If you’re new to Apple’s iDevices…first of all, welcome. They’re tremendous fun, and quite powerful. Much more powerful than these Angry Birds and Words With Friends crazes would have you believe. Those are certainly entertaining games, but that’s not all that’s out there; you’ve also some games that put other portable gaming devices to shame, and even a few that rival the experience you would’ve had on last gen’s consoles.
The question is, though, which ones will work on your iDevice? Which ones can really be used to silence the naysayers? Here are a few to get you started, all of which are Universal apps, which means that they’ll play and look great on both the iPhone 4/4S and iPad 2, but you’ll only need to buy them once to run it on both devices.
Infinity Blade II
This is the one you already know about it. It’s Apple’s “Halo;” the game they trumpet every chance the get. It has stunningly gorgeous graphics, yes, but more importantly it has a gaming control scheme that was designed for touchscreen devices. You don’t play Infinity Blade II wishing you had a d-pad and physical buttons, as they would feel archaic in this game. They’d get in the way.
In his recent review of Infinity Blade II, Arnold Zafra award the game a 5A rating, stating, “When it comes to graphics and game design, what can I say? Epic has once again made use of the iOS devices’ power and made a great-looking game which is more polished than it was in the original Infinity Blade. Sound effects are still epic and grand.”
The only bad thing about Infinity Blade is that if you start here, everything else may seem like a let-down. But that’s likely happened to you on the consoles as well, and really, isn’t it fun to see which games can step up and claim the throne. Let the competition begin now by grabbing Infinity Blade II. You don’t need to have played through the first game to enjoy this, but after finishing Infinity Blade II, you will anyway.
I’m actually a little hesitant to recommend this one because it’s not what I want it to be. That seems unfair, though, because when you take Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter 3 for what it is, you’ll get a rather stunning game that’s very well developed.
It’s listed as an action/RPG, but the RPG elements are pulled back to favor action when compared with the previous entries. Dungeon Hunter 1 and 2 focused on story and adventure. Here, dungeons have been replaced by battle arenas, and crawling has been replaced by…in-app purchases, really. The point is to fight and win to unlock items, but if that’s taking too long you can purchase them from within the game. The benefit to this in-app purchase system is that the game is free. The drawback is that if you’re not willing to spend real cash on fake gold, you’re in for a lot of level grinding with no real story to drive you along.
But, the graphics are fantastic, and the control scheme is fine. Battles are played out in real time, with plenty of stunning spell effects and creative monsters to combat. If you don’t mind skipping the adventure and prefer to jump straight to the battles, this is a free way to make that happen.
If a game warns you that you should reboot your iDevice before playing it, take that as a good sign. That means it doesn’t want your iPad or iPhone worrying about anything else while the game’s going on, so neither should you. Especially when that game is Shadowgun.
Here, we’ve got a third-person shooter that offers a well told (if clichéd) story to move along through the six + hours of gameplay the developers, Madfinger, promise. I could sum up the plot, by why? Future. Bounty hunter. Evil corporations. Genetically enhanced humanoids. You know the routine. And honestly, that’s part of what makes Shadowgun so great. You’ve had games that play like this and look like this, but on a handheld device? From Apple? Hand this one over to your judgmental friends. Let it kick their butt.
Shadowgun is the first installment in a new franchise, so get in now. If they were able to pull this off in their first try, imagine what will follow all the development experience.
Here’s a game with visuals that are more about style then realism. Consider it a hard core game for Wii gamers. Wii gamers who are thirsty for blood.
You can tell from Samurai II: Vengeance what this ones going to be about; the main character and the plot are right there in the name. Take them both seriously, because this game features a lot of sword fights, a lot of decapitations and a lot of dismemberment, but in a very artistic, colorful way. These are bloody battlefields I’d happily hang on my wall if my wife would allow it.
The battles are big and furious, requiring more skill than you’d expect from the start. In between them, however, is an adventure told through comic-book style panels, the plot of which will have you yearning for the Saturday afternoon Hong Kong action flicks of your youth. It’s extremely violent, it’s beautifully designed and animated, it contains a deep and lengthy adventure, and it’s a blast. In fact, this may be the one you want to use to show off your iDevice, a it’s also instantly playable.
I want to bring special attention one other game, as well. Because it’s not universal, it doesn’t fit into the format of this article. However, EA’s Dead Space HD is one of the wildest gaming experiences I’ve had on my iPad 2. It’s another game that wouldn’t have believed could be pulled off on an iDevice, but there it is. It’s scary, it’s intense, and it looks great. However, it’s hampered by annoying ads, it works too hard to force you to make in-app purchases, and you have to buy separate versions for the iPhone and iPad. None of these can take away from the fact it’s as hard core as hard core gets, though, so it’s worth checking out if you can deal with the financial intrusions.
If you want horror without ads, go with Dark Meadow. It’s a node-based first-person shooter that combines a creepy environment, fantastic graphics and an innovative touch-based combat system into a tight, engrossing package.
From there, you’re on your own. There’s plenty to be found in the iTunes App Store, with plenty more on the way. And once you know what to look for, you’ll be surprised how often you reach for your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch for quality hard-core gaming, leaving your DS and PSP for the casual gamers.