touchHLE is a new iPhone OS emulator that lets you play 32-bit iPhone games on Windows.


Header image for the touchHLE article

Remember the heady days of 2010 when iPhones were just $199 on a two-year contract? Well, now you can relive those days. touchHLE, an iPhone OS 2.x emulator that will let you turn your Microsoft Surface into a virtual mug of beer. Remember those apps? It is written in Rust and can run on any 64-bit device running Windows or Mac OS. No Linux support yet.

Touchhole works a little differently from other emulators because it only simulates the operating environment, meaning you don’t need to provide an OS image. It reimplements all the core components needed to get the job done, such as Foundation, UIKit, OpenGL ES, OpenAL, and others.

Touch HLE isn’t meant to emulate the entire iPhone of yesteryear. No, sir, his aim is the best. It lets you play your 32-bit games that are no longer supported on newer versions of iOS. Currently, touchHLE only supports apps that will run on iPhone OS 2.x, but the author plans to support apps for newer 32-bit versions of iPhone OS and iPad OS in the future. Support for iPhone OS 1.x is likely, but not yet committed. So far the emulator has only been tested with iPhone/iPod touch apps for iPhone OS 2.x.

For now, Touch HLE only works on 64-bit systems, which ironically shouldn’t be a barrier to entry at the moment. Android support is on the roadmap but work on it is yet to begin but if it gets off the ground, it should be a real conversation starter. The biggest problem here is that touch input doesn’t work yet – just mouse and keyboard for now.

Development of the Touch HLE began in December 2022 and is a personal project that is already impressive enough to be in an active state. In this initial release, touchHLE only supports Super Monkey Ball, which was a launch title for the App Store in 2008. However, all game features work including sound effects, music, save game persistence, and more. There is a known memory leak issue on the Mac version though.

To use touchHLE, you need a pre-built binary release or you can build it yourself. There are both binary and source code. Available on Github.. You also need a decrypted app to run. As of now, you are not able to use the .ipa files, so you will need to unzip them and get the .app bundle from them. TouchHLE doesn’t have a graphical user interface, so you need to use the command line to run it, but instructions for that are on the home page.

touchHLE is a new emulator that aims to do one thing. Play 32-bit mobile games, and development is moving fast. It provides full support for Super Monkey Ball after less than two months of development and may someday allow you to play these old iPhone games on Android. What a time to be alive!

Source: TouchHL home page


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