Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.
Looking for a new game to play on your mobile device? Here's our pick of the best released in September 2013.
Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman
Hexage is pretty good at making games that both look the part and play up a treat, and it hasn't missed a beat with Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman, a frantic little beat-'em-up. You play the eponymous "Reaper", taking quests to deliver packages and clear out monsters. It looks stunning, but the control system is where the game nails it. The left half of the screen allows you to move by sliding your thumb, while the right half allows you to execute different jumps and attacks by tapping in various regions. The whole thing works a treat.
We've not seen anything quite like puzzle game Strata before. It has some simple rules: you place ribbons of colour over coloured tiles; the top ribbon has to be the same colour as the tile beneath and you have to fill the entire grid. That's pretty much it, but it makes for some quite mind-bending play.
Think Harmonix's Frequency from 2001, minus the rhythm elements and with a particle physicist instead of a spacecraft, and you're approaching Boson X — a rotational endless runner in a hexagonal tube (a particle collider) that you have to navigate. It's the genre at its most minimal: no power-ups or coins, just navigating the pitfalls of missing panels with lightning-fast reflexes. It's just you and the road, and your only reward is playing the game, which in this case, is worth it.
There's just something so charming about poor little grotesque Quozzle, an orb with an eye. Each level, you have to fit her with various limbs and joints that bend in certain ways in order to propel her towards the exit. Between the engineering gameplay elements — which remind us somewhat of Leonardo da Vinci — and the woodcut-style art, Incredipede is something of a minor masterpiece.
OK, so here's the scene. You're a giant boulder. You fall in love with a lady boulder. Humans destroy the lady boulder. So, naturally, you roll down from your mountaintop to deal death and destruction. It's a new take on the endless runner, with its German Alps theme (so many lederhosen and yodels!). There's a choice of controller methods — we preferred tilt: it felt more natural for a giant rolling boulder gaining momentum down a hillside — and you collect coins for upgrades and power-ups. There is a fair bit of in-app purchasing (IAP), but we managed to unlock all the challenges and upgrades without it in about two weeks, so it's certainly not necessary. Besides, it's fun enough that you really don't mind. You'll find yourself mesmerised, rolling down that hill again and again and again.
It's always worthy of note when a new Gamebook Adventure by Tin Man Games arrives. Curse of the Assassin, however, is worthy of celebration — not just because we love them, but because Tin Man Games has just celebrated its fifth anniversary. Curse of the Assassin was penned by An Assassin in Orlandes author SP Osborne, the first ever Gamebook Adventure, and it takes readers back to the city for a sequel.
Vampires and sunlight, traditionally, are not very good mates. As a vampire stranded during the day on an island in the sky, you need to manipulate the shadows to get safely back to your crypt. The mechanic for this is sheer cleverness: you rotate the island, allowing you to move smoothly from shadow to shadow. The result is a highly idiosyncratic, fascinating little puzzler that's really hard to put down.
Imagine if you were playing a dice-based role-playing game (RPG) — only instead of dice, you had a little slot machine. That's the core mechanic of Tower of Fortune 2. You, our brave hero, are seeking the top of the deadly tower, where, rumour has it, there is a single wish. Each move triggers an event, which can be determined by spinning the slots. Spinning the slots is also how you fight battles; you can power up, use a stun spell or hit your foe, with additional power when matching glyphs align. If the slots land on a skull, meaning you take a blow, you have the opportunity to spin again for coins. However, these are slow to come by, so you have to decide carefully how to spend them.
Chair Entertainment's Infinity Blade series epitomises what Apple's mobile graphics engines can do. This latest instalment is worth it for that alone, especially if you have the iPhone 5s. It also adds some interesting new features to the gameplay: a more sci-fi setting, a new female playable character and a home base that allows you to choose the progression of your game.
Every week, it seems, a new roguelike pops up. Heroes of Loot is one of the best we've seen for a while. It plays on the old convention set by Gauntlet: a wizard, warrior, elf and valkyrie explore a monster-riddled dungeon for treasure. You know the score. The brilliance of Heroes of Loot lies in its very simple control system, which allows you to wander around blasting enemies (although if you hold the attack button down, you'll run out of power-ups very quickly, so there's incentive not to), and its wit.
Small World, the board game that launched with the very first iPad, has finally seen a sequel after a successful Kickstarter campaign. It's added a whole bunch of new features — expanded the world massively with new multiplayer maps, added online support for play with friends or strangers, solo mode against AI, pass and play so that up to five players can game on a single iPad, 20 new races and a new encyclopedia. Perhaps what we love most about it, though, is that the new game has been released as an update to the existing game, so if you already have it, you don't have to pay for the new version.
