One minute you're playing Candy Crush on your smartphone; the next minute it's 2016. Where does the time go? The good news is that a new year brings new games. And if it's mobile games you're after, we've got 12 of the most anticipated. Why 12 and not 10? Because the debate in our editorial room got so heated that someone threw a Peach Snapple. In order to calm passions, we made way for an extra two games in this list.
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1. Dungelot: Shattered Lands (Price: $3.99)
Dungelot: Shattered Lands has been described as a dungeon crawler meets Minesweeper -- with a zombie cow thrown in for good measure. You smash blocks to find a key that opens a dungeon door in order to advance from floor to floor. Some blocks hide dangerous creatures, like bats, skeletons, scarecrows and ghosts. It takes skill and strategy to defeat these enemies. As you advance, you collect coins which you can use to trade for useful items, like food, armor, spells and more. (Who could say no to a 'Hammer of Justice'?)
The game's default hero is the white-bearded, no-nonsense Paladin. But you can choose from several, and game play changes for each hero. And while you never saw Jack Bauer eat a snack on 24, in Dungelot you actually see your hero taking down time, such as reading in his medieval kitchen for some much-needed R&R. And as you kill more enemies, they appear as trophies on the wall of your hero's domicile. The animation looks amazing, and of the three Dungelot versions, this is the best-looking by far.
Don't take our word for it. Watch the trailer, and find it at the Dungelot: Shattered Lands web site.
2. Night Terrors (Price: TBD)
Without undue exaggeration, we think it's fair to say that Night Terrors looks to be the most terrifying mobile game ever devised. That's the goal of its creators, who are raising money for the project through a crowd-funding campaign. They call it an "augmented Reality Survival Horror game for mobile devices." We call it poop-your-pants scary. What's so frightening about it is that it turns your own home into a house of horrors. You watch the game unfold through your phone's camera as elements from the game are projected onto your bed, behind your doors and who knows where else. You might end up moving out and into a hotel, hopefully, not the Bates Motel. You can see what the game will look like:
The game makers say they've managed to achieve this level of realism by relying on practical effects instead of CGI to match elements from the game with lighting conditions in your environment.
They've also developed a system using accelerometer-based mapping that locates your walls, ceilings and floors so ghost placement is realistic. Night Terrors will be Apple Watch-compatible and monitor your heart beat, which you need to keep down because -- yipes! -- the monsters can hear. Hopefully, this game puts the paramedics on speed dial. Learn more at the Night Terrors web site. (Release: look for it on Halloween, 2016)
3. Circa Infinity (Price: $2.99)
Circa Infinity describes itself as a "brain-melting circular platformer." It mixes minimalistic animations with excellent, addictive gameplay. You are a nameless person running in circles -- literally. You run on the outside of a spinning circle. The goal is get into the middle of the circle and from there into another circle, on and on, ad infinitum -- or at least through the 50 levels of the game. You make it into the center of a circle by jumping through a pizza pie-shaped area that appears. You know, like this:
You follow the concentric circles deeper into the game. As you do this, you want to avoid coming into contact with the devil-like enemies that also circle around trying to get you. Thankfully, death in this game is not terribly punishing; you are only moved back one circle and game play continues almost instantly. A great soundtrack helps drives the game forward. Circa Infinity starts easily enough but soon gets really wild as more devils and circles are added.
4. Dungeon Monsters (Price: TBD)
Dungeon Monsters is a fast-moving, nicely rendered RPG dungeon crawler. Your goal: Search dungeon corridors to find treasures and clean out the monsters. You collect gems, crystals and win rings which help you unleash new powers to better defeat your enemies. As you progress you also make alliances and assemble a team of magical creatures, or "units," to help you on your quest.
These units are linked to a particular item, like wood or fire, and there's a hierarchy of powers. Water, for example, is superior to light. The game has a goal: To defeat the villain of this dungeon kingdom Lord De Struck Shun.
Another story under development is the "The Yeti's Cave," where you must gather Edelweiss to heal the king's daughter. In either case, you will need alliances to succeed. Look for it here. (Release: look for it in March 2016)
5. Momoka: An Interplanetary Adventure (Price: $6.99)
In Momoka: An Interplanetary Adventure, you control the red-caped heroine Momoka as she travels through the solar system to discover why her star is dying. One of the things that makes Momoka so much fun is that you switch seamlessly between a platform shooter to an exploration game as you hop between planets in Momoka's rocket ship. Each planet has its own gravity so you might find yourself flipping upside down.
