It's that time of the year again - this weekend, many of you without smartphones, iPod, or iPads are likely to get one, and those of you who have them already stand a decent chance of getting gift cards.

Plenty of great games have come out for mobile platforms this year, and they've gotten lots of attention - Jetpack Joyride, Infinity Blade 2, Tiny Wings, Squids, and others have all had their time in the sun, and you should grab all of them if you haven't already. For those of you looking for something else, I thought I'd highlight a few games that haven't spent a lot of time on the bestsellers list - just because they're low profile doesn't mean they aren't a whole lot of fun.

Dragon Fantasy 

by The Muteki Corporation
iOS (99 cents) - iOS 3 and up

Dragon Fantasy is an old-school Japanese-style RPG that takes its cues (and its name) from the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games of the 80s and early 90s. Like other modern-day genre revivals (ZeBoyd Games’ Cthulhu Saves the World comes to mind), Dragon Fantasy will often mock JRPG conventions before turning around and using those same conventions in its gameplay, making it both a send-up and a pretty good example of its genre’s strengths and weaknesses.

Aside from its tongue-in-cheek script, Dragon Fantasy hues more closely to its source material than Cthulhu, which implemented its own tweaks and innovations to address some of the annoyances inherent to the genre. If you’re a fan of old-school RPGs, it’ll give you hours of play for the fraction of the price of a new Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy game on another system.
 

Stay Alive

by Drummer Games
iOS (99 cents), Android (Free, or $1.08 with donation) - iOS 3 and up, Android 2.2 and up

Stay Alive is a top-down shooter that will kill you within seconds of your first playthrough. That’s fine, though - you’ll respawn instantly, and as you get better at the game, you’ll also gather orbs that you can use to upgrade your ship’s shields, hull, and weapons. As in other “endless survival” games (like Jetpack Joyride and many, many others), the goal is ostensibly to go for as long as you can without crashing and then compare scores with your friends via the built-in OpenFeint leaderboards.

This game is a study in simplicity - there’s not even a separate screen for instructions, aside from the one that flashes by as each round starts. Most refreshingly, there’s no in-game store that converts real money into in-game currency - if you want a leg up in Stay Alive, you’re going to have to earn it.
 

Spelltower

by Zach Gage
iOS ($1.99) - iOS 4.1 and up

Spelltower, which I’ve heard described as “a word game for people who hate word games,” marries Boggle to Tetris. As in Boggle, you’re presented with a grid of letters, and you must make words using letters adjacent to one another. As in Tetris, new rows of letters are appearing constantly, and if your grid of letters reaches the top of the screen, you lose.

There are a few variants on this game mode - in Puzzle Mode, a new row of letters appears after every word you make. In Rush Mode, new rows appear at timed intervals. The odd one out, Tower Mode, gives you a single screen full of letters and challenges you to make as many points as you can with them. Like the best mobile games, it’s simple and addictive.
 

Time Ducks

by Tough Guy Studios
iOS ($1.99) - iOS 4.3 and up

This one’s a bit bizarre. It’s basically Frogger, in that you have to help various animals make it across a highway without getting hit. For every three animals you help, you can get a combo depending on what animals you save and in what sequence. Successful combos make higher-leveled animals appear, increasing your multiplier and leading to higher scores. Just watch out for cars, and for dogs.

If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry - you can also control time in short bursts, which can be helpful if you’ve accidentally sent a rabbit toward the grill of a truck. It’s a bit weird, but a unique design sensibility and some shambling but catchy music make this one worth a look.

 

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  • softdrinkviking - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    I like this little one-off on mobile gaming.
    like to see more of this. my 2 cents.
    Reply
  • Money Loo - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    I agree, this article is a very nice change of pace from the sometimes suffocating nature of constantly obsoleting technology. Looking forward to the occasional bit of mobile review, nothing crazy obviously, but just to change it up every now and again. Reply
  • mepenete - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    I agree with the other 2 commenters, this is a nice change of pace.

    On a side note: those front page AMD ads are brutal :| I keep accidentally clicking them when I try and scroll.
    Reply
  • alent1234 - Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - link

    the 80's called and they want their graphics back Reply
  • Denithor - Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - link

    First, it's a phone.

    Second, the graphics do look exactly like they did in the 80's - precisely what the developer was going for, if I'm not completely mistaken.

    Third, gameplay is likely to be better than the drivel released these days...
    Reply
  • Souka - Monday, January 02, 2012 - link

    Hmmm...a phone could be 4.3" 1280x720 16bit(?) color

    80's games were what....240x320 on a 12" CRT?

    I do like this little mobile overview, and look forward to more advanced game reviews... :)
    Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - link

    When the screenshots make it look like a side scrolling shooter. Reply
  • p05esto - Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - link

    I'm not really interested in this. There are plenty of web sites out there for gaming (which includes mobile). The last thing I want to read about on THIS web site is anything related to iCrap devices or services. And gaming is a close second.

    Not that I REALLY care of course. Just my 2 cents ;)
    Reply

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