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The best turn-based multiplayer iPhone games

by Phil Hornshaw

Super Stickman Golf and its sequel go in the opposite direction of traditional golf games. The games are played on 2-D levels more akin to platformers. While they start out fairly simple and straightforward, Super Stickman's courses take crazy turns almost immediately by throwing in floating platforms, insane shots, tiny shortcuts through rock and other obstacles that quickly distance it from other golf games. Oh, and you can use power-ups that freeze water hazards, stick your ball to horizontal or vertical surfaces, and even stop the shot in midair.


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It's that sort of crazy atmosphere that allows Super Stickman Golf 2 and its predecessor to exercise some really great level design concepts. Courses quickly become highly challenging – sure, you could take three or four shots to get your ball around this giant rocky crag floating in the middle of the level, or you could execute a perfect shot and go through it – as long as you don't mess up.

Simplicity of gameplay mechanics is also a big strength of the Super Stickman series. Players have only two controls to worry about: one for adjusting the angle of the shot they're about to take, and the other for determining its power. The second button requires players to use careful timing, as shots too strong or too weak won't wind up where the player hopes.

Super Stickman Golf 2's most notable feature is the inclusion of online turn-based multiplayer. The game is fun alone, sure, but Noodlecake's new addition allows players to compete across its 20 crazy courses, without requiring them to necessarily play at the same time. In addition, there's also a Race mode that supports up to three players online and eight players locally, which challenges everyone playing not only to finish the course with the fewest strokes, but to do so as quickly as possible.

Turn-based takes advantage of the strengths of the mobile platform. Super Stickman Golf 2 already capitalizes on the way the iPhone is made by keeping its games short and quick, and making the title challenging without succumbing to the limitations of touchscreen buttons or twitch gameplay on a small screen. Turn-based multiplayer further takes advantage of what's great about mobile, segmenting your ability to play with other people into bite-sized chunks that don't require you to drop what you're doing in order to keep up with the game.

Some of the best multiplayer experiences on iOS are turn-based titles that let players take them on at their own pace, and the run the gamut of genres.

Spell something

Word games have been a natural fit for the turn-based approach to multiplayer, with Words With Friends being one of the first to really break open the mechanic for lots of players. The Scrabble-like game encourages players to start matches against other app owners on iPhone, iPad, Android and even Facebook, and allows you to take on as many opponents as often and as quickly as you like.

But while Words With Friends (and its many offshoots, like Hanging With Friends, which help app-ify Hangman) is a quality turn-based experience, it's not quite as fun or inventive as Letterpress. Here's a word game where the words don't matter – only their placement and the strategy behind creating them matters.

Letterpress sees two players dealing with a grid of letters, with a goal of using each letter in a word in some way. Tapping the letters to turn them into a word changes that letter tile's color on the grid, and once all the letters have been used, the player with the most tiles of their color wins the match. Where it gets exciting is in the strategy – you can overtake your opponents' letters, you can't repeat words, and you need to be sure to end the game when you're ahead rather than behind. Other techniques, like surrounding a letter with other letters you own, can set up roadblocks against your opponent.

Like Words With Friends, Letterpress is a game you can play at your own pace and against multiple opponents. It rewards a strong vocabulary, but more than that, it's a game about cunning and tactics, not just throwing an “s” on the end of a big word the other guy played.

Outwit the enemy

Speaking of tactics, another genre that naturally works well on iOS is that of turn-based strategy. Players are already broken into the turn style, and tapping mechanics lend themselves to placing troops and moving them around a battlefield. It makes sense that there are so many solid turn-based strategy titles, and that many of them have very fun multiplayer modes.

One with an extremely low barrier of entry is Outwitters, which has players deploying troops of various types onto a hexagonal grid to take on enemies. It's a free-to-play, purely multiplayer title, supporting either one-on-one play or two teams of two players. Your goal is to defend a tower from enemy attacks, while also attacking the enemy's tower, taking into account the strengths and abilities of your troops, how far they can move, and how far they can see across the board.

Like Letterpress, Outwitters allows players to fire up lots of games at once and play them at their own speed. It also has a local “pass-and-play” option to allow you to play along with someone in the same room as you, and features online leagues that match you to players based on your skill level. For a game that's free, Outwitters supplies a ton of opportunities to play and compete, and it's a tough game to master.

From speedy golf to attack and defense, mobile devices continue to show that turn-based play is a great way to enjoy games when you have a few minutes to kill. Super Stickman Golf 2 should definitely be on your list of games to play whether you intend to take it online or not, but if you're not playing titles that let you compete against other players, you're missing out on a whole facet of mobile gaming that can be extremely fun and rewarding.