Mobile games were stronger than ever this year, and thankfully paid games are slowly making a comeback. There were quite a few heavy hitters this year, and for once, it was actually a tough choice picking the top mobile games this year.
Pocket City is not only the only good city building game ever made for mobile, but it’s a premium game so there are no microtransactions holding the game back. It’s got a great UI, deep gameplay, and any city builder fan must play this as it runs well on any mobile device
Some longtime followers of my site may actually laugh at this review and some may have noticed I’m a hardcore Android user. Sure, I have a ton of iOS reviews from years back, but after my last iPod Touch 4G, I hadn’t looked back at the platform. As the years went by there were a ton of iOS games that just never made it to Android from Infinity Blade to Civilization VI and not to mention timed exclusives. Why an iPad and not a Touch? Well for starters, the Touch devices are being phased out and haven’t been updated since the iPhone 6 hardware. Second, the iPad series is still frequently updated and features more powerful hardware and a better experience than the Touch. Third, price. You can finance an iPad at wireless carriers as the full price for these things is outrageously expensive.
For starters the device is about what I expected, it’s sleek, fairly slim (not as slim as the Samsung Tab S tablets, however) and the 10.5″ size makes a huge difference over the standard 9.7″ tablets I am used to. The screen is gorgeous and the speakers are phenomenal. So what’s powering this iPad? The A10X processor is Apple’s latest and greatest chip offering and runs everything at lightning smooth speed. It is accompanied by the PowerVR 7XT GPU which will run the latest and greatest games at high framerates. The display is an odd 4:3 aspect ratio at 1668×2224 resolution, which is also odd, and has a 12MP rear-facing and 7MP front-facing camera. The iPad features HDR10 and 120Hz refresh rate for HDR content on YouTube and Netflix as well as lightning fast framerates. Probably the best looking tablet camera I’ve ever seen. Let’s not forget those speakers. I thought the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3’s speakers were great, but these blow those out of the water. I can actually feel the bass rumble in my hands at max volume and the sound projects very well and actually sounds like PC speakers rather than tinny muffled garbage.
The iPad Pro also features the new lightning charger cable that was featured in the iPhone 5. It’s no big deal to longtime Apple users, but for me, coming from the older iPod Touch hardware is really nice. Sadly, the tablet has no wireless charging which should be available by now and just isn’t due to Apple’s stubborn design quirks. With that said the tablet features a great physical home button with a responsive fingerprint sensor that’s quite impressive. You can clearly tell the iPads aren’t second-rate hardware like some other manufacturers on the Android side.
Onto the software, and this is where the impressions kind of sizzled away, the iOS suite hasn’t changed much in 8 years. It looks nearly the same just more streamlined, sleek, and faster. My iPad came with iOS 11.4 and the new dock and multitasking features actually impressed me as they are more intuitive than Android’s. Swiping up from the bottom on any app to get to the dock and then long swiping for the control panel is genius. The snap multitasking works so smoothly by dragging an app from the dock into the screen and having an overlay or tapping the title bar to bring up true multitasking. It works so well and they seemed to have gotten it right. The only downside is you need the apps you want to snap in the dock or it won’t work.
I do like how iTunes is dying and is no longer required to tether to your PC to download apps and music. The App Store is now separate from iTunes which is awesome as back in the day these were all in one. There is plenty of customization settings and ways to tweak your device, much more than 8 years ago, and I was pretty satisfied. However, customization is still absent after all these years. No widgets, custom home launchers, or any of those awesome features that Android offers including the more intuitive drop-down menus. What iOS offers is simple and easy to use, and very smooth, but hasn’t evolved really in 10 years.
Games look and play amazingly well on the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil is the big selling point for these tablets. I don’t have one myself, but I’ve used my wife’s as she draws with it and it’s so smooth and responsive, it’s a fantastic piece of hardware. The Pencil alone has evolved the iPads into something more than just steamrolled iPhones. They are true productivity devices that can do things laptops can’t even do.
Overall, the iPad Pro is an amazing tablet and offers Apple’s best tech. It’s great for mobile gaming, drawing, watching videos, and overall everyday use.
Adventure games are always hit or miss as they have many classics to live up to. There are the occasional crazy and interesting adventure games like Neverending Nightmares that are quite fascinating. Bulb Boy is one such game where play as a, well, bulb boy who must defeat a monster to save his grandfather. There’s not much of a story here as it’s all about atmosphere and visuals. The game is rather short and it’s not the most cerebral adventure game out there, but it’s worth a purchase.
