Best arcade game for iPhone and iPad: Spaceteam
Mobile games are so often solo pursuits; even those claiming to be ‘social’ usually require battling someone you’ve only ever ‘met’ on Facebook or Game Center. Spaceteam is different - two to four players join on a local network, faced with a control panel of dials, buttons and sliders.
Between you, everyone must coordinate to rapidly deal with silly time-sensitive instructions (“Set Shiftsanitizer to 1!”), lest the spaceship explode. It’s a hugely entertaining experience and also works across platforms, meaning your Android-device-owning chums needn’t sit out and wear a glum expression.
There’s some IAP, but only for entirely optional challenges and aesthetic enhancements, and those are primarily designed to support the indie who made the game in the first place. We’d say they’re well worth investigating, too.
There’s a whiff of endless runner about PinOut!, although it’s also sort of a pinball game. Really, it’s metal ball-spanging against the clock. You blat your ball along a neon-infused table that disappears into the horizon, grabbing white orbs to replenish the timer.
If the ball falls between the flippers, it’s not lost – but valuable seconds are. The key, then, is to memorise each miniature table, figure out how to beat it, chain those all together and make it to the end of the eight zones before the timer runs dry. At which point, the game flicks you a wry grin, loops, and removes the white orbs for a final manic run to oblivion.
Taking a classic scrolling brawler like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage and having it work on a touchscreen is tough enough. Making it one-thumb controlled should have been a punch in the face too far. Yet Beat Street is a miniature masterpiece.
Get past the whiff of freemium grind, and you have hours of fun beating the tar out of the anthropomorphic vermin that have decided to take over your city. And just like in the good old days, you can unsportingly cave in someone’s face with a baseball bat or brick if you’re lucky enough to chance upon such a weapon during your travels.
It’s always the way: there you are, trying to enjoy a perfectly civil lantern festival, when yokai rock up and start rampaging about. Fortunately, the local ghostbuster’s been alerted to these demons and spectres. The tiny snag is they’re a literal fox, and as such lack weapons.
Fortunately, there’s loads of stuff lying around – boxes; lanterns; plants; worryingly explosive bombs – which can be shoved in the general direction of your foes, squashing them against walls.
Veterans will recognise this as Pengo, and Yokai Dungeon does bear more than a passing resemblance to that classic – along with a smattering of Bomberman. But this is a smart, breezy reinvention, and perfectly suited to mobile with its swift play, gorgeous visuals, solid one-thumb controls, and randomly generated levels.
If you thought the battle with the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail was silly, it’s got nothing on Knight Brawl. This absurdist hack ’em up finds your sword-wielding protagonist whirling arms and bouncing about as if on a trampoline.
Wrestle with the controls and you’ll eventually elevate yourself to stabby mastery in a range of free-for-all scraps and one-on-one bouts. And when you hanker for bling rather than glory, you can partake in some pilfering and murdering, leaping about castles and unsportingly slicing unsuspecting guards up from behind.
It’s entertainingly bonkers, even if the sound is sadly limited to clangs and grunts, rather than an overly confident foe yelling “had worse” and yelling that they’ll “bite your legs off” when relieved of their own.
Best shooting game for iPhone and iPad: Darkside Lite
This twin-stick shooter updates Asteroids and wraps it around planetoids. The visuals are a treat, from the organic, spinning space rocks to the pyrotechnics on display as your powered-up ship seeks to obliterate everything around it.
This free version of the game gives you the arcade mode – an increasingly tough test featuring increasingly determined trigger-happy aliens; if you like it, check out the full version of Darkside that for two quid adds missions, a survival mode and smart bombs.
It’s the future, and so, inevitably, humanity’s at war with anything it can fire projectiles at. Equally inevitably, everything’s become a toxic gameshow stew, with mercenaries revered as celebrities, to the point adoring fans build massive statues of their heroes.
Being itchy of finger and big of head, you set out to become a legend yourself. This involves taking on missions, and partaking in quite a bit of wanton FPS violence. Mobile shooters are usually rubbish. This one isn’t. And although it can be a bit grindy, the controls and visuals are top-notch, and the bite-sized battles are perfect for gaming on the go.
If you thought vertical shooters would be easier if you could stop for a bit at any point, Time Locker proves otherwise. In this strange, blocky, abstract universe of roaming dinosaurs and angry giant bears, time freezes when you stop moving, allowing you to consider your next move.
This is less helpful than you might think, given that your next move often involves being blown to pieces by a gigantic looming boss, or hurled into oblivion by a relentless world-devouring darkness (which unsportingly continues its pursuit even when the clock is otherwise stopped).
Still, as you gradually grasp the mechanics, you learn how to target foes that bestow weapons and credits for bling boosts at the start of your next go; all the while, you’ll coo at how clever and different the game is, and perhaps note the developer’s generosity in giving it away for free.