updated 10:05 pm EST, Fri January 3, 2014
Sanjiv runs through his current mobile gaming favorites
(This is the sixth in a series that showcases apps the staff at MacNN and Electronista use and recommend. The first installment, discussing media streaming and playback apps, is here. The second covered photo-editing apps, the third looked at music apps, while the fourth focused on board game conversions. The fifth and most recent focused on platform agnostic apps and can be found here.)
One of the great areas of innovation in app development for smartphones and tablets has been in mobile gaming. Trying to come up with a list of just five when there are plenty of great games out there is a challenging task to say the least. To pick my top five mobile games I've asked one simple question: If I was limited to taking only five mobile games, what would I choose to take with me on the road right now? I've also tried to include titles that I can take with me on one or more of the three mobile platforms that I use on a daily basis, which includes iOS, Android and Windows RT. Read on to find out what I've picked and why, although these are in no particular order.
Angry Birds Star Wars 2
It's hard to imagine a mobile gaming list of top picks without one of Rovio's stupendously successful Angry Birds franchise titles. I've picked Angry Birds Star Wars 2 as it is a brilliant mash up of everything that made the original Angry Birds such a hit, with the much-loved world of Star Wars. Angry Birds became an instant smash with mobile gamers because it is simple to play, but challenging and fun at the same time. Its combination of simple swipe gestures and realistic physics, coupled with a healthy does of humor, is unbeatable. Add to this with a very clever take on the Star Wars franchise and you have an essential game for any mobile gamer. The only downside is the scourge of mobile gaming for players -- that is, in-app purchases. While I love what Rovio has done with Angry Birds Star Wars 2, its implementation of in-app purchases and advertising is on the very threshold of being annoying. I'd sooner pay a few dollars up-front for a title than be constantly nagged to buy power-ups, but there is still plenty of good fun to be had with this title.
Killer Snake is a leading title in the reaction game genre. It is one of the best of breed, as it combines great graphics with simple but challenging gameplay -- much like Angry Birds. However, people who suffer from arachnophobia or ophidiophobia will want to look for an alternative reaction genre title. Gameplay centers on swiping your finger across realistic landscapes from around the globe, where you encounter venomous spiders and snakes in the wild. The object is to keep your finger on the screen for as long as possible before withdrawing until just before a spider or snake attempts to strike for your finger. With each successful finger retraction, you get delivered a reaction time and succeed in milking venom for the development of serum. Yes, it "offers" in-app purchases too, but it is not nearly as annoying as some implementations. On the plus side, the Copenhagen Creators donates 10 percent of its proceeds to The Antivenom Swazi Foundation.
There are a plethora of tower defense-based games out there, but one stands out for its near-perfect blend of tower defense with strategy gaming. The Anomaly series by 11 Bit Studios combines great graphics with great gameplay. Again, it features an engaging combination of simple touch-based gaming with challenging gameplay. It inverts the traditional tower defense model, putting you in the position of attacking alien towers with a convoy of army vehicles. You have the ability to pick your convoy's route, upgrade their weapons, purchase new units with in-game points (or in-app purchases) and also strategically use power-ups to make your way through each route. Anomaly Warzone 2 ratchets up the strategic component and challenges by allowing you to control the captain, while also introducing respawning enemy towers among other tweaks. It promises to keep you absorbed for long periods of highly-enjoyable game play.
Dead Trigger 2
Dead Trigger 2 follows on from the hugely popular original title by Madfinger Games and continues to deliver what are some of the best graphics you can currently enjoy on mobile platforms. The quality of the visuals must really be seen to be believed -- the way in which the lighting and shading have been implemented, along with the general level of attention to scenic detail is right up there with console titles. First person shooters have generally struggled on mobile devices as they are generally better suited to physical controls, but Dead Trigger 2 makes it about as manageable as it can get by making the default shooting option automatic when you have manually targeted your zombies. Better still, it is compatible with Moga's mobile gaming controllers for Android, turning your smartphone into a fully-fledged handheld mobile gaming device. If you are looking for the best first-person shooter you can get on mobile device, you need look no further.
Halo: Spartan Assault
Of all the titles that I have picked here, Halo: Spartan Assault is bound to be the most controversial selection as it is (at least currently) limited to Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT users (as a side note, it has now also been made available on the Xbox One and Xbox 360). I use a Surface 2 for my story writing when I'm on the go because, for me, it offers an excellent combination of portability and Office productivity on the go. Better still, it allows me to play Halo: Spartan Assault in all of its graphical glory when I'm in need of a little downtime. It's a top-down shooter, and is better for the strategic choice made by the developer 343 Industries. Although some people have minor gripes about its control scheme on mobile devices, I'm not one of them, as I think they work pretty well once you get used to them. I have always enjoyed the Halo series on the Xbox and the developers have done a fine job of bringing this world into a highly playable format for mobile devices.
There are plenty of other games that could have easily made this list. However, I know I will find plenty of entertainment and enjoyment to be had when I am on the go. Thankfully when I am mobile, I have plenty of storage space -- so I often carry a lot more than these gaming titles with me. Other games that I am currently enjoying include Wonderputt, Real Racing 3, Infinity Blade III, Plants Vs. Zombies 2, Star Wars Pinball 2, FIFA 13, Badland, Epoch 2, Flick Golf and more. I generally go for games that are easy to get into, but present a reasonable challenge. Feel free to let us know what your top five mobile gaming titles are in the comments.