November's iOS games
Whether you’re playing on the spectacular iPhone X or something a bit less extravagant (but no less useful), the App Store has plenty of new games to help bring a swipe to your finger and a smile to your face. November saw a pretty sweet stack of compelling iOS game releases, and amidst the excitement and stress of the holiday season, you may need some fresh distractions.
Nintendo’s charming Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is certainly worth a look, as is the dazzling GNOG, but if you’re looking for something heartier to dig into, the console-esque racer GRID Autosport can keep you playing well into the new year. That’s just a taste of what you’ll find within, and be sure to loop back on our October picks if you need some extra options.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (Free)
We’ve already gone in-depth on Nintendo’s latest iOS game, but in case you haven’t heard, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a charming and adorable spinoff of one of the company’s beloved console franchises. You’ll create a little avatar, interact with various animal pals, complete odd jobs to help woo new friends, and build up the best campsite you can.
As explained in our review, it can turn a bit tedious before too long, as the simplistic activities and limited routine doesn’t have a lot of depth to it. But the world and its characters are compelling, and there’s enough personality and appeal here to keep things fun until some big updates come down the line. It’s free, too, with a pretty lightweight freemium system in place.
GRID Autosport ($10)
There’s no shortage of great racing games on iPhone and iPad, and we picked our faves over the summer—but we might have to tweak that list after playing GRID Autosport. It’s billed as a console-quality mobile game, and that’s absolutely true since it’s a port of a 2014 console and PC game. And it really hasn’t suffered in the transition to touch devices.
GRID Autosport delivers realistic racing with simulation-style physics but more forgiving, arcade-like handling, and it packs in the content with 100 cars and 100 tracks to race on. It also runs like a dream on the iPhone X, at least, although you do need a pretty recent iOS device to even run it. The $10 price point is higher than most on the App Store, but it’s worth it for a meaty racing experience, plus all of the add-on downloadable content is totally free.
While a game like The Room tries to challenge and befuddle players with its puzzle boxes, GNOG instead seems content to entertain more than confound. It too gives you a series of puzzling boxes or devices to try and unlock and explore, but it has a very loose and light feel to the exploration, encouraging you to poke and prod until something new happens.
What makes the game such a delight is the variety and visual splendor of each new object—a monster head, to be precise. You’ll flip them around, tap and swipe switches, and be greeted with dazzling graphics all the while. And with augmented reality support, you can even drop the puzzle boxes into your real-world surroundings if you prefer.
Flipflop Solitaire (Free)
Zach Gage is a prolific game designer, but lately he’s been focused on tweaking classic games into something fresh and exciting for mobile. He did that with the great Sage Solitaire and last year’s Really Bad Chess, and now he’s remixing the former card game classic again with the new Flipflop Solitaire. Once more, it’s designed for one-handed play, but in a very different way.
This variant is built to be “unrestrictive” like a sandal (thus its name), letting you stack cards counting up or down—but you can only move stacks of a single suit. It’s a clever twist, and like in Sage Solitaire, it’s the kind of mechanic that adds a welcome bit of challenge to the game. There’s quite a bit to play for free, but you can pay $3 within to unlock extra modes.
Lineage II: Revolution (Free)
Vast and beautiful massively-multiplayer online games are usually found on computers and consoles, but Lineage II: Revolution manages to streamline the experience enough to work on mobile—and it’s no less attractive as a result. Like GRID earlier on this list, Lineage II is a 3D stunner that effectively looks like a glossy Mac game running on your iPhone or iPad.
In action, Lineage II can be played like a mouse-driven online role-player, as you take quests, hack and slash through enemies, and grind for new equipment and higher levels. However, by default, the core loop of running quests is done automatically: you’ll tap a button and watch your hero run to a destination and fight. Whether or not you prefer that approach is up to you, but it helps deliver the feel of an MMO with less need for obsessive attention.
Sky Gamblers - Infinite Jets ($5)
Atypical Games’ Sky Gamblers series has delivered reliable dogfighting fun over the years, and the latest entry Sky Gamblers – Infinite Jets keeps that streak alive in a fresh setting. Scrapping the historical focus of past entries, Infinite Jets adds a modern-day sheen as you take control of speedy, soaring jets above major cities around the world.
The single-player campaign offers shootouts over locales like San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro, as you take down fellow fighter jets and other targets, while the online action promises blistering seven-on-seven battles for aerial supremacy. It’s another slick-looking game that packs in plenty of polish for the $5 asking price (and it’s also on Mac at the same price).
Far From Noise ($3)
Many games deal with death (or let you deal out death), but very few actually bother to contemplate it, or focus on the moments before its seeming imminence. Given that, Far From Noise feels like a very distinctive experience. You see a car teetering over a cliff with the ocean below, and there’s a woman inside. You’re the woman, and you’re kind of freaking out (expectedly).
What unfolds next is a loose conversation about what happened and how she got to this point, first with herself and later with a forest creature who happens by. That’s the whole game: it’s just dialogue options and storytelling, but it’s a compelling way to spend a couple hours and maybe have a deep think about what you’d do in the same, perilous situation.
Neverending Nightmares ($4)
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a something that’s quite a bit freakier, then Neverending Nightmares might suffice. It’s a psychological horror game inspired by the creator’s own battles with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the tendencies he explores manifests themselves in reality as you wander the game world.
It begins in the character’s bedroom and throughout the maze-like house, as you walk the side-scrolling plane and see black-and-white environments covered in distortion. You can interact with colored objects as you explore, and along the way, some seriously, seriously disturbing things happen. The tension is thick, even when nothing is really happening at the moment.
Puzzle Fighter (Free)
Capcom’s Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo is one of the all-time great puzzle games, pairing color-matching gem maneuvering with Street Fighter characters that lob attacks when you clear big chunks from the screen. The new Puzzle Fighter for iOS keeps that same core approach while bringing in characters from other games (like Mega Man and Dead Rising), not to mention a freemium approach.
The core gameplay remains endearing, although not quite as fluid with touch controls as you’d find with a gamepad in past versions. However, this edition is pretty limited in terms of play modes, and unlocking stuff can be kind of a grind. It’s still worth a look, though, even if this isn’t the ultimate version of the brilliant formula.
Tower Fortress (Free)
Nitrome publishes some of the best pixel-packed games on the App Store (like Gunbrick and Magic Mansion), so the release of Tower Fortress certainly caught our attention. It’s a bit like Downwell in reverse, albeit without the sort of frantic helplessness of falling into an unknown darkness filled with things that can kill you.
Instead, you’ll ascend up the tower level by level, blasting or avoiding the things that attempt to slay you and unlocking loads of armor suits and guns along the way. Each run features randomized levels, so you’ll never play the same level twice, plus there are boss battles along the way. How long can you survive in your trek up the tower?