variety's added by power-ups, new background graphics when you reach a stage's end, and several bonus zones that also provide extra challenge.
Hoggy resembles VVVVVV smashed into Nintendo's Kirby, combining platforming and puzzles. The game tasks you with grabbing fruit within jars that are peppered around a maze. Complete a jar and you get a key; with a certain number of keys, new maze areas open up. Although occasionally a mite frustrating, Hoggy's a great-looking, fun and innovative freebie.
Bam Bam Dash
Imagine Monster Dash with the cast of The Flintstones and you've got Bam Bam Dash. Your auto-running caveman has to avoid plummeting to his death and being eaten by things with sharp teeth. Nice graphics and helpful dinosaurs you can ride add extra flavour to the game.
Alice in the Secret Castle
If brutally difficult old-school games are your thing, Alice in the Secret Castle will appeal. The game boasts 64 rooms of NES-style hell, with a curious game mechanic that hides walls when you hold the 'A' button. Progression therefore becomes a case of mastering taxing and relentless (but rewarding) puzzle-oriented platforming.
In this game, golf met solitaire and they decided to elope while leaving Mr. Puzzle Game to fill the void. What's left is an entertaining bout of higher-or-lower, draped over a loose framework of golf scores, with a crazed gopher attempting to scupper everything. You get a few courses for free with Fairway Solitaire and can use IAP to buy more.
It's clear you'll never see Nintendo games on iOS, but PicoPicoGames is the next best thing: a collection of tiny, addictive NES-like minigames. Frankly, we'd happily pay for scrolling shooter GunDiver and the Denki Blocks-like Puzzle; that they're free and joined by several other great games is astonishing.
Need For Cheese
This tilt-based avoid 'em up has you steering clear of cats (especially red ones that home in on you), munching cheese and grabbing power-ups to smash evil cats off the screen. Need For Cheese is simple, but a first-rate quickfire highscore game that rivals Bit Pilot for best-in-class.
At first, Froggy Jump seems like Doodle Jump, starring a frog. That's probably because Froggy Jump pretty much is Doodle Jump, starring a frog. However, its character, unique items, themes and lack of price-tag makes it worth a download, especially if you're a fan of vertically scrolling platform games.
Another game showing that simplicity often works wonders on mobile titles, SlamDunk is a straightforward side-on basketball game. The time-attack nature of the title gives it oomph, though, and there's also the option for online competition against players worldwide.
Solitaire was the casual game on computers before the term 'casual game' was invented. On iOS, there are tons of free and paid solitaire titles, but Solebon is our favourite traditional take. You get 50 variations (including the well-known Klondike) entirely for free, with the game being supported by unobtrusive ads.
Anyone can whack a ball with a stick - real skill comes from putting. (Cue: enraged golfers attacking TechRadar Towers with pimped-out golf carts.) In Putt Golf, you get an oscillating targeting system, prod to putt, and then use tilting to amend the ball's path with digital Jedi-mind skills as it trundles towards the hole. Three game modes; hugely addictive.
Into the Dead
You know, if infinite zombies were running towards us, we'd leg it in the opposite direction. Not so in Into The Dead, where you battle on until your inevitable and bloody demise. The game's oddly dream-like (well, nightmare-like), and perseverance rewards you with new weapons, such as a noisy chainsaw. VVRRRMMM! (Splutch!)
What do you get if you cross Drop7 with Zynga? A free version of Drop7! Luckily, the game's far more entertaining than that attempt at a joke: drop numbered discs into a grid and watch them explode when the number of discs in a column or row matches numbers on the discs. Drive yourself mad trying to boost your score by chaining! Forget to eat!
The clue's in the title - there's a quest, and it involves quite a lot of punching. There's hidden depth, though - the game might look like a screen-masher, but Punch Quest is all about mastering combos, perfecting your timing, and making good use of special abilities. The in-game currency's also very generous, so if you like the game reward the dev by grabbing some IAP.
Galaga 30th Collection
In the old days, invaders from space were strange, remaining in a holding pattern and slowly descending, enabling you to shoot them. By the time of Galaxian, the aliens realised they could swoop down and get you, and Galaga 30th Collection is the game you get here, with minor updates that improve its graphics and pace, albeit for a weighty 140+ MB footprint on your device. Galaga fanatics can unlock other remakes in the series via IAP.
