Look, I've got nothing against the pixelated graphical style, sometimes erroneously referred to as "8-bit." But for the last few years it's often been used as a crutch for developers who can't be bothered to make truly good 2D graphics. That doesn't apply to Sword of Xolan, the latest game from developer Alper Sarikaya of Manuganu fame. The environments, enemies, and main character have enough definition that you can actually see what's happening on screen, and the excellent animations make the world come to life in ways that developers could only dream of back in the old SNES days.

Aside from being a visual treat, Sword of Xolan is a joy to play. The running, jumping, slashing movement is pure Ghosts 'N Goblins, while the multi-level stages themselves feel more like a mix of Mario and Metroid, with just enough length and variety to make a 5-minute play session feel satisfying. Three captives that need freeing on each level give you incentive to explore. The protagonist has a basic sword attack and a ranged magic attack that should dispose of most standard enemies if you've got the reflexes and timing to best them, but there are bigger bosses to deal with on occasion. Upgrades come in the form of cards bought with money collected in each stage.

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The reason I wanted to highlight the game is that it's one of the few that does free-to-play right. You can get through the entire game without spending a penny if you don't mind watching a few ads, and getting rid of them will only cost you a dollar - despite the in-game economy, there are no IAPs for currency. Throw in full controller support and Android TV compatibility, and Sword of Xolan is an easy recommendation to any Android gamer.