Android games of the week: Zenonia, Everlands, Pocket Racing, ExZeus Arcade, and Angry Birds

Tired of all the iPhone love at GR? Want to learn more about Android, the Sega Genesis of mobile device that do many things including play games? Then have we got a list of games for you...


Get ithere

Above: If Zenonia doesn’t remind you of the 16-bit action RPGs of yore, you just aren’t remembering … wait for it … “yore” old school gaming. Ha

Look up "carrot-on-a-stick" in the cliché dictionary, and you're liable to see a picture of Zenonia -- one of the most compelling action RPGs ever made, for any system, let alone Android. A combination of leveling your character, grabbing ever-better loot, and Zenonia's action-packed combat system make this one easy to recommend.

Gameplay is similar to some of the 16-bit classics of the genre – in other words, it might as well be a Legend of Zelda game. Enemies come at you, you whack them with your sword or your magical abilities, level up to get more abilities, and grab better and better weapons to do your whackin' with. While some Android devices (especially the lower-end ones) will experience sluggishness during times of heavy activity, for the most part the pacing of the game is relentless, and will quickly eat up time on a long flight or waiting for a job interview to happen.

Zenonia's biggest strength – the depth of stuff to do and keep track of – is also its biggest failing, though: many stats and abilities are unexplained (how does DEX affect your abilities, what does Ice do to enemies, specifically?), and it can quickly become next to impossible to keep track of all the information thrown at you. That said, this is a true grognards dungeon delver on a handheld – if you're a serious gamer, or want to get immersed in a gaming experience on your Android device, you simply won't find a better time sink than Zenonia. At least, until Zenonia 2 makes it over from the iPhone.


Get it here

Above: Every animal in Everlands has its own unique special ability

An elaborate back story about animals turning uncontrollably aggressive and going to war with each other starts off Everlands, but don't be intimidated. It's actually a fairly straightforward game along the lines of the classic card game, “War”. Well, it's a little more complex than that – you have a "deck" of hexagonal animal cards, each with numbers on it indicating its attack strength. Each card also represents a specific animal, with a special ability thematically linked to that animal. Rams, for example, are immune to being attacked head on, whereas snakes get first strike.

While it might sound like laying down numbered cards on a hexagonal map will get boring quick, Everlands' subtle and clever use of animal special abilities, along with the necessary strategic decisions that come with deployment of a limited number of cards, often make this one a brain buster. You'll find yourself realizing a battle's been lost, restarting, and thinking carefully about where you went wrong and how to counter the enemy the second or third time around. And that's a good thing, because Everlands rewards you well for thinking tactically and being smart.

Although there are some aesthetic foibles (the writing is often very confusing, the product, no doubt, of a poor translation into English), the cute graphics and warm tone of the game help to overcome these. In all, this is a simple, little matching game that brilliantly employs a few subtle twists to transcend its basic roots.

Pocket Racing

Get it here

Above: Not the most graphically impressive game, but exciting nonetheless

You can't expect Gran Turismo on your phone, but who's to say you can't still enjoy a little racing now and then? Okay, Pocket Racing is only the barest of the bare bones – you don't control acceleration or braking at all, you just steer – but it's got a few thrills in it, nevertheless.

The best thing about Pocket Racing is the ability to race other people in real time. Now, that's not to say you can race them live online, but you can download and square off against the high-scorers by racing against their "ghosts," a replay of their high-scoring races. Be aware, some people apparently have superhuman Pocket Racing skills (or they're just AI), but the ghost racing is a great way to both get a sense of how good (or crappy) you are at the game, and to constantly challenge your skills.

Unfortunately, Pocket Racing does have a few minor foibles: for one, there's a hell of a lot of scrolling required to get through the ghosts that are impossible to beat and locate the ones that are just really hard to beat. Also, the graphics, while nice enough, are very plain, featuring generic-looking cars, tracks that are little more than asphalt and grass, and not a whole heck of a lot else to look at.

Still, for a game that only involves turning one of two ways, Pocket Racing is surprisingly addictive – and the smooth framerate and ease of jumping in and out of matches make it the perfect way to satisfy the need for speed in bite-sized chunks.