Best free iPad games 2017

Flippy Knife finds you hurling dangerous knives, mostly at wooden objects. Which we admit doesn’t sound particularly thrilling – and you might also have had your fill of ‘Verby Noun’ games with colorful, chunky visuals, whatever the hook. But Flippy Knife does plenty to demand a space on your iPad.

The basic Combo mode has you drag upwards to hurl your pointy weapon into the air, Angry Birds style, aiming for it to flip and stick into a wooden platform on landing. It’s a good way to get a feel for your virtual knife.

Beyond that, there’s the thoughtful Arcade mode (lob a knife through an endless cabin), the frenetic Climb (a vertically scrolling pursuit of a thieving drone), and the archery-like Target. That is, if archery involved lobbing bloody great big knives at bullseyes strapped to trees – which we totally think it should.

Virtua Tennis Challenge

Virtua Tennis Challenge is an iPad reimagining of a classic Dreamcast tennis game. Although Sega claims it’s the most realistic game of its type on mobile, Virtual Tennis Challenge is in reality very much an arcade outing, with you darting about, attempting to defeat your opponent by way of lobs, top spins, and dramatic ‘super shots’.

The gestural controls leave a lot to be desired, resulting in tennis as if your player had downed a few too many drinks in the bar prior to their match.

But plump for the on-screen virtual D-pad and buttons (or use an external MFi gamepad) and you’ll find an entertaining take on repeatedly smacking a ball over a net, while the virtual crowd presumably gorges itself on virtual strawberries.

Rocklien Run

Rocklien Run is a hybrid endless runner/shooter, featuring a little UFO blazing along space lanes populated by hordes of deadly creatures who’d very much rather the UFO wasn’t there. You tap left and right to avoid being horribly killed, attempting to scoop up bonus coins and stars along the way.

The stars are the key to Rocklien Run. Pick up a green one and your little ship starts spewing bullets. Grab a yellow one and you zoom along, temporarily indestructible. Keep on shooting, dodging, and picking up stars, and Rocklien Run transforms from a frustrating staccato experience into an exhilarating high-octane arcade blast.

Just be aware that for every breezily crazy game where you’re belting along at insane speeds, you’ll probably have another where you’re killed in approximately three seconds.

Evil Factory

You know a game’s not taking itself too seriously when it begins with the hero trudging through a blizzard, only to be faced by a giant heavily armed walrus guarding the fortress of a megalomaniacal genius.

But Evil Factory is just warming up, and subsequently revels in flinging all manner of mutated madness your way in its hard-nosed top-down arcade battles.

For each, you dart about using a virtual joystick, while two large on-screen buttons activate weapons. Unfortunately, your bosses are colossal idiots, and have armed you with the likes of dynamite and Molotov cocktails. Bouts often therefore involve dodging bullets to fling wares at a giant foe, before running away like a coward.

It’s silly, relentless arcade fun – or at least it would be relentless if the ‘fuel’ based freemium model didn’t butt up against one-hit-death and tough later levels. Still, if the stop-start nature of playing becomes irksome, fuel limitations can be removed with a $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.

Reckless Getaway 2

If you’ve ever played the last level of PC classic Driver, with its psychotic police vehicles, you’ll have an inkling what you’re in for in Reckless Getaway 2. You pick a car and barrel about a little wraparound city, driving around like a maniac, until your inevitable arrest.

Well, we say ‘arrest’, but these police are crazed. SWAT vans will hurl themselves at your vehicle, oblivious to the carnage around them. Eventually, airstrikes will be called in, at which point you might question if the law’s applying a bit too much zeal towards grand theft auto these days.

Over time, the game’s repetitive nature palls a bit, and the physics is a bit floaty; but otherwise it’s a great fun freebie for virtual joyriders armed with an iPad.

Retro Soccer

Its overhead viewpoint and tiny players might evoke arcade-oriented soccer games of old, like Sensible Soccer and Kick off, but Retro Soccer is very much a mobile oriented affair. In part, this is down to the main mode taking you through loads of challenges, rather than a league, but mostly it’s about the controls.

