Just like its collection of new apps, the Play Store made a strong showing in the game department last month. From Ingress to Clay Jam, there were plenty of great new games to choose from in November. With games, as with apps, there are often too many to download and try each one. To that end, we've rounded up the top seven games every Android gamer will want to take a look at from November 2012.
Ingress was and is a big deal. A cursory search for "Ingress" on Google+ will reveal huge demand for the game (since it's a closed beta), and some impressive enthusiasm, and it's this community's hype that makes the game great. After getting his hands on an invitation, our own Eric reviewed Ingress, dubbing it "the best augmented reality game a curios explorer in the city can play."
Basically, Ingress allows you to play into a "secret" story following the introduction of Exotic Matter (XM) to our world. XM is a medium by which a new life form is attempting to enter our world. On one side, you have the "enlightened," a group who believes the ingress will better humans overall and who wants to help the life forms get here. On the other side of the battle is the "resistance," a group who wants to stop the ingression, because the risks are too high for humanity.
In the game you'll have to pick a side, and then proceed to hack, capture, and power up XM portals in the name of your faction. Once captured and adequately powered, you'll need to link the portals. When you link enough portals to form a geometric shape, your faction's influence goes up, capturing more "mind units."
The great thing about Ingress is that it's an amazing game that actually requires you to go out into the world and look for portals, help others, and speak with faction members to strategize. If you want to plan your strategy before leaving for the day, you can go to Ingress.com/Intel. This online interface, while buggy, has some great information including an interactive map with portal locations.
If you haven't already, request an invite and get ready to play one of the most fascinating game's we've yet seen.
Angry Birds Star Wars
Angry Birds Star Wars is another game that got a huge amount of hype. The game is considerably more casual than Ingress, but – as a title that involves both Star Wars and Rovio – was almost guaranteed to be a hit.
If you've ever played Angry Birds (or Angry Birds Space), and you've seen Star Wars, then you pretty much know what you're getting here. It's a familiar bird-flinging experience with gravity elements from Space, and a few other treats like light sabers, lasers, explosions, and, oh yeah, the force.
To be candid, this author was surprised by Angry Birds Star Wars. Where I expected more of the same birds that have flooded every possible merchandise vertical available, I got them, but the game also came with some surprising new gameplay elements that actually made it entertaining, fun, and more challenging than ever. Even if you're tired of Angry Birds, Star Wars is still worth trying out.
Beat Hazard Ultra
The title of our review ("Shoot Em Up + Rave = Beat Hazard Ultra") pretty much says all you need to know about this one. It's a game that uses your music collection to generate levels, pairing your favorite tunes with a bullet hell-ish landscape of glowing, flashing explosions, plenty of lasers, and a fair dose of chaos. Based on your music selection, each level will vary in speed, placement and number of enemies, your own ship's power, and of course the mesmerizing colors you'll see on impact.
This one is definitely in the "casual" category, but is great for anyone who's a fan of bullet hell style games, hypnotizing colors, and an ever-changing gameplay experience.
Casting players as a scientist trapped in a complex cave system on Mars, Waking Mars offers a journey through a unique, beautiful world of alien life forms in one of the most interesting games we've seen in a while.
The goal of gameplay in Waking Mars is basically to cultivate your way out of the cave structure by managing and breeding life forms called Zoa. This is a new twist on the adventure game to be sure, and it requires a lot of strategy. Each cave chamber is a new puzzle, and you'll have to get things right to get to bring the chamber's ecosystem to the correct biomass and get to the next cave alive.
Waking Mars provides a pretty fascinating experience, and will require plenty of experimenting to get the hang of what each creature can do. If you've got some spare time and about $5 to burn, we highly recommend trying it out.
Clay Jam is another incredibly unique game we saw debuted in November. In a Katamari Damacy-esque gameplay dynamic, players are tasked with helping Fat Pebble roll up as much clay as possible on a series of hills to rebuild the land of Clay Jam, which was attacked and depleted of its cute clay-based fauna by Bully Beasts. Did I mention this game is 100% claymation? Yes, the entire game is made of hand-built clay creations, and it looks amazing.
Though this game's bright colorful graphics and squishy sound effects make it seem targeted at a younger audience, I've been playing Clay Jam since we first covered it last month, and the experience still hasn't gotten old. Besides the main game, each hill has around 20-30 side quests that will help you defeat the bosses once and for all (though you get a chance to knock them several hundred meters at the end of each roll), and there are plenty of monsters to rebuild while fixing up Clay Jam.
Relying on (totally optional) in-app purchases for monetization, Clay Jam is free from the Play Store. If you're looking for a unique, light gaming experience, give it a shot.
Paper Monsters is a 3D side-scrolling platformer that manages to combine a simple gameplay dynamic and adorable papercraft graphics with action, plenty of different levels, and – simply put – fun.
The game, which we reviewed shortly after launch, follows the story of a simple cardboard hero who can run left and right and jump (or double-jump). The controls are precise and responsive, and each level has plenty of room for exploration, often rewarding those who opt for an off-path adventure.
If the game isn't already fun enough, you can give your hero some adorable sunglasses, or a new shirt or hat, purchasable with golden buttons found in game. If you want a 3D platformer that's nice to look at, well-made, and not impossible to complete, look no further, and dig out $0.99 for Paper Monsters.
Last but not least, we have Pizza Boy, another platformer that launched last month. Side-scrolling platform action is where the similarities with Paper Monsters stop, though. Pizza Boy depicts the story of an intrepid pizza boy who, for one reason or another, needs to collect pizza slices, strawberries, and adorable kittens and get them back to the pizza shop.
Graphically, the game's description accurately pegs it as "new school retro." I think that if Kirby's Dreamland had taken place in a small coastal town and featured considerably more pizza, it would have looked like this.
Besides its great looks, Pizza Boy features the incredibly simple controls you'd expect from a retro platformer, along with plenty of levels with varying complexity, and a polished overall experience.
If you're a fan of side scrollers and nostalgia, you'd be well advised to drop $2.25 for the title. Just hit the widget below.
With that, we bring another short list of the last month's greatest games to a close. Whether you're into ethereal tune-powered shooters, intense augmented reality, casual bird-flinging, or side scrolling adventure, November had something for you. Even if these games didn't exactly hit the spot, you can keep an eye out for our larger roundups every couple of weeks, and stay tuned for next month's roundup of the top five (or seven) best new games.