February’s best iOS games
Mention the word February at random, and I’d say the minds of most folks drift to thoughts of love, relationships, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Sorry, but you won’t be getting anything like that from us. We can, however, give you a list of iPhone and iPad games we believe you’ll love as much as we do.
There’s a little something to love for everyone from last month’s releases, ranging from the space-age adventures of Star Traders: Frontiers to the one-finger hacking and slashing of Immortal Rogue. And if you never got around to celebrating the newly arrived Year of the Pig, we strongly recommend you check out Spicy Piggy. Let’s see what treats we have in store, shall we?
Immortal Rogue ($4.99)
Let’s say you’ve been snoozing for 100 years. You’d want to take your time learning about the new world you’re waking up to, right? Not if you’re the protagonist of Immortal Rogue. He’s a vampire that awakes and starts slaughtering folks from different eras with the swiftness that some people reach for their morning coffee. If the samurai or industrial workers he encounters manage to kill him quickly (and they often do, early on), he’s sent back to sleep for another 100 years to regain his strength.
Good thing the story barely matters in this delightful roguelike hack-and-slash. It’s packed with commuter-friendly short levels, and its touch controls for movements, light attacks, and heavy attacks work so well that you can play the whole game with only one finger. Most levels are randomized, but you’ll fight some preset bosses on your way to Dracula himself, and Immortal Rogue enlivens this adventure by letting you choose to kill or recruit specific foes for perks.
Boost Buddies (Free)
Boost Buddies begins with a cute kitty falling from the heavens, who then crashes at the bottom of a cave several meters below the surface. And so begins the Sisphyean mission of the cat and his unlockable friends: He boosts straight up with the help of a rocket (and taps of your fingers), carefully timing his boosts while evading spikers, lasers, and pendulums in order to grab a crown. And when he succeeds? Why, he does it again and again, but with ever more challenging obstacles between him and the golden cap.
But this is far from punishment. I don’t mind enduring hours of it. Boost Buddies is wildly addicting; a bit like an upward-facing Flappy Bird with more literal and figurative depth. You’ll end up wading through a deep pile of ads, too, unfortunately, but happily it’s one of those games where these delays remind me of how eager I am to get back to playing.
Linn: Path of Orchards ($2.99)
Few genres of mobile gaming make the leap to art so easily as the platformer, and Linn: Path of Orchards slips into that tradition almost as easily as Monument Valley or Limbo. Almost. Its visuals are memorable, its soundtrack is lush, but its gameplay involves leaping to spinning dynamic platforms that demand a degree of dexterity with double jumps and charged dashes. All the while, you need to collect shards that restore the light to a holy tree.
It’s frustrating and meandering sometimes, and so I never felt myself slipping into the “Zen” mode familiar from similar-looking games like Alto’s Odyssey. Fortunately, none of its 14 levels drag on for too long. Even its difficulty comes with its own beauty: When you complete a level and make every jump without a hitch, you may feel as divinely inspired as its priestly hero.
Star Traders: Frontiers ($6.99)
Star Traders: Frontiers’ many influences suggest it should be little more than a forgettable satellite around the worlds of Star Trek, Mass Effect, and even Firefly, but it manages to exert a substantial gravitational tug of its own. The Trese Brothers originally released it for PC last year, but its appealing mix of strategy and roleplaying makes a fine match for mobile. And while there’s a lot to do here, it rarely feels overcomplicated.
Frontiers’ star shines brightly in part because of its personality. Other spacefaring games lean too heavily on familiar sci-fi tropes, but Frontiers presents a galaxy where space pirates conduct trade or hobnob with fellow corsairs while dressed like gunslingers or 18th-century rajahs. Nor is this individualization merely for show, as each crew member plays a vital role in combat missions and planetary exploration. Free of strict devotion to existing properties, Frontiers is able to go places where few other mobile space sims have gone before.
Spicy Piggy (Free)
This little piggy went to the market, this little piggy stayed home, and this little piggy in particular went squealing across the landscape while chomping chili peppers and belching fire. That’s Spicy Piggy, all right—a platformer that only gives you options for jumping, sliding, and spitting fire. I’m glad it doesn’t have more than that, as you need to remember to use all this while Piggy moves relentlessly to the right.
You’ll also need focus. The intensity quickly escalates, and soon our porcine pal is dodging spikes, evading heavy boulders, burning walls, and frying enemies within the span of the same 10 seconds. Checkpoints can make levels easier, but only if you’ve gathered enough peppers or watched enough videos ads. Like Volgarr the Viking or Super Meat Boy, it’s one of those platformers that’s as much about memorization as dexterity. Get the hang of the occasionally fiddly controls, though, and you’ll pig out on it for hours.