May has always been one of our favorite months: the weather finally warms up enough that we can leave our blanket caves, the school year is winding down with movie breaks and desk cleanup, Mother’s Day is a feel-good hug-fest for anyone that didn’t grow up with Lucille Bluth, and May the 4th gives us an official reason to wear our Wookiee costume (besides just “it’s clean and comfortable”). This May also brought with it a ridiculous number of notably great mobile games–too many to list here. Consider: Injustice 2, Crash Club and Pokemon: Magikarp Jump all launched this May, and they didn’t even make this list! We may just have to skip June entirely to catch up on everything worth playing from May.
Old Man’s Journey
Old Man’s Journey is one of the most beautiful, serene, and affecting games we’ve played in recent years–and it doesn’t contain a single line of dialogue in the whole experience. The story is lived entirely through flashback vignettes the unnamed Old Man recalls as he travels across the gorgeously colorful environments toward his unspoken destination. His history slowly reveals where and why he is making this journey, as well as tints the trip directly–a sad memory is followed by a rainstorm, a happy experience parts the clouds. The gameplay requires players to physically slide the hills the Old Man is traversing so that he can climb up or down, cross gaps, bypass sheep, and generally make forward momentum toward his goal. While the game can be completed in a few hours, the experience spans the Old Man’s entire life, offering the reward of a lifetime, literally.
- Old Man’s Journey (4.5 stars)
Rovio’s unexpected transition from birds to boats pays off big time in Battle Bay. This 5v5 multiplayer match-up pits players against each other in turret-equipped, armored ships within vivid waterlogged arenas. The water you’re fighting on acts as an integral part of the game, with the beautifully bobbing waves impacting your aim but also offering protection against impending attacks. The goal of each match is to capture a target point highlighted on the map, but victory can also be earned through destroying every enemy on the opposing team, creating a combination deathmatch-objective game mode that is both manic and strategic. With tons of boats to unlock, unique crew members to level up, and weapons to try out, players should have plenty to keep them busy even when they’re not gleefully sinking ships.
Heart’s Medicine: Hospital Heat
GameHouse is becoming a regular fixture on our Best Of lists, with their recent Time Management series following in the successful footsteps of Emily and the Delicious games, but introducing entirely new casts and settings for fans to enjoy. Heart’s Medicine: Hospital Heat is the second game in the new medical management series, and it lives up to the first’s already lofty standards. It begins with a hospital on fire and protagonist Allison Heart entering the flaming nightmare in order to help save any patients trapped inside. The game itself follows the months leading up to this climactic event and everything Allison deals with working in a new wing of the hospital. The gameplay is fast-paced Time Management organization, with an endless stream of patients that need to be diagnosed and healed. A variety of mini-games let you actually act out the procedures Allison is completing, offering a brief break from rushing all over and an immersive hands-on doctoring experience.
- Heart’s Medicine: Hospital Heat Review (5 stars)
Arkanoid vs Space Invaders
Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders is one of our least expected game mashups, but it’s quickly become one of our favorites as well. Both classic titles are equally represented in play: pixelated alien beings and ships stand guard in their recognizable rows, raining squiggly bullets down on your paddle. You’ll need to deflect those bullets back into the attackers and bricks stationed around the screen while collecting power-ups as they fall. Impenetrable walls appear as you progress, requiring precision bouncing that will appeal to the Arkanoid expert. The short, under-one-minute matches and instant restarts make this a perfect fit for mobile, and the additional Hard Mode and unlockable characters offer plenty of replay value once you finish the already impressive 150 stages.
- Arkanoid vs Space Invaders Review (4.5 stars)
SPACEPLAN is an unusual clicker that places an emphasis not on simply endless tapping and growth, but on actually telling a story. Its narrative follows your journey across space in an attempt to reset Earth to its former glory, introducing new plot points with every upgrade you unlock. Despite offering a prestige system, SPACEPLAN uses this standard clicker conceit to continue forward progress, letting you journey to new planets and uncover new branches of the story. The actual upgrades and objects you’re creating are probes and other gadgets made from potatoes, which is a game-pervasive example of how silly and funny SPACEPLAN is even within its larger, epic space travel story. That story has a clear ending, setting this clicker even further apart from its genre contemporaries: there’s a potato-based goal, you can successfully reach that goal, and you’ll almost certainly enjoy doing so.
