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Best iPhone Apps, 2nd Edition by J.D. Biersdorfer

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Chapter 4. Best Apps For Play

Best Apps For Play

Photo: Emery Way

Best Apps For Play

Games are everywhere—on computers, on consoles, maybe even on your iPhone or iPod Touch. If you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in the App Store, you know it’s bursting at the seams with thousands of pixelated pastimes. With so many games available, it can be hard to figure out what to play. That’s where this chapter comes in.

Entertaining diversions come in all shapes and sizes, from arcade games that became legend as they gobbled your quarters at the mall to home console games that doubled your electric bill. This chapter introduces you to a few old friends, like Space Invaders, and to a lot of new ones, too.

For many people, e-pastimes are quieter affairs, like crossword or Sudoku puzzles that bend your brain and entertain at the same time. You’ll find suggestions for those here, too. If table games come to mind, there are a couple of gambling apps, too.

The App Store has many more titles to offer, including strategy games for those who want to save the world or topple a king. Like football, basketball, or soccer? Sports games are just the ticket. And if your gaming tastes run to military adventures, this chapter suggests combat games and even a couple of flights of fantasy. Whether you’re looking to kill time or aliens, this chapter has you covered. Turn the page to level up.

Arcade Games

Best App for a Space Invaders Remix

Best App for a Space Invaders Remix

Space Invaders Infinity Gene

Free | $4.99 for full version
Version 3.0.0 | Taito Corp.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

One of the very first shoot-’em-up arcade games in the late 1970s, Space Invaders has landed in the App Store—with a surprising twist. You start out with the familiar cannon, blasting away at the advancing horde of aliens. But as you level up, the game evolves with stunning new visuals and challenging new aliens (even in the limited-level free version). You get a cool new movable cannon, too.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene

GOLDEN OLDIE: Space Invaders’ first level will look familiar if you hung out at an arcade in the late 1970s. The objective is simple: use your finger to guide the gun back and forth and blast row after row of descending aliens. You can only move side-to-side, firing madly and dodging bombs until you blow them all away.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene

NEW SONG: Once you get past the first level, the game takes on a new look, with larger, more intense 3D aliens whipping by you. The game continues to evolve into something new with each level, but you always have the same objective: kill as many aliens as you can. You can play your own music in the background, too.

Best Pizza Parlor Classic Game

Best Pizza Parlor Classic Game

Wild West Pinball

$0.99
Version 2.6 | Gameprom Company
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Pizza parlors, bowling alleys, and video arcades just aren’t as much fun unless there’s a pinball machine around. If there’s not, whip out your iPhone or iPod Touch loaded up with Wild West Pinball. Its nicely rendered 3D graphics and sound effects mimic the play on a full-size machine. To keep the ball ricochetting around the table, tilt your gadget just as you would a table in real life. Watch your play with the app’s “live” or fixed camera.

Wild West Pinball

YIPPIE-KI-YAY: With its Old West visuals and background music, Wild West Pinball has a quirky personality all its own and plays like a miniature version of its big glass-and-chrome inspiration. Tap the on-screen flippers to propel the ball back up the length of the table. You can use the classic multitouch pinch-and-spread moves to zoom in and out of the field of play.

HONORABLE MENTION

Wild West Pinball

Glow Hockey 2

Free | $1.99 for full version
Version 2.2.0 | Natenai Ariyatrakool
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Air hockey tables were standard in pizza joints and arcades back in the ’70s, and Glow Hockey 2 gives the classic two-player game a neon shimmer. The free version lets you knock the puck around against a computerized opponent, but the full version allows two players to compete head-to-head on the same iPhone or iPod Touch. Players in the paid version can also compete wirelessly on separate devices over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Best Death Star Attack Game

Best Death Star Attack Game

Star Wars: Trench Run

$4.99
Version 2.0 | THQ Inc.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Based on the exhilarating final battle scene in the classic 1977 movie, Star Wars: Trench Run puts you in the cockpit of a fighter ship, dodging Imperial TIE fighters while you navigate the Death Star’s narrow trenches, avoiding cannon fire and random space junk. When playing in Dogfight mode, you can do battle using any one of five iconic ships, including a Y-wing and Darth Vader’s own TIE fighter.

Star Wars: Trench Run

THAT’S NO MOON: One of the choices in your ship inventory is the Millennium Falcon, where you man the lower gun turret of the classic aircraft as you protect rebel fighters from incoming Imperial ships.

Star Wars: Trench Run

IN THE TRENCHES: Zoom along the surface of the Death Star or dogfight with the enemy. With a bit of Wi-Fi configuration, you can use your gadget as the controller for the web-based version of the game, too.

