Microsoft’s new accessibility app is a huge step for AI

Microsoft’s new accessibility app is a huge step for AI

Microsoft’s Seeing AI app for iOS might be its most ambitious yet. Building off of the incredible smart glasses concept shown off at Build 2016 that narrated the world’s happenings for low-vision individuals, this app brings that same power to iPhones starting today.

Seeing AI utilizes the rear facing camera to detect a rather wide variety of visuals in proximity by using artificial intelligence. It works to paint a picture of what’s happening to boost the user’s awareness and empowers vision-impaired individuals with rich information that many sighted individuals take for granted. 

The app’s capabilities are impressive. It can recognize general objects, products, and can even describe the layout of a scene. If you want to read a sign or what’s typed out on a paper, Seeing AI can do that, too. But more impressive, this app can find faces and parse their various expressions, approximated age, general emotion and more.

AI see you

For several years, smartphone cameras have been able to see into our worlds and capture a photo or video. But only recently has AI-powered software actually been able to tell what the camera is seeing. 

At Google IO 2017, Google Lens was unveiled, an injection of AI smarts into the workings of the modern smartphone camera that can do things like remove unwanted obstructions from photos. Object recognition of this nature is also a pillar of Samsung Bixby, Samsung’s personal assistant that debuted alongside the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Given the recent maturation in artificial intelligence employed in smartphones, Seeing AI is the next logical step in not just recognizing objects, but experimenting with context and providing the right sort of feedback given the scenario. In order to serve those who can’t see, Microsoft’s app dives into the situational and contextual details to provide its users with information that can inform their next move.

The genius of Seeing AI isn’t just in how it can, well, see the world. It’s how it provides audible feedback to users. While the app is open, it’s constantly providing audio feedback, whether it’s in the form of a voice guiding users to move the camera in a certain direction to get the best look at their world or a series of beeps that ramp up in intensity when Seeing AI is close to recognizing an object.

There’s no word as of yet if Seeing AI will arrive on Android, but it’s likely to come sooner than later. On Microsoft’s YouTube page for the Seeing AI prototype, it stated that the decision to change focus from a smartglasses prototype to an app was to get into as many hands as possible, so fingers are crossed for a short wait on Android.

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The best free Android games in 2017: try these out now

The best free Android games in 2017: try these out now

What's better than a free game? Well, pretty much nothing. Except when it's just terrible and you've wasted your sweet time to download it.

Sure, it's not going to cost you anything, but that doesn't mean it's OK to just mess around with terrible games that are free because the developer can't make you pay anything for it in good conscience.

So what are you supposed to do about it? Well, we're here to help you with all that – but before you get into the best gallery around for recommendations, here's some advice to consider.

Firstly, consider what sort of game you want to spend your time on. Time, in this case, is literally the equivalent of money here. Do you want a quick game that you can play easily, or something that's going to be a bit more in-depth?

If it's the latter, then you'll probably have to accept that you'll need to either view some ads or in-app purchases to get the good stuff, as most developers don't want to give away their time for free.

However, there are some brilliant surprises out there as well – some lovely people spend hours coding brilliant games that they just let you play for free.

Also think about the kind of games that you need for your phone – if it's a high-powered game that's a visual treat, it's not going to be much use on a phone that comes from four years ago and has a tiny display.

Right, got all that? Great – you need to get cracking and finding out which titles are right for you. Get your mouses clicking or fingers swiping… we guarantee there will be something you'll enjoy in here.

Sonic The Hedgehog hasn’t fared as well as one-time rival Mario. Whereas Nintendo’s mascot still features in first-rate platformers, Sega’s blue hedgehog is more often mired in freemium rubbish. With Sonic The Hedgehog, though, you’re getting the original Genesis/Mega Drive classic.

In fact, you’re getting more. This is no lazy emulator, but a fully remastered game, with improved performance and widescreen 60fps visuals. Although a touch fiddly at times, care’s been taken with customizable on-screen controls, and there’s gamepad controller support, too.

Most importantly, the game itself remains compelling, with Sonic zooming about colorful landscapes filled with platforms, traps, gold rings, patrolling enemies, dizzying loops and tunnels, and the occasional boss. Retro-gaming’s often a disappointment, but Sonic stands the test of time. If only all old games were reworked for mobile with such care.

Up The Wall is suitably named given that it probably will drive you mad. It’s an autorunner with a vicious streak, but also some serious design smarts.

You start out by selecting a character from the claw machine, and that determines which world you’re dropped in. You might be a rubber duck blazing along bathroom tiles, or a skull skidding through a fiery hell.

The aim: get to the end of a hand-crafted level to add the character to your collection.

Even the so-called ‘easy’ levels are tough, and the swipe controls are sometimes a bit iffy. But the trippy visuals, head-bobbing audio, and varied isometric worlds peppered with devious traps will keep drawing you back.

This game flips chess on its head in brilliant fashion, by messing around with the pieces rather than the board.

During your first go at Really Bad Chess, you might examine what’s in front of you and quickly come to the conclusion you have a few too many queens. Your opponent, by contrast, will have a suspicious lack of decent pieces.

This is intentional. In Really Bad Chess, the AI’s capabilities never change, but the pieces do. As you improve, the setup shifts.

Get really good and you’ll have to take on the computer with a pile of pawns while it attacks you with as many queens as it can feasibly get away with.

For free, you also get a daily puzzle and two attempts to beat it. A $2.99/£2.89 IAP unlocks local multiplayer and removes the ads.

This game does for racing what auto-runners do for platform games. One Tap Rally is controlled with a single finger, pressing on the screen to accelerate and releasing to brake, while your car steers automatically. The aim is to not hit the sides of the track, because that slows you down.

Win and you move up the rankings, then playing a tougher, faster opponent. In a neat touch, said opponents are recordings of real-world attempts by other players, ranked by time.

In essence, this is a digital take on slot-racing, then, without the slots. But the mix of speed and strategy, along with a decent range of tracks, makes you forget about the simplistic controls. If anything, they become a boon, shifting the focus to learning track layouts and razor-sharp timing. Top stuff.

The idea behind Yellow is to make the screen entirely yellow. The twist is the game has 50 different ways of enabling you to do so, but each level provides no inkling of the required methodology.

Initially, progress is quite swift, as you tap the screen, fling a dot around Angry Birds-style to fill a hole, and then grin when you realize you must, for instance, press a yellow disc with the rhythm of blowing up a balloon.

Later levels, though, are at times willfully – and almost gleefully – obtuse. You can get hints, paid for by watching ads, but to do so feels like admitting defeat in this minimal and clever puzzler.

In Silly Sausage: Doggy Dessert, the world’s stretchiest canine finds himself trying to worm his way through a land of cake, chocolate, ice cream, and a worrying number of spikes, saw-blades, and massive bombs.

Rather than walk like a normal pooch, the furry hero of this game stretches as you swipe, until his front paws can cling on to something. His bottom then snaps back into place. It’s quite the trick – but also a hazard if one end of his body ends up in danger when the other end is worryingly distant.

There are 50 scenes in all, along with tricky bonus rooms to try and beat. And although some of the later bits of the game are perhaps a bit too testing, this one as a whole is a very tasty, satisfying arcade treat.

Zero points for innovation in Binary Dash, which is another side-scrolling auto-runner where you tap to jump, and tap somewhere else to flip upside-down.

But many points for the combination of super-fast gameplay, superb level design, and a visual aesthetic that thumbs its nose at the modern-day penchant for mid-80s pixel art, instead hurling you back to the lurid charms of late 1970s gaming.

Yes, Binary Dash more looks like it’s been vomited out of an ancient Atari console, but it nonetheless has a quirky charm. And the game itself is great. It eases you in gently, helping you get to grips with flipping above and below the horizon, thus turning game-ending pillars into pits to leap over when you’re upside-down.

Before long, though, your thumbs will be seriously challenged by the tight choreography required to jump and flip your way to the ends of later levels.

You probably wouldn’t be a happy commuter if forced to take the line in Infinite Train twice daily.

Here, a cartoon train lurches along a track with more bends in it than seems entirely reasonable. You must swipe in the appropriate direction to ensure the train turns in time, rather than crashing and providing the operator with a pretty good excuse for a cancellation.

Along the way, you can grab coins and carriages, amassing the points needed to unlock new skins, some of which are very odd. (Trains that are in fact massive frogs are the least of it.)

It does get a bit samey, and the online multiplayer is drab, but Infinite Train’s good for a quick blast, and if you get sick of the endless mode, there are stage-based challenges to tackle.

With its four-by-four grid and penchant for rapidly restricting the playfield, Topsoil comes across a bit like a horticultural Threes! There’s no sliding cards about, though – instead, you’re presented with a string of things to plant, and prod open spaces to plonk them down.

After three, you get a chance to harvest – and this is where things become more complicated. You get more points for harvesting many plants at once, which requires them to be on adjacent squares. But on harvesting anything, the soil beneath is turned over. Soil cycles between blue, yellow, and green, and groups of plants cannot cross different soil colors.

The net result is a clever game where you must plan ahead, and where you keep digging for strategies to last longer and discover new plants to grow and harvest.

It takes a lot to make a turn-based puzzle game stand out. NeoAngle’s stark visuals are certainly arresting, but it’s the way in which you move around the isometric landscape that makes the game unique.

Essentially, the protagonist is a triangle that flips into an adjacent tile when moving, leaving a trail in its wake. The trail is solid and cannot be crossed again. A glowing exit is where you must head – but only after grabbing gems along the way. And those gems might be stuck behind doorways opened using switches, or be located behind teleporters.

Soon, you’re trying to figure out a labyrinthine pathway to victory, wondering how someone could make a journey across a little single-screen neon grid so convoluted – and so riveting.

Yet another into-the-screen endless runner, channeling Temple Run. Yawn. Only Sky Dancer has a certain something that keeps you playing – and that certain something is leaving your stomach in your throat every time you jump.

Much of this is down to the construction of Sky Dancer’s world, which comprises tiny chunks of land hanging in the air in a manner that rocks usually don’t have. As you hurl yourself off the edge of one, you must quickly maneuver to land on a platform below.

Battling gravity and inertia is exhilarating, especially when the game speeds up and you know the slightest miscalculation will result in you meeting a splattery end on the desert floor.

We’re in Mario-style platforming territory with Super Phantom Cat, although only if you imagine the entire production quaffed a ton of sugar first. The Phantom World is a lurid, gaudy place, full of deadly traps, bling, and plenty of secrets. (A good rule when playing: never believe any wall is actually solid.)

Retina-searing art style aside, the game feels like a slam-dunk for any fan of classic platformers. Level design is smart, rewarding repeat play, there are varied modes, and the controls can be resized and shifted about if the defaults require banana thumbs on your device.

It is a bit ad-infested at times, but not to the point momentum is knocked. All in all, Super Phantom Cat is loads of leapy furry fun.

Pinball infused with the DNA of an against-the-clock endless runner sounds like an odd combination – but it works. In PinOut’s neon world – featuring a gorgeous electro soundtrack – a massive table stretches far into the distance. Within: dozens of miniature tables comprising flippers, ramps, and more than a few traps.

The basic aim at every turn is to keep moving forward to the next mini-table – and quickly. Accurate ramp shots are key, and so mastering the game’s physics and the layout of its various stages is essential.

For advocates, this is a fresh take on pinball that works brilliantly in mobile form. And for newcomers, PinOut is freed from the frequently arcane rules of pinball, but loses none of its frenetic excitement.

Coming across like Super Hexagon got infatuated with polygons, Polywarp is a brutally difficult arcade experience that’s also maddeningly compulsive.

The basics are simple: your polygon sits at the center of the screen, and walls close in from the edges. By tapping the left or right-hand side of the screen, respectively, you reduce or increase your polygon’s edge count, to match the next shape that’s aiming to crush you.

Everything moves at speed and whirls about, like you’re playing in a washing machine packed with an endless number of lurid shapes.

Initially, Polywarp feels impossible, but you soon recognize patterns to commit to memory and master. Last 60 seconds and you’ll feel like a champ – until you realize a new, tougher mode’s waiting to humiliate your thumbs.

One of the more abstract games you’re likely to install on your Android device, Cubway comprises over 50 minimal scenes you traverse as a tiny red square.

The aim is simply to reach a goal, but all kinds of objects block your path and respond to your presence in varying ways. You must figure out how to get past them all, despite being restricted in terms of movement – forward or backward are your only options, although you can (and will often have to) stop, move slowly, or backtrack, depending on the hazard before you.

As you travel, a story of sorts is revealed, although the text reads like a strange self-help guide. Otherwise, Cubway is a success – it’s intuitive, the mechanics are fresh and clever, and the aesthetics are unfalteringly atmospheric.

All the chicks have been captured, and so super-hen Cluckles sets off to save them, armed with the kind of massive sword most people would be surprised to find lurking in a henhouse.

From the outset, Cluckles’ Adventure is a very retro platformer – all chunky graphics, angular environments with enemies marching back and forth, and an unforgiving nature.

But while the very regular deaths can be off-putting (as can the virtual button placement, seemingly designed for banana thumbs on anything above a seven-inch tablet), it’s hard to stay mad at everything else.

The visuals are rough and ready but full of charm. And most importantly, the level design is smart, making it a mild challenge to reach an exit, but a much tougher test should you want to rescue every chick.

It’s one of the better platformers on Android, and one of the very best free ones, as well as being a reminder of simpler times.

Imagine Tomb Raider reworked as Pac-Man, slammed into Crossy Road, played in fast-forward, and dressed as if spat out of a ZX Spectrum circa 1983. That’s Tomb of the Mask.

You play as a hero aiming to ‘liberate’ gold from a tomb, but he finds a mask – and rashly puts it on. Recklessness here wins the day, since the mask bestows the wearer with the ability to climb walls and leap big gaps, giving him a fighting chance of reaching the end of scrolling caverns packed with deadly spikes, guns, and foes, and avoiding an encroaching glowing wall of death.

Whether playing through set-piece levels or the endless arcade mode, Tomb of the Mask is a fresh, fun, vibrant twitch game that marries the best of old and new.

If you’re the kind of person who’d rather stand up (and knock down) dominoes than play the actual game, Dominocity should appeal.

In this arcade puzzler, the idea is to place as few dominoes as possible to reach a goal, while grabbing golden amulets along the way.

The controls are odd at first. You tap to drop a domino in front of the last one, and slide your finger to angle it if necessary, in order to change direction.

Even so, precision placement isn’t too tricky, but success also hinges on speed. This adds tension to what may otherwise have been a pleasing but undemanding game, further ramped up by the increasing complexity of the pathways you must conquer as you move through Dominocity’s challenges.

It amounts to a fairly unique and original puzzler that’s easy to learn but hard to master, much like Tetris and other greats. It’s also fun in short bursts, making it ideal for mobile play.

One of the most sedate, forgiving puzzle games you’ll ever play, Outfolded also manages to do something interesting with minimal blocky environments and trundling shapes.

For each of the game’s scenes, the aim is to reach a goal by ‘unfolding’ one or more shapes. Each move you make, one of the shape’s faces disappears, leaving you with whatever’s left for further turns, and you can only move in a direction if you have an intact face pointing that way.

Early on, you can make all kinds of blunders and still reach the goal. But before long, the shapes become complex many-sided things reminiscent of Tetris blocks, requiring you to think carefully about the order in which their sides are unfolded and the routes you take.

Mess up and you can undo as many moves as you like. Even this isn’t galling, the rewind animation being pleasing even when you’ve already watched it several times on a particularly tough level. 

This one’s far from the worst game ever, but it does feature an amusingly grumpy cat. It’s actually a set of simple mini-games, reminiscent of Nintendo’s WarioWare series, only here, they feature a miffed moggie that’d sooner be somewhere – anywhere – else.

Each miniature challenge in Grumpy Cat’s Worst Game Ever can be understood in an instant  – stamping a paw on a laser pointer by tapping the screen; firing the cat upward to secure a cardboard box of dreams; pressing shaped buttons to traverse a path and reach a fish.

The variety of mini-games keeps it fresh and interesting, and the game is often smile inducing thanks to its mix of colorful art, ludicrous concepts and eternally irritated feline.

The longer you survive, the faster and more demanding everything becomes. Fail and the grumpy cat scowls, but you’re also awarded coins to acquire new games by way of stickers won from a prize machine. Naturally, every one of them features the grumpy cat.

More or less an auto-runner on a five-lane road, Cubed Rally World is all about belting along, steering left and right to avoid anything in your path. Survive long enough in this isometric landscape and you hit the checkered flag, where cube-oriented fame and fortune awaits.

But things get really interesting when you grab coins en-route and start buying new vehicles on the game’s home screen. Each vehicle shakes up the visuals and the manner in which you race – the dune buggy, for example, can leap majestically over sandy hills where the UFO bothers farmyard cows to add some variety into a older game format.

More importantly, for every vehicle you buy, a new track section is added to the rally, the vehicle you control automatically switching when you reach that point.

Amass a suitably large collection and there’s the potential for colossal scores – but completing the rally becomes significantly harder, which helps prolong longetivity.

This one-thumb arcade game combines classic slalom fare with the checkpoint racing and branching maps seen in the likes of OutRun. Using a single digit, you direct a little red boat through the waters of Memento Bay, aiming to collect ancient artifacts. At the end of each short stage, you head left or right to determine the next location.

Obstacles are a major foe – blunder into one and your boat is robbed of momentum – not great when playing against the clock. But you must also be mindful of the arrow at the top of the screen. This points towards the next checkpoint – miss one and it’s ‘game over’.

This feels harsh (a time penalty would have been better), but encourages repeat play. After all, the map never changes, so learn it and master the controls and you’ll one day be able to scythe towards the finish line.

