Ever noticed how snooty some people can be about mobile games, or downloadable games in general? As if the fact that they're cheap, and possibly short, somehow disqualifies them from being considered 'proper' games?
The same applies to the scores we attach to the games. Some folk appear to require a sort of universal scoring system, where only full price titles can possibly be worth high marks, and anything simple and cheap can only deserve a maximum of, say, 5/10.
Anyone who has sunk hours into a life-sapping game like Game Dev Story or the absurdly addictive Flick Kick Football knows what absolute nonsense that is, and yet it's surprising how many people still don't get it. Perhaps it's a mindset born out of well-worn habits; it feels like older gamers brought up on simple games have been instantly receptive, while some of those schooled in the modern epics can't quite see the appeal.
Which side of the fence are you on?
- iPhone /iPad (unified binary) - £2.99
Having spent the best part of the past couple of years battling notorious trademark troll Tim Langdell, it's nice to see the Mobigames mob back with a title that's unlikely to require a name change. Unless Rare trademarked 'Perfect'.
Taking its cue from Chair's universally lauded side-scrolling action adventure Shadow Complex, Perfect Cell tasks you with guiding "the most advanced creature ever developed on Earth" out of a high security submarine base. There are only so many episodes of The Only Way Is Essex that you can reasonably be expected to miss out on.
This 'creature' turns out to be a rather vengeful floating pink octopus thing that has the ability to sashay gracefully around the environment with a swipe in any given direction, or dash into things at high speed with a quick swipe.
Split into 35 bite-sized levels, the idea is to either sneak undetected to the exit, or smash everyone responsible into next week for denying you internet access and a Sky subscription. If you want to be especially violent, you can press and hold your finger on the pinky blob to set up a deadly 'draw and dash' manoeuvre to slice unsuspecting foes in half. They were probably litigious little sods anyway.
Being something of a multi-faceted individual, ol' Pinky can also divide his form in half (and eventually into three) via neat multi-touch controls – an especially handy trick when you need to press several switches at once to gain access to locked-down areas.
The further you progress, the uglier the whole sorry mess gets, with sweeping lasers, radiation, and armoured foes showing you who's boss. With its nugget-sized level design, intuitive mechanics and impressively lavish production values, Perfect Cell is one of those perfect on-the-road games to savour one tasty chunk at a time.
- iPhone/iPad (unified binary) - £1.79
Fed up with odorous commuters sitting next to you on trains and squashing you against the window? Then play strange and interesting videogames that make you mutter out loud with disturbed bewilderment.
Case in point: Dmitriy Kuzmenko's endearingly odd roll 'em up, where confused fumbling is the order of the day as you gamely attempt some psychedelic interior decoration without the benefit of sight.
What you do have, though, is a strange little game that fancies that you might enjoy trying to roll a ball around the edges of various shapes by manipulating gravity. Doing so involves twisting the handset around, and swiping the screen in rotational arcs to make fine adjustments.
For a while at least, it's something to pleasantly zone out to. There's nothing especially skilful about it, you just have to be persistent and thorough, and then you're on to the next one like some sort of blissed out, dutiful decorator.
But then it goes and throws all sorts of junk into the mix and gradually turns into a bit of a faff. Sometimes adding challenge doesn't necessarily equate to more fun, so if you can roll yourself silly over all 60 levels, I will personally give you a biscuit of your choice. You deserve it.
- iPhone/iPad (unified binary) - £0.59
Hot damn. Such is the blazing pace of the world of downloadable games, by the time you read this you'll already have missed out on the chance to grab Geared 2 for free. But don't worry, at 59p you can instead feel like you're giving something back, as opposed to being a freeloading herbert.
Like Bryan Mitchell's other cog-placing puzzlers (including the recently reviewed Windows Phone 7 version, Revolution), it's all about getting power to specific gears. You're given a selection of cogs of varying sizes to place down, and tasked with getting the whole thing connected up properly as quickly as your fumbling fingers can manage.
What always looks fairly simple to begin with inevitably becomes a teeth-gnashing mission as you try to find the elusive solution. And, this being the kind of horribly addictive puzzler that makes you sound like you're attempting to impersonate an irritated pirate, the 'reward' for your success is almost certainly an even trickier level.
With 200 of the blessed things to face (of which 140 are evil user-created levels), public transport delays will be positively welcome.
- Windows Phone 7 - £3.99 (free trial available)
Having wallowed like a greasy hog in the all-consuming world of videogames for so long, it's easy to forget that there are some cracking board games out there – like Zombies!!! A game so shocking it requires three exclamation marks to underline the gravity!!! of the situation!!!
If you've never played the game before, the fine people of Babaroga (whose website states that their games empirically do not suck) do a fine job of introducing you to the basics. 10 minutes in and I didn't want to spoon my eyes out, which is always a good sign.
Akin to a decent turn-based strategy title, the ultimate aim is to become the first player either to slay 25 zombies or to escape to the helipad. The rules are pretty easy to pick up, the isometric maps are clear and clean, and it doesn't bog you down with needless information early on.
Designed for two to six players (including a combination of AI and human players), you kick off with three hearts, three measly bullets, and three event cards, which essentially allow you to screw over your opponent in a variety of ways. A roll of the die determines how many spaces you move, and you can then head off in whichever direction you fancy, either to scoop up more health and ammo or to take on the shuffling undead.
Combat is pretty basic, with a roll of four or more required to kill your opponent – fail and you can either trade a life or use one of your bullets to meet the required total.
It's fun, instant, and draws you in right from the start. The only problem is its almost total unsuitability for mobile play, with games lasting a bare minimum of half an hour – not such an issue against the AI, but a fairly big one if you're expecting to have a quick session on the way to work.
As an Xbox Live title, Zombies!!! would work perfectly, but I'm not wholly convinced that you'll get the most out it on the move.
- Android - $0.99
- Also on iPhone - £1.19
Lured by the prospect of a 'Metroidvania', I thought it was high time to check out the latest in a long line of iOS ports bolstering the Android's reputation. With its gorgeous pixel art and hippy-dippy premise, who wouldn't want to heal the Mother Tree?
Unfortunately, Spearhead Entertainment doesn't appear to believe in peace and harmony when it comes to designing intuitive, free-flowing control systems. Rather than, say, opt for a logical touch-based system or tilt-based movement, it unwisely opts to combine both, for no apparent reason.
Although tilting does control your movement, you need to hit the dive button to build up momentum. Getting your head around having to land and then push off takes time, and whether you can be bothered largely determines how much fun you'll have with Phoenix Spirit.
And then there's the similarly fiddly combat, where enemies take far too many hits to dispatch – and in a game where moving and firing accurately is already tricky, some sections quickly turn into a thankless slog.
With a few simple refinements to the control system, Phoenix Spirit would have been a lovely game, but as it is, it feels like one that requires rather too much patience to get the most out of.