Like your typical adventure game you can tap on areas for the character to move to and examine items. Bulb Boy is very straight to the point so there’s not much exploring here. There’s only so much to click on and very little inventory. The game has bosses on each stage that you must defeat, but the puzzles are very easy and not really puzzles. You find an object and it can only go in one place as there’s no backtracking or exploring involved. I would love to see this universe expand as Bulb Boy is grotesque, beautiful, and full of atmosphere. It’s a horror adventure with a cartoon flair with guts and everything disgusting all over the screen.
There’s a lot of green in this game and the cut-out art style is just fantastic. I enjoyed playing through the whole game despite only taking a couple of hours. Bulb Boy’s death animations are brutal, there’s a lot of variety, and the game has a nice quick pace to it. Some of my favorite things about this game are the extreme closeups of areas as it shows the sickly detail of everything around this character. It’s nightmarish for sure and definitely one of the most artistic games this year.
It’s a crying shame that this is an indie game and won’t get much attention. I hope for a sequel that’s more expanded, but we’ll see. In the mean time just feast your eyes on the beautiful art despite how straightforward and simple the gameplay is.
Lifeline was a fantastic text adventure game that delivered memorable atmosphere, character, and a memorable story. It was the first of its kind — being an actual texting text adventure. Taylor, the main character, would describe his settings and actions and you had two choices you could respond with. Some actually changed the course of the story for better or worse. Silent Night is the sequel to Lifeline 1 with Taylor being rescued by a mining ship, but more disasters with the Occupiers continues.
Silent Night is disappointing in a sense that it doesn’t bring about the loneliness and desolate atmosphere that made the first game so great and memorable. Silent Night has a cheesy sci-fi Alien type feeling to it with generic crew members and a claustrophobic ship. I also hate Taylor’s cheesy sense of humor as it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and is over done. A tense scene is broken down by a stupid one liner or pop culture reference and I absolutely hate that. Humor has its place, but every other line? I don’t think so.
If the humor wasn’t badly written, the game is so short you can finish it within a couple of hours. What made the first game so awesome was actually waiting in real time for Taylor to respond. I feel this is sped up too much and the choices aren’t as varied or branching as the first game. I got the perfect ending without even really trying and that’s not a good thing. In the first game, I rewound the story some just to see the different outcomes.
With that said this is the end of the line for Taylor, but there are spin-offs and prequels bound to come which I will welcome. Silent Night is probably the worst game in the series so far, but it’s still worth a play for hardcore fans.
Point and click adventures are becoming big on mobile platforms which are nice. Sitting down and relaxing with a great story and exercising your brain with puzzles is a perfect fit for mobiles. Sinless is a strange game as it doesn’t make any sense, but is still enjoyable.
You play in a cyber dystopia world where everyone is controlled via computer chips called “progs” which have pre-programmed attitudes and moods. You just so happen to be someone who is immune to this control and the government wants to kill you. You travel through a strange city trying to find your girlfriend and realize you are part of some prophecy and are some sort of messiah for this desolate world.
The strangest thing about the game is the art style. While it’s great and very stylized, it’s muddy and washed out and almost doesn’t quite work for this game. It’s very hard to see things in these images and find objects to click on. I really love the art, but I feel it’s not right for this type of game. With that said, it really gets the mood and atmosphere of which is tense, controlled, and lonely; everyone is living in constant fear. My issues didn’t set in until about an hour into the game when I realized there’re no clues on what to do or where to go next. I had to resort to a walkthrough.
This is usually common in adventure games, but this is a 3-hour game at most. Yes, only three short chapters. There is so much backtracking and obscure conditions you have to meet to finish the game it was just too damn confusing for me. I was really into everything but the way the game was played. I also didn’t like that the clickable dots only appeared if you left the screen alone for awhile. With the washed out visuals, I wanted them on screen at all times.
At least this game has some pretty cool mini-games that make you smile and appreciate it a bit more. There’s also some video game references such as Mirror’s Edge which was nice to see. Overall, Sinless is worth the purchase price, but don’t expect much out of it after a 3 hour sitting.
I’m not really a fan of these mobile sniper games, but Lonewolf caught my eye due to the art style and mature content. The game has a noir/mob gang comic vibe to it, and it is actually quite entertaining — albeit formulaic. You play as a military veteran who used to be a sniper and loves killing. You pick up work for a mob boss and stay neutral through the whole thing. Nothing to write home about, but enough to keep you pumping through levels.
