Feature

Mobile game of the week: Donut County

Mobile game of the week: Donut County

At PocketGamer.biz, we happily sit inbetween the world of business and consumer writing.

You can consider it 'biz-sumer' or 'consum-ness', if you like.

What that means in practice is that we write about the business of mobile games from the point of view of passion about mobile games.

We're not dry number crunchers (quite moist, actually).

Neither are we clueless fanboys, who write articles from the seat of the pants, heart on sleeve etc...

Best of both

In our view, the best mobile games require business and pleasure in equal measure, which is why we're starting our Game of the Week feature.

It's where we'll highlight the games we consider the most significant, hopefully in a positive way, but perhaps sometimes in a cautionary way too.

You'll enjoy or learn something from playing these games, maybe both.


Click here to view the list »
  • Donut County

    Donut County  logo

    By Iain Harris

    After six years, several iterations and one Peter Molyneux-inspired game jam, Donut County has hit app stores across the globe.

    Humorous and light, Ben Esposito’s quirky hole-based adventure provides a welcome distraction over its two-hour run time.

    This story is full of holes

    The tale of Donut County centres on a rowdy racoon called BK, who proves to be more of a villain before his redemption arc is complete.

    Selfish, immature and unaware, the entire town finds itself stuck underground after BK has swallowed them up through an app on his phone that creates holes.

    The reason he is so readily up for throwing his fellow citizens down the hole is that it racks up points for a quadcopter he’s pining after.

    There are plenty parallels and meaning that can be drawn from Donut County and how it reflects the real world, but according to Esposito himself, the story ended up being a reaction to internet culture in 2016 and 2017.

    BK is one of many racoons who have taken over the word but what unites them all is their dudebro-like approach to life and their lack of empathy for others in their personal pursuits.

    As Esposito tells us it’s a reflection of how silly ideologies can spread online when there is no mechanism in place to check them.

    Hole in one

    Gameplay revolves around a hole in the ground. While inspired by a parody account of fable developer Peter Molyneux, the gameplay gets its tempo from Keita Takahashi’s Katamari Damacy.

    As you snap up smaller things like grass and rocks the hole grows in size before it’s capable of swallowing up humans and houses.

    Things swiftly differ after that from Takahashi’s beloved hit, as while Katamari Damacy offers a challenge with a timer mechanic Donut County is more content to be a laid-back bit of fun.

    Levels do throw up some novelty though as mixing items in the hole leads to various effects.

    Swallowing a kiln will set the hole on fire which can send a balloon adrift as you create an updraft beneath it and throwing two rabbits in the hole leads to many more. I’ll let you figure that one out.

    Chill beats and daring feats

    An understated star of the show is the music. Daniel Koestner and Ben Esposito’s soundtrack sets the tone and illuminates the game's funny, upbeat and chilled-out vibes.

    Some novel ideas are fleeting and the games two-hour runtime may not be for everyone. But in a day and age where plenty of titles are measured in quality against their difficulty, Donut County is a charming escape from the humdrum of standard fare.

    Check out Donut County on the App Store.


  • Rowdy Wrestling

    Rowdy Wrestling logo

    By Iain Harris

    Long before battle royales become so synonymous with being dumped on an island and shooting and looting one another, ‘battle royal’ used to refer to a traditional-style of wrestling match.

    Much like Fortnite and PUBG the goal is to be the last one standing, but elimination in wrestling is often signified by getting lobbed over a top rope.

    While battle royal matches still exist today, the 80s and 90s were absolutely packed with them and it's a similar sense of nostalgic silliness that Colin Lane’ and Brad Erkkila's Rowdy Wrestling nails on the head.

    Hit me with your best shot

    The crux of the gameplay lays with punching and drop-kicking foes to a stunned state. Once those stars appear above their head, they’re ripe to be lobbed out the ring.

    To spice things up every now and again a manager who looks like WWF veteran Jimmy Hart will pop up to offer you a weapon.

    While the ragdoll physics lends to the amusement the costumes themselves offer up a similar sense of hilarity with a pinch of nostalgia. Unlockable characters are modelled after old WWF favourites such Doink the Clown, The Undertaker, The Ultimate Warrior and plenty more.

    Slobber knocker

    Rowdy Wrestling isn’t merely content to throw players into a ring and watch them jump about though and offers a variety of modes. Alongside the battle royale mode there is also a career mode that lets you take on wrestlers one-on-one in a gauntlet-style match. A gauntlet royale if you’d like.

    The randomness doesn’t always hit the mark though, fights can be just as unpredictable and can unfold without rhyme or reason.

    Despite it all, though, Rowdy Wrestling is a fun romp that embodies the over-the-top and larger-than-life spirit of 90s wrestling.

    Check out Rowdy Wrestling on the App Store and Google Play.


  • New Star Soccer Manager

    New Star Soccer Manager logo

    By Craig Chapple

    Getting the intricacies of football right on mobile is always a difficult task.

    Console games like FIFA and PES offer fantastic complexity in a relatively simple setup, which is difficult to truly replicate on mobile. Particularly when it comes the fast nature of the beautiful game and stringing together attacking moves.

    Management titles meanwhile have to deal with a small screen and the trappings (for better or worse) of the free-to-play model if they’re going to be successful.

    New Star Soccer has long been a popular game, and now New Star Soccer Manager has arrived on the scene.

    You're in charge

    There’s a lot to get through when you start the game, from how to play matches with your team (and beat relegation), to how to run an entire football club. You're basically taking the board's job, even though you also have to deal with them.

    There are collectible cards, staff to manage, buildings to buy to improve your club and team, sponsorship deals to sign, and lots of small details you might expect from a management sim.

    It’s all a bit overwhelming at first, though the game does its best to deliver lots of information as quick as it can.

    Match day delivers what you’d expect from a sim, from deciding your lineup to setting up formations and tactics. During the game you’re given written commentary of proceedings ala Football Manager.

    Back of the net

    But once there’s a chance to get in on goal or start an attacking move, you’re personally given control over players. And the result, once you get a handle on the controls, is a delightful football game.

    Play stops once a player gets the ball, letting you decide how to proceed. You can simply pass the ball straight to another player, shoot, dribble or set players on runs and to set up a cutting through ball into space behind the defence.

    Successfully combining passes in quick succession, delivering that decisive through ball and smashing the ball in the back of the net is a delight.

    Much like the best football sims, there’s as much drama to be had off the pitch as on it. From keeping the fans onside to dealing with egotistical players and ensuring a happy board, there’s much depth to be found in New Star Soccer Manager.

    What I’ve played so far is just the tip of the iceberg. New Star Soccer Manager feels like it’s carved out its own space from other sims and put together an essential football title in the process.

    Check out New Star Soccer Manager on the App Store.


  • DERE EVIL .EXE

    DERE EVIL .EXE logo

    By Iain Harris 

    One of our favourite trademarks of horror is its tendency to play on what you know.

    Society tells children not to trust strangers and many horror films indulge this wisdom by presenting random figures as malevolent tricksters.

    Not all horror films are scary clowns and abandoned houses though, with some going so far as to subvert expectations by preying on the unknown; be that through suggesting the killer is among us or presenting what you believe to be safe spaces as inherently evil.

    Darius Immanuel Guerrero’s meta pixel horror DERE EVIL .EXE is the latter.

    I see pixelated people

    The opening segment is pleasantly jarring, as horror is flipped to nostalgia and comedy.

    Upon hitting the start button, players are forewarned that all is not as it seems and the game is not for the faint of heart.

    Moments later, you find yourself in the familiar surroundings of 80s and 90s nostalgia. As a silent knight called Knightly, you are here to traverse the pixelated kingdom with an upbeat chiptune to match. The sheer familiarity and genre tropes are then swiftly maligned by a fourth-wall-breaking dev.

    Slowly but surely, however, it all descends into a glitchy nightmare as the once evocative music is swapped up for ominous PSX-era orchestral music.

    Once fun and games, the narration takes on a new meaning when a murdered teen haunting the code of the game suggests she may not be the evil one.

    What’s the meta, man?

    Regarding gameplay, DERE EVIL .EXE doesn’t rest on the narrative to see itself through.

    You’ll need platforming skills and timing to work through the game’s levels, which soon becomes part of the story as the forces at work hack the code.

    Controls are simple and mostly sweet. Left and right directional buttons are situated on the left side of the screen while jump sits on the right. A few moments of stickiness aside where Knightly wouldn’t move, they remain responsive and work just fine.

    File corrupt

    All in all, DERE EVIL .EXE stands out for brilliantly blending pre-noughties nostalgia with meta-horror.

    While the echoes of Super Mario and Mega Man are ever present in games today, they are rarely subverted like this.

    Check out DERE EVIL .EXE on Google Play and the App Store.


  • Pokemon Quest

    Pokemon Quest logo

    By Iain Harris

    Despite spanning many a different genre under one anime sprawled banner, Japanese cartoons are often united in wonderfully depicting a stunning plethora of food.

