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Terraria for iOS review: A beautifully ported game with flawed controls

The popular open-world adventure game originally for PCs and consoles is finally on iOS, but some control issues make it difficult to recommend for all your iOS devices.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
4 min read

Terraria for iOS brings the popular 2D sandbox adventure game that was loosely based on Minecraft to the touch screen. As a longtime player of the game on PC, I was excited to get my hands on the iOS version, and after a few hours of playing, I think it stacks up well with the original. But one flaw makes the game much better on the iPad than it is on either the iPhone or iPod Touch.


Terraria for iOS

The Good

<b>Terraria for iOS</b> looks and sounds just like the PC and console versions, with huge maps to explore, tons of items to craft, and challenging bosses to fight.

The Bad

The touch-screen controls are not as good as a mouse or controller. Playing on an iPhone or iPod Touch is even worse with less viewing area and zoom window problems.

The Bottom Line

Terraria is an incredibly involved and challenging game that's worth buying as long as you play it on the iPad.

Never the same experience
One of the great things about this 2D adventure game on any platform is that when you start a new world, it is built randomly so you never get the same game twice. The maps hold all the same elements, but you never know where the different biomes, one large dungeon, or the floating islands will be. This means the only way to explore the enormous map is by walking over land or mining your way into the depths.

Terraria looks great on iOS (pictures)

See all photos

To get started, you can customize your character's look by choosing either male or female, then choosing the color of your hair, eyes, skin, and clothing. Then, you simply give your character a name and then name the world that will be created.

Playing the game
Early on, your character is fairly weak and once night falls, zombies and other baddies will be on the hunt. That's why it's important to start chopping down trees right away to build a shelter before nightfall. Later, you'll also want to build housing for NPCs that arrive as you pass certain milestones. But rather than giving you a step-by-step guide for the early parts of this extremely involved game, the best resource for learning how to play Terraria is at the Terraria Wiki. Generally, the key is to explore and mine blocks in order to craft items that will make your character stronger so you can take on the game's five difficult bosses.

As you dig deeper, you'll come across giant caverns that may contain chests, valuable minerals, and dangerous monsters. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

As you explore and find minerals and other items, you'll be able to craft more than 200 different things, from tools and weapons your character can use to chandeliers and bookcases for decorating your home base. Check out the crafting recipe page at Terraria Wiki to see the types of things you can make. If you haven't guessed already, this is a game with a immense amount of depth (pun intended), so if you were looking for a simple casual distraction, this is not the game for you.

The controls are not perfect
The touch-screen controls are functional, but not ideal. To move your character, there's a control pad in the lower left of the screen. Any item you use, whether it's a sword or a blaster or a stick of dynamite, is activated by touching the right side of the screen. Where in the PC version of the game you mine by pointing your mouse cursor at a block and clicking, with the iOS version you just touch the block with your finger. This opens up a small zoom window so you can see exactly which block you're mining. On the iPad, this control setup works fairly well, but it still can't compare to a keyboard and a mouse or a game controller. But when it comes to the smaller screen of the iPhone or iPod Touch, it's much more frustrating.

You'll need to build housing in order to attract NPCs that will sell you special items. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

The difference between the two devices is more than just a difference in screen size. With the smaller screen, you actually can't see as much of your surroundings at one time as you can on the iPad. But to make it even more frustrating, the small zoom window will actually sometimes appear halfway off the screen so you can't see which block you're mining. Hopefully, a fix will come in the next update that smartly pushes the zoom window below your finger when it's getting close to the top of the screen, but iPhone and iPod users should beware of this limitation before buying.

Terraria for iOS stays faithful to the original with the same graphics, enormous open-world maps, and hours of fun gameplay. The touch-screen controls are a little tough to get used to and not as good as a mouse or controller, but are mostly functional on the iPad. On the iPhone or iPod Touch, not as much of the map is shown, and the zoom window sometimes goes off screen making it difficult to recommend for those devices.

Still, whether you have played Terraria before or are new to the game, the iOS version is an excellent port and makes for the perfect time killer as you explore an enormous world and battle challenging bosses. But until an update fixes the small screen problems, I can only recommend it for iPad.


Terraria for iOS

Score Breakdown

Setup 10Features 10Interface 5Performance 8