Namco’s arcade classic hardly needs any introduction. But just in case you’ve been locked in a cave since the late 1970s, Pac-Man features the titular protagonist, a rotund yellow mouth who munches dots in a maze patrolled by ghost-like monsters.

The aim is to eat the dots and avoid the ghosts. Grab flashing power pills and you can briefly turn the tables on your pursuers – by eating them when they turn blue and try to flee.

Despite being over 30 years old, Pac-Man remains a fun game, and the simple controls (basically, swipe in the direction you next want to turn) work very nicely on Android, as do the crisp old-school visuals.

For free, you get the original maze and several plays per day. More mazes can be unlocked using saved up play tokens – or you can buy more (and remove the ads) with various IAPs.

World-building turn-based strategy series Civilization is a classic, but mobile versions have on the whole been a bit poor, offering neither the scope of their computer-based cousins nor the accessibility on-the-go mobile titles demand.

The Battle of Polytopia gets the balance right. You select a tribe, and set out to expand your tiny empire. Armies are created, resources are utilized, technology is researched, and opponents are crushed.

Polytopia isn’t the most immediate game – you need to experiment a bit to figure out how everything works. But the cartoon stylings are approachable, and the mix of entertainment and depth provides a hook and staying power.

Smartly, there are also multiple ways to play: old-school ‘kill everyone else’ domination, a limited 30-turn ‘Perfection’ mode, and, if the AI’s not doing it for you, pass-and-play. And all for free – for which Polytopia deserves to dominate your Android game time for a good long while.

This vertically scrolling shooter plays with convention in a manner that messes with your head. The basics are familiar – you’re dumped within a vertically scrolling environment and must shoot ALL OF THE THINGS.

Occasionally, obliterated foes drop bonus items that boost your weaponry, providing the means to unleash major destruction while yelling YEEE-HAA – if that’s your sort of thing.

However – and this is a big ‘however’ – everything in Time Locker only moves when you do. The temptation is to blaze ahead, due to bonus points being won for covering greater distances, and because you’re being pursued by the sole thing that doesn’t freeze when you do – an all-devouring nothingness.

But careening on isn’t always a good strategy, because blundering into a single foe or projectile ends your game. Risk versus reward, then, in this fresh and great-looking blaster that dares to try something different.

This superb arcade puzzler finds you directing traffic about a small town. A vehicle enters the screen, and you’re told where it needs to leave, steering it by way of directional arrows. Easy.

Only, this town is afflicted with strange temporal oddness that means subsequent journeys overlap previous ones. Before long, you’re making all kinds of detours to avoid collisions with cars you’d a minute ago driven to safety, which would otherwise wipe seconds off the timer as you wait for damaged vehicles to limp towards their exit.

Adding to its smarts, Does Not Commute includes a storyline with multiple characters, playing out across its varied environments. The only snag on mobile: you must complete the entire game in a single sitting. If that sounds like too much, a one-off IAP unlocks checkpoints.

The protagonist in Hop Swap isn’t having an especially great day, having tumbled into a strange videogame world where he’s apparently lost his arms and been painted purple. Still, he makes the most of it, bounding along, grabbing gems, leaping on monsters, and reaching checkpoints.

So far, so standard (for a platform game), but Hop Swap has a trick up its sleeve, in having you regularly leap below the ground. At that point, you flip upside down, jumping downwards to potentially finding more bling and new secrets.

Hop Swap is a fun, breezy game, even if it feels a touch stodgy and unresponsive compared to the likes of Mario. It’s also a generous freebie, in giving you the entire game – you just need to spend collected bling on checkpoints if you want to avoid watching ads to save progress.

This third entry in the Super Stickman Golf series is perhaps feeling a bit too familiar, but the game remains the best side-on golf to be found on Android.

As ever, your little stickman is charged with smacking balls about courses comprising floating islands, laser-infested bases, and space stations. You set your direction and strength, hit the ball, and hope for the best – although this time you can also add spin.

Power-ups eventually enter the mix, providing opportunities to discover new ways to lower your scores. There are also two multiplayer modes – a deranged real-time race and a more sedate turn-based affair.

The free version of Super Stickman Golf 3 is a little limited regarding simultaneous multiplayer games and access to new courses, but a single IAP unlocks the premium game.

Although Super Cat Bros looks like a retro title, it doesn’t play like one. Sure, there’s leapy platform action, like in Mario games, and a smattering of Alex Kidd exploration, but the controls are distinctly modern mobile fare.

You tap the left or right of your display to make your cat move (or wall jump when clinging to a wall), or double tap to dash (which finds the ktitie hurling itself into the air on reaching an edge).

At first, it’s disorienting, but soon Super Cat Bros becomes second nature, and you start noticing the smart design of the dinky levels, and how keenly observed the cat protagonists are.

Also, Android owners get one key benefit over people lumbered with an iPhone: the game’s proper name. (On iOS, it’s Super Cat Tales, because Apple apparently thinks its users might confuse a game about cats for one featuring Nintendo’s famous plumber.)

A brutal, brilliant platform game, Circle Affinity finds its protagonist in a literal take on the circles of hell – only here there are considerably more than nine.

He scoots about the edge of each disc, leaps into it, and then must jump to the outer edge of the next circle, which bobs about in the air. All the while, massive teeth-like daggers close in, and demons march back and forth, waiting for you to blunder into them.

Games are initially short, and Circle Affinity almost taunts you on death, as you try to master the inherently-disorienting nature. Over time, you'll begin to survive a little longer, whereupon you'll be rewarded with new eye-searing color schemes and additional play modes.

It's rare even in mobile gaming – frequently full of innovation – to find a fresh take on puzzling, but Kerflux surprises with a simple, original concept that's perfectly executed.

A crunchy chip-tune plays and you're presented with three waveforms. The music dulls, as if you're underwater, and that's your signal to start manipulating two of the waveforms so they combine to form the third.

Achieving this goal is straightforward, and you can initially blaze through the game's levels – even if a more leisurely pace is perhaps more rewarding. Before long, though, any complacency about Kerflux's apparent ease evaporates when additional waves appear and you're juggling four of them, trying to find the perfect combination that unlocks the next challenge.

Although it visually and conceptually resembles a reverse Tetris, with you removing blocks from a tower, Six! is really all about a hexagon. It lurks atop the blocks, and must not fall over the tower's edges.

A few taps in and Six! appears like it might last for hours, but shapes combine in odd ways, and you can only remove one at a time. This leads to hairy situations where your hexagon wheels and threatens to hurl itself into oblivion.

The physics are a touch suspect, but then this isn't a game aiming for console-style realism. Instead, you must master Six!'s weirdly floaty nature and attempt to take advantage. Rather neatly, the game's also not quite done when your hexagon's gone – you get a few seconds during a 'last call' to frantically tap away at remaining blocks and add to your score.

Although you play games, few of them are about play itself, in the sense of experimenting with a set-up or situation and seeing what happens. Orbit, though, while presenting itself as a puzzle game, is more a minimalist sandbox where you immerse yourself in the delights of creating tiny solar systems.

The game is played by slingshotting celestial bodies around black holes. They then proceed to leave colored trails in their wake, while gravity does its thing. Soon, you have planets clustering together, wheeling around one or more black holes, creating minimalist modern art while they do so.

It's all rather gorgeous and mesmerizing. The only snag is ads periodically wrecking the mood, although they can be eradicated with a single IAP.

Even now, years after Android proved itself as a major gaming platform, some developers seem to barely remember the touchscreen exists. If you reckon trudging through games with virtual D-pads and buttons can be a chore, Magic Touch: Wizard for Hire will be a little slice of magic.

You’re a wizard, defending a castle from interlopers attached to balloons. Cast spells by scribbling gestures to match symbols on the balloons and said flotation devices explode – much to the surprise of their owners, who then rapidly plummet towards a squishy end. Miss just one of them and your wizarding days are done.

From the off, this is a fresh, frantic survival game, especially when trying your hand at the super-fast extreme mode. Stick around for long enough and you’ll be able to utilize super spells too, turning enemies into frogs, and summoning a dragon. Which we all need to do on the odd Thursday here and there.

If you’re of the opinion gaming takes itself a tad too seriously at times, Maximum Car is a perfect antidote. This amusingly over-the-top racer has you barrel along winding roads, blowing up rival racers, and driving like a maniac.

Smash the same kind of car up enough across multiple races and you can buy it in the shop, using coins acquired by terrorizing other road users.

It all feels a bit like someone stripped down Burnout, added a slice of OutRun, and shoved the lot through a Lego-like visual filter.

Along with a brainless commentator (“I’ve got a reading age of six!”) growling at regular intervals as you use your ice cream van to smash an unfortunate convertible to smithereens, this all makes for a suitably silly and entertaining blast of speed that’s great in small doses.

From the developer behind psychotic endless games One More Dash and One More Line comes One More Jump. Initially, it seems a mite friendlier than the previously brutish titles – although still existing within a universe of abstract shapes and vivid colors, the protagonist now at least wears a massive grin. But make no mistake: this is hard-nosed platforming of the one-thumb kind.

Each level simply tasks you with reaching the exit, which requires sticking to white platforms. But with your grinning square automatically speeding along, all you can do to stave off disaster is time your jumps.

Should you also want to grab the bonuses along the way – necessary for unlocking new levels – you may need to leap over the exit and tackle the entire level multiple times. The tension is palpable when going for those final few leaps.

With its chunky graphics, angled viewpoint, and tap-to-jump controls, Looty Dungeon initially comes across as yet another me-too Crossy Road clone. And that’s a pity, because this game is a very different – yet equally as entertaining – proposition.

It’s still an endless game, but rather than scrolling, Looty Dungeon tasks you with offing any lurking enemies within static, single-screen dungeons before making for the exit.

Even early on, each tiny dungeon is filled with spikes, walls, flying arrows, and all manner of other obstacles. Dawdle too long and the floor will collapse from underneath you, survive long enough and you’ll eventually encounter bosses, which require unique tactics to defeat.

Grab enough bling before your inevitable demise and you can buy new heroes, some of which hold weapons that shake up how you approach the game, adding to its longevity.

Coming across like a Flappy Bird game designed in Terry Gilliam’s brain, Steamkraft is an amusingly knowing oddball take on the genre. Each level has you navigate a world of deadly obstacles by way of a fantastical contraption that requires more than a prod to the screen to head skywards.

In a submarine, you yank a lever to move up or down; and a level with a bike hanging from a miniature airship has you frantically rotate a mechanism to avoid crashing into the ground or terrifying mechanical ravens.

During play, everything is, in all honesty, a bit simple and sometimes a tad unfair (projectiles being flung your way with merry abandon, often leaving little hope of avoiding them), but the novelty factor – in terms of both visuals and controls – shines through to ensure Steamkraft is nonetheless a worthy freebie.

We’re not sure what’s going on in Easy Joe World, which marries a kind of cartoon logic with the sensibilities of old-school gaming. It features the journey of a mischievous cartoon rabbit, rampaging his way through over 100 screens of basic puzzling, getting up to all manner of naughty deeds.

Taken on its merits as a puzzler, Easy Joe World is lightweight. Most scenes are defeated by prodding at the screen until something happens, or flicking a few switches; only occasionally are you really tested.

But as an interactive cartoon brimming with character, and with a hint of gaming on the side, Easy Joe World’s worth an hour or two of your time.

Flash game Gimme Friction Baby heavily influenced a number of mobile titles, each featuring a little oscillating gun that fires balls into a single-screen arena, said balls then having to be destroyed by subsequent shots.

Hue Ball presents its own spin on the theme, which is respectful to the original source but smart enough to succeed on its own merits.

Here, balls don’t expand to fill space but instead grow another layer when a pulsing disc retreats to the center of the screen. When balls have too many layers, they’re converted to indestructible skulls that take up valuable screen space.

You must therefore quickly destroy any on-screen balls, while also taking care not to return one over the ‘line of doom’ that depletes your small selection of lives.

We’ve heard Perchang called a mix of Lemmings and Marble Madness. That’s a touch ambitious, but this is nonetheless a smart puzzler to test your brainpower and reactions.

The idea is to lead a stream of ball bearings to various exits placed within contraption-filled levels. Your only means of control is two buttons, used to trigger colored items such as flippers, magnets and fans. At first, bridging gaps is simple, but Perchang quickly ramps up the complexity, turning the game into a kind of frantic juggling act, balls flying all over the place as you struggle to contain the chaos.

Every few challenges, an ad roundly flings ball-bearings in the face of Perchang’s minimal ambiance, but you can be rid of them with a cheap one-off IAP.

In 1986, Sega released a racing game called Out Run. Being that this was in the days before boring, gray ‘realism’ became mandatory for a number of years, the visuals were colorful, the controls were simple, and the traffic tore along at insane speeds, suspiciously all heading in the same direction.

Final Freeway 2R is a loving tribute to Sega’s title. You get the same breakneck arcade racing, forks in the road, cheesy music, and a car flip when you crash. (You also, in this free version, get ads, but they’re not intrusive, and are easily ignored.)

If you’re old, you’ll be in gaming heaven; if not, the speed and carefree nature of Final Freeway 2R will finally make you understand what retro gamers are always wittering on about.

You might moan about trains when you’re – again – waiting for a late arrival during your daily commute, but play this game and you’ll thank your lucky stars that you’re not in Train Conductor World. Here, trains rocket along, and mostly towards head-on collisions.

It’s your job to drag out temporary bridges to avoid calamity while simultaneously sending each train to its proper destination – it’s exhausting.

From the off, Train Conductor World is demanding, and before long a kind of ‘blink and everything will be smashed to bits’ mentality pervades. For a path-finding action-puzzler – Flight Control on tracks, if you will – it’s an engaging and exciting experience.

We do wonder when light-fingered archaeologists will learn. No sooner has the hero of Raider Rushgrabbed a massive hunk of bling than the ancient temple he’s in starts filling with lava.

To escape, he must bound from wall to wall, like a hyperactive flea, making his way towards beautiful daylight, before realising he’s merely stuck in the next tower to escape from.

With 30 bespoke levels and an endless mode, there’s lots of leaping to be done in Raider Rush, and the two-thumb controls (for hurling the hero left or right) make for a pleasingly frantic arcade experience, akin to juggling your little explorer to the surface (while presumably scolding the idiot for not leaving other people’s possessions alone).

Although a far cry from classic Pokémon titles, there’s no getting away from the sheer impact of Pokémon GO. It’s resulted in swarms of smartphone users roaming the streets and countryside, searching for tiny creatures they can only see through their screens.

In all honesty, the game is simplistic: find a Pokémon, lob balls at it, amble about for a while to hatch eggs, and use your collection of critters to take over and guard virtual gyms.

But despite basic combat and the game’s tendency to clobber your Android’s battery, it taps into the collector mentality; and it’s a rare example of successfully integrating a game into the real world, getting people physically outside and – shock – interacting with each other.

Bad news! It turns out the Axis of Evil needs overthrowing immediately, on account of having access to a ridiculous number of planes and tanks, some of which are the size of small villages. Sadly, we’ve had some cutbacks, which means our air force is now, er, you.

Still, we’re sure you’re going to love your time in AirAttack 2, cooing at gorgeous scenery shortly before bombing it, surviving bullet-hell, and puffing your chest to a thumping orchestral soundtrack.

Sure, you might have to turn down the graphic effects a bit on older hardware, and it’s a bit of a grind to reach later levels, but you’re not going to get better freebie shooting action this side of World War III.

Take an early 1990s FPS, smash it into an auto-runner, add a dash of Pac-Man, and you’d end up with Hammer Bomb. You’re dumped in dank mazes and dungeons full of hideous beasts and must stomp along, finding keys, loot, weapons and the way out.

Levels are randomised, adding a Roguelike quality to proceedings, and the entire game’s underpinned by a levelling up system. This means XP being awarded for killing loads of monsters, rapidly finding the exit, or performing other tasks, such as completing quests (which, in a nod to Ms. Pac-Man, involves hunting down roaming foodstuff).

Every few levels, you face off against a massive screen-high boss, darting towards it with whatever weapon you have to hand, before fleeing like a coward. Survive long enough and you can swap coins for upgrades.

Top tip: as soon as you’ve 150 coins and level 3 status, grab the radar, because Hammer Bomb is much friendlier when you can spot monsters on the top-down map.

Like an escapee from Super Hexagon, but now stuck traversing endlessly shifting flat terrain, the heroic ship in Sparkwave only wants to survive. You veer left and right, attempting to remain on an evolving and disintegrating path, avoiding obstacles, and keeping your lunch down as the screen lurches and shifts.

The dazzling art style and thumping soundtrack add to the game’s dizzying but engaging nature; and although Sparkwave lacks Super Hexagon’s elegant simplicity (there are multiple tracks, unlocks and customizable options), it also lacks its price-tag, making it a no-brainer download.

The best of tennis is about the rallies, and in One Tap Tennis that’s all there is. Matches are won by you prodding the screen when a returned ball moves over an orange line. Successful thwackage builds your power bar, enabling you to hit a smash when it’s full and win the match.

This is an oddly compelling title, and surprisingly tricky once you’ve won a few cups and everything’s moving at breakneck speed. To keep you interested, there are loads of characters to unlock, and you can restart part-way through any cup by saving your spot in return for watching (read: ignoring) an ad.

Touchscreens should be a poor fit for platform games, which typically require the kind of precision that only comes from a physical controller. This is why so many mobile titles opt for auto-running, distilling platform gaming to its core essence of timing jumps.

In Leap Day, your little yellow character is tasked with getting to the top of a tall tower. You can jump, double jump and slide down walls, but that’s it. You must therefore carefully leap past cartoon foes and gigantic spikes, grabbing fruit along the way.

At various points on your climb are checkpoints, which can be bought with 20 fruit or by watching an ad. This means you don’t have to start from scratch on coming a cropper. And when you do reach the summit, you can come back the next day for an entirely new level to try.

