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
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
Something terrible’s happened in the world of Mushroom 11. The scarred landscape – peppered with pools of toxic liquids – provides only glimpses of what once was, in a few twisted scraps of metal and damaged structures. Life barely clings on – although not necessarily in the forms you’d expect.
One such survivor is a green blob, which comes under your control. It has a thirst to explore its ravaged world, gobbling up bugs, flowers, and surprisingly psychotic plants. And the way in which it does so showcases the wonderfully tactile, intuitive nature of the best iOS games.
Although this is a platform/puzzler, you at no point press left, right or jump. Instead, you use a finger to ‘erase’ chunks of the blob, which then grow back. Sometimes, you blaze through tunnels, Sonic-style. Elsewhere, you carefully mould your creature into a pole to activate a set of buttons, or split it in half, so one part can trigger a switch while the other sneaks through a door.
Whether you tackle the adventure by slowly picking your way along or treating it as a manic speedrun, Mushroom 11 is a unique, engaging experience that only really makes sense on the touchscreen. Craig Grannell
Oddmar has the horned helmet of a cartoon Viking, but in every other way he’s not cut out for the job, being lazy, oafish, selfish, and totally against burning down a nearby forest after an ultimatum from his clan. Fortunately (for the forest and Oddmar – if not the other Vikings), his tribe is mysteriously zapped away, shortly after the titular protagonist is bestowed with special powers after snarfing magic mushrooms.
You might wonder whether ingesting such dodgy substances accounts for the strange nature of Oddmar’s quest as he strives to find his tribe. He bounds around on giant mushrooms like a bearded flea, grabs levitating bling, and frequently finds himself in ethereal auto-scrolling lands after having purple dust blown in his face (uh-oh).
That said, it’s not like cartoonish adventures are rare in the world of platform games. What is rare – especially on iOS – is a platform game this good. Oddmar looks superb – akin to an animated cartoon, with distinctive characters and painterly backgrounds. Most importantly, it plays brilliantly.
The touchscreen controls are tight, and the levels are superbly designed. There’s thought in the placement of every obstacle, and the manner in which the game’s pace ebbs and flows. Only occasionally does it stumble, with the odd section where you smack into a wall of awkward. Mostly, though, Oddmar is a gem – a magical, console-like experience that’s a joy, whether tearing through the forest to escape a giant troll, or picking your way through a level to find its many hidden secrets. 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