It's a little-known fact that baseball mostly involves trying to hit colourful birds flying overhead and bananas lobbed in your direction by a mischievous fan. But X-Baseball provides a perfect, accurate one-thumb iOS recreation of America's favourite banana-thwacking pastime. (What?)
Rogue Runner is another one of those endless games, where you leap over gaps and shoot things until you fall down a chasm and ponder why your in-game avatar doesn't learn to stop once in a while. Rogue Runner stands out by offering a ton of skins and a smart overhead dodge-and-shoot variation, which is a bit like Spy Hunter if someone knocked the original arcade cabinet on its side - the vandal.
Dumb Ways To Die
Based on a Webby Award winning video, Dumb Ways to Die lets you try and save adorable characters from dying in dumb ways. There's more than a hint of WarioWare when it comes to the game's quickfire levels, which charge you in mere seconds with batting away wasps, saving private parts from underwater peril, stopping a head from exploding in outer space, and many more surreal rescue missions.
Draw Something Free
"No drawing skills required!," boasts the App Store description for Draw Something Free. You might argue otherwise when this app demands you draw something suitably tricky for your friends to guess, but can merely manage a red blob. Still, Pictionary plus iPhone plus social gaming equals 'must have' in gaming maths.
Top tip for any budding Indiana Jones types reading this: do not steal shiny things from temples guarded by demon monkeys, otherwise you will die. Still, if you're too stubborn to take our advice, use Temple Run for training, swiping and tilting your device until your on screen hero meets his inevitable demise.
We've no idea what's going on in ElectroMaster, beyond a bored girl trying to avoid responsibility by killing everything in sight with electro-blasts. The game's sort of like a twin-stick shooter but you tap-hold to charge and then release to let rip, dragging your finger about to fry your foes.
Games are short, but this is one of the most thrilling blasters on the system, despite it costing nothing at all.
Grim Joggers Freestyle
The original Grim Joggers was odd enough: 15 joggers jog for their lives in oddball environments, including a warzone, the Arctic, and an alien world. In the free Grim Joggers Freestyle, you get just one world, but it mashes up everything from the paid game into a surreal (but thoroughly enjoyable) endless survival game.
Flinging a plastic disc can be dull in the real world, but in this whimsical game the classic toy gets to soar over desert canyons, through Ferris wheels and alongside pirate ships moored in sandy bays. Frisbee Forever is a flying disc game as Nintendo might have crafted it, with vibrant graphics, jolly music and simple but engaging gameplay.
Kings in fairytale lands have a screw lose, or perhaps just an odd desire to create the conditions for a tough videogame. In Wind-Up Knight, a princess has been kidnapped. Horrors! But rather than send an army, the king tasks a knight with rescuing her. Only he's fragile. And clockwork. And can't turn around.
Really, it's an excuse for puzzle-oriented swipe-based thrills, which demand near-perfect timing as the quest nears its end.
Flood-It! 2 meets the rules of great puzzlers: keep things simple, but make the game so challenging that your brains start to dribble out of your ears. In Flood-It!, you tap colours to 'flood' the board from the top-left, aiming to make the entire board one colour using a limited number of taps.
This release offers additional modes over the original Flood-It! (timers, obstacles, finishing with a defined colour), and offers schemes for colour-blind players.
Best free iPhone games: 61-90
Greedy Bankers: Bailout!
A nod to our current financial woes, Greedy Bankers: Bailout! is all about greed. You swipe coloured gems together, to make bigger gems; tap and they explode in a shower of gold coins. Avoid the thief and beat the time limit to succeed. Extra modes are available via IAP, but the original—Arcade—should keep dollar signs in your eyes for a long while.
Social management games are big business, but are often stuffed full of cynical wallet-grabbing mechanics. While Tiny Tower does have the whiff of IAP to speed things along a bit, its tower-building and management remains enjoyable even if you pay nothing at all, and the pixel graphics are lovely.
The accelerometers in Apple handhelds have driven development of myriad tilt-based racing games, but tilt controls can be finicky. Cube Runner, however, feels just right as you pilot your craft left and right through cube-littered landscapes, aiming to survive for as long as possible.
The game doesn't look like much, but it plays well, and longevity is extended by Cube Runner enabling you to create and download new levels.
At first, Letris 4 looks like yet another bog-standard word game, albeit one that's rather visually swish, but it regularly tries new things. The game's based around creating words from falling tiles, but it keeps things fresh by adding hazards, such as debris, ice and various creatures lurking in the letter pile. If you're feeling particularly brainy, you can even play in two languages at once.
