iPhone Games Guide: What to Buy This Month

  • Publish Date: February 22, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 7 user comments

Our new monthly feature offers a handy guide to the past month's best new game releases for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Great games on a dollar a day

What are the best new iPhone games available for a total budget of $30 -- or about a dollar per day? Here are this month's top picks:

Best-Reviewed New iPhone Games, $30 Total Budget
  Game Genre Rating Metascore Price
Image Space Miner: Space Ore Bust RPG/Shooter 9+ 94 $1.99
Image Broken Sword: Director's Cut Adventure 12+ 93 $4.99
Image Plants vs. Zombies Action/Strategy 9+ 93 $2.99
Image Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Action/Driving 17+ 92 $9.99
Image Parachute Ninja Platform 4+ 88 $0.99
Image Cogs Puzzle 4+ 84 $0.99
Image GT Racing: Motor Academy Racing 4+ 80 $6.99
      TOTAL COST: $28.93

The Metascore for iPhone games is an unweighted average of individual scores given by professional game publications on a scale of 0 (bad) to 100 (good). A Metascore of 75 or higher denotes generally positive reviews, while 90 or higher indicates universal acclaim. Scores are not calculated for games with fewer than four reviews.

Below, we run through each of these games in greater detail. Keep in mind that since there are fewer reviews for iPhone games than there are for console or computer games, the Metascores tend to run on the high side compared to other game platforms. (Note that all game summaries are from the publishers' official descriptions.)

Space Miner: Space Ore Bust

Metascore (out of 100):
from Venan Entertainment
RPG/Shooter, $1.99, ages 9+
> iTunes App Store (Buy/Info)

Welcome to the Gritstone Mining Station! You thought you were just coming to blow up some space rock and mine ore for your Uncle Jeb. You thought wrong. Are you ready for some high-octane out-of-this-world adventure?

What the Critics Said
Score Publication
100 AppSpy
Space Miner is an addictive, well polished Asteroids clone, that mixes fast paced space combat with RPG inspired ship upgrading. This game is highly recommended.
100 No DPad
But I’m a sucker for space shooters and now it’s turned me completely on my head. I’ve been mining the app store for gems, and in Space Miner I’ve struck pay dirt. Like comets, games like this are rarely seen. Don’t let this one pass you by.
100 Slide to Play
Asteroid blasting has never been so fun… and profitable.
90 148Apps
The RPG elements are fantastic, the story is great, and the graphics and sound are amazing. In a game like this, I would expect longevity to be a concern, but if you do everything in the game, it will probably take you 10-15 hours… and maybe more, to complete.
82 Digital Chumps
The game is very accessible and is also addictive and rewarding enough to keep you going.

Broken Sword: Director's Cut

Metascore (out of 100):
from Revolution Software
Adventure, $4.99, ages 12+
> iTunes App Store (Buy/Info)

Paris in the Fall… a brutal murder at the Palais Royale. When Nico Collard is invited to interview statesman Pierre Carchon, she finds herself inextricably drawn into a terrifying conspiracy.

What the Critics Said
Score Publication
100 AppSpy
This classic murder mystery adventure has undergone a facelift in visuals, sound, and interface while keeping the excellent story and gameplay intact.
100 Slide to Play
We were swept up by this intelligent, intriguing story with lots of likable characters.
100 TouchArcade
Even though I've never been a huge fan of point-and-click adventure games, the story and all around high-quality production values of Broken Sword sucked me in like a good book.
90 Pocket Gamer
An extraordinary example of how to properly remake a classic, Broken Sword: Director's Cut remasters the original with wise alterations that galvanise rather than degrade.
90 The Telegraph [UK]
If you haven’t played Broken Sword before, its delightful -- if occasionally idiosyncratic -- puzzling and terrific script should send it hurtling to the top of your ‘must download’ list.
80 TouchGen
But I was surprised how much it drew me in with it’s great visuals, sound, and well implemented interface. The winner here though is the story, which much like a good book can keep you glued to your little screen.

Plants vs. Zombies

Metascore (out of 100):
from PopCap Games
Action/Strategy, $2.99, ages 9+
> iTunes App Store (Buy/Info)

Get ready to soil your plants in this brand-new version of the hit PopCap game! A mob of fun-loving zombies is about to invade your home, and your only defense is an arsenal of 49 zombie-zapping plants. Use peashooters, wall-nuts, cherry bombs and more to slow down, confuse, weaken and mulchify 26 types of zombies before they can reach your front door.

