Best Free iPad Games 2021 — Macworld UK

Best Free iPad Games 2021 - Macworld UK Без рубрики

Super Cat Tales 2

Platform games on the iPad are something of a mixed bag, mostly because they tend to be so difficult to control. Given the difference in size between an iPad mini and the largest iPad Pro, on-screen controls only tend to work on all iPads if they’re fully configurable (rare) or you have banana fingers (hopefully more rare). Super Cat Tales 2 sidesteps all this by streamlining the entire control system to two buttons.

As you belt through the game’s vibrant world, you grip your iPad with two hands. Hold the left or right side of the screen to head in that direction. Double-tap to start running, and automatically leap on reaching a platform’s edge. Two thumbs are also all you need to clamber up vertical surfaces, wall jump, and obliterate enemies using giant yellow tanks they’ve carelessly left lying about the place.

The system is tricky to grasp at first, and you might initially hanker for a jump button. But Super Cat Tales 2 revels in its perceived limitations, offering levels that require clever choreography to crack. Combine that with a slew of secrets, plenty of variety (underwater sections; a level set on a speeding train), and you’ve one of the finest mobile platforms you’re ever likely to see.

IAPs: The £4.99/$4.99 premium option removes ads that occasionally appear. You can also pay to unlock sections of the game if you’ve not yet found all the collectables required to proceed.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Super Cat Tales 2

. Casual Metaphysics

There’s a bunch of waffle on the Casual Metaphysics App Store page about spirituality and reaching a higher state of consciousness. We’re not sure what that’s all about, because the entire game comes across more like a surreal fever dream.

At its core, Casual Metaphysics is a match game — but it’s a long way from swapping gems to make a row of three. Instead, shapes float in space, and you combine them to create a new shape. If you can then combine that object with another match, you get a chain. Keep going and you can rack up big points.

Once you’re done with your turn, things get weird. A vividly coloured hand on the other side of the screen acts as your opponent. You trade blows but will at first chalk up a few victories. However, as you progress through the game’s levels, the shapes increase in complexity and finding matches becomes tougher — a problem, since if you linger, your score is gradually eroded.

On iPad, the larger display makes for a more dazzling visual experience and helps accuracy when dragging between shapes. But also, defeat the computer player enough times and you unlock local multiplayer, which proves a much better experience on the bigger screen.

IAPs: You can casually remove the ads for £1.99/$1.99 — a good idea if you enjoy the game.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download Casual Metaphysics‬

. Empty.

Are you of the opinion that life is better when your world is more minimal? Empty. allows you to apply such thinking to a virtual environment — and to an extreme degree.

Each of the game’s hand-crafted levels starts out as a simple room you can manoeuvre with a finger. Within the room are various objects, drawn in a stripped-back style that makes them resemble silhouettes. The idea is to merge objects into flat planes (walls; ceilings), whereupon they disappear.

This isn’t a game of brain-smashing challenge. Instead, Empty. comes across almost as a meditative experience. A gentle soundtrack serenades your ears as you play, and the game’s lack of timers suggests you should be in no hurry to blaze through everything.

The biggest tests are figuring out in which order to remove objects as the rooms become more cluttered and complex. Sometimes, you’ll find there’s not quite enough flat colour behind an item you’d singled out, and therefore have to try an alternative.

This might not sound like much, but Empty. is far from empty. With stylish design, smartly conceived controls and an inviting manner, it’s an excellent way to spend a few hours being entertained on an iPad.

IAPs: Free means free. There are no IAPs and no ads.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download Empty.

. Builderment

Earth has run out of resources, so humankind has set up shop on another planet, to plunder its goodies instead. Way to learn lessons, guys! But how to get all the lovely items home? Teleportation! Only creating a teleporter isn’t easy — and the automated system doesn’t appear to know how.

You therefore begin with something more basic, building extractors to rip up trees and move logs on conveyor belts to a research lab. Once enough have reached the brains of the operation, new tech is unlocked. By ferrying raw materials through workshops and machine shops, they can be combined into new items, which prompts further research.

In effect, it’s like a real-time take on a Civilization tech tree combined with Mini Metro map ‘rewiring’ when you discover inefficiencies. And at first, you might find the game opaque. Getting to grips with the interface takes time, as does getting your head around the game’s central premise.

But understand Builderment being a no-risk game you’re supposed to experiment with and note the small details (such as directional arrows on buildings you’re about to plonk down) on the iPad’s large screen and things will soon start to click. Whether you’ll manage to put in the hours to manufacture ‘Earth tokens’ from a vast factory spanning a continent, who knows? But you’ll have a lot of lean-back fun trying.

