July 2016: This month’s top pick
“Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.” This is the intro message for Pokémon Go. It’s not a message to your in-game character, and it’s not a piece of lore: this is a genuine warning for you, the player. Why is it necessary? Because Pokémon Go takes you outside and into an undiscovered world full of wonder. Pokémon Go is alive.
Pokémon Go… is dangerous.
In this, already immensely popular Android title, you play as a Pokémon trainer who must travel around a map nabbing critters and battling other trainers. Instead of taking place purely in the digital Pokémon universe, Pokémon Go happens in our world.
By combining GPS and augmented reality elements, Pokémon Go plants Pokémon in real locations: and it’s up to you to get out there and “catch ‘em all”.
This is one of the first major Android titles which really takes advantage of the unique facets of smartphones as a medium. Disappointingly few games have managed to capitalize on the technology available, but Pokémon Go is a brave and successful leap in the right direction. And it looks like it’s going to be a formidable force in gaming.
Apparently, this game is quite popular. / © AndroidPIT
SIZE 58 MB
ANDROID REQUIREMENT Android 4.4 and above
VERSION TESTED 0.29.0
The award-winning Her Story is now on Android, a year after its initial PC release. Her Story has you search through a database of police interviews to try and explore the mystery of a fictional murder from 1994. I say explore rather than solve because Her Story doesn’t really require any Sherlock-level powers of deduction or puzzle-solving: you simply enter search terms into the database and any video featuring those words will appear for you to watch.
This means, hypothetically, that you could stumble upon the last video in the story on your first search. But what’s fascinating is how little that matters: despite its non-linearity, Her Story still works and delivers a thriller full of twists and turns to keep you coming back.
I should warn you that there is very little ‘gameplay’ (ugh) in Her Story; there is no ‘winning’. Like one disappointed Play Store reviewer said, “All I could do was watch videos.” And yet it’s categorically one of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve had in recent years and one which I highly recommend (even if entering search terms isn’t quite as nice on a phone as it is on a physical keyboard).Get used to this smile. / © AndroidPIT
PRICE $2.99 (Discounted launch offer)
SIZE 1.0 GB
ANDROID REQUIREMENT Android 4.4 and above
VERSION TESTED 1.2.6
Download Her Story from the Play Store here
Battleplans combines slick cell-shaded graphics with a tried-and-true strategy formula. It’s is a free-to-play fantasy strategy game where you wage war, purchase troops and upgrades, wait for those troops or upgrades to be built – or pay for them to be built sooner with premium currency – wage war again, upgrade your town. Rinse, repeat, have fun.
It offers a bit more depth than other games in the genre. There is a time-limit element which adds a slight twist: you’re not only against the clock to win battles, but to win battles well. And the way you can move troops at timed intervals, for the most effective maneuvers, gives the gameplay an additional layer.
It’s clearly been designed off the back of mobile successes like Clash of Clans and Boom Beach, eschewing most of the same tropes. It’s not a revolutionary strategy game, but it’s competent and functional. If you’re still hungry for more of these types of free-to-play titles, don’t hesitate to try it.Battleplans has a subtle but undeniably impressive art style. / © AndroidPIT
SIZE 55 MB
ANDROID REQUIREMENT Android 4.4 and above
VERSION TESTED 1.6
Download Battleplans from the Play Store here
June 2016: This month’s top pick
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a fantasy story in which you take control of two young brothers on a quest to cure their dying father.
Though it has plenty of wonderful visual storytelling and fantastically drawn 3D environments, what’s unique about this game is that the brothers are controlled independently with a thumb on either side of the display. By using their individual strengths to solve puzzles, you can progress through the nordic-inspired land.
Because the characters speak an unknown language (without subtitles), you learn who they are only from how they interact with objects and characters. While the older brother is often focused on the task at hand, the younger tends to approach the world more playfully; at times, these simple, subtle acts of cooperation and companionship are beautiful to watch.
