Every year, with thousands more apps and games being released on the App Store, it becomes increasingly difficult to single-out just which are the crème de la crème of this ever-growing iOS market - and more specifically, which of them truly set a higher standard in terms of innovation, uniqueness, and individuality. Be it a game designed for the iPhone or iPad, anything developed and released on the iOS market in this day and age has to have that special something to grab our interest and retain it for months to come. In no particular order, here are a selection of the most notable games and apps of 2013 that raised the bar in one way or another.
Morphopolis - Quite possibly one of the most visually stunning games I’ve seen all year, Morphopolis' astounding presentation and imaginative world designs are what truly sets this hidden object puzzle game apart from those of a similar style. The beautiful hand-drawn watercolor hues bring every aspect of the game's artwork to life, while the folksy ambient soundtrack sets a beautiful and warm tone to suit the mellow and relaxing pace. What is so immensely likeable about the puzzles in Morphopolis is that each of them is original, unique, stylish, and distinctive in nature, with every single one utilizing the environment in some manner to build upon the atmosphere.
Ridiculous Fishing - Ridiculous Fishing is a game that without a doubt deserves everything it’s achieved this year as it’s nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it’s a fishing game. Agreed, it’s ludicrously silly, simple, and every part as ridiculous as it sounds, but it’s also beautiful in every way. Alongside it’s fantastic art style and fluid control system, this is the kind of game that is suitable for anyone.
Bit.Trip Presents... Runner 2 - Immensely satisfying, beautifully intricate, fluidly animated, and absolutely gorgeous; yes, this is Bit.Trip Run!, the wonderfully remastered port of Runner 2: Legend of Ryhthmn Alien for iOS. Ports to iOS devices are something that don’t always bode well in the world of gaming, but Bit. Trip Run! is one game that manages this incredibly well, with some very noticeable design tweaks taken to aim it specifically at the casual mobile market. Not only is the game beautifully polished along with a naturally amazing soundtrack, but each cutscene is narrated by Super Mario (Charles Martinet) himself. That alone is more than enough reason to put this game on your playlist!
Limbo - Limbo is one of those special games; a hauntingly magnificent puzzle-platformer that hits every aspect of what makes a truly inspiring and fascinating work of art. For anyone who loves a good scare, it is the perfect gaming world to get lost inside. What makes this puzzle platformer so incredibly different is not just its remarkably atmospheric world building, or its innovative and astonishingly good sound design, but also because the touch controls are nothing short of intuitive. It’s not very often that a game makes sense, but when it really does it stands out among the very best.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown - One of the most faithful ports known on iOS, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is every bit as special as its bigger brothers. The core XCOM experience remains intact, which means that players can enjoy the exact same gameplay on iOS devices that they have come to know and love on console or PC. Most impressive is the huge scale of the game and how little Firaxis changed it in order to get it to work well on the smaller handheld devices. It’s definitely a game worth mentioning, and more so a worthwhile purchase for anyone who is still on the fence.
Mailbox - First up is everyone’s favorite email client for iPhone; Mailbox. Wave goodbye to Apple’s default client and be sure to add this one to the iPhone’s dock, as it’ll be useful for a long time coming. Though it only works exclusively with Gmail, there are countless reasons that Mailbox is an app that purposefully fits the iOS device. What this handy app does well, and what it does right, is presented in the way it manages the contents of a mailbox. Simple swipe gestures allow the user to file away emails or trash them on the spot, but even better is the ability to set a reminder for when to have it magically reappear at the top of the inbox, with options that go as far as reminding the user a month from that date. Beautifully polished, impressively structured, and offering incredible depth, Mailbox is the go-to app for email purposes.
Citymapper - As someone who lives in London, getting a bus is my least favorite activity. Luckily with City Mapper I don’t have to worry so much, because it is one of the easiest and most comprehensive solutions for mapping your way around London. Recently also released for New York, City Mapper works it’s magic by combining up-to-the-minute data available for live bus departures, tube statuses, and walking distances - resulting in the best possible solution for the commuter. I’m not sure how well the app works stateside (and obviously it’s only available in New York at present), but for Londoners this app is a huge breath of fresh air and takes away the majority of the pressure of traveling.
IFTTT - One of the best apps on the market for automating small tasks, IFTTT is incredibly easy to understand and supports integration with a whole array of other apps and services. This amazingly powerful app can automate almost anything, be it backing up photos to sending a text message reminder of an important meeting. Pronounced "ift," the strange name stands for "if this then that" and is one of the most valuable assets to the internet in this day and age, as well as a superb app for the iPhone.
Fantastical 2 - Redesigned for iOS7, Fantastical 2 is a valuable asset to have on the iPhone. Its added features, phone integration, and smooth accessibility making it a truly remarkable calendar app. A huge improvement on the incredibly well-designed Fantastical, users can now simply type or speak their commitments into the app and it will set the time, date, and place automatically. Fantastical 2 pushes the bar by integrating any iPhone Reminders to show up in calendar view by default. This makes the app so incredibly accessible that, for the majority of folk, there will be no more agonizing over other task-management apps.
Procreate - The award winning illustration app for the iPad has been completely revamped this year in an attempt to introduce full support for iOS 7 and Apple’s new 64-bit A7 processor. And boy oh boy, what an incredibly powerful piece of software this is. The perfect app for professional and amateur artists, Procreate never stops improving; and this year it has truly reformed to an extraordinary degree. Featuring a whole array of new filters and adjustments that take advantage of the tablet’s GPU, Procreate is better than ever before, with a lighter, less resource hungry, and all new resolution independent vector interface.