Best Retro 3D Game

Best Retro 3D Game

Wolfenstein 3D Classic Platinum

Free | $1.99 for full version
Version 1.3 | id Software
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

The original Wolfenstein 3D game dates back to the days when MS-DOS roamed the desktop. Happily, the App Store’s version revives all of Wolfenstein’s chunky graphics and cold stone mazes. You play the part of OSA agent B.J. Blazkowicz, popping Nazis left and right as you roam the castle looking for hidden secrets—and a way out. The free version lets you play the first three levels of the full game.

Wolfenstein 3D Classic Platinum

OLD AND NEW: The iPhone version of Wolfenstein includes the six original game episodes and 60 levels that grow increasingly more perilous as you proceed. The game takes advantage of the iPhone’s tilt controls, letting you dive and dodge attackers.

Wolfenstein 3D Classic Platinum

ABOVE IT ALL: You’ll spend a lot of the game navigating its maze of corridors, trying to find your way from room to room. To give you some perspective, tap the Maps button on the main screen to switch to an overhead view of your current location.

Best Vengeful Avian Game

Best Vengeful Avian Game

Angry Birds

Free | $0.99 for full version
Version 1.4.0 | Rovio
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

These aren’t sweet songbirds squabbling over a turn at the feeder here—these birds are angry with a group of green pigs who invaded their nest, and they’re going all-out for revenge. The highly addictive Angry Birds teaches a few lessons about trajectory and engineering as you catapult the birds toward the pigs, which are hiding in various structures. The free Lite version of the game lets you play 12 levels of hog-smashing fun.

Angry Birds

SLING SHOT: After each bird hops into the catapult, pull back the band with your finger to take aim at the pigs residing on the other side of the screen. The dotted line shows the trajectory of the previous bird so you can adjust your aim.

Angry Birds

HAM SANDWICH: By smashing into the weak part of a building, the birds methodically destroy the pigs’ protective structures, exposing them. Once you squash or hit all the pigs, you move on to the next of the game’s 165 levels.

Best Mythical Creature Action Game

Best Mythical Creature Action Game

Robot Unicorn Attack

$2.99
Version 1.0.3 | Cartoon Network
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Brought to you by the sardonic folks at Adult Swim (part of the Cartoon Network), Robot Unicorn Attack is highly silly—and very hard to put down at times. You, as the robot unicorn, gallop along the ground, leaping from floating cliff to floating cliff in the soft pastel sky. Rainbows, shimmering sparkles, and dolphins provide power-ups from time to time, and glass stars try to block your way.

Robot Unicorn Attack

JUMP FOR JOY: Robot Unicorn’s gameplay is simple. You gallop forward from cliff to cliff. Tap the left button to jump. Tap the right button to turbo-jump when you encounter a longer span (or an obstacle).

Robot Unicorn Attack

MOVING A HEAD: One mistimed jump or unavoided obstacle or glass star, and your unicorn meets a violent demise. As it plummets back to earth, its poor head flies across the screen like an unfortunate meteor.

Best Facebook Crossover Game

Best Facebook Crossover Game

FarmVille

Free
Version 1.02 | Zynga
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Can’t get enough of FarmVille on Facebook? This mobile app lets you play wherever you have a network connection, and it automatically updates your Facebook farm. If you don’t already play on Facebook, you can start a fresh farm on your phone, but you have to have a Facebook account to do so. Like the original, the more you help your farming neighbors, the more quickly you advance in the game.

FarmVille

THE PLOT: Like all farms, you start out by planting seeds on a little patch of land and continue to grow virtual crops and raise cyber-livestock. You can invite friends to be your neighbors and earn “money” by helping out on other farms.

FarmVille

TO MARKET: As in real-life farming, you need to buy and sell crops and animals to advance. You earn the in-game currency, “farm coins,” by selling you virtual crops. Use it to buy more seeds and livestock to expand your farming empire.

Best Undead Attack Game

Best Undead Attack Game

Plants vs. Zombies

$2.99
Version 1.1 | PopCap Games
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

PopCap Games, creators of Peggle, Bejeweled, and several other popular pastimes, scores again with this whimsical adventure. As zombies gather in the street to invade your house, you quickly plant layers of protective flora that attack the zombies as they advance. As more zombies lurch forward, you have to step up your game by catching turbo-growth sunbeams and planting seeds to fortify the ranks of your killer garden.

Plants vs. Zombies

ZOMBIE JAMBOREE: The undead invaders start out on your street and begin to trudge toward your front door. Your goal is to keep them out of the house by planting up to 49 protective plants in your front yard, which grows increasingly lush over time.

Plants vs. Zombies

GREEN ARMY: Tap the tiny suns as they float down to build up energy so you can feed more plants. In the early levels of the game, you plant pea-shooter seeds that grow up to blast advancing zombies with full-bore vegetable cannonballs.

