The 2010 App Gems Awards

7 best iOS games of the year

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[This article is part of our 2010 App Gems Awards series, honoring the best apps of 2010.]

Best Transition to the iPad

Angry Birds HD ($5)

By Chillingo

  (read review)

In making the leap to the iPad, Angry Birds HD kept the core gameplay of the popular iPhone version—defeat egg-stealing green pigs by bombarding their fortifications with the none-too-pleased ornithoids of the game’s title—while making the most of the tablet’s spacious screen. On the iPad, you can really appreciate the clever animations and intricate level design. With new updates including a new boomerang bird and new levels, Angry Birds continues to improve—and impress.—CHRIS HOLT

Platform Game of the Year

The Incident ($2)

By Big Bucket Software

  (read review)

Frank Solway’s having one of those days where it seems like the whole world is falling down on him—which, to be fair, it kind of is. Big Bucket Software’s The Incident is not only gorgeous, featuring detailed 8-bit artwork inspired by platform games of yore, but its simple tilt-to-run and tap-to-jump controls make it a snap for even the casual gamer to pick up and start playing. The game’s appeal goes beyond the retro, too: innovative features let you use your iPhone as a controller for the iPad or—with the help of Apple’s iPad video adapter—use your HDTV as a display.—DAN MOREN

Casual Game of the Year

Fruit Ninja (iPhone version, $1)

By iPad version, $5; Halfbrick Studios

  (read review)

Whether in iPhone or iPad forms, Fruit Ninja boasts two ideal qualities for casual gaming—it’s easy to learn and fun to master. In this funny, quick game, you slice your way through a diverse array of delicious fruit flying across your screen in a Kill Bill-style pulpy fruit massacre. Adding to the fun are great visuals, including lots of fruit juice flying with every slice, and a great, Eastern-infused soundtrack. Avenging yourself against produce has never been so fun.—CHRIS HOLT

Tower Defense Game of the Year

Plants vs. Zombies ($3)

By PopCap Games

  (read review)

Another game that delivers the goods in either iPhone or iPad form, Plants vs. Zombies is a unique tower defense game in which you must plant peapods, mushrooms, squash, and other deadly legumes to fight back the zombie hordes. The beautiful cartoon artwork is on the right side of zany and sets a light-hearted tone from the get-go. The zombies are silly, distinctive enemies that vary in character—besides your standard groaning zombies, you also have to fend off zombie football players and balloon riders, who each boast their own distinctive battle skills. Various mini-games and numerous achievements to unlock will keep you coming back again and again.—CHRIS HOLT

Puzzle Game of the Year

Osmos for iPad ($5)

By Hemisphere Games

  (read review)

When you first hear about it, Osmos for iPad doesn’t sound all that exciting: You tap the screen to propel your small blob of matter, aiming to absorb smaller blobs while avoiding those larger than you. And the truth is, Osmos isn’t all that exciting. But it’s undeniably enthralling, combining gorgeous graphics and hauntingly beautiful music—use headphones or you’ll miss out—with Multi-Touch gestures that let you zoom in and out and slow down and speed up time. Gameplay is simultaneously casual yet exacting, frustrating yet oddly relaxing. It’s a game that feels made for the iPad, and like the objects on the screen, it will suck you in if you’re not careful.—DAN FRAKES

Strategy Game of the Year

Carcassonne ($10)

By The Coding Monkeys and Hans im Glück

  (read review)

Though it hews closely to the popular German board game upon which it’s based, Carcassonne seems tailor-made for the iOS. Like its cardboard predecessor, the mobile version is all about laying down tiles, building roads and castles, claiming territory, and trying to prevent your opponents from doing the same. But the iOS offering adds multiplayer modes (via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or pass-and-play) as well as solitaire play against eight different computerized opponents with differing strategies, and the simple graphics look great on the touchscreen. It’s a great iOS app for one other reason: A single game takes about as long as the average American’s daily commute.—DAN MILLER

Multiplayer Game of the Year

Words With Friends HD ($3)

By Newtoy

  (read review)

Words With Friends for iPhone gave the Facebook Scrabble craze its first real competition, letting you play multiple Scrabble-like word games with friends near and far—even when you’re on the go. (The built-in chat feature for lexical trash talking is also fun.) But Words With Friends HD eliminates the iPhone version’s biggest frustration by giving you a usable full-board view—no more zooming in and out, in and out. Once you’re hooked, you’ll find yourself anxiously awaiting that distinct chime letting you know one of your opponents has finished a turn—and hoping it’s not a triple-letter/triple-word play of Q-U-I-Z.—DAN FRAKES

[Continue on to read about a dozen of our other favorite apps of 2010.]

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