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Best new mobile games on iOS and Android – May 2020 round-up

GameCentral reviews all the month’s major new mobile game apps, from Microsoft’s Forza Street to Orwell: Keeping An Eye On You.

From the pink-eyed absurdity of Cheech & Chong’s Bud Farm, to an incisive demonstration of the overreach of police surveillance in Orwell: Keeping An Eye On You, there’s an inspiring diversity of games making their way to touchscreens this month. And if you’re bored staying at home, there’s even Wilderless, which isn’t a game, but lets you trot around digitally recreated countryside at your own pace, free of the threat of either violence or accidental viral infection.

Orwell: Keeping An Eye On You

iOS, £4.99 (Fellow Traveller Games)

Ported from the critically acclaimed 2016 PC game, Orwell casts you as Big Brother, an anti-terrorist investigator using digital surveillance to assemble a dossier on a suspect.

By cross-referencing news reports, police records, and online conversations, you drag and drop fresh pieces of data into the Orwell database as you gradually profile your quarry, learning more about them as you listen in and co-opt new sources of information.

The way seemingly innocent snippets of data are collated, corroborated, and then grossly misinterpreted in the name of law and order makes for a sobering refresher course in why digital privacy is so vital. It’s also an enticing few hours of drama. An Android version is on its way later this year.

Score: 8/10

Railways!

Android & iOS, £4.99 (WebAvenue Unipessoal)

Your job in Railways! is to pick up passengers standing in neat little rows next to the track. The twist is you have to match the colour of each train to its passengers by drawing a line from the front of the train to an adjacent track, causing it to change lanes.

As the game adds more trains and tracks, the task gets increasingly complex, especially because it’s all done against the clock. Take too long to pick everyone up and you’ll reduce your three-star rating to a two or one.

Let trains collide, and it’s game over, starting you back at the beginning of that level. Its mellow pace requires diligent concentration, and its 30 levels will be enough to sustain a few days’ solid puzzling.

Score: 7/10

Wilderless

iOS, £2.99 (Robert Kabwe)

Not a game, but a fantasy countryside simulator; in Wilderless you’re free to wander, with no combat or threats of any kind to distract you from running, jumping, and gliding through the pastoral idyll.

There are forests, lakes, and fields of flowers stirring gently in the breeze, and even a massive stone giant who likes to lumber after you but always maintains a respectful, non-threatening distance. Bees hum past in stereo, rainstorms blow through the area, followed by shafts of golden sun.

Its wealth of graphical options will give users of fancier iPads and iPhones something to fiddle with, and if you get bored wandering around on foot, you can instantly change into an eagle and soar through the sky instead, or transform into a dinosaur and stamp your way through those summer fields.

It often takes the best part of two minutes to load, but after months spent locked inside, it’s just quite nice getting a bit of unfettered fresh air, even if it is only simulated.

Score: 7/10

Another Road

iOS, £1.99 (Kevin Choteau)

Another Road gets you to drive a succession of tiny vehicles around its isometric 3D streets, steering around obstacles, collecting coins, petrol, and repair tools that undo the inevitable crash damage you accrue.

Steering is deliberately cumbersome, your starter car’s turning circle feeling like that of a double decker bus, but you do get the hang of driving cautiously so as not to prematurely destroy your extremely fragile ride.

Its light challenge and straightforward level design are complemented by minimalist good looks, but there’s just too little going on to maintain interest beyond saving up and collecting a few perfectly drawn miniature vehicles.

Score: 6/10

Worm Jazz

iOS & Android, £Free (Inconspicuous Creations)

Worm Jazz takes old school classic Snake and reimagines it as a turn-based puzzle game. You still eat blobs that extend the length of your snake, but this time you’re also attempting to wend your way through a maze towards the exit.

Starting simply, Worm Jazz very quickly ladles on the difficulty, with one-star victories still requiring a bit of working out, and three stars seeming actually impossible even comparatively early in the game.

Clever, taxing, and graphically elegant, the short-form ads you have to watch before and after each level are thoroughly inoffensive and can be removed for a one-off payment of £3.99, which also unlocks hats for your worm.

Score: 8/10

Forza Street

iOS & Android, £Free (Turn 10 Studios)

First appearing on PC as the free-to-play Miami Street, Forza Street is a mobile re-skin that retains the original’s mechanics and bizarre one-button gameplay.

Despite this being a racing game, you are not at any time required to steer or apply the brakes. Your sole interaction is to hold down the accelerator, releasing your thumb on the yellow part of the racing line as you enter corners, re-applying it as you exit. You occasionally need to tap nitrous oxide boost, but that’s it.

There are cars to unlock using a spin-the-wheel lottery style, and you win the usual variety of currencies for completing events, but at heart this is a stylishly presented car-themed rhythm action game rather than anything to do with driving.

You can sign in with Xbox Live and it has Forza in its name, but that’s absolutely all this psychologically addictive but patronisingly over-simplified abomination has in common with the illustrious Xbox franchise.

Score: 2/10

Rebel Cops

iOS & Android, £6.99 (Handy Games)

Ironically for a This is the Police spin-off with cops in its title, this is actually a game of turn-based vigilante justice set in a town with no police, under the thumb of a callous crime boss.

You command a team of not-cops, each of whom gets two actions per round. Rather than just shooting suspects, you can use a taser or club them with a baton to stun them, or hold them at gun point until you have enough action points to arrest them next turn. Once taken into custody, criminals vanish from the level, freeing you to concentrate on their colleagues.

Its non-rotate-able isometric world makes it tricky to see around furniture and walls, and the absence of an undo button makes that problem worse, a single misplaced tap enough to end an otherwise perfect raid, which encourages continual shameful save scumming.

Score: 6/10

Cheech & Chong’s Bud Farm

iOS & Android, £Free (LDRLY Games)

Anyone familiar with Cheech & Chong’s films from the 70s and 80s will have a reasonable idea of what to expect here: an obsession with cheeba, Dad humour-grade comedy, and lashings of innuendo.

The game the jokes have been grafted onto is an idle tapper that has you building and expanding your accidentally-acquired marijuana growing empire. The more bud you collect, the quicker you can upgrade your businesses, before doing a final harvest and starting again.

There’s a plot involving the town’s ineffectual mayor, gaff-prone police department, and various other resident caricatures, but underneath that shell, it’s incremental business as usual. How this got past Apple’s legendarily puritanical vetting process is anyone’s guess.

Score: 5/10

Credit: Best new mobile games on iOS and Android – May 2020 round-up