There are a lot of Android puzzle games that involve you sliding blocks about, but Imago is one of the best, even giving Threes! a run for its money.

You drag numbered tiles around a grid, merging those of the same colour and shape. On doing so, their numbers combine, but when merged groups reach a certain size, they split into smaller tiles, each retaining the score of the larger piece. Successful games require careful forward planning, with only a few moves it can be possible to ramp up scores dramatically, into the millions or even billions!

The game’s relative complexity is countered by a smart modes system that gradually introduces you to Imago’s intricacies. There’s also a Daily Flight mode that provides a regular influx of new challenges, for when the standard modes begin to pall. On Android, we noticed a few minor visual glitches here and there, but otherwise this is a must-download puzzle game that’s among the best on the platform.

Asphalt 8 is arguably king of arcade racers on mobile, with its breezy and often ludicrous take on driving recklessly through famous cities. But Ridge Racer used to rule the arcades, and Ridge Racer Slipstream makes a decent stab for the chequered flag on Android.

This is a much more involved test than Asphalt, initially feeling stiffer and even a touch pedestrian. But as you get to grips with the handling model and gawp at the gorgeous scenery, it soon becomes clear Ridge Racer is a first-class mobile racer, and one that provides a stiff challenge at every step of the way.

As you might expect, there’s some IAP whiffing the place up, but you can play through for nothing if you’re willing to persevere and grind a bit; and with courses as great looking as the ones found in this game, re-racing them isn’t exactly a hardship.

We’re big fans of Crossy Road, which is both a lesson in how to update a classic arcade game (Frogger), and create a free-to-play business model that isn’t hateful. (In short, throw free coins at players, don’t make anything pay to win, and add loads of tempting but entirely optional characters to buy.)

With Disney Crossy Road, anything could have happened, but this is far from a cheap cash-in. Sure, it starts off very much like Crossy Road – just starring Mickey Mouse. But unlock a few characters (you’ll have at least three within ten minutes) and you suddenly find yourself immersed in chunky takes on famous movies, such as Toy Story, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Lion King.

Even better, these aren’t mere skins on the original. Each world has unique features, from tiny graphical details that will thrill fans, through to subtle shifts in how the game is played that force you to dramatically change your approach.

You might think there’s little new in Alto’s Adventure, which is essentially endless leapy game Canabalt on ice. But refined visuals best even Monument Valley, with an eye-popping day/night cycle and gorgeous weather effects; additionally, there’s a delightful soundtrack, and a kind of effortless elegance that permeates throughout, propelling Alto’s Adventure beyond its contemporaries.

Ostensibly, Alto’s Adventure is a game about collecting escaped llamas, but mostly Alto is keen on mucking about on snowy slopes. You zoom down hills, catapult yourself into the air, and try to somersault before face-planting. Extra challenge arrives in the form of chaining stunts to increase your speed, and outrunning elders, angry you’re having fun rather than sitting in a stinky llama pen.

Having been mercilessly ripped off by a pretender (who cynically thanked the original’s developer for “inspiration”), Sage Solitaire finally made it to Android. It rethinks solitaire for mobile, mostly by smashing it into poker. Cards are removed using poker hands, with the added complication each hand must use cards from at least two different rows.

Clearing the deck and amassing points requires careful strategy and a little luck, not least given how rapidly the lower stacks empty. Win three times and you unlock Vegas mode, where you can try your luck making bets on your skills (and, in all likelihood, lose a boatload of virtual money). Regardless of the mode you favour, Sage Solitaire’s one of those seemingly throwaway casual games that manages to take hold to the point of obsession.

In RGB Express, your aim is to build up a delivery company from scratch, all by dropping off little coloured boxes at buildings of the same colour. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Only this is a puzzler that takes place on tiny islands with streets laid out in a strict grid pattern, and decidedly oddball rules regarding road use.

Presumably to keep down on tarmac wear, roads are blocked the second a vehicle drives over them. Once you’re past the early levels, making all your deliveries often requires fashioning convoluted snake-like paths across the entire map, not least when bridge switches come into play. Despite its cute graphics, then, RGB Express is in reality a devious and tricky puzzle game, which will have you swearing later levels simply aren’t possible, before cracking one, feeling chuffed and then staring in disbelief at what follows.

In Threes! Free, you slide numbered cards around a tiny grid, merging pairs to increase their values and make room for new cards. Strategy comes from the cards all moving simultaneously, along with you needing to keep space free to make subsequent merges, forcing you to think ahead.

On launch, it was a rare example of a new and furiously compulsive puzzle-game mechanic. Within days, it was mercilessly ripped off, free clones flooding Google Play.

Now, though, you can get authentic Threes! action entirely for free, and discover why it’s 2048 times better than every freebie 2048 game (personality; attention to detail; music; small elements of game design that make a big difference).

You get 12 free games to start. Add groups of three more by watching a video ad. And you can always upgrade to the paid version if you get suitably hooked.

There are loads of freebie Bejeweled knock-offs on Google Play, and so if you fancy a bit of gem-swapping, you may as well download the original. For reasons beyond us, Android owners don’t get the multitude of modes available on some other platforms, but there’s the original match-three ‘classic’, the can’t-lose ‘zen’, and the superb ‘diamond mine’.

In the last of those, matches smash a hole into the ground. You’re playing against the clock, and over time uncover harder rock that needs special moves to obliterate. It’s a frenetic, intense experience considering this is a match-three title, although high-score chasers might cast a suspicious eye over the offer to extend the time limit by watching an advert.

Although there are exceptions, traditional platform games rarely work on touchscreens. Fortunately, canny developers have rethought the genre, stripping it back to its very essence. In Bean Dreams, you help a jumping bean traverse all kinds of hazards, by sending the bouncing hatted seed left or right.

Each level is cleverly designed to offer optimum paths, boosting your points tally when hitting the goal having made the fewest bounces. Timing is everything, then, but there are further challenges that reward exploration. To find the pet axolotls spread across the map, or collect all the fruit, you must use different approaches, which adds plenty of replay value.

Nitrome’s fashioning quite the collection of smart Android games, which subvert existing genres in interesting ways. Platform Panic initially comes across as a vastly simplified platform game. You swipe to move and leap, and it’s game over the second your little character comes a cropper.

But really every screen is a tiny puzzle that you must learn how to solve; and then every game becomes a memory test, with you in an instant having to draw on your experience as each challenge — sometimes mirrored — is sent your way.

In Rust Bucket, a cartoon helmet with a sword dodders about a vibrant dungeon, offing all manner of cute but deadly adversaries — skittering skulls, angry armoured pigs, and spooky ghosts. This is a turn-based affair, echoing classic RPGs, but its endless dungeon and savage nature transform it into a puzzle game perfect for quickfire mobile sessions. You must learn how foes move and react, plan every step and always keep in mind a single error can spell doom.

In its current incarnation, Rust Bucket cleverly balances enough depth to keep you coming back with the brevity that makes it ideal for on-the-go roguelike larks. Future plans include finite puzzle modes and expanded endless content.

Miserable people will tell you that Battle Golf is stupid and that you should go and play a proper sports game instead. Pay them no heed, because this title might be very silly, but it’s also a blast. Two rivals stand at the edge of a lake, from which tiny greens periodically emerge. They must then land a hole in one to take a point. Occasionally, a whale or huge octopus will be the ‘hole’, and you can bean your opponent with the ball. Just don’t bean them with their Android device if they sneak a win with a jammy shot.

Although it’s yet another auto-runner, Fast like a Fox has plenty going for it. The game looks gorgeous, with atmospheric low-poly artwork providing an artsy take on chilly frozen hills and dark urban haunts.

There’s also some smart level design, with each of the short challenges demanding you learn every pathway, and understanding the speed with which you approach the many jumps, in order to not send your furry friend to its doom.

But mostly we were taken by the control method, which involves drumming your fingers on the back of your device to speed up the fox. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but this approach gives you a much greater sense of connection with the sprinting mammal, although grumpy traditionalists can instead opt for a much more boring two-button system.

We’ve seen several mobile games put a new spin on chess, but Chess Runner amusingly turns the age-old favourite into a frantic arcade battle. You take on the role of a white knight, darting about in L-shaped bounds. Your aim: to fight your way through black pieces and capture a golden king.

Different twists are peppered throughout the game’s levels. The most basic mode involves ensuring you don’t end up in a position to be taken by static or patrolling black pieces. But sometimes you must fend off a barrage of attacks from pawns or rooks, or quickly get to the king during a speed-run test. It’s particularly in those against-the-clock challenges that Chess Runner bares its teeth, temporarily making you forget everything you ever knew about chess, before blundering into a bishop.

There’s always a whiff of unease on recommending a game from a developer nestled deep in the bosom of freemium gaming, but Clash Royale largely manages to be a lot of fun however much money you lob at it. The game is more or less a mash-up of card collecting and real-time strategy. Cards are used to drop units on to a single-screen playfield, and they march about and duff up enemy units, before taking on your opponent’s towers.

The battles are short and suited to quick on-the-go play, and although Clash Royale is designed for online scraps, you can also hone your strategies against training units if you’re regularly getting pulverised. There are the usual timers and gates for upgrades, but the game largely does a good job of matching you against players of fairly similar skill levels, meaning it’s usually a blast and only rarely a drag.

This endless survival game eschews typical side-on leapy shenanigans or an overhead land-based approach. Instead, Road to be King has you drag the royal protagonist around the screen, attempting to avoid all manner of foul creatures and deadly traps. Along the way, crystals are there for grabbing, as are power-ups for a temporary reprieve against your foes. Mostly, it’s the control method and design that ensure Road to be King is worth sticking with. Both oddly echo bullet-hell shooters as much as endless runners, and as you begin to recognise patterns in the challenges you pass, the game becomes a kind of zen-like experience.

In the world of Splash Cars, it appears everyone’s a miserable grump apart from you. Their world is dull and grey, but your magical vehicle brings colour to anything it goes near. The police aren’t happy about this and aim to bring your hue-based shenanigans to a close, by ramming your car into oblivion. There’s also the tiny snag of a petrol tank that runs dry alarmingly quickly.

Splash Cars therefore becomes a fun game of fleeing from the fuzz, zooming past buildings by a hair’s breadth, grabbing petrol and coins carelessly left lying about, and trying to hit an amount-painted target before the timer runs out. Succeed and you go on to bigger and better locations, with increasingly powerful cars.

The amazingly popular iOS game earned over two million downloads during its first weekend of availability on Android and despite myriad sequels and spinoffs, it is still a great game to play.

The Android version of Angry Birds is free, unlike the Apple release, with maker Rovio opting to stick a few adverts on it rather than charge an upfront fee. The result is a massive and very challenging physics puzzler that’s incredibly polished and professional. For free. It defies all the laws of modern retail.

We’re pretty sure this one’s going to confuse a bunch of people, but if you’re of a certain vintage, Heist will have you squee with nostalgia. It’s essentially a Nintendo Game & Watch for your Android device, featuring a little chap robbing a bank. The visuals perfectly evoke those ancient handhelds, and although the game is very simple — move left and right, avoid falling objects, load pilfered cash into a balloon — getting high-scores requires serious concentration and thumb dexterity.

On a suitably sized smartphone, you’ll almost think you’re playing the real thing. (And if anyone from Nintendo is reading, how about some official Game & Watch on Android? Better that than any number of dodgy freemium games based loosely on Nintendo’s famous characters.)

Objectively, Flappy Bird was a bit rubbish, but it did kick off a ton of ‘tributes’. Most of them were rubbish too, but Flappy Golf very much isn’t. It started off as a joke — the developer fusing the excellent Super Stickman Golf 2 and Flappy Bird mechanics. Instead of aiming your ball, it has wings and you flap it towards the hole by tapping ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons.

Somehow, this all comes together and Flappy Golf equals the game it’s based on — it’s fast, funny and challenging, with loads of courses and multiplayer. The on-screen ads are a bit intrusive, mind, but otherwise this is one of the best free games you’re ever likely to find for Android, despite ‘Flappy’ being in its name.

It’s probably fair to say that No More Kings is on the basic side regarding aesthetics, but then that merely puts you in mind of those chess puzzles you find lurking in newspapers. The difference here is you capture the king by taking pieces and immediately becoming that piece. By way of example, grab a bishop with a rook and it’s ‘diagonals only’ for your next move.

Finding your way to the crown is easy at first, but gets much trickier in later levels, when the board becomes littered with pieces and the pathfinding is no longer obvious. The masterstroke: tying the stars awarded for completing levels to the speed in which you reach a solution. Speed chess players will have nothing on your deft digits in this game.

With its cute isometric visual style, hoppy instadeath mechanics, and a range of characters to win in a semi-randomised lottery, you might be forgiven for thinking Down The Mountain is Crossy Road upended. While there are similarities, it quickly becomes clear Down The Mountain is a very different game to play. Borrowing from Q*Bert rather than Frogger, it has you tackle leaping down an endless mountain, on which hazards come thick and fast. Even on the easy mode, you must think quickly, leaping left or right to avoid TNT, bounding cars, and vicious spikes. On hard mode, it’s not so much Down The Mountain as Down T— Oh. Dead again.

We all love a bit of Tetris, but Tetris doesn’t love mobile — previous and current incarnations for Android are mostly hideous IAP-infused abominations. Fortunately, then, Dream of Pixels exists, more or less flipping Tetris upside-down, having you use those very familiar shapes to take chunks out of an endless cloud bank.

The game’s floaty and slightly hippyish vibe hides an endless puzzler with serious bite. Once the cloud’s moving at speed and you have a few ‘orphaned’ bits that need reconnecting with the main body, Dream of Pixels becomes a frantic speed test of shape-matching abilities. If it all gets a bit much, there’s a static ‘zen’ mode, where you fill static shapes with pre-defined tetromino sets. And when you’re ready for action again, a one-off IAP unlocks three tougher variations on the main game.

Poor Cally. It’s like she can’t go for five minutes without her parents being kidnapped. It’s third time unlucky for her in Cally’s Caves 3, but lucky for you, because you get an excellent old-school platformer that costs nothing at all. Cally leaps about, shooting and stabbing enemies in a gleeful manner you might consider unusual for a young girl with pigtails.

The game’s brutal, too, with a checkpoint system that will have you gnashing teeth when you die a few steps before a restart point. But the weapon upgrade system is clever (keep shooting things to power up guns!), there are loads of items to discover, and unlike on iOS, the free Android version has several extra unlocked modes.

We’re always a bit twitchy about recommending first-person shooters on mobile, because pawing at a glass screen is no substitute for having a gamepad in your mitts. Neon Shadow, though, has a good crack at providing high-octane shooty action on Android, mostly through smart level design, simple controls, and having a protagonist that’s surprisingly robust.

The story finds you aboard a sentient space station that’s gone nuts and turned all its on-board mechanoids evil. Somehow (and we’re really not sure how), this has placed the entire galaxy in jeopardy. So you need to go about blowing everything up, and not get horribly killed. It’s quite old-school, looks fab, and never lets up. Only occasionally will the on-screen controls make you swear at your thumbs.

If you’ve played Pac-Man before, the goal of Pac-Man 256 should seem pretty familiar: eat as many pellets as possible without being caught by a ghost. This time, however, it never ends. You’ll get power-ups along the way, and it actually has a reasonable approach to in-app purchases.

Very similar in style and concept to Xbox and Xbox 360 retro classic Geometry Wars. In fact, one might legally be able to get away with calling it a right old rip-off. Android PewPew is a rock-hard 2D shooting game packed with alternate game modes.

It’s a bit rough around the edges and requires a powerful phone to run smoothly, but when it does it’s a fantastic thing.

It’s far from the most sophisticated pinball effort on Google Play, but we’re nonetheless very fond of Vector Pinball. It has a kind of old-school sensibility regarding the straightforward table designs, and each of the four layouts requires you to learn its intricacies and basic missions, in order to score big points.

Aesthetically, it also tries something different from its contemporaries. Instead of aping real tables, Vector Pinball is all skinny lines and bright colours — as if someone’s squeezed a decent pinball simulator into a Vectrex — and pleasing electronic effects and music accompany your ball-smacking.

Vector Pinball’s laudably open, too — it’s an open source game, and there’s even an experimental editor for creating your own tables.

Winter Walk is madness. You play the part of a gentleman, out for an evening walk. From time to time the wind picks up, so you have to hold on to his hat to stop it blowing away.

While this is happening, the chap’s internal monologue appears on screen, giving you an entertaining and distracting read in the process, too. Very simple, but a perfect little high score challenge game for the touchscreen era.

At its core, Crossy Road is an endless take on Frogger. The little protagonist hops about, weaving in-between traffic, and carefully navigating rivers by way of floating logs.

Adding to your problems: train tracks, where you can catch the 10:47 to Waterloo in a rather more abrupt and splattery way than you might hope, and a giant eagle that strikes should you dawdle.

Really, it’s nothing particularly innovative, but where Crossy Road shines is in its implementation. The graphics are gorgeous (and have subsequently been frequently aped); the F2P system is fair — even generous; and the characters you can win or buy often transform the game, the most overt example being ‘Crossy Pac-Man’, a tie-in with the similarly excellent Pac-Man 256.

Dead on Arrival is a very impressive looking 3D survival horror game, which dumps you in a hospital infested with zombies. You then try to not get eaten by buying new weapons, boarding up doors to keep the brain-eaters at bay and using wall-mounted weaponry to quicken the zombie mincing process.

As with many of today’s Android titles, there’s the option to pay for stuff within the game to unlock features and remove ads – but you don’t have to.

Super Bit Dash is a retro-style 2D platform game, with controls as simple as its pixel art design. The game runs at a constant pace, so all the player has to do is jump and super-special-jump at the right time in order to avoid smashing into the scenery. Obviously it’s a lot harder than that makes it sound.

