Mobile Mini Reviews

I’m sure most of you are thinking, “WTF, Izlain doesn’t do mobile games!” and for the most part you’d be correct. However, there have been a few titles over the years that I have enjoyed, most notably Star Wars: Tiny Death Star. Typically I prefer the depth of PC/Console games and can’t be assed to get involved with the mobile scene, but with advancements in phone/tablet technology it’s hard to avoid noticing that mobile gaming is making strides to compete with other markets. Many of these types of games have been ported over to the PC via Steam, but Windows 8.1 (and I’d assume Windows 10 will follow suit) even has the mobile market built right into the operating system, allowing for hundreds (thousands?) of games to be downloaded for free. Of course, there are also paid games/apps as well, and just because a game is “free” doesn’t mean it is free of pay walls and whale bait. Regardless, I have spent some time with various mobile games over the past few months, and I’ve collected a few of them here to go over briefly with you. Many of these titles are available on multiple platforms, but keep in mind that I own a Windows Phone and PC, so that’s where I’ve played most of these. With that said, let’s get on with the reviews!

Plants vs. Zombies 2
played on: iPad
available on: iOS, Android


Plants vs. Zombies is a franchise that’s been around for a long time. I enjoyed the original game on my PS3, but it has become available on nearly every platform. The original spawned other games like Garden Warfare (which is quite fun) along with a sequel, which is currently on iOS and Android, two options not normally available to me. A couple of months ago my girlfriend (yeah, that happened recently too) picked up an iPad and as such I took it upon myself to peruse their catalog of games to try ones that I can’t try elsewhere. This game was one of those titles, and it’s a blast. If you enjoyed the original, you’ll like this one, as it adds several layers of depth that the original lacked. For instance, there are more varied types of plants, plant food, and other resources you can use to gain advantages. The story mode seems to be a hell of a lot longer that the first game as well. It runs great on the tablet and the touch controls feel good. The only downside is there is a cash shop, where micro transactions allow you to get the upper hand a little bit faster. It’s unfortunate, as the predecessor included everything for the asking price, but since this game is free the developers have to make money somehow, and that seems to be the way of the world these days.

Fallout Shelter
played on: iPad
available on: iOS

Another title that is currently exclusive to iOS, Fallout Shelter was revealed recently at E3, and I managed to check it out within a few days. Overall it plays very similarly to Tiny Tower (and Tiny Deathstar) but has a few more interactions that make it stand apart. Plus, it’s in the Fallout universe and that’s pretty cool by itself. You’ll spend time building new rooms, assigning workers to produce food and power, and eventually send some of your peeps into living quarters where they will bump uglies and creat more vault dwellers for your growing colony. You can also send people out to explore the wastes, where they might bring you back some loot. There are micro transactions here as well, but mostly just to get around the time walls. If you just let it do it’s thing and check on it periodically, you’ll get the same experience without dropping any bottlecaps.. er, money.

Microsoft Mahjong
played on: Windows Phone
available on: Windows, Windows Phone

For quite a while I’ve owned a Windows Phone (I’m actually on my second, but that’s a story for another day) but I didn’t own an SD card for it until about a month ago. Before that, my phone was filled up with pictures, videos and music, so there wasn’t really room for games and I didn’t try many. Having that SD card installed meant the freedom to download as I pleased, and that’s really where my experimentation with the mobile gaming market got started. This one I downloaded on a whim the other day and was pleased with the result. Not only is Mahjong a great time waster, particularly if you’re stuck in a waiting room or at your mom’s house with nothing better to do, but this version is free and runs great. It does seem to be somewhat limited in that there aren’t that many puzzles to work through (at the time of this writing I’ve beaten them all) but they are randomized so each experience is different. I’m sure most of you know what this game is, so there isn’t much else to say. One thing I did note after playing this game though, is that because it’s a Microsoft made game, the achievements that you earn while playing will carry over with your Microsoft account, where ever you might access it. For instance, I was playing Halo at my friend’s house on his XBOne, and achievements I’ve earned via the phone and the now defunct Games For Windows Live showed up. Kind of neat.

Chess Time
played on: Windows Phone
available on: Windows Phone, iOS, Android


I picked this game up on a whim because me and my old roommate used to play Chess together quite regularly, and as we now live a hundred miles apart, this is the next best thing. It mimics the play by mail version of chess, where you have at minimum one day to make your next move. Games can take weeks at this pace, but most get sorted out in a day or two, provided your opponent is keeping up. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard chess game. My only complaint is that it eats battery life like crazy, particularly if you leave it open or continue to open it to check for new moves. You can play with friends (you do have to set up an account) or other random opponents, and it even gives you a rating that fluctuates as you play.

Trivia Crack
played on: Windows Phone
available on: Windows Phone, iOS, Android


I was introduced to this game by a friend, and next thing I knew I started hearing about it everywhere. Since then I’ve played games against many people who own the app, including random combatants. It’s a basic trivia game with various categories, with each question earning you credit towards your next crown. Get 6 crowns (one for each category) before your opponent and you win. Aside from the straight forward question answering, you can also issue a challenge to your opponent where you both answer a series of questions and bet one of your crowns against one of theirs, with whoever is crowned the victor gaining that crown that was bet. It seems there are some cash shop options but I’ve never bothered with it (allows you to skip questions and probably more but I never really paid attention) and still managed to have some fun with it.

