Welcome back to our monthly gaming retrospective, this time for January 2014. We've got a good mix of triple-A console-style games and more mobile-friendly casual titles for your consideration, some of which are so bizarre that they have to be played to be understood. We've also got plenty of picks that didn't quite make it to the top of the list, but are still worthy of attention. Check out the profiles below for screenshots, videos, and easy links to the Google Play Store.


Deus Ex: The Fall

It came to iOS first, but we're happy to see Square Enix's experiment in triple-A mobile gaming land on Android. This is the latest entry in the storied Deus Ex series, which mixes first-person shooter game play with sneaky cyberpunk elements and a post-humanist storyline. The Fall takes place at around the same time as Human Revolution, the blockbuster Deus Ex title from 2011.

Naturally you'll get an array of futuristic weapons to use, but an equally important part of the game is using technical tools and silent takedowns to advance through the levels. Along the way you'll uncover the story behind a group of mercenaries and their employers, revolving around the augmentation of human beings with physical implants and genetic manipulation. It's heady stuff, especially compared to most mobile games.

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The game uses a complex control system that attempts to emulate a full console shooter, and succeeds for the most part. (That said, I'd still like to see the option for physical controls.) Deus Ex: The Fall costs seven bucks and includes in-app purchases, but the IAP is non-essential - it's more like a paid version of cheat codes. The graphics are roughly on the Gamecube level, so you'll need powerful hardware to run it well.

Deus Ex: The Fall
Deus Ex: The Fall
Developer: SQUARE ENIX Ltd
Price: $0.99+

Detective Grimoire

Adventure games tend to follow a lot of the same patterns, but Detective Grimoire is just quirky and unique enough to deserve your attention. It's the story of a detective (natch) investigating deeds most foul in a colorful swamp town. While the unique humor and art style are enough to warrant a passing glance from adventure game fans, it's the developer's take on the inventory puzzle that's most interesting.

Conversations and deductions are often advanced with a combination of items and phrases, allowing for more flexibility than the standard "rub x with y" puzzles found in similar games. Detective Grimoire also has more than a little in common with investigation games like Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright... and those aren't coming to Android any time soon.

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Detective Grimoire is four dollars, which is pretty good for a polished game with fully-animated characters and lots of voice acting. Some of the puzzles are a little on the simple side, but fans of the genre will be more than satisfied with the story and presentation.

Detective Grimoire
Detective Grimoire
Developer: SFB Games
Price: $2.99

Fractal Combat X

Flight simulators are tough on mobile, if only because they so often rely on tight and complex controls. Fractal Combat X skirts around that with a simplified control scheme that's half rail shooter, half Space Harrier. (If that makes sense, then good for you - you get a gold gamer star.) On top of that, the game uses two semi-customizable variants of its control schemes.

The flight action itself definitely skews towards sci-fi - these jets would look more at home in a Robotech episode than in a Military Channel special. The enemies and locations that you encounter are pretty far out as well, lending the whole game a distinct arcade feel. Combine that with impressive visuals and a breakneck sense of speed, and you've got an addictive game for those who like to stay in the Danger Zone.

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Fractal Combat X is a free to play title, but the $2 premium edition gets rid of ads and in-app purchases, and the upgrade system is weighted towards the player. (That's a great model, by the way - developers, please take note.) MOGA, SHIELD, and HID controller support is included.

Fractal Combat X
Fractal Combat X
Developer: OYK Games
Price: Free+

Table Top Racing

The racing is real. The powerups are extreme. The cars... are tiny. In the grand tradition of Re-Volt and Micro Machines, Table Top Racing knows that tiny little race cars can mean big fun. It's also got an impressive pedigree, with WipeOut co-creator Nick Burcombe on the developer roster. The game features a lot of the selling points of that Playstation classic, including great visuals and a basic combat system.

Underneath a shiny exterior, Table Top Racing is basically a kart game, but one with enough originality and polish that it earned a spot on this list over other, more well-known franchises. The game features 17 cars and a good variety of mini-themed tracks, but the crisp and smooth visuals are what will keep you coming back. Of course, you'll need some decent hardware to get the best results.

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Table Top Racing is free to play, which means that you're going to have to do some grinding to get the best cars and upgrades. There's just one thing missing: multiplayer races.

Table Top Racing Free
Table Top Racing Free

Bad Hotel

Bad Hotel is a game that defies description. But this roundup ain't gonna write itself, so I'll try anyway.

The basic gist is that you're a manager of a failing hotel, desperately trying to get money out of your remaining guests before the building collapses from monster attacks or its own poor architecture. You can add rooms and weapons in real time, each of which will - for some reason - affect the music that plays. Oh, did I mention it's also a music game?

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The hotel itself is a bizarre instrument, fighting back against strange and terrible attacks while moving, collapsing, and rebuilding. Larger structures create more complex and layered music, and the art is intriguingly flat and zany. Bad Hotel is a reasonable $1.

Bad Hotel
Bad Hotel
Developer: Lucky Frame
Price: $1.99

Final Fantasy VI

Square's back with another classic Final Fantasy game, and this one... well, it's probably the last one that they'll do for a while. That's because FFVI is the last of the original Super Nintendo entries, and it's still considered one of the best. If Square wants to release another incredibly expensive port, they'll have to start dipping into the Playstation era with Final Fantasy VII.

On the other hand, FFVI may be the most robust mobile re-release yet, or at least the one that's had the most work put into it. All the character designs and portraits have been updated with high resolution screens in mind, new content from a previous refresh has been added, and the interface has been given a complete touch overhaul. Some nostalgic players don't like the new art style, preferring the ancient pixelated versions, but you can't please everyone.

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As usual with Square's Android RPGs, Final Fantasy VI launched with a few incredibly frustrating problems. But it looks like they've got the most dire ones worked out... unless you count the fact that the game won't work with the new Android Runtime (ART).

Price: $6.99

Flappy Bird

To be honest, Flappy Bird is included in this list for completion, not necessarily merit. The casual game has proven phenomenally popular (more than 10 million downloads in less than a week) and those who love it are addicted. The game couldn't be simpler: you tap the screen to make the bird flap its wings and rise over obstacles. That's it. That's all. There isn't any more.

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Technically the game is an endless runner, and its incredible difficulty is probably part of its charm. Well, sort of - a lot of the reviews in the Play Store are about how the players have destroyed their phones in frustration. Presumably they bought a new one, rated Flappy Bird five stars, and tried to get just a little farther.

The app was not found in the store. :-(

Honorable Mentions

That's it for January. If that's not enough for you, we've got gaming news almost every day for compulsive types, Bonus Rounds for less notable titles, and a new full roundup every other Monday.