Free-to-play is a divisive topic in the games industry right now. Some developers and publishers, especially in the mobile gaming world, love it - free games get downloaded more, and they have the potential to bring in more revenue. Gamers used to the "pay once, pay forever" model of games and software in general over the last 30 years think it's changing the industry and damaging both the economics and the mechanics of gaming itself.
You can't talk about mobile gaming without mentioning the elephant in the room: the free-to-play model. The bane of many a purist gamer and unwitting parent, an over-reliance on free downloads and hooks for in-app purchases has made mobile gaming a minefield of games based on upsell and addiction. Italy's had enough, and its antitrust authority is investigating app store owners Google, Apple, and Amazon, and game publisher Gameloft, for unfair commercial practices.
Google's recent foray into Maps-based monster catching has proven that even full-grown Android users love them some Pokemon. Maybe that's why storied publisher SEGA has decided to make its own entry in the monster-catching genre. But why, oh why, is the core mechanic in Dragon Coins based around those little quasi-gambling quarter-shooter arcade games?
Try to follow along here: in Dragon Coins, your party of anime-style monsters is represented by little drawers in a shelf.
Diner Dash was one of the first incarnations of the modern casual game: simple mechanics that are easy to learn and hard to master. Wikipedia says that publisher PlayFirst has seen over 550 million downloads of the game in its various versions, to say nothing of sequels and spin-offs. That's probably why Glu Mobile, one of the more visible mobile game publishers, has snatched up the company. Glu's stock priced jumped 8% this morning on the announcement.
SNK's Metal Slug series is one of the most beloved 2D side-scrolling shooters of all time, right up there with Contra. And fans of the originals were no doubt pleased when the twitchy, skillful, and delightfully pixelated games made their way to Android. So for the series' first foray into a new mobile title, it's only natural that SNK Playmore would make... a tower defense game.
Collectable card battle games are incredibly popular on the Play Store and its mobile contemporaries, perhaps only outnumbered by various Bird ripoffs of the Angry and Flappy variety. Now you can get your tedious, IAP-riddled card action on in a Star Wars flavor, because Assault Team is available in the United States (and probably a lot of other places as well). For the one guy who's been patiently waiting since the Australian test release, this is very exciting news.
Astronomers can identify distant galaxies beyond the reach of our telescopes by the light they emit, focusing around other galaxies and stars closer to us. The developers of popular iOS game God of Light use some of the same (if somewhat exaggerated) gravitational properties of photons to craft an addictive and endearing puzzler. Observe:
In God of Light, you're a benevolent space being called Shiny, and the description is pretty apt.
If you've been craving a game of Trivial Pursuit but can't manage to get your friends together, you may want to check out one of the newest additions to the Play Store. QuizUp is a slick and fast trivia game with a focus on head-to-head multiplayer. The easy matchmaking, varied topics, and impressive presentation have made it a hit on iOS, where's it's maintained a 4.5-star rating.
The game is very simple: log in via Google+, Facebook, or email, select a category, and you'll be automatically matched with a random player who's near your skill level.
If you're a dedicated shooter player, you know that the experience doesn't easily translate to mobile games. Glu's Frontline Commando gets around this by discarding free movement and switching to a completely cover-based system, smartly freeing up the limited controls for aiming and weapon management. The sequel just landed in the Play Store as a free download. Yes, this is a free game with in-app purchases - if that's a problem for you, you can stop reading right here and start drafting your snarky and dismissive comment now.
Free-to-play Android games aren't difficult to come by, but this one has a little more going for it than mere affordability and simple play mechanics. CastleStorm made quite the name for itself on consoles this past fall, and now a touch-friendly adaptation is hitting Android as a private beta. The game combines tower defense with destructive physics, crisp graphics, fully voiced characters, and over 100 quests. The game isn't entirely free, as you need to spend money to get your hands on some in-game items, but with any luck, this won't hinder gameplay too much.