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 ANDROID FEATURE

Top 10 best Android games: August 2011

Reckless crafting in space
 
Top 10 Android charts Android, thumbnail 1
For Android evangelists like this writer, one increasingly common sight was particularly heartening in August.

From magazines to billboards, and even the odd TV spot, the ‘Available on the Android Market’ logo is fast becoming as ubiquitous as Apple’s more familiar tag, albeit often for the likes of Tesco home shopping.

Game publishers are gradually getting the idea, with the port times from iOS to Android significantly shortening as handset sales continue to skyrocket.

EA’s Madden NFL 2012, for example, made a play for the market just after it touched down on iPhone, while Polarbit’s excellent Reckless Getaway switched lanes in record time.

This could point to a glorious green dawn for Android gamers - one where six-month waits for creaky iOS ports are a thing of the past.

While you await this brave new world, however, here’s our hand-picked selection of August’s finest Android games.

Minecraft Pocket Edition
Review - Buy



If Minecraft had a tagline, it would probably be, ‘The game you’ll lose a week to’.

It’s the most addictive PC launch since the internet, and last month Mojang’s title forged a bridge made of leaves and ice from home computers to Android.

Currently only available for Xperia Play, thanks to one of those timed exclusivity deals Sony seems so fond of, the Pocket Edition is all about discovering your inner architect.

With an unlimited supply of resources, from wood and sand to brick and granite, you can build a massive Fortress of Solitude or the complete village from The Prisoner, and nothing but a flat battery can stand in your way.

It lacks the peril of the current PC incarnation, where survival is just as important as building your own Eiffel Tower, but this is still an early Alpha version - with free updates expected to roll out as regularly as they do for the PC.

Making what our review called a “blocky utopia” will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Minecraft fans on the move would be crazy to skip this solid conversion, which will only get better with age.

Reckless Getaway
Review - Buy



At first glance, Polarbit’s second car-centric hit (after the rough and ready Reckless Racing) looks like a Burnout-style slice of top-down motor mayhem.

Under the bonnet, however, there’s an emphasis on memorising the perfect route to the finishing line - ideally, one with plenty of death-defying leaps and cop cars pushed over cliffs.

With your Driver-esque car always on the run, only quick reactions and diligent use of collectable power-ups (shockwaves, bunny hops, and the obligatory nitrous boost) will get you safely through each stage.

Survival isn’t enough, mind, as the game demands you pull off as many death-defying moves as possible to earn enough stars to unlock the next track.

Crashing, or exploding, automatically loses you a star, so you have to perpetually keep one eye on the road and one on opportunities to risk your neck for points.

With slippery vehicle control and a camera that sometimes struggles to keep up with you, the need for precision driving can get frustrating later on, but Reckless Getaway is still a fast and frantic experience that deserves to rule the Android road for a stretch.

Silpheed Alternative
Review - Buy



Back in the early ‘90s, Silpheed caused something of a stir in shmup circles thanks to its gorgeous isometric visuals and demanding action.

Nearly two decades on, you’d be hard pushed to find many similarities between Silpheed Alternative on Android and the original Sega Mega CD title.

Aside from the angular vessels and excitable Manga-style voice acting, this is a by-the-numbers 3D space dogfighter that lacks originality but layers on the action thick and fast.

Smooth to control and dashing to look at, Silpheed Alternative: Menace from Beyond the Stars (the full and frankly unwieldy title) is a swish performer that just needs a few more levels to fill out the thin story. DLC incoming, we hope.

Greedy Spiders
Review - Buy



Everyone knows that spiders look hideous and (like the Spanish Inquisition) always appear when you least expect them, but we never knew they were super-smart.

If Greedy Spiders is to be believed, they can easily outwit the average gamer when a tasty meal of trapped fly is at stake.

Blyts Mobile’s puzzler looks cute enough on the surface, but it soon becomes ruthlessly difficult without quite losing its 'one more go' appeal.

To complete each level, unlocking the next in the process, you need to free all the trapped flies before the rapacious arachnids can scuttle across their webs and gobble them up.

Although power-ups like web-burning flames and dummy flies to trick spiders occasionally help you out, the meat of the game involves tactically snipping away at bits of web to either completely free each fly or block off the spiders' routes.

There’s a lot of trial and error involved, but the simple tap-to-cut mechanics and cartoony style create a gameplay web that’s hard to escape from.

Bouncy Mouse
Review - Buy



At the risk of sounding like Stephen Fry in QI, it’s a common misconception that mice only eat cheese - as anyone with a shed and a store of bird seed will testify.

