(Please bear with me! I’ll be adding blurbs to these over the next day or two.)
Even though it took me months of on-and-off play to finally complete Barbearian, it was an absolute blast. The giant battles pitting my bearskin-clad hero and his minion army against hordes and hordes of enemies was frantic, but in a good way. Barbearian managed to capture my heart despite its on-screen buttons and stressful bosses. Part of the reason for this is the accessibility options that both allowed me to move the buttons wherever I wanted, and also to make the game less difficult if I was having trouble. These are features I’d love to see in every reflex-based game, as it’s the main reason I was able to finish it. I did manage to squeeze in a review before the end of the year, so I recommend reading that to see what exactly I loved so much about the game. I also have tons of gameplay videos here.
OVIVO was a real surprise treat for me, and one of the most memorable games of 2018. Even though I don’t usually enjoy platformers, the black-and-white art style and unique control system intrigued me enough that I had to take a chance on it. And that turned out to be one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I got completely sucked into the game and finished it in a few days. It’s games like this that make me excited about iOS, even though it released on other platforms first. Instead of onscreen buttons, you simply tap and hold the left side of the screen to move your blob left or right, and then tap the right side of the screen to swap his color between black and white. When you’re black, you move inside white, and when you’re white you move inside black. The gravity switches depending on which color you are, too, so you either fall up or down. Once you get a real handle on the controls, you’ll learn how to jump without an actual jump input. If you’re really good, you can get into this hypnotic rhythm where you’re practically flying through the scenery. I’m not the most skilled player, so I did have my share of deaths, and I missed a few collectibles. But the game is very forgiving in that checkpoints are plentiful and you’re never forced to restart from the very beginning. Being able to play in bite-sized chunks like that made it very doable for me, and other than a couple of frustrating points, I had an amazing time with it. It’s one of those games that should have gotten a lot more attention than it did. It’s playable art, and interesting in every aspect. You can read more in my review, but don’t wait too long, as the game is currently on sale for half off.
Like I said, platformers are not my favorite genre, not by a long shot. But one of the main reasons I like them even less on iOS is that they usually have on-screen buttons, which take too much attention away from the action. Oddmar is different, though. Everything is gesture-based, so it doesn’t matter where your fingers land, even on a big iPad. You can focus on the game instead of staring at your fingers the whole time. It’s also a fairly forgiving platformer, with speed running options and collectibles for those who want more of a challenge. I couldn’t handle the final boss, so I sadly never completed the game. But I got a lot farther than I expected, since I was a bit out of my element. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to finish the game, but I still had a great time with it. The iCloud sync and generous checkpoints helped keep me interested. Oddmar is a master class in how to design a platformer for touchscreens, and I wish more developers would copy the control scheme, because then I’d be more likely to stick with them. Anyway, I wrote much more about it in my full review, which you can read here.
Golf Club: Wasteland
Another genre I don’t usually go for is sports, and even though I think golf is a great fit for touchscreens, I often get frustrated with the trial-and-error nature of the the slingshot mechanics. It becomes so much about adjusting your “swing” ever so slightly to get the ball where you want. Golf Club: Wasteland doesn’t necessarily get rid of those issues, but there’s so much else going on that I stuck with the game despite it. For instance, the setting is a post-apocalyptic and abandoned Earth where people vacation to play golf. So you’ll see overgrown structures, old graffiti, broken statues, and machinery that’s long outlived its use. On top of that, the soundtrack is about an hour’s worth of radio talk shows and original songs that refer to the end of the world. Obviously that’s not enough on its own, so it helps that the golf courses themselves are interesting. You can also go at your own pace and make as many mistakes as you want. The game doesn’t hit you over the head with your score, so you can ignore it if it’s not important to you. But it does keep track of all your swings, so you can go back later and improve your scores. If you play one golf game, I think this should be it. You can read more in my review and I also have a partial guide here.
Alto’s Adventure took the world by storm with its gorgeous minimalistic artwork and one-finger controls that were perfect for touchscreens. In a time when free-to-play endless runners abound, full of nonstop IAPs and other nonsense, Alto promised a relaxing experience where you never have to think about your wallet while playing. It was an endless snowboarding game where you travelled alongside llamas through ever-changing weather patterns. So what could they possibly do in the sequel? While, bring it all over to the dessert, offering a new color palette and a whole bunch of new tricks up its sleeves. With wall-riding and balloon-bouncing, it’s much easier to string together tricks, making for a much more exciting game than the original. It might not seem like it on the surface, but Alto’s Odyssey adds enough to make it well worth playing even if you already own the first. But if you need more convincing, here’s my full review I wrote back when it released.
