Of 2015: The Mobile Games
Bad as my eyes are these days I did play some actual mobile games in 2015. Most of them were free, only a couple were on my phone and some were barely games at all. In the course of dilly-dallying on this post I also came up with these crude ASCII symbols for each handheld so enjoy those as well.
Early in the year I finally hopped on the crazy hype wagon for Crossy Road. Sure enough, it was a fun Frogger-like with voxel graphics and a bunch of goofy skins. Quick and fun and sometimes infuriating, I poked at it for a few months. Much, much later I happened upon Horizon Chase thanks to digging up news for OSV. It excels as an update and homage to classics like Top Gear and they even pulled in Barry Leitch, the original composer, to revisit the music. It’s fabulous looking, fast and fun to play but I think I’m going to hold out for the upcoming PS4 release to really dive in.
Honorable mentions go to Tori Watch and Neko Atsume!. Both are similarly peculiar Japanese phone “games” that simulate sitting outdoors and waiting for birds and cats, respectively, to wander into your yard. There isn’t much that you really do but they were both cute and free and very, very Japanese-y.
Thanks to PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Mobile, the Vita continued to get frequent use through the first part of the year. OlliOlli 2 brought more 2D twitch skateboarding but even though it’s vastly improved from the original it didn’t grab me as strongly. The same month, Flame Over debuted exclusively on the Vita and I spent a few weeks throwing myself against its challenging mashup of firefighting and roguelikes. I’ve since picked it up on Steam where I enjoy it much more but I was happy to support the game early on.
Finally was Oh Deer! Alpha which has the distinction of only being available to buy for a few short weeks. It was one of the last releases to Sony’s Android-powered PlayStation Mobile marketplace which was home to all kinds of cheap, knock-off, and illicit apps and games over the years. As an alpha, Oh Deer! is a basic game, one that apes the art and gameplay of OutRun but replaces the Ferrari with a station wagon and traffic with deer. Lots and lots of deer waiting to be mowed down or avoided. It’s up to you and the game’s music — marking a return to the scene for Motohiro Kawashima — changes in intensity depending on how you play. I’m still hoping it becomes a full game some day.
Serving as experiments in Free-to-Start design, and to tide people over until a proper sequel, Nintendo went nuts with free Pokemon games in 2015. I skipped Pokemon Picross because I will never understand picross in a way that makes me feel good playing it. Instead I kept up with Pokemon Shuffle and Pokemon Rumble World for a while.
Pokemon Shuffle is an oddball matching puzzle game with almost no rules and a lot of grinding if you want to catch and train all the ‘mon. On the game board you can move pieces just about any which way to make matches while daily energy limits introduce the “challenge”. Without paying real money there are few Pokemon you can catch so I just poked at its fun and colorful fringes before bed for a while.
Pokemon Rumble World is a Free-to-Start iteration of Nintendo’s long running but mostly overlooked Pokemon action series. It’s a little like Dynasty Warriors in that the fun comes from demolishing hordes of simple-minded fodder on the way to slightly tougher boss battles. I was hoping this would be the Rumble game I finally got into but I ditched it even before grinding up against its microtransaction wall.
Finally is Nintendo Badge Arcade which I’ve somehow spent the most time with. It’s simply a nefarious arcade claw game that desperately wants you to pump real money into it for a chance to grab Nintendo branded trinkets. You then stick these badges on your 3DS Home screen… to look at. That’s it. I have more to say in my Dailies of 2015 post but I’ll sum it up again here: it’s so well designed that it makes you feel great even when you’re scamming it for free plays every day.