Best Digital Dirigible Game

Best Digital Dirigible Game

Blimp: The Flying Adventures

Free | $2.99 for full version
Version 1.0 | Smid Design s.r.o.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Forget about slick spaceships—in Blimp, you pilot a woozy craft powered by hot air. You take it on a series of missions (pick up clients, bomb enemies) in an ethereally designed world that looks hand-painted. The app’s full version offers more action than the sampler, which still gives you a feel for the game. Be sure to plug in your headphones to hear the clanking, banging audio effects and soundtrack.

Blimp: The Flying Adventures

FLYING COACH: As you might expect, learning to fly—and land—takes practice. Every pilot needs to hit the landing pad and pick up a passenger. It may take a few passes to land on the pad and not on your client (which tends to be bad for business).

Blimp: The Flying Adventures

BLOWN AWAY: It’s not all pie in the sky when you fly your digital blimp. Obstacles like blasting air vents can pelt you with particles and knock you off-course. Avoid the nasty fire jets as well or you’ll see your little blimp go up in a smoking ball of flame.

Best Mindless Time-Killer

Best Mindless Time-Killer

Paper Toss: World Tour

$0.99
Version 1.2 | Backflip Studios
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Tossing crumpled balls of paper into a wastepaper basket is a casual game that predates even that classic computerized time-waster, Solitaire. With no actual trees harmed in the making of its wadded balls, Paper Toss: World Tour offers a much more environmentally friendly way to practice your shot. It’s a scenic travelogue as well, as your target appears in exotic locales around the world.

Paper Toss: World Tour

BASKET CASE: The app’s rules don’t vary much from the real-life office paper toss: flick your finger to lob a wad into the wastepaper basket. The on-screen arrow and number note the direction and strength of the wind. Hit three consecutive shots and you move on to the next level.

Paper Toss: World Tour

SANDS OF TIME: Wind isn’t the only factor you have to cope with to get your ball into the can. As shown here in the Egyptian level, sandstorms can thwart your aim, too. The game brings you to eight locations (levels) worldwide. After that, a bonus location on a snowy ice floe awaits.

Puzzles

Best Ax-Wielding Puzzle Game

Best Ax-Wielding Puzzle Game

Alio the Woodcutter

$2.99
Version 1.1.3 | Lyxite
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

The game Alio the Woodcutter looks deceptively simple: direct Alio’s ax to chop down all the trees so he can return to his lumber truck. The game’s rules add complications to this basic task, however. For example, Alio can’t pass any fallen trees (unless they happen to be serving as bridges) and he can’t cross over water. The game has more than 50 levels that require careful decisions about when and where to wield the ax.

Alio the Woodcutter

CHOP SHOP: As these ghostly images show, trees only fall in the direction Alio faces, and they take up more or less space depending on their height. And because Alio can’t pass over fallen trees, you need to plan your chopping carefully to avoid getting boxed in.

Alio the Woodcutter

TREE TIPS: As you chop through the woods, the game flashes helpful hints on the lower part of the screen. The scoreboard at the top tells you how many more trees you need to cut down before you can advance to the next level. The Undo button reverses the effects of the ax.

Best Word Game

Best Word Game

Words with Friends

Free | $2.99 for full version
Version 3.09 | Newtoy Inc.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Online games where players compete to spell out words on a board with little letter tiles are all the rage on social networks (even if they aren’t officially called “Scrabble”). Words with Friends falls into the same group. You can play with friends you know or friends you haven’t met yet over the Internet and even do battle with a friend in the same room on the same device. Words with Friends’ free version displays ads.

Words with Friends

GAME TIME: Since the name of the game is Words with Friends, the first thing you need to do is find somebody to play against. You have four options: choose a player from your iPhone or iPod contacts list; pick somebody by user name who is also registered on the game’s server; select a random online opponent; or choose Pass and Play for a local game.

Words with Friends

TILE WORK: Once you pick your opponent, the game sets up the board. From there, the rules follow Scrabble: start in the center and drag the tiles in front of you to make a word or to add on to other words. The game is turn-based and not in real time, so you can have up to 20 matches going on at once; push notifications tell you when it’s your turn.

Best Crossword Puzzle Game

Best Crossword Puzzle Game

2 Across

Free | $5.99 for full version
Version 2.0.3 | Eliza Block
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

If you just can’t get enough of those black-and-white word boxes, the full version of 2 Across is an excellent way to spend $6. Drawing from 26 sources around the world, the app puts thousands of crossword puzzles at your fingertips. And if you have a subscription to the New York Times, you can also download premium puzzles from its site. (The free Lite edition has a far smaller inventory, with just four puzzle sources to pick from.)

2 Across

PUZZLE QUEST: Your first step is to pick a source for your puzzlement. The full version of 2 Across has crosswords from a range of publications, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Toronto Globe and Mail, England’s Manchester Evening News, and even People magazine. Both the free and paid versions include puzzles from the humor rag The Onion.

