Dave’s Essential Phone Games – Part 2 of 4 (Racing and Puzzle)

Dave’s Essential Phone Games – Part 2 of 4 (Racing and Puzzle)

Mobile games are fantastic. Over the years the mobile gaming industry has grown to the point where it has both the technology and the base market to provide a wonderful mix of titles. Whether you like light,  time filler experiences or fully fledged, engrossing titles, there’s bound to be something for you!

In this series I aim to provide you with a list detailing some of my favourite mobile games. Whether they are short experiences that stand out or longer ones that provide ongoing replay value, I’ll be including a range of titles I enjoy here. As my “short list” includes over 30 titles I will be  spliting this article into four segments. They won’t be ranked based on preference, as I believe that would be unfair;you can’t compare a light puzzle game with something like a simulation racer. For the second article, I will be sharing my favourite games from the racing and puzzle genres.

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CRITERIA

What constitutes a “good” or “bad” game anyway? I’ve been playing mobile games a long time on all three major platforms (Android, iOS, and Windows). When determining whether a game is “good” there are a few things I take into consideration. Click “Show spoiler” below for details.

Spoiler Inside: CRITERIA SelectShow

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Now that is out of the way, let’s get started!

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RACING

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Angry Birds Go!
by 
Rovio

iOS : Free | ANDROID : Free | WINDOWS : Free

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re sure to have heard of the Angry Birds brand. Following their success with the first Angry Birds game, Rovio have spared no expense releasing a swathe of spinoff titles; most good, some average. Don’t be fooled by the name though, Angry Birds Go! is a sensational, arcade-style kart racer and more than just an expansion of the brand. So, if kart racing’s your jam, Angry Birds Go! is a great place to start. It’s a free title with micro transactions, but as with most of Rovio’s games, the micro transactions are never forced and feel like they’re just there for the extremely impatient or those who want to give something back.

What sets this above other kart racers is the variety in content. With many different game modes, unique characters, kart upgrades, and multiplayer, there’s an amazing amount of content bundled in. Presented with Rovio’s “cutesy charm”, it looks pretty good and feels firmly rooted in the Angry Birds “universe”. Karts shudder on landing and break apart when hitting opponents, giving the game the same precarious feel as the parent game. Karts control well and improve noticeably after upgrades are applied. All in all, this is an exceptionally fun kart racing game with plenty of content to keep you coming back.

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Real Racing 3
by 
Firemonkeys

iOS : Free | ANDROID : Free

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If you’re after a simulation racing game, then Real Racing 3 is something you simply must try. The first thing you’ll notice is just how amazing it looks – want to show off just how good mobile games can look to your friends? This is the one for you! Real Racing 3 offers much more than just eye candy, though. With detailed physics, customisable cars (both performance and aesthetic upgrades), visible damage, and numerous tracks, it offers an amazing wealth of content. Throw in alternate game modes, social media integration, a photo mode, a large single player campagin, and online multiplayer options, and you get all the content you would expect from a full title – not a free mobile game!

What I enjoy most about Real Racing 3 is that it hearkens back to what I loved most about older racing sims – that they weren’t just circuit races. While modern-day racing games tend to focus on just one race type, Real Racing 3 keeps things interesting by interweaving typical races with lapping challenges, timed runs, 1-on-1 face offs, drags, and much more. This, alongside regular story events (which they call quests for some reason), helps set Real Racing 3 above the competition (namely the extremely similar looking GT Racing series). It’s not without its flaws (poor AI, rubber banding, and a terrible menu system), but it’s easily the best available and a genuinely great racing game. It encompasses the control method well and offers loads of free content. There are micro transactions (of course), but payment is only required if you’re impatient or want to collect every car the game has on offer.

A truly amazing game – and I’d say that if it were released on a larger gaming platform too!

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PUZZLE

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The Room
by 
Fireproof Games

iOS : $1.49 | ANDROID : $1.49

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The Room is a puzzle game similar in style to older titles like Myst. The entire game is played within a single room as the player attempts to solve visual puzzles in order to open a safe and discover its secrets. First and foremost, the game looks gorgeous. Still images don’t do the game justice, as it really shows its beauty when in motion. The lighting and effects aren’t just aesthetic, and are used to very good effect to help solve the various puzzles. The Room is not structured as a series of puzzles in the traditional sense. Players have free reign to view the entire area and interact with the parts they think may be important. This does hold the potential to create confusion; however, The Room counters this with an ingenious hint system. Hints are designed to guide players to where they should be concentrating their efforts rather than spoiling a puzzle or providing an answer. This makes for a rewarding experience, as it cuts down on “time wasting” and allows players time to concentrate on resolving the puzzles themselves rather than figuring out where the puzzle actually is.

