Ah, kidney stones. Gotta love having an excruciatingly painful medical condition arise out of the blue to throw a wrench into writing your monthly column (and subsequently two other pieces I’ve been really excited to write). But alas, I have returned from my slumber, and I’ve been playing a lot of mobile games over the past two months. In fact, I have enough that I thought about combining July and August into one big App Recap with twice the content! But then I realized no, I’d rather get back into this the old-fashioned way, and give each app the right amount of spotlight time they deserve. So let’s look back on this lovely July, and check out some of the unique games I was playing while tossing and turning in bed.
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a bit of a sucker for “.io” games. I can’t recall ever adding one to an App Recap list before, so let me give those of you who are unfamiliar with the genre a bit of a lesson in mobile gaming. The term “.io” refers to any mobile (or flash) game that allows the player to choose their own username and then join in with random players online to play out a race against the clock, or a winner-takes-all match. You may have heard of a game called slither.io, a hugely popular mobile game in pre-Fortnite America in which you play as a snake devouring smaller snakes. Personally, I fell in love with Hole.io, in which you play as a sinkhole who moves around a city eating everything in sight, including other players’ sinkholes as you grow. But in July 2019, I found myself loving aquapark.io, in which you slide down a giant water slide with other players in a race to get to the pool at the very end. I found this game to be a fairly addicting time-waster, as the slides get longer and full of more obstacles with each level, and the ability to fling yourself off the edge to land on another part of the slide below in order to get ahead never gets old. The graphics are unique, the chaos of a .io game in such a cramped space makes for a wild time, and I even caught my girlfriend getting sucked into it one day. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with this one.
As avid App Recap readers, y’all know by now that I’m all about shining a spotlight on the little guys; the ones who don’t have much to offer in terms of content, but they leave an impact on me, even so. Enter: Wrecking Ball!, a tiny time-waster with some of the coolest physics I’ve ever seen in a video game. The goal of Wrecking Ball! is extremely simple. You are given a giant sculpture made of colored cubes, and with your off-screen wrecking ball, you are to destroy that thing. You do so by lining up the latitude and longitude of your shot, and if you miss the bullseye, then you’ll have to use a power meter – similar to any sports game you may have played – to determine just how powerful this shot will be, before repeating this process again in an effort to knock the whole sculpture down. The skill of this game, however, is to line your shot up so perfectly that you hit the randomly-placed bullseye precisely, which will cause the titular wrecking ball to zoom into frame and smash that giant cube formation to bits. I mean it, cubes go flying everywhere. It’s one of the most satisfying feelings, and with every level it continues to be jaw-dropping. With each stage you earn jewels which can be traded in for wrecking ball skins, but as I said before, it’s not about the content here, it’s about the quality of watching big things go boom – and if that ain’t quality content, then I don’t know what is.
Air hockey is a staple of arcade culture, and as a simple game of knocking a puck back and forth across a table, it’s fairly easy for anyone to pick up and play. The game is typically dictated by angles and the air seeping from the playing field, and thus there isn’t much skill involved besides keeping your goal protected. Now, with Battle Disc, the rules of air hockey have shifted into dangerous territory, requiring more skill than one would imagine. You play as a little stick figure on the bottom half of the screen, with your opponent on the top half. Each level, you and your opponent are given a random layout of blocks behind you, which take the place of a standard air hockey goal. Your job is to protect these blocks, and not allow the disc to destroy them, a la Breakout. The skill, however, comes from the actual gameplay in which you must catch the disc midair, and pull on the screen to launch it back at your enemy. The level at which you pull the disc determines the power behind the shot, and by using angles to your advantage, you’ll come out on top. After so many levels there is a boss fight, which provide challenges like multiple opponents and many more blocks to destroy. Thankfully, in these boss fights you can acquire a giant hammer – with enough disc catches – that can smash through blocks and knock out enemies. There certainly is quite a challenge to be found in this little mobile darling. Battle Disc brings a colorful, creative twist to air hockey that will leave fans of the classic arcade game stupefied.
It’s ironic that in the world of technology and mobile games, we still find ways to mimic the simplest inventions, like paper. Take card games, for example. How many people spend hours on plane trips and bus rides and lunch breaks playing solitaire on their phones? Poker, Blackjack, freaking Carcassonne; the most basic tabletop games are now available on mobile devices, instead of just playing the real thing, and it kind of baffles me. Most of the time, I feel technology can’t beat the real thing. That is, until I find something I suck at in real life, but can do pretty easily on a phone. Origame does just that, making the hardest of origami projects into a simple task. That isn’t to say Origame is easy, by any means. The struggle here comes from trying to plan each fold accurately so the finished product fits in the designated zone within a certain amount of folds. As you progress, the box gets trickier to fit your piece of paper into, and I found myself sacrificing my perfect 100% accuracy in order to reach the challenge levels. These are where the game really shines, as the box shifts with each fold, shaping one piece of paper into a realistic, beautiful piece of origami. The attention to detail is fascinating, and always makes me wish I had these folding skills in real life. As for unlockables, the game lets you earn jewels which unlock new paper designs, and collecting hidden stickers in random levels makes obtaining jewels and designs even easier with a loot box-esque system. But overall, Origame is a pretty laid back, relaxing representation of origami that will help bring out your inner artist through methods you never thought possible. The music is super calming, too.
Gym Flip/Flip Dunk
For my final pick of July, I decided to keep the list from bursting at the seams by combining two fairly similar games into one category. I call this mobile genre: rag doll obstacle course. Both Gym Flip and Flip Dunk utilize the same control scheme, and in their own ways, they follow an identical premise. In Flip Dunk, the player leads a rag doll through various obstacle courses – complete with trampolines, slides, and giant hoops – in an effort to slam dunk a basketball at the end. In Gym Flip, the player leads a rag doll through various obstacle courses – complete with trampolines, slides, and lots of bars to swing on – in an effort to fly across the finish line into a stack of boxes at the end. You see what I’m getting at? It’s a genre that basically says, “Here’s a character that’s limp and lifeless. Take ‘them’ and lead ‘them’ to their ‘destination.'” The bright side of this repetition is that it’s almost always entertaining. I have a blast as I’m trying to perfectly time a jump in Gym Flip or as I’m trying to achieve all the goals in Flip Dunk (like get 7 flips in before the slam dunk). If I had to pick a favorite, I’d probably choose Flip Dunk for its optional objectives and its varied customization system. Furthermore, saving up in-game currency allows for new outfits and balls that keep the game feeling fresh. No matter which game piques your interest, I strongly encourage you to give these rag doll obstacle courses a shot, as they don’t seem to be a mobile genre that’s going anywhere soon, and they always leave me smiling.
And just like that, July’s in the books! Feels like so long ago, especially after a rather crappy August. But I’m glad to be back into writing and revitalizing this whole thing. August is right around the corner, so keep your eyes glued to the site, and I hope you’ll check out some of the above games while you wait. I’ll see you soon!