Two for the price of one
Gaming, like other forms of media, has distinct genres. This makes it easier to quickly get at content you may like, but often the most interesting stuff happens in the grey area between genres.
Call them crossover games, mash-ups, or hybrids; these are the subject of this round-up. We’ve scoured the App Store for the best games that create something excitingly new and fresh from two (or more) slices of the familiar.
Arkanoid vs Space Invaders
$4.99/£4.99 • v1.2 • 320 MB • By Square Enix Inc
No prizes for guessing what this game combines, given that the clue’s in the name. Yep, we’re in ‘mash together two retro classics’ territory, as brick-basher Arkanoid (a shiny 1980s take on Breakout) is smashed into blowing up blocky neon baddies from outer space.
The twist is that instead of piloting a little tank that trundles back and forth, your weapon is Arkanoid’s Vaus bat. Having no projectiles of its own, it’s used to deflect lasers spewed by the invaders right back at them. (You wonder why they don’t stop shooting, really, but there you go – they never were that bright.)
A strict time limit further ramps up the tension, as you figure out the best way to bash your way through 150 varied stages.
Beat Sneak Bandit
$2.99/£2.99 • v2.0 • 173 MB • By Simogo AB
The nefarious Duke Clockface has stolen all the clocks, plummeting the world into disarray. Now no-one knows what time their favourite TV shows are on, or when to brush their teeth. Enter: benevolent pilferer Beat Sneak Bandit, who resolves to steal all those timepieces back.
Each of the game’s single-screen levels has three clocks to grab and a goal. There are also searchlights and security guards that must be avoided. Everything’s controlled using a single thumb (tap to move forwards), and your movements must happen on the beat. Get your timing wrong and the clocks start to vanish.
This is a charming, brilliantly designed game. And in terms of mash-ups, it’s perhaps the most audacious around, given that it combines rhythm action, platforming, stealth, path-finding puzzling, and one-thumb controls.
$2.99/£2.99 • v1.2.1 • 180 MB • By Arnold Rauers
Card Thief somehow successfully marries solitaire, stealth, and dungeon crawling. The action takes place on a three-by-three grid of cards, one of which is the titular Card Thief. Your aim is to guide him around the grid, working out how to grab as much loot as possible, without losing ‘stealth points’, which are depleted when fighting enemies.
The combination works nicely, and it’s ideal for iPhone, given that each game lasts only a few minutes. And although the game’s perhaps a mite repetitive, the ‘Daily Heist’ gives you a new preset challenge every 24 hours, and repeat play is rewarded through you gradually unlocking new equipment cards and missions. If it turns out you’re a fan, also check out the creator’s equally impressive Card Crawl.
Flappy Golf 2
Free • v2.0.1 • 132 MB • By Noodlecake Studios Inc
Flappy Bird became an iPhone sensation in early 2014. It had you prod the screen to flap a bird’s wings, aiming to manoeuvre it between sets of pipes. This radically stripped back one-thumb survival game was subsequently much imitated, but Flappy Golf was one of the few efforts to transform the Flappy Bird formula into a truly great game.
It did so by combining ‘flappy’ controls with the larger-than-life side-on minigolf courses from the Super Stickman Golf series. The sequel’s essentially more of the same, but this time with polish rather than the rough edges of a parody. You flap left and right to get your winged ball to the hole in the fewest possible flaps. And in the multiplayer mode, this can all be done in fast-forward against friends.
$4.99/£4.99 • v1.13 • 1.10 GB • By Square Enix Inc
On consoles, Hitman exists in a 3D world of stealth and assassins, with Agent 47 sneaking about the place and bumping off unfortunate targets. With 3D titles and their complex controls invariably faring poorly on iPhone, the concept was radically reworked for Hitman GO.
This game keeps its predecessor’s general premise, but takes place on adorable dioramas. Routes are mapped out, and you can move one space at a time, after which adversaries have their goes.
It’s turn-based puzzling, then, crossed with stealth, and disguised as a virtual boardgame. Most surprisingly of all, it even manages to retain the atmosphere of its console cousins; and although it’s a very different game, it’s equally as good.
Free • v4.3 • 25.0 MB • By Solebon LLC
With word games having such simple mechanics, they’re ripe for crossover fare. Letterpress uses Boggle as a basic framework, and then adds a land-grab layer that’s reminiscent of Risk.
This is a two-player title (although you can play a computer ‘bot’ if you don’t fancy taking on a human), and is played on a five-by-five grid. When you submit a word, the tiles you used turn blue, whereupon your opponent will attempt to flip some back and grab new tiles of their own.