IAPs: You can buy gems, starting at 100 for £1.99/$1.99 and going up to 3,500 for £28.99/$29.99. These are solely used to build decorative items, so IAP here is just about rewarding the developer if you like the game.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download Builderment

. Puzzle Dino — Egg Adventure

This one features a chunky dinosaur with an egg obsession. Alas, the gluttonous reptile is unable to seek out these surprisingly large and spotted delicacies alone. That’s where you come in.

Each of the game’s 40 levels provides you with a bunch of actions you can drag on to the landscape — which is helpfully divided into an isometric grid. Press play and the dino dodders along, its route changing when stepping on any of the arrows now littered about the place.

Long-term gamers might suggest this sounds a lot like Dreamcast classic ChuChu Rocket! — and there are similarities. But Puzzle Dino is a more thoughtful game; and, notably, whenever the hungry dino walks over a guide piece, it vanishes.

This change significantly alters your approach, not least when levels demand you construct labyrinthine pathways that have the dino double back several times prior to reaching the goal. You’ll often run out of arrows and sit there baffled about how to proceed — doubly so when trampolines, switches and teleporters enter the equation.

If you get stuck, there are hints, which outline in which direction the dino should head. But this is a game you’ll want to complete on your own, to prove you’re suitably evolved and not some old dinosaur yourself.

IAPs: If you want to remove ads, unlock all hints or get a set of five ‘premium dinos’, each of those will cost you 99p/$0.99. Alternatively, a very reasonable £1.99/$1.99 gets you everything.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download Puzzle Dino — Egg Adventure

. I Love Hue Too

When you think of a tile-swapping match game, Bejeweled or Candy Crush Saga may spring to mind. Such games force you to think at speed or against a moves limit, and can frustrate by lobbing plenty of randomness into the mix. I Love Hue Too is essentially the polar opposite of such titles, instead inviting you to relax while tackling puzzles at your own pace.

Each challenge begins life as a harmonious whole — a number of joined tiles painted with a single gradient. Those that aren’t pinned then vanish, and reappear in scrambled fashion. It’s up to you to swap pairs of tiles, with the aim of making everything harmonious once again.

This kind of thing works particularly well on the iPad, its large display making it easy to manipulate tiles (especially when they get smaller in later levels) and also to spot subtle differences in colour.

It’s a simple concept, but one that really sucks you in. Get hooked and there are more than 900 levels to work through, and six ambient soundtracks to keep your ears entertained while your eyes and fingers are busy. And if you hanker for a little competition, you’re informed on completing a level how you did compared to the rest of the world — and the fewest possible moves you could have taken.

IAPs: You can remove the ads for £4.99/$4.99.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download I Love Hue Too

. Williams Pinball

There are two sides to Williams Pinball — the authentic and the fantastical. This app seeks to recreate classic pinball tables, offering realistic lighting and physics. As you bat a metal ball about, it flies along ramps at dizzying speed, and you must figure out the table’s rules and secrets, in order to crack the high score table. (Or you could read the instructions, but who does that these days?)

But also, this app is by Zen Studios — and if you’ve played any of that developer’s tables, you’ll know they’re animatronic treats. Here, you can optionally add such effects to famous Williams fare, resulting in an optimistic army guy taking pot-shots at UFOs in the sublime Attack From Mars, or a grumpy dragon belching fire in Medieval Madness.

At least, eventually. To get to that stage, you must play a lot of pinball, due to the unlock mechanism. This is XP- and currency-based, with you levelling up and winning coins on completing daily challenges on unlocked tables. The balance is arguably a bit off — it takes an _astonishingly_ long time to get tables to the fully animated level four.

Just make sure you pick wisely for the initial solitary unlocked table: Attack From Mars, The Getaway, and Medieval Madness are good bets.

IAPs: Coins cost 99p/99c for 25, up to 5,000 for £99.99/$99.99. Fully unlocking a table costs 250 coins, which is expensive compared to other systems, but two stars is enough for unlimited (albeit online) play. Zen also offers a £19.99/$19.

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For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Williams Pinball

. Salvagette

Bullet hell shooters, where your ship is tasked with weaving between countless projectiles, work surprisingly well on touchscreens. This is down to the precision with which your digit can manoeuvre your tiny vessel. That said, the sub-genre can be overwhelming for newcomers — and frustrating when a finger inevitably ends up covering something deadly during a vital moment.

