Much like 2020, 2021 has been a very different experience for many of us. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to mix in the usual family setting, or even pop out with a few friends. COVID-19, it seems, hasn’t finished getting its claws into our lives just yet.
With that in mind, we thought we’d put together a selection of the top games that you can play on your tablet or phone. Regardless of whether you’re playing on a brand new gift from a loved one, or your sticking with your older model, there’s a game out there that can help you get through the trials of the holidays.
To Boldly Go
Regardless of whether you know your Klingon from your Kazarite, or your Romulan from your Rigellian, Star Trek Fleet Command from Scopely is one of the best games you can currently play on a mobile device.
Star Trek Fleet Command is the perfect way to invest many hours of your time over the holidays. Set in the Kelvin timeline, which means the Chris Pine and Simon Pegg versions of James T. Kirk and Montgomery Scott, Fleet Command places you as the commander of an independent, a free‐for‐all character based in the neutral zones between the Federation, Romulan and Klingon factions.
This 4X title (Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate), follows a main storyline of episodic missions with countless side missions that will have you leaning toward the favour of one of the main factions, but while also building a reputation with the other factions. The missions vary from delivering a vaccine to a colony on a distant moon, to helping the Nausicaans bombard rivals from orbit. There are also daily missions to fulfil, which in turn will reward you with bonuses, and options to obtain legendary characters from the Trek universe to help improve your performance within the game.
Within the game you can join an Alliance, made up of other players, and within your Alliance you can grow your space station’s economy through mining, building and battle. With regards to the latter, there’s plenty of opportunity to test your ship’s phasers, through the ever‐spawning NPCs of increasing levels of difficulty, or through piracy or all‐out war between Alliances of other players.
The Trek universe the game is set in is huge, and it’ll be some time before you’re capable, or even powerful enough to tread warily into one of the major faction’s territories. However, to aid your expansion you can slowly build a fleet of ships, from the basic Realta explorer type craft, through to the mighty D3 Klingon battleship and even up to the USS Enterprise. Each vessel has a unique class, and is effective against certain other classes of ships, so you’ll need to learn how to utilise each ship to its maximum capability.
As with most mobile MMOGs, there’s an in‐game payment model in effect. While it certainly helps to fork out £20 or so for more resources to expand your station and ships further, it’s not totally necessary. True, going the no‐payment route will be a grind, but you don’t always feel that you’re lagging behind by not paying.
However, one of the main issues with Fleet Command is the aggression of other players. It’s possible for another player, of a few levels above you, to attack your ship while it’s mining, or simply traversing a star system. While this can be extremely frustrating for a lot of players, it’s not all bad. You’ll need to pick yourself up, repair your ship and start again, but it doesn’t happen all the time, and after a while you’ll become powerful enough to hold your own against the players who do nothing but attack others.
Star Trek Fleet Command is a superb time investment and engaging game. Getting your fleet up into the level 20s and beyond comes with a great feeling of achievement, as does finally earning the right to command the Enterprise. Graphically the game is excellent, and its ambiance draws you into the Captain’s Chair while the red alert sounds, or you engage Warp to the other end of the quadrant. Overall, fantastic, and worth every second of your time. Make it so!
Crush Them All joins the long line of idle RPGs, but CTA differs from the rest of the bunch and offers the player an interesting, if a little grindy, adventure.
The game begins with the princess being kidnapped by some evil thing or another, after which you start traversing the levels from left to right, slaughtering everything in your path in an endless loop of minions to a boss every 50 stages.
Throughout, you’re able to level up your character and eventually accumulate enough gold and gems to unlock other characters. Each character has a unique ability based on the forces of nature: fire, water, earth, light and dark, which is effective on a baddie of an opposing force – light beats dark, water beats fire and so on.
Among the endless fighting, you’re also tasked with managing a village, and by this we mean you simply earn enough coins to unlock a village shop or element – such as a Blacksmith, or a Dragon Incubator. Doing so will earn you even more gold after a set amount of time, and upgrading each of the village elements will grant you even more coins over time. This you can then invest on your characters to further improve their fighting abilities to get to the higher stages of the game.
Within all this are daily dungeons, which yield more rewards, player vs player stages, which puts you on a leaderboard and rewards you with more gold, gems, and character unlocks. You can join a guild, too, which will greatly help you gain more rewards over time as you invest in weekly guild wars and such. In the end, you’ll have enough to build quite an impressive team of heroes, with a mix of elemental abilities, and powerful enough to start hitting the 1000s stages.
