Mobile Gaming Roundup #4

The latest in pocket sized play.

Another clutch of portable procrastination enablers, vetted by yours truly.Puzzle Craft (iOS, Android)We’re gonna tame this hard land.The app store is practically coming down with town-building games, so how is this one any different? Would excellent visuals and a layered, innovative, tile matching based building mechanic pique your interest?As the mayor of a new settlement, you must acquire the resources necessary from working the land to build up your community and become a thriving municipality. By the sweat of your brow, you must toil in the fields for food and down the mines for raw materials to expand your township. A grid of your goods to gather is presented, and in much in the same way as Dungeon Defender and WarGames, adjacent tiles of the same type can be chained together, providing bonuses for long chains. Starting off with the basics (grass, wood and wheat on the farm, dirt, stone and iron in the mines), chains collected are saved up to be used in a number of various ways. The base resource is cash, which takes the form of taxes collected every couple of hours. To farm for a year requires a certain amount of money to pay your workers, and going down the mines for a number of turns requires a certain amount of food to sustain your miners. Collected items can be traded for tools which will aid in the next round (e.g. a plough, which will harvest all the wheat on the board in one move), to hire new staff to ease the workload, or to purchase or upgrade new buildings for your town. At the beginning the sheer number of different resources can be baffling, but after a few rounds it becomes apparent where they slot into the value system, and as the game progresses there’s a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from seeing initially scarce resources like apples and silver suddenly become more plentiful thanks to your efforts.Today’s match three is tomorrow’s BLT.The graphics and sound are sublime. A pastoral melody rolls on as you survey your village’s quaint hand-drawn buildings; the wind rustles the grass and barley and birds tweet as you bring in the sheaves; an exploratory aura surrounds you against the crumbling of dirt and the clink of pick on metal. The increasingly-present option to buy your way ahead is an unwelcome sight here, but the game is balanced and pace well enough that you shouldn’t even need to consider it, unlike a lot of games of the same ilk which impose heavy time penalties and are basically unplayable without paying up.The main issue with Puzzle Craft is there’s no way to lose, exactly; only more efficient ways to complete your tasks faster, but the design is so immaculate that’s it’s worth having a go just to appreciate the aesthetics and scratch that tile matching itch.Eufloria (iOS, Android)Dot matrix.It’s been on PC a while now but this strangely soothing plant ‘em up has made its flowery way to mobile platforms. Afloat in a hazy pastel hued space are a little group of seedlings to whose care you have been entrusted, tasked with helping them to thrive in the harsh environments. However, as you’ll know if you’ve ever played Plants vs Zombies, it’s never just about growing flowers.Essentially this is a floral based RTS reminiscent of Galcon, but a great deal more relaxing. Your seedlings find a home on several asteroids in the expanse; sacrifice ten and you can plant a tree, which in turn produces more seedlings as it grows. The resources available on each asteroid vary and influence the type of seedlings that will grow on them, in terms of energy, strength and speed. The control system has been completely overhauled for touch screen support and offers a wonderfully slick interface for directing your forces; a drag from from your source to your destination brings up a radial arc that represents the number you wish to travel. Adjust and tap, and they’re on their way to their new home. Pinch and zoom from little dots swarming about the whole asteroid belt right down to individual plane-esque plantlings dogfighting with their foes. I always knew I had a budding talent for these sort of games.The main campaign has you on a quest from the Mother Tree to investigate a dangerous outbreak of grey spores threatening the colony, but skirmish maps and a harder Dark Matter mode are also included. Strategy is subtle and patience is rewarded, although there are speed controls if you feel like hurrying matters along. Hardcore RTS fans may scoff at the lack of depth and excess of repetition here, but there’s a simple beauty in co-ordinating your forces as they flit like fireflies to Milieu’s exquisitely ringent soundtrack, and there’s much audio-visual loveliness surrounding the admittedly plain mechanics of the core game. Hue Brix (iOS, Android)Cubealicious.Tired of Tetris? Mastered Mahjong? Genuine creativity in the puzzle game genre is to be lauded, so here’s to Yellow Monkey for calling us out on our hubris with, well, Huebrix.Laid out in a pleasingly diagrammatic rectangular playboard, the goal of Huebrix is to take coloured squares and draw paths of length equal to the number initially displayed on them. Insultingly easy at first, things soon get complicated when you have four or more paths to worry about, none of which may cross. You’ll be hitting the reset button a good few times before things get even more frustrating as modifiers like direction forcing arrows, grey blocking squares and wrap-around portals are introduced. A satisfactorily stolid soundtrack accompanies your efforts, and a correct solution is rewarded with an endorphin burst as the lines snake off the screen in a satisfyingly geometric manner.Wait, I know this one.The game times you on your solution and openly mocks you for not getting gold on your first try. A hints system is available, but real puzzlers won’t want to give it the satisfaction. A hundred levels are yours for the solving upon your initial purchase, but there are a further three hundred waiting in the store, ranging from easy all the way to insane, available in packs or for a lump sum, you can have the whole brain-scrambling bunch. If you are feeling creative and have any functioning brain cells left after that, a level editor is also included, that you may unleash your devilish machinations upon friends and enemies alike.A original challenge on a platform uniquely suited to the playstyle, this is well worth a look.

Steven McCullough

Updated: Nov 01, 2012

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Mobile Gaming Roundup #4 | The Digital Fix