Benny’s Top Ten: Ten of the Best iOS Apps and Games of 2014
While Santa was making his own list and checking it twice this year, I was also making a list of my own. A list of the best iOS apps and games of the year — a look back at what occupied coveted spots on my home screen, or what app used the most battery life on my iPhone or iPad. As the curtains fall and 2014 draws to its inevitable end, and in lieu of any actual look back at the year gone by from an Apple perspective, these are the best iOS apps and games of 2014.
In no particular order…
I’ll be honest with you: I’ve never really gotten into the whole “iOS productivity” thing. When I’m out and about, I mostly use my iPhone as a portable Twitter machine, for emails, and that kind of thing — you know, the normal stuff. And when I’m at home, I have my trusty Mac for everything I need to do. But in saying all that, I recognise the kinds of innovative things people are doing with apps like Launch Center Pro and more recently, Workflow. We’ve come a long way since the days of no copy and paste on iOS, and now people are creating workflows for every imaginable thing. If you’re not into iOS productivity because it all just seems a little too hard, or like me, lack the imagination required for getting stuff done on your iPhone or iPad, there’s plenty of beginner’s guides to sink your teeth into. Or you can check out the built-in gallery for a few ideas to get you started.
Workflow is $3.99, on the App Store.
Before Hyperlapse, it was pretty easy to tell when someone had recorded video from an iPhone. There was always a telltale shakiness to the footage that gave it away, and no matter how steady you thought you were holding your iPhone, any movement resulted in the shakes. Then Instagram released Hyperlapse, and mobile video changed forever — and while that might sound a little melodramatic, ask anyone that’s used Hyperlapse for recording video and they’ll tell you how true it is. Hyperlapse’s incredibly impressive video stabilisation tech means there’s now no excuse for shaky video footage. I’ve started recording all my videos taken on my iPhone in Hyperlapse, and it’s basically indistinguishable from steady cam rigs costing much, much more than my iPhone. Hyperlapse isn’t integrated with Apple’s built-in camera app and does require additional processing time after you’ve recorded your footage, but those are small sacrifices to make for perfectly smooth video. Hyperlapse is so good, I often wonder how it’s even possible. The only thing it doesn’t do is prevent you from taking vertical videos.
Hyperlapse is free, on the App Store.
Transmit for iOS
Transmit for iOS by longtime Mac software house Panic makes the top ten this year for being different. I’m a big user of Transmit on the Mac for accessing remote web servers and my S3 storage, and Transmit for iOS now lets me do all that from a computer I carry around in my pocket. Like Workflow above, Transmit is one of those apps that really go to show the kinds of things that are possible with iOS. The stumbles along the way just mean that apps are pushing the envelope, entering uncharted territory as far as iOS productivity is concerned. As for Transmit, it’s the closest thing we have to Finder for iOS, and for dealing with files both local and remote, there’s just nothing else better.
Transmit is $12.99, on the App Store.
Put aside Path CEO Dave Morin’s popped collar or day and night phones for a second, and let me tell you about the best thing to come out of the mobile-only social network. Path Talk puts you in contact with local businesses in your area, letting you ask questions about stock levels or even such inane things as whether the soft serve machine is working at your local McDonalds before you make the trek out. I have no idea how it all works nor how it makes money, but I assume it involves a call centre somewhere who calls the business on your behalf. Either way, it’s great for asking questions without actually having to talk to people: perfect for introverts, or for those of us busy enough to warrant day and night phones. I’m told Path Talk also lets you talk with your friends on Path, kind of what Messenger does for Facebook, but hardly anyone uses it for that.
Path Talk is free, on the App Store.
