Mobile Gaming Roundup #19

Platforms: iPhone | Android

With the app stores expanding like stars going nova and the drudgery of another grey post-Xmas excess January comedown settling in, there’s never a better time to whip out your smartest of phones and loading up one of these lot!


Make like a banana.

Swedish mobile development duo Simogo have consistently impressed since they arrived on the scene in 2010, and while their most recent clutch of games took the form of grand, sweeping, supremely innovative narrative adventures, their latest is something more altogether stripped back. Puzzle games thrive on the mobile platform; it's a natural fit for them, but coming up with an original idea for one is no mean feat. With SPL-T, Simogo have done just that and, unfortunately for me, it's as easy to play as it is awkward to describe.

Tapping the screen bisects it, with each tap alternating between the horizontal and the vertical, creating smaller and smaller blocks. Get four blocks of the same size together and they score points but also remain in the pile, unusable, until the move counter ticks down. I've been playing for weeks and have yet to be assured that any of my strategies are in fact sound, but find it compelling nonetheless. One final thing; some observant geeks have taken a look at the file size and are wondering how a game about black & white lines that could run on a Spectrum is somehow 70MB - could there be more to this than meets the eye? We're onto you, you sneaky Swedes.

PacMan 256 (iOS, Android)

Glitches be crazy.

Pacman, that little insatiable sphere, has been around seemingly forever and a day, and as such has been reinvented and re-jigged several times already. In fact I'm waiting with bated breath for the inevitable gritty dark next-gen 'reimagining' that's surely a glimmer in some creatively bankrupt developer's eye (don't tell me it couldn't happen, they tried it with Bomberman). Until that day though we have the rather enjoyable PacMan 256. Developers Hipster Whale also brought us Crossy Road, which is, for all intents and purposes a voxel-based isometric take on Frogger, and built on its success to secure the coveted Pacman license this time around.

Again using the isometric perspective, Paccers is propelled ever forward as the static grid is eschewed in favour of an endless runner, or endless muncher if you will, format as the yellow glutton is chased by the dark, foreboding, glitch-ridden kill screen from the 256th level of the original arcade machine, hence the name. Of course it wouldn't be a remake without bizarre power-ups, and it has to be said it's very satisfying to appear completely trapped only for P-Middy to project a massive laser beam from his cavernous golden maw. I ain't afraida no ghost!

Sage Solitaire (iOS, Android)

Can you solve it in thyme?

If, like me, you're the kind of office layabout who, in lieu of more pressing matters, schedules in a good few hours of solitaire after lunch, this title might switch it up for you on the train home. Sage Solitaire is a solidly designed poker-solitaire hybrid from Zach Gage, him wot done the wordy puzzler Spelltower and aptly-monikered manic angling sim Ridiculous Fishing.

Cards are dealt into a three by three grid, and you have select partial or complete poker hands from what's available, with the small caveat that cards must be selected from at least two rows. A certain number or cards can be trashed if no moves are available, but these are strictly limited. A reminder of what the poker hands are resides at the top for all you non-card-sharks out there, and while you can play the main game for free, a little pocket change gets rid of the ads and unlocks two other game modes. Suit you sir!

Downwell (iOS, Android, PC)

Cruisin' down the alley.

In a time where far too many mobile development houses are working on bringing ‘the console experience’ to a place it has no business being on, it’s gratifying to see games come out which are uniquely suited to the platform, which know it’s weaknesses and make them strengths. Downwell is one of those games, the kind that feels like a long lost classic from the early generations. In keeping with the down-to-business directness of its spiritual brethren, Downwell is the tale of a little pixel man falling down a well full of monsters, for unexplained reasons. With gunboots. These are your only protection against the slimy hordes, and can be upgraded with all manner of power-ups. Reloading is only possible when your feet are firmly on the ground, so there’s real tactical play in knowing when to shoot and when to hold back. Gems unearthed from rocks and artifacts provide the in-game currency to buy these enhancements, but all the gems you collect each time you play go toward unlocking new abilities, game modes and colour palettes to try out. This combined with the semi-random layout of the levels and pickups guarantee that having just one more run is never a waste of time.

Everything about this game screams retro, from the simple three-colour palette to the harsh but driving chiptune soundtrack, but rather than being a lazy gimmick, the simplicity of presentation allows its innate playability to come to the fore. It even has a green Gameboy-style palette so you can really get your game on like it’s 1989. You’d do ‘well’ to ‘down’ load this. Yes?

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