Best iPhone Games of 2011

by Phil Hornshaw

With 2011 coming to an end, it’s time to look back at all the great games that have graced Apple’s iTunes App Store in the last 12 months. There have been some really exciting titles in a variety of genres over the last year, ranging from the new and beautiful Infinity Blade II to the brilliant but subtly simple Cut The Rope: Experiments. Games leaped forward in graphics and capabilities with the release of the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S, and a whole lot of quality titles that make use of Apple’s latest technologies have come out in the last year. Here are the ten best games to hit the App Store this year.

Jetpack Joyride ($0.99)

The team behind Fruit Ninja was pretty busy this year, bringing the game to new platforms such as the Xbox 360 and Facebook. It also rolled out Jetpack Joyride, an endless running game that resets the bar for the entire subgenre. The one-touch game slaps a jetpack on your back and has you dodging things in your path by flying up and down on the screen but with coins to grab and objectives to meet. Jetpack Joyride is filled with some very funny and fun-to-use power-ups and is addictive in all the best ways. This is a hard one to put down.

StarFront: Collision ($4.99)

Gameloft’s take on the very popular PC strategy title StarCraft II is StarFront: Collision, a touch-based real-time strategy title that gets players sending marines, tanks, robots and all kinds of other units to fight off the armies of their enemies. The game includes a decent-size single-player campaign in which you get to play the roles of three different alien races all warring for resources across various planets. StarFront’s best feature is its robust online multiplayer mode that lets you take on as many as three other players in a big battle royale, or team up in a two-on-two skirmish.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth ($1.99)

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a bit of a reversal on the standard tower defense game format. Instead of setting up towers around your base to destroy enemies that march toward you, you play a convoy of military vehicles moving across occupied levels, taking out enemy towers along the way. Anomaly requires a different sort of strategic thinking, like planning your routes through the game, and quick reflexes in order to stay alive. Originally a PC port, Anomaly looks and plays great on iOS devices.

World of Goo ($2.99)

Another port from the PC sphere, World of Goo reworks its mouse-based puzzle gameplay for touchscreen controls, and it works great. The game is all about building structures with gooey little characters, allowing you to create bridges, towers and other buildings. The goal is to make your structures reach a pipe at some remote point in the level to suck up any extra goo balls – hit the minimum quota and you win the level. World of Goo has a delightful art style and a haunting bit of story going on in the background, but it’s really about well-designed puzzle levels and tight controls that make it a blast to play.

Scribblenauts Remix ($2.99)

Scribblenauts is another great puzzle game to hit the iOS platform, with its own original premise. Whenever you need an object to help you solve a puzzle – like getting a character from one place to another, or meeting some other objective given to you by the game – you can actually create it in the game by typing a word. The game will then create the thing you typed. You can create things like ladders and boats, or even other characters as suits the needs of your puzzle. Scribblenauts is a game that lets you be creative all the way through, and encourages you to come up with your own ways of solving its puzzles.

League of Evil ($0.99)

“Addictive” and “really difficult” are two ways of describing solid side-scrolling platformer League of Evil. It has all kinds of obstacles waiting to kill your character in each of its short, quick levels, and requires a lot of skill and precision in its controls to get past them all. Fortunately, it also has some of the most responsive touch controls on Apple’s platform. League of Evil is the kind of game that’ll keep you playing even through lots and lots (and lots) of failure. Finishing each of League of Evil’s levels is always extremely satisfying (and quite a bit of fun).

Cut The Rope: Experiments ($0.99)

Cut The Rope is already one of the most notable puzzlers in the iTunes App Store, and Cut The Rope: Experiments has found a great way to keep what makes the original Cut The Rope great while expanding it in new ways. The primary gameplay is still the same: all the puzzles are about cutting ropes to make a piece of candy fall in the mouth of a monster named Om Nom. Cut The Rope: Experiments has added a whole lot of new elements, though, and instead of needing to solve puzzles with no time limit, the game requires quick reactions and precise timing as well as smart planning. It’s all the Cut The Rope you love, but with new twists.

Infinity Blade II ($6.99)

The sequel to what was probably the best iOS games of 2010, Infinity Blade II takes everything that was great about the original and adds to it. The one-on-one sword-fighting gameplay that made the original so fun has been amped-up with better touch controls and new weapons that require different strategies. The whole game has been lengthened beyond the original, with more world to explore and a fleshed-out story to go with it. What’s more, like its predecessor, Infinity Blade II sets the bar for graphics, especially on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2.

Sword & Sworcery EP Micro ($2.99)

Indie darling Sword & Sworcery creates a singular adventure experience on the iOS platform. Mixing beautiful graphics, a compelling and quirky writing style and haunting music, Sword & Sworcery has players taking on the role of an adventurer  questing for a legendary book. You’ll wandering through dream worlds and fight eternal monsters in a place where music and visuals are tightly interwoven. Sword & Sworcery is the sort of title that tries to blur the line between game and art, and it mostly succeeds while being pretty beautiful along the way.

Dead Space ($6.99)

Dead Space is a prequel story to Dead Space 2, a console video game release from earlier this year, and the iOS title is just as good as its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 counterpart. You play as Vandal, a masked engineer sabotaging a space station that orbits the Saturn moon Titan, when suddenly everything goes to hell, and mutated alien monsters start killing everybody. Dead Space is a pretty gory survival-horror title, so it’s not for kids, but it also manages to be scarier than just about anything else on the platform. It also does a good job of being a reliable third-person shooter with decent controls, great-looking graphics and some spooky-good sound design.