Diamonds in the rough
Mobile games have a reputation problem. When most people hear the word mobile game, they either think of simple puzzlers or free-to-play cashgrabs. To be sure, you can find plenty of those clogging up the App Store and Google Play, but mobile games can be much more than that.
Buried deep under the latest Candy Crush knockoff or Angry Birds clone is a library of great games. From twitch shooters to puzzlers to RPGs, there are mobile games that deserve their own moments in the sun. These are the games that wed like to see make the jump to consoles and PC, rather than stay buried under the mobile market.
The first two games in Gamelofts Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance series were about what youd have expected: Halo knockoffs you could take on the go. N.O.V.A. 3 takes the formula further, with a lengthy single-player campaign that takes players from a ruined San Francisco to the far reaches of space. If that doesnt convince you, N.O.V.A. 3 also offers tight 6v6 multiplayer and an amazing visual presentation.
In fact, the only thing holding N.O.V.A. 3 back is the loose control scheme. Shooters are challenging to play when you have to rely on imprecise touch controls. With N.O.V.A. 3, Gameloft really didnt have a choice, but a proper PC/Console port would let gamers try their hand at a solid shooter while getting rid of its biggest issue.
If youve been cast away at sea for the past year, Spaceteam should be one of the first games you try out once you find you way back to dry land. In Spaceteam, you and your friends are the crew of an ill-fated spaceship. Whenever something breaks--and it will--the app instructs the crew to fix it by toggling switches, turning dials, and pressing all manner of big red buttons. The catch? The instructions you see might involve the switches on somebody elses screen! Within moments of launching it, Spaceteam has you shouting at your friends to dampen the X-ray oscillator, or Set the Brownian flow to 6! Its an experience like no other--the only shame is you cant play it over the web.
Spaceteam would make for an incredible PC or console game, if only for online play. Developer Spacebeast would have to swap the existing touch controls for mouse/keyboard or controller support, but the work would be worth it. Imagine being able to log in to a game of Spaceteam any time you were bored at home! The best part? Spaceteam is so fast-paced that other players wont have time for griefing!
Spider: Legend of Bryce Manor
When it first landed on the App Store back in 2009, Spider was more than a little unusual. It seems simple enough--you control the titular arachnid by jumping between chairs and tables, spinning webs and eating bugs. But after a few moments, you start to notice something strange about the house youre wandering through--some strange melancholy that digs into your brain. I wont spoil the experience, but suffice it to say that developer Tiger Style expertly weaves storytelling and level design to bring you a breathtakingly original experience.
Which leads one to wonder why Spider is still restricted to mobile devices? Spider is a rock-solid 2D platformer, and theres certainly no shortage of those on Steam or Xbox Live. Spiders touch controls are elegant, but there doesnt seem to be any reason why a controller wouldnt be an acceptable substitute. As near as I can tell, theres no reason that Spiders excellent gameplay couldnt succeed on console or PC, except that nobodys made the commitment to port it over.
Mirrors Edge (iOS version)
I know what youre thinking. Yes, Mirrors Edge already has a PC and console release. But thats not the Mirrors Edge Im talking about here. Im more interested in seeing the iOS version get ported over to a more hardcore audience because the iOS version is actually better in many ways. The first-person perspective of the console version meant that misaligned jumps and tricky controls brought your free-running to a screeching halt. The iOS version, restricted to a 2D side-scrolling format, eliminates those problems and allows the player to focus on the speed.
The iOS version of Mirrors Edge doesnt quite have its big brothers knockout looks, but it does keep the most important factor: speed. As anybody whos ever played Sonic can tell you, speed and flow are what make great platformers, and Mirrors Edge on iOS takes what was great about the console release and distills it to its bare essentials. Its a great running game, and one Id love to see get controller support and an HD version for big-screen TVs.
Okay, youre right: Oceanhorn is a shameless pastiche of the legendary Zelda franchise. But you know what? I dont care. Zelda-style action adventure games are few and far between, so Ill take what I can get! Its not like Oceanhorn doesnt have a lot to recommend, either. A few unique twists spice up what would otherwise be a standard boy saves the world narrative, and the 13 hour run time would be respectable for any platform. The best part? The music is composed by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu, composer of the best Final Fantasy soundtracks.
Oceanhorn is another game that would benefit from the transition to consoles and PC. One of the few issues reviewers have consistently pointed out was the innate clumsiness of the touch-based control scheme. A standard gamepad or controller would eliminate that problem entirely. You certainly wouldn't have to worry about the visual quality on a high-res screen, either--Oceanhorns beauty is derived from excellent artistic design, and should scale up brilliantly.
Ill admit that Im kind of cheating with this one--Camoflaj have already committed themselves to a PC / Mac release for their dystopian stealth-action debut. However, its been more than month since Republique first hit the app store, and we havent had so much as a hint of the PC release date. Its kind of a shame, because Republique didnt turn out half bad.
Republique should make for an excellent PC gaming experience. An incredibly cohesive artistic design and some spectacular use of the Unity Engine give Republique some real visual beauty, while a mouse/keyboard control scheme should do well in place of the occasionally clunky touch controls. Republique has a few problems-- see our review if you want the details--but its unique enough that it deserves to be available to everybody.
Odds are good that well never see any of these games make the jump to the PC or consoles (except Republique, of course). Its a bit of a shame, since these are rock solid titles that would probably benefit from more traditional controls. You cant blame me for dreaming, can you?
Want to know what games you should be playing--and what ones you need to avoid? Check out GamesRadars 100 most anticipated games of 2014!