Jump Dash Roll's Mobile Roundup #21 - November 2019
Rad tidings be upon you, oblong wielders! Apple Arcade’s cup continues to runneth over with quality releases, so if you haven’t opted in yet, let’s see if any of the delights below can sway you!
The Pinball Wizard (iOS)
Pinball was a definite precursor to video games and has stuck around in some form or other throughout its successor’s tenure, but while most game versions attempt to faithfully recreate vintage tables from those halcyon days, The Pinball Wizard attempts to put a fresh spin on the genre by interpreting one of its most recognised expressions in the most literal way possible.
Playing as an honest-to-goodness wizard tasked with ascending a cylindrical tower, each floor essentially functions as a pinball table, with the doors of entry acting as the flippers and our magic man as the ball. Falling through the flippers sends the intrepid sorcerer tumbling down the spiral stairs, but as long as he has some health remaining he’ll get up and try again. Not having direct control of events can sometimes feel tricky and frustrating, but after gathering enough XP in true D&D style the wizard eventually levels up and gains more powerful spells, like an orb blast that temporarily acts as a separate ball. With a cel-shaded art style and appropriately medieval soundtrack, this is a fun innovative take on a well-worn but classic genre.
Exit The Gungeon (iOS)
Back in 2016 developer Dodge Roll released Enter The Gungeon, a really rather excellent rogue-like retro-style top-down shooter with a decidedly tongue-in-cheek aesthetic and a horrible pun in the title. Three years later, they’re back with a mobile sequel which seeks to extricate you from that very same place.
Rather paradoxically for the title, the game takes the hassle of aiming and firing away from the player entirely, with your gungeoneer automatically targeting the closest aggressor while you deal with the pressing matter of jumping, rolling and dodging the incoming fire. This turns out to be a canny decision as the number of activities you can juggle on a mobile touch screen is significantly less than using a full-fledged controller. Your blessed and anointed weapon switches every few seconds from an armoury of intensely ridiculous options ranging from the guitar shaped Face Melter to a turtle shell cannon clearly borrowed from a certain Italian plumber. This spin-off translates the bullet-filled chaos of the original to two dimensions very effectively; a fan pleaser that will encourage new players to seek out the original.
Neo Cab (iOS, PC, Switch)
Set in the compelling cyberpunk near-future of Los Ojos, you play as Lina, one of the last few human cab drivers in a world where almost every other vehicle on the road is automated and owned by mega-corporation Capra. Having just arrived in town after being invited by your friend to move in, she goes missing and you must start investigating what has happened, in between making your mandatory number of customers for the day. Luckily some folk are at least still open to the idea of a person behind the wheel they can talk to, and so Lina must meet the customer’s needs while simultaneously grilling them for info on the possible whereabouts of her friend. On your travels you’ll pick up a range of fares, from a non-binary bouncer with an attitude and a robotic arm, to a quantum statistician who claims to perceive alternate realities.
Guiding and sometimes restricting your responses is your FeelGrid, a device that measures your current emotional state. Staying calm and collected is key; if you get too angry, sad or excited, you might not be able to progress the story the way you want to. At times funny, touching and yet still packed with intrigue, Neo Cab is a finely crafted narrative adventure with a smoky, minimalist synth score that nails the dark, oppressive neo-noir aesthetic. Each passenger’s story uncovers a little more of the larger world, a strange yet familiar glimpse into our own future where automation is edging us out of our own society.
Sayonara Wild Hearts (iOS, PS4, Switch)
Swedish developer Simogo has been producing solid mobile gold since 2010, so it would be very easy to just end the review here, but should you need further convincing, Sayonara Wild Hearts is likely like nothing else you’ve played before. Blazing through a psychedelic dreamscape on foot, on a motorbike and even at times on the back of a majestic white stag, an unnamed woman chases down fictional gangs in order to bring balance to the universe, or maybe just to mend her broken heart. Interested yet?
The experience flies ahead at an absolutely breakneck pace, with the scene transitions changing almost as quickly as you ascertain what you’re supposed to be doing. By and large it’s collecting hearts and avoiding obstacles, but the camera twists and coruscates wildly across the landscape, switching from third to first person and constantly shifting perspective in a crazy explosion of colour. A skilled and meaningful musical score has always been intricately woven into Simogo’s games, but SWH takes this to new heights, with the developer going as far as to label this a ‘pop album video game’. Together with vocalist Linnea Olsson, longtime musical associates and contributors Daniel Olsen and Jonathan Eng returned to gift us a dose of hi-octane future-synth to the synapses peppered with the odd moment of wistful nostalgia. Starting with a sparkling electronic arrangement of Clair De Lune, each level centres around banger after club banger that will be stuck in your head long after you put the game away. It’s an exhilarating neon-soaked synthwave-blasting thrill ride from beginning to end, and you need to play it right now.
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