Chaos is the defining element of Colossatron: Massive World Threat, the latest iOS original from Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride creator Halfbrick. At any given moment, your gargantuan, snake-like, robotic alien creature could span a couple dozen weaponized segments in length while a barrage of tanks, helicopters, and flying drones assault it from all sides — and that’s all wrapped within a delightfully cheesy local newscast design, with the anchor and on-scene reporter chatting while bits of info pop up on the display. It makes for an undeniably lively experience, and one that becomes more interesting as you really grasp the color-matching mechanics that drive the mayhem. But that chaos comes at an odd contrast to the game’s design and scope, which feel curiously restrained — as if this were a slick first draft that hadn’t yet been fully fleshed out.
The Tomb Raider series has come a long way since it first appeared way back in 1996, as anyone who's played the new version by Crystal Dynamics can attest, but if you yearn for a simpler time, there's good news for you on the App Store today. Starting today, you can get the original game for just a dollar.
The first thing you'll notice when starting up Lawless is the insane level of detail applied to the arcade-style shooter’s characters and environments. It’s seriously one of the best-looking mobile games this side of Infinity Blade III. But much like how an intriguing-looking book might be devoid of anything interesting to say, a game’s contents may not match its memorable sheen — and that's definitely the case here. The intense firefights and crew-based combat of Lawless quickly lose their shine, and it ultimately proves to be just another tepid free-to-play grind.
With a subtitle like “The Next Generation Slicing Game,” KingHunt invites comparison to other titles in this done-to-death genre. Most slicing games — the definitive example being Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja — are ostensibly endless: you’re free to keep playing as long as possible without failing. KingHunt’s hook is that it features all of the trappings of more traditional action games, like power-ups, life bars, distinct levels, and enemy bosses — but it lacks the timing and restraint to keep from feeling mindlessly chaotic.
One-man indie studio Damp Gnat (a.k.a. Reece Millidge) has proven itself a purveyor of experiences that are short, sweet, and sensationally stunning. Last year’s single-screen iPad mini-golf course in Wonderputt made a strong mark, and it’s followed up in the exquisite Icycle: On Thin Ice – a 2D platformer that bears a similarly impeccable sense of design, yet explores altogether different territory. The result is an unforgettable, humor-spiked affair in which you’ll guide a half-naked man on a bicycle through an array of surreal challenges.
Zynga’s Skateboard Slam pulls out some solid tricks and coasts over the finish line without ever breaking a sweat, although its upgrade and level unlocking systems seem cynically balanced to drive additional in-app purchases. In a fun, surprisingly deep, but ultimately somewhat frustrating experience, you stack up gnarly trick combos and race through four vibrant worlds of 10 levels each in a challenge-based single-player campaign, along with multiplayer match-ups.
Darklings' endless arcade-style approach uses gesture controls to deliver an experience that keeps you coming back for more. Using just your finger, you’ll need to draw the symbol that appears above a monster’s head to destroy it before it gets too close and knocks you out. That may sound easy, but with constant waves of enemies coming at you from all sides, plus the ever-present temptation of collecting as much currency as you can, it makes for one challenging and addictive game.
Strike Force Heroes: Extraction is a noble – if uneven – attempt to replicate the classic side-scrolling console shooter. Likely due to the complexity of its control scheme, the genre hasn’t often been particularly well served on iOS devices, but Strike Force Heroes (HD iPad version reviewed; also available separately on iPhone) has found a few clever shortcuts. The result is fun to play in short bursts, even if the smoothness of some controls makes some of the weaker spots more glaring.
Punishing puzzle-platform games are nothing new on iOS, but Stealth Inc. raises the bar in both creativity and challenge with the inventive gauntlet of deadly devices it sends you merrily charging through. Trapped inside a cloning facility, your mission in this clever puzzler is to escape with your hide intact. That's not so easy when there's a vast network of closed-circuit cameras watching from all directions. Outsmarting these mechanical overseers to circumvent the many dangerous traps is a real thrill — assuming you don't mind dying a lot in the process.
Tilt to Live wasn’t easy when it debuted in 2010, and its sequel certainly isn’t easy today. To some degree, you can consider Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous the anti-Asteroids: using tilt controls to command a little arrow avatar, you must rid the screen of all collision-causing obstacles, only instead of shooting them it’s a matter of avoiding them for as long as you can hold out. Basically, you’ll want to keep your arrow from touching plagues of red dots that will hunt you to the ends of the earth in various patterns and formations.