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Best new mobile games on iOS and Android – May 2022 round-up

GameCentral’s monthly review of the best and most interesting mobile games includes a new Secret Of Mana game and Total War: Medieval 2.

As the traditional summer console and PC games drought gets underway, it’s reassuring that mobile release schedules remain at full flood. This month’s titles include a conversion of grand strategy classic Total War: Medieval 2, a mobile version of free-to-play console game Guns Up!, and the excellent original puzzler Square Valley.

Guns Up! Mobile

iOS & Android, Free (NHN Bigfoot Corporation)

Loosely based on the console and PC title, this retains the Clash Of Clans and Boom Beach-inspired mechanic of building your own defensive base before going out to raid other players for resources.

Adding countdown timers to its loot crates and upgrades, the mobile version keeps the ultra-lengthy upgrade paths for units, special skills, and defensive structures, a growing roster of which become available as you level up your HQ.

Battles are initially a walkover, almost never resulting in a loss, the only limit to your raiding being time and patience. The issue is that unlimited battles swiftly reveal the limitations of its game design, with ennui setting in far earlier than in the more polished Supercell titles that inspire it.

Score: 6/10

Square Valley

iOS & Android, £1.79 (RyceKube)

Each turn in Square Valley has you placing a tile to add houses, trees, farms, rivers, and a host of other items to increase your valley’s bucolic charm. The twist is that each tile scores points relative to what it’s touching, so trees score more next to water and wheat fields get a bonus for being in bigger clusters.

The area available to place tiles changes each turn, creating a mix of chance and planning that influences your gradual landscaping of each of the game’s hand-drawn puzzles.

There’s no time pressure and the gentle soundtrack lends it a mellow pace that in no way undermines its challenge or the feel good nature of its puzzles.

Score: 8/10

Total War: Medieval 2

iOS & Android, £11.99 (Feral Interactive)

Following their triumphant mobile port of Rome: Total War, Feral Interactive was on an inevitable trajectory towards Medieval 2, a grand strategy game originally released for PC in 2006.

As in its older brother you’ll spend part of your time managing your economy and engaging in light diplomacy with your neighbours. The rest you’ll spend in real-time battles, moving units, issuing commands, and adapting to battlefield conditions.

It’s an impressive achievement given the game’s inherent complexity but, especially on a phone screen, battles are fiddly, with the job of highlighting and dragging units rendered inaccurate by the size of your thumbs compared with your microscopically small fighting men and cavalry. The less time pressured diplomatic elements work far better.

Score: 7/10

Steaming Penguins

iOS, 89p (Bernhard Strobl)

Blending Tower Defense with resource management and set on a seagoing platform populated by technologically advanced penguins, there is much to like about the set up for Steaming Penguins.

Gradually adding floors to your aquatic tower, you’ll need resource extractors, defences against marauding pirates and killer whales, and housing for your worker penguins as you build skywards.

Despite its excellent premise though it’s not quite finished enough to be fun, its systems never working well enough to provide a coherent experience.

Score: 4/10

Echoes Of Mana

iOS & Android, Free (Square Enix)

The Mana series has had a chequered history since its 1991 debut, and its arrival on mobile comes with the sadly ineluctable expectation that it will have been turned into a vacuous anime-themed gacha game.

And that’s precisely what’s happened. Drawing on characters from across the series, it places them in a succession of combat scenarios where you dodge, trigger attacks, and use two levels of special move – then collect your login bonus and a variety of loot.

It looks nice, but there’s absolutely nothing going on underneath the veneer, apart from collecting currencies to perform upgrades that let you continue fighting more identical battles, while the game patiently tries to hawk its microtransactions.

Score: 4/10

Into The Dead 2: Unleashed for iOS

Free with Netflix subscription (Netflix)

Originally released in 2017 as a free-to-play game, Into The Dead 2: Unleashed removes the in-app purchases to make its upgrades part of the gameplay rather than a paid extra.

As before it’s a zombie auto-runner, where your job is to steer left and right, tapping to shoot any undead that pop up in your way. Run over ammo drops to restock and shoot more zombies to earn upgrades, companions, and new weapons.

It’s simplistic stuff, but that’s no bad thing on a touchscreen, where the instant action and bite-sized levels work well with a compelling upgrade path that’s now free of the cold, dead hand of commerce. A nice addition to Netflix’s growing roster of games.

Score: 7/10

Knotwords

iOS & Android, Free (Zach Gage)

Complete crosswords by filling in letters in two, three, and four letter Tetromino-shaped groups. There are no clues, making it all about your skill in forming viable words from the letters in each group.

It’s got a nice-looking interface even if it’s not initially obvious where the next letter you type will appear; however, a bit of experience solving its puzzles soon makes the process feel more intuitive.

The absence of clues and the plethora of places where words overlap provide a decent challenge right from the start, and there’s plenty of free content to try before you have to spring for the full game. It’s not Wordle but it is a fun alternative for those seeking a new challenge.

Score: 7/10

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