Unlike previous years, 2013 wasn't marked by an Angry Birds-style cultural phenomenon. Or even the kind of pick up and play, Temple Runesque casual title that seems to be everywhere simultaneously and becomes iconic by dint of its sheer ubiquity.
But although that probably meant there was less for sociologists and high-falutin' games scribes to get excited about, there was still plenty to get gamers in a tizz on iOS this term.
Here we count down the titles that buttered our muffins over the last 12 months.
1 Ocean Horn
This is the closest iOS gets to the majesty of a Zelda game. And it got there by lifting its look and feel wholesale from the pick of Nintendo’s series, aka the cel-shaded magnum opus that is Windwaker.
With some excellent puzzles, challenging end-of-level boss battles, beautifully realised graphics and the magic essence that made Zelda so well loved, this is proof that while talent borrows, genius steals.
Download Ocean Horn here: Ocean Horn
Homages to the 8-bit era are ten-a-penny on the App Store. But they don’t come much better than Slayin’.
The ‘ringing drone’ (CF: Mountain Goats’ amazing musical homage to Toad from Mario) of the soundtrack was glorious. And the characterful graphics once again proved that photo-realism in gaming really isn’t the be-all and end-all.
But what really made this ‘endless action RPG) was its non-stop, reflex-based, gameplay.
It’s the sort of game that feels like it gives your ticker a workout when you’re really only exercising your thumbs. And is actually much more absorbing than hours of incident-free landscape exploration that purportedly more sophisticated titles serve up.
Download Slayin' here: Slayin'
3 Device 6
Device 6 breathed new life into text-based puzzlers, blending live-action windows with sound and copy in which you’re tasked with escaping from a spooky castle.
Puzzle solving can often be something as simple as flipping the text. Or you might have to interact with an image. But the puzzle will always demand that you re-read the text and listen closely to the sonics if you’re to have any chance of solving them.
The game’s killer USPs, though, are its genuinely unsettling atmosphere, nicely turned prose and tight plotting.
The App Store is packed with me-too, derivative titles. Device 6’s bravura attempt to do something different with mobile gaming is something to celebrate.
Download Device 6 here: Device 6
4 Clumsy Ninja
Clumsy Ninja wasn’t the deepest game in the world. At times its gameplay feels tissue-thin and the challenges can be a mite repetitive. But it excelled at offering a slew of new ways to interact and control your character.
Whether you’re rubbing his head like a proud father to congratulate him, or rubbing his tummy as you might with a Nintendog, or lifting him gingerly and carefully by the hand, Clumsy Ninja makes you feel like you’re establishing a genuine connection with the klutzy assassin.
It’s really rather delightful. And means that Clumsy Ninja offers the kind of gaming experience that you don’t forget in a hurry.
Chosen by Apple the first title to feature an embedded video on the App Store, Clumsy Ninja is an object lesson in just how far charm can take you.
Download Clumsy Ninja here: Clumsy Ninja
This noirish platformer debuted on PCs back in 2010. But it only hit iOS this year. Fortunately, it’s crossed the OS divide much more convincingly than other PC hits.
Present and correct is the glorious graphical style. Also here is the grisly humour and the puzzles whose solutions sometimes require that you die to discover them. And in so doing confound your expectations of how games work.
Download Limbo here: Limbo