From retro-oriented jumping fare to games designed specifically with a touchscreen in mind, these are our picks for best iOS platformer.
This Mexican jumping bean is on a mission. (You can tell it’s Mexican because of the sombrero, obviously.) Going where no bean has gone before, this springy hatted legume boings through 70 stages, aiming to snarf all of the fruit, find hidden axolotls, and get to the goal using the fewest possible bounds.
The tiny snag is that these things aren’t possible simultaneously, which is good for players, since it leads to tackling each of the stages with cunning new tactics. The other tiny snag is you can only guide the bean left and right.
Cue: loads of teeth-gnashing as you mess up by a fraction of a bean length, overshooting your bounce target by one and missing the gold. Then a big grin as you realise this colourful, breezy platformer is superb and replaying a stage is actually a pleasure. Craig Grannell
Cally’s Caves 3
Generous to a fault, Cally’s Caves 3 is a sprawling old-school platform game with tons of blasting, which you can play entirely for free.
The backstory involves Cally’s parents being kidnapped for a third time by an evil scientist. She therefore resolves to rescue them, primarily by leaping about the place and blowing away all manner of adversaries using the kind of high-powered weaponry not usually associated with a young girl with pigtails.
Level layouts are varied, and weapon power-ups are cleverly designed, based around how much you use each item. The one niggle is the map, which is checkpoint-based - it’s a bit too easy to find yourself replaying a trio of levels again and again to get to a place further along in your journey where you can restart.
Still, that merely forces you to take care, rather than blundering about, and to breathe in the delicately designed pixellated landscapes. And should you decide you want to throw money at the developers, there are optional IAPs that unlock new game modes, or a load of coins if you want to splurge in the in-game store without working for your money. Craig Grannell
We recall once laughing at a games reviewer’s observation that an RPG with a jump button is “rarer than a badger in a Ferrari”. Well, this is that even rarer thing: a platform game without one.
In Drop Wizard you can’t jump; all you can do is move left or right (it’s one or the other - you can’t stand still) and fall off things. Fortunately the hole at the bottom of each level, unlike those in most platform games, leads not to death but to the top of the screen again.
Dropping is thus centrally important, as the name of the game suggests: as well as your primary way of navigating each level, it’s also your only way of attacking, as each time the wizard drops on to a new platform he shoots a little star that can stun enemies and allow you to walk into them for the coup de grâce.
The graphics are sweet and cheerful, the levels are fiendish, and the gameplay is beautifully polished. Drop Wizard is a simple game, but one that comes highly recommended. David Price
Icycle: On Thin Ice
From the off, it’s pretty clear Icycle is like no other platform game, as the worried-looking Dennis cycles about naked across a precariously disintegrating landscape. By equal measure beautiful and deeply weird, Dennis’s surroundings are a post-apocalyptic nightmare as envisaged by a top-quality graphic designer. Half the time, as you battle to bounce his bike up a slope, or use a handy umbrella to break a fall, you can’t help but coo as the hero is impaled by a particularly stunning piece of extremely sharp scenery.
The 80 short missions pelt so much imagination your way that it’s difficult to take in at first. And although each of the scenes is very much choreographed, this doesn’t hamper repeat play. In fact, you’ll happily drag Dennis through his madcap ordeal several times, to revel again in the crazy brilliance of it all, and also to ensure you grab all of the ice, so you can grab Dennis some much-needed clobber in the in-game shop. Craig Grannell
Leo’s fortune has been liberally scattered about linear pathways in a manner that only seems to occur in platform games. This forces the gruff, moustached hairball to partake in a journey to recover his coins, working his way through suspiciously spike-filled forests, deserts of crumbling ruins, and cog-filled factories spewing molten metal.
It’s a familiar set-up, as are the game’s mechanics, which borrow evenly from Limbo, Sonic and 1980s 8-bit platform games. You’ll find yourself manipulating scenery to solve puzzles, zooming along dizzying loops, and repeatedly getting killed in tight, unforgiving circumstances, which a bit too often involve leaps into the unknown.