The game is seen through the scope of a sniper rifle. There are plenty of rifles to pick from in the game that is real world models. You can upgrade them and buy new parts for them which is quite fun. There’s a zoom button, reload, and shoot — the only three you need in a game like this. Each mission is completely different which is why I kept playing the game and I didn’t want to put it down. After a while, there’s a wind aspect and you need to lead your shots which are a huge challenge and actually requires skill rather than luck. Each mission just has a few guys set up to kill and it’s the order and precision that counts. If you shoot the wrong one someone might see it and blow the mission. There’s a lot of trial and error later on, and it got quite frustrating, especially during the few shoot out scenes where your aim is really important as you die quickly.
This is also a freemium game but has the choice of buying it without ads. With ads, you have to watch videos for reloading your retries or you have to wait. With how hard the game is later on it felt like this was done more for money rather than the player’s entertainment value which is something that’s consistent in the mobile realm.
Overall, Lonewolf is well worth your time as it provides varied missions and relies on your skills to proceed rather than luck or something else. It’s well worth the purchase to remove ads, but if you have the patience it’s also free.
Lara Croft has made a huge comeback thanks to 2013’sTomb Raider reboot. With her spin-off top down series, Lara was bound to find her way onto the mobile market. Feeding off the success of Hitman GO, Square Enix takes another popular franchise and ups the ante on the GO series. With fantastically designed puzzles, great graphics, and easy controls, Lara Croft GO is the best mobile game released this year.
If you played Hitman GO you will be in familiar territory. The levels are comprised of squares that Lara moves along, these squares have dots on them so you know which ones you can land on. There are various puzzles that will make you really think before advancing to the next level. From pulling switches, avoiding enemies, killing enemies, moving platforms, moving stone pillars and various other gameplay tidbits. It’s not just as easy as pull this switch over here and that switch and be done. Enemies play a huge role in this game and the movement is key here. Every time Lara moves a space so does an enemy. You must line up your moves to avoid the enemy or go around them. The puzzles are brillantly laid out here and will constantly keep you in check.
The game also felt progressively balanced in difficulty. I started off clearing levels quickly and then slowly had to start thinking. Once I thought I had mastered certain gameplay elements another was thrown at me and made me think all over again. I can’t stress enough at how well these puzzles are designed; they feel like they were made with care and delicate thought in each and every square. In between solving puzzles there are hidden vases throughout the level and hold gems which will unlock outfits for Lara if all are found in the level.
The game is also quite a decent length. It took me a good two weeks to finish the game and there is replay value here. Throughout the whole game I never felt like it was impossible or too hard. It was always something that stared me right in the face and when I figured out the puzzles slowly I had a lot of “Aha!” moments which are so satisfying. Some puzzles I really had to work on and some were quite easy, but the easy ones in between keep it from getting too frustrating.
The graphics in Lara Croft GO are beautiful papercraft models with great lighting effects and high quality textures. This is a high-end mobile game at its finest and I firmly believe every Tomb Raider or puzzle fan must own this. I hope to see more games in the GO series as they are addictive and so wonderfully crafted. This is a hidden gem and an oasis among awful and ugly free to play games.
Borderlands is well known as a shooter RPG hybrid but with little to no story.There’s a lot of potential with a great Borderlands story and Telltale games finally delivered that. TftB is a fantastic story driven game with memorable characters and enough Borderlands lore and quips to make a fan faint. The visuals are great and there’s a lot to walk away from after completing it.
You start out by playing as two characters in this game, Rhys and Fiona. Rhys is a Hyperion corporate employee and Fiona is a Pandorian con artist. The whole goal of the game is to open The Vault of the Traveler and find its hidden treasures. The entire point of any Borderlands game is to open a mysterious Vault. The game is mostly comprised of flashbacks as a man is dragging you two through the desert and having you retell your story leading up to the point of capture. This mysterious figure is well hidden and I couldn’t guess who it was for the life of me and the unveiling was so surprising. Telltale are masters of surprise and plot twists and TftB has plenty of them.
Like most Telltale games, there’s not much gameplay involved, just enough to make you feel like it’s a game. However, the stories are so fantastic that you won’t care much. There are a lot of quick time events and moral choices in the game. These choices are the key component of any Telltale adventure and are what make them memorable. Some choices don’t matter so much and some can change the course of the entire game. TftB doesn’t have as many story changing choices like say The Walking Dead, but they do make a difference and can be tough to decide on. Putting your own moral compass in the game is what makes these games so memorable and I love it.
Each episode usually switches back and forth between Rhys and Fiona from Pandora to Hyperion and back. The game truly felt like a long adventure and was very satisfying and fulfilling all the way to the very end. The game has a large scope and there are plenty of Borderlands stuff in here for fans. Opening loot crates can give you cash to use in game, there are various jokes, and even cameos of Vault Hunters from previous games. I also felt that the story was told at a decent clip and never got slow and boring or felt rushed, each episode probably doesn’t stand on its own, but as a whole the game is wonderful.
