Best free iPad games

iPad & iPhone User staff re­veal their top free games

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

1. 99 Rock­ets

99 rock­ets. 99 tar­gets. It all sounds so sim­ple. In this sparse shooter, each screen has lit­tle darts me­an­der along skinny tracks; all you need to do is tap the screen when the solid dart is point­ing at a tar­get.

Only be­fore long the tracks start loop­ing, and the darts start spin­ning. Once you get your head around those is­sues, darts ap­pear with two or three tips, which fire si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Miss once and it’s game over. That the darts can take mul­ti­ple passes is scant con­so­la­tion for those times you miss your fi­nal tar­get by a whisker, a dozen lev­els in.

For­tu­nately, you can save your progress, rather than hav­ing to start from scratch ev­ery time – al­though do­ing so fires up an ad. (This some­times also oc­curs af­ter a level, rather oblit­er­at­ing the oth­er­wise tense at­mos­phere; a 79p IAP ban­ishes the ads for­ever.) But the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge is ap­par­ently to make it through the en­tire game

with­out using any saves at all. To say the least, that re­quires a steely nerve, a steady hand, and an im­pec­ca­ble aim. Craig Gran­nell

2. As­cen­sion: Chron­i­cle of the God­slayer

To the ca­sual player As­cen­sion seems not dis­sim­i­lar to Magic: The Gath­er­ing – you build and play from a deck of cards, each of which de­picts a war­rior, ma­gi­cian or relic of some kind, and use these to slay mon­sters and ac­quire both points and fur­ther cards. What makes it a ‘deck builder’ (like the clas­sic card game Do­min­ion, or the more re­cent Star Realms, which is also free and also worth a try) rather than a col­lectible card game like Magic is the fact that all play­ers start with an iden­ti­cal, very sim­ple deck. You build your deck within the game it­self, rather than in spare hours long be­fore it be­gins.

It’s all weirdly ad­dic­tive, once you play a few times, and you needn’t pay a penny if you don’t

want to: var­i­ous sin­gle-time pay­ments un­lock new sets of cards and such­like, but the free of­fer­ing is per­fectly de­cent. And while some re­view­ers have crit­i­cised the mostly rough-seem­ing art style, we find it all rather beau­ti­ful. David Price

3. As­phalt 8: Air­borne

Whereas some driv­ing games have one foot planted in re­al­ity, As­phalt 8 throws caution to the wind, fling­ing cars into the air with merry aban­don and burn­ing ni­tro like it’s go­ing out of fash­ion. The hyper-real tracks you zoom around are oc­ca­sion­ally an­i­mated with a launch­ing shut­tle or a mas­sive ferry to leap over and to­tally not crash into. Crashes should in­stead be saved for your ri­vals: ram­ming other cars while ni­tro­ing is half the fun and, nat­u­rally, re­warded with more ni­tro. As­phalt just can’t get enough of ni­tro.

The only dent in this game’s oth­er­wise fine chas­sis is its busi­ness model. Gameloft and freemium equates to IAP and ad­verts. But the lat­ter are in­fre­quent and the for­mer can be avoided if you’re happy grind­ing a bit – and given the

mad­cap, glo­ri­ous cour­ses on of­fer, who wouldn’t want to play them again and again? Craig Gran­nell

4. Bat­tle Golf

De­vel­oper Colin Lane ap­pears to be at­tempt­ing to cor­ner the mar­ket in ridicu­lous sports games. First, there was Golf is Hard, a side-on ball-thwacker that re­quired you to hit a hole-in-one ev­ery time, be­cause it’s clearly wrong and evil to walk on the grass. Then came Wrassling, a de­mented wrestling (of sorts) game that looked like it had fallen out of a Com­modore 64. Now, Lane’s re­turned to hit­ting tiny balls with sticks in Bat­tle Golf.

Again, this one’s all about holes-in-one, but putting greens now emerge from a huge ex­panse of wa­ter. You tap twice (to set an­gle and then power) and hope for the best. Hazards in­clude hole-block­ing seag­ulls and oc­ca­sion­ally hav­ing to care­fully aim for the top of a gi­ant oc­to­pus.

Al­though per­fectly fine in its sin­gle-player timeat­tack in­car­na­tion, Bat­tle Golf comes into its own

when the ‘bat­tle’ bit is added via the same-de­vice two-player mode. Play­ers face off at op­po­site edges of the wa­ter and fran­ti­cally race to five points. As a bonus, you can tem­po­rar­ily knock out your ri­val by smack­ing them in the head with a ball, gain­ing you pre­cious sec­onds to win a point with­out in­ter­fer­ence.

There’s only one IAP: £1.49 gets rid of the ads, al­though these are un­ob­tru­sive and don’t in­ter­rupt your games. Only fling­ing your (ex) friend’s iPad out of the win­dow when they get a last-gasp fluky shot to win 5-4 can do that. Craig Gran­nell

5. Be­jew­eled Clas­sic HD

There are so many gem-swap­ping games on the App Store that it’s easy to over­look the one that pop­u­larised the genre. And that’s a pity, given that PopCap’s Be­jew­eled Clas­sic HD re­mains one of the best games of its kind. And on iPad, you get a range of modes, each of which has a dis­tinct ap­proach to match­ing and smash­ing gems.

The clas­sic of­fer­ing re­mains present and cor­rect. You flip two gems on a grid, aim­ing to match three or more in a row or col­umn, which then ex­plode. New gems then fall from the top of the well into empty space. Rinse and re­peat un­til no moves re­main. If that’s a bit stress­ful, Zen Mode makes sub­tle changes to en­sure you can never lose.

But­ter­fly and Di­a­mond Mine are tougher prospects. The for­mer has you fash­ion com­bos to keep but­ter­flies from reach­ing the top of the well, oth­er­wise they’re devoured by a vi­cious spi­der. And Di­a­mond Mine is all about using gem ex­plo­sions to dig deep into the earth, against the clock.

The most re­cent modes are Light­ning and Poker. The lat­ter re­quires IAP to un­lock, al­though you get a few free goes with the ini­tial down­load. Light­ning, though, is in­ter­est­ing in pro­vid­ing a break­neck speed-run take on Be­jew­eled that should sat­isfy fans of the once-ex­cel­lent Be­jew­eled Blitz, which sadly long ago be­came mired in freemium hell, en­cour­ag­ing play­ers to buy their way to high-scores. Our ad­vice: stick with the orig­i­nal and best. Craig Gran­nell

6. Big Bang Rac­ing

Given that Big Bang Rac­ing lit­ters its dis­play with typ­i­cally irk­some freemium trap­pings – gems, locked chests, timers – it’s an easy game to grum­ble at and delete. Do­ing so would be a grave er­ror, though, be­cause it’s a lot of fun.

It’s re­ally two games in one – part tri­als out­ing and part mul­ti­player racer. The tri­als side of things finds your strange lit­tle driver care­fully nav­i­gat­ing puz­zle-like cour­ses, col­lect­ing map parts, and try­ing

very hard to not get elec­tro­cuted along the way. Races pit your skills against other play­ers’ ghosts, in a hec­tic bat­tle to the fin­ish line. Both takes on Big Bang Rac­ing shine, not least due to the fab graph­ics and re­spon­sive, sim­ple con­trols (vir­tual but­tons for mov­ing for­wards and back­wards, and for spin­ning clock­wise and anti-clock­wise).

You’ll also no­tice as you play that each level is cred­ited. This isn’t just for show, and is in­dica­tive of Big Bang Rac­ing’s other smart idea: the means to cre­ate and share lev­els. This is done by way of a very us­able edi­tor, al­though what ob­sta­cles you can ac­tu­ally plonk down in any given course is some­what re­liant on what­ever you’ve pre­vi­ously un­locked from chests - un­less you’re happy to dig into your vir­tual or real-world cof­fers, to buy ramps and the like with coins. Still, even with lurk­ing IAP whiff­ing the place up a bit, it’s worth a down­load, whether you fancy pick­ing your way through clev­erly crafted traps and struc­tures or leav­ing ran­dom in­ter­net rac­ers in the dust. Craig Gran­nell

7. Bul­let Hell Mon­day

It’s a stretch to say Bul­let Hell Mon­day makes one of the more niche gen­res – bul­lethell shoot­ers – ac­ces­si­ble in a main­stream sense, but it has a good shot. Lots of shots, ac­tu­ally, given that, as you might ex­pect if you’re re­motely fa­mil­iar with the genre, you spend much of your time blast­ing alien scum and weav­ing your ship be­tween daz­zling geo­met­ric pat­terns of pro­jec­tiles, all the while scoop­ing up bling.

What makes Bul­let Hell Mon­day smarter than the av­er­age shooter for rel­a­tive new­com­ers is the bite-sized lev­els. The game eases you in relatively gen­tly, in­tro­duc­ing you to its ba­sic con­cepts and ini­tially hold­ing back any over­whelm­ing con­fronta­tions where you dance be­tween seem­ingly end­less sprays of bul­lets, con­stantly es­cap­ing death by a whisker.

