"So, wait - if we smash together two bona fide arcade classics (that are nonetheless typically considered casual games by the so-called hardcore set), GamesRadar will add the resulting concoction to its ‘real iPhone and iPod touch hardcore gaming list’? Fantastic!"
OK, so that’s not quite how it went, but when Self Aware Games combined Marble Madness and Crazy Taxi, adding a glob of mazey goodness, it created a tough, exciting, demanding game. Sure, it seems simple, picking up passengers on your marble-based taxi, tilting your device and dropping off the pixelated fares wherever they want to go, but when you’ve dozens to deal with in mere seconds, only the very best cabbies are going to get the all-important tip. (The tip being: get your customers where they want to go and in good time, or it’s game over, rubbish videogame-player.)
It’s not one of the best games on the App Store, but Dactyl’s probably the most relentless. The concept is insanely simple, even compared to some of the other straightforward games here: defuse bombs by tapping them. Not much thought is required - instead, the game’s like the world’s most frantic whack-a-mole, requiring lightning reactions and for you to hit the bombs roughly in sequence (for a short delay in tapping one brings the game to an end).
Space Invaders Infinity Gene
The wonderfully twisty Blue Defense - a sort of 'Space Invaders evolved' shooter - nearly made this list, until Taito came up with its own iPod revisit of the 1978 arcade classic. Rather than aping (the admittedly excellent) Space Invaders Extreme, Infinity Gene takes you on a de-facto evolutionary journey. As you play, the game shifts from Space Invaders to something like Galaxian, then slowly becomes a crazed vertical shooter, Rez-like pyrotechnics and thumping audio drawing you in.
While the game’s a tad fragmented (the between-stage sections are almost like an abrupt and unwanted come-down), the chaining and time-attack nature of the stages ensures Infinity Gene its place in the ‘real hardcore hall of fame’ for iPod gaming, blowing away drab, grey first-person shooters, leaving them in its dust.
What’s that, you say? Why the hell have we included a game about annoyingly cute anthropomorphic cartoon airplanes with stupid smiling faces in a round-up of titles for hardcore gamers? ’Cause it’s about the gameplay, silly. Super Mario Brothers can be pretty hardcore and demanding when it comes to perfect gaming, but Mario’s still a cartoon shorty with a stupid moustache; and so it is with Airport Mania, which tasks you with basic micromanagement of a simplified airport.
The game doesn’t have the depth of what most gamers would consider ‘hardcore asset management’, but what it does have is speed. When your gates are all full, runways hidden by fog and a half-dozen planes are circling and snarling, the juggling you have to do requires quick thinking and expert planning—the hallmarks of a truly hardcore arcade experience.