Nintendo has finally broken its long refusal to release its IP on mobile third-party platforms, and... dang. Super Mario Run is great. It's an auto-runner, but also a really polished Mario game. It's just one-touch to jump, but the game is complex enough, including collecting coins and special coins, as well as killing specific numbers of enemies, that even though it looks short, it has a ton of replayability as you try to top personal bests and beat your friends.
The Avadon series owes a lot of its DNA to the isometric RPGs of old. It doesn't look particularly flashy, but like those old-school titles such as Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, it relies heavily on story, narrative, a satisfyingly deep levelling system, and a variety of classes to play that make the game different for everyone. It may not be a genre for everyone, but for those who prefer a more thoughtful, in-depth gaming experience, Avadon is among the best in class.
Price: $11.99 | AU$17.99 | £8.99
The Hacker 2.0 is a follow-up to The Hacker, and it's an interesting turn-based puzzler that combines elements of Hitman Go with a sort of matching hacker minigame. You have to move around a grid to take out enemies from behind or the side, carefully watching their movement patterns to avoid being deleted first, with purchaseable skills to make your job easier. You can also "hack", matching up scrolling screens of text to open the exit. It's a really well put together strategy game with a fun sense of humour about itself.
Kathy Rain is styled after the point-and-click puzzle games of the 90s (which is also when it's set). It's an origin story of sorts. Eponymous protagonist Kathy Rain is a journalism student who discovers a knack for detective work in the wake of her grandfather's death. He left behind a lot of questions without answers, and Kathy makes it her business to get them. It's stylish, with pixellated graphics reminiscent of the era, a sassy hero, excellently balanced gameplay and a deeply absorbing mystery.
Price: $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £4.89 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
Tower defence has become something of a saturated space, but every now and then someone does something with it that shows the genre still has a lot to give. Tabasco Games has combined it with the space shooter. Instead of placing static towers, you place turrets of increasing firepower on your spacecraft. Instead of protecting a static base, your "tower" is the spacecraft -- and the gameplay becomes about dodging fire from waves of foes while dishing it out. It's a challenging take, but it works brilliantly.
Price: $2.99 | AU$3.79 | £2.69 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
Microsoft has included Solitaire in its operating system since 1990. It's not quite the original digital Solitaire game, but since they've spent decades perfecting it, it's pretty much the gold standard. The entire suite of Microsoft's Solitaire card games are available for free on iOS and Android, along with daily challenges to keep you coming back.
Don't be fooled by Le Parker's sweet and buoyant exterior, for within lurks the heart of a deeply challenging side-scrolling platformer. As sous chef Parker, you have to reclaim your recipe for meringue so light it defies gravity, beat the bad guy who stole it and rescue the princess he kidnapped. Pretty standard fare (except for the meringue part), but the gameplay is as tight as we've seen in the genre on mobile, and cute as hell.
Price: $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29
If you're a fan of ace attorney Phoenix Wright, you're going to love the fanservice offered by the story of newbie defence attorney Apollo Justice. It follows the same gameplay we know and love -- investigating crime scenes, then making a case for the defendant and identifying the true culprit through a series of skilful interrogations. One rather annoying caveat -- for DRM purposes, it requires a persistent online connection.
Price: $15.99 | AU$20.99 | £14.99 (Android); $0.99 | AU$1.49 | £0.79 (iOS, full game unlocks via IAP)
Rockstar has a brilliant track record with its mobile ports, and Bully is no exception. It's an unrelentingly unsentimental exploration of the schoolyard hierarchy, in which you have to become the top dog by any means necessary. Although it has been criticised, and even banned, for linking children and violence, the aim of the game is to unite the cliques and restore peace to Bullworth Academy, and it's clever, incisive and an excellent addition to your Rockstar collection.
Price: $6.99 | AU$10.99 | £4.99 (Android); $6.99 | AU$10.99 | £4.99 (iOS)
Silent Depth is a two-man labour of love that has been years in development, and the care shows. It puts you in the role of a WWII submarine captain in the US Navy on patrol in the Pacific Ocean. It's optimised for phone screens, so may not look great on a tablet, but it feels like a love letter to Silent Service, seeing you engage in stealth takedowns amid realistic ocean conditions. A manual can be found here, and should provide a good indicator of the game's depth... pun absolutely intended.
