Back with a couple more recommendations of what to play on the move, or even on the john.
Burn baby burn, Wizorb inferno!
Retro is vogue, and 8-bit is in. This has been the case for a while now, but it’s always nice to find a game where true effort has been expended to make something wholly reflective of those halcyon days, rather than just basting it with a one-coat vintage gloss. Wizorb is such a game; right from the title screen you can see the love behind the pixels; if you didn’t know any better you could swear it was a re-release of a forgotten GBA gem.
Taking a tangential move from the popular genre-mashup style popularised by Puzzle Quest, Wizorb has the framework of an RPG with the usual battle mechanic replaced with something befuddling; in Puzzle Quest it was the Bejeweled-style match-3 play, but here our thaumaturgic protagonist defeats enemies through the magic of Breakout!
Yes, before your very eyes, watch a kindly white-bearded man transform into bat ‘n’ ball to bash his way through dungeons and collect enough cash to restore his village! The basic rules of Breakout apply (if you do not know these, go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200); in addition to the usual powerups like a longer or sticky bat, you have a limited but replenishing supply of magic power which you can use to create fireballs or manually place the ball; useful tools for eliminating those hard to reach bricks. Other incantations can create a magma ball, or gusts of wind to gently buffet your ball to a more useful location, so there’s a tad more strategy here than the classic incarnations.
There is no escape from the Village.
Hidden keys open bonus rooms and the obligatory RPG item shops, and evil spirits lie in wait to hamper your progress by slowing your bat or speeding up the ball. A black strip has been left intentionally at the bottom of the screen to run your finger along for bat control, which can be a little fiddly at times, but it seems the best solution for the mobile screen, without resorting to a virtual d-pad.
There’s nothing genuinely groundbreaking about it, but the role-playing setting, boss battles, requisite chiptune soundtrack and nostalgic coat of pixel-paint courtesy of graphic artist Paul Robertson (who also did the sprite work for the Scott Pilgrim game) mark this out as an innovative take on a long-untouched genre. Spellbinding.
A world ripe for the smiting.
In many games, you’re the hero out to save the day; sometimes you play the villain with some nefarious goal in mind. There aren’t many out there which invite you to become a pathogen aiming to wipe out all of humanity - that’s where Plague Inc. comes in. An indirect strategy game in a perverse reversal of board game Pandemic (where you play as CDC teams trying to stop a plague), in Plague Inc, nothing but total extinction and the end of history are your goals.
Beginning life as a harmless microbe, you must infect and spread until you’re worldwide and omnipresent, remaining dormant at first, but upping your lethality at the correct times to ensure complete annihilation of the species. You gain new abilities and infection vectors via the spending of DNA points, which are collected as you infest new areas and countries. Your advancement is displayed on a world map in malignant red blotches, enveloping whole countries within mere minutes of play time as whole population centres succumb to your deadly embrace. Little boats and planes endlessly flit from country to country, on which you can be an unlisted passenger to spread to far-off climes quicker, if you’ve adapted to survive in air or fresh water. Heavily affected nations can choose to seal their borders so it’s best to exploit these early on.
Once the doctors discover you, the race is on to find a cure before it’s too late; the more dangerous you become, the harder they will fight back. A full range of symptoms are available to inflict upon your carriers, from a light case of the sniffles to total organ failure and everything in between. The key is to balance the infection level with the mounting fatalities; as well as by scientists completing a cure, it’s also possible to lose by killing all your hosts. If you feel you’ve gone in the wrong direction you can ‘devolve’ yourself and gain back a few points to be reallocated.
Track your sickening stats.
If you find it a bit easy bringing about end of days with a basic bacteria, you can try again with a different plague type marred by a slight handicap; viruses mutate rapidly and are hard to control, whereas fungal spores find it harder to travel long distances unaided.
Make no mistake, this is an unrelentingly dark game and even includes the coughs, splutters and wails of your victims alongside the pulsating synth on the soundtrack. However, if you are a terrible human being who enjoys the virtual suffering of others, this is a tricky yet fun strategy title. You can even name your plague in-game, leading on my game to mankind being laid to waste by Cooties.
This is the first release from NDemic Games and if you’re a strategy fan, it’ll get under your skin. But not in a bad medical way.