Salvagette deftly deals with these issues by reimagining the bullet hell shooter as a single-screen, level-oriented turn-based strategy effort. Each level takes place on a grid. Enemy ships telegraph their intention to attack by way of a blue glow that gradually subsides.

The ‘time stops while you do’ trick is reminiscent of the one Time Locker pulls, only Salvagette goes heavier on the strategy, because there’s no time limit on the moves you make. That said, there’s still tension as levels become increasingly packed with foes, leaving you trying to think several moves ahead, in order to avoid a pummelling.

IAPs: There aren’t any. With Salvagette, free means free. No ads either!

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download Salvagette

. Golf Skies

There are no endless greens disappearing towards the horizon in this golf game. Instead, courses have been deconstructed and wrapped around tiny planetoids that hang in the air. Although the basic aim remains the same as in traditional golf — get your ball in the hole in as few shots as possible — the oddball nature of the courses demands a very different approach.

In normal golf, smack a ball into the air and it comes back down again. That’s easy to picture in your head. Here, each of the floating orbs has its own gravitational pull. Handily, the ball isn’t traditional fare either, and you can guide it left and right during its flight towards the putting green.

There are plenty of complications to make your job harder. Windmills, trees and other hazards inconveniently stick out of many planetoids, fish leap from lakes, and courses have a strict boundary around them. You must also be mindful that your ball can only fly for a limited time.

Success relies on memorising courses, figuring out the best route to the hole, and executing that sometimes labyrinthine path to the best of your ability. In that regard, Golf Skies is conventional. But the unique elements within make this one worth a download, even if you think you’ve had your fill of iPad golf games.

IAPs: You can remove the ads for £2.99/$2.99. Coins are available in batches of up to 1,000 (£3.99/$3.99), used to buy more powerful/manoeuvrable balls with which to lower your score. If playing friends on Game Centre, avoid new balls for best results, but the ads IAP is worth grabbing.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download Golf Skies

. Time Locker

Vertical shooters tend to be frenetic affairs, marrying your ability to dance between showers of glowing bullets and blast everything in your path to smithereens. Often, death comes by way of momentary distraction, and you’ll wish you could go all Matrix and temporarily slow everything to a crawl.

Time Locker suggests this wouldn’t necessarily help. In its abstract minimal world, everything moves only as fast as you drag a finger. Stop and the world freezes. Drag and everything comes back to life, whether that’s you blasting away, or your many foes homing in on your position.

A further complication comes by way of a universe destroying darkness that pursues you from the moment you set off. Lift your finger and your enemies halt, but the inky blackness won’t, eventually ending your journey through this surreal world. Successful ventures therefore combine short breaks to figure out a next move, followed by frantic scrabbling to eradicate nearby enemies and move yourself onwards at speed.

Last long enough and colossal bosses appear, making it clear this isn’t your day if survival was your goal. To counter this, green enemies drop credits you can spend on boosts during your next game, and blue foes ditch pick-ups that augment your critter’s arsenal — initially a rubbish pea shooter — with multi-directional shots, massive rockets, and more.

IAPs: You can buy characters for 99p/99c each, and ramp up your boost credits for £2.99/$2.99.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Time Locker

. Pico Rally

A perceived problem with gaming on mobile is the lack of tactile controls. Although some developers have got around this with clever use of tilting, swiping and virtual D-pads, others reduce everything down to players prodding the screen. Such one-thumb controls might seem reductive, but in the hands of canny creators, this system has breathed new life into tired genres.

One-thumb racing games, though, are rare, and yet Pico Rally shows how a single digit provides plenty of commands as you belt along. Your car automatically steers, and you press the screen to slam your foot down on the accelerator. You must time this carefully, so as to navigate the track efficiently, zoom ahead of rivals and take the chequered flag.

The overall effect is like classic slot-car racing, except your car isn’t restricted to a single lane. Instead, cars in Pico Rally jostle for the lead, not least when you’re careening along being pursued by cops more interested in beating you to the finish line than pulling you over for speeding.

The 60 tracks are diverse in terms of hazards and course design, and the physics feel suitably solid, yet keeps you on your toes as new surfaces arrive. The two-player mode is disappointing (no split screen, meaning you often find cars vanish off-screen), but there’s loads to keep the solo racer engrossed.