    When Pokemon made its jump from Game Boy to anime in 1997 it was one of the more notable additions. Upon being bested by the forever youthful Ash, gym leader and rock-type specialist Brock joins the hero's journey and swaps up strategising battles for masterminding fine dining.

    In that sense, it’s oddly true to form that crafting meals brings a nostalgic sense of joy in Pokemon Quest and made up the crux of my enjoyment on Tumblecube Island.

    Gotta catch all ‘em berries

    As a trainer you come to Tumblecube island seeking adventure and eventually spend your time between dolling up your camp and clearing single-floored dungeons with your preferred three Pokemon.

    Traditional Kanto starters Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle are offered up, alongside Pikachu and Eevee, and you garner more by crafting meals in your base.

    There isn’t much going on in terms of story, but the game’s appeal comes in its lightness.

    From the start Pokemon Quest develops a pleasing rhythm as you toss berries into a pot and see what meal comes with it and in-turn what Pokemon are drawn in. Results do vary, a highlight for me was luring in a level 14 Polygon when my humble team was but level nine. Dejection followed when a level two Magikarp came flopping in next.

    Meals take time to cook and time is measured by how many floors you clear, as such going out to explore is a necessary but fulfilling endeavour.

    Beat ‘em all. Up.

    Combat is a departure from the turn-based strategy that many will fondly remember. Instead, your rowdy rabble of Pokemon run amuck smacking up anything with a pulse in real-time. Battle rhythm can be broken up by issuing commands for special attacks, but more variety doesn’t follow.

    You can’t really herd them either and It can get a tad frustrating. Especially when your Charmander has 1HP and is running head-on into a Tentacruel.

    In all Pokemon Quest is a light and breezy adventure that hits a fine stride once it’s simple mechanics come together. It may not prove more than a light distraction while we wait for Pokemon Lets Go and beyond, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    Check out Pokemon Quest on Google Play and the App Store.


  • Suzy Cube

    Suzy Cube logo

    By Iain Harris

    There are few genres loved more in the games industry than the humble platformer, but it is a passion that seldom translates well to the mobile platform usually due to spotty control schemes.

    NorthernBytes’ Suzy Cube is next up to bat and succeeds not just in the harkening to older platformers but by cracking a steady set of controls in the process.

    BLOCKED UP

    Suzy Cube’s simple premise is standard fare for the genre as thieves have nicked treasure from a castle. At the behest of the King and Queen, titular character and protagonist Suzy steps up to give chase through various platform-filled levels.

    Controls are quite simple but hold up well. The left half of the screen lets you move Suzy as you press down and drag where you want to go while the right side is simply for jumping.

    Gameplay is kept fresh with an array of stylish hats that give you special powers. One grants you an extra life, another lets you double jump and hover while the next lets players smash down onto enemies Mario-style.

    The locale also does its part to keep things fresh but also familiar as you travel through desert and snowy-filled landscapes that’ll no doubt throw up memories of Mario 64. Rest assured they each play their part by throwing up unique challenges, such as puzzles to solve, ice slides to throttle down and drops to nose-dive down.

    A chip of the ol’ block

    The game is certainly not without its faults, camera angles can prove a challenge, and new ground isn’t broken past the games controls scheme.

    Nevertheless, Suzy Cube is by far-and-large among the best platforming experiences on mobile. With a stable set of controls, Suzy Cube is a satisfying romp through 3D platformers past.

    Check out Suzy Cube on Google Play and the App Store.


  • Only When Howling

    Only When Howling logo

    By Iain Harris

    Following Mountain’s light but memorable exploration of love in Florence the question re-emerged of what makes a game.

    Indeed, if games are a form of escapism, that requires a continuous engagement in controls, then interactive stories based on our reality may not fit that bill.

    Kim Savory’s Only When Howling is the latest mobile offering to pose the question, and stands out because of it.

    Screen-turner

    Only When Howling is a short and breezy interactive story that revolves around three characters who adore something society thinks they shouldn’t.

    The first is a bright young girl who is enchanted with her forest laden home. This displeases her parents who think someone with her intelligence should be city-bound for a better life than that on offer.

    Second up is a middle-aged man who finds satisfaction donating time and money to the elderly. He does so at the expense of his own family, much to the ire of his wife.

    Last up is an older woman who is close to completing a writing task that has taken several years. The cost, according to her doctor, may come at her own life as she rejects care by refusing to live with her niece.

    Over the game’s short 30-minute play time you explore artistically rendered visuals that represent their psyche. You do so by swiping from screen to screen then tapping and interacting with objects to move the narrative along.

    The aim of it all is to explore an overarching theme of the cost of committing to something you love.

    Deep thoughts

    With an atmospheric soundtrack to match, Only When Howling manages to be a calming and thought-provoking momentary escape from day-to-day life. The experience is neat and may not hang about for long but is sure to linger after its short run time comes to a close.

    If you fancy something different and don’t mind parting with a few dollars than Only When Howling is waiting on iOS and Android.

    One piece of advice, however, is don’t click off the app like I did. Progress doesn’t save.

    Check out Only When Howling on Google Play and the App Store.


  • Lost Island: Blast Adventure

    Lost Island: Blast Adventure logo

    By Craig Chapple.

    After a small hiatus, Game of the Week is back!

    I’m a huge fan of casual games on mobile - which is lucky for me since we’re living in a new golden age of them.

    I’m a particularly big fan of ‘blast’ games like the titular Toy Blast and Toon Blast from Peak Games.

    So in comes the most unlikeliest of contenders to play with that winning puzzle game formula: Plarium.

    Tackling a new genre

    Best known for its 4X strategy and RPG games like Vikings: War of Clans, Stormfall: Age of War and Throne: Kingdom at War, the studio has now entered the casual space following its $500 million acquisition by Australian casino firm Aristocrat Leisure.

    Blending Toon Blast-like gameplay with Gardenscapes narrative-driven setting and map, plus a few extras, new title Lost Island: Blast Adventure proves to be a winning formula.

    Led by archaeologist Ellie, Lost Island takes you on a journey to uncover the mysteries of the newly acquired island. The story doesn’t get in the way of the puzzles and never outstays its welcome, but rather provides a reason to stay engaged, while offering a nice break between gameplay.

    It’s not completely original, but by blending the best parts of other titles and sprinkling in a few ideas of its own such as a larger game board, it shapes up to be a winning package.

    Taking a step back from the game itself, Lost Island’s launch is significant as it also marks what could be a fresh rush by mobile studios, that may traditionally have tackled other genres, into the casual space.

    Check out Lost Island: Blast Adventure on Google Play and the App Store.


  • Florence

    Florence logo

    Whenever a game like Florence comes around, some wiseguy always decides to say something like "can it really be considered a game?", as though they're the first to think about the definition of games.

    Yes, Florence is a game - a mobile game, specifically, and one what does everything it wants to do through incredibly simple interactions that mean a lot more than they first appear.

    Accompanied by a beautiful, subtle soundtrack and gorgeous hand-drawn graphics, it's a game that's impossible not to love.

    Hold me close

    Florence tells the story of the titular 25-year-old woman and her relationship with a man she meets one day.

    It hits all the key points of the relationship - the first awkward dates, the negotiations around moving in, arguing while buying food and so on.

    But it does it all with incredibly minimal dialogue, instead making your actions part of the story in an incredibly meaningful way.

    Actions with meaning

    The first dates, for instance, feature a speech bubble-shaped jigsaw puzzle, which starts with six pieces but eventually eases up as the relationship progresses and the characters become more comfortable with one another.

    It's stunning through and through, and exactly the kind of thing mobile games, and games in general, needs more of. Yes, it's about 30 minutes long and runs you $3. But it's 30 minutes you're unlike to forget, and will probably never experience anywhere else.

    And yes, it is a game.


  • Dandara

    Dandara logo

    It is a true thing of beauty to load up a game on mobile and within thirty seconds understand everything you need to do and how to do it.

    Dandara, obstensibly an enormous hardcore Metroidvania, somehow manages to do exactly this, with a control scheme built with touchscreens in mind and no fear in leaning hard into its limitations.

    It might be a bit pricey for the traditional mobile audience, but those willing to take the plunge will not be disappointed with their purchase.

    Feeling jumpy

    Dandara has just two inputs - a joystick that you use to point towards a surface and jump to it, and another joystick that aims your gun and fires it.

    You get a helpful arrow telling you where you're going to land when you jump, and the levels are all built to accomdate the fact that you need to fling yourself in a straight line each time - there's no hopping between small gaps adjacent to each other.

    The gun also needs to charge and can't be fired mid-jump, so each movement needs to be carefully considered, else you'll get killed almost instantly.

    It is blissfully simple, and the game bends over backwards to accomodate the controls, swinging the world around as you move and building puzzles around your simple movement to ensure you're kept on your toes.

    We haven't had much time to dig into it, but we'll definitely be returning for more. Just watch out for that price - at $14.99 it's one of the more expensive premium games on mobile, but it's definitely worth a look if you can part with the cash.


  • Hero Hunters

    Hero Hunters logo

    On the surface, Hothead's latest shooter looks a little bland and brown - the kind of military shooter you'd want to steer clear of most of the time.

