Hidden gems of Android gaming: Yes, they exist, and they’re awesome
As you may have read a few weeks ago, my iPad’s screen got smashed. My wife and her stupid rhinoceros hands didn’t just take away one of my main productivity gadgets, however: I do a lot of mobile gaming, and it’s my firm opinion that the App Store is far superior to Google Play when it comes to the recreational side of apps.
Don’t believe me? Go to the Play games store, click the ‘Top Free’ section, and count every game that isn’t a direct rip off of an existing game and/or a Flappy Bird clone.
Apple, meanwhile, has a ton of top-flight developers doing exclusive work or releasing on iOS devices first, and their standards all but guarantee apps like “Super funny fart noise maker lite” never crack the top 20 downloads.
That said, it’s not like Google Play is a total barren wasteland. Since I’m such an awesome guy – and because I literally don’t know what to do with my free time without a mobile game six inches away from my nose – I’ve rounded a few excellent titles up for you fine readers to enjoy.
Okay, it has nothing to do with me being an awesome guy at all, but whatever. It’s not like you had to wade through that much junk to find something worth playing for more than 20 seconds.
Featured Game: Smash Hit
Smash Hit is capital-A, italicised-and-bolded Awesome. No, really.
At the risk of sounding like a total dork, it’s a brilliant example of mobile devices finding their place in a crowded gaming scene: it makes perfect use of the platform’s strengths and unique capabilities, all while avoiding the little snags and pitfalls that suck the fun out of similar titles, and it looks downright incredible on my Nexus 10’s hi-res display.
There are no characters, no story arcs, and no real leveling systems to speak of here. Instead, your only job is to tap the screen as the camera cruises through several abstract environments, firing metal balls at a number of increasingly complex glass structures.
Smashing the glass is incredibly satisfying, thanks in large part to an impressive physics system and the above-mentioned visual prowess. Flat black obelisks and weird, DNA-looking structures alike crumble when you score a hit, and the accompanying sound effect is way more soothing than it has any right to be.
If that sounds easy, believe me when I say the end result is anything but. Your pinballs are finite in number and easily lost. Every shot you take makes one vanish from your inventory, and if you fail to destroy a glass object in your path before the camera crashes into it, you lose ten of the damn things. You can replenish your stock by smashing triangular objects along the way – hit enough in a row and the game adds another ball to each shot you take without charging you extra, not unlike a multiball bonus in pinball.
If it sounds strange, that’s because it is. It’s also incredibly hard to describe. All I can say is you owe yourself to check out the free version on the Play Store. If you like it, pay a buck (USD) for the extra content, which allows you to save at checkpoints and view stats.
Even if you don’t need the functionality, the people behind the game certainly deserve the support.
Yes, it’s a total Minecraft ripoff when it comes to visuals, and yes, there are several titles with the same basic gameplay structure available on the Play store. Even so, there’s something charming about Blocky Roads.
In some regards, it’s your standard side-scrolling racer – if you’ve played a 2D car game with a brake, a gas pedal, and lots of hills, you know what I mean. In others, it’s still fun enough to stand on its own.
I really liked the create-a-car option, for instance, and my former World of Warcraft addiction makes its gear-grabbing aspect hard to resist.
If you’ve played and enjoyed side-scrolling car games in the past, give this one a look. Or don’t. I’m just here to recommend the games, not sell them to you.
At $2 US, Breach and Clear is the one of the priciest games on this list in terms of up-front costs. It’s also one of the oldest. If you like tactical gameplay, however, it’s totally worth it.
In some ways, it’s kind of like the glorious lovechild of Counterstrike and Final Fantasy Tactics. Each member of your elite army has his own specific talents, from long-range shooting to tanking, and each ‘win’ nets you cash used to purchase and upgrade weaponry/staff/etc.
It’s a lot brainer than the average mobile game, with a huge focus on the tactical side of small-arms warfare. If you like military games but you’ve burned yourself out on standard first-person shooters, you’ll probably get way more than two bucks’ worth of fun out of it.
Middle Manger of Justice (MMOJ) undoubtedly benefits from the big name behind it; Double Fine studios, home of all-around hilarious dude Tim Schafer, played a large role in bringing the game to the public, and while I don’t generally like ‘management’ games of its ilk, it’s got enough good humour and interesting gameplay to overcome the bias.
Your role as the titular Middle Manager is to handle an office full of superheroes, with a huge emphasis on management. Upgrading break rooms, leading super-strength training sessions, overseeing huge-scale fights with awesome supervillans… It’s pretty much what you’d expect with Double Fine behind the wheel.
This kind of game in general is good for fans of ‘the grind'; if that describes you, you’d be well-advised to give it a look, especially if you like funny things and/or smiling.
If you haven’t heard of Plague Inc. before, you’re probably at least aware of its Flash-based precursor, Pandemic. Either way, the Android upgrade is one of the most addicting free mobile titles on the market.
Your goal is to wipe out the human race (or as much of it as possible) with an expertly-crafted disease, using “DNA Points” to give your ailment “features”, like resistance to cold temperatures and the ability to spread through sneezes.
You’ll know you’ve won when the entire human race is dead and the game is praising you for being more effective than smallpox… It’s a strange honour to receive, sure, but you’ll certainly wear it with pride when you finally win a round.