Version tested: iPhone
Hello, good evening and welcome to the inaugural Mobile Games Roundup. [It's lunchtime actually. -Ed.] After six months of being tormented by your weeping faces in our dreams, we thought we should salve our collective conscience and get around to fully focusing on the many fun and interesting things going on in the world of mobile gaming.
We even had a whip-round, ferreted around down the back of the sofa and got ourselves an Android handset (an HTC Desire, for reference). So, from now on, you'll be treated to reviews of the most interesting nuggets across all of Apple's iOS devices and the Android. When Windows Phone 7 hits, we'll be sure to focus on that as well. No-one could bear to see a Windows fan oozing salty tears of negligence, now could they?
Mr Yin & Ms Yang
- iPhone / £0.59
You know how it goes. You're on your way to your wedding, you get dragged into a dark parallel universe, and then spend your life trying to be reunited with your future spouse before your guests get bored and start singing Come On Eileen in French.
No, this isn't the latest episode of Fringe, but an adorable platform-puzzler from new Japanese indie FunTribe. In the 50 single-screen stages, Mr Yin can move through areas with a white background, while Ms. Yang can pass through black areas.
Although they can use the opposing colour as a platform to jump onto, they can't walk through it, so you have to ensure safe passage for the inverse sweethearts by turning blocks from black to white and vice versa.
Problematically, you can only 'dig' diagonally downwards in the direction you're facing, so you're somewhat limited in the available blocks that you can invert - but if you get it wrong, you can always revert them.
With its endearing art style and pressure-free design, the only thing to worry about is the fate of the guests. No-one likes a punch-up at a wedding. Or Come On Eileen, let's face it.
- Android / $1.99 (free demo)
What better way to kick off our long-awaited regular coverage of Android games than with one that will make you forget everything else going on around you? If you're one of the five people who imported the DS version on the back of John Walker's love letter in 2007, take a bow. Otherwise, listen up.
Simple and evil in roughly equal measures, the idea of these delightful logic tests is to snake a line around a grid and link it up, while adhering to the numbers scattered liberally across it. The placement of each line depends solely on the numbers denoted, so, for example, if you see a zero, you'll know that no lines can be drawn on that part of the grid, while a three will require that three out of the four sides of the square need to be involved.
Being a logic puzzle, most of it you'll be able to figure out through context, practice and common sense. But being a complete git of a game, what often looks perfectly straightforward will most likely have you missing tube stops, laying awake at night and ignoring phone calls as you stare balefully at the task at hand.
If you find it all a bit too easy, you can switch to various-sized puzzles from small to huge, from easy to hard, or up the ante considerably by switching from square grids to honeycomb (i.e. hexagonal) grids. The only thing lacking is some sort of scoring system, as well as, perhaps, a hint system for when you're completely devoid of inspiration. Maybe Ejelta can include these in future revisions.
For the time being, though, simply having a decent version of Slitherlink readily available for next to nothing is something we should be grateful for.
[N.B. This is a review of Ejelta LLC's Slitherlink. Another (not quite as fully featured) Slitherlink is also available on the Android Market from Tatsuya Kaido.]
- Android / $1.99 (free demo includes 12 levels)
As a nation that is the undisputed heavyweight world champion of building things up to knock them down again, Super Tumble ought to go down very well with the perverse British psyche.
To save you all a bit of time, a stack of objects (let's think of them as famous sportsmen, pop stars, actors and associated wags) has been ready-assembled in a neat, but slightly precarious, pile. All perched at the top of their game, it's up to you, dear player, to smash them down back into the gutter in the fewest moves possible by tapping on their smug faces.
But because we like our beloved anti-heroes to remain intact, it's crucial that they don't fall completely into the abyss. They must, after all, land softly so that we can gleefully build them back up again. We need to have the option to knock them off their perch once more, lest they get a little too big for their boots.
So, yeah. Super Tumble. Despite being practically identical to about five other games with 'tumble' in the title, this one's rather lovely, and doesn't offend our sensibilities with annoying music or crap visuals. Download the free demo and nod approvingly.
Piyo Blocks 2 HD
- iPad / £1.79 (HD Lite version free. Also available on iPhone)
The puzzle classics are out in force this week. First Slitherlink, now Zoo Keeper, albeit peddled under the altogether less charming moniker of Piyo Blocks.
Fortunately for all those who lost most of 2005 to Success' DS classic, Big Pixel Studios appears to have created the best 'tribute' possible. Right down to the chunky art style and colour scheme, Piyo Blocks 2 HD tips its cap firmly in the Japanese studio's direction, swapping moody wild animals for odd 'Piyo' blocks, gems and fruit, but preserving everything that matters.
As usual, the simple aim is to continually slide tiles vertically or horizontally in order to match lines of three-or-more-of-a-kind. Absolutely tailor-made for touch-screen play, the extra real estate of the iPad not only makes it the ideal platform for quick, accurate block shifting, but allows for simultaneous head-to-head split-screen play. Yes!
To seal the deal beyond any doubt, there are a bunch of other modes, including the obligatory Time Attack, as well as Hyaku mode (capture 99 of each block type to level up), the fun-but-throwaway two-minute Disco mode (where blocks periodically change colour), or the frantic three-second mode, where you have three seconds to find a match before the game ends.
Throw in online leaderboards, iTunes library integration and a ludicrously cheap price, and it adds up to another fine reason to justify spending hundreds of pounds on Apple's slab.
- iPhone / £1.19
Look, everyone! A Chunsoft game in English! Chunwho? Well, quite. Having spent decades having its titles routinely ignored for Western release, the veteran Japanese developer can bypass this unjust treatment by releasing its games directly on the App Store.
Having made a name for itself with, er, me, for making interesting-looking (and usually SEGA-published) visual novel horror games, Chunsoft's intriguing concept of a 'sound horror' game had me giddily downloading the day it appeared. Who could resist a game that insists you wear headphones "for a surround effect to engulf players"? Engulf!
Sadly, the real horror emerges the moment you realise that you've purchased a shonky maze game, where you must escape the vengeful attentions of a cursed doll. Presumably the fear of being cackled to death drives you on, but apparently only one step at a time. Japan, may I introduce 3D Monster Maze.
What should have been the unearthing of a rare survival horror gem has turned into a bleak warning. Oh well, them's the breaks. An extra mark for particularly dry cackling.