After making a splash on iOS, Fallout Shelter is now available on Android for all you Wasteland nuts. In Shelter, you create a vault and fill it with post-nuclear-war survivors, expanding your underground property, levelling up your dwellers, and sending them out to explore the surface left behind.

A shock move from developer Rovio, in that this one isn’t a simple take on the Angry Birds style. Bad Piggies is a clever building game, which dumps you at the beginning of a big map with a pile of component parts. You then build a flying machine using the given elements, then try to fly it to the end of the level. A really nice, original little idea from the physics game specialists.

Whale Trail Frenzy is an updated version of the iOS original, with the developer heaping in more levels for the Android release of its bonkers flying game. You just fly a little whale around the sky (for reasons never explained), collecting things, avoiding bad clouds, building up a multiplier and generally being wowed by its unique and gorgeous style. A really sweet experience.

Radiant Defense is a fantastic tower defence game, given a dazzling modern look. You do all the usual tower defence stuff like building up your weapon strengths and deciding how best to stop the endless marching enemy, with some “super weapons” to unlock and hundreds upon hundreds of waves to beat. And it all looks astonishingly pretty on a big screened device.

In this age of austerity and scrimping, we’ve all long since sold our last set of dominoes and melted down our Monopoly counters for scrap.

That zombie shooter Dead Trigger is set in the dystopian future of 2012 is testament to its lasting appeal. Frantic first-person missions set in realistic 3D environments are sure to get your heart racing (unless you’re a zombie), even on smaller screens.

Cute critter Om-Nom in Cut the Rope is the Daniel Day-Lewis of puzzle games, with a BAFTA amid his haul of gaming awards. The simple premise (cut the ropes to release Om-Nom’s lunch) sustains over 400 well-pitched levels, packed with character and cartoonish charm.

Yes, the insanely popular online card game Hearthstone has been squashed down to fit your phone or tablet screen – and it works surprisingly well. With less space to play with, the creators have rejigged the design slightly; it’s still the same game, just a bit more considerate to your thumbs.

It’s also still compatible with the tablet and desktop versions so you’ll be able to play against your friends on the move.

Yes, the proper Scrabble, not some copyright-infringing clone that’ll be pulled by the time you read these words. EA bought the license, tidied it up and stuck it out on Android, where it’s a remarkably advert and in-app purchase free experience.

It’s been beefed up with a few new modes, but stuff like the ability to sync with Facebook and play multiple matches is actually exactly what you need. A classic that’s not been ruined. Hooray.

Blip Blup is the kind of original little idea we love stumbling across. It’s a sort of geometry-based puzzle game that has you pressing squares on the screen to fill in areas of colour.

Your light beams are limited in the directions they can travel, so, once you’re through the troublingly simple tutorial levels, it soon becomes insanely tough and will soon have you scratching through your skull’s skin and bone until you actually itch your BRAIN in confusion.

Extremely controversial thanks to its use of in-app purchases to buy your way to better cars, quicker play time and much more, there’s one reason you really ought to give Real Racing 3 a go – it’s the best looking 3D racer on Android by a mile.

If you want something that gives both, all four, or even the full eight of your phone’s cores a full workout, this is the one. And you don’t have to pay for anything, as long as you don’t mind staring at timers and waiting a lot.

This one should be absurdly easy. All you have to do is tap the screen at the right moment, so you dash to the next safe zone. The trouble is, there’s a timer — lurk too long and you explode. And safe zones are often surrounded by rotating spikes, or shields that deflect you into the deadly void.

One More Dash therefore becomes a steely test of nerves and reactions, where a single mis-timed tap can spell the end of even the most impressive feat of dashing.

GYRO is exactly the sort of thing we like – a clever new idea that makes the most out of today’s touchable devices. It’s a bit abstract. You are the circle thing in the middle, and you rotate yourself to absorb the incoming spheres, matching the balls with the right coloured segment.

Shields and score multipliers then fire in, and, inevitably, it all gets quicker and harder. Perfect even on older phones and tablets of modest performance.

Galaxy on Fire 2 HD is one of the most visually impressive 3D shooters to be found on Android, Galaxy on Fire 2 also chucks in some trading and exploration play to add a little more depth to the combat, making it into something similar to having your own little portable Eve Online. You also get to play as a lead character called Keith, which is quite an exciting rarity.

New Star Soccer is a previously paid-for game that has undergone a complete refresh, with the developer making it a freebie – but adding in the scourge of modern software in the form of “stars” to buy with real money instead. If you can tolerate the effort needed to bypass the new emphasis on paying to progress quicker, it’s still a staggeringly good game, offering a mega-deep football management sim for mobile.

This is a right old gem. Badland is an abstract physics platformer kind of thing, where you play a flapping monster that has to navigate some gorgeous maps while listening to bird song. Power-ups and power-downs increase and decrease the size of your blob, also multiplying it until you control several of the things. Weird and dark and interesting. Definitely try it.

The original was so beneficial to furthering consumer recognition of both major brands that they made another one – aptly titled Angry Birds Star Wars II. It’s really free thanks to being ad-supported, which, it turns out, is nicer than being asked to buy imaginary space money every 30 seconds. Loads of levels and stupid Star Wars references galore make this a no-brainer for fans of either enormous super-franchise.

A charming little undersea adventure, in which your little chap dives to hunt for treasure. It does feature in-app purchases, but it’s dead simple to grind a little to collect treasure and unlock most of the game’s content manually, although the £2.49 coin doubler starts to look tempting after a while. It’s a lovely little game, though, so grinding its quirky maps is really quite a joy anyway.

In which the Angry Birds developer has a go at pulling off a Flappy Bird style game. Retry is more than a simple clone, though, introducing plane piloting, wobbly terrain to navigate and simple landing missions. It’s very, very hard, but you do at least get more of a sense of progression and reward than was present in the interminable Flappy.

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The best Android games of 2017: our top picks

The best Android games of 2017: our top picks

You're here for one thing: finding the best Android game. You don't mind paying a little money for the privilege, but want to make sure you're putting your cash in the right place.

That's not easy: some titles are expensive and nothing more than just poor ports of a console game. Others are only a meagre amount but are genuinely more entertaining and enthralling than anything found on a console a few years ago.

When deciding what Android game is best for you, well… you've got a few choices to consider.

Firstly, remember that you won't have just one game on the go at any one time. You might have a title that's great for playing on the sofa or commute, and one when queuing at the bank.

Some work better with headphones, others don't – and we thoroughly recommend playing through a few regularly to find the games that work the best for you. Nothing better than finding something you just can't wait to play again and again!

  • Want to improve your Android phone in other ways? Check out the best Android apps in 2017

Unlike the iPhone, the amount of dedicated gaming controllers for Android phones is a bit more bland, as there aren't as many for specific phone models… and the games that support them can be varied too.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't have a good look at what's out there, and many controllers aren't overly expensive.

Back to the games: have a think about the variety of titles to check out, whether you want something that taxes you, is a quick-fire frenzy or an RPG that you can play locally with friends.

That's why we're here – telling you the games that you need to play because we've tried them out ourselves. We head through the new and bubbling lists of titles each week, have a look at what's good and let you know.

We try to keep this list as fresh as possible, so if your favorite falls off the chart then it's not a bad game… there's just more out there to try.

So get ready to get clicking through our gallery… we guarantee you'll have found something to play before you know it.

Slayaway Camp is a sliding puzzle game that looks like Crossy Road – if Crossy Road had turned into a 1980s horror flick. The aim is to assist psycho slasher Skullface, hacking to pieces loitering campers and cops, across dozens of levels of pixelated gore.

Essentially, it’s about pathfinding. Skullface slides until he hits something. The key is to ensure that’s a camper, and not a cop’s gun, or something equally deadly that will end his bloody rampage.

For those of a sensitive disposition, it’s worth noting Slayaway Camp is more ridiculous than horrific – even its cut-scenes (with emphasis on the cutting – and hacking) are very silly.

More importantly, the slasher thing isn’t a gimmick atop a rubbish game – although Slayaway Camp doesn’t drip with innovation regarding the puzzling bits, the challenges are solidly designed and increasingly devious as you hack your way through its many levels.

In the late 1970s, Space Invaders invited you to blast rows of invaders. In the mid-1980s, Arkanoid revamped Breakout, having you use a bat-like spaceship to belt a ball at space bricks. Now, Arkanoid vs Space Invaders mashes the two titles together – and, surprisingly, it works very nicely.

Instead of a ball, you’re deflecting the invaders’ bullets back at them, to remove bricks and the invaders themselves. Now and again, Arkanoid is recalled more directly in a special attack that has you belt a ball around the place after firing it into action using a massive space bow.

Increasingly, though, the game is laced with strategy, since your real enemy is time. A couple of dozen levels in, you must carefully utilize powerful invaders’ blasts and onscreen bonuses to emerge victorious – not easy when neon is flying everywhere and the clock’s ticking down.

In platform adventure The Big Journey, fat cat Mr. Whiskers is on a mission. The chef behind his favorite dumplings has disappeared, and so the brave feline sets out to find him. The journey finds the chubby kitty rolling and leaping across – and through – all kinds of vibrant landscapes, packed with hills, tunnels, and enemies.

The game comes across a lot like PSP classic LocoRoco, in you tilting the screen to move, the protagonist’s rotundness increasing over time, and several of the landscape interactions (oddball elevators; smashing through fragile barriers).

But The Big Journey very much has its own character, not least in the knowing humor peppered throughout what might otherwise have been a saccharine child-like storyline about a gluttonous cartoon cat.

As it is, The Big Journey isn’t terribly challenging, but it is enjoyable, whether you drink the visuals in and just dodder to the end, or simultaneously try to find every collectible and beat the speed-run time limits.

Initial moments in point-and-click adventure Milkmaid of the Milky Way are so sedate the game’s in danger of falling over. You play as Ruth, a young woman living on a remote farm in a 1920s Norwegian fjord. She makes dairy products, sold to a town several hours away. Then, without warning, a massive gold spaceship descends, stealing her cows.

Fortunately, Ruth decides she’s having none of that, leaps aboard the spaceship, and finds herself embroiled in a tale of intergalactic struggles. To say much more would spoil things, but we can say that this old-school adventure is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.

The puzzles are logical yet satisfying; the visuals are gorgeous; and the game amusingly provides all of its narrative in rhyme, which is pleasingly quaint and nicely different.

Hero of the hour Dennis finds himself unicycling naked in this gorgeous platform game best described as flat-out nuts. In iCycle, you dodder left or right, leap over obstacles, and break your fall with a handy umbrella, all the while attempting to grab ice as surreal landscapes collapse and morph around you.

The mission feels like a journey into what might happen if Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam were let loose on game design. One minute, you’re entering a top-hatted gent’s ear to find and kiss a ‘reverse mermaid’ on a levitating bike; the next you’re in a terrifying silhouette funfair that might have burst forth from a fevered mind during a particularly unpleasant nightmare.

Some of the levels are tough, and there’s a bit of grinding to unlock new outfits. But if you want something a bit more creative on your Android, you can’t do much better than iCycle.

On first playing Invert, you might think you’ve seen it all before. You sit in front of a grid, and tap buttons at its edge to flip patterns of tiles. The aim is to get them all to be the same color within a limited number of moves.

The smart thing about Invert is its restless nature. Rather than giving you endless puzzles based around a boring square grid, it keeps shaking things up. New buttons appear that perform different actions, and alternate grid types force you to keep changing your approach.

Invert’s not thrilling, but it is compelling – it keeps you cracking ‘just one more’ puzzle, until you eventually realize you’re dozens in, and it’s gone dark outside.

It’s wrong to coo about graphics when a game is otherwise uneven, but with Lumino City we’re going to do it anyway. And that’s because this puzzle-oriented adventure is drop-dead gorgeous, with truly stunning hand-crafted scenes that feel like someone squeezed a ridiculously expensive animated movie into your Android device.

The puzzling is more variable. The quest to locate your kidnapped grandfather requires defeating numerous logic puzzles. Some are irritating, with plug/switch events becoming old long before the end. But it’s hard to grumble on encountering a pathfinding puzzle involving a house that literally spins round, and a really sweet scene where you learn a song on a guitar.

Our advice: gawp at the visuals, drink in the atmosphere, and use a walkthrough to speed through the boring bits.

Anyone who thought Nintendo would convert a standard handheld take on Mario to Android was always on a hiding to nothing. But that’s probably just as well – Nintendo’s classic platformers are reliant on tight controls, rather than you fumbling about on a slippy glass surface.

Super Mario Run tries a different tack, infusing plenty of ‘Marioness’ into an auto-runner, where you guide the mustachioed plumber by tapping the screen to have him perform actions.

You might consider this reductive; also, Super Mario Run is a touch short, and the ‘kingdom builder’ sub-game alongside the main act falls flat. Still, really smart level design wins the day, and completists will have fun replaying the world tour mode time and again to collect the many hard-to-reach coins.

If you never thought a solitaire-like card game was an ideal framework for a tense stealth title, you’re probably not alone. But somehow Card Thief cleverly mashes up cards and sneaking about.

The game takes place on a three-by-three grid of cards. For each move, you plan a route to avoid getting duffed up by guards (although pickpocketing them on the way past is fair game, obviously), loot a chest, and make for an exit.

Card Thief is not the easiest game to get into, with its lengthy tutorial and weird spin on cards. But this is a game with plenty of nuance and depth that becomes increasingly rewarding the more you play, gradually unlocking its secrets. It’s well worth the effort.

In The Escapists, you find yourself in jail with lots of dinky pixelated inmates. The aim, as the title suggests, is to get out of there – but how?

The game’s not telling. Beyond a very brief tutorial, The Escapists is very much a sandbox, dumping you in its universe and having you explore. You go about your day as an inmate, using opportune moments to venture into places you shouldn’t, and fashion the tools you need to escape.

The going can be slow, and there’s always the risk of someone wrecking your plan at the last second, especially if you get complacent. But this is nonetheless a compelling puzzle/strategy title – and if you’ve always wanted to whack a guard with a bar of soap in a sock, The Escapists is the game for you.

A young boy hurls himself down a massive well, with only his ‘gunboots’ for protection. There are so many questions there (not least: what parent would buy their kid boots that are also guns?), but it sets the scene for a superb arcade shooter with surprising smarts and depth.

At first in Downwell, you’ll probably be tempted to blast everything, but ammo soon runs out. On discovering you reload on landing, you’ll then start to jump about a lot. But further exploration of the game’s mechanics reaps all kinds of rewards, leading to you bounding on monsters, venturing into tunnels to find bonus bling, and getting huge scores once you crack the secrets behind combos.

The game might look like it’s arrived on your Android device from a ZX Spectrum, but this is a thoroughly modern and hugely engaging blaster.

In an awkwardly laid out space colony, Cosmic Express tasks you with setting out train tracks that enable colorful little aliens to get to their destinations. Each little biodome has an entrance and at least one exit, and the tracks you draw become increasingly labyrinthine as the tests gradually toughen.

Visually, the game’s a treat, and the premise is simple enough that anyone can pick it up – there’s not even any crisscrossing of tracks, like you get in the ostensibly similar Trainyard. But eventually you realize Cosmic Express is as devious as that classic, not least on encountering gloopy aliens who leave carriages in such a state no-one else wants to get on.

Smartly, the game’s branching level unlocks also mean you’ve always got several puzzles to try, rather than ending up stuck on a particularly tough one.

That game where you cast a shadow on the wall and attempt to make a vaguely recognizable rabbit? That’s Shadowmatic, only instead of your hands, you manipulate all kinds of levitating detritus, spinning and twisting things until you abruptly – and magically – fashion a silhouette resembling anything from a seahorse to an old-school telephone.

The game looks gorgeous, with stunning lighting effects and objects that look genuinely real as they dangle in the air. Mostly though, this is a game about tactility and contemplation – it begs to be explored, and to make use of your digits in a way virtual D-pads could never hope to compete with.

You might have played enough automatic runners to last several lifetimes, but Chameleon Run nonetheless deserves to be on your Android device. And although the basics might initially seem overly familiar (tap to jump and ensure your sprinting chap doesn’t fall down a hole), there’s in fact a lot going on here.

Each level has been meticulously designed, which elevates Chameleon Run beyond its algorithmically generated contemporaries. Like the best platform games, you must commit every platform and gap to memory to succeed. But also, color-switching and ‘head jumps’ open up new possibilities for route-finding – and failure.

In the former case, you must ensure you’re the right color before landing on colored platforms. With the latter, you can smash your head into a platform above to give you one more chance to leap forward and not tumble into the void.

There’s a distinct sense of minimalism at the heart of Edge, along with a knowing nod to a few arcade classics of old. Bereft of a story, the game simply tasks you with guiding a trundling cube to the end of each blocky level. Along the way, you grab tiny glowing cubes. On reaching the goal, you get graded on your abilities.

This admittedly doesn’t sound like much on paper, but Edge is a superb arcade game. The isometric visuals are sharp, and the head-bobbing soundtrack urges you onwards. The level design is the real star, though, with surprisingly imaginative objectives and hazards hewn from the isometric landscape.

And even when you’ve picked your way to the very end, there’s still those grades to improve by shaving the odd second off of your times.

Still not sure? Try out the 12-level demo. Eager for more? Grab Edge Extended, which is every bit as good as the original.

Graphic adventure Myst was a smash hit on its release in the mid-1990s, and even today is likely to make PC gamers of a certain vintage misty-eyed on hearing its name.

The game tasked you with roaming small islands, interacting with objects to solve frequently obtuse puzzles that would propel you further on in Myst’s strange backstory (involving magical books that trap people within or fling them at other worlds).

Time marches on, but realMyst for Android is nonetheless worthy of attention. The original Myst’s ’slideshow’ style of movement has been transformed into a free-roaming adventure, modernizing a game that’s still a classic, with reasonably robust touchscreen navigation.