Price: $7.99 | AU$9.99 | £5.99 (Android); $7.99 | AU$12.99 | £5.99 (iOS)
You may be familiar with Kenny Sun's strange arcade titles Circa Infinity and Circa Affinity, where you need to leap through an endless series of concentric circles. Yankai's Triangle is his rather less twitchy take on, well, the triangle. It involves rotating and matching up the coloured points on a field of triangles that gets progressively bigger. It's sort of hard to explain exactly what's so catchy about it, but it is. It's meditative, but there is absolutely a puzzle element to it, and some of the levels -- particularly the boss levels -- can get hugely tricky. Sun describes it as a "love letter to triangles," and it will make you fall slowly but inexorably in love.
Price: $2.99 | AU$3.89 | £2.89 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
The Bug Butcher is a little bit Space Invaderish in that you run back and forth along the bottom of the screen firing at foes above your head, but it's trickier than that. For one, the foes (giant squishy alien insects) bounce around on the ground, so you have to make sure that you don't get splatted. For another, shooting them splits them into small swarms of smaller bugs, so while they are easier to beat, there are also more of them to dodge. The better you get, the more weapons you have at your disposal to take them down. It's a fun, frenetic shooter that just oozes charm (and bug guts).
Price: $3.99 | AU$4.99 | £3.99 (Android); $0.99 | AU$1.49 | £0.79 (iOS)
I wouldn't have thought it would be possible to improve much on the Crossy Road formula, but Crossy Road Disney has become one of my daily plays. It's the little tweaks, such as daily quests, the variety of gameplay in the different levels, the fact that doubled-up characters get cashed in so you can get more, the addition of blue coins that will buy characters you don't already have. Hipster Whale put a lot of work into refining the game, and the result is amazing.
Chameleon Run brings another twist to the autorunner. You leap across a series of platforms, but you have to make sure the colour of your little dude matches the colour of the platform, or it's kersplat. Tapping the right side of the screen changes the colour, tapping the left lets you jump. It's simple, and the levels are short, but that's good, because timing the jumps and the colours just right can get really tricky -- and that's without even completing the level objectives. Only one thing could make it better, and that's an endless mode.
Price: $2.00 | AU$2.60 | £1.67 (Android); $1.99 | AU$2.99 | £1.49 (iOS)
The sequel to Stoic's first Viking-themed turn-based strategy, The Banner Saga 2 continues the tale of Rook and the other inhabitants. The first game was something really special, with its animation style reminiscent of the animated films of Don Bluth and Ralph Bakshi, and art of Eyvind Earle, entirely hand-drawn, and its wonderfully deep tactical combat system and storylines. Somehow, the three-man team at Stoic has managed to make the sequel even better, with combat tweaks, new characters and a new race for an even more engrossing experience.
Price: $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £4.59 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
Don't Starve developer Klei has demonstrated its multi-genre chops with Syndicate-like Invisible Inc. You'll have to control agents working together to infiltrate corporations to complete a variety of turn-based stealth missions. You have to sneak around, hacking into computer systems to disable security, and incapacitating guards. And you really do have to strategise -- the game uses rogue-like elements to keep it all very high stakes.
Price: $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99
It turns out that building and managing train lines is a pretty tricky thing to do, at least if Mini Metro is any indication. It tasks you with building lines based on the metro map as designed by Harry Beck in 1931. You have to build lines to transport passengers, which indicate their destination with symbols that match stops, as well as using your limited resources to supply extra carriages and trains to more populous lines, and build bridges to more remote stops. It will definitely challenge your strategic planning skills.
Price: $4.99 | AU$7.49 | £4.29 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
The Insult Simulator won't turn you into a William Shakespeare or Winston Churchill overnight, but it will provide an oddly satisfying experience in which no feelings are actually harmed. From a set of phrases, you have to build up a series of effective insults against your opponent and win the day.
