The touchscreen is the controller for IOS devices, so whenever a game can use it well, you've generally got a solid gameplay mechanic. Gasketball is one of the latest games to hit the Appstore that uses the touchscreen in an interesting way. Players try to make baskets by flicking the ball onscreen. You follow the computer's lead and try to recreat its shots.  Sounds easy enough, right? Throw in some teleportation portals or other gadgetry and you'll wish this was just a friendly game of horse. The mechanic works well enough and is fun; but I found myself wishing the physics of "throwing" the ball could be a little smoother and more accurate. Many times the game just failed to read my shot.

Gasketball is free and recently updated with even more free levels. 



Strategery is a highly-rated iPad and iPhone game that's based on capturing territory on a randomly-generated map. While I admire the game for its minimalist approach to world-domination, I found the game to be lacking in several major areas. The rules are straightforward: Declare war on a territory, roll dice for each marker, and whoever has more markers standing wins and gets the enemy territory. Keep playing until one person holds the whole board. The full version of the game offers online play which works well (small gripe: the game requires you to set up a separate username and password before you can play online. Too bad it can't just link seamlessly through iOS Game Center as so many other games doo).

I found one difficulty in this game to be the larger maps - games with so much random territory can too easily devolve into a never-ending back-and-forth between two players as the same territories are won, lost, and re-won over and over. Honestly, I've abandoned many of the games I started for this very reason. But more importantly, this game simply lacks...personality. Anyone who has played Quarrel has already experienced nearly identical territory-conquering rules, but with tons more fun, music, and the whole spelling combat to boot! Because of this, Strategery feels so much less than it could be. Luckily, Strategery Lite is a free download. Although it lacks the online component, it's best to give the free version a try before you invest $1.99 for the full version.


Draw Something

One of the hottest sensations of the IOS gaming has been Draw Something, published by Zynga. A new take on Pictionary, Draw Something takes advantage of asynchronous gameplay (multiplayer gameplay where players move on their own time) which is now ubiquitous in IOS games. Players get a few different prompts to draw from of varying difficulty - like "Cat", "Music", and "Conan"- and then draw with a variety of pen sizes and colors (you can unlock new colors later)


Your opponent then has to guess what it is. You win more gold coins for guessing hard drawings and you can use those to buy new words or bombs that narrow letter selection. While the game is a lot of fun initially and great for gamers of all ages, I found myself wanting an end goal to the game. Games could go on for months without anyone winning or losing. So in that sense, Draw Something is more like an experience and less a game. It's $3 on the App Store and that's not bad for what is a very fun time. But I suggest trying the free version first to see if it's your jam.



Turn-based tactical games seem to work really well on iPad, and Outwitters has joined this space with a cast of characters that makes me think of SpongeBob SquarePants. Outwitters is a free download made by the two-man team who created Tilt to Live. On the surface, Outwitters is extremely similar to Hero Academy in many, many ways. Both games involving deploying melee and ranged attack units on a tile gameboard, in order to destroy the enemy base. In both games you have 5 moves per turn, and standing on certain tiles gives special abilities. In fact, the two games are so similar I could imagine a mash-up game where your Outwitters and Hero Academy teams play each other. (Actually, that might really be fun...) However, one big difference is the lack of an "undo" button, which makes planning ahead much more critical in Outwitters. Since it takes relatively few hits to destroy the base, games can be shorter and more fast-paced than in Hero Academy as well. All in all, I'd definitely recommend playing Outwitters - it's a free download, but $2.99 will get you all current and future team packs.


Autumn Dynasty

Beautiful. Intuitive. Hand-drawn. Did I mention challenging? Autumn Dynasty is all these things and more. The watercolor maps and fast-paced RTS action has a style a that few other iOS games have achieved. It takes full advantage of the iPad's touch controls: select and move troops by drawing circles and tracing their path, and move the map with an intuitive two-finger gesture. The game is set in feudal China and does a great job of balancing offensive strategy using infantry, pikeman, horsemen and catapult units, with the constant need for food generation, defensive towers, and forts to train new soldiers all while fighting battles.

Units can operate independently or in multiple groups across the map (for instance, you might confront an advancing battalion with archers while simultaneously moving cavalry around mountain ranges to flank). One of my favorite features are the research trees, which allow you to research new "doctrines" such as Fire and Arrowstorm for use in the battlefield. Interestingly, for a game with so much visual and strategic style, The story and cutscene characters are relatively weak and forgettable. However, this detracts little from the game itself. Local and online multiplayer is another tremendous feature, but I found multiplayer on Gamecenter to be very buggy and intermittent. Also, games can't be saved within a mission, and did I mention that this game can be difficult! However, such an ambitious and beautiful game deserves tremendous praise. At $6.99 it's a little more expensive but absolutely worth every cent. Highly recommended.

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