iOS games to get you through the weekend

This week's iOS apps are perfect for taking a break and are all top-shelf titles. The first is a popular console remake with tons of content that has hit its lowest price to date. The second is a very well-designed platformer that's skyrocketing up the iTunes app charts. The third app takes zombie destruction to a whole new level--way up in a machine-gun-equipped airplane.


The weekend is all about downtime. Well, maybe not for everybody, but we certainly hope you get a little time to yourself. In any case, it's always good to have some great time-wasters on your iPhone for whenever you get a break in the action. Fortunately, some excellent games came out recently (and one went on sale) that you really should check out.

This week's iOS apps are all top-shelf titles that are perfect for taking a break. The first is a popular console remake with tons of content that has hit its lowest price to date. The second is a very well-designed platformer that's skyrocketing up the iTunes app charts. The third app takes zombie destruction to a whole new level--way up in a machine-gun-equipped airplane.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Stand back from the big explosions or your mission could be a bust. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars ($2.99) is the mobile version of the mega-popular franchise of console games from Rockstar. The game cost $9.99 initially, but is now at its lowest price ever at $2.99 (until Sunday)--perfect for those who skipped over the game when it came out.

We should start by saying this is not a family game! Gratuitous violence, bad language, drugs, theft, and murder are all commonplace in Chinatown Wars--in other words, we strongly suggest you don't buy it for your kid's iPod Touch.

With that disclaimer out of the way, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a huge sandbox game with tons of content and an interesting storyline. You play as young Huang Lee who only recently arrived in Liberty City. Your first contact is with Huang's uncle Kenny, a drug lord who is going through a rough patch, requiring you to take on various missions to improve his gangster image. As in all of the GTA games, you'll be sent on missions to steal cars, take out rival gangsters, and perform other nefarious activities. You view the action from a top-down (yet 3D) perspective with a control system involving an onscreen joystick and onscreen buttons for driving, shooting, punching, and kicking.

On top of the well-written storyline and challenging missions, what makes this game even more entertaining is the clever use of the iPhone's touch screen. Little things like spinning your finger to take the screws out of a panel to hot-wire a car or swiping your finger to move trash bags out of a dumpster to reveal a hidden gun add to this game's charm. Though some of the actions get kind of repetitive, it's fun to discover the various ways Rockstar utilized the touch screen.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars has been out for quite some time, but if you were holding out for a sale price, this is the weekend to grab this fun and challenging sandbox-style game.

Everything from the colorful backgrounds to the facial expressions adds charm to this game. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Blobster (99 cents) is new and extremely well-made cartoonlike platformer that offers smooth, cute graphics, 40 well-designed levels, and unique touch-screen controls. You play as a little red blob named Blobster, and your mission is to clean up pollution left by the Big and Powerful Corporation (Hello BP!) run by evil boss Blobzilla. Move Blobster by either touching the sides of the screen for direction or using tilt controls. To jump, you touch and grab Blobster and pull, kind of like an Angry Birds sling shot.

Blobster has you jumping around obstacles, picking up power-ups, and gathering collectables to try to get 100 percent on each level, just like many games, but it's in the presentation that Blobster truly shines. The game's graphics are incredibly smooth and everything from the Blobster character to the enemies and even the obstacles is well-designed to make you feel you are entering a strange fantasy world as you play the game. All the sounds are appropriately cute as well to tie the whole experience together.

Overall, Blobster is an excellent time-waster with plenty of fun levels, unique challenges, and an overall aesthetic that has to be seen to be appreciated. Anyone looking for a fun family platformer should grab this game.

Zombie Gunship
Though it looks drab in this screenshot, the game is anything but. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Zombie Gunship (99 cents) takes a different angle from most zombie-shooting games by having you play as a gunner in an AC-130 ground assault plane.

High above the landscape, you look through a night vision display as you protect a bunker from an endless assault by the undead. You'll need to be careful, though, because there are also civilians trying to escape to the bunker, and if you hit too many your game will end. The control system involves moving your sights by swiping the right side of the screen, changing the zoom and switching your weapons with buttons in the upper right, and shooting your selected gun with a button in the lower left.

Zombie Gunship is an upgradable game (like so many these days), so while your initial download is 99 cents, there is plenty of incentive to spend more money via in-app purchases to upgrade your weapons, radar, and other bonuses to make it easier to last as long as possible. Especially in the early rounds, you'll wish you had better guns because your starting machine gun isn't very accurate, requiring you to spend a lot of ammo to kill only a few zombies. It's frustrating, but if you're patient, you'll be able to slowly upgrade your weapons and other tech to have more success.

The graphics in Zombie Gunship aren't terribly complex, because the game is not about the details with a vantage point so high in the air. There also aren't many colors because you're looking through a heat-sensing scope, but that adds to the ambiance. The sound design in the game is exceptional and really gives you the feeling that you're working with other soldiers to keep the bunker safe. Our one gripe with the game is that you're always flying in circles around the same landscape, but maybe later versions of the game will add more environments.

Overall, Zombie Gunship is in a league by itself in the zombie-game genre and is plenty of fun as you fire high-powered weapons at the shambling undead from high in the sky.

Got a better new (or new to us) game for wasting time? Let us know in the comments!

Updated at 1 p.m. PT to correct price of Zombie Gunship.

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge 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.