As you explore, you unlock further areas and find items that upgrade Momoka's abilities. The game is filled with great music, kooky characters, and bright, cheerful graphics which are given extra zip thanks to the exceptional use of light and shadows. Get the game at the Momoka web site and watch the trailer:
6. Cut the Rope – Magic (Free)
Cut the Rope – Magic continues the adventures of everyone's favorite lovable candy-eating monster Om Nom. In this newest installment in the series, Om Nom's need for sweets teleports him into a storybook where he must escape the traps, and solve the tricks, of an evil wizard who also loves candy.
Like other games in this franchise, you cut ropes to drop the candy into Om Nom's waiting mouth, which isn't so easy because you must use physics to guide the swinging sweets. A new twist to this version is Om Nom's ability to shape shift into five magical forms: a bird, a fish, a mouse, a ghost and a miniaturized version of himself to help fit through otherwise impassable places.
There are over 100 magic-themed levels in this new game and the charming graphics make Cut the Rope - Magic a joy to play.
7. Pokémon Go (Price: TBD)
Pokémon Go is generating a lot of buzz. It promises to bring the classic Pokémon characters out of their fictional realm and into the real world. The mobile game uses your location information to enable you to find Pokémon creatures hidden in your own city. Your goal, as a Pokémon trainer, is to capture them.
Nintendo is developing a small device called a Pokémon GO Plus that will let you participate in the game without looking at your smartphone. The device connects to your phone via Bluetooth and notifies you when a Pokémon is nearby using an LED light and vibration. You can press the button on the device to catch Pokémon.
Pokémon is the biggest video game-based franchise in the world, second only to Mario Bros -- and Pokemon Go promises to be huge. (Release Date: unknown, but sometime later this year. Stay tuned.)
8. The Westport Independent (Price: $4.99)
As actual journalists, The Westport Independent has us genuinely excited. You play the editor of the last independent newspaper in a totalitarian society. In fact, the Loyalists are about to pass a Public Culture Bill outlawing any and all criticism of the government.
The problem is a rebellion is going on and your loyalties lie with the rebels. Will you find an effective way to help the rebellion without bringing on the wrath of the government? You need to make headline choices, edit out paragraphs and decide whether to spike stories entirely. The Westport Independent offers stylized graphics inspired by propaganda films from the 1920s to 1950s. The effect is a 1984-like Orwellian feel, as you can see in the trailer:
9. Marvel Avengers Academy (Free)
Marvel Avengers Academy introduces your favorite comic book heroes like Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man as their younger teenage selves attending a school set up by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury. Choose your heroes and train them to master their skills. On their off time, you have to manage their social lives as well, even taking them on dates (the Hulk definitely has a thing for Black Widow).
All the while, Nick Fury is hiding something from his teen proteges, and they're determined to find out what it is. It's a secret so important it could change the direction of the Marvel universe.
You can get the game here.
The game makers clearly had fun developing this game and struck just the right note, which you can see in this short clip of the Avengers getting their class photos taken:
10. Zenith (Price: TBD)
Zenith is a traditional action RPG infused with a serious dose of humor. You play as Argus, a wizard who wants nothing more than to settle down and retire. But as the trailer reveals, "You unleash one little apocalypse and everyone starts pointing fingers. Typical!"
Now you have to save the world. You wander the fantasy realm engaging with unusual characters while keeping a dangerous artifact hidden from so-called heroes suffering from a messianic complex, goons with giant swords, and, as the tongue-in-cheek trailer says -- at a moment when Argus stands in front of what looks unmistakably like the Doors of Durin from Lord of the Rings -- "situations that are on the verge of being a flagrant violation of copyright law."
The good news is that Zenith promises to be an RPG combining great game play and plenty of laughs. (Release: look for it in Q2 of 2016. It's right around the corner.)
11. The Last Word (Price: TBD)
The Last Word is a game set inside a diary. You play a character, a young, ink-drawn figure that runs and jumps from word to word on lined paper. You advance the diary pages forward by solving puzzles using words on each page. Those who've played beta versions have described it as "gripping," "beautiful" and "absorbing."
The trailer suggests this game will pack emotional punch as you are taken on a journey through a young girl's diary.
Bottom line: The Last Word
12. Crashlands (Price: $4.99)
Crashlands is an adventure-crafting RPG where you play Flux Dabes, a galactic delivery truck driver who crash lands on the planet Woanope thanks to an evil alien. You've got to fight, tame, and craft your way out of there using the resources you find on the planet.
Your only help is your trusty sidekick JuiceBox. Once you've dominated your alien environment you'll be able to send a message to the Bureau of Shipping and get your delivery back on schedule. Crashlands features three biomes: the Savannah, Bawg, and Tundra. Each has its own creatures and resources to dominate. You can build armor and weapons, hijack creature eggs to raise the hatched young as your own, and pull lightning from the sky. The game makers' technical term for all this is "bad-assery."
Try this game.