Auralux (iOS|Android) on its surface is a beautiful and simple strategy game, but it quickly gets very challenging as you progress through levels. Your job is to conquer suns, and ultimately two AI-controlled teams using a single type of unit.
There have been other similar strategy games for mobile devices, but none that kept the gameplay so incredibly simple. When you start out, you have one sun that is producing an army per second, as does each other team. But before you rush to attack another team, you'll want to conquer gray, uninhabited suns by sending your armies. Once conquered, the gray planet will change to your color and start producing armies you can use to attack others. Suns with rings around them let you upgrade to produce more armies per second, making them the most powerful suns on the game board.
You have a couple of ways of selecting and sending your armies to attack. You can either touch and drag to draw a circle around your armies, or simply touch the sun where your attacking force is. From there, just touch the sun you want to conquer and your armies will slowly begin closing the distance to the enemy sun. This game isn't about fast reflexes -- Auralux is a game of strategy and figuring out when is the best time to attack.
The gameplay is simple and addictive, but also forming a big part of the draw of Auralux for me are the brightly colored graphics, ambient music that never seems to get old, and various sound themes you can pick from in the game. There is something almost zenlike with the pacing of this game and the bright colors and audio add to the experience.
Auralux is a free download that comes with only a few maps, but has 99-cent map packs available for in-app purchase. You also have the option to get a combo pack with several of the map packs along with Fast mode (for quick games where your reflexes will matter) for $2.99. Once I got through the first few maps, I decided to buy the combo pack and was happy to find several easy, normal, and hard maps to choose from.
My only issue with the game initially was that it was frustratingly difficult. With the free version early on, only the first couple of levels seem winnable and the other levels can seem almost impossible. But if you can get over the initial hump and manage to win one of the harder levels in the free version, suddenly buying the map packs makes more sense. It simply takes time to learn the best strategies, so some people may not have the patience for it.
Overall, Auralux is very well-designed strategy game with a slow pace, but extremely challenging levels. If you're fine with the idea of playing several rounds to learn the ropes, Auralux is a great choice for strategy-loving gamers.