Best free platform game for iPhone and iPad: 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.
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.
It’s a perilous business being cute cartoonish characters in a videogame – even if you’re a slime mould. Here, the evil Moon Men have kidnapped the gloopy protagonists’ kids – the rotters.
Playing as mum or dad, you squelch about the Moon Men’s fortress, squeezing into jars that house puzzle-infused platform game shenanigans. As you leap from ceiling to floor, you must scope out your surroundings, make use of objects and enemies, eat all the fruit, and try to not get horribly killed.
With a smidgen more polish, Hoggy 2 wouldn’t be out of place on a Nintendo handheld. Given that it’s entirely free on iOS, it’s a ridiculously generous bargain.
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.
Tentacles - Enter the Mind
Gaming’s fertile territory for a zany premise. And in Tentacles, you play a cycloptic spider-like being with stretchy legs, which barrels through the mind of a mad anthropomorphic dolphin scientist, ripping out enemies’ eyes and eating them, while collecting gold coins and secret eggs that bestow new abilities.
Unlike similarly oddball predecessor Enter the Dolphin, this one further disorients by having you speed along in 3D, within the constantly whirring and shifting fevered psyche of the crazed Cetacean. It’s a bit grindy at times, but the unique platforming and game’s trippy nature means it’s not to be missed.
Best free endless/auto runner for iPhone and iPad: Power Hover: Cruise
The original Power Hover remains a stunning iOS game, charting a robot scything across minimal landscapes, having choreographed adventures in a desolate but beautiful world. Power Hover: Cruise is a more intense affair, transforming some of its predecessor’s levels into tricky endless challenges.
Whether you’re racing after a demented machine in an underground tunnel, or soaring above the clouds on a trap-infested snake-like road, Power Hover: Cruise is a compelling, essential game. Although given how hard it can get, it would probably have been better entitled Power Hover: NYAAAARRRGGGHH.
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.
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.
Up the Wall
Endless runners are all very well, but there’s something to be said for hand-crafted levels. Up the Wall’s are particularly gorgeous, as your character zooms about a tiny isometric world that in an instant often abruptly flings you – suitably – up a wall.
Whether you’re a hamburger in an abstract fast food joint or a cab belting along an angular city block, you’ll also be sent up the wall by the game’s traps. Each track’s peppered with loads of the things, meticulously and deviously placed to have you fail until you totally nail the choreography of the current level. And you’ll want to, because you’re not going to let a game beat you, right?