The remainder of June is essentially a weeklong celebration of backloggery thanks to the Steam Summer Sale. If you can browse that store without coming away with a cart full of games you’ll never get around to playing, I salute your restraint. There are a number of games from my mobile wishlist that are sitting in my Steam cart right now—Tormentum: Dark Sorrow, The Last Door: Season Two, Year Walk—despite the fact that my PC backlog is already nearly as large as my mobile one. And yet, there’s a strange satisfaction in knowing that you will always have a “next” game to look forward to thanks to ridiculously low prices and compulsive game hoarding. And so the cycle continues.
Despite the fresh flood of PC titles, I did play through another batch of mobile backlog games this week. I’ve shared five of my favorites—which we have not reviewed previously at Gamezebo—below.
Shape Shuffle is a tiling puzzle game a bit like tangram, but which utilizes multiple layers of shapes arranged on top of each other instead of pieces being distinctly slotted without overlapping. Players are tasked with recreating specific scenes by dragging and rotating shapes onto a single board. Since shapes can be layered on top of one another, initially unavailable designs can be created by precise stacking. For instance, an image with a half circle can be achieved by placing a full circle partially underneath another shape.
The UI is extremely player-friendly, making it extremely simple to rotate, remove, or rearrange layer orders by dragging tiles. And while the concept is fairly simple, the puzzles grow in complexity and create some real “ah-hah!” moments as you progress. How do you create a yellow triangle when you only have rounded yellow shapes? Where does the other half of that red arrow go? Since it’s so easy to add and organize shapes, you can play around with arrangements to help think through puzzles, rotating and reordering as much as you like. The only score that is tracked is whether you completed the scene and if you beat the average time. There’s no move or time-based pressure, just tons of clever shape arrangements awaiting your input.
Shufflepuck Cantina comes with a 32-bit warning: although it works on the latest version of iOS 10, it hasn’t been updated since 2014 and receives the “won’t work with future versions” pop-up at launch. But I had to share it, as it’s an absolutely beautiful and fascinating variation of digital air hockey that is either a spiritual successor to, or highly inspired by, the 1989 Amiga game Shufflepuck Café. You take on the role of an astronaut who’s crashed on the alien planet Athanor and just happened to land right next to a cantina where travelers gather to play shufflepuck. You need to earn money to buy replacement parts for your ship, and the best way to rack up credz on this planet is by betting it at the shufflepuck table.
You can challenge any of the characters hanging around the bar, such as the robotic bartender, M4rv1n, or the adorable cinnamon-and-garlic-scented Ambadi, Furry, and will unlock higher floors of the cantina (and more challengers) as you win matches. While the air hockey duels are fairly straightforward, every character has a unique special skill—such as putting spin on the puck or making it zigzag across the table—that you can learn by unlocking parts of their backstories. There is also a two-player same-device option if you want a break from taking on alien AI, but the characters, lore, and cantina itself—complete with a very familiar background song—provide a surprising amount of depth for what would otherwise be a simple air hockey game.
Smoosh! combines sliding block and color mixing puzzles into a deceptively difficult series of challenges. What begins as a fairly standard Sokoban-esque puzzler that tasks you with rolling cute spheres around a level and into their like-colored vats quickly escalates into a brain-bending trial where every move counts. The balls roll straight ahead until they hit a block or wall or are deposited into the colorful pools stationed around each stage. Once a ball enters a pool, a grate covers the top, preventing other balls from entering and creating another tile that can be rolled across.
However, balls can only enter their same-colored pools, and later levels will require combining balls in order to create the correct color. A level with one red ball, one blue ball, and one purple vat means you’ll need to run the two balls into one another before to create a single purple ball that can enter the pool. These color-combining challenges add an extra layer of complexity and ingenuity to the sliding ball puzzles, and it doesn’t hurt that the spheres themselves have adorable reactions to your puzzle-solving strategies.
Poker Heroes is a strange combination of an on-rails turn-based RPG and poker, but this mash-up works unexpectedly well. Players have a squad of mercenaries, each of which is assigned to a card in their deck. Campaign missions send them through three or more waves of enemies ending in a boss battle, with player turns consisting of creating a poker hand from their character cards. Each mercenary has a default attack power, but creating strong poker hands provides multipliers to their strength. Units also have a card color they are strongest (and weakest) against, as well as some unique powers when played, allowing a variety of strategies beyond just trying to make the strongest poker hand.
There’s a strong collection element as you unlock and upgrade new squad members and card types, but the G.I. Joe styled characters and comic book-esque aesthetic adds extra appeal to the standard collectathon. There’s a lot to see and do, including PvP matches against other players’ fortresses, but I’ve really been enjoying Poker Heroes strictly through the single-player campaign and the fun of raiding enemy bases simply with Jacks or better.
Mr. Mustachio 2 is a fast-paced math puzzler that heightens the difficulty on multiple choice questions via a grid system. At the top of the screen, Mr. Mustachio will give you an answer, such as “2.” You then have to select which row or column of the grid in front of you will result in that answer. Rows read from left to right are added, right to left are subtracted, and columns are multiplied top to bottom. So, if you had a row that was “1” and “1,” tapping the left side of that row would add the numbers and result in “2,” the correct answer.
It sounds more complicated in text than in practice, although the game gets progressively more difficult as the grid grows with correct answers, the numbers get bigger, operations swap places, the timer speeds up, and colors are added in. Soon you have to find which row gives you “10” in blue and “5” in red, for instance. There are ten additional worlds to unlock as well, with their own types of puzzles, such as selecting rows of dots by size or the correct set of clock faces. It’s extremely difficult, but extremely rewarding, and all of your correct answers help Mr. Mustachio grow out his namesake facial décor, for whatever oddly endearing reason. Fans of math and logic puzzles, as well as Movember diehards, should definitely enjoy this one.