Both the App Store and the Android Market have been subjected to an attack of the clones, a natural occurrence given that developers can self-publish their own apps, even if Apple’s approval program seeks to weed out potential cases of copyright infringement. Yet even so, plenty of games that are obviously inspired by others manage to slip the net. Of course, most of these are pretty awful, entirely failing to live up to the games they intend to ape. But the flipside of the coin is that plenty of these titles match or even beat their inspiration. So here are some of the best tribute acts you can download for your smartphone of choice.
More an affectionate tribute than an outright rip-off, Bike Baron might not have an original bone in its body, but it understands what made its influences so good. It’s a cartoonish take on the physics-based challenges of the classic Trials HD, shot through with a dose of Joe Danger humour, as you guide your rider around a series of increasingly tricky courses. You’ll dodge obstacles, and accelerate up ramps and around loops, desperately trying to avoid your rider connecting with the piles of explosive barrels that litter the levels – and with immaculate touch controls, you’ll have a blast doing so.
Words With Friends
It’s Scrabble in all but name, though Words With Friends beats the family favourite at its own game. With the original’s iOS version only sporting a local multiplayer mode, Zynga spotted a gap in the market, creating a clone that allows you to have several online matches on the go at any time. With a sensible interface, clean visual design and a number of neat touches (like the ability to shuffle your tiles either at the touch of a button, or by shaking your mobile device of choice) it’s the kind of game that should be a fixture on all smartphones.
There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation with this one. Flick Soccer has a lot in common with PikPok’s highly-rated and hugely popular Flick Kick Football, though it comes from Full Fat Games, who previously made other Flick-branded titles, and the very similar Deadball Specialist. While all those games ask you to flick a football into a goal past defenders and goalkeepers, and occasionally with a target to hit, it’s Flick Soccer that comes out on top thanks to its impressive polish and variety of game modes.
Popular publisher Gameloft is well-known for its attempts to reproduce big-budget console titles on portable devices, and while its output is decidedly hit-and-miss, N.O.V.A. 2 represents a terrific achievement. Halo is the obvious touchstone for this sci-fi blaster, and Gameloft has gone the extra mile in its attempts to recreate the console experience on smartphones, bolstering a lengthy solo campaign with a suite of online multiplayer modes across ten maps. With some seriously impressive graphics, it’s a standard-setting smartphone shooter, much better than a Halo clone has any right to be.
Robot Unicorn Attack
Cartoon TV network Adult Swim has made quite a name for itself in mobile circles, working with some of the industry’s most talented teams to bring its anarchic sense of humour to a whole new audience. Robot Unicorn Attack owes quite a substantial debt to the ever-popular Canabalt, the game unofficially credited with inventing the ‘endless runner’ genre. Except here, instead of fleeing a collapsing monochrome city, you’re soaring through rainbow-coloured environments to the strains of Erasure’s ‘Always’. It’s camp, silly and mercilessly addictive.
With iOS hit Tiny Wings conspicuous by its absence on the Android Market, bedroom coder Justin Smith took it upon himself to rectify the situation, creating the story of an armadillo who wants to fly like a bird. As in Andreas Illiger’s surprise smash, you help him fulfil his dream by touching the screen during his descents, timing your taps so that he gains momentum as he glides down hills and soars back upwards. It can’t match the charm or the immaculate design of Tiny Wings, but most Android owners will find it a more than adequate substitute.
Zanda: Linked Swords
Quite how this remains on the App Store without Nintendo’s lawyers writing furiously-worded cease and desist letters is beyond us, but Nenad Radibratovic’s tribute to the early Zelda games is actually quite an achievement. Sure, the hero might be in orange rather than green, and it’s not much of a looker, but it captures the spirit of the series it apes fairly well. Not only that, it allows you to interact with just about everyone and everything in its expansive world, and it’s quite a substantial adventure to boot.
Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus
Another entry for Gameloft, only this time the publisher has the Call of Duty series in its sights. Like Modern Warfare 2, it dispenses with the niceties pretty quickly to focus purely and simply on shooting bad guys and making things explode. In that respect at least, it matches its inspiration, but also in its implementation of online multiplayer, with the same progressive levelling system that has given the console phenomenon such longevity. It’s not quite Modern Warfare on the move, but it’s not too far off.
If the spate of clones that followed Angry Birds’ incredible success was inevitable, it was heartening to see one developer do things a little differently. Siege Hero is essentially Rovio’s game from a first-person perspective, as you fling rocks, bombs and hot oil to demolish a structure that holds several enemy guards, who must be destroyed before you run out of shots. Despite a different point of view, the similarities are obvious, yet developer Armor Games could reasonably claim they got there first – after all, in its early days on the App Store, many accused Angry Birds of being a clone of Armor’s Crush The Castle.
You wonder whether developer Rogue Rocket should have gone the whole hog and called its game Fish Ninja. But this ‘homage’ to the casual hit Fruit Ninja makes up for its bare-faced cheek with an interesting twist on the food-slicing formula. Here you have plates with four portions of rice, and your job is to cut each sea creature enough times as they fly through the air to complete the dish. Make sure you avoid the stinky rotten ones, though, or it’s your career as a sushi chef that’ll be for the chop.