There are no virtual buttons and D-pads here – everything in Retro Soccer is about taps and gestures. You tap to move somewhere, dribble with the ball or pass. A swipe unleashes a shot if you’re within sight of the goal, or a scything sliding tackle that carves up a fair chunk of the field if you’re near an opposing player with the ball.

It takes a fair bit of getting used to and really needs the iPad’s large screen for you to have any hope of mastering the game. But stick around and you’ll find Retro Soccer an entertaining take on the beautiful game.

Bomb Hunters

We’re in broadly familiar territory with Bomb Hunters, which twins Crossy Road with bomb disposal. This means you get chunky graphics and a swipe-based take on Frogger, but must also quickly locate and deal with high-explosives that are soon to go off.

This twist transforms Bomb Hunters into a relentlessly frantic experience, and keeps you on your toes regarding the route you’re taking. Everything becomes markedly tougher when enemy snipers and grenadiers appear, and when some bombs only disarm when you complete a dexterity mini-game.

The swipe controls can be a touch iffy at times, but otherwise this is a smart take on an otherwise tired genre – and one that rewards repeat play through unlocks that boost your survival rate during subsequent games.

DROP NOT!

Yes, we know: you’ve seen a dozen games just like this, essentially endless runners with a puzzle solving edge, complete with teleporters and multiple routes. But wait – all is not quite as it seems.

One thing DROP NOT! does have in common with several other games is you auto-tumbling about an isometric world, prodding the screen to abruptly change direction. Get it wrong and chances are you’ll fall off of a narrow elevated pathway into oblivion.

But unlike the competition, DROP NOT! isn’t algorithmically generated; instead, it has 20 handcrafted levels, transforming the game into an adventure you can master.

Beating it in one go from the start requires some serious memory and timing skills; if that all seems too much, points buy keys to unlock checkpoints you can start from, in order to discover all of the game’s secrets. Either way, this title’s far more than it first appears to be.

Transformers: Forged to Fight

We shouldn’t encourage them, really. Transformers: Forged to Fight is packed full of horrible free-to-play trappings: timers; gates; a baffling currency/resource system. And yet it’s a horribly compelling title. Much of this is down to how much fun it apparently is to watch giant robots punching each other in the face.

If you’re unfamiliar with Transformers, it’s based around robots that disguise themselves as cars and planes as a kind of camouflage – and then they forget about all that, transform into bipedal robots, and attempt to smash each other to bits.

This game has various Transformers universes colliding, which for fans only increases the fun – after all, old hands can watch with glee as old-school Optimus Prime hacks Michael Bay’s version to pieces with a massive axe. But for newcomers hankering for one-on-one Street Fighterish brawls on an iOS device, it’s still a freebie worth grabbing.

Digby Forever

This one’s from the Pac-Man 256 folks, but this time the classic titles being mined appear to be Dig-Dug and Mr. Driller. And, yes, that was a terrible pun, because Digby Forever is all about mining, your little hero drilling deep into the ground on a quest for bling, trying to avoid regular cave-ins and various underground ‘one touch equals death’ denizens.

Bar a baffling card power-up system, Digby Forever is a breezy arcade blast. Its little world feels very alive, with explosions blasting pixels across the screen, and various creatures going about their business. Intriguingly, it also deftly deals with that problem in endless games of starting from scratch – here, you always restart from where you were last defeated.

Archer Dash 2

For the most part, side-on endless runners tend to be ideal iPhone fare, but Archer Dash 2 has a twist that makes it a much better bet for your iPad. In this world of retro-style pixelated graphics, a little archer dashes along, aiming to scoop up blue gems, and jumping to avoid getting fried on electrified fences.

The twist here is the ‘archer’ bit – drag across the left-hand side of the screen and time temporarily slows, so you can aim and unleash an arrow to destroy obstacles or collect out-of-reach bling. Now and again, there’s a frantic boss battle to survive.

On iPhone, the game works fine, but only on iPad are you afforded the precision needed to have a lengthy dash rather than a short sprint.

Infinite Stairs

We shouldn’t encourage them. Infinite Stairs is yet another endless game, almost entirely bereft of innovation – and yet it has two really clever bits that transform it into a surprisingly absorbing offering.

