Welcome to G4's Knuckle Up, where we bring you a byte-sized view of our five favorite mobile games every week. The phone and tablet space is filled with incredible games that will keep you busy for minutes, hours, or even days -- we'll let you know what we're playing and why we're playing it. Here are our top five games this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK
Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. series is one of the best examples of an FPS shooter done right on mobile, and it’s no different with the newest installment in the series. N.O.V.A. 3 keeps all of the touches that make the franchise great and manages to toss some new features into the mix to keep things fresh. You’re still playing as Kal Warden, savior of the human race (on more than one occasion). Warden is helping out a friend located in the ruins of San Fransisco. Unfortunately, upon arrival, Warden finds the alien Volterites laying the place to waste, and must once again fight for his life and the rest of humanity’s.
The story in campaign mode is well-written and voiced, and the environments take full advantage of the new iPad’s Retina Display as well as it’s increased processor speeds. The overall visuals in N.O.V.A. 3 are stunning. In fact, they’re among the best FPS graphics you’ll currently see in mobile. A new (and welcome) feature is the addition of in-game currency based on how well you complete a level. That currency can then be used to purchase upgrades and weapons. It’s an excellent way to increase replay value on the single-player campaign, and if you’re not into perfection, IAP is available as well to buy those items.
Of course, what N.O.V.A. review would be complete without a nod to its most exciting component: multiplayer. With both local and online gameplay, a plethora of game modes (FFA, Team Deathmatch, Freeze Tag, CTF, InstaGib, and Capture the Point), and even tournaments, you’ll be playing N.O.V.A. 3 long after you’ve completed Campaign Mode.
Holy cow, Monster Shooter: The Lost Levels is fun. It’s the ad-free version of Monster Shooter, with some new extras added on and some killer new levels. This version has 60 levels, and 15 of those are brand spanking new. If you haven’t played the original Monster Shooter, it’s a free, ad-supported game in which you control Dum Dum as he fights alien hordes to save a sweet little kitten. Sure, dual-stick shooters are a dime a dozen these days, but Monster Shooter has that little something extra that makes it truly shine. It also doesn’t hurt that Dum Dum is freaking adorable, and his quest to rescue a kitten is nobler than most.
During play, you’ll simply use the dual sticks to shoot down bad guys as they approach, and scurry around the map to pick up cash, health, and powerups. The difficultly level ramps up nicely as you go, and as you pick up in-game cash, you’ll be able to spend it on upgrades. The shop is a pretty fun place, with new weapons and powerups to choose from (I personally love the Nuke and the Plasma Gun). Challenges tracked across your campaign make achievements subtle but satisfying.
Ah, Bug Princess 2. Another wonderful bullet hell shooter from Japanese developer Cave. They’ve been delivering incredible ports to iOS for years now, and this sequel to the original Bug Princess is just as good as everything else they’ve done. It’s a frantic, adrenaline-pumping shooter that’s chock full of eye candy. For those not indoctrinated into the Cave shooter cult, Bug Princess 2 makes it easy to get involved in the genre. It’s very much like its predecessor, but that’s not a bad thing: there are the same options for control customization, the same excellent touch controls, and the three same gameplay modes.
Each mode offers different styles of gameplay, with some new scoring systems in place to ensure a fresh, new experience. Maniac mode in particular really ups the ante by allowing you to use your laser to discharge your multiplier (which you build up by shooting enemies with your regular guns. Overall, the stages are beautifully crafted, making Bug Princess 2 a must-buy for anyone who loves a good arcade shooter.
Sudoku is one of my favorite puzzle styles out there, but after a while, staring at that same old 2D grid gets a bit old. Sudoku 3D manages to put a great twist on a favorite by making the puzzle three-dimensional. If you’ve never played sudoku, it’s a logic and number game where there’s a 9x9 grid. It starts with some of the numbers filled in, and some spaces blank; each 3x3 sub-grid composing the full play area and each row and column for each space never holds the same number twice. It’s pretty fun, if you’ve never tried it, and Sudoku 3D ups the ante by creating a 16x16 grid and 4x4 sub-grids.
Puzzles are generated by the game, so you’ll likely never see the same setup twice. In addition, the 3D cubes are rendered nicely and the touch controls are smooth. Double-tapping the cube lays out your puzzle in 2D, so if the extra dimension throws off your puzzle-solving skills, you can easily swap to a more easily digestible format. If you’re using a WP7 device, and you love a good puzzle, give Sudoku 3D a whirl.
MumboJumbo is known for their simple, casual games, and Luxor Evolved is a perfect show of how great a game can be with a simple premise. It’s a marble shooter, meaning you control a ship at the bottom of the screen, and strings of colored marbles travel along a maze-like track while your ship attempts to blow up 2 or more marbles of the same color by shooting another like-colored marble into the moving string. If it sounds complicated, it really isn’t -- it’s just one of those games that are harder explained than simply played.
Luxor Evolved certainly lives up to its namesake by elevating the marble shooter to new heights, both literally and figuratively. This marble shooter is set in space, with some slick neon geometric graphics and a great techno soundtrack; in addition, the gameplay offers more than we’re used to seeing in marble shooters via new, crazy powerups and special shots that change the way you play. With a variety of stage types, Luxor Evolved is a beautifully crafted game, and one that’s quickly becoming my all-time favorite in its genre.
Ashley Esqueda is a tech enthusiast, blogger, and all-around mobile junkie who contributes to Mobile Nations, Techfoolery, and Tecca. If you're playing a game you think should be in Knuckle Up, follow her on Twitter or circle her on Google+ and send it over!