They come later, when it even­tu­ally mires you in ac­tual bul­let hell, but even on reach­ing sterner chal­lenges, you feel you’ve a fight­ing chance. In part, this is be­cause of the afore­men­tioned brevity of the lev­els; but also fur­ther lev­els un­lock on the ba­sis of achieve­ments. Es­sen­tially, do pretty well on any given level and you’ll get enough points to con­tinue. Fail mis­er­ably and you should take that as a hint you need to im­prove a bit first.

Bul­let Hell Mon­day there­fore re­wards re­peat play as you fig­ure out a path to vic­tory, the best

en­e­mies to at­tack (and those to avoid), and when to use dev­as­tat­ing bombs. It also re­wards you with cash for ship up­grades, which, sur­pris­ingly, can’t be bought via IAP. Suc­cess is for once en­tirely down to your skills, not your wal­let. Craig Gran­nell

8. caRRage

If games took hu­man form, caRRage would wear a griz­zled ex­pres­sion, half­way be­tween Judge Dredd and Mad Max. It’s a no-non­sense top­down car-racer that takes no prison­ers. It would rather scowl and re­peat­edly blow up your ve­hi­cle than ease you in gen­tly, which suits its dusty and bro­ken post-apoc­a­lyp­tic set­ting.

Quite how car en­thu­si­asts find time to race each other when they should be scour­ing a rav­aged land­scape for food and wa­ter, we don’t know. How­ever, this isn’t ex­actly For­mula 1. In caRRage, ve­hi­cles are laden with ar­mour and spikes, drop mines and fire mis­siles. Dirty tac­tics aren’t so much en­cour­aged as manda­tory, un­less you want to

limp home in last place. Now and again, rac­ing is ditched en­tirely for bizarre sup­ply run mini-games, where you fend off crazed at­tack­ers by ram­ming them with a mas­sive ar­tic­u­lated lorry. We sup­pose the petrol for rac­ing has to come from some­where.

Be­ing a free game, IAP lurks men­ac­ingly, mostly to swell your cof­fers and speed along up­grades you’ll need for tack­ling later lev­els. But if you’re pre­pared to grind a bit, caRRage needn’t cost you a penny - merely a chunk of your hu­man­ity as you al­low a toothy grin at hav­ing blown an­other ri­val to obliv­ion. Craig Gran­nell

9. Crossy Road

You’ve prob­a­bly al­ready in­stalled Crossy Road. If not, do so im­me­di­ately; and while you’re wait­ing, here’s why it’s one of the finest free­bies on mo­bile.

First, it’s dead sim­ple and en­tirely in­tu­itive. Imag­ine Frog­ger with iso­met­ric graph­ics and a sin­gle level that goes on for­ever. That’s per­haps not fun for the game’s pro­tag­o­nist, who must hop

across end­less busy high­ways, train-lines and rivers full of float­ing logs be­fore in­evitably be­ing squashed/drown­ing/end­ing up on the front of the 8:24 to Padding­ton. But it’s great for you, be­cause it’s an end­less, in­fin­itely re­playable chal­lenge. And the con­trols – tap to jump for­ward or swipe to move in any di­rec­tion – are pitch-per­fect.

Se­condly, it looks gor­geous. The vi­su­als are bright and cheery, to the point you won’t be too an­noyed when your crit­ter gets splat­tered.

Fi­nally, Crossy Road is the least ob­nox­ious free-to-play ti­tle around, de­spite be­ing packed full of col­lecta­bles. Sure, you can pay IAP to get a new char­ac­ter (of which there are many), but al­ter­na­tively you can grab coins as you play, view an ad to swell your wal­let, or even just do noth­ing at all and grin as the game gen­er­ously lobs vir­tual cash in your gen­eral di­rec­tion any­way.

You can then try your luck on a one-armed ban­dit that will re­ward you with any­thing from a vam­pire that turns Crossy Road into a bleak land­scape bathed in red, to ‘Doge’, whose an­tics are ac­com­pa­nied by lurid Comic Sans phrases. Much hop! Very car! Craig Gran­nell

10. Dark­side

Outer-space min­ing colonies have it tough. They’re sur­rounded by or­bit­ing chunks of rock and un­der con­stant at­tack from evil aliens. Nat­u­rally, you’d think The Com­pany would send in a fleet of crack pi­lots to deal with such prob­lems. Nope – it’s just you, tak­ing on all and sundry sin­gle-handed.

The first thing that will strike you about Dark­side is how stun­ning the game looks. As you fly over an

as­ter­oid’s sur­face, it ef­fort­lessly rolls be­neath you, struc­tures and rocks ro­tat­ing away into space. The sec­ond thing you’ll no­tice – very quickly – is that space is re­ally dan­ger­ous. Ev­ery rock you blast splits in two, As­teroids-style; en­emy craft flit about, dar­ing you to shoot them. Oc­ca­sion­ally, you’ll col­lect a power-up, but you’ll more fre­quently find your ship be­com­ing one with the uni­verse af­ter hav­ing been atom­ised.

Rather gen­er­ously, you get the pul­sat­ing ar­cade mode en­tirely for free. For the rea­son­able sum of £1.49, you can un­lock Sur­vival (one life) and Mis­sions (100 var­ied ob­jec­tives) modes; as an added in­cen­tive, this also un­locks smart bombs for your ship. Craig Gran­nell

11. Dashy Crashy

On the sur­face, Dashy Crashy ap­pears to be just an­other lane-based sur­vival game. You’re in a car, swipe to avoid traf­fic, and ac­crue as many points as pos­si­ble be­fore an in­evitable col­li­sion. But Dashy

Crashy sets it­self apart in a num­ber of ways. First, the pre­sen­ta­tion is su­perb. The game’s vi­su­als are clean and bright, from the crisp, de­tailed ve­hi­cles to the con­stantly chang­ing back­grounds with day and night cy­cles. Se­condly, it sounds great, with a breezy sound­track and chirpy voiceover (ap­par­ently an ex­citable sat­nav) yelp­ing the odd slo­gan to urge you on­wards.

Mostly, though, we love Dashy Crashy be­cause it’s a rare ex­am­ple of a 3D end­less run­ner that’s fully con­sid­ered the plat­form it’s run­ning on. As noted, you swipe to move lanes, but the iPad is a mul­ti­touch de­vice, and Dashy Crashy is a mul­ti­touch game. Use two or three fin­gers and you quickly shift across mul­ti­ple lanes. Ad­di­tion­ally, swipe up or down and you can boost or brake. These sub­tle twists make all the dif­fer­ence, adding strat­egy and en­sur­ing Dashy Crashy is more fun and more in­ter­est­ing to play than the vast ma­jor­ity of its con­tem­po­raries. Craig Gran­nell

12. Dis­ney Crossy Road

You might nar­row your eyes on see­ing the word ‘Dis­ney’ plonked in front of Crossy Road, but this is far more than yet an­other cash-in. In fact, it’s far more than Crossy Road. Be­cause al­though the orig­i­nal ti­tle’s modern end­less up­date on

Frog­ger re­mains broadly in­tact, Dis­ney Crossy Road is a very dif­fer­ent beast.

At first, it seems lit­tle has changed. In­stead of a chicken try­ing to cross roads, rivers and train lines, be­fore in­evitably find­ing it­self splat­tered or drowned, the world’s most fa­mous mouse par­takes in a spot of jay­walk­ing. Be­yond some scenery bob­bing about to a back­ground tune and black out­lines on all the graph­ics, it could be the same game.

But as with the orig­i­nal Crossy Road, this Dis­ney­fied take reg­u­larly mer­rily belches vir­tual coins, en­abling you to try your luck at a prize ma­chine and win new char­ac­ters. In Crossy Road, many char­ac­ters up­date the game’s vi­su­als, but here new worlds are un­locked that pro­vide all kinds of ad­di­tional chal­lenges. In­side Out and Wreck-It Ralph have ob­jects to col­lect (re­spec­tively, dream cubes and candy), which boost your score but force you to take risks. Toy Story and Tan­gled fea­ture tum­bling boxes to avoid. And Haunted

Man­sion has you light can­de­labras to fend off inky gloom, while avoid­ing suits of ar­mour with a ten­dency to get a bit stabby.

What could have been a cyn­i­cal re­lease is there­fore mag­i­cal and fresh. It’s su­pe­rior to Crossy Road and has so much scope for ex­pan­sion, not least when you con­sider Dis­ney owns rights to Mar­vel and Star Wars! Craig Gran­nell

13. Dumb Ways To Die

We al­ways en­cour­age play­ers of free iPad games to con­sider the ques­tion: “How are the developers mak­ing money out of this?” If you’re not pay­ing di­rectly, is their play to sell you in-app pur­chases, show you ad­verts, or har­vest your data? Or are they just try­ing to grab a big user base be­fore ‘mon­etis­ing’ later?

Some games, how­ever, are cre­ated by non­profit, pub­licly funded or char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions, and can be given away for free with­out any strings at­tached (ex­cept well-in­ten­tioned ide­o­log­i­cal ones, prob­a­bly). Dumb Ways To Die

was com­mis­sioned by Metro Trains Melbourne in or­der to raise aware­ness of rail­way safety, and a pro­por­tion of its macabre puz­zles in­volve help­ing the char­ac­ters avoid be­ing sliced in half by trains. But the mak­ers didn’t feel the need to stick too closely to the brief, and the theme me­an­ders off all over the place. It’s bril­liant.