First, the visuals include plenty of large characters bursting with personality. But more importantly, the controls are clever. You get two buttons – ‘turn’ and ‘climb’ – for working your way up a zigzagging staircase to the heavens. ‘Turn’ not only flips you round, but also has you climb a step.

That might not sound like much, but as the timer rapidly depletes, you’ll mess up often in the more winding sections of staircase, curse your thumbs, have another go, and realize you’re once again glued to another endless runner.

Paper.io

Snake meets land-grabbing in Paper.io. On entering the arena – populated by other players – you swipe to guide your little square about. Encircle a section of space and it fills with your color, boosting your territory score.

You must be careful to not collide with the walls surrounding the arena. Also, square trails are player’s weak spots. Run over an opponent’s and they’re removed from the game, leaving gems you can munch. But the same’s true for you – so watch out.

Paper.io’s a bit heavy on ads and bereft of audio, but the game itself is nonetheless compelling, not least because you can dive right back in for revenge should someone abruptly terminate your go.

Marvel Contest of Champions

On consoles, fighting games tend to need millions of buttons and players to have an eidetic memory to recall all the various combinations for special moves. Mercifully, Marvel Contest of Champions simplifies things for the touchscreen, and gives you the added bonus of having your favorite comic characters smack each other’s faces off.

The plot’s thin, but the side-on one-on-one scraps pack a punch, with you swiping to unleash attacks and holding the screen to block. Visually, it’s a treat, and the fighting element is entertaining and accessible.

And the freemium angle? Well, that can irk in the long term, but – like a Marvel movie – this one’s good for a quick blast every now and again, even if it’s a bit lacking in depth and longevity.

Super Hyper Ball 2

Do you like brick-bashing Breakout? Do you like ball-whacking pinball? If so, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Super Hyper Ball 2, which mashes the two together. Here, you get flippers to smack the ball around but also a little bat you move back and forth at the foot of the screen. Oh, and there are power-ups, too, which can be triggered to blow up hard-to-reach targets and bricks.

If that all sounds a bit like patting your head while rubbing your stomach, that’s not far off. Super Hyper Ball 2 can be like playing two games simultaneously.

Curiously, given its heritage, it can also be oddly pedestrian at times, but it’s mostly giddy fun, whether facing off against a laser-spewing skull boss, or smashing your way through a whirling disc with colorful bricks glued to its surface.

Brick Shot

The best way to think about Brick Shot is as a radically simplified Tetris where you happen to be hurtling along at insane speeds. There’s just one shape here – a rectangular brick – and it must be fired along one of four columns, with you aiming to complete rows and make them disappear.

For the first fifteen shots, it’s pretty much impossible to mess up. The screen scrolls slowly, ensuring your aim is always true. Then Brick Shot ups the pace considerably, and even only having four columns to decide between can sometimes feel like three too many.

On the iPad at least, your fingers have space to rest and your eyes can more easily track incoming walls. Ongoing success unlocks alternate modes, although the straightforward original’s probably the best.

Galaga Wars

If you know your arcade history, you’ll know that Galaga is one of the earliest single-screen shooters. The sequel to Galaxian – where aliens started fighting back by way of dive-bombing – Galaga added ‘Challenging Stages’, where strings of ships would flit about rather than marching back and forth in formation.

Galaga Wars combines both approaches, increases the pace, adds glossy modern cartoonish graphics, and gleefully ends your war should your ship take a single hit. You must therefore weave through projectiles, efficiently offing opponents, and grabbing power-ups whenever they appear.

Regular boss battles up the ante in what’s a vibrant and compelling shooter. The excitement does eventually wane – levels never change and it’s a grind to reach later ones – but for a time this is a solid free blaster for your iPad, and for many of us that’s just the way we like our tablet gaming.

Epic Orchestra

This fast-paced rhythm-action game has you swiping the screen like a lunatic, trying to help your tiny musicians to the end of a piece of classical music without them exploding. Yep, things are tough in the world of Epic Orchestra – one bum note and a violinist or pianist will evaporate in a puff of smoke.

The entire thing is swipe-based. Arrows descend from the top of a narrow column at the centre of the screen, and you must match them with a gesture. At lower difficulty levels, this is insanely easy.