NimbleBit is the master of the five-minute play. Whether you're waiting for your coffee or a train, its games fit perfectly inside those in-between times. Pocket Trains is no exception. The railways need management, and it's up to you to build new lines, new trains and send those trains around the world delivering precious cargo. Trains take several minutes to arrive, so play mostly involves selecting cargo, sending your trains on their way and then waiting for them to arrive — and also some additional time to refuel. For something that involves so much waiting, it's strangely compelling.
When it comes to sports games on mobile, the FIFA series has some of the best. FIFA 14, we're happy to report, continues to maintain the high standard fans have come to expect. It includes a massive 33 leagues, with over 600 licensed teams and over 16,000 players, allowing you to build your ultimate fantasy team and play it across 34 stadiums. And, for the first time, it's free to play, meaning you can enjoy some of the action without having to spend AU$5.49 to see if you even like it.
Mushroom Wars has been available on iOS for a while, but it's now made the leap to Android. If you're a hardcore real-time strategy gamer, it probably won't be for you; it distils the genre down so that it works on a much more casual level — appropriate for a mobile game, and a lot of fun, but Total War it ain't. Players should also be aware that there seems to be a paywall at around level 12. That said, the game is engrossing and well made. It's free to try and definitely worth a look.
Dumb Ways to Die — the cutesy-macabre pop hit commissioned by Melbourne's Metro Trains to promote rail safety — now has its very own little mobile game. Think Wario Ware for the gameplay — you play 15 different mini-games to try to stop your little dummies from dying, with rising difficulty as you proceed.
Aussie developer Kumobius' Time Surfer has come to Android. On the surface, it looks a lot like Tiny Wings: a similar control system, holding down on the screen to swoop and lifting to soar, collecting gems and fleeing a pursuing menace. It adds something special, though: a rewind function that allows you to get creative with gameplay. And a whole bunch of '80s fabulousness.
Orborun is kind of like if Super Monkey Ball met up with GLaDOS and had little robo-babies. You roll your little transforming-into-an-orb robot around futuristic neon tracks, collecting currency to buy new robots, smashing some things and avoiding others. It has two control types, tilt and touch — the tilt was tighter for us — to suit your play style and, while completing each track is pretty easy, getting the full three-star rating takes a bit of skill. Deep? Heck no. Fun? Oh yeah.
Cyberpunk fantasy Shadowrun got its start as a tabletop RPG, where it blended futuristic technology with magic, elves and crime noir. It's had a few video-game incarnations since then, and Kickstarter-funded Shadowrun Returns is a fresh, modern take that, nevertheless, stays faithful to its roots. Like the first Shadowrun video game back in 1993, it's an isometric real-time action RPG, with five playable races and six classes to choose from. Where it wins, though, is where Shadowrun has always won: combining real-world tech with the fantastical world of myth and magic.
If you're after a new tower defence (TD), you could do a lot worse than Brave Guardians. It has your standard four types of towers that you can place on the battlefield to defeat waves of enemies — the defeat of which gives you coins to upgrade said towers for subsequent waves. It looks pretty gorgeous, too, but it takes a bit more than pretty graphics to make TD stand out. Brave Guardians has added to the mix four "heroes" that you can place anywhere on the path to help defeat foes. Each of these has a different ability: melee, air defence, slowing spells and ranged. These are on a timer, so you can't just place them willy nilly — you need to gauge each battle and choose the best guardians for the job.
Want to tinker with rockets without worrying about explosives? SimpleRockets lets you be a mobile rocket engineer. The aim is to build rockets, then launch them, choosing parts that will help your rocket fly. It's a little bit educational, showing you what is involved in getting a craft into space and keeping it there — and a lot silly. The game encourages you to just get in there and go for it, which means a lot of trial and error, and the error is wildly, spectacularly hilarious.
Your alarm clock is under attack! Use a hyperactive toaster to fire various toasted bread products at your enemies until it is safe! This game is very exciting! Bright colours and loud noises! And it will probably make you crave toast. Just sayin'.
I admit it: I'm not a fan of sudoku. The concept is great, but thinking about numbers is not what I like to do to unwind. Taking the numbers out of the equation and substituting them with shapes, though, turns it into something that I rather enjoy. This is what FlowDoku does (rather like Vostu's Elemental), and the result is a fun, relaxing, minimal version of the game that works excellently to de-stress or destroy an earworm.
After five years, Trace, the puzzle game that sees you drawing lines to guide your little stick figure past obstacles and over chasms, finally has a sequel. If you haven't played it before, you may be in for a pleasant surprise; it sounds easy but gets exponentially trickier the further you progress.