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 IPAD FEATURE

These are the best iPhone and iPad games of January 2016

No winter doldrums on mobile
Product: Best iPhone games | Publisher: Steel Media Ltd | Format: iPhone, iPad
 
This isn't right. This isn't right at all. January is supposed to be dead for the games industry: an extended New Year's hangover from a games industry knackered by the Christmas rush.

But mobile doesn't play by the rules.

So while the greater gaming market is making do with little more than a game about doing cereal box mazes on a mysterious island, us mobile gamers had loads to play last month.

From manic endless runners to hazardously addictive puzzlers to alligator fighting sims to space survival epics, the App Store proved itself to be the best place to game in January.

Don't believe us? Here are ten persuasive arguments.

Crashlands
By Butterscotch Shenanigans - buy on iPhone and iPad

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Survival games are usually dark, dour affairs - you're all alone, fighting for you life, in a harsh and isolating environment, after all.

Butterscotch Shenanigans doesn't go for all that, dressing up its madcap sci-fi survival game Crashlands with a silly sense of humour and filling it with goofy alien inhabitants.

That makes it a joy, not a slog, to play this rich and expansive game that has you building bases, crafting machinery, wearing armour, wailing on squids, and more as you set off on epic adventures of self-preservation.

Circa Infinity
By Kenny Sun - buy on iPhone and iPad

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This game - "a bonkers smashing together of a platformer, Super Hexagon, and a Dante Alighieri fever dream", according to Harry - tries something new. And it succeeds.

It's a platformer, right, but balled up into a never-ending series of concentric circles. You bounce over nasty red enemies and try to leap into the next level - a floating orb that blossoms out into a new rotating world as soon as you grab it.

This fractal structure drags you into the game world. And the fun gameplay and just-one-more-go sense of challenge will keep you stuck there for hours.

twofold inc.
By webbfarbror - buy on iPhone and iPad

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We've seen plenty of games that have you dragging your finger over a sea of gems to making a snaking corridor of same-coloured tiles. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

But Twofold takes this simple idea and dumps a thick and frosty layer of strategy on top.

You're making specific matches to meet quotas. You have strict move limits. You can shift the playfield about to reveal more lines. All this, and more, turns Twofold into a deviously clever twist on a tired puzzle convention.

Dungelot: Shattered Lands
By tinyBuild - buy on iPhone and iPad

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As James says, "Dungelot exists in the moments between when you find the key and when you choose to leave". You've unlocked the door! You're free to go.

But you don't. You push your luck, curiosity gets the better of you, and you get murdered by a spider.

Shattered Lands is as tense, as finely balanced, and as fun as the first game (and much better than the shaky free to play sequel). And the addition of new stuff, random encounters, and a lick of polish makes this third entry well worth getting.

Punch Club
By tinyBuild - buy on iPhone and iPad

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TinyBuild is two for two this month, as its engrossing fighter management game Punch Club also grabbed a Gold Award from us.

This ain't Street Fighter: this is more about what Ryu and Ken get up to when they're not beating the snot out of each other. You know, doing odd jobs, working out, and dating. Not each other. Unless they want to. That's fine. It's 2016.

It all makes for a game of stat management and personal growth. And if that gets a bit boring, you also get to punch alligators in their stupid… snouts? Do alligators have snouts?

Lost in Harmony
By Digixart Entertainment - buy on iPhone and iPad

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Here's an odd one. Lost in Harmony is an endless running rhythm action game about skateboarding to remixes of classical music. In a dream.

It's also a game where you run away from the screen, instead of into it. Now, obstacles can fly at you from a staggering number of locations making it a game about watching for dangers and tapping and swiping away from them.

It's slightly manic and complex, but things build up nicely. And, besides, it looks rather dashing. Certainly one to check out.

Sky Chasers
By Lucky Kat Studios - buy on iPhone and iPad

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Being "floaty" is normally a bad thing for a platformer. But Sky Chasers turns floating into an art form. You'll soon become as in-tune with this game's rocket-powered cardboard box as you are with Mario's leap or Sonic's spin-dash.

This lets you soar through imaginative worlds, tackling different obstacles and lugging heavy items around. All the while, you'll keep one eye on your gas tank, and start to wonder how far back that last checkpoint was…

And as Glen points out, "the free to play elements are also surprisingly well-implemented. You can play without spending a penny, there are no pop-up ads, and you can turn off pretty much all free to play stuff with a one-off IAP". Lovely.

Pocket Mortys
By [adult swim] - buy on iPhone and iPad

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This bizarre Rick and Morty tie-in "captures both the bonkers humour of the cartoon and the rhythm of the original Pokemon games pretty much perfectly," says Harry.

Instead of collecting pocket-sized critters, you're grabbing alternate dimension variations of Morty. These dopplegangers (each has unique moves and skills) become your team as you set out to wreck enemies and save the world. Or something.

Don't go into this expecting a full RPG as deep and involving as Pokemon. But as a nifty slice of monster-collecting fun with lots of fan service for a much-loved cartoon, it's pretty darn great.

Venture Kid
By FDG - buy on iPhone and iPad

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Venture Kid wants to be Mega Man. There's no getting away from that: from its razor-sharp difficulty to its retro theme to its little sprite which is just different enough to keep Capcom's lawyers at bay, this is a game that wants to evoke some very specific memories.

And it sounds like it does. "It's not the most original experience," says Harry, "but it scratches all the right hardcore itches". And let me tell you - my itches are Hard. Core.

For those brave enough to try you'll find a game that walks the line between being maddeningly hard and just unfair, and a huge sense of reward when you leap over a fish, shoot a rat, and make your way to the end.

Jetpack Fighter
By Hi-Rez Studios - buy on iPhone and iPad

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Hi-Rez knows how to make a game feel good, and feel fast. Jetpack Fighter moves at a lightning-quick pace (unless you're slowing down time to give you a chance to unleash a barrage of attacks. And it just feels primal and thrilling to race through these levels.

And you'll no doubt be playing them through a bunch as you chase down three stars on each and every level.

"It looks great, it controls well, and there's a decent level of challenge here as well," says Harry. "There's a swagger to proceedings that makes the whole thing click impressively together".
 

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 1 February 2016
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