Mobile gaming has come a massive way in the past couple of years, from the doddery tower defence games of the original iPhone to proper first-person shooting on today’s dual-core powerhouses. But once you’ve splashed the cash on your new twin-cored tablet or smartphone, where are your gaming readies best invested? The Recombu office went on a romp through the App Store and Android Market to uncover the dual-core diamonds in the gaming rough.
NOVA 2 HD
Android phones, 63p
While the whole game is pretty much one big nod to the Halo franchise, NOVA 2 HD works better than any FPS we’ve played on a smartphone before. In a desperate battle against a hostile human-alien alliance bent on the destruction of Earth (aren’t they always?), you guide your space marine through ships and bases blasting away at shooty extra-terrestrials and their war machines with an arsenal of futuristic weapons, and yet with the assisted aim and clearly set out controls, the relative dinky-ness of a smartphone screen never feels restrictive. It’s also pretty – graphically NOVA 2 HD is a dead ringer for the original Halo: Combat Evolved.
Android tablets, free
A mix of tower defence and third person sword swinging, Dungeon Defender puts you in the boots of a wet-behind-the-ears magical hero defending a magical gemstone from a legion of mythical beasties. At the beginning of each wave your character can use his or her magical powers to summon defences – spike traps, arrow turrets, that sort of thing – and then use them and your own weapons to fight off enemies out to destroy the crystal. The movement controls are a bit askew, but setting up the perfect series of traps and watching goblins break themselves against them is satisfying, and the graphics and voice acting (really!) make for an engaging fantasy romp.
Samurai II: Vengeance
Android tablets, £1.74
Samurai 2 Vengeance looks great: those cel-shaded graphics take us as close as we’re ever going to get to living in our own episode of Samurai Jack. There’s a story, of sorts, told in comic book panels, but it’s only really there as filler between the more serious business of chopping people up with a sword.
Combat is a bit repetitive – hack, slash, dodge, repeat – but every now and again you’re rewarded by one of your aggressors falling gruesomely in half. Enemies toughen up as you progress, wielding better swords and bows and arrows, and the more stuff you carve up the more moves you unlock for your cartoon warrior. It’s not a mind-blowlingly original premise, but it’s a great example of just how good Tegra gaming can look.
Galaxy on Fire 2 THD
Android tablets, Free
No doubt about it, Galaxy on Fire 2 THD is squeezing all it can out of the Tegra 2 processor. The galaxy looks huge and is populated with dozens of other spaceships, stations and drifting galactic junk, and exploring in your own ship feels like being back at the controls of the Elites and X Beyond the Frontiers of yesteryear. You pilot your spaceship around, breaking up asteroids for their ore and fighting off pesky enemies intent on breaking you up for scrap, and the more bits and pieces you collect in your cargo hold, the more weapons and ship upgrades you can buy from friendly space stations. A classic space sim experience, now available on tablet.
Android tablets, £3.16
Once we’d figured out that you make you player move using the tablet’s accelerometer (something the game leaves you to figure out for yourself) even our profound lack of American Football knowledge couldn’t spoil this game. Your mission is to sprint, spin or sidestep past opposing players as they charge you down and deliver the ball to the other team’s goal-line. Leave the other team far enough behind and you even get to silly-walk the ball home – every bit as fun as it looks on TV. As is probably the case in real sport, timing is everything, however, and our own NFL player met many an inglorious end to a game being driven face first into the ground while dancing toward the end line like a chicken. Worth it, though.
iPad 2, £4.99
Dead Space was the first iOS game that really made use of the iPad 2’s dual-core processor and showed its graphic capability.
Instead of just replicating the original Dead Space for iOS, developer EA created a brand new story located between the console versions of Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2. In fact completing the game nets you a 1000 in-game credits to use in Dead Space 2
It also designed it especially to suit the dual-core iPad 2. Graphically it’s fantastic, with atmospheric lighting that makes a good stab at replicating the console experience on a tablet.
To get the most out of Dead Space headphones are essential for adding atmosphere and you can hear every jump and bump.
The story is perhaps a little too linear; you know exactly what is coming and the touchcscreen controls can be a little unwieldily at first, as you slay Necromorphs, but Dead Space is the best action/survival horror third-person shooter on iOS and one of the best mobile games.
Real Racing 2 HD
iPad 2, £2.99
Of all the games on show here, Real Racing 2 may be the prettiest, especially on the iPad 2. Anyone who’s ever played a modern racer will be in familiar territory here: starting out in a low-end banger, you earn cash by winning races with which you can then soup up your ride, either by swapping out stock parts for pro versions, or just painting your car pretty colours. The actual business of racing is intuitive; your car accelerates automatically, you tap the screen to brake and tilt the iPad left or right to turn. Sadly there’s not a lot of scope for foul play (nudging opponents into barricades leaves them disappointingly unscathed) but once we’d set our minds to winning the gentleman’s way, we were hooked.