Welcome to our weekly gaming column. Every Tuesday, we march through the mediocre multiplayers, sift through the sordid sporting titles, and pound through the petty platformers to find the best, most interesting iOS gaming gems.
As of today, the app store has well over 225,000 applications ready for download. By our count, at least 220,000 of those feature the word “Modern” and a synonym for “warfare.” But, alas, we’re not here to judge. Well, we kind of are. But a surprising number of these apps are actually good.
Modern Conflict is part of that elite grouping. Borrowing and combining gameplay from Castle Warriors and Strategery is fine by us. I mean we’re not really sold on the hokey storyline (Russia takes sides with an imaginary terrorist country thing), but at least China makes an appearance. As long as all the sensational political bases are covered, right?
Whoa! Look at those realistic bases!
The game is really, really, really fast-paced; it requires more double-tapping and quick strategy planning than just about any game we’ve played. Even after some time to hone your craft, there’s no denying that Modern Conflict is an awfully difficult affair. But nobody’s complaining about a little difficulty (see: Crystal Defenders). At the end of each level, you’re given a score so you can retry until you best your best later.
Check it out: for an incredibly fast-paced mix of Strategery strategy and Castle Warriors gameplay.
Hemisphere Games Inc
Have you ever wanted to be an amorphous ball that shot away pieces of yourself to propel your blobby body towards smaller, absorbable creatures? Lucky for you, Hemisphere Games, Inc. is here to reward your ambitious dreams, and they do it in remarkable style.
Look Ma, no hands!
From the get go, Osmos is a mesmerizing experience. The gameplay encourages a slow pace, which is a welcome change after a few rounds of Modern Conflict. In fact, attempting to play this game quickly will have you losing faster than Brandon Flowers at a “pluralize the word ‘Dancer’” competition. Even touching your iPad too much can be disadvantageous. That’s why it’s best to relax, unwind and let this hypnosis unfold.
Check it out if you: liked Spore for iPhone.
It’s hard to imagine anyone loving a game that forces you to clean bird poop from the screen. But it is possible, at least in this virtual world.
Tap Birds takes the tried and true Tamagotchi formula and expands it to the millionth degree. You get to do all sorts of cool stuff like “love” your birds, feed them, or sell them off for some quick cash. However, we couldn’t bear the thought of selling our birds into indentured servitude, where they would be forced to clean up their own poop.
Oh, did you think we were kidding?
The abundance of options to care for your feathered friends is what makes this one stand out.
Check it out if you: liked Tap Fish and Tamagotchi.
Samurai: Way of the Warrior is an undeniably stylish app by Madfinger games. There’s a background story presented in beautiful, stylized form, with cell shaded graphic styles that look a lot like the intrinsically cool Afro-Samurai.
You can’t tell from the screen, but we went on to get a million hit combo right after this.
You'll have to try your hand at getting huge combos to unlock more moves, and at first, you probably won’t even pop up above a 10-hit combo. This is a direct result of the tricky controls, with the same general swiping being assigned to both running and attacking. But, there’s good news: After a bit of samurai training, you’ll be hacking and slashing more than Freddy Krueger with bronchitis.
Check it out if you: Want to test out your Fruit Ninja skills on people.
iPhone or iPad
Crystal Defenders is a Square Enix title offered on both the iPad and iPhone. For some baffling reason, it’s not a universal app, so you’ll have to choose whether you’d rather play it on a small screen or a big screen (pro tip: choose the iPad).
The decidedly old-fashioned and fun visual style is both nostalgic and just plain awesome. There are tons of different sprites that comprise each wave.
Mom's Jello monsters didn't stand a chance...
You can also "hire" people to help defend, instead of building fortresses. Unfortunately, when you “hire” a character, they aren’t exactly tied directly to the plot of land you put them on. They wander a bit to attack within their range, which is technically no different then buildings firing at a distance, but it seems so much cooler this way.
So, what separates Crystal Defenders from the leagues and leagues of other tower defense games in the App Store? Well, there’s the fact that it’s really, really hard, though there’s a specific strategy for each level. That can be a little frustrating for seasoned tower defenders, looking for a Fieldrunners level of freedom.
Check it out if you: always wanted to play Fieldrunners...with chocobos.
Editor's High Score: 3544 p
That's actually a really, really low high score.
So, there you have it. Beat our high score and drop us a line and we’ll tweet your legendary status. Know a game you’d like to see featured? Sound it off in the comments.
Follow this article's author, Nic Vargus, on Twitter.