Ramp up the speed, though, and your fingers will soon be in a twist, despite the apparent simplicity of the task. A $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP unlocks more songs, but you get five for free.

Asphalt Xtreme

Instead of blazing through larger-than-life takes on real-world cities, Asphalt Xtreme takes you off-road, zooming through dunes, drifting across muddy flats, and generally treating the great outdoors in a manner that will win you no favors with the local authorities.

As per other entries in the series, this is ballsy arcade racing, with bouncy physics, simple controls, an obsession with boosting, and tracks designed to make you regularly smash your car to bits.

It’s also, sadly, absolutely riddled with freemium cruft: timers; currencies; nags – the lot. But if you can look past that and dip in and out occasionally to allow the game to ‘recharge’, there’s a lot to like in this racer that’s decided roads and rules are so last season.
 

Groove Coaster 2 Original Style

Like a simulation of having a massive migraine while on a stomach-churning roller-coaster, Groove Coaster 2 Original Style is a rhythm action game intent on blasting your optics out while simultaneously making your head spin.

It flings you through dizzying, blazing-fast tracks, asking you to tap or hold the screen to the beat of thumping techno and catchy J-Pop.

The game looks superb – all retro-futuristic vector graphics and explosions of color that are like being stuck inside a mirror ball while 1980s video games whirl around your head.

Mostly you’ll stick around for the exhilarating tap-happy rhythm action, which marries immediacy with plenty of challenge, clever choreography tripping up the complacent on higher difficulty levels.

It never becomes a slog though – tracks are shortish and ideal for quick play; and for free, you can unlock plenty of them, but loads more are available via in-app purchase.
 

Rings

Initially, Rings baffles. You’re served some colored rings and told to place them on a three-by-three grid.

But you soon realize you’re in color-matching territory, rings exploding when colors match on a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line.

The twist is that there are three sizes of ring, and sometimes pieces have multiple rings with different colors. You must therefore carefully manage where you place each piece, otherwise the board fills up in a manner that will have you desperately hoping for a tiny green ring before the game bats away your trifling wishes and mercilessly ends your game.

That won’t happen for some time though – the games tend to go on for too long, unless you’re paying no attention whatsoever.

However, if you can carve an hour out of your day, a session with Rings should prove a satisfying and relaxing diversion that gives your brain a bit of a workout. 

Masky

We have absolutely no idea what’s going on in Masky. What we do know is that this is a deeply weird but thoroughly compelling game.

According to the game’s blurb, Masky’s all about some kind of grand costume ball, with you dancing to mystic sounds and inviting other masked dancers to join you. What this means in practice is shuffling left and right, adding other dancers to your merry band, and ensuring the balance meter never goes beyond red. If it does, everyone falls over – masks everywhere.

Beyond the lovely graphics and audio, there’s a smart – if simple – game here. Some masks from newcomers added to your line shake things up, flipping the screen or temporarily removing the balance meter.

Inevitably, everything also speeds up as you play, making keeping balance increasingly tough. We don’t doubt the unique visuals count for a lot regarding Masky’s pull, but the strange premise and compelling gameplay keep you dancing for the long haul.

Ding Dong Delivery

It’s safe to say that subtlety wasn’t on the menu of whatever service Ding Dong Delivery represents. This is a brash endless runner of the tap head/rub belly variety. You control a delivery vehicle, smashing its way along a road, attempting to hurl takeaways at waiting hungry people who might think otherwise about ordering from you in future.

This is a two-button effort, one lobs food and the other switches lanes. Games mostly involve frantically mashing the throw food button, hoping for the best, while maniacally weaving between parked cars and avoiding idiots driving into the middle of the road without looking.

It’s part Paperboy, part Flappy Bird, and while the action eventually palls, it’s always good for a quick blast – especially when you start unlocking vehicles and get to deliver pizza using a massive tank.

King Rabbit

There’s not a lot of originality in King Rabbit, but it’s one of those simple and endearing puzzle games that sucks you in and refuses to let go until you’ve worked your way through the entire thing.

The premise is hackneyed — bunnies have been kidnapped, and a sole hero must save them. And the gameplay is familiar too, where you leap about a grid-like landscape, manipulating objects, avoiding hazards, finding keys, unlocking doors, and reaching a goal.

