The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideS When the App Store first went live for the iPhone and Touch, I thought that we could quickly download all of the games available and review them. And in fact even made a valiant attempt at doing just that. But as the flood of games continued, not just remaining steady, but increasing, I quickly realized that it's probably better to try and find the gems among the thousands of shovelware, rather than reviewing everything. This is meant to be just that, a quick snapshot of what I think are some of the better games out for the iPhone and Touch currently, broken down into four categories. Keep in mind that while you can certainly use this list for yourselves, you scabby bastards, you can also use this as a great way to deliver affordable presents to your friends and relatives. Just buy them a iTunes gift card and include a few solid recommendations of which games you think they would most enjoy. Heck, I'm pretty sure that's what my dad's getting this Christmas for his Touch. Now hit the list, and keep in mind some real gems, like Puzzle Quest, just aren't out yet, so I couldn't include them

Bargains:

The iPhone Gaming Gift Guide MazeFinger Price: Free Compatible: iPhone and Touch Maybe the fact that it's free has something to do with why this game has been downloaded a million times. But my gut says the real reason is because all you need to play it is a finger, a mind for mazes and the time to go through the 200 levels mindful of the timer and all of those traps.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideFrotz Price: Free Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Text adventures have a special place in my heart, and they should have one in yours as well. Frotz gives you a chance to revisit, or visit them on your iPhone or Touch free of charge. This cool little program is just a shell for running existing text adventures on. Not only does it come pre-loaded with 25games (yes, including Zork), you can browse the Interactive Fiction DataBase to load up on more. All for free.
The iPhone Gaming Gift Guide Adventure Price: Free Compatibility: iPhone and Touch It's friggen Adventure, the Atari 2600 classic revisited with new and improved touch controls, but not new and improved graphics, or sound, or plot. Which is exactly how I like it. I haven't spent quite enough time with it yet to find out if the game also includes the Easter Egg with the original programmers names. I sure hope so.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideTrace Price: Free Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Trace has you drawing lines on the screen to create a safe path for your stick figure to travel to get him, her or it to the sun-like exit hole. The graphics are something you'd expect to see in a 7-year-old's homework, in a very good way. The last of the games 100 levels, for instance, featured a fire spewing dragon and a hill of lava. So awesome. Controls are pretty simple. You draw lines, then you touch the right or left arrows to move and the triangle to jump. You can always draw lines in the middle of your walk and you can even erase stuff. Fantastic fun.
The iPhone Gaming Gift Guide Lux Touch Price: Free Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Lux Touch is pretty much a straight copy of Risk. You play again four computer-controlled colors, all vying to take over the world through strategic troop movement. To play you tap around on the countries you've conquered, either beefing up troop placement or deciding to move them into enemy territory. The only major complaint I have about this free game is that there is no save function, so if you get a call or lose power you're going to need to restart your bid for world conquest.

Essentials:

The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideSpore Origins Price: $5.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch I've been playing Spore: Origins on and off since the game launched. It's definitely the most played game on my iPhone. What starts out as a tilt-to-control game of flow, quickly builds into something much more like a side-scrolling platformer... without platforms. In those early levels you worry just about eating things smaller than you. Than you have to start worrying about avoiding the bigger creatures in the pool of water that the game takes place. As you make your way through the game you get to add pieces to your bit of life, giving it weapons, and things to make it swim faster. You can even use real pictures to decorate it. Giving it, for instance, the head of your son. The later levels includes ones that just have you trying to find an exit. There are even well-disguised boss battles. This is a must for owners of the iPhone or Touch.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideFieldrunners Price: $4.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Mobile gaming needs Tower Defense games, because they're so pick-up-and-play. And there are plenty to choose from for the iPhone and Touch, but only Fieldrunners gives you a PC experience that you can carry around in your pocket. Packed with detailed graphics, a nice variety of weapons and an assorted batch of bad guys, Fieldrunners is, hands down, the best Tower Defense game on the platform. With the latest patch, adding a new level, another bad guy and endless mode, Fieldrunners maybe be the best game on the iPhone hands down.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideSuper Monkey Ball Price: $9.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch At just under $10, Super Monkeyball may be a bit overpriced, but it does deliver a fantastic adaptation of the popular Monkeyball series to your iPhone and Touch and it does so with fun graphics, great level design and some pretty polished controls using the platform's accelerometer to allow you to tilt your way through the levels. The one draw back is that the built in angle is a bit too sharp, making it necessary to lean over the screen a tad to see what's going on as you tilt your way through the game.
The iPhone Gaming Gift Guide Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D Price: $5.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Despite being an early release, Crash Bandicoot is still one of the best racers on the platform. In the game you guide Crash, or a slew of other unlockable drivers, around a course by tilting the iPhone back and forth. You brake the vehicles by tapping under the kart and drift by tapping above and to the right or left as you turn. You can also collect power-ups which you use by tapping their icons. The races I've run through on the game were seamless and even managed some fairly fun graphics. But still no multiplayer. Someone needs a patch.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideTrism Price: $2.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Trism continues to keep me interested, despite the fact that I've owned it for month's now. Trism's slight tweak on the Bejewled game play is so profound that it changes the way you have to think about puzzle gaming. The basic premise, as with most puzzle games, is really simple. You have rows and columns of mutli-colored triangles. You slide them around to line at least three up and clear a space. The twist? The iPhone can detect which way you are holding the phone and drops the triangles into recently filled holes from the proper direction. So now you have to think carefully about which way to hold the phone before making a move. The fun basic play is backed up by five game modes, 22 unlockable achievements and an online international ranking board. They even included a colorblind mode. You can even challenge a friend in the game.

