Sometimes it feels like every new mobile game is just a variation on a theme. So is Dual, but it's a variation I haven't seen before.
For starters, it's strictly a two-person game, and the action unfolds in real-time. What's more, it requires the two players to face each other and stand more or less phone-to-phone. Half the challenge lies in keeping an eye on the other player's screen, not just your own.
Dual plays like a tilt-enabled Pong mixed with head-to-head Space Invaders. Each player has a ship of sorts that moves around the screen in response to how you tilt your phone. When you tap, the ship fires a missile that travels off your screen and onto the other one, hopefully scoring a hit on the enemy ship.
That's the pew-pew concept in a nutshell. But there's a bit of strategy mixed in as well. For example, if you tap and hold for several seconds, it "charges" your ship to unleash temporary rapid-fire. But while you're charging, obviously you're not shooting, and therefore you're more vulnerable.
Meanwhile, there's always the option of tilting your screen away from the other player's view, though he/she will likely do the same. This makes scoring a hit considerably harder, so at some point you really need to see that other screen -- and it may take some body language to score a look.
There's also a co-op mode called Defend, but the real news is that Dual works cross-platform on Android and iOS, leveraging either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect the two devices. The game is free, but you get only one ship (out of three available choices, each with different capabilities). The full version costs $1.99, but both players don't necessarily need to have it; a free-Dual owner can still play against a paid-Dual one.
The game relies on simple but colorful low-res graphics and really slick tap-powered menus.
Dual takes seconds to learn, and at first blush may seem overly simplistic. But it's a really fun way to engage with another live human, up-close and personal. Remember when games were all about that? Here's hoping this is the tip of the iceberg in a new genre of head-to-head competition.