If you like puzzles, then I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s quite short (a couple of hours), but there are two sequels, so if you enjoy it, there’s plenty more to play! Having revisited it recently, I was able to recall answers to previous puzzles quite easily. As such, it’s not a game that provides much replay value; however, the experience is enjoyable enough that I feel it deserves a place in this list.

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Hitman GO
by 
Square-Enix

iOS : $7.99 | ANDROID : $7.99 | WINDOWS : $6.09

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Hitman GO is a turn-based puzzle game that should appeal to fans of the genre – whether they’re fans of Hitman or not. Gameplay is very simple – players may move along pre-determined paths, avoiding or eliminating enemies, and working their way towards each level’s goal. Akin to roguelike video games, enemies only move when you do, allowing you to plan out and execute a strategy rather than act in response to on-screen events. This makes for a much more strategic experience, which suits the game’s style perfectly. Adopting a board game-type aesthetic, characters move around like wooden pieces on a playing board. When a kill is made, the playing piece is knocked over and removed from the board cementing the feel that you’re playing a strategic board game rather than a video game. Sticking with this aesthetic, gameplay is based on established rules rather than “environmental sense”. For example, guards can see and will attack you if you are one spot in front of them – but not two. This actually works perfectly for this type of game and adds to the overall appeal and strategic approach.

Levels have a number of sub objectives to keep your interest once the main game is complete, although to be honest, they don’t vary much and feel more targetted towards completionists rather than adding extra gameplay. That said, the game has enough “meat” in the missions to provide you with good value for your money.

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Lara Croft GO
by 
Square-Enix

iOS : $7.99 | ANDROID : $7.99 | WINDOWS : $6.09

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Built on the same model as Hitman GO, Lara Croft GO gives players a very different, and unique experience. Where Hitman presents you wish a single area to traverse, Lara Croft GO is more like an adventure game – following Lara as she traverses multiple environments dealing with a variety of enemies, traps, and hazards. Controls are very simple, with Lara able to move along pre-determined paths, activate switches, or push/pulling pillars. Akin to roguelike video games, enemies only move when you do, allowing you to plan out and execute a strategy rather than act in response to on-screen events. This makes for a strategic experience which suits the game perfectly.

What makes Lara Croft GO stand out is both the art style and the way you navigate an area. Rather than just making your way from A to B, Lara Croft GO requires players to think ahead and modify the environment they play in. Whether dropping a pillar down a hole to make it passable, or using a crumbly wall to make a monster chasing you fall to it’s death… there’s a wealth of ingenious level design on show. My only gripe with the game was that it was fairly simple and there wasn’t a lot of replay. Sure you could go back and search for treasure (which unlocks a costume), but that just meant doing a “Where’s Wally” on each level to find small growing treasure pots – not the most engaging of activities. On the plus side, Square-Enix have already released free DLC called the Shard of Life. Picking up where the first part left off, it is much more challenging and provides a rewarding (and free) expansion to the game.

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Peggle
by PopCap Games

iOS : $1.49 | ANDROID : N/A | WINDOWS : N/A

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NOTE : Peggle is now called Peggle Classic and only available on iOS.

When I first played Peggle, I was amazed. It was fun and intuitive, levels were well designed, menus and instructions were easy to understand… it ticked all the boxes for “things I love in a game”. Years later, I’m still playing it and enjoying it just as much! The music isn’t as good as I remember, but the sound effects are perfect. The mobile phone controls work really well, and the challenge is still exciting and fun. Surprisingly, this format hasn’t been bastardised with a bunch of similarly styled, alternately titled games – like the wealth of gem matching or bubble popping games for example!