Socializers

The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideGuitar Rock Tour Price: $7.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch It may not be licensed, but it sure feels like Guitar Hero on the iPhone. The game comes with two instruments to choose from and 17 songs, all of which I suspect are covers. To play through a game using the guitar you just tap your way through the notes on the four-fret guitar as they fall toward you down the neck of the virtual instrument. The songs drop sustained notes and lines of notes at you as well as a number of double notes. If you come across a line of notes you can slide your finger across them as they scroll down. Once you build up enough rock power you can activate the familiar power-up by sliding your finger up the gauge to go into a power-up mode that doubles your points. The drum mode isn't nearly as fun, but it's still worth a bit of time.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideGalcon Price: $4.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch While Lux Touch is great for the price (that's free). Galcon gives you the full-on Risk like experience in space... and with other people. That's right Galcon lets you vie to take over other planets with hordes of spaceships both in real-time and against real opponents using WiFi. The single player mode includes five missions, and the multiplayer mode is ranked on Galcon.com. To play you tap on planets and touch where you want to send your armada. You can even send ships from all of your planets to a single target. Then watch as the screen floods with tiny colored triangles. For $5, it's absurd not to buy this game. So stop being absurd.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideOcarina Price: $.99 Compatibility: iPhone Only Maybe this isn't a game exactly, but since it features a Link-friendly Ocarina I just had to include it. For a penny shy of a buck you get a program that turns your iPhone into an honest to goodness musical instrument. By blowing into the mic and pressing buttons on the screen you can replicate the haunting music of a 12,000-year-old, or so, instrument. Tilting the iPhone changes the sounds vibrato rate and depth. Ocarina also lets you listen to others play their digital Ocarina and even identifies where in the world they are.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideUno Price: $7.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Gameloft really hit the nail on the head with this portable version of Uno. Not only does it do a good job of delivering the full Uno experience for single player gaming, including nine different rule sets and all of the action cards you remember, there's also amazing multiplayer support. First there's pass the iPhone play, where you can play with your friends on a single device. This is great for long trips with the kids or other buddies who love Uno. The game also includes WiFi multiplayer, allowing you to play Uno against people from around the world with your device. This is an absolute must have for fans of card games or people who like a bit of short pick-up-and-play fun.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideBlue Defense! Price: $.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch This may not be a classic social game. It doesn't support multiplayer gaming, in any form. But it's such a great example of how accessible the iPhone can make some traditionally hardcore genres. In this case it's those screen-filling, horrifically hard bullet-hell shoot-em ups. Shmups aren't for the light of heart, but in Blue Defense! you just have to tilt the phone or Touch around to direct a constant stream of bullets at the oncoming horde of red space ships. The game lists the number of lives on your planet, starting at 6.7 billion, and drops the number whenever you let someone sneak through your stream of bullets. The super easy gameplay and silky smooth frame rate make for a game that's easy to hand off to a someone new to gaming and absorb them instantly.

Epics

The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideKroll Price: $4.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Kroll is the platform's first honest-to-goodness high-end action title. In it you play as Delon, a barbarian in search of Kroll, the Lord of Life. You play the game holding the iPhone sideways. To move you touch the transparent arrows at the bottom of your screen. To attack you touch one of four transparent hammer icons, two on each side of the screen. The top icon delivers a heavy attack and the bottom a regular attack. Touching the left ones attacks to your left and the right attacks to your right. I found that by tapping between the two types of attacks or repeatedly tapping the same attack you can pull off a couple of mini combos. You can also pull off a special attack, if you save up power earned through kills, by either tapping Delon or shaking the iPhone. This is a straight-up, old-school button masher, so don't expect any twists or innovation in play. But it certainly satisfies a very specific itch.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideBomberman Touch: The Legend of Mystic Bomb Price: $7.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch Bomberman, a classic looking, classic feeling Bomberman, can only be a good thing, no matter what platform it shows up on. In this case, it's a great thing. The crisp graphics, the upbeat music, the hand-drawn looking cut-scenes, it all comes together nicely on the iPhone. You control Bomberman, once he whips off his Jungle Adventurer costume, by holding a finger on the screen, anywhere on the screen, and moving it around. You drop bombs by touching a bomb icon and use special abilities, like kicking a bomb or remotely detonating a bomb, with other action buttons.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideAurora Feint II: The Arena Price: $7.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch This is essentially Puzzle Quest with a bit less plot and a bit more emphasis on character leveling, special weapons and magic. In the game you mine for elements which can later be used to build weapons or increase your skills. You also craft weapons and battling your way through a tower. Like in Puzzle Quest, everything is done by playing a varied form of Bejeweled. You have to match up like symbols and clear the screen before the symbols reach the top of your screen. New to The Arena is the ability to create a ghost version of yourself to upload to the game's server so other players can challenge you. You can also do a form of live chatting while playing and track high scores. The games certainly a step up from the original Aurora Feint and adds a lot of interesting elements for your $8, but I'm still hoping the game comes together a bit more to deliver an experience that feels a bit less disjointed. Despite that one reservation, the game is a blast to play and can certainly suck up huge chunks of your time.
The iPhone Gaming Gift GuideToy Bot Diaries 2 Price: $3.99 Compatibility: iPhone and Touch In Toy Bot you control a diminutive toy robot that can grapple onto metal objects and then either pull them to him or use them to swing to hard to get places or across dangerous spots. The side-scroller uses the iPhone and Touch's title controls to great effect, turning the game into more of a puzzler than a traditional platformer. The thing that makes this game such a joy to play is that the developers didn't just stop with a neat concept, they delivered it with a polished look. While both the first and second game are a bit short, they are relatively inexpensive, and the second outing does include longer levels.