Sadly, we've only got one review copy of BioShock Infinite—so that means one of us has had to slum it in mobile while waiting for the chance to revel in (and/or grump over) one of the apparently best games evar. (And where has the time gone? We're already in the midst of the BIbacklash!)
Fortunately, in the meantime, we've had a couple of crazy good mobile games to suck on like a pair of aluminum-foil pipes:
Nimble Quest, on iOS and Android. People are still making snake games? Maybe the last time you saw one was on your Nokia in 1998, but yes: yes, they are, and you'll be forgiven for underestimating this little fantasy game, right up until its dopamine-fueled tentacles have finished scraping out your entire subcortex like a relentlessly cute kraken. Your "snake" is a party of adventurers, which you unlock and add to one by one—a paladin here, a wizard there, each with its own upgradeable abilities—as you wind through short and increasingly difficult levels filled with spiders, skeletons, knights, and what-have-you. No doubt inspired by the recent vogue of roguelikes, each game of Nimble Quest kills you for good, starting you back at the beginning—but, importantly, with all of your expanded abilities, upgrades, and party size intact (which makes the getting through the early levels more of an enjoyable sprint than a trial). Like all respectable humans, we will never spend money on a freemium game (or at least never admit to it), but Nimble Quest perfectly surfs that whorl of multiple currencies, grinding, and self-respect, with a tight, satisfying design that reveals itself in pieces.
You know this will be LARPed at PAX.
Auralux, on iOS and Android. Wow, this is the sweet spot of casual design and hard-core gameplay. Despite being enjoyable even for a real-time strategy noob, Auralux is probably the most "pure" RTS game you'll ever play: You have a base. It makes units. Those units can take over other bases to make more units. There is only one kind of unit, and the only thing you can do is tell that unit to move. Which is the game designer's way of telling you, "If you lose, it's your fault." And all of this happens against a trancey, slo-mo backdrop, with semi-deranged space-calliope sounds that track to the action. Like Nimble Quest, Auralux also gets its pricing right: the game is free, and you pay (not much) to unlock new maps when you want more challenges. We may be getting to the point where if you have a million monkeys working on a million app provisioning platforms, you eventually get some smart, non-obnoxious, sustainable pricing schemes.
This is a lot more exciting than it looks.
The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner and Paul Hughes.