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We scoured the App Store to find some great free games where in-app purchases are nowhere to be found
These days, there’s free and there’s ‘free’ when it comes to the App Store. More often than not, download a free game and it’ll be infused with in-app purchases. Sometimes, these are perfectly justifiable (extra level packs, demo unlocks and the like), but we’re increasingly seeing games that are more like ‘pay to play’, gouging you for money at every opportunity.
In this round-up, we therefore decided to find games that don’t — and will never — cost you a penny. Every one of them is free and entirely bereft of IAP, yet all of them are very much worth your time. And in case you’re thinking we’ve turned into a bunch of skinflints, have no fear — we’ll soon be delving into our favorite paid titles that are also blissfully lacking in IAP.
— TapSmart (@TapSmart) May 19, 2015
1. Critter Panic
5.4 MB • v1.0.6 • Chaotic Box
The genius with Critter Panic is that it’s so insanely simple. A string of cute critters appears at the centre of the screen, and you simply tap left or right to make a match with characters you’ve already unlocked. This is fine when you’ve only two ready for matching, but any bluster evaporates when the timer’s relentlessly ticking down and your brain helpfully believes the grinning cactus is on the right when it’s clearly on the left. Gah!
Note: a legacy paid edition of Critter Panic also exists on the App Store. This free one is supported with unobtrusive advertising.
2. Coolson’s Pocket Pack
13.3 MB • v1.0.1 • Things Made Out Of Other Things Ltd.
In this tiny word game, chocolate letters fall into a well. You pack them into boxes, and because your boss is an obsessive nutcase, your letters must form a word. At first, the game’s quite noodly, but once you understand the chaining mechanics, it becomes a frantic challenge. You soon find yourself swiping for your life, desperate to avoid errors, getting angry at yourself for suddenly forgetting every three-letter word you’ve ever known.
5.0 MB • v0001.02.00 • Llamasoft
A love letter to 1980s arcade games, Gridrunner plonks your tiny ship in a single-screen grid, surrounded by waves of hostile enemies. Strings of caterpillar-like drones snake down from the top of the screen, while roaming guns take pot-shots from the edges. As you progress through the levels, ships, bombs and other hostiles attempt to blow you away. Occasional respite arrives in the form of very temporary and eye-dazzling power-ups, in iOS’s most thrilling arcade shooter.
Size/version unknown • Doublespeak Games
It’s hard to say too much about Gridland without spoiling everything, so we’ll merely note that it isn’t entirely what you think it is on first launch. The game clearly has a lot in common with match-three puzzlers, but there’s a lot more lurking under the surface, in terms of strategy and a kind of unwritten story that underpins everything. One hint we will offer: take care at night. Speed is not the path to victory.
Note that Gridland is a web game. To install it, visit the link below on your iPhone, tap the Share button and then ‘Add to Home Screen’. An icon will appear on your Home screen and behave like a standard app.
7.0 MB • v1.18 • xionchannel
One of the more baffling entries in this round-up, HungryMaster appears to be a knowing take on oddly translated Japanese NES titles, but with thoroughly modern touchscreen controls. You explore a forest, scrubbing pixie dust across enemies to convert them into food and drink that you subsequently feed to ravenous houses dotted about the map. The cut-scenes are deranged and brilliant (mostly involving arguments between protagonist Delica and her cat, ‘Saten’), and the game itself is original and entertaining.
6. Trainyard Express
8.1 MB • v1.66 • Matt Rix
We’re big fans of Trainyard, which, despite sadly never getting an iPhone 5 update (let alone one for more recent devices), remains one of the best puzzlers on the App Store. It involves drawing tracks to get colored trains to their goal stations. Over time, the mechanics gradually become more complex, forcing you to route around stones and merge trains. Trainyard Express is effectively a demo for the full title, but one that generously gives you 60 puzzles to battle through.