What the Critics Said
Score Publication
100 AppSpy
If the thought of a portable Plants vs Zombies appeals to you, or you just enjoy well made, fun, addictive games, this one is worth your time and money.
100 No DPad
Plants Vs. Zombies goes beyond the game, becoming something more like a phenomenon.
100 Slide to Play
This absorbing and unique take on tower defense, or “flower defense”, is brimming with personality.
90 Eurogamer
The gameplay is just as well-balanced and finely tuned as it is in the PC version. The presentation is up to the same high standards, while the control system is perhaps even improved. Like so many PopCap titles, PvZ is slick, pretty, charming and funny.
90 IGN
The end product is really fantastic and stands right up there with PopCap's other hits like Peggle and Bejewelled.
90 Pocket Gamer
The battle between flora and undead fauna remains as fun as ever in this accomplished iPhone and iPod touch version.
80 148Apps
Overall there’s a lot of game here. Well made for those that like to sit down and play for hours or just play in quick bursts. If you enjoy strategy games, you’ll enjoy Plants vs. Zombies.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Metascore (out of 100):
from Rockstar Games
Action/Driving , $9.99, ages 17+
> iTunes App Store (Buy/Info)

Following his father's murder, Huang Lee has a simple mission: deliver an ancient sword to his Uncle Kenny to ensure his family retains control of the Triad gangs of Liberty City. Huang is a spoiled rich kid who expects everything to run smoothly, but his trip does not go exactly as planned. After being robbed and left to die, he will search for honor, riches and revenge in the most dangerous and morally bankrupt city in the world.

What the Critics Said
Score Publication
100 InsideGamer.nl
Chinatown Wars shows how games on the iPhone are intended to play. It has everything you want for a very nice price.
100 iPhone Gamer Blog
If you like the console versions of GTA, enjoy its gameplay, and love the deadly environments that you are thrust into then you will definitely enjoy Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. There I said it. Now time to get back to the game.
100 Slide to Play
It's one of the most complete iPhone games to date, and its mature storyline is not to be missed. Even if you've played Chinatown Wars on another handheld device, buy it again: it's Liberty City in your pocket.
100 TouchArcade
The sheer amount of content, the amazing graphics, and gameplay that will keep you coming back for more whether you choose to follow the story or rampage through Liberty City on your own is absolutely amazing.
91 Gaming Nexus
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars isn’t your average iPhone game. The extensive storyline, solid and versatile gameplay, and witty nature make this version of Chinatown Wars a good rival to its DS and PSP predecessors.
90 148Apps
While Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for iPhone offers a similar experience to its console counterpart, it won’t be the 3D graphic-intensive one you were probably hoping for. That said, the game combines the use of brilliant on-screen controls, immersive objects and environments, comic-like visuals, and supreme attention to detail throughout to bring the first version of the GTA franchise to iPhone.
90 AppGamer.net
As a £5.99 iPhone title though, GTA Chinatown Wars is one hell of an accomplishment, and Rockstar should be showered with drugs and hookers for bringing it to the App Store so successfully.
90 Atomic Gamer
And while it's not the best version of the game (that distinction goes to the original on DS), due primarily to its finicky controls and cluttered HUD, it's still a must-play experience than shines as bright as a flame-engulfed gas station on Apple's hand-held gadgets.
90 IGN
While I did have a few problems with the control set-ups (the virtual buttons are too small yet still crowd the screen) and menu arrangements, the narrative, mission variety, and production values easily overwhelm those shortcomings. This is 2010’s first must-have iPhone game.
90 ImpulseGamer
At the end of a hard day at work or between meetings or whatever... Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is the perfect game to unwind because it has been successfully ported to the iPhone/iPod Touch so well.
90 Pocket Gamer
The lack of a useful targeting system and assorted minor flaws keep Chinatown Wars from perfection, yet not from wowing with its awesome gameplay.
90 The Telegraph [UK]
A fantastic port of an already exceptional game. With Independence FM making it unique and a price tag that is less than a third of its hand-held rivals, there is no reason not to get downloading this app which is sure to keep you entertained far beyond your journeys to and from work.
80 Modojo
The PSP version of Chinatown Wars is still superior, due to the less clumsy controls and included soundtrack. However, if an iPhone is all you have, this definitely doesn't feel like a second rate effort.

Parachute Ninja

Metascore (out of 100):
from Freeverse
Platform, $0.99, ages 4+
> iTunes App Store (Buy/Info)

This fun and addictive game launches your character through 30 action-packed levels spanning 4 picturesque regions on a quest of revenge against a mysterious enemy. Parachute Ninja is a unique high-flying platformer with rubber-band style slinging, tap-activated parachutes and satisfying physics. Defeat hovering enemies, avoid danger and collect fireflies to get the highest score as you embark on your flinging, flying adventure.

What the Critics Said
Score Publication
100 Slide to Play
Ninjas, parachutes, and slingshots. Could you ask for more?
90 148Apps
While Parachute Ninja isn’t an instant classic, it does have all the ingredients for it to jump into the top 10 of the App Store. The graphics are smooth and crisp, the gameplay is easy, yet can get hard at later levels, and the concept is simple enough to swallow all player types. The Story Mode on its own would be enough to garner high praise, but with the addition of the Survival Mode, Parachute Ninja really is a must buy.
80 AppSpy
This is a great casual play and very addictive.
80 Pocket Gamer
As expressive as its ninja's dashing eyebrows, Parachute Ninja is a great little game that builds on strong tactile physics gameplay with subtle level design.


