Best new mobile games on iOS and Android – June 2019 round-up
June turns out to be one of the best months for new mobile games in a long time, thanks to Zombie Night Terror and Rome: Total War.
Although this may seem like just another month, there has been some sort of invisible planetary alignment in the universe of mobile games, producing a rare bumper crop of cracking entertainment. Whether you enjoy the strange and intriguing art piece of KIDS, the organic puzzling challenges of Ordia, or the highly amusing, fraudulent medical practice of Astrologaster, there has rarely been a better four weeks in phone gaming.
Astrologaster for iOS, £3.99 (Nyamyam)
In the late 16th century, London is in the grip of bubonic plague and any doctors that can still walk have fled the city for the slightly safer countryside. For patients left behind the last resort is Simon Forman, an un-licensed quack who uses astrology to advise a hapless procession of hypochondriacs and the genuinely sick.
When each patient enters his practice, your job is to consult the stars and then select from a multiple-choice list of interpretations to suggest a cure for the patient. If they like your treatment, they’ll come back for more, adding to their chance of leaving a letter of recommendation. With enough of those, perhaps one day Simon can apply for a real medical licence.
Patients’ stories are hilarious, as are the songs that pepper the game, and the appalling medical advice you offer based on observation of the zodiac. Even more bizarrely, it’s based on the life of real Elizabethan astrologer, Simon Forman, albeit jazzed up considerably for the game.
Alt-Frequencies for iOS & Android, £3.99 (Accidental Queens)
Your only source of interaction in Alt-Frequencies is a radio that lets you scan through the FM band for radio stations, record specific phrases, and call in to other channels’ shows to playback your recordings.
It’s a limited set of possibilities that supports an interesting and unusual – if relatively brief – game in which you uncover a government-level conspiracy involving a nationwide Groundhog Day-style time loop.
From the makers of A Normal Lost Phone and its sequel, which drew you into the intimate world of the character whose mobile you find, this is another quasi-real life setting made sinister by its fiction. Despite the intrigue, it all ends with confusing suddenness, on a note that’s neither resolution nor cliffhanger.
Zombie Night Terror for iOS & Android, £3.99 (Plug In Digital)
Originally released on PC, this pixel art zombie apocalypse puts you on the side of the undead, guiding your shuffling horde Lemmings-style to each level’s objectives.
Viewed side-on, with each room, staircase, building, and underground station meticulously crafted in retro-looking pixels, you can watch as hoodlums spit on the ground while awaiting their fate and bystanders react in their own ways to impending assimilation by your carefully nurtured, brain-hungry throng.
Its lack of checkpoints, combined with the intrinsic fiddliness of the interface, causes moments of frustration, but the beautiful level design and mechanically fascinating and diverse tasks mean this remains enthralling throughout.
KIDS for iOS, £2.99 (Playables)
KIDS is not a game so much as an interactive toy-cum-digital art installation, in which you poke and prod at herds of tiny figures in what looks like an animated Keith Haring painting, punctuated by occasional, hauntingly beautiful choral music.
They crowd, they run, they clap and sing, but you’ll also find yourself gently guiding them into black pits, where they’re swallowed by grotesquely organic-looking pipes whose peristalsis, driven entirely by your finger, pulses them along until they plop out, falling onto a white plain below, or into fluid through which they can swim.
The sense of mystery and foreboding is heightened by its refusal to explain itself, letting you make of it what you will. Whatever conclusion you come to, the unfettered experimentation in crowd dynamics and unusual combination of cute and menacing make this a memorable and bewildering half hour or so.
Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion for iOS, £4.99 (Feral Interactive)
Set in the Roman Empire’s waning years, you can take command of Rome’s Eastern or Western forces, or choose one of eight barbarian factions – each of which comes with its own advantages, weaknesses, and victory conditions.
Controlling your troops in battle is very similar to the real Rome: Total War, but the variety of situations and factions gives the process a big shake-up, and adds reasons to play the campaign multiple times from the perspectives of its contrasting protagonists.
If you’re not careful you’ll also find yourself learning a lot about the period’s history and the Romans’ divisive final lurch towards Christianity. But don’t let that put you off, as this is a deep and varied strategy game that never lets historical authenticity get in the way of fun.
Ailment for iOS & Android, £Free (Ivan Panasenko)
Ailment is a twin stick shooter style roguelike where you wake up in deep space on a zombie-infested spaceship, and have to fight your way out, unlocking doors, raiding lockers, and scavenging for medical kits as you progress.
As well as a set of randomly acquired weapons, your survivor also has a force field that absorbs some damage before disappearing, which becomes especially handy when enemies escalate from barehand attacks to rocket launchers.
Although you can continue after you die, it’s normally an exercise in futility because whatever killed you last time will still be just as heavily armed, and in the game’s tight corridors there’s only so much you can do to change the outcome. Still, as a freebie with no in-your-face monetisation it should provide an hour or two’s gentle entertainment.
Ordia for iOS & Android, £3.99 (Loju)
In Ordia, you catapult an oddly sentient-looking blob between pre-defined spots on long, tubular levels. It’s the sort of game that normally suffers from exasperating problems with its control scheme, but this manages to make it a rewarding and precise method of locomotion.
It also rapidly heaps on the complexity, with moving spots to hop onto, collectibles, places you stick to or bounce off, areas that kill on contact, and enemies that chase you in their own inimitable style of blob predation.
Its frequent checkpoints get more spaced out as you progress, but the invention never stops, expanding its simple base mechanisms in increasingly challenging new directions. Its polished, elegantly biological good looks are complemented by deliciously gloopy sound effects in this satisfying and tactile action puzzler.
Infectonator 3: Apocalypse, £4.99 (Armor Games)
Another pro-zombie, infection-spreading game in which your job is to destroy rather than save the world. This time levels are viewed from above, letting you plan where to release different types of zombie for maximum infection rates.
As well as unleashing the undead, you can also drop support weapons that range from grenades and landmines to green goo that infects passing humans. Beyond that all you can do is watch and wait as your minions chase, kill, and zombify.
Between managing individual outbreaks you use a world map view to spread the infection to neighbouring countries in your ongoing effort to kill all humans. But while the process is reasonably compelling, the relative simplicity of its mechanics eventually starts to undermine the fun.
By Nick Gillett
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