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Christmas Gift Guide

Implosion -- Never Lose Hope

Sorcery! 3

DuckTales Remastered

Mortal Kombat X

Last Voyage

A Day in the Woods

The Quest Keeper

Crowntakers

Pie in the Sky: A Pizza Odyssey

Does Not Commute

Ys Chronicles I

Forgotten Memories: Alternate Realities

Lifeline

Brutus & Futée

Lost Within

Halo: The Spartan Bundle

Dual

Out last month for Android

Taiwan-based developer Rayark is known for its high-quality production values, but until now its offerings had been limited to music-based games in the style of Rock Band and a cutesy garden simulator.

Implosion -- Never Lose Hope is an ambitious step forward for the studio, and one that plays out magnificently.

You play as Jake, pilot of the War-Mech series III Battle Suit, humanity's last and best hope against the alien Xada. There's some back story, obviously, but the important part is that you get to run around in armour slashing monsters with a sword, gradually upgrading an arsenal of high-tech weapons. Yes, it's an isometric brawler/shooter and you've seen those before, but this game is really something special. Touchscreen action combat really doesn't get much better than this.

Trailer

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: Free (full game unlockable via one-time IAP) (Android); $9.99 | AU$12.99 | £7.99 (iOS)

Caption by / Photo by Rayark

If you like your interactive adventure books, Steve Jackson's Sorcery! for mobile is a magnificent experience. Crafted by interactive fiction specialist developer Inkle, the four-part series is slowly coming together, with stunning hand-drawn graphics, interactive battles with various enemies, spells to master and thousands of choices to make.

This is part three of the series so far (part four is still to come), and you can either start from the beginning or port your characters from Sorcery! 2. If this is the first time you've encountered Sorcery!, well, you're in for a treat. Head over to the Inkle website to pick up the first two.

Trailer

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: $4.99 | AU$6.00 | £3.99 (Android); $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £3.99 (iOS)

Caption by / Photo by inkle

Remember playing DuckTales on the NES back in the 90s? This is that same game... well, that game looking and sounding a whole lot spiffier.

It also has an expanded storyline and voice acting provided by the original voice actors for the cartoon.

For pure nostalgia factor, there's a lot in the side-scrolling remake to love. All the familiar gameplay mechanics are there, with Scrooge's inventive uses for his walking stick, as are the original tracks (hello Moon Theme) -- but there's new elements to discover, too. If you didn't pick it up when it was originally released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U in 2013, now's the perfect chance.

Ducktales! Ooo-oo-oo!

Trailer

Platforms: Android | iOS | WindowsPhone

Price: $9.99 | AU$12.82 | £8.08 (Android); $9.99 | AU$12.99 | £7.99 (iOS); $9.99 | AU$12.29 | £7.69 (Windows Phone)

Caption by / Photo by Disney

The tenth instalment of the Mortal Kombat fighting game series has now been released for Windows PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and, as is becoming increasingly common, it's also on iOS and Android.

Combat is performed primarily by tapping the screen, timing when to use swipes for special moves, and the rather gruesome finishing moves have to be unlocked. There's also an element of IAP to buy new characters and other in-game items, which seems fair, since the game is free, although it may affect multiplayer.

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: Free

Caption by / Photo by Warner Bros

It's wonderful to see that abstract, artistic games are on the rise. Lost Voyage is a surreal, sci-fi adventure that takes you through a series of mind-bending puzzles.

It's minimally designed, with no instruction. The idea is to explore what you can do in each level by playing with the objects on the screen, moving them around and discovering on your own how they fit together. Once you have solved one, you move on to the next stage, and the sense of discovery begins all over again.

The gorgeous design and ambient music really give the game a sense of breathtaking strangeness and wonder while forcing you to think outside the box.

Trailer

Platforms: iOS

Price: $0.99 | AU$1.29 | £0.79 (iOS)

Caption by / Photo by Semidome

A Day in the Woods is a Little Red Riding Hood-themed board game for one. It is played on a hex-based board, beautifully crafted to look like a physical board with wooden pieces. The aim is to get Little Red Riding Hood to Grandma's house, through the perils of the woods, and collecting treats for granny as you go.

This is achieved by swapping pieces. The active player is the "sprite" and only the active sprite tile can be swapped. This means manoeuvring around the board to swap places with Red Riding Hood's tile to get her to the finish. It starts out pretty simple, just jumping around the board; but as difficulty ramps up, you'll need to avoid giant spiders, thorn bushes and wolves.

It's a game with mechanics gentle enough for children -- but challenging enough to keep an adult mind occupied too.

Trailer

Platforms: iOS

Price: $4.99| AU$6.49 | £3.99

Caption by / Photo by RetroEpic Software

We've played our share of procedural death labyrinths, but The Quest Keeper has really nailed it, distilling it down to a perfect form. The voxel-based isometric setting, the sense of self-aware humour and the gameplay itself are all brilliant.