    Happily, however, it's actually a damn fine shooter with a surprising range of tactics, deeply-integrated RPG elements and simple, responsive controls so that just about anyone can play.

    It's also clearly taken monetisation inspiration from Asia, with an incredibly generous number of drops to get you going, and a tempting VIP bonus for anyone willing to part with real-world cash.

    Annie, get your gun

    Hero Hunters is essentially a gallery shooter with a squad of soldiers, which players can jump between to get different viewpoints of the battleground.

    You sit in one spot and shoot enemies as they run in, but you can also dodge between cover and crouch to avoid damage, and you can always swap to a new character if you're having a rough time elsewhere.

    There's a nice range of heroes available too - if you're a crackshot, pick a sniper, or if you've an itchy trigger finger, you can bust out a machine gun.

    Levels are short and fast-paced, with a huge number of enemies swarming you at any time, but it never feels so chaotic that you lose your way - and it helps that the AI teammates are pretty good too.

    Throw in some early generosity to keep your squad fully-levelled and armed to the teeth, along with a PvP that plays smoothly and similarly quickly, and you've got a very exciting game indeed.


  • Onmyoji

    Onmyoji logo

    Let's be honest, NetEase's Onmyoji is absolutely not a game for everybody, and you'll work that out within 60 seconds of loading it up.

    The onboarding is, frankly, terrible, and when you do finally get into the game itself, it's an incredibly daunting task simply working out what the heck is going on.

    Give it some time, however, and you'll realise why exactly it's been such a hit in Asia, and why NetEase is making so much money off the back of it.

    Tell me a story

    Onmyoji is, on a surface level, a fairly standard team battler - you build up a squad, send them into turn-based battles, level them up, and so on.

    But the level of customisation and stat-boosting is like nothing you've ever seen, which makes it incredibly daunting for newbies and very handy for veterans who want to get their teeth into pages and pages of stats.

    There's also a strange story of demons and evil spirits tying everything together, with full Japanese voice acting to appease any hardcore otaku out there.

    And it has a strange, unique artstyle that, while not technically amazing, still looks gorgeous in its own way.

    It's confusing as hell to begin with, but give Onmyoji ten minutes of your time and it'll all sink into place, and you too will understand why 200 million people have played it before you.


  • Nindash: Skull Valley

    Nindash: Skull Valley logo

    It's been said a thousand times, often by us, but it bears repeating: sometimes, simple really is best.

    Such is the case with the surprisingly excellent Nindash: Skull Valley, from DOFUS developer Ankama, another entry in their hyper-casual series of mobile games that just goes to show it's not a one-trick pony.

    It's simple and elegant in its design, incredibly responsive to your actions, and somehow one of the trickiest puzzlers we've played in a while.

    Move like the wind

    Nindash has a very simple premise - you're a ninja, there's waves of skeleton enemies, it's your job to kill them all before they reach the bottom of the screen.

    Your ninja teleports to wherever you tap on the screen, moving in a straight line and slashing with its sword as it goes, so the trick is to line up enemies and take them all out in one fell swoop.

    You can just rapidly tap on each one, but it just feels so cool to take out ten enemies in one go because you got your angle just right.

    There's other wrinkles thrown in - boss fights, enemies you can't attack, and so on - and the responsive controls mean you can rack up huge chains with the minimum of effort.

    It's brilliant both in its fun factor and its simplicity, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice by ignoring it.


  • Antihero

    Antihero logo

    Digital board games don't usually float our boat here at PocketGamer.biz, but Antihero has bucked that trend.

    Combining a gorgeous aesthetic with impressively deep mechanics, it's a game that anyone looking to develop a board game - digital or not - should be looking at.

    And despite its complexity, it is very encourgaging to new players, holding their hand in the early stages but offering enough leeway to experiment from the very start.

    Skullduggery and stabbery

    Antihero gives you control of Lightfinger, a master thief who has to rob, cheat, and kill to earn enough tokens to win a round and move on to the next board.

    Lightfinger only has a few action points each turn, so you need to recruit new units to assist in your thieving and killing, and upgrade your abilities as you go to make sure you can handle bigger challenges down the line.

    It makes the whole experience incredibly strategic, as you plan a few turns ahead each time, deciding whether to save resources for a big push later on or build up your skills early to try and rush a win.

    The game slowly opens up through the campaign, so you don't get too overwhelmed as you play, and the tutorial has a lot more showing than telling, so you pick up the basics very quickly.

    It's a gorgeous, clever digital board game, and you should absolutely check it out.


  • Gorogoa

    Gorogoa logo

    Annapurna Interactive raised a few eyebrows when it first opened its doors - why would an indie film studio decide to get into the indie games publishing business? And why would it choose to extend into mobile with its releases?

    Whatever its reasons, the publisher has built up an impressive slate of weird and wonderful games, and Gorogoa is no exception.

    It looks like a fairly standard puzzle game in the same vein as Framed, but it very quickly reveals that it's nothing like anything you've played before.

    Goron then

    Developed by one-man band Jason Roberts, Gorogoa plays out across four panels, and has you moving pictures around to progress the worldless story along.

    You're never quite sure what to do, but it's so simple to play that experimentation is both actively encouraged and easy, so you're never stuck for long.

    And it might not make much sense either, but even if you can't follow the narrative, each puzzle you solve makes you feel like the smartest person in the world.

    It's difficult to describe the various ways Gorogoa plays with its own mechanics, and really you should just try it out for yourself. Right now. Go! Go!


  • Game Dev Tycoon

    Game Dev Tycoon logo

    If you ever played Game Dev Tycoon on PC, then you'll already know that it's an incredibly fun, witty, and weirdly tense game.

    If you've never played it and are a mobile die-hard, then rejoice! You can now buy it on iOS, and it's every bit as good as it always was.

    There's a few neat additions to the base game, but it's basically the same core experience perfectly designed for mobile - and yes, it's still a premium game, but we'll let that slide this week.

    Design 'em up

    Game Dev Tycoon, as the name implies, puts you in charge of your own game development studio and tasks you with making yourself rich and famous.

    It's a fairly hands-off approach to development - you choose the topic, genre, platform, and focus of development at different stages - but it still feels like a lot of hard work.

    That's all part of the fun, of course. Every decision can feel life-or-death, and making one duff game can absolutely destroy your company, while one hit can keep you afloat for years.

    It's got a simple core gameplay loop and relatively basic presentation, but it's a true emotional rollercoaster that will soak up hours of your life without you noticing.


  • Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

    Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp logo

    To be frank, there was no competition this week on Game of the Week. It could only have been Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.

    Regular readers will note that one of the team at Biz has been waiting for the launch of this game for a very long time, and the especially eagle-eyed will recognise his name on both those articles and this one as the author.

    So with that in mind - why aren't you playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp?

    Give me s'mores

    Pocket Camp distills the Animal Crossing core gameplay into a simple, highly-engaging mobile game with plenty to do and an incredibly strong progression system.

    By completing tasks for animals, you can raise your friendship levels, earn new items, earn crafting rewards, and eventually ask them to come visit your own campsite.

    This is fully customisable with the items you create to lure the creatures in, and there's no limits to what you can put in - besides needing to own the items, of course.

    Everything resets once every three hours, and a typical play session can last around 30 minutes, meaning highly-engaged players are going to playing the game for hours each day to maximise their progression and unlock everything.

    Throw in an unobtrusive monetisation system and all the charm of the main series, and you've got a fantastic game both on its own merits and as an entry in the Animal Crossing franchise.


  • Mighty Battles

    Mighty Battles logo

    When you play as many mobile games as we do, you tend to notice a few trends - and in the last year, a lot of these trends have been inspired by Clash Royale.

    The same menu structure, the same crate mechanic, the same cards and levelling up, and sometimes even the same gameplay mechanics.

    And while Hothead's Mighty Battles doesn't stray too far from the tried-and-tested formulas, it brings its own innovations that make it a whole different beast to what we expected.

    Blast off

    There's several key changes gameplay-wise - you take a first-person perspective from a turret and therefore have much more of a role in combat, and energy doesn't recharge throughout the battle.

    Instead, you have to wait until waves of grunts come out, which reward coins when killed that can be spent on units.

    It opens up whole new strategies - do you blow all your coins in one go, or spend some now and save the rest for later? It's a finite resource for a substantial period, making you rethink basically every strategy you may have built up.

    And it's a lot more fun to play too, now that you have control over a whacking great gun and can choose which targets you want to target while the rest of the battle plays out below.

    Monetisation-wise it's nothing new, and the metagame won't be a surprise to anybody, but the core game is so unique and interesting that you can't help but just have one more go.


  • Craft Away!

    Craft Away! logo

    It wasn't long after Futureplay launched its first game, Farm Away!, that we started wondering how else it could implement its "view-to-play" logic in other games.

    Its first response was Build Away!, which was a lot like its predecessor but with extra wrinkles that detracted from the joy and simplicity of the original farming game.

