Version tested: iPhone
Is this the best time ever for video games? As someone who reviews 10 games a week, and tries out plenty more, I've almost started to take for granted that there will be a minimum of two or three truly great games out. At that rate, over the course of a year, you're looking at as many as 100 great games that are worth spending money on - and that's just in the downloadable gaming scene.
This week provides an embarrassment of riches, and yet again, I didn't even cover half of the worthy contenders beating a path to my door.
From absolutely nowhere, we've got a new poster child for the Android scene in the shape of Cordy, an effortlessly charming superbudget LittleBigPlanet. MotorTrialz similarly pinches a good idea and refashions it to great effect, while Remedy trawls its back catalogue and delivers probably the best mobile racing game in the process.
And then there's Ozone HD, a game that completely passed me by last summer but is well worth investigating, while the awesome Pac-Man CE DX makes a debut mobile appearance on Windows Phone 7 - but does it match up to the 10/10 I slapped upon it last year?
- iPhone - £0.59
Hopefully, RedLynx will one day sprinkle its incendiary genius over the smartphone scene and deliver the gaming crack that is Trials. Until that day, be content with the mildly addictive MotoTrialz.
When developer Tooko originally released iTrials, its 'tribute' to the side-scrolling stunt racer, last October, RedLynx had a justifiable paddy about it being rather too close to its inspiration. Six months later, it returns with a new name, different locations and a few placatory tweaks, and takes its place as the best mobile motocross stunt racer around.
As you'd expect, there's only one goal: get to the finishing line as quickly as possible and bask in the glow of online leaderboard glory. En route, there's the usual assortment of ramps, logs, see-saws, moving platforms and meddlesome obstacles to negotiate, along with frustration-reducing checkpoints that prevent you having to start from scratch as soon as you fall off.
Success comes down to that tricky compromise of judging momentum and balance, and Tooko does a fine job of approximating the formula with (usually) convincing physics and an intuitive, streamlined control system that doesn't (usually) result in you hurling your iPhone through the nearest window. Always worth bonus points, that.
For your massive 59 pence outlay, you get 27 tricky-as-you-like courses, rendered with the requisite loving care, and the chance to obsess over your times with your equally OCD friends. Honestly, what's not to love?
- iPhone/iPad - £0.59 (Universal binary - third generation and higher)
- Previously released on PC.
You might have been dimly aware that Remedy existed long before Max Payne, but did you ever bother to find out what its old top-down shooty racer for DOS was like? I certainly didn't. Well, more fool me, because it's ace.
Unlike the pretty-but-soulless Reckless Racing, Death Rally is very much the real deal, offering a brand of raw, exciting and relentless combat racing where blasting your opponents off the track is as much a part of the race as the driving itself. Crucially, control is precise and responsive, and with basic firing taken care of automatically, you can focus on steering, for the most part.
In what amounts to a mini CarPG, initial forays place less importance on winning than just getting out there in a series of short and sharp beginner races, messing around and generally grinding out a few performance and equipment upgrades in the process.
Over the course of the first hour or so, your speed, armour and weapon stats will rise to the extent that you can start actually winning races and climbing the career ladder. New races lead to new unlocks, new vehicles and more opponents to take down, and once you've got better weapons (such as shotguns, sniper rifles and gatling guns), you can adopt a much more destructive strategy.
This quick-fire, piecemeal format is absolutely perfect for mobile play, with races usually lasting no more than a few minutes at a time. But thanks to its moreish upgrade and progression system, it will keep you coming back for more.
Back when all games cost upwards of £30, it wasn't easy to keep up with games like Death Rally. Nowadays, you've got literally no excuse to hold off buying the best top-down racing available on mobile platforms. Better late than never.
One for the "How the bejesus did I miss this?" files is Ignacio Sanchez Gines' delightful bubble-stroking puzzler. Seriously: how?
Like so many games involving wanton spherical coaxing, Ozone desires you to usher a fragile bubble from one side of a top-down environment to the other, scooping up keys and precious orbs en route.
It's mechanically similar to the wondrous Osmos; the force of moving the bubble around emits air from its innards, so you have to judge direction and momentum with deftness to avoid losing all your air - and therefore your dignity.
