Best new mobile games on iOS and Android – September 2021 round-up

Metal Slug: Commander – nothing to smile about (pic: SNK)

GameCentral reviews a depressingly awful new game from Supercell and the further defilement of the Metal Slug and Contra franchises.

What constitutes a game? A decade ago answers might have included challenges of dexterity, tactics or team play. These days it’s harder to pin down, with titles like Metal Slug: Commander, last month’s NieR Reincarnation, and the upcoming Everdale removing any test of player skill in favour of handing out upgrades that demand only your time and attention.

In this brave new world of interactive entertainment, it can sometimes be tricky to tell whether you’re playing or being played. It’s just as well then, that there are releases like F-Sim | Space Shuttle 2, Dungeon & Puzzles, and Tesla Force, to restore some faith in humanity.

So while September is not going to go down as a classic month for mobile gaming there is, as always, a few rays of hope.

Dungeon And Puzzles

iOS, £2.49 (Nekolyst)

In this Sokoban-style puzzle game you swipe to send your mini knight as far as he can go in any direction, then swipe again to attack monsters in range. Kill all the mobs and you’re ready to exit the room, but you’ll need to make sure you’re lined up for the door.

Along with monsters, there are new weapons, spiked traps to avoid, pieces of furniture that catch you but then let you continue in the same direction, and a steady introduction of new mechanics as you progress.

Thank god there’s also an undo button and you can attempt multiple levels at any given time, making it harder to get stuck. Options which along with satisfying graphics and sound effects, and the increasing inventiveness of its challenges, make this a cracking little puzzler.

Score: 7/10

F-Sim | Space Shuttle 2

iOS, £4.49 (SkyTale Studios)

Rather than being a fight sim, Space Shuttle 2 is a landing sim, where you bring the shuttle into its final approach and landing at Edwards Airforce Base, Kennedy Space Centre or the freshly added White Sands Missile Range.

Set the time, date, and weather conditions, then tilt your device to steer, with subtlety and restraint being your watch words. There are no buttons to get in the way, so it’s just you and the fastidiously accurately modelled glide path.

This won’t appeal to everyone but if you enjoy flight sims the brevity of each run, combined with the Space Shuttle’s fundamental weirdness and high difficulty level, give it a one-more-go appeal. An Android version is due later this year.

Score: 7/10

Assetto Corsa Mobile

iOS, £4.49 (505 Games)

Flushed with long term success from its PC incarnation, Assetto Corsa Mobile seeks to bring the same simulation-grade racing action to mobile.

The 59 cars and 9 tracks you’ll use and unlock during career mode are the heart of the game, as you level up, and earn new cars and upgrades. Unfortunately, that’s the end of the good news.

The default tilt-your-phone control scheme is at best a fudge, and there’s a persistent glitch where competitors zig zag wildly around the road, even on straights, and it happens all the time. There’s a solid racing game in here somewhere, but it will need further development to reveal its delights.

Score: 5/10

Metal Slug: Commander

iOS, Free (SNK Corporation)

Born from the venerable twitch gaming franchise, Metal Slug: Commander takes the charmingly colourful 16-bit graphics, characters and world of Metal Slug and grafts them onto a brain dead gacha game.

Randomised loot, auto-battles, fast forward mode, login bonuses – you’ll find every single free to play trope in a game that requires neither skill nor timing, your entire job being to select the roster that goes into battle and choose when you want to spend money.

What pleasure can you derive from claiming reward after reward in an essentially empty, skill-free system? Metal Slug: Commander is a dystopian masterclass in late stage capitalism. It does look nice though and is thankfully unrelated to the upcoming Metal Slug Tactics.

Score: 2/10

Tesla Force

iOS, £4.99 (10Tons)

Tesla Force is a roguelite twin stick shooter that has you playing as either video game favourite Nikola Tesla or Marie Curie, who’s apparently taking a break from her Nobel Prize winning research into radioactivity to blast multiple waves of monsters using automatic weapons.

There’s a decent variety of enemies, which at least partly makes up for the relatively paltry assortment of tasks you complete in its levels, but as ever with roguelites the real joy is in the hard won upgrade process that gradually opens up more and more of the game.

Touch controls work okay but it’s better with a gamepad, even if DualShock owners will have to put up with Xbox controller instructions.

Score: 8/10

Contra Returns

iOS & Android, Free (TiMi Studio)

Another old school franchise getting a free to play makeover this month is Konami’s Contra, a series that stretches all the way back to the 80s and may be better known to UK gamers as Gryzor or Probotector. In Contra Returns you’ll choose a character, equip two guns and a super weapon, then set about its short 2D levels.

The mercifully skip-able cut scenes that bookend story missions are fully voiced by actors gamely doing their best with a hilariously inept script, and it’s all set off by an art style you might politely describe as generic.

Online battles provide the odd moment of fun, but matchmaking is regularly unfair, the gameplay little more than a flimsy veil over the upgrade system and in-app purchases, and your character’s stats overwhelmingly the most important factor. It’s dull, over-commercialised drivel that’s not even a shadow of the franchise whose name it sullies.

Score: 3/10

Rush Rally Origins

iOS & Android, £4.49 (Brownmonster Games)

Taking a pleasing, arcade style approach to its driving, this is the original Rush Rally, remade with many of the improvements evident in Rush Rally 3.

Its default helicopter chase cam view works particularly well on a small screen, and the touch controls are fiddly but serviceable, even if using a physical controller will instantly improve your times.

The real problem though is that it’s missing career mode, which was central to Rush Rally 3. Despite the excellent interface and handling model it leaves the game feeling a little unfocused.

Score: 6/10

Everdale (beta test)

iOS & Android, Free (Supercell)

It’s not all that frequently that the UK gets used as a soft launch market for games testing, but Supercell’s latest, Everdale, is doing just that.

While you can see the lineage of games like Clash Of Clans and Boom Beach in the profusion of currencies and multiple levels of countdown timer, where those games dressed things up in mid-core combat, Everdale has no skill requirement at all – all you do is wait.

Your waiting is separated into interdependent branches, so if a building requires wood and clay your workers have to collect those, but also need soup, which requires slow-growing pumpkins or faster acting but scarcer eggs or mushrooms – which you also need to sell to gain all-important gold. And so the network of interacting requirements trundles on in a never-ending plate-spinning exercise.

It will clearly benefit from balance tweaks and player feedback but as its stands, and despite an extraordinary level of polish and the ability to build collaboratively with fellow players, it remains a peculiarly hollow enterprise.

By Nick Gillett

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