GameCentral takes a look at the month’s best new mobile games, including more surprisingly good apps on Netflix and Apple Arcade.
After living in grey half-darkness for the past few months, the fact that it’s no longer pitch dark at 4.30pm feels like emerging from a long, cold tunnel. And what better way to celebrate than by collectively hunching over our phones, with this month’s fresh crop of time wasters including the sardonically entitled Happy Game, roguelite Dungreed’s mobile port, and Netflix’s Boom Beach-alike, Narcos: Cartel Wars Unlimited.
iOS & Android, £3.49 (Purple Sloth Studio)
Superficially at least, this is a game inspired by Monument Valley and its sequel, sharing those games’ rotatable boards and designed to be played with the shifting perspective of pathways viewed in isometric 3D.
Once you get into it though, you’ll find Chronescher a considerably more challenging game. Levels often take a great deal of thoughtful experimentation to unpick, with portals and time-shifting save states adding to the rotatable scenery and perspective toying.
It may not quite have Monument Valley’s lofty production values, but it offers a far more taxing set of puzzles.
Legend Of The Moon 2: Shooting
iOS & Android, 89p (Sungmin Lee)
Vertically scrolling shmups are one of the few twitch genres that actually work well with touchscreen controls. Legend Of The Moon 2: Shooting is the most recent – and the most perplexingly named.
Its gameplay is pretty standard though, with your finger held on the screen enabling auto-fire as well as letting you drag your ship around to avoid enemy fire, nab power-ups, and direct your absurdly OP cone of destruction at anything unlucky enough to get within range.
It’s not bad, and there’s a great variety of ships and weapons to unlock. Its only downfall is that it’s nowhere near as compelling as free-to-play genre classics like Phoenix 2 or Sky Force: Reloaded.
Devolver Tumble Time
iOS & Android, Free (Devolver Digital)
A jumble of tiny cartoon heads fall into a circular container, waiting for you to tap groups of three or more, causing them to disintegrate.
As they vanish, more heads tumble from the top of the screen. Larger groups leave a bomb as they disappear, letting you clear a portion of the screen to make way for yet more heads. It’s a process that looks charming and slightly anarchic.
Unfortunately, the lack of chain reactions and the fact that the game automatically selects chains for you gives it a dull, staccato feel. Combined with the stingy number of turns you get before having to wait for a recharge, Tumble Time utterly fails to live up to the joy of its visuals.
iOS & Android, £4.49 (Team Horay)
Dungreed is a 2D side-scrolling roguelite that’s been out for a while on PC and consoles and is now available for mobile. It features some solid boss encounters and – at least after the first hour or two – an excellent sense of momentum.
Working your way around its compact, procedurally generated maps, there’s an auto-fire option that lets you concentrate on avoiding incoming fire while your phone gets on with targeting enemies, making the onscreen controls perfectly viable.
You get to keep power-ups and a proportion of your gold between runs, very gradually making you a force to be reckoned with. An entertaining and well-designed mobile port.
iOS & Android, £4.99 (Amanita Design)
From the makers of the delightful Samorost and Botanicula comes something darker, in the form of the spooky and bleakly humorous Happy Game.
Despite the change in tone many things remain consistent, from Amanita’s trademark simple but infinitely expressive character design, to trial and error gameplay that has you tugging, pushing, and prodding things to solve puzzles, making this a perfect candidate for the move to mobile.
It’s a brief experience, once you’ve figured out what you’re doing in each scene, but also an eerily atmospheric one.
Narcos: Cartel Wars Unlimited
iOS & Android, free via Netflix (N Games)
Build an HQ and resource buildings, then warehouses, and finally turrets to defend against fellow players whose troops arrive on a narrow stretch of sand in front of your base.
If that sounds like Supercell’s creaky old classic Boom Beach, that’s because this is an absolutely shameless rip-off, right down to its countdown timers, a vault to defend a portion of your resource pile, and heroes that accompany your troops when you raid other players’ bases.
It’s nice to have the monetisation removed (the freemium version is still available as Narcos: Cartel Wars & Strategy), and despite not having Boom Beach’s polish and refinement, it’s still fairly addictive in a mindless doom-scrolling, staring into the middle distance sort of way.
iOS, free via Apple Arcade (Orbital Knight)
Like Angry Birds long before it, Castle Crumble is about knocking over buildings by hurling stuff at them. This time, along with boulders, you’ll be using dynamite, bombs, acid flasks, and more.
Each level presents you with a set of castles balanced precariously on towering rocky pinnacles, with your job simply to destroy them, sending their surprised-looking occupants to their doom. That’s entertaining at first but unfortunately, despite having hundreds of different levels, they’re all laughably easy.
Its physics works beautifully, but lobbing a bunch of ammo at stuff until it collapses and being rewarded with yet another un-earned 3-star victory soon feels a bit dull. Fewer levels, that actually encouraged you to think, would have been infinitely preferable.
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