It’s fun, and funny, and fast – each puz­zle lasts just a few sec­onds, be­fore you’re whisked off to the next. There’s not enor­mous depth, but it’s def­i­nitely worth a go. David Price

14. Fast like a Fox

One of the es­pe­cially nice things about iOS is how it forced peo­ple to look again at how games are con­trolled. With­out a D-pad and but­tons, developers were from day one forced to in­no­vate, lead­ing to a plethora of ex­cit­ing mul­ti­touch and mo­tion-driven in­ter­faces. Fast like a Fox show­cases how games cre­ators still aren’t done think­ing of new ways to con­trol on-screen char­ac­ters.

A tap sys­tem is used to make a lit­tle fox run. Es­sen­tially, you drum your fin­gers on the back of your de­vice, and the faster you do so, the speed­ier the fox. Ad­di­tion­ally, you can tap the screen to make the fox jump – a handy skill, given that it ap­par­ently lives in a land of steep hills and deadly ravines.

There’s a story about the trea­sure of a fox tribe be­ing pil­fered by ne­far­i­ous types, but all you re­ally need to know is that this is tried-and-tested game­play mixed with some gor­geous low-poly art­work, and a con­trol scheme that gives you a sur­pris­ingly close bond with your on-screen char­ac­ter. Clever level de­sign means you’ll need sev­eral runs on any given one to fully master it, and al­though the game’s mo­men­tum and el­e­gance are slightly knocked by fairly fre­quent ad­verts, they can be re­moved for­ever for a per­fectly rea­son­able 79p. Craig Gran­nell

15. Flappy Golf 2

The orig­i­nal Flappy Golf was lit­er­ally con­ceived as a joke. Riff­ing off the then in­sanely pop­u­lar Flappy Bird, it reimag­ined Su­per Stick­man Golf 2: in­stead of smack­ing a ball about with a stick, the ball flew, flit­ting left or right de­pend­ing on which but­ton you pressed. Pretty soon, a daft joke be­came a phe­nom­e­non, when it be­came ob­vi­ous Flappy Golf was hugely en­ter­tain­ing. For new­com­ers, it was im­me­di­ate and in­tu­itive, but also orig­i­nal and silly. For Su­per Stick­man Golf vet­er­ans, it was an in­ter­est­ing and novel way to tackle fa­mil­iar cour­ses, which it turned out needed wildly dif­fer­ent tac­tics when your ball hap­pened to be armed with wings.

All of which brings us to Flappy Golf 2. This time, the game wasn’t in­tended to be a joke, but a fol­low-up to a sur­prise hit. In essence, though, it’s more of the same, but this time, you flap about cour­ses from Su­per Stick­man Golf 3. Through­out, you aim to win stars by reach­ing the hole in the fewest flaps, thereby un­lock­ing fur­ther cour­ses. Along the way, you can also col­lect eggs with which to buy cus­tom balls and trails. Be­yond this stan­dard sin­gle player game, there’s an un­hinged lo­cal or on­line race mode, with up to four flap­ping golf balls bat­tling their way to the green.

Sur­pris­ingly, the game’s bereft of IAP – we’d have hap­pily paid to nuke the ir­ri­tat­ing ad ban­ner. Still, this makes the iPad the ideal plat­form for flappy golf­ing, since said ad­vert doesn’t cover much of the screen. Craig Gran­nell

16. Fi­nal Free­way 2R Free

Per­haps the most cher­ished rac­ing game from the 1980s is Sega’s Out­Run, in which a shiny red sports

car belts along roads where traf­fic is rather oddly all zoom­ing in the same di­rec­tion. The game was at the time breezy, lu­di­crously fast, and also en­abled you to pick your jour­ney by way of a fork in the road at the end of each sec­tion.

Fi­nal Free­way 2R Free is, more or less, Out­Run for iPad. Sure, the graph­ics are dif­fer­ent and the han­dling’s smarter, and the orig­i­nal cheesy tunes have been re­placed by en­tirely dif­fer­ent cheesy tunes; but this is much the same game that thrilled peo­ple in the 1980s, right down to the flip­ping car when you blun­der into a road­side ob­ject at 100mph. (Afi­ciona­dos will also no­tice Fi­nal Free­way fea­tures a ri­valry with an an­gry fel­low driv­ing what looks like a white Porsche. This is also a nod to Out­Run, al­beit the game’s se­quel, Turbo Out­Run. Clearly, this game’s cre­ator is thor­ough when it comes to retro geek­ery.)

The game’s sim­ple na­ture makes it a good fit for mo­bile. There’s enough va­ri­ety to keep you com­ing back, try­ing your hand at new routes. But

even a fully suc­cess­ful run takes only a mat­ter of min­utes. You will, how­ever, prob­a­bly won­der what every­one’s in such a hurry to drive away from; per­haps it’s a good thing the game doesn’t give you a rear-view mir­ror. Craig Gran­nell

17. Fold the World

With iPads be­ing all about paw­ing at a glass sur­face, some games have made a con­certed ef­fort to re­con­nect gamers with something that feels a bit more tan­gi­ble and tac­tile. In Fold the World, you’re ex­plor­ing the Pa­per King­dom, lead­ing strange bounc­ing crit­ter Yolo along path­ways that shift and change un­der­neath him, de­pend­ing on how the pa­per puz­zle is folded.

On play­ing the game, it will prob­a­bly come as no sur­prise that Fold the World’s puz­zles were ini­tially fash­ioned out of pa­per, be­fore be­ing digi­tised and fine-tuned in­side the com­puter. Such at­ten­tion to de­tail is ev­i­dent, and it means you never feel cheated. Al­though some of the puz­zles are real

head-scratch­ers, with you fold­ing the pa­per this way and that, there’s al­ways se­ri­ously solid logic un­der­pin­ning every­thing. (That each level is only as big as your screen makes it all the more im­pres­sive that the path­ways Yolo can take be­come so de­vi­ously and de­li­ciously com­pli­cated.)

For free, you get 20 lev­els of ad­ven­tur­ing, which should keep puz­zle fans happy for a good long while. Should you han­ker for more pa­pery good­ness, two fur­ther sets of lev­els can be pur­chased for 79p each. (Note that the game also has a hints sys­tem, re­plen­ished using gems. Buy­ing them isn’t nec­es­sary, and you can get gems for free by watch­ing video ads.)

18. For­get-Me-Not Craig Gran­nell

There are a few iPad games up there with the very best of their kind – and we reckon For­getMe-Not is one of the finest ar­cade games ever cre­ated, on any plat­form. Part lov­ing trib­ute to ar­cade clas­sics, and part modern mo­bile cre­ation,

it has a kind of de­mented and fre­netic en­ergy that’s hugely com­pelling.

The game has you ex­plore semi-ran­dom mazes, eat­ing flow­ers, and shoot­ing any­thing that moves. Once all the flow­ers are gone, grab a key and you can head for the exit. Sim­ple. Only For­get-Me-Not is full of so many lit­tle de­tails that you’ll spend many glo­ri­ous hours spot­ting them all: the dot score mul­ti­pli­ers; var­i­ous game modes that re­quire very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches; the way you can grind against walls to power up your lit­tle square and smash through en­e­mies; the fact other in­hab­i­tants of the maze mostly seem as happy oblit­er­at­ing each other as gun­ning for you.

In early 2016, For­get-Me-Not brushed with obliv­ion as the de­vel­oper’s App Store ac­count was about to lapse. He made the game free dur­ing its fi­nal days, be­fore a kindly soul paid to keep the ac­count alive. In thanks, For­get-Me-Not is now free for­ever, and en­tirely with­out IAP. Now you’ve no ex­cuse to not down­load one of the finest games to ever grace an iPad.

19 Hal­cyon Craig Gran­nell

Be­fore he made what­ever passes for the ‘big time’ in iOS gam­ing with Spel­lTower, de­vel­oper Zach Gage’s creative ap­proach ar­rived from a rather more arty di­rec­tion; and never was he artier than with Hal­cyon. In the­ory, it’s a match game, but it’s also an in­stru­ment – your ac­tions aug­ment a gen­er­a­tive sound­track, mak­ing for unique com­po­si­tions in ev­ery game.

The match­ing it­self in­volves coloured cur­rents – tri­an­gles that move along hor­i­zon­tal strings.