11.6 MB • v1.9.3 • Jean-Francois Geyelin
“Don’t expect a story,” says the developer of PewPew, which is a game purely and unashamedly about blowing things up. Your ship finds itself in an enclosed arena, fending off endless waves of enemies. If you tire of the standard mode, you can pit yourself against Dodge (no weapons — just avoid everything), a color-matching test, and Asteroids, with huge space rocks getting in your way. The sedate soundtrack’s rather oddly placed, but otherwise this game excels, with its mix of glowing vector graphics, tight controls and hectic shooting action.
8. Grim Joggers Freestyle
28.8 MB • v1.2.8 • 10tons Ltd
In the full version of this endless running game, a group of 15 exercise nuts presumably heavily regrets their choice of course. They leap and double-jump their way through deadly jungles, mines, glaciers, battlefields and alien landscapes. In Freestyle, all five environments are combined into a single crazed landscape of exercise hell that might actually be more fun than those in the main title. It’s certainly significantly more surreal!
9. Hot Mess
16.2 MB • v1.1 • Nicholas Ralabate
In Hot Mess, you control a little firefighting robot as it goes about its business, dousing flames in a building with a suspicious number of fires and amorous couples. Two buttons rotate the little metal scamp, and you press them both to blast some water. But a few levels in and the robot gets electrocuted, goes nuts and instead decides to quench ‘fires of the heart’. Cue: levels of an unhinged droid zooming about, blazing through walls, soaking snogging couples, and trying not to fall down elevator shafts.
10. AUX B
33.4 MB • v1.0.5 • Christian Schnellmann
A puzzle game about cabling might not seem like the best use of your time, but AUX B is a really smart logic test. You’re faced with making sense of increasingly complex stacks of audio equipment, routing ‘outs’ to ‘ins’, in order to make music blare forth. Get it wrong and it’s silence forever. 80 levels await, and before long they’ll be causing headaches, leading to you needing some nice music and a little lie down, just to ease your mind.
Another eleven excellent iPhone games that we couldn’t omit, and that you should download immediately…
11. Winter Walk
12.2 MB • v2.2 • Monster and Monster
A gent on his evening constitutional finds it’s a bit windy out. As gusts threaten his hat, help it stay firmly on his head in this one-thumb charmer.
12. Cool Pizza
28.6 MB • v1.4 • Nicholas Ralabate
This stylish and strange arcade game finds a girl speeding through the underworld on her haunted skateboard. Survival depends on getting her airborne, so she can slash flying devils.
7.2 MB • v1.1 • Shane McCafferty
In this sweet-natured puzzler, you match pigs in order to make bacon. Each level is a score-attack challenge, providing endless replayability.
29.7 MB • v1.4 • Kevin Calderone
In theory, a platform game should be easier if you can draw new things to leap on. Trace shows otherwise, with deviously designed single-screen levels.
15. Cube Runner
7.5 MB • v2.4 • Andy Qua
Cubes are to be avoided in this 3D endless survival game, which has you tilting your device to pilot your little ship onwards.
16. Solitaire Free
28.4 MB • v5.5.1 • Solebon LLC
Yes, we know: Solitaire! Yawn! But this one’s really nice, with loads of games to try and a fab interface. If you like it, consider the paid version.
7.5 MB • v3.00 • xionchannel
More craziness from the HungryMaster dev. This time, you fire up an electro-weapon to fend off swarms of foes. It’s a mite fiddly on iPhone but nonetheless compelling.
9.1 MB • v1.3 • ngmoco, LLC
Sadly not updated since 2009, this early App Store classic remains a gorgeous mix of shooting, exploration and dexterity, as you rescue prisoners and swag from enemy bases.
19. Dumb Ways to Die
38.9 MB • v1.6 • Metro Trains Melbourne Pty Ltd
A bit like a stripped-down WarioWare, Dumb Ways to Die randomly flings one of 18 mini-games at your face until your thumbs and reactions fail you.
20. Alice in the Secret Castle
1.4 MB • v1.1 • yamagame
This single-screen platform-puzzler is insanely hard, but intriguing. Hold A and the floors vanish. Time movements right to grab gems and keys, and avoid a horrible death.
21. LEGO Ninjago Tournament
584 MB • v1.1.70250 • The LEGO Group
Unlock your inner LEGO ninja as you fend off endless waves of opponents, scattering them into their component parts.