The final batch of mobile reviews for 2021 includes the excellent Moncage, a new Galaga title, and a genuinely good Apple Watch game.
With 2021 finally in its death throes and Christmas just round the corner, it’s time to take stock of this month’s touchscreen extravaganzas, which range from the Apple Watch-based lock breaking antics of Un:safe to the beauty and weirdness of Moncage, and the inventiveness of melancholy silhouetted platformer In My Shadow.
iOS & Android, £3.49 (X.D. Network)
The whole of Moncage takes place across the five visible faces of a cube, that you rotate to peer into perfectly rendered 3D dioramas visible through each of its planes. Tap to zoom in or out, your goal being to find elements of different faces that line up, in the style of 2017’s classic, Gorogoa.
Moncage glories in playing with scale, perspective, and interactions between background and foreground objects, the cube’s precise angle letting you align apparently disparate props from different sides. It’s a slow, meticulous, and enormously satisfying process.
It can also sometimes be a little too obscure for its own good, a feature mitigated by a series of increasingly directional hints, culminating in a short video that just tells you what to do. It’s a useful way of circumventing frustration and ensuring as many players as possible can progress through its mellow, mysterious puzzles and reach its emotionally poignant conclusion.
iOS & Android, Free (Crescent Moon Games)
Accurately billed as a minimalist skateboarding game, The Ramp has you tapping and releasing the screen as your skater passes through different sections of a halfpipe. When they take to the air you swipe to perform tricks or hit the grind button.
It plays like a rhythm action game and while tricky at first, once you get the hang of its timing pulling off sequences of tricks as you pop out of each side of the ramp is rewarding in itself.
Its problem is that without any goals or score it swiftly starts to feel formless. £2.49 to add three fresh maps to its single free one is a reasonable deal, but it suffers from an absence of meta game and a sense of progression.
Company Of Heroes: Tales Of Valor
iOS & Android, £3.49 (Feral Interactive)
Originally released in 2009, the Tales Of Valor DLC adds nine missions and a clutch of new vehicles to Company Of Heroes’ distinctive brand of Second World War real-time strategy.
Like the main game and Opposing Fronts, its first downloadable add-on, this has you capturing strategic buildings and resources to guide your tiny troopers and their mechanised support to victory.
While just as well produced and featuring the same cinematic storytelling, this provides a relatively modest sliver of extra content.
iOS, Apple Arcade (Namco Bandai)
Not a straight sequel, more an ‘inspired by’, Galaga Wars uses familiar-looking constellations of Galaxians and the same one finger steering and firing mechanic as the Sky Force series.
While nicely challenging, this is another Apple Arcade game that has more than a whiff of free-to-play about it, including timed loot crates, multiple currencies, short-lived power-ups, and paid continues.
The issue is that you either start every round at level one or use incredibly hard earned and rare resources to skip to later levels. Without the ability to pay for those, progress is frustratingly slow, leaving you to grind the same levels ad nauseam.
Coffee Inc 2
iOS, £1.79 (Side Labs)
In this caffeinated tycoon game, you attempt to build a mighty coffee empire from scratch. Starting by renting premises, hiring a manager and staff, and sourcing and pricing your hot and cold beverages you need to grow your enterprise while putting competitors out of business.
With no sound effects, and music that only runs on certain screens of its interface, it certainly feels pared back. Its isometric cities might look cute, but this is all about managing the numbers.
If you revel in balance sheets and the subtle interplay of primarily numerical factors in pursuit of victory, this will let you nerd out to your heart’s content. For more action-hungry players this may feel a little too much like real work.
iOS & Android, Free (NFLY Studio)
Vertically scrolling shooters may largely have disappeared from consoles, PCs, and arcades but it’s a thriving genre on mobile, with the majority of its biggest releases arriving free to download.
In line with expectation, Infinite Shooting is free-to-play, and has you dragging a finger around the screen to evade the incoming bullet hell, while tapping with a second finger to trigger your slowly recharging special weapon.
You’re forced to watch an ad after levels, and can optionally watch a second one to multiply your meagre earnings, but the action is too weak to justify much time investment, especially when the likes of Phoenix 2 and Sky Force: Reloaded are also available free.
In My Shadow
iOS, £4.49 (Alcon Interactive)
Telling the story of a woman wistfully recalling her childhood dog, In My Shadow’s action is of the platform hopping variety, the twist being that it all takes place in silhouette.
In each of its levels you need to collect page-like memories while making your way across deadly spikes to see your hound. Getting there involves taking a step back into a 3D view to move foreground objects so that their shadows come together to let you jump your way across.
Spinning blades, moving spikes, shadows you can only jump on once, and a litany of other mechanics soon complicate your journey in this clever, pleasantly taxing, and shamelessly heartstring-tugging adventure.
Un:safe – Crack the Safe
Apple Watch, £1.79 (Emin Grbo)
Un:safe uses Apple Watch’s haptic feedback to turn you into a safe cracker. Slowly twist the digital crown until you feel a change in its haptic click, then gingerly tap the unlock button. If you’re right, you unlock one ring of the lock. If not, you lose one of three lives.
Once all three have gone it’s back to level one to try again. There are 50 increasingly precarious safes to complete, but on the evidence of our runs you’ll be highly unlikely to see many of those unless you have somewhere extremely quiet to practise.
With a simple interface and no scoring mechanic other than the number of safes you can open in a session, it’s a neat way to waste five minutes in a queue and an excellent use of Apple Watch.
By Nick Gillett
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