Starbeard: one of the best mobile games of the year (photo: Jolly Good Games)
It has been a memorable year for mobile games, but what applications have deserved their success and what are the hidden gems?
2019 has been a great year for mobile games. It was the launch of the subscription-based Apple Arcade, with enthusiastic reception, and it is also the year that first-person shooter games for mobile devices finally arrived well with Call Of Duty: Mobile. Although Nintendo’s reputation was a success with Mario Kart Tour, proving to be the kind of hollow and exploitative touch screen game that nobody would have imagined of the company that created Mario.
And although there is no way anyone can expect to play each of the overwhelming tsunami of mobile releases this year, these have been some of our favorites.
Photographs – Puzzle Stories for iOS and Android, £ 3.99 (EightyEight Games)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbQODp2WBq8 (/ embed)
With a cast of characters built around an apothecary in search of a cure, Photographs tells five stories of tragic unintended consequences that derive from noble intentions.
Mixing minigames and photography, capturing sections of its beautiful pixel art landscapes with a virtual camera, is fun, although not particularly cheerful, its penetrating feeling of melancholy leaves a lasting impression.
Even so, it is not often that storytelling and video games are intertwined so eloquently, much less in a mobile game.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar for iOS and Android, £ 9.99 (HandyGames)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FrP_KASEwE (/ embed)
Nightwar is almost like three games combined: one about exploring and revealing a map, another a dungeon tracker and the third a tactical turn fighter. It is for the developer Airship Syndicate the credit that everything is united in a wonderfully convincing set.
Ported from consoles, its scale and production values overshadow the vast majority of mobile games, giving it a sense of grandeur and reach that is often missing from the small screen.
It even has a New Game + mode to further extend longevity and allow long-term players to capitalize on their time investment.
Astrologaster for iOS, £ 3.99 (Nyamyam)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qpjyo5lP7Qc (/ embed)
With a mix of branched conversations and songs, Astrologaster is set in London during the plague, a time when people were desperate for medical intervention and there was very little available.
That is just the opportunity that the quack doctor, Simon Forman has been waiting for, his list of patients suddenly explodes when all the real doctors in London flee to the comparative security of the field.
Charming, witty and with a strange sense of the consequences of their decisions, often almost random, Astrologaster is based on the life of the real Simon Forman, a man who players will be glad not to have met while suffering from bubonic plague, or indeed any physical ailment.
Starbeard for iOS and Android, £ 2.99 (Jolly Good Games)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vLFhV3NYRk (/ embed)
Another day, another combination puzzle game, but this time things are a bit different. Instead of simply joining three or more objects and seeing bright icons disappear, this makes you protect a garden from invading pests by reloading and displaying your characters’ unique abilities.
What begins as a simple exercise quickly acquires serious tactical participation, each movement you make prepares it for its next turn or accidentally paints it in a corner from which it can be difficult to recover.
Deep, stimulating and complex, Starbeard is an excellent game that has received regular updates since its launch.
The unlikely legend of Rusty Pup for iOS, £ 4.99 (Gory Detail Ltd)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZvIl4y722g (/ embed)
Presented by a couple of storytellers discussing, one on the side of good and the other clearly of evil, their job is to help the incumbent robber-dog cross treacherous levels by changing the scenarios to create a safe path.
Guided by lights, towards which Rusty walks automatically, its underground levels become increasingly intricate, which requires long chains of movement to trace a route through metallic chaos.
With a delicious sense of British humor, rhyming stories and a huge and challenging campaign, it is a miniature work of art made by some of the people responsible for Rare’s greatest successes.
Zombie Night Terror for iOS and Android, £ 5.99 (Plug In Digital)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIHqO93TyeU (/ embed)
While the zombie apocalypse is already so familiar to players that it’s almost like coming home, Zombie Night Terror puts you on the side of the walking dead, leading them, Lemmings-style, to victory over heavily armed but less numerous human defenders.
The side view and 16-bit style artwork contain incredible levels of detail, because of the way the gun guards smoke a cigarette while they wait for the horde, or the party goers shout and do their best to escape from the revived corpses that you send to chase them.
Although it is certainly not easy, and with moments that force you to restart fairly long levels due to a trivial error, it is still a great game of tactics in real time.
Cultist Simulator for iOS and Android, £ 6.99 (Playdigious)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srcpVdGvUW0 (/ embed)
Appropriately for his theme, Cultist Simulator generated his own somewhat fanatic follow-up. And it’s not surprising, because getting something, even getting closer to understanding the game, is a serious and fairly long-term task.
Without absolutely no instruction or training, instead, you are instantly allowed to fend for yourself in what is effectively a card-based life simulator. Each card you play can be modified with another to deliver anything from paid one-day work to hiring a thug to commit murder on your behalf.
You don’t even have time to think, a countdown constantly marked while browsing through a complex narrative and the randomly discovered cards you have been dealt. Made by developers who worked on Failbetter’s Sunless Sea, the quality of prose and its Lovecraftian morbidity will remain with you for a long time.
Dead Cells for iOS, £ 7.99 (Playdigious)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9DlDsGH8tY (/ embed)
It has been out for a couple of years on PCs and consoles, but the arrival of Dead Cells on the mobile coincided perfectly with the ability to pair iOS 13 with the Xbox and PlayStation controllers, which despite the very competent touch screen implementation, It is the only way to stay competitive. as you progress in this spectacularly complete and complete roguelita.
Advancing through 2D levels generated by procedures, fighting monsters and trying your best to keep your health bar high as you make your way to your final boss and another Chief Stem Cell that further increases the difficulty.
It remains a magnificent experience thanks to the mechanics taught and a beautiful art style, as well as to the generously frequent and completely free updates of the French developer, Motion Twin. Apparently, a version of Android is being prepared for 2020.
Telling Lies for iOS, £ 6.99 (Annapurna Interactive)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97XWpWkQAhE (/ embed)
In Telling Lies, a screen appears with a search window that gives you access to a database of witness statements. Then they leave you to your own devices.
As the protagonists of the story speak and interact, their words appear as subtitles at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to highlight and search for key phrases in the rest of the database. It gives you total control over what you investigate and how you proceed to unpack the stories with which they present you.
It is a captivating process, and very different from any other game you play, with the notable exception of Her Story, which was also developed by Sam Barlow.
Star Traders: Frontiers for iOS and Android, £ 6.99 (Trese Brothers)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wxoMy6J2W8 (/ embed)
If you’ve been craving a 4X space opera with all the features you can play on a train or plane, Star Traders: Frontiers represents the total fulfillment of that very specific desire.
Starting as captain on his first mission, he is given a carte blanche in terms of how he wishes to proceed, whether as a merchant, explorer, pirate, dealer or opportunistic hybrid. You will also meet numerous factions, whose representatives will become your friends or enemies depending on how you treat their allies.
Fully open and capable of devouring as many hours as you are prepared to launch, Frontiers is a supreme achievement and one that will continue to fascinate in the coming years.
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