GameCentral takes a look at the month’s most interesting mobile games, including a new Tomb Raider game and a fun Vampire Survivors clone.
The games industry is usually awash in sequels, but this month is mobile gaming’s unofficial Attack of the Clones, with touchscreen releases including Lara Croft-meets-Archero Tomb Raider Reloaded, Vampire Survivors-inspired Ultra Blade, Space Marshals-alike Dust & Neon, and Forward: Escape The Fold, which does a little light borrowing from Card Thief.
iOS, £1.99 (Hideki Hanida)
Eisen is a mech combat game that despite being on a very small screen, delivers a real sense of weight and solidity to your stomping battle machine and its outgoing ordnance.
It’s a fairly simplistic set-up, with waves of enemy robots emerging from the fog around you, while you pick them off with an endless stream of fire, pausing to install and upgrade weapons systems as you gain XP.
You get better as you practise, so there absolutely is skill involved; however, without a high score table, leaderboard, or any sense of progress it’s one decent update away from being a cracking game.
iOS, Apple Arcade subscription (Apple)
Originally released in 2015, the Apple Arcade version of Lifeline is unaltered, still casting you as a guide for Taylor, a science intern on a spaceship who’s now survivor of a catastrophic crash landing on an unknown moon.
Your communications are in real-time, so after each piece of advice you offer there’s often a break of a few minutes or a couple of hours until Taylor is ready to chat again.
Conversation is witty and naturalistic, even if Taylor’s habit of sending alerts for every single phrase he utters can rapidly become an irritant rather than a draw.
Tomb Raider Reloaded
iOS, free (CDE Entertainment)
Tiny cartoon Lara Croft is back in this thinly veiled clone of Archero. Borrowing all of that game’s mechanics, you’ll be dragging a virtual joystick to move and pausing to let Lara autofire at the nearest enemy.
In between rounds you’ll need to upgrade your outfit and equipment, as well as craft duplicate kit in order to merge it for higher level upgrades.
Unfortunately, unlike Archero, it’s mind-numbingly dull and lacks any sort of compelling reason to continue drowning in its multiple currencies and lacklustre, microscopically incremental upgrade paths. There’s a genuinely free Netflix version that removes all the microtransactions, but it’s equally tedious.
iOS, free (Century Games)
In the frozen wastes of the post-apocalypse, your village of cute little survivors needs nurturing. That means building shelter, a place to cook, a sawmill, mines, and a furnace to keep the place warm.
You’ll also need heroes to explore the land and keep the peace, and a continual series of upgrades to remain competitive as the cold creeps in and your population grows.
What ensues is a ruthless waiting simulator, where you’re told what to upgrade next before being forced to wait increasingly long times for the process to finish, while the game relentlessly sells ways of bypassing the inactivity. Ironic given that waiting is the entire substance of the game.
Forward: Escape The Fold
iOS, £1.99 (Christophe Coyard)
Sharing a few gameplay elements with the excellent Card Thief, this is a card-based adventure in which your dungeon plundering escapades are played across three lanes of cards.
Defeat monsters, cast spells, drink potions, get poisoned, and defeat a boss before moving on to the next level, and hopefully eventually unlocking a new hero with fresh abilities.
It’s got a really nice flow to it that gets more noticeable as you start to know the cards and what they do, which is handy as it also gets quite a bit trickier as you progress.
iOS, £2.99 (Foolish Mortal Studios)
Guide your Blade – a pixellated supernatural warrior – around the screen, hacking at hordes of incoming mobs by moving towards them, or tapping the screen to unleash a power attack.
It plays much like Vampire Survivors, in that you collect power-ups that can themselves be levelled up further as you face tougher and tougher waves of enemies that arrive from all angles.
Sometimes its pixel art graphics and relatively modest frame rate can make it hard to figure out what hit you, but its roguelite cycle of upgrades and unlocks soon exerts a powerful, benign addiction.
Dust & Neon
iOS, Netflix subscription (Netflix)
Netflix’s very own Space Marshalls rip-off has both the same sci-fi Western setting as its inspiration and the same shooting interface, where you drag your finger in the direction you want to shoot and then let go to fire.
In attempting to differentiate itself, Dust & Neon grafts on a roguelite meta-game, so when you die you lose all three of your hard-earned guns, but keep your measly, incremental power-ups, forcing you to start looting or re-buying for your next run.
A bigger issue is that its three mission types – Kill the Targets, Kill All Enemies, Destroy Objectives – swiftly become routine. It also lacks variety in its terrain, making the lengthy ongoing grind somewhat dull.
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