When Kevin Spacey in House of Cards started speaking so lovingly about Ada and the iOS game Monument Valley, I knew that my generation’s affinity for video games had absolutely become the norm. Those of us born in the late 60’s are really the first generation to have grown up with Atari and ready access to computers. Not even my older brothers and sister share the same affection for video games as I do. But, video games? Really?
We’re grown men and women for crying out loud. We’re still playing video games? You bet your ass.
The challenge has become finding games that fit with our maturity level. This is actually harder than it seems. When you first open the App Store to browse for something new, most of the games are clearly geared towards younger audiences. Even their icons look way too immature. When I was a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I needed more than just first person, zombie shooters.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Over the past year I have been playing a series of iOS games that absolutely meet my need for a well designed, age-appropriate game for those of my—advanced— years. So here’s my grownup’s guide to the top adventure and puzzle games on iOS.
This is by far one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. No wonder President Underwood (Spacey’s character in House of Cards) was so enamored with it. This is a M. C. Escher-like puzzler where you walk a little character (princess Ida) around the sides of buildings and walls that resemble mystical puzzle boxes. The isometric, 3rd-person view allows you to rotate bridges, defy gravity, and throw every rule about illustrating perspective out the window in this mesmerizing environment. You’ll finish this tiny addiction and want more. The good news is that Ustwo just came out with new chapters!
This adventure game is like living inside a cartoon world, and a genuine pleasure to play. In Machinarium you lead a little robot around a grungy, grimy city run and built by robots. Robots young and old, good and bad, even robot animals inhabit this edgy dystopian metropolis. Your objective isn’t immediately apparent when you start the game, so I won’t spoil it for you. Solving the puzzles in this game is deliciously challenging. Reaching a hose through the bars of a window, tricking a curmudgeonly air handling unit into coughing up a hidden entrance, discovering the proper musical notes to play to extend a stairway, finding the valve stops for a street performer’s saxophone all awaits you in the best adventure game I’ve played in years.
You might have PTSD after playing this game. Another superior example of how illustration artistry and sound design can immerse you in a virtual world with terrifying results. Limbo is a monochromatic adventure where you guide a little boy through the vicious dangers of an angry, hungry land. Bear traps will cut off your head. Spiders will rip your guts out faster than you can say Vlad the Impaler. Giant saws, electrocution, and gravity chambers will confound even the most adroit adventure game player. Try not to lose your temper with this one.
This game is fun. You are a janitor in the 1970’s, working in a huge building that hides a sinister secret from the world. Everyone is about to die, and you my broom-toting, coverall-wearing, Burt Reynolds-esque dopplegänger, are the last hope humanity has. What makes this game really intriguing is that you can bounce back and forth in time. So if in the “present” time you can’t get into a building, hit the button on your time machine amulet, and poof! You’re forward in time and the rusted hulk of the desolate world is laid bare to your rummagings. A few of the puzzles are frustratingly challenging but crackable (without resorting to cheat codes.) Episode Two was recently released, and it’s worth the $. I thoroughly enjoyed the illustration style and overall spirit of this game. Nicely done.
The illustration style of this game is weird, and strangely alluring. I’d put this at the lower end of the age appropriate scale of this line up, but this adventure is not without its merits. Unlock your inner Rastafarian as you lead Bwana and his side kick Kito scouring the island to solve one puzzle after another, including trying to locate the parts you need to fix your broke ass sea plane.
Gameplay in this adventure is very different than anything I’ve ever played. You are a prisoner inside of a government-run detention center / mansion. The real enemy here is the Orwellian world in which your character finds herself trapped. However, as the player of the game, you control the actions of the main character, but can also hack into the surveillance and electronic systems that permeate this futuristic environment. You observe the actions of your character through security cameras built into the ceilings and walls of rooms you visit. Hack the codes to unlock doors, spot guards around blind corners. Try to keep your little imp from getting cuffed and stuffed.