School is less than a month down the road, and now that I’m moving about 3 miles off campus, I’ve got a lot of time sitting on the bus in my future. Usually, I’m content to just read my Kindle on the bus, but sometimes I need a game to play. I know I’ve said in the past that focus is a super-important quality to have, but there are times when distractedly jumping around levels is the best way to pass the time. And while I do have my DS with me sometimes, I generally like to carry the least number of gadgets around as possible. So that leaves my trusty iPhone.
During some downtime this week, I took the time to look for the best platformers that the iPhone has to offer. Since platformers are pretty much my favorite kind of games (other than DDR and MvC3), I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are actually a good number of iPhone platformers that can be called excellent.
So, for those of you who are packing an iPhone, I offer up 7 of my favorite retro-inspired iPhone platformers. I know this isn’t a gaming blog – but hey, I can write about what I want. Plus, I want an excuse to get into E3 next summer
Let’s get non-productive!
1. League of Evil 2
League of Evil 2 is easily the fastest-paced platformer of the bunch, and it’s probably my favorite at this point.
The follow-up to the awesome League of Evil (totally worth playing if you like this one), this game continues with its predecessor’s brand of bite-sized, action-based platforming.
Levels in League of Evil 2 are very short, often taking 20 seconds or less to beat – that is, once you actually get good enough to beat them. This game is tough once you get past the first few stages.
The basic premise is this: there are evil scientists, they’re doing bad stuff, and you need to go punch them into oblivion. This game builds upon the first by adding in some boss battles and a story element that wasn’t really there the first time around; however, the real draw here is still the awesome platforming.
This game lets you double jump and wall jump, which means you can traverse the levels very quickly. Also, the controls are absolutely spot on. The buttons are big enough that you’ll rarely find your thumbs drifting from them, so when you die, it’s your fault.
I still haven’t beat this game, and I’ve had it longer than any of the other games on the list. With over 100 levels, the $1.99 price is pretty good.
Bit-1 is another cool retro-inspired platformer that comes with quite a bit of challenge.
You play as a robot, but in practice, you might as well just be a little blip. I actually like that the character is so small in this game; it makes it so you can see quite a bit of the level you’re playing.
Bit-1′s main character is quite a bit more well-armed than the main character in League of Evil 2; you start the game with a gun that has unlimited ammo, and you’ll pick up upgrades while playing that’ll turn it into a machine gun, a tri-gun, and more.
The platforming in this game is a bit slower-paced as well. Compared to the previous game, jumps in Bit-1 feel like they’re being made on the moon. The result is that you have a lot more time to land your jumps and figure out where you want to go – which is good, because there are a lot of little platforms, bottomless pits, and floating enemies to avoid.
Make no mistake – this game is also really hard. As the levels go on, you’ll have to try them again and again to beat them. However, they never get frustrating enough that I want to quit playing. Plus, they’re not incredibly long, so dying isn’t a huge deal. And unlike the previous game, Bit-1 gives you a life bar so you’ll be able to withstand a couple hits from enemies.
At $0.99, Bit-1 is a drop in the bucket for a difficult platformer. My only issue with this game is the coin-collecting sound; unless you really want to annoy your roommate, you might want to turn down the volume when playing this one.
3. Pizza Boy
If you’ve been disappointed that there’s no Super Mario Bros. for iOS, then you need to get this game. Pizza Boy is the closest you’re going to get to the Italian plumber on Apple’s platform, and boy is it good. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really grow up playing Mario games, but I might actually like this better.
This game’s most striking similarity to the Mario games is the platforming’s physics. Running and jumping with the pizza boy feels almost just like running and jumping with Mario. You also can defeat enemies by jumping on their heads, which further strengthens the bond between the two games.
However, there are other elements that make Pizza Boy more than just a Mario clone. Scattered throughout each level are vending machines, which you can jump on to get milk bottles that you can use as projectiles to take out enemies and bust boxes that block your way.
There are also lots of secret areas and collectibles. In every level, there are five letters to find that spell out P-I-Z-Z-A, which is an awesome homage to Donkey Kong Country.
With old-school art that would look right at home on the Super Nintendo and great controls, Pizza Boy is the definitive Mario-esque platforming experience on the iPhone. It’s $1.99 well spent.
4. Robot Wants Kitty
If you’re looking to challenge your brain as well as your reflexes, then Robot Wants Kitty is your best bet from this list.
While this game does feature lots of jumping and shooting, it also forces you to think. As a robot who just wants to get the kitty from behind the locked door, you start each level out as a basically useless heap of junk.
At the beginning of the game, all you can do is move. You can’t even jump! Luckily, there are power-ups scattered throughout the level that will grant you new abilities, which will enable you to progress further and further. It’s kind of like Super Metroid, in that you can often see where you need to go – but you’ll need a new tool before you can get there.
The levels in this game are massive and convoluted, so you’ll need to explore them and try to remember where things are. Once you have all the tools – jump, double jump, a laser gun, an add-on that breaks blocks, a helmet that can smash bricks, and rockets that jet you sideways and upward – you’ll be able to traverse the whole level.