You draw lines be­tween the strings, so like­coloured cur­rents meet, where­upon they plink and van­ish. Every­thing ends the sec­ond two dif­fer­ent cur­rents meet, cre­at­ing dishar­mony in Hal­cyon’s or­dered world. There are 36 lev­els across four en­vi­ron­ments, along with two end­less modes that dy­nam­i­cally ad­just their dif­fi­culty, based on your skills. The only down­side is that this is a fairly old iPad game that hasn’t been up­dated since 2011. So you must skip past sign-up for a now-de­funct gam­ing so­cial net­work and also make peace with the lack of high-res graph­ics. But once you’re im­mersed in the world of Hal­cyon, you’ll be hyp­no­tised for hours. Craig Gran­nell

20. Ham­mer Bomb

If Pac-Man, Wolfen­stein 3D and Rogue had a baby, you’d get Ham­mer Bomb. The game plonks you in a claus­tro­pho­bic 3D maze, and you sprint along while not en­tirely suit­able (but none­the­less very catchy) thump­ing elec­tronic mu­sic blasts your

ears, urg­ing you on­wards. Like in Pac-Man, you au­to­mat­i­cally move, but the mazes are al­go­rith­mi­cally gen­er­ated and there­fore semi-ran­domised, as per in Rogue. And your aim isn’t so much to eat all the dots (gold coins in this case), but to get to an exit as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Vis­ually, the chunky graph­ics are rem­i­nis­cent of clas­sic shooter Wolfen­stein 3D, but you won’t find Nazis in these dun­geons. In­stead, Ham­mer Bomb’s cor­ri­dors are full of ter­ri­fy­ing gi­ant bats, roam­ing zom­bies and float­ing eye­balls. Mostly, your best bet is to flee when one heads your way; but find a chest and it’ll present a weapon (with very lim­ited ammo) for when you find your­self in a tight spot.

Ham­mer Bomb adds fur­ther twists with boss bat­tles against mas­sive spi­ders, dragons and slime beasts, power-up perks to buy with your pil­fered coins, and screw­ball quests that in­volve hunt­ing down flee­ing food­stuffs (in a nod to Ms. Pac-Man’s roam­ing fruit). It’s all very strange, loads of fun, and hugely re­playable. In terms of IAP, you can get rid of the ads or buy ex­tra gold for £1.49. But you’ll find your cof­fers full enough for the es­sen­tial power-ups (hint: get the radar as soon as you can), with­out hav­ing to spend a penny. Al­though you might find your­self sud­denly hav­ing to spend a

very dif­fer­ent kind of penny on turn­ing a cor­ner and find­ing your­self scared wit­less by a gi­ant mur­der­ous crow. Craig Gran­nell

21. Hue Ball

There’s a chilled-out, jolly air about Hue Ball. From the tin­kly sound­track to the pas­tel colours, this is a game want­ing to make you feel re­laxed. And ini­tially, it’s all rather breezy and throw­away fun. A lit­tle can­non at the foot of the screen tilts back and forth, emit­ting a ball when you tap. This briefly bounces about the con­fines of the small arena, oblit­er­at­ing those al­ready lurk­ing that it col­lides with.

How­ever, the cir­cle you re­ally need to track is a very pale one that cov­ers the en­tire dis­play and quickly re­duces in size un­til it vanishes at the screen’s cen­tre. On do­ing so, each lurk­ing ball ac­quires an ex­tra layer. When one has five, it trans­forms into a car­toon skull that sits frozen in place, im­pos­si­ble to re­move no mat­ter how many balls you lob at it.

This clever yet sim­ple me­chanic adds a sense of ur­gency to Hue Ball. Al­though you could sit there, watch­ing your can­non wob­ble to and fro in­def­i­nitely, high scores only come by way of quickly clear­ing balls from the

screen, where pos­si­ble bounc­ing sin­gle shots into clus­ters, thereby smash­ing up a bunch of balls in an in­stant. This might seem fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory to play­ers of Or­bital (or, in­deed, Gimme Fric­tion Baby, which in­spired both ti­tles); but Hue Ball’s dis­tinct vibe, skulls, and ping-pong shots make for a new ex­pe­ri­ence that’s well worth check­ing out. Craig Gran­nell

22. illi

One of the best things about the per­ceived lim­i­ta­tions of game con­trols on touch­screens is that it has caused games cre­ators to re­think. For the most part, tra­di­tional plat­form­ers have fared poorly, be­cause you no longer have ac­cess to the kind of ro­bust phys­i­cal con­trols nec­es­sary for twitch-style game­play. The solution in many cases has been to au­to­mate movement, only al­low­ing the player to time jumps.

This ap­proach has been sur­pris­ingly suc­cess­ful in many games, such as illi. Here, a fluffy slug-like

crea­ture trav­els around struc­tures float­ing in space, and bounds into the air with a tap of the screen. This is handy for avoid­ing illi-killing spikes, but also for leap­ing to other plat­forms, in or­der to reach the level’s goal.

To fur­ther com­pli­cate mat­ters, illi pro­vides set chal­lenges for each level, turn­ing each into a puz­zle of sorts that can be solved in sev­eral dif­fer­ent ways. You might quickly clock how to fin­ish a level in 10 sec­onds, but then get stumped work­ing out how to do so in only three leaps. This adds re­play value, al­though speedy restarts can be scup­pered by the hun­gry en­ergy sys­tem, which needs reg­u­lar re­fresh­ing by view­ing ad­verts. (Al­ter­na­tively, you can pay £1.49 to erad­i­cate the en­ergy sys­tem en­tirely.) Craig Gran­nell

23. Im­pulse GP

We’re of the opin­ion that bike rac­ing seems fast and dan­ger­ous enough as it is. But in the fu­ture of Im­pulse GP, things have got markedly cra­zier. Bikes have lost their wheels and hover above roller-coaster tracks that thread and loop their way through gleam­ing cities. Fur­ther­more, be­yond the re­quire­ment to com­mit to mem­ory ev­ery twist and turn, Im­pulse GP has you power up a boost sys­tem when trav­el­ling over green pads, and fling your­self for­ward at even faster speeds by util­is­ing an ‘ion thrust’ sys­tem (which es­sen­tially means zoom­ing over a blue pad and prod­ding a but­ton to let rip).

This isn’t an easy game. To get the chance to race, you must com­plete a qual­i­fi­ca­tion cir­cuit within an al­lot­ted time; and in the ac­tual race, you’ll al­ways start from the back of the grid. Even if you

can rapidly make your way through the pack, you’ll have a hard time catch­ing the lead­ers, un­less you make use of ev­ery scrap of boost. But with mastery comes a great sense of re­ward. Nick a win by a whisker and you feel like a boss.

Even the freemium trap­pings of Im­pulse GP don’t irk, which is good, con­sid­er­ing it started life as a pre­mium ti­tle. There’s a bit of grind­ing to ac­quire the funds to up­grade your bike and be able to tackle later tracks, but with­out enough ex­pe­ri­ence on ear­lier cir­cuits, you’d never have a hope with them any­way. Craig Gran­nell

24. Land Slid­ers

On touch­screen de­vices, the feel of a game is hugely im­por­tant. If what­ever oc­curs un­der­neath your fin­gers doesn’t come across as en­tirely nat­u­ral, that can wreck your interaction with a vir­tual world. Land Slid­ers is just about per­fect in this regard. Drag or swipe and the en­tire land­scape slides be­neath your dig­its; a tap then stops any

in­er­tial movement stone dead. This com­bi­na­tion of grace and pre­ci­sion is in­tox­i­cat­ing as you usher a car­toon char­ac­ter about, ex­plor­ing your sur­round­ings, grab­bing col­lecta­bles, avoid­ing deadly crit­ters, and lo­cat­ing each level’s exit.

This would be enough to grab your at­ten­tion for a while, but Land Slid­ers aims for the long term by care­fully con­sid­er­ing ev­ery el­e­ment of the game. You can swap land slid­ing for a more con­ven­tional ‘swipe to move’ if you con­sider the for­mer dis­ori­ent­ing. The pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated worlds have plenty of vari­a­tion, with twists and turns that work bril­liantly with the fine-tuned con­trols. And the quirky en­e­mies have unique be­hav­iours to learn and take ad­van­tage of, for ex­am­ple, coax­ing an over-zeal­ous pogo­ing T-Rex into a sen­tient cac­tus mooching about in some kind of wheel­bar­row.

In ef­fect, Land Slid­ers be­comes akin to a kind of ad­vanced, free-range, multi-screen take on Pac-Man, with tiny worlds ripe for ex­plo­ration and never out­stay­ing their wel­come. Quests add fur­ther

longevity, new char­ac­ters can be un­locked, and the breezy game­play never palls. The only nig­gle is the ‘one hit and you’re dead’ na­ture of the game – we’d have hap­pily plumped for a once-tra­di­tional three lives. Craig Gran­nell

25. Lonely One

It’s just a bearded guy and his pants against an end­less num­ber of dis­tinctly strange putting greens in this odd­ball golf ‘em up. The aim is to get a hole-in-one with ev­ery shot. Fail three times and it’s game over. Land a di­rect shot and you get a life back; for some rea­son, ex­citable gnomes also cel­e­brate your amaz­ing play.

It’s a pleas­antly noodly af­fair. You drag a fin­ger to draw an aim­ing arc, slid­ing to the edge of the screen if you need to can­cel a shot. Oc­ca­sion­ally, wind adds some com­plex­ity to proceedings, but it’s the strange-shaped greens that cause the most trou­ble, not least ones re­sem­bling an­i­mals or the head of a knight.

