Mobile games are fun, simple and accessible, but that doesn't mean they are lightweight or insignificant. They have the ability to bend time and make commutes bearable; they transform idle moments into thrilling distractions. In a new series, CVG celebrates the most impressive examples of this exciting new wave of games.
Click through the link to find our full list of the best mobile games.
Best iPhone games: Kosmo Spin, Bumpy Road and Beat Sneak Bandit
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What would happen if Shigeru Miyamoto really did retire from Nintendo to produce smaller, simpler games? A humble two-man game studio from Sweden is giving us a taste of what Nintendo's legendary figurehead might produce on iOS. After just three releases, Simogo can't claim to be as great or as influential as a genius like Miyamoto, of course. But in Kosmo Spin, Bumpy Road and Beat Sneak Bandit, we can see so many of the values that make Miyamoto games great: Accessible play, intuitive game mechanics and utterly irresistible charm.
The studio was formed in 2010 by Simon Flesser and Magnus 'Gordon' Gardebäck. They worked together for three years at another studio before realising that they both wanted to go it alone. "I think what we mainly learned from working with more traditional game development is that we wanted to make games in a different way," Flesser tells CVG. "A way which is a bit more dynamic, flexible and maybe even more human. In every decision we trust our gut, rather than current trends or analytics."
Flesser describes his studio's games as "compact experiences, with lots of character and personality." And his approach to game design sounds like it has been lifted straight from an Iwata Asks. " We always strive to make original and unique things, something that will constantly surprise players," he says. "Mainly, we want to make experiences that we would have wanted to have ourselves. We always design, produce and polish our games with that in mind."
The studio's first release, Kosmo Spin, is its most simplistic. Swiping across the screen moves your character around the surface of his miniature home planet, which you must protect from UFO attacks while sweeping up collectibles. It's Breakout via Super Mario Galaxy with a dash of LittleBigPlanet's offbeat looks, soundtracked by banjo twangs and xylophone plonks.
Simogo's second, Bumpy Road, is billed as a love story and evolves Kosmo Spin's cute aesthetic further. Its brighter characters and autumnal colour palette accompanies a heart-melting soundtrack of accordions, harmonicas and warm bass notes. A subtle vinyl crackle underneath it all adds a sense of cosy nostalgia. It's an auto-scroller where you control the titular terrain, holding your finger on the screen to create lumps in the street for the car to roll down. Simogo acknowledges that Bumpy Road is a game and a plaything, including a secondary no-fail mode.
Beat Sneak Bandit has stages, puzzles and requires real concentration, and is therefore the most hardcore-friendly of the three. It is a rhythm-action game spun out into a puzzle-platformer, with a completely different look. "I think it is quite clear from Beat Sneak Bandit that I am a big fan of 50's and 60's prints and cartoons," Flesser tells us. "I think inspiration can come from anywhere. I love simple, naive things. I am not very good at drawing but I think that works in favour for our games, as I have to keep things simple and I think that makes the visuals very direct and expressive. I believe a strong visual identity is crucial to any game, no matter what platform it is on."
Simogo's games are a rare treat, as notable for their audiovisual quality as they are for their style of play. They stand out because they are made with such love, but Flesser is concerned that his studio's careful approach is getting rarer by the moment. "Although there are great games released every now and then, at the moment I am somewhat dissappointed by the climate of the App Store," he says. "There is a huge focus on how to make players pay, instead of giving them interesting experiences. I find this development worrying. I think iOS gaming was a lot more interesting a few years ago. Games like Space Invaders Infinity Gene, Eliss, Helsing's Fire, Tilt To Live and even Fruit Ninja pointed to an interesting direction and creativity was blossoming, but somewhere down the road something happened. I hope there is still room, and people still care about something that feels genuine."
Simogo hopes to redress that balance with its next project, Year Walk, a first person adventure. According to Simogo, it "blurs the line between two and three dimensions as well as reality and the supernatural."
"Year Walk is the consequence of some very fortunate events," Flesser explains. "Ever since Bumpy Road we have talked about doing something that has a very different tone than our cheerful character games, and we talked about how to make a first person perspective view work in 2D and what the controls would be like."
"That idea stuck with us, and we really just knew that we wanted to explore something a bit darker, and when a good friend of ours talked about a story he had written we remembered this old control idea and worked with him to get this story to work in a game in a very interesting, unique way."
Before Year Walk arrives later this year, we urge you seek out Kosmo Spin, Bumpy Road and Beat Sneak Bandit. Simogo has created three App Store games with Miyamoto-grade charm, and this trio are as close as we'll come to Nintendo's playful, accessible magic on iPhone.
Beat Sneak Bandit is £1.99 on the App Store. Download it here.
Bumpy Road is £1.99 on the App Store. Download it here.
Kosmo Spin is £0.69p on the App Store. Download it here.