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 ANDROID FEATURE

Top 10 best Android games: October 2011

Shadowguns ‘n’ glory
 
Top 10 Android charts Android, thumbnail 1
Trying to envision what Android gaming is going to look like in, say, a year’s time is immensely difficult.

On the one hand, we’ll hopefully have Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich OS uniting handsets into one cuddly green robot family, while on the other, there’s the ever-growing issue of hardware fragmentation.

Even compiling this modest list each month can be a challenge, with some titles being exclusive to Sony’s Xperia Play or those packing Nvidia’s dual-core Tegra 2 chip.

So, here’s our rundown of October’s best releases for Android, Tegra 2-chipped devices, and Sony’s controller-blessed Xperia Play.

Shadowgun
Review - Download



Astonishingly, it wasn’t Gameloft which first created a Gears of War-alike for mobiles (though, surely Cogs of Conflict is still in the works).

Instead, Samurai II developer Madfinger Games pleasantly stunned us all by creating a third-person shooter that looks and plays nearly as perfectly as its console inspiration.

Playing as ultra-muscular Shadowgun John Slade, your job is to infiltrate a mad scientist’s lair and take down deadly hordes of genetically modified beasties - mainly from behind the cover of generously placed chest-high walls.

The pea-green hued environments might blend into each other slightly and the looping rawk soundtrack can niggle, but Shadowgun is still an essential action game purchase.

Minecraft - Pocket Edition
Review - Download



With the Xperia Play period of exclusivity finally over, the rest of the Android community got their creative mitts on the portable spin-off of the PC phenomenon Minecraft last month.

Aside from some slightly unresponsive controls (which developer Mojang has assured us are being refined for future releases), Minecraft Pocket Edition is a confident touchscreen endeavour that gives you the chance to build anything you want out of blocks made of different materials and colours.

Tapping and holding the screen to remove blocks feels very natural, and the game runs smoothly even on dated hardware like the Desire HD. Our only real complaint comes from having to wait for the PC’s more immersive Survival and Adventure modes.

Pollushot
Review - Download



It shouldn’t work, but somehow Pollushot’s gameplay mash-up of Breakout and Angry Birds just about hangs together.

Perhaps it’s the colourful design, or the stacks of OpenFeint achievements available (37 in all), or perhaps it’s just because everyone likes firing a good slingshot.

The trick is that, as well as blasting bad guys and recycling their detritus into ammo, you’ve got to dodge the waves of attackers at the same time.

It’s tough at first, but once you get into the swing of things, the gameplay finds a natural rhythm that stays just the right side of challenging.

Clowning Around
Review - Download



It’s a lot like Cut the Rope. There, that’s the awkward part out of the way. The good news is that Clowning Around has enough personality to confidently walk the fine high wire between originality and cloning.

In this physics-based puzzler with a big top setting, your job is to sever the chains binding two, rather rotund, clowns so that they fall into water barrels below.

Sounds simple, until you realise the clowns are different colours and have to land in the correctly coloured barrel. Oh, and there are lots of obstacles in their way, e.g. seesaws, giant balls, and tricky trapdoors.

With 75 increasingly tricky levels to master, this is one gaming big top that’s as crammed with content as a clown car is with, well, clowns.

Guns ‘n’ Glory WW2
Review - Download



Jumping forward in time from the Wild West to the war-ravaged Western Front, this tower defence sequel somehow turns World War II into a cute little conflict.

The chunky Advance Wars-esque sprites help lighten the mood, and the over-the-top violence (cue mad-eyed flamethrower soldier) will appeal to the more casual strategy fan.

Plus, the focus on real-time action - in which you use coins collected in combat to buy new hardware and soldiers - makes the experience more hands-on than the average tower defence title.

Annoyingly, the switch to freemium means fans who want to play the harder modes will almost definitely need to shell out on virtual currency to buff their army’s stats (since earning them in-game requires a fair bit of hard labour).

Yet, if you’re enjoying the action-packed strategy, this will feel like money worth spending to prolong the glory of war.

Shoot The Birds
Review - Download



Ever asked yourself, ‘What do pumpkins do when they’re not being cut up on Halloween or made into disappointing pies?’ Nope, we neither. The answer, though, is the addictive hobby of shooting birds.

Before Bill Oddie panics, we’ll stress that these are virtual birds so relentless in attacking your pumpkin patch that even being arrow-skewered up to four at a time won’t deter the winged pests.

There’s only one level in Shoot The Birds, yet in true ‘high score-chasing’ style, it’s one you won’t mind repeating until hundreds of birds lie impaled at your pumpkin feet.

It’s not going to please the RSPB, but Shoot The Birds is seriously addictive, and probably the only game you’ll see this year starring crossbow-firing pumpkin.

Puffle Launch
Review - Download



Although playing anything to do with tween sensation Club Penguin will have any self-respecting adult checking nervously over their shoulder every five seconds, this tie-in game is a neat little physics-platformer that deserves a wider audience than just cheeky young scamps.

The object of the game is to fire the penguin’s daredevil pet Puffle safely from cannon to cannon. The majority of these cannons are static and fire automatically, but some pivot (so you have to time blasts), while others can be aimed more accurately.

You can also spin the Puffle left or right in the air and bounce off items like balloons and floating pianos, which adds another layer of challenge.

Puffle Launch is a brief game, yet still packs in plenty of bright blue skies, tricky bouncing, and loop-the-loop cannon runs.

Great Little War Game
Review - Download



Like a more explosive version of GBA gem Advance Wars, Great Little War Game is a turn-based battler made more palatable with cartoony military hardware and some comedy reinforcements.

With a generous selection of units to get to grips with - from grunts to snipers and tanks - you'll need to learn each one's strengths and weaknesses to overcome the challenging AI.

As you progress, units get promoted and earn you handy skill boosts and new hardware to send into battle.

Keeping you going through the tougher tussles are the varied environments (lush fields, snow-covered battlegrounds) and the genuinely funny banter between squad mates, which brings back warm memories of peerless Amiga shooter Cannon Fodder - high praise indeed.

Hard Lines HD
Review - Download



A bit of a favourite in the Pocket Gamer office, the retro-future Hard Lines HD achieves the near impossible: making old skool Snake cool again.

Drenching the classic mobile game in fetching neon, adding a splash of silly humour (your ‘Snake’ spits out cheesy one-liners), and serving up five distinct game modes proved a masterstroke on Spilt Milk Studio’s part.

Although there’s the traditional Survival mode to slip into like a pair of comfy slippers, the real action is found in Gauntlet and Piñata.

In these modes, the screen is crammed full of competing snakes, which you have to either eat or dispatch by making them crash into your tail. It’s seriously tough, but never anything less than compelling.

Sleepy Jack
Review - Download



Where SilverTree Media’s first game Cordy was a gentle platformer, capable of lulling you into a meditative doze with it’s plinky-plunky music and undemanding gameplay, this follow-up is a surreal, somewhat psychedelic, nightmare waiting to bolt you awake.

In Sleepy Jack (currently exclusive to Xperia Play), you play a young boy’s whose dreams are a bewildering mix of harmless, pleasant jaunts, interspersed with cruel assaults from mutated toys.

Your goal is always the same: to fly constantly forward, picking off enemies with your ray gun. Meanwhile, picking up any Z-shaped collectibles recharges your health and boosts your final score.

It’s meticulously crafted, rather lovely to look at and play, and only let down by the length, which, at just 30 levels, is more of a nap than a leisurely lie-in.
 

Reviewer photo
Paul Devlin 3 November 2011
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