Unlike most PDLs, The Quest Keeper takes place in a series of quests. In each quest, you have a single objective. It starts with exploring the endless labyrinth to find treasure chests to accrue gold and unlock the other levels.

Later levels include following a winding path (which is somewhat tricky, as your character will move forward until he bumps into something, steered by swipes), progressing in a level riddled with blades, evading monsters, killing monsters... you get the idea.

Each level is pretty hard (most of them are finite, with a reward when you reach the end), but as an added incentive, there's a treasure chest that can be unlocked based on how many steps you take.

Trailer

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: Free

Caption by / Photo by Tyson Ibele

How many acronyms can you cram into a single game? Crowntakers is a PDL TBS RPG (that is, a procedural death labyrinth role-playing game with turn-based strategy combat). It sounds more complicated than it actually is, and it's really good fun if you like games like Final Fantasy Tactics.

The aim of the game is to stay alive long enough to save the realm. Each time you die, you'll get a little stronger, making each subsequent attempt easier. You'll also be able to complete side quests for NPCs, and gather up mercenaries to help you along the way.

And, of course, because it's procedurally generated, each playthrough will be different. Add in multiple endings and you have an eminently replayable adventure that comes together beautifully.

Trailer

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: $5.49 | AU$7.05 | £4.49 (Android); $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £3.99 (iOS)

Caption by / Photo by Kasedo Games

There are a few things that are very hard to resist: retrofuturism; the colour combination of neon turquoise and pink; an 80s synthpop soundtrack; and pizza.

Pie in the Sky is an endless runner, only you're not running. You're driving a space car, delivering pizzas in space, trying to save your struggling pizza joint.

Simple gyroscopic controls let you tilt to steer to avoid obstacles and collect crates, and tapping on customers as you drive past lets you deliver pizzas. As you progress through the game, you earn dollars to buy upgrades for your pizzeria, and collect toppings so that you can craft your very own signature pizzas, although they don't seem to serve any in-game purpose.

It's nothing particularly groundbreaking, but the simplicity of the gameplay, the colour scheme, the themes and the soundtrack is a recipe that make it a joy to play.

Trailer

Platforms: iOS

Price: $2.99 | AU$3.79 | £2.29 (iOS)

Caption by / Photo by Salty Croc Interactive

Mediocre's breakout title, Smash Hit, really lived up to its name. I was peachy keen to see what the Sweden-based studio came up with next, and was utterly delighted to report that it's every bit as fantastic.

The premise of the game is driving little dudes to their destination. However, on each level, you have multiple cars to drive -- plotting routes one by one that play out simultaneously, challenging you to keep your cars from colliding. The physics system, which has made the cars quite heavy, adds an extra layer of challenge, as does the timer for each vehicle.

And, because it's Mediocre, it's wrapped in a very stylish package: 1970s style towns, with a groovin' soundtrack to match. Like Smash Hit, it's free to download and play, and a one-off payment unlocks the ability to load the game from checkpoints. Downloading it is kind of a no-brainer, really.

Trailer

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: Free

Caption by / Photo by Mediocre

DotEmu brings old favourites to the mobile platform (like R-Type, Double Dragon and Another World).

The latest is classic JRPG Ys Chronicles, originally released as Ys Book I & II in 1989 and 1990, then remastered and ported to Wii, Nintendo DS and PSP in North America in 2008, 2009 and 2011 respectively.

It is this remastered version of the beloved and critically acclaimed classic that DotEmu has brought to iOS and Android. It's a chance to put a piece of RPG gaming history in your pocket, and you should take it.

Trailer

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: $4.99 | AU$7.00 | £3.99 (Android); $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £3.99 (iOS)

Caption by / Photo by DotEmu

Forgotten Memories: Alternate Realities is the first in a series of stand-alone games, and if you're after a ludicrously creepy survival horror experience you've come to the right place.

You're Rose Hawkins, searching an abandoned asylum for a missing girl. The game starts when Rose wakes up, injured, in a room she doesn't recognise, not sure how she got there. It's not long before a mysterious woman offers help finding the girl... but only in exchange for Rose's assistance in her own agenda.

There's something reminiscent of Silent Hill 2 and the Weeping Angels in the mannequins that populate the building, and the darkened, decaying surroundings and eerie sound effects give the game a feeling of unbridled, shuddery, jumpy tension.

Trailer

Platforms: iOS

Price: $4.99 | AU$6.49 | £3.99

Caption by / Photo by Psychose Interactive

Lifeline is a text adventure, but one with a serious difference and much higher stakes than you might be used to. You're not the protagonist of the story... and your decisions could get the protagonist killed.

