The 5 iPhone and iPad games you need to play from January 2019

From 'Tacticool' to 'Roterra,' January's games can whisk you off to a winter wonderland.

hit the light hero
Happymagenta UAB

The best iOS games from January

The world slows down a bit in winter, and last month’s game releases suggest that sluggishness seeps into the world of iPhone games as well. Long-awaited releases like The Elder Scrolls: Blades remained missing in action, and most of the titles we did see were hardly headline-grabbers.

Happily, we found some fun and memorable gems even among the small selection. I’m particularly fond of Roterra: Flip the Fairytale, which reminds me that mobile games still have the power to deliver experiences that differ significantly from what you’ll get on other gaming platforms. If you’ve been looking for some good games to curl up with in these last few weeks of snow and cold, you’ll find a treat in these five titles.

Dig-It Games

Roterra: Flip the Fairytale ($3.99)

Roterra: Flip the Fairytale begins with a princess fleeing from a king and his knights, and in her escape she plunges off the side of a cliff. But this isn’t a tragedy, as traditional physics don’t apply here. This is the world of Roterra, a cubical land that you rotate like a Rubik’s Cube in order to safely guide her to her destination.

Paths cascade along the sides of walls, only to right themselves when our heroine ambles over the edge. Blocks of land frequently look like dead ends, at least until you rotate them to find the proper patch. It’s dreamlike and calming, and it’s a bit like finding your way out of an M.C. Escher drawing. It even faintly reminds me of ARise, but Roterra proves that these kinds of adventures can fare just fine without the gimmick of augmented reality.


Tacticool (Free)

Tacticool is actually, well, cool. I didn’t expect a five-versus-five multiplayer shooter to work this well on the iPhone, but I admit I find myself sneaking in matches when I probably should be doing other things. And I’m normally not even a fan of military shooters.

So many elements just work well. Take the quick matches, for one, which maintain a healthy tempo of action thanks to quick respawns. There’s the “money bag,” which provides another way of earning victory points besides merely slaughtering the opposing team. I especially like the vehicles with guns mounted in the truckbeds, both of which are powered with smart and intuitive touch controls.

hit the light
Happymagenta UAB

Hit the Light (Free)

Hit the Light is a Breakout-style game about chunking everything from bombs and shuriken at intricate neon signs and shattering their glass until you’re left in the dark. As you might have guessed, it takes its name a little literally.

It’s an appealing twist on one of the oldest genres in video games, and I like how Hit the Light sometimes shakes up the formula with other weapons lille dual pistols. The one downside is that it features your choice of an optional $3.99 subscription or annoyingly frequent ads that can last as long as 30 seconds. On the bright side, I find this adds a dose of catharsis to the game itself. After sitting through three such ads within 10 minutes, I’m usually ready to break something.

Joel Rochon

Backfire ($2.99)

Screenshots make Backfire look a lot like Geometry Wars, and that’s true in the sense that both are about bustin’ baddies with a tiny ship. Backfire, though, shakes up the familiar formula with a twist: Your little ship can only fire from the rear.

It seems like a simple change, but it’s jarring enough to make you rethink everything you thought you knew about playing these types of games. Compared to that, the fact that you’re fighting off a demon who invaded an arcade machine doesn’t seem that weird at all. It doesn’t take long to get used to the different perspective, though, and I quickly found myself wanting to try out all of the many different types of ships and projectiles.

alien blackout

Alien: Blackout ($4.99)

Amanda Ripley just can’t seem to get away from aliens. She’s the daughter of series favorite Ellen Ripley, and she’s back in Alien: Blackout, a short suspense game that kicks off after the events of 2014’s Alien: Isolation for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC. In both cases, she’s running from E.T.

The story isn’t all that memorable, but Blackout makes up for it by capturing the tension and horror associated with the series. Having nothing at your disposal besides cameras and motion sensors on a space station, you must guide four visitors away from the xenomorph that's stalking them through the air vents. Sometimes, just to up the ante, the creatures come after you as well. Does Blackout ever match the excellence that was Alien: Isolation? Nah. But if you’re looking for an extra bit of time in the Alien universe, you could do far worse.

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