Android reviews of the week: Pandas vs. Ninjas, Dungeon Hunter, Battle for Mars, The Plateau, and Cestos 2

Battle for Mars

Get it at the Android Market

Above: Die, alien scum!

Battle for Mars is another pricey title, but unlike Dungeon Hunter, it's not heavy on graphical polish. What it is heavy on is incredibly addictive (if also quite difficult) tactical gameplay and a cartoonish sense of fun.

If you've ever played the Advance Wars titles for Nintendo DS, you'll immediately be familiar with the gameplay in Battle for Mars. You start out with a certain number of troops and resources, and you goal is to deploy your troops in the best possible way to defeat your enemy's troops on a 2D map. Different types of units have different strengths and weaknesses, so the idea here is to maximize your rock on your enemies' scissors, and force him to use his rock on your paper. Or something. You get where I'm going with that, I'm sure.

Anyway, the game features a huge number and variety of levels, although perhaps not as great a variety of unit types or special abilities. Nonetheless, if you're the strategy-minded type, you will quickly find yourself embroiled in the titular battle for the future of the red planet, but you may also find yourself grinning at some of the game's quirky, 1950's-style art, and its overall sense of humor about itself. It may not be the most price-conscious title out there, but I doubt many people will regret having spent the money for Battle for Mars.

Pandas vs. Ninjas

Get it from AppBrain

Above: It's panda-monium! I know, I know. So lame

Ever played Angry Birds? If you have a portable device, chances are you have. Well, Pandas vs. Ninjas is pretty much the same concept, except rather than birds you control a group of pandas, and rather than pigs, you're out to kill ninjas. That's… pretty much it. Oh, there's also an adorable Asian-style setting and some easy-to-use controls. Otherwise, the gameplay will be pretty familiar: you use a giant panda to hurl smaller pandas (each of whom has a different mass and set of special abilities) at structures in which the ninjas are hiding out. The pandas' momentum and mass collapses the structures, ideally crushing the ninjas and saving the bamboo forest for woodland creatures everywhere. Ta da!

What sets this one apart is one gameplay wrinkle and one aesthetic device. The gameplay wrinkle is Pandas vs. Ninja's very realistic physics engine, which tracks momentum and angle a lot more accurately than does Angry Birds'. The aesthetic device is the adorable pandas themselves - I just never get tired of unlocking new types of pandas to cuddle -- I mean, hurl at ninjas.

While the hold-and-release controls are smooth and easy to learn, the game is a little short on levels (unless you pay for new ones), so its addictive gameplay can go flat rather quickly. That said, for a quick excursion between meetings or a way to pass the time while babysitting, this one will provide plenty of addictive puzzle gameplay.

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