IAPs: You can remove the ads for a one-off £3.99/$3.99 payment.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Pico Rally

. Missile Command: Recharged

Although not lodged as firmly in the public consciousness as Pac-Man and Space Invaders, arcade classic Missile Command remains memorable for the right reasons. Fighting off an endless hail of ballistic missiles was exhilarating. And when your inevitable demise came, the game avoided a traditional ‘game over’, instead ominously stating ‘the end’.

So how has Missile Command been ‘recharged’ for iPad? Although it still has the same basic setup, this modern take replaces strategy with immediacy. Rather than choosing which silo to use, missiles are randomly dispatched from one as you tap the screen to aim. There’s also an upgrade path, so you can gradually improve your weaponry.

Old hands might grumble, but unless you’re dead set on slavish recreations, Recharged hits the spot. Its high-octane thrills are geared towards the touchscreen, rather than the physical controls of a real arcade cab. It works well on iPad, with the larger display dazzling your eyes with neon visuals, and giving you a fighting chance of accurately placing shots that trigger chain reactions.

Entertainingly, the game does offer one slice of 1980s authenticity, in the form of an AR virtual arcade cab you can project into the room. It’s fun, but a gimmick — holding your iPad in front of your face and playing is tough. In its more standard mode, though, Recharged is a blast of old-school cool.

IAPs: By default, the game gives you limited game ‘charges’ that are gradually replenished. A one-off £2.99/$2.99 IAP blows them to smithereens.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Missile Command: Recharged

. The King of Fighters ALLSTAR

Traditional brawlers don’t tend to fare well on mobile, hence a tendency for developers to create one-thumb fare like Beat Street or stripped-back tappy fighters like Transformers: Forged to Fight. ALLSTAR is an exception — a game that while not an equal to console brawlers nonetheless brings across enough from the genre to pack a punch.

Based on the famous titular series, this game mostly features side-on scrapping, in the vein of classics Double Dragon, Final Fight and Renegade. At any given moment, you’re surrounded by thugs who are in need of a good kicking. Defeat them without getting walloped yourself, and you get to take on a boss.

Although robbed of the traditional joystick-fired combos associated with King of Fighters, ALLSTAR has plenty of nuance. The touch controls enable you to execute eye-popping special moves; and players can switch between a more automated system or manual control, depending on their preference and level of skill.

. Little Alchemy 2

Alchemy is best known for transmutation: the dream of turning base metals into gold. That’s a whole lot less wacky than what’s going on in Little Alchemy 2. Here, you start with four classical elements — air, earth, fire and water — and set about combining them to fashion anything from cities to spaceships.

The means of doing this are simple. Discoveries sit at the right-hand side of the screen, and you drag them to the canvas. If nothing happens when you drag one on top of another, try a different combination. If something new appears, momentarily feel smug before realising you’ve many dozens of items left to find. As you might expect, this works particularly well on the iPad’s large touchscreen display.

Little Alchemy 2 plays fast and loose with the laws of the world. Some combinations have logic at their core — for example, drop ‘pressure’ on a volcano and you end up with an eruption. Others are more fanciful, such as an airplane being a bird combined with metal.

There are moments of frustration, not least when you’ve been sitting there for ages, unable to unearth a new discovery. But it’s always a pleasant surprise when you find a new object, and Little Alchemy 2 is ideal for dipping in and out of.

IAPs: You can buy research points to purchase hints. These start at 99p/99c for two. Video ads provide a free alternative when you’re stuck.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Little Alchemy 2

. A Way To Slay — Bloody Fight

This game’s subtitle — ‘bloody fight’ — is on the mark. Your lone hero begins each challenge surrounded by enemies looking to turn his innards into a bloody Pollock on the minimalist terrain. Your only hope of survival: slice them up before they can get to you.

That probably sounds like you’re in for a fast-paced fighting game, but A Way To Slay is, in fact, a turn-based strategy puzzler. For each move, you can spin and tilt the landscape to get a better look at your surroundings. Double-tap an enemy and you zip towards them and get all stabby — at which point all your other foes make their move.

Success depends on figuring out the order in which to dispatch everyone — no mean feat when you’re facing a dozen or so heavily armed knights, samurai, orcs or assassins. If that’s not challenging enough, A Way To Slay pits you against the clock as well — so once you’ve cracked a solution, you must try to pull it off in a handful of seconds.

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Assuming you can stand the blood spatter, A Way To Slay is an excellent freebie, and one that cleverly subverts existing genres.