And while there’s too much backtracking, the brain-smashing puzzling is rewarding to the patient and thoughtful – as is the game as a whole, not least for anyone keen to explore every nook and cranny within a set of imaginative tiny worlds.

In stills, Causality resembles a run-of-the-mill puzzler that’d be easy to dismiss. But it’s in fact an Android gem – a terrifically clever game that messes around with time travel… and your head.

The aim is to get each spaceman to an exit that matches the color on their helmet. They automatically run, and so must be guided using arrow tiles, while also dealing with buttons, switches, and hazards, like mysterious shadowy spacemen that devour anyone they touch.

Portals complicate matters further, flinging spacemen through time so they can assist their earlier selves. It takes a while to grasp the nuances of this concept, but Causality lets you experiment, moving back and forth through time until you find a solution to any given problem, whilst quietly grumbling that, if anything, that bloke in Doctor Who has it easy.

Harking back to classic side-on platformers, Traps n' Gemstones dumps an Indiana Jones wannabe into a massive pyramid, filled with mummies, spiders and traps; from here he must figure out how to steal all the bling, uncover all the secrets, and then finally escape.

Beyond having you leap about, grab diamonds, and keep indigenous explorer-killing critters at bay, Traps n' Gemstones is keen to have you explore. Work your way deeper into the pyramid and you’ll find objects that when placed somewhere specific open up new pathways.

But although this one’s happy to hurl you back to gaming’s halcyon days, it’s a mite kinder to newcomers than the games that inspired it.

Get killed and you can carry on from where you left off. More of a hardcore player? Death wipes your score, so to doff your fedora in a truly smug manner, you’ll have to complete the entire thing without falling to the game’s difficult challenges.

There’s more than a hint of Zelda about Oceanhorn, but that’s not a bad thing when it means embarking on one of the finest arcade adventures on mobile.

You awake to find a letter from your father, who it turns out has gone from your life. You’re merely left with his notebook and a necklace. Thanks, Dad!

Being that this is a videogame, you reason it’s time to get questy, exploring the islands of the Uncharted Seas, chatting with folks, stabbing hostile wildlife, uncovering secrets and mysteries, and trying very hard to not get killed.

You get a chapter for free, to test how the game works on your device (its visual clout means fairly powerful Android devices are recommended); a single IAP unlocks the rest. The entire quest takes a dozen hours or so – which will likely be some of the best gaming you’ll experience on Android.

Pinball games rarely look as good as the tables in Atomic Pinball Collection. And, fortunately, this pair of beauties plays wonderfully as well. In Masks of Glory, you get a colorful, fast, ramp-laden table that finds you as an underdog wrestling your way to glory. In Revenge of the Rob-O-Bot, you face off against an angry giant droid laying waste to a city.

The pinball is closer in nature to traditional fare than the fantastical offerings found in the likes of Zen Pinball – you feel Atomic’s tables could exist in real life. And that’s even more apparent when you start noticing details such as slightly worn components and missing flecks of paint.

Still not convinced? You can download the entire thing for free, only paying up when you hit a million points on either table.

Some people argue programming is perhaps the best ‘game’ of all – and a brilliant puzzle. Those might be people you’d sooner avoid at parties, but Human Resource Machine suggests they could have a point. In this compelling and unique puzzle game, you control the actions of a worker drone by way of programming-like sequences.

The premise is to complete tasks by converting items in your inbox to whatever’s required in the outbox – for example, only sending zeroes. Like much programming, success often relies on logic, with you fashioning loops, and using actions such as ‘jump’, ‘if’ statements, and ‘copy’. These are arranged via drag and drop on a board at the right-hand side of the screen.

That might all sound impenetrable, but Human Resource Machine is in fact elegant, friendly, and approachable, not least due to developer Tomorrow Corporation’s penchant for infusing games with personality and heart.

Somewhat akin to The Room in space, _PRISM is all about manipulating floating mechanical geometric shapes, trying to get at the gem buried within.

Each of the structures before you is ridiculously intricate, with all manner of switches to flick, patterns to match, and components to twist and rotate. At any given moment, a seemingly innocuous action may entirely change the setup of what’s before you, unveiling further puzzles to wrap your head around.

Although we mentioned The Room earlier, _PRISM isn’t in the same league when it comes to difficulty.

Instead, _PRISM’s challenge is fairly slight, even if you sometimes require finger gymnastics in order to succeed. But its atmosphere and cleverly designed challenges make it well worth seeking out for puzzle fans – especially if you’ve a larger Android device to play on.

Coming across like a sandbox-oriented chill-out ‘zen’ take on seminal classic Boulder Dash, Captain Cowboy has your little space-faring hero exploring a massive handcrafted world peppered with walls, hero-squashing boulders, and plenty of bling.

Much like Boulder Dash, Captain Cowboy is mostly about not being crushed by massive rocks – you dig paths through dirt, aiming to strategically use boulders to take out threats rather than your own head. But everything here is played out without stress (due to endless continues) and sometimes in slow motion (when floating through zero-gravity sections of space).

The result feels very different from the title that inspired it, but it’s no less compelling. Tension is replaced by exploration, and single-screen arcade thrills are sacrificed for a longer game. As you dig deeper into Captain Cowboy’s world, there are plenty of things awaiting discovery, and even tackling the next screen of dirt and stones always proves enjoyable. 

In the fantasy world of Solitairica, battles are fought to the death by way of cards. The foes barring the way to your quest’s goal set up walls of cards before them, which you smash through by matching those one higher or lower than the one you hold.

Then there are spells you cast by way of collected energies. Meanwhile, the creatures strike back with their own unique attacks, from strange worm-like beings nibbling your head, to grumpy forest dwellers making your cards grow beards.

In short, then, a modicum of fantasy role-playing wrapped around an entertaining and approachable card game. And on Android, you have the advantage of the game being free – a one-off IAP only figures if you want to avoid watching adverts, and have access to alternate decks to try your luck as a different character.

There’s a sweetness and a beauty about Samorost 3 that’s rare in a world of gaming so often obsessed with gore, blood, grittiness, and guns.

It features a little gnome trying to thwart the machinations of an evil wizard who largely obliterated a tiny universe with his steampunk dragon.

The gnome explores tiny planetoids, unearthing objects, interacting with the locals, and solving puzzles to move his quest towards a heroic conclusion.

Samorost 3 harks back to classic point-and-click fare. You tap about the place, and have your brain smashed out trying to find sometimes almost unreasonably obscure solutions.

But the magic here is in the lush visuals, lashings of personality (the little gnome bobbing about and gleefully punching the air during one music-oriented sequence), and gorgeous animations and audio that are integral to the entire production.

For a game that eventually pushes your observation skills, precision and nerve to breaking point, Linia is almost absurdly easy at first. At the top of the screen, you’re given a small selection of colors. The aim is to spear them in order, by slicing through shapes below.

This is simple enough when the shapes are static. It’s more than a tad tougher when the little blighters won’t stay still, or when they unsportingly evolve and mutate, doing everything they can to try and make you fail.

The end result is kind of a minimal, artistic, exactness-obsessed take on Fruit Ninja. And for our money, it’s an essential download – especially on devices with larger displays.

Anyone expecting the kind of free-roaming racing from the console versions of this title are going to be miffed, but Need for Speed: Most Wanted is nonetheless one of the finest games of its kind on Android. Yes, the tracks are linear, with only the odd shortcut, but the actual racing bit is superb.

You belt along the seedy streets of a drab, gray city, trying to win events that will boost your ego and reputation alike. Wins swell your coffers, enabling you to buy new vehicles for entering special events.

The game looks gorgeous on Android and has a high-octane soundtrack to urge you onwards. But mostly, this one’s about the controls – a slick combination of responsive tilt and effortless drifting that makes everything feel closer to OutRun 2 than typically sub-optimal mobile racing fare.

The original and best of the GO games, Hitman GO should never have worked. It reimagines the console stealth shooter as a dinky clockwork boardgame. Agent 47 scoots about, aiming to literally knock enemies off the board, and then reach and bump off his primary target.

Visually, it’s stunning – oddly adorable, but boasting the kind of clarity that’s essential for a game where a single wrong move could spell disaster. And the puzzles are well designed, too, with distinct objectives that often require multiple solutions to be found.

If you’re a fan of Agent 47’s exploits on consoles, you might be a bit nonplussed by Hitman GO, but despite its diorama stylings, it nonetheless manages to evoke some of the atmosphere and tension from the console titles, while also being entirely suited to mobile play.

A knowingly smart shooter, The Bug Butcher channels classic arcade titles but wraps everything up in a charming cartoon style, peppered with energetic, humorous dialogue.

The backstory is that you’re trying to ensure those few scientists that remain in an infested research facility aren’t eaten by whatever horrors they created. Mostly, this involves shooting said horrors, which often split apart.

You’ll also have to save any scientists grabbed by aliens who think they’re a tasty snack, while scooping up bonus weapons when you fancy unleashing quite a lot of projectile hell.

Do take a little care, though, if you’re using a larger Android device – the controls have a tendency to assume you have banana thumbs.
 

Based on cult web hit Gimme Friction Baby by Wouter Visser, Orbital has you fire orbs into a tiny galactic void. Each bounces, comes to rest, and expands until touching something else. If one crosses the danger line above your cannon, well, it's game over.

It’s much harder to explain this game than to play it, but we’ll do our best. The screen rapidly fills, but you can obliterate existing orbs by firing others at them. During collisions, the numbers within static orbs decrease by one. Should any orb's number hit zero, it explodes, the wake depleting nearby orbs.
See, we told you.

Density of explanation aside, this is a beautiful game of dazzling neon and increasing tension. Larger balls create huge explosions and the potential for combos and higher scores, but leave you less room to maneuver.

Varied modes test your timing (Pure's oscillating gun), aim (Supernova's manual cannon), and whether you're Brian Cox (Gravity's orbs that arc around those already on the screen).

You've got to love a game developer that figured it would be a smart move to mash together the swipe-based navigation from dating app Tinder and a strategy title about ruling a kingdom. The danger, perhaps, is Reigns could be seen as simple and throwaway – yet it's anything but.

Sure, the basics are extremely straightforward: you deal with a never-ending stream of requests from your subjects by swiping left or right to respond. But your decisions affect how content the church, people, army, and treasury are. If any get too miffed (or even too happy), your reign comes to an abrupt end.

Cleverly, you then continue on as your heir, and Reigns' true genius becomes apparent. While you can blithely swipe your way through the ages, there are missions to complete, solutions to which may only become apparent over a great many years. Want to beat the Devil? You'll have a few centuries to prepare!

You have to feel for the little beastie in Badland 2. Having somehow survived all manner of horrors last time round, the winged critter is now hurled into an even deadlier circle of hell. As before, the aim is to reach an exit, avoiding traps such as massive saw-blades, bubbling magma, and flamethrowers belching toasty death in all directions.

Your means of survival is mostly to flap a bit. This time, though, rather than prod the screen to flap rightwards, you can flap left or right, which comes in handy for navigating deranged levels that now scroll in all directions.

There's perhaps a lack of freshness in this sequel, despite such new tricks and a smattering of unfamiliar traps, but Badland 2 remains a visually stunning and relentlessly cruel arcade experience among the very best on Android. (Do, though, buy the IAP – the atmosphere and momentum is obliterated when ads appear.) 

Adam Jensen is a man with a plan – and also quite a lot of cybernetic implants. The plan is to take down the bad guys – and the cybernetic implants go some way towards helping with that, enabling Jensen to remote-hack computer equipment as he makes his way round this angular turn-based take on the popular console series.

Rather than getting all first-person, Deus Ex GO plays out more like clockwork chess, as you move from node to node, activating switches, manipulating enemies, and trying very hard to not get horribly stabbed to death.

Like its forerunners, Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO, this puzzler surprisingly echoes much of the atmosphere of its console forebears; and while it perhaps lacks Hitman's sheer audacity and Lara Croft's elegance, the brain-bending puzzles still appeal.

One of the most exhilarating games on mobile, Impossible Road finds a featureless white ball barreling along a ribbon-like track that twists and turns into the distance. The aim is survival – and the more gates you pass through, the higher your score.

The snag is that Impossible Road is fast, and the track bucks and turns like the unholy marriage of a furious unbroken stallion and a vicious roller-coaster.

Once the physics click, however, you’ll figure out the risks you can take, how best to corner, and what to do when hurled into the air by a surprise bump in the road.

The game also rewards ‘cheats’. Leave the track, hurtle through space for a bit, and rejoin – you’ll get a score for your airborne antics, and no penalty for any gates missed. Don’t spend too long aloft though – a few seconds is enough for your ball to be absorbed into the surrounding nothingness.
 

It’s mundane existence meets WarioWare in Crap! I’m Broke: Out of Pocket, which finds a protagonist on the breadline having to earn cash by way of drudge-work minigames.

This might be a little too close to home for some, but Out of Pocket dresses everything up in an eye-catching angular art style and a kind of absurdity that makes everything breezy – if frantic – fun, even when washing dishes and flipping burgers.

In part, this is down to the novelty factor – the way in which you scrub plates by rubbing the screen, or tap burgers you hurl into the air. But with success hinging on careful management of your own food reserves, combined with efficiency and speed in the jobs you take on, Out of Pocket adds depth through sheer risk versus reward.

So this one proves immediately accessible, yet offers plenty of ongoing challenge to anyone wanting to keep cracking their high score.

There’s a disarmingly hypnotic and almost meditative quality to the early stages of Mini Metro. You sit before a blank underground map of a major metropolis, and drag out lines between stations that periodically appear.

Little trains then cart passengers about, automatically routing them to their stop, their very movements building a pleasing plinky plonky generative soundtrack.

As your underground grows, though, so does the tension. You’re forced to choose between upgrades, balance where trains run, and make swift adjustments to your lines. Should a station become overcrowded, your entire network is closed. (So…not very like the real world, then.)

Do well enough and you unlock new cities, with unique challenges. But even failure isn’t frustrating, and nor is the game’s repetitive nature a problem, given that Mini Metro is such a joy to play.

A massive upgrade over the developer’s own superb but broadly overlooked MegaCity, Concrete Jungle is a mash-up of puzzler, city management and deck builder.

The basics involve the strategic placement of buildings on a grid, with you aiming to rack up enough points to hit a row’s target. At that point, the row vanishes, and more building space scrolls into view.

Much of the strategy lies in clever use of cards, which affect nearby squares – a factory reduces the value of nearby land, for example, but an observatory boosts the local area. You quickly learn plonking down units without much thought messes up your future prospects.

Instead, you must plan in a chess-like manner – even more so when facing off against the computer opponent in brutally difficult head-to-head modes. But while Concrete Jungle is tough, it’s also fair – the more hours you put in, the better your chances. And it’s worth giving this modern classic plenty of your time.

There are varied mobile takes on limbless wonder Rayman’s platform gaming exploits. The 1995 original exists on Android in largely faithful form, but feels ill-suited to touchscreens; and Rayman Adventures dabbles in freemium to the point it leaves a bad taste.

But Rayman Jungle Run and Rayman Fiesta Run get things right.

They rethink console-oriented platformers as auto-runners – which might sound reductive. However, this is more about distillation and focus than outright simplification.

Tight level design and an emphasis on timing regarding when to jump, rebound and attack forces you to learn layouts and the perfect moment to trigger actions, in order to get the in-game bling you need to progress.

Both titles are sublime, but Fiesta Run is marginally the better of the two – a clever take on platforming that fizzes with energy, looks fantastic, and feels like it was made for Android rather than a 20-year-old console.

A decidedly dizzying take on platform games, Circa Infinity exists in a sparse world of concentric circles. Your little stick man scoots around the edge of the largest, and a prod of the action button when he’s atop a pizza-slice cut-out flips him inside the disc.

He can then make a leap for the bobbing circle within, at which point the process repeats.

Only the next disc may be patrolled by any number of critters intent on ejecting the stick man from their particular circle.

The net result is an odd-looking, disorienting arcade title that proves fresh and exhilarating. With 50 levels and five boss fights, making it to the end of Circa Infinity is a stern challenge; getting there quickly should test even the most hardened mobile gamer.

A few levels in and you might wonder whether klocki has taken the notion of a relaxing puzzle game a bit too far.

It’s easy almost to the point of being a sedative, merely having you swap tiles on a flat plane, in order to fashion complete pathways. But klocki is a smart cookie, very gradually introducing new concepts so slowly you barely notice; but pretty soon you find yourself immersed in rich and complex tests.

Later levels have you battle three-dimensional shapes, switches, and tiles that rotate; and despite the minimal aesthetic and noodly audio, it never really gets old. The game is, however, quite short – a few hours and you’ll probably be done.

Still, the low price-tag ensures klocki remains great value, especially if you take the time to savour its charms rather than blazing through its challenges at breakneck speed.

The Room is a series about mysteries within mysteries. It begins with a box. Fiddling with dials and switches causes things to spring to life elsewhere, and you soon find boxes within the boxes, layers unravelling before you; it’s the videogame equivalent of Russian dolls meets carpentry, as breathed into life by a crazed inventor.

The Room’s curious narrative and fragments of horror coalesce in follow-up The Room Two, which expands the ‘boxes’ into more varied environments – a séance room; a pirate ship. Movement remains restricted and on rails, but you’re afforded a touch more freedom as you navigate your way through a strange clockwork world.

The Room Three is the most expansive of them all, featuring intricate, clever puzzles, as you attempt to free yourself from The Craftsman and his island of deranged traps and trials.

Get all three games, and play them through in order, preferably in a dark room when rain’s pouring down outside for best effect. It’s a terrifying and – ultimately – infuriating experience that will have you toying with the idea of having to go online for walkthroughs until you finally crack the mystery.

