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.
This week, we're talking about our five favorite games this year! Here's who made our "Best of 2012" list:
GAME OF THE YEAR
Telltale Games has picked up a huge barrel of accolades for The Walking Dead, and we're adding one more to the bunch by naming it our 2012 Mobile Game of the Year. Participating in the gory, zombie-infested journey of Lee and his unplanned ward Clementine was both horrifying and heartbreaking. We can't count how many times we felt helpless as we made impossible choices affecting our entire party's feelings toward us, or how many times we weren't quite sure what to say to someone to quell their inner demons.
Attempting to shield Clementine from the perils of both zombie and human, and the gut wrenching sequences we experienced as each chapter played out was a perfect example of how mobile games don't need to mean simple, or childish; indeed, The Walking Dead served as a model for dramatic storytelling, beyond the platform. We could have watched this short story play out on our screens between seasons of the TV show (not unlike Battlestar Galactica's Razor), and it would have easily served as a parallel-timeline-slash-prequel.
There's no point in spoiling the story for you if you haven't played The Walking Dead, but there's no doubt in our minds it was the best of the best in both environment, character development, plot, and plain tugging at the ol' heartstrings. A well deserved accolade for Telltale Games, along with a hope that they'll continue to produce this type of polished, high-level content.
Few games captured our imagination on mobile like Bastion did this year, so it was a no-brainer to include it on our list. We know it already accumulated a lot of awards in 2011 when it was released, but we're going to pretend we didn't know it existed until it arrived on our iPads mid-2012. Make no mistake: from the ever-changing environments to the stellar voiceover of the narrator, to the way the game allowed your hero ("The Kid") to evolve, everything about Bastion sings with imagination.
It's crazy to think that this is the first title from Supergiant Games, as Bastion really fires on all cylinders throughout. We're crazy about the eclectic, varied score, and the (sometimes difficult) transition, control-wise, from console to touchscreen was executed flawlessly. Few games provide such a deep, evocative experience, and we're thrilled we were finally able to take Bastion with us wherever we went. It's a beautiful, strange, and wondrous journey that every iOS owner should take.
Every year, there's some manner of runaway indie hit that ends up blowing up and holding us all hostage; for us, that game this year was Letterpress. A beautiful, simple word game by Atebits, Letterpress stripped all the pretense and complexities from the word game genre, and replaced it with a head-to-head, mano-e-mano battle for the majority of 25 letters before every letter is used.
Atebits is known for its simple Twitter client Tweetie, so it wasn't a surprise to see such a steamlined, easy to play title from them; however, nobody expected to become addicted to the thrill of challenging your friends for lingual supremacy. After its launch, we're still playing rematches and talking trash at our friends, and Letterpress's pared down concept and elegant design, and we don't see ourselves stopping anytime soon.
Usually, when a developer makes a licensed game from an established console franchise, you get a watered down version or one haphazardly cobbled together to cash in on a hot property. Rayman Jungle Run definitely did NOT fall into either of those columns, and we were treated to a full-featured, clever, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous side scrolling runner this year. Nobody mixed together music, running, and collecting the way Rayman Jungle Run did, making it an obvious top pick.
Ubisoft did everything right in crafting a game that complimented the console versions brilliantly, offering all the bits of Rayman that reminded us how much we loved the franchise, yet never forgetting the fact it was made specifically for our tablets and phones. With a recent level pack released, it looks like people are clamoring for more Rayman Jungle Run (and Ubisoft seems happy to oblige), and we don't see Rayman stopping anytime soon.
ANGRY BIRDS: STAR WARS
iPhone/iPod ($0.99) iPad ($4.99) | Android (FREE) HD ($2.99) | WP8 ($0.99)
Angry Birds Star Wars was the game we were almost dreading this year, as we've seen a bastardization of our favorite sci-fi franchise over the years (we're looking at you, Star Wars Detours). Combining that with the most popular mobile gaming franchise of all time felt like a terrible idea, but the second we got our hands on Angry Birds Star Wars, we remembered how much we loved both IPs and marveled at how well Rovio and Lucasfilm merged their worlds together.
Everything about Angry Birds Star Wars just worked: the translation of iconic Star Wars characters to birds with their own special (and appropriate) abilities, the mixing of both gravity and zero-gravity via planet- and space-based areas, and lastly, the excellent way Rovio incorporated other bits and bobs of the Star Wars universe. We're always wary when franchises collide, but in this case, we'll make a major exception and say Angry Birds Star Wars is one of the best mashups we've ever played, mobile or otherwise.
Ashley Esqueda is a host, cylon, and all-around mobile nerd who also works for Mobile Nations and runs an obscenity-laden tech podcast called Techfoolery. 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!