A new classic by veterans of Rare is this month’s best mobile game, as GameCentral takes a look at the controversial Elder Scrolls: Blades.
To complement the intermittently freezing monsoon season that now passes for British springtime, there’s a solid roster of mobile games to entertain you while you try and avoid going outside. Whether you prefer the taxing but rewarding charms of Rusty Pup, the softly hypnotic brain-numbing void of Idle Island, or the microtransactional labyrinth of Elder Scrolls: Blades, your phone’s got you covered.
Puzzle Pelago for Android & iOS, £1.99 (Christopher Mielack)
Accompanied by pleasing seafaring tunes, your job on each of Puzzle Pelago’s blocky islands is to bring resources to villages that need them. To start with, that’s a case of dragging a line from a coppice of trees to build a lumberjack’s cottage, then drawing lines from that to supply those in need of planks.
That simplicity is soon cast aside as you start having to smelt iron by combining the output of two varieties of mine, while attempting to position your production facilities so that their networks don’t block each other. And that’s just the start of the complexity.
It’s surprisingly tricky, and requires a fair bit of trial, error, and restarting to figure each level out, and with 56 islands to unlock that’s a sizeable chunk of brain teasing for under £2.
Rolando: Royal Edition for iOS, £2.99 (HandCircus)
Rolando was originally released in 2008, inspired by (and quite considerably better than) 2006’s LocoRoco on PSP. The Royal Edition is a remaster of this formative handheld title, and once again you’ll be tipping your phone to trundle Rolandos around wonderfully tactile levels that now look even more like miniature, brightly coloured dioramas.
There are objects that can only be moved by piling Rolandos against them, a character that sticks to walls, some that can’t stop rolling, stuff to drag with your fingers, and objects that move under gravity combined with the rotation of your phone. The precision of the controls remains magnificent, even if the gameplay has lost a little of its freshness in the intervening years.
Art, Inc. for iOS, £Free (Pixio)
Art, Inc. has an unusual take on the idle genre. You’re curator of an art gallery with responsibility for everything in the facility, from visitor satisfaction to buying new works at auction. You do the latter by taking the earnings from your exhibitions, choosing an auction house, working out which of the lots is real rather than counterfeit, and then bidding against other buyers.
There’s a range of recreated artworks from both classic and modern eras, their fakes offering occasionally amusing subversions of their famous originals. There are also legendary items like the Sword in the Stone and dragon’s eggs, along with collections of scientific artefacts.
Upgrade your gallery, fend off entreaties to bug your Facebook friends, attract new staff, and watch ads to rush back pieces that get stolen in this work of mildly diverting, throwaway silliness.
The Unlikely Legend Of Rusty Pup, £4.99 (Gory Detail)
Made by refugees from Rare – the formerly glorious British developer responsible for such all-time classics as GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and the majestic Conker’s Bad Fur Day – Rusty Pup displays several of the developer’s hallmarks.
Written entirely in rhyming couplets, and featuring superb English voice-acting, Rusty Pup is a traversal puzzle game, your robot pooch needing to be tempted around its levels by lighting lamps and manipulating pieces of its subterranean industrial scenery.
With a story alluded to by the game’s sparring good and evil narrators, and bolstered by environmental clues and level names, there’s a subtlety and complexity at work here that’s not often encountered in games of any sort, let alone on mobile.
Elder Scrolls: Blades (Early Access) for iOS, £Free (Bethesda)
Blades is the latest extension of the Elder Scrolls franchise and while it gets combat right, anyone hoping for Skyrim on a phone will instantly be disappointed. This is a pared down mobile game with little scope for wandering, instead you’ll be rebuilding a razed town using materials plundered from dungeons, ruins, and bandit camps.
Level up to acquire new spells, perks, and abilities, then click to open loot chests with timed countdowns, pay to get stuff instantly, or simply buy chests at the store and forget all about slaying bandits. As a five-minute interlude between chores, Blades just about holds its own, requiring a single thumb to play in portrait mode.
As an adventure game, let alone an Elder Scrolls spin-off, it feels limited and depressingly focused on microtransactions. It’s still in early access, but if recent indications from Bethesda are anything to go by, don’t expect much reinvention. An Android version is also in the works.
Idle Island for Android & iOS, £Free (Robert Grzybek)
Idle Island is another idle clicker, this time focused on city building. Construct houses and shops, buy cars, and then tap repeatedly to release hordes of tiny citizens into your microcosm of capitalism. Like Egg, Inc. the faster you tap to flood your town with inhabitants, the larger your temporary multiplier gets.
There’s the usual selection of speed-ups that increase people’s purchasing power or ratchet up population growth, and the graphics are very pretty, but it’s an almost completely mindless source of entertainment. It’s also embarrassingly addictive.
If you enjoy incrementally increasing meaningless numbers with absolutely no threat of losing, this will provide momentary distraction from life’s crushing ennui.
Whispers Of A Machine for Android & iOS, £4.99 (Raw Fury)
As old school point ‘n’ click adventures go, Whispers Of A Machine ticks all the familiar boxes: lots of dialogue, numerous props to attempt interactions with pieces of scenery, a variety of non-player characters and some who seem a bit suspect, and puzzles with solutions that are occasionally oblique.
Set in the near future, after an apparently AI-influenced societal collapse, you’re an agent investigating a pair of linked murders with wider connections. Along with your powers of reason, you also have cybernetic augments that add interesting new dimensions to your crime scene investigations.
Your choice of analytical, empathetic, or assertive approaches affects both dialogue options and the availability of extra augments as you play, adding a welcome twist to a dusty old genre.
The Video Kid for Android & iOS, £Free (Pixio)
Loaded with 80s film and TV references, The Video Kid is an endless runner homage to Paperboy that includes such diverse cultural icons as Back to the Future, Paddington, The Blues Brothers, Tron, E.T., Bill & Ted, Doctor Who, Baywatch, Postman Pat, and the Smurfs.
You’re a video cassette delivery boy, presumably in an attempt not to get sued by the Paperboy rights holder. Tapping the screen shoots a VHS tape at mailboxes, windows, bad guys, and Teletubbies; swiping up makes Video Kid jump and grind cars and post boxes, and swiping left or right changes lanes. Watch ads for extra cash, which you also earn in small quantities from each run, and then spend it on new outfits and skateboard tricks.
The control scheme isn’t tight enough for the degree of speed and accuracy you need, but in tiny doses it can still hit the spot between moments of anger-inducing frustration.
By Nick Gillett
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