However, as with many of these types of games, there will reach a point when you simply can’t progress any further. When this happens, you’ll need to Ascend, which will return your heroes to the first stage, and wipe clean what you’ve achieved. But, when you ascend you’ll get points that you spend on your heroes to permanently increase their power. Over time, and with a few ascends under your belt, your team will be reaching higher stage numbers, which in turn will give you more rewards when you next ascend.
Graphically, Crush Them All is a slick setup. It’s bright, bold colours, and interesting gameplay combine to form a clicker RPG that will have you returning daily to see how your team is advancing as well as to chat with your guild members and see what’s going on. It’s the kind of game you can pick up and play for ten minutes, before leaving until you check back on it later. Fun, and easy to play.
Despite its insane popularity at the moment, Among Us was actually released in 2018. However, that hasn’t deterred fans of the game from downloading over 100 million copies of it, or from gaining over 4 billion views from YouTube videos. In fact, the rise in popularity over the past few months led to the company having to purchase more sever capacity, as its original Amazon server couldn’t cope with the traffic.
For those of you new to Among Us, this is a multiplayer game for four to ten players that will have you control the actions of a particular coloured character (such as red, green, orange and so on). One of the playing character, though, is secretly declared an imposter at the start of the game, and it’s up to the character who is the imposter to discretely kill off their team mates while committing acts of sabotage.
To the other players, they need to control their character to perform a set number of tasks, depending on the map they’re currently playing on. The imposter, will mingle with the other players, and unbeknown to them, sabotage an element of the game map. This initiates other players to fix the problem, and, in theory at least, this will give the imposter time to get away in the confusion and kill of a member of the team while the others aren’t looking.
If you’re killed by the imposter, you can then play as a ghost and watch the game played out with the remaining characters; but you won’t be able to interact with any of the team – since you’ll know who the imposter is.
Throughout the game any character can call a meeting – or when a body has been discovered. This launches a chat window, where the living players get to challenge other players and say who they think the imposter is, which is then voted on. Should a character be voted by the majority, then they’ll be swept out the airlock (depending on the map). If the players voted incorrectly, the imposter can carry on until either they’re discovered and voted out, or they’re the last one standing.
It’s a thoroughly immersive, and quite panic inducing as you run through your jobs expecting one of the other players to suddenly pop up and try and murder you. Although graphically very simple, Among Us produces just enough suspense to keep you playing, raise your heartrate and provide a perfectly exhilarating experience. If you haven’t already played it, we suggest you download it now and get going.
Die Monster, you don’t belong in this world!
Ahh, Castlevania, with its long history of rage quitting from 1986’s original NES title, through to this thoroughly splendid port of the great Symphony of the Night as released in 1997 for the PlayStation. Whether you’re slaughtering candle sticks with your whip for hearts, or throwing bottles of holy water at Dracula, Castlevania has long held fond memories for many gamers over the years.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has managed to capture the magic of its original PlayStation release – which, for those who recall, also includes the Game Over sequence that seems to remain on the screen for far, far too long.
This is a two‐dimensional scrolling platformer, where you’re tasked with playing as Alucard or Maria, as they try to stop the protagonist from the previous Castlevania in the series, Richter, from resurrecting Dracula once again in order to fight him for all eternity. Needless to say, you don’t really need to know the plot, or the history of the game in order to play it. Simply load it up and start hitting everything that moves – and most of everything that doesn’t move, too.
The game works wonderfully with the on‐screen touch controls, resembling the controls of a game pad, without any hint of drag or loss of control of the character. And it doesn’t stop there, the atmosphere of the original PS title is there, together with the iconic music, cheesy voice overs, maddening platforms, hidden secrets and much more.
Konami has done a fantastic job of bringing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to the mobile gaming world, to the point where even die‐hard fans of the original will be impressed. The game does cost, around £2.99, and it’s offline, but once you’ve got it you’ll soon come to love the visuals, sounds and atmospherics that make this one of the best Castlevania games to play.
Their fate lies in your hands…
Sid Meier’s Civilization series has been entertaining gamers since 1991, when the first game was released on a number of home computers and consoles of the time – anyone recall playing it on the Amiga?
Now we’re on Civ VI, which was released four years ago to Windows and Mac users, but has only recently been ported over to Android users. Complete with the voice talent of the ever‐wonderful Sean Bean, Civ VI for Android captures the joys, the disappointments, the highs and the lows of the series. From amazing cut scenes to intricate graphics used throughout the large maps.
Along with the usual 4X, turn‐based, gameplay of the PC title, and its predecessors, Civ VI, brings with it the ‘feel’ and atmosphere of the major platforms. Mind, this also includes the ludicrous aspects of the game too – of which we mean, when you’re a super power civilisation, with access to space‐aged weaponry, how can a group of loinclothed, stick wielding barbarians still manage to overthrow one of your cities? Also, why does Cleopatra have a northern UK accent? It’s a mystery, but it’s one of the many annoyingly loving features of the game.
