If you’re fortunate enough to own an iPhone or iPod Touch, you’re also unfortunate enough to have tried browsing the gadgets’ application store. With over 35,000 downloads currently available, finding the quality in all that quantity is growing increasingly difficult, frustrating and costly.
For gamers, the situation is even worse. No-name apps with good user ratings are tempting, but usually disappoint once you realize the developers are amateurs and the scores were given by a casual audience. Marquee titles aren’t much better, selling you a recognizable name without any recognizable gameplay.
Some high-profile publishers, however, treat iPhone customers with respect. Some recreate your console and PC favorites with care. The trick is knowing which games to trust, and which to click away from as quickly as possible.
Buy away! These are some of the best games the iPhone has to offer, period. The recognizable licenses and familiar characters only sweeten the deal.
Caution! These games may be great for diehard fans of the franchise, but glitches, control issues, unfair prices and/or superior competitors make the download a risky one.
Avoid! These games are either hopelessly broken, preying on your nostalgia or both. Remember, there are no refunds in the world of Apple.
The app? Wolfenstein 3D Classic
Based on? The great-great-grandfather of the first person shooter genre, and of 3D games in general. You’re a shirtless super agent with a chain gun. Your enemies are Nazi soldiers, Nazi generals, Nazi dogs and a Nazi Mecha Hitler. What else do you need to know?
Worth the download? Quite possibly the best iPhone game in existence, so um, yeah. 60 huge levels, laid out precisely as you remember them. Smooth, functional controls (touch or tilt - your choice!), designed by the original creator and legendary designer John Carmack. What could be better? Only the upcoming port of Doom. ($2)
The app? Metal Gear Solid Touch
Based on? The PlayStation-exclusive, espionage-fueled escapades of Solid Snake and company. Stealth! Action! Robots! Politics and philosophy! After seven games and twenty years, the franchise has tackled pretty much everything.
Worth the download? Yes, but don’t expect any stealth. Touch is basically a glorified shooting gallery, set in Metal Gear Solid 4 environments against Metal Gear Solid 4 baddies. The graphics are so good and the gunplay mechanics are so satisfying, however, that you probably won’t mind a bit. Earning up to 50 reward wallpapers only adds to the bargain. ($8)
The app? Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Based on? Last year’s LucasArts game of the same name. As Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, you must use deadly lightsaber skills and deadlier Force powers to fulfill your master’s bidding. Unless you want to switch over to the Light Side for some weird reason…
Worth the download? Sorry, but the unofficial lightsaber app – the one Lucas had pulled – is still the best thing Star Wars on the iPhone. Here, the combat consists of tracing symbols over the bad guys’ heads with your finger. Interactive? Sure. Fun? Not so much. Worst of all? Just six short levels for a too steep price. ($6)
The app? SimCity
Based on? The long-running simulation series, first masterminded by Will Wright in the 1980s. Build your perfect town with roads, businesses, parks and museums… or utterly destroy the mini metropolis with fires, floods, earthquakes and alien invasions.
Worth the download? Hard to say. The essence of the SimCity experience has been faithfully translated to the phone, impressive considering how much information and how many menus are necessary to play. Unfortunately, the app is prone to crashing for a lot of users. EA dropped the price by half recently, but still, it’s a risk. ($5)
The app? Myst
Based on? One of the best-selling games of all time, this famous 1993 graphic adventure traded story for mystery, inventory items for logic puzzles and clear context for an organic sense of discovery.
Worth the download? Definitely. What felt dated by modern PC standards – the static screens, repetitive sound effects, cheesy video and limited movement – now seems perfectly streamlined for on-the-go iPhone gaming. Let’s hope this is just the beginning of a portable point-and-click resurgence. ($6)