We’ll let the rodent stereotyping slide this time, though, as physics puzzler Bouncy Mouse offer such a 'Gouda' time that it deserves your un-'Feta'-d attention (what? - ed).

The titular hero is on a mission to rescue the Big Cheese from the clutches of the evil Captain Cat, using his rubber band-like tail to bounce between pegs to follow a fromage crumb trail to the exit.

There’s a Stilton-like whiff of Angry Birds about the bouncing mechanic, which relies on educated trajectory guesses over precise calculations, but it’s simple to pick up, if a little too focussed on lucky bounces.

The sharp difficulty curve and varied level design mean the gameplay stays fresh, rather than ripening into a Stinking Bishop.

Dead Space
Review - Buy



On the touchscreen-only iPhone and iPad, EA’s mobile version of console hit Dead Space was something of a hit and miss affair.

The original game’s foreboding atmosphere, hideous monsters, and limb-severing weaponry remained intact, but movement and aiming felt less intuitive and weighty than its 360 / PS3 brethren.

The Silver Award-bagging Xperia Play version neatly fixed this problem as the device’s unique physical controls make an adequate substitute for analogue sticks. The shoulder triggers, for example, make for pretty solid, yes, triggers.

If ‘over-the-shoulder’ shooters that let you slice off Necromorph limbs with razor weapons are your thing, then download now and get cutting.

Colosseum
Review - Buy



You might start Colosseum with a simple scimitar and some weak throwing knives, but a few dozen levels down the line you’ve transformed into an axe-wielding, armour-plated knight who can hurl bombs. Now that’s progress.

Gamevil’s mostly senseless 2D monster-basher sticks to the action-RPG template (carve up legions of baddies, pick up loot, and spend it on bigger and badder weaponry), but it’s still a compelling beast.

Yes, the gameplay is repetitive and lacking originality beyond the caricatured, almost hand-drawn visuals, but if you’re the kind of dungeon crawler who’d name your children ‘Hack’ and ‘Slash’ and send them off to school for a lifetime of heckling, then this is the Android game for you.

Sprinkle
Review - Buy



Making a splash on iOS and Tegra-powered Androids on the same launch day, Sprinkle was something of a milestone in handheld gaming.

It also tickles the average Joe’s itch to play as a firefighter, letting you slosh great jets of immaculate water over fires before they burn down innocent bystanders’ homes.

Taking control of a a tiny fire crew and their massively proportioned hose (Carry On fans may giggle now), you only have a finite amount of water with which to douse all the level’s flames.

Just splashing it about won’t get you far. Instead, you need to use build-ups of water, waves, and boulders to plug up holes to ensure the H20 hits the right spots.

It’s a creative physics-puzzler and, while relatively short, the final levels offer a sterner test than putting out a grill pan fire with an oven mitt (true story).

Greedy Pigs
Review - Buy



With players dealing with Greedy Spiders one minute and Greedy Pigs the next, you can’t help but wonder if Android developers have a collective grudge against animals.

The swines are after beer barrels in this tower defence title, so we have no qualms about deploying heavily armed soldiers to fry their bacon.

Playing like TD favourite Guns ‘n’ Glory, the game imposes a cap on how many defenders you can use in each level, but gives you the luxury of being able to touch and drag them around to cover defensive holes.

It adds a welcome dose of interaction and strategy to the normally repetitive ‘deploy and upgrade’ mechanisms favoured by the likes of Fieldrunners.

The extra layer of RPG-style unit development, which favours upgrading based on kills over cash, means your little army can quickly turn battlefields into cartoony slaughter houses.

Greedy Pigs is a little light on content, with just 18 levels (spread of three stages) to conquer, but the hammy appeal and taut controls mean you’ll still have a swill time playing it.

Rocketron
Review - Buy



The pick of this month’s ‘one-button’ survivathons (a new word I just made up for Canabalt clones: spread it around) is undoubtedly the tough-as-nails Rocketron.

A rolling planet is hurtling at ridiculous speeds through galaxies made up of solid pathways, strewn with deadly gaps, spikes, and disappearing sections, and only you can keep it on track.

Simple touchscreen taps ping the planet between paths and in and out of safety, playing havoc with your nerves in the process. Levels are short, cruelly sweet, and require the kind of muscle memory last seen on the Spectrum ZX.

It’s hardly groundbreaking, but like all the great ‘survivathons’, it’s maddeningly addictive for those with a masochistic mindset.
 

Reviewer photo
Paul Devlin 14 September 2011
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