Rules! is kind of like a memory training game, but not like any
memory training game that we've played before. It's described as a cross
between Simon Says and Super Hexagon, although to be honest we're not seeing
the latter. That said, it is really good fun: you're presented with a screen of
cards, numbered and with images. Each screen, you're given a rule: for instance, tap the
cards in descending order, or only tap red images. When you
move up a level, you'll be expected to remember previous instructions in order:
for level four, you'll be instructed, say, to tap odd numbers, then follow rule one, rule two, and rule three -- without the game reminding you what those rules were.
It gets very tricky very quickly, but in a way that you feel
that you're always just on the verge of getting it next time -- and, we
imagine, is secretly a really great way to train your brain to multi-task.
There have been a few "Adventure Time" games now, with varying
degrees of playability. Time Tangle, we would have to say, is one of the better
ones, tapping into the tried-and-true endless runner formula (although not
really "endless", since levels are finite). The game consists of some
pretty basic core elements: dodging, punching, and collecting, with bosses to beat up
at the end of every level. Each level also has a series of objectives:
collecting specific items, or rescuing Finn's buddies, for instance; and the
game comes with three difficulty levels and two control modes. Obviously the
biggest draw is the "Adventure Time" licence -- it has a nifty story about Finn
collecting time crystals to fix the mess he made of the timestreams -- but it's
a pretty tidy game thrown into the bargain.
Radiangames has made some pretty stunning retro arcade
shooters, mainly in the bullet hell style. Although the core mechanics are
simple, the one-man studio makes the games into something fresh and visually
beautiful. Super Crossfighter is its take on Galaxian/Space Invaders, in beautiful
neon style. Gameplay-wise, there are few surprises: your ship auto-fires on
your synchronised foes, sliding one thumb left and right to steer. It's the
warp that makes it interesting: you can tap with your other thumb to flip
across to the top of the screen to shoot your foes from behind; it makes the
game a bit more frenetic, since your foes will also switch the direction of the
shot. It's an example of how to do mobile games perfectly: simple and
intuitive, without hindering gameplay.
The Outcast is less of a game and more of an
experience. You don't actually play anything; in fact, almost as soon as the
game opens for the first time, you are asked to close it again, after which
nothing will happen for maybe an hour or so. It's more of a procedurally
generated story, told to you via push notifications. You are a wanderer, and
every hour or so (if you open the app after each notification) something will
happen: a chance encounter, a discovery, a danger. When this occurs, you will
receive a push notification; sometimes you will get to make a decision,
sometimes you won't, but you won't get a new event until you look at your
It's certainly an interesting experience, and we love the
idea of turning push notifications into something to look forward to. The game
is still updating with the help of users, so we'll be interested to see how it
evolves over time.
Square Enix is slowly releasing the back catalogue of Dragon
Quest games on mobile, and after the
release of Dragon Quest VIII in May, it has now released Dragon Quest IV --
the first instalment of the Zenithian Trilogy, originally released for the
Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992 in the US. This particular port is based
off the 2007 Nintendo DS port, featuring a nice graphics overhaul, but adding
in party chat -- the ability to have conversations with your party members --
which had been removed from the DS version. It's a brilliant blast from the
past, even if, bafflingly, the entire game is played in portrait orientation.
Also delving into the retro fray is developer Zotnip, with
its first ever game Bik -- and it's a stellar debut. Inspired by the early work
of LucasArts and Sierra (think Maniac Mansion, Space Quest, Monkey Island),
it's a pixelly point-and-click adventure about a young boy who gets abducted by
aliens and needs to find his way back home to Earth. It's witty, engrossing and
a wonderful trip down nostalgia lane.
Colin and Sarah Northway -- the team behind creepy-crawly
leg-puzzler Incredipede -- have tapped into the creature well again for Deep
Under the Sky. You're a sort of alien jellyfish, and the aim is to fly about a
psychedelic version of the planet Venus, planting your jellyfish spores. It's
all, like Incredipede, based on physics, using one-touch controls: you have to
shoot your jellyfish through the levels, carefully aligning it with spawn
points to grow more jellyfish, in as few taps as possible. It's challenging and
rewarding in equal measures, and lovely to look at to boot.
Originally released for Nintendo 3DS, Phoenix Wright: Ace
Attorney -- Dual Destinies has, like the original trilogy, made its way across
to iOS. If you're not familiar with the Phoenix Wright MO, it's pretty simple.
Gameplay has two parts: the investigation phase (why an ace attorney would be
doing the work of a police detective is a question for another day), a
point-and-click style mystery where you interview witnesses and search for
clues to put together a case; and the trial phase, where you interrogate the
witnesses in court, looking for inconsistencies in their stories based on your
investigation in order to find the perpetrator.
