Stickman games that shine on iOS

This week's collection of games relies less on graphics and more on solid gameplay. If you don't mind simple graphics and just want a good pick-up-and-play game, this is your collection.

iPhone (Credit: CNET)

Sometimes the bare essentials are all it takes to make a great video game. In this collection, our hero is the stickman.

Everyone knows that in today's hottest games (for any platform), high-quality graphics are at a premium. Whether it's a first-person shooter, an MMORPG, or even a console golf game, realism and fancy graphics seem to be key to getting people to buy the product. But if you've played games for a while, you know that graphics aren't everything.

A whole slew of games in the iTunes App Store have enjoyed a ton of success by completely ignoring fancy graphics and instead focusing on the gameplay aspect. Some developers have even distilled graphic concepts down to the most basic level--stick figures--to prove that it's not about antialiasing and bloom, and more about having fun using clever game mechanics.

This week's iOS app collection is all about stickman games. The first is an excellent golf game time-waster with a simple look, but great gameplay. The second lets you perform flips and tricks without needing all the fancy 3D found in today's console skate games. The third is the most basic of all, but somehow makes 2D black-and-white cliff diving a blast.

Super Stickman Golf

Though the graphics are simple, the game is anything but.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Super Stickman Golf (99 cents) is a 2D golf game that's really easy to pick up and play, with tons of fantastical themed courses, interesting power-ups, and excellent physics-based gameplay. Though the game has a huge amount of arcadelike features, the goal is always the same: try to get the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible. The challenge is that it can be much harder than it looks.

Rather than your standard 3D layout seen in many golf games, Super Stickman Golf offers up a 2D platformer experience. The courses often have multiple levels you'll need to reach and obstacles you'll need to avoid to finally get on the green.

The interface consists of arrows on the left to adjust the arc of your shot, a button in the middle for bringing in bonus items (more on that later), and a "Go!" button you'll need to hit twice for each shot: once to start the swing, and a second time to adjust shot power.

Beyond the many themed courses that keep the game interesting, you also have some extra arcade elements to add some flavor. As you play, you'll unlock unique balls like the Sticky Ball, which sticks to surfaces after you hit the ball--great for courses where there are shafts you need to climb to get to the green. You also can unlock Super Clubs that make it so you can stop a ball midair, or freeze water hazards, for example. Each of the arcade elements is well thought out and adds a unique twist to the game.

Overall, with over 260 holes to play across several themed courses, unique obstacles, arcade elements, and local and online multiplayer, Super Stickman Golf has plenty to offer any arcade golf fan.

Stickman Skater

You'll be jumping over and grinding across several different types of obstacles.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Stickman Skater (99 cents) is a fairly simple 2D side-scroller that offers enough challenge and variation to make it fun. The object is to skate and perform tricks over obstacles while avoiding traps as you race to the finish line. You have a couple of different choices for control systems, with a one-button approach that performs random tricks, or a push (kick your foot for speed) button on the left and a directional joypad for more control over your tricks on the right.

Stickman Skater offers a bunch of gameplay variation to keep you interested. You'll skate through six different locations, including Dogtown, Carlsbad, Love Park, and Tampa. You'll be challenged with harder and harder obstacles as you try to navigate your way to the finish. You also get six different skaters to choose from in the options, but there is no skill variation between them so the difference is aesthetic. An added challenge to collect five tokens (on each level) will have you trying levels over and over to get them just right.

Stickman Skater is an incredibly easy game to pick up and play, but the later levels are where it gets challenging and keeps you coming back to get that perfect run. If you like skateboarding games and don't mind a simplified 2D side-scroller, Stickman Skater is a good choice.

Stickman Cliff Diving

The least impressive graphically, Stickman Cliff Diving still manages to be both challenging and fun.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Stickman Cliff Diving (99 cents) is an incredibly simple concept that somehow keeps me coming back to "stick" the perfect dive. You start out at the fairly low altitude of 10 meters, and your job is to read the requirements for the dive (a front flip or two-and-a-half back flips are examples), then see if you can pull the dive off in three rounds. If you miss all three dives, your game is over, but if you manage to hit the required dive you'll move on to the next level at a higher altitude.

While there are no fancy graphics here or even colors beyond black and white, Stickman Cliff Diving keeps you coming back for the perfect dive. Like in pro diving competitions, you'll be scored on how well you perform the dive--a straight entry gives the least amount of splash and the highest scores. The scoring is part of the fun as well because numbers are held up just like in a professional competition and I found it funny to guess the country that gave me the low score out of a list of 10s (I'm looking at you, Canada). Maybe that's part of playing a black-and-white 2D stickman game though--even when the gameplay is great, you still fill in the blanks with your imagination.

Stickman Cliff Diving is not going to win any awards for graphics, but the simple, straightforward gameplay is offered up in bite-size pieces so it's easy to pick up and hit a couple of dives. If you want to try something different and are willing to forgo graphics for gameplay, I highly recommend you try Stickman Cliff Diving.

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