I’ll let you in on a secret: the 90′s weren’t the best decade for video games. I’m not DNF’s retro gaming editor because I think SNES was the pinnacle of gaming hardware, I’ve got this job because I’m too poor to buy video games. If I want a new game to play these days, I’ve got to find one for free.
Free Android games are a mixed bag. There are games that stop every ten seconds to demand money or Facebook shoutouts, there are works in progress — not always terrible, but sometimes unfinished garbage that you should be paid to play — and once in a while you find something great that you can’t put down.
The challenge lies in finding these games as cheaply as possible; even if your time isn’t money, you should still be spending it on games you enjoy, not wasting it sorting through garbage. So save some time with these mini-reviews:
Besieged 2 by Leviathan Games: Skeletons cross the screen and you tap at them before they attack your castle. The main challenge comes from anticipating the movements of each skeleton — they move slowly, but your arrows are even slower. Once you’ve fought the game’s awful pacing to earn coins, you can unlock upgrades. Once you’ve unlocked upgrades, you can wait until the game-imposed countdown allows you to use them, or you can pay actual money to get access to them in real time!
Chicken Revolution by GAMEVIL: Chickens cross the screen and you tap at them before they attack your fence. The novelty comes from new and exciting chicken images (and accompanying chicken behavior patterns), which just doesn’t cut it for me. You can unlock additional weapons by paying for them, so maybe this is your game if you’re into paying real money to abuse virtual chickens.
Crime Inc by Uken Games: One of those “Tap a button to start counting down until the next time you can tap it” games, but this one uses slick photos and a mafia theme to persuade you to give them money and/or Facebook shoutouts… to earn the ability to tap buttons faster. It’s slick, but not slick enough to hide the fact that you’re just making selections from a series of menus.
Cyberlords – Arcology by HandyGames: An action RPG that is entirely combat-focused and light on plot. It’s fine as a free quest game where you use guns and “nano energy” instead of swords and magic, but its idea of a challenging puzzle is “press this button to open that door.” One of the three games in this batch that I’m not deleting.
Dragon Tower by Wispsoft: A Korean dungeon crawler that’s competent, if rough around the edges. Beat monsters, collect better equipment, climb to the tower’s next level and repeat. I’ve seen worse Roguelikes, and I’ll probably keep this one around even if I don’t play it too often.
Fantasy Defense by SkyZone Mobile: This would have been my favorite if it weren’t for the character artwork. That bimbo with the skimpy costume and ginormous cans is representative of every female character in the game; their chests range from “improbably large” to “enormous and possibly mangled in an industrial accident.” It’s a Tower Defense game with archers, knights, and wizards facing off against assorted monsters that have cute and slightly less degrading in-game graphics.
Flow Free by Big Duck Games: Clean, simple puzzles where you connect dots without crossing over your previous lines. Soothing, but not very demanding.
Guns ‘n’ Glory by HandyGames: A tower defense game where you’re attacking settlers in the Old West before they can escape your ambush and report you the sheriff. It gives you the ability to reposition your gunners as needed and an elaborate chart of units that have different strengths and weaknesses. You may enjoy throwing dynamite at wagon trains, but I just couldn’t get into it.
Mini Quest by spaceport.io: Only has one action button, which doesn’t make for a very engaging experience. I might have enjoyed this if I had been able to turn the sound off, but the self-aware joking failed to make old fantasy cliches interesting again. The end result had all the depth of an action game and all the heart-pounding excitement of a role-playing game. Mini Quest was also my introduction to the virtual thumbstick — a gaming innovation that I hope I never have to use again.
Robotek by Hexage: The monotony of rock/paper/scissors meets the denied gratification of a slot machine simulator. It has pretty colors and clean graphics, but even when you win, you’re not really winning anything.
Strikefleet Omega by 6waves: Not quite real time strategy, not quite tower defense. Strikefleet Omega is worth the download cost, and classy enough to deserve a full review — I’m not classy enough to write one, but I will gratuitiously link to the Harebrained Schemes website.
The clear winner of this bunch is Strikefleet Omega, with Cyberlords and Dragon Tower bringing home the coveted “I suppose they’re okay if you’ve got nothing better to do.” While none of them have received the kind of in-depth reviews you’d get from, say, the Uncharted series, I’m comfortable saying I’ve given these titles the attention they deserve.Tweet