The history books will doubtless look back on 2010 as the year the whole Google mobile platform idea really took off. As the year closes out, the quality of handsets from the likes of HTC, Samsung, Motorola, and even LG is uniformly strong.
The Android OS itself, too, has benefited from the (occasionally maddening) iterative approach Google has adopted. The difference in form and functionality from version 1.0 to 2.2 (I haven’t seen 2.3 yet) is quite staggering.
Most importantly for us, 2010 was the year Android finally left the ground as a gaming platform. With its high-end handsets capable of taking on the best that Apple could produce from a technical standpoint, and with overall sales similarly strong, game developers finally took note – and took the plunge.
Admittedy, this meant a whole heap of iPhone conversions. Fortunately, the vast majority of these were top drawer.
Here’s our pick of the finest games in the year that Android came of age.
Guns ‘n’ Glory (HandyGames)
Plenty of developers are trying to liven up the tower defence genre. Their efforts usually entail stapling other genres onto it, from the third-person shooter to the RPG.
With Guns ‘n’ Glory, HandyGames proved that there are plenty of fresh ideas left in simply setting up a solid auto-firing defence against swarms of enemies.
Guns ‘n’ Glory’s defining feature is its movable units, which led to some of the most thrilling running battles of the year.
Just as Guns ‘n’ Glory freshens the tower defence formula up, so MiniSquadron injects new life and new ideas into the 2D shooter.
It places you in control of a biplane in a fairly confined arena, and tasks you with wiping out successive waves of enemies.
The flight physics are spot on, and the huge number of planes to unlock is an enormous incentive to keep coming back for more.
Flick Kick Football (PikPok)
After some neat approach play with Flick Kick Field Goal and Flick Kick Rugby, PikPok let loose a full-blooded shot on goal in the shape of Flick Kick Football.
More nuanced than its egg-shaped brothers, FKF introduced ball-swerve, defenders and bonuses for pin-point finishing to the ball-swiping formula.
All of which amounted to a severe and ongoing case of Flick Kick addiction (shh, don’t tell the BBC) for several members of the PG team – myself included.
Angry Birds (Rovio)
Angry what? Sorry, never heard of it. Come on, you didn’t think we were going to compile a best-of-2010 Android list without mentioning Rovio’s squillion-seller, did you?
While it was a few months later than we would have liked, Angry Birds arrived on Android slicker than ever and play-tested to within an inch of its life.
Even better than that, the bird-pinger was absolutely free. It may not have been first, but Angry Birds’s arrival on Android was the most interesting yet.
The sequel may well have have sneaked in at the very end of 2010, but I’m happy to file it away as an early 2011 title. After finding its way onto numerous best-of Android lists since our April review, Zenonia deserves some end-of-year plaudits.
Gamevil’s game, in case you didn’t know, mixes Zelda-style top-down adventuring with a character development system more readily associated with games like the Final Fantasy series.
Add in a classic anime-influenced plot where an amnesiac protagonist hides devastating powers (that old chestnut) and you have yourself a rip-roaring adventure.
After a stonking year on Android (more on which later) Hexage decided to top it all of with this delightful maze-runner.
EVAC essentially remixes Pac-Man for those whose ninja reflexes and cast-iron bloody-mindedness abandoned them as soon as they hit their twenties (sob). It feels remarkably fresh and distinctive as a result.
By accentuating Pac-Man’s retro, neon-drenched aesthetic and creating levels that are far more interesting, cerebral affairs, Hexage breathed new life into a 30 year old formula.
Galcon (Phil Hassey)
An increasing number of mobile real-time strategy games seem to be coming around to Galcon’s way of thinking. It quite rightly posits that complex unit construction and micro-management are not desirable on a wee four-inch screen.
Rather, you macro-manage your space fleet simply by tapping on the planets they inhabit, followed by the one you want to conquer. Simple.
Of course, there’s more to it than that, and discovering Galcon’s nuanced battle system – both off and online – was one of 2010’s chief Android delights.
Let’s Golf! 2 (Gameloft)
At the start of the year we covered Gameloft’s first batch of HD iPhone-to-Android conversions, of which the first Let’s Golf! was arguably the best. It came as no surprise that the sequel was even more accomplished.
Let’s Golf! 2 is bigger, better looking, nicer to play (courtesy of an improved swing system) and better value thanks to an online multiplayer mode.
All of which made Gameloft’s golfing sequel the finest Android sports game of the year, and one of the finest in any genre.
Hexage hit the halfway point of 2010 running, courtesy of Everlands. The developer not only made the brave decision to make Android its primary platform, but it then went and made this delightfully oddball strategy game.
It essentially mixes turn-based strategy with a game of Top Trumps – only played with hexagonal playing cards. Oh, and with members of the animal kingdom as its subject.
It works brilliantly, with each beastie featuring unique and readily identifiable skills. A fine game from one of our favourite Android developers.
Reckless Racing (Polarbit)
Reckless Racing is a truly stunning achievement. Not only is it one of the most technically advanced smartphone games of 2010, but Polarbit also managed to get it out on three platforms – iPhone, iPad, and Android - within a matter of days.
Kind of puts all these late iPhone conversions to shame, doesn’t it?
This was no shallow tech-demo - Reckless Racing had substance to go with its slick 3D style. Its unique brand of fast-paced off-road racing placed the emphasis on power-sliding and opposite lock, which made every race feel like an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard.
Though the game’s limited single-player campaign proved something of a weakness, its impressive online features – including multiplayer and real-time Hot Lap updates - came to the rescue.
Boot Reckless Racing up on a decent handset and see how far Android gaming has come in the past year.