There’s no shortage of Android games and most of them are free. Why on earth, then, would I want to talk about games you have to, you know, pay for? Some of them — a handful of precious little gems — should not be overlooked, despite the entry fee.
Here are five Android games I think are worth giving a damn about — they’re worth every cent. Enjoy.
Mini Metro – $4.99
I’ve never been responsible for designing a working railway network and since playing Mini Metro I’m quite alright with that.
In Dinosaur Polo Club’s stress-inducing strategy game, you’re given a list of real-world locations (London, Paris, Montreal, and more) in which to build a functioning rail system. These maps typically start as a white space with a light blue river and two or three starting stations, and eventually balloon into an interconnected nightmare of stations, trains, and passengers.
Managing the directions and routes of your lines and trains between the ever-increasing station points forms the bulk of the game. Mini Metro hands out upgrades along the way to help. You’ll be able to add extra lines, tunnels, and train cars to transport more passengers, though it’s never an easy task.
Though planning and managing lines is complicated, adding to the system thankfully is not, aided by intuitive controls and an unfussy art style inspired by famous subway maps (most notably, the London Underground).
When passengers arrive at their destinations, they disappear from the game, and you score a handful of points; with any luck, enough to unlock the next map. Your rail system will eventually fail (like they all do, at least in Britain) as the passengers overwhelm it. However, the pleasure of building that self-sustaining line, if only for a few blessed seconds, will keep you coming back. It’s not about the destination, and all that.
Reigns: Her Majesty – $2.99
Reigns: Her Majesty, or as I prefer to think of it, Less Scary Tinder, makes you the Queen of a medieval realm. In the sequel to the original Google Play Award-winning Reigns title, you’ll once again deal with a host of idiosyncratic characters as you try to balance the various needs of your fantasy kingdom.
Each character will present you with a binary choice which will influence any of the four pillars of your province: the army, treasury, church, and the people. With a swipe left or right on the character card, you’ll make a call about the given topic — the ludicrous and the logical alike — moving the resource meters up or down.
Reigns: Her Majesty is witty, stylish, and perfect for short sessions.
The trouble is, you don’t know exactly what effect the decision will have until it’s made. Tip the scales too far in any one direction, and you could be exiled, or worse.
Reigns: Her Majesty is witty, stylish, and perfect for short sessions. It’s a game of strategy, with a sprinkle of guesswork and uncertainty.
The Queens you play as may come across as snarky know-it-alls, but you’ll grow to like them because of just how incompetent the fools around them are (expect plenty of often funny jokes at the expense of men). Don’t miss it.
Chameleon Run – $1.99
Chameleon Run smartly ensures that neither “casual” nor “core” audiences are excluded with a difficulty curve that's challenging for players of all skill levels.
As you hurtle across the screen, you’ll have to traverse platforms and obstacles to successfully reach the end goal, jumping and switching colors as you go.
You’ll have to change colors throughout the level — land on a different colored platform and poof you’ll disintegrate and have to restart the level.
It’s a tricky title and you’ll die often, but Chameleon Run smartly excludes neither casual nor hardcore audiences, with a difficulty curve that’s challenging for everyone. Novices might be content with just finishing a level, but the game encourages skilled players to master advanced techniques to complete stages without changing color, or chase elusive speed records.
It’s hardly the most original game on the list, but Chameleon Run’s meticulously designed levels and breakneck speed separates it from many similar — and shallower — games in the genre.
Lumino City – $4.99
Lumino City has the weakest gameplay hook of all the titles on this list and I confess I felt like removing it once or twice. It feels like a gallery with a puzzle game wedged into it.
But, what a gallery it is.
In Lumino City you control a young girl, Lumi, as she searches for her lost grandfather. On your travels, you’ll visit a range of charming locations that look like they’ve been ripped straight from a children’s TV show. These scenes were all hand-crafted from paper in real life, with the game’s characters superimposed on top. It makes for a world unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a game previously — mobile or otherwise.
Lumino City’s puzzles can be frustrating, and the dialogue can be flat, though they’re both lovely at times. However, these are not inconsistencies shared with the game’s aesthetic, which is ceaselessly wonderful.
Hidden Folks – $3.99
Here’s the pitch: a hand-drawn, monochrome, mobile treasure hunt game, where every sound effect is a man’s voice, for $5. Destined to fail, right?
Each doodle is filled with silly surprises guaranteed to raise a smile.
Say hello to Hidden Folks, aka the best mobile game.
A throwback to Where’s Waldo, Hidden Folks reimagines the needle-in-a-haystack fun of the comics for the smartphone generation. This time it’s interactive, too.
You’ll explore a series of pictures in search of a predefined set of characters and objects, each with their own clues. However, the pleasure of Hidden Folks isn’t just in spotting a monkey and banana, it’s in seeing everything going on in these worlds.
Each doodle is filled with silly surprises guaranteed to raise a smile. Tap that boat over there, oh look, it moves. Here’s a bunch of pigs, let’s tap on them. It’s a game, like too few mobile games, that isn’t better suited to another platform. Tapping a line of singing crocodiles just wouldn’t be the same with a mouse or gamepad.
Some might miss having a giant book to pour over like in the good old days, but Hidden Folks bravely brings the miniature search game into the 21st century with its own twist. Just how do you go through the hidden passage to find The Shaman? I’ll leave that up to you to figure out.
What are your favorite paid Android games? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @scottadamgordon.