2 Across

DIGITAL INK: Some people brag about being so good at crosswords that they do them in ink. While typing doesn’t really qualify as handwriting, you can choose the darker, more confident “pen” letters—or the lighter, more hesitant “pencil” text if you’re cautiously working out the solutions. To choose, tap the relevant button at the top of the screen.

2 Across

CLUE TRAIN: Doing crossword puzzles on a 3.5-inch screen is great for portability, but it can feel a little cramped since you can’t see everything at once. To help redefine the space, tap the appropriate button at the top of the main puzzle screen. You can see the whole puzzle grid, just the clues (shown here), or a bit of everything (opposite page).

HONORABLE MENTION

2 Across

Crossword Puzzle Pro

Free | $5.99 for full version
Version 1.0.1 | Burda Social Brands GmBH
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Crossword Puzzle Pro doesn’t quite have the inventory of 2 Across, but it gets points for a nice interface that conserves space by wedging the clues into the “black” boxes on the grid. When you start a puzzle, you choose from three skill levels (Normal, Difficult, or Genius), each with an increasingly more obscure vocabulary. The app’s full version has 600 puzzles waiting to engage your brain, while the free edition has 9 to solve.

Crossword Puzzle Pro

CHEAT CODE: Tap the box where you want to put an answer, and the keyboard slides up so you can type away in simulated ink. If you get stumped on a selected square or answer, tap the Help button. A menu panel pops up, and the first two options are “Solve Letter” and “Solve Word.” If you use a cribbed answer, the app paints your squares a tattle-tale green.

Best Sudoku Game

Best Sudoku Game

The New York Times Sudoku Daily

$2.99
Version 1.0.0 | Magmic Inc.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Sudoku means “single number” in Japanese, and that’s the goal of the game that’s been mesmerizing international puzzle fans for the past few years. You have nine small 3 × 3 grids inside a larger grid, and you somehow have to get every number from 1 to 9 in each row and column, no repeats allowed. The app holds 5,000 New York Times Sudoku puzzles, and you can download a new one each day.

The New York Times Sudoku Daily

PUZZLE PALS: Sudoku Daily offers five difficulty levels. Rank newbies probably want to stick with the Easy level. From there, the levels ascend to Medium to Hard to Super, then reach their apex at Genius. Serious Sudoku players can compete against each other in online leaderboards or send messages comparing the time it took to crack a puzzle.

The New York Times Sudoku Daily

SCARLET NUMBER: If you need a little affirmation or just want to see how badly you’re doing in a current grid, tap the checkmark button in the top-right corner. The app highlights Incorrect answers in a very noticeable red, giving you the chance to rethink your choices and make corrections. Be forewarned that the clock above the grid keeps ticking, however.

The New York Times Sudoku Daily

NEWS BITS: In an obtrusive bit of cross-branding in the Extras menu, the app displays a tiny image of the front page of the current day’s New York Times. If any of the headlines catch your eye, tap the page, and then tap Yes to visit the paper’s mobile website. (This book’s author works on the Times’ Book Review, but has nothing to do with the puzzle people.)

HONORABLE MENTION

The New York Times Sudoku Daily

Enjoy Sudoku

Free | $2.99 for full version
Version 3.4.2 | Jason T. Linhart
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

This aptly named app is for people who really love Sudoku and just can’t get enough of those alluring 81 squares. With 16 difficulty levels and its own puzzle generator to keep ’em coming, you may never run out of fresh grids with the full version of Enjoy Sudoku. (Using the built-in camera, iPhone owners can even snap and scan puzzles from newspapers.) The free version has fewer puzzles and 14 difficulty levels, but that may be enough for you.

Enjoy Sudoku

CLOUD NINE: Practiced Sudoku fans can joyfully whip out the grids in no time, but players new to the world of Sudoku may need more time—and a little bit of help. If you find yourself constantly hitting the Erase button, you can take a peek at the solution by tapping the Hint button. Tiny numbers appear in the squares to clue you in on the solution.

Best Maze Game

Best Maze Game

Dark Nebula

$0.99
Version 1.1 | 1337 Game Design
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Maze games have been around forever, but few look as sleek and polished as Dark Nebula. The first of several planned “episodes,” this app has 10 levels where you guide a disk (which looks like a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner) through a 3D labyrinth using all the moves in the iPhone accelerometer’s arsenal. Unlike many games, you don’t even have to touch the screen here—you do all your gameplay by tilting.

Dark Nebula

LONG WAY DOWN: In addition to twisting corridors, sliding obstacles, and glowing barriers, Dark Nebula has you navigate a little round robot across very narrow bridges. If you tilt your phone a little too far, you go hurtling off the edge of the structure and into the fiery pits below. If you have extra lives left, you pick up not far from where you took the plunge.

