Top five free Android games: Waste your time, but not your money

We all like messing about, and we've all got mobile phones, so it makes sense to combine the two. Happily, there are several excellent games for Android phones

Ian Morris
6 min read

Our favourite Apple joke is that the Mac has one game -- Marathon -- and Apple users are still playing it 250 years after it was first released. Horrifically, it seems we won't be able to use this time-honoured material much longer, as Apple is on its way to becoming one of the leaders in mobile gaming -- all because of the iPhone. It's not the only smart phone platform, of course, and Google's Android OS is building up a fine library of its own.

We've put together a list of the best value (free) games you can lay your hands on at the moment for Android. If you've got one of the rapidly expanding number of Android phones, this should help you get more out of it. You might find you're no longer bored on the train, and that time spent in the doctor's waiting room just flies by. You might also find that your battery lasts 17 minutes, and you get really angry when someone calls and the game resets. But we can't really help with that.

You can download all of these games over the air, simply by searching in the Android Market. Let us know your favourite Android games in the comments section below, and feel free to berate our pathetically inadequate choices. Game on...

Seriously, we can't put this wretched game down. People are starting to look at us funny on the Metropolitan line, because we're muttering, cursing and generally stabbing a tiny glass screen while our face is contorted in an agony of concentration. Indeed, we're working so hard to play this game we're actually too tired to work -- and we're having to nap at our desks quite a bit to recover.

It's a hugely entertaining Puzzle Bobble-style reaction-tester. The aim is to fire brightly coloured balls from a brightly coloured cannon. When you get three brightly coloured balls in a row, they disappear and you get some points. The tension of the comes as the balls wind their merry way towards a little yin-yang symbol. For some reason, the yin yang wants to eat your brightly coloured balls -- hey, it makes as much sense a blue hedgehog running around picking up rings. If it succeeds in swallowing your spherical friends, you lose.

We've played Bonsai Blast pretty much non-stop since we downloaded it. You may find it becomes a problem during your morning editorial meeting when, apparently, game playing is frowned upon.

Abduction has six game modes, starting at 'kids' and finishing with something called 'evil infinite'. So far, we've only been able to play it on the kids mode, which puts us in our place, but is preferable to smashing the HTC Magic into a thousand small fragments.

We aren't entirely sure what the aim is, or why you're playing as a bouncing cow, but it seems that at some point some bovine abduction has occurred, and it's your job to bounce happily up a series of platforms until you reach a spaceship at the end. On the way, you'll encounter presents, which when opened by your cattle-based avatar will give you little bonuses, like the ability to jump higher.

You're punished with fewer platforms though, which is very upsetting. On your way up, you'll encounter parachuting cows -- interacting with them will yield a bonus and is well worth doing.

Overall, this game is a great big cowpat of fun, but it's really flipping difficult unless you play it on the kiddie mode. Humiliating, but still a hoot.

If you can play this game without hearing the "you sank my battleship" line from The Simpsons, we'll be very impressed indeed. There isn't much anyone can say that will persuade us that Battleship isn't one of the greatest games ever devised. And now, you can play it on your Android phone! For free!

Now, let's get the bad bits out of the way. This game was clearly not designed for Android handsets initially, because moving the ships into your desired location is next to impossible. Certainly, positioning them with even the slightest degree of accuracy is nearly impossible. Where they end up is really just a matter of random luck. It also appears that the computer can rotate its ships to be both horizontally and vertically orientated. We couldn't for the life of us make our boats go vertically.

But the lack of positioning flexibility pales into insignificance when you consider what a cheating swine the stinking computer is. Almost certainly it will hit one of your ships straight away. And why is that, you might ask? Well obviously because the swotting thing knows where all your boats are -- after all, you did tell it. It would be fairer if the game let you write down where your ships are, then asked you if it had hit one. That's sadly not an option here -- so you'll have to deal with a dastardly horrid cheat.

It's terrific fun, honestly.

If you can somehow get past the atrocious spelling in the name, you'll find a terrific little tower defence game here. You don't get the whole game for free, but the demo is smashing anyway. Basically, the deal is that robots want to crush your human flesh and use your blood as some sort of newfangled robo-lubricant for their robotic joints. Your job is to protect your arse and the arses of those flesh-and-bone sacks closest to you.

Regrettably, unlike lazy humans, robots will never give up. Their bodies may be destroyed, but there is always more metal. You must construct suitable defences to ward them off. As they march in generally quite a straight line, this means making a corridor of massive weaponry. The problem is, while you're chuckling about how stupid these robots are, they're thinking of new ways to humble you. This might involve sending a flying robot, or lots of tanks, which we found had the desired effect of breaching our defences and making us look like fleshy idiots.

You get 20 lives and each time a metal maniac breaches your defences, you lose a life. So, the goal is to ward off as many invaders as possible, and thus survive longer than your last go. To help, you get three different kinds of weapon -- a gun tower, a rocket launcher and a slowy-downy ray.

We, for one, welcome our invading robot horde overlords.

You could be forgiven for looking at this article about Android games and come to the conclusion that we're obsessed with playing with balls. Cestos is the second ball-based game in this roundup, but with good reason. The first thing that strikes us is how incredibly awesome it is to have a mobile phone game that works online. That's right, Cestos is a multiplayer Android game -- so you'll need a mobile Web connection to fire it up, but it finds opponents automatically.

The second thing that's awesome about this game is it's got absolutely no tactics associated with it whatsoever. If you plan the move you're about to make, you over-think things. In fact, it's so fast you'll feel like the sort of person who stands in the milk aisle at Sainsbury's trying to decide if you want skimmed or semi-skimmed for 20 minutes and then another 15 trying to work out if you want organic or not.

The best tactic with this game is to ping the little balls around the screen as agressivly as possible and hope none of yours fall down the holes. You see, a ball dropping down the hole is the end of the road for that particular ball, and if it's your last ball, the end of your game. The idea is, quite simply, to be the last player with a ball on the platform. To spice things up, when a ball comes to a stop, it drops a mine. As you can imagine, rolling over one of these pieces of explosive excreta will seriously alter your trajectory, potentially ending the game for you.

The online play worked really well, with no noticeable lag, although the tension can become a little wearing after a while. Still, it's brilliant being able to beat real human beings and keep your balls safe and sound for as long as possible.