But the execution is such that King Rabbit is immediately engaging, while new ideas keep coming as you work through the dozens of puzzles. Pleasingly, the game also increases the challenge so subtly that you barely notice — until you realise you’ve been figuring out a royal bunny’s next moves into the wee small hours.

Sports Hero

There’s very much an old-school vibe about Sports Hero, and it’s not just the pixelated graphics, with characters so jagged you might cut yourself on their kneecaps.

There’s also the control method, which has you hammer virtual buttons to make the retro athletes sprint, swim or lift weights. You’ll look faintly ridiculous bashing away at your iPad’s display, but there’s something satisfying about such a simple, exhausting control scheme.

Sports Hero trips over the odd hurdle in its quest for a medal with its grindy nature. It very clearly wants you to grab an all-disciplines IAP, and so slowly drips XP your way for unlocks. But even with only a few events available, this is an entertaining title for armchair Olympians who fancy working up a sweat. 

Barrier X

Sharing DNA with Super Hexagon and ALONE…, Barrier X is the kind of game that merrily smacks you in the face for having the audacity to blink.

Hurling you at insane speeds along minimal 3D tracks that some idiot’s peppered with walls, all you have to do is head left and right to avoid crashing. But this isn’t so simple when blazing along at about a million miles per hour.

Comically, Barrier X speeds up every 15 seconds; and if you survive long enough further challenges are unlocked. Suddenly, you’re told to travel through (rather than avoid) certain barriers, and to shoot rivals, all while attempting to not become so much space dust.

Minimal visuals and a thumping soundtrack further add to Barrier X’s brutal charms – it’s an exhilarating, exciting title among the very best of its kind.

The Little Fox

An excellent example in how iteration can improve a game, The Little Fox was almost impossible upon release. But a reduction in speed and some restart points proved transformative, enabling you to immerse yourself in a sweet-natured, great-looking pathfinding arcade outing.

The titular fox is on a quest that takes the bounding carnivore through 13 varied lands. Pathways comprise hexagons littered with collectables and hazards, and at any moment you can only turn left or right or continue straight on.

At the original breakneck pace (still available as an in-game option), this all feels too much. But when slowed down, The Little Fox reveals itself to be a clever, imaginative, fun title, with surprises to be found on every planet the furry critter visits.

Super Stickman Golf 3

Much like previous entries in the series, Super Stickman Golf 3 finds a tiny golfer dumped in fantastical surroundings. So rather than thwacking a ball about carefully tended fairways and greens, there are castles full of teleporters and a moon base bereft of gravity. The Ryder Cup, this is not.

New to the series is a spin mechanic, for flipping impossible shots off of ceilings and nudging fluffed efforts holewards on the greens. You also get turn-by-turn battles against Game Centre chums and a frenetic multiplayer race mode.

The spendthrift release is limited, though, restricting how many two-player battles you have on the go, locking away downloadable courses beyond the 20 initially built-in, and peppering the game with ads. Even so, you get a lot for nothing, should you be after new side-on golfing larks but not want to pay for the privilege.

Bushido Bear

With more than a hint of Fruit Ninja about it, Bushido Bear finds a sword-wielding teddy defending the forest against endless waves of evil demons. You get a brief warning about where your assailants will appear, and must quickly drag paths to move your bear about; it’ll then get suitably slashy and stabby, hopefully not blundering into an enemy in the meantime.

It’s a fast-paced affair, and you’ll need swift reactions to survive. Over time, you unlock additional frenzied furry animals, each with their own particular skills. And, amusingly, when a bear is killed, its colleague can be thrown into the fray, ready for some angry ninja bear vengeance!

Clash Royale

In Clash Royale, two players battle online, sending out troops to obliterate their opponent’s three towers, while simultaneously protecting their own. It comes across a bit like animated chess, if chess pieces were armed to the teeth and ranged from a giant robot with a huge scythe to an army of skittering skeletons.

The troops you have available come by way of cards you collect, from which you select a deck of eight. In matches, elixir gradually tops up, which can be ‘spent’ deploying said troops, forcing you to manage resources and spot when your opponent might be dry.