Dark Nebula

GAME OF LIFE: Dark Nebula smartly complements its graphics with stirring background music and realistic sound effects. Roll over enough glowing yellow cylinders and you get an extra life, which keeps you playing even if you do go headfirst off a bridge. When you finish all 10 levels of this episode, look for Episode Two in the App Store.

Best Third-Dimension Game

Best Third-Dimension Game

3D Puzzle

$1.99
Version 1.0 | Nanjing Imohoo IT Co. Ltd.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

This game challenges you to make sense out of a series of floating colored squares and figure out at which angle they need to be to create a mosaic picture. When the disembodied tiles appear, drag an area with your finger to shift the whole mass in that direction. As you drag, the squares move in relation to each other until you hit the magic angle and the picture appears. 3D Puzzle has four modes of difficulty and 500 pictures.

3D Puzzle

SQUARE ROOTS: Depending on the angle, 3D Puzzle’s floating boxes may start to look like something—or bring to mind a cloud of digital confetti. A tiny image in the upper-right corner of the screen offers a clue to the picture you’re trying to see.

3D Puzzle

CUBISM: Once all the squares fall into alignment, the mosaic reveals itself. The game has several types of pictures, including images of animals, plants, and toys. Tap the music-note icon in the upper-right to pick your own tunes to play in the background.

Gambling

Best Online Poker Game

Best Online Poker Game

World Series of Poker: Hold ’Em Legend

$0.99
Version 1.6.0 | Glu Mobile Inc.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

A table full of poker players can be hard to squeeze onto an iPhone, but the World Series of Poker’s app brings a compact and well-designed look to the high-stakes game. Six or nine players—including you—are seated around a table playing Hold ’Em. You can play in real time against Internet opponents, or you can play against the app. Play well, and the game recognizes you with escalating awards.

World Series of Poker: Hold ’Em Legend

TABLE TOUR: The World Series of Poker takes you around the world. When you start the game, you choose where you want to play, including a virtual 5th Street Pub or Harrah’s New Orleans. Other casinos become available as you accumulate chips.

World Series of Poker: Hold ’Em Legend

WHEEL OF FORTUNE: Eliminating players from the table requires some creative controls. When it’s your turn to bet, tap your chip stack to call up the app’s money dial. Choose the amount you want to put in and then tap the checkmark to place your bet.

World Series of Poker: Hold ’Em Legend

CARD COACH: Novice Texas Hold ’Em players can get guidance from right within the app. The height of the rainbow-themed meter next to your cards indicates the strength of your hand—and it can help you decide what to do when it’s your turn.

World Series of Poker: Hold ’Em Legend

KNOW YOUR PLACE: In the Stats area, you can see how you’re doing at the table. Tap the Player option on the game’s main menu and flick through to Stats. In addition to seeing your current cash and ranking, the screen displays your best hand.

HONORABLE MENTION

World Series of Poker: Hold ’Em Legend

Live Poker 7K Free

Free
Version 3.7 | Zynga
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Zynga, the company that makes the FarmVille app described earlier in this chapter, also makes an online “live” poker game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. In fact, you can only play the game online and only against other people, but for many folks, that’s the whole point. Live Poker 7K is popular on social-networking sites, and Facebook users can sign into their account through the app, and then invite and play with fellow Facebookers. With 6 million daily players, you should always be able to find a free seat.

Strategy Games

Best Real-Time Strategy Game

Best Real-Time Strategy Game

Land Air Sea Warfare

$4.99
Version 1.1 | 244 Graphics LLC
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

World-builders and armchair generals alike can spend hours inside real-time strategy games. In Land Air Sea Warfare, you pick your terrain, establish a base of operations (barracks, power plants, and so on), and eventually command a mighty army into battle against the enemy (Russia). Once you conquer your foe (or surrender), you can build up your war machine on a different landscape.

Land Air Sea Warfare

POWER UP: Although you can soon expand your base of operations with buildings and other structures, you need to harness some energy and build up power first. Tap the Engr button to place wind turbines or other power sources around your base.

Land Air Sea Warfare

WAR MACHINE: As you pull in energy, you can begin building defenses—and offenses. Add munitions factories to crank out ships, planes, and transport units, and eventually attack your enemy in a hail of explosions and sound effects.

Best Sliding-Puzzle Strategy Game

Best Sliding-Puzzle Strategy Game

Warship: Flight Deck Jam

$0.99
Version 1.0 | Demansol
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

In Flight Deck Jam, you’re in charge of an aircraft carrier’s crowded flight deck, and it’s your job to keep it operational so your fighter jets can take off. The game has two modes, Relax and Challenge. Relax gives you time to leisurely move your armored gear around while a chopper guards you, but you need to step it up in Challenge mode because the enemy fires missiles while you work.

Warship: Flight Deck Jam

JAMMED UP: Warship starts with the flight deck filled with planes, tanks, and trucks—and limited space. You need to figure out how to shift everything around so the orange plane can take off—but the trucks, tanks, and planes’ movement is limited.