Along the way, you'll need to steer clear of nasty spikes and similarly ruinous traps (or shoot them) and generally plot a path through to the eventual goal. Once you've sucked up the aforementioned orbs, of course.
Over the 50 levels, you'll periodically encounter our old friend the boss monster, and repeatedly smash him in the face with nuclear weapons and circuit-troubling missiles. That's the way it goes for the modern bubble.
Just don't make the same mistake I did and completely neglect your duty to buy all deserving games. Especially the cheap and brilliant ones like Ozone.
- Android - Free
- Full version £1.31
Android users have been cruelly denied a decent exclusive to lord it over their smug iPhone-owning chums of late. But not any more.
Welcome Cordy, a "little robot with a big job". He's a Sackboy tribute act who demands that you "harness the power of pure fun", which essentially involves bounding hell for leather around bright and breezy 2.5D levels collecting energy particles, powering up a 'thing' and getting to the newly opened exit. As you do.
Despite its obvious stylistic debt to LittleBigPlanet, Silvertree Media's classy effort will charm the arse off anyone who rips through the opening quartet of freebie levels. Yeah, it's boring to harp on about a game being good for the price, but this is one that will have you clicking on the buy button in record time. £1.31, you say? Sold.
Like any platformer worth its collectibles, it keeps the interest level high through new toys, new challenges and most importantly, consistently good level design.
Cordy also succeeds by being blessed with tight controls, and has recently been considerately optimised for the lucky Xperia Play owners out there, meaning that you can play it with all the precision of a normal console platformer.
It's also important to point out that Cordy is easily the best-looking game to hit Android to date. Let's hope for everyone else's sake that its position as an Android exclusive is a brief one.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
- Windows Phone 7 - £5.49 (free trial available)
You'd have to be feeling particularly curmudgeonly not to appreciate the genius that was Pac-Man Championship Edition DX on 360 and PS3. Perhaps you prefer gardening, or peeling the labels off jam jars in preparation for your insect traps. Not everyone wants to mainline on adrenaline for the duration, admittedly.
If Namco had just ported the whole show over to Windows Phone 7, its legion of owners would have had their (much-tested) patience rewarded after months of Game Room nonsense and Johnny-come-lately ports of 2008's finest iOS games.
Instead, you get approximately one-third of the content of the original, with only three of the nine courses making the transition (Championship II, Manhattan, and Dungeon), and three visual variants per course.
If you can live with that, there are still five modes per course to quietly obsess over, with three- and five-minute Score Attacks, Ghost Combo, as well as the long-form Time Trial and 10 short Time Trials to ace per course.
Whether you'll want to play it on a mobile phone is another matter. When the game's not running like the clappers, the swipe-based controls work well, and the pinch-based bomb-dispensing system is a neat solution. The faster you go, though, the more room there is for involuntary cursing.
If Namco get around to releasing a full-fat port of Pac-Man CE DX on the Xperia Play, it would be well worth the £5.49 it's currently charging. But right now, in its needlessly curtailed form, it feels a little cheeky and more than a little overpriced.
Bonus round: Out now on Android
A lot of you have requested that we cover more of the Android sector. The problem tends to be that many, if not most, of the new releases on the platform have appeared elsewhere, and naturally it's more interesting to cover new releases than keep going over old ground. Sometimes we come across ports that we never reviewed the first time around, so it's good to highlight those wherever possible, but most go under the radar. So here's a solution: a handy list of interesting ports out now on Android.
- Game Dev Story - £1.74
- Hot Springs Story - £3.03
- Death Worm - £1.84
- Flick Kick Football - £0.63
- Reckless Racing - £3.07
- Toki Tori - £1.84
- Flight Control - £1.84
- Galcon - £1.22
- Drop 7 - £1.84 [Greatest mobile game ever, buy this now -Ed.]
- Backbreaker Football - £1.84
- Worms - £1.91
- Solipskier - £1.84
- Tiki Towers - £1.84
- Must Eat Birds - £0.59
- Splode - £0.61
- Evac - £1.49
- Battleheart - £1.84
- Ninjump - Free
- Slice It - Free