The key to winning – which requires taking over the entire board – is to ‘lock’ tiles by surrounding them, making them harder to flip. Often, Letterpress isn’t about the longest word, but one that will keep your existing tiles safe.
Free or $2.99/£2.99 • v1.0.2 • 119 MB • By Mediocre AB
If ever there was a genre you wouldn’t have expected to be combined with an endless runner, it’s pinball. After all, pinball tables are typically very finite in nature, limited by the size of their physical boxes.
But in PinOut!, you instead get a series of miniature tables linked by ramps. Hit the ball along one, and you move further into the level. All the while, the timer is counting down, adding tension when you can’t quite make a shot, or can’t see any collectable glowing dots nearby to replenish the clock.
The game looks and sounds gorgeous – all 1980s neon and electro soundtrack. But it’s the combination of gameplay styles that really makes this one stand out as a modern-day iPhone classic.
$1.99/£1.99 • v1.75 • 113 MB • By Sirvo LLC
Described by its creators as a game that will “punch your brain in the face”, Puzzlejuice borrows liberally from Tetris, Boggle and colour-matching. It turns out this makes for a decidedly frantic package.
The basic game initially resembles Tetris, in that coloured shapes fall from the top of the screen and can be rotated, before you drop them into place. Unlike in Tetris, though, forming a solid line doesn’t make it disappear – it just transforms into a row of letters.
At that point, you must drag out words. Doing so blows up the tiles it contains, freeing up space for the blocks that, remember, are still falling from the top of the screen. Lob in some power-ups, and you’ve an engaging, brightly coloured juggling act that should appeal to fans of puzzlers and word games alike.
Free • v1.11.0 • 244 MB • By Featherweight Games Pty Limited
The endless runner is a mainstay of iPhone gaming – and Rodeo Stampede is a perfectly entertaining endless runner. Flinging yourself into a stampede, your brave/foolhardy lasso-armed nutcase rides all manner of wild animals, leaping from beast to beast as they tire of having someone lurking on their back.
As you meet new animals, you get the chance to ‘tame’ them. (Essentially: cling on for a bit, rather than being hurled into the air and subsequently horribly trampled.) You’re then whisked away to your Sky Zoo (quite literally a zoo in the sky), whereupon you can build and improve enclosures, and take money from eager punters.
It’s an intriguing mix of endless runner and asset management, even if we’re unconvinced about the practicalities of a zoo perched atop a massive airship in the clouds.
Free or $2.99/£2.99 • v1.1.1 • 91.2 MB • By Zach Gage
The creator of Sage Solitaire reasoned that solitaire’s not ideally suited to iPhones, given that they’re not (yet) the size of a real table. Also, he wanted to bring more depth and strategy to the game – hence setting it on a three-by-three grid and combining it with poker.
In the standard mode, you get nine piles of cards, which decrease in size from top-left to bottom-right. Cards are cleared by making poker hands, and for each hand, you must use cards from at least two rows. This becomes tricky if you’ve already used many from the bottom rows.
The poker twist really works, and should you also want to add a bit of gambling, there’s a ‘Vegas’ mode. There, you place a bet, and accrue winnings on the basis of how many card piles you clear.
$2.99/£2.99 • v1.2 • 85.0 MB • By Alec Thomson
Swap Sword initially looks like any other match-three game. You get a bunch of icons, and line up three or more so they disappear. Only Swap Sword is also a Rogue-like dungeon crawler, with a sword-wielding hero determined to survive mines and valleys, while getting all stabby with their weapon.
This means that although you’re sometimes matching gems, you also spend plenty of time attacking monsters, making use of gravity and the turn-based nature of match games to beat a hasty retreat when surrounded.
Swap Sword is admittedly a very finite game in nature, with only a single quest. But the core experience is such you’ll be riveted until you beat the game – and will then start to figure out ways to ramp up your high score.
$3.99/£3.99 • v1.2.0 • 33.9 MB • By Bruno Dias
Way back in 1984, a space-trading game called Elite was released. One of the earliest examples of a procedurally generated open-ended game, it had you explore the cosmos, shoot pirates, and discover that docking with space stations was inexplicably difficult.
Voyageur takes the basic framework of Elite, but reworks it as a piece of interactive fiction. So you’re still buying and selling, visiting new worlds, and going on the odd quest, but the entire game is resolutely text-based.
Described by its creator as a ‘literary RPG’, Voyageur proves a compelling genre mash-up. Admittedly, it can get a bit repetitive, with planet descriptions and experiences repeating before long. But get into the groove of trading, hiring crew, and uncovering the mystery at the centre of the game, and you’ll be hooked. And at least your ship automatically docks this time round.