Making the most of the relative paucity of major console releases early in the year has traditionally seen a good crop of gaming apps released into a cold, dark January.
This year is no exception with colour and light illuminating the gloom from mobiles across a variety of genres – indeed, even the humble boardgame has proved susceptible to a makeover.
It’s been done beautifully in Brass (Cubio, iOS, £3.99), which recreates an excellent table-top title set in the north of England during the Industrial Revolution. The idea is to build up cotton mills, coal mines and iron works and connect them through a series of canals and railroads, without going bankrupt. The rules can be daunting so it’s well worth playing on an iPad at first to make reading the text prompts and various cards easier. The tutorial doesn’t do the best job, so hunt around online for a full PDF of the rules. Perseverance does pay off, however, and once you are up and running there is a rewardingly complex challenge to discover, which can be enjoyed both online and offline. With every tiny mistake you make at the start resulting in dire consequences later on, it’s certainly not easy, but failure only increases the desire to learn and improve, making for a compulsive just-one-more-go experience.
If that all sounds a bit daunting, Power Hover (Oddrok, iOS, £2.99) combines a spot of 1980s nostalgia with simple action to create something impressively fresh. Tap left or right to steer the board through cartoon levels, avoiding obstacles, swerving lasers, performing tricks and collecting batteries to stock up on essential extra lives. The constantly swooping cinematic camerawork adds an extra dimension, but it’s the fluid movement of the board that really thrills – Marty McFly would certainly approve.
In contrast, Dungelot: Shattered Lands (tinyBuild, iOS, £2.99) offers a slightly deeper experience, plunging an adventurer into a dungeon that is crawling with zombies and other beasties and combining a bit of everyone’s favourite 90s time-sink, Minesweeper, with a classic Rogue-like smash and grab. You tap on unrevealed squares to find the key out of the room. Sometimes, the key will be first up and the adventure moves on, but more often there’ll be food, some character buffs, loot and vicious monsters intent on destruction that must be defeated to progress. The battles are satisfyingly tricky and the character-building elements add a welcome level of indulgence.
But it’s Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (Rockstar, iOS, £4.99) that really demonstrates how comfortable an iPhone is emulating dedicated gaming devices. Recreating the 2005 PSP hit to wonderful effect, it’s GTA just as one would want, but the missions are slimmed down, making for a more suitable mobile experience than the fully-fledged remakes of Vice City and San Andreas that are also available. The visuals are pleasingly retro, and it’s hugely impressive that a phone can handle a game of this depth.
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