You’ll probably need one of the more powerful Android devices to get the most from the game, as it’s quite visually heavy in places; particularly when you’ve got multiple movements, and many different routes plotted across the map. But once you’re playing, you’ll soon become so immersed that you’ll probably miss the outside world, for a while at least.
The Lost Continent
South of the Circle is an Apple Arcade game, and a wonderfully atmospheric narrative adventure that pits your survival in the world’s most extreme and isolated environment: Antarctica.
Set during the Cold War, 1960s, South of the Circle, has you playing as a scientist called Peter, who, after a plane crash with his colleague Clara, finds himself in the frozen reaches of the world’s largest desert.
South of the Circle is more than simply another adventure, it creates and forms a human connection through the choice of emotions to a particular scene. So you’re able to display concern, fear, confusion, honesty and openness to any situation, or more depending on what’s happening at the time. Objects can be selected to use, such as a first aid kit when needed.
The story is challenging, but not in the sense that it’s hard to play. It creates an atmosphere that’s based on decision making, as opposed to kill everything in sight and hope for the best. Again, it’s more of a human adventure, one that’s realistic to a degree, and one that will ultimately draw you in as you discover some truths about the characters you play, as well as yourself.
Graphically, it’s superb. With motion‐capture visuals, mood enhancing audio and voice acting that’s a much higher standard than we’re used to in mobile gaming, South of the Circle is a thinking person’s adventure, that takes you on a soul‐searching quest of survival. Apple users should most definitely consider checking this out!
The Last Hunter
We’re continually amazed at how polished and presented modern mobile games are becoming. Take this example, The Pathless, an incredible open world adventure that pits a lone hunter and her eagle companion against the curse of darkness that has befallen the world.
You play as the Hunter, travelling through a unique, colourful, and immense world to rid of it of the prevailing evil. It’s the exploration of this world that gives The Pathless its unique sense of depth. The striking visuals create a landscape that’s wrecked with magical forces, but also one that’s strangely beautiful.
Controlling the Hunter at first seems a little awkward, but after time it becomes quite natural. You’re given a bow in order to shoot objects, that will grant you extra speed or the ability to jump higher, which aids in the fluid traversal of this mysterious land. Thankfully, aiming is handled by the AI, so you’re only concern is timing it correctly as you zip along the path of your own making.
There are numerous puzzles to tackle, although they’re not too taxing on the old grey matter. This, among various boss battles, and an Assassin’s Creed‐like extra vision, that enables you to see the cracks in reality and thus discover hidden areas and paths, all combines to form an entertaining, and extremely enjoyable game.
Graphically, it’s very good indeed. There’s a continual atmospheric musical score in the background, along with various sound snatches when something happens, or you’ve activated some element within the game. The world, as we’ve stated, is nicely drawn, depicting a lost island that’s awaiting its rescue from the dark curses that envelope it.
It’s another Apple Arcade title that will surely become one of your favourites and most played throughout early 2021.
Definitely not OutRun!
It’s nice to play something that reminded you of your youth from time to time, but not necessarily the actual game; or even something emulated or ported. What we like to do, occasionally, is find a game that greatly mimics the titles we used to play on the arcades or our 8‐bit home computers of the time. And Final Freeway 2R is one such game.
For those of you old enough to remember the arcades of the 80s, the screenshot we’ve got here will bring back all sorts of memories from a certain racing arcade cabinet called OutRun. Indeed, Final Freeway 2R is certainly borrowing heavily, very heavily, on that classic 80s title.
It’s a simple concept. You’re driving a red Ferrari‐like car, with a blonde‐haired passenger, and you speed along the roads until you hit a fork, where you’ll need to select a new route. Keep doing this, while keeping on the road and ahead of the competition, and you’ll finish the race.
While hurtling along at somewhere near 180 MPH, there’s a cheesy 80s musical score blasting away in the background – not too dissimilar to that of the original selection of tracks from OutRun. But it’s not just the car, the race and the music that make it an OutRun clone, there’s an intense level of gameplay that’ll have you gritting your teeth as you swerve around other road users – and this, like the game it’s aping, is possibly the world’s longest one‐way set of roads – while traying to make the bend in the road without losing too much speed or wiping yourself and your passenger out.
It’s marvellous fun, easy to pick up and play, intense, energetic, extremely cheesy and we totally love it! Now all we need to do is find an Afterburner clone, and we’re sorted for the entire year.
For now, enjoy these games, and let’s hope 2021 quickly fares better than 2020 did.