Warship: Flight Deck Jam

OPEN RUNWAY: Warship’s weapons can only move in a straight line, and only in the direction they face, so you have to figure out how to move your hardware up and down and side to side to solve the puzzle. Eventually, you clear the way for the jet.

Best Tower Defense Game

Best Tower Defense Game

Sentinel 2: Earth Defense

$1.99
Version 1.4.2 | Origin8 Technologies Ltd.
 For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

A sequel to Sentinel: Mars Defense, Sentinel 2 brings the action back to earth as rampaging aliens try to make rubble of your turrets. Rich graphics and music pull you into the gameplay as you place towers around the landscape to defend your turf. Other weapons in your arsenal include an orbiting laser and mobile drones that attack the aliens (and keep you entertained).

Sentinel 2: Earth Defense

GAME CONSOLE: The game’s main screen has all the controls you need to customize your experience. Sentinel 2, like any other iPhone game, supports OpenFeint, an online gaming network that lets you play against friends, chat with fellow gamers, and track high scores.

Sentinel 2: Earth Defense

WEAPONS GRADE: The invading aliens have to navigate the Earth’s unfamiliar landscape, buying you some time to get your defenses in order. As you play, you can upgrade to more deadly towers and other weapons, but you have to manage your resources wisely.

Sentinel 2: Earth Defense

PLAY ON: The game includes a soundtrack by Specimen A, but you can play along to your own music. Tap the Music button on the game’s main screen (opposite page, top) to call up a variation of the On-the-Go playlist. Scroll through and tap the songs you want to put on your Sentinel playlist, and then tap Done to hear the tunes in the game.

HONORABLE MENTION

Sentinel 2: Earth Defense

GeoDefense Swarm

$1.99
Version 1.5 | Critical Thought Games LLC
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Because they don’t require a lot of complex input, tower defense games work great on touchscreens—and there are a lot of great tower defense games for the touchscreen. GeoDefense Swarm has quite a different look to it than Sentinel 2, but it brings its own intense action to the genre. Specialty structures, like the shockwave-harnessing Thump Tower and the powerful Vortex Tower, add to your defenses.

GeoDefense Swarm

TOWER OF POWER: You don’t have to build your towers along twisting paths or other rugged terrain in GeoDefense Swarm—you can create clusters of towers to blast invaders. The game has six types of towers and 30 levels of gameplay to keep you busy. For newbies to the world of tower defense, GeoDefense Swarm includes helpful tutorials.

Best Chess Game

Best Chess Game

Fritz Chess

$4.99
Version 1.4 | Gammick Entertainment
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Fritz, a German computer chess program first developed in the 1990s, has played against both Garry Kasparov and an early version of IBM’s Deep Blue computer—and now you can have a version of the software in your pocket. Fritz Chess is challenging to play against, but it’s also a wonderful resource to help you improve your game. It includes a database of 100,000 historic matches, a help system, and tools to analyze your moves.

Fritz Chess

CHECK, MATE: You can drag and drop your pieces around the chess board, or jump to squares by tapping them. You can also undo a move by shaking your iPhone or Touch. The game gives you your choice of chessboard and music, and there are various ways to play against other people, including a two-player mode. You can also email games in chess notation.

Fritz Chess

GRAND MASTER: Fritz is a great app for learning chess, and its in-game help provides hints and visual clues. For example, it can alert you to pieces threatened by your opponent by highlighting the board squares. Chess is an ancient game with plenty of history, and Fritz even tells you the name of your first move, like the Reti or Durkin’s Opening.

Best Checkers Game

Best Checkers Game

Checkers!

Free | $1.99 for full version
Version 1.2.4 | OutOfTheBit
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Checkers is one of the first board games many people learn to play, but the rules can vary depending on where you learned to play. Checkers lets you play by the English, Spanish, Italian, or French rules, with your choice of five checkerboard color schemes. You can interrupt your game with text messages or phone calls without losing your moves. The free version clutters the top of the board with ads.

Checkers!

SET ’EM UP: In Checkers, you play against the app or a live person. Tap the Settings icon to customize the game with each player’s name. You can also choose the checker colors, turn the sound effects on or off, and pick the rules by which you wish to play (the variations tend to involve the movement allowed by kings).

Checkers!

BUST A MOVE: Once you choose your settings, the game begins and you can start jumping your way around the board. You can see your chosen set of rules and difficulty level at the top of the screen if you’re playing against the program. If you want to change them, jump back into the settings area.

Sports

Best Soccer Game

Best Soccer Game

FIFA 10

$6.99
Version 1.3 | Electronic Arts Inc.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Whether you call it footie, fütbol, or soccer, the so-called “beautiful game” looks truly gorgeous in FIFA 10. FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the governing body of global soccer, and the game it’s produced with Electronic Arts uses real teams in real leagues to make the game more fun as you work toward your goal (which is, of course, the goal). As in the real-life game, you can even compete in tournaments.