My one hangup is that Brothers is ill-suited to touchscreens (it has been ported to Android after being launched originally on Xbox 360). Moving both characters at the same time can be tricky and I suspect there was an additional ‘interact button’ on other systems, rather than this being tied to the movement control as it is on the Android version.Due to occasionally awkward controls, Brothers is best played on larger displays. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from the Play Store here
An awesome upbeat soundtrack, great animations and a wacky theme make Crashing Season an instant hit. Rather than hunting wildlife, this title puts you in charge of the typically preyed upon animals such as elk, bears, and alligators, as they run across the map taking out rifle-wielding huntsman.
There are specific objectives on each level – survive for ‘X’ number of seconds or eliminate enemies in a specific way – but since they’re constantly attacking you, you’ll need to take care to dodge the incoming barrage of bullets.
The low-poly art style is unique and well executed in this free pick-up-and-play title.Crashing Seasons has a low-fi charm. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Crashing Season from the Play Store here
In this sequel to Vector, the original free-runner from developer NEKKI, you are once more put in control of a silhouetted hero who must parkour his way out of danger in a cyberpunk future.
Production values are higher in Vector 2, but the core gameplay remains as attractive as ever. Swipe across the display to make your character jump, run and slide, while grabbing items and dodging traps.
Despite its familiarity, the game remains an engaging challenge, and the responsive controls and tight level design mean it’s always fair.Improved backdrops, animations and upgrade system make Vector 2 an excellent sequel. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Vector 2 from the Play Store here
Pathfinder Adventures is a fantasy roleplaying game based on the physical Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. This digital version was recently released in the Play Store and it’s incredible.
Or should I say, it will be incredible – it has a lot of bugs and its mechanical depth makes it quite unapproachable for people who don’t know the original card game. Seriously, just understanding the basics could take up to an hour and perhaps this could be simplified.
However, Pathfinder Adventures is demanding in a way that’s rare for mobile titles. It’s not a quickly consumed rice crispy snack. It’s a hefty meat pie. Obsidian Entertainment is known for doing things big and Pathfinder Adventures is no different. It fuses questing, cards, character-building and fantastic art to deliver an experience which, once you get into it, is hard to put down.
If you’re a fan of RPGs, or CCGs, or you just want a more sophisticated Android gaming experience, you must check this out. Just be patient with regards to initial performance issues.Those bracers of protection could come in vital on your quest. / © ANDROIDPIT
Star Knight is a minimalist 2D action platformer. Four onscreen controls allow you to jump, run left, run right, and attack which you will be required to do to navigate through a series of increasingly difficult levels.
Star Knight does a lot with a little. The colors and lighting combine to create a wonderfully atmospheric setting. It’s not the first platformer to be tough or use silhouettes or a flat design aesthetic (see Alto’s Adventure below). But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in charm.
It’s difficult, but it’s not cruel. There are some instant kills from spike traps, but they’re usually clear. Small enemies do a lot of damage but health pickups are plentiful and checkpoints, frequent.
I’m not usually a fan of touchscreen controls in games that require precise jumping (outside of autorunners). But the strengths in tone and aesthetics mean I can overlook this in Star Knight. If nothing else, Star Knight has lovely looks. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Star Knight from the Google Play Store
This month’s top pick
Cube Escape: Theatre
Cube Escape is a point-and-click-esque adventure game series available on Android, iOS and desktop. This is developer Rusty Lake’s eighth outing in the series and I’m a fan of these titles because they’re regularly clever and compelling.
Cube Escape: Theatre requires you to solve a variety of puzzles to ensure that the Rusty Lake Theatre carries out its six scheduled performances. Unlike many Android titles, there’s no hand-holding here: everything you learn and discover in the game will be the result of your own hard work. And I love Rusty Lake for allowing me to feel smart in this way.
Frustration can ensue in these types of games when you don’t know how to continue and gameplay devolves into ‘try this item in every possible place until it fits,’ but Cube Escape: Theatre manages to avoid this in some clever ways (like its use of a knowledge broker/bartender character trope).
The puzzles are generally very well conceived and its off-beat tone is consistent throughout the art, writing and gameplay. It’s bizarre and wonderful.A room. Some items. You figure it out. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Cube Escape: Theatre from the Google Play Store
A fast and responsive autorunner, Chameleon Run utilizes the color-switching mechanic so popular in mobile gaming at the minute to great effect.