There are some clues, but generally these are very gentle hints at best.

You might moan about trains when you’re again waiting for a late arrival during your daily commute, but think yourself lucky reality doesn’t match Train Conductor World. Here, trains rocket along, often towards nasty head-on collisions. It’s your job to drag out temporary bridges to avoid calamity while simultaneously sending each train to its proper destination.

From the off, Train Conductor World is demanding, and before long a kind of ‘blink and everything will be smashed to bits’ mentality pervades. For a path-finding action-puzzler – Flight Control on tracks, if you will – it’s an engaging and exciting experience.

The developers of Osmos HD call it an ‘ambient arcade game’. It’s a strange description, but apt, since Osmos is often about patience and subtlety. You guide a ‘mote’, which moves by expelling tiny pieces of itself. Seemingly floating in microscopic goop, it aims to munch motes smaller than itself, expand, and reign supreme.

This is easy enough when other motes don’t fight back, but soon enough you’re immersed in a kind of petri dish warfare, desperately trying to survive as various motes tear whatever amounts to each-other’s faces off.

And then occasionally Osmos throws a further curveball, pitting you against the opposite extreme in scale, dealing with gravity and orbits as planet-like motes speed their way around deadly floating ‘stars’.

In Her Story, you find yourself facing a creaky computer terminal with software designed by a sadist. It soon becomes clear the so-called L.O.G.I.C. database houses police interviews of a woman charged with murder.

But the tape’s been hacked to bits and is accessible only by keywords; ‘helpfully’, the system only displays five search results at once.

Naturally, these contrivances exist to force you to play detective, eking out clues from video snippets to work out what to search for next, slowly piecing together the mystery in your brain.

A unique and captivating experience, Her Story will keep even the most remotely curious Android gamer gripped until the enigma is solved.

You probably need to be a bit of a masochist to get the most out of Snakebird, which is one of the most brain-smashingly devious puzzlers we’ve ever set eyes on. It doesn’t really look or sound the part, frankly – all vibrant colors and strange cartoon ‘snakebirds’ that make odd noises.

But the claustrophobic floating islands the birds must crawl through, supporting each other (often literally) in their quest for fruit, are designed very precisely to make you think you’ve got a way forward, only to thwart you time and time again.

The result is a surprisingly arduous game, but one that’s hugely rewarding when you crack a particularly tough level, at which point you’ll (probably rightly) consider yourself some kind of gaming genius.

There’s something of a children’s animation vibe about Warp Shift, with expressive Pixar-like protagonist Pi floating about brightly colored boxes, aiming to find an exit that will take her a step closer to home.

At first, it’s a bit too simple. You slide boxes, tap to make Pi scoot about, and sit there smugly, wrinkling your nose at how easy it all is.

But Warp Shift gradually starts clobbering you with additional tests: colored doors that must be lined up; a cuboid chum to rescue and lob at the exit; switches; move limits to attain enough stars to unlock subsequent stages.

The mix of enchanting visuals, familiar mechanics and gently stiffening challenges proves stimulating and captivating.

You initially get the feeling Rush Rally 2 is treading a fine line, unsure whether to steer towards being an arcade game or a simulator. It certainly lacks the demented rocket-like speeds of an Asphalt 8, but Rush Rally 2’s more measured gameplay nonetheless gradually reveals a sense of fun.

Sure, the standard rally mode can be sedate, although the game’s nonetheless happy to frequently catapult your car up a hillside when you mess up a turn. And then there are weird missions, such as dodging missiles as you negotiate hairpin bends (Colin McRae never had to deal with such things.)

But when belting along in Rally Cross mode, Rush Rally 2 suddenly clicks. You’ll use other cars as brakes and spin off into the gravel, before gunning the engine and blazing back into the thick of it. Even then, this racer’s a more challenging and thoughtful affair than most, but it’s just as gleefully exciting when you’re bombing down the final straight, and take the chequered flag by fractions of a second.

It’s always the way: you’re minding your own business when – BOOM! – you’re suddenly propelled into a gargantuan space maze. At least it’s the way if you’re Captain Cowboy. This smart arcade title comes across like seminal classic Boulder Dash in space. You dig through dirt, grab diamonds, and avoid being crushed by boulders within the asteroid.

There are also floaty space bits, nasty space laser turrets, space bus stops and a space disco. At least, we’re told that’s the case, because we’ve never found the last of those things; but we’ll keep trying, because Captain Cowboy is superb.

(The trailer is also one of the best we’ve seen, so watch it and then buy the game.)

One of the most gorgeous games around, FOTONICA at its core echoes one-thumb leapy game Canabalt. The difference is FOTONICA has you move through a surreal and delicate Rez-like 3D vector landscape, holding the screen to gain speed, and only soaring into the air when you lift a finger.

Smartly, FOTONICA offers eight very different and finite challenges, enabling you to learn their various multi-level pathways and seek out bonuses to ramp up your high scores. Get to grips with this dreamlike runner and you can then pit your wits (and thumbs) against three slowly mutating endless zones.

You might narrow your eyes at so-called ‘realism’ in mobile sports titles, given that this usually means ‘a game that looks a bit like when you watch telly’. But Touchgrind Skate 2 somehow manages to evoke the feel of skateboarding, your fingers becoming tiny legs that urge the board about the screen.

There’s a lot going on in Touchgrind Skate 2, and the control system is responsive and intricate, enabling you to perform all manner of tricks. It’s not the most immediate of titles – you really need to not only run through the tutorial but fully master and memorize each step before moving on.

Get to grips with your miniature skateboard and you’ll find one of the most fluid and rewarding experiences on mobile. Note that for free you get one park to scoot about in, but others are available via IAP.

The bar’s set so low in modern mobile gaming that the word ‘premium’ has become almost meaningless. But Leo’s Fortune bucks the trend, and truly deserves the term. It’s a somewhat old-school side-on platform game, featuring a gruff furball hunting down the thief who stole his gold (and then, as is always the way, dropped coins at precise, regular intervals along a lengthy, perilous pathway).

The game is visually stunning, from the protagonist’s animation through to the lush, varied backdrops. The game also frequently shakes things up, varying its pace from Sonic-style loops to precise pixel-perfect leaps.

It at times perhaps pushes you a bit too far — late on, we found some sections a bit too finicky and demanding. But you can have as many cracks at a section as you please, and if you master the entire thing, there’s a hardcore speedrun mode that challenges you to complete the entire journey without dying.

We’re not sure what’s going on in NO THING, but it doesn’t look good for anyone living in its strange world. Apparently set in both 1994 and the future, this ‘surreal arcade trip’ has you attempting to deliver an important message to the Queen of Ice.

Getting to her involves staying on pathways that weave their way through abstract and fragmented landscapes comprising office furniture, tower blocks and blank-faced people.

It’s all unsettling and the weirdness is matched by a kind of brutality rarely seen outside of the sharp lines of Super Hexagon.

Even early levels are merciless, punishing a single slip up, and forcing you back to the start. This can be hugely frustrating, but perseverance reaps rewards, not only in bludgeoning your way through NO THING’s ten levels, but also in finding out a little more about this fascinating digital dystopia.

Most online play pits you against other people, but Dreii is all about cooperation. The aim is to build structures from geometric shapes, having them reach a pre-defined point for a set period of time, whereupon you can move on to the next task.

That sounds deathly dull, but Dreii’s many quirks transform a basic building blocks game into a mesmerizing experience. First, your character is a strange patterned levitating creature, which grabs shapes with a fragile tether. On early levels, controlling everything is tough enough, but when you have to carefully stack shapes and battle gales and water, Dreii becomes a hugely challenging experience.

The online component is a slice of genius. Hang around a level for a short while and someone else will likely drop in to lend a hand. Communication is limited to just a few stock words, but you’ll soon form your own language with your temporary friends.

You can then wiggle your levitating beast to try and get across that you’re thrilled at completing a particularly fiendish task or frustrated that a sausage-fingered buffoon has just demolished a carefully constructed tower.

At its core, Forget-Me-Not is Pac-Man mixed with Rogue. You scoot about algorithmically generated single-screen mazes, gobbling down flowers, grabbing a key, and then making a break for the exit.

But what makes Forget-Me-Not essential is how alive its tiny dungeons feel. Your enemies don’t just gun for you, but are also out to obliterate each other and, frequently, the walls of the dungeon, reshaping it as you play.

There are tons of superb details to find buried within the game’s many modes, and cheapskates can even get on board with the free version, although that locks much of its content away until you’ve munched enough flowers.

If there was any justice, Forget-Me-Not would have a permanent place at the top of the Google Play charts. It is one of the finest arcade experiences around, not just on Android, but on any platform – old or new.

One thing we didn’t see coming was the resurgence of the text adventure on mobile devices. But Lifeline is even simpler than the likes of Infocom’s early 1980’s classic Zork, mechanically being little more than a branching Choose Your Own Adventure narrative.

But the way it’s executed propels it into must-have territory. Lifeline begins with a plea for help, and you’re soon drawn into a tale of desperate survival, with your choices dictating whether a stranded astronaut will live or die.

Great writing soon has you wrapped up in the story, and clever use of time makes everything feel all the more real. For example, you may leave your remote friend to trek across a massive crater. In a typical game, you’d immediately discover how they got on; here, they might respond hours later, or, more ominously, not at all.

Giving you a sense of the emptiness and vastness of space, and the risks in exploring the void, isn’t easy for a bite-sized survival game, but Last Horizon somehow succeeds.

The idea is to leave your broken world behind, roam the galaxy in your rocket, and ‘harvest’ living worlds. Doing so loads information into your terraforming kit, for when you reach your destination.

During your journey you battle massive suns, asteroids, black holes, alien lifeforms, and lots of gravity. This is simple fare – more Lunar Lander than EVE Online – but it has a great sense of atmosphere. And although repeating the first three flights can be a little tiresome if you keep dying (hint: be more patient), Flight X mode’s procedurally generated maps provide great replay value.

If you’re fed up with racing games paying more attention to whether the tarmac looks photorealistic rather than how much fun it should be to zoom along at insane speeds, check out Horizon Chase. This tribute to old-school arcade titles is all about the sheer joy of racing, rather than boring realism.

The visuals are vibrant, the soundtrack is jolly and cheesy, and the racing finds you constantly battling your way to the front of an aggressive pack.

If you fondly recall Lotus Turbo Esprit Challenge and Top Gear, don’t miss this one. (Note that Horizon Chase gives you five tracks for free. To unlock the rest, there’s a single £2.29/US$2.99 IAP.)

Old-school 8-bit platformers just don’t work on touchscreens, due to pixel-perfect gameplay that demands tight, tactile controls. I Am Level‘s genius is in fusing the core elements of such games (Spectrum-style graphics, single-screen puzzle-oriented challenges, and an explorable map) with modern mobile thinking.

Thus, each of your efforts builds on the previous one, and your rotund avatar gets about by you tilting your device or pinging him across the screen using springs and flippers. It’s essentially Jet Set Willy meets pinball and it’s fantastic.

Sadly, developer Stewart Hogarth passed away in 2015, at the far too young age of 34. So snap this one up before it vanishes forever, and play a few games in tribute of a talented games creator.

Apparently many millions of years before angry birds existed there were jovial Egz, emerging from Earth’s primordial soup and jumping about like idiots. Sadly for the Egz, everything else wants to smash them to bits. Cue a fast-paced platform game/fling ’em up where you guide your Egz from starting point to goal, trying to avoid getting cracked.

Egz has some great level design, and keeps adding new ideas as you progress, such as zip-lines to slide along, bubbles to float you into the air, and bouncy surfaces to hurl an Egz against.

An XP system used to power-up an Egz or bring back a dead one is a bit harsh, but forces you to take care and think about what you’re doing rather than just hurling Egz about without a care.

(A top tip: if you do find yourself needing to resurrect an Egz, hatch a new one and use the three built-in mini-games to relatively quickly get the XP required.)

The shard’s of Jennifer’s memories are scattered about the world of Lost Journey, and it’s up to you to collect them, largely by bounding about platforms in small puzzle-oriented levels that are not that much bigger than the screen. The twist — or, more accurately, flip — is that you can invert the level at any point. On doing so, pits become hills, giving you the means to reach previously inaccessible places.

Anyone looking for speedy Mario-style larks might find Lost Journey’s take on platforming rather sedate. But if you’re keen on more thoughtful platform fare, it’s a very good buy; and the atmospherics and visuals certainly make for an aesthetically pleasurable time as you try to help Jennifer find her lost self.

There’s a great sense of freedom from the second you immerse yourself in the strange and futuristic world of Power Hover. The robot protagonist has been charged with pursuing a thief who’s stolen batteries that power the city.

The droid therefore grabs a hoverboard and scythes across gorgeous minimal landscapes, such as deserts filled with colossal marching automatons, glittering blue oceans, and a dead grey human city.

In lesser hands, Power Hover could have been utterly forgettable. After all, you’re basically tapping left and right to change the direction of a hoverboard, in order to collect batteries and avoid obstacles. But the production values here are stunning.

Power Hover is a visual treat, boasts a fantastic soundtrack, and gives mere hints of a story, enabling your imagination to run wild. Best of all, the floaty controls are perfect; you might fight them at first, but once they click, Power Hover becomes a hugely rewarding experience.

(On Android, Power Hover is a free download; to play beyond the first eight levels requires a single £2.29/$2.99 IAP.)

It turns out what makes a good snowman is three very precisely rolled balls of snow stacked on top of each other. And that’s the core of this adorable puzzle game, which has more than a few hints of Towers of Hanoi and Sokoban about it as your little monster goes about building icy friends to hug.

What sets A Good Snowman apart from its many puzzle-game contemporaries on Android is a truly premium nature. You feel that the developer went to great efforts to polish every aspect of the production, from the wonderful animation to puzzles that grow in complexity and deviousness, without you really noticing — until you get stuck on a particularly ferocious one several hours in.

This one’s all about the bling – and also the not being crushed to death by falling rocks and dirt. Doug Dug riffs off of Mr Driller, Boulder Dash and Dig Dug, the dwarf protagonist digging deep under the earth on an endless quest for shimmering gems. Cave-ins aren’t the only threat, though – the bowels of the earth happen to be home to a surprising array of deadly monsters.

Some can be squashed and smacked with Doug’s spade (goodbye, creepy spider!), but others are made of sterner stuff (TROLL! RUN AWAY!). Endlessly replayable and full of character, Doug Dug’s also surprisingly relaxing – until the dwarf ends up under 150 tonnes of rubble.

There are plenty of great pinball games for Android, but Pinball Arcade is a bit different. Rather than reworking an old PC hit or going nuts with animatronics and effects that simply wouldn’t work in the real world, this app seeks to become a fully playable digital museum – essentially (legal) MAME for pinball.

You get Tales of the Arabian Nights for free, and one other table is regularly unlocked for unlimited play. They all look superb and work especially well on 7-inch tablets and above. Importantly, the tables also play like the real thing, whether you grab old-school classic Black Hole, the creepy and weird Bride of Pin•Bot, or more modern fare like The Addams Family.

If you ever thought a certain videogame plumber could do with a taste of his own medicine, Kill the Plumber should appeal. Across dozens of single-screen levels, you control knock-off Goombas, Thwomps and Boos, trying to stop fake-Mario reaching the flag. There’s a distinctly indie – sometimes slightly clunky – feel to proceedings, but Kill the Plumber pleasingly keeps things fresh throughout, regularly shaking up its puzzles and the wee critters you use to duff up the so-called hero.

Occasionally, things get a bit demanding from a precision standpoint, but it’s rewarding to crack a particularly tough level. Android owners also get one-up on iOS fans, with the proper characters as originally designed by the developer and not watered-down replacements to appease Cupertino-based censors.

This is one of those ‘rub your stomach, pat your head’ titles that has you play two games at once. At the top of the screen, it’s an endless runner, with your little bloke battling all manner of monsters, and pilfering loot. The rest of the display houses what’s essentially a Bejeweled-style gem-swapper. The key is in matching items so that the running bit goes well – like five swords when you want to get all stabby.

Also, there’s the building a boat bit. Once a run ends, you return to your watery home, which gradually acquires new rooms and residents. Some merely power up your next sprint, but others help you amass powerful weaponry. Resolutely indie and hugely compelling, You Must Build a Boat will keep you busily swiping for hours.

Poor Hendrik: an ill wind blew away his brand-new house and his hair, and the only thing he has left is a pair of teleporting shoes. You must find the scattered remains of his home, along with uncovering the mystery of the wind. This means using the power of a single digit to teleport your way through 120 levels set across four different worlds.

Yes, we’re in one-thumb platform-game territory again, but Blown Away‘s elegant teleport mechanic (essentially, tap where you want to go) feels fresh and exciting. Each level is a carefully crafted puzzle to solve, requiring precision movement and timing as you teleport about and quickly recharge your shoes’ batteries by marching along for a bit. Note that you get 30 stages for free, and can buy the rest of the game with a single $2.49/£2.14 IAP.

If you’re of a certain age, the words ‘Pro Pinball‘ will bring a huge grin to your face. In the 1990s, it was the pinball simulation series for your PC, featuring amazing physics, great table designs, and stunning visuals.

Pro Pinball for Android is a remastered take on Timeshock!, bringing the original table bang up to date with high-quality graphics and lighting, touchscreen controls, and a top-notch soundtrack. It still plays wonderfully, and we can only hope loads of people buy it, enabling the developer to bring other Pro Pinball tables to mobile.

The term ‘masterpiece’ is perhaps bandied about too often in gaming circles, but Limbo undoubtedly deserves such high praise. It features a boy picking his way through a creepy monochrome world, looking for his sister. At its core, Limbo is a fairly simple platform game with a smattering of puzzles, but its stark visuals, eerie ambience, and superb level design transforms it into something else entirely.

