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Monday, August 3, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Game On: There are apps for that

UPDATED: Thu., July 16, 2020

An in-game screenshot of “Fallout Shelter.”  (Bethesda Game Studios)
An in-game screenshot of “Fallout Shelter.” (Bethesda Game Studios)

Games on a mobile phone have come a long way in a short time. Just 15 years ago, the platform was restricted mostly to notorious time-wasters like Solitaire and “Centipede.” With the release of the iPhone in 2007, the smartphone market exploded from a niche to a near-ubiquitous item in the developed world.

Smartphones are so accessible, in fact, that many developing countries are skipping the personal computer stage altogether in favor of tablets and smartphones. According to Quartz, in 2017 50% of internet users worldwide got online using mobile devices, while in India, that number jumps to 80%.

With the explosive popularity of smartphone apps came a plethora of video games – some simple ports of existing games and others designed entirely with the mobile platform in mind. While smartphones can’t yet produce the same exceptional graphics as PCs or gaming consoles, they do the job well enough and have the benefit of touch screen technology.

There are so many mobile games that opening the iOS App Store or Google Play Store can be overwhelming, so here are a few I consider to be well worth your time:

“Kingdom Rush” is an exceptional tower defense game. The concept of this genre is simple – monsters navigate a maze to attack you at the end of it, and your job is to arm that maze with traps, archer towers and other obstacles to wear them down before they reach you. The “Kingdom Rush” series – there are three total – all push the formula to its limits by giving players dozens of creative towers and abilities to decimate foes.

There are many valid strategies, and the “right” strategy varies stage to stage, so the game keeps you on your toes despite its relatively slow pace. The original is free with in-app purchases, with its sequels “Frontiers,” “Origins” and “Vengeance” running $2-$5 apiece. I’ve avoided the in-app purchases and enjoyed each game very much, so it avoids the all-too-common “pay-to-win” scam.

I can’t help but mention “Sonic CD” – of the original Sonic games created in the early 90’s, “Sonic CD” was the hardest to get your hands on due to the price and rarity of the Sega CD. An avid fan named Christian Whitehead created a mobile port, and Sega liked it so much they worked out an agreement with Whitehead and officially licensed and distributed the game when many companies – looking at you, Nintendo and Disney – would’ve sent a cease-and-desist order.

Like other Sonic games, there’s plenty of speedy platforming, but with the added twist of time travel. You also can switch between the original U.S. and Japanese soundtracks, so players can cruise through the diverse stages with pulsing techno tracks or more atmospheric songs. The game is free, but advertisements pop up on loading screens.

“Monument Valley” is a beautiful and relaxing puzzle game. Exploring the elegant, minimalist worlds is a joy, and the use of perspective-bending puzzles keeps the flow of the game going with a steady stream of “a-ha” moments. I would highly recommend it to casual gamers and even first-timers to the gaming medium.

“Monument Valley” is slow, pleasant and never frustrating or tedious. The original is $4, and its sequel is $5. Apple gave the first game its game of the year award in 2014.

“Fallout Shelter” is a simulation game based in the “Fallout” retro-futuristic setting, in a world where worldwide nuclear annihilation is imminent. Despite the grim background, the series has a quirky sense of humor, and that carries over even into this mobile game, which tasks players with keeping vault shelter inhabitants happy and healthy.

You can grow an entire society underground and send dwellers out to forage above ground in the nuclear wasteland. Like most simulation games, there’s no real endgame, but the process of building a bunker of ridiculous proportions is entertaining enough. “Fallout Shelter” is free and offers in-app purchases.

There are thousands of mobile games out there, but those are a few quality titles. Honorable mentions include “Temple Run,” which is the original “endless runner” that started the now-ubiquitous genre; “Darkness Rises,” a full-fledged action role-playing game with terrific graphics; and “Crossy Road,” a spiritual successor to “Frogger.”

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