Judging by the number of times popular services have pivoted into something different, life in Silicon Valley involves lots of twists and turns. Foursquare split in two earlier this year: it kept place recommendations in the Foursquare app, which became the go-to for finding a new place in an old town, or somewhere to go in unfamiliar surroundings. They then released Swarm, an app for checking in to places and seeing where and what your friends were doing at any particular time. You can arrange meetups within the app, for those with plenty of friends in close proximity, but it’s also useful as logging where you’ve been, which is what I mostly use it for. A recent update for iOS 8 made it faster than ever to check in to locations with a Notification Center widget. While Swarm would be considered a mediocre app by many, it’s been one of my most-used and occupies a coveted spot on my home screen.
Swarm and Foursquare are both free, on the App Store.
First shown off a little before PAX Aus 2013, and then finally released a little after PAX Aus the following year, Framed proved to be worth the wait. Just when you thought puzzle games on iOS were getting a little stale, Framed comes along and changes your entire frame of mind. My own review of the game said that while it wasn’t without a few niggling issues, the overall game was well executed, bringing a truly unique panel-rearranging gameplay mechanic to the big bad world of iOS puzzlers. Developed by an Australian duo, the iOS exclusive Framed makes the top tens this year. Oh, and did I mention it’s also Hideo Kojima’s game of the year? Because it has that going for it, too.
Framed is $6.49, on the App Store.
We’ve seen some truly crazy games on iOS this year, even if they haven’t all been iOS exclusives, and Papers, Please joins Goat Simulator as two of the most crazy. They’re both ports of games that originally debuted on the PC, but I’m specifically mentioning Papers, Please here as opposed to Goat Simulator as it is, in my opinion, the one worth spending your time on. But never fear, because there’s a little simulation in Papers, Please too: better described as an immigration paperwork simulator than actual game, Papers, Please lets you experience the monotony of checking documents, day in, day out. Even if that’s not really your jam, maybe doing it knowing you have a family to feed back home is, and for that, Papers, Please gets the approved stamp for my top ten this year.
Papers, Please is $9.99, on the App Store.
A top ten of 2014 lost wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Threes, otherwise known as the app that took over the world. Included as a demo app for iPhones in stores all around Australia, Threes introduced high-score chasers to its addictive tile-sliding ways, spawning all manner of theory crafting and high score strategies. Even if you were introduced to Threes by way of the similar 2048, the former has enough personality to keep you hooked long after the latter fell out of popularity. With an exponential scoring system that rewards you for combining higher-numbered tiles, it’s easy to get a ridiculously high score. Getting to that point, on the other hand, is much, much harder — but that’s kind of why we love Threes.
Threes is $2.49, on the App Store.
Reviews for Monument Valley lauded it as one of the prettiest games of the year, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Like other games on this list, you kind of have to play the perspective-based puzzler to get what all the fuss is about, because any explanation I have to offer just wouldn’t do it justice. There’s nothing overly difficult about any of the entirely short-lived levels, but it all goes together nicely enough to make the cut in this year’s top ten. Monument Valley is just kind of great.
Monument Valley is $4.99, on the App Store.
I wasn’t entirely sure about what to think of the first Hitman game of the series making its way to the mobile platform, as Hitman games are typically third person stealth/sneaking/assassination affairs that often involve disguises, locked doors, and the infamous silverballers. In an era of average tie-ins and mediocre companion apps for titles on other platforms, Hitman Go surpassed all my expectations by being the one game to do things right. It has all the trappings you’d expect from a typical Hitman game — disguises, locked doors, and assassinations — all wrapped up in a top-down, isometric-style puzzler that’s sure to make you feel smart when you figure out how each level works. There’s Angry Birds-style three stars achievements for those wanting a little bit of a challenge, and when it all gets a little too tough, purchasable hints are only a few taps away. If I had to choose just one iPad game of the year, Hitman Go would be it.
Hitman Go is $1.99, on the App Store.
Which brings us to the end of my best-of list for this year. I’d love to know what kind of apps and games you used and/or played during 2014 in the comments. Oh, and if anyone has any suggestions for some really great Mac apps that were released this year (or even updates), I’d love to hear about those, too. IOS just seems to be where all the action is, and as I said on Twitter, I couldn’t even think of any great Mac apps that were released this year.