As is seem­ingly law these days, Lonely One of­fers col­lecta­bles. You get coins for suc­cess­ful putts, and 500 can be used to win a ran­domly se­lected char­ac­ter that may al­ter the game’s visual ap­pear­ance. You can also buy these out­right if you wish, but there’s re­ally no need. The game’s at its fun­ni­est with the beardy golfer in his pants any­way. Craig Gran­nell

26. Lost Tracks

Else­where in this list we talk about Lu­nar Flow­ers, a ti­tle that teeters on the edge of be­ing both game and art project. If any­thing Lost Tracks is more overtly in the lat­ter camp. The ex­pe­ri­ence is short, feel­ing more like a creative ex­per­i­ment than a typ­i­cal video game. But it has heart and a kind of off­beat youth­ful per­spec­tive that’s all too rare in gam­ing.

It starts on a train, where a woman catches the pro­tag­o­nist’s eye, but this pro­pels him into self doubt. Torn in two, he be­comes lost in a sur­real in­ner world you must tra­verse, con­fronting and de­feat­ing fears and in­ner demons. Mostly, this in­volves tilt­ing and prod­ding your de­vice to ex­plore sur­round­ings, fig­ur­ing out the na­ture of puz­zles and mech­a­nisms that have been laid out be­fore you. The min­i­mal art style and sparse na­ture of Lost Tracks af­fords it a pal­pa­ble sense of at­mos­phere that will keep you glued to the screen un­til its con­clu­sion. (Oh, and a quick

hint if you get stuck at one point: re­mem­ber how to whis­tle.) Craig Gran­nell

27. Lu­nar Flow­ers

We feel like lob­bing a paint­brush at peo­ple who tire­lessly ar­gue about whether games are art; how­ever, there can’t be any ar­gu­ment that some games are very artis­tic. Lu­nar Flow­ers is a case in point. Al­though it’s tech­ni­cally a puz­zle game, it’s very slight; mostly, it’s more like an in­ter­ac­tive jour­ney, with you fol­low­ing the ad­ven­tures of a princess in a del­i­cate and beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated moon­lit world.

Al­though the vi­su­als and au­dio evoke won­der, Lu­nar Flow­ers truly shines through the sense of ex­plo­ration it af­fords. Even though the jour­ney is lin­ear and ev­ery mo­ment and re­ac­tion canned, you need to dis­cover how to move on­wards. Only rarely is there any hand-hold­ing, and your brain some­times gets quite a work­out when the puz­zles be­come rather more ab­stract.

Per­haps the only dis­ap­point­ment is the brevity of the jour­ney – you’ll reach the end within an hour or two. But along the way, you’ll have rid­den a dragon, drawn stars in the sky, and had a sur­pris­ingly in­tense bat­tle against float­ing lanterns, while at­tempt­ing to cross a river. Craig Gran­nell

28. Meko­rama

It’s tempt­ing to look at Meko­rama and think you’re get­ting a free take on Mon­u­ment Val­ley, but al­though there are sim­i­lar­i­ties, the pair are very dif­fer­ent games. Meko­rama does have an iso­met­ric view­point, along with lev­els and com­po­nents that can be ma­nip­u­lated and ro­tated with a fin­ger, but it has no truck with Escher-style im­pos­si­ble ob­jects. In­stead, Meko­rama is a more straight­for­ward af­fair, based around sim­pler pathfind­ing, help­ing a robot find its way to level’s end across a series of 50 dio­ra­mas.

It’s a touch finicky at times, and it can be in­fu­ri­at­ing when an er­rant digit sends the robot

fly­ing from the dio­rama when you’re a cou­ple of min­utes in. How­ever, any gri­maces soon fade, largely due to the thor­oughly charm­ing na­ture of the game. From the robot’s goofy de­sign to the gor­geously ren­dered sur­round­ings, Meko­rama begs to be in­ter­acted with. It’s also gen­er­ous to a fault, of­fer­ing a free level de­signer in ad­di­tion to its many chal­lenges. (Al­though note that if you de­cide you want to toss the de­vel­oper a few vir­tual coins by way of thanks, you can do so through ‘pay what you want’ IAPs.) Craig Gran­nell

29. Mid­dle Manager of Jus­tice

Sat­u­rated with ab­sur­dist, play­ful hu­mour, Mid­dle Manager of Jus­tice is a su­per­hero-themed base­build­ing game in which the stereo­type-spout­ing heroes di­vide their time be­tween punch­ing thugs, watch­ing TV and man­ning call cen­tres.

You’re their mid­dle manager, work­ing out where best to spend the squad’s piti­ful in­come while as­sign­ing heroes to dole out fist-based

jus­tice to as­sorted evil-do­ers. It’s gen­tly satiris­ing Far­mVille-style click­fests – your main in­ter­ac­tions are spend­ing re­sources to watch progress bars – but whether de­lib­er­ately or ac­ci­den­tally it’s also hugely com­pelling.

Ut­terly shal­low, but the game is aware of that. Which is prob­a­bly why it works so well. Alec Meer

30. Mr Dig

We’re not sure what’s go­ing on in Mr Dig. The story has a kind of 1980s video game logic, where the tit­u­lar Mr. Dig has ‘dug too deep’, un­leash­ing mon­sters on the un­der­world; rather than rav­aging hu­man­ity, said mon­sters are ap­par­ently klep­to­ma­ni­acs and ‘took his stuff ’. You must there­fore ven­ture un­der­ground in sin­gle-screen lev­els to lib­er­ate Mr. Dig’s for­tune, which ap­pears to mostly con­sist of gi­ant gems and fruit.

Usu­ally, you’d ex­pect this kind of game to echo an­cient ar­cade ti­tles such as Boul­der Dash or Dig Dug in terms of how it plays, but that’s not the case here. In­stead of the kind of fre­netic ar­cade fare that’s ill-suited to iPad, Mr Dig takes a turn-based ap­proach. Yel­low squares show where your dig­ging hero can reach, and you tap to move. You must be care­ful to time move­ments to avoid roam­ing mon­sters,

and also to leave a path back to the sur­face. The heroes here are ap­par­ently pretty good at leap­ing about, but they’re not blessed with jet-packs.

The re­sult is a charm­ing, silly and sur­pris­ingly chal­leng­ing puz­zler that feels quite fresh, de­spite its chunky and clunky old-school vi­su­als. Craig Gran­nell

31. Mu­cho Party

Strictly speak­ing, Mu­cho Party is more a demo than a full game, but what you get for noth­ing makes it worth down­load­ing any­way. It’s a col­lec­tion of mul­ti­player mini games, which pit you against a friend (or one of three com­puter-con­trolled dif­fi­culty lev­els) across a range of game modes.

What sets Mu­cho Party apart from sim­i­lar ti­tles is that it’s de­ranged. It first has you take a se­lec­tion of self­ies show­ing your happy, ec­static and sad faces, and these are duly shoved in­side crazed car­toon­ish avatars that then show up in­side all of the games. The chal­lenges are all dead sim­ple to un­der­stand, but a lot of fun to play, whether you’re tap­ping the screen like a mad per­son in or­der to win a hur­dles con­test, blast­ing as­teroids in your op­po­nent’s di­rec­tion, or match­ing coloured strips by ham­mer­ing the right bell (de­spite the bells

con­stantly switch­ing places). If you like the five free­bies, you can un­lock 37 ex­tra mini games for an en­tirely rea­son­able £2.99. Craig Gran­nell

32. Only One

Only One is a silly fight­ing game with sim­ple, retro graph­ics, en­tirely set on top of a cir­cu­lar plateau. Vil­lains con­tin­u­ously spawn and at­tack you, and it’s your job to slash them to death with your sword or push them over the edge. We rec­om­mend the one-off in-app pay­ment – Ul­ti­mate Power – that gives you a per­ma­nent power mul­ti­plier and un­locks all the abil­i­ties, but you can have a great laugh with­out spend­ing any­thing. David Price

33. Or­bit

As much a grav­ity sim­u­la­tion sand­box as a puz­zle game, Or­bit is all about flick­ing tiny plan­ets into be­ing and watch­ing how they in­ter­act with each other and the var­i­ous black holes po­si­tioned on the screen. Over time, new me­chan­ics are added, such as mul­ti­ple black holes, re­pulsers, and hav­ing to make moons that or­bit your plan­ets, or clus­ters of plan­ets that whirl and or­bit as one.

This is an app that ex­udes a kind of ef­fort­less beauty through­out. The visual side of things has the or­bit­ing plan­ets atop a light grey can­vas, and each ce­les­tial ob­ject leaves a trail of colour as it moves. In the back­ground, a gen­tle pi­ano score ac­com­pa­nies your game. And even if your ham­fisted at­tempts at com­plet­ing a level re­sult in tiny plan­ets scyth­ing across the screen and head­ing into the void be­yond, Or­bit is never less than en­gag­ing and com­pelling.

