Happy New Year! This was originally going to be my last roundup of 2018, posted on New Year’s Eve to help you ring in 2019 in style. Then it was going to be my New Year’s Day gift to you. But hey, at least it made it before 2019 ended! There’s a little bit of Halloween here, with candies, curses, vampire bats and dinosaurs. I also found another scrolling shooter to add to my list of “rises above the rest”, and unfortunately a couple of duds thrown into the mix as well. Hope your new year starts of strong and just continues to get better, and all the while you find some sweet games to clutter up your phone thanks to my Android roundups.
Dino Stack – This is one of those odd ones. It’s not really my type of game to begin with – twitch-tapping to try and keep building a tower as high as you can, where the pieces get smaller as you don’t line them up exactly with the platform below them. Then there are the sound effects which remind me of an Amazon jungle adventure, even though you’re not building the type of dinosaur that would likely live in that habitat. There are additional dinosaurs to buy, though I have as yet to earn enough Oreos to purchase one (at least that’s what the in-game currency looks like to me) so I don’t know if they are merely cosmetic or actually affect game play at all. I’m even willing to watch some videos to stock up on Oreos, but every time I push the button to exchange some of my time for 600 items nothing happens. Sure I could buy them via IAP, but I don’t really want to spend the money without knowing what the other dinosaurs do for me. All that being said, I still haven’t deleted this game from my phone yet. When I do launch it I only spend a few minutes at a time with it, but I really hope that I reach the “fever” state (getting 10 “supers”, or perfect matches, roughly in a row) so that each additional “super” adds bonus rows to the mix. Plus, I do have this desire to see if I can build a taller dinosaur or maybe clear another achievement, of which there are currently 12 to earn. This isn’t the type of game I’d play every day or even for long periods of time when I load it up, but it’s a nice way to kill a few minutes every now and again.
Space Wingmen – Scrolling shooters is one of my favorite genres when it comes to arcade style games, and I’ve often found myself playing mediocre ones just to have one to play. More than that, it’s unusual to run across one that really adds anything new to the mix these days. Fortunately, Space Wingmen is one such game. As you might expect from the name, the focus of the game is on the wingmen, or the ships that help yours in battle. While that’s not an unheard of feature in scrolling shooters, in this game you can keep them spread out the cover the playing field in a shower of bullets, or you can bring them together to form a concentrated blast of destruction in a small area. Use the latter strategically and you can make short work of tough opponents or quickly destroy bombs that then explode and take out groups of enemies. By completing levels and achievements you earn various types of gems and coins as your reward. You just have to remember to click and claim, because while the game does its best to supply you with goods they don’t automatically get added to your stockpile (unless, of course, you collect them within the levels). You can use your loot to buy new ships or upgrade both the ship and wingmen for what you currently own. For the ship you can upgrade the strength and shield, and for the wingmen you can upgrade the power and number of actual wingmen you have. Thrown in an infinite play mode and there’s plenty of shooting to be had. There’s not much in the way of sophisticated level design, but in the end I’m not really sure it matters. Space Wingmen keeps me entertained, and that’s ultimately what I want from a game.
Tiles – Restore the Pattern – The only thing more frustrating than the plethora of copycat games on any given App Store is when you run across a unique game that is just shy of being the next big thing. While the latter might be too big a title for Tiles, this definitely could be something if it weren’t for the controls. The game sports a continually scrolling playing field, and one might suspect by the look that it is another of the “tap to clear certain tiles” variety of game. Instead, as the name suggests, the object of this game is to match the pattern on a given level. You do this by sliding offset tiles into their proper place. Now I’m all for a challenge, and given that the board is constantly moving I’d expect this to be one, but the challenge shouldn’t come simply from the fact that the controls don’t suit the game (I’m still looking at you, Flappy Bird). The game often seems to not register my swipe, and when it does many times it chooses a tile different than the one I selected. Add to that the secondary chore of tapping on tiles that contain gold, which often has the same issue, and the fact that just because you’ve completed a pattern doesn’t mean it can’t accidentally be undone, and the game is more often frustrating than entertaining. Earning points eventually allows you to unlock new levels, though there doesn’t seem to be a 1 to 1 correspondence between points earned and points applied to the next level. Collecting coins, on the other hand, allows you to unlock new skins for the tiles. There are no achievements, and there doesn’t appear to be a global leaderboard, or at least not one accessible through the game itself. Given that I’ve not played a game like this before I could live with the latter omissions, but the iffy controls are enough to make me discard this tile swiping offering.
Tiles – Restore the Pattern on Google Play
Sneak Ops – This is actually a pretty clever game. The object is simply to get to the end of each level without being detected by any of the guards. Thankfully they’re not so bright, so unless there’s a light directly on you they won’t be seeing you. Better yet, some of them tend to sleep pretty soundly… unless, of course, you make a sound or step in front of a camera. There are plenty of traps as well, like floor tiles that are exceptionally squeaky and rooms that require you to find oxygen tanks so you don’t lose your breath. On the other hand, if you’re skilled enough there are ways to hide yourself, and if you can get close enough to certain guards you can knock them out for short periods of time. The best part is that the controls are simple – tap where you want to go and generally the protagonist will follow suit. Unfortunately as with any touch screen game there are times where it seems like the person doesn’t go exactly where you wanted them to, which can be nerve wracking in a case like this where many of your moves require significant precision. Thankfully you can retry a section as many times as you’d like, and as long as you make wise use of the save points you won’t ever have to make up too much ground. There’s a new mission every day, and you can access months’ worth of prior missions by watching a video to unlock each one. I keep swinging back and forth between the fact that the missions are longer and can often take a couple of hours versus the thought of having multiple shorter missions to conquer in a day, but ultimately it’s not a deal breaker because the uniqueness of the game more than makes up for it (I’m not a big fan of extended levels on mobile games). There are 12 achievements to earn, several characters to unlock either via IAP or by gaining experience levels, and plenty of missions to conquer. Sneak Ops is definitely one of those games for folks who like something a bit different in their mobile experience.
