It’s nearly time to put your feet up for a couple of weeks of winter because it’s December and nearly time to relax (once the stress of Christmas shopping subsides). December here in the south of the UK is the month of looking wistfully out the window and hoping against hope that we’ll see some festive snowfall, and it’s also a great time for everyone to put on a Christmas jumper and play the latest Android and iOS games.
Here are our mobile gaming picks for December 2018. See you next year!
7 Billion Humans
If you work in an office shortly before Christmas time and things start getting a little intense before the break, then this game may just resonate with you. From the developer of Human Resource Machine comes a brilliant dystopian puzzler where you direct a swarming hive-mind of factory workers to solve all manner of production-line puzzles for you. It’s essentially a basic programming sim, as you input various numerical commands to get your workers to do different tasks.
Ported over from PC, this is not an easy game aimed at the casual mobile market. But even as you’re racking your brain and the workers mill around endlessly, you’ll always have a smile on your face thanks to the game’s distinctive visuals and offbeat charms.
Colin Lane is a developer who knows how to make a little go a long way – a little flourish of pixellated animation here, a little bit of addictive clicker game there, it all just works (see: Wrassling). Undisputed Champ applies that sparring formula to the boxing ring, as you pick a boxer and take them on a journey through the bruising rankings.
The fights themselves are a simple but satisfying top-down affair with punching, blocking, and quite a bit of blood. Then there’s the metagame where you channel experience points into improving your fighter. It’s sort of like a top-down version of the same dev’s Big Shot Boxing, and while you could make the case that it doesn’t improve much on that, it’s still very compelling.
Star Trek: Fleet Command
Deep strategy games haven’t really found a place on mobile platforms, perhaps best demonstrated by the sadly over-simplified Civilization Revolution 2 that came out a few years ago. But Fleet Command shows the genre the way forward. Whether or not phrases like “Live long and prosper” and “To Infinity and Beyond”? mean anything to you, this is one of the best online strategy games on mobile right now.
Taking control of a cosmic starbase, you recruit some of the most iconic captains and ships of the Star Trek universe as you build alliances, invade star systems, and carry out missions around the galaxy. The monetization isn’t obnoxious, and the strategy is much more satisfying than your typical F2P MMO.
Could this be the game to, ahem, boldly go where no F2P game has gone before?
Assassin’s Creed: Rebellion
The Assassin’s Creed series has proven itself to be a dab hand at mobile games. Instead of trying to recreate the sprawling open-worldiness of the console counterparts, these games are 2D stealth-based platformers, and Rebellion shakes that formula up a bit with a cutesy aesthetic-strong inter-missions strategy game.
Between the levels where you stab and steal your way through the shadows, you build up a den of assassins and train them by improving the facilities and crafting new gear. It’s surprisingly deep stuff – a little bit Fallout Shelter, a little bit Mark of the Ninja and it doesn’t force you to spend money even though it’s a free-to-play game. We would say this is an F2P game done good, but that’s such a difficult thing to pull off that we don’t want to encourage too many developers to try and emulate this fine effort.
Another surprising F2P gem, Wild Beyond is a vibrant real-time combat game combining all good things like cards, mechs, and a visual style that’s clearly learned a few things at the Overwatch Academy. Playing Wild Beyond always feels manageable thanks to its brisk three-minute rounds and accessible mechanics that involve you dragging cards out onto the field of battle to move and use your heroes.
If you don’t fancy duking it out online against other players right away, you can warm yourself up in the perfectly decent single-player campaign, too. Its F2P tricks are reasonable and rewarding, and there’s an excellent progression system that improves your card roster for future battles.
Before there was Minecraft or World of Warcraft, back in ancient times before MMOs rose and fell, there was Runescape. The classic free-to-play MMO remains one of the most satisfying and grindtastic online worlds to explore, letting you create a hero from scratch and ply your trade in the world – whether it’s a roving warrior or a prestigious blacksmith.
Old School Runescape is the same game as its PC counterpart, preserving the game’s mechanics as they were before 2007 (not to be mistaken with Runescape, which is the modern version of the game that many veterans never quite took to). It’s cross-platform, so you can jump straight in and start adventuring with your friends, no matter what they’re playing on. Its instant popularity on mobile platforms attests to this game’s timeless qualities.
Tesla vs. Lovecraft
Making its way over from PC is a game that isn’t afraid of trivialising the cosmic horror of Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian monsters, by casting them as mindless zombie hordes up against the inventor of electricity. It’s a speedy top-down shooter that gives you an arsenal of absurd weapons and the ability to fire lightning bolts from your hands – as you’d of course have expected from Mr. Tesla himself.
As you smash through the neon netherrealms of the game, you level up and have some choice about which direction you develop your character, giving it just that little more depth than your average shooter. It’s classic stuff, bearing all the hallmarks of a 10Tons game.
The roguelike rage on consoles never quite made the jump to mobile like you’d have expected. Maybe that’s because the precise real-time controls required for it on PC just wouldn’t translate well to touchscreen. Whatever the case, Trigger Heroes sets a fine example of just how to make such a game work on mobile.
It’s filled with garish gunfire and frantic procedurally-generated arenas, its art style harking back to a 90s breakfast cartoon. The controls are precise, and even though it tempts you to run into the fray all guns blazing, it also rewards more tentative, cautious play.
Remember Badland? That beautifully stylish runner where you build up a ball of black fuzzy creatures and guide them through a lovely sunset world? Badland Brawl is set in the same world but eschews the relaxing gameplay of its predecessor in favor of a massive online brawl. Two forts face off against each other, and you must use the dazzling array of abilities and strange creatures to pummel your opponent into submission.
It may look like chaos at first, but there are tons of tactical nuance to learn here, and already the online community is buzzing with tribes and tutorial videos. This one’s fast becoming one of the mobile gaming phenomenons of the year.
This one’s actually been around for a few months already, but having only recently gotten our sweaty fingertips on it, we now feel compelled to talk about it. Pocket City is fantastic – a throwback to the more innocent, isometric days of Sim City before EA turned it into a sneaky free-to-play sinkhole on mobile.
Pocket City is a surprisingly deep city-builder that finds the right balance between micro-management and satisfying city design. It’s vibrant and filled with character, ensuring that whether you’re dealing with traffic concerns, taxes or natural disasters, you’re always doing it with a smile. The free version is ad-supported, and for just £3.99 you get the ads removed.
Any hidden gems that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!