Before we played Bejeweled Blitz, we never knew precious gems were so 'explodey'. Still, here's the frantic member of the match-tree/gem-swap family, giving you one minute to obliterate as much shiny as possible, and then discover via online leaderboards that your chums are gem-smashing wizards.
Cool Pizza isn't so much endless running as endless weirdness. In a world of stark black, white and neon, a skateboarder catches air to hack oddball enemies (laser-spewing mini Cthulhus; rotating pyramids of doom) to death. The crunchy soundtrack adds to the sensory overload, resulting in one of the finest freebies on the platform.
Frisbee Forever 2
We already covered Frisbee Forever on this list, with its Nintendo-like fling-a-plastic-disc about larks. Frisbee Forever 2's essentially more of the same, but prettier, smoother and with wilder locations in which to fly through hoops and collect stars. It's lovely and costs precisely zero pence, so download it.
Jeff Minter is a shoot 'em up genius, and his Gridrunner series has a long history, starting out on the VIC-20, at the dawn of home gaming. This update riffs off classic Namco arcade machines but also shoves modern bullet-hell mechanics into a claustrophobic single screen, and in this version's survival mode, you have just one life. Argh! The 69p 'Oxtended Mode' IAP adds the rest of the standard game.
It looks a lot like Temple Run mashed into a children's cartoon show, but Subway Surfers plays a lot more like Run!, with its primarily linear leaping and sliding action. There are also plenty of power-ups to keep your graffiti-spraying hoodlum away from the chasing lawman and his faithful mutt. Just don't try this at home, kids, unless you want to redecorate a train with your innards.
The hero from the insane ElectroMaster returns, but this time she appears to be tasked with feeding sentient houses roaring "HUNGRY!" in a fairly rude manner.
Local monsters amble about, which can be snared by swiping over them with a surprisingly deadly pixie dust trail, whereupon they're handily converted into food to be collected. Much like ElectroMaster, HungryMaster feels like someone found a lost classic arcade game and squirted it into your iPhone, but forgot to charge you for it.
Temple Run 2
We have no sympathy for the heroes of Temple Run 2. Having presumably escaped from the demon monkeys in Temple Run, they steal more ancient and shiny goodies. This time, they're pursued by only one undead ape - but it's massive. Cue: more running/jumping/hopefully not falling over, and some new mine-cart and zip-line sections. Wheeee!
This wonderful ngmoco title used to cost a few quid, but Dropship is now free and is one of the App Store's biggest bargains. The game is a modern take on Gravitar or Thrust, with your ship battling gravity and shooting gun emplacements while searching complex vector-based cave formations for marooned allies.
The 'touch anywhere' dual-thumb controls take some getting used to, but the game feels fluid and exciting once they're mastered.
This combo-oriented match game has a casino feel, and there is a certain amount of luck evident, not least in the way new chips are added to the table. But in carefully laying your own chips in Chip Chain, merging sets of three to increment their number, and wisely playing cards, you can amass high scores while simultaneously wondering why real casino games are rarely as much fun.
Score! World Goals
Take dozens of classic goals and introduce them to path-drawing and you've got the oddly addictive game of Score! World Goals. As you recreate stunning moments of soccer greatness, the game pauses for you to get the ball to its next spot. Accuracy rewards you with stars; failure presumably means you're compelled to take an early bath.
Groove Coaster Zero
Tap! Tap! Swipe! Rub! Argh! That's the way this intoxicating rhythm action game plays out. Groove Coaster Zero is all on rails, and chock full of dizzying roller-coaster-style paths and exciting tunes. All the while, you aim for prodding perfection, chaining hits and other movements as symbols appear on the screen. Simple, stylish and brilliant.
For reasons unknown, cuddly toys are making a break for it, trying to get away from… something. We dread to think what cuddly toys are scared of, but we're willing to help them flee. The aim in Snuggle Truck, then: trials-like side-on hill-jumping with a truck, trying not to spill your cute chums along the way.
Dr Awesome Plus
Another ngmoco game, Dr. Awesome uses a hateful forced Plus+ account sign-up, but get past that and you find a compulsive title that smashes together ancient arcade classic Qix and surgery game Trauma Centre. Dr. Awesome's gameplay centres around removing viruses by tilting your device to 'cut out' infections.
Gameplay is fast and furious and, oddly, your Address Book contacts are used for patient names, so you can always choose to sacrifice your high score and off your boss in the virtual world.
