Jo Wylie ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
The mobile gaming industry is relatively new, and has only really boomed since the Apple app store swept into our lives. The platform has allowed for a huge diversity in its products, from simple puzzles to higher concept shooters and adventures games. With developers like Rovio, Soinso, and Gameloft entering the scene, and with the platform being so portable and easily accessible, the dynamics of gaming have changed forever. For fear of repeating every mobile game review ever, Emertainment Monthly’s reviews are not going to focus on Doodlejump or Fruit Ninja. Instead, what follows are some reviews for a few good, up and coming, or popular but not as universally played games.
Minecraft: Pocket Edition
The $4.99 price tag for Minecraft: Pocket Edition is a lot for a mobile game, where 99¢ is the standard and $1.00 is pushing it. Pocket edition seems like a shiny, fun way to take a gaming obsession on the road with you, yet it presents some problems. Controlling a character in a 360-degree environment with just a finger on the screen is nearly impossible. While you might manage general creation, it will be slightly slower than usual. When faced with a monster, it takes some impressive skill to move and fight at the same time. It mostly left me wanting to throw my phone across the room. One very strange choice by creators at Mojang is to control a character using a counterintuitive method. Rather than the usual technique used for mobile games, Minecraft: Pocket Edition has the character’s head follow your finger instead of being able to click and drag your surroundings to look around. This type of movement, when transferred to a touchscreen, leaves the player having to re-learn the counterintuitive controls every time they put the game down for a drink.
Playing on creative mode (where you create whatever you want with unlimited resources and no danger of roaming monsters stabbing you in the back) the gameplay is less intolerable. With no impending danger and no time limit to create on, players can argue with the controls at their own pace. They might even be okay with the way the game works against them. Even then, however, the system is confusing and hard to use, leaving the player frustrated and bored with the game pretty quickly. A word of advice: download the free version first, and then give it a try.
The Civilization franchise has been around for over 20 years now. That alone is a testament to the staying power of the core game and the adaptability of its surrounding elements. It comes as no surprise that the epic strategy game has successfully made the transition to mobile without the widespread problems that usually arise with that kind change. For a game first released on floppy disk, Civilization still has impressive pull amongst veterans and newcomers alike. Civilization: Revolution updates and simplifies the PC and console versions of the game, by shrinking the players’ worlds so it doesn’t overtax even an older phone. It distills the diplomatic, economic, and scientific parts of the game into simple to understand screens that guide the player through the system with ease.
Despite all these simplifications, a seasoned gamer won’t easily be bored by the system. Civilization: Revolution still contains the complexity and expansiveness of a good, world-building strategy game. If you love tactical, turn-based strategy games, Civilization: Revolution is the game for you.
Plants vs. Zombies
Plants vs. Zombies has been around for a while, despite that it might be new to a few players. It’s worth noting, in fact, that it was released into the app store in 2011 and now, two years later, it still sits happily in the top ten highest grossing games. Here is a game that a lot of people are still playing, filling the back of lecture halls and the bedrooms of insomniacs with the call of “braaains, braains…”
Plants vs. Zombies is a pretty simple tower defense game that is dressed up (or maybe down) as something much more child friendly and new. The creators avoid the birds-eye, gun oriented tower defense style that seems to have lost prominence. Wave after wave of varying types of zombies attack your house, and you need to stop them with your ranks of killer mutant plants.
Though Plants vs. Zombies is not the most engaging game, it is an almost perfect half-attention game. The most influential selling point of Plants vs. Zombies is that when you take ten seconds to write down some notes for the meeting or lecture you’re sitting in, you don’t lose your progress in a level. This is a game that’s a strange mix of strategy and action, and it seems to have gotten the perfect balance for the people downloading it on every console out there to lap it up.
If you’re an intense gamer looking for a mobile game, stay away, but otherwise this game could be a good time.
Reign of Dragons
There aren’t actually that many trading card based games around on the app store. The format has been mostly lost to our childhoods and terribly advertised games on the side of our webpages. Nevertheless, Reign of Dragons and some of its successors have carved out a space for themselves on the app store; Reign of Dragons itself coming in as the eighteenth top grossing game. Most players seem to have bought it first and foremost because of the great art, which is strangely beautiful for an iPhone trading card game.
At first, Reign of Dragons is a surprisingly fun game. After a while, though, Reign begins to lose its grip and reveal its true nature. It asks the player to add people for points, or even worse: pay money. “Let me join your garrison!” beseech the vaguely clothed dragon slayers, and come on, I’m just trying to have a fun game here.
With most points gained for your networks and money, this is once again just a social networking game that has somehow made its way high in the app store (maybe because a high review will get the player a good deck). The review section of the store is also saturated with messages from players to put in their friendship code, because no one is ever going to show their actual friends this game.
Reign of Dragons is a fun, simple game that can keep you entertained for an hour or so and has some wonderful art that actually evolves as you play. The game stays interesting, but in the end it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and left behind. It’s a free app, so if you’re looking for that first hour of good art go ahead and buy this, but don’t expect a long and engaging game.
Editor’s Pick: Angry Birds: Star Wars
This month’s Editor’s Choice, Angry Birds: Star Wars, is the latest Rovio release after Bag Piggies. Angry Birds returns us to the much-loved game system of flinging birds at pigs; but this time, in space! The birds, now outfitted as the characters we love, traipse across a crazy space landscape to fight off piggies dressed up as the Star Wars monsters. The thing that makes Angry Birds: Star Wars such a good game is that, unlike most franchised-revamps of games, it isn’t the exact same game with some different graphics. This game reinvents all the birds with their Star Wars characters in mind (use the force, tiny Obi-Wan bird!). This game gives fans a wonderfully fun recreation of a game that is so important to the mobile gaming platform, not to mention hundreds of new levels to enjoy.
Angry Birds: Star Wars is everything you’d expect from the latest Rovio installment and more. This game is an editor’s pick and is highly recommended. Let’s just hope they don’t make any prequels!
Writer’s Pick: The Nightjar
The Nightjar was released in 2011 as part of a collection of projects by Five Gum, and got a lot of its popularity from the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch (the silky-voiced protagonist to the BBC show Sherlock) would be lending his voice to it.
The Nightjar is chilling. You’re lost on a spaceship and it is dark. So dark that you don’t even need a screen (you can’t see anything). The screen is nothing but your controller: left foot, right foot, turn. Don’t walk too slowly, or something might catch you. But don’t run too fast or lose your rhythm, because you wouldn’t want to fall over. This inventive way of using the limited mobile platform is what makes The Nightjar’s gameplay so amazing. Using some impressive technology, the system places you in a 3D world using only your headphones. It has you turn around, close your eyes, and the world spins around you. But the little beeps used to orient yourself aren’t the only noises you’ll be hearing on the abandoned spaceship. “There are…two… complex life forms aboard this ship, of which…one…is human,” promises the ship computer, and that number goes up. Soon there are five monsters, ten, thirty, and you can’t see them. But you can hear them, breathing, growling, and stepping towards you.
Get some big headphones (though any will do) and download a gloriously free iPhone game that pushes the gaming platform somewhere chilling, rewarding, and downright amazing. Just remember, play with the lights on. Space is scary.
All of the games mentioned above can be found in the iOS app store.