It’s always exciting to see a fully-fledged game release available on your mobile device’s marketplace, especially if it is a port of the game you’ve enjoyed on PC throughout the last couple of years. There’s something remarkable about being able to play a PC release in the palm of your hand, even more so if there was no downgrade in the process. Life is Strange marks one of these rare cases where the mobile port is so good, I may never go back to the PC version, as the platform is more adept to play action-heavy games on. If I want to relax and game on my phone, Life is Strange offers a compelling story-rich experience that will be engaging throughout long stretches of time. With fluid controls, excellent graphics and rewarding story content, Life is Strange arrives on Android in shining colors, and delivers the quality few mobile titles can match. And the fact that it’s one of the best episodic adventure games on the PC and consoles makes it even even more sweet.
Note: this is not a full-feature review but my impressions with the Android port of the game, which released a few months ago.
At BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard unveiled a little surprise for mobile gamers by announcing an online action RPG Diablo Immortal. It’s set in between Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction and the third main title, and will come to both iOS and Android platforms. There’s a trailer to go along with it, and the game’s webpage offers the ability to pre-register already.
Diablo Immortal is being developed from the ground up for mobile devices, and will make the most out of touchscreen controls. We could certainly benefit from another high-profile aRPG on the platform, and the format has shown to integrate well into mobile controls. Players can expect to find a lot of the same features introduced in Diablo 3, including full multiplayer support and co-op quests. Immortal even has a lot of resemblance to the third title’s graphics.
The game’s trailer showcases some impressive graphics and visual design, and looks almost on par with the bigger Diablo releases. Immortal looks to control smoothly, with an easy touchscreen layout and directional movement. Players will battle hundreds of demons on their adventure, and can choose to do so alone or co-operatively. With six familiar classes to choose from, Diablo fans will have an absolute blast playing this on their mobile devices.
Diablo Immortal is certainly a departure for the series, and an unexpected spin-off, but everything shown in the trailer looks promising, and I can’t wait to be able to check it out. The final release date hasn’t been announced yet, but will likely happen sometime early 2019. For now, there’s cinematic and gameplay trailers to check out:
Fall tends to be a good time for video game releases, and the mobile market is not an exception. Ubisoft have added a surprising hit to their Assassin’s Creed franchise with the recently released Rebellion title, which is unexpected after the disappointing Identity. Rebellion not only stands out as a much better title, but also does so in the least expected format possible that brings a strong game design to the table. Presented as a side scroller, Assassin’s Creed: Rebellion is a free-to-play title that you might overlook because of its visual design, but it packs in extensive depth to make for an interesting experience. I never expected to like its cartoonish graphics style, nor the way it presents the experience, but Rebellion grows on you after a few play sessions. Among the spin-offs, this is easily the best Assassin’s Creed game I’ve played, and the 2D design works surprisingly well here. Despite its free price tag, Rebellion packs in a lot of high quality features to like, and leaves little to be disappointed in, although expect to see common features found in free mobile titles.
The lack of open world releases on mobile platforms has created a considerable gap in the genre ready to be filled by an exciting new release to break up the stale market. Gameloft’s Gangstar series has long served up competition to numerous Grand Theft Auto ports on mobile, and while it sadly isn’t a better franchise, it stood out well with its unique settings. Gangstar: New Orleans brings the franchise to the next level of quality, offering an exciting open world mayhem at a free download price. It isn’t without faults, but considerably improves on its predecessor, and New Orleans captures the essential fun of a crime city sandbox. With plenty of activities to offer, it works pretty well, although the free to play design drags the game down somewhat. It’s still a solid experience, you just wouldn’t find the same level of quality as the numerous Grand Theft Auto games. At the free price though, Gangstar: New Orleans is certainly worth a try, and packs a lot of features into its open world to offer a compelling experience.
Ridge Racer: Slipstream perfectly recaptures the feel of once venerable arcade racing series on the PlayStation, known for high-speed races, intense powerslides and pumping techno music. It reminds me of playing Ridge Racer on the PSP handheld many years ago, and then its follow-up Ridge Racer 2, although on a much smaller scale. The series seemingly dropped off the gaming market after the sweet but cold-received Unbounded didn’t ignite enthusiasm in the series for many long time fans . If you desperately missed the series, however, Bandai Namco dropped a free-to-play mobile spin-off Slipstream, which by now is a few years old itself. That isn’t to say this Ridge Racer isn’t worth coming back to; with only few missteps, it takes place among the best arcade racers on mobile, right up there with the recently released Asphalt 9: Legends. Whether it be an extensive career mode, feel of the game’s arcade racing or bright colorful visuals, there is a lot to like in Ridge Racer: Slipstream, even if it makes some errors along the way.
