Getting marooned on a spooky alien world full of creepy crawlies and other unfriendly inhabitants might sound terrifying, but it turns out to be a welcome detour from the dull depths of space in Capsized+ for iPad. Exploration and survival in this beautifully hand-drawn 2D platform shooter make for a satisfying balancing act, one made all the more interesting by the diverse ways you can traverse and interact with the harsh planetscape.
Developed by Angry Birds creator Rovio, The Croods is a village-building game inspired by DreamWorks’ latest CG animated film. With these two studios behind it, you might expect the game to be a sure thing, both as a promotional tool and as a fun iOS game for all ages. Instead, this freemium title isn’t the least bit charming, and all it seems to want is your money. Your objective is to create resources for the prehistoric Croods family by trapping, taming, and caring for wild animals, but the game downplays its characters in favor of a hollow gameplay approach.
Like Angry Birds Star Wars before it, Star Wars Pinball pairs the beloved sci-fi franchise with a proven mobile framework. In this case, it's the excellent Zen Pinball, which serves up original digital tables that look and play like the real thing. Available as a universal standalone app, Star Wars Pinball delivers a great table based on The Empire Strikes Back, complete with moving sections that take after film scenes. Additional tables are sold within, and all can be purchased and downloaded within the main Zen Pinball app, though this is the only way that iPhone 5 players can currently experience the tables in full screen.
NightSky is the kind of game that drops you into its world without a whole lot of explanation. Start a new file and you'll see a luminescent sphere, your charge that must be navigated over various physics-based environmental challenges. But you don't need much else to go on, really. In the opaque opening, you wonder over the origins of this mysterious object. Is it alive? Is it a crystal? The answer is unknown. You'll soon find out how effective a premise it is for the game’s atmospheric, ethereal tone.
It's amazing what a simple change in perspective can do. Dropping the third dimension of typical sims in favor of a side-scrolling approach made the original Super Stickman Golf a revelatory mobile experience, both with its puzzle-platform single-player courses and the raucous speed-based multiplayer showdowns. Considering the ample success of the debut, Super Stickman Golf 2 expectedly doesn't mess with the formula too much, employing the same mechanics while adding fresh courses, customization options, and another gripping multiplayer mode.
The endless runner genre has been particularly well-plumbed on Apple's devices. Some of the App Store’s best-selling games are not only endless runners, but sequels, spin-offs, and imitators of existing genre entries. This environment leaves very little room for plucky upstarts like Danger Boat, as it accents similarities and demands innovative differences for a title to really stand out. Danger Boat is, at its core, very much like others in the genre. From an overhead perspective, you'll use tightly responsive tilt controls on your iPhone or iPad to steer past obstacles such as missiles, rocks, and depth charges.
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Catching scads of fish at once and then blasting them with a firearm as they're launched into the sky? It sounds like dumb fun – and it is, at first – but also potentially a flimsy gag concept intended only for shock and momentary diversion. Luckily, there's much more beneath the surface of Ridiculous Fishing, and that's not simply an easy water pun. It's the difference between a game designed for laughs and an experience made with heart, and the distinction between a title you'll pull out for moments and one that'll command your attention as you plunge into the vivid depths.
Like other popular games ported to iOS, Minecraft: Pocket Edition has spawned an abundance of "me too" clones attempting to cash in on the game's prolific momentum. Block Fortress certainly looks like just another carbon copy to throw on the pile, but it's a very different experience once you dig beneath the surface. Instead of grand exploration and adventure, this frenetic tower defense game mixes first-person shooter combat, base building, and an addicting RPG progression and unlocking system to create something that feels fresh and fun.
Liberation Maiden has all the makings of a title by Goichi Suda (a.k.a. Suda51), the eccentric creator behind console games like Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer7. In this iOS shooter, you play as a Japanese schoolgirl named Shoko and blast robotic terrorists aboard your flying mech suit; on top of that all, she’s also the president of New Japan, set 100 years in the future. Its bizarre premise brings with it shooter action that’s beautiful to look at and fun to play, but ultimately leaves you hungry for more.