IAPs: £2.99/$2.99 gets rid of the adverts and completes all levels without delay. For £5.99/$5.99, you can remove ads and unlock all levels, characters and weapons. The first of those is a good bet if the fairly regular ads impact your enjoyment of this frantic and engaging game.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download A Way To Slay

. Sky: Children of the Light

Although the critically acclaimed Journey now exists on iPad, Sky almost renders it irrelevant, taking that game’s lush 3D environments and exploration-oriented gameplay, and opening it up for massively multiplayer adventures.

In this particular adventure, you are one of a number of children aiming to bring hope to a seemingly abandoned kingdom. This is achieved by returning fallen stars to the skies. That’s quite a lot to lump on a bunch of kids, but they at least get to work together, tackling puzzles as a group.

This aspect of Sky can be frustrating, comical, flat-out amazing, or a combination thereof. You may find yourself before a door, which requires two people to open, and urge a temporary companion to help by way of your limited number of noises and gestures. Occasionally, someone will take your hand and a group of you will soar into the sky together.

This freeform nature and sense of freedom sets Sky apart. Yes, it can be irritating when you’re unsure how to unlock the next barrier, or make a jump when torrential rain and cold are robbing your wings of power; but few games give you such a sense of unbridled glee as Sky, when you’re sliding down hillsides on your heels, or just flying because you can.

IAPs: You can buy bundles of consumables, which start at 99p/99c and top out at £19.99/$19.99. There’s also a £4.99/$4.99 starter pack with wing upgrades, and season passes that let you grab yet more rewards. Our advice: play for free, and just chill.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Sky: Children of the Light

The Battle of Polytopia

Initially, The Battle of Polytopia (originally Super Tribes) was akin to a stripped-back early entry in the classic Civilization series. To some extent, it still is.

You get an isometric world and attempt to dominate in a turn-based manner. By making good use of resources, you can research new technologies, thereby unlocking more powerful units. The winner is the tribe with the highest score after 30 turns — or who unsportingly kills everyone else.

However, Polytopia soon gained its own personality. It always looked different, with its low-poly visuals. And the speedrun mode forced very different tactics from Civilization. But new and unique tribes with their own tech and distinct units shook things up further; and the game’s relatively intuitive nature made it a good fit for iPhone.

With version 2, Polytopia now makes more sense for iPad as well. Maps can optionally be much larger, making for a more epic feel and demanding lengthier sit-down games. The ability to build configurable maps affords flexibility and furthers long-term interest.

IAPs: New tribes can be bought for 99p/$0.99 or £1.99/$1.99 each. You’ll need to buy some if you want to play on the largest maps, but the base game is free (and also ad-free).

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download The Battle of Polytopia

. Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

There are no happy campers in this sliding puzzler, which features horror flick antagonist Jason Voorhees hacking his way through a campsite and beyond. Each grid finds you swiping Jason around, who slides until he smacks into a wall, comes a cropper due to a hazard, or reaches a victim. In the last case, said unlucky person is dispatched in a flurry of cartoon gore.

For the faint of heart, there’s an off switch for all the red, although all the bloody violence is more South Park than 18-certificate film. After all, this is a game where the decapitated head of the lead’s mother provides helpful advice from the corner of the screen, urging her murdery son onwards.

As the player, your brains also tend to get bashed in, albeit in a rather different manner. As Killer Puzzle progresses, the challenges become extremely tricky. You must figure out labyrinthine routes to targets, in order to avoid drowning in a lake or getting captured by guards.

The mechanics still aren’t really anything you’ve not seen before, but the puzzle design is good to the point that this alone would make the game worth a recommendation. But the absurdist cartoon horror trappings, black humour, and polish make this a killer game in more ways than one.

IAPs: Eight of the 12 level packs are entirely free to play. Four require IAP, ranging from £1.99 to £2.99. Unlocking a level pack prior to completing previous ones also costs £1.99. Alternatively, a one-off £9.99 IAP instantly unlocks everything. Any purchase removes ads from the game.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

. Crashy Cats

Cats exist in a world where they think you should be grateful to share their space. Now and again, they will remind you of this, by nonchalantly pawing a treasured ornament off a shelf, before giving you a look to make it clear the subsequent sickening crash was entirely your fault. Crashy Cats takes such attitudes to a logical conclusion.

Fortunately, you get the fun of being the cat, blazing along horizontally scrolling levels and causing mayhem by smashing stuff to pieces. As you send everything from TVs to suits of armour flying, you’ll spot dogs that are out to stop you (some are tied to floating balloons; others have jetpacks) and are best avoided. But there are companions, too, if you can run past a snoozing moggie.

