Erica – from PS5 to mobile phone (pic: Sony)
GameCentral’s monthly round-up of the best mobile games includes a real-time strategy, an interactive movie, and a lot of puzzle games.
In the long, arduous battle against cabin fever, video games are our friends. And for those unable to grab a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X before the scalpers swoop in and sell them all on eBay, at least we’ve all still got our phones. This month’s mobile highlights include the superb and completely free real-time strategy Battlecruisers, the surprisingly great Puzzle Dino, and former PlayStation exclusive interactive movie Erica.
The Procession To Calvary
iOS & Android, £2.99 (Joe Richardson)
In a similar vein to Joe Richardson’s previous game, Four Last Things, this is another deliciously surreal point ‘n’ click adventure that uses famous oil paintings, animated in Monty Python-esque style for its characters, props, and scenery.
Conversations stray from solving the amusingly silly problems of the characters you meet to strands of discussion that have no real bearing on the plot and are just there for fun.
As with all point and clicks, if you don’t stumble across the right item or combination of responses to move the story forward it can be frustrating, but there are walkthroughs online if it gets to that point, and when the dialogue’s this funny you can forgive the odd moment of confusion.
iOS, Apple Arcade (Lykke Studios)
Using a similar wooden and brass theme to The Room and The House Of Da Vinci, Lumen tells the story of a Scottish inventor whose tongue-in-cheek creations she decided to document in a specially designed light box, rather than trusting her notes to the vagaries of paper.
Each of its levels sets out lamps and mirrors on a small grid. Your job is to tap each component, swivelling it 90 degrees, until light shines through a set of three stars and eventually onto a piece of film with the next part of the story on it.
It has a polished interface, and the sound effects as you move board elements are first rate, but the puzzles are monotonously similar throughout, meaning you’re working with the same set of problems at level 80 as you were in the tutorial.
iOS, £Free – £2.99 for full game (Flavourworks)
Originally released on PlayStation 4, and billed as a psychological thriller, Erica is a spooky and well-crafted interactive movie that uses real actors and settings in scenes that offer branching choices at various points in the story.
It may lack the inventiveness of fellow FMV game Telling Lies, but it’s way more convincing than last year’s The Complex, with better acting and far more believable characters.
At under two hours it’s never in danger of outstaying its welcome, the interactions feel right at home on touchscreen, and its rather opaque endings fits nicely with the supernatural theme.
iOS & Android, £Free – 99p without ads (Dream Pig Games)
A bit like Dreamcast puzzle classic Chu Chu Rocket, Puzzle Dino has you dropping directional arrows onto a grid to guide a cartoon dinosaur to a series of spotty, Yoshi-style eggs and finally to an exit tile.
As well as arrows, you can position miniature trampolines to hop over obstacles and walk over switches that extend or retract bridges. Once your dinosaur has used an arrow or trampoline it vanishes, a feature that turns out to create considerable scope for complexity.
Watching dino plod its way around the courses you create, it would have been nice to be able to speed up the replay or abort once you realise you’ve made a mistake, but those omissions are far from ruinous in this pleasantly taxing puzzle game, supported by inoffensive and mostly skippable ads.
iOS, Apple Arcade (Orbital Knight)
With a rousing orchestral soundtrack and strikingly colourful levels, your job in Spire Blast is to knock down tall towers made of coloured blocks by firing balls at them. A matching coloured ball hitting a group of blocks makes them vanish, destabilising nearby parts of the tower.
In addition to simple demolition, each level also comes with goals – specific numbers of blocks to vaporise or feed to a hungry dragon hovering on one side of the tower – and the physics of knocking stuff over looks and feels satisfying, but despite its high production values it feels underdeveloped.
There are boosters you can use to blast away multiple blocks at a time, and hundreds upon hundreds of levels, but no real sense of evolution as you progress. It’s as if it were intended to be a free to play game that was unexpectedly re-purposed, leaving visible traces of its original mechanics without any real point to them.
iOS & Android, £2.99 (Kenny Sun)
Your job in Yankai’s Diamond is to match pairs of coloured squares. You do that by flipping the diamonds they’re attached to until like colours are touching, while enjoying the pleasant sound effects that accompany your actions.
Unfortunately, because of the way the diamonds pivot around axes that join each corner, picturing in your mind’s eye where the coloured squares will end up becomes extremely challenging when more than one rotation is involved.
The result is that making matches tends to be more about trial and error than spatial reasoning, and combined with the game’s headache-inducing colour clashes, and textures that are constantly in motion, it’s not the most inviting play experience.
iOS, £2.99 (Intensity Faucet Games)
Blending portrait mode shooter with roguelike, Arkfront has you flying a starfighter in defence of an ark ship taking settlers across the galaxy. Asteroids and aliens descend down the screen towards you, missiles target you from each side, and anything you fail to mop up in time damages the ark, which sits right at the bottom.
Each level you travel to contains an encounter, a space station where you can save and trade, or at the end of each galactic sector, a boss fight – before moving onto the next area and an increase in difficulty.
With a wonderfully homemade feel, funky breakbeat soundtrack, and sprite graphics reminiscent of the golden age of home computing, it may lack the polish of higher budget titles but comes with its own rustic charm and a decent arc of ship unlocks, upgrades, and gradual improvement.
iOS & Android, £Free (Mecha Weka)
In this real-time strategy game you start by building drone swarms to do your bidding, then add offensive and defensive capabilities to your battleship while keeping a cautious eye on what your computer adversary is building to make sure you have the right counters in place.
There are various ways to attack, from artillery and ship targeting laser to various air and naval units that deploy automatically once you set them in your build queue. It makes for a tense balance between offence and riposte, which gets more involving the more cruisers, units, and weapons you unlock.
With elegant silhouetted ships and huge, realistic-looking explosions, Battlecruisers is that rarity of a fully formed and highly playable game that’s completely free of charge with no ads or microtransactions. If you’ve ever enjoyed a real-time strategy game you should waste no time in downloading this.
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