If you're an intergalactic space miner by trade, there are worse fates than getting stranded on a giant red planet rich with subterranean minerals, danger, and excitement. With nowhere to go but deeper and deeper beneath the planet's surface, Mines of Mars teases you along into its Metroid-style adventure by putting up subtle barriers and giving you a means to overcome them: mining. The balance between gathering, crafting, and exploring is well tuned to draw you in, even if other aspects of navigating the planetscape feel weak by comparison.
Open-ended, world-building sandbox games are spawning at an increasingly rapid pace on iOS of late, with each offering a slightly different twist on Minecraft's addictive mix of exploration, scavenging, building, and crafting. While Terraria builds off of the Minecraft vibe in some interesting and adventurous ways, Junk Jack X copies it a bit too blatantly. Lack of originality aside, that's not entirely a bad thing. Translating many of the familiar-looking gameplay and visual elements to 2D works fairly well, offering moments of fun for patient players with collection obsessions.
Must. Dig. Deeper. With its cool retro 2D aesthetic and exhaustive range of open-ended adventuring pursuits to follow, Terraria is a habit-forming romp through massive 16-bit-inspired worlds filled with secrets to explore, crazy stuff to build, and an absurd level of components to collect and build with. Minecraft fans, take note: This is a similarly addictive and creative experience, albeit one viewed through the lens of the Super Nintendo era of gaming. Far from a straight port from the previous PC and console releases, this portable version of the indie hit packs (almost) all of the wonder and depth of the original, alongside a few really excellent tweaks that make playing on iOS a real treat.