You’ll get a chill the first time a chittering figure sneaks off in the distance, and your heart will pump when being chased by a giant arachnid, intent on spearing your tiny frame with one of its colossal spiked legs. That death is never the end — each scene can be played unlimited times until you progress — only adds to Limbo’s disturbing nature.

People who today play mobile classic Canabalt and consider it lacking due to its simplicity don’t understand what the game is trying to do. Canabalt is all about speed — the thrill of being barely in control, and of affording the player only the simplest controls for survival. ALONE… takes that basic premise and straps a rocket booster to it.

Instead of leaping between buildings, you’re flying through deadly caverns, a single digit nudging your tiny craft up and down. Occasional moments of generosity — warnings about incoming projectiles; your ship surviving minor collisions and slowly regenerating — are offset by the relentlessly demanding pressure of simply staying alive and not slamming into a wall. It’s an intoxicating combination, and one that, unlike most games in this genre, matches Canabalt in being genuinely exciting to play.

From a gaming perspective, the most important aspect of touchscreen devices is that they give you new ways to play, but relatively few developers take full advantage, instead choosing to ape traditional controls. Framed is an exception, flinging you headlong into an animated comic of sorts. Your aim is to improve the fortunes of a spy, fleeing from the cops — and worse.

Panels are dragged about and rotated, and new ideas regularly appear, including you having to carefully shift scenes on the page at exactly the right moment. This is a stylish and finite affair that ends before it gets old, leaving you satisfied but nonetheless hoping for more.

Developer Rovio has done quite a lot of aggressive whoring of the Angry Birds franchise, but this space-based fork of the simplistic physics game series is really worth a try.

For one, it introduces some new play concepts, with the planet-based levels requiring different tactics, plus the puzzles generally need a bit more of a thoughtful approach than the chuck-it-and-see of the originals.

Has a bit of an ‘indie’ vibe about it this one, with Badland offering a weird, dark and gloomy world, in which you fly about in control of a… blob thing.

Your blob gets bigger and smaller, splits into loads of mini clones, and generally baffles you about what might lie around the next corner. We like a bit of a surprise, and this is full of them.

It’s not often you see a game about the “joy of cultivation”, and Prune is unlike anything you’ve ever played before. Apparently evolving from an experimental tree-generation script, the game has you swipe to shape and grow a plant towards sunlight by tactically cutting off specific branches.

That sounds easy, but the trees, shrubs and weeds in Prune don’t hang around. When they’re growing at speed and you find yourself faced with poisonous red orbs to avoid, or structures that damage fragile branches, you’ll be swiping in a frantic race towards sunlight.

And all it takes is one dodgy swipe from a sausage finger to see your carefully managed plant very suddenly find itself being sliced in two.

A very, very pretty game, this. Monument Valley is based around the weird sort of impossible geometric shapes popularised by artist M. C. Escher, with its colourful maps bending and rotating in ways that appear to defy the laws of nature. You walk on walls, flip them, turn them into floors, avoid crows and marvel at how beautiful it all looks.

It’s a short journey, but a joyful one. If you hanker for more when protagonist Ida’s quest is complete, further adventures are available via IAP.

We get moaned at a lot for putting too many silly, quirky little games about shapes and animals and organising letters of the alphabet in this list. So here’s one about men with guns shooting each other in 3D.

Modern Combat 5, the latest in Gameloft’s mobile homage to grown-up home console FPS franchises, in which you gun about the place alone or in online multiplayer matches.

If you’re not already familiar with Blizzard’s Hearthstone then consider this a warning: it gets very, very addictive. A card game from the makers of World of Warcraft, Hearthstone sees you building decks from won or purchased cards to then battle against friends and strangers.

It’s a surprisingly complex game that demands meticulous strategy. You can play and enjoy without paying a penny, but there are options to buy booster packs and add-on quests should you want to.

One of the PC “indie” world’s big name smashes has arrived on Android, with the existential platform game yours to… enjoy. Or at least attempt to understand. You could call Thomas Was Alone a “platform game” if you wanted to be mean and disrespectful, but it’s more about offering an atmospheric and thoughtful journey through an abstract world.

A bit like a piece of art, but let’s not get into that debate here. I’m not being paid by the word.

This is the good stuff. So many mobile games make the claim of being console-quality, but Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is a rare title that fully delivers. Like its predecessors, this is a twin-stick shooter, a fight for survival against waves of deadly neon foes.

But as its name alludes to, Dimensions dispenses with flat arenas, instead wrapping play areas around geometric shapes. It’s disorienting as a cube in space you’re traversing lurches about, and exhilarating as you barely avoid the legions of ships lurking beyond an edge.

With 15 grids and 12 modes, along with an extensive single-player quest, Dimensions easily manages to be the finest game of its kind on mobile.

Of all the attempts to play with the conventions of novels and story-led gaming on mobile, 80 Days is the most fun. It takes place in an 1872 with a decidedly steampunk twist, but where Phileas Fogg remains the same old braggart. As his trusty valet, you must help Fogg make good on a wager to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. This involves managing/trading belongings and carefully selecting routes.

Mostly, though, interaction comes by way of a pacey, frequently exciting branched narrative, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book on fast-forward.

A late-2015 content update added 150,000 words, two new plots and 30 cities to an adventure that already boasted plenty of replay value — not least when you’ve experienced the joys of underwater trains and colossal mechanical elephants in India, and wonder what other marvels await discovery in this world of wonders.

Lara Croft games have landed on Android to rather variable results. The original Tomb Raider just doesn’t work on touchscreens, and although Lara Croft: Relic Run is enjoyable enough, it’s essentially a reskinned Temple Run.

Lara Croft GO is far more ambitious and seriously impressive. It rethinks Tomb Raider in much the same way Hitman GO reimagined the Hitman series.

Croft’s adventures become turn-based puzzles, set in a world half-way between board game and gorgeous isometric minimalism. It shouldn’t really work, but somehow Lara Croft GO feels like a Tomb Raider game, not least because of the wonderful sense of atmosphere, regular moments of tension, and superb level design.

Piloteer teaches you to be careful what you wish for. If you thought a cool future would be blasting about on a jetpack, be mindful of the heroine of this game, who spends most of her time crashing head-first into the scenery.

To be fair, her jetpack controls are more than a touch twitchy, which combined with the ragdoll physics may well make you want to send your device for a quick flying lesson itself. But perseverance reaps rewards as you gain at least some modicum of control. Seldom will you have been so excited about making a gaming character take off and successfully land a few steps to the right.

If you’ve played Laser Dog’s previous efforts, PUK and ALONE…, you’ll know what you’re in for with HoPiKo. This game takes no prisoners. If it did take them, it’d repeatedly punch them in the face before casually discarding them. HoPiKo, then, is not a game to be messed with. Instead, it feels more like a fight. In each of the dozens of hand-crafted tiny levels, you leap from platform to platform via deft drags and taps, attempting to avoid death.

Only, death is everywhere and very easy to meet. The five-stage level sets are designed to be completed in mere seconds, but also to break your brain and trouble your fingers. It’s just on the right side of hellishly frustrating, meaning you’ll stop short of flinging your device at the wall, emerging from your temporary red rage foolishly determined that you can in fact beat the game on your next go.

This is bonkers. Spaceteam uses the Android hardware to the max to build a properly innovative multiplayer-only game, where between two and four players come together to shout exciting space terminology at each other while battling the control panel of an exploding ship. It’s very silly, like something that only came out on the Wii in Japan.

Quite possibly one of the best uses of the mobile phone accelerometer tech there’s ever been, this, with motion control sending your fishing line down to the depths of the sea while you avoid fish. Then, on the way up, it’s how you catch them. That’s when it goes ridiculous, as the fisherman chucks them up in the air – and you shoot them to bank the money. Silly, but a must play.

Another mobile classic. Super Hexagon has two controls — rotate left and rotate right. That’s all you need to navigate the endless maze that spins out of the screen, in one of the mobile world’s hardest, coolest, best-sounding and most moreish games. We order you to buy it. You literally have to.

The sort of silly maths game you might’ve played in your head before mobile phones emerged to absorb all our thought processes, Threes! really does take less than 30 seconds to learn.

You bash numbers about until they form multiples of three and disappear. That’s it. There are stacks of free clones available, but if you won’t spare the price of one massive bar of chocolate to pay for a lovely little game like this that’ll amuse you for week, you’re part of the problem and deserve to rot in a freemium hell where it costs 50p to do a wee.

The build ’em up phenomenon works brilliantly well on Android, thanks to the creator of the desktop original taking the time to do it justice.

It’s a slimmed down interface you see here with on-screen buttons, but the basics are all in and the Survival and Creative modes are ready for play — as is multiplayer mode over Wi-Fi.

The entire back catalogue of solo indie creator OrangePixel is worth exploring, but his latest is the best yet. It’s a stylish 2D dungeon explorer, with masses of quests, classes and secret areas to unlock. Plus it supports a wide range of Bluetooth controllers for easier play if you’ve got a compatible lump of buttoned plastic.

An exciting new genre all of its own when it appeared, Flight Control created the world of the top-down air traffic control simulator. Literally three million times more exciting than it sounds, it’s played by swiping 2D aeroplanes into runway landing slots, avoiding collisions and scoring for successful landings. Perfectly suited to touchscreen play.

Since Pac-Man graced arcades in the early 1980s, titles featuring the rotund dot-muncher have typically been split between careful iterations on the original, and mostly duff attempts to shoe-horn the character into other genres. CE DX is ostensibly the former, although the changes made from the original radically transform the game, making it easily the best Pac-Man to date.

Here, the maze is split in two. Eat all the dots from one half and a special object appears on the other; eat that and the original half’s dots are refilled in a new configuration.

All the while, dozing ghosts you brush past join a spectral conga that follows your every move. The result is an intoxicating speedrun take on a seminal arcade classic, combined with the even more ancient Snake; somehow, this combination ends up being fresh, exciting and essential.

The classic 2D puzzle platformer that wowed the simpler folk of the 1990s with the very occasional bit of 3D, has arrived in perfect form on Android. This 20th anniversary edition has the original graphics plus the option of an HD refresh, but what’s really about is getting to play one of gaming’s most loved classics. On your phone. For a few quid. Madness.

Seem to remember people thought this was quite good. For the price of a drink you can own one of the largest and most highly-rated video games of all time, to pop in and out of on your mobile phone. On-screen controls are never going to suit a game like this, but they are at least fully customisable – so you can get it how you like it.

Sort of a Minecraft… platform… puzzle ’em up, Terraria players dig and mine and fight their way through randomly generated worlds. Resources make weapons and houses, weapons and houses mean you stay alive, plus there’s Wi-Fi multiplayer support that has it nearing parity with the version sold on desktops.

The 3DS game made its way to mobile some time ago with Scribblenauts Remix, and was later joined by Scribblenauts Unlimited. Remix, however, comes at a lower price, making it a perfect entry point for newcomers. The premise is this: think of something, type it into the text editor, and there’s a good chance it will appear.

Scribbnauts is half platformer, half dictionary, and it’s up to your imagination to solve a series of puzzles.

Cars. Cars going round corners and sometimes down straight bits. That’s what you get here, in this nice looking recreation of the old PlayStation race favourite. On Android, Colin McRae lets users race four cars including Colin’s classic Ford Focus, cars you get to smash around 30 separate race stages. Based on the beloved Colin McRae Rally 2.0 from the PS2, you really can’t go wrong.

This cult classic from an earlier wave of the big home consoles has been converted beautifully to Android, capturing the slightly odd and amusing adventure perfectly – and with an interface that really works on today’s touchscreens. It’s an “indie” game from before there were indie games, silly and with some excellent and challenging puzzles.

The strategy titan has a hefty price tag attached to it on Android, but that’s OK as the immense challenge it contains is likely to burn for longer than the sun.

The first Baldur’s game, this faithful reworking of the 1998 classic also includes several of the PC game’s post-release expansion packs, just in case the standard 60-hour marathon quest isn’t hardcore enough for you.

Telltale has made a name for itself with story-driven episodic games and The Wolf Among Us is one of its best. Essentially a hard boiled fairy tale, you control the big bad wolf as he hunts a murderer through the mean streets of Fabletown.

Don’t let the fairy tale setting fool you, this is a violent, mature game and it’s one where your decisions have consequences, impacting not only what the other characters think of you but also who lives and who dies. Episode One is free but the remaining four will set you back a steep £9.59 / $14.99 / around AU$18. Trust us though, you’ll want to see how this story ends.

Large, deep games are still relatively rare on Android, but you can add one more to the list with The Banner Saga. This Viking-inspired tactical RPG gives you control of over 25 different characters across 7 different classes as you battle your way through beautiful hand drawn environments and make decisions both in and out of combat which affect the story.

There’s a lot to it, but its turn-based nature means controls are never a problem and you can take it at your own pace.

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Download of the day – Planetarium

Download of the day – Planetarium

Planetarium, as its developer is keen to point out, isn’t a game – it’s a planet generator – but it’s great fun to tinker with. 

You can make your own planet using the small selection of controls, but the real fun is in discovering the 250-odd planets it already contains. These can be found by typing  words into the search box at the bottom right, then tapping Enter to see what appears. Move your mouse over the planet – if you’ve been lucky, you’ll see a description written by the planet’s creator.

The Planetarium Subreddit contains a list of planets discovered by players. If you find something interesting, you can take a screenshot by tapping 4 on your keyboard. Planetarium is only available for Windows at the time of writing.

Download here: Planetarium

Download of the Day is our pick of the best free software around – whether it's useful, fun, or just plain silly. If you have any recommendations, please send them to downloads@techradar.com.

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Bitly sells a majority stake to Spectrum Equity for $63M

Bitly sells a majority stake to Spectrum Equity for $63M

Bitly Bitly is announcing that it has raised $63 million in additional funding from Spectrum Equity — a deal that gives the growth equity firm a majority stake in Bitly.
Founded in 2008, the company was initially known for providing a handy link shortening tool for anyone with a Twitter account, but it’s now focused on using link shortening as a way to provide more control and data to… Read More

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Amazon has must-see deals still going on after Prime Day

Amazon has must-see deals still going on after Prime Day

Some of the best Amazon Prime Day deals are over. Cheap computers, TVs, smartphones, tablets, and smarthome devices are still out there, but they’re not going to be as easy to find on sale en masse. Fortunately, Amazon isn’t entirely done offering deals, and some of its services are coming with special discounts following Prime Day. 

20% off select home services 

This deal started in the lead-up to Prime Day, and Amazon is continuing it for rest of the week following the event. Until July 18, customers can get a 20% discount on some of Amazon’s in-home services, which include things like bed assembly, smart home setup, and patio set assembly.

If you bought furniture or tech gadgets during this year’s Amazon Prime Day that have some assembly required, it may be worth checking to see if Amazon has a service to help get it set up.

Source: Amazon

$10 credit and 30-day free trial of Amazon Music Unlimited 

Amazon users looking for a music streaming service can try out Amazon Music Unlimited for 30 days without paying a cent. And right now, anyone who signs up for the trial using the promo code “SUMMERMUSIC” gets a $10 credit toward a subscription after the trial expires.

If you bought an Amazon Echo and aren’t satisfied with the music it turns back when you ask it to play something, Amazon’s Music Unlimited could be just the thing to help it play the right tunes. Since there’s a 30-day trial, there’s no harm in trying it out. And if one free month isn’t enough, the second month is $10 cheaper. This deal is offered until the end of the July.

Free bottle and canvas print after $25 spent on Baby Registry items 

New and expecting parents have a special deal available to them until July 31 as long as supplies last. Prime users with an Amazon Baby Registry can add an item to their cart from it, and if that items is $25 or more, purchasing it will earn them a free 8-ounce baby bottle and a credit for an 8-inch-by-10-inch photo canvas.

After making the purchase, a button to redeem the free bottle and canvas print show up on the registry homepage. The deal lasts until the end of the month, and the free items must be redeemed by the end of August 3. 

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Samsung’s latest acquisition could give Bixby a boost

Samsung’s latest acquisition could give Bixby a boost

Bixby (Samsung’s AI assistant) isn’t quite the hit the company was seemingly hoping for just yet, not least because the voice recognition aspect isn’t even available in English yet. That’s coming, and other improvements are sure to come too, including possibly some powered by a company Samsung’s just acquired.

Innoetics is a Greek startup which Samsung has taken over, and while the purchase price was low by Samsung’s standards, at reportedly under $50 million (around £38 million/AU$65 million) according to TechCrunch, the company’s voice-to-speech and text-to-speech technology could have a big impact.

Among other things it can apparently listen to someone’s voice and then copy that voice, even saying something completely different.

These synthesized voices are supposedly almost identical to the real voices they’re imitating, and while there’s no word on what Samsung is going to use the tech for, Bixby would seem an obvious choice.

Almost human

It sounds as though Innoetics technology could potentially be used to make Bixby’s voice more human, and less like you’re talking to a robot – which is something that even the likes of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant haven’t totally been able to overcome.

We could also imagine the tech being used to create multiple different voices, so you can customize Bixby’s voice.

Innoetics also already supports 19 languages with its tech, and apparently was on track to double or triple that number. Given that Samsung seems to be struggling to get Bixby working properly with more than one language that might be helpful too, potentially allowing Samsung to get Bixby working with more languages, faster.

That’s all speculation at this point – it’s possible that this technology won’t be used with Bixby at all, but that seems unlikely, so don’t be surprised if by the time the Samsung Galaxy S9 launches Bixby is in much better shape, in part because of this acquisition.

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Why your download speed could be more important than your TV for 4K gaming

Why your download speed could be more important than your TV for 4K gaming

With the PS4 Pro, Sony planted the seeds of 4K gaming on consoles and with the release of Microsoft’s Xbox One X this November we’re going to see it grow. Sales of 4K TVs have increased massively in the past year and for many people gathering together the funds to purchase one is the main hurdle to overcome before they can enjoy the crystal clear resolutions of these mid-generation machines. 

