Graphics aren’t everything. Even if you are not a fan of the retro-pixelated game art style, these two strategy games are virtually guaranteed to captivate you for hours of fun.
Both games feel a bit like board games, but work well on a smartphone — you don’t need a tablet to enjoy these.
Hoplite (Free, with optional in-app purchase)
Hoplite features randomly generated levels and permanent death – two attributes that often define the roguelike genre. The game is played on a small board with hexagonal tiles. You are a knight (well, a Greek citizen-soldier, to be exact) and you have to get to each level’s portal to move to the next one.
Of course, there are enemies along the way, each with its own capabilities and attack zones. There are five classes of enemies in all, and tapping on a given enemy will show you its reach (i.e, if you step on one of these hexagons, you’ll get hit).
As you would expect from a hoplite, you are armed with a spear, and you also have a shield you can push enemies (and bombs) away with. You can also hop around the map as long as you have energy (each hop costs some energy). Each level has a temple which you can use to either heal yourself, or improve your abilities.
The free version of the game has zero nags and annoyances, and you get to play the first 16 levels, until you find the Golden Fleece. That kept me busy for a few hours, and once I found the fleece, I bought the game simply to thank the developer. Hoplite feels like an addictive combo of chess + RPG, and has terrific replay value.
Ending [No Longer Available] ($1.99)
While Hoplite includes permanent death, it does have the notion of “lives” or hitpoints — in other words, you don’t die the first time an enemy strikes you. Ending has no such thing: Get hit once, and you’re dead. On the other hand, not all levels are randomly generated.
In Ending, you’re an at-symbol navigating through a level, while avoiding enemies and killing them as needed. Unlike Hoplite, there are no projectile weapons: An enemy must be right next to you to hit you. Some enemies you can kill, but some you can’t — you can only avoid them.
Ending doesn’t come with a tutorial, and half the fun is figuring the game out. In fact, it offers virtually no written content at all — you could play this game without knowing a word of English. There are three game modes. One offers a level pack you can work your way through — that’s my favorite mode, and it’s shown above. The next mode also offers a level pack, but includes a built-in level editor:
You can use this to quickly draw your own levels right in the game. Finally, there is a game mode with randomly-generated levels which are much bigger than the premade puzzle ones. You have a step counter, and you can only go so many steps without making a kill.
The included puzzle levels are so satisfying, I hadn’t felt the need to really dig into the randomly generated mode. The lack of any powerups can be disappointing for some, but Ending’s simplicity is one of its biggest assets. You will keep discovering new enemy types and game dynamics long into the game. A simply wonderful game.
There Is Beauty In Simplicity
Both Hoplite and Ending are graphically simple, but offer a depth of gameplay that can keep you engaged for hours.
If you’re curious about this genre of games, you may want to check out these other roguelike games for Android. If you like the idea of a roguelike but are looking for something with a bit more eye-candy, you might want to check out WazHack, a beautiful side-scrolling roguelike.
Did you try any of these out? How was it? Share your impressions in the comments.