In 2005, LEGO Star Wars kicked off a series of kid-friendly sci-fi action/puzzle games that'smore
In 2005, LEGO Star Wars kicked off a series of kid-friendly sci-fi action/puzzle games that's been going strong ever since -- but what if you're over the formula and want some alternatives? Luckily, Apple's App Store is packed with other high-quality iPhone games that tick a lot of LEGO Star Wars' boxes. So many, in fact, that we recommend using our guide as a starting point, rather than getting lost in the App Store maze.
Poco Eco is a light puzzler that puts the background music in the foreground. As you wander the area, you'll find buttons to stand on or tap on, platforms that appear according to certain triggers, and pathways to the next area that gradually open as you solve a series of puzzles. While this happens, the music evolves with new instruments, or fewer ones. Over time, as you learn how the game operates, the puzzles get more complex. But you shouldn't get stuck for long, because a firefly-type insect buddy named LEDBUG will fly to certain locations to provide hints about what to do next.
The 3D artwork is whimsical and colorful, and the game has a chill and positive vibe overall that makes it pleasant to kick back and relax. Though we do recommend playing on an iPad to get the full effect of the visual design, and definitely play with headphones or earbuds to feel the music and sound effects. Poco Eco is just $2.99 and has no ads or in-app transactions.
This game shares some similarities with Poco Eco -- you step on plates as part of a puzzle solution, but Causality cranks this idea to 11. Instead of directly controlling your characters, the characters auto-run, and you must guide them along the right path at the right time. Sometimes you have to juggle multiple characters, plus traps, teleporter pads, and movable barriers. Fortunately, you can move time forward or backward anytime you want. So when your guy gets caught by a sea monster, you can simply rewind and herd them in another direction. There's also no exploration, so it's all about the puzzles. You get 60 of them for just $1.99, with no ads or in-app transactions.
Crashlands is a colorful and comical survival crafting game, kind of like Don't Starve but in a sci-fi setting. But unlike most games of this type, your inventory space is unlimited, so you don't have to head back to HQ because your bags are full. When you do want to return, you can just teleport. This lets you focus more on exploring, collecting, fighting, and crafting. And Crashlands does a good job of shepherding you through the basics and then gradually giving you free reign.
The game has four different difficulty modes, including an Exploration mode with easier combat. All modes are available right away. Crashlands is $6.99 on the App Store, with no ads or in-app purchases. We recommend playing on a tablet to fully enjoy the vivid and expressive 2D artwork.
We'll say right up front that Goat Simulator is an acquired taste. Its bugs, awkward control scheme, and relatively lo-fi visual design are all deliberate, like a satire of low-budget indie games. If you want polish, you won't find it here. However, if you just want to be a goat -- headbutting everyone, leaping around, falling on your face, experimental licking -- there's arguably no better way. This is a sandbox for rudeness. But there's also a mission structure, if you choose to follow it. Doing so unlocks additional types of playable animals with special abilities, like a wheelchair-bound dolphin.
Goat Simulator: Waste of Space is $4.99 on the App Store. During our testing, we found it discounted to $2.99. If you like this game, you can get the whole series in a bundle for $14.99 [http://download.cnet.com/Goat-Simulator-MEGA-Bundle/3000-2115_4-77732930.html] (marked down to $7.99 during our testing).
Also, there are many downloads on the app stores that look like Goat Simulator games, so make sure that yours is made by Coffee Stain Studios, rather than an imitator.
While the main SteamWorld games evoke the classic arcade game Dig Dug, SteamWorld Heist is actually in the mold of a 2D side-scrolling X-COM -- a turn-based strategy series that promotes firing from cover, carefully timed usage of special abilities, and tactical teamwork. Since it's side-scrolling 2D, your tactical options are narrower than other camera perspectives, but that makes this style of game more accessible to a wider range of players (as well as being playable on a wider range of devices than a 3D game). The artwork is also full of color and character, and all the creatures in the game are robots, so there's no blood involved. If you find the default difficulty too challenging, there are two others below it. If it's too easy, two higher modes await.
Each level is randomly generated for enhanced variety, the publisher claims 15-20 hours of gameplay, and there's a "New Game+" mode where you can replay the whole thing while keeping stuff from your previous playthrough. A tablet-size screen will properly show off the game, but a large iPhone should work in a pinch. SteamWorld Heist is $10, but you are getting the full experience of the desktop version in a portable package. It also has some great music and sound effects that benefit from a pair of headphones or earbuds.
Transistor is a very stylish and atmospheric cyberpunk action game with RPG elements, by the makers of Bastion and Pyre. In it, you play Red, a former singer who is now on the run from a mysterious group of robots. Thankfully, she's armed with a huge sword named Transistor, who talks her through what's going on and gets a progression of unlocked abilities over the course of the game. You can fight in real-time, but the meat of combat emerges from pausing the action and lining up a combination of different moves and attacks, which follow in quick succession as soon as you unpause.
We recommend playing on a tablet to get the full impact of the game's premium artwork -- and Apple TV owners can play it on a big screen, using the bundled Siri Remote or an MFi gamepad purchased separately. The game is $9.99, and you'll sometimes find it at half price. Either number is a bargain, because this is the full adaptation of the desktop version, which goes for $20. There are no ads in the game, and the only in-app purchase is a link to the game's soundtrack in the iTunes Store.