But there’s a charm about Leo’s Fortune that makes perseverance worthwhile. The environments are detailed and lush, and Leo has plenty of character, expressing delight on surviving a series of traps unscathed. Smartly, the game’s also ideal for any level of player - immediate respawning on death enables anyone to eventually reach the end, but only through mastery will you complete all the objectives and dive headlong into (frankly masochistic) speedruns. Craig Grannell
Miles & Kilo
It’s not been a great day for Miles and his faithful hound Kilo. Having crash-landed on a deserted island, bits of their plane have been stolen by decidedly unfriendly locals. If they want to escape, they’ll need to get every part back.
Across 36 colourful levels, you auto-run, tapping the left of the screen to jump and the right to perform in-context actions. Mostly, this involves lobbing collected fruit at adversaries, but sometimes finds Milo wall-jumping like a ninja, and rope-swinging across perilous drops.
This might all sound like Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, and there’s certainly some retro love here in terms of the blocky visuals. But Miles & Kilo’s a far more vicious beast than Nintendo’s game, with a take-no-prisoners approach to difficulty.
For our money, though, it’s also the better game. Its fast pace is thrilling, and the short levels are meticulously designed, forcing you to learn every step if you’re to succeed. Best of all, the game never tires of switching things up, whether zipping along in a mine cart or on a surfboard, or clinging on to Kilo’s lead as he belts after an end-of-level boss. Craig Grannell
Rayman Fiesta Run
One of console gaming’s most famous platform game stars, Rayman isn’t the kind of title you’d expect to work on iOS. Historically reliant on twitch controls, you’d have expected the big-nosed hero to fall flat on his face. However, developer Ubisoft pared down the gaming experience, transforming Fiesta Run into a kind of giddy and thrilling roller-coaster auto-runner, where you blaze through each stage only tapping a couple of virtual buttons.
This might sound reductive, but Rayman Fiesta Run distills classic platform gaming to its essence: timing, memory and reflexes. To collect all of the golden Lums and max-out rewards and power-ups, it’s vital to map out each stage and perfect your journey through it. And on getting 100 per cent on any of them, you’ll feel like a boss. Craig Grannell
Thomas Was Alone
Your enjoyment of this one may depend on your opinion of two things: high-concept indie gaming, and the comedian Danny Wallace, who narrates the game.
Thomas Was Alone is a fine piece of work with a lot of heart. It’s been built from the simplest of ingredients (a set of coloured shapes that can each jump and in some cases use special powers), and the gameplay is straightforward too: each level is a puzzle that demands the clever use of the shapes’ skills to get all to the exit. But it ends up being mentally taxing - if in truth never quite as hard as we’d like it to have been - and quite sweet.
The shapes all have names and back stories, related in a jaunty voice-over that won Wallace a Bafta, and the music shoulders a lot of the emotional heavy lifting too. You end up caring about Thomas, despite him being a red rectangle. You can’t say fairer than that. David Price
This game has a sadistic streak a mile long, but you’d not expect anything less from the creator of Super Hexagon. VVVVVV isn’t quite as punishing as that twitch survival classic, but it’s no simple task to guide your little grinning man through VVVVVV’s map, seeking out stranded and lost crew members, all the while trying very hard to not die.
VVVVVV also complicates matters with its control scheme. You move left and right as expected, but flip instead of jumping. This results in plenty of disorienting stages and cunningly designed challenges, your little chap whizzing towards the heavens, weaving between deadly spikes, before briefly landing on a ceiling, and then flipping to begin another journey.
There is a slight slippiness to the controls, which betray the game’s origins on non-touchscreen platforms. Still, death merely has you restart from one of the many checkpoints dotted about, lessening the frustration and leading you to believe you might have a chance of beating the game - or at least retaining your sanity. Craig Grannell