What I'm Playing: Beats, bass, and bullets
$2.99 on iOS and Android
Dropchord was developed by Double Fine Productions (Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, Costume Quest, etc). I'll wait here while you head over to your mobile platform of choice and get that download started.
Back? Good, here's a rundown while you wait: it's... something like a rhythm game. Drop two fingers on your touchscreen to create points along the circumference of a circle. A beam of light will shine between these points, zapping orbs within the circle and awarding you points. Now add an infectious soundtrack (sold separately, if you're interested), traps to avoid and a blistering pace, and you've got the makings of a satisfyingly challenging arcade experience.
$2.99 on iOS
Pivvot generally gets compared to Terry Cavanagh's Super Hexagon, which isn't really apt. Super Hexagon left me feeling... empty. Desolate. Hurling myself at a fiendish, reflex-driven arcade experience that sees me ripping the game from my mobile devices every few weeks, questioning whether I'm truly worthy of calling myself "gamer."
Pivvot, by contrast, offers checkpoints. You're a sort of orb tethered to a wavy track, pivoting about your anchor to avoid obstacles while nodding appreciatively to a frenetic (albeit repetitive, eventually) beat. Hit an obstacle and you'll restart nearby. After a long slog past perpetually shifting obstacles you'll eventually arrive at the end of the road, receive a bit of congratulations, then be tossed unceremoniously to the opening screen where you'll be offered harder courses, score challenges, and something called "Beserk" mode which I doubt I'll ever have the patience to unlock. Three bucks—grab it from the App store.
Free on iOS
I have a bit of a tepid relationship with tablet- and smartphone-centric first-person shooters. There's a certain allure to having a quality manshoot to play whenever you'd like, but fussing with virtual controls that attempt to emulate a gamepad on a four- to ten-inch touch screen generally falls flat.
Scattered Entertainment's The Drowning takes a different approach with a decidedly fresh control scheme: turn with a swipe, tap to move, and tap with two fingers to fire your gun. It's a simple tack, but one that makes a world of difference when you're dispensing justice on your enemies. Pick it up, and it immediately starts to feel more like a point-and-click adventure game than the klutzy virtual-stick shooters than normally populate touch-devices—a refreshing change of pace.
The game itself is standard shooter fare: not-quite but might-as-well-be zombies have run amok, and you've got to take them on in a series of timed shooting segments that play out like some gory carnival amusement. Complete events to earn broken weapons and vehicles to repair, and miscellaneous odd and ends to trade for weapon upgrades. The visuals aren't exactly spell-binding, but they're certainly impressive for mobile fare, what the game lacks in narrative flair it makes up for in fun factor.
The Drowning is free, with an in-app purchasing system that leaves room for shortcuts but doesn't ever impede your progress. Collecting the bits you'll need to repair vehicles and progress across the game's map can be a bit of a grind, but the battles are short, two to three minute bursts of fun—it won't hurt to check it out; if you're an Android fan, there's a version coming soon.