Buyer’s Guide: Strategy

By reading our Buyer’s Guides, you’ve obviously proven yourself to be quite the resourceful gamer, strategically selecting only the finest titles to spend your hard-earned cash on. Since foresight and planning is your thing, we feel compelled to share some excellent strategy games this week that should be right up your alley.

You’ll notice the usual glut of Tower Defense games that are so popular on the App Store, but these aren’t just any old games– these are the best of the bunch! The same goes for the rest of our choices, too. Plan wisely, because you probably won’t have time to play them all.

Best Tower Defense Game – Star Defense

Publisher: ngmoco, Inc.

Price: $2.99

A recent price drop puts Star Defense in line with other Tower Defense games on the platform, but none can match this title’s online feature set. Friend lists and leaderboards give you an incentive to get better, and push notifications even allow you to challenge your friends directly. The 3D play mechanic keeps this from feeling too familiar, and the sweet graphics are the cherry on top.

Honorable Mention – Sentinel 2: Earth Defense

Publisher: Origin8 Technologies Limited

Price: $2.99

The clever addition of a starship orbiting above to aid your towers helps differentiate this game from the competition. It can not only launch attacks in desperate situations, but also dispatch drones that can generate money or repair damaged towers. Online leaderboard and chat integration give you someone to compete against, and you can even choose your own music to play in the background. A fast-forward button keeps you from ever encountering a dull moment.

Honorable Mention – Besiegement

Publisher: Just Kissed Games

Price: $.99

With a 30-level story mode and choices for both path and maze based gameplay, Besiegement gives you a lot of bang for your buck. A bevy of achievements will give you incentive to try new strategies, and challenge missions give you something to do should you beat them all. Online leaderboards will keep you vying for the top score, even if it’s just on the daily board. Plus, detailed stat tracking will help you refine your game and identify strengths and weaknesses.

Honorable Mention – The Creeps!

Publisher: Super Squawk Software

Price: $.99

Although it’s loaded with features and attractively priced, it’s the unique art style that makes this game worth mentioning. The scary nighttime monsters are out, and it’s up to you to prevent them from making their way from the closet to the bed. Flashlights do massive damage here, and you can even fly a UFO around the screen with the accelerometer. If you’re tired of the typical themes in tower defense, this could be a fresh take for you. Facebook integration, tons of levels and three different modes keep this from being more than a gimmick game.

Best Castle Defense Game – Knights Onrush

Publisher: Chillingo Ltd

Price: $.99

We called this one of the best investments in iPhone gaming when it cost $4.99. At a dollar, it’s a complete no-brainer. You’ll be tossing enemies that approach your castle off the screen in the beginning, but over time they’ll become faster and stronger. You can upgrade the strength of your castle and buy weapons to fend off the attackers, and there’s plenty of content to keep you busy. The colorful graphics don’t hurt, either.

Best Real-Time Strategy Game – Quantum Collapse

Publisher: Javier Davalos

Price: $2.99

A fully featured single player RTS in your pocket, Quantum Collapse delivers with both a story mode and a skirmish mode. There are plenty of buildings and units at your disposal for battling the aliens, and multitouch controls make it easy to coordinate your army. If you want classic RTS action wherever you go, this is the game to get.

Honorable Mention – Galcon

Publisher: Phil Hassey

Price: $2.99

Not a typical RTS like Quantum Collapse, Galcon is a fast paced game that only lasts a couple of minutes per round. You’ll be taking control of planets, and these planets will produce ships that can either defend the planets you have or take over other planets. You and the enemy start with just one planet and progress towards one another until someone wins. The single player mode is fun, but up to four players can duke it out in local and online matches. They’re a little difficult to set up, but worth the hassle.

Best Path Drawing Game – Harbor Master

Publisher: Imangi Studios, LLC

Price: $.99

Clearly inspired by Flight Control, Harbor Master manages to one-up that title with a twist: cargo management. You’ll draw a line with your finger to guide the boats into the harbor and keep them from crashing into each other, but you’ll also have to sail them back out safely after they’ve dropped off their cargo. Further hassles are thrown into the mix when pirates attack (you’ll defend yourself with cannons) and whirlpools spin your ships into a frenzy. Of course, the requisite online leaderboards are present as well.