In the free game, you get 45 lev­els to ex­per­i­ment with, and the only down­side is the at­mos­phere be­ing pe­ri­od­i­cally wrecked by noisy ads barg­ing in. These can be blasted into space with a one-off 79p pay­ment. Or­bit also of­fers a sand­box op­tion for £2.29, which gives you the means to cre­ate your own lev­els. Think of the free game, then, as the en­try point into a gor­geous iOS-based uni­verse. And if it cap­ti­vates you the same way it did us, it won’t be long be­fore you’ll be busily fash­ion­ing your own tiny so­lar sys­tems. Craig Gran­nell

34. Pac-Man 256

From the cre­ators of Crossy Road comes this new – if broadly fa­mil­iar – take on one of the most fa­mous ar­cade games of all time. Just as in the orig­i­nal Pac-Man, the yel­low dot-muncher has to roam a maze, eat­ing dots and avoid­ing ghosts. Here, though, Pac-Man’s pro­pelled be­yond the in­fa­mous level 256 glitch, which has trans­formed into a re­lent­less muncher it­self, de­vour­ing every­thing in its path. Our ro­tund hero must there­fore keep mov­ing ever up­wards through an end­less maze, keep­ing ahead of the glitch and avoid­ing get­ting killed by wan­der­ing ghosts.

Pac-Man 256 on iPhone works nicely, but it’s bet­ter on iPad. The graph­ics shine on the larger dis­play, but the de­vice’s as­pect ra­tio is also ben­e­fi­cial. The iPhone’s nar­row dis­play meant you ei­ther can’t see far ahead (in land­scape) or the en­tire maze’s width (in por­trait); the squarer iPad screen makes for a slightly eas­ier and more re­ward­ing game. That said, you’ll still often find

your­self fleet­ing from a frankly un­sport­ing num­ber of ghosts, try­ing des­per­ately to reach the next power-up that’ll give you a fight­ing chance of get­ting a high score. Craig Gran­nell

35. Pico Rally

One of the per­ceived prob­lems with gam­ing on mo­bile is the lack of tac­tile con­trols. Al­though some developers have got around this with clever use of tilt­ing, swip­ing and vir­tual D-pads, oth­ers re­duce every­thing down to play­ers prod­ding at the screen. One-thumb con­trols might seem re­duc­tive, but in the hands of canny cre­ators, this sys­tem has breathed new life into a range of gen­res.

One-thumb rac­ing games, though, re­main thin on the ground, and yet Pico Rally shows how a sin­gle digit pro­vides plenty of com­mand as you belt around a track. Here, your car au­to­mat­i­cally steers, and you press the screen to slam your foot down on the ac­cel­er­a­tor. You must time this care­fully, so as to nav­i­gate the track ef­fi­ciently, zoom ahead

of ri­vals and take the che­quered flag. The over­all ef­fect is a lot like clas­sic slot-car rac­ing, ex­cept your car isn’t rigidly re­stricted to a sin­gle lane. In­stead, cars in Pico Rally jos­tle for the lead, not least when you’re ca­reen­ing along be­ing pur­sued by cops more in­ter­ested in beat­ing you to the fin­ish line than pulling you over for speed­ing.

There’s plenty of va­ri­ety within the 60 tracks – in terms of hazards and also course de­sign – and the physics feels suit­ably solid, yet keeps you on your toes as new sur­faces ar­rive. The two-player mode is dis­ap­point­ing (no split screen, mean­ing you often find cars van­ish off-screen), but there’s loads here to keep the solo racer en­grossed. Craig Gran­nell

36. Planet Quest

At some point, a le­gion of plas­tic gui­tars and bor­ing rock stars sucked all the imag­i­na­tion out of rhythm ac­tion games, but it never used to be this way. Planet Quest harks back to the genre’s quirkier and more colour­ful days, with an eye-sear­ing, head-

bob­bing tap-based ex­pe­ri­ence that in­volves quite a lot of alien ab­duc­tions, along with peo­ple groov­ing to the mu­sic while wear­ing an­i­mal cos­tumes.

It turns out that you are the alien, tap­ping the screen to match beats you’ve just heard. Get this right and you beam up the dancers; get this al­most right and you beam up their cos­tumes; get it wrong or ac­ci­den­tally beam up a flower and you lose a life. (Maybe the alien’s a big fan of botany.) For­tu­nately, Planet Quest is gen­er­ous, re­ward­ing you with a re­place­ment life for ev­ery suc­cess­ful ab­duc­tion, and half a life when you merely snag some clothes.

With the colour­ful graph­ics, a manic cam­era that zooms in and out, and an hour of mu­sic, Planet Quest is a must-have for any rhythm-ac­tion or ar­cade fan. It’s a lot of fun and you al­ways feel the game re­ally wants to be played; it also gives skin­flints something to strive for – top the leader­boards and you un­lock the ad-free ver­sion. Craig Gran­nell

37. Pyro Jump Res­cue

Pyro is a flame on a mis­sion in this sweet-na­tured one-thumb plat­form game – and it doesn’t in­volve set­ting fire to any­thing. In­stead, Pyro’s de­ter­mined to save his friends, which are be­ing held pris­oner by the ne­far­i­ous types that hold cute video game char­ac­ters hostage. The blighters!

The world Pyro in­hab­its is on the dan­ger­ous side. In fact, quite a few hazards help­fully have the word ‘dan­ger’ writ­ten on them, in case their mas­sive spikes and an­gry spin­ning faces weren’t enough of a hint. Un­for­tu­nately, in­stead of un­leash­ing fiery doom, all Pyro can do is jump a bit. You there­fore

leap from spin­ning plat­form to spin­ning plat­form, oc­ca­sion­ally be­ing belted about by bumpers and slid­ing along rails. All the while, you col­lect coins that can be used to un­lock restart points.

That last bit’s quite im­por­tant, be­cause once Pyro’s ex­tin­guished, you restart from the be­gin­ning. The game nudges you to­wards IAP, al­though you won’t need it if you’re care­ful re­gard­ing check­point usage (don’t buy ev­ery one), fine with grind­ing a bit for ex­tra coins, and have a bit of pa­tience when it comes to jump­ing about. The old cliché ‘look be­fore you leap’ is rather apt here. Craig Gran­nell

38. RAD Board­ing

This snow­board­ing game will feel more than a lit­tle fa­mil­iar if you’ve ever played Tiny Wings. You zoom along a hilly land­scape, prod­ding the screen when ca­reen­ing down slopes, and then let­ting go as your lit­tle boarder hurls them­selves into the air. Be­yond that, there’s also the ‘RAD’ el­e­ment, which is all about show­ing off. When in the air, rather than

merely feel­ing the wind on your face, you flick the screen to per­form all man­ner of speed-boost­ing stunts; these must be care­fully timed so the ‘bor­der is up­right be­fore re­turn­ing to earth, rather than face­plant­ing in an in­el­e­gant and painful man­ner.

This isn’t just a mat­ter of bruised pride (and ac­tual bruises), be­cause there’s a tiny snag re­gard­ing the land­scape this sport­ing hero’s de­cided to blaze through: a vol­cano is belch­ing quite a lot of lava in your gen­eral di­rec­tion. Daw­dle and you’re done for.

RAD Board­ing is per­haps lack­ing in orig­i­nal­ity, and it’s not the deep­est of games. None­the­less, it has a lot go­ing for it. The vi­su­als are slick, with some smart zoom­ing ef­fects and ex­hil­a­rat­ing sec­tions when you find lava hot on your heels as you speed through ar­eas with barely any light­ing. There are also de­cid­edly odd boss bat­tles against the stunt-lov­ing Tiny the Bear. Im­press the gi­ant fur­ball and he’ll gen­er­ously de­cide against de­vour­ing you, giv­ing you a shot at a long and

healthy life – or at least an ex­tra few min­utes be­fore board and boarder alike are in­evitably deep fried in a vol­cano’s ejec­tions. Craig Gran­nell

39. Rush Hour: Sub­way Slid­ers

It turns out that in a world of strange sen­tient car­toon tel­lies with bunny ears and top-hat-wear­ing green pyra­mids, mak­ing a mad dash for a train is still a thing. In each level of Rush Hour: Sub­way Slid­ers, you see some colour­ful com­muters wait­ing on a plat­form be­fore a train ar­rives and opens its doors for a few brief sec­onds. Your mis­sion is to quickly drag and flick every­one into the car­riage, lest they be left be­hind and sub­jected to the sheer hor­ror of wait­ing for the next train. (Said sheer hor­ror is, ap­par­ently, enough to end your go should even a sin­gle com­muter not make it on board.)

This is an­other of those ca­sual games that’s ex­tremely easy to grasp, but tough to master. Even the odd ob­sta­cle on the plat­form – a bin or a bench – can be enough to scup­per the most dex­trous flick-based tech­nique, and you’ll curse when a blue blob in a silly hat re­bounds in just the wrong way, thereby sadly face-plant­ing against clos­ing train doors.

You do get the odd bit of help – clock char­ac­ters on board­ing add a few pre­cious sec­onds to the count­down timer – but

oth­er­wise this is re­lent­less ar­cade mad­ness that will leave you hap­pily ex­hausted af­ter bat­tling through a dozen plat­forms. (That said, if you spend your days mired in com­mut­ing hell, Rush Hour: Sub­way Slid­ers might be a lit­tle too close to home!) Craig Gran­nell

40. Rust Bucket

Nitrome has a habit of fid­dling around with a genre’s core me­chan­ics and com­ing up with something spe­cial. With Rust Bucket, you’re dumped in a dun­geon for turn-based rogue­like larks; but re­ally, this is an end­less – and tough – puz­zler, where sur­vival is de­ter­mined by your abil­ity to think ahead and re­spond to threats ap­pro­pri­ately.