The games work surprisingly well on iOS, and we love that
they include a level for free so that you can give it a try before you buy.
Now this is one of the creepiest games we've ever seen on a
mobile platform. Originally made for PC, the game sees you take on the role of night guard at Freddy Fazbear's
Pizza. Why does a pizzeria -- an increasingly unsuccessful one at that -- need
a night guard? Well, it seems the animatronic robots that entertain the
children during the day -- Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the Bunny, Chica the Chicken,
and Foxy the Pirate Fox -- become active at night. Active, and
murderous. From your base inside the security room, you can monitor them via
staticky camera feeds, closing the doors when they draw near -- but you have
limited power that you need to conserve, and the longer you work there, the
more restless the animals become. Packaged up inside some terrifying gameplay
is a mystery: what happened to the bodies of the murdered children? And why do
the animatronics walk by themselves?
Calculords might just be the CCG to end all CCGs. It has
cards, space battles, and a whole lot of mathematics. You, the last Star Nerd,
are tasked with saving the galaxy from the terrible Hate Bit -- by using your
skills at cards and maths. The card game bit is pretty standard: you go to
battle against your foes (AI, because it's a single-player game) by dealing out
cards to attack and defend from your opponent's cards. Each card has a number,
denoting the strength of the card; so far, so good. But in order to actually
play your card, you have to use the number pad to perform a sum that equals
The big kicker? Once you use a number, it vanishes from the
board -- so you have to plan your arithmetic very carefully indeed -- even more
because using up every number on the board earns you a free number refill.
Many scoffed at the news 2K was bringing 2007's BioShock to
mobile, but we're pleased to report that the port is excellent. Although the
graphics have been scaled, they look fantastic on the iPad's high-resolution
retina display and, after an initial crash problem (solved by rebooting the
device), the game ran as smooth as silk on the iPad Mini 2. The controls are
likewise well managed, and pretty par for the course for a touchscreen FPS:
floating thumbsticks to move and control the camera, with fixed buttons on the
right for actions, such as swinging a weapon.
There's no denying, of course, that it doesn't quite match
up to the original; the jaw-dropping opening scene, for instance, where you
dive into Rapture for the first time, simply doesn't have the same depth and
grandeur. But if BioShock had released for the first time on iOS rather than
consoles, it would be hailed as a masterpiece of mobile gaming.
Originally funded on Kickstarter, Back to Bed -- a game about sleepwalking -- appropriately
draws its inspiration from the oneiric sensibilities of Surrealist art (there's
a lot of Rene Magritte and MC Escher going on here). As Bob wanders his own
dream, you, as his subconscious guardian, Subob, must guide him away from peril
towards the safety of his bed by subverting his path -- placing obstacles to
turn him from danger. Also, the trailer is an awesome shout-out to Twin Peaks.
Thought you were good at space runners? Well, maybe guess
again: Laser Dog's Alone is punishingly, brilliantly difficult. The aim is to
steer a space craft at high speeds, using one finger on the incredibly
responsive screen, through jagged collapsing caves filled with debris, reacting
in the blink of an eye and getting as far as you can without crashing. Which
you will do. A lot. And then you'll gradually start to get better, and you'll
find yourself playing it much longer than you intended for "just one more
Crescent Moon has been busy, as usual, turning out highly
polished, high-quality games (and working on a gorgeous-looking title for PC). The latest is Almightree, a game that looks inspired by both
Bastion and Legend of Zelda. It takes place on 3D, grid-based stages; your
world is crumbling and, as the Last Dream, your job is to restore power to the
Almightree saplings, saving the world from destruction around you.
Each level takes the form of puzzles, where you have to
explore a fragile stage to find the tree. Part of your power involves moving
parts of the world: you can transport blocks to build bridges and steps, and
the game gradually amps up the difficulty so that how to place the blocks
causes you a little bit more thought every time.
It also has several difficulty modes, so if you're the kind
of player who doesn't like timers, you can relax and take your time to enjoy
the beautiful world that Crescent Moon has created.
If you haven't played A Dark Room, you should go do that right now. It's an
interesting mix of text-based adventure and RPG, with a fascinating mystery at
the core. The man who ported Michael Townsend's browser-based game to iOS,
Amirali Rajan, has, with Townsend's blessing, now gone on to expand on the
story with a prequel.
The Ensign has taken one part of Townsend's game for The
Ensign: the section called A Dusty Path, a region represented in ASCII. You, as
the titular ensign, strike out after a battle, moving around the grid to expose
areas, finding houses, caves and foes. Your fatality rate is going to be high:
the game is a lot more difficult than A Dark Room; but if you persevere,
gaining skills along the way, you'll get a little bit more insight into the
strange world Townsend created out of punctuation marks on a white screen.