Mobile Roundup #12 - February 2019
Three inspired new puzzle games for your nimble fingers, joined by a parenting sim inspired by real historical events. All ready to try on your mobile device of choice right now! Let’s round ‘em up!
Holedown (iOS, Android)
Yet another puzzle game which utilises the mobile platform perfectly, Holedown combines the satisfying angle mechanics of Breakout and the line-clearing relief of Tetris with a fair progression system based on collecting currency as you fall. Blocks are marked with the number of gentle jolts it will take to destroy them, and will fall of their own accord if the below supporting blocks are eliminated, save for the ones which are firmly screwed in place and which should be your first priority.
The number of turns is limited enough to make every shot feel like it should count. Enhancements can be purchased after every round, allowing the player a sense of steady, controlled progress throughout. Starting with asteroids, you’ll soon be plumbing the depths of moons and planetoids with deft and thoughtful excavation.
Twinfold (iOS, Android, PC)
For those who remember cute but maddeningly tricky puzzler Threes! (and its totally illegitimate knock-off, 2048), Twinfold will seem very familiar. It has the same cartoonish aesthetic and involves sliding blocks around a board to keep doubling their value, but it’s different enough to feel like a fresh challenge. For starters, you now exist as piece on the board, a little square avatar that can take damage, and take damage it surely will. Not only will getting shoved into a wall knock a point of health off you, but enemy blocks of varying abilities will also pop up on the board, threatening to shove you around or eat your other blocks. Careful manoeuvering can trick them into hurting each other or falling down convenient holes, but once a score block is consumed the entire board is rearranged, forcing you to adapt your tactics on the fly.
It’s a real brain-scruncher but you always have the option of undoing your last move, and limited but useful powers are doled out after you’ve eaten enough blocks. A cool new take on an established great which will either have you thinking you’re Mensa material, or throwing your phone away in disgust.
Powernode (iOS, Android, PC)
Still another puzzler, but of a more relaxing bent which calls to mind the minimal networking joy of Mini Metro, Powernode shares its sparse but clean aesthetic but throws a little maths into the mix to keep you on your toes. Diamond tiles emit steady pulses, which need to be absorbed by circular tiles; however each circle has a specific number attached, which identifies the strength of pulse it requires. If there is no single diamond emitter on the board to match, then a little waystation must be set up to add together the pulses from several emitters. As play continues, more nodes appear in need of connection. Once a circle is glowing green with power it disappears; neglected circles start emitting warning beeps as their timers tick down. Inevitably entropy wins and the system collapses, but not before you’ve re-jigged the connections a dozen times trying to get the balance right.
It’s as much a question of spatial geometry as number of connections; you don’t want to saddle one node with more than it can handle, but pulses from one further away will take longer to reach their target. It’s in your interest to keep the playfield neat and logically laid out, as the late game requires rapid adjustments. The background ambient jams are correspondingly soothing for such mental taxation.
My Child Lebensborn (iOS, Android)
The likes of Papers Please and This War Of Mine have proved that games which deal with heavy subject matter can be compelling and engaging without necessarily being ‘fun’, and My Child Lebensborn falls squarely in the same category. For the uninitiated, the Lebensborn project was an outcome of Nazi eugenics which encouraged as many ‘racially pure’ children to be born as possible. The game begins in Norway not long after the war’s conclusion and the country’s new-found freedom, and you have agreed to adopt one of these forgotten children of war.
Each day only has time for so many activities, like cooking, cleaning, shopping, working, and more. Eventually outside demands will pressure you into tough choices; it’s a tough balancing act between meeting the child’s physical and emotional needs. The developer describes the game as a ‘dark Tamagotchi’, and this is somewhat accurate; in looking after the child you will only have limited time and money to spend on them, and inevitable tough decisions must be made. You’ll also have to deal with harsh words from neighbours, who see the child as tainted with the blood of their former oppressors. Light on mechanics, but a touching and educational experience nonetheless.