Asphalt 9: Legends doesn’t quite take off into the air like its predecessor, but reaches new heights thanks to outstanding gameplay and bright visual design. An experience that largely iterates on what Asphalt 8: Airborne built up, the ninth instalment improves on progression and gameplay in meaningful ways that make it one of the best racers on mobile. While it can’t quite escape the various tropes of free-to-play gaming, these are minor complaints in the face of all features available, and progress never halts to a complete stop. What you get here is a streamlined racer with expansive variety and features that send it into the rank of legends, all available at absolutely no cost.
It’s hard to understand why EA can’t just kill its Command & Conquer series at this point, as any attempts to revive the classic spirit of the franchise died in the eyes of fans. The last successful entry in the franchise was Red Alert 3, which happened around a decade ago. Yet this year EA decided to bring back the name of this once venerable series, with a mobile spin-off that no one was really asking for. This is a first look at Command & Conquer: Rivals – a 1v1 strategy game now available on iOS and Android in a pre-alpha release.
Critically acclaimed adventure game Life is Strange finally arrives on Android devices, available through Google Play. Launched for PC and consoles back in 2015, the episodic title features emotion-gripping story and many high-stakes set-pieces woven in between character interaction and exploration. Its simple interactive gameplay model meant a mobile port might end up coming out at some point, which it did by landing on the iOS Appstore last year. Android users can now also enjoy the game on their phones and tablets, with all five episodes available upon release.
Life is Strange is available as a free download, giving players access to the full first episode. Consider it a demo of sorts, offering an opportunity to see how the game plays before subsequent episodes. The remaining four can be purchased either separately or as a season pass, at least based on the pricing model from the iOS Appstore. It would be foolish to change the pricing model, and Square Enix will probably stick to the one they’ve had for a while, including the Steam version, which also comes with the first episode available for free.
While Life is Strange is available to all Android users, it is gated to specific device requirements, but selection is vast. You need to have Android 6.0 and above, OpenGL 3.1, ARM 64 supported CPUs and 2 GB of RAM. System requirements aren’t very demanding by any means, and most modern phones with a price tag of $300 upwards will run Life is Strange with no problem. Square Enix also lists recommended devices for best playing experience, although if yours isn’t on the list it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the game. As long as device specs are high, Life is Strange will look stunning and play smoothly. Head over to the Google Play store to grab it and check out the release trailer below:
The world of ARK: Survival Evolved is a strange place, one where you can seemingly co-exist with various prehistoric species of dinosaurs. You wake up with a weird artefact in your arm and nothing on your person, tasked with surviving the environment and its many dangers while gradually clothing your character, building a home, and setting out to explore. The premise follows the process of many open-world survival games, except here you’ll likely get killed by a velociraptor within a first couple minutes if you happen to be unfortunate enough to spawn in a danger zone. ARK is a massive sandbox filled with different biomes, countless species of dinosaur and other creatures, as well as a few technological wonders that almost feel out of place in this prehistoric world. If you ever wanted a survival sandbox like this to be playable on the go, the developer Studio Wildcard now has you covered with ARK: Survival Evolved on mobile platforms. While the game experience is naturally limited in areas of graphics and controls, this port fully recreates the world of ARK apart from expansion packs on compact devices.
Racing games based on music-generated tracks aren’t entirely new to the gaming landscape, although that doesn’t make quality releases any less interesting. The most notable title that comes to mind is Audiosurf, which existed on PC since 2009 and proved successful enough that it spawned a sequel. On the mobile platform, however, if there were any similar games in the past, they were mostly low-quality clones that didn’t offer any interesting elements. And with a huge music library I carry on my phone compared to either my computer or laptop, I’ve been long wishing for something to come along I could compare to the quality of Audiosurf. Having tried Music Racer, which gets straight to the point with its name, there is finally a game on my phone where I can race tracks generated by my extensive music library. While the game is pretty straightforward, and most could consider it as another Audiosurf clone with similar mechanics, the quality of this release makes it worth discussing on its own. With a diverse selection of cars and track designs, powered by a decently good music track generator, Music Racer delivers a satisfying experience that’s well worth checking out, especially at its free price.
