We've mentioned in the past how difficult it was deciding on Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor [99¢] as our game of the year in 2009, along with Space Miner [99¢ / HD] in 2010. It shouldn't come as much as much of a surprise that as the App Store has gained even more momentum, making these picks has become much more challenging. Interestingly enough, this year all of the games that we had in consideration for game of the year were also universal, which made the decision to drop the differentiation between the iPhone game of the year and iPad game of the year that we did in 2010 incredibly easy.
In 2011, we're looking at iOS games as exactly that, games for iOS devices. We might prefer playing some of these games on the iPad (or in some cases, even the smaller screens of the iPhone or iPod touch) but they're all fantastic experiences regardless of what device you're playing it on. With the advent of iCloud, we're hoping in 2012 developers take universal compatibility to new levels, and create games that are not only great on all devices, but can be seamlessly played on as many devices as you own.
Also, if you'd like to get some more insight on the TouchArcade game of the year process, check out the most recent episode of The TouchArcade Show. We discuss what we each liked about all of these games and more.
TouchArcade Game of the Year
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, $4.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Our minds were blown at GDC 2010 when we first got our hands on Sword & Sworcery. The initial experience of playing the game is so powerful that it gave me chills. I really can't think of any other mobile game that has invoked a similar emotional response that I've played in my entire life. Sworcery is an absolute flawless combination of an entirely original soundtrack by Jim Guthrie, pixel art that is easily among the best I've ever seen by Craig D. Adams, and the creative genius of Kris Piotrowski along with the proverbial behind-the-scenes glue provided by Capybara Games to bring the whole project together.
Sword & Sworcery is universal, and while we ever-so-slightly prefer the overall experience on our iPads, it's still just as incredible on the smaller screens of the rest of the iOS device family. In fact, if all you have is an iPhone or iPod touch, you might want to just opt for Superbrother: Sword & Sworcery EP Micro [$2.99], which is a couple bucks cheaper at the expense of losing universal compatibility. Regardless of what device you play it on, S&S is a game you simply must play, from start to finish, with a great pair of headphones on if at all possible.
TouchArcade Game of the Year Runner Up
Anomaly Warzone Earth, $1.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Tower defense games have always been an App Store staple. It just seems to be a genre that perfectly meshes with both the touch controls of iOS devices, as well as providing an overall gameplay experience that works really well for playing on the go. Unfortunately, it seems there's only so much you can do in a tower defense game, and even though the past few years have brought some great entries into the genre, they all felt sort of the same. Then, from out of nowhere, comes Anomaly Warzone Earth. In essence, 11 bit studios took the traditional tower defense formula, and flipped it around, offering a whole new take on an otherwise stale section of the App Store.
They didn't stop there though, as especially when played with headphones, Anomaly Warzone Earth is ridiculously immersive. Incredible amounts of effort went into creating a game that looks and sounds as good as it plays, and the game feels fresh the whole way through, as 11 bit studios constantly throws new challenges and gameplay elements at you all the way up to the last level. Similar to Sword & Sworcery, Anomaly Warzone Earth [99¢] is also available as a slightly cheaper although non-universal version as well.
We also wanted to honor three other stand-out iOS titles that were among all of our best-of lists for the year. Like our game of the year and runner up, they're all universal and should be on every iOS device that you own if you're even remotely interested in iOS gaming.
Infinity Blade II, $6.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - A great sequel to Infinity Blade [$5.99] by Chair Entertainment, Infinity Blade II expands upon the original in every way possible. It's by far the best looking game on the App Store, and we suspect it will likely serve as the graphical benchmark of what iOS devices are capable of throughout 2012. If you want to stretch the legs of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and see what its truly capable of, Infinity Blade II is the game to do it with.
Mage Gauntlet, $2.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Rocketcat Games has had a fabulous track record for releasing phenomenal iOS titles with its Hook series of games, and Mage Gauntlet continues that tradition by being its best game yet. Flawless controls combine with all the retro trimmings to make us warm with nostalgia while feeling modern enough that even people who weren't around for the great action RPGs of the 16-bit era can appreciate it. Recent updates have improved gameplay even further, and have added universal compatibility. We can't wait to see what Rocketcat does in 2012.
SpellTower, $1.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - The App Store is home to a plethora of clever puzzle games, and Zach Gage's SpellTower is our favorite of the year. Gage elegantly combines the simplicity of a word game with the complexity of a strategy game, and its multiple game modes provide something for everyone regardless of whether you like to take your time and hunt for the best words, or be on the clock and racking up points as quickly as possible. We prefer SpellTower on our iPads, but it's just as much fun on the iPhone and iPod touch as well.