However, for many there will be a few more things to consider before making the jump, and an affordable 4K TV could actually end up being the least of gamer's concerns.

The majority of these considerations stem from the sheer size of the files that will be involved in playing these 4K games. 

Conditions of use

It was recently revealed that when it’s launched Forza Motorsport 7 will have an install size of approximately 100GB thanks to its 4K assets, making it one of the largest Xbox games to date. 

It’s true that other Xbox games including Halo and Gears of War 4 have managed to go beyond 100GB when you take into account updates and DLC but this is an astounding file size for a brand new game being installed for the first time.

4K Forza footage

It’s unlikely that all 4K games are going to be the same size – some of them may be smaller, some of them may be larger and many are likely to increase in size as DLC is tacked on. What is likely, though, is that a combination of all these file sizes is likely to lead to the Xbox One X’s 1TB internal hard drive filling up very fast. Particularly as it looks like owners of the console will have to download the 4K assets whether they like it or not.

4K enforcement

Microsoft confirmed that the 4K assets driving up these overall install sizes would only be downloaded to the Xbox One X and that standard 1080p assets would be downloaded to the original Xbox and One S. 

“With the launch of Xbox One, when it comes to game content our intention is to download the correct assets to the correct console. This means, regardless of the TV you are playing on, 4K assets will be downloaded to Xbox One X (if available) and the standard 1080p assets will be downloaded to an Xbox One S.”

Forza in 4K

This means that even if you don’t have a 4K TV, if you own an Xbox One X you’re going to be downloading these 4K assets alongside the game. In fairness, we can’t really imagine why you would purchase a native 4K console and not make the most of what you can get from it. Especially since even Full HD TVs will experience improved 1080p output with the console’s ability to supersample its 4K content. 

What it suggests, though, is that even before you think about getting a 4K TV for that 4K console, you should probably consider investing in a good external hard drive like this one. 

Space taker

Though not a free-to-solve problem, not having a large enough hard drive is a problem many Xbox One X owners will be able to solve quickly and easily for themselves. 

A less easily solvable problem that many are likely to face, however, has to do with internet speeds and allowances. 

Game discs are only able to hold so many gigabytes so it’s inevitable that a chunk of these huge file sizes are going to have to be downloaded. 

When your external hard drive is almost the same size as your console

As Microsoft has promised that all games can work across all consoles it’s likely that games released on discs will be of a standard format – the huge 4K assets will be downloaded online once the disc has been placed in the console and it’s been recognized as an Xbox One X. This won't be a full 100GB but it will only be "a bit smaller" according to a Microsoft rep who spoke to PC Gamer

This is likely to prove problematic for those with unreliable, slow or capped internet connections. 

We contacted UK internet provider Virgin Media who told us how long it would take a Virgin Media customer to download a 100GB file on 100Mbps, 200Mbps and 300Mbps connections. 

Downloading disaster

Virgin told us that obviously they couldn’t comment on the networks of other internet service providers but for their customers, it would take around 50 minutes with 300 Mbps, an hour and 15 minutes with 200 Mbps and around 2 hours and 31 minutes with 100 Mbps. 

Ofcom found that the average UK download speed didn’t go above 40 Mbps in November 2016 and the average US internet speed only very recently went above 50 Mbps for the first time. Considering this, it’s safe to say many Xbox One X owners are going to be waiting longer than they’re accustomed to when downloading their games.

That’s not even taking into account those who are subscribed to service providers that apply caps on the amount of data you’re allowed to consume. In households with several people using a variety of devices, the addition of an Xbox One X and its 4K download sizes could push a data cap to its limit. Paying for a higher tier of internet or an increased data allowance is rarely cheap and sometimes not even possible.

What your console will look like when you throw it into a black hole. Maybe.

Growing pains

Microsoft has said that it’s developed a process of intelligent installation “which will give [developers] significant flexibility when it comes to what gets installed on a user’s console. In addition to 4K specific assets, developers have options when it comes to language specific assets as well, which depending on the title, can drastically reduce the install footprint.”

This will, however, be up to the developers to implement and a reduction in install footprints of this size will still leave them larger than normal – it’s in the very nature of 4K assets to be larger.

Though it would likely result in an increased cost to the consumer, multiple discs could be taken into consideration. But games are pushing further and further into the digital world – 4K updates and DLC that’s essentially a new game in and of itself will still prove to be problematic if your download speed is struggling. 

4K gaming is an exciting prospect. We’ve seen exciting things from the Xbox One X at E3, but despite this we don’t doubt the technology is going to experience growing pains. 

Sure, 4K TVs are selling more than ever and they’re expected to take a major share of the TV market by 2020, but it’s starting to look like getting your hands on the latest TV will be the easiest problem to solve. 

Before 4K gaming can become a truly seamless experience that’s accessible to everyone we’re likely going to have to see improvements from internet service providers as well as file compression. In the meantime we’re just going to have to hope that Silicon Valley is actually a documentary in disguise and Pied Piper really is happening. 

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Best dual-camera phones in India: 8 phones you must check now

Best dual-camera phones in India: 8 phones you must check now

Dual-camera phones are nothing new to the market. However, since the Apple iPhone 7 Plus was announced last year, manufacturers have been somewhat rushing to launch dual-camera phones of their own. This is not to say that Apple started the trend of dual-camera phones. However, one can’t deny that Apple, no doubt popularized the idea. So what are some of the popular dual-camera phones that we can find in the Indian mobile industry today? Let’s have a look.

Micromax’s grand entry into the dual-camera fold was with the Dual 5. Launched recently, the smartphone has everything you need from a modern day flagship. In addition to the dual 13MP cameras on the back, the phone also comes with the Snapdragon 652 processor, and a large 5.5-inch display to go along. 

It’s available with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (expandable via microSD), so the company isn’t looking to market this as a mid-ranger. The handset can be bought online via Amazon and Flipkart for under Rs 25,000.

One of the cheapest dual-camera phones on this list, the Phab 2 Plus comes with decent dual 13MP cameras on the back. What’s better is that it comes with a massive 6.4-inch display on board, making it suitable to be used as a tablet, almost. 

Given the price that it’s selling for, we can’t complain much about the hardware choices here. Sure, the Full HD display appears washed out given the size, but that’s not necessarily a caveat since this is supposed to be a mid-ranged handset. As a bonus, the manufacturer is also offering JBL headphones for free with the handset. The Phab 2 Plus can be bought via Amazon and Flipkart for Rs 13,999.

While the market talks a lot about the iPhone 7 Plus and the OnePlus 5, very little has been spoken about the Huawei P9. The dual-cameras onboard the P9 uses a slightly different technology underneath as it consists of a standard sensor and a monochrome sensor to offer optimum detail and contrast to your photographs.

It’s pretty decently packed in other departments too, so the camera is not its only strength. It is currently selling via Flipkart and Amazon for roughly around Rs 39,999, which I feel is a bit too much for a phone of this calibre.

Read the full review: Huawei P9 review

One of the hottest phones to come out this year, the OnePlus 5 is the handset that everyone is talking about right now. The phone’s claim to fame is the dual-cameras on the back and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 running underneath. The phone also comes with a slightly revamped (yet unoriginal) design. 

The handset’s dual-camera performance has received significant praise from users and experts alike, although it is said to be lacking in comparison to the iPhone 7 Plus. But considering the disparity in pricing between the two handsets, we don’t see this as much of a problem.

There’s not a lot that hasn’t been said about the company’s new flagship, and it’s currently selling via OnePlus’ online store as well as Amazon India. The 64 and 128GB variants have been priced at Rs 32,999 and Rs 37,999 respectively.

Read the full review: OnePlus 5 review

The iPhone 7 Plus is the phone to beat in the industry right now. Even though it’s been nearly 10 months since the handset was released, there really is no handset that can come close to it in terms of dual-camera performance. We can’t say the same about single camera performance, however, since devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8, and the HTC U11 are significantly ahead in this area. 

The phone is slightly bulky for the display size offered by the company, which has been a hallmark of the iPhones over the past few years. We cannot forget the fact that it’s incredibly expensive right now, especially in India, which is a massive factor to consider before you make up your mind about getting the device. The three storage variants of the iPhone 7 Plus will set you back by Rs 56,000, Rs 64,000 and Rs 76,000 respectively from online retailers in the country.

Read the full review: iPhone 7 Plus review

Launched at MWC 2017, the LG G6 is the latest G series device succeeding the LG G5. The smartphone comes with dual 13MP cameras at the back. While, the primary camera is packed with optical image stabilization, the same is lacked by the 125 degree wide-angle lens, however it can click some amazing GoPro like pictures. 

Surprisingly, the handset is powered by Snapdragon 821 while the latest version, Snapdragon 835 is already in the market and is used in competing phones like OnePlus 5, Sony Xperia XZ Premium and US version of the Galaxy S8. The phone is available both online and offline retail shops at around Rs 40,000.

Read the full review: LG G6 review

For those who want a smartphone with a big high resolution screen and top-end multimedia features, LG V20 is the perfect choice. It comes with 5.7-inch Quad-HD IPS display along with a secondary display, which is one nifty feature that LG introduced last year. The Quad-DAC integration with free B&O PLAY headsets elevates the sound experience for audiophiles.

The smartphone has a dual-camera setup on the rear, which includes a 16MP primary lens and an 8MP wide-angle lens with 135 degree angle of view. The LG V20 comes with 5MP front camera with f/1.9 aperture that gives a wide-angle effect, thereby cutting off the need of an additional lens.

LG V20 is available at around Rs 35,000 from both online and offline retail stores.

Read the full review: LG V20 review

The newly launched Honor 8 Pro comes with dual 12MP cameras at the back and 8MP camera on the front. Just like Huawei P9, the secondary lens at the back comes with a monochrome sensor which enhances the quality of the image especially in low lighting conditions. 

The handset comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage which makes it compete directly against the OnePlus 5. Priced at Rs 29,999, Honor 8 Pro is exclusively available on Amazon India.

Read the full review: Honor 8 Pro review

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The best broadband and TV deals in July 2017

The best broadband and TV deals in July 2017

If the last thing you want to do on your evening or weekend is to spend time shopping around for broadband contracts and TV plans, TechRadar is coming to the rescue. Not only will our price comparison tool above find you the cheapest prices, but we'll show you how buying a package broadband and TV deal will save you time and money.

BT and Sky Sports, movie channels, the latest US TV imports, 24/7 music – whatever your passion, there are TV packages to suit everybody. And whether you're content with a standard ADSL connection or require superfast fibre broadband, you'll be sure to end up with the combo to suit you with our price table. There are broadband and TV deals available from BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and NOW TV.

See also: Broadband deals | BT broadband deals | Sky broadband deals | Virgin Broadband deals | Fibre broadband deals

best broadband deals

Which broadband and TV packages have Sky Sports?

Sky Sports has long been the destination for serious sports fans. Building its reputation in the 90s as the only place to watch Premier League football, you'll still need to grab a Sky Sports subscription to watch Test match cricket, golf majors and most of the Formula One season.

You can add Sky Sports to the following broadband plans:

  • Sky Fibre
  • BT Unlimited Broadband and Infinity fibre
  • Virgin Media broadband
  • TalkTalk Fast Broadband and Faster Fibre
  • NOW TV Brilliant Broadband

best broadband deals

Which broadband and TV packages have Sky Cinema?

Formerly known as Sky Movies, Sky Cinema features more films than you can shake a celluloid stick at. And it doesn't matter whether you like a laugh, crave nail-biting action or enjoy having your spine chilled – Sky Cinema channels include Comedy, Disney, Crime & Thriller, Sci-Fi & Horror and Premiere for all the best new flicks.

You can add Sky Cinema to the following broadband packages:

  • BT Unlimited Broadband and Infinity fibre
  • Sky Fibre
  • Virgin Media broadband
  • TalkTalk Fast Broadband and Faster Fibre
  • NOW TV Brilliant Broadband and Fab Fibre

best broadband deals

Which broadband and TV packages have Sky Atlantic?

You don't need us to tell you that we're in a Golden Age for television drama and box sets. Sky Atlantic is the network's way to make the most of the small screen's new wave of high-quality broadcasting from the US. Premiering the likes of Ray Donovan, The Affair and Westworld to these shores, most of you are probably after Sky Atlantic for one thing and one thing alone…Game of Thrones.

You can add Sky Atlantic to the following broadband plans:

  • Sky Fibre
  • NOW TV Brilliant Broadband and Fab Fibre

Can I get BT Sport with my broadband and TV package?

Until the end of July, BT Infinity and broadband deals come with BT Sport for absolutely free. That all changes on 1 August when you'll have to pay £3.50 per month to enjoy BT Sport's exclusive coverage of Premiership and Champions League football, Premiership Rugby.

Virgin Media is the only other internet provider that allows you to add BT Sport to your broadband plan. You have to add BT Sport to one of Virgin's broadband and TV bundles.

best broadband deals

What broadband speed do I need?

After you've chosen what TV channels you want, the next thing to decide is how much to splash on the broadband element of the deal. Very simply, the faster the connection, the higher the monthly tariff, with the cheapest rates on standard ADSL internet.

If you rely on the internet for streaming or downloading TV, films and music, then it makes sense to pay a few quid more a month and go for a fibre broadband deal instead. Learn more about the different available broadband speeds and which you may need below.

0-25Mb The entry-level internet connection you can get is called ADSL, sometimes simply referred to as 'standard'. It delivers speeds of up to 17Mb, which equates to  just over 2MB per second. It best suits small households who want to surf the web, handle their emails and stream non-4k catch-up TV.

25-50Mb Fibre broadband speeds start at up to 38Mb, so more than double what you get with standard ADSL. It's the sweet spot between fast speeds and good value and just the ticket for a family household where four or five members are all streaming, downloading and surfing at once.

50+Mb You need to crank up the speeds if you want to, say, stream 4K Ultra HD content TV and films. Most providers have speeds of 52MB and 76Mb, but only Virgin Media broadband can offer 100Mb and over – that's an incredible 12.5MB per second.

Can I get fibre broadband where I live?

If you think superfast broadband is what you need for your home, there may be a slight snag. Most households can now get it, but there's still around 10% of UK homes that still can't get it – and that rises to 40% where Virgin cable connections are concerned. So be sure to type in your postcode in our fibre broadband checker above to see whether superfast internet deals are available in your part of the country.

best broadband deals

What contract length should I go for?

BT, Virgin and NOW all offer 18 month package deals, Sky does 12 monthers and TalkTalk gives the option between either. Virgin Media offers 30 day rolling contracts for broadband and TV contracts as well, but we wouldn't recommend them – the price shoots through the roof for these short term agreements.

best broadband deals

Will I have to pay anything upfront for broadband and TV?

Afraid so. Unless you manage to catch one of the providers during one heck of a good promotional offer, you'll always have at least something to pay up front. This can include the costs of delivering the router and set-top TV internet box, but the likes of Virgin and BT also charge an activation or set-up fee.

Expect to pay at least £25 when you sign up for a TV and broadband  deal, but it shouldn't cost you any more than around £70 at the outset.

BT broadband deals and speeds

BT Unlimited Broadband | Up to 17Mb
BT is still the most popular broadband provider in the UK. You get the Home Hub 4 with its standard internet, as well as a Reward Card that you can spend anywhere Mastercard is accepted (the amount varies from week-to-week, so check our comparison chart for more details).

BT Unlimited Infinity | 52Mb-76Mb
Infinity is the name BT gives to its fibre optic broadband service. Infinity 1 gives speeds of up to 52Mb (around 6.5 MB per second download speed), which is faster than most other companies' entry-level fibre. Upgrade to Infinity 2 and crank the speed up to 76Mb. With both, you get the rangey BT Smart Hub router and a more bountiful Reward Card.

View and compare BT broadband and TV deals

Sky broadband deals and speeds

Sky Fibre | 38Mb-76Mb
Sky only lets you add TV channels if you go for one of its superfast broadband options. Sky Fibre is the cheapest plan, but be wise to the fact that you'll be limited to using, downloading and streaming up to 25GB of data per month. Pay more for Sky Fibre Unlimited, or extra still for Sky Fibre Max giving you up to 76Mb speed (around 9.5MB per second) and a Sky Q Hub router.

View and compare Sky broadband and TV deals

Virgin broadband deals and speeds

Virgin VIVID fibre broadband | 100Mb-300Mb
Not currently available on Virgin's cheapest VIVID 50 plan, you can instead choose from 100Mb (12.5MB per second), 200Mb (25MB per second) or 300Mb (a jaw-dropping 37.5MB per second). If you're also into gaming, you can choose VIVID 200 Gamer instead, which has better upload speeds and surpasses online traffic management to give you full speed even at peak times.

View and compare Virgin broadband and TV deals

TalkTalk broadband deals and speeds

TalkTalk Fast Broadband | Up to 17Mb
Don't let the name fool you, TalkTalk's fast broadband offers only standard ADSL 17Mb speed.

TalkTalk Faster Fibre | Up to 38Mb-76Mb
TalkTalk's fibre optic broadband plans are some of the cheapest around. And with its maximum speed of around 9.5MB per second, you can pay extra for Speed Boost and a Super Router.

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NOW TV broadband deals and speeds

Brilliant Broadband | Up to 17Mb
We can't help thinking of Paul Whitehouse when we hear the name 'Brilliant Broadband'. It's NOW TV's standard speed. Combine it with a TV plan and the prices can be very attractive indeed.

Fab Fibre | Up to 38Mb
Like the above, Fab Fibre comes with the NOW TV Hub router. The speeds head rise to around 4.75MB per second, which should be more than enough for streaming, downloading and surfing without frustration.

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