What I’m Playing: Crime and punishment
Deus Ex: The Fall
$6.99 on iOS
Distilling the Deus Ex experience onto a mobile device is no mean feat, but the wizards behind Deus Ex: The Fall have done just that—with few compromises. Like its PC and console predecessor, the game is a first-person shooter rife with philosophical debates, heady dialogue, and minute choices that’ll ensure no playthrough will ever really be the same.
If you haven’t played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you aren’t in danger of running into spoilers. It’s a prequel of sorts: you play as the cybernetically-augmented Ben Saxon, working alongside the mercenaries responsible for Human Revolution’s contentious boss-battles for reasons I’ll avoid spoiling. Suffice to say that there’s treachery afoot, and in typical Deus Ex fashion it’s up to you to think your way through gunfights and plot twists aplenty.
You can take the time-honored guns-blazing approach, with an auto-targeting system that will take some of the frustration out of playing first-person shooters on touchscreen devices. Tap on a target and the game will track it for you, allowing you a little bit of wiggle room to adjust your sights and attempt to make headshots. Any objects you can use for cover will be highlighted, which enables that fluid sort of combat we’ve grown accustomed to in first- and third-person shooters. Of course, this is a Deus Ex game—lethal force isn't your only option, and I vastly prefer slinking about in the shadows, knocking guards unconscious, hacking my way through doors and (of course) spending an inordinate amount of time crawling about in vents.
You won’t find nearly as much freedom as you would on the proper PC or console version of the game, as levels are necessarily smaller and feel a bit linear. There are also in-app purchases, but they’re limited to buying more of the game’s in-game currency and will only serve to make the game easier if you’re in a rough spot (and don’t mind cheating). The Fall is an excellent return to Deus Ex’s grim future, and well worth picking up. Grab it on the Apple App Store, but be sure your device is compatible (iPad 3 and iPhone 4S and up), and that you have at least 1.6GB of free space.
$2.99 on iOS and Android
I’m a sucker for subterfuge, and Tiny Thief serves it up in spades. This point and click puzzle-platformer sees you and your weasel (or maybe it’s a ferret?) pilfering for the greater good. Simple touch controls and a cutesy atmosphere belie a surprisingly clever game, and while it can at times feel like one of those obnoxious “find the hidden object” puzzlers, it’s all rather fun.
As is customary in so many mobile games these days, there are three stars to earn in every level: one for liberating the primary objective, one for finding your critter companion—who is hidden somewhere around the level—and a third for finding hidden mystery objects.
You’ll need to dodge corrupt lawmen, abscond with snacks and treasure, and perform the occasional jailbreak, all in the name of giving ne’er-do-wells what for. Clever auditory and visual cues—like guards that tap their spears or grunt when they’re about to turn around—keep things from being too frustrating, but the real challenge will come from picking apart levels to find every hidden bauble.
Tiny Thief is absolutely lovely, all vivid colors and tremendously funny animations. The game does occasionally fall into that traditional adventure game trap, wherein you might find yourself tapping aimlessly in order to get something to happen. But it’s still rather fun, and well worth three bucks—grab it on the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Angry Birds: Red’s Mighty Feathers
Free on Android; $0.99 - $2.99 on iOS
Wait, come back! I too have excised Rovio’s phenomenally popular bird-tossing simulator from every device I own, disgusted with its stranglehold on mobile gaming. And this isn’t even a new game, just the latest update to the original app. But it’s a brilliantly fun little update, that shakes up a time-worn formula—and it’s completely free (provided you already own the game).
You’re tasked, as ever, with dispatching pigs who would steal your eggs. The gameplay has evolved into a sort of war of attrition: waves of pigs piloting the sort of vehicles you’d construct in Rovio’s Bad Piggies (which is excellent, by the way), are hell-bent on stealing your eggs. You’ve got an unlimited supply of red birds to hurl, while the update’s titular Mighty Feathers will allow you to home in on a target; just tap while you’re in flight, and you’ll charge while in midair.
Scoring, as ever, revolves around attempting to earn three stars on every level. But there’s an excellent twist: you’ll get one star simply protecting your egg, a second star for defeating all of the level’s piggies, and a third star for using a limited number of red birds to complete a level. I’ve always loathed the seemingly arbitrary scoring mechanism that determines whether or not your performance is worth two or three stars, so having clear-cut rules is always appreciated.
If you’re reading a website on the internet and haven’t played Angry Birds yet, then I salute you. You can find the app on Google’s Play Store or the Apple App Store—there’s an iPad specific HD version, too. If you’ve already downloaded Angry Birds, just download the latest update to dive in.