There are hundreds of fantastic games available for Android, and a lot of them are available for absolutely nothing.
Whether ad-supported or based on a (boo and indeed hiss) “freemium” model, these titles are free – and guaranteed to make your morning commute a little less painful.
Dream of Pixels
Essentially an upside-down floaty Tetris, Dream of Pixels has you take chunks out of a relentlessly encroaching cloud bank by way of tetrominos.
The app’s visuals and audio are suitably atmospheric, and the controls are great. Piece placement is intelligent, intuitive and smart — you simply tap where you’d like your tetromino to go and it automatically rotates, although you can drag across the cloud to see your options.
Beyond the standard game, there’s a zen puzzle mode based around static shapes you match by using a specific set of tetrominos. And if you still hanker for more, a one-off S$3 payment gets you three tougher modes to tackle.
This deceptively simple platform game strips the genre right back, placing a firm emphasis on learning levels, timing, and exploration. Your jumping bean never stops bouncing, and you simply guide it left or right.
The usual platform-game tropes are evident: monsters to jump on; fruit and gems to gather. But Bean Dreams cleverly adds replay value by way of missions that can’t all be completed on a single run: sticking to a bounce count; finding hidden pet axolotls; and collecting all the fruit.
What first seems simple and reductive is really a big challenge, but the straightforward controls are perfect for touchscreens, rather than you spending most of your time battling a hideous virtual D-pad.
This reimagining of the dot-muncher’s adventures comes from the Crossy Road developers. It dumps Pac-Man beyond the infamous level-256 glitch, which becomes an all-devouring entity, slowly consuming everything in its path.
Our yellow hero must keep moving, munching dots, avoiding ghosts, and grabbing power-ups that enable him to spew laser death from his maw. Ah, yes — that bit’s new. Pac-Man has power-ups now, and additional ones are earned the more you play.
We imagine it’s quite the surprise to any ghosts loitering about a power pellet when their face is removed by a Pac-Laser or whirling tornado sent their way.
Having reinvented Frogger and Pac-Man for mobile, the Crossy Road developers take on 1980s blasters in Shooty Skies.
This vertically scrolling shoot ’em up echoes the likes of 1942 and Xevious, but has the same oddball sensibilities that were infused into Crossy Road. So rather than downing an endless stream of boring jets, you’re mostly attacking crazed memes and deranged technology, such as joystick-spewing arcade cabinets and laptops running LOLcat loops.
The big surprise is how tough Shooty Skies is. The game takes no prisoners, and although you can shoot sky-based gifts to acquire temporary wingmen (which have great names like Rocket Pug), getting past the colossal bosses requires seriously deft finger work.
Beneath The Lighthouse
Nitrome has a habit of unleashing ostensibly ‘casual’ titles that hide a ferocious underbelly. Beneath The Lighthouse is perhaps the developer’s finest, largely through doing something different and being a perfect fit for mobile.
The conceit is the lighthouse has failed, forcing you to search the caverns beneath for your lost grandpa. Each room is a circular death trap, rotated by turning an on-screen wheel. Your rotund character then moves by way of the magic of gravity. With luck, he’ll make the exit; if not, he’ll probably be nastily impaled.
The level design is smart and rapidly becomes challenging, especially if you want to win speedrun medals. The game’s freemium nature is fair, too. You get three lives per stage, which can be refreshed by watching an ad; S$8 removes ads and life limits forever.