Price: $1.99 | AU$2.79 | £2.09 (Android); $1.99 | AU$2.99 | £1.49 (iOS)
All a side-scrolling platformer really needs to elevate it beyond the plethora of similar games on the mobile market is a compelling story and an interesting mechanic. Thus it is with Retsnom, the tale of a man whose small daughter is infected with a zombie virus. To save her, he has to navigate the zombie infested, labyrinthine laboratory gathering up the technology that will save her, using a "mirror" ability that flips parts of the environment to break through to inaccessible zones.
Price: $0.99 | AU$1.19 | £0.89 (Android); $0.99 | AU$1.49 | £0.79 (iOS)
Another game of the stealth variety, darkly humorous Party Hard Go is a little bit different. Rather than infiltration, your goal is the mass murder of your annoying party-loud neighbours. However, if you're seen about your dark endeavours, you'll be caught and your spree will be over, so you have to stop and observe, seeing the patterns of your quarry's behaviour, carefully planning out who to take down next.
Price: $6.99 | AU$8.99 | £6.49 (Android); $6.99 | AU$10.99 | £4.99 (iOS)
What do you get if you take Jetpack Joyride, mix it with VVVVV, give it a fabulous sci-fi makeover, pare it down to just two buttons and make it punishingly twitchy? RunGunJumpGun wears its influences proudly, but it brings something new. The tech you use to "fly" is your gun, and you need to make split-second decisions on when to use it to fly and when to use it to blast through obstacles, with no time to weigh your options. It's a wonderfully balanced, tremendously fun game to play.
Price: $2.99 | AU$4.29 | £3.19 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
Side-scrolling 2D strategy game SteamWorld heist is a real treat. You control a team of robots invading and robbing a variety of rival spaceships, using each robot's abilities to get in and out and complete your objectives. You have to take down foes and retrieve loot, taking turns to move and fire. It's stylishly executed, and makes use of excellent bullet physics to give you an edge over the robotic heavies you have to take down.
Price: $6.99 | AU$10.99 | £4.99
Riptide GP: Renegade is one of those games that seems like it would be impossible on mobile, the graphics are just so jaw-droppingly gorgeous. A jetski-style racing video, it sees you, a disgraced former champion, competing against other racers, performing stunts and defeating bosses for a chance to reclaim your former glory. It's built on the developer's own engine, and plays like a dream, honestly.
Price: $2.99 | AU$3.99 | £2.49 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
I'm a bit partial to machine sentience, so interactive fiction Komrad pretty much caught my immediate attention. You, a human, have to gain the trust of AI Komrad at the behest of a mysterious person who delivers orders via text message. Komrad doesn't know that the Cold War has ended, and doesn't know the professor who programmed it is long gone; but it contains vital secrets, and only you can unlock them. Written by one of the programmers of IBM Watson, and playing out in real-time, it's an engrossing glimpse at what AI could one day become.
Price: $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29
Rule With an Iron Fish is, sure, a fishing game, and it does pretty much what it says on the tin. But it does it with whimsy, panache, and a knack for progression that makes it an absolute delight to play. You have to wander about your island base, taking quests from the islanders, usually to score a particular fish, all of which are cute and fun and allow you to upgrade everything. It's tremendously rewarding, and you'll have a hard time putting it down.
Price: $2.99 | AU$3.89 | £2.79 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
Smash Hit developer Mediocre has applied Smash Hit-esque gameplay to pinball, and the result is eminently playable. You have to keep your pinball moving up an endless maze, collecting time as you go to give you enough to beat the tougher levels. It pits you, basically, against yourself, an eminently replayable battle to best your own times and perfect each stage of the maze, all in gorgeous neon (and with Easter egg mini-games that you can play for precious extra seconds).
Replica has been called "Papers, Please" with mobile phones, but it's a little more complicated than that. You are being held in a cell. You are given a mobile phone. You have to dig up every bit of dirt on the phone's owner that your captors ask for, or you'll never be allowed to go free. It's creepy, discomfiting and entirely brilliant.