Honorable Mention – Flight Control

Publisher: Firemint

Price: $.99

Simpler than Harbor Master, Flight Control has the same basic route-drawing mechanics as you try to safely land endless amounts of planes before they can crash into one another. Although it doesn’t have tornadoes or any sort of pirate attacks, things get plenty difficult in their own right. The leaderboards let you compare scores with people in your geographic area, and a multiplayer component lets you work together with a friend over Bluetooth.

Best Time Management Game – Sally’s Spa

Publisher: Games Cafe Inc.

Price: $2.99

A #1 hit on the App Store for quite some time, Sally’s Spa puts you in complete control of an overcrowded spa full of needy customers. It can get pretty hectic keeping everyone happy, and you’ll probably feel a little stress yourself as you mutter about the injustice of running an entire spa by yourself. Luckily, you can upgrade your shop and even hire employees as you progress, and while the gameplay can begin to feel formulaic, it’s still the best example of the genre on the platform.

Honorable Mention – Fruit Juice Tycoon

Publisher: Minoraxis, Inc.

Price: $.99

This is time management with a twist, literally. You’ll be squeezing out juice to serve to customers, and the only way to make it is to play a Match-3 game as you serve them. You don’t have to walk around to perform tasks like in Sally’s Spa; you just need to make sure there’s enough juice for your customers. There are tons of options for upgrading your stand, but it’s a little hard to tell what they do. Those interested in the genre, however, will definitely want to try it out.

Best Turn-Based Strategy Game – Star Hogs

Publisher: IUGO Mobile Entertainment

Price: $.99

Star Hogs dishes out more turn-based action than anything else on the App Store. You won’t be able to just blast away aimlessly, though. It takes serious skill to nail a shot over a distance. You’ll be able to upgrade weapons as you progress throughout the game, but equipping too much firepower will make it difficult to move around the maps. There’s a lot to unlock, and while the single player mode is decent, online multiplayer is available over wifi, 3G and Edge, and it’s fantastic. This game could keep you busy for months.

Honorable Mention – Reign of Swords: Episode II

Publisher: Punch Entertainment, Inc.

Price: $4.99

More methodical than Star Hogs, this title has you meticulously building an army and dictating their every move in battle. 36 unit types give you lots of choices to customize your squad, and although the single player campaigns are creative, the multiplayer is where things really shine. With some quality online competition, this could be the only turn-based strategy game you need.

Honorable Mention – Mecho Wars

Publisher: Oyaji Games

Price: $4.99

A little experience is helpful before you tackle this game, because it throws you right into the thick of things without a tutorial. But if you like Advance Wars or turn-based strategy in general, you’ll feel right at home. Like Reign of Swords: Episode 2, the pace here is slower than Star Hogs, but there’s a lot more going on. The battle sequences and artwork is impressive, and although there’s no online play yet, the single player campaign is very satisfying.

Best Building Simulation Game – SimCity

Publisher: EA Mobile

Price: $4.99

A nearly complete recreation of SimCity 3000 shrunk into portable form, this version runs and controls surprisingly well. You can build a complete city over a very long period of time, and progress from a small town to a bustling metropolis. While SimCity isn’t perfectly suited to playing on the go, it’s incredibly addictive and sure to please fans who can’t get enough.

Honorable Mention – Build-a-lot

Publisher: Glu

Price: $4.99

Less open-ended than SimCity, building here is done in eight different neighborhoods with limited land and set amounts of money, properties and materials. You’ll have to please the mayor in each neighborhood by satisfying their individual whims, although the overall goal is to raise land values by improving the area and attracting new families. This game is a bit better suited to playing on the go than SimCity, although we wish there was a bit more to it.

If you didn’t find something to enjoy here, don’t worry, because maybe adventure games are more your thing. We’re covering those next week, and we’ve already sorted through the best sports, action and puzzle games over the last few weeks. Check the links at the bottom, and as always we’d love to hear what you think in the comment section!

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