Mobile Gaming – Better Than Expected
When I upgraded my tablet a few weeks ago to a Samsung S2 I decided if I was going to spend that kind of money I’d make damn good use of it. I’ve yet to do much work on it, but I have definitely expanded my gaming library. As it turns out mobile games have come along quite a bit over the last few years, and while some may think it’s mostly little flash-style games for the casual market there are a few titles out there that have finally started to see the casual/serious gamer borderline blur.
Unblock Me In the classic board game Road Block the player is given a layout of cars and lorries that slide back and forth in a straight line with a view to getting the red car out of the grid. It’s good fun for hard thinkers, certainly as the difficulty level increases, but if you’ve ever thought to yourself that it requires too much set up, or if you’d rather a version that’s not just cars then the good news is there’s an unofficial but free version on android.
Crab War This is the game that sums up the stereotype of mobile gaming. Amidst all the Fruit Ninjas and Cut The Ropes that rely on timing, reflexes and keen observation there are those games that thrive on none of the above, and are simple button mashers without the buttons. Tap the screen anywhere, spawn a crab that automatically charges the giant lizard and deals damage, gain gold, improve crabs, deal more damage. There’s no strategy, little to no visual difference in what those upgrades actually do for you (a topic for another day) but damn! There are a lot of colours and screen-mashing is weirdly addictive.
Kingdom Rush Tower defence is one of the easier genres to create for, and this is a lovely, simple, tower-defence. Start out with four tower-types, melee, ranged, ordinance blast and magic, all upgradable and placed in a few fixed positions, chuck in a few on-demand powers and you’re away. There’s not a great deal more to Kingdom Rush, it’s not renovating a tired format, but it’s giving us something oddly warm and familiar and bringing it to mobile so you can get your Defence Grid fix on the go.
Plague Inc. This was the first game I downloaded on my old Google Nexus, and while the game is rather wanting graphically, it’s so well designed you still get a real feel for what’s going on. Create a disease, advance, mutate, spread faster, and bit by bit wipe out humanity while the struggling nations race to find a cure. Every step is a tactical decision. Where to place your Patient Zero, how to spread, when to show symptoms and which symptoms to pick can all make the difference between success and failure. The rolling news real is not only comical but also gives you an idea of your microbial carnage, so that while you never see a sick person, you really know what you’ve done.
Side note, Plague Inc. is also available on Steam, and the same creators have also released a board game, although that does rather make comparisons to Pandemic all too easy.
Spaceteam I’m not keen on multiplayer anything, but sitting in a room screaming orders at my best friends is my idea of a good afternoon. It’s why I play D&D, and it’s why I play Spaceteam. Everyone hooks their devices to wifi, and joins the crew of a ship hurtling through space, maintaining the ship by following the instructions on screen that correlate to the control panels. But your instructions are likely to be on someone else’s panel. And sometimes panels fall off, or sometimes you have to flip or shake your tablet/phone while obeying orders, and everyone is screaming orders while the ship falls apart.
“Set Racket Bracer to 5. Set Racket Bracer to 5! Seriously, someone set Racket Bra- oh I have the Racket Bracer.”
That Level Again Play the same level over and over again, and yet it’s awesome. Basic platforms with spikes, big red button, door on the opposite side, repeated four times, but every time there’s a new win condition alluded to by the cryptic title. Controls change, win conditions change, you have to think way outside the box and in fact way outside of the game. Tablet functions like screen brightness, volume and aeroplane mode can help you reach victory, and little unnoticed details can become radically important.
This is a fantastic game, as are the two sequels, and it really shows off the ingenuity that the limitations of the technology can encourage. Seriously play the first game at least, and if you can make it past level 40 then kudos.
Bard’s Tale Here’s where the level of the technology really astounded me. Bard’s Tale is a top-down action RPG with PSP level graphics easily on par with one of my favourite hack-and-slashes Untold Legends, but keeps the comedy of the Bard’s series. It’s the first game on this list that must be paid for, and it’ll eat up your memory and battery life (just to complete the PSP comparison) but it’s worth it to play a well made, well written, and actually rather good looking game. If you’re looking to break the stereotype of mind-numbing colour matches and the like then put up the coin, it’s worth it.
I’m going to wait until I’ve got a new phone before I get Pokemon Go, but in the mean time I’m discovering a whole new collection that I can add to my personal pledge to spend this year playing computer games. I’m going to be uninstalling Crab War… eventually… just a bit further…