Price: 1.99 | AU$2.59 | £1.89 (Android); $1.99 | AU$2.99 | £1.49 (iOS)
Submerged is the fourth game from the Australia-based creator of Epoch, and it's a big departure from the studio's cover-based shooter. It follows the adventures of a young teen girl, Miku, searching a deserted sunken city for the resources to help her wounded brother. While there are some puzzle elements, overall the game is a peaceful exploration experience that allows you to take your time and unravel Miku's story, and the story of the city.
Price: $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99
1.51exfiltrati0n.ipa takes place about midway through the first season of the USA Network's "Mr. Robot". The conceit is that you have found a phone -- and now you are being given social engineering tasks to perform. It's not quite as deep a game as I would have liked (I'd love an alternate reality-style game where you find a phone and have to solve a series of problems to explore it), but it was a peculiarly fascinating and emotional experience, and I was extremely sorry when it ended. More like this, please.
Price: $2.99 | AU$3.89 | £2.79 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
Solitairica is what you get if you mix Solitaire with a turn-based roguelike. The gameplay is a little bit like Solitaire in that you have to create sequences of cards until there are none left, but you have to take down an opponent in the meantime. Eliminating cards fills four meters, based on the card's type, and you can then use these points to deploy powers that you collect as you play. These all disappear if you die, but you can unlock new decks and deck-based power-ups that give you a stronger advantage against your foes, each of which have different abilities you have to defeat. It's really well thought out, beautiful to look at and fun to play.
Price: Free (Android); $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99(iOS)
Fast-paced top-down rogue-lite shooter Leap of Fate borrows from action RPG Hand of Fate in that both games determine the level and monsters you'll be fighting with a random hand of cards, but Leap makes enough of a departure gameplay-wise that it's its own beastie. You face hordes of foes, and the only way you can defeat them is by making use of your ability to step through the shadows -- a sort of teleportation skill that gives you an edge. It's slick, stylish and contains a surprising amount of depth, combining that basic teleport ability with a range of skills.
Price: $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £3.49 (Android);$3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99 (iOS)
If you played Botanicula and Machinarium, you already know what you're getting in for with Amanita Design's Samorost 3: A detailed, whimsical and utterly charming experience that will take some delightfully unexpected twists and turns. In this point-and-click adventure puzzler, you take the role of a strange space gnome who uses a magic flute to travel from planet to planet to find its home world.
Price: $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £3.99 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
Arcade game Nightgate is an interesting mix of a game. You are tasked with flying around a network of intelligent computers called Nightgate, the last "lifeform" left on Earth in the year 2398. You have to activate nodes while dodging the computer's defense systems, then moving onto the next level, all in a strange geometric space. It's mellow, but at the same time there's a sort of surreal tension to it -- a taste of what it might be like to go up against a vast machine mind.
Price: $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99
It's pretty hard to improve on the Tetris formula, and when Lumines was released in 2004 it didn't necessarily do so, but it did offer a fresh take -- like a more complicated version of Dr. Mario, without the viruses. It's still crazy fun to play, and a welcome reprieve from the frustratingly IAP-laden versions of Tetris for mobile.
Price: $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.89 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
If you're the kind who loves fiddly RPG details, Siralim 2 is your next great time-sink. It's a dungeon-crawler where you need to collect monsters to fight with you, combining RPG, procedural death labyrinth and roguelike elements into a (literally) neverending game with customisation, crafting and collecting right down to the finest detail.
Price: $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £4.49 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
Legend of the Skyfish seems heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda, but with some awesome twists. It's not an adventure game, but a puzzle game -- and the only tool at your disposal to solve the levels and fight enemies is a fishing rod, with which you can jump from island to island (like a hookshot). Hiding behind a sweet facade is a game that will give you a run for your money.
Price: 1.99 | AU$2.69 | £1.89 (Android); $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99 (iOS)
Pokemon Go has generated a lot of controversy, and yes, it's as buggy as all heck. However, in just the first month, the map-based cute-monster-hunting game has seen over 100 million downloads. Before now, augmented reality games using real-world data were few. Love it or loathe it, it's possible Pokemon Go will change mobile gaming forever.
If you've ever fancied yourself starship captain material, Quaser One is your chance, but not in the way you think. It's a bit like Out There, in that permadeath-trying-to-survive-space-alone sort of way, but where Out There was about resource management, Quaser One is about performing critical ship repairs before something breaks. You're woken from cryosleep because everything is going wrong, and the game becomes a frantic race against time.