Your part in this is extremely simple: tap to jump (and again to double jump). In effect, this is moggie Canabalt — a Catabalt, if you will. But the execution is first-rate, and makes it worth a download. Sure, your iPad can run Grid Autosport and Civilization VI, but sometimes quick-fire arcade fun is what you want.

IAPs: There are two currencies: coins and fish, used to unlock cosmetic upgrades and new cats. Some cats can also be purchased using cash. Probably the best option is 20 fish for £1.99/$1.99. That won’t buy you a lot in-game, but it will disable the ads.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Crashy Cats

. Astalo

Dungeon crawlers tend to find you exploring vast gloomy underground lairs, fending off hordes of deadly foes. Astalo has one foot in that particular camp, but marries it with the DNA of claustrophobic panic-inducing single-screen shooters.

Unfortunately for the sword-wielding protagonist, they lack a rapid-fire laser to obliterate enemies that encroach from all angles. However, one thing your fighter does have is a serious dose of speed. Drag a finger and an arrow denotes the direction and distance of your subsequent lunge, which takes but a fraction of a second.

Get your aim right and you’ll dispatch anyone daft enough to get in your way. Stop too short and fail to be quick enough to move again and you might lose your own innards — and in Astalo, you don’t get the traditional three lives. Mess up once and that’s your lot.

Visually, the game shines, with minimalist and varied landscapes seemingly situated atop unreal massive columns of rock. There are two modes as well, one of which has you kill everything within a room before continuing, and another that’s endless in nature — if not in a literal sense, because you’ll probably die within 30 seconds.

IAPs: The ads can be removed for £3.99/$3.99. You can also buy coins that are used to unlock new characters, rather than acquiring them through gradual grind. 100,000 (£4.99/$4.99) is enough for them all.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download Astalo

. Saily Seas

With its hilly terrain, ambient audio, and gorgeous weather effects, there are hints of Tiny Wings and the Alto games in Saily Seas. However, as the title suggests, you’re braving an environment that’s a mite more splashy in this survival game.

The protagonist has set out to navigate rough seas in a vessel that doesn’t exactly scythe through the waves. Their ramshackle boat appears to be constructed from a few planks of wood and a sheet; it’s constantly at the mercy of terrifyingly large waves, and various critters that lurk above and beneath the surface.

Everything’s controlled by a single digit. You tap up waves to build speed, and hold the screen to hang in the air. Timing is everything. Go too slow and you’ll be gobbled up by a hungry whale. Mess up your hang timing and you’ll clatter into sharks and icebergs. And although you can dive under the sea for extra goodies, doing so comes with the risk of smacking into an angry octopus.

All this would be nice enough as-is, but Saily Seas introduces checkpoints. This is a rarity in an endless survival game, but welcome, transforming your efforts into an ongoing quest rather than having to start from scratch every time you play.

IAPs: You can remove the ads for the frankly bargain price of 99p/99c.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Saily Seas

. Deadword

Your boss wants to see you. You head to their office, but they start growling BRAINZZZ and trying to eat your face. With a sigh, you realise you’re stuck in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, and no-one even thought to arm you with a handy cricket bat first. Bah.

In Deadword, though, you’re not dashing about in a frenzied mash-up of twin-stick shooter and stealth, nor hoping multiple choice decisions won’t later return to bite you. Instead, Deadword’s all about evolving words.

Each level gives you a radar scanner and a four-letter word. During any turn, you can change one letter — and the word you create must be something from an actual dictionary. (Sorry, Xzyp fans.) Your aim is to reach supplies and exit targets by matching their words. But the undead lurk, with their own letters floating next to them.

Should a zombie hear you, it will update one of its own letters, aiming to get closer to yours — and, by extension, you. If it matches your word, it’ll take a chunk out of you, and you’d best hope you’re carrying something suitably solid to fight back, and a medical patch to ensure you don’t die.

The entire game is quite odd, and can sometimes get repetitive. But as a unique take on its component parts — zombies; word games; turn-based strategy — it’s a no-brainer download. Mmm. BRAINZZZZZ.

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IAPs: $1.99/£1.99 unlocks endless mode (no story) and bliss (puppies rather than zombies).

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Deadword

. Mitoza

«It’s not a game. It’s a toy.» So claims Mitoza’s App Store page. Which then, confusingly, says that it is in fact a «surreal choose-your-own-adventure game». Make up your mind, Mitoza!

