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
Pretty much every older gamer out there has a special place in their heart for The Oregon Trail, a sim game that introduced legions of young schoolchildren to the perils of cholera, dysentery, snakebites, and fording rivers. Now, Organ Trail: Director’s Cut is out for Android and iOS... and it’s appealing to a new generation by replacing covered wagons with station wagons, and a trip to Oregon with a gruesome survival game featuring our favorite undead-izens: zombies.
There are a lot of elements that remain similar to the original Oregon Trail: a classic Apple II look and a delightfully old school soundtrack trigger the very best of PC gaming’s origins. You’ll still need to purchase supplies, keep your party from getting sick and/or bitten, and get your wagon from one side of the map to the next... but there’s a dark glee in Organ Trail that’s flat-out brilliant, and they’ve made some important changes to the game’s mechanics that prove distinct high points.
Other evils out on the road besides zombies also look to slow you down (or kill you). Bandits will sneak around and snatch supplies out of your station wagon as you travel the trail, and sometimes, they’ll even kidnap a member of your party, prompting you to rescue them. Bosses pop up on the shooting screen as you hunt down zombies, and jobs in towns can prove to be just as deadly as the rest of the trail. Your journey in Organ Trail is bleak, depressing, and often miserable -- but that’s what makes it so awesome.
iOS ($1.99) | Android TBA
Polymer is one of the slickest puzzle games with a unique perspective we’ve seen on iOS. Oddly enough, this isn’t a game from any huge development house -- on the contrary, it’s a game from one man, Whitaker Trebella. He decided a couple years ago that he wanted to compose music for games, and then later realized he wanted to make games. Polymer is the result of his hard word, and damn, it’s good.
Polymer offers you a grid of shapes with connectors on them, and the goal is to slide those pieces into a fully formed shape, which gives you points based on its complexity. There are a variety of modes, but the one we have the most fun with is endless. It’s deeply relaxing (yet challenging) to kick back with that mode and just create with a cool, zen-like soundtrack pulsing in the background. Every puzzle fan with an iPad (and Android users should see it soon!) should own Polymer, and we can’t wait for Trebella’s next effort.
If you follow Knuckle Up, you know we love smiting the unworthy, so Babel Rising 3D was a pretty obvious choice for the column this week. It’s not often we see a freemium title so polished and fun. You’re a vengeful god hellbent on teaching some heretics a lesson. You see, they’ve unwisely decided to attempt to erect a tower in some other god’s name... and we can’t have that, can we?
The game is a series of levels with waves of heretics trying to get to the top of the tower, and your job is to smoosh them before they make it up there with building supplies. You’ll have an arsenal of elemental abilities at your fingertips for destroying those who would dare turn against you, and certain enemies have immunity to certain elements. Some attacks are single-target, while others are AoE, but the real fun is when you max out an element and get access to mega attacks that destroy all around the tower. The environment is beautifully rendered, and overall, it’s a fun time waster if you’re looking for something silly (and vengeful) to do.
iOS (iPad, Free)
The Big Big Castle is a game from Clayton Kauzlaric and Ron Gilbert (yeah, THAT Ron Gilbert -- Monkey Island Ron Gilbert, to be exact), and it’s a great little title with lots of fun packed into it. This game’s not just about creating something... it’s also about the best part of our childhood. TBBC taps into a primal, childlike joy we’ve all experienced: building something from nothing, and then gleefully destroying it with wild abandon. It’s got some really fun multiplayer aspects, too, making for a nicely rounded game with barrels of imagination stuffed into it.
The game starts off simple enough, with some basic challenges and lower height requirements to meet. But very quickly (amidst some very silly and funny dialogue from the King who’s hired you), you’ll have to make castles as tall and spindly as a skyscraper with random pieces of stone and spire. Did we mention you’ll have to make sure they’re durable? Because other kingdoms jealous of your castles will start shooting cannonballs at it. After you’ve completed a level, you have the opportunity to destroy your own creation, which is totally worth it. Destruction is just as fun as building in TBBC, and since it’s free, everyone with an iPad should download it.
NVIDIA’s been pushing the envelope in terms of graphical prowess on Android devices, and Puddle THD is a prime example of what’s possible on a mobile device. It’s a very simple premise: guide various types of liquids through a labyrinth of gizmos and mechanics to the exit. Fortunately for us, it’s a simple premise wrapped in an absolutely jaw-dropping visual package and stellar gameplay. It’s been around on XBLA and PSN for a while, but it’s finally made its way to Android -- however, there’s a bit of a catch: you have to have a Tegra 3 device to play it, so hopefully you have one of those laying around.
As mentioned, you’ll guide various types of liquid through complex machines and environments. Not only will you deal with water, oil, and even rocket fuel -- each have their own viscosity and move accordingly in game -- you’ll also be tasked with getting it past devices that can evaporate, absorb, or even ignite the fluid featured in each level. The game makes good use of the gyroscope control-wise, and you’ll quickly find yourself spinning your phone or tablet in circles to finish particularly challenging levels.
Ashley Esqueda is a tech pundit, cylon, and all-around mobile nerd 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!