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Top Ten: iPhone games to get you through summer
by Tom Acres

For years now, gamers have associated summer with a lack of quality titles to enjoy on their beloved console, handheld or PC. Occasionally, we might be lucky enough to receive a gem like Batman: Arkham Asylum in August, or a surprise hit like Infamous in June, but for the most part there is a serious drought of triple-A titles to keep us amused.

Since the release of Apple's widely successful iPhone, and the subsequent growth of the App Store, gamers both hardcore and casual have often looked to cheap downloads to keep them entertained when their PS3 and 360 cannot. Fantastic games are released on iOS almost every week, and there's a massive back catalogue of high-quality titles that are addictive, cheap and - most importantly - fun.

To help you through this all-too-familiar summer gaming drought, here are (in no particular order) my Top 10 iPhone Games to get you through the summer.

Editor's note: The prices, publishers and App Store ratings contained in this article are those from the U.K. App Store. Prices, publishers and ratings may vary in other territories, and in some territories some apps may be unavailable to download. Half-stars on the App Store are rounded up to the nearest whole star here, so 4.5 stars equates to five here.

Plants vs Zombies

Without wanting to sound lazy, there's very little I can say about Plants vs Zombies that I didn't say in my full review last year. What I will say is that Popcap's supremely popular PC tower-defence title is even better on iPhone, with the touchscreen controls lending themselves brilliantly to planting seeds and taking down the zombie hordes. The game looks and sounds just as good as it does on the PC, and the recent update - that offers native support for the iPhone 4's stunning Retina display - means that the crispness of the visuals are now pretty much on-par with the HD visuals of the Xbox Live Arcade port. With such addicting gameplay, great presentation and plenty of levels to keep you occupied, Plants vs Zombies is one game that should be on every iPhone owner's home screen.

Price: £1.99
Developer/Publisher: PopCap
Awards: Over 20 Game of the Year awards
App Store Rating: ★★★★★

Cut The Rope

As far as concepts for games go, there's no denying that the level of creativity on offer from App Store developers far surpasses the creativity of developers of console games. I mean, when would anybody else think to base a game around feeding sweets to a little monster?

Cut The Rope is all about - well - cutting ropes. On the end of the ropes are pieces of confectionery, and your job is to cut ropes, pop bubbles, blow balloons, pull back elastics and generally utilise physics and your brain to feed your little green friend. Much like Angry Birds, the excellent physics are what provide most of the fun in this puzzle game, but the way in which new mechanics are constantly introduced keeps it feeling fresh throughout the entire experience. There's a good amount of challenge and an abundance of levels to keep you occupied, and the game is full of charm and cutesiness that make it very hard to resist. Perhaps more than any other game on this list (Angry Birds aside), it has absolute universal appeal.

Price: £0.69 (or free 'Lite' version)
Developer/Publisher: Chillingo Ltd/ZeptoLab UK Ltd
Awards: Best Handheld, BAFTA 2011; Most Innovative, Best Casual/Puzzle, Pocket Gamer Awards 2011; Best Handheld, GDC Awards 2011; Apple Design Award Winner, WWDC 2011
App Store Rating: ★★★★★


I'd be lying if I told you the App Store wasn't full to the brim with games featuring zombies, and I'd also be lying if I said that there weren't already hundreds of tower-defence-esque titles available too. But, even though ZombieSmash unashamedly combines these two rather contrived ideals, it does it so well that it's rather impossible to ignore. The biggest weapon at your disposal in ZombieSmash is your fingers, as you grab your attackers and fling them around at will, in an attempt to defend your home. As you progress, weapons become available as well, and - just as in all tower-defence games - the more goodies that you unlock, the more fun there is to be had. You earn stars as you play, and you use these to unlock more weapons, ammo slots, barricades and the like. It's all very much what you'd expect, but the way in which you can just fling the zombies around if you so wish does give it a unique edge. The game also looks fantastic, with its cute art style juxtaposed against blood and gore, to great effect. The wonderfully squishy sound effects as zombies are killed, coupled with a surprisingly brilliant music score, mean that this game goes above and beyond most App Store production values as well. ZombieSmash definitely gives the brilliant Plants vs Zombies a run for its money, so buying it is an absolute no-brainer.

Price: £0.69
Developer/Publisher: gamedoctors UG
Awards: N/A
App Store Rating: ★★★★★

Angry Birds

What else is there to say about Angry Birds? It's the king of the App Store; the game that everyone goes to download first when they purchase a new iOS device. And all this success, for a game that sees you flinging chickens at pigs who are bunkered down in a series of increasingly well-defended structures? It seems utterly absurd that something so ridiculous could be so successful, but brilliantly fun physics and its wide array and variety of levels means that people just keep coming back for more. There isn't much strategy involved, and luck can also play a large part in how you do, but there's something incredibly satisfying about killing pigs with poultry.

Price: £0.69 (or free 'Angry Birds Lite' version)
Developer/Publisher: Mobile Ltd.
Awards: N/A
App Store Rating: ★★★★★

Chop Chop Runner

As another simple concept with the 'just one more go' appeal, it's easy to see why Chop Chop Runner has become one of the most successful games on the App Store to date. You play as a ninja, and all that ninja wants to do is run from left to right. And he will stop at nothing.

You tap the screen to hop, hold the screen to leap and double tap the screen to attack enemies, as you make your way along the right of the screen. That's all there is to it. The landscapes and enemy placements are totally random, though, as it's all randomly generated each time you play, ensuring an unpredictable and reasonably fresh experience each time you boot it up to have a go. Like many popular games on the App Store, the game has a cute art style, with colourful backgrounds and detailed, hand-drawn characters. It's a charming little package, and has kept me occupied many a time on trains, buses and planes.

