Oscura was among the early dark and spooky side-scrolling
platformers on mobile back in 2011, making the most of the silhouette figures
on an atmospherically coloured background. The sequel once again sees you
travelling across a shadowy land, restoring light, collecting the scattered
crystals from the shattered lighthouse to return the world to its former glory.
For all its style, though, Oscura Second Shadow is also a game of substance: you
will die, a lot, and the challenge becomes how perfectly you can complete each
level to collect those hard-earned medals.
If you like World of Tanks, well, World of Tanks Blitz will
be your new favourite mobile iteration of blowing things up from giant armoured
vehicles. It is, by necessity, scaled back somewhat, but it looks amazing on a
tablet, with controls optimised for touchscreen, over 90 tanks from the German,
US and Russian armies and seven-vs-seven PvP for shorter, more intense games.
There's something meditative about origami -- but something
quite challenging as well. It's this combination that has been captured so
neatly in Paperama. On each level, you are given a shape, and you need to fold
the paper to fit that shape as accurately as possible in order to progress to
the next level. There are no timers, and no penalties for getting it wrong --
you can try as many times as you like, purchasing hints as you desire (although
some are given free as you progress). It's one of those deeply engrossing
puzzle games that manages not to stress you out in the process.
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake tells the story of Niko, who wakes up to find
that… monsters have absconded with the delicious cake he was saving for
breakfast. It has an adorable vector art style (which is actually the subject of a plagiarism claim, so that might be worth checking out and drawing your own
conclusions), the game is a series of puzzles where you have to figure out how
to reach the cake, coins and other goodies with the help of your monster
friends -- while avoiding getting caught by the cake-eating meanies. It's perfectly
playable in bite-sized pieces, with a smooth difficulty curve that ramps up to
a deep sense of satisfaction when you do manage to solve a particularly tricky stage.
In a post-apocalyptic world, nuclear war has devastated the
planet, and it's only through the use of a giant greenhouse that the world can
be oxygenated. As gardener Andy Sprout, you just want to do your job, splat the
mutated aphids and have a nice cup of coffee -- but on this particular day,
something new has come to the plant plant. The gameplay consists of
side-scrolling platformer puzzles -- you have to figure out how to use the bugs
to your advantage, avoid being eaten, and splatter the bugs when you're done.
It's a nice mix of strategy and action.
Caption byMichelle Starr / Photo by The National Filmschool of Denmark
As a Gameloft-published title, this one comes
with an IAP warning, but you shouldn't let that deter you from at least
checking it out, because it's also a highly polished game based around jousting. As a knight at the bottom of the ranks, you need to joust
your way to the top to win the grand prize. Gameplay has two core quick time-style
mechanics: a meter, where you have to tap the screen when the indicator reaches
the sweet spot to speed your horse; and aiming at a reticule on your opponent's
armour to unseat them. These actually work really well together for a decent
game of skill and speed.
Usually in racing games, the point is to go
faster than all the other cars and be the first to complete all your laps of
the course. In Wrong Way Racing, it's… not. You and three other NPC cars are
racing a two-lane, oval course. Your goal is to make as many circuits as
possible going the wrong way, changing lanes to avoid the other cars. It's
silly, yes, but great fun -- and surprisingly difficult.
This game is kind of like Tetris in that you're
dropping bricks to fit together -- and it even uses the Tetrimino shapes -- but
that's where the similarities end. The aim is to build the tallest wizard tower
that you can by stacking up the blocks, but physics are in effect, meaning that
they don't necessarily fit together as neatly as you might like -- and that,
eventually, it's bound to come crashing down. You do have magic spells to help
you keep things together, but your rival -- the evil wizard -- will be working
to undermine your efforts with his own spells.
Before Super Hexagon, Terry Cavanagh made VVVVVV, the tale of a lone astronaut left
behind on a failing spacecraft, trying to find a way to teleport to safety.