I could tell almost right away that things weren’t what they seemed with JoinDispatch, the Uber for emergency response services. It might have been when the bear jumped out of the closet, but I like to think I figured it out sooner. Anyway, you play as an emergency dispatcher who has to determine the best way to respond to a caller. If someone got a paper cut, do you send an ambulance? What about a cat stuck in a tree? Do you waste your one fire engine on it? These are the kinds of tough decisions you have to make every day. And you’ll be rated on your performance, as well. I really enjoyed the game back when I reviewed its first public release, despite a few bugs. It’s since got a ton of updates, but I haven’t played it since because it can be a bit repetitive to play over. But if you haven’t tried it yet, definitely give it a go.
Simulacra: Pipe Dreams
I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s Simulacra, so I was thrilled to see that the developers release a sequel, and one that’s completely free. What’s even better, is that it’s an outrageous take on how free-to-play games let you either throw away your money or your time to get ahead. It uses Flappy Bird as fodder, but you can see it’s making fun of any games that prey on people’s addictive behavior. I wasn’t expecting it to have so much to say, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. It also does so in a fun way, not getting all preachy. It’s quite a trip, and there’s even ridiculous ads for fakes games. The whole thing is just so out there and I’m just glad it exists. If you haven’t played it yet, please remedy that. If you’re bothered by F2P games taking over the App Store, I think you’ll especially appreciate it. I never got a chance to review it, but I have a walkthrough guide here if you need help.
Bacon — The Game
Like I said, Philipp Stollenmayer, aka Kamibox, likes to play with his food. He’s made games about flipping burgers and pancakes, so the obvious evolution of that is to flip bacon. But this time, you’re throwing it onto other objects. You need to make it land on Kevin Bacon, the Queen of England, the Statue of Liberty, and that horrible awful stick of slippery butter. It’s equal parts fun and frustration, as it can sometimes take dozens of tries to get the bacon to land on an object without falling off. It’s free with ads, but the developer was super generous in that if you buy Supertype, you can remove the ads in Bacon — The Game without spending anymore money. I thought that was a nice gesture, especially since I already had the other game. He’s also added several content updates since the release, including an endless mode. So if you like the game, you can pretty much play forever. Enjoy! And I have a partial walkthrough here if you need help.
Cat Lady – The Card Game
I almost skipped this one, which is silly, since I myself am a cat lady. But when it went on sale for a buck during the holidays, I couldn’t pass it up. I finally gave it a try a couple of days ago and I have to say it’s quite a nice card game. I love the artwork, as it’s cute but not too cutesy. And the rules are simple enough to pick up quickly, but the game has a fair amount of depth to it. Basically, you need to collect and feed cats. The person with the most fed cats, toys, catnip and outfits at the end wins. But you also lose points for having munger cats or unused food. So you have to be careful not to pick up food that none of your cats want or more cats than you can feed. It’s great for quick play sessions, and the AI opponent comes in three different difficulty levels. I find I can beat the Easy and Medium without much trouble, but the Hard opponent does give me a challenge. You can also play against friends on Facebook, but I don’t have anyone to try it with. I think the game is probably more fun against real people, so it’s a shame there’s no way to be matched with random players. At least, I don’t think there is. In any case, I’m enjoying it enough to stick with it even against the AI. I highly recommend picking it up for either its sale price of $0.99 or cheap regular price if $1.99.
Thumper: Pocket Edition
Thumper makes my heart race (which may explain the name) and my palms sweat, and I’m really awful at it. And yet, it’s a game that’s hard to resist. I’m only on the third world and stuck at one of the bosses, so I may never finish it. But the time I spent with it was quite a rush and I don’t regret buying it one bit. The developers even added iCloud sync recently, so you can easily switch between iPhone and iPad. The only thing I don’t really like is that it’s broken up into levels, but you can’t go back and replay single levels to try and improve your score. You can only replay the last level you completed. As a more casual gamer, I’m less likely to try and get a perfect score before moving on, but I would love to have another go at the levels that gave me trouble without having to restart the entire game. I’m not sure why the developers are against this, but they said they’re unlikely to add that option. So it’s not the perfect game for me, but it’s still one I would recommend to anyone who’s not afraid of some fast-paced reflex-based gaming.
And that’s all my favorite games of the year! There were others I enjoyed, but I just couldn’t include every single game here. Another way to browse through all the games I’ve played is to check out my weekly roundups called My Week Unwrapped. Here’s to another strong year of iOS games and I hope 2019 will give us even more amazing games. A big thanks to all the indie developers who still put faith in iOS and release their passion projects on the App Store. Without you, I’d be stuck playing Candy Crush! So you have my undying gratitude and support. And to all my readers, thanks so much for sticking around for eight years! Let’s see if we can pull off another eight! Happy new year and I’ll see you in 2019!
Note: Sometimes a promo code is provided for a game, but it does not affect the review in any way. At AppUnwrapper, we strive to provide reviews of the utmost quality.
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