If you were around in the 80s, you might have played a DOS-based RPG or two, built on ASCII graphics. The first of these was a 1980 game called Rogue, and although it doesn't look like much now, it came to define an entire genre of dungeon crawlers, now known as "roguelikes" or "procedural death labyrinths". One of its descendants was 1987's NetHack, and NetHack is the foundation for Pathos.
If you've ever played a PDL, you know the drill. Patrol the procedurally generated dungeon, killing foes and collecting loot, travelling ever deeper until you die. Pathos may look a little rough around the edges graphics-wise, but it's absolutely true to its roots, and works beautifully on the mobile platform.
I met the arrival of Lifeline 2 with initial glee, then disappointment when I realised that the new game had nothing to do with Taylor's story from the first game. In Silent Night, Taylor's adventure indeed continues. Even though the original game was just three days long, it's like reuniting with an old friend. Silent Night picks up a little while from where Lifeline left off, with Taylor safely collected from being marooned on the strange moon... only, of course, to be facing an entirely new peril.
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.
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.
If you've ever played Harvest Moon, you know exactly what you're in for with Seeds of Memories: A bottomless hole of finicky farming resource management. And if you've ever played Harvest Moon, you know that there's something relentlessly compelling about it, and that you're going to get sucked right in. This is developer Natsume's first foray into mobile for the franchise, and the art is a little rough as you can see from the trailer, but it's still a solid Harvest Moon experience.
Grayout is the prequel to a game called Blackbar, a game about censorship in a 1984-style totalitarian state. Where Blackbar sees you filling in the blanks, though, Grayout is closer to an approximation of a condition called aphasia, an impairment of communication. You take the role of Alaine, a young woman who was in an accident and paralysed -- or, at least, that's what the doctors tell you. You must piece together your story by selecting the right words to advance your communication, figuring out how you got where you are, and how you can get out again.
The Westport Independent also takes place under a 1984-style regime. The self-described "censorship simulator" sees you taking the role of the editor at an independent newspaper, having to censor stories to make them more palatable to the government. It shares much of its DNA with Papers, Please in both visual style and tone, having you act in ways that may run counter to your own code of ethics in order to make a point.
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.
Lost in Harmony takes the endless runner and weds it with the rhythm game with delightful smoothness. As you race your skateboard facing towards the player, you'll need to dodge elements in time with gorgeous classical music tracks. The gameplay is mixed with sections where you'll also have to tap the screen in time with trickier parts of the music, and collect sparkle dust as you go. It's a splendid mix of gameplay elements that will keep you on your fingertips.
It also contains a rather heart-wrenching story about battling cancer, and part of the proceeds from purchasable in-game items are donated towards cancer research.
Crashlands is kind of a bit 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.
Based on a 1967 short story of the same name by Harlan Ellison, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream was a 1995 point-and-click adventure game, in which a malevolent supercomputer toys with five humans, having them complete strange quests. Like the short story, although the two diverge quite wildly in terms of narrative (both written by Ellison), the game was an emotionally wrenching affair, forcing the players to make difficult choices, a nightmare of confronting the worst parts of humanity. Considered one of the best horror games ever made, it has been remastered here for mobile, including Ellison's original voice acting as the evil computer.
This one is not for children, by the way. If you have kids, make sure they can't access this game.
You know how there are some games that just ooze love? That's Captain Cowboy.
As Captain Cowboy, you have to traverse the giant space maze, carefully working around the boulders to avoid getting crushed, collecting diamonds and dancing at the space disco. It's the little flourishes that make it so lovely to play, such as the CRT-style scanlines, and the secrets hidden throughout the maze. Also make sure to give the trailer a watch, it's quite wonderful.
There's not a lot to spin-circle, but it does what it does pretty much perfectly. You control a dot on a circle. You have to rocket around the circle collecting other dots, while evading a barrage of squares that fly in from outside the circle. Your score is determined by how many dots you can collect before the inevitable collision. It's a twitchy, intuitive little time-waster, and a game you won't regret having in your back pocket on the bus.
One Scribblenauts game is much like any other Scribblenauts game in that you know exactly what you're getting. Scribblenauts Unlimited sees you travelling across a map, using your creativity help the people and creatures you encounter by finding words that solve their problems. It's a little bit easier than previous Scribblenauts games, which means it will go by quicker. If you're a Scribblenauts fan, it's absolutely worth picking up.
The side-scrolling platformer on mobile is really tricky to get right. One way is to do it like Blown Away. It looks like a jumping platformer, but there is no jumping involved. Instead, you teleport. Your little guy, Hendrik, auto-walks across the screen, and you have to choose spots to teleport to so you don't run into peril (and collect the pieces of Hendrik's house). It's more difficult than it sounds. You have a battery meter that needs to recharge, so you can't just teleport over and over, and you have to make sure you land somewhere with enough distance to recharge your battery for the next teleport. You also have to make sure you're not teleporting straight into a monster or off a ledge.
Levels are short and sweet, and it's cute as a button to boot.
Price: Free (Android, full game unlocked via IAP); $2.99 | AU$4.49 | £2.29 (iOS)
Rusty Lake Hotel
This point-and-click room escape game is diabolically delightful. Five animals are spending the night at the hotel. Five dinners are to be served, with five delicious meats on the menu. As a hotel worker, you will have to enter each guest's room to solve their requests... and find the ingredients you need for each night's meal.
A good snowman may be hard to build, but it's a soothing pleasure to play. In this adorable puzzler, you have to build snowpeople by rolling the balls to exactly the right size and stacking them. Planning out how to roll the balls takes some thought, and it's just so gorgeously put together.
There's something rather strange and lovely about Knotmania. The premise is that humans find long, springy, wormy aliens, all tied up in knots, and you have to untangle them. The physics are really quite pleasing, and slowly teasing apart the knots brings with it a lovely sense of satisfaction. If you're the kind of person who enjoys untangling necklace chains and peeling labels off jars, this game is absolutely for you.
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.
If you've never played an incremental game before, it might be advisable to turn back now. Candy Box, A Dark Room, Cookie Clicker, Trimps, Clicker Heroes... they're all bottomless pits of endlessly increasing numbers, and you swear you'll stop, you just want to gather a few more...
Invisible Dragons is evil. There, I said it. We've seen incremental games on mobile before, but Invisible Dragons, where you collect resources to build ever more powerful dragons, is compatible with the Apple Watch. It's actually the first thing that's made me seriously want an Apple Watch. I may have a clicker problem.