six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Six Colors Staff

Our favorites: iOS/tvOS games

Welcome back to the Six Colors gift guide, in which Dan and Jason tell you about of a bunch of stuff we liked in the past year. You might like them too!

Frankly, there are so many games on iOS it’s hard to know what to recommend: do you like action? Adventure? Puzzles? Strategy? We could go on all day. So here are a few of the games we’ve been playing the most in the past year, which might appeal to you or someone for whom you still need the perfect gift. And if this isn’t enough for you, we’ll remind you that the apps on last year’s list are still available, too.

The Room Three

The Room Three

The third installment of this puzzle franchise amps up everything: more devious puzzles, more vague eldritch horror, and, for the first time, more endings. The Room Three builds on the story of the previous two titles, but this time you’re trapped in the mysterious Gray Holm, left to decipher cryptic notes from your jailer and interact with a collection of strange machines. As ever, the game is eye-catching and the puzzles just tough enough to be challenging without (usually) making you angry enough to throw your iOS device across the room. There are four different endings to collect, which gives the game a little bit of replayability, though it doesn’t have the seemingly infinite appeal of a Crossy Road or Alto’s Adventure. While it runs on iPhones or iPads, you’ll definitely benefit from the tablet’s larger screen.—DM ($5)

Lara Croft Go

Lara Croft Go

Puzzles are, apparently, my jam, as the kids say. Lara Croft Go is an excellent adaptation of the classic adventure franchise, but it’s not some warmed over adaptation of a console title. Rather it’s an attractive turn-based endeavour where you guide the eponymous Ms. Croft through underground caves, seeking rare artifacts and avoiding traps and nasty beasties. There’s a refreshing lack of in-app purchase here (though you can unlock hints or all of Lara’s outfits, if you’re so inclined). The puzzles are clever and the latest (free) update adds in an entirely new mechanic that definitely ups the difficulty level. If you’re a fan of the series or puzzle games in general, it’s definitely worth checking out.—DM ($5)

Alto’s Adventure

Alto's Adventure

I may not be adventurous enough to try real-life snowboarding, but that doesn’t mean I can’t channel my inner Shaun White and live vicariously through a video game. Alto’s Adventure is a charming and simple game that puts you in the boots of a variety of different snowboarders, sending you careening through procedurally-generated terrain where you’ll jump chasms, grind railings, and escape elders, all the while trying to rescue your escaping llamas. As you go you’ll be able to power up your capabilities, but you’ll have to deal with increasingly difficult challenges. Best of all, you can play on iOS or the new Apple TV, and your progress will sync back and forth.—DM ($3)

SketchPartyTV

This app—firmly in the guess-what-they’re sketching genre—has been around a while, and even supported AirPlay to the Apple TV. But with the launch of the new Apple TV, SketchParty TV really shines. One player sketches on an iOS device while everyone else watches the Apple TV app and tries to guess what they’re drawing. There’s a timer, a configurable selection of words, and the ability to replay all the drawings once you’re done. Huge family fun.—JS (6)

Lumino City

A gorgeous puzzle game set in a paper world, Lumino City was shot on an actual paper set, with its characters integrated after the fact. It’s spectacular to look at, and of course, there are puzzles to solve. We’re all about the puzzles! This one’s also on Apple TV, so you can enter the paper world from your living room if you prefer.—JS ($5)

Crossy Road (2 player mode)

Crossy Road was one of the most fun games of last year, but with the release of the new Apple TV, there’s a great twist: You can play Crossy Road with two players, one on the Apple TV remote, one controlling the action via an iPhone or iPad. The simple gameplay—it’s 21st-century Frogger—remains, but with a few twists. If one player dies, the other continues and after a while, the dead player is air-dropped back into the game. As long as one of the two players is alive, the game continues, each player accumulating points. That’s fun and even cooperative, but as my kids found out, it’s also fun to run up behind the other player and push them into the path of an oncoming train.—JS (free with in-app purchases)

Tales From Deep Space

This puzzle game from Amazon made it to iOS this year, and is a whole lot of fun. You control two characters who have to jump across various platforms in order to solve the puzzles. Tales from Deep Space was one of my wife’s favorite iOS games of the year—she is definitely a puzzle-game person. There’s also a co-op mode if you want to play with someone on a separate iOS device.—JS ($4)

Agent A

Agent A

This spy-themed puzzle adventure game brings to mind James Bond movies of old. It’s a lot of fun to think that today’s touch interfaces have revived the classic click-to-explore puzzle genre of old. The pictures are prettier now, but in the end it’s about story and puzzles and Agent A delivers on both.—JS ($3)

Grim Fandango Remastered

One of the great video games of all time returned with a new version this year, as Grim Fandango came to iOS. Using Mexican Day of the Dead imagery and a noir storyline, Grim Fandango is a classic adventure game that’s no longer just part of the history books—you can download it from the App Store right now and play it for yourself.—JS ($10)

Pac-Man 256

From the minds who brought you Crossy Road, it’s an endless take on Pac-Man. Applying a lot of the lessons of Crossy Road to Pac-Man is nothing short of brilliant, and what Pac-Man 256 delivers is (in the opinion of this card-carrying member of the Pac-Man generation) simply the best iteration of Pac-Man ever. The constantly leveling-up power-up mechanic keeps the game fresh at all times, each individual game lasts a satisfying amount of time, and it’s a lot more fun to keep on chomping further into the infinite maze than it ever was to double back and chew that last energy pellet.—JS (free with in-app purchases)

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[Get much more Apple TV-related stuff on our Apple TV page.]

[Get into the buying, er, holiday spirit by reading our gift guide!]