Clash Royale is very much a freemium game. You can spend a ton of real-world cash on virtual coins to buy and upgrade cards. However, doing so isn’t really necessary, and we’ve heard of people getting to the very highest levels in the game without spending a penny. But even if you find yourself scrapping in the lower leagues, Clash Royale is loads of fun.

Disney Crossy Road

Tie-ins between indie game companies and major movie houses often end badly, but Disney Crossy Road bucks the trend. It starts off like the original Crossy Road — an endless take on Frogger. Only here, Mickey Mouse picks his way across motorways, train lines and rivers, trying to avoid death by drowning or being splattered across a windscreen.

But unlock new characters (you’ll have several for free within a few games) and you open up further Disney worlds, each with unique visuals and challenges.

In Toy Story, Woody and Buzz dodge tumbling building blocks, whereas the inhabitants of Haunted Mansion are tasked with keeping the lights on and avoiding a decidedly violent suit of armour.

Elsewhere, Inside Out has you dart about collecting memories, which are sucked up for bonus points. And on the iPad, the gorgeous chunky visuals of these worlds really get a chance to shine.

PKTBALL

This smashy endless arcade sports title has more than a hint of air hockey about it, but PKTBALL is also infused with the breakneck madness associated with Laser Dog’s brutal iOS games.

It takes place on a tiny cartoon tennis court, with you swiping across the ball to send it back to your opponent. But this game is *really* fast, meaning that although you’ll clock how to play PKTBALL almost immediately, mastering it takes time.

In solo mode, the computer AI offers plenty of challenge, but it’s in multiplayer matches that PKTBALL serves an ace. Two to four people duke it out, swiping like lunatics (and hopefully not hurling the iPad away in a huff, like a modern-day McEnroe, when things go bad).

As ever, there are new characters to unlock, each of which boasts its own court and background music. Our current favourite: a little Game Boy, whose court has a certain famous blocky puzzle game playing in the background.

Byteman

It’s not every day you get to become a robot superhero, protecting the public in the retro-futuristic Helsinki. But future Finns should be thrilled Byteman is about, because their capital city appears to be chock full of burning buildings, robbers, and villains escaping in helicopters.

Your task is to fly about, using your radar to swoop in and be all heroic, without slamming into a building while doing so. The controls are straightforward (move with your left thumb and ‘speed boost’ with your right), and there’s a handy radar to figure out which cases to prioritise.

It all comes across a bit like a robot superhero Crazy Taxi, albeit one where the valiant android must occasionally head above the clouds to recharge its solar panels. (We bet Captain Marvel never had that problem.)

Geometry Race

Endless 3D avoid ’em ups have been a mainstay on the App Store ever since Cube Runner arrived way back in 2008. Geometry Race, like the older title, is keen on you learning a fixed course over repeat attempts, rather than battling your way through semi-randomised landscapes. Unlike Cube Runner, though, Geometry Race is a visual treat.

For reasons unknown, your spaceship finds itself zooming through worlds packed full of geometric obstacles, such as huge toppling letters and marching cubes. Beyond not colliding with anything, you must grab fuel to recharge your ship and coins that can be used to unlock better spaceships and additional worlds.

The lack of variety may eventually dent the game’s own long-term survival on your device, but for a while Geometry Race is bright and breezy fun.

iSlash Heroes

The original iSlash came across a bit like a thinking man’s Fruit Ninja combined with arcade classic Qix. Each challenge involved slicing off bits of a wooden box, carefully avoiding the shuriken bouncing about within.

iSlash Heroes is more of the same in freemium form, albeit with revamped graphics, a load of new levels, bosses that muck about with the board as you play, and some infrequent irritating social gubbins that occasionally blocks your way for a bit.

Despite some niggles, it remains a smart, engaging arcade effort, which works especially well on the iPad, given that the large screen enables you to be a bit more precise when slicing off those final slivers of wood required to meet your target.

Surfingers

At some point, developers will run out of new ways to present endless runners, but that moment hasn’t yet arrived. Surfingers tries something a bit different, marrying the genre with a kind of stripped-back breakneck match puzzler. You must line up the blocky wave you’re currently on to match whatever’s coming next, lest your surfer abruptly wipe-out.