In fact, making up your mind is more or less all there is to do here. The not-game/game starts off as a seed and then gives you the choice of two icons: a pot and a bird. Tap the bird and a robin eats the seed. Tap the pot and the seed grows. All of which probably seems perfectly sensible.

What happens next rarely is. Water the plant and it becomes a snapping Venus fly trap. Tap the fly icon and a terrifyingly massive fly gobbles up the plant. And if you think that sounds weird, it’s nothing on many of the other animations, which would make even Terry Gilliam’s excesses seem staid and dull.

So… is Mitoza a game, then? Just about. The animations always eventually loop back to the seed and there’s a goal of sorts in collecting the icons. Getting them all might pall, though, since you’ll need to work through earlier points in the cycle multiple times;

IAPs: Free means free — there are no IAPs.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download Mitoza‬

. Race The Sun Challenge Edition

What we have here is an endless flyer, featuring a pilot who likes to live dangerously — but in a manner that’s relatively green. Their craft zips about landscapes populated with solid structures — some of which inconveniently move as you head towards them.

Your reactions keep you alive; but your race is ultimately against darkness. By grabbing glowing speed boost beacons, you can temporarily reverse the path of the sun, gaining a few precious extra seconds. Staying out of the shadows is also a smart move — albeit one that becomes tougher as you head deeper into the game, which increasingly becomes packed with towering structures.

Like the original Race The Sun, this freemium take is a visual delight, which looks superb on the iPad’s large screen. But its best feature remains how it plays — the controls feel solid, and the game is relentlessly exhilarating, if also frustrating when you lose concentration for a split-second during a record-breaking run, and watch aghast as your craft is rather permanently ‘sunsetted’ on hitting a wall.

IAPs: There’s a lives timer here: die five times, and you’ll have to wait for a bit unless you watch some ads. £4.99 gives you unlimited lives, and some ‘tris’, used to upgrade/change your ship. Tris can also be bought, but isn’t really necessary.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Race The Sun Challenge Edition

Void Tyrant

Your initial moments with Void Tyrant may not present the game in the best possible light. It pits you against a cartoon enemy, in what appears to be a greatly simplified take on blackjack. Cards are dealt, and if you end up not going bust and have a higher score than your opponent, you get to whack them with your weapon. Rinse and repeat until someone’s dead.

But there’s a lot more going on in Void Tyrant beyond these basics. The underlying story is simple, but provides varied adversaries to battle and environments to explore. And you also get to gradually build a battle deck, which is where the real strategy lies. These cards provide the means to cast spells, power-up attacks, and… eat a potato.

There is some grind. Void Tyrant’s cycle is built around you getting killed, using your spoils to kit out your successor with better starting equipment, and repeating the process. Even so, bar the odd moment where you really question quite why a boss enemy is getting quite so perfect hands (or perhaps we’re just bad losers), even the churn is fun; and taken as a whole, Void Tyrant is one of the nicest freebie strategy surprises on the platform.

IAPs: You can pay for individual warp rifts (stage skipping) and spirits (power ups); but if you enjoy Void Tyrant and don’t want to be interrupted, grab the £4.99/$4.99 premium game IAP. Along with removing ads, this nets you various benefits to help you progress more rapidly.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Void Tyrant


The magic in SpellTower comes from marrying traditional word puzzles with something that’s more recognisably a video game. You start off in Tower mode, facing a stack of letters that resembles a scrambled crossword. On dragging out and submitting a word, its tiles pop off the screen, and any left hanging fall down into the gaps. Rinse and repeat until you can submit no more words — and hope your score is worth bragging about.

When you venture into other modes, new lines of letters appear for every move submitted — or on a timer. If your letter stack hits the red line of doom, your game is over, just like in Tetris. A Daily Search mode adds another variation, giving you a single opportunity to form a word that utilises a starred tile — and preferably including as many gold double-score tiles as possible.

Most of this probably sounds familiar if you played the original SpellTower, released back in 2021. And, indeed, the free version of SpellTower is effectively that game, albeit polished a bit for modern devices, and with the new Daily Search. But also, SpellTower for iPad is no longer a bit of an oddball, with its own formatting and leaderboard.

IAPs: A single IAP of £4.99/$4.99 removes the ads, provides you with ongoing statistics, and unlocks several additional modes: Search; Zen; ExPuzzle; Double Puzzle; Bubble Puzzle; Blitz.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download SpellTower

PewPew Live

Years back, the iPad was the place for vibrant old-school twin-stick shooters, where the aim was to blast everything to smithereens until you ended up atomised yourself. Minotron: 2112! Infinity Field! Mutant Storm! Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved!

