And so this feature is an ode to the odd, a memorial of the miscellaneous. These ten games deserve to be lifted out of the dusty gaps in between puzzlers, platformers, adventures and RPGs and held aloft.
Of course some of them (I’m looking at you, Peggle) really don’t need rescuing from any sort of obscurity, but what we have here is the best of the oddballs. If you think we’ve missed anything, let us know in the comments section below.
Top 10 oddball games for mobile phones
It’ll be two years in October since we reviewed SolaRola, giving it a rare 10 out of 10. The remarkable thing is, it still holds up to scrutiny after all this time.
Taking undoubted ‘inspiration’ from the PSP’s LocRoco (more of that later), SolaRola is nonetheless perfectly suited to your mobile, with a simple premise - roll squidgy things about a series of obstacle-strewn levels - and simpler controls - you tilt the stages left and right to move.
A beautifully animated cartoon style and the use of bold primary colours ensure that SolaRola has dated just as well visually. It’s a true oddball masterpiece.
Such is Peggle’s ubiquity that it’s only when you actually stop and think about what it entails that you realise: it’s stark raving loony. This is a game where 95 per cent of the action takes place completely outside of your control, and where the 5 per cent that you do control is as much a matter of luck as skill.
And yet this mixture of Pachinko and Bagatelle remains one of the most compelling and widely appealing games on the market. This mobile version runs like a dream, and is perfectly suited to gaming on the move.
The second of the ‘inspired by LocoRoco’ games on this list takes things in a slightly different direction, but is no less accomplished for it. Rather than the day-glo colours and unthreatening game-play of SolaRola, Gish is all shades of black and nightmarish spike traps.
The object of the game is to manoeuvre a lone black blob through each level by changing its physical properties from sticky mass to oozing puddle. Gish is darker, tougher and just plain odder than its closest companions, and it stands as a brilliant game in its own right.
Mystery Mania (EA Mobile)
It’s odd enough that EA decided to produce a point ‘n’ click adventure, a largely defunct genre harking back to the early 1990s. Add in a lead protagonist with a CRT monitor for a head and an element of the Tim Burton-esque dark fairytale, and you have Mystery Mania - one of the more peculiar mobile games on the market.
Of course, as with every other game on this list, Mystery Mania makes perfect sense when you actually get to playing the thing. You explore a delightfully creepy mansion and solve neat spatial puzzles. Simple, but very effective.
LocoRoco Hi (Glu)
The mobile version of the PSP game that inspired the likes of SolaRola and Gish (got that?) turned up after the aforementioned games, foregoing the right to take its place at the top of the heap by default.
Fortunately, it plays a mean game anyway, the simple left-right-jump mechanics working brilliantly on any mobile handset.
It’s remarkable how well LocoRoco’s tactile gameplay has made its way to the small screen - to the point where it seems like it’s found its natural home.
Rolling with Katamari (Namco Bandai)
The Katamari series has become something of a poster child for quirky, appealingly oddball video games, with its out-there Japanese humour and bizarre cast of characters. Its mobile debut certainly doesn’t disappoint on any front.
You control the dinky Prince as you roll everything in your path into an ever-expanding ball of stuff. Lawn furniture, cats, kitchen utensils, people - nothing and no-one is spared.
It’s all overseen by your joyfully barmy dad, The King of All Cosmos, who spouts his random philosophies on life and chides you for your inadequacies. Mad as a hatter and twice as fun.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (THQ)
Of all the genre mash-ups we’ve seen, none has been as strange as Puzzle Quest’s Puzzle-RPG hybrid. It's ostensibly a fun but traditional match-three puzzler, but you’ll soon discover a deep and rewarding stat-boosting adventure bound up with it.
What’s remarkable is how the two sides meld together, with the puzzle section representing the battlefield, and different colour combinations serving as attacking or defensive actions. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords really has no right to work as a cohesive piece of entertainment, but it does. And marvellously so.
California Gold Rush (Digital Chocolate)
Part exploratory adventure, part puzzler, part resource-managing strategy game, California Gold Rush sounds like a confused mess on paper. It all makes sense in your hands, though, as all the elements bind together seamlessly to create one of the freshest mobile games of the year.
You play as Mandy, who must dig for treasure through a series of treacherous mines. You’ll need to balance your thirst for wealth with a canny appreciation for the stresses placed on the tunnels and your own stamina. This is a golden nugget that’s well worth digging for.
Spore Origins (EA)
The premise of Spore Origins is pretty unique for a mobile game, as you grow a tiny amoeba-like life form into a top-of-the-food-chain predator. The heart of the game is rather more familiar, though, playing out like a wall-less Pac-Man as you gobble up smaller life-forms and avoid anything bigger than you.
The best bit comes when you level up, which grants you the ability to customise your life-form. Want to make it move faster? Give it a propulsive tail. Getting pounded by those predators? Apply a defensive shell. This sense of personalisation sets Spore Origins out as a unique mobile experience.
Tower Bloxx Deluxe (Digital Chocolate)
Like Peggle, Tower Bloxx is a game that you don’t necessarily think of as odd, such is its easy charm and eminently approachable style. But it really is a bit of a mash-up of ideas.
There’s a sizeable block-dropping element, where you plonk sections of buildings on top of each other via an ever-swinging crane. But the objective here is create as cohesive and as solid a structure as possible, in order to fill each building with as many tenants as possible.
Add in a strategic city-planning element and you have one of the more original spins on the Tetris template.