    But in Craft Away!, the developer has found a whole new genre to tackle, and it's even started to move away from its rewarded video ad monetisation focus.

    If you build it...

    Craft Away! avoids building up towns or farms and instead sends you out on an idle adventure, smashing blocks and jelly as you free creatures and earn gold.

    You swipe the blocks to smash them, and once they're all cleared, you move on. Eventually you unlock companions to deal damage for you, though they take a little longer to clear the blocks if you don't help.

    So far, so idle game. What sets it apart is a wealth of upgrades - double damage, extra resources - which can only be accessed if you're willing to watch a short ad.

    Even more interestingly, there's now powerful one-time-use items which can only be restocked if you use gems, the game's premium currency, with no option to watch an ad to earn them.

    It makes the whole experience slightly less casual than previous efforts, and it'll be fascinating to watch how gamers respond. Oh, and it's pretty fun to play too.


  • Sonic Forces: Speed Battle

    Sonic Forces: Speed Battle logo

    Throw away any preconceptions you may have about the Sonic franchise and listen up: Sonic Forces: Speed Battle is a genuinely good game.

    It's a unique twist on the auto-runner genre, with level design evocative of the main Sonic games while still maintaining their own sense of self, and it's a lot of fun to play.

    But on top of that, it takes an established loot box monetisation system and expands on it, making it even fairer and more rewarding than ever before.

    Gotta go first

    Sonic Forces: Speed Battle throws you into four-player online battles, in which you and three others run automatially forward and need to dodge obstacles as you go.

    You'll also need to avoid each other, as there's Mario Kart-style power-ups to pick up which can slow down your opponents or give you a speed bost to get ahead.

    Levels also have multi-tiered designs, rewarding what little exploration is available to you in an auto-runner with speed boosts and coins to help you get ahead, and bringing classic Sonic design to a modern mobile game.

    But it's the loot boxes that make it particularly interesting. You'll get a reward even if you lose, with better rewards unlocked the higher you place, and a Victory Crate if you win (along with a seperate crate for placing 1st).

    It works like Clash Royale with higher-level crates taking longer to open, but with a fantastic twist in that the lowest-level crates can be opened instantly if you watch a video ad.

    Sonic Forces: Speed Battle needs to be on your phone or tablet. Go get it.


  • Paddington Run

    Paddington Run logo

    We don't usually throw in our support for movie tie-ins, but there's something about Gameloft's Paddington Run that's so endearing that we couldn't not love it.

    Perhaps it's the simple gameplay, which provides plenty of opportunity for both casual and hardcore players to make strong progress and prove their skill at the same time.

    Or maybe it's the way it varies its gameplay every thirty seconds, giving you new challenges and experiences in what is ostensibly a basic auto-runner.

    Oh fiddlesticks

    Whatever it is, Paddington Run is most definitely a casual game. Paddington runs forward, and you swipe, jump, and slide around in three different lanes to avoid obstacles and pick up marmalade.

    There's a healthy dose of metagame on top of that, with unlockable and upgradeable clothes, toys, and other items to help you out as you go.

    But what you're really here for is the bright visual style, responsive controls, and satisfying gameplay that rewards tricky moves while still allowing more casual players the ability to move on by playing it safe.

    Throw in bizarre changes of pace like skateboard scenes and clinging on to a rocket midway through a regular stage, and you've got a marvelous, unique, and very fun game that anyone can enjoy.


  • Darts of Fury

    Darts of Fury logo

    We've said it before and we'll no doubt say it again: sometimes, the simplest idea is the best when it comes to a mobile game.

    Look just two entries back and you'll find Football Strike, a game that features precisely two mechanics, and had us enraptured for weeks.

    And this week, Darts of Fury has managed to capture that same spirit using the ancient and noble sport of darts - and a healthy amount of explosions and fireworks.

    One hundred and eighty!

    Darts of Fury is, essentially, a very simple darts game. You get three darts, you throw them at a darts board, your opponent takes their turn, first to a certain score wins.

    What makes this version so enjoyable is the way it eases you into the world of darts - you start off needing to score just 101, and you don't need to score a double or triple to check out.

    You're thrown into real-time multiplayer games with impressive speed, and developer Yakuto has managed to turn darts into an impressive, sci-fi inspired piece of entertainment with robot arms and shining lights to keep your eyes entertained.

    It's not perfect - a lot of the menu UI is heavily confusing, which is a shame given the simplicity of the rest of the game - but it's easily the most fun we've had this week.


  • Homescapes

    Homescapes logo

    Gardenscapes may have slipped by most of us here at PocketGamer.biz, but now that there's no doubt in our minds that Playrix is doing a roaring trade on the quiet, we've been keeping a close eye on the developer.

    So with the launch of Homescapes, it was finally time for us to dig in and find out if the mash-up of match-3 and town-builder and see what all the fuss is about.

    And we can comfortably say now: we get it. It's a genuinely pleasant title, well-presented and fun to play, and has just enough of a difficulty curve to make you want to come back and best it.

    The butler did it

    The story of Homescapes sees Gardenscapes hero Austin return to his family home to find it in disrepair, and decide that he's going to fix it up with the omnipresent player.

    To do so, you need to play through a series of match-3 puzzles, then use stars earned in play to complete tasks around the house, which in turn allow you to customise various bits of furniture.

    It's a charming way to keep the player driving forward beyond the compulsion to complete levels, or beat their friends, as would be the case in similar titles.

    And it keeps monetisation light, allowing you to focus on enjoying the game at your own pace, and only shelling out if you run out of lives.

    It's a charming game that handles smoothly and takes on board all the modern match-3 designs that make the genre so enjoyable, and it's definitely worth checking out - this could be another sleeper hit for Playrix.


  • Football Strike

    Football Strike logo

    The onboarding process in a mobile game is one of the most important parts of the entire experience, and nothing exemplifies that better than Football Strike.

    Miniclip's arcade football game drops you straight into the action - it tells you to swipe to kick a ball, you kick that ball, and then you're off into a full match against another player.

    And from there it's nigh-on impossible to stop playing. It's so simple to jump back into, play for a few short sessions, and feel rewarded whether you actually win or not.

    Back of the net

    There's two main game modes to play - Shooting Race, in which two players fire balls at targets in a goal, and Free Kicks, where two players take turns attacking and defending from a free kick formation.

    Rounds last no more than a couple of minutes, so you can easily pick it up for a quick couple of matches, and the controls are so simple that anyone can play it.

    Monetisation-wise, it takes a few cues from Clash Royale - there's loot bags, levelling up equipment, and other stats that can be boosted.

    But really, you can ignore all this and just hammer balls into the back of a net, which is one of the purest forms of entertainment that has found its way to mobile this year. No exaggeration.


  • The Guides Axiom

    The Guides Axiom logo

    You may notice a certain pattern in our Game of the Week - we like simple titles, often idle games, and usually something that's fairly gentle and easygoing.

    So the fact that we're impressed with hardcore puzzle game The Guides Axiom should give you some indication of how highly we rate it.

    It's teeth-gnashingly tough, minimally-presented, and a superb use of a mobile device to create a truly inventive collection of puzzles to work through.

    Guide me

    There's not much explanation as to what's really going on in The Guides Axiom - you're just thrown in at the deep end and expected to start solving puzzles.

    These take numerous different forms, often with no suggestion of where to start. You poke and prod at various elements on the screen, bring up tools to crack what might be codes, and generally just try and figure out where the heck you're supposed to start.

    But with enough prodding, and a healthy dose of lateral thinking, the answer will come to you, even if it means jumping back a few levels to uncover a clue you missed the first time.

    It's a free game, but the two-man team behind it have thrown in a mix of IAPs - mostly hint packs and future expansions, though you can simply donate some cash if you're feeling generous.

    But even if you don't cough up any money and stick to your wits, it's guaranteed to frustrate and delight in equal measure.


  • Merge Town!

    Merge Town! logo

    Gram Games is known for its ridiculously addictive casual games, but Merge Town! might just take the cake.

    It's a fairly simple concept - all you need to do is merge buildings together to make better buildings, like 2048 with more control.

    But the constant loop of rewards and growth in the game just keeps you coming back for more, and more, and more, until you completely lose yourself to it.

    Come together

    Merge Town! asks you to tap a box at the bottom of the screen enough times for another box, containing a home which is placed on your town grid.

    Get two homes of the same kind and they can be merged into one, bigger house. Get two of those and you can merge them, and so on, and so on.

    These homes generate coins every second, allowing you to buy better houses and save you the trouble of having to tap that pesky box, which in turn lets you level up existing homes faster.

    You also level up as you play, which unlocks additional levels to start over again, and once you get to this point you're already hooked and there's no escape.

    The ads can occasionally be intrusive, but they're predictable enough that you can prepare yourself for them. And by the time you're sitting through multiple ads a playthrough, it doesn't even matter. It has its hold on you. There is no escape.


  • Battlejack

    Battlejack logo

    We've played a lot of games - it's part of the job, after all - so when we see something that actually strikes us as genuinely original, it's going to excite us.

