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Get creative and learn how to design new levels in these superb touchscreen games
Gaming can be fun and immersive, but some titles take things further and allow you to be creative. The most notable modern example is Minecraft, a virtual world of building blocks where you construct the very environment in which you play — and then do battle against all-comers.
Our selection dials down the ambition a touch, but nonetheless allows you to fashion your own platform games, puzzles, racing games, and breakneck arcade efforts, thereby letting you have fun while learning the basics of level design — all with a few taps.
Free or $2/£2 • v1.305 • 110.3 MB • By SPECTRUM48 LIMITED
The game: This minimal one-thumb platform game has you tackle single-screen circular levels that rotate as you play. The aim is to collect all the gold bits, often with the help of power-up tiles — and all without tumbling into the ether. As you play, your movements draw lines on the screen, and actions create noises that form an abstract soundtrack. The game rewards repeat play through multiple goals per level.
The level designer: Creating a new level is easy – you just fill in spaces on a circular grid. A pencil tab gives you access to material types (platforms; gold bits; power-ups). Levels can be tested until you’re happy, saved for later, and shared with the OCO community. Note that larger canvases and some power-ups are initially gated, but can be ‘bought’ with bits earned in the main game.
Free • v1.7.7 • 154.7 MB • By State of Play Games
The game: In this meditative puzzler, you flood the screen with color. You choose a hue and tap an area, whereupon animated triangles spread throughout it. The aim is to use the fewest possible moves to turn the entire screen one color. Eventually, you hit levels with complex patterns and a larger number of colors. But even then, Kami 2 remains a relaxing yet engaging freebie.
The level designer: To unlock the level editor, you must complete the first twelve levels. That takes only minutes, but gives you a solid grounding in how Kami 2 works. After that, it’s just a case of finger-painting. You select colors, scribble shapes, and test your level to discover how few moves are needed to complete it. Once satisfied, you can opt to share it with the world.
Trick Shot 2
$3/£3 • v1.0.3 • 257.7 MB • By Jonathan Topf
The game: There are plenty of real-world games where you lob a ball into a box. Trick Shot 2 ups the ante in digital form, through making challenges increasingly complex and bonkers. Before long, you’re trying to figure out how to perform the titular trick shots, bouncing a ball off of walls and giant bananas, while contending with all manner of hazards, from levers to teleporters.
The level designer: Tap the folded page corner at the screen’s top-right corner to access the level designer. You can edit the current challenge, or start from scratch in the Workshop, accessed from the menu at the bottom-right of the screen. Adding and adjusting elements is user-friendly, and creations can be shared as movies, images, or by messaging the level to someone.
$2/£2 • v2.3 • 42.7 MB • By Philipp Stollenmayer
The game: A game of acrobatic letters, supertype marries word puzzles, physics, and the surreal. Each level tasks you with hitting tiny targets. To do so, you type a word, and watch as gravity makes the letters topple, tumble and interact. It’s great to look at, and endlessly inventive — not least when you watch a letter swinging across a gap like a type-based action movie star.
The level designer: Access the editor from supertype’s main screen — drag the logo down, and tap create. Tap a slot and then the pencil to add lines, freeform squiggles, the target, and obstacles. Select an element and use the move tool to fine-tune placement. Test with the play button, and share levels with friends by using the … menu. Even if you don’t share your work, it’s a fun sandbox to play in.
Free or $1/£1 • v1.3.0 • 113.1 MB • By Jan Jaschke
The game: Pico’s animal chums have been kidnapped. You must blaze in and rescue them across 100 bite-sized levels, in what amounts to a twin-stick shooter played with a single finger. You drag to move Pico, so he can grab weapons (that intelligently auto-aim and fire), sneak up on foes, and then dispatch them. Later on, that becomes tricky, given that everyone’s armed to the teeth.