Five shoeboxes, actually, because PewPew Live has that many distinct modes baked in, each of which provides a unique twist on claustrophobic arcade fare. Waves finds you fending off against walls of enemy craft. Asteroids is a souped-up take on the arcade classic.

Fury combines twin-stick blasting with bullet hell, demanding you dodge projectiles from explosions. Eskiv recalls the dearly missed Bit Pilot, packing its tiny arena with rocks to dodge. And Hexagon finds you playing in a six-sided arena, blazing about to grab bonus pick-ups.

PewPew Live is brutal — games are short and not for the faint of heart. But on iPad, the dazzling neon visuals get the chance to shine and your thumbs rarely cover up anything important. Also, despite the ridiculously tiny 6MB download, there’s a lot of game here. So if you fancy having a blast on your iPad, in an old-school arcade game manner, this one’s a must-have.

IAPs: Generously, PewPew Live is completely free, and there aren’t even any ads.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) |Download PewPew Live

Dashy Crashy

You might initially consider Dashy Crashy yet another lane-based survival game, where you swipe to avoid traffic, getting as many points as possible before your inevitable smashy demise. But this game’s smarter than the average endless runner. It looks and sounds superb.

But what sets Dashy Crashy apart is the variety within what’s ultimately a quite basic game. As you play, new cars are randomly dished out as prizes, but these aren’t just new skins — they bestow bonus powers. Drive a school bus and you get extra points for completing sums.

Further treats await discovery: multitouch support enables you to quickly move across multiple lanes; you can boost for extra speed; and special events force you to quickly react to anything from a pile-up to a TARDIS knocking everything out of its path.

IAPs: You can buy a specific vehicle rather than hoping to win it at some point — they’re 99p/99c each. Want to test-drive one for a bit? Watch an ad.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Dashy Crashy

Asphalt 9: Legends

The Asphalt series long ago left behind any indication that it was particularly concerned with reality. Instead, you know you’re going to be served with high-octane larger-than-life races, where your car’s regularly catapulted through the air, in a manner that would make the average mechanic shriek in terror.

Asphalt 9, though, heads towards the bizarre in a decidedly different manner, with a ‘TouchDrive’ control scheme that streamlines careening around a race course, largely by letting the game itself deal with steering. Although there is a ‘manual’ alternate system buried in the settings, you by default tap and swipe to switch lanes, perform stunts, drift and boost.

For long-time racing-game fans, this probably sounds horrendous. Surprisingly, though, it turns out to be a slice of genius. Sure, what you get is somewhat removed from a ‘proper’ racing game; but the end result manages to marry speed and adrenaline with a kind of puzzling, as you work out the moves required to grab the chequered flag.

IAPs: It’s an Asphalt game, which means a boatload of IAPs. However, if you’re prepared to grind a bit, no payment is really necessary.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Asphalt 9: Legends

. Shadowgun Legends

First-person shooters aren’t a genre anyone tends to associate with touchscreens, unless it’s in a sentence like «first-person shooters are generally rubbish on touchscreens». And that’s fair enough — a slippy pane of glass can’t compete with the precision afforded by a gamepad or keyboard, when you’re stomping about shooting things. However, Shadowgun Legends manages the improbable, bringing a high-octane FPS to your iPad in fine style.

Mostly, this game succeeds because it realises the limitations of the device. Controls are streamlined to a two-thumb system for moving and aiming. Autofire blasts projectiles at enemies daft enough to get in your firing line. Buttons are then used to trigger actions like punching door controls, or setting up special kit like sentry guns.

Everything else feels streamlined, too. Missions are linear, enemies are identikit angry aliens, and what passes for a storyline is instantly forgettable. But, my, is this game a blast, as you run around, blowing up everything in sight, or dabble in multiplayer shooty larks during your character’s supposed ‘downtime’.

You will, unfortunately, hit a fairly brazen IAP wall at some point, and have to decide whether to splurge on inventory slots. But otherwise Shadowgun Legends is the best game of its type on iPad, which is all the more impressive when you remember that it’s free.

IAPs: Loads of IAPs here, including one with a ridiculous £99.99/$99.99 price tag. Just grab the cheapest IAP to unlock extra inventory slots, and then save your pennies.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Shadowgun Legends

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