The App Store has an originality problem. Too often, developers ape the exact themes and mechanics from top-selling games, creating a sea of never-ending cartoon birds and temple chases. But despite the incredibly familiar mechanics driving Marvel's new Avengers Initiative, there's no denying the satisfying crunch of a Hulk fist smacking a Skrull. Sure, it's a bit of a knockoff, but the best examples of imitation lead to great new ideas.
Depending on whom you ask, there's a sentiment in some circles that the Japanese games industry is struggling to maintain relevance. While traditional Japanese role-playing games don't clinch the Western market quite as tightly as they once did, The World Ends With You stands as a prime example of the genre's staying power. Actually, it's one of the best role-playing games – regardless of region – we've played in years.
Platformers often come with an expectation of nostalgic bliss -- that starting the game will bring back feelings of blowing into a large plastic cartridge. Mikey Shorts nails its 8-bit-inspired aesthetic. It looks like an HD-infused Super Mario Bros. and sounds so Eighties that it should have the faint noise of a Metallica album behind the chiptune score, as if it's creeping in from behind the closed door of an older sibling's bedroom. The simplicity trickles down to the controls, which consist of a two-way directional pad and jump and slide buttons.
Though Pitfall! for iPhone and iPad shares its namesake with the classic 1982 Atari game, this 30th anniversary "remake" bears little resemblance to its predecessor. It is, through and through, an infinite runner -- a style of game popularized by fantastic titles like Canabalt and last year's hit, Temple Run. Pitfall! doesn’t push any boundaries or blow away expectations, but it is bigger, flashier, and bolder than others of its kind.
The presidential election season is in full swing, with the candidates vying for your approval this November. But if you're quickly growing tired of the back-and-forth campaign ads and serious subjects at hand, VOTE!!! The Game offers some comic relief. Unfortunately, the relief is short-lived; the game's nothing more than a quick novelty gag, hardly worth the space it takes up on an iOS device.
It's always a rare treat when I stumble upon a portable game that delivers a console quality experience I can take with me on-the-go. Unassuming name aside, Horn is a stunning feat of techno-wizardry and easily one of the most impressive iOS games of 2012. Created by Phosphor Games, the same studio responsible for the eerie Dark Meadow, this absorbing iOS action adventure looks and feels like it would be right at home in your living room.
One of the App Store's earliest original sensations returns in Fieldrunners 2, a sequel to the tower defense affair in which you'll place towers across various open battlefields to repel the coming forces. Much like in the original, the myriad Gatling guns and missile turrets can typically be placed in dozens of locations, letting you concoct winding mazes to direct the enemy grunts and tanks through, and it adds an extra layer of strategy to consider as you aim to protect your base.
Whether by good old-fashioned breakout or tunneling out unseen, an escape is an essential part of any good prison tale. In the case of Adult Swim’s Super Mole Escape, it’s the main event. Choosing from a number of unlockable mole convicts with varying speed, strength and stamina, Super Mole Escape is an arcade-style endless runner fashioned downward, using simple touch or tilt controls to direct your detainee’s path as they descend deep into the earth.
Slices for Twitter tries hard to differentiate itself from the masses of iOS apps designed around the social networking service, and while it doesn't quite race clear of the pack of third-party options, it offers some great ideas and solid execution. Combining a clean and responsive interface with everything you'd expect from a stellar client (sans push notifications), Slices emphasizes the discovery aspect of Twitter with its extra functionality.
Giving a heavy nod to Ridley Scott's oh-so-creepy Alien film series, Alien Breed delivered a good dose of top-down sci-fi arcade adventure back when it first came out for the Amiga. Its portable debut is punctuated with plenty of crawly beast-blasting fun that spans the original game, an updated special edition, and a handful of all-new levels created for its iOS release. While the formula feels a little dated, there's still plenty of pull left in this intense bid for survival amidst the horrors of deep space.