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
Air Mail is serving up some Pilotwings realness right now on iOS. It’s not just a cheap clone or a terrible faux-port of the popular Nintendo franchise. Chillingo’s history of excellence proves itself again with a title that’s charming, challenging, and meticulously crafted. You’re “Scoop” (you get to pick a boy or girl character), a young pilot freshly inducted into the ranks of the Domeekan Island Flyers. Scoop must deliver packages, explore, and complete other challenges on the cheery archipelago -- at least until the Verikai Sky Fleet comes in and sets up a blockade.
One of my favorite parts of Air Mail is its complete lack of actual dogfighting. Sure, Scoop is part of the war effort, but that doesn’t mean you have to shoot down the bad guys to win. Objectives include supply line sabotage, disarming explosives, and delivering supplies to your own brethren. It’s refreshingly innocent, but not in a naive way. Visually, Air Mail is downright gorgeous, especially on the new iPad, and you’ll find yourself loving Exploration Mode, wherein you fly around in your plane, pick up information, and take in the sights of Domeekan.
Air Mail is an exquisite example of how mobile games can truly entertain and tell a compelling story without losing the heart that great mobile gaming is all about. This is a game all ages and kinds of gamers will enjoy.
Discovering an indie game like Chickens Can’t Fly is a true treat for any discerning gamer: you feel like you’re in on this great secret, one that the masses haven’t yet stumbled upon. Developer AmusedSloth delivers a lovingly crafted, funny, and unique game that really shines on WP7. Chickens centers around experiments and a very brave (or crazy) chicken. It’s a “falling” game (as opposed to a jumping or climbing game), and you’ll control the chicken as it zooms down each experiment.
Each level/experiment has a specific goal that you’ll have to accomplish by the time your chicken hits the end (survival, time, item pickup) and that’s made all the more difficult by obstacles on the way down. In addition, if you want to master Chickens Can’t Fly, you’ll have to pick up corn and work the combo system, which consists of powerdowns that do things like shrink, poison, and even ignite your chicken. You’re rewarded the most for doing dangerous things in CCF, but that’s what makes it so much fun. Don’t miss it if you’ve got a Windows Phone.
What do Vikings, Aztecs, and the Chinese all have in common? They’re all part of Swords and Soldiers, a well-assembled RTS title with heaping helpings of humor sprinkled in. This is a side-scrolling RTS with the micromanagement stripped away to reveal a solid foundation and gleeful visuals. Those three aforementioned groups are all part of Campaign Mode, giving you ample time to understand each faction’s silliness and modus operandi in battle: the Vikings are defensive structure healers, the Aztecs love death mechanics, and the Chinese enjoy spell casting. And they all have quirky little stories that
It doesn’t take much to enjoy Swords and Soldiers; in fact, it’s a game anyone can pick up and play without much experience in the RTS genre, which is a huge bonus in my book. You’re simply maximizing gold and troop management via adding soldiers or purchasing upgrades. That’s not a bad thing, though, as it’s a fun change of pace to have an RTS you can play without being overly vigilant throughout a campaign. Grab this one if you like RTS games, but can’t be bothered with the more granular options available in other titles.
I love that Bee Leader is an original game with fun gameplay. Instead of another endless runner or shmup, we have a little title by developer Flightless that really hits the mark for quick play sessions and overall fun factor. In Bee Leader, you’re a little bee that has to collect pollen in each carefully crafted level. As you go along grabbing delicious flower by product, you’ll also have to dodge enemies and obstacles looking to take away your honey stash.
If there’s one gripe about Bee Leader, it’s that the controls are slightly too loose for my taste (Flightless is already working on tighter, more precise controls for a future update), which can lead to some maddening runs. Generally speaking, though, you won’t have too much trouble with most of any given level, and the concept and execution is more than enough to give Bee Leader a solid recommendation. Oh, and IAP? Nowhere to be found in this one. One buck delivers all of Bee Leader’scontent!
Big Fish Games often releases interesting hidden object games, but Macabre Mysteries: Curse of the Nightingale held my attention far longer than most of its ilk. This is a haunting, beautiful story about an old theater. You receive a golden ticket and a letter from your long-lost grandfather inviting you to the Nightingale Theater for the evening’s show. Considering the letter was written around the time the Nightingale Theater was ravaged by a fire 40 years ago, it’s obvious there’s some kind of mystery afoot, and you head to the Nightingale to solve it.
One of the things I particularly enjoyed about Nightingale was that the hidden object scenes weren’t convoluted, or filled with junk unrelated to the environment. On the contrary, collecting all the bits and pieces in each vignette combine into an item that’s usable elsewhere to unlock more content. It’s a welcome change from the usual “find a bunch of stuff for no apparent reason” we see so often in the genre. Visually, the game is lovely, and manages to be dark and spooky without being overly grim. It’s worth a spin if you enjoy hidden object games, and even if you’re not a rabid fan of the genre, you should check out the demo, because you just might love it.
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!