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
We see a lot of apps come through here, and we can honestly say we’re floored by Nihilumbra right now. This game is something to behold: an achingly beautiful, bittersweet, wonderful puzzle platformer that’s sure to delight just about anyone who’s a fan of mobile gaming. As the story goes, you’re Born, a bit of the dark Void who decides one day to leave it in search of something meaningful. Unfortunately, the Void isn’t going to just let you go, and you’ll need to traverse levels across different areas to escape it. The good news is, you’ll have some pretty nifty magic at your disposal to assist you on your journey.
Each area has a special “color” power in it that allows you to progress and solve increasingly complex puzzles as the game goes on via “painting” a color for a specific effect. The first color you come across is blue, which puts an icy path on the ground that helps push heavier objects or speed you (or your enemies) up. Unlocking each color also unlocks new and creative ways to continue in the game, and while Nihilumbra starts off fairly easy, the game’s difficulty ramps up significantly toward the end, giving even serious gamers a challenge.
Nihilumbra is pure, unadulterated imagination splashed onto the screen of the iPad. There’s nothing quite like it in the App Store, at least not that we’ve seen. It’s a perfect storm of melancholy that somehow feels poignant and genuine, and that’s pretty special if you ask us.
Once again, Earth has been decimated by an Alien race, and in Strikefleet Omega, you’re commanding an armada of ships to take down the Alien Queen and save the colonies. This is a really cool mashup of the RTS and tower defense genres, and there’s a good balance between the two as you play. There’s the RTS element in drawing lines from your ships to send out fighters and tapping the screen to launch bombs at waves of oncoming enemies; and your tower defense comes in when deciding what kinds of ships to call into battle. It makes for a fun, open experience where you actually feel like your choices truly turn the tide of battle one way or another.
There’s a balancing act at work here, and Harebrained Schemes toes it incredibly well, offering endless ways to win a battle. There’s never a point where you feel like you have to place ships in a certain spot, or purchase specific ships to progress in the game. We’ll note, however, that there’s a slightly pushy IAP system in place to expand your horizons, should you really want to make your fleet gigantic. Each challenge in Strikefleet Omega is even more fun than the last, and since it’s free, anyone who loves either genre (or sci-fi in general) should give it a spin.
We count ourselves among the hordes of people who’ve caught themselves finger-dancing (we’re goofballs, we admit it). Now, some other fans of this hilariously inane activity have created DancePad, a game that we can easily sum up as “DDR, but for your fingers.” First off, if you haven’t seen the trailer for DancePad, you should probably watch it, because it’s awesome. Now, let’s talk about the game. It’s a rhythm game with a lot of fun in it, since you’re playing a touch game in an entirely different way.
Sure, you could play the game with your left- and right-hand index fingers, or even your thumbs... but where’s the fun in that? This game is enjoyed at its maximum if you actually pretend your fingers are dancing legs. And we know that sounds insane, but just trust us on this one. You will imagine your hand as a bizarro Michael Jackson and laugh like an idiot. The tracks aren’t AAA artists (so no Bieber or Lady Gaga, though some of you might be relieved to hear that), but the songs are still catchy and fun to jam to. DancePad is a music game without any legs... but in this case, that’s a good thing.
In its way, Oscura reminds me a little of our Game of the Week -- silhouettes, platforming, and a sense of loneliness permeate both games in their own way. But while Nihilumbra somehow manages to plant a seed of hope firmly in its core, Oscura manages to differentiate itself in that it’s got a truly ominous tone at its roots. Indeed, the soundtrack, art, and general atmosphere all almost predict they will kill you. And kill you, they will.
The entirety of Oscura takes place in a dangerous world not unlike Limbo on XBLA; you’re in charge of relighting the magical lighthouse that keeps away evil things. And let us tell you, there are loads of evil things: nothing wants to keep you alive, nothing wants to help you on your journey. Everything in Oscura is out to destroy you, and you’ll need your wits (and some seriously good platformer skills) about you to survive. As you trot along, you’ll collect shards of light for the lighthouse and dodge some seriously sharp and dangerous things. There aren’t many chapters in Oscura (there are 12 currently), so it ends far too soon, but it’s a great overall experience and well worth looking into.
There’s no way to describe (or otherwise contain) our enthusiasm for Rainbow Tissue Cat, other than “OMGSQUEEEEE!!” Fluffy Mr. Tibbles, a cat, must protect Meowji Castle from an onslaught of birds. He does that by bouncing on a roll of toilet paper and smashing into them. Did we mention there’s a rainbow trail behind him? Because there totally is. Rainbow Tissue Cat is the kind of kawaii, Japanese-inspired game we adore playing on the iPad.
Controls are tilt-based, and every random level has boxes you can bounce on. Jump into the holes, and you’ll have to start over. There are also bombs floating around and booby traps that fly through the air while you attempt to knock out birds, so you’ll need to avoid those as well. Hitting birds unleashes stars from their unconscious bodies, and collecting them allows you to purchase ultra-adorable costumes for Mr. Tibbles in the shop (you can skip earning them with IAP, of course). Anyone who’s a fan of the mega cute will want to have Rainbow Tissue Cat in their iOS game library.
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!