Modern platform games for iOS

Run, jump, and collect items in these modern platform titles that are a far cry from the classic Mario games.

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
5 min read

Despite the realistic 3D graphics of today's first-person shooters, RPGs, and other games, platform games continue to thrive on iOS. There's something about jumping through levels, solving puzzles, and collecting coins that keeps gamers entertained. Also, the capability to play through a single level while on the go makes platformers perfect for short bursts of play on your iOS device.

While a console controller is probably the ideal way to play these sometimes precise running and jumping games, iOS game developers have come up with unique ways to make them work.

This week's collection of iOS apps is all about modern platform games. The first is the most traditional platformer, but adds an interesting twist for passing levels. The second has an uncommon control system, but a unique art style and fun, varied gameplay make it a great option. The third is the most polished of the collection, with challenging puzzles and a somewhat grotesque storyline.

Note: There are no Android versions for any of these games.

Mikey Shorts (99 cents|Free lite version) is a pure platformer, that has you collecting coins and setting frozen prisoners free as you race through levels.

Mikey Shorts
Sometimes you'll need to skip past coins in order to get the best time, but you can always replay the level for more cash. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

The control system for Mikey Shorts is supersimple. You have a game pad on the left for moving left and right, and buttons for jumping and sliding under obstacles on the right. As you play, you'll find prisoners that have been turned to stone, and you'll need to pass through them to grab energy and to set them free. Each checkpoint gate in the game requires a certain amount of energy, which happens to be exactly the number of prisoners in that section, so you'll need to save them all to move on. There are also coins you can grab to spend on an enormous number of outfits, eyewear, and hairstyles. The coins aren't necessary like saving the prisoners is, but it's still fun to try out new looks.

What makes this game especially fun, though, is the three-star rating system. You're not judged on grabbing everything in any of the 84 levels in the game. Instead, the main goal in Mikey Shorts is to get to the end as fast as possible. The requirements are especially challenging for a perfect three-star score, and I often found myself repeating levels for the perfect run. But even though the game takes a little practice, once you get into the groove of performing speed runs, you'll start getting the perfect scores more easily.

Mikey Shorts isn't going to dazzle you with fancy graphics, but the need to fly through levels is the thing that will keep you coming back for one more run. If you like the idea of going for the best time, this game is excellent.

Totem Runner (99 cents) uses a slightly different control system, but once you get the hang of it, the unique art style and varying challenges make this a very compelling game.

Totem Runner
This games unique artistic style is beautiful to look at while you navigate through obstacles. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

In Totem Runner, you have no control over running -- the game does it for you. Instead, in this fantasy game, your hero has the capability to change into other forms to get past specific obstacles. As you play through the first level, you'll learn how to use buttons on the right to turn into a rampaging rhino that rams through enemies, turn into an eagle to fly past obstacles, and, if you build up enough energy, turn into an indestructible flying dragon. A button on the left gives your hero the magical capability to breath new life into the desolate world, planting greenery behind you, and adding stars back into the sky.

Yes, the premise is pretty out there, but as you play, you'll get into the rhythm of switching forms as you pass through various obstacles and battle enemies, all of which are beautifully designed with a unique artistic style. The hero, all of the enemies, the obstacles, and every animal you transform into is done with silhouettes using neon highlights to provide the details. It's truly a great-looking game and the fantasy premise fits the gameplay nicely.

Totem Runner lets you run, ram, and fly through five chapters of levels. Once you complete in-game challenges later on, you'll be able to play as the Sorcerer, the Lord of Stars, or the Great Shadow, each with their own special abilities.

Totem Runner is not your traditional platforming game, but the interesting storyline, uncommon controls, and shape-changing gameplay are fun to master. If you're looking for a game that's different than the usual fare, try this one.

Wimp: who stole my pants? (links below) is a platformer in which you play as a cute little blob in search of his pants while solving puzzles in a sewer-like world filled with toxic goo and dangerous enemies and terrain. This iOS Universal game is optimized for specific devices and which version of the game you choose relies on which device you're using.

Wimp: Who Stole My Pants?
Part of solving the puzzles is figuring out how to use the blob's various skills to turn switches and move boxes. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

If you're using the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch 4, or the original iPad you should get this version (99 cents). If you have an iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod Touch 5, iPad 2, or iPad 3, you should download this HD version ($2.99). There are also free lite versions of the game you can try out (regular|HD).

With that out of the way, Wimp: who stole my pants? is the most polished game in this collection, with smooth visuals, excellent physics, and a tight control system as you solve puzzles to finish levels. As you progress through this grotesque sewer-like world, you'll need to collect three rolls of toilet paper and get to the finish to complete each level. Puzzles are the name of the game here, as you move boxes, touch switches, and maneuver your blob to get all three rolls.

The control system includes left-and-right movement buttons on the left, with buttons for jumping and sticking to surfaces on the right. As you progress, more skills come into play, requiring you to perform double-jumps, wall jumps, and teleportation. The game is designed so that each level requires certain steps to be performed in a specific order to complete the level with a three-toilet paper rating. I often found myself restarting the level again and again as I figured out the trick to completing each level.

Wimp: who stole my pants comes with 50 platforming levels to challenge your hand-eye coordination and puzzle-solving skills, with different world themes as you progress. You'll also be challenged with boss fights at certain points that will put all your skills to the test.

If you're looking for a game that pushes your device to the extreme with amazing graphics and fluid animations while requiring thought and experimentation to pass levels, Wimp: who stole my pants is an excellent option.