    And Grand Cru's second game, Battlejack, is very exciting indeed, and nothing like anything we've played before.

    It takes a lot of its cues from established games in terms of its monetisation and metagame, but it's the unique and interesting Blackjack-inspired core gameplay that sets it apart from the competition.

    Deal me in

    Battlejack is essentially an RPG - you have a party of characters, each with their own element, and you need to level them up and create the perfect team to defeat enemies and monsters.

    Only instead of attacking directly, you play Blackjack. You need to draw cards from a deck, making sure not to go over 21, which will activate your heroes and allow them to attack the foes ahead.

    It's been done before with match-3 titles, but this feels entirely different. You need to weigh up your options with every attack - do you have enough power now to win, or could you keep drawing cards to ensure victory?

    And the card game element makes every battle super fast and easy to get through, so you'll never find yourself grinding away in battle, and you'll have a side dose of fun as you go.

    It makes you wonder why no one came up with it sooner, but Grand Cru has now cornered the RPG blackjack market, and you should definitely check out what the developer is doing with it.


  • Toon Blast

    Toon Blast logo

    Say what you will about its cutesy graphics and simple gameplay, Peak Games' Toy Blast is a mighty fine game.

    And now the latest edition of the Blast series, Toon Blast, has arrived, and wouldn't you know it, it's also a very fun experience that just about anyone could enjoy.

    Not only is it full of bright colours and a generally relaxed attitude, it also provides some of the hardest puzzles you'll find this year.

    Tap this

    Toon Blast is basically the same set-up as Toy Blast - a large number of colourful blocks fill the screen, and you need to tap on a group of two or more blocks to burst them.

    There's plenty of different objectives on offer to make sure you're being pushed to your block-exploding limit, including breaking boxes, bursting balloons, and making carrots pop out of hats.

    It's all fairly easy-going, until you hit a tricky puzzle and have to plan about five moves in advance to make sure you'll actually complete your objective before you hit your move limit.

    But all in all, it's light, breezy fun for a few minutes than can quickly become an hour, and it's a great distraction from the stresses of modern life.


  • Titanfall: Assault

    Titanfall: Assault logo

    Particle City may have got off to a false start with Titanfall: Frontline, but its come back fighting with its CCG/MOBA Titanfall: Assault.

    It could quite easily have just been yet another Clash Royale knock-off, but instead it takes the basic genre formula and twists it into something much more interesting.

    And most of all, it manages to capture the spirit of the main Titanfall series without attempting to just make a straight port of a game that never would've worked on mobile.

    Take flight

    As is the case in all hybrid CCG/MOBA games, you're given a deck of cards to deploy on in-game lanes, with the objective to either capture and hold points on the map or destroy the enemy base.

    Only this time they're in the Titanfall universe, so you'll have nimble Pilots that can hop over terrain and take routes outside of the main path, and enormous Titans that drop out of the sky, dealing damage as they before duking it out in the field.

    Progression has been revamped too, with experience points tied to how well you do in battle rather than how much you level up your cards, meaning you can keep pushing on and moving up the ranks even when you're low on cash.

    Everything else is pretty standard fare, just done to the highest quality - and frankly, if designers don't take notes on how this game deviates from the norm, it'll be a real shame.


  • Miracle Merchant

    Miracle Merchant logo

    Yes, we really are featuring two premium games in a row on our typically free-to-play focused website. Make of that what you will.

    The fact of the matter is, however, that Miracle Merchant is a genuinely lovely game that challenges your problem-solving and timing abilities in a unique solitaire-esque card game.

    It also features some of the nicest hand-drawn art ever to grace mobile screens, and a incredibly gentle and forgiving nature that makes it remarkably easy to forget how long you've been playing for.

    Make mine a double

    The aim of Miracle Merchant is to combine four cards from four decks of different colours to form a specific potion type for customers in a store.

    It's a little tricky to explain, but in practice it's more about getting high scores, the right mixture of cards, and clever placement of the cards on the table.

    You'd expect this to be met with some kind of hard time limit, but there's none to be found - you can just take your time, consider your options, and make sure you do your best each time.

    It's wonderfully freeing to be able to sit back and weigh up your decisions in a puzzle game, and it gives you ample opportunity to soak in the gorgeous artwork which feels like it's straight out of Adventure Time.

    Miracle Merchant only takes up a few minutes of your time each game, and we would highly recommend freeing up some of your time to check it out.


  • Galaxy of Pen & Paper

    Galaxy of Pen & Paper logo

    It's rare that we talk about premium games on PocketGamer.biz, so when we do write about them, you should probably sit up and take notice.

    That's particularly the case with Galaxy of Pen & Paper, a new entry in the Knights of Pen & Paper series which takes the action to outer space.

    But while it rips the setting out and throws it lightyears away, it retains all the depth, intrigue, and fantastic writing of the series for a truly great game.

    Beam me up, Spotty

    If you didn't already know, Galaxy of Pen & Paper is about three nerd friends playing a tabletop RPG together, through the power of the Internet.

    You can customise your party and your GM before you get started, and then they whisk you away on a silly adventure around the cosmos while your players quip and moan their way through battles.

    The fights themselves are fairly straightfoward in execution, but to truly master the game you need to dig into all the menus and stats thrown at you and consider things like enemy order, backlines, and so on.

    It's all backed up by some wonderful writing, which is never cynical or self-deprecating, and instead uses its world and characters to create fun moments and raise smiles.

    Even if you're into into your RPGs, Galaxy of Pen & Paper is definitely worth checking out. If you don't mind the premium price point, of course.


  • WWE Tap Mania

    WWE Tap Mania logo

    Wrestling is not for everyone. Idle games are not for everyone. Really, when you think about it, a combination of the two seems destined to fail.

    Yet there's something about WWE Tap Mania that makes it enjoyable regardless of how you feel about either pasttime.

    Even if you couldn't give two hoots about Roman Reigns or whoever else is currently big, it's simple and fast-paced clicker action that you can quite easily sink a couple of hours into in one go quite by accident.

    The Big Show

    Gameplay-wise, WWE Tap Mania feels quite close to Seriously's Best Fiends Forever - you have a small team of wrestlers working their way through a series of stages, beating up everyone in your path and levelling up to deal more damage and unlock new skills.

    New fighters can be earned by opening card packs or by defeating them in combat, and you can add permanent stat increases to them through prestige points you earn from starting over.

    There's a surprising amount of depth and customisation overall, such as being given complete control over your own fighter's name and some of their physical attributes, and you can earn new outfits and accessories to throw on them.

    And, thankfully, its in-game economy isn't as completely insane as Sega's last idle game Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire, so you'll actually feel like you're getting something out of your investment into your wrestlers.


  • Snoopy Pop

    Snoopy Pop logo

    Sometimes it's the simpler things in life that bring the greatest amount of joy - its certainly the case of this week's Game of the Week.

    While there's a handful of other big name games out there, all filled with menus or impressive graphics or large-scale battles, Snoopy Pop's clean interface and simple gameplay is the title that has kept us most interested.

    It doesn't bring much new to the genre, but to be honest, it doesn't really need to - it knows what it is, and focuses on doing that to the absolute best of its ability.

    Kick the football, Charlie Brown

    Snoopy Pop uses the Snoopy license primarily for its aesthetic and characters, using bright and colourful colours with hand-drawn art to capture the feel of the world of Snoopy.

    In terms of gameplay, it's fairly straightforward stuff - shoot matching bubbles at the bubbles above to create huge chains and clear the screen, earning points as you go.

    There's some special moves to deploy and helpful boosters you can use on particuarly tricky levels, but for the most part it's just a test of your own trick-shot wizardry.

    And hey, it's nice gentle fun to pass the time with. It plays perfectly, it looks nice, and after a busy week, sometimes that's all you really need from a mobile game.


  • Siege: Titan Wars

    Siege: Titan Wars logo

    At this point in time, if you haven't played Clash Royale or a game which has been rather heavily inspired by it, you've probably not been playing mobile games at all.

    While Supercell's original title is still the cream of the crop, there are plenty of interesting (and sometimes even quite good) games which take the formula and do something a bit different with it.

    Such is the case with Siege: Titan Wars, a game which wears its influences proudly on its sleeve but twists the formula into even grander battles with a dark fantasy theme.

    Kill 'em all

    The main difference here is that units and spells are placed in different decks - there's no need to burn cards in your deck to get your actual army on the battleground.

    And you can summon hundreds of units at once, spamming the arena with low-cost units to create a seemingly unstoppable force of swords and bows.

    It's an impressive sight to behold, and while its core gameplay is still the same as Clash Royale and others, the sheer number of units onscreen somehow makes the experience that bit more exciting.

    It doesn't really do much else different - monetisation is the same, it's PvP only, there's clans - but the sheer scale of it is so mind-blowing that it's almost like playing a whole new game


  • Race Kings

    Race Kings logo

    Getting a racing game to work on mobile can sometimes be a tricky thing, which is no doubt why developers have started to steer clear of anything that actually resembles a traditional racing game.

