Welcome back to the Weekend Games Corner at TechNorms. Chances are that most of you have heard the big news about Amazon’s Event and the upcoming Kindle Fire HD. All that stuff is pretty great news… provided that you’re planning to get a Kindle. With all the Kindles and Nexus 7s going around, its only a matter of time that we all need to get a brand new Android tablet.
Meanwhile, the good news is that those of us still stuck with phones sporting a Gingerbread can still enjoy some awesome Android games. Google Play used to be pretty barren of good apps, but all that has turned around in recent years. If you’re on Android, we’ve got a good game for you. iOS and casual PC gamers, of course you guys have a great selection of games. Your market was never in doubt. With that said, here are our picks for this week.
Chess Free (Android)
Usually for these reviews, we have to explain the game and how it works. It’s kind of nice to get a break from that this week. Chess Free is exactly what it sounds like- a free version of the ancient game of chess for Android. What makes Chess Free special is that it’s a really good version of chess.
You can’t do much to improve on the base game. Chess has survived for thousands of years in some form or another. Time and innumerable games have done a hell of a job of distilling chess down to one of the most complex and pure strategy games in existence. It really is a fantastic test of intellect.
Chess Free does a great job of presenting the classic game without anything cluttering up the game or getting in the way of a pure user experience. In our opinion, an electronic screen isn’t as cool as moving around physical pieces. The pieces of Chess Free are pretty good, though.
“Pretty good” is a description that can be thrown around a lot of aspects of Chess Free. The graphics are sharp, the animations smooth, and best of all- the app isn’t marred by a single advertisement. This isn’t some crappy port like Uno.
Quite frankly, we’re shocked that this is a free app. Everything about Chess Free bleeds professional design and quality. The sound effects fit, the graphics great, and the interface is flawless. Moving pieces is as easy as tapping. The single misstep in the entire app is that it’s locked into portrait-only. We would have preferred a two-hand landscape view.
Seriously though, other than the portrait thing this is a perfect port of chess. There are even niceties that wouldn’t be possible on a real board. Your opponent’s last move is marked on the board and all of your potential moves are marked out.
There are also features geared specifically for serious chess players that make this app worth downloading. You can save and quit any time in the game, ask for a hint for recommended moves, and export your PGN (notation of the game) so that other chess players can follow your match. The app also keeps rates your performance and keeps track of your record against the CPU.
The CPU is no pushover, either. We admit to being amateur chess players at best, and the AI really made us sweat, even on the lowest difficulty (and there are ten levels of difficulty). The AI tends to play pretty aggressively, which certainly makes things a challenge.
Speaking of challenges, Chess Free comes with a handful of extra features that should keep your games challenging. Other than the obvious (upping the AI difficulty), you can opt to play as black or white, handicap the white team, set a timer for the game, or set a timer for the moves.
Basically, there’s enough here to keep any serious chess player busy for a long time. We loved Chess Free, and would highly recommend it to any fan of strategy gaming.
Download Chess Free
Darkside, on the other hand, is not a strategy game. Quite the opposite, in fact. In an arcade-style shooter reminiscent of Geometry Wars, you fly a spaceship and blast asteroids apart. Yes, also like the classic arcade game Asteroid.
The cool part about Darkside is that instead of operating on a boring old two dimensional plane, you fly around a small planetoid a la Super Mario Galaxy. It looks pretty cool, although the controls are far too floaty for our liking. This is one game that would definitely benefit from using a physical gamepad, just like Geometry Wars.
Still, despite a certain lack of polish, Darkside is fun. Blasting apart asteroids and other bad guy ships is good entertainment. The dual analog control scheme seems designed more for iPhone than iPad, but maybe that’s just because we don’t like using dual analogs on iPad.
Darkside is a good game. It’s not super polished, but the graphics look nice and there’s plenty of game modes. That adds up to a decent bit of content that should keep anyone entertained.
Glowrunner is an interesting take on the autorunning genre. That particular type of game has been done to death, especially on mobile devices. If we had a dollar for every iOS game about a stickman that keeps running… well, we’d have a lot of money.
Glowrunner changes up that old formula with “distortions.” Running over certain patches of the level gives you a score multiplier, but it also causes some kind of crazy psychedelic event to happen. We saw the game reverse direction, change color, flip upside down, display illusions, force our character to constantly do flips, and other bizarre stuff.
Throw in all that with bright neon graphics and you get a weird-looking game. Play this, if only to see the oddness that unfolds.
Which type of games do you like to play as a pastime? Which one of these games would you like to try out? Let us know in the comments.