Arithmetic has never been so strangely fun as in Calculords, a collectible card game from developer Ninja Crime and comedy writer Seanbaby that puts math calculations at its very core. It has a bit of a learning curve, and its NES-inspired retro art style may prove divisive, but there’s a lot to like once you get over that initial hump. Computer-controlled opponents give as good as — or even better than — they get, complete with snappy taunts and humorous sci-fi-referencing one-liners, and you can easily find yourself locked in battles for hours without noticing how much time has passed.
Thanks in no small part to Bejeweled and Candy Crush, match-three puzzle games have made a curious resurgence in recent years, especially within the mobile market. We’ve seen match-threes dressed up as dungeon crawlers, medical simulations, pet shops, and even a shanty-laden pirate drama. Another Case Solved, the latest such app from Chillingo, tosses a few additional mini-games into the mix and goes the way of the 1940s-era private detective.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then PopCap must feel downright exalted upon spotting this new casual tower-defense affair. Trolls vs Vikings is so similar to the massively successful Plants vs. Zombies that the two would be barely discernible if not for this game’s slightly cruder art style. Almost every friendly and enemy unit and gameplay element has a direct analogue, and while Trolls vs Vikings is competently designed and tries to improve the groundwork that PopCap laid, it whiffs on some of the fundamentals.
Unresponsive controls or a sloppy touch-based interface can often hold back a fighting game from shining on your mobile device. Fright Fight is one iOS brawler that looks a lot like Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, but offers its own simplified combat system and unique touches that together offer a well-rounded experience without the need for a controller. You may not pull off extravagant combos along the way, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be having fun bashing baddies in online showdowns.
Abe Lincoln looks pretty mean with a chainsaw. He’s one of 12 historical figures called in via cloning to save the world (and an underground hobo kingdom) from hordes of monsters, zombies, evil dudes, and man-eating cheeseburgers in Rocket City Studios’ dual-stick hack-and-slash game, Second Chance Heroes. It’s just about as crazy as it sounds, and the wacky premise is backed by solid gameplay. Lincoln is joined by a who’s who lineup of historical clones, including Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte, Joan of Arc, and Queen Elizabeth I (who carries a gatling gun).
Word Puttz definitely gets points for its original premise: take a casual game of Scrabble, throw it on a miniature golf course, add an octopus, and you've got this new free-to-play affair. Okay, so the octopus doesn’t actually have much impact on gameplay other than being your guide to this oddly linguistic puzzle hybrid, but it’s worth mentioning for the sheer oddity — and in that vein follows the essence of Word Puttz itself.
The original Dungeon Keeper series on PC turned the tables on old-school fantasy conventions. Rather than being the do-gooder hero, you instead took the role of a dark overseer tasked with carving out a vast subterranean realm and populating it full of insidious traps, not to mention evil minions primed for slaughtering virtuous warriors. Opening the floodgates and sending the good guys to their doom was a great change from the norm, which made for lots of fun and oft-hilarious moments. Dungeon Keeper on iOS — a free-to-play reboot of sorts — streamlines things enough that it's a different beast from its predecessors, but the series' trademark humor and absorbing lair crafting remains blissfully intact.
Featuring a battle system that feels like the perfect blend of fighting and role-playing encounters, Super Nintendo classic Tales of Phantasia was kept out of Western gamers' hands until it was ported to the Game Boy Advance nearly a decade later. Now almost 20 years after its original release, this classic Japanese RPG makes its way to the App Store in a universal iOS release. Unfortunately for those expecting a seamless port, its new free-to-play format and associated changes make it a less-than-enjoyable trip back in time.
It makes a strange kind of sense that you’d send inhumanly tall and athletic pro basketball players to ward off an alien invasion, as is the offbeat hook for the fun (but generic), free-to-play endless runner, NBA Rush. All 90 players are licensed from the 30 current NBA team rosters, and are modeled in a rough likeness to their real-world selves, right down to their respective signature dunking styles. There’s little to distinguish them beyond aesthetics, however.
True Axis made all the right changes for the sequel to the 2009 hit driving game Jet Car Stunts, with a big visual upgrade, loads of new levels and play modes, a third difficulty level, and intuitive player creation tools added to an almost identical core experience of racing against the clock and navigating insane courses. Jet Car Stunts 2 pushes the challenge factor a bit far at times, but it’s a fine improvement on its predecessor and a fiendishly awesome game in its own right.