The Best iOS Has to Offer
In many ways, Waking Mars is one of those games I've been waiting my whole life for. Like Animal Crossing or LostWinds, the focus isn't on killing stuff; it's a true role-playing game, one that immerses you in an experience based on science and imagination.
You play as an astronaut exploring the caves of Mars, and your discovery of organic life leads to an incredibly engrossing adventure that constantly keeps you glued to your touch screen. However, the actual gameplay focuses on...well, farming of sorts.
You'll need to capture seeds from existing plant-like life in order to grow more plants that will cause biological reactions to organic gateways that block your path to further investigation. The premise is quite simple, but the different plant life and how it behaves and reacts will force you to use your ingenuity in fun and clever ways.
The game is both fascinating and fun, as well as beautiful and dangerous. Though there are no shootouts with Halo-esque aliens, there are other dangers you'll need to be weary of.
Unfortunately, dying offers no real obstacle or punishment, which can take a bit of the edge off of exploration. Luckily, the game's real challenge comes from figuring out how to progress, rather than staying alive, and the story is incredibly well written.
Waking Mars is also amazingly gorgeous, both visually and aurally. There is a realistic beauty to this game's version of Mars that is wonderful to discover, and the music and ambient noises are unbelievably atmospheric.
Personally, I can't recommend Waking Mars enough. I can see how it wouldn't necessarily be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're looking for a true adventure that doesn't rely on constant shooting (or any shooting at all, actually), then you owe it to yourself to nab this iOS masterpiece. The controls can take getting used to and I wish dying came with a steeper penalty, but those minor quibbles aside, this is absolutely my Game of the Year so far for 2012.