On consoles, The House of the Dead: Overkill took one of the most well-trodden premises imaginable – shooting zombies in first-person, on rails – and used it to create one of the most memorably over-the-top games of all time. Taking tropes from grindhouse horror movies and cranking them to ridiculous levels, HotD:O was gruesome, hectic, and – as its characters awkwardly shoehorned f-bombs into nearly every sentence – so deliberately crass that it was impossible to see it as anything other than a comedy. The iOS version, subtitled The Lost Reels, scales all that back considerably.
It's become increasingly popular to try and shoehorn console-style shooters onto iOS, but there's still something to be said for building a game around a system's limitations, rather than ignoring them. With that in mind, Frontline Commando: D-Day might look like a World War II-themed third-person shooter with (presumably) kludgy controls, but it's actually an arcade-y series of shooting galleries linked by auto-runner sequences. That combination creates a streamlined experience that lets us focus on what really matters: ducking behind cover and popping up just long enough to shoot Nazis in the face.
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.
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.
As it stands, 2013 isn't looking like a particularly stellar year for games based on the Aliens franchise. Alien vs. Predator: Evolution is not quite the high-profile disaster that Aliens: Colonial Marines was on other platforms, as it does a valiant job of creating a longer-form brawler for iPhone and iPad – but the game is sadly plagued with consistent crashes and occasionally infuriating mechanics. Somewhere under the problems, there may be a really enjoyable title here. But without some polish, Evolution will remain a mediocre allusion to a beloved old PC game.
Gun Bros 2 is Glu Mobile’s latest take on the twin-stick shooter formula, which maintains much of the same action-packed approach as the original while adding new elements. Unfortunately, nearly everything added here has sullied the Gun Bros experience, and feels misdirected and actively anti-consumer. In the game, you'll make your way through arena-style levels filled with oncoming waves of enemies, which you can dispatch using the two virtual sticks that respectively let you move and fire weapons.
"Are you sure it is a good day to Die Hard?" asks a terribly voiced Russian enemy as our hero perishes for the umpteenth time. The corny, self-aware line would almost make sense in the universe of Die Hard films, where cheesy one-liners are expected. But in the case of the A Good Day to Die Hard tie-in game for iPhone and iPad, it's just another example of an altogether laughable licensed title, one that's plagued with monotonous gameplay and horrid in-app purchase pandering.
Sometimes, it feels like it’s hard to say anything new about the Call of Duty franchise. Foreign extremist group threatens the world, the hero shoots scads of terrorists in the face — you know the drill. But Black Ops manages something unique. New additions to online multiplayer offer an incentive to keep returning to the well, the zombie-blasting mode returns in a big way, and the entire affair is wrapped in one of the craziest, most exciting narratives in the series.
With its shiny trappings, familiar wasteland heroes, and cool top-down perspective on Pandora's desolate post-apocalyptic landscape, Borderlands Legends HD makes an impressive transition from a first-person shooter on other platforms to an iOS hybrid of real-time strategy and tower defense. The slick presentation is deceiving, however, since muddling through battle after battle is more often then not an unwieldy, unsatisfying experience.