The mobile gaming scene gets a bad rap, often deservedly so, from the gaming community. Kids racking up hundreds of dollars of charges, beloved gaming franchises Dungeon Keeper and SimCity being reduced to terrible free-to-play versions, and the fear of mobile taking over the console space ensure this prejudice.
Even this 3DS and Vita-toting gamer has a handful of games that get me pulling out my phone for more than just checking my texts. The following are my current favourites.
For the discerning gamer, it’s usually best to stay away from the free-to-play dreck that fills the app store and go for a paid app instead. Ridiculous Fishing’s mechanics make an addictive and satisfying play. You guide your lure through the water as you dodge fish in an attempt to get as deep as possible. Then, after you’ve finally hit a fish, the game reverses itself: as you rise back to the surface, you’ve got to hit as many fish as possible. And of course, this is Ridiculous Fishing — you don’t simply land the fish. The fish fly into the air and you’ve gotta shoot them out of the sky by tapping them frantically. New fishing spots and ridiculous equipment ensure new ways to fish. It’s an addictive little game that really makes that wait at the doctor’s office easier.
Having previously worked on such games as Blue Dragon and The Last Story, Mistwalker’s latest forays have been on mobile, and their latest, Terra Battle, has been a hit on the app store. It follows a similar vein to the wildly popular Puzzles and Dragons, a light RPG game that mixes collectable monsters à la Pokémon with Bejewelled-style puzzles.
I find Terra Battle is actually a better version of this formula, with your characters being represented on the playing field and using a sort of flanking mechanic that promotes having your characters surround the enemy in order to attack. The art and music make the experience, with some gorgeous art for each of their characters and composers such as Final Fantasy’s Nobuo Uematsu. Combat is snappy, really testing how you position characters on the fly, and the sound design is really satisfying.
But this is still a free-to-play game, and while it certainly is more fun than the majority, the game is ultimately let down by limitations. The usual timer mechanic that locks you out of the game unless you pay money or wait is there, but it is very reasonable — I can usually get multiple games in without having to wait. But many of the characters are locked behind a currency that rarely comes up, and only gives you characters randomly.
While the game is still fun for the occasional wait in line, it’s a shame many of the cool characters are locked behind unreasonable microtransactions.
Now this is free-to-play done right.
Crossy Road is essentially Frogger but with tap-friendly controls, and uses a cubic minimalist style that really lights up on the HD screens of today’s smartphones. The gimmick here is the choice of different avatars that you guide across the road. This doesn’t just affect your character, but also the looks of the environment. The kangaroo changes the grass into plains, the dragon blows up cars and trees it faces, the black sheep has other sheep looking at him suspiciously.
While you can pay for any of the characters, the game is very generous with giving the player its in-game currency for free. Every few hours you get 100-300 coins, which can get you one to three spins at a random chance at a new character. So while the much-hated microtransaction is around, this is one of the few cases where I’ve never felt held back by their inclusion.
All I ask is to not be accosted or taken advantage of from microtransactions and free-to-play games. I wish more free-to-play games took after Crossy Road, a shining example of that formula done right.