Taylor is the sole survivor of the crash of the Varia, on a barren moon somewhere in the vicinity of Tau Ceti. Reaching out on comms, Taylor is able to find a single person, a single lifeline -- you. As Taylor sets about exploring the inhospitable environment, you'll help make decisions on what to do next. The troubling part is that none of the decisions are good ones and one wrong move could land Taylor in serious trouble.

It plays out in real-time, notifying you via your iPhone's alerts -- through which you can also respond to and interact with Taylor, making this the first mobile game that I know of that can be played via the lock screen. It's also surprisingly heart-wrenching as you start to develop a connection with Taylor, knowing that hope for survival is, at best, slim.

Platforms: iOS

Price: $2.99 | AU$3.79 | £2.29

Caption by / Photo by 3 Minute Games

Brutus and Futée are the top cartoon stars of their time. Just at the peak of their prime, their animator goes missing, and the two spend their days in idleness. This is where you come in, with the discovery that you can change things in the pair's environment -- bringing life back to the languishing show.

The aim is to arrange each scene so that Brutus and Futée survive to see the next scene (with hilarious results). This means that, yes, there is some cartoon violence of the slightly-more-hardcore-than-Looney-Tunes variety. The death scenes can be collected as outtakes, adding to each level's star rating.

You edit elements of each scene to bring about the desired outcome. Some objects can be moved around, while paint can be drained from some and used to create others, in order to see Brutus and Futée through and put together a series that can be watched as often as you like. It's beautifully animated, and a tremendously fun concept.

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: $2.99 | AU$3.79 | £2.29 (Android); $2.99 | AU$3.79 | £2.29 (iOS)

Caption by / Photo by Anuman Interactive

It's not really asylum-based Silent Hill-esque survival horror month, but it's a good one for people who like asylum-based Silent Hill-esque survival horror.

Lost Within, as you would expect from Amazon Game Studios, has incredible production values.

You're a cop, prowling an abandoned asylum searching for a psychotic killer, but you two aren't the only living creatures in the building.

Horrors lurk around corners -- horrors that could easily overpower you. It plays out a little like BioShock in that way; when you haven't scavenged enough materials to stand and fight, you have to run and flee.

Meanwhile, you have to piece together the tale of the Madhouse Madman from scraps you find on your exploration of the dilapidated building. It's a little formulaic, but a solid, heart-pounding horror experience where you know exactly what you're going to get.

Trailer

Platforms: Android via Amazon | iOS

Price: $6.99 (Android); $6.99 | AU$8.99 | £4.99 (iOS)

Caption by / Photo by Amazon Game Studios

The Halo: Spartan games have been out on Windows Phone for a few months, and they've just migrated their way across to iOS.

Halo: Spartan Strike and Halo: Spartan Assault are a pair of tactical top-down shooters set in the Halo universe. The former takes place during the events of Halo 2; you play a Spartan supersoldier in a classified ONI simulation, leading your troops through a number of missions to save Earth.

The latter takes place just before the events of Halo 4, exploring the origin of the Spartan Ops program and Spartan Commander Sarah Palmer. Both titles feature multiple levels and an original, canon Halo story, as well as achievements.

Originally released for Xbox 360 in 2013, the games are unfortunately missing the multiplayer mode, but they're solid additions to the Halo universe.

Platforms: iOS | Windows Phone (Spartan Strike; Spartan Assault)

Price: $9.99 | AU$12.99 | £7.99 (iOS); $5.99, 4.99 | AU$7.39, 6.09 | £4.59, 3.89 (WP)

Caption by / Photo by Microsoft

Mobile games can be pretty insular, closing you off in a world that just consists of you and the screen. Which is why it's quite charming when a game manages to break outside of that zone and into meatspace (like Spaceteam or Bounden).

Dual fits quite nicely -- a game played across two mobile devices. Each player holds a device; the aim is to duel, shooting the missile back and forth between phones, deflecting it back at your opponent and trying to defeat them or playing together cooperatively to defend the middle from digital foes.

It's a lovely reminder that the devices in our pockets can be used to connect in other ways, too.

Trailer

Platforms: Android | iOS

Price: Free

Caption by / Photo by Seabaa

Waiting for a particular game that got an iOS release a while ago?

Joe Danger ($2.86 | AU$3.68 | £2.29)

The 7th Guest: Remastered ($5.99 | AU$7.69 | £4.89)

Skullduggery (Free)

Orbitum Lite (Free)

Adventures of Poco Eco ($1.98 | AU$2.49 | £1.49)

Tomb Raider I ($0.99 | AU$1.59 | £0.99)

Tetrobot & Co ($2.99 | AU$3.49 | £2.19)

Space Marshals ($4.99 | AU$6.41 | £3.99)

Special Mention: Out last month for Windows Phone

Monument Valley ($3.99 | AU$4.89 | £3.09)

Threes! (Free)

Caption by / Photo by Possible Games (Adventures of Poco Eco)
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