Version tested: Mobile
Oh look! Christmas is nearly here, and you're all sat nervously wondering what the hell to buy for your loved ones as the big day approaches. Well, if you have a partner who finds it exciting to receive the best that mobile gaming has to offer, then allow me to remind you of some of the best that I've had the pleasure of encountering over the past few months.
Top of the list is undoubtedly the mighty Game Dev Story. Now available on Android as well as iPhone, it's probably the best use of loose change imaginable. Elsewhere, check out the unbelievably addictive Flick Kick Football (Android, iOS), especially now that online multiplayer has been added, and don't forget the likes of Cut The Rope, Infinity Blade, Trainyard, Helsing's Fire, Numba, Piczle Lines and Mirror's Edge. Happy festivities!
Dead Rising Mobile
- iPhone - £2.39
At a time when the zombie apocalypse has befallen the UK's airports, the concept of repeatedly swatting away the undead takes on a peculiar satisfaction. There's only so long you can reasonably be expected to stand in the Costa queue before something inside you breaks.
Grabbing the nearest bench/axe/lawnmower, in Dead Rising Mobile you begin to cut a swathe through the frothing, gurning mass. Severed limbs dispense a festive red as they arc gracefully through the winter gloom. (The things you have to do to get a gingerbread latte around here.)
Unfortunately, like winter airport travel, Dead Rising Mobile is an exercise in abject disappointment. After marvelling at the PS1-era character models and horrific animation, you'll be similarly aghast at the complete incoherence of the game's structure.
The gameplay involves little more than following a waypoint, finding a weapon, killing X number of zombies, and repeating the process until you either get bored or find something better to do with your life - like standing around not getting on a plane to see your in-laws.
You might somehow eke a crumb of satisfaction out of discovering new weapons, but the chances are it'll just make you want to boot up the real thing on a home console. The sooner this stench of mobile putrefaction is buried out of sight, the happier we'll all be.
Let's Golf 2 HD
- Android - £3.00
- Also available on iPhone and iPad - £2.99
Let's golf again! Like we did last summer! Sadly, contractual obligations prevent Chubby Checker from providing us with detailed personal insight into Gameloft's celebrated golfing sequel, but insiders point to him being "really hummin'".
Checker (real name Ernest Evans, 69), was said to be "especially pumped" about the simple pick-up-and-play nature of the gameplay, where you tap to set the power meter rising, tap again to confirm the power to apply, and then tap a third time to set the accuracy of your drive.
He was also [I see you're continuing with this –Ed] thought to be "psyched" about the jolly art style, and the presence of eight playable characters, each with their own ridiculous cheating special move, such as the ability to rewind time or stop the ball at will.
The one-time Twist superstar was thought to be "stoked" with the prospect of 108 holes across six contrasting locations, including a Winter Wonderland in Greenland. "I bet their bloody airports still function," Checker was heard to remark to a close friend. [And this. –Ed]
But when pressed about the game's wholly undemanding difficulty level, those close to the former poultry worker remarked that Checker looked 'aggrieved and unhappy'. However, while playing online or local wi-fi multiplayer, his mood was said to have "visibly improved".
Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst
- Windows Phone 7 - £2.49
If in doubt about a game's ability to stand up on its own merits, attach a popular console brand to it. Voila! Instant sales.
Such is the case with Seed's otherwise-merely-interesting spin on tower defence. Presumably considered a little vanilla simply as a TD game set on real-world GPS maps, the game instead imports some of the weapons and enemies from the Crackdown 2 'universe' (please) and hopes we'll come bounding over like happy Labradors.
It's not a bad effort - at least initially. You can let Bing know where you'd like to set the game, and a top-down GPS map of your favourite battleground loads up, complete with your 'base' of operations. With mutant freaks making a relentless beeline for your manor, the idea is to set up defences of your choice, from simple machinegun nests to lasers and grenade-spewing turrets.
From there, you have the option of directing your fire as you see fit, or you can let the AI get on with the task at hand. As you earn money for kills, you can level up and repair your units, and even let the game get on with defending your honour while you're not playing.
But the autonomous nature of it all means it's slightly pointless to play. With more of a defined structure, this would have worked, but as it is the rather woolly notion of expanding your defences over a larger area doesn't work very well.
- iPhone - £0.59
The Gravity Guy has a rare, incurable condition. Like many who find themselves unwittingly exposed to Celine Dion's music, he has the compulsion to run as far away as possible. In his case, the rejection of the skinny Canadian is so profound that his muscle fibres are permanently locked in a fight or flight state.
Forced to continue running forever, he has developed the cunning power to bend gravity to his whim. This is just as well, really, because he has the law in hot pursuit. Even hate-crimes against balladeering are frowned upon these days.
But beneath the hate, his jumping heart remains pure, and it's up to you to dictate which way gravity works for our desperate fugitive.
Superficially, this is Miniclip's Canabalt; a runaway one-button super-minimalist platform masterpiece with no happy ending. But while Canabalt at least afforded you the opportunity to leap to safety, here you have to let gravity do its thing, thrusting you up to the safety of a nearby ceiling or down to the floor. As soon as an obstacle appears, you have no choice but to flip things around once more - more often than not without knowing whether safety awaits.
Unlike Canabalt, a definite structure awaits, with 30 levels to bound through - each with checkpoints - allowing you the chance to become mired in gleeful trial and error. He might have vengeance in his heart, this Gravity Guy, but his aim is true.
- iPad - £2.99
- iPhone - £0.59
It's Marble Madness, Jim, but not as we know it. Rather than being entrusted with merely rolling a ball down to a waiting hole, Zattikka wants us to build the whole god-damned track instead.
As is the way of these things, it's never quite as easy as it looks. Given a limited number of track parts, you must place them carefully around an isometric environment and then unleash the ball.
Assuming you've placed them all correctly, the ball will roll gently down to the exit hole and you can mentally high-five yourself for not smashing it into little chunks.
The problem, though, is that the ball will smash if the ride home is anything less than perfectly smooth. You can't allow it to drop even a tiny fraction, and it will continue to roll in a straight line unless you manage to divert it with a directional arrow. Sure enough, the further you progress through the 50 puzzles, the more twists and turns you encounter, and the more elaborate your creations need to become in order to satisfy the gods of puzzling.
With its violently garish visuals, Isoball won't exactly court many admiring glances from the cool kids, but don't believe its lies. Beneath its polite, poverty-stricken exterior lies a growling beast of a puzzler that will keep you up all night. As ever, it's the quiet ones you've got to watch.