Mobile Round-up #4 - June 2018

June 20, 2018
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Summer is breaking through the clouds, so tilt your screen away from the glare and have a gander at these choice mobile titles!

Killing Time At Lightspeed (iOS, Android, PC)

Another offering of the slightly hard to quantify ‘narrative experiences disguised as apps’ genre, this one has some hard science baked into the premise. It’s the near future, and with the advent of interstellar travel, you and many other aspiring adventurers are leaving Earth for pastures new. Your friends are sad to see you go, but hey, you can always stay in touch via social media. The catch is, due to the relativistic effects of near light speed travel, what feels like a scant thirty minutes en route for you equates to almost thirty years back on Earth.

You read messages from mates and scan the current news stories, but every time you hit the refresh button, years zip by for your Terran buddies, and new technological advancements and political changes affect their lives. As previously mentioned, there’s basically no interaction to be had, apart from liking posts which does not affect the outcome. More short story than game, this is a novel idea that should appeal to hard sci-fi fans and casual readers alike.

Thumper (iOS, PC, Xbone, PS4, Switch)

Thumper is not a fun time playing along to your favourite summer hits; Thumper will hit you into the middle of next summer. Thumper is the instinctual fear response to a loud noise you can’t place the location of. Thumper will make your hands so clammy with sweat you may drop your phone. After an electrifying debut on PC, it has now arrived menacingly on other platforms, including mobile. What categorically remains a ‘rhythm game’ is in practice about as far from Rock Band and its ilk as you can picture.

Controlling a little silver space beetle skittering down a long arcing track in a nightmarish neon hellscape, you must react to the twists, turns and barriers which rapidly approach. The foreboding music track provides audio hints on the upcoming obstacles, and you have but a few tense milliseconds to react correctly; one missed beat will blow your shiny carapace clean off, and another will bring your journey to a swift and unpleasant end. Little touches draw you in, like how moving your phone adjusts the position of your bug on the track, not enough to matter in the gameplay, but enough to enhance the reality of the moment. Its unforgiving sensibilities may not appeal to some, but like Super Hexagon before it, if raw punishment is your poison, you’ll be hooked.

Florence (iOS, Android)

If it seems like there’s been a lot of story-based experiences in this column’s brief existence thus far, it’s only because the form is enjoying its time in the sun of late; a bouquet of interesting, interactive tales, perfectly at home on the mobile. Florence comes to us from Mountains, members of whom previously brought us the award-winning Monument Valley and gamebook adaption The Warlock Of FireTop Mountain; although both have a strong sense of design, Florence is content to let the puzzles support the narrative, rather than the opposite.

After a brief recap of childhood events, we join the titular Ms Yeoh at age 25, making her way in the world somewhat unsatisfactorily, until a chance meeting with a cellist busking on the street takes her in a new direction. Without giving anything away, the story is supremely enhanced by the small interactions you have with it, even ones as simple as winding a clock to enact the passage of time. It plays out without a single word uttered, and yet is soaked in meaning and feeling. Each little minigame imbues the player with her actions and state of mind, captured wonderfully with the distinct pastel artstyle and delicate soundtrack, and you very well find yourself reminiscing about similar times in your own life. Short, but hugely affecting.

Little Traders 2 (iOS, Android)

Sun Tzu said ‘know your enemy’ so when a friend who works in the City told me, bleeding-heart lefty socialist liberal that I am, to try this trading game, my finger went straight for the download button. Released by actual online trading and investment training resource Tradimo, Little Traders 2 is a rather cute 8-bit rendition of a towering investment firm in the roaring ‘20s. Starting on the bottom floor with relatively low stakes, you work to increase your customer’s starting investment to a specific target by the end of the trading day. Doing so will increase your funds and reputation, unlocking other floors with more high-rolling customers. Funds can be spent on fancy furniture to further increase your rep, or researchers to advise you which stocks are about to rocket up or crash down. As well as the main game, you can challenge friends to see who can perform the best in a single day’s trading.

Calmed by the jaunty jazz piano soundtrack, you might find yourself picking up a bit of market knowledge while you play. It’s all still cheating with other people’s money of course, but after a short while playing this, you’ll see the attraction. Unexpectedly fun, and with no nasty microtransactions.

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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.