July 07, 2012, 7:19 AM — Ditch your Nintendo 3DS and leave your Sony PlayStation Vita at home. With these apps, your smartphone can become the only game machine you need. It doesn’t matter if you'd rather blast zombies or slam pigs--these games are sure to suit everyone’s tastes.
Angry Birds Space (free) Android | ($1) iOSJust when we were getting tired of flinging birds at swine, developer Rovio decided to change the rules of the game. Angry Birds Space takes everything you knew about Angry Birds and throws it out the window. You’re still catapulting flightless fowl at green pigs, but now you have to contend with complicating factors such as gravity fields and other space-themed obstacles. The levels aren’t the only thing that’s new: The game also adds a handful of new birds, each with its own special power. So get your slingshot ready, and start smashing some pigs (in space).
[ Free download: How to craft a mobile-application strategy ]
SpellTower ($2) iOSIn SpellTower, you use letters to spell out words for points. Like Triple Town (see below), this game is easy to pick up but difficult to master. Each of the four different modes has its own set of rules, but one rule remains the same throughout: You can use each word only once. Although that restriction isn’t much of a problem in the Tower and Puzzle modes, where you aren’t timed, it makes Rush Mode--where letters are constantly filling the screen, and you have to prevent them from reaching the top--a mad dash to stay alive. The game also has a local multiplayer mode, where you can challenge other people on iPhones or iPads to determine who can acquire the most points in a short amount of time. Better keep those dictionaries handy--you’re going to need them.
EDITOR'S PICKMinecraft: Pocket Edition ($7) Android | iOSIf you can dream it, you can build it in Minecraft: Pocket Edition. The game features two modes: a survival mode similar to the desktop version of the game, and a creative mode where you can build as you please without fear of attack. The survival mode drops you in the middle of a map filled with random animals and enemies looking to hurt you or mess up your buildings. The creative mode is much less stressful, and gives you an infinite supply of resources to build pretty much anything you want. A multiplayer mode is available too, so you and a friend can join forces to create something truly amazing.
Canabalt ($3) Android | iOSTiming is everything in Canabalt. Your only goal is to run as fast and as far as you can, without plummeting to your death or crashing into obstacles. The faster your well-dressed character goes, the more difficult it is for you to avoid missing a jump and running headfirst into a wall (resulting in your instant demise). It’s fun to challenge yourself to go farther and beat your friends’ high scores; you’ll definitely want to keep playing, no matter how many times you expire.
TripleTown (free) Android | iOSAt first glance Triple Town looks childish and easy, but that deceptive simplicity is what makes the game so addictive. Your task is to build a town by grouping items in sets of three. Once you’ve grouped items of the same type, they fuse to form a new item of higher rank. For example, planting three bushes will cause them to fuse into a tree. The higher the rank of an item, the more points you get for it. What makes the game so tricky is that you have a finite amount of space on the game grid, and you have to deal with bears that block your progress. It’s amazingly easy to find yourself sucked in, so don’t be surprised if you lose a few hours of your day to this game.
EDITOR'S PICKInfinity Blade 2 ($7) iOSInfinity Blade 2 picks up right where its predecessor left off. The graphics have improved, as have the story and gameplay. You now get more weapons, plus three styles of fighting to use in defeating foes. In the multiplayer mode, you can work with other combatants to complete challenges and earn rewards. If you loved the original Infinity Blade, you’ll enjoy everything that the sequel has to offer.
Draw Something (free) Android | iOSIf ever there was a game that lived up to its name, this would be it. Draw Something plays much the way Pictionary does: You choose a word from a cluster, and then draw a representation of that word as best you can. The person you are playing with then tries to guess what word you’re attempting to draw, earning coins that they can use to purchase in-game colors and bombs to help solve drawings faster. The real fun of this title comes from seeing how creative people can get in their drawings. Even those of us who can barely draw a straight line have been known to pull off some amazing-looking pictures.
Hero Academy (free) iOSIf you are looking for a challenge, give Hero Academy a try. In this cross between chess and collectable card games, you’ll need to be a decent strategist to defeat some of the more seasoned players. It has no single-player mode, so all of your opponents are real people attempting to take down your heroes. You start off with one team of heroes, but you can obtain more through in-app purchases. Each team has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each has assorted characters that you use in combat.