The game sees you jumping across varicolored platforms, and your task is to time your jump and switch color to ensure that your character matches the color of the platform on which you land.
Generally, the levels are very short, but they’re carefully designed, offering that perfect balance that achieves ‘just one more go’ addictiveness. Fast-paced, 60 fps, color-swtiching beauty. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Chameleon Run from the Google Play Store
Nintendo’s first venture into mobile gaming, Miitomo marks a quietly innovative entrance. It’s essentially a social media platform through which you interact with your friends using a carefully created avatar and compete against one another in games.
Currently, there’s only one such game available in Miitomo, but expect this to change soon, and in the meantime, it provides a good way to gather valuable items that will no doubt prove useful later on.
It’s a unique offering for a number of reasons, not least for its freemium model, which works on smaller, less frequent purchases and a less aggressive campaign behind them, avoiding the notification and ad bombardment that plagues other freemium titles.Create your avatar and get ready for a new breed of gaming with Miitomo. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Miitomo from the Google Play Store
We’re always on the lookout here for good new RTS games on Android, as the market is very scarce. And MechCom 2 offers a very sturdy Warzone-2100-inspired outing that will please anyone with a hankering for strategy.
It sees you play the role of a military commander sent by a powerful corporation to mine for minerals on an alien planet. Of course, it’s no picnic: a war is raging for control of the mineral-rich world.
It’s well tailored to the mobile platform, but sometimes this comes at the expense of exhaustive customization options. Otherwise, especially for just $1, the game demonstrates high production values, and it’s clearly been developed by a team with a love of RTS games. All in all, a great way to get your strategy fix on the go.Mine for minerals and fight for control of a planet in MechCom 2. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download MechCom 2 from the Google Play Store
The latest offering from Supercell has been given an enormous advertising push and is guaranteed to ride the top-10 charts in the Play Store for months to come.
Clash Royale is a blend of multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), real-time strategy (RTS) and collectible card game (CCG). The way it mixes these elements is deftly effective, in the way only such a huge and well-established developer could achieve.
Sure, it’s a great deal more simplified than other RTSs or CCGs, and this is done to make it more approachable, but it never feels trivial. It also retains the clan element, allowing players to band together to share cards, and thus gain more experience.
Beware, as ever, the freemium. The game uses time-locked upgrades to encourage you to make purchases, but if you’re patient, you can just wait it out.Clash Royale provides Supercell’s most polished gaming experience yet. / © ANDROIDPITClash Royale
There are plenty of tap-to-float games out there, but it’s always cool to see something add a little twist, and Fading Light does just that. You navigate a glowing cube through increasingly difficult networks of tunnels as your light source slowly wanes. Along the way, you have to hit top ups to restock your light fuel and then continue in search of the maze’s end.
The mechanism provides the gameplay with an endless source of tension, and few games like this have pulled me in so quickly and effectively.
One recommendation, though: mute the music.
I’ve written about Downwell before and it is one of my favorite games of 2015. It was first released on PC and iOS but you can now enjoy it on Android, and it’s as delicious as ever.
Downwell is played in portrait orientation: you fall through the narrow screen blasting enemies and gaining items as you go. Reach the end of the stage and you will be given a choice of perks to help you through the next level. Stages get increasingly more difficult and you only have a small number of lives, and you lose one every time you sustain damage.
It has all of the cool things you could ask for from a game: Gunboots? Check. ZX Spectrum-style graphics? Check. Murderous jellyfish? Check. But it’s not just the precise controls and excellent enemy design that makes Downwell awesome, it’s the constant decision making it forces you to undertake.
Your gunboot ammo is limited, but can be replenished if you land on an object or enemy. The problem is that some enemies cause damage when you land on them. This forces you to play strategy, risk and reward off against each other almost every second.
Downwell is wonderfully difficult and incredibly rewarding, and it’s one of those rare games that has all of the right parts, and they are all crafted so consistently. Really, don’t miss this.
Download Downwell from Google Play
Color Switch might be the most popular game on Android right now and if you play it you’ll immediately see why. You tap the screen to bounce a ball upwards through a series of obstructions. Each of these obstructions is made up of four colors, and your bouncing ball will only pass through it if it is the same color. The tricky part is that the obstruction is also moving. Each time the ball passes, it changes color and faces a new moving obstacle.
