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 May 2013.
(Credit: 2K Games)
Sid Meier's Ace Patrol
Not so much a flight simulator as an aerial tactics game, Sid Meier's Ace Patrol smacks you into the middle of World War I. Performing feats of aerial agility, you control a team of fliers to take out enemy forces, upgrading your pilots as you go. There are a number of different squadrons to purchase and play — British, US and German — hopefully with more coming in a later update. The turn-based combat is performed by tapping arrows on a hex-grid map that dictate your pilots' manoeuvres, starting out simple; but, as you put more planes in the sky, things can get pretty hectic.
So imagine you're playing Super Monkey Ball. The only thing is, there's nothing underneath your trail, no fences to stop you falling off, you're barrelling along at breakneck speed and you only have one life — fall, and it's game over, unless you can navigate back to the trail. That's kind of how Impossible Road plays. Your controls are about as minimal as they can be — hold left to go left and right to go right — and, with just you, the ball, the trail and some pumping music, there's nothing to alleviate the tension of do or die.
For all that mobile devices are now capable of some pretty good augmented reality, titles that take advantage of that are in short supply, never mind good ones. Hermaton uses an AR marker to create an intricate labyrinth of pipes and champers woven with blue wires. As you navigate the space, you need to push the cursor into light bulbs to turn them on — but if you touch the wires too many times, it's game over for you. It's both beautifully designed and a fascinatingly different way to make use of AR.
The sequel to highly acclaimed tower defense Kingdom Rush is about to hit iOS — and, just in time, the original game has finally, finally come to Android. As you could probably guess, you have to defend your kingdom from invading hordes with an array of heroes, towers and armies — but if you're looking for a new tower defence game to play, it seriously just can't get much better than Kingdom Rush. From the gameplay (hard, but not too hard) to the graphics (well designed and easy to see) to the humour, Kingdom Rush nails it.
The aim of Blip Blup is simple: fill a grid with colour. Executing that is not quite so simple. Touching a square sends a pulse of colour across the screen, stymied by strategically placed blocks. Technically, you could just send out pulse after pulse in a haphazard fashion; but to play it properly, you're required to do it in as few moves as possible. This isn't too difficult in the beginning, but in later levels, different blocks appear to change the course of the pulse, and blocks of death kill the pulse.
Tetris is a beloved classic for a very good reason, but when it launched as a mobile app for the first time, it was a bit of a disappointment, thanks to clunky and poorly ported controls. Tetris Blitz, we're pleased to say, makes up for it. It differs from the original in a few key ways. You have two minutes to get as many points as possible (hence "Blitz"), and, instead of manually turning the tetrominoes, you can cycle through a range of placements, tapping to let it fall neatly in place. The resulting game is fast paced, intuitive to play and really danged difficult to put down.
One caveat worth mentioning is that the app is downright aggressive with pop-ups, for in-app purchases, push notifications, logging in with Facebook and straight-up advertising, all without the option to say "I never want to do this". If there's one thing that will put me off playing at some point, that will be it.
I am not really au fait with what goes on in a men's room, and that situation is fine with me, really. However, we do doubt that it gets as crazy as Men's Room Mayhem. This strategic sim will see you taking care of a men's bathroom — directing the desperate dudes about their business, keeping messes cleaned up and generally trying to maintain order. This means drawing lines to direct them to the urinal or cubicle, to the sink to wash their hands and then out the door, with bonus points for not standing next to each other and maintaining hygiene. As more and more visitors come to your bathroom, you have to keep them from each other's throats — if they get too close to each other, all hell will break loose.
Before he created Prince of Persia, Jordan Mechner created a little beat-'em-up back in 1984 called Karateka. Fans got a remake last year, but nothing's quite the same as playing the original title you poured your blood, sweat and tears into. This port of the original game really ponies up the nostalgia goods, in spite of the necessary virtual button interface.
Top-down turn-based tactical shooter Frozen Synapse, originally released on Windows, OSX and Linux two years ago, calls itself "the ultimate tactical game". If it's employing hyperbole, it's only a little bit — it's tremendously tense and exciting, letting you direct your people through 55 single-player missions — but, after issuing your commands, all you can do is watch as the action unfolds, unable to intervene if things go south. There are also five multiplayer modes, so you can pit yourself against your friends. An Android version is reportedly also coming soon.
It's been a bit of a bumper month for match-puzzle games, and all of them are quite different from each other. Mosaique, with only seven puzzles, sounds tiny — but even tiny games can dream big. The aim is to shoot a coloured square at other coloured squares to clear the screen — but the square you shoot isn't randomly coloured. It changes based on the squares you shoot at, which means strategically choosing where to shoot next is a vital part of the gameplay. Also, you can't just randomly shoot and hope for the best outcome eventually, like a monkey at a typewriter; shoot too often without clearing any blocks, and your gauge empties, meaning game over. It's a lot trickier than it looks.
You may have been mucking about with Breakout in Google Image search recently, but it has nothing on Hyper Breaker Turbo. It's like, what if Breakout was hit by a radioactive truck? What if Breakout was caught in the detonation of a gamma bomb? What if Breakout came from Krypton? You get the idea.
Combo-based brawler Combo Crew is quite possibly without a doubt one of the finest executions of the genre we've seen on a touchscreen. With fluid animations, responsive controls and excellent graphics, as well as a rather refreshing lack of in-app purchases, it falls solidly into the category of "must have".
Point-and-click adventure Finding Teddy actually came out for iOS a couple of months ago, but it's such a gorgeous little adventure that we couldn't resist including the Android release on the May list. A little girl has lost her teddy — well, more to the point, a monster stole it from her sleeping arms. To get Teddy back, she has to enter a strange and wondrous world in the cupboard, filled with glyphs and creatures unlike anything human. In pixel art reminiscent of Superbrothers, it's absolutely lovely.