The level designer: In the My Levels tab, select New Level. When the editor opens, use the menu at the bottom-right to select an object (landscape; enemy; weapon pick-up) and then tap to place copies in the grid-like battlefield. Game parameters like ammunition counts can be adjusted too. It’s a mite fiddly, especially on an iPhone, but nonetheless simple and rewarding to use.
Deus Ex GO
$5/£5 • v2.1.4 • 301.7 MB • By Square Enix
The game: Agent Adam Jensen seeks to unravel a mystery – primarily by hacking computers and giving soldiers and robots a thorough kicking. Levels play out as slices of turn-based strategy, the aim being to figure out a path to the exit. Often, this requires taking over enemy turrets and manipulating the level’s layout. Think Hitman GO, but set in a (surprisingly shiny) dystopian future.
The level designer: Tap the create button to build a new level. A starting point will be provided, to which you can add pathways and determine enemy/object placement. The editor is very easy to use; the tricky bit is in understanding Deus Ex GO’s logic, to create something suitably brain-smashing. Need inspiration? Tap the globe to check out existing community puzzles.
$1/£1 • v3.4.3 • 224.5 MB • By Frogmind
The game: This fast and furious side-scrolling arcade game features a winged protagonist seemingly in some kind of hell. You tap to make it flap, attempting to avoid the ridiculous number of traps dotted about. There are power-ups of a sort, but they sometimes hinder rather than help, for example ballooning the winged beast to massive size, or transforming him into a dozen clones.
The level designer: Badland’s level creator is seriously impressive – and what the game’s actual levels were built in. You get a forum, video links, and tutorials, and can load any existing level from the game to see how it’s made. When starting from scratch, you mostly drag and drop from a sidebar, positioning and resizing objects as you see fit. But you can go deeper to edit item properties and game events as well.
Free or $5/£5 • v2.1 • 43.3 MB • By Raptisoft
The game: With its lurid visuals, Hoggy 2 echoes famous console games. But although there’s platforming to be done here, the challenge is more claustrophobic in nature, having you munch fruit and avoid enemies within single- or multi-screen ‘jars’. Instead of leaping, you hop from ceiling to floor — a dynamic that’s fun, but also vital to master if you’re going to solve levels and progress deep into the game.
The level designer: In the Maker Mall, you can check out what other people have been creating, or tap My Levels to construct something of your own. Much like Deus Ex GO, the editing isn’t tricky — you simply select items and ‘paint’ them on to a grid. The difficult bit is making something that hits the sweet spot between exciting platform action and tricky puzzling.
$7/£7 • v10.0.114 • 253.2 MB • By Butterscotch Shenanigans, Inc.
The game: The Bureau of Shipping has created Dispatch via Intergalactic Railgun Power (DIRP), a system that delivers packages at light speed — but sometimes atomizes houses. The solution: deliver packages close to their destinations, and send robots to help with the final leg of each journey. It’s your job to train a robot. This all plays out as a console-grade puzzle-platformer with charm, smarts, and plenty of head-scratching moments.
The level designer: The closest thing to Mario Maker you’ll likely ever see on iPhone or iPad, Levelhead includes a seriously professional editor. It unlocks once you’ve completed just two levels of the main game, and gives you a thorough walkthrough of the basics. Others have tried allowing you to create console-oriented platform games on iOS, but this is the first time the results have felt like a game you’d want to play.
Free • v1.0 • 24.6 MB • By Martin Magni
The game: One of the most ambitious things we’ve ever seen in the Games section of the App Store, Fancade is effectively dozens of mini-games in a single package. As you complete levels, you collect stars that open up new challenges to try, from dinky logic puzzles to tiny racing games where little pixelated cars zoom around blocky circuits. But the twist is a heavy emphasis on being the creator…
The level designer: We’re not going to lie: Fancade is quite involved once you head into the Build section. You can start with a blank canvas and construct your own games, using a mix of art and logic — assuming you’ve the requisite skills. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t be put off: you can start with a pre-made kit instead, and fiddle with layouts and settings to make something new.