2010 hasn’t just been a stellar year for downloadable console and PC titles. The iPhone/iPod/iPad sector has seen a plethora of fantastic releases over the past 11 months. Some were wholly original, some were bigger, better sequels, some were rereleases of games we already loved, but the one thing they all had in common was that they showed just how much creativity and inventiveness exists in the mobile games space…and how much we wait how few hours there are in the day. We need more time!
Thankfully, the holidays give us a lot of free time, usually trapped in cars or airplanes. When you find yourself with a two-hour delay in Boston, or a six hour car trip to Grandma's, pull out one of these titles and lose yourself for a little while. Check out our list of the best iPhone and iPad games to keep handy this holiday season.
No game satisfied our obsessive need to hurl disgruntled feather balls at various structures in order to kill evil pigs like Rovio’s mobile sensation did…Well, to be fair, it was the only game with such a premise, but you know what I mean. This deceptively simple physics-based puzzler took from us far more hours than we’re comfortable admitting, but we’re fine with that. And you should be too. This is a title that you'll be passing back and forth as you try to clear levels, because where you might get stuck, Cousin Timmy might have a great idea. And just wait until you get those boomerang toucans.
If you're looking for a deeply addictive, sword fighting hack and slasher that let's you leverl up while delivering gameplay that will surprise you on a mobile device, then look no further than Infinity Blade. While it looks gorgeous on an iPad, it is equally as fun to play on the iPhone itself, and while it can get repetitive at times, it will have you playing over and over for hours at a time. This game was the fastest-grossing app on Apple's App Store, selling over a quarter of a million copies in four days, and it is well over that amount at this point. If you're wanting to show off how awesome your portable device is, this is the title that will have people leaning over your seat and asking, "What is that?!"
This iPad-only game is a recreation of one of Days of Wonder's more popular board games, Small World. Only now instead of hauling that box along with you every time you want to play, you just need to load this up on your iPad and you've got the same experience right there. You have fantasy races ranging from Elves and Dwarves to Skeletons and Orcs, and you're all battling to conquer the world and get rid of all the other races. You can do that with special abilities and powers, and eventually one race will stand supreme. This is a perfect way to settle inter-family squabbles and debates as well, and as the game itself states, "It's a world of slaughter" after all.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
After seeing releases on the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable last year, Rockstar Games brought its latest mobile iteration in its hit crime franchise to iPhone, iPod, and iPad (in HD) this year, giving us yet another way to experience this incredibly deep, fun, and GTA-tastic title. Just the idea of having a game this massive in our pocket still amazes us. It’s an absolute must own for any GTA fan, and it's the perfect title to take with you while you're trekking through the holiday weekend. Especially because it will let you vent any last-minute-shopper-rage
Plants vs. Zombies
Another title that debuted on another console only to make its way to into our hands was PopCap Games frighteningly addictive survival-horticulture (trademarked) game, the game that taught us the value of gardening, especially when it involves planting wide varieties of violent, shrubs capable of decimating untold numbers of walking dead. Not a very practical lesson, of course, but you can never be too prepared for the zombie apocalypse. The port gave us everything we loved about the PC version in an easy to transport package. Can’t argue with that, and it will keep you deep engaged for hours. Perfect for those downtimes in travel, or when you need to drown out your bickering extended family.
Tilt to Live
There’s a sweet spot between simplicity and insane difficulty that few games hit as consistently and impressively as this floating-obstacle-avoidance title from One Man Left Studios. The simplicity comes from the fact that all you really do is try to guide your little cursor through/around ever spawning waves of red dots of death. But you aren’t alone, as various colorful and slick weapons calmly float throughout the onslaught, allowing you to unleash massive attacks on the deadly dots. “Just one more game!” = something you will say at least 5,000 times should you buy this title. If you've been playing this title all year, then you can still re-enjoy it all over again with the brand-new Viva La Turret in-game expansion that was just released.
Augmented reality? Check. Star Wars? Check. Being able to shoot down TIE Fighters as they fly out of the heads of coworkers? Force check. THQ’s iPhone game Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner plops you into the virtual hair-trigger seat aboard Han Solo’s famed Millennium Falcon as you attempt to fend off wave after wave of Imperial ships. Of course, the major draw of this title is that it uses augmented reality technology, which sets the action against the backdrop of your immediate surroundings. If you have $4.99 and you’re tired of using your imagination to recreate famous moments from Star Wars, Falcon Gunner is a must buy. Especially if you really hate Uncle Dave's Christmas decorations, and can't wait to blast them.