Dots is about as minimal as a match game can possibly get. It's just... dots. You have 60 seconds to collect as many of the dots as you can, linking them together in groups of two or more. The more dots you get, the better your score — and those dots you clear will go into your dot bank for purchasing power-ups so that you can get even more dots. We don't know if it's meant to be a commentary on the nature of the pointless acquisitiveness often found in video games, but what the hell. It's still fun.
Zynga seems to have the practise of socialising games down pat. The latest to get the treatment is the endless runner — and it works. The game itself is nothing we haven't seen before (except for the Running of the Bulls theme) — run forward, swipe to dodge and jump — but it pits you against other actual players. It goes in turns — you play a round, then your opponent plays a round, and the winner ... well, wins. The ability to purchase gems to extend your run is a little annoying — in essence, it creates a "pay to win" atmosphere — but if all you want to do is run with your mates, this is a pretty well-made place to do it.
Before you turn away from NarcoGuerra as an attempt at capitalising and making light of a pretty serious situation — the drug wars in Mexico — the strategy game does in fact have a deeper meaning. From the company that brought us Endgame:Syria, NarcoGuerra is a game designed to educate on the horror of the situation. But nor, at the same time, is it preachy or poorly made. It sees you seeking to capture territories by whatever means you can — politics, force of arms — and it's no pushover, either. It's engrossing, challenging and thought provoking.
Although it's a matching game, Stickets has a certain je ne sais quoi we've rarely seen in the puzzler style. The aim of the game is to match as much as possible, but it's tricky. On a grid of five-by-five squares, you have to place three-coloured L-shaped blocks, matching up the colours to create blocks of three squares or more and clear them from the board. The bright colours and simple gameplay are deceptive; Stickets will have you coming back again and again for just one more go, because you know you can beat that last score, you just know it.
Over a hundred years has passed since the events of ExZeus, and the world is at peace — but an alien menace is descending on the Earth. Once again, a giant robot has to come to humanity's aid. As far as third-person arcade shooters go, ExZeus 2 looks and feels spectacular — if giant robots and blowing stuff up is your thing (and why wouldn't it be?), go check it out.
It takes a lot to make a poker game stand out, but Telltale's Poker Night 2 has what it takes. Namely, a cast of zany characters to play against, including Borderlands' Claptrap, The Venture Bros' Brock Samson, Evil Dead's Ash Williams, Sam and Max and, as dealer, none other than the magnificently passive-aggressive GLaDOS. Deal us in.
The third in Fallen Tree Games' Quell puzzle series is every bit as captivating as the first two, with over 150 puzzles seeing you reconstruct the memories left behind in an abandoned house. It's currently only available for Android through the Amazon app store.
Crescent Moon Games has consistently brought great titles to mobile, and Dig is no exception. Inspired by 1981's Qix, it sees you playing archaeologist Douglas Chase, digging up backyards to find treasure to save his museum — but a vengeful mummy is on the loose, looking to mess you up.
Think you have the chops to run a town? A new game from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will put you through your paces. Using real census data from 2011 and real postcodes, it lets you take over the management of any town in Australia, performing public works to try to get your approval rating at maximum — but citizens are fickle, and you may find keeping everyone happy a little harder than you think...
As the first game in the Warhammer universe to hit mobile, Warhammer Quest — based on the 1995 board game — is an impressive debut. In classic top-down dungeon crawler style, you control a party of misfits and adventurers — a human barbarian, a dwarf iron breaker, a human wizard and an elf waywatcher, with more races and classes available for in-app purchase, all with different fighting styles and abilities — questing through the land in search of fame, glory and treasure. Based as it is on a board game, combat is turn based, yet it never feels slow or cumbersome, with enough diversity in the environments to keep it from ever becoming a grind.
Isn't it impressive what mobile devices can do? Originally released on the Xbox in 2003, KOTOR is still one of the finest role-playing video games we've ever played, and we're overjoyed that we get to experience it again, especially through such a fluid port.
The original point-and-click detective-attorney game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney had already been released for iOS some time ago, but now the whole three-game kaboodle is available in one Retina-updated app. Starring Phoenix Wright, a justice-driven attorney who also has to do his own detective work, the games are a fabulous blend of mystery solving and exciting court cases. One important thing to note, though, is that while the app is free, you can only play through the first two trials at that price — to unlock the full game, you'll have to pay AU$6.49, with the two subsequent games coming in at AU$7.49 apiece. All three are also bundled together for AU$17.99
Not to be confused with the controversial War Z MMOG, World War Z is based on the upcoming film of the same name (which, in turn, is based on a rather fun novel by Max Brooks). Although it's nothing we've not seen before — first-person shooter versus zombies, anyone? — it's graphically stunning, and definitely worth a look for fans of the genre.
Andrey Novikov, the creator of Tetris, has released a number of games in the last few years for iOS; but none, however, have replicated his Tetris success. Sadly, we don't think Marbly is quite there either, but the match-puzzle game is still a fun little diversion. Each puzzle presents you with a board, upon which is arrayed different-coloured marbles. The aim is to clear them all from the board by creating matches of three or more in as few moves as possible.
Tin Man Games' game-book adventures have been killing the choose-your-own-adventure style of playable novels, and the latest — Ian Livingstone's 2002 The Forest of Doom, the third in the "Fighting Fantasy" series — is everything we could possibly want. It provides an authentic and smooth experience, reminding us of hours spent over paperback pages (with an in-app dice roller), a thrilling narrative and that ooky-spooky feeling that something is going to leap out of the shadows at any moment.