    The likes of CSR and even Asphalt have moved onto rhythm-action style games focusing on driving superfast in a straight line, but there's always room for further experimentation.

    Which is no doubt why Hutch went down a totally different route with its game Race Kings, a beautiful, gloriously fun online racer that focuses entirely on drifting.

    Drifting along

    It's not all drifting - you still need to time your start perfectly, and accelerate towards each corner as fast as you can - but once you get to the bright yellow line on the floor, it's time to go sideways.

    It's a combination of hitting the handbrake at the perfect time, followed by teasing the gas pedal enough to keep your speedo hovering in the right area and then slamming down as you leave the corner to get a perfect exit.

    The controls start off a little tricky, but you get the hang of them very quickly indeed, and soon you'll be facing off against online opponents and winning fat stacks of cash.

    It's heavy on monetisation - there's an IAP for almost everything - but freeloaders can safely ignore all this in favour of pure racing enjoyment.

    And it is magnificent fun to play too, even when you're losing, not least because of its stellar visuals and attention to details on the cars.

    You should download it, is what we're saying.


  • Angry Birds Evolution

    Angry Birds Evolution logo

    Rovio has tried to make its own version of Mixi's Monster Strike on a number of occasions - there was the perpetually soft-launched Pet Monsters for one, and the movie tie-in Angry Birds Action! for another.

    But this time around, it looks like the developer is taking all the lessons it has learned from these games and poured them into a darker, more mature take on the avians that made it famous with Angry Birds Evolution.

    It's an interesting proposition, and one that works pretty well - it's fun, fairly straightforward, and a bold directon for its usually bright and colourful Angry Birds releases.

    Flying high

    Angry Birds Evolution has players slingshotting a team of titular birds at enemy pigs, with the overall goal of bouncing around the stage and killing everything in their path.

    There's all manner of factors to take into account in each level to determine how much damage you're going to do, and birds need to be levelled up to make sure they can keep dishing out pain on the annoying pigs.

    It's definitely Eastern-inspired - Rovio told us as much - and it wears its influences on its sleeve, but it still feels fresh and original, probably due to the new take on its well-established IP.

    But crucially, it's fun to play, and we're very interested in returning to it as soon as possible to see all that it has to offer in the long run.


  • Monument Valley 2

    Monument Valley 2 logo

    May God have mercy on the developers who had to face off against ustwo's surprise release of Monument Valley 2 this week.

    The original Monument Valley, an achingly beautiful puzzle game with only a handful of mechanics that literally twisted and turned as you played, is rightly regarded as one of the best mobile games ever made.

    And a sequel, especially so long after the original, was surely going to be as good, if not better, than its predecessor.

    Build me up

    Monument Valley 2 is, in essence more of the same - you need to work your way through intricate buildings, solving puzzles by sliding and turning blocks and levers until you get to the right door.

    Only now you'll ocassionally have a child in tow, who brings their own puzzles into the mix given you can't directly control her unless the game explicitly puts her in charge.

    But everything else is present and correct. Its architecture is still breathtaking, its puzzles are a fine blend of simple and fiendish, and once it all clicks in your head, the satisfaction of solving a level is like nothing else.

    Mobile gamers may baulk at the cost - $4.99 is still considered pricey even as the market matures - but it is honestly worth every penny.


  • Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire

    Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire logo

    For some of us, Crazy Taxi will always hold a special place in our hearts, a blisteringly fast racing game set in an open world that littered arcades, blaring out The Offspring's All I Want on repeat for hours.

    Nothing will ever recapture the feeling of the original game - not its sequels, nor its ports - and spin-off versions, while they use the same tone, never quite match the experience.

    Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire just about gets it - for one, All I Want has finally made a triumphant return to the soundtrack - and it's managed to bottle the feeling into a strange little clicker to boot.

    Time to make some ker-azy money!

    Gazillionaire has players building up a fleet of cabs, occasionally tapping the screen to pick up fares and access rewards that float by in enormous golden blimps.

    It takes a unique approach to upgrades, with your earnings largely to your drivers and their skill levels rather than the level of their car, which can make for slow going at the start but ultimately works out OK once you have a decent crew.

    And it is full to the brim with rewarded video ads, each adding huge advantages, meaning you'll be more than happy to sit through about twenty in a session and keep playing.

    It's loud and silly and stupid, which is exactly what Crazy Taxi should be, and it gives you heaps of cash and plenty of reasons to keep playing, as a good clicker should do.


  • Zombie Gunship Survival

    Zombie Gunship Survival logo

    In a week that's seen a staggering number of remarkably good games on mobile, Zombie Gunship Survival somehow manages to stand out from the pack.

    Announced almost two years ago, it's a free-to-play version of Limbic Software's zombie killing series, this time published by flaregames.

    And what that means for this entry in the series is that it's tightly-monetised, incredibly well-designed, and a ton of fun to boot.

    Raining blood

    The objective in Zombie Gunship Survival is to protect your ground troops from an endless horde of the shambling undead using the almighty power of an AC-130 gunship.

    This setting lends itself to an interesting presentation style, which shows a slowly rotating isometric view of the land through a night-vision camera on a slightly wonky TV screen.

    The whole effect is stunning, and also manages to somehow make what is actually an extreme level of violence somehow palatable.

    Missions typically involve your troops raiding an area for loot, giving you a tangible sense of progression and completion with immediate rewards to keep you interested.

    You also earn crates that slowly unlock and there's some rewarding IAPs to pick up - our IAP Inspector has already given the game a passing grade.

    All in all, Zombie Gunship Survival is just a superb package, that's plenty of fun to play and offers a range of incentives to keep you going.

    Honourable Mentions

    Magikarp Jump (The Pokemon Company)

    Prison Architect: Mobile (Paradox Interactive/Tag Games)

    PES 2017 -Pro Evolution Soccer- (Konami)


  • Built for Speed

    Built for Speed logo

    There's something unmistakebly charming about Built for Speed's graphics that make it instantly endearing to just about anyone looking for a new racing game to play.

    A mix of 2D and 3D pixel-art, the game is bright, colourful, and eye-catching in a way that somehow feels unique for the racing genre.

    But it's not just a treat for the eyes - Built for Speed is also a very good, very fun game to play, and one that perfectly fits mobile.

    Pedal to the metal

    One of the main draws is that its races are super-short - you can usually finish a three-lap race in less than a minute, making it perfect for when you've only got a short break to fill.

    And the gameplay focuses more on flailing around drifting than it does intricate driving, with simple controls that make the action easy to take part in and remove any frustration you might experience from having such little control over your motor.

    It's also ad-free, aside from rewarded video ads that provide an additive experience, offering you additional bonuses upon winning rather than a consolation prize if you lose.

    Overall, Built for Speed may got lost in the usual flood of weekly releases, but it doesn't deserve to - it's a wonderful little game that's very much deserving of your time.


  • Injustice 2

    Injustice 2 logo

    Injustice isn't a game with a particularly sophisticated concept.

    It's little more than an excuse to have DC heroes and villains beating each other up in a Mortal Kombat style, but let's be honest: who could ask for more than that?

    And like the original game back in 2013, a free-to-play mobile version of Injustice 2 has launched just prior to the console release.

    Team-up

    This one's a solid mobile scrapper, the main difference being that bouts are three vs. three affairs. Predictably, there's also a gacha system for grabbing new heroes and bolstering your roster.

    The control system doesn't feel quite as slick and intuitive as those seen in Marvel: Contest of Champions and Transformers: Forged to Fight, but there are some neat special moves - particularly Harley Quinn's explosive cupcake - and switching between iconic DC characters on the fly is certainly satisfying.

    More broadly, it's good to see console publishers taking mobile seriously and having a multiplatform strategy for its titles that acknowledges and respects it.


  • Battle Bay

    Battle Bay logo

    Let's be honest - there were a few of us here at PocketGamer.biz that never truly believed Rovio's midcore game Battle Bay would actually launch.

    Originally soft-launched back in March 2016, the longer it dragged out its test period, the more certain we became that it would never actually reach the app stores.

    So when a launch date was actually revealed, we eyed its release with curiosity - how had Rovio spent all that time? And would the game be any good?

    Short answer: yes, yes it is.

    Thar she blows

    Battle Bay is all about sailing around and blowing up your opponents, in short bursts of 5v5 PvP matches.

    Quick wits and patience are required to make sure your cannons will actually hit - along with a heavy amount of upgrading and buying new weapons, of course.

    But even when you're just starting out, the core gameplay is a lot of fun and wonderfully tense, as you slowly float past your opponents praying you reload faster than they can get a shot off.

    It's also reasonable with its monetisation from a consumer viewpoint - our IAP Inspector has already given it a passing grade, saying it "has the monetisation framework to be very successful indeed".

    And it just goes to show that Rovio can move away from the birds it knows so well and still make an interesting and fun game.


  • Star Wars: Puzzle Droids

    Star Wars: Puzzle Droids logo

    A pairing of mobile gaming's most overused IP and genre, it was hard to get excited about match-three puzzler Star Wars: Puzzle Droids when it was first announced

    However, Spanish developer Genera Games has defied expectations by launching a polished title that feels every inch a Star Wars game, while also holding its own in the crowded match-three space.

