Mobile Round-up #3 - May 2018

May 7, 2018

The BAFTAs have been awarded for this year (should they not be BAFTGAs by now??), so let’s peer past the big-name releases and have a look at what mobile titles have been honoured with the touch of mainstream acceptance and legitimacy for this year, shall we?

Golf Clash (iOS, Android)

While sporting unquestionably pretty graphics and a solid 3D engine underpinning affairs, there’s no getting away from the immediately apparent fact that Golf Clash is less interested in you having a pleasant experience on the fairway as it is in your digital wallet. The opening menu is cluttered with a host of options to progress by way of microtransactions, with at least three different types of currency, and the option to earn some by giving up either your time, Facebook data, or actual real monies.

Again, the presentation is good for the most part, with smoothly drawn fairways and bold fonts, but everything else is attuned to the worst possible impulses of player and publisher alike. Loot boxes are earned in play, but have hours-long opening times, unless you’re willing to cough up; likewise, better clubs, balls and other equipment can be purchased at the outset, giving the idle rich a decisive advantage. Courses are multiplayer only, and only one hole at a time, lest players’ addled attention spans give out; indeed, be prepared for competitors either playing farcically or downright disconnecting if they don’t think they’re going to win. Club selection is extremely limited and the putting guide is detrimentally generous. With a decent single-player mode and fairer microtransactions this could have been very recommendable; as it is, Golf Clash belongs to that irksome, predatory and desultory section of the app store that cheapens the integrity of mobile gaming, and it’s an affront that it won the BAFTA Mobile Game award against genuinely worthy candidates.

Bury Me, My Love (iOS)

Mobile games which cunningly use the facade of a mobile OS to draw you into the story have already been tried to mostly admirable effect (Mr Robot, A Normal Lost Phone), but this story in particular is exceedingly topical. This narrative adventure from developers The Pixel Hunt follows a young Syrian woman called Nour as she attempts to cross the continent from war-torn Homs in hope of finding a new life in Europe. Assuming the role of her husband Majd who has remained in Syria, you attempt to guide Nour via text message to make the best possible decisions as she encounters setback after setback. Nineteen endings of varying degrees of success are possible based on your choices, so repeat plays are rewarded.

Interactions are mostly limited to the aforementioned texting which is set to play out in real time for enhanced verisimilitude, but this can be turned off if you’re eager to find out the next story development. A map is available to track Nour’s progress westwards. At times touching and brutally honest, this is an empathetic and well-written dramatisation of a plight affecting thousands right now.

Gorogoa (iOS, Android, PC)

Gorogoa is quite unlike anything you’ve probably played before; a statement one would think scarcely possible in the current gaming landscape, but nevertheless, it exists. A mysterious patchwork of images and scenes intertwining in semiotic ways and rendered in a gentle watercolour-like tone, blending steely logic with abstract surrealism, it provokes curiosity almost as much as it defies conventional explanation.

There is a journey unfolding on the page in front of you; it appears to be that of a boy collecting items for some sort of offering. You will not find a single line of expository text; the story transitions, dream-like, from one frame to the next. In a four tile space, multiple scenes can be happening concurrently; some can be zoomed in or out, or panned left and right, revealing other, related scenes. Some scenes can be stacked atop each other, providing doorways and portals to provide the boy safe passage; others can be rotated, reversed or otherwise transformed to meet the requirements of the narrative.

We covered the PC release back in March, but this is an experience equally, if not more at home on the mobile touch screen. Panels can be dragged easily from frame to frame, and a simple double-tap enlarges the current frame for scrying eyes to view it more clearly.

At times you will feel abandoned and clutching at straws, but those who look deeply and carefully enough will be able to parse out the little clues and pointers hidden within plain sight. Elegantly presented and with a haunting ambient score, this unique puzzler will have you scratching your head in bewilderment, then seeing the light and wonder how you ever missed it.

Stranger Things (iOS, Android)

Given the main appeal of the smash Netflix series is firmly centred on its loving homage to the ‘80s, you’d expect the tie-in mobile game to be equally authentic and respectful, and you’d not be wrong. Aping the style of a typical NES-era top-down adventure game, you start out as Chief Hopper investigating the Hawkins lab, and slowly acquire the help of all the regular characters from the show, each with their own special ability.

At certain points, the mysteriously icky Upside-Down realm can be accessed and can be used as a pathway to otherwise inaccessible areas. It’s not quite Legend of Zelda, and it overplays the whole ‘find the keycard’ trope to some degree, but it’s a solid tie-in to a well-loved show. Besides, who doesn’t love Eggos?

Wastelands' thrilling finale means it's a step up from Rules, but it makes a few missteps in its handling of the brothers’ relationship to get there.
Steve McCullough

Gaming has come such a long way since I first started playing, and I can't wait to see where it goes next! Especially interested in mobile and indie games, and also a huge board game fan. Will talk about all of the above for beer money.