The Ides of March have come and gone, and the Android gaming scene is marching in step. Last month saw the inclusion of an impressive variety of both hardcore and casual games alike, including plenty with fascinating new ideas for gameplay. Here in no particular order are our picks for the top seven, plus a few honorable mentions. Just about everyone should be able to find at least one Android game they'll love among the following titles.
Epoch was one of the best-looking games available for Android when it was released, but that wasn't what netted it such a positive review from Jeremiah Rice. It's also one of the rare games that aspires to console levels of technical quality, yet understands the strengths and weaknesses of mobile gaming. An intuitive interface and solid game mechanics made it an amazingly good cover-based shooter. Now the sequel is here to improve on the original.
Epoch 2 (or EPOCH.2 if you're a brand manager) continues the story of a robot trying to save one of the last humans left in the apocalypse. (Commenters, no spoilers, please.) The simple tap-and-swipe gameplay from the original returns, but the titular robot has a few new moves up his steel sleeves, including hanging from the ceiling and jumping out into the field of battle for direct confrontations. Some of the bosses will now engage Epoch in melee combat, forcing the player to stay on his or her toes.
The impressive visuals have been improved even more for Epoch 2, and the addictive Mega Man-style character progression will have you playing just to get that cool new gun or armor. The game does fall back on some IAP grind trappings, but they're easily ignored. Epoch 2 is $2.50 (for the time being), and you'll need a phone or tablet with some graphical power to run it well.
AirFighters earns a spot on this list because of its complete lack of compromise. Common sense says you can't do a serious flight simulator on a touchscreen, which is why most of the air combat games on Android thus far have used simple arcade-style controls. AirFighters takes that notion and jettisons it, spreading simulator-style controls and navigation overlays over multiple swipe-enabled screens.
The game includes all of the staples of the genre: meticulously accurate plane models, cockpit and exterior views, customized battle scenarios. The focus is ostensibly on air combat, and indeed, all the friendly and enemy planes are fighters. But AirFighters also includes a more pure simulation mode with a virtual version of the Earth. As in, the entire Earth. If you've got the skill, you can refuel mid-flight and navigate the globe, landing at over five hundred real airports.
The list of features in AirFighters is too long to go into here, but other goodies include aircraft carriers and vertical take-off, downloadable missions from the community, and more... but unfortunately not multiplayer support. AirFighters is five bucks with no ads or in-app purchases, and for flight sim fans, it's well worth the expense.
QuizUp is one of those tempest in a teapot social games - of all the items on this list, it's the one that your aunt on Facebook is most likely to be using. At the core it's basically Trivial Pursuit, but sped up to a lighting pace with real-time trivia battles. You select your category or sub-category, and QuizUp matches you with a random opponent. Get the questions right and you'll get points, get them right faster and you'll get more points. The one with the most points after seven questions wins.
The reason that QuizUp has become so popular is probably its incredible breadth. With all the categories and sub-categories, literally anyone can find something that they know a lot about, whether you're a professor of classical European history of the world's most dedicated Disney fan. It doesn't hurt that the structure makes it easy to play for two minutes or two hours, and there's no real penalty attached to losing.
QuizUp probably won't hold your attention forever, since the only progress to be made is by an arbitrary leveling system - basically, "look at how much I know about this topic." It includes in-app purchases that can actually cheat this system, awarding players extra XP for set amounts of time, but there doesn't really seem to be any point to that beyond ego-stroking. QuizUp is a free download.
Cut the Rope 2
That sickeningly cute little bundle of cavities is back, and he's brought his friends. Jaded Cut The Rope players might think that the first sequel to get a full integer added isn't worth the trouble, and if you've played every one of the various spinoffs, you might be right. But with a ton of new and interesting stages and plenty of gameplay-modifying critters, Cut The Rope 2 is worth a look from any fan of the casual game style.
The new monsters are the biggest additions: while they can toss around the candy pieces that form the core of the gameplay, they can also move Om Nom around the stage, opening up opportunities for more creative puzzle solving. And you'll need that extra edge: with a ton of levels (and more on the way), the difficulty eventually gets tricky even for veterans of the series.
