There was an odd murmur coming from the staff dungeon earlier this week – and not the usual yammering for “more gruel” or “less ants”. Turns out that the new guys had caught wind of all of these year-end awards floating around and wanted to chip in with some opinions of their own. Being a benevolent and enlightened editor, I have decided to give some space to their views. Not too much, mind.
Here’s what Clancy, Kelsey, Phil, Nowak, and Lou had to say about the best iPhone and iPad games of 2012.
Though the outstanding genetic hybrid of simulation and roleplaying known as Plague Inc. already got a nod as PocketTactics‘ RPG of the Year Runner-up, I’ve spent too much time plotting the destruction of inoffensive territories like Greenland to pass up a chance to ignore it here.
If the best unintended side effect of RPGs is getting players to talk about mana crystals and goblin coalitions, in public, with earnest conviction, then Plague Inc. does one better in getting players to talk actual epidemiology. “My vectors are dying out, and friggin’ Japan closed their airport,” you might mutter to yourself during one game, while friends and bystanders slowly back away. Infectious, in more than one sense.
I have some tendencies towards introversion, so it surprises me to realize that my GOTY selection is motivated largely by its strength as a multiplayer experience. Summoner Wars edges out Phantom Leader for that reason alone. The usual Playdek polish on top of an already excellent tactical game with substantial customization would have been enough to put it high on my list. What makes Summoner Wars such a perfect fit for the platform is that each turn is meaty enough to offer several interesting decisions but brief enough to play in a phone-sized chunk of time. As a result, even busy players can send turns back several times a day, and those turns advance the game enough that you rarely feel like it’s just dragging on and on the way a game with more frequent player interaction often does.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is my favorite game of the year. For such an old title to play so well on the iPad really crystallizes the difference that gaming on a mobile device can make. I’ve always adored the PC version, but I seldom play it because it seems to require such a commitment: do I really want to spend hours a day for weeks on end hunched over my desk? But now on the iPad I can die again and again as I please, on a whim.
Some small part of me fears that BG:EE will establish a trend of high-profile ports of PC classics to tablets, and that those ports could displace otherwise original titles. But most of me is excited at the prospect. As long as they’re carefully adapted to the touchscreen, bring ‘em on.
It might be more puzzle than strategy and more spatial thinking than tactics, but no mobile game has provided as much satisfaction from victory as English Country Tune. On first play you might think of it as 3D Sokoban with a gimmick, but stick with it. It opens up to many varied collections of puzzles, all based around a unique mechanic, that truly challenge your brain without ever feeling cheap or overly difficult. Yes they get hard, especially when those individual mechanics are combined, but the reward from that eureka moment, when the solution comes together in your mind, is something few games provided this year.
It’s a pretty easy decision for me because I’ve admittedly logged extensive playtime with only a few of the nominees. Great Big War Game just gets so many things right. As devensega says, “Rubicon looked at what made Advance Wars great then made a better game (imho) for the platform.” Yes, we’re talking evolutionary here, not revolutionary. But when the net result is a refined product with such long legs (cross-platform asynchronous multiplayer!), you can’t help but appreciate the gift you’ve been given. Bravo! My runners up would have to be Letterpress and Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land.