I want to complain about the exclusive quick time events being the only thing that consists of gameplay, but I won’t because it works for the game. There’s action, drama, and plenty of comedy thrown in that any Borderlands fan will love. The visuals aren’t technically impressive, but the meld of Telltale’s art style and Borderlands is a perfect match here and it feels like an actual Borderlands game which is what counts.
In the end, no matter what console you play it on, TftB impresses on every level and tells a story that any fan will love and approve of. Even non Borderlands fans will like the game. TftB is a perfect formula of how you do a franchise spin-off and do it right.
First person shooters are kind of hard to get right in the mobile scene. Virtual analog sticks aren’t exactly the most intuitive, but if your mechanics work right so can the controls. The better option is to allow hardware controllers and that’s exactly what Flats allows. This is also the best option for multiplayer.
Flats is a FPS with a non-existent story (that’s okay) in which you shoot down colorful bad guys with generic real world weapons. Honestly, the campaign only consists of challenges in which you must shoot a certain amount of baddies, and this number increases with each level. Very simple, and it does get old quick to be honest. While the graphics are unique and simple, they still leave something to be desired. The same level plays out over and over again, despite this type of art style having a lot of potential. All textures in the game are flat colors, but you can make out what they are by their shapes.
The virtual controls are not too bad, the guns handle well, and the sniping is quite satisfying. Make a headshot or “mortal shot” and you get a neat slow motion kill cam. Bullet trails are shown as colors of the bad guys that they are coming from, but the game can still get chaotic as there’s no cover mechanic or even a jump button. Hardware controls are the best option here but don’t go investing in a $60 controller for this game.
I have to say that I couldn’t test multiplayer as no one is playing online. I sat in a lobby for 20 minutes with all of two people connected and they eventually left. The game allows for several modes like Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag etc. This could be a lot of fun, but there need to be more players; hopefully, with popularity, they will start flocking in.
As it stands, Flats is a mediocre shooter idea with no one playing online. The art style is nice, but the lack of a story, solid campaign, and overall objectives just makes Flats a quick 20 minute experience and then you delete it.
Horror games that are truly scary are far and few between these days. Neverending Nightmares night actually help change that idea with some extremely intense atmosphere which is what horror games are all about. Neverending Nightmares has you playing as a boy (or man?) named Thomas who roams the pencil sketched hallways in his checkered pajamas trying to find his sister (or wife?) that had been murdered (or she killed herself?) There’s a lot of open interpretation to the game’s story, but that’s kind of the fun part.
The game’s pace is at a crawl, let me just say that right away. Thomas trods along the hallways with a limited — and I mean limited — sprint button. The slow pace is supposed to add to the tension, but sometimes I wish he moved just a tad faster as the game got repetitive towards the end. The point of the game is to continue moving left (or right) through the hallways opening doors and interacting with anything that’s colored and stands out from the black and white background. These give hints at what may have happened to the girl that Thomas is looking for. While there’s no inventory system or even combat system, there’s really no other goal rather than head downwards. Sure, there are enemies in the game, but your goal is to avoid them or hide from them. The toughest of them all is the big ogre like monsters that require you to hide in closets, or worse, run from them. I found these segments frustrating as Thomas’ sprint is limited to about three seconds and I had to exploit this to escape from these ogres and make it to the next door. I had to tap rapidly to stretch out the sprint or time when I start perfectly. This isn’t fun and doesn’t add anything but frustration.
The game has three possible ending, but there are no clues as to how to get them. At the end of each level you are approached by this girl in different ways, but it all kind of blurs together. When you die you start off in your bed again leading the fact that Thomas might be asleep and can’t wake up? Is he insane? Is he a ghost? Who knows, but the endless hallways are probably the worst part of the game. Sometimes I thought the game was glitching because I would go through 5-6 hallways that I swore I went through earlier, but somehow I was progressing.
Thankfully the game is actually scary, use headphones and you will be in for a scary night. The music is haunting and so are the sound effects. I applaud the game for the atmosphere, but the gameplay is really something that’s lacking and needs more polish. I’m fine with just wandering around places, but give me something to do while I’m doing that.
As it stands, Neverending Nightmares is a great horror experience, but as an actual gam, it’s lacking mechanics and the story and progression need work. I shouldn’t be playing a game thinking I’m not going anywhere or given clues as to how to get a different ending.