Vis­ually, the game’s a de­light, Nitrome’s pixel-art style and pen­chant for colour mak­ing the dun­geons a vi­brant treat rather than a jour­ney into drab­ness. The dun­geon’s in­hab­i­tants, from your wan­der­ing hel­met to skulls, pigs and ghouls lit­tered about the place, are full of char­ac­ter, mak­ing it slightly less ir­ri­tat­ing when you make a wrong move and get hor­ri­bly killed.

And you will get killed – and often, at least at first. Rust Bucket can be pun­ish­ing, with you only a few steps from death at all times. But put your

best chess hat on, con­sider ev­ery move you make and how en­e­mies are likely to re­spond, and you’ll find a crack­ing mo­bile take on turn-based strat­egy; there’s enough depth here to en­gage, but short enough games that you can have a ses­sion or two of dun­geon crawl­ing while the bus poo­tles along. Craig Gran­nell

41. Sage Soli­taire

De­vel­oper Zach Gage asks why, when you have a mo­bile de­vice that’s not the size of a ta­ble, most tra­di­tional soli­taire ef­forts ape the typ­i­cal Klondike and FreeCell lay­outs, using tiny cards (in or­der to fit them all on the screen) and overly fa­mil­iar strategies. His an­swer: a three-by-three grid, quite a bit of poker, and a vir­tual trip to Ve­gas.

In the ba­sic Sage Soli­taire game, you score by re­mov­ing poker hands. The bet­ter the hand, the more points you get. Strat­egy comes by way of a rule that states you must use cards from mul­ti­ple rows for each hand. With the stacks at the top of the screen be­ing taller than those at the bot­tom, the lat­ter’s cards are best used spar­ingly. In ad­di­tion, a ran­domly al­lo­cated suit is set as a mul­ti­plier, be­stow­ing dou­ble points when one or more of its cards is used in a hand, and two ‘trashes’ ex­ist to re­move in­di­vid­ual cards;

one is re­plen­ished af­ter each suc­cess­ful hand.

The Ve­gas mode, un­locked on clear­ing the en­tire board three times, gives you a vir­tual bank ac­count, awards cash prizes only when using the mul­ti­plier hand, and ups your over­all pay­out mul­ti­plier on clear­ing piles from the top two rows. Sub­tly dif­fer­ent strategies are re­quired for suc­cess, hence the ini­tial lock­down - it’s very easy to oth­er­wise burn through your lim­ited funds. But once you crack Ve­gas and hit $800, you can try your hand at True Grit. There, once your in-game money’s gone, it’s gone for good.

Note that there’s no hor­ri­ble IAP to re­fill your vir­tual cof­fers. The game’s sole IAP (£2.29) ex­ists purely to un­lock two fur­ther modes (Dou­ble Deck and Fif­teens), re­move the (un­ob­tru­sive) ads, pro­vide stats track­ing, and give you achieve­ments to aim for. Craig Gran­nell

42. Shooty Skies

“A gi­ant beaver is ap­proach­ing!” warns Shooty Skies, as your DJ cat in a bi­plane pre­pares for bat­tle. The beaver be­gins spew­ing spin­ning axes and gi­ant acorns, any of which would bring in­stant death. You drag your fin­ger to make your plane deftly weave be­tween these pro­jec­tiles, ad­mir­ing the beaver’s sur­pris­ingly awe­some

fire­power – and, frankly, its abil­ity to fly in the first place. Oc­ca­sion­ally, you pause to charge your su­per-weapon, which lets rip the sec­ond you move. The beaver de­feated, you mull over the fact that this strange scene isn’t even close to the weird­est you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced within this very flight.

Shooty Skies, then, is a shoot­ing game set in the sky. Think: old-school ver­ti­cally scrolling blasters. But this one has a de­cid­edly odd­ball bent. Strange car­toon char­ac­ters in bi­planes are at­tacked by memes and an­gry tech­nol­ogy (ar­cade games that fire joy­sticks; en­raged cas­sette decks; de­mented ro­bots). The afore­men­tioned su­per-weapon mech­a­nism adds a dash of risk-ver­sus-re­ward (you’re vul­ner­a­ble when sta­tion­ary, but can clear the screen with the weapon’s su­pe­rior fire­power). And every­thing’s wrapped in a gor­geous if fa­mil­iar visual style you’ll re­call from Crossy Road. (The teams for both games had lots of cross­over, but this isn’t some third-rate knock-off.)

As in Crossy Road, you can un­lock char­ac­ters using a prize sys­tem or real cash. But there’s noth­ing at all here that will ever pres­sure you into spend­ing money. Shooty Skies is a gen­er­ous and in­stantly playable game. Craig Gran­nell

43. SHREDD

Ad­dic­tive in the clas­sic ‘just one more go’ sort of way, strik­ing-look­ing if not clas­si­cally hand­some, ex­pertly honed and un­apolo­get­i­cally sim­ple, SHREDD (for­merly known as dEXTRIS) tasks you with... mak­ing two coloured squares fol­low a nev­erend­ing cor­ri­dor with­out bump­ing into the jagged shapes in your way. There are only four pos­si­ble

‘moves’: leave the squares to sit in the mid­dle (press noth­ing); send them both to the left or to the right (press on ei­ther the left or right side of the screen); or split them, as in the screen im­age below (press with both thumbs at once). And then things get faster and faster.

There are in-game ad­verts, which are mildly an­noy­ing, but the game­play is strong and there’s a lovely old-fash­ioned feel to the way you’ll find your­self chas­ing high scores; in no other iOS game have I found my­self so ob­sessed with the rank­ings on Game Cen­ter. David Price

44. Sky Chasers

We’ve no idea where you get the kind of card­board box Sky Chaser pro­tag­o­nist Max owns, but we want one – it has thrusters and can fly. We are, mind, sub­stan­tially less jeal­ous of the predica­ment Max finds him­self in: lost in a mas­sive jun­gle full of dead ends, deadly crea­tures and locked pas­sage­ways.

Vis­ually, Sky Chasers is a treat. There’s an old­school pixel art charm, but this isn’t a game of sharp edges threat­en­ing to poke your eyes out. In­stead, back­grounds, char­ac­ters and en­vi­ron­ments have been pre­cisely crafted, and they look gor­geous on the iPad’s screen.

The con­trols, too, are spot-on. You hold your de­vice and tap on the left or right of the dis­play to ac­ti­vate the re­lated thruster. You do, how­ever, have lim­ited fuel, and so can­not blast about the place willy-nilly. This is even more ap­par­ent as you progress and find your­self faced with cor­ri­dors of twisted branches packed with huge thorns and ro­tat­ing wheels with gi­ant spikes nailed to them.

For­tu­nately, you re­fuel by col­lect­ing hov­er­ing bling, and there are reg­u­lar restart points where you can rest up and also restart if you later blun­der into a death-trap. Un­lock­ing check­points does cost coins you’ve col­lected, but you can al­ter­na­tively ac­ti­vate one by watch­ing a video ad­vert. As freemium goes, that’s one of the least ob­nox­ious ap­proaches we’ve seen, but if you find it dis­taste­ful yet love Sky Chasers, a £2.29 IAP gives you free check­points for­ever. Re­gard­less of whether you in­tend on splash­ing out or not, this is a game you should chase down im­me­di­ately. Craig Gran­nell

45. Sky Force 2014

Sky Force 2014 is a good ex­am­ple of why gam­ing char­ac­ters shouldn’t get cocky. Blast­ing every­thing to king­dom come in a souped-up space­ship, the pro­tag­o­nist is brought down to earth by a vil­lain with a pen­chant for in­sanely mas­sive lasers. Some deft parachut­ing staves off dis­as­ter, but the pi­lot sud­denly finds him­self in the next mis­sion fly­ing something akin to an air­borne peashooter.

Your aim, then, is to work your way back to the point where you can have a sec­ond crack at the big bad. This is done by tack­ling a range of gor­geous lev­els, blow­ing up any­thing that goes for you, and col­lect­ing stars, used for buy­ing up­grades. For a shoot­ing game, Sky Force 2014 is oddly grindy. Lev­els are locked un­less you win enough badges, and these come by way of achiev­ing ob­jec­tives, such as res­cu­ing stranded com­rades, avoid­ing get­ting shot and down­ing ev­ery en­emy. Ad­di­tion­ally, up­grades are pricey and have timers, and you need sev­eral runs through early lev­els to make your ship suit­able for later stages. You can of course skip ahead some­what via IAP – this is a free game, af­ter all – but the na­ture of Sky Force 2014 is re­ally more tac­ti­cal than most shoot­ers. It’s all about learn­ing for­ma­tions and level

lay­outs, prop­erly hon­ing your skills be­fore tak­ing the next step, rather than blaz­ing ahead like a ma­niac. Craig Gran­nell

46. Smash Hit

This first-per­son shooter - which has more than a hint of the clas­sic nerve-fray­ing end­less run­ner about it – of­fers no en­e­mies to shoot ex­cept the pleas­ingly de­struc­tible glass and stone ob­sta­cles in front of you, which you need to shat­ter be­fore you run straight into them. The graph­ics are a tri­umph, as is the sat­is­fy­ing gun­play: your bul­lets (more like over­sized mar­bles) de­scribe loop­ing tra­jec­to­ries and make a lovely racket when they strike home. Sim­ple and fun. David Price

47. Sonic & All-Stars Rac­ing Trans­formed

Since Mario Kart ar­rived on the SNES, go-karters have in­jected both fun and sur­real weaponry into the rac­ing genre. When done well, they

are prop­erly video game-y video games, packed with car­toon char­ac­ters, daz­zling tracks and strange pro­jec­tiles.