At first, this is leisurely and simple, with you swiping up and down, avoiding maniacs in low-flying hot-air balloons, and collecting stars. But before long, you’re two-finger swiping to get past massive rocks and buried spaceships, surfing across snowy mountains and sand dunes, and thinking a dip in the shallows might have been a smarter move. And it turns out even being an ice-cool crocodile riding a rubber duck won’t save you if those shapes don’t line up.

Into the Dim

The first thing that strikes you about Into the Dim is that it transforms your iPad into a giant Game Boy – at least from a visual standpoint. Its chunky yellowed graphics hark back to handheld gaming’s past; but to some extent, this is also true of Into the Dim’s mechanics.

It’s a turn-based RPG, featuring a boy and his dog exploring dungeons, outwitting enemies, and uncovering a mystery. But whereas most modern mobile fare offers procedurally generated levels, Into the Dim’s dungeons have all been carefully individually designed. It rewards planning, strategic thinking, and patience; and although the game’s finite nature means it can be beaten, doing so will make you feel like a boss, rather than a player being put through the ‘random mill’ time and time again.

Aux B

Routing cabling in the real world is a source of fury, and so it might not be the smartest procedure to make into a game played on a device with a glass screen. But Aux B turns out to be a lot of fun, routing INs and OUTs, across increasingly large and complex patch boards, striving to make music blare forth.

There are 80 levels, although towards the end, you wonder whether someone should have a quiet word with the gig organiser and suggest a set-up that’s a wee bit simpler. (And once you’re done with the 80, the game continues randomising levels forever, placing you in a weirdly entertaining mixing desk ‘purgatory’.)

Coolson’s Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet

It’s always the way — you’re looking for work, armed with your useless degree, and all that’s available is a job in a sweltering chocolate factory, under the watchful eye of an angry penguin overseer. At least that’s the story in Coolson’s Artisanal Chocolate Alphabet, which hangs an absurdly addictive word game on this premise. Sort chocolate letters from a conveyor belt into boxes with slots, creating words while doing so; make your boss slightly less angry by spelling out seafood whenever possible; and don’t let too much chocolate fall into the trash!

Imago

With its numbered sliding squares and soaring scores, there’s more than a hint of Threes! about Imago. In truth, Threes! remains the better game, on the basis that it’s more focussed, but Imago has plenty going for it. The idea is to merge pieces of the same size and colour, which when they get too big explode into smaller pieces that can be reused.

The clever bit is each of these smaller pieces retains the score of the larger block. This means that with smart thinking, you can amass colossal scores that head into the billions. The game also includes daily challenges with different success criteria, to keep you on your toes.

Mr. Crab

With iPads lacking tactile controls, they should be rubbish for platform games. But savvy developers have stripped back the genre, creating hybrid one-thumb auto-runner/platformers. These are entirely reliant on careful timing, the key element of more traditional fare.

Mr. Crab further complicates matters by wrapping its levels around a pole. The titular crustacean ambles back and forth, scooping up baby crabs, and avoiding the many enemies lurking about the place. The end result is familiar and yet fresh. You get a selection of diverse levels for free, and additional packs are available via IAP.

Smash Hit

We imagine the creators of Smash Hit really hate glass. Look at it, sitting there with its stupid, smug transparency, letting people see what’s on the other side of it. Bah! Smash it all! Preferably with ball-bearings while flying along corridors! And that’s Smash Hit — fly along, flinging ball-bearings, don’t hit any glass face-on, and survive for as long as possible.

There are 50 rooms in all, but cheapskates start from scratch each time; pay $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 for the premium unlock and you get checkpoints, stats, iCloud sync, and alternative game modes.

Outwitters

A somewhat chessish two-player effort, Outwitters finds teams of angry sea creatures battling to the death, first helpfully arming them with surprisingly dangerous weapons. (It turns out crabs eschew claws when they’ve a mortar cannon to hand.)

Despite the cartoonish visuals, this is a deep and immersive strategy experience. Games are further complicated by a ‘fog of war’, which means units cannot see any further than they can move. This makes Outwitters tough to master but more rewarding on doing so and chalking up your first victories.