The premise of Peggle is very simple. You have a set number of balls with which you must destroy all the orange pegs. Once fired, balls bounce around like a pachinko machine, ricocheting off walls and other pegs until they finally fall off the bottom of the screen. It’s a simple idea that works very well, making the game accessible for a younger audience, but challenging enough to engage adults like myself. Once you’ve completed the single player game, there are a few challenges you can attempt as well as a vs mode, but not a mountain of new content. From what I’ve seen, this is something they addressed with Peggle Blast; however, as I’ve not played that yet, I’ll keep my trap shut and just recommend this one instead.

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Framed
by LoveShack

iOS : $5.99

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The art style of Framed is sure to draw your attention, but it’s the gameplay that will suck away your time. Framed is, in essence, an animated storyboard telling a tale of espionage and deceit. Styled like a 1960s art piece, the pastel colouring and silhouette characters make for an intriguing setting that both suits the game’s story and the gameplay perfectly. Framed‘s gameplay is very basic – each “level” fills a screen with a comic-style storyboard. Your hero runs from frame to frame trying to reach the end of the scene. Your job is to rearrange each frame to ensure that he or she makes it there safely. Easy… right?

Framed is a beautifully presented game with a fairly unique control method (I’m sure I’ve seen it before, but I can’t put my finger on where). It’s a bit short for the price tag (an hour or so) and has a couple of puzzle solutions that weren’t overly clear; however, there’s nothing else quite like it, so I say it’s well worth the $6 price tag.

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Cut The Rope
by Zeptolab

iOS : $1.99 | ANDROID : $0.99 | WINDOWS : $1.19

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Could a concept be any simpler? Cut The Rope is a physics puzzle game in which you swipe your finger to cut a rope and guide the candy to Om Nom – a frog-like creature with a penchant for sweeties. Levels grow increasingly more complex as you progress, but the real challenge lies in trying to attain the three strategically placed stars in each level. Most levels are single screen, meaning you have time to plan your strategy; however, it’s a physics game, so correct timing is every bit as important as a decent strategy. If the candy is eaten by enemies, falls off the screen, or is destroyed, then you must start the level again. Fortunately, this isn’t a big thing as you’re immediately thrown back in – a big plus as it makes for a quick, responsive experience that won’t have you bored by loading screens, ads, or micro transaction prompts. Content wise, there’s enough in this title to keep you entertained for hours – it’s a well presented game that’s most definitely worth the low price of entry!

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Strata
by Graveck

iOS : $4.49 | ANDROID : $3.16 | WINDOWS : $3.69
Free version also available (gives first 3 areas and has ads)

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Strata is a game that mixes stylistic beauty with a unique puzzle mechanic to produce an experience that is both fun to play and relaxing to watch. Its concept is simple – lay coloured ribbons across a grid to match a pattern. While the puzzles start out simple, it’s not long before you must use forethought to plan your strategy, else the end result won’t match. Where Strata excels as a puzzle game is in its increasing difficulty and alternating strategy. No sooner have you figured out the way the puzzle designer “thinks” than the design changes, forcing you to try something new!

It’s hard to describe just how beautiful this game is without actually playing it. The screen never “fades to black” but instead moves across a perpetual canvas – with coloured ribbons sliding on and off the screen as required. Every move is accompanied by soothing contextual piano, making for an extremely soothing experience. From the simple menu system down to the controls of the game itself. Strata is a puzzle game that’s easy enough for a child to play, but strategic enough that the most puzzle hungry of adults will enjoy! Plus, if you’re still unsure, they have the first 3 areas available as a free download, so why not try it out?

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I’d love to hear your thoughts on my suggestions and would be keen to try out any suggestions you may have. Did I miss any of your favourite strategy, tower defence or runner games? Let me know in the comments below, or on the forums. Just because I didn’t mention it doesn’t mean it didn’t make my top list; maybe I just haven’t played it yet…

Previously:

Part 1 – Strategy, Runners, and Tower Defence

Up next:

Part 3 – Virtual Tabletop, and Simulation
Part 4 – Miscellaneous and the Runners-Up

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There are two things I love in life... playing games and my family. I work three jobs; one to pay the bills, another as a video game designer at C117 Games, and, of course, here - at Another Dungeon. I own almost every console since the Atari 7800 and am proud of my extensive collection of games. I'm more of a single or coop player but I do dabble in multiplayer on the odd occasion. Tabletop wise I prefer strategic games like Five Tribes or Small World. If you want to have a game or just chat feel free to add me, PM me or email me.

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