FIFA 10

HEAD-TO-HEAD: On-screen game controls get you in the game as you charge out of midfield and make your way toward your opponent’s goalkeeper. You can view the match from six angles and play against a friend over a local Wi-Fi connection.

FIFA 10

FOR KICKS: In a penalty shoot-out, you trade off kicking and defending the net, guiding the action with your finger. The stadium has a realistic feel, right down to the flashing banners along the sides and the roar of the rowdy crowd in the stands.

Best Basketball Game

Best Basketball Game

Crazy Basketball

$0.99
Version 4.0 | Demis Mezirov
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Aim is one thing, but you definitely need the right touch to nail buckets in Crazy Basketball. Like a pocket version of Pop-a-Shot, the game gives you a set amount of time to make as many baskets as you can, but it’s not as easy as it looks; flick the ball too abruptly and it slams off the backboard. The game has realistic sound effects, down to the clank of the rim and smack of the ball on the polished wood “court.”

Crazy Basketball

SLAM-DUNK: Crazy Basketball has three playing levels (Easy, Normal, and Hard) so it can help entertain younger fingers without frustrating them. A dotted line with a suggested trajectory helps you line up your shots as the clock ticks down.

Crazy Basketball

TROPHY CASE: The game can connect to the OpenFeint network so you can share your high scores with other players, but you also have the chance to earn local awards for your shooting skills. Tap the Achievements button on the main screen to see the rewards.

Best Golf Game

Best Golf Game

Anytime Golf: Magic Touch

$0.99
Version 1.3 | Bork 3D LLC
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

One thing about playing video golf: You don’t have to worry about the weather. Anytime Golf: Magic Touch brings blue skies and a light breeze to your screen on several 3D courses. The game gives you plenty of control, from picking your clubs for each shot to switching between overhead views of the hole and the player’s perspective. A virtual driving range lets you practice whacking balls.

Anytime Golf: Magic Touch

SWING DANCE: You hit a ball by dragging your fingertip vertically down the screen for the backswing and then flicking it up in the direction you want the ball to go for the downswing. Good control makes for a more accurate shot, while fidgety fingers can land you in the rough—so take your time and aim carefully.

Anytime Golf: Magic Touch

GO GREEN: The top-left corner of the screen shows the current hole number and par rating. The top-right corner shows the number of strokes it took to get to the digital green. Once you get close to the cup, pick up your virtual putter and gently flick your finger toward the flag to finish off this hole and move on to the next.

Best Football Game

Best Football Game

Backbreaker Football

Free | $0.99 for full version
Version 1.5 | NaturalMotion Games Ltd.
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

With all the bone-rattling action and none of the actual physical pain (unless you get sore fingers), Backbreaker Football is a great way to while away the time between real pigskin games—or their commercials. You get to design your own player down to his name, and then send him out to dodge the opposing team’s defense in a mad run toward the end zone, a task that gets harder as you advance in the game.

Backbreaker Football

IN-FLIGHT MOVIE: If you’re not fast enough to dodge your opponent, your virtual player ends up much like the real guys do—flying headfirst through the air. When you do get tackled, the game replays it from several angles, just like on TV.

Backbreaker Football

END ZONE: Use the game’s controls to spin and sprint your way past the opposing team to score a virtual TD. Master the game’s basics and move on to one of Backbreaker Football’s Challenge modes. Complete a challenge, and you unlock new content.

Best Car-Racing Game

Best Car-Racing Game

Real Racing

$4.99
Version 1.23 | Firemint
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

In Real Racing, the iPhone and iPod Touch’s built-in accelerometer turns your device into a racecar steering wheel. You’re in the driver’s seat and you can keep that perspective or switch to a less intense external view as you roar around the racetrack. If you have a Wi-Fi network and a bunch of iPhone-equipped friends who also own a copy of Real Racing, the game’s multiplayer mode lets six of you race at once.

Real Racing

ON TRACK: To start racing, pick your car and track—your options increase the more you play. Keeping the car on the track can be a challenge for inexperienced players, but, fortunately, smacking into a wall or lurching off the track only slows you down.

Real Racing

CLOCK SPEED: Once you finish a race, the game displays your time and the type of car you were driving so you can see how you did. If you’re using the cockpit view during the race, the app also displays your lap time on the car’s dashboard clock, shown above.

Best App for Fantasy Teams

Best App for Fantasy Teams

Fantasy Monster

Free | $3.99 for full version
Version 1.3 | Bignoggins Productions LLC
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Fantasy sports (also known to some as rotisserie) involves creating an imaginary team out of real players. You use the real-life statistics of those players in a point system to compete against other fantasy team owners in a fantasy season. Yahoo runs one of the biggest fantasy sports websites, and Fantasy Monster lets you manage your Yahoo teams while you’re on the go so you can keep tabs on the team’s performance and standing.

