Happy New Year, Android gamers. If you're lucky enough to get today off from work, no doubt you're wondering how to spend your vacation and/or recovery time. We've got a few humble suggestions: the seven best games of the dozens and dozens that were featured on Android Police last month. This eclectic mix of titles should have a little something for everyone. Here are our favorites from December, in no particular order, with a few runners-up thrown in for good measure.
As we've said before, the overly atmospheric, silhouetted platformer game is somewhat played out at the moment - it's the indie gaming equivalent of an outfit that's three seasons out of style. That said, Badland is so darn beautiful that it's easy to forgive the game design faux pas, and it's got enough innovative ideas to earn a spot on this list twice over. A strange mix of platforming, physics, and bloody difficult twitch gaming is mixed up in one slick package.
You play a... well, it's never exactly explained what your tiny flying fuzz-ball of a character actually is, but you press the screen to make him flap up and release to let him drop down. That's it as far as controls go (the side-scrolling level advances automatically), so the challenge comes from a collection of crazy traps and spinning obstacles in your way.
Badland is a free download and you can play through the first 40 levels without spending a dime. Another 40 can be unlocked via a $2 in-app purchase, and a multiplayer mode is another $2. You can save a buck by buying both for $3, and any purchase will remove the game's advertising. Check out our full review.
Assassin's Creed Pirates
Assassin's Creed IV was a much-needed breath of fresh air for Ubisoft's sneaky-stabby franchise on consoles and PCs, and its mobile counterpart is a surprisingly faithful translation of that game's signature ship-to-ship combat mode. Even if you haven't played the full game, this encapsulated experience holds up just fine on its own, tasking you with piloting and maintaining a Caribbean warship in the golden age of sailing.
If you're looking for the stealth-based action game that springs to mind when you think about this particular franchise, look elsewhere - Pirates is more like a real-time strategy game than the third-person action adventure one might expect. You'll need to hire the best crew, buy the right ships with the right capabilities, and conquer the seas with strategic positioning and timing.
Pirates is a hefty five bucks, and you'll need a powerful device to run it - those water and weather effects aren't going to play nice with budget hardware. There are also in-app purchases in the game, but they appear to be kept to a minimum.
The Cave isn't the much-ballyhooed Double Fine Adventure Game from Kickstarter - this is another Double Fine game, also (mostly) an adventure, that didn't need Kickstarting because it got a full console release. The Cave is a mix of platforming and adventure elements in a trippy setting, weaving a dark story through cartoony 3D visuals and branching puzzles in the titular cavern.
You'll play three characters at once, each one harboring a dark secret, as they delve further and further into the cave. The deeper they go, the closer they'll come to facing their own shortcomings. While this is ostensibly a platformer game, the focus is really on the non-traditional storytelling and the multi-character puzzle progression. If you're not much of a twitch gamer, don't worry - this title is pretty forgiving in that department. Fans of the Monkey Island series will be happy to know that Ron Gilbert led the development team.
The Cave is a reasonable $5 (one-third the cost of the PC version) with no in-app purchases. The 3D visuals require at least some graphical oomph in terms of hardware, but a bleeding edge device is probably not necessary. Unfortunately early incompatibility issues have sunk The Cave's Google Play score, so wait until you've got a fast connection to download it in case you need a quick refund.
It takes a special kind of developer to add meaningful innovation to a game as simple as Snake, and Halfbrick (of Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride fame) is the one to do it. This mix of the traditional "eat stuff, get bigger" style of game and Japanese monster/robot presentation is played for laughs, but there's a solid casual title underneath the glitzy exterior.
Colossatron is a strange mix of tower offense and match three games - you choose where along the line of your robotic worm to drop a new gun segment, and placing three identical segments in a row will upgrade them to a single overpowered unit. Going for multiple smaller segments will make your robot tougher to kill, but a shorter and more powerful robot is generally going to earn more points. Throw in some tongue-in-cheek cartoon cheese and you've got a surprisingly engaging 2D action game.
Like Halfbrick's other games, Colossatron is free, but relies on a bit of currency grinding to steer you towards in-app purchases. Even so, if you enjoy the first few levels you'll probably be coming back for more.
If Tim Burton decided to make a platforming game with nothing but a chalkboard, it might look a lot like Dokuro. You're an animated skeleton with a fiendish villain for a boss, she's a shortsighted princess with poor choice in suitors. It's love at first sight, and you have to help your somewhat dopey princess navigate through a castle full of traps and monsters. It's an entire game of escort missions. In a good way.
As with The Cave, the focus is more on puzzle-solving than actual platforming, as the skeleton will have to alter the environment and use his equipment to get the princess through each level. But there's a twist: the skeleton can come back to the land of the living at certain points, becoming a prince charming with a sword to dispatch the tougher enemies and bosses. The two-toned gameplay keeps things interesting and makes for some unique challenges as the game progresses.
In addition to a fresh premise and some tight controls, Dokuro has some of the most refreshing 2D graphics on the Play Store. The spooky looks come courtesy of the designer's decision to create sprites based on charcoal drawings. It's not for everyone, but if you've ever gone into a Hot Topic without ironic intention, this game will probably be right up your dark alley. Dokuro is just one dollar.
Hopeless: The Dark Cave
You are tiny. You are helpless. You are under attack from all sides. But you've got a gun, so things sort of even out. In Hopeless, you play as a series of adorably cute gumdrop guys whose inescapable fate is being horribly murdered in the dark by ravenous monsters. Your job is to keep them alive long enough to... well, I don't want to spoil the ending, but it isn't a happy one.
Hopeless is a twitch game at heart, forcing you to tap on monsters in the split second that they appear in your little circle of life. Fail to shoot one, and he'll grab one of your tiny, frightened minions and steal off into the night, never to be seen again. But if you get too tap-happy, you might just shoot one of your fellow survivors coming in to help. Collect enough guys and they'll be beamed to safety, which starts the whole process over again with a single survivor. Get down to one panicked minion, and he might just off himself to avoid being torn to pieces.
This quirky title is a solid enough casual game all on its own, imminently suited to touchscreens and dark rooms. But the wicked sense of humor and contrasting art styles really seals the deal. Hopeless: The Dark Cave is a free download with in-app purchases.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Putting a 20-year-old game on a roundup for new titles may seem a little strange, but trust me, there's enough new content in the Android version of Sonic 2 to warrant the extra attention. Christian Whitehead's work on previous SEGA titles was good, but the restoration he's done on Sonic's second outing is outstanding. In addition to revamped high-res pixel art and restored music, players get access to the Hidden Palace Zone, a formerly unfinished level inaccessible in the Genesis game.
The Android version also has Google Play Games support, a save feature, a new Boss Attack mode, achievements, leaderboards, and a playable version of Knuckles from Sonic 3. The developers have even implemented an online multiplayer mode, though sadly it's only versus. Unlimited nostalgia would normally cost you three bucks, but at the time of writing it's on sale for 99 cents.
- Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
- Double Dragon Trilogy
- Dragon's Lair 2: Time Warp
- Clash of Puppets
- Dead Ahead
- RPG Record of Agarest War
- Ski Safari: Adventure Time
A bit of a housekeeping note: starting today, our top game picks will be posted on the first Wednesday of the month. Have a happy new year, and be sure to check out our fortnightly roundups for more games than you can shake a boomstick at.