The Stuff Gadget Awards 2022: Mobile App and Game of the Year
Where would smartphones and tablets be without apps and games? Mostly in your pocket, because your rounded rectangles of joy would be… boring. But just any old app won’t do – you want the good stuff. So let’s dig into the best mobile apps and games of 2022.
Our top two apps came right at the death. Until then, 2022 had been strangely quiet in this room. (On Android, read ‘quiet’ as ‘deathly quiet’.) Fortunately, the end of the year shook everything up.
When it comes to gaming, it feels like the gold rush years are long behind us, with creators working on larger projects now mostly focusing on dedicated gaming platforms. Still, it makes room for cracking indie titles that made mobile shine in the first place.
Mobile App of the Year: Affinity Publisher 2
Serif has spent five years making a bold move in the creative space. While Adobe continued to force subscriptions on everyone, Affinity Photo stepped up in 2017 as 90% of a Photoshop at a wallet-friendly price. A year later we got Illustrator-ish Affinity designer. Amazingly, both apps were fully functional on the iPad, including almost everything from the Mac and Windows editions.
Affinity Publisher 2 completes the set on the iPad, bringing desktop-quality page layout creation (similar to InDesign) to Apple’s tablet. You might ask why you’d want it on an iPad, especially when Apple’s promises of external display support have yet to materialize. But as many creative pros argue, direct tactile control over layouts can be transformative, and the iPad’s distraction-free nature is a boon.
Naturally, Publisher Serif’s no-subscription stance continues, and there’s also a new all-in universal cross-platform license for the creative-curious. Nice.
Highly recognized: LumaFusion
One frustration of being an Android fan is watching the Apple mob get all the new toys. But with LumaFusion, Android device owners (and ChromeBooks too) can enjoy top-notch video editing on their desktop—and without the hideous subscriptions that have mostly equivalent apps already on the system.
Although it is in beta at the time of writing, the Android app is essentially the same as the one that has long held a place in the list of best iPhone and iPad apps. You get up to six video and six audio tracks, magnetic timelines, and a variety of layer effects and color correction tools.
Whether that’s enough to propel you up the Hollywood ranks remains to be seen. But there is nothing better to give your videos a pro shine on Android than this app.
One area where Android gives Apple a kick rather than playing catch-up is emulation. Daijishō (Android) is a superb front-end ideal for casual retrogamers to people who want to turn a phone into a classic gaming machine.
Ableton Note (iOS) finally brings Ableton music creation software to the iPhone, albeit in a way that’s more like a sketchbook than a full canvas. Still, for getting song ideas down to work on later on your computer, it’s an excellent buy.
Barcodes (Apple Watch) prevents you from having to search your ever-bulging wallet for the right plastic card to get into a gym, borrow a library book or secure 0.005pi supermarket rewards, by putting barcodes right on your wrist. Practical! Or should it be complicated?
Mobile game of the year: Knotwords
Zach Gage has form in subverting newspaper-style puzzles and reinventing them for the touch screen. Knotwords (Android, iOS) looks like a bunch of thumbnail crosswords, but play a few games and you’ll realize it’s something else entirely.
Each puzzle is divided into pieces that resemble Tetris-style blocks. You get letters for each section, but they are encrypted. Your job is to place each letter and make sure the whole crossword puzzle makes sense.
Free, there is a daily challenge and a set of monthly tasks. A smart sharing system lets you post online how you did on a puzzle (and how long it took to complete). Splash out on the full-game IAP and you’ll unlock more modes, along with the entire puzzle archive. Much better value for money than paper ornaments – and more fun too.
High praise: Horizon Chase 2
Apple Arcade had a good year, with a thumbs up eco-adventure Gibbon: Beyond the TreesYu Suzuki’s shot Air Twister and the mobile exclusive Football Manager 2023 Touch. But fast racer Horizon Chase 2 took the checkered flag for us.
Like the original Horizon hunting, the follow-up is a lightning-fast arcade racer, where you barrel along roads where everyone suspiciously everyone is driving in the same direction. Apart from great revamped graphics, the sequel adds a bunch of new challenges and welcome multiplayer modes.
In all, it’s like having 90% of one Out Run 2 on the phone – or a modern remake of the Amiga classic Lotus 3 or Top gear on SNES. In short, it’s great.
Otteretto (Android, iOS) wowed us online and won a well-deserved spot in the list of best browser games. The mobile version builds on the original’s well-established palindromic puzzles with new game modes and worldwide cross-platform leaderboards.
Pawnbroker (Android, iOS) combines chess-like mechanics with dungeon crawling. You take part in turn-based battles on a tiny five-on-five grid, trying to outsmart opponents using chess moves and special power-ups. A one-time IAP unlocks additional modes and dungeons.
Automatoys (Android, iOS) is more fiddling than torturous pursuit of high scores. You get three colorful, weird pieces of equipment (and another nine if you pay) and use a single finger to trigger moving parts to help a ball towards a goal – or throw it into the ether.
About The Stuff Gadget Awards
The Stuff Gadget Awards is where we reward the best tech we’ve seen over the year with gongs celebrating their status as the cream of the gadgety crop. Read more about The Stuff Gadget awards.