- SPACEPLAN Review (4.5 stars)
After a successful launch on PC two years ago, this fantastic port of Chroma Squad successfully brings the hilarious strategy RPG / TV show-directing simulation to mobile. Chroma Squad begins when five stunt actors quit their overworked jobs and form a new television studio. The series they begin creating is extremely reminiscent of Power Rangers or other tokusatsu superhero shows, pitting the costumed squad against colorful thugs in over-the-top battle sequences. Players are tasked with managing their studio by hiring new actors, upgrading their costumes, and completing other behind-the-scenes activities to improve the show’s quality. When the cameras are rolling, it’s then your job to control the fight sequences and make them as dynamic and crowd-pleasing as possible. You’ll film an entire season of the show along with a season finale, aiming for high ratings and profitability, while unraveling a larger narrative that keeps the game flowing and funny. While familiarity with Power Rangers or similar shows provides extra tongue-in-cheek enjoyment, Chroma Squad’s fantastic gameplay and polish make it accessible to anyone who enjoys epic RPG battles and just-as-epic studio management.
- Chroma Squad Review (4.5 stars)
Fastlane: Road to Revenge
Fastlane: Road to Revenge is an endless Spy Hunter-esque combat racer, putting players behind the wheel of a weaponized sports car that is designed to clear the road as you collect money and high scores. The gameplay is fairly simple, requiring you to simply switch lanes to dodge traffic and other obstacles as your guns fire automatically, but the increasingly difficult hazards as you progress and upgrade system offer plenty of challenge and ways to play. Although many of the cars you’re overtaking are representative of other players, Fastlane is playable offline and simply uses ghosts to provide realistic competition. There are also a number of YouTube personalities that start showing up after level 22, offering special challenges and prizes alongside some silly banter. It’s one of those games that uses a straightforward mechanic to build an easy to jump into, hard to quit playing high score progress loop that we’ve been struggling to put down.
Another port of an already-great PC game, Skullgirls manages to feel right at home on mobile even without a controller. This beat ’em up brawler forgoes on-screen virtual joysticks for a much more touch-friendly gesture system, using taps and swipes to determine which type of move you’ll dish out. Battles are short and sweet, with explosive special moves offering beautiful blitzes that can wipe out opponents quickly. Outside of battles, you can upgrade your character in a variety of ways, building their talents however you choose and unlocking new and unique special attacks. If you’re new to fighting games, a sort of auto-attack option can be activated to help out while you learn the ropes. All of this is wrapped in a gorgeously animated style that makes this mobile fighter as enjoyable to look at as it is to play.
- Skullgirls Review (4.5 stars)
It feels like every month recently brings at least one really impressive digital adaptation of a popular board game, and we’re completely okay with this. Jaipur was May’s contribution to the steadily-growing genre, and it’s an excellent example of how a few small adjustments when designing for mobile can make all the difference in the end result. The base challenge is all about collecting and swapping cards in order to amass the most points. You’re buying and selling goods at the market, trading with camels, and also dealing with price fluctuations as the game progresses, all in the hope that you’ll end up richer than your opponent by the end. The mobile version offers a single-player vs A.I. mode, pass-and-play, online, and a campaign that’s essentially a slight variation on single-player. It also embraces its medium by containing an actually informational tutorial for players who may not be familiar with the physical game, as well as shortcuts that automatically select cards so you don’t have to continually tap items that you will obviously be selecting. The cards are colorful and detailed recreations of their physical counterparts and easy to discern on even smaller screens. Jaipur is simply a complete and mobile-friendly port of an already great board game.
- Jaipur Review (4.5 stars)
PES 2017 admirably and ambitiously brings the full console experience of the series to mobile. From its live online matches to its gorgeous, crisp graphics and complete announcer commentary, gamers have a full and rich soccer experience right at their fingertips. It’s a fantastic combination of complex team-building and management and exhilarating active matches, although players who are more interested in the simulation portion of the series can set up games to auto-play. If you are acting out games yourself, the virtual controls are completely configurable and easy to use, making movement and passing feel as natural as shouting at the TV when a red card is thrown. With all of soccer’s major stars available to recruit and tons of modes and even limited time events to tackle, PES 2017 should keep fans busy well beyond the release of the 2018 season.
- PES 2017 Review (4.5 stars)