Price: £1.49
Developer/Publisher: Gamerizon
Awards: N/A
App Store Rating: ★★★★

Infinity Blade

Possibly the most high-profile game on the App Store amongst those in the hardcore gaming community, Infinity Blade is brought to us by Epic Games and Chair Entertainment, the developer behind the utterly brilliant Xbox Live Arcade title Shadow Complex, back in 2009. There is a sort of story to Infinity Blade's proceedings, but in all honesty, it's basically typical fantasy fare; there's a big bad guy with a powerful sword, and you have to kill him.

The headline feature (if you can call it that) of Infinity Blade is no doubt the visual prowess. On an iPhone 4 using the Retina display, this game looks absolutely phenomenal. Without wanting to anger the Nintendo fanboys of the world, I really do think that, on a technical level, this is better than the very best Wii titles. The sound effects, graphics and music wouldn't be out of place on a home console, so to see it on a phone is an incredible testament to just how far these devices have come, in such a short space of time.

In terms of its gameplay, though, Infinity Blade doesn't even try and act like a console game. There are no onscreen buttons, or the sort of awkward joysticks that Gameloft seem intent on using in every single one of their console-wannabe iPhone games. In fact, everything outside the combat is scripted. The combat is great, though, and also very satisfying as it can get bloody difficult as the game wears on, or if you attempt multiple playthroughs. Swiping at enemies to attack and defend works very well, and unlike other mobile games with this level of production value, you don't have to be ambidextrous to play. The game also has a levelling system and loot to collect to keep you going, and overall this is probably the most impressive game on the entire App Store. It might not have the addictive mobile characteristics of other games on this list, but you owe it to yourself to check it out if you have an iPhone.

Price: £1.99
Developer/Publisher: Chair Entertainment Group
Awards: Apple Design Award Winner, WWDC 2011; more than 20 'Game of the Year' and 'Top App' awards
App Store Rating: ★★★★★

Mega Jump

The concept of Mega Jump is one that has been well established on the App Store since its inception. The aim of the game is simply to soar as high as you can, by tilting the device to direct your little sprite, as he collects coins and power-ups to surge him through the sky and into the stars. What makes Mega Jump stand out amongst a plethora of similar titles, though, is its attention to detail; with bright, vibrant backgrounds and overall fantastic presentation, it's a game that's very easy to fall in love with. Leaderboards and achievements give you reason to keep coming back, as do the constant updates provided by the developers. Oh, and did I mention that it's free?

Price: FREE
Developer/Publisher: Get Set Games Inc.
Awards: N/A
App Store Rating: ★★★★

Flick Kick Football

The concept of Flick Kick Football could not be more simple; you're presented with a shot at goal, which - as you progress - will become more difficult to score, thanks to the presence of defenders and a moving goalkeeper. You just take shots at goal, over and over again. And how do you do this? You flick.

That's it.

As so many of the best iOS games are, this is incredibly simple, but just so addicting and oddly engaging that you could spend hours at a time playing it. Perhaps more than any other game on this list, it has that 'just one more go' appeal that makes it very difficult to stop playing. There isn't much variation between game modes, although turn-based online multiplayer is a nice touch that gives proceedings a competitive edge. The presentation is decidedly old school, with menus and loading screens that look like they've been pulled out of a 1970s football magazine. At only 69 of your English pennies, you really can't go wrong, regardless of whether or not you even like football.

Price: £0.69
Developer/Publisher: Prodigy Design Limited
Awards: N/A
App Store Rating: ★★★★★

Stick Cricket

For years now, Stick Cricket has been one of the most popular internet Flash games in the world, and so it seemed like only a matter of time before it made the jump to the App Store. The free version of the iOS game is rather limited in terms of modes, but for the relatively low cost of £1.79 you can enjoy pretty much all the trimmings that you enjoy on the flash version, including wireless multiplayer. The concept of Stick Cricket has always been simple, and so translates perfectly well to the iPhone; you simply tap left or right on the screen to swing your bat in that direction, and try to score as many runs as possible. I know many people (myself included) who have sunk hours and hours into the web version of this game, so being able to take it wherever you go is only going to increase the number of hours of your day in which your productivity levels remain at zero.

Unless, of course, you consider winning the Ashes in virtual stick form productive. In which case, carry on.

Price: FREE
Developer/Publisher: Stick Sports Ltd
Awards: N/A
App Store Rating: ★★★★★

Call of Mini: Zombies

There's no prizes for guessing which popular franchise the developers of Call of Mini: Zombies are ripping off with their little game, but there's no denying that this cutesy third-person shooter succeeds in being both addicting and fun. The variety is certainly there too, as although there are only two maps, there are thirteen unique weapons and twelve different types of zombie to shoot at. Whilst the weapons are fairly standard, and many of the enemy types seem to have been pulled straight out of Left 4 Dead, the game performs well overall, despite the use of touchscreen joysticks which have so often failed in the past. Here, they work well; the gameplay experience is smooth and enjoyable, although the lack of co-op does seem like somewhat of a missed opportunity. Like many of the games on this list, however, Call of Mini: Zombies is chock-full of charm and - much like Zombie Smash - the mix of cutesy characters, moody environments and horrific gore all come together to create a very pleasing aesthetic. Call of Mini: Zombies certainly won't win any awards for originality, but the concept has been executed tremendously well overall and for its nominal cost, you really can't go wrong.

Price: £0.69 (or FREE version)
Developer/Publisher: Triniti Interactive Limited
Awards: N/A
App Store Rating: ★★★★★

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- Tom Acres

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