Crush is a unique Tetris-like puzzle game played in reverse. Rather than stacking blocks, you start with an ever increasing wall of randomly generated squares that can be wiped out with the touch of a finger. Any like-colored blocks in immediate proximity of the tap are destroyed. That includes the blocks that wrap around on the other side of the playing field, making it easier to pull off massive combos. The destructive nature of Crush makes it feel inherently more exciting than a more methodical game like Tetris. There are two ways to play the game. The slow “think” mode gives you time to analyze the grid and form a plan of attack. The faster “react” mode is all about making quick decisions. As you progress, special abilities are unlocked that can help you out of a jam. These don’t really mix up the gameplay as much as I’d like, though, and I usually forgot they were even there. Crush is the perfect mobile experience, because it’s easy to jump into and out of a quick game. My only complaint is about the menus. They are terribly ugly and confusing. The game itself is fantastic. Poor menus should hardly be considered a deterrent.
Out of This World was one of the most memorable games from my childhood. The stark, alien environments and mysterious, unsettling story left an impression on me that lasted long into adulthood. That’s why it pains me to say that the Android update is massively disappointing. This is entirely the fault of the terribly unresponsive touch controls. Another World requires an extreme level of precision that is even difficult with a physical controller. Timing jumps and dodges with the slow, gesture-based system had me repeatedly impaling myself on spikes and running head-first into enemy fire. It’s not all bad. The updated graphics are breathtaking, and everything else about the game has remained largely untouched. I simply don’t have the patience for the blasted touch controls. If you’ve never played Another World, please consider trying the PC version. Just don’t let this awful Android port taint your perspective of a true masterpiece.
At a glance, Contre Jour looks like it could be the successor to World of Goo. The dark visual style and setting are almost too familiar, but the comparison pretty much ends there. Contre Jour is a point A to point B puzzle game in which you move your character using only the environment. I love the concept of deforming the game world as a means of motility, but the abhorrent controls completely ruin the experience. Platform warping reacts awkwardly to touch input, the eye creature is painfully sluggish, and the bungee cord mechanic is unresponsive. I often had to jab at the tentacles multiple times before it would recognize that I was trying to grab one. Maybe Contre Jour is easier to play on a tablet, but the small screen of my phone was remarkably frustrating to work with. When everything works and responds as it should, the game is rather clever and rewarding. More often than not, though, Contre Jour is just aggravating.
A traditional 2D platformer is hard to pull off on a touch screen, but Grudger nails it and is quite possibly the closest we’ll ever get to emulating a “console” experience. Yes, it’s an auto-runner. You’ll hardly think of it as such, though. The levels really feel like platforming levels, complete with backtracking and wall-jumping and peg-hopping. The best part? No stupid, lame ass, fake buttons! Everything is done with swipes. Jumping, rolling, turning… all swipes. It doesn’t feel complicated, either, as I remember Mirror’s Edge being, and after a few levels, you stop thinking about the controls altogether. Well, sometimes one swipe registers as something else, causing you to die, but that’s forgivable. The levels are bite-sized as it is. They also include three aluminum bars that can optionally be picked up for an added challenge. Overall, I enjoyed this game and only wish it had more content. If this is the direction mobile platformers are going to take, though, then keep ‘em coming!
I’m new to endless runners, but if this is all I have to look forward to, I can’t say that I’m thrilled about the genre. Canabalt takes place in a bleak cityscape ravaged by some sort of attackers. You play as a small, besuited man who must leap between rooftops to escape the assailants. The character runs automatically, gradually picking up speed over time. That leaves only the ability to jump in your control. The challenge is in timing jumps as you get faster, but because the level is randomly generated, it’s impossible to plan ahead. Reaction time is everything, but even if I had lightning fast reflexes, I’d still struggle to gauge jump distance. As much as I like the grayscale pixel art, the environments quickly become repetitive. Danny Baronowsky’s soundtrack is okay but nowhere near as memorable as his other work. There are only three tracks, so it doesn’t take long to tire of the music. To be fair, Canabalt isn’t meant to be played for any great length of time. With little incentive to keep you coming back, it seems it wasn’t even meant to be played more than once.
I may have given Radiant the thumbs down earlier, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a Space Invaders game done right. The great art style, challenging variety of enemies, and useful power-ups in Velocispider really help it stand out from the pack. If this was for PC or console, it’d be an instant classic. On a mobile device, however, the controls prevent it from being the perfect old-school shooter it strives and deserves to be. Here, you tilt your device to move left and right, which works fine in this kind of environment, but it’s also difficult to get your dinosaur character to hold still. There were a few levels (the final boss battle in particular) that were made needlessly frustrating, because I kept bumping into bullets that provided very little space to stand between. In fact, I still can’t beat the last level and don’t think I ever will. But the atmosphere of the game is so kooky and cool, I gotta keep coming back for one more try. Velocispider, you’ve won my heart. I’m just sorry I can’t protect your eggs…