Saturday, February 14, 2015


iOS Desert Island Games

It's amazing how quickly my iPad went from the future of game consoles to a portable YouTube machine.  Although it had the potential to deliver all of the advantages of a home game console -- standardized hardware, a system of software oversight -- it ended up with the same problems that PC games give me -- unstable software, upgrades that ruin features and break compatibility.  Plus there's the limitations of a pure touchscreen interface, Apple's reluctance to adopt a controller standard, and the oversaturation of crappy free-to-play software.

But we had some good times, didn't we?  There's a few good games on there that made the platform worthwhile.  These are some games that I continue to enjoy between compulsive Twitter checks.

Plants vs. Zombies

This was the one that reeled me in.  The first time I saw a kid in a fast food restaurant with a giant screen full of peashooters mowing down waves of zombies, I was head over heels.  And the game is pretty gosh darned great.  The main campaign is a lot of fun, with lots of different zombies sporting lots of different abilities and lots of different plants designed to counter them.  So much is going on, but the game teaches you so gradually that it never feels overwhelming.  Not to mention all of the different side games that throw a few new twists into the basic mechanics.

I was a little sad when EA took over Popcap, and my fears were well-founded -- Plants vs. Zombies received a makeover, adding paid content on top of its initial asking price, and its sequel went full freemium.  But y'know.


I've become a little disillusioned with Monopoly after coming to the realization that pure luck plays the biggest part in determining your success or failure, but setting up houses and moving money around is still fun now and then.  The iOS version of Monopoly is a joy, with a very clean look and feel, some easily bamboozled CPU opponents, and some light music that drifts easily into the background.

Knights of Pen and Paper

A fun little throwback to tabletop roleplaying with an 8-bitty graphic and music style.  I'm a little sad that the developers didn't go with their original plan of creating new campaign scenarios to play from the beginning -- I was fond of the Fighting Pit scenario that was available in the original version -- but it's still a fun little diversion to play from beginning to end, experimenting with different player/class matchups.

Tiny Tower

Every mobile gamer should have at least one social/freemium experience in their life, and Tiny Tower is my personal pick for the best.  This game is awfully polite to the player, offering lots of opportunities to acquire the premium currency, little activities for active play, and periodic bonuses that speed up progress the same way premium currency does.  It's a cute little thing that you can watch grow day by day.

Poker Night 2

This is a perfect little lunch break game.  It requires very few inputs and has no timing dependencies, so it's something you can play while you're eating a sandwich or something.  Yeah, the little back-and-forths between the characters get a little repetitive after a while, but it's still quite satisfying to shove a full house in Brock Samson's face.  And GLaDOS is the dealer, how can you not love this.

You Don't Know Jack

This game only gets an honorable mention because, sadly, it's over.  We had some great times, but a quiz game with fully voiced episodes can't last forever, especially when people are mostly playing it for free.

Thanks Jellyvision.

1 Minute RPG

Just what it says on the tin.  It's a game where you can move left and right.  Touch a monster to fight it, pick up potions for bonuses, touch a town to create a save point and recover health.  Victory is mostly a matter of luck -- the best speeds depend entirely on when and where the invincibility potions drop -- but it's something to do for a minute or so while you're standing in line.

Osu! Stream

If Nintendo's not going to give us a new Elite Beat Agents, at least somebody will.  There's no cool comic book cutscenes or recognizable licensed music, but the number-tapping rhythm gameplay is here, exactly like you remember it.  It's even more fun on an iPad; multitouch input allows for some interesting patterns that require you to touch different spots simultaneously, and playing with your fingers feels like a cross between playing a musical instrument and fingerpainting.

The game also features a curious gameplay mechanic.  "Stream" mode offers difficulty settings that ramp up when you do better and ramp down when you fail.  It's something I haven't seen in a rhythm game before, and I like it better than the standard "cut out in the middle of a song" failure.

The game is a cheap download, and most of its songs are paid DLC.  If you want a recommendation?  Magnetic Love.

Little Inferno

Little Inferno is one of those games that you give to a friend and say, "Hey, try this!" then you sit back and grin and watch the expression on their face when they get to the good bit.  It's most obviously a fireplace simulator and a spoof on social freemium games, but that's not the only place it goes.

Defend Your Castle

This was cute as one of the launch titles for Wii Ware, and it's even more satisfying with a touch interface.  It does lose a bit of its charm when you've built up your castle enough to let the game run itself, but hey.

Think Fun Games

As of this writing, Think Fun has three apps up on iTunes: Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, and Solitaire Chess.  All three are wonderful, addictive little puzzle games, perfect to fiddle around with for a minute or two or to chew through on a long car trip.


I tried Myst back on the PC, but for some reason, the game never really clicked with me until I tried it on my iPod.  There's something very cozy and bookish about the game that makes it well suited to being played with your fingers on a screen that sits on your lap.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park was sort of a turning point for Tell Tale Games.  Known at the time for their more traditional light-hearted, open world exploration point and click games like Sam & Max or Tales of Monkey Island, this game proved that they could take on a more serious narrative and even incorporate action elements with Quick Time Events.


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