Summer’s still here for a few scant days yet, so here’s a strategy-soaked trio of distractions to enjoy while on the train, plane, automobile or whatever other preferred mode of transport is whisking you away on your hols!
Suspended in the stellar firmament, a small hive of activity shines in the dark, an outpost whose denizens rush back and forth to gather enough resources to repel the constant waves of enemies threatening their destruction. Welcome to Rymdkapsel.
It's real time strategy at its most pure of essence, yet still there is surprising room for experimentation. Starting with two minions and a small stockpile, your base must be constructed with the relevant rooms to generate new forces, collect yet more resources, and most importantly, build defense platforms to stave off the regular-as-clockwork attacks. Four monoliths reside in the corners of the map which can be researched for valuable buffs that will help you stay the siege for a little longer. New rooms appear in randomised tetromino patterns, so every playthrough will be slightly different as you attempt to optimise.
A minimal but lovely aesthetic, the simple geometric designs and stark colours are uniquely suited to conveying the myriad information of a base-building setup in progress on a small mobile screen. Beating the game is not supremely difficult, but doing so quickly and efficiently enough to get the handful of achievements that are up for grabs will test your planning powers and plumb the unexpectedly cavernous depths of logic that this superficially simple little game has to offer. With concise graphics and a play style near perfectly suited for the mobile platform and a coolly detached drone-laden score, this is a fine example of how portable gaming should be done.
It’s been a while but the world’s preferred horticulturally adorable tower defense experience is back. As farcical as ever, this soily sequel hurls you back through the ages fighting the historically appropriate undead in ancient Egypt, the pirate seas and the wild west on a quest for your old unhinged pal Crazy Dave’s favourite taco.
More of a gentle refining than a major upheaval, PvZ 2 takes the original winning formula and adds a few bells and whistles, like new varieties of plants and zombies, and a snazzy worldmap. Immediately noticeable though is the fact the series has gone free-to-play, an unsurprising move given EA’s acquisition of developer PopCap. Fortunately it seems that the developers have implemented this with a modicum of common sense and balance, in such a way it doesn’t break the core game. Several classic plants like the jalapeno and squash are now only available as microtransactions, but each level is perfectly possible to complete with the regular selection at your disposal. Certain zombies will now drop plant food which grants the veggie of your choice a one-time super-charged version of its attack.
Also available to use for a price when the going gets tough are new powers which when activated allow you to swoop in with your godlike finger and handle matters directly, for a limited time. The pinch power let you crush zombies’ heads (just like that classic Kids In The Hall sketch!), the flick power hurls the deadheads clean across the screen and the zap power fries them to a crisp with chain lightning. While fun to use, over-reliance on them to get out of a tight spot will haunt you in the later, more difficult levels when you don’t have the in-game funds to spare.
Clearing the areas first time round won’t tax most players; the real challenge is collecting the stars required to unlock the next area by repeating the levels with increasingly awkward starting conditions. Of course, if you don’t fancy putting the work in, you can always open those doors with your credit card. If you can ignore the ever-present money-grabbing (£70 for a cool 450,000 in-game coins anyone?), then there’s a good haul of content here including bonus and challenge levels, but those who wouldn’t be able to resist paying their way might be better off sticking to the original.
Firaxis Studios are rightly basking in the adulation garnered from the most recent iterations of their long running Civilisation and XCOM franchises, but far from resting on his laurels, Sid Meier is bringing his considerable strategy crafting expertise to the mobile market with the WWI themed aerial combat of Ace Patrol. Taking command of those magnificent men in their flying machines, the game has you running turn-based sorties against the enemy in dangerous skies, where every cloud could hold a nasty surprise and AA guns track the heavens for targets.
The combat zone is divided into a classic hexagonal grid, with available movement or attack maneuvers displayed via arrows which can be previewed before committing. Each mission has a specific objective, ranging from protecting convoys to reconnaissance and straight-up dogfights. Should your brave pilots make it back in one piece, they will level up, learning new moves and getting access to tech improvements and new aircraft. Unlucky rookies who get shot down will spend the next few missions in the field hospital recovering, although the moneyed impatient can return them to service immediately with an in-app purchase.
A free download nets you a few taster missions, with the full campaigns for the British, American, French and German factions available for a modest fee. Also available for purchase are notable pilots from history who have their own unique planes and special abilities. With a rousing score, a tactically sound enemy AI, excellent presentation, plenty of content and a play style uniquely suited to touch screen, Ace Patrol is a direct hit.