I recently went for coffee with a veteran game developer who has over the years, worked on some of my favourite console games. Nowadays, he makes iOS games, an adaptation that many in his position have – voluntarily or otherwise – made in the past 18 months. He asked me what iOS games I love and, as I started to list of some of my go-to favourites, stopped me, looked me in the eye and said: “No. Not the games you like. The games you love.”
His point was that iOS games are, so often, throwaway, distract ‘em ups. They cost about the same as a Mars Bar and, in many cases, offer about the same sort of limited sugar rush experience – intense, enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable; rarely truly nourishing. My friend pointed out that, in a Top 50 list of his favourite games not one iOS game would feature. Nothing has burrowed its way into his heart in the same way that A Link to the Past managed, or 49 others.
Here at Hookshot Inc. we rightly point out the brightest and best examples of iOS play, calling them ‘Must Plays’ – and very often they are. But do they have the legs for history? Drop 7 aside, I remain unconvinced.
There is one game that I return to time and time again. No, too unspecific. There is one level in one game that I return to time and time again. It’s a stage that has, over the past 18 months has stolen hours of my time, and, in that way only true classics manage, stolen my thoughts when away from the game, as I’ve amended my strategy, thought about ways in which I can squeeze some extra points and kicked myself for the flaws in my strategy.
Ouroboros is the 10th level in Geo Defense Swarm, one of the stand-out tower defense titles on Apple’s systems. The mess of Geometry Wars particle effects belie a game of unflinching precision, fairness. The main game is strong enough, uneven difficulty curve aside, but Ouroboros, as its only ‘Endless’ stage, is a towering achievement of design and challenge.
You are given only a fistful of unit types to choose from, which makes the way in which your early choices unfurl into a huge array of outcomes later down the line amazing. Every seemingly straightforward choice is infused with meaning. The level layout allows just enough freedom of expression, but it also enjoys enough guidance from the designer so you never feel at a loss for strategy.
No matter what the iOS title-du-jour, I always return to Ouroboros, hoping to last just one wave longer, to make one better decision than the last time I played. It’s comfortably in my top 50 favourite stages in games, proof that lasting excellence can exist within the throwaway.
How about you, Dear Hookshot reader? Would any mobile game make it into your Top 50?