Look: We know that not every iOS game is perfect. They all have their little quirks and irregularities, and some are flat-out broken. But among those that are actually playable, some contain a core mechanic that stumbles somewhere along the way. And maybe it’s a cool idea, but it feels like it could just be executed a little better.
That’s where this series comes in. We round up games that are not necessarily bad but just fall short in some area, and we suggest other titles that do it better.
Culprit 1: Breach & Clear
The Issue: Shallow, dumb tactics.
Breach & Clear is a gun-crazed iPad game in which you control squads of elite commandos as they kick in doors and mow down terrorists. It features a “facing” mechanic that allows you to tell your soldiers where to look at any point along the paths you tell them to follow, and they fire at any bad guys they see along the way.
The game offers more versatility than a typical tactics title, allowing you to move in one direction while shooting in another, but it ultimately all comes down to walking your guys down a series of hallways and pointing them at enemies until those enemies die.
It requires some thought, sure, but it’s ultimately just shallow and weird.
The Solution: Tic Tactics
Tic Tactics, meanwhile, requires a great deal more strategic thinking without a single simulated murder. See? It’s possible.
It’s an update of the classic war between Xs and Os that subverts the logic of the original game. Because players determine where their opponent must play next, blocking is not always the best move. As in chess, it benefits you to think several moves ahead, but the game has fewer variables to take into consideration, so basically anyone can feel like a tactical wizard.
Insofar as one placing Xs and Os on a virtual board can, that is.
Culprit 2: The Infinity Blade series
The Issue: Repetitive and grind-crazed.
The Infinity Blade series is a mobile juggernaut because of its slick production values, epic plot, and simple gameplay. It’s also incredibly boring, and the series’ overarching plot, which involves generations of a family attempting the same quest over and over and a battle against beings that can die repeatedly and still come back, actually serves as a metaphor for the experience of playing it.
Success in Infinity Blade requires proper gear, and getting proper gear demands that you fight the same battles several times with little variation. You can speed things up by exchanging real money for in-game currency, but that just makes you better equipped to do the same thing.
The combat is at least interesting, though; it requires pattern recognition and a sense of rhythm and timing. But it’s all you do, and it doesn’t offer much variety because that’s more or less how that whole “infinity” thing works.
The Solution: Bit.Trip Run!
I didn’t cut developer Gaijin’s running-based rhythm-game-in-disguise a whole lot of slack when I reviewed it last month, but an update with new control schemes means it’s worth checking out again.
Run! tasks you with guiding the brave, perpetually running Commander Video through a bunch of colorful worlds rife with obstacles and hurdles to overcome. Like in Infinity Blade, timing and rhythm are crucial, but where Bit.Trip wins out is in its variety. The Commander must run, slide, kick, jump, and use a shield to keep moving forward, and the individual levels provide enough different barriers that it keeps you focused and challenged.
Plus, the narrator is the guy who does the voice for Mario, and that’s just straight-up awesome.
Culprit 3:Haypi Monster
The Issue:The price of pets is all of your data.
Haypi Monster is an massively multiplayer, Pokémon-esque game about raising monsters and making them fight in immoral, terrifying bloodsports. OK, well it’s a little more cuddly and friendly than that, but we know the subtext. Anyway, you collect and train as many of the hundreds of cuddlebeasts as you care to and pit them against other people’s favorite cuddlebeasts, and then somebody wins or whatever. We’ve seen it all before.
The problem, according to Cult of Mac writer Jasmine Rea, is that Haypi Monster constantly accesses the Internet even when she wasn’t running it. And I’m pretty sure that people with limited data plans might take issue with that because cuddlebeasts are cute and fun to raise and all, but one must never have to choose between raising one and being able to watch whatever the hell this is.
The Solution:Clumsy Ninja
Instead of mucking around with the data-sucking cuddlebeasts, you might want to check out Clumsy Ninja for your fake-pet needs. OK, I know that Clumsy Ninja is a person, and keeping a person as a pet is wrong, but he’s not a real person, and you’re actually helping him out. He’s on a quest to rescue the only person who ever believed in him, but he’s just so darn clumsy. You train him to move up through the ranks at his ninja school, and you can see him improve as you work with him.
The whole thing is like being inside the training montage of a Rocky movie except that it takes way, way longer, and Rocky never had to wait for the repair timer on his weighted bags to run down before he could punch them again.