Thursday, February 21, 2019
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Best new mobile games on iOS and Android – February 2019 round-up

Mobile-Technology
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Brawl Stars – will it be as big as Clash Of Clans?

GameCentral looks at some of the new year’s biggest smartphone titles, from Supercell’s Brawl Stars to a remaster of Manic Miner.

Despite digital downloads now being the most common way to buy games the industry continues to be highly seasonal, and like most of us, it pretty much shuts down over Christmas. That tends to mean late December and early January are a bit anorexic in terms of new releases. This year’s traditional gloom has been punctuated by console games such as Resident Evil 2 and Ace Combat 7, but while the world of mobile hasn’t been quite so fortunate there’s still some interesting early offerings – including the already reviewed Alien: Blackout.

 



Bomb Squad Academy, £Free, full version £2.99 for iOS (Systemic Games)

In Bomb Squad Academy you learn to disarm bombs before their countdown timers reach zero and you lose your virtual fingers. Initially that’s a straightforward case of tracing circuits back to switches and making sure you only turn on the ones connected to ‘disarm’ rather than ‘detonate’, but soon enough the game tosses in logic gates, connecting wires (some of which need clipping), capacitors, and ever more devious mazes of interconnected circuitry. From the bleeping of the countdown to the feel of cutting wires, and the sardonic comments that trigger when you mess it all up, Bomb Squad Academy’s puzzles remain gripping and pleasantly challenging throughout.

Score: 8/10

 



Brawl Stars, £Free for iOS & Android (Supercell)

Supercell, the billionaire makers of App Store legend Clash Of Clans, release very few games, which makes Brawl Stars’ eventual worldwide release, after more than a year in soft launch, a bit of a moment. Its content, while unfamiliar, follows the Supercell formula: it’s free to download and initially generous with its giveaways.

The game itself is a MOBA redesigned for mobile, its 3 vs. 3 matches played out in tight playing fields with artfully positioned chokepoints and a selection of game modes: from a limited scale Battle Royale to straightforward gem collecting. It’s highly polished, but somehow lacks the heady compulsion that typified the early days of Clash Royale or Boom Beach, with rounds feeling less fun and exciting than the colourful cartoon characters that participate in them.

Score: 6/10

 



Manic Miner, £Free for iOS, Android & tvOS (Elite Systems) (out 13/2)

Players of a certain age will remember the halcyon days when games came on cassette from WHSmith, and piracy was as simple as going round to see your mate with the double tape deck. It was also a time when there were three TV channels and no Internet, a fact that helps explain why something with as appallingly limited entertainment value as this was considered fun.

Hopping Miner Willy over obstacles and along conveyers is primitive and punishingly difficult, and while there’s a pang of nostalgia, at least when playing the original rather than the largely pointless forced 3D perspective update, the game itself is nowhere near good enough to sustain interest when competing with today’s myriad alternative options.

Score: 3/10

 



Salary Man Escape, £4.99 for iOS (Red Accent Studios)

Previously available as a VR game, Salary Man Escape has you dragging and poking Jenga-style blocks to clear the way for a man in a suit to reach an exit door, usually perched high above your starting position. The trick is that you can only move red blocks, the rest fall under gravity, but you can’t affect them directly. The game swiftly adds all sort of extra dimensions, with balances, conveyer belts, and exercises in timing, as well as raw problem solving.

However, it’s not always easy getting the game to acknowledge which block you’re attempting to move and in what direction, although that particular issue was just as prevalent in its VR incarnation. It’s got a deliciously bleak sense of humour, and there are interesting puzzles to solve, but the finicky controls and moments when the blocks don’t fall as you expect – forcing you to restart levels – do little to endear it.

Score: 7/10

 



Arcane Quest Legends, £Free for iOS & Android (Acts 2 & 3 IAP) (Nex Game Studios)

The long running Arcane Quest series has traditionally been a Dungeons & Dragons and Diablo-inspired turn-based role-playing game. Arcane Quest Legends takes the familiar dungeon crawl, loot hunting, and monster portfolio, and transplants it into a more action-orientated hack and slash. But with only limited success.

The looting and levelling up remain appealing, but the horribly flat, poorly-translated dialogue makes it impossible to believe in or become emotionally connected with any of its characters. It also suffers from a completely inert camera, leaving you to drag sweaty fingers across the screen in a vain ongoing attempt to see what’s going on. With a free-to-download first act you can give it a try and see whether its lacklustre brand of adventuring is for you, but you’d need to be pretty dungeon-starved to find this anything other than wearying.

Score: 5/10

 



Tropico for iPad, £11.99 (Feral Interactive)

Somewhere between SimCity and real-life Cuba is Tropico, a game about managing your very own banana republic. Unlike its strait-laced contemporaries, Tropico is played for laughs, from your bickering advisors Silencio and Penultimo, to innumerable darkly humorous references to your role as El Presidente, this is a sim that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

That’s not to say it isn’t also complex though, as the 15 islands you’ll rule in campaign mode take a lot of work to balance, as you try to ensure your populace is well paid, fed, and entertained to offset the less pleasant needs to pay rent and taxes. It’s highly engaging and the iPad port works seamlessly.

Score: 8/10

 



Gone Home, £4.99 (Annapurna Interactive)

Originally released in 2013, Gone Home is in many ways the archetypal walking simulator. You play a girl returning to her suspiciously deserted family home on a journey of discovery. You wander the house, read notes, look at press clippings and artefacts, and absorb the lavish environmental details. There’s no combat, threat, or time pressure, which leaves you to explore and muse at your leisure, steadily piecing together an impression of what’s happened to the people who used to live in this big, empty house.

It lacks the sparkle and modernity of the more recent Florence, but still evokes a wonderful sense of mystery and melancholy, and because of its sedate pace does not in any way suffer from having touchscreen rather than physical controls.

Score: 7/10

 



Ink, Mountains & Mystery, £Free for iOS (NetEase Games)

Ink, Mountain & Mystery is at least as much of an enigma as the characters you’ll meet during its play time. For one, it’s completely free, with no upfront fee and gratis in-app purchases. It also feels like exploring a living classical Chinese watercolour painting, whose beauty and musical accompaniment conspire to create an atmosphere of gentle serenity.

Unfortunately as a game, things are not so great. With checkpoints at the end of each chapter, some of which last 30+ minutes, it’s a defiantly non-mobile experience. It’s also mind-blowingly dull, its glacial exposition and dreary, linear progress providing a potential treatment for insomnia if little else.

Score: 4/10

 

By Nick Gillett

 

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(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2019-01-31 06:00:00

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