Frozen Synapse (iOS, $6.99)
I've never gave Frozen Synapse much of a shot when it launched on PC (and Mac) a couple years ago. It's a fast paced, turn-based strategy game with brutally competitive multiplayer--and the thought of needing to fire up my gaming PC just to play a few quick turns always rubbed me the wrong way. Fortunately, and after a bit of a hefty wait, the long-promised iPad port has arrived.
The Frozen Synapse experience is alive and well on the iPad, and survived the journey to a touchscreen device largely intact. The game's objective will be familiar to strategy game fans: inflict harm on your opponents with a range of weapons, while occasionally rescuing hostages or securing locations. The twist here is in the pacing--you have an immense amount of control over your squad's actions, but turns are divided into five-second chunks. The game demands coordination and a lot of planning, but the end result are firefights that are at once chaotic and choreographed, with the best laid plans collapsing with nary a warning.
It's great fun and also offers cross-platform play, so you can be trounced by friends who have been playing on a PC for the last few years. It's well worth seven bucks, but if you're still on the fence you can grab a demo for the desktop version and see what all the fuss is about.
Sonic The Hedgehog (iOS, Android; $2.99)
Sonic the Hedgehog was ported to iOS years ago, but the latest update to version 2.0 brings the first entry in the classic series to Android, and adds a host of new features. The graphics have been beefed up, with support for widescreen devices and higher resolution displays. The sound track has been remastered, and there's also a new Time Attack mode that challenges you to complete zones (and the entire game) as quickly as possible. You'll even be able to unlock Tails and Knuckles as playable characters, which bodes well--I can't be the only person desperately awaiting a portable Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
FreeCiv (Web; Free)
I'm cheating a bit: FreeCiv is an open-source game inspired by the legendary Civilization series, and while it's been bumbling about for years (development started in 1995!) it was recently made playable in browsers, thanks to the power of HTML 5. That means multiplayer strategy goodness on anything with an internet connection and a modern browser, including smartphones and tablets.
You will of course need an internet connection to play, and the game is admittedly a bit rough around the edges, having been based on the ancient Civilization II. We've certainly come a long way since then, but the nation-building, world-conquering strategy game still retains all of it's charm and challenge--being able to play it on any device with an internet connection is a nice plus, too. There's a standard single player game that pits you against up to 8 computer controlled nations, but you can also create multiplayer games to challenge friends and strangers to a bit of old-fashioned diplomacy and skullduggery. Head on over to the FreeCiv website to check it out.