When it comes to mobile games, you have to sieve through a lot of fodder in order to get to the good stuff. As smartphones get bigger, faster and stronger, the potential for better games increases. Snake and Brick Breaker have to step down as we enter an era of more sophisticated gaming on the go. Saman Izadyar has done all the sieving for you; so that you can enjoy, to your heart’s content, a good set of apps to keep you company when you are on the loo or are avoiding writing an essay.
Imagine you had a book capable of summoning any object you could possibly think of. Maxwell, the protagonist of Scribblenauts, has a magical notebook that does exactly that. Sounds too good to be true, but be assured there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different objects you can spawn in the game. This means that essentially your imagination is responsible for how much fun you have as you solve the numerous challenges that are thrown your way. Having a seemingly unlimited number of objects means you can complete the majority of the levels in a multitude of different ways. Will you be boring and use an axe to cut down the tree, or will you disintegrate the tree with an alien ray gun? It’s totally up to the player. Granted, the challenges are extremely simple and inappropriate suggestions won’t work either due to the game’s younger age rating. You can’t just create a bunch of strippers and hand out class A drugs when tasked to ‘liven up the party’. In turn this does kind of ruin the fun for the older player who enjoys more graphic games like Grand Theft Auto. That said, the ability to add adjectives to objects helps to resurrect some of the fun. Never in my life have I ever seen a tiny, friendly, pink Cthulhu or a giant, scary, invincible, zombie baby. Thus if you want to be truly impressed by your brain or how far freedom in gaming has come then Scribblenauts Remix is for you.
Bloons Tower Defence 5
The Bloons franchise has come a really long way since 2007. Back then it wasthe flash game to play on the school computers whilst your IT teacher wasn’t looking. Now the franchise has spanned multiple genres and proved to be quite successful. There isn’t much story to the series, fundamentally it’s just a couple of monkeys popping an endless number of balloons by hurling darts at them. The thing that makes it stand out is how all the towers are unlocked (in this case, monkeys) straight away- unlocking their abilities is the hard part. Each of the monkeys have two distinct upgrade paths, from the Sniper Monkey’s night vision goggles to the Monkey Wizard’s power to conjure a phoenix. All the monkeys play differently and feel unique, you get really invested in seeing what power you will unlock next. It doesn’t really innovate the genre but the whole game is just so vibrant and colourful with a nice and varied level design that it becomes a joy to play. There are also a myriad of different modes that alter the levels in various ways, for example restricting certain monkeys or setting a limited amount of cash to spend on monkeys at the start. The social options aren’t too bad either, allowing you to see what level your friends got up to on each level and subsequently teaches you who to laugh at behind their back or who to dedicate a shrine to for their awesome strategic skills. Definitely the hardest game on this list but also the one that will last the longest.
Time and time again, llamas have proven that they are the keys to success in the medium of entertainment. The Emperor’s New Groove and Napoleon Dynamiteare two examples that utilise the llama to achieve feats that no-one dared think possible for the furry mammals. However, llamas had never received this spotlight in video games, until now. Alto leads a simple life, looking after his herd and taking in the beautiful snowy mountain views that surround him. One day a few of his cheekiest llamas decide to escape and of course, without his llamas, Alto is nothing. He grabs his snowboard and gives chase down the mountaintop. If you thought that this was some sort of llama simulator then I apologize for having misled you. As Alto, your goal is actually to snowboard as far down the procedurally generated mountain as you can, slapping disobedient llamas on their backside to show them their place. In terms of gameplay, your move set is quite limited with jumping and doing backflips being the only two things that are controlled. The terrain opens up the gameplay a lot with rocks that you can jump on and sheets of ice that increase your speed, there are lines of bunting you can grind on and coins scattered everywhere to collect. Three challenges are required to be completed in order to level up; new characters with different snowboarding attributes are unlocked every 10 levels. The game starts off quite slow but as you unlock better characters and buy the wingsuit, it really starts to shine. Chaining together backflips, rails and rock bounces as I was chased by a village elder is the most satisfying and tense experience I have ever had on my smartphone (and I used to have Tinder).
Can’t say I’ve ever looked at fishing and thought: “that looks fun” (no offense to any fishermen or fisherwomen). Yet, Ridiculous Fishing creates a formula that transcends both the activity of fishing and the adjective ridiculous. You follow Billy’s quest for international recognition as he starts off in a humble little boat with basic fishing equipment: a 50 metre line… and a handgun. The gameplay revolves around three mini-games. First, you cast the fishing line and try to go deep as possible, avoiding any fish in your path by tilting your phone left and right. Once you reach the limit on your line you have to do the exact opposite and catch as many creatures as possible on the way back up to the surface. Finally your catches are flung into the air and you shoot them until they explode. The rarer and harder to kill the fish the more sponds they are worth. Doesn’t sound too challenging, but bear in mind that killing jellyfish equates to a loss in money.
Akin to real life, money is important. The purchasable power ups have so much charisma that they make even the greatest socialites feel inferior. All sorts of guns are available to purchase in the pursuit of fame and dead fish, like the blunderbuss, the bazooka or even double miniguns. There are slight variants of drills that can be used to viciously cut through fish instead of dodging them and furthermore there are a few electrical appliances one can attach to their line to receive extra chances in the inevitable event of hitting a fish too soon, such as the $2,300 hair dryer with the label “the most expensive hair dryer in the world”. All of them have a little witty comments like the one mentioned above and once the fishopedia (“#2 best fishing guide of 1996”) is purchased, every animal in the game can be viewed, each with their own equally funny name and description. The rarest fish can be found at the bottom of the three oceans, with the fourth ocean being infinitely deep. Once the legendary fish has been obliterated by gunfire, the remains can be worn as a hat, a fleshy little trophy.
Hands down the best game available on iOS or Android is Monument Valley. You most likely will already have it on your phone if you have even the slightest interest in mobile gaming. Monument Valley is a gorgeous puzzle game where you guide Princess Ida through a series of optical mazes. Honestly I can’t even begin to describe how good it looks, every frame is literally a work of art. You manipulate Ida and the architecture in several different ways, from pushing buttons to spinning entire buildings. The sound design can be applauded as there is no unnecessary repetitive music like most mobile games feature, instead what plays in the background is minimal ambient music that has the same relaxing capability as one of those odd-looking head massagers. Using a head massager whilst playing Monument Valley is probably the secret to achieving a true state of total euphoria. Every move you make has a unique sound, each increment of the structure you move plays an alternating note. It’s crazy how a game with barely any dialogue can have such a huge emotional impact; there’s even a moment of intense sadness which I refuse to spoil if you have yet to play this masterpiece. It takes so much self-control to not just finish Monument Valley in a quick one-hour run, but it needs to be savoured. Maybe lock yourself in a dark, soundproof room for 15 minutes every day and symbiotically focus all of your senses on the wonderful world that unfolds in front of your very eyes. If this paragon of digital art doesn’t blow your mind then gaming simply isn’t for you.
Text – SAMAN IZADYAR
Photography – SAMAN IZADYAR