Price: $0.99 | AU$1.19 | £0.79 (Android); $0.99 | AU$1.49 | £0.79 (iOS)
Hyperburner is a simple concept, but it's executed so beautifully. You have to smoothly pilot your upgradeable ship through 30 levels of obstacles. Imagine trying to pilot a ship through a really tight asteroid field with no guns and limited shields. The look and sound of the game is just superb, and the highly customisable control system makes playing the game a really lovely experience.
Price: 2.99 | AU$3.99 | £2.79 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
Double Fine is a big name today, and part of the reason for that success is because founder Tim Schafer made his name making games at LucasArts. One of the very first games he worked on was point-and-click horror-comedy Day of the Tentacle, and it's become a cult icon for good reason. Its release now on iOS is perfect.
Price: $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99
It's probably safe to say there's nothing that looks like what DrinkBox is doing, first with the brightly-coloured Guacamelee, now with Severed. In it, you play a one-armed warrior named Sasha searching for her lost family in a land riddled with monsters. Severing and using their body parts allows you to get stronger.
Price: $5.99 | AU$9.99 | £4.49
Crypt of the Necrodancer is a dungeon crawler like no other. It's basically a procedural death labyrinth, but the gameplay is based on rhythm -- you have to move in time with the beat using your choice of control system (taps or swipes), learning the monsters' rhythms to take them out without taking damage yourself. It's an odd mash-up, but a brilliantly inspired one.
Price: $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99
From the creator of Skiing Yeti Mountain comes the very odd but utterly compelling Rodeo Stampede. It's sort of a one-touch endless runner, but you need to lasso yourself from animal to animal, finding new ones to fill up your zoo and completing quests to improve your zoo and get exclusive boss animals.
If you like 'em spooky and strange, point-and-click puzzler Bulb Boy is something you need to take a look at. It stars a little boy with a glowing light-bulb head trying to save his loved ones from the encroaching darkness and monsters therein.
Price: 2.49 | AU$3.39 | £2.29 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
With charming, hand-sketched art style, excellent audio, a great sense of humour and the gameplay itself, Guild of Dungeoneering is a winner. For each dungeon, you choose your hero and then build your dungeon as you go, including monsters and treasure, by playing cards. Combat is also card-based, and as you explore more and unlock upgrades, you get stronger. You'll need it, too: Once an adventurer is dead, they're not coming back.
Price: $3.99 | AU$5.49 | £3.69 (Android); $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99 (iOS)
Imbroglio is Michael Brough's take on the RPG dungeon crawl, condensed into a four-by-four grid, with randomised wall elements, a variety of monsters and tools to fight them, and a levelling system. Each play is self-contained, but the way you learn the game unfolds slowly, so that you become better as you figure out what everything on the board means.
Price: $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99
A good meatspace party game is hard to find...but Who Lurks ticks all the right boxes. It's kind of like Clue mixed with John Carpenter's "The Thing". The setting for the game is a spacecraft, and one of the players is a shape-shifting alien bent on total annihilation. The players have to figure out who the alien is before it's too late.
Games don't really get much lovelier than Never Alone, a beautiful story about a girl and a fox, working together to solve platformer puzzles across levels inspired by Inupiaq stories. Developer Upper One Games worked in collaboration with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council to create an interactive experience that's both emotionally compelling and educational, interweaving unlockable videos about indigenous Alaskan folklore and culture.
Price: $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
The game that lets you romance pigeons in a post-apocalyptic world that has literally gone to the birds has now come to mobile. It's routinely described as one of the oddest, silliest dating sims ever made, but it also comes with an oddly compelling story.
Price: $4.99 | AU$6.99 | £4.19 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
From the developer behind Little Inferno (and set in the same world) comes Human Resource Machine, a game that tasks you with using basic programming to conduct menial office tasks. It's pretty easy to understand gameplay, but will really make you think about the best order in which to automate a task -- an awesome introduction to programming, a fun game for programming types, or just a standalone puzzle game for those who don't wish to take it further. And, of course, there's a wonderfully sinister story that unfolds as the game progresses...