There are also keycards and terminals you’ll need an ability to hack so they’ll open doors for you.
Going through each level trying to find all these power-ups and keycards will take time and exploration. The Expert level, which is huge and laden with teleporters, took me around 25 minutes to beat the first time around.
Another awesome feature of this game is the level editor. That’s right – you can create your own levels.
I’m pretty sure this game is usually $0.99, but right now it’s FRRRREEEEEEE! You can also buy an add-on for $0.99 that’ll give you five more levels.
Oh, and one more thing that makes this game awesome: if you get the $0.99 “Kitty Connect” add-on, you’ll be able to share your custom levels and play others’ levels as well.
There’s also a free Flash version you can try out as well. It certainly looks different, but it plays about the same. It’s much more limited in scope, though.
5. Super Crate Box
If Robot Wants Kitty involved to much “thinking” and “strategerizing” for you, then Super Crate Box will probably be more your speed.
I discovered this game yesterday, and am now hopelessly addicted. The game is similar to the very first Mario Bros. game, in that you’re stuck in a one-screen room instead of going through a side-scrolling level.
The premise of this game is simple: there are enemies, and there are crates. In Mario Bros., you got points for taking out the enemies and getting coins. This game has no coins, and you don’t get points for taking out the enemies.
The only thing that nets you points in Super Crate Box is getting the crates. Every time you get a crate, your weapon will change randomly. This creates an interesting game dynamic, as getting your favorite weapon doesn’t get you very far; you can kill enemies all day with it, but you won’t get points. The next time you grab a crate, your weapon will change.
This forces you to get used to every weapon. Still, some weapons are better than others. I happen to think the revolver, with it’s awesome firepower and zero recoil, is the best. The mini-gun is pretty awesome, but the recoil on that bad boy is pretty insane and can force you to end up in places you don’t want to be. The disc gun, on the other hand, is probably the worst weapon, as the disc it fires bounces of the wall once and will kill you if you don’t jump over it.
Lastly, if you allow an enemy to fall in the fire pit at the bottom of the screen, it’ll come back into play enraged and moving twice as fast. Protip: don’t let enemies fall in the fire pit if you want to survive.
I have yet to beat a score of 22 in this game – which is sad, as the next game mode won’t unlock until I get 40. So, all I can say to you is… good luck.
Super Crate Box is $1.99 on the App Store, controls beautifully, and is totally worth it. Oh, and there’s an excellent and free PC/Mac version as well that you can download.
6. The Blocks Cometh
The Blocks Cometh is a pretty unique title in this list, as it’s the only one that has you holding the iPhone straight up and down instead of sideways (however, a recent update will let you play it in landscape if you want)
This is a pretty simple game, but it’s devilishly addictive. Like the insanely popular Doodle Jump, the premise is the climb as high as you can. However, instead of fixed platforms to climb up, you get falling blocks. Like in Tetris, these blocks stack up in random ways. It’s your job to climb up them and try not to get smashed, trapped, or left behind the ever upward-scrolling screen.
You also have a gun you can use to break blocks if you do get trapped, but you’ll probably be jumping upward too frantically to use it that much.
As you go up, the game will get faster and faster… and then you’ll eventually die. This is a game that isn’t hard when you think about it, but getting really high will definitely take some skill.
There are multiple unlockable characters to choose from, including the hero from the original League of Evil. Each character has different attributes – some are faster than others, some can jump higher (or even double jump), and some have better attacks.
My only caveat with this game is the price. The game is pretty limited in scope (like I said, it isn’t far off from Doodle Jump), so I think it should be priced at $0.99 instead of $1.99. Still, it’s a great game that can prove really addicting, so I’m glad I bought it.
Luckily, if you’re not sure about getting this game yet, you can try out the free Flash version at Halfbot’s website. Oh, and you can also check out/download the game’s awesome soundtrack over at Bandcamp.
7. Sonic CD
Ok, so this one isn’t as much retro-inspired as it is actually retro. Still, I’ve got to include it – Sonic CD is probably the greatest platformer port that iPhone has ever seen. Plus, hardly anybody played this game when it actually came out – not many people owned a Sega CD to play it on.
There are a few quasi-3D segments in this game, but for the most part it’s just pure, 2D Sonic goodness. All but the most hardcore Sonic fans should find the controls just fine as well.
A few things have been added in from the original, such as leaderboards, achievements, and both the Japanese and U.S. soundtracks.
Unlike crappy iPhone ports like the ones for Mega Man X and Mega Man II, Sonic CD is easily worth the $4.99 price tag if you’re a fan of the series.
So there you have it – my favorite retro platformers for the iPhone! If you want some more distracting, yet awesome stuff, check out my favorite web comics as well.
Oh, and one more thing… probably the best 2D platformer ever made, Super Meat Boy, is coming to the iPhone. Once it’s released (no idea when that’ll be), you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be updating this guide with it.
Before you go, tell me: What are your favorite iPhone games?
Also, since I don’t have an Android phone and can’t make recommendations, feel free to list good Android games as well.
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