April's iOS games
There’s always something new to play on your iPhone or iPad, but with loads and loads of games pouring into the App Store every week, it can be tough to find the real gems in the pile. Luckily, our monthly iOS games roundup is designed to alleviate that hassle, as we’ve browsed the listings, followed the buzz, and found the 10 biggest and most compelling new games from the last month.
April’s largest release was surely the new Harry Potter game, which lets you create your own witch or wizard and begin training at Hogwarts, although we weren’t thrilled with the freemium approach. Luckily, there’s plenty more worth considering from the month. Read about all of April’s most notable releases—including Oddmar, Brew Town, and Project Highrise—in the slides ahead.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Free)
No, it’s not Niantic’s location-based Harry Potter game—that’s still coming in the future. Still, fans of the massively popular movie and book franchise might want to try Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, a new game that lets you create your own character and attend Hogwarts to train as a wizard or witch.
Hogwarts Mystery strongly looks and feels like a Harry Potter experience, as you lets you explore Diagon Alley and roam the halls of Hogwarts. That said, it’s a limited affair: You’ll complete classes simply by tapping buttons that appear, occasionally draw a spell command, or choose dialogue options. And unfortunately, the freemium elements really drain the fun even with the alluring atmosphere.
Here’s a stunning 2D platform-action affair that looks and plays like a full-blooded console game. Oddmar hails from the team behind the excellent Leo’s Fortune, and it’s similarly lush and inviting. This time around, you’ll command the titular Viking, an outcast who stumbles upon an opportunity to redeem himself by embarking on a grand quest.
Oddmar's hand-drawn, cartoon-like look is simply stunning, and the blend of platform-hopping movement and puzzle-solving scenarios is rich and entertaining. The touch controls seem up to the task of getting you through the 24 levels without unneeded frustration, but you can use a gamepad if you really want the full console-like experience.
Trick Shot 2 ($3)
The original Trick Shot was a delightfully low-key, obsession-worthy gem from a couple years back, and now Trick Shot 2 has dribbled onto the court with some ball-bouncing challenges of its own. The core objective remains the same: You’ll need to fling a ball into a box, with bonus points for a swish. Sounds easy enough, right? Of course, it rarely ever is.
Trick Shot 2 ups the ante with tougher obstacles and stages, along with a level editor for designing and sharing your own insane challenges. We recommend starting off with the original if you haven't already, but if you've done that and you find yourself craving more, Trick Shot 2 is certainly up to the task.
Brew Town (Free)
Got a thing for craft beer? If you love the idea of brewing your own special suds and building a craft empire, then you might get a kick out of Brew Town. This lightweight simulator and management game lets you start small with an up-and-coming brewery and gradually grow it into an empire, all while getting hands-on in various ways.
You’ll choose from different varieties of beer and select the special ingredients that make each distinct, even going as far as designing your bottles and cans. All the while, you’ll bottle fresh batches, fulfill orders, upgrade buildings, and try to transform your little operation into a lasting business. Brew Town is a freemium game, but thankfully it never feels pushy.
Ovivo is an inventive little platform game that has drawn raves since hitting iOS. What makes it so distinctive? Aside from the minimal, monochromatic aesthetic, Ovivo’s biggest hook is the ability to shift a little orb between the white and black areas of each level while gravity flows downwards in white and upwards in black.
The point of all this is to make your way across uneven and often oddly-shaped terrain, and you can only do so by swapping the ball between the black and white areas. And there’s more to it than that: You may also need to use these shifts to build momentum for overcoming larger gaps or obstacles, and some levels even find you escaping large pursuers. It’s pretty mesmerizing stuff.
Project Highrise ($4)
If you have fond memories of SimTower from the early ‘90s or like the idea of a much meatier take on Tiny Tower, then Project Highrise might be right up your alley—at least if you have an iPad. Brought over from Mac and PC, Project Highrise is a spiritual successor to SimTower, and it puts you in charge of nearly every aspect of a skyscraper and its inhabitants.
What’s your dream building? Do you want to pack it with rental units and penthouses, or build the world’s tallest stack of offices? You’ll handle construction, rentals, and try to keep tenants happy, and you'll delve into the nitty-gritty management of electricity, water, and more. It’s a deep, computer-style simulation that still works well on a tablet screen.
Touchgrind BMX 2 (Free)
It’s been seven years since the original iOS game, but Illusion Labs is finally back with Touchgrind BMX 2, an updated version of the handlebars-spinning, big air-grabbing bike game. Can’t stomach the idea of barreling downhill, vaulting up a ramp, and pulling off gnarly stunts on your real bike? Well, here’s the next best thing.
You’ll see only the bike on the screen, but you can maneuver it over various tracks with two fingers and then swipe when you want to spin and flip when airborne. It looks great, feels responsive, and even lets you customize your own bike in various ways. It’s like an amped-up version of those finger-driven Tech Deck BMX toys, but thankfully a lot easier to command.
The Pillars of the Earth ($5)
Based on the massively popular novel by Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth is a narrative adventure game with a beautiful hand-drawn look and an engrossing narrative. The Pillars of the Earth takes place in 12th-century England, where you'll follow the village of Kingsbridge for 30 years after its inhabitants start building a cathedral.
It’s a tale of war, struggle, and romance, and you'll see it through the eyes of three different characters whose stories intertwine throughout the years. Only the first of three “books” of chapters is included so far, with more to come, and reviews suggest that the quest thus far is slow-paced but ultimately compelling.
If you dug games like Square Enix's Lara Croft Go and Hitman Go, then you’ll almost certainly dig Vandals as well. In both visuals and gameplay, it's a pretty clear homage to the whole Go franchise in that it involves stealthily navigating fixed pathways while completing objectives and evading capture.
The theme, though, is much different. Vandals is all about street art and self-expression, with your hooded artist attempting to tag the world with his/her messages and designs without being scooped up by the police. From what we’ve played, Vandals doesn’t make any huge tweaks to the Go formula, but it's a well-executed tribute nonetheless.
Paladins Strike (Free)
Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins: Champions of the Realm is one of the most popular free-to-play Mac and PC shooters right now, with an Overwatch-like pairing of objective-based gameplay and bold, highly diverse heroes to chose from. And now it’s on iOS devices with Paladins Strike, but this is a very different take on the franchise.
Paladins Strike keeps the colorful look and hero roster, but instead of a first-person shooter, it’s more of a Vainglory-esque MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game with a bigger focus on action. You’ll join up in five-player teams to complete objectives—such as escorting a payload across the map—and as with the computer version, Hi-Rez apparently plans to build an esports scene around this version as well.