The setup of Music Racer is simple: choose your car, choose the design of track and finally, load up whichever song you like from your music library. From there on, the game generates a racing stage to match the pacing of a particular song. It isn’t the most impressive track creator when compared to likes of Audiosurf, but showcases impressive song matching for a mobile release. It is frankly impossible to avoid comparisons here as Music Racer takes extensive inspiration and design clues from Audiosurf, however as I want to point out, this isn’t a bad design direction. Racing speed varies depending on how fast a song is, and varies throughout any level to match highs and lows, as well as fast and slow points. To make the experience more interesting, players would collect points between the three linear lines set across a track. Apart from point collection, one has to avoid numerous obstacles that reset the score multiplier, and hitting too many can reset the score. Music Racer isn’t complex in its design nature, but using own songs makes for an engaging experience, even if you’ll be playing the game in short bursts at a time.
Collected points serve as a form of currency to unlock further race tracks and a decent variety of vehicles, which I found to be a nice touch as it keeps players engaged for the time it takes to unlock everything. This also provides ample diversity to the game experience, as race tracks feature different designs, even if they follow the same futuristic theme. With only three race modes to choose from, Music Racer greatly benefits from having different rides and stage designs. The Free mode exists simply for the enjoyment of user songs, while showcasing the game’s strong design. Normal is what most would be playing to progress through unlocking all of the game’s stages and cars, whereas Hard is the same experience but features quicker speeds and an increase in obstacles. Neither of the three are significantly diverse from one another, and Free mode isn’t worth paying much attention to as it doesn’t earn any points. While I would have liked to see some diversity in actual racing, the urge to unlock all stages and cars is strong enough to engage players for a while. As I’ve mentioned before, this will probably be a game best played in short bursts rather than over long sessions.
A neat feature I found is how Music Racer shows progress in a song through an advancing white bar over the song title. I imagine most won’t need to be reminded how far along they’re into a song, but useful over long music tracks. Built with the Unity engine, the game’s graphics actually look really great for a small download that Music Racer is, with detailed models and diverse vibrant colors. Some track designs do lack legibility, however, especially those created with dark shades, which makes them worth trying out just once and then abandoning altogether. Most of the game’s car selection is modeled after real-world vehicles, although there are a few oddballs like a racing bike and what I can only assume is a flying mechanical bird or dragon. The garage is fairly diverse, and vehicles feature some nice effects matching their color scheme. Among the standout visual designs is your ride breaking into a million tiny pieces when hitting an obstacle, and then forming back together within milliseconds. Music Racer also boasts a good amount of visual options to make the game playable on lower-end smartphones, as well as giving the ability to disable some visual effects to decrease strain on the eyes. There is a lot to like about visuals, and diversity helps to make the game as enjoyable as it currently is.
There is a small flaw to point out, however, and that is the presence of ads. These aren’t frequent, and don’t intrude on the gameplay whatsoever, which makes these ads a very minor issue. I applaud the developers for placing ads after a race and sometimes in the menu screens, as it would make the game a disaster otherwise, if the ads infringed onto the racing itself. Given the game’s free-to-play download, the ads are forgivable, however I would personally prefer to pay a few dollars to the developer and purchase a non-ad version. While this doesn’t appear to be an option at the moment, it’s something many would like to be implemented as well, based on Google Play Store reviews. The ads that play after each race are optional when taking a closer look, and players can choose whether to watch a 30-second ad for a small currency reward, or skip it altogether. This smart implementation of ads stands out given how most free mobile titles jam them in wherever they please. Overall, ads aren’t a big issue in Music Racer, but I would like to see the developer implement a paid version without any ads at all.
Music Racer is a fun driving experience, allowing players to use songs from their music library to generate a racing track, with a music background to listen to. With this title, the mobile platform has a contender to match the unique setup of Audiosurf on the PC platform. As most have larger music libraries on their phones than on computers, this is a great game to play in short bursts while on the bus or waiting somewhere. With impressive visuals for its small size, and the experience available entirely offline, Music Racer’s quality is comparable to, if not better than many racing games on the platform, even those that come from big name publishers. If the design idea here appeals to you, I can definitely recommend Music Racer to many, and it’s free download doesn’t require any purchase whatsoever, even if presence of ads makes me wish for a premium paid version.