Hello phone fans and phablet fanciers! Nintendo’s Switch is the newest darling in the portable gaming sphere, but if you don’t have the readies to spare for one, there are plenty of golden gaming opportunities right there on your humble handset (unless you have an old-skool Nokia or something). Behold the latest mobile greatness!
A straight continuation and expansion of the original premise, but when the concept is this elegant and well-presented, who’s complaining? As before, the goal is fill the screen with but one colour of folded paper triangles in as few moves as possible, each tap unfurling to transform only those connected of the same shade. What begins as a simple enough exercise quickly spirals into a kaleidoscope of varying patterns from which you swear blind no solution could ever be forthcoming, five minutes before you stumble upon it by accident.
In every way this is an improvement on the original; the plentiful number of puzzles in the base ‘journey’ mode are further augmented with daily challenge picks and user-created brain-picklers which push the idea to its limits, possibly along with your patience. If your grey matter is resilient there’s a lot of content to get through.
For those who like their puzzles a little more schlocky, there’s this Sokoban-influenced frightfest where you guide an ‘80s B-movie serial killer around creepy locations on a mission to off innocent teens, bumbling cops and little old ladies in the most violent way possible. If that sounds horrible, the violence and blood can be disabled, but the whole game is wrapped in such a goofy sensibility, replete with little Minecraft-esque voxel avatars, that you’d have to be a very sensitive type to be offended. The levels themselves can be quite taxing with only a single clear path to a blood-soaked solution, but luckily you can rewind your moves at any time via the immeasurable power of VHS.
A woozy and foreboding synth score adds to the aesthetic, and there’s a ghastly grab-bag of villains and murder methods to unlock. Happy hunting!
When games skirt close to emulating the appearance and behaviour of the devices that they run on, the resulting verisimilitude can render the game very engrossing; for example, Uplink or Mainlining in their ersatz hacking exploits, or the Mr Robot tie-in game with its simulated social engineering over texts. A Normal Lost Phone also employs this technique, albeit in a more quotidian and personal way. Open the game and your own phone transmutes into the titular misplaced device which belongs to Sam, an everyday teen with everyday issues. By scouring his texts and various online accounts, you start to piece together his recent history, and why his phone is no longer in his possession.
With an selection of indie folk tunes diegetically playing on the phone’s music app as you delve into a stranger’s identity, it feels a bit like a smaller portable version of Gone Home. Unconventional, but interesting.
Another emotionally affecting gaming experience, the number of which is small but growing rapidly, this is a tale of an author’s battle following a critical injury, realised as a journey through his past works. Gameplay consists of arranging a collage of disparate letters and punctuation marks into objects related to the story, which unveil in metaphor as his mind escapes into the pages of his five novels, interspersed with the occasional interjection from the outside world.
A hint system is in place to highlight incorrectly placed elements if you need it, but the story itself coupled with the excellent sound design are usually enough to spark the solution. Short, but special.