Mobile Gaming Roundup #23

Platforms: Android | iPhone

Salutations mobile mavens! With the unveiling of the Nintendo Switch it seems like the dream of console quality gaming on the go could be not far away from being realised, however until such glorious times arrive, let’s see what the best alternatives are!

Mini Metro (iOS, Android, PC)

Going underground.

This ingenious little transportation-themed puzzler has been a fave of mine since its initial PC release last year, and I’m delighted to confirm the mobile port with its revised layout and touchscreen controls could arguably be the definitive version. Presented as an animated representation of the Tube’s beautiful yet clinically abstract plane of shapes and intersecting coloured lines, the number of stations and volume of traffic to be handled by your fledgling train network grows steadily and relentlessly. Last a full week and receive rewards like extra trains and tunnels, or upgrade one of your stations to an interchange. Keep your little geometric passengers waiting long enough though and they’ll kick up a fuss, starting a countdown timer; fail to collect them before it expires and it’s game over.

The base premise is already strong but the variation baked in provides countless options to try again, besides beating your score. Thirteen different cities offer unique advantages or constraints to shape your effort, from Montreal’s dense island network to Osaka’s bullet trains and Cairo’s trams. Expert conductors in search of a greater challenge can try the extreme mode, where line and train placements are permanent. There’s a daily challenge too, or you might have another go just to hear Disasterpeace’s soothing generative ambient soundtrack scoring your little locomotives as they pootle around your network.

Really Bad Chess (iOS)

Real kings don't play by the rules.

Developer Zach Gage is responsible for some truly inventive and creative games like Spelltower and Ridiculous Fishing, but for this release he’s gone back to one of the oldest games there is. Named after his friend’s reaction when he described the idea, he’s taken the game of kings and turned it topsy-turvy with the simple addition of starting with a random selection of pieces, rather than the well-balanced, regimented and regular setup.

It’s not the first variant of chess there has been by a long shot, but it’s a great little tool for beginners to pick up the fundamentals or seasoned pros to test their mettle against a superior, queen-heavy side. With a steady difficulty curve and daily ranked matches, this is worth a look even if you would balk at the offer of a ‘real’ game.

Burly Men At Sea (iOS, PC)

A life on the ocean shave.

Hipsters may have appropriated the full beard and suspenders look for their own cultural ends, but the Burly Men At Sea wear them authentically. Accompanying the titular brothers three on their nautical adventure in a colourful world of simple pastel shapes, you’ll meet strange characters, encounter odd situations, and generally live life on the ocean wave in a wonderfully presented storybook world.

Masters of the form Simogo have shown how perfect the mobile device is for interactive ‘choose your own adventure’ style stories with the likes of Device 6 and The Sailor’s Dream, and this is a marvellous entry in the genre by husband-and-wife team Brain & Brain. Chock-full of personality with a quirky acapella soundtrack and multiple endings to discover, you should download this and set sail today!

Epic Orchestra (iOS)

Bach in black.

Titans of the rhythm game genre like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have made the leap to mobile devices before, but never felt quite at home. Developers Moby Pixel have keenly identified the theatrical flourish of a swipe with that of the baton and have delivered a conduct ‘em up that a host of Guardian readers have surely been waiting for. As is usually the case, points are awarded for keeping on the beat; too many bum notes and the performance is abandoned.

The maestros have been adorably rendered in 8-bit and the compositions themselves have been electrified in a retro way which brings to mind Wendy Carlos’s ground-breaking Switched-On Bach album. Even if you’re not completely au fait with the roster of old white composer dudes in powdered wigs, you’ll probably recognize a good few of the pieces included here, starting with the sedate procession of Canon in D and culminating in the rip-roaring third movement from Moonlight Sonata, if your swiping finger can keep up!

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