Cut The Rope 2 keeps the same visual style from earlier games, though the locations and animations have been given a few high-definition touch-ups. If you don't enjoy the focus on the cutesy, paper-thin story and characters, this probably isn't the game for you, especially since the dress-up elements have been expanded. But if all you want is some fun physics-based puzzles (with zero birds), give it a try. It's free with in-app purchases, and unlike previous games, there's only one version of the app.
Mines of Mars
Do you long to feel the loneliness and serenity of a once-dead world, as you traverse it surviving by cunning, guile, and skill? Do you long to do this while playing a mashup of Metroid and Minecraft? Then Mines of Mars, from the consistently excellent publisher Crescent Moon Games, is right up your gravity well. This 2D side-scroller comes to Android after a successful run on Steam's Greenlit program.
Here's the gist: you're a miner on Mars (natch) tasked with seeking out various precious minerals and materials with your handy space-age jackhammer. The only problem is that Mars isn't quite as dead as we thought it was, so you'll have to kick some alien butt Samus-style with platforming skills and an array of fancy weapons. All of this mixes some old-school platforming and exploration with the crafting trend.
The world of Mines of Mars is procedurally-generated, which means that its levels will change each time you play. Even so, there's a core story to explore if you get tired of mining, and the developers claim that cooperative play is coming in a future update. It doesn't hurt that the sprite visuals are just as pretty as the PC version, and the ambient soundtrack really works with the haunting atmosphere. Mines of Mars is five dollars with no in-app purchases.
Threes gets a nod here if only to acknowledge its massive popularity, or at least, the massive popularity of its clones and spin-offs. Threes is best known as the original version of 2048, a game that uses the same sliding math puzzle gameplay (but also has a free-to-play structure). There has been no small amount of controversy over 2048's massive popularity in relation to the original.
So, here's the "real" version of the game. It's incredibly simple: slide the tiles around to combine 1 and 2 to make 3, 3 and 3 to make 6, 6 and 6 to make 12, and so on. The object of the game is to make the highest combined number you can before your board fills up. It's both easier and much more difficult than it sounds: getting the higher numbers requires no small amount of strategy.
For such a simple idea, Threes and its various clones have an insanely addictive quality. Getting relatively large integers early in the game gives you nearly instant gratification, while getting on the top of the leaderboard will need days of patient and meticulous sliding action. Going with the original paid version of the app will get you a nice sense of satisfaction and full Google Play Games integration. Surely that's worth two bucks, right?
Everybody loves a good villain. If you'd rather be Lex Luthor than Superman, then Cartoon Network's latest game was definitely made with you in mind. Instead of rescuing a princess from a castle, you're imprisoning one, setting devious traps for the various hunky heroes who are stupid enough to try and save her. Essentially you're Bowser in a Doctor Doom costume. Unfortunately, your budget won't stretch to buying multiple castles to hide Her Royal Pinkness in, so you'll have to make do with one.
But between various spikes, trapdoors, tentacles monstrosities, buzz saws, and all manner of turrets, you'll have plenty of opportunities to slow down the knights and other riff-raff trying to rescue the princess. If they do manage to make it to her cell, you'll have another chance to get them when they try to get out. At its core Castle Doombad is a tower defense game, but there are so many original ideas and stylish choices here that it should appeal to casual gamers of all kinds. The game is three dollars with in-app purchases, but the latter are entirely optional.
- God of Light
- Little Big Adventure
- Widget RPG
- Mount & Blade: Warband
- Broken Sword 5
- Not So Fast
- Dehumanize Your Friends
That's all for March. Editor's note: the SHIELD-exclusive PC port Mount & Blade would have gotten a full mention on this list, and a full review on Android Police as well, but unfortunately it's suffering from some killer technical difficulties at the moment. Even after a maintenance update, I can't get the game to run for more than half an hour at a time, which is a huge drawback for an in-depth strategy title. It's still playable (so long as you save often), but very, very frustrating.