As 2013 starts to wind down, people naturally begin to reflect. That and anticipate 2014, but that’s another set of words entirely. Anyway, as I began to think back on the year one major theme kept popping into my head: the increased power of mobile hardware and the way it’s been used to create some truly impressive adaptations of games from other platforms.
What’s really blown me away about all this is just how faithful these ports have been. In some cases concessions had to be made with the UI or the graphical details, but a good many of these games are nigh indistinguishable from their console/PC counterparts. Heck, some of them actually fare better than the originals!
So with this in mind, we present you with our list of notable iOS ports from 2013 (and maybe a few that came out earlier because they’re just that awesome).
It’s hard to kick-off a list like this without XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Simply hearing that one of 2012’s best strategy games was bound for iOS was exciting enough. However, this was no rush-job or some bare-bones freemium cash grab. Firaxis somehow managed to shrink the game down with only a few extremely minor changes (i.e. slightly less detailed visuals, fewer maps overall, and fewer soldier customization options). The flip-side to that is the inclusion of touch controls that were a perfect fit for the gameplay.
If someone were to tell me back in 2003 that I’d be able to play a portable version of Knights of the Old Republic in the future, I’d have raised an eyebrow. If they told me it would be more-or-less a 1:1 port, I’d have told them they were crazy. And if they told me I’d be playing it on my phone I’d have seriously believed that they were crazy. Yet here we are; living in a world where we can team-up with Carth, Mission, Bastila, and the rest as they chase after Darth Malek - all on a device that’s no bigger than, well, a cell phone. Holy crap.
CJ’s romp through one of the Grand Theft Auto series’ biggest worlds was impressive enough when it was on my Playstation 2, but I’d have never imagined I could play through it all again on my phone. San Andreas might be an almost 10 year-old game, but it’s still an incredibly impressive piece of work. Just like this port, really.
Now I will freely admit that The World Ends With You: Solo Remix isn’t from 2013. But I don’t care so it balances out. I see it as one of the earlier examples of just how much potential there is in the iOS platform. And I’ll also freely admit that I vastly prefer this single-screen, high-resolution version over the pixely and confusing DS original. Call me a blasphemer all you will; I just prefer my hyper-stylized RPG romps through Shibuya to be on one screen and sporting clear visuals. Also: oh my god that music!
I wasn’t horrifically impressed with Space Hulk - mostly because the iPad version doesn’t address any of the fairly consistent PC complaints, and even adds some new ones - but it’s still a solid strategy game and an impressive port nonetheless. As sad as it is for me to admit, guiding my team of Terminators through those narrow corridors actually looks better on the iPad than it does on my aging MacBook.
Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us has pretty much been critically acclaimed across the board, and that doesn’t stop when we get to the iOS end of the spectrum. This twisted tale of reimagined fairytale characters is pound-for-pound what you’ll find on any other platform, with the added bonus of being incredibly easy to carry around with you. And the other added bonus of touch controls, which are a pretty good fit for an adventure game like this.
Limbo was a gorgeous and haunting platformer when it first released on the Xbox 360, and it’s just as disturbing and beautiful on iOS. Nothing seems to have been lost in the transition aside from overall screen dimensions, and the “invisible” touch controls are as functional as they are unobtrusive. It’s incredibly hard not to get sucked right back into this shadowy story, even on the iPhone’s tiny screen.
I’ve been a big Phoenix Wright fan ever since I first traded quips with Miles Edgeworth on the DS. I wasn’t able to jump in to every single release consistently over the years, but I’ve always had an immense fondness for the original game and its outlandish characters and cases. Being able to own the first three titles in the series is super-cool, as is having them on me at all times. I can only hope even more Phoenix Wright games eventually make their way to iOS so I can complete the set!
I never managed to play through The Kid’s adventure when he made his debut on consoles, but I could certainly appreciate all the accolades it was getting. Then it was ported to iOS, and became another prime example of just how much the platform can do. This is another one that didn’t actually release in 2013, but it’s impact on me (and the general perception of high-end iOS games in general) was still incredibly significant.
I cannot stress enough just how impressed I was when I started playing through Deus Ex: The Fall. I kept telling myself that I must be imagining things. That sooner or later I’d find some sort of “tell” that indicated I was playing an iPhone game. After much nitpicking I was finally able to find a couple (fewer overall environments and not a lot of enemy variety, for starters), but I really had to dig. In the end I just had to accept that I wasn’t imagining things, and that The Fall was an honest-to-goodness Deus Ex experience on an impossibly small device.