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This year saw a handful of hall of fame games released concurrently on Android and iOS, in addition to the great games that made their way to Android after landing in Apple’s App Store. Heavyweight publishers and developers dominated 2012’s mobile gaming world, but there were some feel-good surprises along the way. Without further delay, here are our (with contributions from Andrew Koziara, Phil Hornshaw, and Marty Gabel) top ten picks for the best Android games of 2012.
Rayman Jungle Run ($2.99)
Based on the utterly brilliant Rayman: Origins (a console-based platformer to rival even Mario), this auto-scrolling runner manages to keep all the creativity and bizarre charm of its predecessor, but with bite-sized levels and half of the controls removed! Seriously though, Ubisoft stripped ‘Origins’ down to its core for this simple game, but it’s just as fun and the visuals are just as jaw-droppingly crisp and vibrant as ever. It’s a bit more challenging than other runners, but both adults and kids can spend hours playing this game.
Angry Birds Star Wars (Android smartphones free, Android tablets $2.99)
Star Wars merchandising - both before and after the Disney acquisition, has never felt so good. The newest edition to the Angry Birds family is just plain awesome. Old birds are re-dressed as Luke, Han, Obi-Wan, Chewie, and the rest. The birds get all new powers to boot, including shooting blasters and swinging light sabers. The game is a brilliant mix of the old school Angry Birds mechanics and the gravity mechanics of Angry Birds Space (also a worthy addition to any “best of 2012” list). Add all the Star Wars references and visuals (from the original trilogy, only) and you have a game that is out of this world.
Just in time for end of the year lists, the award-winning action-adventure game Sword & Sworcery has made the trek from the iTunes App Store to the Android side. Sword & Sworcery focuses more on aesthetics and experience than it does on things like dialog and story. As you play through it, you’ll find yourself in a strange and beautiful 8-bit world, where sound and music are just as important as visuals. Superbrothers’ game is about searching for an ancient magical tome and using its power against an evil growing in a distant mountain, and you’re the only one who can stand against it – but you’ll need to unlock the mysteries of the land by solving the game’s puzzles.
Jetpack Joyride (Free)
Jetpack Joyride, released by Halfbrick Studios on Android in September, is the endless running game closest to perfection. Although it launched and rocketed to the top of the charts on iOS in 2011, the game’s presence in the Android Market was substantial. In Jetpack Joyride you play as the fiery and uber-manly Barry Steakfries, who swipes a top secret jetpack from a laboratory only to be met by thousands of obstacles including electric pillars, rockets, and terrified scientists. Your goal is to collect coins and get as far as you can before dying. The game has an exceptional sense of humor and an impressive array of interchangeable costumes, jetpacks, power-ups, and vehicles.
JAZZ: Trump’s journey (Free)
Loosely based on the life of Louis Armstrong, JAZZ: Trump’s journey plays well as a “greatest hits” for platform games. This jazz musician comes equipped with a trumpet that stops time as he wanders around searching for others to join his musical efforts. You also collect musical notes and photographs in each level. With beautiful graphics that capture 1920’s era New Orleans, a unique story, great controls, and of course a killer soundtrack, Trump’s journey has enough features and depth to appeal to established gamers while also serving as a spirited and soulful introduction to newbie players.
N.O.V.A 3 ($6.99)
If you are a fan of first-person shooters, than this is the game for you. Developed by Gameloft, N.O.V.A. 3 more than any other title available on mobile devices moves and feels like a console game. N.O.V.A. 3 has you blasting aliens and enemies through a number of planets (including a war-torn Earth). The multiplayer aspect of the game will have you sharing your battle with as many as 11 other players. Each beautifully animated level takes about 30 minutes to complete, offering a lot of bang for your seven bucks.
Amazing Alex ($0.99)
After a few straight years of massive success, fame and fortune from the Angry Birds intellectual property, Rovio is finally bringing us something different. Amazing Alex is actually based on another game entirely though, called Casey’s Contraptions. The studio bought the game up and gave it new visuals and mechanics. It’s essentially a casual puzzle game involving Rube Goldberg style domino effect machines. Heck, this all just reminds of the game series Tim, which I played when I was six. Originality aside, this is a well-made title from an insanely popular studio, and you will all surely play it. There’s also a free version and HD version available.
Subway Surfers (Free)
Subway Surfers is a colorful game with attitude, putting you in the role of a rascally kid on a hoverboard who has to surf some subways to outrun the grumpy guard who catches him spraying graffiti on a train. The game has a similar feel to Temple Run’s over-the-shoulder perspective and Jetpack Joyride’s mission system. When it's available, you simply double tap the screen to switch over to your gravity-defying board and get away even faster. Marty McFly would be proud.
Zenonia 5 (Free)
Gamevil's biggest cash cow and easily their best franchise has returned in the fifth incarnation of the KRPG, Zenonia. This time around the game is much improved, as the ongoing and somewhat convoluted story ceases to be an issue. The game jumps years into the future and introduces an all new hero on a quest to stop the corrupt elite and underlying darkness that contorts their souls. All the genre staples return, from the dynamic gameplay and leveling to the online PVP, and they even bring four new classes to the fold, being the Berserker, Mechanic, Wizard, and Paladin.
Sleepwalker's Journey ($0.99)
After the smash indie success that was Anomaly: Warzone Earth and now Anomaly Korea, 11 Bit Studios seems to have been enjoying their cushy financial net, celebrating by releasing other, smaller titles like Sleepwalker’s Journey, a gorgeous new puzzle adventure. Like Lemmings, or the somewhat popular Xbox Live Arcade title Lucidity, your goal is to place and shuffle objects in the environment to protect your constantly sleepwalking character from enemies and hazards. The gameplay is solid, but what should grab you immediately is the very cool and unique art style.