I spend way too much of my time playing games on my Android phone these days. Even with a go-faster gaming PC and a litter of consoles available, smartphone gaming is quite tantalising. Now I'm trying to reuse these hours with a new article: 5 games that you should be playing on Android.
There's a good selection here, from titles that you can play for a few minutes a day when you've got a spare moment, to games that you can sink hours into. Games that revel in lush 3D graphics, and ones that look even nicer with 2D pixel art. Let's get right into it.
Tiny Tower is a great introduction to the world of smartphone gaming.
The mechanics are simple enough - it's your job to build a skyscraper from the ground up, creating new floors then filling them with apartments or shops. Your tower's inhabitants, called bitizens in a reference to their blocky pixel-art appearance, will work better in some shops than others, so it's your job to get everyone working in a shop that suits their skills.
You earn the money required to build new floors by ferrying new bitizens with the elevator and making sales in your shops. Each shop can stock three different products, and must be ordered to take in new stock manually. This is typically a matter of minutes, so it's easy to get into the habit of constantly checking your phone to operate the elevator and stock the shelves. You'll also take in rent once a day from your residents, motivating you to at least play daily.
While the mechanics are simple enough, the real appeal of Tiny Tower is the personality of the world. Your bitizens have their own 'Bitbook' where they post status updates, the music is laid back and charming, and the pixel art is beautifully done, from the bitizens themselves to the myriad stores that fill up your tower. It's a great setting that will attract gamers of any age or background, and those that take the time to explore it more fully will find enough strategy to warrant their time.
Asphalt 6 Adrenaline is the latest version of a long line of mobile racing titles from Gameloft. Like Need for Speed on consoles, it offers a mass of licensed cars (~50) and tracks (12) based on real-world locations. Each car is upgradeable, both in terms of visuals (with paint and vinyls available for each) and performance.
It's definitely on the arcade side of the racing spectrum, with a focus on collecting turbo powerups and frequent drifting but this is quite understandable given the touch-screen and accelerometer based controls. These are quite reasonable, among the best I've found on a mobile game, and thankfully allow you to choose between multiple options to find one that suits you best. I personally dislike accelerometer based controls, so having the option of several touch screen options as well was quite welcome.
There are a number of game modes available, including Career (which will take some hours to complete), Free Race and Multiplayer. Each is quite enjoyable, with the Career mode allowing you to experience the full range of cars, upgrades and locales. There are also multiple race types within Career mode, including Normal Race (as you'd expect), Beat 'em All (crash into other cars), Elimination (periodic elimination of the last place driver) and Collector (collect money powerups).
It's a very comprehensive game that does well to provide a console-like racing experience on your smartphone, and must be quite nice on a tablet as well. You will need to have a fairly decent processor and graphics chipset to ensure it'll run smoothly, however.
Another excellent multiplayer Android title is Hanging With Friends. Like its more well known sibling Words with Friends, the goal is to come up with suitably fiendish words from a set of random tiles. Instead of placing them on a board, Hanging With Friends will ask your opponent to guess your word, hangman-style.
Longer words will give fewer guesses to your opponent, so there's ample motivation to come up with a word that's both full of difficult letters and is as long as possible. Also like Words, you'll score more points for these, but instead of being used to score the game they gradually unlock one-shot abilities to be used when guessing, like removing letters from the pool or giving you more tries. These are fun but don't unduly imbalance the game.
It's a simple concept, but it's a lot of fun and takes much less time to go through a game than Words does. If you're looking for a way of stretching your vocabulary (and agree to abide by a no-cheating rule), Hanging With Friends is a great little game.
If you've played (or heard of) Infinity Blade for iOS, you'll be familiar with the gameplay of Blood and Glory. You're a gladiator in the Roman Colosseum, fighting one-on-one against rather giant men with nasty weapons. While you're typically disadvantaged in health, armor and damage, you're able to block, dodge or parry to turn the tables on your foe. This stuns them temporarily after a few successes, allowing you to put in swipes and combos that'll put the hurt on until they recover again.
Like Infinity Blade, Blood and Glory is graphically impressive, if a bit bloody (as you'd expect, given the name). The gameplay is fun, and upgrading your character with new equipment and abilities feels rewarding, as you're able to defeat increasingly menacing opponents in several campaigns.
Like other successful mobile titles, it's impossible to fail outright (as you can always retry each fight as many times as you like, without losing your place) but succeeding completely (and reaping the extra rewards that result) takes practice and a bit of skill. Parrying in particular will require you to think quickly, and the challenge is there for those that want it. Overall, a fun game that belies its pricetag.
All of the other games in this top five are geared towards microtransactions to some degree or another; hoping to sell you in-game advantages for real world money. That's why the games are profitable for the publisher whilst selling for little or nothing. Sometimes, this is a bit overbearing, particularly in Blood and Glory. Game Dev Story is a refreshing alternative, providing a deep and enriching game that doesn't trouble you with microtransactions once you've bought it.
The gameplay is obstensibly a simulation of a game development studio, all the way from its first indie hits in the 80s to AAA titles and even new consoles in the present day. The action is reflected in a pixel-art representation of your office, where you watch your busy staffers program emphatically and wander around. You are in control of most everything; hiring staffers, promoting your titles, and choosing each game's genre and theme to please the simulated public and the critics.
Beyond the fairly simplistic gameplay, which is mostly just making executive decisions on staffing and development via a menu, there are clever ways to get ahead — some combinations of genre and theme work better than others. There are ‘hacker’ characters that’ll lend their elite skills to your team. New video game systems will be released, offering new possibilities for development if you can afford the steep license fee. Training your characters will improve their skills, or you can rely on outside freelancers to contribute.
The feedback provided is beautifully done, with each step being reflected in the company’s fan numbers, trade show attendance figures and ultimately that most precious prize – reviews scores and sales. The rewards are given out slowly; you watch first as your game’s fun, innovation, sound and graphics scores tick slowly upward, receive release scores from the world’s most finicky gaming magazines, and gradually sales ramp up. It’s an addictive process that you’ll find yourself repeating for years in the game world. For a mobile game, it's impressively deep, and that makes it by far my favourite game on Android.
I've shared my top 5 - now it's your turn.
What are your favourite mobile games, and what makes them so great? Let me know in the comments below!
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