The appearance of a traditional Call of Duty on iOS is long overdue – with the gap ably filled by Gameloft's lookalike Modern Combat series – as earlier entries focused on the Zombies survival side mode from the console games. But much as Call of Duty: Strike Team resembles its big-budget brethren on the surface, it's not quite as typical as it seems thanks to the ability to switch to an overhead tactical view and control multiple squad members with simple taps. And that's a very good thing, as the mobile-friendly perspective is actually the better half of this glossy military shooter experience.
The seemingly blissful union of Adult Swim and developer Pik Pok has resulted in some wonderfully weird iOS affairs, including Robot Unicorn Attack 2, Monsters Ate My Condo, and Extinction Squad – and Giant Boulder of Death only continues that trend. Kicking off with the titular stone seeing its beloved counterpart carved into a statue of a military dictator, the game finds you indiscriminately rolling forth for vengeance through soldiers, spiked barricades, and innocent wildlife alike.
Frantic action games occupy a weird space on iOS, offering right-to-the-point entertainment that's ideal for portable games while often lacking the precise controls such games demand, due to the missing physical buttons. Soul Grinder stands out by doing something uncommon: It offers an experience that not only fits its platform in terms of length and straightforward design, but also by featuring a control scheme that provides just the proper amount of control for an App Store action affair.
Flipping the script from Hutch Games' earlier Smash Cops entries, Smash Bandits spotlights the raucous fun of the getaway, tasking you with creating as much chaos as possible for the TV cameras while evading destruction via aggressive police cruisers. What begins with knocking over orange cones and slamming into cop cars soon turns into commanding a speedboat or briefly manning a tank as this free-to-play affair shows more of its open-city offering. And while the freemium design does limit the action a bit, it thankfully doesn't ruin the fun.
The words "battle train" immediately bring to mind that cool scene from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, wherein Max and his hardscrabble crew are strapped into an armored doom-train, fighting off psycho marauder goons in post-apocalyptic hot-rods. While nowhere near as gritty and ultraviolent, Lionel Battle Train takes that core premise and spins it out into a fun, though sometimes also frustrating rail-bound combat adventure.
RunBot (out this Thursday) is a game about urgency and immediacy that tests how well you can multitask under pressure. Playing as a fugitive robot running away from his creators, you must dodge obstacles, lasers, and enemy drones, all while picking up batteries to ensure you don’t run out of power. It’s an endless runner that rewards you the more you play, and its easy controls and fast-paced gameplay luckily make it difficult to put down.
Getting any serious medical procedure done can be a terrifying experience, and we can only imagine what goes on once you're put under on the operating table. While Amateur Surgeon 3 taps into our worst surgical nightmares in horrifying ways, it's as hilarious as it is grotesque. Removing organs with a chainsaw and pizza cutter, suturing cuts with an office stapler, and cauterizing wounds with a Zippo? That's par for the course with this wildly imaginative and comical – if somewhat gross – take on pressure-cooker medical mini-game scenarios.
BeaverTap Games gained notoriety for its speed-centric platformer, Mikey Shorts, as it was one of the rare side-scrolling iOS action games to nail a control scheme without compromise. Now the titular lead is back with a new mechanical twist in Mikey Hooks, and while his latest move doesn't feel quite as polished in use as his old ones, the game still shows impressive platform-action chops.
Following a tutorial outlining its unique controls, The Drowning tasks you with a reasonable mission for a game about shooting zombie-like creatures: Clear out the area around a potential headquarters. Two minutes later, you might be confused as to why it's over when there are still enemies to slay. Soon, it becomes clear that that's all there is to the game's approach – a series of two-minute time attacks against endless waves of brain-dead enemies. It's not really a bad thing, as it keeps the game playable on the go, but you'll soon find that freemium drawbacks stack up in a hurry and take away from the enjoyable and uniquely controlled combat within.
If Cold War is any indication, the Sky Gamblers series may have reached maximum altitude with last year's stellar Storm Raiders. Sure, there's still plenty of high-flying dogfighting action to be found in this latest entry, but there's a legitimate question as to whether this fourth outing on iOS is running on fumes after so many entries in a relatively compact span of time. Thankfully, Cold War does bring some fresh ideas to the table, and the online multiplayer still provides the best aerial combat on the App Store. But the core campaign experience of Cold War is a bland and tired-looking stroll through what is an otherwise fascinating portion of American history.