As long as there’s no viable external control/controller standard for iOS (Let’s hope the 60beat GamePad takes off!), traditional-style mainstream gaming on Apple’s iDevices will always be a questionable experience. That said, the platform is appropriate for simpler games where basic directional input and one or two action buttons are all that’s required. One such game, Vlambeer‘s universal Super Crate Box, fits that model to a T.

Previously available for Mac and PC, Super Crate Box is supremely straightforward, criminally addictive, and easily the best retro action title I’ve ever played on iOS. The few included levels are designed with the basic layout of Mario’s Atari underground, and different enemies pour down the screen to attack from all directions. There’s no AI, but that’s not the point. Instead, the goal is simply to survive the onslaught. To do so, your character–who, in a bit of added fun, is respawned as a different entity each time you die (my favorite being the fishbowl-helmeted astronaut fellow)–must sprint about the board collecting those titular crate boxes, each giving him a new weapon to use. But you can only use one at a time, and you’ll never know what’s next. The mystery armament can help or hurt you, and that’s a big part of the game’s overall charm.

At first, you won’t last more than a few seconds. As you get familiar with the game’s subtleties, though, you’ll survive longer and longer. Progress is measured by the amount of boxes you can collect in a single go, and, as those numbers pile up, you’ll be granted new weapons, characters, and levels.

Every aspect of Super Crate Box has been coded and tested to perfection. The controls–dash left, scramble right, jump, and shoot–are responsive, the physics engine is spot on, the music is appropriately old-school, and the art direction and animations are beautifully refined. Machine gun recoil blasts you backwards, spent shells eject from their 8-bit shotgun, and the flamethrower glows in heavenly splendor. And, as developer Rami Ismael told me in an email, just wait ’til you get the disc gun!

As an added bonus, Super Crate Box can be played in either orientation and is iCade compatible, so you can flex your strategic futility in the manner best befitting your frustrated fingers and thumbs.

For just $0.99 on the App Store, there’s no in-app purchase and no reason not to grab this award-winning game right now. And, once 5 million boxes are collected worldwide (Yes, the game tracks each one!), Vlambeer promises a new update with exclusive content. Value and quality can coexist!