Looking for a new game to play on your mobile device? Here's our pick of the best released in February 2016.
I Keep Having This Dream
It's been a long time between drinks for developer Fireflame, which you might remember for Dungeon Raid (and if you don't, go download it right now! Android | iOS).
I Keep Having This Dream is a digital version of a tile-based path-building game, like Tsuro or Indigo. And it adds a fantasy element, just like Dungeon Raid added dungeon crawling to symbol-matching gameplay. The premise is that you are having a dream, and you need to build a path to the level exit, from a selection of tiles at the bottom of the screen. It's not as simple as just getting to the exit, though. Some of the pieces have monsters on them that you need to fight, making each dream sequence a battle for the survival of your precious sleep.
The third of SMG Studio's one-touch casual games (the others being One More Line and One More Dash), Thumb Drift breaks out of the "One More..." visual style for a game about the fine art of drifting. You control a motorsports vehicle speeding around corners by sliding your thumb on the screen, trying very hard not to crash, a skill that takes time and practise to master. As you reach milestones, you can unlock new tracks and new cars. SMG spends a lot of time tweaking and testing their games to make sure the balance is just right, and it really shows. Thumb Drift is a masterful execution of a simple concept, and an excellent way to while away bite-sized chunks of gaming time.
Oozing style, The Swords is about swordplay, all wrapped up in an abstract brush-painting package. You are playing through the life of a sword master, but the gameplay does not take the usual combat form. Instead, you have to draw the strokes of the sword on your screen with a finger, following the on-screen prompts in a variety of different challenges based on wuxia, Chinese martial-arts fiction. The team at Sunhead Games has created a truly beautiful experience, and a one-of-a-kind game that really captures the feel of wuxia.
Full disclosure: Lost Portal is not your usual pick-up-and-play mobile game. It is, however, a rich, deep, single-player card gaming experience, combined with dungeon-crawling RPG elements. Of all the games I tested for this month's round, Lost Portal is the one that sucked me in the most. There's a lot to sink your teeth into here, with customisable character creation that makes for a lot of replayability, and a main campaign that will take you questing across a map, defeating foes and collecting new cards. The game itself is premium, with no IAP (for the time being), although the developer will be adding purchasable expansion packs in the future.
There isn't a tutorial, but there is manual that you can access in-game if you struggle to figure out how to play. You can also find more resources on the developer's website.
_PRISM is destined to spawn a thousand imitations. You have to solve puzzles by manipulating configurations of coloured dots to fit "locks" on 3D prisms to open them up piece by piece. It sounds simple, but it's complex enough to fire off those satisfaction centres in your brain when you manage to click a level together.
It's not a hugely long game, but everything about it, from the music to the multi-touch controls, is so beautifully polished that you'll definitely want to play it more than once.
This is one of the coolest little arcade games we've seen. If you liked Downwell, Tomb of the Mask is going to be right up your alley as well. It's like Downwell and Pac-Man and VVVVV had a baby. You, the intrepid tomb... uh... thief find a mask that allows you to climb walls, which is just as well, really, since hazards are coming at you from below and you need to make your way upwards as quickly as you can manage. You can also collect new masks that give you different abilities. It's frenzied, frenetic, gloriously retro at its 8-bit best.
If you're looking for a multiplayer iPad board game, you might want to take a stroll into the cooperative Forbidden Desert, based on the physical game of the same name. You and your team have crashed a plane in a desert. The weather is mounting, and you need to perform your archaeological tasks, reassemble your plane, and get out, before the storm hits or you die of thirst. Each player is a specialist with different skills that you can use to complete these tasks, working together and strategising. And, because it's cooperative, you can play it by yourself.
Point-and-click is one of the oldest gaming genres there is, but we rarely see one with as much panache as Glitch Games' A Short Tale. You play Jason, shrunk down to a tiny size, exploring the childhood bedroom of his missing younger brother, Ben. It's so detailed, you'll get utterly lost looking for clues and then trying to figure out where to apply them, but the game is so beautifully crafted that it's a genuine pleasure to do so.
Speaking of Tsuro, here it is, ported from physical board game to digital! Players take turns placing path tiles and moving along them to create the longest path on the board, or the most loops, while also trying to cut off their opponents. The port allows for NPCs for solo play, or up to eight people, and it's beautifully designed, from the ambient sounds that create a delightful tangibility, to the size of the play sessions, which are just long enough to be exciting without getting overwhelming. It's an excellent digitisation of a really fun game.
If you like your point-and-click a little more on the spooky side, Killmonday's (gory, for a forewarning) Fran Bow made it across to Android this month, divided up into five creepy episodes. It follows the eponymous Fran, locked in an asylum after witnessing the murder of her parents, desperate to escape, solve the mystery of who killed her mum and dad, and be reunited with her beloved cat.
This is a game that's a lot trickier than it looks. Humanity is scattered across the universe, living on space stations... many of which aren't always stable. It's your job to get people safely off, guiding them through hazards to the exit. Swiping the left side of the screen controls the escaping character, swiping the right side of the screen controls the environment, and you need to be able to think and act fast to prevent your dudes from dying.
One of the great things about touchscreen devices is the touchscreen. But with Blackbox, you don't touch the screen at all. Instead, it uses every other sensor the phone is equipped with: gyroscope, camera, microphone, accelerometer. To solve the puzzles and trip the light switches, you need to first figure out what you need to actually do, whether it be travel, shout at your phone or tip it upside down. It's utterly diabolical and utterly brilliant.
Love You to Bits is the heartwarming story of a human boy trying to restore his robot girlfriend to life after she was attacked by evil aliens. As Kosmo, you must travel to different locations, hunting down the bits of Nova and figuring out how to retrieve them in a series of adorable point-and-click puzzles that require a variety of problem solving skills.