Price: $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £4.49 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
I don't know where the idea for War Tortoise came from, but frankly, this entire game is just wonderful. It's a sort of tower defence-cum-clicker where you have to defend your stationary armoured tortoise (why does a tortoise need armour?) against the invading hordes of other small creatures, such as enemy rats and beetles. You do this with an array of upgradeable weaponry and troops, including snipers, air support and heavy units.
After a while you can automate the battle process, and the game becomes about upgrading your tortoise and units to dispatch the waves of critter enemies in the most efficient way possible, and moving on to the next generation of stronger, better tortoise. Then it gets more difficult still, and you'll need to juggle both manual battling and unit management. It's a stylishly whimsical war game, and measures up to the gold standard we've come to expect of developer Foursaken.
This is the first game from two-person outfit Risky Lab, and it bodes extremely well for their future. Warbits is a sweet and funny turn-based strategy game cut from the same cloth as Advance Wars, but it's refined and updated it for a whole new generation. The premise is that the game is a tool used by alien races to settle important disputes, rather than that whole nasty going to war thing, and the idea is to take out your foes and capture the most territory before your opponent does, using a variety of different units optimised for different tasks.
The entire game was built with the mobile experience in mind, so scenarios don't become long or drawn out; indeed, part of the challenge lies in maximising your efficiency to out-think your opponent. And, in addition to its 20-mission single-player campaign, it has a very robust online multiplayer, with various play modes, including free-for-all, 1-on-1 and 2-on-2. And you can create your own custom battles if that doesn't float your boat.
It's extremely well thought-out and designed, and offers one of the best turn-based tactical experiences we've seen for mobile yet.
Price: $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99
It's pretty obvious right from the outset just how much care has gone into Goo Saga. The side-scrolling platformer sees a tiny ball of bouncy goo escaping from a laboratory and setting off in search of its creator. There's something really delightfully tactile about the goo ball. It makes squishy noises as it rolls, and you can inflate and deflate it to make it bouncier or squeeze it into tight spaces respectively. And the levels are genuinely challenging, too, with hidden traps and hazards, for all the game's approachable cuteness.
And there's a definite curve, too. You can complete levels in three degrees of difficulty in order to collect crystals, which allow you in turn to upgrade the goo's abilities, making later levels easier. A platformer as well balanced and as polished as this is a joy.
Price: $4.99 | AU$5.99 | £3.99 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)
Zenge is a bit of an oddity. It's a puzzle game, and the puzzles become "pages" in the story of Eon, a traveller between worlds. You have to piece it together, quite literally, by sliding the puzzle pieces into position, moving other pieces out of the way along tracks so they're not blocking your path. It looks pretty straightforward, but it ramps up the complexity as you play. That said, it never leaves you feeling frustrated, either. The game has no timers or move limits, which means you can take as much time as you need to solve a level, resulting in a really soothing experience.
Price: $0.99 | AU$0.99 | £0.99 (Android); $0.99 | AU$1.49 | £0.79 (iOS); $0.99 | AU$1.19 | £0.79 (WP)
This one is from the team who made the Quell puzzle games, and it's a variation on the theme of match-three. You can only move a specific type of piece on the gameboard, and each level has a different challenge. So while you're on familiar territory with the basic match-three gameplay, it rapidly becomes challenging and strategic, rather than purely reactionary.
There's also an endless mode, so once you've finished going through the levels, you can challenge yourself to get better and better scores.
Price: $0.99 | AU$2.00 | £0.99 (Android); $0.99 | AU$1.49 | £0.79 (iOS)
The first Train Conductor game dropped in late 2009, and The Voxel Agents have grown a lot in that time. Take a look at some screenshots, then compare and contrast with the third and latest game in the series, Train Conductor World. The original game saw you guiding trains along tracks to the correct egress across the screen, making sure they don't crash into one another. That core gameplay hasn't changed, but it's undergone a pretty significant upgrade, introducing curved tracks, 3D graphics and build-your-own track configurations. It's the best Train Conductor game yet.
