Best free platform game for iPhone and iPad: Super Cat Tales 2
In time-honoured videogame tradition, evil aliens have invaded and only the cats can save us! Or something. Well, at least it makes a change from implausibly indestructible muscle-bound hulks.
With its chunky retro pixels and old-school platforming action, you might initially think a hitherto unknown 16-bit classic has scrabbled into your iPhone. But in fact, Super Cat Tales 2 is modern in its approach.
Levels are short but smart, encouraging mobile play and repeat attempts. Best of all, you can dash, leap, wall-jump, and blow up aliens using massive yellow tanks, all by using the clever two-thumb control system. It baffles at first (argh: muscle memory!), but when mastered makes you wish every virtual D-pad would be destroyed at the claws of a very angry cat.
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.
You know the weird feeling you get that you’re being followed? Imagine that’s happening to you while you’re bounding about caverns littered with spike traps — and that you are actually being followed. That’s the case for Frogo, who needs to keep one hop ahead of his deadly shadow.
In a typical platform game, that would be easy enough, but Shadow Frog takes place in claustrophobic single-screen caverns, and has brutally stripped back one-thumb controls. Success rests on precise timing and figuring out the best route to grab each cave’s goodies, all while avoiding coming face-to-face with the hero’s evil double.
It’s hard to see how platform games could get any more minimal than OCO. This one’s stripped back to the point even Jony Ive might suggest adding additional textures. But OCO does an awful lot with a little, resulting in a beautiful, engaging game.
Each of its circular single-screen levels has you gather up floating bling (this is still a platform game, after all), and make for an exit. The snag: you automatically move and can only tap to jump. This forces you to think carefully about the route you’ll take, and make cunning use of power-ups.
Add to that a level editor, procedurally generated audio, and eye-popping visuals reminiscent of modern art, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
It’s Full of Sparks
A firecracker’s life is brief. The fuse is lit and then you go out in a colourful, noisy explosion. But the doddering rockets in this game have had enough, and want to extend their life by extinguishing their sparks.
Each of the 80 levels tasks you with belting towards water, trying very hard not to explode along the way. Complicating matters is a trio of coloured buttons, used to toggle hazards, bridges, and helicopter rotors that can help and hinder.
This is a tense, fast-paced, frustrating, and entertaining platform game that arrives on your device with a bang – and whose spark won’t die until you’re done.
Best free endless/auto runner for iPhone and iPad: Pigeon Wings Strike
When under attack from swarms of enemies with massive guns, most videogame leaders are massive idiots, sending out a lone fighter to shoot everything down. Pigeon Wings Strike goes one better, because the plane is piloted by a pigeon.
Fortunately, this pigeon can do pretty amazing things in the air, slipstreaming chums, obliterating drones, and weaving through tunnels and between buildings.
At least that’s the plan. In this deranged high-octane mash-up of ALONE…, R-Type and Pigeon Street, you’ll initially see a lot of pigeon pie filling. But once it clicks, and you master the wonderful tilt controls, this one will stay even more welded to your device than pigeon poop to the roof of your car. Only in a good way.
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.
A princess is kidnapped. A hero appears, determined to rescue her and jump on anyone stupid enough to get in their way. No, it’s not Mario – this hero is named Will, and he’s a bit of a square.
We mean that quite literally – Will is a square who bounds between levitating islands, attempting to off enemies, and occasionally grab weapons from chests with which to cause yet more destruction.
The game’s fast pace is captivating, not least when you manage to ditch some weedy spears for heat-seeking missiles. The only downside is Will’s escapades end if you make a single blunder – Mario never knew he had it so good with those multiple lives.
A platform game in a shoebox, Infiniroom finds your tiny hero leaping from wall to wall in a claustrophobic, constantly changing room. As you zip along, bombs emerge from walls, massive saw blades scythe across surfaces, and lasers spew death beams. Adding to the chaos, chunks of the room regularly vanish as new sections open up.
The result feels like high-octane Canabalt auto-runner/leapy antics combined with the sadistic streak at the heart of Super Hexagon. Games are initially short, until you get into the ‘zone’ – and even then you’ll likely get killed in well under a minute. It’s exciting, compelling stuff, and the perfect game for handing your ego back to you time and time again.