Like its chiptune soundtrack, side-scrolling platform format and 8-bit graphics
imply, it's old-school brutal, as you flip gravity to avoid hazards --
sometimes requiring razor-sharp timing. Don't forget to pick up the free
companion app, Super Gravitron, the minigame playable at the end of the
original Flash game (Android
Double Fine's beleaguered
Broken Age finally arrived for PC earlier this year -- and now it's dropped for iPad too. And yes --
it's absolutely worth the wait. Its production values are through the roof --
beautifully acted and animated, split between the two characters -- Vella, who
is trying to escape being made a village sacrifice, and Shane, who is trying to
escape the boring routine of life on a space vessel.
Lex is kind of like playing Scrabble with yourself. You're
given a set of letters with which to form words -- but there's a catch. All
letters are on a timer, and when a letter timer runs out, it's round over. This
means that you need to use letters quickly -- and older letters faster, since
they'll run out sooner. It's surprisingly tricky, even for the most seasoned
Blood & Laurels, penned by Emily Short (one of
the finest creators of interactive fiction) is a riveting read: as a humble
poet in ancient Rome, Marcus, your job is to make your master look good; but
when an oracle gives you news that could change the fate of the empire, you
have to make some fast decisions -- and try to stay alive. Each part of the
two-part story can be played in four different ways: glory, loyalty, piety or
self-preservation, giving you some pretty hefty replay options. You can also
get achievements based on the ending you reach -- and choose a partner to fall
Continuing on the ancient Rome theme is Qvadriga -- a racing
game with chariots. It's not, however, your standard zooming-around-the-track
racer; it's a lot more complicated. It's more a strategy game, with your colour
faction giving you various advantages. As you race around the track, you can
periodically take actions, such as whipping your horses, stabilising your
chariot, accelerating and decelerating. Each action has consequences; whipping
your horses too much will injure them, whereas reckless driving will see you
crash, whether it be going too fast, hugging the inner wall and scraping your
chariot -- even trying to play it safe can see you go head over heels. The aim
isn't to be the fastest, but to be the last chariot standing.
As far as endless runners go (or in this case, endless silly
walkers), the officially Monty Python-licensed Ministry of Silly Walks game
isn't anything special: you avoid obstacles by jumping over them and sliding
under, and collect coins to upgrade your outfit. For fans of the Python lads,
though, it does have that special silly walks flavour (no, not albatross).
If there's one thing the world needs more of, it's battle
mech. Steel Mayhem: Battle Commander gives you your very own upgradeable battle
mech as the Sheriff of Galactic Security to battle hordes of other mecha,
armoured vehicles and other foes in a massive, non-linear, 60-mission campaign.
2004's Sky Force has received a special HD remake and port
for its 10th anniversary -- and it's arcade shoot-em-up at its best.
The controls are simple: you slide your finger around on the screen to control
your plane, dodging enemies and gunfire, while trying to blast them out of
the sky and rescue civilians. Stars scatter when you destroy a foe, which can
be collected to exchange for upgrades. And it's just graphically beautiful.
As with Gameloft, EA games come with an IAP caveat, but if
you're into golfing titles, this one is solid, and you can play it in
increments without having to spend money, since your lives regenerate over time.
The controls are optimised for touchscreen: you hold your finger on the screen
to swing, then swipe up when the club is at the right point to hit the ball,
with the line of your swipe influencing the direction of the ball. When the
ball is in the air, you can make small swipes to spin it close to your goal,
and points are awarded for how accurately you hit.
Every month, it seems, we have a new PDL to wet our
permadeath whistles. June's excellent contribution is Tales of the Adventure Company -- a
lo-fi tile-based version. You have only 99 turns per game to track down and
kill the Lich -- and those turns go quickly. Each level of the dungeon consists
of a five-by-five tile grid, so you have to strategically plan which tiles to
explore and how to manage your health; using a campfire to heal party members
uses up 10 turns. It's an interesting and refreshing take on the genre.
If you like Carcasonne and
Downfall of Pompeii, Damn Little Town -- which was inspired by both of those games --
will be right up your alley. The game takes place in two stages: first, you
place your tiles and your dudes, trying to create clear paths towards the
temples in the four corners of the map, while an enemy AI places their own
pieces (multiplayer can be unlocked by buying the full game via IAP). In the
second stage, you and your foe try to block each other's exist by placing
monsters to gobble up the fleeing dudes.