Sonic & All-Stars Rac­ing Trans­formed has a fur­ther quirk, which is the ‘trans­formed’ bit in the ti­tle. As you belt around, tracks mu­tate, forc­ing you to find al­ter­nate routes. Some­times you’re dunked into wa­ter or hurled into the air, and your kart help­fully trans­forms into a boat or plane to ac­com­mo­date this. As ever with free games, the spec­tre of IAP looms large, but the game’s gen­er­ous with in-game cur­rency and you can get free races for­ever for £7.99, or just kill the ad­verts for 79p. Craig Gran­nell

48. Spark­wave

This one very much hails from the Su­per Hexagon school of game de­sign. It’s a take-no-prison­ers twitch game that twists and turns as you play, in­ten­tion­ally dis­ori­ent­ing in a man­ner that makes you feel en­tirely in­ad­e­quate as a gamer. Much like

Su­per Hexagon, the ba­sics are suit­ably sim­ple. Here, a spark darts along and must not stray from a ‘track’ of hexagons for too long, or it’ll fiz­zle and die. But the track keeps shift­ing, throw­ing up black blocks to avoid; often, it will sud­denly jerk 60 de­grees with no no­tice, and if your eyes and brain don’t keep up, your spark’s done for.

Spark­wave de­vi­ates slightly from the ra­zor­sharp fo­cus typ­i­cally seen in twitch ti­tles. There are crys­tals to col­lect (which can also be pur­chased using IAP) that are used to buy ad­van­ta­geous powerups. We wish there was a fully stripped-back mode, but even when your spark has a tem­po­rary re­prieve in be­ing able to blast through the odd black block, Spark­wave proves to be a for­mi­da­ble (and yet en­ter­tain­ing) chal­lenge. Craig Gran­nell

49. Tem­ple Run 2

Like the ubiq­ui­tous first game, Tem­ple

Run 2 is a sim­ple ‘auto-run­ner’ in which you’re forced to make snap re­ac­tions as your flee­ing In­di­ana Jones-alike is pro­pelled ever on­wards at in­creas­ing speed: striv­ing to dodge walls, fa­tal drops, spiky boul­ders and an enor­mous pur­su­ing mon­key-mon­ster. Death is in­evitable, as is hav­ing ‘just one more go.’ Alec Meer

50. Threes! Free

Ev­ery plat­form needs its per­fect puz­zle game, and on re­lease Threes! made its claim to be that for iOS. As with all bril­liant ex­am­ples of the genre, Threes! has at its heart a sim­ple me­chanic, which in this case in­volve merg­ing cards within a tiny four-by-four board. But it’s the de­tails that pro­pel Threes! be­yond the com­pe­ti­tion.

The idea is to match num­bers. Slide a blue ‘1’ into a red ‘2’ and they com­bine to be­come a sin­gle ‘3’. Two 3s make a 6. Two 6s make a 12. And so on. The snag is that ev­ery move you make slides ev­ery non-blocked tile on the board as well. If you’re for­tu­nate or have planned ahead, this can re­sult in sev­eral merges in one move; if not, you end up with a mess to clear up. And since af­ter ev­ery turn a new card en­ters the board in a ran­dom spot on the edge you swiped from, plan­ning is key.

It takes a few games for Threes! to prop­erly click, but once it does, it never lets go. You’ll be dy­ing to see new cards (each is in­fused with a unique per­son­al­ity), and will soon spot how reach­ing higher-num­bered cards boosts your score sub­stan­tially. The free-to-play as­pect is also gen­er­ous: watch a video ad and you get three more games in the bank, which can be built up into a sub­stan­tial re­serve. This gives the game a fight­ing chance against a raft of in­fe­rior Threes! clones (most of which have 1024 or 2048 in their names) that lit­ter the App Store, and sucked life out of the paid ver­sion of Threes! Our ad­vice: stick with the orig­i­nal; you’ve no ex­cuse now you can play for free. Craig Gran­nell

51. Time Locker

Ver­ti­cal shoot­ers tend to be fre­netic af­fairs, mar­ry­ing your abil­ity to dance be­tween show­ers of glow­ing bul­lets and blast every­thing in your path to smithereens. Often, death comes by way of mo­men­tary dis­trac­tion, and you’ll some­times wish you could go all Ma­trix and tem­po­rar­ily slow every­thing to a crawl.

Time Locker sug­gests this wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily help. In its ab­stract min­i­mal world, every­thing moves only as fast as you drag a fin­ger. Stop and the en­tire world freezes. Drag and every­thing comes back to life, whether that’s you blast­ing away at what­ever ven­tures nearby, or your many foes march­ing across the screen, hom­ing in on your po­si­tion. A fur­ther com­pli­ca­tion comes by way of a uni­verse de­stroy­ing dark­ness that pur­sues you from the mo­ment you set off. Lift your fin­ger and

your en­e­mies might halt, but the inky black­ness won’t, even­tu­ally end­ing your jour­ney through this sur­real world. Suc­cess­ful ven­tures there­fore com­bine short breaks to fig­ure out a next move, and then fran­tic scrab­bling to erad­i­cate nearby en­e­mies and move your­self on­wards at speed.

Last long enough and colos­sal bosses will show up, mak­ing it very clear that this just isn’t your day if sur­vival was your aim. To counter this, green en­e­mies drop cred­its you can spend on boosts dur­ing your next game, and blue foes ditch pick-ups that boost your crit­ter’s power, aug­ment­ing your arse­nal – ini­tially a rub­bish pea shooter – with multi-di­rec­tional shots, mas­sive rock­ets, and more. Craig Gran­nell

52. Train Con­duc­tor World: Euro­pean Rail­way

De­vel­oper The Voxel Agents have been re­fin­ing Train Con­duc­tor games for years now, and this lat­est en­try in the series is by far the best yet.

It’s es­sen­tially all about rout­ing trains to their des­ti­na­tions, and avoid­ing hor­ri­ble crashes. Each sin­gle-screen level has a num­ber of coloured en­try and exit points, and as trains ap­pear, you must draw tem­po­rary tracks to point them in the right di­rec­tion. Trains can be tapped to stop them, but this costs you a bonus star and a crack at a per­fect 100 per cent score. Do well and you win bits of track you can lay to con­nect sta­tions, thereby un­lock­ing new lo­ca­tions and puz­zles.

Train Con­duc­tor World is a gor­geous game, and the con­trols are tight. It has a won­der­fully tac­tile feel, and never ap­pears un­fair; you al­ways know how you could have avoided a crash, and re­solve to do bet­ter next time. There is IAP, pri­mar­ily for buy­ing sec­tions of track if you want to speed things along; but if you don’t fancy dip­ping into your wal­let, you’ll merely have to re­play cer­tain lo­ca­tions a num­ber of times, and the game’s so much fun this isn’t something you’ll rail against. Craig Gran­nell

53. Triple Town

Triple Town’s premise is sim­ple: you’re build­ing a town on a 6 x 6 grid filled with bushes and trees. You do this by group­ing items into threes: three trees be­come a hut, three huts be­come a house and so on. Trap the game’s ‘en­e­mies’ – adorable bears – and they turn into grave stones, three of which make a church. The whole thing is fresh, ad­dic­tive and chal­leng­ing: if you think you’ve seen every­thing Match 3 has to of­fer, you’re in for a sur­prise.

Alan Martin 54. Two Dots

Sim­ple but ad­dic­tive. Two Dots is all about trac­ing lines be­tween ad­ja­cent dots of the same colour, thereby caus­ing them to dis­ap­pear and fur­ther dots to drop down from above. To pass a given level you need to elim­i­nate a cer­tain num­ber of dots of each colour, along with ad­di­tional el­e­ments such as an­chors.

It’s fun to play and beau­ti­ful to look at, but watch out for the clever catch: die five times and you’ll have to wait for your lives to recharge... or pay to get more. That’s where they’ll get the money, and if you have weak self-con­trol, you may find your­self cough­ing up. Amy Moore

55. Whale Trail

It might not have the deep­est re­play value, but since go­ing free-to-play Whale Trail’s charms have been harder to re­sist. It’s a one-but­ton game, with a me­chanic that’s close to Tiny Wings in re­verse: tap the screen to fly up­wards, re­lease to swoop down. You need to avoid the clouds and col­lect fuel of some kind. It looks de­light­ful, the game­play is well-crafted and there’s a wicked sound­track too. David Price

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