Bought an iPhone 4? Download These 12 Games
Some of you may be upgrading from an older iPhone to an iPhone 4, and some of you may have finally caved in and bought one for the first time. While you're hunting through the App store to make sure you have all of your essential apps in place, like Facebook and Twitter, Yelp and iMovie, you need to make sure you pick up the best games that are out there too. Don't be distracted by thousands of titles you've never heard of, make sure your first downloads really count. To help, we've selected a dozen titles that offer a broad range of experiences that should satiate your gaming tastes regardless of what they are. We've come at this with a bit of a "gamer" sensibility. While the iPhone is most suited to casual experiences (simply by nature of the environment in which you typically play games with it) but there are games and brands that will definitely appeal to those of us that take our interactive entertainment a little more seriously.
There are many, many more games in the App store that you'll love, and we'll continue to provide weekly coverage of new releases in our iPhone channel. For starter though -- enjoy those on the next pages.
Angry Birds has been at the top of the iPhone gaming charts in just about every country in the world, and with good reason. Although fundamentally a simple physics puzzle game, it's incredibly addictive. Think of it as a 2D version of the destructive levels in Boom Blox. Instead of throwing balls though, you twang a variety of different "angry birds" at structures using a catapult. The goal is to destroy the evil pigs that have stolen the birds' eggs in the most efficient way possible. There's a lite version if you want to try it out first, but really there are few better ways to spend 99 cents on iPhone.
Square's inimitable RPG gameplay style slimmed down and optimized for iPhone. While Chaos Rings doesn't offer the same kinds of freedom you see in a traditional console release, it tells its epic story in an elegant and beautifully presented way, and has an excellent turn-based battle system. Yes, it's very expensive (one of the most expensive games in the App store) but if you're a fan of Square's games, and are hankering for something with the same kind of flair we saw in the period around Final Fantasy VII through IX, you'll certainly get a kick out of this.
It's been around for a while, and there are plenty of other turn-based strategy games out there -- but Civilization: Revolution is still the best. Plus, it's a familiar franchise for gamers. Unlike a lot of mobile variants of big name games, 2K's Civ is not a stripped down version of the popular resource management strategy game. Though it doesn't share the 3D graphics of its PC and Xbox 360 brothers, it does pack all 16 civilizations from those versions, and the opportunity to beat the game using military, cultural, economic or scientific tactics. If that doesn't make you want to spend $6.99 on it (watch out, it's price fluctuates a lot -- it's been in the App store for as little as $2.99, though that's rare,) there's also a "lite" version that you can try out for free.
This is one of those games that's more difficult to explain than it is to play. The basic premise of Drop 7 is that you drop blocks into a 7x7 grid. Every block has a number on it. When the number on the block matches the number of blocks in a row or a column, it disappears. When people try it, they tend to want to liken it to a blend of Tetris and Sudoku, but it's really not that complicated. Aside from being hellishly addictive, it's also aesthetically exquisite. The elegant, minimalist graphic design is perfectly matched with a spacious soundscape and beautifully appropriate sound effects. It really is a complete aesthetic experience, as well as a real brain workout.
UPDATE: Drop 7 currently experiences some issues with iOS 4, and the development team at Area/Code have submitted a fix to Apple. Pending approval, the update will be live any day now and the game will work again.
Despite the enormous number of Tower Defense games on the iPhone, we've managed to keep the number on this list to a bare minimum. Honestly though, in any roundup of great iPhone games, you can't ignore the significance of Fieldrunners. While not the original TD game by any stretch of the imagination, it influenced many that came after and is still the absolute classic on the platform. Fieldrunners is of the "open field" discipline where players steer the bad guys by creating a maze with (six different kinds of) gun emplacements.
Guide planes onto a runway by drawing the flight path they need to take. As time goes on, there are more and more planes that travel at different speeds. If two planes collide, it's game over. Another classic on the platform, Flight Control has since been imitated in many different ways with many different subjects. The original is still the best, though, plus it's cheap.
Geometry Wars: Touched
Yup, the Geometry Wars. It uses a clever contextual touchscreen thumbstick control system that tracks the movement of your thumb in relation to where you initially touch the screen. This means you aren't constantly fumbling to hold your iPhone in the right place. It's an elegant solution for such a fast-paced game. Touched includes familiar Geo Wars modes; Deadline, King, Pacifism, Waves, and Sequence.
Plants vs. Zombies
PopCap does a sterling job with all of their releases on iPhone, and frankly you'd be well served by any of them, but Plants vs. Zombies is our choice for this list. This is the full-on PvZ experience fully optimized for a touchscreen interface; 50 levels, 49 different plants, and 26 different kinds of zombies. If you've not played it on the PC or the Mac, you're in for a treat. Think of it as a streamlined Tower Defense style game, only it's set in your back garden and it has zombies in it. An absolute classic.
Space Invaders Infinity Gene
Coming from the Space Invaders Extreme school of psychedelic game design, Infinity Gene is a hip, fast-paced variant on the classic shooter that blends traditional retro graphics with more organic, swarming invader behavior. As with Extreme, the game's visuals are tightly integrated with its thumping soundtrack, but Infinity Gene goes a step further by offering a custom level-generating mode that will interpret music from your iTunes playlists as custom firefights.
Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor
Tiger Style Games
Spider is a beautifully hand-drawn platform adventure game in which you play (you guessed it) a spider that has wandered into an abandoned mansion. The ensuing story unfolds as the spider wanders from room to room and discovers what happened to the Bryce family and why they are no longer in the house. Control of the game is all touch-based, and players can jump around the distinctive-looking levels with simple gestures on the screen, catching insects to eat and spinning webs by simply "drawing" patterns with their finger. Unlike many of the games listed here, Spider moves at a far more relaxed and civilized pace, and it does so while moving towards a very satisfying conclusion.
Tilt to Live
One Man Left
Although it looks like a shooter, it's quite the opposite. Rather than blast the bad guys with your thumbs, in Tilt to Live you do exactly what the name implies; tilt the device to steer your ship away from the bad guy blobs. Pick-ups allow you to go on the offensive, unleashing freeze-rays and cluster missiles, but the core skill set here is akin to the Pacifist mode in Geometry Wars. It gets remarkably frenetic, and features online leaderboards with both Facebook and Twitter integration so you can get super-competitive with your friends.
Words with Friends
The MacDaddy of online word games. Forget Scrabble, Newtoy's Words with Friends is the de facto, go-to asynchronous social word game for iPhone. Pretty much everyone plays it. So much so that it's a great ice-breaker when you meet someone for the first time and notice they have an iPhone. Conversations usually go something like this; "Hi, nice to meet you. You have an iPhone? Great! Do you play Words with Friends?" This is invariably followed by "Oh my god! I LOVE that game! Even my mom/aunt/grandma/dad/first girlfriend in college/dog/budgie/one-legged second cousin/congressman/priest plays it!" Believe us, it's the best.