Each week, Digital Spy rounds up the biggest mobile gaming releases with reviews and trailers. This week relaunches a 1984 classic, delves into monster-filled dungeons, rolls through a colorful platformer and slides to iPad for a strategic puzzle game.
Spy vs Spy
Platforms: iPhone, iPad Price: £1.49 / $1.99 (introductory sale for 69p / $1)
The 1984 classic returns on iOS with the remade Spy vs Spy. Players take on the role of either the black or white spy and must search embassies to find four hidden items before their opponent. It isn't just a simple game of hide and seek though, as both players can boobytrap nearly any piece of furniture or doorway to give an unpleasant surprise.
The revamped game is enhanced with bright cartoony graphics, 24 embassies to plunder and online multiplayer. The core gameplay remains unchanged though, which means players are still reliant on "cheating" to look at their opponent's screen in hopes of seeing where traps can be avoided or countered. It's still just as clever as it was in 1984, and makes for some tense matches.
Unfortunately, the game as a whole hasn't aged well. When two spies are in the same room the game devolves into a button-mashing battle. Aside from not being very fun, the battles reward the victor with all of the opponent's vital loot, creating a very unbalanced dynamic between players. With each death comes excessive backtracking, made even more frustrating by a cumbersome virtual d-pad.
Purists and fans of the original will get their nostalgia's worth with Spy vs Spy but it was clearly made with only the most ardent of original fans in mind. Even they may wish to leave their memories in the past, as some of the rough edges that were forgiven 29 years ago are downright jagged today.
Mobile gamers looking to get their Diablo fix will be immediately drawn to ORC: Vengeance. Players control Rok, the titular orc anti-hero, as he hacks and slashes his way through gorgeously rendered dungeons. It cannot be stressed enough how great the game looks, with the lush environments becoming one of its main draws.
Simply tapping anywhere in the environment will send Rok lumbering to the spot, while tapping on enemies causes him to auto-attack. You can also assign various skills and abilities to gestures, such as drawing a circle or a zigzag on the screen. For the most part this works well, but far too frequently gestures are interpreted as movement commands, sending Rock to his death when you actually intended to use a healing potion.
Weapons can be levelled up to enhance their power, and there is always new loot to discover. The loot offers a decent variety of melee weapons and shields, but don't expect too much in the way of customization and gameplay variety. There is also an in-game store where real money can be spent on even more powerful gear, but the frequent loot is more than enough to get the job done.
As a simple hack and slash game, ORC: Vengeance is a good fit for mobile. But while it may look the part of a console or PC quality game, it lacks much of the depth and customization of its dungeon crawling contemporaries.
Like many puzzle games before it, Slydris evokes immediate comparisons to the classic Tetris. However, the comparison is only surface deep, as Slydris has its own unique spin on the formula. Players are still tasked with arranging falling blocks into rows, but the horizontal blocks can only slide left or right to fill in holes or fall down the stack. If all blocks in the row match the same colour, you get a nice score boost.
The key to Slydris is its pacing, where new blocks fall based on your actions rather than a timer. Each piece you move causes new blocks to fall on the stack, which turns Slydris almost into a strategy game as you plan out moves to clear lines and create chains before the stack fills up. Eventually new blocks are introduced, such as one that cannot be moved and another that breaks larger pieces into single blocks, each challenging you to adapt and keeping the gameplay fresh.
For a more traditional challenge there is also the survival mode, which drops blocks at timed intervals for a fast-paced challenge. It all plays fantastically on the iPad, and makes for a unique twist puzzle fanatics will enjoy.
Platformers are notoriously hard to do well on iOS due to the difficulty of using virtual buttons. Square Enix has embraced that challenge with SolaRola, and for the most part it succeeds. Controlling your rolling, bouncing blob is managed through either tilt or on-screen buttons, both of which work surprisingly well.
The levels, on the other hand, are rather mixed. Many stages will delight players with clever puzzles and twisting pathways, the best of which will have players rolling to power contraptions and even hitching a ride on the occasional vehicle. Other levels, however, will dip into frustration as players must contend with haphazard physics to push bombs and rocks to the proper spot. Bombs especially become an issue, as the physics make it far more difficult than it should be to push them before their short fuse runs out.
iOS platformer fans could certainly do worse than to pick up SolaRola, but there are several far more polished and fun examples of the genre available on mobile devices.