Is it me, or does it feel like, right at this very moment, tablet gaming is breaking into a legendary stride?
Looking at the iPad and Android tablet games that have been released over the last month, we have seen such a wide cross-section of releases—with some truly memorable hits—that I’m wondering if, in ten or twenty years, we won’t refer to this period with awe.
We’re seeing re-releases of some of the greatest games of history. We’re seeing epic role-playing games, story-based adventures, nerdy hex-based war games, a near-constant stream of cleverly designed puzzle games, and more.
I guess the truth is that this four-year period of mobile game renaissance will be regarded as legendary, regardless of what happens this year.
The counter-argument to my gushing is that there are so many game releases every week that some of them are bound to be good.
Fair enough. But games like Lego Star Wars: Microfighters—based on the Lego toys of the same name—feel so unique and so flawlessly executed that they feel emblematic of a golden age. (It is available for iOS now, with Android coming soon-ish.)
Previously, the Lego games—Star Wars included—have been designed for kids, but have possessed appeal for adults based on their tongue-in-cheek reverence for the stories upon which they are based. Lego Star Wars: Microfighters counters this with a challenging design and rapid-fire play mechanics that are reminiscent of the top-down shooters of yesteryear.
If you’ve played Galaga or Zaxxon, or even modern interpretations of the top-down shooter like Super Stardust, you’re probably starting to feel a little excited. As you should—this Lego game captures that magic, but wraps it in the Star Wars universe.
This means that you’ll fly X-Wings, Star Destroyers, and even the Millenium Falcon in a variety of planets and battles lifted straight from the movies. Endor, Yavin, Hoth, and more are included here.
(For insights about how game developers adapt to the tablet universe, sign up for the free Tablet Game Business newsletter)
The play mechanics have been thoughtfully considered. Instead of using separate buttons for piloting your ship and for shooting, as you move your ship around the screen, it automatically fires away. And an extremely gratifying progression of power-ups provides with you increasingly devastating fire power. Finally, the utilization of a health bar and a set of traditional arcade-style lives is a nice, progressive design touch that actually amplifies tension.
The end result is a game that has me completely riveted. I’m even experiencing an old-school fatigue in my left hand from playing so much.
The good times are no surprise. Lego Star Wars: Microfighters was designed by TT Games, which also developed Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, and several other hits.
As for Legos, wow, are they on a roll. Very few brands can boast appeal from age 2 to 100 like this one can. One of the few other universally-appealing brands, of course, is Star Wars, making this co-licensed series something that could literally last forever.
Other tablet games I’m playing
Bloodstroke: John Woo (yes, that John Woo) makes his mobile debut with a fun, stylized action-shooter. (Available for iOS, with Android coming soon.)
On the line: This game is what it sounds like. You keep your finger on the screen and try to trace the line as long as you can. (Available for iOS.)
Football Heroes: This goofy action-oriented sports game will conjure up immediate memories of NFL Blitz. (Available for iOS.)
Game Book Adventures 9: Sultans of Rema: The 9th book in this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-with dice series is out, with another entertaining, fantastical story. These adventures are highly rated in the app stores for a reason—you’ll have a hard time putting this one down. (Available for Android and iOS.)
(For the best tablet game news and reviews, sign up for the free Tablet Games newsletter for all tablets, or for the iPad games or the Android tablet games newsletters if you're only interested in these OS.)