I’ve been playing games for a good many years – about 34 of them, in fact. From the humble Game & Watch right up to the current gen of consoles, I’ve bashed my thumbs against many of their so called “buttons.” So when I say this next bit, it’s coming from someone who has a fair bit of video gaming experience behind them.
I’m getting really sick of reading comments begrudging the quality of mobile games.
Sure, Apple’s app store is flooded with games that wouldn’t have passed the fun test in the days when an Atari 2600 was considered high tech, but that is a result of what is a fairly open platform for developers of all shapes and sizes (I’m partial to 3.2 km wide octagonal ones myself). If you know where to look, there are many rich gaming experiences to be had on iOS. The touch screen of the iPad is extremely sensitive and responsive, and, when used correctly, can make for some unique experiences. Just about everyone these days is carrying around a smart phone, or as I like to call them, a powerful portable gaming device that is very occasionally used to talk to people who aren’t currently in earshot.
So why all the hate for mobile gaming? The suggestion that people who play games on Android or iOS are not “real gamers” is an absurd one. Anyone who plays a game is a gamer, and anyone who is anyone is real… do I need to draw a Venn diagram? No, I didn’t think so. I’ll listen to concerns about or debate over the quality of ANY game on ANY platform, but when a WHOLE PLATFORM is dismissed as being for people who aren’t “real gamers”, that gets on my nerves. There are poor quality games on all platforms, but there are also beautiful, challenging and downright fun experiences to be had if you drop your “real gamer” defenses for just a minute or two.
To make my point, I present 3 mobile games that are fine examples of games that “real gamers” (in the sense of those who usually claim to be one) would or should enjoy. These “Real gamers” seem to love their Call of Duty FPS games, which rely in part on twitch mechanics – that is, being able to control your gun reticule accurately enough to target swiftly moving enemies for long enough to “pop a cap” or two in their proverbial and/or literal arses. I wager that the following three games would initially make even the very best of FPS players feel like confused school children, yet, given half a chance, will then tap into their core gamer sensibilities and have them think twice before shunning the world of mobile gaming.
Game 1) Super Hexagon by Terry Cavanagh. This is probably one of the first iOS games that really got its hooks into me. Maybe the quintessential twitch action game, you play the part of a triangle on a non-stop ride outward ever outward, through a hexagonal maze of patterns both random and fixed. That you start off nice and slow is a great boon, as steering your triangle through the maze of walls is no easy task. Learning the patterns that repeat, how to navigate them safely and most importantly, how to recognize them in time are the keys to success. The movement system is fluid and nuanced, the ever so subtle inertia makes controlling your triangle a joy. The rapid fire restart mechanism after you crash is also a joy, because you will crash… a lot. But restarting is so painless that you probably won’t mind. With access to three of the six levels from the start, Hexagon, Hexagoner and Hexagonest, survive for 60 seconds on each level to unlock its Hyper version, for thicker and faster action. Visually simple but stunning, the colourful, rapidly moving and rotating vectorised graphics take some getting used to, but this game rewards patience and persistence like few other iOS games.
Game 2) Duet, by Kumobius. Now, Duet is not an FPS game, it is a rhythm action puzzler but it tests, and more importantly TRAINS, your twitch skills. You control two spheres, one red, one blue, and the only action you can perform is a rotation, the two spheres moving smoothly around a fixed center point. The touch screen of an iPad or mobile phone is quite well suited to games with a limited number of inputs, but let me assure you, by the time you get half way through the levels in Duet, you will be very glad that rotating clockwise or counter-clockwise is all you have to think about. The game starts off slow, with blocks streaming down toward your twinned spheres at a slow and steady pace as you rotate to avoid them. If you hit a block, you splat against it, and are rewound back to the start of the level. The splat remains as a reminder of your previous failures (and a useful visual clue), and as you progress the blocks come thicker, faster, they start moving from side to side and eventually they become [REDACTED]. [REDACTED] blocks are a real surprise, and will cause you much grief when you first encounter them, but as you continue to play, your ability to read what is happening and react to it improves steadily, and with enough persistence you will achieve all your goals. The set level mode is great fun and provides vital training for the endless mode, which sends you on an endless journey through increasingly difficult, randomly generated block layouts. You start with three hearts, losing one each time you crash, but the refill rate for hearts drops with each section you pass, so not crashing is the only real way to score big.
Game 3) Boson X by Mu & Heyo. This delightful game shares similarities to the two games above, while adding an extra layer to the control scheme. Here our protagonist is a very athletic scientist, who has somehow obtained funding to run through a deadly particle accelerator maze in the name of research. A 3rd person twitch runner, our scientist runs into the screen traversing the dangers of the accelerator, which inconveniently has huge sections missing and many traps in the form of unstable platforms, high voltage sparks and narrow gaps between very solid walls. Science is achieved by making contact with blue platforms (surprisingly, this is exactly the same way I performed my PhD research), and getting to 100% research on a stage unlocks the next. Jumps can be performed to the left or right, rotating around the circular maze. If the jump is held, the scientist can glide, which is handy for long jumps and also for landing on tiny platforms. Holding both left and right jump at the same time achieves a vertical leap. The final stage of Boson X is ridiculously difficult, making this the only one of the three I haven’t fully completed.
This is but a small selection of mobile games, hailing from a similar genre. There are myriad other genres with fine examples of mobile gaming.
If you consider yourself a “real gamer” and feel like bagging out mobile gaming as only for “casuals”, do yourself a favour and play some of these mobile games. I’m always happy to compare high scores!
– Stacey Borg (@DrCurlytek), The Fourth Player’s resident scientist.