Zuberion – Zuberion is a passive-aggressive scroller, heavy on the passive. All you have to do is pilot your ship through a randomly generated maze, avoiding the minimally designed hexagonal walls and collecting coins to buy new ships. The biggest challenge in the game comes from the fact that you often don’t know until the last second which way the level is going to shift to allow for safe passage. This can be frustrating, because there frankly isn’t enough time to react in many instances. This is what I talk about when I say the challenge should come from the game itself, and not from the controls like certain other atrocities (ahem *Flappy Bird*). I’m not much for split-second timing when it comes to playing games, but I’d be willing to deal with it in this case as I like the look of the game and music has a calming appeal. Unfortunately, there’s currently not a lot of substance to the game. It’s great that there are a variety of ships to buy, but they don’t affect game play at all (I was told this was “coming soon”, but so far I haven’t seen it). More power ups would be nice as well, as the only thing I’ve seen so far is one that gives you control of two ships temporarily. Finally, it would be nice to have some achievements to earn and maybe even another game mode or two. I think Zuberion is a nice start to a game, but it’s got a ways to go before it will stand out on any app store.
Candies ‘n Curses – Welcome to Molli’s game (sorry, I couldn’t resist). You play Molli, a cute little girl that gets herself trapped in a house full of things that go bump in the night. You need to help Molli escape the mansion by dousing all the evil things in light to make them go away. When you defeat enough bad guys in a given level you get to face the boss, and if you are skillful enough to conquer it you move on to the next room. In between you get the chance to pick from one of three items, though what you select might be as much of a curse as a bonus. Unfortunately you have to pick one, so on rare occasions it’s really which one seems the least painful. Along the way you’ll collect souls and ectoplasm which can be used to buy new flashlights or upgrade the ones you already have. You can also use the currency to buy and upgrade charms which can be attached to the flashlights to provide you with extra bonuses. Daily goals earn you extra souls and more ectoplasm, while 38 achievements add to your overall ranking in Google Play. There’s not a lot of depth to the game, but the cute characters and detailed background visuals are a delight to see, the music is fun, and between flashlights, charms and achievements there is plenty to earn and accomplish.
Perfect Moon – I love infinite runners, but sometimes I prefer games that have the feel of an infinite runner but have a definitive end and multiple levels. Perfect Moon is one such game, and I am impressed with the diversity of the levels, especially since they aren’t particularly big and mostly take place on circular landscapes. Throw in some slick black and white graphics and music that can be rather melodic, and this should be on its way to a permanent place in my collection (at least until I conquer it). Unfortunately, while the run and jump controls are technically rather simple, the 360 degree nature of the levels tends to play havoc with the way you maneuver when jumping, which makes anything that requires precision daunting. It’s not uncommon to be in the middle of a jump in one direction when you cross some imaginary line that suddenly has you changing course even though you’re pressing the same way. There’s also a technique for flying that should be rather useful, but is challenging to both initiate and maintain, making it a skill I tend to avoid rather than foster. The problem with that is that the levels are timed, and in many cases would be much easier to complete under the limit if that skill could be mastered. In the end earning three stars on many of the levels becomes more of a chore than a joy, and as I am a star chaser this really frustrates me. If you can master the controls and want something that is visually stunning in places, Perfect Moon might be right for you. For me, the beauty doesn’t outweigh the beast.
Perfect Moon on Google Play
Fumble Fang – In theory you’ve already got me hooked when the star of your game is a bat. While I’d never want one for a pet, they just look cool. Thankfully this game actually happens to be fun in addition to having a cool main character. In the game you control said creature of the night, who actually happens to be a vampire trying to get to his coffin before the quickly encroaching sun spells his doom. Along your descent you’ll want to collect all the coins and gems that you can, as well as snag any power ups which include things like coin magnets, double coins and the all important “stop the sun for a sec”. Of course in addition to the ever looming sun you’ll have to worry about platforming staples like inappropriately placed spikes and platforms that would rather crush you than aid you in any way. Of course if you’re a high score chaser you’ll want to do your best to collect all the treasures, because you get a hefty bonus to your score for perfect loot retrieval. As for the coins, you’ll use those to boost your power ups and buy new bats. Luckily a new bat isn’t just another pretty face here, as each critter brings its own useful skill to the game. You just have to decide which perk best fits your playing style. There are 24 achievements to earn, as well as a leaderboard to rank on for high scores. My only real issue with the game is that the controls are a bit odd because you have to use a two finger tap to fly up, which means during that time you can’t control left / right movement. It takes some getting used to, but in the end is a minor foible in the overall context of the game.
That wraps up another edition of the Android Games Roundup. Check the list below for prior installments and keep on gaming!