The mobile genre is becoming harder and harder to filter out the awful microtransaction laden garbage, but a few gems still shine through every year. What makes mobile gaming so appealing is the pick-up-and-play and the constantly increasing power of cell phones.
Sky: Children of Light
Created by the minds behind Journey, thatgamecompany really knows how to make minimalistic games appealing. With simple controls and fantastic visuals, you play through a community filled adventure with little hand-holding and the ability to explore and sail across the wind. There’s no other experience like it on mobile devices.
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
Mobile games have been becoming stronger every year as technology improves. From Nvidia releases that are full PC ports to original indie games that tell wonderful stories and have unique gameplay. 2017 was one of the strongest years yet.
Old Man’s Journey
Old Man’s Journey isn’t just a great mobile game, but a game that tells a touching tale and has beautiful visuals to accompany it. There were many great mobile games this year, but this one kept me thinking about it long after I played, and that’s rare on this platform
Monument Valley is one of the most memorable mobile games I have ever played. The game helped show that mobile games have a place with many of the great console games. It was smart, beautiful, unique, and a blast to play. It felt like a mix between echochrome’s (PSP) gameplay and Journey’s (PS3) art style.
With Monument Valley 2, I got really excited to play this. I expected more and new at the same time. That’s not entirely what we got. We just got new really. MV2 is an extremely short game and not very challenging. The MC Escher-style puzzles were a breeze to get through, which is a shame, as the first game had a few head-scratchers. Using various switches, you push, pull, spin, and align the various platforms through optical illusions to get the character to the door. At the end of each stage, the player can swipe their finger around to create a star that goes into the heavens, the meaning of this is unknown.
In the first game, we understood it was a journey, but this time around all I know is the character is a mother who is seeing her child off for her adventure and they reunite, that’s it. I like subtle stories, but this one was too subtle. At least a few new elements are thrown in such as controlling two characters at once, which creates a tad bit more of a challenge.
The game still looks amazing with gorgeous art direction, music, and heartwarming colors. It’s just a shame it’s in such a short package with no challenge. I still recommend playing this game, but I sure did want many more puzzles than the dozen we got.
The Tower was a popular stacking game in which pieces of a tower slide over one another and you must stop the piece exactly on top of the bottom one to prevent a chunk from coming off making your next piece smaller. As you climb the tower the pieces move faster and faster and the goal is to beat your previous record. It’s a fun pick-up-and-play game that can get addictive in short bursts, but here we have an Assassin’s Creed skin to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
The game has a Monument Valley art-style vibe going for it with beautiful visuals and the idea is to have your assassin climb the tower-like in the games. The towers represent places from past games, but the locales are limited as well as the assassins. With this being a F2P game you can imagine microtransactions are in place to buy new assassins.
The twist is that once you finish your tower the assassin will jump down, like in the game, and you can catch your relic points for pieces that fit perfectly. It’s a fun and addictive game, but nothing memorable or special as are most smaller Assassin’s Creed games (Discovery, Bloodlines, Altair’s Chronicles, Pirates, Memories, Chronicles, etc).
The game is free, doesn’t take up much space, isn’t harmful in any way, and plays well for what it is. I can’t complain much as it isn’t trying to be much at all.
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.
Smartphone controllers are not a new thing. However, Android users have been lacking a great controller for quite a while. Moga has been considered the name brand for Android controllers for a couple of years now. From small pocket-sized controllers to full-sized ones, Moga is the way to go; that doesn’t mean they are the best controllers ever made.
The Moga Pro Hero feels like an Xbox 360 controller with an alternate analog layout, triggers, bumpers, and face buttons. The controller feels good in your hands and is very familiar; however, that’s about where it stops being familiar. Like other Moga controllers, the game feels too rigid, while we appreciate sturdy controllers, and this one, the buttons are too stiff. The face buttons make a very loud clicking noise and require a good hard press. The D-pad also feels too D-pad…y, there’s no diagonal movement whatsoever. While this is good for older games on emulators, it does us no good for fighting games. I also felt the triggers were too stiff and required too much heavy-handed pressing to feel comfortable; the same goes for the bumpers. The analog sticks are probably the only things on here that feel familiar and right, but that’s still not saying this is a bad controller. The arm that holds your phone is nicely cushioned, however, the inner piece feels too loose and I felt the phone wobble a tiny bit when moving.