Metascore (out of 100):
from Chillingo Ltd
Puzzle, $0.99, ages 4+
> iTunes App Store (Buy/Info)

Cogs is a groundbreaking puzzle game, where players build increasingly complex machines using sliding tiles in 2D and 3D environments. Multiple gameplay modes and difficulty levels are available. New puzzles are unlocked by building contraptions against the clock with as few moves as possible. This visually stunning and fantastic sounding game is perfect for puzzle fans of any age and ability!

What the Critics Said
Score Publication
100 Slide to Play
There aren’t many puzzle games that spin the gears in your mind like Cogs.
100 TouchGen
It’s too early to claim the puzzle game of 2010, but any contender will have a challenge on their hands. Cogs takes it’s place side by side with Zen Bound and iBlast Moki as examples of the best of the best out there right now.
90 TouchArcade
If you buy the game and all four DLC packs, Cogs will run you $4.95 and should take around 10 hours to complete if you try to beat every challenge in the game.
80 148Apps
If I had to sum up the game, I’d class it as a good fun-filled time passer, my only little caveat being that because of the true repetitive nature of the puzzles within Cogs, the game didn’t seem to have as much replay value as I probably was expecting from it, or would have liked it to of had.
80 IGN
Cogs is a magnificent iPhone puzzler. It is immediately comprehensible with no new mechanics to master; if you know how gears work, you know how to assemble a machine in Cogs. The art style is wonderful.
80 Modojo
If you can get past the game's "buy as you go" set-up and increasing difficulty, you'll find tons of value in Cogs. The presentation is top-notch and the gameplay will grind your gears, and we mean that in a good way.
80 Pocket Gamer
Cogs is a finely tuned puzzle experience that does well in getting the gears in your head moving.
60 AppSpy
A fantastic looking, engaging puzzle game that is only let down by the pay for more levels feature. Hardcore puzzle fans will love it.

GT Racing: Motor Academy

Metascore (out of 100):
from Gameloft
Racing, $6.99, ages 4+
> iTunes App Store (Buy/Info)

The most comprehensive & realistic racing simulation comes to your iPhone/iPod touch. Experience the finest driving sensations ever by controlling one of over 100 cars featured in GT Racing: Motor Academy. Step by step, you’ll earn your place in the circle of racing’s best drivers on the App Store.

What the Critics Said
Score Publication
85 IGN
At just $6.99 for dozens of hours of racing challenges, GT Racing presents incredible value for your download dollars, too. Gearheads, waste no time getting to the App Store.
80 AppSpy
GT Racing is a solid racing game which will appeal to those looking for a more realistic racing experience. While it does not contain the content or customizability of Gran Turismo, this is a solid effort that should keep racing enthusiasts happy.
80 Pocket Gamer
GT Racing: Motor Academy takes attendance and every conceivable feature and mechanic is here, except bold individuality.
75 Slide to Play
GT Racing: Motor Academy is a gorgeous, realistic racer with tons of content. If you're patient enough to wait out the load times, you're in for a treat.

Bonus: What NOT to buy

Out of all recent iPhone game releases receiving at least four reviews from professional critics, the lowest-scoring title was easily WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 45, which was barely tolerated by two publications and heavily criticized by two others. Vanquish: The Oath of Brothers 59 and Dracula: The Path Of The Dragon – Part 1 55 also left critics nonplussed.

What are you playing?

Have you tried any of the games above? If so, what did you think of them? Are there any other new iPhone games that deserve a download? Let us know in the comments section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (7)

  • skeletor84  

    Great game list. Some of these games are really addictive!

  • Matt W  

    I totally agree with Jeff. Well put.

  • jeff  

    Apple is selling about 25 Million NEW IPhones per year and about 50 Millions NEW Ipods (total though, not just Touch) per year. Are that many PSP and Xboxes COMBINED are far under 10 Million annually. I think if you brought this Iphone review feature up to a full level in your games menu with full consolidation of reviews just like movies and other games etc. you would have a built in audience and lots of happy people!

  • PDP  

    I was looking for the same thing Anthony, but I think for right now, this feature is the only piece they've done on iPod Touch/iPhone games. Hopefully they will add a section for this soon.

  • Anthony  

    Am I missing where the full list is available on Metacritic? I see no iPhone/iPod Touch section in their games division. I'd be extremely interested in checking out metascores for these games - are they available, or only mentioned in this one feature?

  • ceejay  

    It is a low price compared to console games. Plants v. Zombies for pc is about $12 on Steam (last time I checked). And Steam has a similarly easy content-delivery method--so that can't be the reason. Unless you perceive that most gamers aren't making download-for-purchase choices. Perhaps you could chalk it up (phone games low price) to grabbing for market-share. These game developers want to sacrifice now for long-term monopoly riches. Or maybe it's just the low value for playing a game on a device not primarily designed for playing games. Is fun/dollar lower on an iPhone / Android-device / WebOS-device than on pc or PSP?

  • Marc Doyle  

    If I were the big game publishers, that list of seven games for under $29 would give me pause. That's a lot of value for half the price of many home console releases.

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