Mobile Gaming Roundup #11

Platforms: iPhone | Android | iPad

If you’re worried about the massive hole in your wallet that forking out for one of the shiny new consoles is going to leave, don’t forget there are plenty of engaging games available on the cheap for your mobile or tablet! On with the roundup!

Strata (iOS)

Layered like an onion. Also, it makes me cry.

The mobile market has provided an ideal bedding for intuitive, easy to learn but hard to master puzzle games. Given the simplicity of their rules you’d be forgiven for thinking the possible game-space available would be all used up by now (and there are a considerable number of lazy cash-in clones out there), but every now and then a genuinely inventive new game lands and demands attention. Strata is such a game.

As the name suggests, it is about layering things, crisp coloured bands that streak across the screen in a pleasing way. Each puzzle has a square divided into smaller coloured squares, and bands must be arranged in such a way so the colour of the band on the very uppermost layer matches the box below. Each band by necessity covers several boxes so the solution is not always apparent. Two-by-two grids must be mastered before progressing to the notably more difficult three-by-three grids.

This contract is binding.

The cleverly sequenced audio is a soothing aura of piano and airy pad sounds, floating in harmony until an incorrect move is made, whereupon a none-too-subtle discord will be inserted into the mix, the jarring dissonance of which will only disappear when the offending move is undone. A limited number of hints are available for those at the end of their tether. Thought-provoking and exquisitely designed, if you seek intellectual stimulation from your mobile gaming this should be next on your list. It’s also on Steam’s Greenlight service so it could be coming to PC real soon.

iFruit (iOS)

Customize before your very eyes.

The gaming world has GTA fever once again, except this time there’s a mobile component so you can keep up even when wrenched away from your console. The predictably parodist iFruit app contains a number of activities to try when out and about, the results of which carry over into your main GTA V game, provided you sign in with your Rockstar Social Club account. The Los Santos Customs section lets you customise and upgrade your three protagonists’ respective rides, from wheel trim and suspension to numberplates and musical horns. Franklin’s trusty but less-than-discreet canine companion Chop can be looked after and trained in his own little mobile yard, with these changes reflected next time you visit him in the real game.

Who's a good Chop is it you boy yes it is!!!

Links to Facebook parody LifeInvader, the GTA V official website, Rockstar store and the iPhone versions of GTA III and Vice City (if installed) can also be accessed from here. If you're not a real-life iFruit, don't despair, as Rockstar have confirmed that an Android version is in the works.

Blackbar (iOS)

Respecting authority is always the best way!!!

Another piece of interactive fiction making waves in the app store, this tale comprises a series of correspondences between a young new government employee and her family back home in an Orwellian world where every utterance is monitored and ‘sanitized’ by the Department of Communication. Any content deemed unsuitable is unduly censored, and you must fill in the missing words and piece together the narrative using only your knowledge of events so far and the context of the letter.
Don't shout: use your words.

Before long you are contacted by the resistance movement, who employ clever word games, riddles and ciphers to get round the restrictions. Words must be guessed outright, with the only definite clue being the number of letters involved, but this makes it all the more rewarding when you are able to intuit what they should be just from the flow of the sentence. The tone of the letters and story is just right for such a totalitarian tale, and occasionally you’ll receive other missives from the friendly Neighbourhood Board, urging you to be vigilant and turn in any unusual individuals. A strong entry in an increasingly popular genre.

Pixel This (iOS)


Picross (or nonograms) don’t have a sizeable western following, save for a few Nintendo fans thanks to Mario Picross on the Gameboy back in ’95 and more recently as a downloadable title on the DS. Its obscurity a bit of a mystery, as it’s a fun logic game with an aesthetic payoff perfectly suited to the handheld market. Thankfully though, the developers of Pixel This have seen the gap in the market and filled it with this slick and enjoyable adaption.

Can you guess what it is yet?

The game involves filling a square grid with individual pixels so that a picture is slowly revealed. You figure out which pixels to fill in via a numbered code on each line and column e.g. 3,4 means an unbroken row of three pixels, followed by a gap of at least one pixel, followed by an unbroken row of four. It’s the pattern based puzzling of Sudoku with a lovely bit of pixel art as your reward! There’s a tutorial and a few 5x5 beginner puzzles to get you started, and a host of 10x10 grids when you’re ready to play with the big boys.

This is just one of the many picross / nonogram (also known as griddler) apps available. Picross HD, Picross Mobile and Falcross are good follow-ups if you’re searching for more puzzles of this kind.

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