The phone power and the glory: PETER HOSKIN reviews Total War: Medieval II, Alien: Isolation, Rocket League Sideswipe, Oregon Trail and Gibbon: Beyond The Trees
Total War: Medieval II (£11.99)
Alien: Isolation (iOS, Android, £12.99)
Rocket League Sideswipe (iOS, Android, free)
Oregon Trail (iOS, included with Apple Arcade)
Gibbon: Beyond The Trees
The average smartphone, we’re told, has many thousands of times more power than the guidance computer that sent Neil Armstrong and his fellow Apollonauts up to the moon.
But what if you’re not fussed about extraterrestrial travel? What if you just want to play the biggest games from several years ago while on the way to your very terrestrial job?
Thankfully, smartphones are well capable of that, too.
Total War: Medieval II, which used to melt my PC when it was first released in 2006, has recently been translated to Apple and Android devices. It’s wowing just seeing it functioning in my hand — and functioning so well.
All of the original game’s modes and qualities are here, from its tactical battles, in which you direct your archers and cavalry around some sodden field in Pomerania, to its detailed campaigns, in which you attempt to extend your influence throughout the Middle Ages. It adds up to dozens of hours of happy play.
The average smartphone, we’re told, has many thousands of times more power than the guidance computer that sent Neil Armstrong and his fellow Apollonauts up to the moon
Slight changes have been made to accommodate clumsy fingers on touchscreens, but — if your fingers are as clumsy as mine — you’ll still occasionally wish for the old-fashioned precision of a mouse and keyboard.
Until you remember the point: Medieval II on mobile isn’t meant to be deskbound. What do a few compromises matter when you can carry this classic around?
The same question might be asked of Alien: Isolation, except, miraculously, this game feels even less compromised on mobile.
The original, released for consoles and PCs in 2014, is a masterpiece of dread: you, as the daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, are being stalked around a space station by the terrible, slathering xenomorph of the Alien movies. This handheld version, released at the end of last year, is much the same.
If there is a problem, it’s that the visuals are so stunning that a phone screen feels too small to show them off. So I ended up playing this on my iPad. But that just returns us to the point: you can, of course, play Alien: Isolation on a massive telly, yet that wouldn’t be mobile gaming, would it?
The same question might be asked of Alien: Isolation, except, miraculously, this game feels even less compromised on mobile
Rocket League Sideswipe, which also came out at the end of last year, takes a different approach. Rather than translate the original Rocket League — for my money, the best sports game ever made — to smartphones, it refashions it entirely.
The result is a more (literally) two-dimensional experience, with your car facing off against your opponents’ in end-to-end matches of vehicular football, but it’s one that is perfectly suited to touchscreens.
Were it not for its relative slenderness, Sideswipe would be the best sports game on mobile.
Rocket League Sideswipe, which also came out at the end of last year, takes a different approach
And last year’s Oregon Trail takes a different approach still.
It commandeers the basic framework of a 50-year-old, educational game, intended to convey the struggle of a wagon train headed out west, and layers it with prettier graphics and 21st-century sensibilities.
It’s enjoyable enough, but I soon found myself distracted by another title on Apple’s brilliant Arcade service, one that’s entirely new.
It’s called Gibbon: Beyond The Trees and it realises that long-limbed apes are just perfect for games.
Simply tap the screen to have your gibbon grab a branch, then let go to have him fly through the air. Perhaps, if you nail the timing, you’ll be able to swing to the moon.
I soon found myself distracted by another title on Apple’s brilliant Arcade service, one that’s entirely new. It’s called Gibbon: Beyond The Trees and it realises that long-limbed apes are just perfect for games
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