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The best of iOS in 2011

A ‘best of 2011’ bit for the iOS. No reductive ports, disruptive IAPs, or throwaway endless running titles. Only the well-designed games make the list. In no particular order but feel free to read them as ordered if that improves things. Here’s our list of titles that defined Apple’s portable wunderkind last year.

Scribblenauts Remix

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Developers looking to port to the iPhone could learn a lot from Scribblenauts Remix. It’s in no way reductive of the Nintendo DS originals and is one of the few translations that simply make more sense on the iPhone. Much of this has to do with the typing-based gameplay but also 5th Cell’s understanding of the platform and its best traits (sounds redundant, but few developers get it).

Monsters Ate My Condo

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Monsters Ate My Condo is an adult swim joint; completely bananas in ways Match-3 games rarely are. It’s also mechanically sound and way too much fun to play. It’s the best of its kind in some time and doesn’t offer faux-depth with all kinds of special variants – there’s only a couple, but both are well executed.

Tiny Tower

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The new status quo for free-to-play games. It speaks well to Tiny Tower’s qualities as a fully conceived release that it might be fully enjoyed without ever going online, much less paying for the IAP’s. They are generally arbitrary to progress and the devs do a fine job of keeping you occupied so you don’t have to think much about it. These games generally devolve into waiting games at some point but Tiny Tower never does. A slick simulation title, second only to Kairosoft’s similar Mega Mall Story for bite-sized tower management on the platform.

DoDonPachi Resurrection

Not much left to add. Cave shmups are brilliant but often too complex for handhelds. DoDonPachi Resurrection, however, makes a good play at translating bullet hell to the hardware limitations of the iPhone. There’s also this year’s Pheonix Rising HD, a competent shmup cribbing from similar Japanese design. As for the rest, I differ to David Lynch.

Crimson: Steam Pirates

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Bungie’s first foray into publishing on iOS – as Bungie Aerospace – comes out clean. Besides selling off the episodes piecemeal (the first is free), it generally comes across cohesively. There’s an immediate impression of streamlined accessibility about it but delve deeper and there are pages of stats, numbers, and more detailed descriptions for more involved players. It’s Bungie and the rest is quality, so the IAP’s seem excusable. This list is conditional that way. Because fucking Halo.

Hot Springs Story

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Best Kairosoft game could be a list onto itself. Hot Springs Story exemplifies all the things that make their management line the best on the platform: it’s all about the simulation. Japanese bath houses are also the most unique subject I know for the genre. Endlessly replayable and full of character – Kairosoft’s lineup of quirky, character-driven sims are sure to go down as portable classics.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

The most artful and significant thing to reach the iPhone, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is one of the year’s best all-around releases. Capy’s art blends beautifully, designed around the minimalist overtures created by Jim Guthrie. All the tracks are layered well, their mixes comprised of samples from old music-creation videogame software, culminating in an intense audiovisual experience. And it’s truly an experience. Superbrothers approaches whatever potential the iPhone has ahead of it as a games device and without qualification, it’s one of the year’s best.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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