Our favorite iPhone extreme sports, golf, soccer, and sports management games.
(free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)
Astro Golf puts an outer-space spin on mobile golf games. Instead of fairways, sand traps, and perfectly manicured greens, courses comprise celestial bodies. Your tee is on one planet or moon, and the hole often far away on another. The aim of the game, however, remains the same as ever.
Gravity is what shakes everything up in this title. Smack a ball into space, and its path changes as it whizzes by planets and moons. This often results in fancy slingshots that would leave even the Rory McIlroys of this world bewildered and jealous.
This is also an iPhone game that wants to be played. Scores are tracked, but they don’t really matter. Even the hard mode, which demands holes-in-one, is an exercise in stress-free, enjoyable play. Out of this world, then? Quite possibly.
Desert Golfing streamlines smacking a ball with a big stick as far as it’s possible to go. It begins with you being invited to drag an arrow to direct a shot towards a hole. The course you’re faced with is side-on, jagged, and – as you soon discover – composed entirely of unfriendly sand.
There are no do-overs, but there is a score. Yet that becomes almost meaningless as you find yourself dozens of holes into a seemingly endless bout of golfing, deep in a minimalist desert.
What’s surprising is Desert Golfing is so compelling. Gradually, the colors change and the challenges increase in complexity. But even though some holes frustrate, you realize they’re ultimately fleeting. It’s a Zen take on golf, then – and an experience that’s far more satisfying than its appearance in still imagery would suggest.
Motorsport Manager Mobile 3
Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 is a racing management game without the boring bits. Rather than sitting you in front of a glorified spreadsheet, the game is a well-balanced mix of accessibility and depth, enabling you to delve into the nitty gritty of teams, sponsors, mechanics, and even livery.
When you’re all set, you get to watch surprisingly tense and exciting top-down racing (This being surprising because you’re largely watching numbered discs zoom around circuits.)
One-off races give you a feel for things, but the real meat is starting from the bottom of the pile in the career mode, with the ultimate aim of becoming a winner. It’s all streamlined, slick and mobile-friendly, and a big leap on from the relatively simplistic original Motorsport Manager Mobile.
Touchgrind BMX 2
(free + IAP)
Touchgrind BMX 2 invites you to coax a virtual BMX to the checkered flag in courses likely to usher in panic attacks and vertigo, while performing all kinds of stunts along the way. But unlike ostensibly similar fare on iPhone, there’s no rider on the bike – instead, you control it with two fingers.
You plant one finger on the saddle, and one on the handlebars, dragging left and right to steer. As you pick up speed and hurtle into the air on hitting a ramp, you perform stunts by flicking your fingers in various ways. Land safely and you get points.
Wonderfully tactile, and with superb track design, Touchgrind BMX 2 easily betters traditional BMX racing fare on iPhone. And although grabbing all the courses sets you back US$7.99/£7.99/AU$12.99, they’re worth the outlay.
Wonderputt is what might happen if Monty Python-era Terry Gilliam was hurled through time and charged with designing an iPhone minigolf game. The single 18-hole course is an exercise in surrealism and imagination from the moment tiny meteors smash into the ground to fashion the first hole.
Things then get weirder, with courses eaten into grass fields by cows (who are then whisked away by UFOs), and an impossible waterfall hole that looks like it’s escaped from a colored Escher print.
Fortunately, the game is more than a visual delight – it plays well too. Notably, a ‘smart zoom’ feature ensures you don’t need a magnifying glass to see what’s going on in the visually arresting miniature landscapes.
The only snag is there’s just that one course – but even if you only play it once, this game’s worth the outlay. And for perfectionists, there’s replay value in spotting visual details you may have missed, and getting all of the achievements.
Touchgrind Skate 2
A criticism leveled at touchscreens since day one is how they robbed gamers of ‘proper’ controls. Touchgrind Skate 2 highlights how ridiculous such a statement can be, because rather than having you perform tricks on a little on-screen board by manipulating a gamepad, two of your fingers become legs that dictate how the board behaves.
This is not an pick-up-and-play game, though. You really need to work through the tutorials and fully master them, before you try your hand at competition and jam sessions where you’re punished for mistakes, but greatly rewarded for strings of amazing moves.
In a sense, it feels weirdly like the real thing in miniature – which is more than you can say when your hands are fashioned into claws, gripping a traditional console controller.
If you’re a massive basketball fan whose nose will be put out of joint when rosters aren’t entirely accurate, or the game you’re playing is a bit weird, skip this game description and head on to our next entry.
Otherwise, try NBA JAM.
This game’s an updated take on a mid-1990s arcade game, which features weird photorealistic characters playing two-on-two matches. Sportsmanlike behavior’s left in the dressing room, as they muscle each other off the ball, and a big-head version of the visuals is deeply unsettling yet oddly hypnotic.
The controls are a bit of a virtual-joystick-and-buttons nightmare at first, but simple enough to grasp without sliding your fingers all over the place. And before you know it, you’ll be BOOM SHAKALAKAing it with the best of them. (Or hiding from the freaky oversized heads.)