    For the most part, it's a relatively familiar experience. Each stage comes with an objective to complete - often to match a certain number of specific tiles - with all the special tiles and explosive chain-reactions you'd expect from a modern match-three game.

    Going beyond

    But there's also a 3D backdrop to each as you progress through areas from the film and stages that nod to specific characters and scenes.

    Some aim to simply capture a mood, while others represent more specific moments or battles from The Force Awakens - and some unseen ones - from BB-8's perspective.

    The fear with this kind of game is that the IP is nothing more than a cheap skin atop the game, but that's clearly not the case here.

    Puzzle Droids may be a different beast to the likes of Galaxy of Heroes or Force Arena, but it's a considered take on the franchise in its own right.


  • Nonstop Chuck Norris

    Nonstop Chuck Norris logo

    There are some of us at PocketGamer.biz who still play the Kopla Games' Nonstop Knight on an almost daily basis - an impressive feat given the number of new titles we check out on a daily basis.

    Its mix of RPG elements and idle gameplay makes it simply too easy to leave running while doing other things, and checking in quickly to pick up your rewards is painless and fun.

    So when we heard there was a new version coming out, now starring actor-turned-meme Chuck Norris, our interest was definitely piqued.

    And here we are, with Nonstop Chuck Norris now at our fingertips, and delivering that same Nonstop Knight goodness we enjoy so much.

    Nonstop Texas Ranger

    It is, in essence, a reskin of Nonstop Knight - the gameplay is identical to the former game's latest version, meaning you're getting the best experience available, but it's nothing new for previous players.

    What is new is a ridiculous style of humour, filled with one-liners and daft meme-related jokes to appease a younger audience, as well as new environments, weapons, gear, and enemies to beat up.

    It still relies on rewarded video ads over IAP, but is unobtrusive with both - our IAP Inspector has already given it a passing grade for its approach to monetisation.

    And really, when you need a silly game to have by your side through another long day of work, there's little else that beats the idle-RPG formula set out by Kopla Games in the first Nonstop game.


  • Full of Stars

    Full of Stars logo

    A week devoid of major releases can be a week in which smaller games have their time to shine, and this time around the App Store has been blessed with one particular title.

    Originally a Big Indie Pitch winner, ATGames's Full of Stars is a narrative-driven game that draws a fine line between platformer and shoot-em-up.

    Most of your time in the game is spent dodging asteroids and collecting iridium to power up your warp drives and weapons, both of which help you avoid dying too quickly.

    And the rest of the time you'll be navigating conversations, trying to use your guile (and sometimes premium currency) to navigate tricky situations.

    She cannae take anymore!

    What makes it especially interesting is the level of consequence in the game - it's not just currency and time you lose from crashing, but people too.

    Knock an asteroid and you'll be forced to stop and repair your ship, during which time your crew can mutiny or riot, and all you can do is watch.

    If you have the currency, you can avert disaster, but if you're being frugal or simply don't have the coin, you have to essentially flip a coin on whether ten people are going to die or not.

    It's a surprisingly vicious system, and one that elevates Full of Stars to a level of maturity and emotional depth rarely found on mobile.


  • Transformers: Forged to Fight

    Transformers: Forged to Fight logo

    Kabam has had a somewhat troubled few months, what with its acquistion by Netmarble, its shutting down of games, and the fact that a bunch of its staff left to form a new studio.

    Still, those that remained needed to keep on making games, and they had Transformers: Forged to Fight already in soft launch, so why not keep working on that?

    That's what the remnants of Kabam have done, and we're grateful they have - it's a marvellous, beautiful, and incredibly fun game that deserves its global launch.

    In a similar vein to Kabam's Marvel: Contest of ChampionsForged to Fight has you taking a squad of licensed characters into frantic brawls against heroes and villains alike.

    Unlike its predecessor, however, Forged to Fight takes place on 3D battlefields, allowing you to dodge and sidestep around the place to give you a better advantage over your opponent.

    Roll out

    You can also transform into your 'bots vehicle to deliver huge damage to the enemy, and use ranged attacks to keep dealing punishment from afar.

    On paper it sounds fairly standard, but in practice it's a fluid and enjoyable experience that is incredibly difficult to put down once you get going.

    It's also clearly been designed for power players too - there's a ton of monetisation in here for summoning bots, energy, mods, and just about anything else you need to progress.

    But it seems generous enough with its free stuff, and the gameplay is just so darn fun, so at the end of the day, who even cares?


  • Dynasty Warriors: Unleashed

    Dynasty Warriors: Unleashed logo

    There are some of us at PocketGamer.biz who absolutely love the simple pleasures of beating the smack out of several thousand people in a video game.

    The musou genre, almost entirely populated by Dynasty Warriors and its endless spin-offs, is the perfect example of this, but it often gets poorly-represented on mobile.

    Well, no longer. Dynasty Warriors: Unleashed is finally the perfect musou game designed for a smaller screen, with huge battles, ridiculous attacks, and diabolical voice acting all present and correct.

    Smash it up

    The objective of each battle is very simple - kill everyone in your path (usually about 100 enemies at once) and then defeat the boss.

    It's not quite the console version, but the smaller arenas, short play sessions, and stripped-back attack system is absolutely perfect for a mobile device.

    Even better is the addition of Auto and Auto+ modes, allowing you to sit back and watch the action, and set how much control you want over which attacks are used.

    It's got all the usual F2P trappings - levelling up, combining equipment, gacha, energy systems - but it's relatively unintrusive if you just want to focus on smacking up enemy soldiers.

    And it just feels like a Dynasty Warriors game, with cheesy cut-scenes, hair metal, and bad, bad voice acting. It's heaven for musou fans who want to take the action on the move.


  • The Elder Scrolls: Legends

    The Elder Scrolls: Legends logo

    With everyone and their dog jumping on the CCG craze after Hearthstone's continued success, it can be hard to get excited about any particular license getting in on the action.

    That said, when RPG behemoth Bethesda gets involved with the The Elder Scrolls franchise, people are almost certainly going to take notice.

    And they should too - The Elder Scrolls: Legends isn't just a Hearthstone clone, but a clever and deep CCG which adds a lot to the genre without drifting too far from it entirely.

    The main change here is that the game board is divided into two lanes, meaning you'll have to attack and defend on two fronts instead of just going all out in one area.

    Divide and conquer

    Lanes can have different status effects that hide your creatures, so you'll need to pay attention to what's going on instead of just blindly throwing cards down.

    And there's other little tweaks here and there, like drawing a card each time you take 5 damage, and new card attributes like Prophecies that can give you an advantage in dark times.

    What's interesting is that Bethesda has forgone currency entirely, with card packs costing real money straight-up instead of purchasing gems or what have you.

    It's also got a darker theme than the bright colours and fun times of Hearthstone, which may be off-putting to some, but works in the game's universe.

    But most of all, it's got all the tension and intrigue of a CCG, and it's sure to be a huge timesink for anyone interested in playing cards with others.


  • Bit City

    Bit City logo

    Apple's recent indie games event on the App Store was an exciting time - a new game every day, even on weekends, all from top-class indie developers.

    So when it turned out that NimbleBit was getting involved with a new title, Bit City, we got very, very interested indeed.

    And what a delightful game it ended up being.

    A mix of city-builder and idle clicker, Bit City has you placing buildings down in ever-growing towns to generate cold, hard cash and build up to the next location.

    Build me up

    You have to balance out your different types of buildings to keep demand for them from dropping, and you need to level up various stats to keep the money rolling in.

    And then there's transport to purchase that generate additional funds, and give you bonuses for tapping them every so often, keeping you from just leaving the game to idle forever.

    But even better is that it takes a page out of gold-standard clicker Egg, Inc, with a remarkably similar monetisation model.

    There's a piggy bank that increases how much premium currency you can gain every time you upgrade a skill, letting you set your own limit as to when you want to make an IAP.

    Its a lovely model wrapped up in a gorgeous, engrossing game - one that we've been unable to put down this entire week.


  • Dashy Crashy Turbo

    Dashy Crashy Turbo logo

    Originally launched in December 2015, Dashy Crashy saw such a massive overhaul in its monetisation design and aspects of its gameplay that it's now being relaunched with Turbo suffixed to its title.

    A new name isn't the only big change - there's also a new car rental system to give you a chance to try out any of the cars available, and crucially, there's no more interstitial ads.

    But the core mechanics remain largely unchanged - you're driving straight down a traffic-filled highway, weaving between lanes to dodge other cars.

    Swiping up gives you a speed boost and makes things harder, but rewards you with more points, and the slightest collision leads to your untimely demise.

    Life was a bore

    Do well and you'll unlock new cars to play with, or you can now watch an ad to try out any of the game's cars for a few rounds.

    Each car now has its own different bonus attached - an ice-cream truck allows you to throw out ice cream cones to other drivers, or the auto-car will drive for you if you don't mind not earning any points.

