Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Mobile Game Roundup

While the Nintendo Switch may be the best portable game system on the market right now, sometimes when I'm on the road I want the simplicity of not having to pack a gaming-specific device, especially if I know my sessions are going to be short. That's where mobile games come in. Unfortunately, many popular mobile titles are so bloated with microtransactions, gatchpon mechanics, data-sucking content updates, and other games-as-a-service features, that they just don't make sense to pick up and play while traveling. On a few recent trips, I managed to put together a handful of fun mobile titles that were an exception to this rule. Here's some info and impressions on each:

RainBlocks (free, ad-supported)

We’ll start with the most simple of this set, Rain Blocks. This is a basic block-sliding puzzle that builds in complexity, introducing powerups and new types of blocks, as you play. This is no-frizzles puzzle game is my go-to mobile game for when I want to immediately jump into gameplay and engage my brain for a short session. However, in Tetris-like fashion, sometimes I get on a roll and end up turning these short sessions into longer ones! Rain Blocks also sports great music by former Mega Man composer, Manami Matsume.

Candies 'n' Curses ( free w/ ads, $4.99 ad-free version)

Candies and Curses
Going up in complexity level, we have Candies 'n' Curses. While I’ve heard some call it a platformer, to me it’s more reminiscent of arcade-style games like Joust, Elevator Action, or Woah Dave. Running around and bashing as many ghosts as possible is oddly satisfying and since it has some minor Rouge-like mechanics, each time I play my character is a little stronger and I can advance a little further into the haunted mansion. The game has a minimal story that reaches some sort of conclusion if you manage to make it far enough, but it will probably be quite some time before I get that far. This game also features some great sprite work and a catchy soundtrack.

Legend of the Skyfish (free demo w/ ads, $3.99 ad-free full version)

Legend of the Skyfish
 It’s pretty clear from the get-go that this game is inspired by The Legend of Zelda. However, instead of a big sprawling world, Skyfish breaks Zelda-like gameplay down into bite-sized levels that play like small dungeons. Since the gameplay is just a succession of condensed dungeons, you'll be doing a lot cycles of switch flipping, sword slashing, and block sliding, which I found works well for short sessions but can feel repetitive if you're trying to kill more than thirty minutes or so. However, I'm only about a quarter of the way through the campaign, so there a possibility that more variety will be added later in the game. Also, I have to commend this game for managing to make maneuvers that are typically associated with a controller (sword swipes, firing a hookshot, etc) feel pretty smooth with a touch screen.

Dragon Quest ($2.99)

Dragon Quest
This RPG classic likely needs no introduction. Square Enix has put together a solid mobile remake of the original Dragon Quest (aka Dragon Warrior). The touch screen controls took a little time to get used to, but once I had adjusted, it was like I was a kid again hunched over his Gameboy Color. Something that jumped out at me in this version is that Square elected to keep the "old-timey" dialect associated with the NES version of the game, which can be equally nostalgic and (possibly unintentionally) funny. This is a very grindy RPG with very minimal story, but I actually like that in a mobile game since I feel like I can quickly get into the game, make some progress, and then get back to what I was doing in the real world.

Note: All info on this page is based on the Android versions of these games, but the iOS experience should be similar. Prices are Google Play prices in US dollars.

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