Cubed Rally Redline
The endless rally game Cubed Rally Redline is devious. On the surface, it looks simple: move left or right in five clearly-defined lanes, and use the 'emergency time brake' to navigate tricky bits. But the brake needs time to recharge and the road soon becomes chock full of trees, cows, cruise liners and dinosaurs. And you thought your local motorway had problems!
There's something delightfully trippy and dreamy about Whale Trail, which features a giant mammal from the sea traversing the heavens, powered by rainbow bubbles, collecting stars with which to attack menacing angry clouds. The game's sweet nature disguises a challenging edge, though - it takes plenty of practice before your whale stays aloft for any length of time.
Games don't come any simpler than 1800. You try to stop a cursor in the dead centre of the screen, which rewards you with the maximum score. Any deviation and you'll be awarded with a lower number and have to try again… and again. This one might be insanely minimal but it's absurdly addictive.
All you have to do in ON/OFF is connect the switches using solid strings of coloured tiles. The problem is, you can't just draw the colours on - instead, you slide tiles around, thereby messing up connections you've already made. Within just a dozen levels, this one will trigger the switch that makes steam shoot out of your ears.
Clowns in the Face
Tennis in the Face had a racket-wielding hero saving a city from an evil energy drink corporation, mostly through smacking enemies in the face with tennis balls. This freebie version comes across like the protagonist's fever dream, placing him in a clown-filled hell, with only his fuzzy balls to save him.
Plants vs Zombies 2
This is more like Plants vs Zombies 2 vs freemium grinding. But if you can look past the forced repetition of stages and irksome IAP, there's a lot to like in EA's horticulture/zombie defence sequel, including loads of new stages, a bunch of new plants, plenty of unique features, and a smattering of time travel.
Doctor Who: Legacy
It's a case of timey-wimey-puzzley-wuzzley as Doctor Who: Legacy aims to show you that your iPhone is bigger on the inside, able to house intergalactic warfare. The game itself is a gem-swapper not a million miles away from Puzzle Quest, but all the Doctor Who trappings will make it a must for fans of the show — or Daleks fine-tuning their tactics regarding how to finally beat their nemesis, mostly via the use of strategically placed coloured orbs.
Rise of the Blobs
Poor Marsh Mal. He's atop a cylindrical tower, about to be mauled to death by waves of hungry blobs. His only defence: a limitless supply of fruit, which he can use to blow up like-coloured blobs, thereby holding off death for a few precious extra moments. Yep, it's Rise of the Blobs - another block-falling game (think: a simplified Dr. Mario wrapped around a tube), but this one has wonderful visuals, suitably squelchy sound, and strategic underpinnings for those willing to master the game mechanics.
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol
Nyeeeeooowww! Daggadaggadaggadagga! It's biplane o' clock in this Civ-like take on World War I dogfighting. You and the bally enemy take it in turns to climb, dive, roll and shoot, as you aim to turn the tide of the war and ensure it'll all be over by Christmas. Sid Meier's Ace Patrol is also one of the few games we've seen that understands the concept of micro-transactions, for example enabling you to spring POWs for 69p/$0.99 a pop.
You'd think that a falling block game with only a handful of colours and set on a rotating disc wouldn't be that tough, and you'd be right - for about a minute. But Rotational soon ramps up the brain-busting, flinging multiple arcs at your spinnable walls, forcing lightning-quick reactions and thinking or - in our case - a lightning-quick end-of-game.
The Tiny Tower devs take to the air in game form. In, Pocket Planes, this management sim, you take command of a fleet of planes, aiming to not entirely annoy people as you ferry them around the world. Like Tiny Tower, this one's a touch grindy, but it's a similarly amusing time-waster.
Dots looks and feels like the sort of thing Jony Ive might play on his downtime (well, ignoring the festive theme, which is probably more Scott Forstall's style). A stark regimented set of coloured dots awaits, and like-coloured ones can be joined, whereupon they disappear, enabling more to fall into the square well. The aim: clear as many as possible - with the largest combos you can muster - in 60 seconds.
In Smash Cops, you got to be the good guy, bringing down perps, mostly by ramming them into oblivion. Now in Smash Bandits it's your chance to be a dangerous crim, hopping between vehicles and leaving a trail of destruction in your wake. The game also amusingly includes the A-Team van and a gadget known only as the Jibba Jabba. We love it when a plan comes together!