XCOM: Enemy Unknown
When I first played Enemy Unknown on a console I was struck by how suited the game seemed to be for a touch-screen device. Unlike shooter or adventure games that require quick reflexes and fine control over the movement of characters, the mechanics of this turn-based strategy title are made for tapping.
That the designers at Firaxis were able to reproduce the entire game without loss of feature or fidelity – which is what they've done here – speaks to their talents.
In the game, aliens have invaded Earth, and as commander of XCOM, it is your responsibility to direct its defence. You'll have to co-ordinate the efforts of soldiers fighting the aliens in the field as well as manage the facility from which you lead the fight. That means deciding whether to invest resources in research or engineering.
Combat is turn-based, so you tap the screen to indicate where you want your soldiers to move, or which creature you want them to attack. Those troops will improve with experience and you can determine how they'll specialize. But when they die, they're dead. No health packs. No regeneration. No loading a save game to get them back.
They will die, of course, as all soldiers do. But if you plan your combat carefully, you can minimize losses. And you'll replay this game over and over, trying different tactics and strategies, always resisting the alien threat.
The price point for Enemy Unknown might seem high at $19.99, but given that you're getting the exact same experience that would cost you $29.99 to play on a computer or console, it's a steal.
Developer: 2K Games. Platform: iOS (rated 17+).
Deus Ex: The Fall
Coming from the minds at Eidos Montreal who developed 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution, The Fall ($6.99 on iTunes) is a console experience on a mobile device. It features Ben Saxon, a technology-enhanced soldier, telling the story of how he came to be where he is.
You move Ben by either tapping the screen to indicate where he should move to, or by using a virtual joystick on the left side of the screen. You can change your first-person view by touching and dragging on the right side of the screen. But the virtual joysticks don't really provide the kind of fine control over movement that is sometimes required. And double-tapping to move a character is fine with some games, but not when a wrong step ends up with your character getting killed.
As with Human Revolution, players can choose which strategic path they want to take through the missions. Stealth, combat and hacking are all possible here. Combat is middling, however, as it has been simplified for mobile devices. There's no aiming in The Fall. Players tap to acquire a target then tap the fire button. Context-relevant buttons appear on the screen to enable stealth takedowns and so you can interact with objects in the environment.
Leaving aside the control issues, which you will learn to overcome before too long, The Fall is visually stunning, narratively interesting and a compelling sequel to Human Revolution.
Developer: Square Enix. Platform: iOS, Android pending (rated 17+).