Best free platform game for iPhone and iPad: Cally’s Caves 3
You’ll probably be a few levels into Cally’s Caves 3 before you wonder what the catch is. This leapy shooty platform game feels like an impossibly solid, complete title for no money at all. But there is no catch: developer Jordan Pearson really is giving you an entire 120-level old-school platformer entirely for free.
It follows the adventures of Cally, whose parents have gotten themselves kidnapped - again. (This is the third entry in the series, after all.) She must go after them, bounding about and shooting things along the way.
Cally’s Caves 3 has smart level design, a checkpoint system that forces you to be a bit careful rather than blundering about, a superb weapon upgrade system (they get more powerful the more things you shoot with them) and tons of charm.
IAPs exist, but merely to simultaneously reward the dev and get yourself additional game modes.
Super Cat Tales
In time-honoured platform game tradition, Alex the cat’s siblings have been kidnapped. Horrors! He must leap about, collect coins and, when he’s done messing about jumping and stealing bling, free his family. Level design is varied, the cats are wonderfully observed, and it feels a little like a hitherto unknown 16-bit classic has scrabbled into your iPhone.
That said, while this one’s all chunky retro pixels and old-school leapy gameplay, Super Cat Tales has fab two-thumb touchscreen controls to guide your on-screen moggie. They initially baffle (argh: muscle memory!) but when mastered make you wish all virtual controls would be destroyed by the claws of a particularly angry cat.
Mikey’s first adventure was a kind of speed-run Mario, but Mikey Jumps strips everything back. Virtual controls are gone, as is scrolling. Instead, Mikey auto-runs his way through dozens of single-screen challenges.
This might be at odds with what you expect from a platform game, but it works. You’re forced to think quickly on encountering a new level; even veterans will have a time recalling routes and performing jumps perfectly if they don’t want to blaze through their three lives.
The game pays homage to its predecessors, too: along with jumping, Mikey can sometimes use grappling hooks from Mikey Hooks and jet boots from Mikey Boots. A pity, Mikey might mull, there was never a Mikey Teleports – he’d not be impaled nearly so often.
Before all games had to be 3D by law, the 2D adventure-platformer reigned supreme. On touchscreens, these games are usually a bit rubbish, due to iffy design and even worse controls, but Swordigo bucks the trend.
You get a huge magical realm of monsters to fight, treasures to find, and towns to explore. Any whiff of nostalgia is rapidly expunged as you become engrossed in the plot, give giant spiders a serious kicking, and do your best Harry Potter impersonation with the aid of enemy-troubling spells.
Best free endless runner for iPhone and iPad: Disney Crossy Road
Endless Frogger meets Disney in a rare example of an indie dev/movie house tie-up that works perfectly.
The mechanics will be familiar to anyone who’s played the excellent original — tap and swipe to have a blocky protagonist weave through traffic and deftly jump across rivers. But the addition of Disney characters finds you battling your way through retro versions of famous animated worlds, dodging tumbling blocks in Toy Story, filing memories for bonuses in Inside Out, and avoiding a psychotic suit of armour in Haunted House.
We’re shoe-horning this one in here, because it’s sort of an endless runner, in the same way it’s 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.
We at Stuff HQ aren’t privy to insider knowledge regarding how zoos are populated and maintained, but we’re pretty sure Rodeo Stampede plays fast and loose with reality. Here, you saddle up, leap into the air and lasso a rampaging beast (the alternative being an embarrassing face-plant in the dirt). Ride said critter for long enough and it’ll decide it loves you want wants to be a part of your zoo — your zoo in the sky.
Rodeo Stampede then finds you switching back and forth between endless runner thrills to capture new animals (super-fast twitchy ostriches; bulldozer-like elephants) and micro-managing a flying zoo sure to give animal rights people a field day in the press.