PewPew

“Expect retro graphics and megatons of enemies,” says the developer about this twin-stick shooter, adding: “Don’t expect a story”. With its vector graphics and Robotronish air, PewPew brings to mind Geometry Wars and Infinity Field, but without a price tag.

Despite being free, PewPew nonetheless boasts five modes of shooty goodness. These range from the aptly named ‘Pandemonium’, where enemies spin around the screen on dying, to the more thoughtful (but still manic) ‘Chromatic Conflict’, where you can only shoot foes whose colour matches your ship.

Asphalt 8: Airborne

At some point, a total buffoon decreed that racing games should be dull and grey, on grey tracks, with grey controls. Gameloft’s Asphalt series dispenses with such foolish notions, along with quite a bit of reality.

Here, in Asphalt 8, you zoom along at ludicrous speeds, drifting for miles through exciting city courses, occasionally being hurled into the air to perform stunts that absolutely aren’t acceptable according to the car manufacturer’s warranty. It’s admittedly a bit grindy, but if you tire of zooming about the tracks in this game, there’s no hope for you.

Tilt to Live HD

The basic aim of Tilt to Live is simple: avoid the red dots, either by cunning dodging and weaving or by triggering explosive devices in the arena. At the time, this wasn’t especially innovative, and Tilt to Live has itself since spawned two (paid) sequels.

Even so, the game manages to appeal, largely due to its polish and sense of humour — the latter of which is especially handy when you miss your high score by moments during a particularly gruelling game and fancy flinging your device out of the window. You get the basic mode for free, and others can be unlocked by in-app purchase.

Frotz

It’s hard not to love Frotz when you see its App Store description ‘warn’ that it involves “reading, thinking, and typing” and that if you “just want to blow stuff up”, it’s not the app for you. And that’s very true, given that this is an interactive fiction player.

You load titles written for the Z-Machine format (such as the famous Zork trilogy), and explore virtual worlds by typing in commands such as ‘go north’ and ‘put the long dangly bit into the Tea Substitute’. As you might expect, Frotz works particularly well on an iPad (rather than the smaller screen of an iPhone), and it adds a menu for common commands to speed you along a bit.

Zen Pinball

Pinball games tend to be divided into two camps. One aims for a kind of realism, aping real-world tables. The other takes a more arcade-oriented approach. Zen Pinball is somewhere in-between, marrying realistic physics with tables that come to life with animated 3D figures.

Loads of tables are available via IAP, including some excellent Star Wars and Marvel efforts. But for free you get access to the bright and breezy Sorcerer’s Lair, which, aside from some dodgy voice acting, is a hugely compelling and fast-paced table with plenty of missions and challenges to discover.

Frisbee Forever 2

With almost limitless possibilities in videogames, it’s amazing how many are drab grey and brown affairs. Frisbee Forever 2 (like its similarly impressive forerunner) is therefore a breath of fresh air with its almost eye-searing vibrance.

There’s a kind of Nintendo vibe – a sense of fun that continues through to the gameplay, which is all about steering a frisbee left and right, collecting stars strewn along winding paths. And these are a world away from the parks you’d usually fling plastic discs about in – here, you’re hurled along roller-coaster journeys through ancient ruins and gorgeous snowy hillsides.

Score! World Goals

Score! takes the basic premise of a million path-drawing games and wraps it around classic footie goals. The combination works really well, with you attempting to recreate the ball’s path in the best goals the world’s ever seen. Failure results in a baying crowd and, frequently, improbable goalkeeping heroics.

The game’s since had a sequel, but we prefer the original, which is less aggressive in its freemium model.

Cubed Rally Redline

Argh! That’s pretty much what you’ll be yelling on a regular basis on playing this endless racer. Cubed Rally Redline shouldn’t be difficult. You can go left or right on five clearly defined lanes, and there’s a ‘time brake’ for going all slow-motion, Matrix-style, to weave through tricky gaps; but you’ll still be smashing into cows, dinosaurs and bridges before you know it.

You’ll persevere if you’re particularly bloody minded, or just to see what other visual treats the developer’s created for hardcore players.

Source