MMObility: Real-life location games for your daily walks

Parallel Kingdom artwork
I've been having a lot of fun with Parallel Kingdom lately. It's a location-based MMO brought to us by PerBlue, one that offers a layer of reality thanks to the fact that it is built on top of the real-world map. You can claim your real-life block, help other members of your city, and trade with other players from all over the world. It's actually a pretty simple design, but it helps to give the game a sense of realism.

Parallel Kingdom isn't the only location-based game out there, though. I thought it might be cool to take a look at some of the other titles to see what the competition has to offer. So far I have only found a few that are stepping up in quality. Read on to see what I think of the rest!

Shadow Cities banner
Shadow Cities

I couldn't write this article without mentioning this location-based game by Grey Area. It got quite a buzz around the Massively offices last year, and it's easy to see why. Even if you just look at the art style and interface of the game, you'll see something pretty unique. As players battle it out across real-life locations, they literally draw symbols on the screens of their iPhones to cast spells. It works well but can be pretty confusing at first.

When I recently needed to play it more to get a refresher on how the game played or see whether anything had been updated, I noticed that much hadn't changed from what I remember. I enjoyed casting spells and teleporting to different areas, but overall the game was devoid of life. Unlike Parallel Kingdom, Shadow Cities seems to provide nothing to do. I'll spend some more time with it, though. I should also note that the UI and art design in the game is really top-notch. It's just that every time I try to get into the game, I find myself a bit confused and a little bored. There's a reason that the trailer for the game shows a populated city; outside of that, you will not find many participants.

Life is Crime screenshot
Life is Crime

I've barely started Life is Crime, but it seems to be much more in-depth than the standard Mafia-style game. Players perform different tasks around the local play area that is based on their real-life locations. I delivered goods to stores, harassed customers, and attempted to grow my reputation. I'm not sure how much travel has to do with gameplay, but basing the game around real-life locations helps avoid an empty map like in Shadow Cities. A local fast-food restaurant is a very popular place for "moving goods," although I'm still too new to understand how that's important. I like seeing local business names on the in-game map; it adds to the immersion of the title.

The artwork is nicely done, but the UI is a little cluttered on the smaller screen. I would like to see the UI feature sections that can be tucked away when they are not needed. As it is right now, the game UI is packed full of information, much of it unnecessary most of the time.

Merchant Kingdoms banner
Merchant Kingdom

This fun little location-based city-builder allows players to slowly but surely build up their towns, harvest resources, and trade with others. I like how the developers have taken my real-life location and turned it into a series of waterfalls, other cities, and different outdoor locations. The map does seem a little claustrophobic, however, but this might be due to the fact that in the other games, the map can be zoomed out to offer a default larger view. I would imagine that if I really were a primitive settler in a new area, the immediate landscape would be all I saw, so Merchant Kingdom is probably a bit more "accurate" than the others. Still, I would love to see a zoom option, and there might possibly be one later in the game.

I already have a few neighbors and have paid them a bit of coin or goods to play nice. If I am lucky, I can use them for information. Merchant Kingdom is one of the better-made iOS city MMOs, but it's still a bit primitive. I would love to see a more polished new player tutorial as well.

Please Stay Calm banner
Please Stay Calm

I've enjoyed Please Stay Calm, a zombie-apocalypse location-based MMO by Massive Damage, the most out of this entire bunch. It's not so much that the developers have done something wholly original in the location-based arena but that they have added enough unique little bits to their game so that it's unlike any of the others. Essentially, you have a home area that is based on your real-life location, and you explore and hunt in areas that are real stores and restaraunts around your neighborhood. It was pretty fun to visit that same previously mentioned fast-food restaurant and be told that it was infested with the undead! (That seems oddly appropriate.)

The cool thing about Please Stay Calm is going through tasks that would normally play out only in text in other location-based games; I actually use a flashlight to search for goods, select and use a weapon on zombies in real time, and interact with other players with an actual chat. I'm a little tired of zombies popping up in every title I come across, but Please Stay Calm features fantastic, comic book-like art, an actual story, and fun gameplay. It feels less like a normal location-based MMO and much more like an actual game of survival. Of all of the new games I looked at, this is my favorite by far.

So enjoy some new titles to play on your phone or tablet. Location-based gaming is absolutely wonderful, but in some cases it seems to already be repeating its own successes instead of innovating. Luckily we have some great titles out there that are pushing the boundaries a bit, and I'll be sure to let you know of any other innovative titles I find.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

This article was originally published on Massively.