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12 essential Android games to help beat Yuletide boredom

Don’t want to watch the Queen’s speech or suffer the inevitable re-run of The Great Escape? Then download these games on your Android phone and chase away the Yuletide blues.

Angry Birds and Angry Birds Seasons

Are you really surprised to see this game here? The most talked about mobile game of recent memory is available to download for virtually every Android phone. And it’s free. Happy Christmas is right!

You know the drill by now; pigs have nicked the birds eggs, you help birds get revenge by throwing them at the pigs’ houses. If somebody took my eggs, I’d get my own back by catapulting myself at their house too.

Angry Birds and Angry Birds Seasons are available to download for free from the Market now. Seasons includes 25 Christmas-themed levels and includes the Halloween levels that were released for iPhone and iPad earlier this year.

Pocket God

This aimless yet utterly captivating game has only recently arrived for Android phones but it’s been worth the wait. Pocket God places a group of islanders at your mercy. You can choose to be a benevolent deity and take care of your worshippers. Make sure they’re fed, sheltered and protected from shark infested waters and T-Rexes.

Or, if you’re feeling spiteful, you can be a wrathful god, erupting volcanoes, feeding your people to flesh-eating ants and giant squid, or getting passing seabirds to defecate on their heads.

Pocket God doesn’t have any real objectives as such, it’s more of a fun interactive environment with multiple outcomes and things to unlock. There are currently 5 environments to explore with plenty of different secrets to be discovered.

Gravity Lander

Another newcomer to the Android Market is Gravity Lander from Swiss designers Buro Destruct. This simple gravity-based puzzler features charming 8-bit style graphics and a minimalist colour scheme. The electronic soundtrack and colour palette also put us in mind of Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine (never a bad thing).

The object of Gravity Lander is to clear away the piles of debris that are preventing the red rocket from safely landing on the surface of Mars.

You can clear the rubbish out of the way by tilting the phone left or right so that the space junk falls off either side of the ravine. Tapping on the black and white pieces makes them disappear from the field. Tapping the red oil drums makes them explode, sending everything around them flying in all directions.

Gravity Lander is free to download from the Market, but requires you to install Adobe AIR (link below) and only works on Android 2.2 devices.

Tetris

Who can remember unwrapping a Game Boy on Christmas morning and playing Tetris for the first time? Aaaah Tetris. Who doesn’t like Tetris? This is the official Tetris game for Android from EA Mobile. Official, meaning unlikely to get banhammered from the Android Market, like many other Tetris-clones did.

As well as being all legal and above board it comes with two game modes, Marathon and Magic. Marathon is pretty much pure Tetris – keep on keeping on ’til you can’t keep on anymore.

Magic is basically classic Tetris with power ups thrown in like the bubble tool, which lets you blast away individual bricks, and the vice tool, which momentarily freezes play, giving you chance to think for a couple of seconds before the chaos resumes.

Tetris costs €2.15 from the Android Market, which currently works out at around £1.80.

Galcon

Galcon is a fast-paced planet conquering game where the object is to conquer everything around you, kind of like a sci-fi Risk. It’s a contraction of Galactic Conquest see?

You start with 1-3 home planet(s) and send ships off to conquer plants by dragging a line between one of your planets and it. A big fleet of ships will shoot off to invade and take over the other planet.

The numbers on each planet indicate how many ships it will take to conquer them. The numbers on a player’s own planet indicate the amount of ships that that planet holds at any one time. The bigger the planet, the faster it’ll produce ships, so you’ll want to grab the big factory worlds first.

You can play games against computer opponents or against real life people online. You will lose the first few games you play online against other people, so it’s best to spend time training up against the computer to get a hang of the mechanics.

In order to play against people online you’ll need to register an account online first which you can do by going here. Galcon is downloadable from the Android Market and costs £1.89.

Toyshop Adventures

Toyshop Adventures is a slick 3D platformer from Glu Mobile. You step into the plastic shoes of some little vinyl toys who are on a mission to help the kindly old shopkeeper who has literally lost his marbles.

This is pure old-school platforming action. There’s marbles to be collected in in lieu of Mario’s coins or Sonic’s rings, and many a platform to be jumped. Throw in a dash of puzzle solving, some sharp 3D visuals and colourful characters and you’ve got a winner on your hands.

Though this has been out on the iPhone for a while the Android version features a little green Android mascot as a playable character.

The only problems with Toyshop Adventures is that if you’re playing this on a phone without a multi-touch screen, you won’t be able to move and jump at the same time, which makes some of the later levels tricky.

Crystallight Defence

Crystallight Defence is a steampunk fantasy-themed tower defence game. The object is to blast hordes of clockwork critters as they march inexorably towards your castle.

Instead of the typical gun towers and rockets that are standard TD fare, you get brightly coloured crystals. Crystals come in four colours (red, yellow, blue and green) each of which have different properties. Red crystals fire basic projectiles at enemies while the yellow ones shoot exploding beams. The blue crystals blasts can slow down enemies with ice while the green crystals shoot acid at your robotic enemies, which gradually erodes their health.

You can also mix crystals together for extra power. For example mixing blue and green creates a big ice-acid crystal, which’ll slow enemies down while eating away at their armour.

Mini Squadron

An addictive side-on shooting game which puts you in the cockpit of several brightly coloured and bizarre aircraft. There’s propellor planes, seaplanes, flying saucers and one plane that’s shaped like a giant cat. A cousin of the Catbus from My Neighbour Totoro maybe.

MiniSquadron is easy to pick up and offers hours of simple blasting fun. Each aircraft handles differently, ensuring that things stay fresh and interesting and there’s a load of extra power ups thrown in as well.

Things like Speed Up, Rapid Fire, and Big Laser. All of which are enunciated in a high-pitched Worms-style voice when you pick one up. In fact, a lot of the power ups have a very Worms-kind of feel about them, especially the Airstrike. We were half-expecting Holy Hand Grenades and Sheep Strikes, but sadly no.

Reckless Racing and Pocket Racer

Reckless Racing is a top down style racer with some very nice 3D graphics and a Deep South redneck theme. Think Street Racer meets Dukes of Hazzard and you’re sort of there. There are six characters to choose from, each one of them as stereotypically Southern as you can get – there’s Bubba, Lurlene and Floyd the Trucker. Acceleration is automatic and you control your car by tapping left or right on the screen to turn.

Best of all is that there’s an online multiplayer mode, meaning you can play against everyone else online who is also trying to avoid talking to their drunk uncles. It works best over Wi-Fi but if you’ve got decent 3G coverage at home then that works fine too.

Pocket Racer might not have the slick 3D graphics of Reckless Racer, but it operates in the same way – automatic acceleration, tap left or right to turn – and we think it’s a little faster too. There’s no direct multiplayer action on Pocket Racer (sad face) but you can race against other people’s best times. Pocket Racer (which we’ve featured before here) now comes with OpenFeint support. So if you’ve got a profile you can bulk it up with points at the same time.

Reckless Racings costs about £1.90 (converted from $2.99) and Pocket Racing costs £0.59.

Speedx 3D

Another game to recently get OpenFeint support that we’ve covered before here at Recombu is Speedx 3D.  A first-person affair, you tilt your phone left and right to steer past obstacles and drive over pick ups for points.

There are no extra lives and no continues as this is a pure test of endurance. The longer you travel the more points you pick up. Driving over the coloured paths on the track is the best way to rack up extra points.

You can pick up a total of four energy shields by driving over the orange grids on the track. These give you some measure of protection against crashes and things like plasma clouds which occasionally litter the racetrack.

Speedx 3D costs £0.99 on the Android Market.

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