There have been some great board games released on mobile this year (shout outs to Forbidden Desert and Tsuro), but quilting-themed two-player game Patchwork is outstanding. The game combines two boards: The gameboard that players move around, and the blanket board, which determines how the players move. Each takes turns stitching pieces into their blanket; each piece stitched will determine how many moves along the board the player can make. The pieces that can be used depend on how many buttons the player has, which is also dependent on careful stitching. It's surprisingly deep and strategic. There's an excellent AI mode for single player games, and you can play both locally and online against a human opponent.
Price: $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
Indie puzzler Furdemption was pretty solid straight out of the gate, so sequel King Rabbit didn't need to change much at all. The gameplay is still excellent, moving around a top-down map as you try to figure out how to get to the goal without dying. However, the new game has been tweaked slightly so that the difficulty curve is just a bit gentler, making it a much more balanced and user-friendly experience.
Price: $0.99 | AU$1.49 | £0.79
Interactive fiction is a medium that's really been stretching its wings in the digital space. Scott Leach's Able Black takes the story of an android taking a test to determine whether he will live or die, and mixes it up with brain-teasing puzzles. Comparisons to Simogo's Device 6 are inevitable, but Leach's creation is a different sort of beastie. Where Device 6 challenged you to find the puzzles and answers in the text, Able Black is a bit more straightforward, and very different in tone. It's as much about getting into Able's head and trying to figure out the best way to survive as it is about solving the actual puzzles. It's a dark and lovely thing.
Price: $1.99 | AU$2.59 | £1.79 (Android); $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99 (iOS)
Circa Infinity is going to drive you mad, by way of fun. You control a little pixel-person who has to hop an endless series of concentric circles, jumping from the outer circumference to the inner, and onto the next circle when it's close enough to jump onto. It's very intuitive gameplay, which is good, because the gameplay very quickly ramps up to ludicrous, the circles filling with obstacles that you have to leap in order to reach the next circle. However, it does really well at keeping the frustration at bay by simply knocking you back a circle when you get hit.
_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.
Price: $2.99 | AU$4.23 | £2.47 (Android); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
Just as rymdkapsel was Swedish developer Grapefrukt's interpretation of real-time strategy, Twofold Inc is its interpretation of matching. Like rymdkapsel, you really do have to play it to understand it (although the trailer should give you an idea). Basically, you have to draw lines to join the blocks to make up numbers. There's a sort of Threes-ish feel to it thanks to the exponentially increasing numbers, mixed with Grapefrukt's lovely minimalist style.
Price: $3.99 | AU$4.99 | £2.99 (Android); $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99 (iOS)
Super Phantom Cat also manages to raise itself high above the mobile side-scrolling platformer average, through sheer force of personality and general excellence. Developer Veewo has managed to perfectly balance the gameplay, and the resulting game is so hard to put down. You're the little cat, exploring levels to collect stars and coins and make it to the exit. There are enemies to jump on, power-ups to help you along the way, and secret areas to find and explore. What you're trying to do is become a superhero, and running around platform levels is apparently your key to success. It's utterly charming, and about as perfect as a platformer can get.
Price: $1.99 | AU$2.99 | £1.49
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.
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.
Price: $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29
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 upward as quickly as you can manage. You can also collect new masks that give you different abilities. It's frenzied, frenetic and gloriously retro, at its 8-bit best.
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.
Price: $3.47 | AU$4.89 | £2.99 (Android); $3.99 | AU$5.99 | £2.99 (iOS)
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.
Crashlands is kind of like Don't Starve for people who got frustrated by the unforgiving survival elements. You're a space truck driver, crash landed on an alien planet. You have to gather resources, build a base and gradually craft your way to getting off-world. It's not all aimless, though. You'll find yourself, as you progress through the game, fulfilling quests, which marks it further apart from Don't Starve, in which gameplay is more or less sandbox, with the aim being to stay alive as long as possible.
With no such constraints (you can die in Crashlands, but you respawn without losing anything), the game becomes a very different prospect, less fraught with careful conservation of resources, and more guided and combative. It is, however, massively fun.
Price: $4.99 | AU$7.21 | £4.22 (Android); $4.99 | AU$7.99 | £3.99 (iOS)