It sounds more difficult in theory than it is in practice: it plays like a minutely more nuanced Flappy Bird. The key difference is that, unlike Flappy Bird, you progress at your own pace: it’s possible to keep the ball aloft without actually moving through the next goal.
You are forced to be patient and wait for the right moment, before pushing through the next goal. Rushing ahead regularly results in an early demise – and it’s a painful experience. Color Switch is another one of those frustrating, just-one-more-turn, “tap tap tappy” titles which are great for comparing high scores with friends. Bounce a ball up a screen, fail, try again. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Color Switch from Google Play
Alto’s Adventure is a side-scrolling snowboard game with one of the best soundtracks of any Android title and incredible art: it seems like the Material Design-esque style was made for Android. Travel down mountains collecting coins and making jumps to boost your speed, but be careful not to crash into anything or fail to complete a jump.
It’s an enchanting, and often meditative title, and its use of light and dark really helps amplify the atmosphere. Best of all, Android fans won’t have to pay the US$2.99 price that iOS users do: it’s launching completely free. Read more about it here.An atmospheric and enchanting offering in Alto’s Adventure. / © ANDROIDPIT
The Rayman series made its debut on the original PlayStation but can now be found on Android. Rayman Adventures is a side-scrolling, auto-runner platform game that builds on the proven formula of previous mobile titles, Rayman Fiesta Run and Rayman Jungle Run.
There are several different types of level in Rayman Adventures. One might be concerned with collecting items, another with defeating enemies, but they all require precise timing in order to avoid enemies, jump over obstacles and reach the end of the stage.
This latest game gives you a little more control than the earlier ones, as you now have the ability to change your running direction at will. This brings Rayman Adventures a little closer to its console counterparts in terms of player control. Rayman Adventures also makes the transition into free-to-play territory, with largely unobtrusive in-app purchases (though it also displays ads).
Rayman Adventures is one of the finest-looking platform games on Android, with high-resolution, and expertly designed, characters and backgrounds. The charming, cartoon-like animations marry perfectly to the precise gameplay, and navigating levels simply feels good. Rayman Adventures maintains its personality while moving into free-to-play territory. / © ANDROIDPIT
Download Rayman: Adventures from Google Play
Please, Don’t Touch Anything
Please, Don’t touch anything is a wonderful little puzzle game that arrived on Android a little before the end of the year and has steadily built up some traction in the gaming community. If you haven’t played it yet, now is the time.
The premise is that you’re left in charge of a desk and a big red button while your co-worker takes a bathroom break, having instructed you not to touch anything. So what’s your first instinct? To touch something, of course.
Please, Don’t Touch Anything’s gameplay involves solving puzzles and trying out different combinations of button presses to trigger various outcomes, and all the action takes place at the in-game desk you sit at.
There are no in-app purchases – you’ll have to pay five bucks to own it – but Please, Don’t Touch Anything is one of the most inventive and enjoyable Android titles released in 2015.Please, don’t touch anything. Or maybe, do touch things… / © ANDROIDPITPlease, Don’t Touch Anything
Cut the Rope: Magic
Classic mobile title Cut the Rope has got itself another sequel in the form of Cut the Rope: Magic. It centers around the traditional Cut the Rope recipe: vibrant, non-threatening graphics, mixed with some tear-your-hair-out puzzles.
Your task is to deliver a piece of candy into the mouth of hungry critter Om Nom, by cutting the ropes that hold the candy in the correct order, with the correct timing.
What’s great about the Cut the Rope series is that it makes you feel smart. The challenges get increasingly difficult, and naturally it’s completing the trickiest puzzles that provides the biggest sense of accomplishment.
Cut the Rope: Magic doesn’t do anything radical with the series, but its presentation is gorgeous, speaks volumes about the attention to detail paid by developer ZeptoLab. If you’ve been eager for more of this sweet gaming treat, check it out.Cut the Rope: Magic is more of the same, but, like Om Nom, we can’t get enough. / © ANDROIDPIT Cut the Rope: Magic
What are your favorite games from recent months? Let us know in the comments.