Fantasy Monster

SPORTING NEWS: Fantasy league play follows the real-life sports leagues closely. For those on a quest to build a championship team, Fantasy Monster compiles plenty of information so you can choose wisely when you draft and trade players.

Fantasy Monster

DREAM TEAM: The on-the-field performance of real-life players is key to having a successful sports fantasy team, so fantasy-league owners tend to have an even more obsessive love of statistics than more casual sports fans.

Combat Games

Best Fantasy Combat Game

Best Fantasy Combat Game

Predators

$3.99
Version 1.3 | Fox Digital Entertainment
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Action-packed and not for the squeamish, Predators casts you as a hunted alien trying to survive against a pack of murderous humans. You’re not a defenseless creature, though; a set of Wolverine-like razor claws can slice and dice your attackers. Due to Predators’ gore and violence, the game is rated for those age 12 and up. After a long day in the office or out on sales calls, Predators can be an engaging bit of stress relief.

Predators

BUTTON DOWN: Similar to console controllers, Predators’ touchscreen offers virtual buttons so you can direct your avatar and control his razor claws and plasma guns. In the early levels of the game, you do a lot of clawing.

Predators

BLOOD BANK: A companion to the 2010 Predators movie, the mobile game, like the movie, doesn’t skimp on the graphic violence. If you find it getting to you, you can turn off the spurting blood in the game’s Options settings.

Best Historical Combat Game

Best Historical Combat Game

Great Tank War

$2.99
Version 1.0.0 | Jellyoasis Inc.
 For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

Even back in the chocky-blocky days of the Atari 2600, a good tank program could entertain for hours. Great Tank War brings 3D graphics and easy-to-learn controls to the armored-vehicle genre and makes it all work on your iPhone or iPod Touch screen. You command historically accurate World War II-era tanks against the German army’s Tiger tanks (and other war machines) in a fierce battle to beat the Nazis in occupied Europe.

Great Tank War

THINK TANK: The game uses the classic “two-stick shooter” method of play, where you have one control for movement and one for firing your weapons as you figure out how to beat the enemy. As you play, you can upgrade your tank’s armor and weapons to mow down Nazis.

HONORABLE MENTION

Great Tank War

Battle of WWII

Free | $6.99 for full version
Version 1.6.0 | Simubiotic GmbH
For the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4 and the iPod Touch 2G and 3G

The Battle of Normandy was a turning point in World War II, and this game puts you right in the 9th Division to battle your way across northern France. It’s a real-time strategy game, so you need to keep an eye on resources as you battle across the realistic landscapes. You set up attacks with your infantrymen, tanks, and artillery for 12 different missions and 14 maps in the paid version; the free edition offers two missions and one map to give you a feel for the game.

Flights of Fantasy

Best Flight Simulator

Best Flight Simulator

X-Plane Extreme

$9.99
Version 9.551 | Laminar Research
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

A sequel to the popular X-Plane 9 flight simulator, X-Plane Extreme continues its predecessor’s sophisticated look and feel. The app gives you the chance to virtually pilot realistic recreations of the F-22 Raptor, the SR-71 Blackbird, the B-2 bomber and other modern jets. In addition to enjoying the scenic views as you soar through the sky, you can race other planes across the terrain, which includes plenty of mountains and canyons.

X-Plane Extreme

TOP GUN: During takeoff, you increase the plane’s speed with the throttle slider on the left and slow things down with the flap control on the right. Tilt your gadget to steer the aircraft, just like you do in a racing game.

X-Plane Extreme

SIM CITY: X-Plane Extreme offers a full menu of options for simulated flight. In addition to picking the type of plane you want to fly, you can choose other options to suit your gameplay, like the time of day or region you fly over.

Best Space Combat Simulator

Best Space Combat Simulator

Space Wars 3D Star Combat Simulator

$1.99
Version 1.0 | Robert Bennett
For all iPhones and the iPod Touch

If you prefer your simulated flight in a more fanciful realm, Space Wars 3D combines a shooting game with a galactic flight simulator. The game lets you jump into the cockpit of a star fighter in the Human Space Navy and take out a few enemy aliens—if they don’t blast you to bits first. You can pick your own ship before you begin your mission and you even earn “money” for fighting.

Space Wars 3D Star Combat Simulator

GALAXY QUEST: Space Wars has beautiful graphics, from the rugged star fighters to the lovely views as you fly into battle. The controls are simple: steer with your left thumb on the glass, and shoot with your right thumb when you see an enemy ship.

Space Wars 3D Star Combat Simulator

UNDER FIRE: The enemy ships get to shoot, too, and flashing red means you’re getting fragged. You can take a few hits before your shields give out, but you need to maneuver around and take out your attacker before you end up floating home.

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