Stuff Gadget Awards 2015: Mobile Game
We love our console games, but we've found an Xbox is actually pretty rubbish on a train — even if you’ve got a really long extension lead.
So when we’re out and about, you’ll find us playing games on a smartphone or tablet. And in all honesty, even when we’re at home, mobile games are so good these days that you might find us pawing at glass screens rather than clinging on to a gamepad.
These are our must-have favourites for 2015 - but we haven't settled on an overall winner. In fact we were kind of hoping you might do that for us, by scrolling down and voting. Thanks!
The chicken from the crossing-the-road joke has apparently been a very bad poulet, and is now in some kind of hell. Before it: endless roads with busy traffic, rivers with floating logs, and train-tracks with trains moving at the kinds of speeds that would make most commuters green with envy. Dawdle and a giant eagle swoops down and takes the chicken off to presumably be horribly devoured.
Frogger, then, but endless, with oodles of charm through a gorgeous (and subsequently massively ripped-off) art style, and loads of unlockable characters, some of which transform the game in surprising ways.
Reimagining Canabalt-style stripped-down 2D platforming, Fotonica spins the scene 90 degrees and turns it into an android’s fever dream.
You leap through semi-abstract wireframe levels, snatches of recognisable landscapes zooming past in a haze as shapes whirl before your eyes. Fotonica is fast. It’s demanding, too, each of the eight finite levels requiring you to commit their entire multi-level structures to memory. Master them all and you can tackle three endless modes.
All this is played out to a stunning electronic soundtrack that augments the runner’s footsteps and desperate breaths. (Note: iOS 9 messed up the music on some iOS devices. A fix— version 1.1.7 — is now available.)
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game
If you can’t wait for your next fix of dragons, swordplay, sex and general nastiness, head to your mobile device. As with The Walking Dead, Telltale Games has brought its graphic adventure smarts to Game Of Thrones, tasking you with helping House Forrester to not get horribly butchered.
The games episodes are set between the TV show’s third and fifth seasons, and include plenty of voice talent from the telly. As ever, the gameplay itself features a mix of decision-making and short action scenes, but mostly it’s the story that will keep you engrossed until the bloody end.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
You might glance at Dimensions and think you’ve seen it all before. Neon ships! Twin-stick shooting! Lots of things going BOOM! But in making one major modification — wrapping claustrophobic arenas around geometric shapes — everything changes.
You’ll find yourself desperately fighting off waves of deadly foes as a huge box flips about in the void, or darting between safe zones on the surface of a giant space peanut. It’s a dizzying, dazzling experience — easily the best twin-stick shooter on mobile, and up there with the very best in the genre on any platform.
Dumped in front of an old-school computer program called LOGIC, you’re faced with a search prompt ominously suggesting you enter MURDER. Do so and Her Story gives you videos to watch, featuring a woman being interviewed by police.
In each, you’ll notice clues regarding what to look for next. LOGIC’s limitations mean the results list never goes beyond five videos, a contrivance that forces you to juggle the narrative in your head and piece together the woman’s story. Hunches will lead to suspicions; suspicions will lead to surprises.
Her story — and indeed Her Story — isn’t what it seems. It is, however, a modern mobile classic.
# A love letter to old-school gaming, Horizon Chase channels the Amiga’s Lotus series and Top Gear on the SNES. Thumbing its nose at ‘realism’, this is arcade racing at its best. You start at the back, and have a mere handful of laps to blaze past 20 rivals, in an attempt to take the chequered flag. The few concessions to modern gaming are smartly considered: gorgeous lighting effects that find you driving into sunsets and snowstorms; vibrant low-poly roadside objects; and a bite-sized level structure with auto-save. A few races in and you’ll wonder why all racers aren’t made this way.
Lara Croft GO
Everyone’s favourite tomb raider goes turn-based, in a series of single-screen puzzles. It should never have worked, but just like Hitman GO, this reimagining of Lara Croft’s adventures turns out to be glorious.
Perhaps it’s the sense of exploration, missing from her other mobile outings; or perhaps it’s the palpable sense of atmosphere and gorgeous graphics. Regardless, we were glued to the screen until the very end, which admittedly came all too soon. It’s a great quest while it lasts, though.
“Help me.” So begins Lifeline…, as you receive an out-of-the-blue transmission from Taylor. It turns out Taylor’s crashed on an alien world and is a rather indecisive sort. You must therefore help, suggesting courses of action that, with a little luck, won’t get Taylor horribly killed billions of miles from home.
Essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure, Lifeline… has smart writing that gets you emotionally invested, and plays with time, often leaving hours between messages.
Although you can play on a smartphone, this is the one title you should check out on Apple Watch. The interface and story work better on the confines of a tiny screen, the retro-future sci-fi nature of Apple’s device making it feel like you really could be communicating with someone out there among the stars.
PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist
YouTube's biggest star takes centre stage in a surprisingly charming platform side-scroller. Legend of the Brofist hails back to classic 16-bit titles via a slew of silly one-liners and varied gameplay challenges. Of course, there's plenty of that famous Swede in it too.
You Must Build A Boat
We thought we’d had enough of match games, but then You Must Build A Boat smashed the genre into endless runners and we very much thought again.
Here, your little explorer darts along, and you must time matches to help him survive — daggers when facing off against monsters, or locks when tackling treasure chests.
Any swag grabbed before the hero’s shoved unceremoniously off of the screen can be spent on upgrading your boat, which starts out as a little canoe but is soon filled with all kinds of crew that — from a stats/power perspective at least — aids you on subsequent quests.