    But its the game's bright colours, short sessions, and general fun atmosphere that keeps it the thoroughly enjoyable experience it always was.


  • Heart Star

    Heart Star logo

    It can be nice to have a relatively quiet week on the App Store, since it allows a smaller game that might otherwise get drowned out the chance to shine.

    In this week's case, it's Jussi Simpanen's Heart Star, a title that started life as a Flash game and has now made its way to iOS.

    It's a cutesy pixel-art platformer about two friends who have to help each other reach the end of the level, jumping on platforms and dodging spikes as they go.

    The twist is that these friends exist in different worlds, so you'll need to switch and phase through walls that don't exist on one character's world to progress.

    Catch me

    This means making precision jumps and carrying each other around to dodge the various obstacles in your path, which makes for some incredibly clever and tricky puzzles.

    It also handles beautifully - while a lot of games with virtual controls seem to fall flat, Simpanen's controls are always perfectly designed to make controlling characters a breeze.

    It is guilty of using huge interstitials every few levels or deaths, which can be annoying, but is ultimately one of the better ways to monetise this kind of game.

    And most of all, it's a lot of fun. Heart Star may not be the biggest game of the year, but it's not one you should miss out on.


  • Fire Emblem Heroes

    Fire Emblem Heroes logo

    Say what you will about Nintendo's first few attempts at mobile games - it's still exciting when a new game of theirs launches.

    Miitomo may have dropped off the global conciousness in a matter of weeks, and Super Mario Run has angered fans with its relatively steep price tag, but it's still early days on the platform for the company.

    So when we heard Fire Emblem Heroes was going to be a traditional free-to-play title, complete with gacha, energy meters, and the like, our interest was piqued.

    And knowing that the series is famed for its strategy-RPG stylings - not something Nintendo would strip away from it, surely - it was destined to be a solid game no matter what.

    Heroes of time

    And what do you know, Fire Emblem Heroes is actually a really, genuinely good game.

    It plays out through bite-sized turn-based skirmishes, with a team of four heroes at your disposal to move around the map and take down the enemy.

    Its monetisation is light, its premium currency is plentiful, and aside from some early network hiccups, it's an incredibly smooth and polished experience.

    If it gets its hooks into players as well as it has us, Fire Emblem Heroes could be around for a very long time indeed.


  • WWE Champions

    WWE Champions logo

    When we say WWE Champions was in soft launch for a long time, we mean a long time - 13 months isn't exactly to be sniffed at.

    And while debates raged about whether the game would actually see the light of day or not, it did continue to receive regular updates and new pieces of content as development wore on.

    We finally heard about its release date when Scopely quietly muttered about its upcoming launch at Pocket Gamer Connects London 2017, a full year after it had been soft-launched.

    And now it's available, and we find ourselves asking, was it worth the wait?

    Not quite stone cold

    Yes, is the answer - though its probably not to everyone's tastes.

    Played like a match-3 puzzler, it's part casual game, part RPG, and complete with real-life wrestlers and their moves to satisfy the wrestling nuts out there.

    It's simple to play and easy enough to lose yourself in for a good half an hour at a time, and thanks to a forgiving energy system and early generosity, you might find yourself getting sucked in.

    How the game survives will be another question, but with promised live ops including the ability to play real-life match-ups after the event, and new wrestlers to be added in the future, there should be plenty of fun times ahead for those who stick around.


  • Super Mario Run

    Super Mario Run logo

    To say Nintendo's foray into the mobile world in 2016 has been a success is something of an understatement.

    Miitomo may have been fun for just a day, but it got the world excited and talking about what the future for Nintendo could be - and made sure everyone had a Nintendo Account ahead of the next releases.

    And Pokemon GO has been a runaway success, genereating hundreds of millions in revenue and holding on to users several months down the line - although Nintendo didn't really have anything to do with it.

    But as the year draws to a close, the Mario factory has finally brought its biggest star to the platform, and in a move that everyone saw coming, Super Mario Run is absolutely brilliant.

    It's-a-me!

    While some couldn't fathom how Mario would survive in an endless-runner, Nintendo has once again proven that it can take any technology and make something fun with it.

    It feels and plays exactly like a Mario game, even though you have no control on your direction of travel, and it has all the social mobile trappings it needs to help it survive.

    And while some may cry foul at the $9.99 price tag - accompanied by only 24 levels that take less than 2 hours to complete - it's a game that will surprise those willing to take the plunge with its many hidden depths.

    How big a success it will be in the long-term is yet to be seen, but it does prove that Nintendo still knows how to make a great game, even if it's not on its own platform.


Comments

17 comments
View options
  • Order by latest to oldest
  • Order by oldest to latest
  • Show all replies
Takeme Fromhere developer part time at kativiti.com
im proud to know the author and i must say hes a brilliant platformed.
i was happy when he help me in my game.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kativiti.fugitivodasenzala
Jesse Conlon Gamer at Berryio
Such a great game! I love the plot and its character, will definitely play this later after playing blog.secretslots.com. Can't wait!
Jesse Conlon Gamer at Berryio
Such a great game! I love the plot and its character, will definitely play this later after playing secretslots.com. Can't wait!
Jesse Conlon Gamer at Berryio
Such a great game! I love the plot and its character, will definitely play this later after playing Secretslots. Can't wait!
Ankit Shrimali Digital Marketing Executive at Inkcadre Technosoft PVT LTD
check out the best and fast chess game "Royal 3D Chess" by inkcadre.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.inkcadre.chess&hl=en
sampathkumar
check out this new game on android super scope 6 classic intercept
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.twistersstudio.rise
Teut Weidemann
I lolled: "Battlejack, is very exciting indeed, and nothing like anything we've played before."
Yes, it is a polished experience but everything in this game, nearly everything is copy/paste from other games. Well done indeed, but maybe the staff of Pocketgamer didn't play Puzzle&Dragons, Best Fiends, Summoners War, Clash Royale?
Gaming Unicorn Marketing Director
It's a polished game, and it has a nice core loop, but for fans of the series, Intelligent Systems has done the equivalent of turning chess into checkers. There is no perma-death. If you fail a stage, you can pay to continue - making the product pay-to-win. The small map and limited number of characters you can control in battle make the experience more about the stats of your cards than your strategic skills. Gacha is less consumer friendly and far lower value than the novel solution 3DS provided for Fire Emblem Fates: buying an Amiibo of a legendary character (like Marth), which you can scan in, battle, and add to your team. FE Heroes also requires an internet connection, which makes it vulnerable to sunsetting. It's a real Fire Emblem game, but it's also a series low point - the "Superman IV" or "Phantom Menace" of the series.
Rejane Balisi
This game is really cool , i love the characters.Never before i play mobile game again then i discover this WWE Champions and Arcadia Phantasm https://t.co/ObjJQmkjj9 .

Mathieu Castelli C4M Productions
I find the squad controls clumsy.
I also find the battle end zoom on 'vibrating' troops around the giant not on par with the production value, strange to zoom on a defect probably due to pathfinding/positioning.
Mathieu Castelli C4M Productions
This comment was for Dawn of Titans.
This thread is attached to changing games which is a bit weird...
Greg Quinn CEO/Lead Developer at Meltdown Interactive Media
Yeah, it is a bit weird.
Gaming Unicorn Marketing Director
When CSR2 hit the market, it looked like Natural Motion might become part of a new wave of developers embracing transparency in pricing. The game's base currencies were not offset from real dollar value: 300 gold coins cost $3.00, 500 gold coins cost $5.00, and gacha could be skipped entirely in favor of directly purchasing cars. Better still, currency pack prices did not exceed $9.99. This was an evolutionary step forward, which left me excited to see how they managed pricing on their next game, Dawn of Titans. Well, it's out, and it's a massive step backwards. Offset currency is all they offer, and that indefensible $99.99 IAP bundle has reared its ugly head, too. It's sad, because I know this one has been in development for a long time... but the monetization model leaves me unwilling to even give it a download.
TitanBrawl
Thank you all for your comments!
Here's the team behing Titan Brawl:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiPBArp1Aa8
Jak Marshall Games Analyst
This game is gorgeous to play, no doubt about that.

Being able to play this game and maintain a sense of progression from session to session as you complete the checkpoints is somewhat tempting. I'll be keen to see quite how many casual consumers agree with that notion. We're in uncertain territory. I've never seen a game charge the player to have a save file!
Min Zhang
This game has really high production values.
The gameplay is a pretty innovative take on card battling.
The energy and monetization has some weird asian influenced stuff going on though. It will be interesting to see if the game can be successful long term.
Jennifer Bradshaw Data Analyst at DHXMedia
Thank you VERY much for having the option to toggle a one-page view instead of a slideshow! Those annoy me to no end.
Important information

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. By continuing to use our site, you consent to Steel Media's privacy policy.

Steel Media websites use two types of cookie: (1) those that enable the site to function and perform as required; and (2) analytical cookies which anonymously track visitors only while using the site. If you are not happy with this use of these cookies please review our Privacy Policy to learn how they can be disabled. By disabling cookies some features of the site will not work.