We've picked out five of the most interesting new mobile titles seen at the Game Developers Conference this year. One of them is available now, and the others are coming soon, all from studios and developers of varying talents and reputations. Read on to see the cream of the crop from the mobile side of this year's GDC.
This adventure game is out now on iOS, though calling it a "game" might be a little bit too limiting. It's more of a location-based experience. Developed by a team composed of experienced console developers (and Tiki Bar TV's Dr. Tiki), CodeRunner uses your iPhone's GPS feature to run you through a series of missions designed to look like a high tech spy movie is taking place in your neighborhood.
The storytelling is trippy: One moment you're shadowing a suspect to a local bus stop, and in another you're be conducting surveillance on a nearby office building that might be host to a terrorist cell. Throughout the whole experience, the game never really gives itself away, leaving you almost convinced (and just a little unnerved) that what your phone tells you just might be true. CodeRunner's out right now for $2.99.
Total War Battles: Shogun
Yes, the Creative Assembly's critically acclaimed real-time strategy series is coming to iOS and mobile devices, and the developers have done a whole lot of hard thinking about how best to bring a PC-centric genre over to touchscreens. Battles do get carried out in real-time, but they're run on a hex system, and each set of troops on a map is guided in one direction at a time, always forward across the battlefield. The interface is relatively easy to pick up (and the 50 mission campaign is designed so that even casual players can finish it without too much trouble), and a series of optional missions challenges players who already have significant strategy experience.
Throw in a series of upgradable units for replay value, and even a real-time same-screen multiplayer mode, and the Creative Assembly's take on the classic franchise could be one of the most impressive mobile titles of the year. It'll be out on April 19 as a universal iOS app, for $4.99.
Air Mail is a game so gorgeous it's hard to believe it's running on a mobile device. You might call it a "flying platformer." Developer N-Fusion cites Pilotwings as an inspiration, and while there is occasionally some combat in the 20-plus missions, it's always indirect, asking you to do things like drop bombs or put out fires rather than shoot other planes down. There's also a fully-dedicated Explore mode once you're done with the game's story, where you're free to fly through the beautifully detailed environments, hunting for collectibles until you find them all.
Keep an eye out, too, for the game's Advanced Controls, which let you pilot your plane's two wings with thumbs on either side of the screen, using your iPad's gyroscope and accelerometer to control the pitch and throttle. It's confusing (which is why the scheme, originally the game's default, was eventually buried in a menu), but once you get the hang of it, Air Mail becomes a singular experience. It'll be out "imminently" on Apple's App Store, along with versions on the PC and the Xbox 360.
We here at Joystiq are big fans of One Man Left's original mobile title Tilt to Live, but we haven't heard from the two-man development house since that game came out in 2010. Alex Okafor and Adam Stewart are back with this multiplayer turn-based strategy title, coming out in a few months. You can pick one of the game's very polished three factions (the cute Adorables, the robotic Feedback, or the pirate-y Scallywags), and battle it out with your friends 1v1 or 2v2 across a series of hex-based maps, using a set number of resource points per turn to summon new units (six in total, with one unique per faction), move and attack, or claim special territories for more resources.
The game features a full featured ranking system, with various leagues to fight and place in, from the Fluffy League all the way up to Super Titan. It's free to download, with extra map packs to buy via in-app purchase, so you really have no excuse not to download it later this year.
Tiny Tower has become NimbleBit's masterpiece, famous both for being ridiculously addictive and for "inspiring" Zynga to make its own version. But brothers Ian and David Marsh haven't just been riding elevators: They're hard at work on a new freemium title starring the Bitizens, currently called Pocket Planes ("We wanted to keep the alliteration," David Marsh told me). In this one, you'll run your own airline, buying planes, building terminals, and ferrying bitizens and cargo around a map of Earth to earn bitcoins and bitbucks.
This one is a little more complicated than Tiny Tower, however, in that if you miscalculate your flights' fuel consumption and don't choose the right routes, you can actually lose money. Marsh is still considering just how complicated to make the game, but if your tower is still being built (and you haven't yet paid a cent), look out for Pocket Planes, set to arrive this summer.