Part One: Games 16 - 25
In what was another fantastic year in the world of iOS apps & games, we are here to bring you the fifty titles that we, the staff of 148Apps, thought were the best of the year. Here are the gaming titles 6 - 15 in our Best Games of 2011:
15. Temple Run: There are typically two kinds of endless games: the horizontal endless runners, and the vertical endless jumpers. Well, here's the third kind: running into the screen, moving left to right, making swift decisions to avoid obstacles or turn in the correct direction. The originality was well-appreciated, and the game is quite fun, to boot. With its shift to free to play, it also serves as one of the best examples of how to do this business model in a fair way.
14. Scribblenauts Remix: When the first Scribblenauts game came out on the Nintendo DS in 2009, I immediately thought that with the need to type things in, and constant touchscreen usage, that it would work perfectly on the finger-friendly capacative touch screen of iOS devices. I am proud to report 2 years later that I was right. The puzzle platforming game where the items can be created from a vast dictionary of items, and modified with a series of adjectives, is as entertaining as ever, and is right at home on iOS.
13. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing - When Sega puts their full effort into a project, the quality really comes through. It's a serviceable kart racer with the standard weapons and powerups available, with great controls and a useful turbo boost mechanic. That it's on iOS gives it a lot of points where on other platforms it might just be another fun kart racer, but the fact is that this is a really good game, with top of the line features for iOS, even with a fun online multiplayer mode, which is something that is still always cool to check out on the platform. As well, the Sega fan service is part of the fun, too - racing through a Jet Set Radio series level while piloting a rocket piloted by a ChuChu from ChuChu Rocket feels more special than racing any Mario character at this point.
12. Whale Trail: 2011 was a great year for endearing protagonists and endless runner games. Whale Trail was one of the true gems of the year, as it was a beautifully-designed game: the art was top-notch, the music composed by Gruff Rhys helped create a magical and whimsical world, and the gameplay was forgiving, but rewarded precision. The new challenge mode adds a new wrinkle to the game, as it provides short challenge levels that focus on skillful navigation of set levels, instead of randomly-generated endless levels.
11. Super Crossfire - When I was helping to compile this list from 148Apps' writers, one title kept recurring in the lists: this Chillingo-published shmup. It was one of my favorites as well; being able to flip sides in this Space Invaders-esque game that also boasts super attacks was an ingenious twist. The controls worked very well for a touch screen, the upgrade system was simple but provided a great way to feel more powerful as the game went on. It's a time-tested genre with some modern twists, and it works perfectly.
10. Dead Space - EA did the smart thing in bringing this horror shooter to iOS. They built the game for the platform - they optimized the controls and gameplay to work even with the touch screen involved. This is something that even games designed for the platform fail to keep in mind, and Dead Space just about nailed it. It became a must-play for fans of the franchise by being an original story, as well; it also managed to create a scary atmosphere even on a 3.5 inch screen, though playing on the iPad was definitely quite the experience.
9. iBlast Moki 2 - Each little puzzle in this game is like part of a delicate machine. The solution may be to move a bomb just a couple pixels to the left, or to set it off a 20th of a second later. When this game gets going, it requires the kind of planning, and intellectual approach that a game like Angry Birds, which does rely a lot on the physical act of using the trebuchet to launch the birds, cannot provide. There is nothing quite so satisfying as watching the little Rube Goldberg machine I've constructed of bombs launching fuzzy little creatures around succeed just as I planned, after so many tweaks. The fact that the game also comes with a level editor so robust that Godzilab themselves made all the levels in the game with it is just icing on the cake.
8. Death Rally - Oh, look, it's an isometric racing game with combat. How novel, said the liar. Well, it's free, I might as well check it out. Hey, this is pretty fun. These upgraded weapons are pretty cool. I can race against Duke Nukem? How cool. I really want to beat the Adversary, but I need to race him perfectly. Just one more run, and I've got him. Okay, that was challenging, but I finally did it! Well, that was a novel use of a few minutes...wait, where did my afternoon go? Didn't I have things I was going to do? Whoops. Guess I'll just play some more.
7. Jetpack Joyride: My first extended experience with this game was the day I had to report for jury duty. That day was long, as I had to go through an extensive jury selection process for an important trial. I had plenty of downtime outside of that, and pretty much all of it was spent playing this game. One session turned into another, and then another, and then just one more to try to collect the coins to unlock that new jetpack, or that new outfit. It was some of the most fun any person has ever had on a day where they've been selected for a lengthy trial.
6. NBA Jam: The problem with bringing a lot of retro titles to iOS is the touch screen. Virtual buttons and joysticks are something that people still have problems with, but I myself have gotten used to them and just want people to stop griping about them. However, there is one glaring problem: any game that uses more than 2 buttons that need to be pressed regularly run into issues. The lack of muscle memory for where physical buttons are makes this a hassle. NBA Jam solved this by using a sliding mechanic - there's a turbo button in the bottom right corner, pass button to the left, shoot button above. Sliding from turbo to pass or shoot when needed was simple, and it solved the three-button issue in a way that allowed this game to work its magic on iOS. And really, because the game had both been out of regular circulation in gaming for long enough to feel fresh again, and because its core mechanics were just fantastical enough to work without much tweaking in the modern day, this was just a ton of fun to play on iOS.
Come back on Friday to see the games we selected as the top 5 games of the year 2011.