Graham: Each year there are a handful of new indie iOS games that are amazing and delightful, whether it be because they have a new gameplay mechanic, an amazing soundtrack, or a gorgeous visual style. Some games, like Monument Valley and Alto's Adventure, have all three and represent the very best of what indie iOS games can be. Prune is one of those games.
The goal in Prune is to use your finger to grow and shape a tree so that it can flower in the sunlight. You use your finger to place the tree, and then as the tree grows, a swipe of your finger will prune the tree, redirecting its growth. You complete a level when enough of your tree is in the sunlight for its flowers to bloom – but beware the poisonous red circles and circular saws.
Prune is perhaps a little short, but it is well worth the few dollars that it costs. It is such a delightful game to play, with its unique but enjoyable premise, beautifully minimalist visuals, and great music to match.
Created by Sam Barlow, Her Story is one of the most unique games released this year. By mixing original footage of a murder investigation with investigative game mechanics that require you to interact with a police workstation to browse a database of videos and collect clues, Her Story is based on compelling narrative and fantastic acting by Viva Seifert. There’s nothing like Her Story: it feels like watching a crime TV show, but you’re in control of the clips you want to see and it’s up to you to figure out what to search for next to piece together the intricacies of an obscure and captivating story. Absolutely recommended, especially on iPad.
A mix of Tetris and other color-matching puzzle games, Domino Drop requires you to eliminate colored tiles falling from the top of the screen by matching two or more of the same color, but four or more white tiles. If you’ve ever played Tetris, you’ll know how to play Domino Drop, with the main difference being that you can’t rotate pieces before placing them. Intuitive controls, fun music, a well understood mechanic, and a delightfully skeuomorphic UI that shows incredible addition to detail make Domino Drop one of the best indie releases on iOS this year.
Now for something completely different. Lifeline is a text adventure that plays like an iMessage conversation. The entire game takes place via texts you’ll exchange with Taylor, a student stranded on an alien planet trying to survive after every member of the crew has died or disappeared following a spaceship crash. Taylor will be asking you questions on where to go next and what to do, sharing thoughts on the current situation that will quickly establish a personal connection between you – the player who issues commands and advice – and Taylor. Lifeline is, alongside Her Story, an innovative game experience that turns messages and push notifications into story and game mechanics – there’s even an app for Apple Watch so you can reply to Taylor and advance the game whenever you want. A must-have for iOS gamers.
Transistor is the latest game by Supergiant Games, makers of the excellent Bastion. First released on PlayStation 4 and later ported to iOS, Transistor is an action RPG with fantastic graphics and original soundtrack, an intriguing story, and, like Bastion, excellent voice acting that complements your actions on screen. Transistor can be played like an action game, with protagonist Red casting various spells and special moves in real time as you control her by tapping around and selecting enemies to hit. Or, you can switch to a Turn mode at any time: in this mode, you can plan your movements and hits by filling a progress bar with actions and chaining hits for combos and more damage. But, you’ll need to recharge after a Turn session, which adds an element of strategy to fights in the game. Also, you can level up and collect skills, as well as equip different actions and combine them with support skills to alter their behavior. Transistor is not only beautiful to look at – it features great RPG mechanics and depth that enable for tons of customizations and experimentation. A console-quality game, best played with headphones.
Relax, it's the Weekend!
It's the weekend (or almost is) so Graham recommends something he enjoyed watching, playing, reading, or listening.
I've been a big fan of the TV show Mythbusters for many years, but I only recently discovered that Adam Savage (one of the hosts of Mythbusters) also has his own podcast. Still Untitled is really just a podcast between friends with Norman Chan and Will Smith (no, not the movie star) joining Adam for a chat about whatever topic interests them at the moment. It's always a fun podcast to listen to, with recent discussions focussing on quadcopters, Adam's experience flying in a U-2 for Mythbusters, and Comic-Con 2015.
Everybody knows the Dock is the most coveted spot on the Home screen. I’m not sure why Phone is still there other than force of habit. Mail, Safari, and Settings, though, get used every single day. I know Settings is a weird one, but as someone who writes extensively about iOS, I end up fiddling with it a lot, so it’s handy to know where it is no matter what Home screen I’m on.
As for the rest of the screen, I tend to sort of work my way from the outside in, with the next most commonly used set of apps in the corners of the screen; when I’m using the phone with one hand, it’s easy for my thumb to find most of them – though the sheer size of the iPhone 6 has made that tougher. I may actually use Messages more than Mail these days, which is why it has what in the pre-iPhone 6 days was the coveted top-left corner. Camera in the top right (even though I usually launch it from the Lock screen), my Twitter client of choice Tweetbot in the bottom right, and Rowmote Pro in the bottom left. (It used to be the best way to control my Mac mini media center, but these days the Plex app on my Fire TV picks up a lot of the slack.)
The edges are for apps I use frequently, but don’t necessarily need quick access to. I may be in the minority amongst my peers, but I like the Calendar app (though I also have Fantastical installed) and Photos is a must-have with the number of screenshots I take. Reminders’s Siri integration, iCloud sync, and ability to easily share lists won me over. The Clock app handles alarms and my timer for tea-steeping. My go-to calculator has long been James Thomson’s incomparable PCalc; Dark Sky’s localized forecasts make it my weather app of choice; Reeder keeps me updated on the news; Pedometer++ is the best way to make sure I’m getting my steps in; and the New York Times’s Crossword app is perhaps the most crucial, since it feeds my daily puzzle addiction. If there’s a weak link, it’s Apple’s Remote app – its days on the Home screen may be numbered.
The center of the screen is for apps that I don’t use as much, but that I still don’t want to dig through folders to find. The tight system-level integration of Maps and Music have kept them alive, and the iTunes and App Stores get used just enough that I can’t bury them away. GoodReader is a Swiss Army knife – you never know what you might need it for, but it’s the next best thing to having a file system on your device. And my family’s use of Find My Friends means it gets just enough use to merit a place here.
Finally, I like to leave the bottom row blank, partially as a throwback to the original iPhone, but mostly because it helps me feel like my Home screen isn’t just cluttered chock-a-block with apps. Consider it a little zen in an otherwise hectic lifestyle.