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What 2013 has in store for Android gaming

by Phil Owen

2013 is gearing up to be a big year for the hardcore gamers, as all signs point to the next generation of gaming hardware beginning before we throw away our new calendars. But that doesn't mean a whole lot to the mobile gaming scene, as current mobile hardware can't match the power of an Xbox 360, much less its successor, which is purported to be 6 to 8 times more powerful.

Mobile gaming, in all likelihood, will never take a leap forward like that, because we adopt new hardware of that sort far more often than we do game consoles. We are treated to an ever-evolving world, and this year, after the rise of super-fast Samsung Galaxy S III, we will probably see new Android games that are bigger and better than anything that we have yet imagined in the mobile space.

Though the mobile and home gaming spheres are decidedly separate from each other at this point, my twisted brain sees a lot of parallels between the kinds of things we will see this year on both types of platforms. I have a list here, and I am going to share it with you.

Yearning for console quality

Before Grand Theft Auto was the mobile Grand Theft Auto, Gangstar was. And early this year we will be able to play both GTA V on our big screens and Gangstar Vegas: City of Sin on our small screens.

Racing aficionados have a lot to look forward to on Android this year, as we can expect to see three new racers from Gameloft: GT Racing 2, Asphalt 8 and the tie-in to the sixth Fast and Furious movie. Those three titles should cover the full spectrum of racing from arcade to simulation, but what if you want one game that takes on the spectrum by itself? In that case, you'll have to look out for GRID 2 from Codemasters on a home console near you. It'll be fun to do screenshot comparisons between Gameloft's efforts and GRID 2, which is a current-generation title, as mobile racers boast more graphical power than pretty much any other type of mobile game, and so they might actually be comparable.

Epic gamers only

If you enjoy games of the massively multiplayer online variety, you might be aware that we have a few new ones hitting Android this year. At the top of that list are two titles: Phantasy Star Online 2 and Order and Chaos Duels. Phantasy Star Online 2, which comes from Sega, is one of only a very small handful of multi-platform MMOs, as it will be out in the West on Android, iOS, PC, and PlayStation Vita.

We know absolutely nothing at all about Order and Chaos Duels other than its name, which was listed on Gameloft's leaked 2013 slate. But considering that Order and Chaos is by far the most legit MMO currently on Android, Duels will be a big deal.

Because MMO players can't only play one at a time (as it should be), I imagine most of the folks interest in those two titles will also be picking up The Elder Scrolls Online, which is the year's highest profile MMO, and it's not even close. Surely, one of these three will make you happy, my nerd brethren.

Will independent games reign?

2013 wouldn't be an actual year if we didn't see some indie stuff ported to Android from other platforms. The two you should be anticipating above all else are Fez, which was a huge hit on the Xbox 360, and VVVVVV from Terry Cavanagh. Seriously, who out there playing indies doesn't love Terry Cavanagh, the brain behind Super Hexagon and Don't Look Back? Sure, we are still waiting on his Android version of Hexagon, but VVVVVV is better than that, I promise. It's perhaps the most ingenious platform game of the last few years. Of course, the folks behind Fez, which has a twisty take on two-dimensional perspectives, might have an argument that their own game deserves that title. You'll be able to judge for yourselves soon.

What is the home platform equivalent of those releases? Well, it's Fez itself, of course. That game was locked into an exclusive contract with Xbox Live for a while, but it's going to hit as many platforms as they can possibly develop for this year. But as someone who already owns it, I would expect that mobile will be the most ideal place for it.

Android, and mobile in general, has proven to be a perfect platform for old-style point-and-click adventure titles like the Monkey Island games and Broken Sword. Broken Sword 5 is totally coming this year, and that's worth celebrating. On the homefront, Daedalic is back to its old tricks and will be churning out at least one new, similar title called 1954 Alcatraz. That game, too, will probably make it to mobile at some point, but Daedalic has been slow to port their games because they keep making new ones at a fierce pace. In any case, you'll be in for some more cerebral action this year. Get your minds ready.

Obviously, there will be so much more than just what I discussed above hitting Android this year, and it's likely there will be some outstanding stuff that developers haven't even started working on yet. 2013 will continue to keep us busy goofing off on our phones and tablets, I assure you.

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