A nice feature of this controller is that it has a built-in battery so no more AAA or AA batteries. You can also charge your phone FROM the controller thanks to its large battery which is nice for long gaming sessions. I also love the HID (Human Interface Device) mode for emulators as games must support the regular mode natively. Emulators respond nicely to this controller and it has more than enough buttons for what you need.
Overall, if you need more buttons and a full-sized experience, the Pro Hero is a perfect choice, just be ready to get used to some stiff buttons and a weird D-pad.
The Mobile market is seeing a lot more PC ports and higher quality AAA games being released that aren’t freemium. We all know the less the freemium the better…well not quite. A few games have been released that did pretty well with the freemium model, but nonetheless, the mobile market really shined this year.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
What makes Hearthstone so great? Not only is it full of more Warcraft; it’s a CCG done right. With rich visuals and addictive gameplay, there’s not much more you could ask for. The rich content and hours of battling are what keeps you glued to your iPad and not many games can keep you there for even 5 minutes.
Mobile games have come a long way. Same goes for mobile MMOs or similar games. Kritika is the only mobile MMO style game where I actually enjoyed the combat and didn’t nearly fall asleep while playing. While it is free-to-play with heavy-handed microtransactions; you can easily climb the levels without paying a dime.
There’s not really a story here and you really won’t care. After picking one of two available classes from the start (another is available after one character reaches level 15). Gameplay elements are slowly unlocked as you reach higher levels. Things like enhancing items, crafting, battle arenas, and various other gameplay elements will be thrown at you regularly. This helps with everything feeling stale too early on.
Once you get into the action you will actually smile. The game has lightning-fast and cool-looking combat. The control layout is nice for a touch screen and after a few rounds I was pulling off 200 hit combos like nothing. Of course, you will slowly unlock better skills as you level up. This all may sound solid there is one huge problem that keeps this game back quite a bit.
The big issue here is backtracking and monotony. Doing the same levels on different difficulties gets tiresome fast. Thankfully the levels can be beaten in less than two minutes a piece so it’s not so bad in short 30-minute bursts. Some people may not be able to stand this, but I didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would because I was leveling up pretty fast.
Like all other free-to-play games, you only get what you pay for. There are treasure chests that you can open which have different items in them. The keys are earned through rewards by logging in or beating levels. Some chests can only be opened by using Karats which can only be bought with real money or slowly earned in-game (almost none at all actually). The same goes for avatar items. I like dressing up my character in cool garments as much as the next person, but just one outfit can cost $20. That’s a damn rip-off.
Outside of all the usual free-to-play restraints, the enhancement and crafting system works fairly well and I like how I can take my items that are useless and merge them into my good item to raise the stats.
All in all, the graphics are fairly decent for a mobile game, but the textures could use some work. If you don’t have a strong connection you will get FPS drops quite frequently as well. The combat is solid if repetitive, but if you just play in short bursts I’m sure you won’t mind.
It’s very rare that a mobile game gets as artsy as an indie console or PC game. Monument Valley is Journey meets Echochrome straight out of the gate. It has the aesthetics of Journey and the gameplay of Echochrome. Flipping levels to create illusions that create new pathways, that’s what Monument is all about. The game isn’t really all that hard, in fact, it’s a cakewalk, but it’s all about the experience.
There’s an underlying story here and the ending is a bit touching. You’re a princess (that resembles close to a White Cloak from Journey) who is trying to restore gems at the end of each level. If I say more I will spoil the experience. New gameplay elements are slowly added in like crows getting in your way that you must avoid or use to press switches. Walking on different planes is another while an interactive column (that’s actually a small character) becomes an ally. The game is strange yet so damn beautiful.
But there is one huge problem. The game is only 10 levels long and they are extremely short. For $4 you’re getting a fantastic experience, but it’s over way too soon. I would have liked an endless mode or some sort of puzzle mode that didn’t include a story added in. The puzzles are just so fun to solve and each level is like opening a present. The more you fiddle with the level the more beautiful everything gets and the more fun it becomes.
As it is, Monument Valley is a rare gem on mobile devices. It looks and plays beautifully, but the shortness will enrage people who fall in love with it.