Puzzle Breaker
played on: Windows Phone
available on: Windows Phone, iOS, Android


After having picked up Ironcast not too long ago, I sort of got onto a match 3 meets RPG kick. As such I started looking around at the mobile marketplace to see what kind of options they had. The first game I found was Puzzle Breaker, and though it’s very simplistic, it does have some of those elements I was looking for. There are a bunch of levels on the world map, and each level consists of a battle against various creatures. You have a hit points bar, and you match gems to attack enemies, while they attack you every so often. Overall the gameplay is a bit lackluster, as there are multiple colored gems but you aren’t required to match them in any particular way, nor do they seem to have different effects among them. Honestly, I probably didn’t put enough time into it to figure out all of the nuances, but it struck me as a half-assed cash grab. I’d skip this one.

Dungeon Gems
played on: Windows 8.1
available on: Windows, iOS, Android


Dungeon Gems is a little more convoluted than the previous game, but definitely makes up for the shortcomings of Puzzle Breaker as well. Similarly there is a world map, and each location is a battle between you and the enemy, however each level is a series of battles rather than just one.  You’ll also match gems to perform attacks, but the gems’ colors actually mean something. Where the real meat and potatoes portion comes in is the fact that there is a huge pool of heroes that you’ll be able to add to your team, all with different colors (that correspond with the gems you’ll be matching) and different skills that you can activate with AP. You can also upgrade those heroes and there are social networking tie-ins that allow you to recruit other player’s heroes for that level as a helper. Overall it’s the same general type of gameplay, and there’s the typical cash shop stuff where you can buy heroes and upgrades, but it’s definitely more entertaining.

Dungeon of Slyn
played on: Windows 8.1
available on: Windows, Windows Phone, Android

I was curious to see if there were any decent roguelikes for mobile devices, and this was on of the better ones I could find. Dungeon of Slyn is a basic dungeon crawler that is a graphical version of popular Ascii roguelikes such as Angband/Moria/Rogue. For free, you get access to three classes and from what I can tell, the whole experience. For $3 you gain access to two more classes, but I can’t tell if there are other benefits. If you enjoy games of this ilk, and hand-drawn style graphics, you’ll like this one. Plus, it’s something closer to a PC experience that you can take on the go, so why not?

Star Wars Commander
played on: Windows 8.1
available on: Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, Android

Let me start by saying I have never played Clash of Clans. Let me also state that I watched a video of Clash of Clans gameplay before I make the following statement: Star Wars Commander is Clash of Clans with a Sci-Fi skin. Somewhere along the line someone decided it was a good idea to port classic RTS and base builder games to the mobile market. I agree, this would be a good idea except for the fact that the majority of mobile devices are touch screen, so this results in a simplification of concepts, to the degree that there really isn’t much “real-time” in the strategy. Basically, you’ll build a base, go on missions, and do some PvP. The story missions are basically building you up to do the PvP, and you’ll go attack various bases and outposts and when you win you get some more currency with which to upgrade your base. Eventually when you do attack a real person, you either cream them and take their resources or get killed and waste yours. The same goes for the vice versa scenario. I also read several reviews from December of last year that make it seem as though your progress could be lost when they do patches, so play at your own risk. It seems like it could be fun, but at the same time I’d rather be playing Civilization or Starcraft.

Age of Empires: Castle Siege
played on: Windows 8.1
available on: Windows, Windows Phone

Another clone of the same type of game, but with a low fantasy setting, similar to other Age of Empires games. It actually really reminds me of Age of Empires Online that was sunset last year, so it’s probably using resources from that game to compete with Clash of Clans. I failed to mention this about Star Wars Commander, but both of these games have the same cash shop policies. Buildings and units take time to build and train respectively. You can pay with each game’s currency to speed this process up, or wait until it’s completed. Similar to most Facebook/browser/mobile games, time walls are the biggest way to get you to pay, as you either have to wait to play further, or pay some real life cash to get through things faster. Overall this game looks great and feels polished enough, but I don’t know how much time I’d actually spend on building a base just to have someone come along and destroy it. I enjoy PvP that takes levels of skill, and this doesn’t feel too skillful.

Asphalt 8: Airborne
played on: Windows 8.1
available on: Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, Android

This is by far the best looking game on this list, but that could have something to do with the fact that I played in on the PC. I haven’t played a good racing game in years, and this one actually is a lot of fun. It combines some elements of progression with high speed racing, complete with some cool effects and locations. You start off with one car, but can buy more with in-game currency or RMT, and you can play through the normal events or race people in multiplayer. There’s also customization for the cars and performance upgrades as well, though I was able to complete a handful of races without doing anything to the base car, so being a good racer helps. I should also note that if you do play this via the Windows app, you can use a controller to play and that made a big difference I’m sure, as I assume it’s more difficult to play on a tablet or phone. I recommend this one to anybody who enjoys racing games.

Prime World Defenders
played on: Windows 8.1
available on: Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, Android (and Steam for $10, but why?)

Last one for today, a tower defense game called Prime World Defenders. This game is free on all mobile devices and through the Windows app store, but for some reason is $10 on Steam, and from what I read that is an outdated version. So yeah, do yourself a favor and get it for free. If you enjoy tower defense, you’ll like this game as it follows the general formula. Where it tries to differentiate itself is through the use of a CCG system where you earn cards from beating missions. I suppose that’s not really much different though, because most TD games give you new towers as you progress. Hmm. Well either way there’s a skill tree you can progress through along with magic that you can utilize to get out of “oh shit” situations, but otherwise the game doesn’t stray too far from the tenets of the genre. I’m not big on TD, and I only tried it to see what was different about it. It is pretty though.

So that’s all I have this time around. I think I’ll be poking around the mobile marketplaces more in the future, so expect something like this again eventually. Til then.

#mobilegaming #minireviews