Simulation games used to be all the rage. Games like Sim City , Microsoft Flight Simulator and Freespace 2 practically sold themselves. Be it a flight yoke, race wheel or something a little less orthodox, the pages of PC Zone were full of them. It was the age of the simulation, and it lasted a while.
These days PC gaming has taken a bit of a tumble from grace and, generally speaking, simulation games don’t work so well on consoles – there’s just something about sitting in front of your TV from the comfort of the couch that cannot beat the immersive hunched-upright lit-by-CRT appeal of yesteryear. There’s good news though. Many simulations have found a new home on iOS & Android as affordable yet addictive apps.
Among the old and the new, you’ll find a hearty selection of quality simulators to sink your teeth into here.
Uplink ($4.99, iPad & Android)
Initially released for the PC in 2001 by Introversion Software, Uplink is a hacking simulator that takes more from the movies than it does real life. If you’ve ever seen an episode of NCIS or some equivalent over-the-top rubbish on TV, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Uplink entails.
In short, you’re an agent working for the Uplink Corporation who must take on contracts, hack networks and above all avoid detection. As you progress and your skills develop, you’ll earn money, software and hardware to use as you progress through the main story (which is predictably cyberpunk).
The touch interface translates beautifully from the previous reliance on mouse-clicks, making it a smooth transition at an attractive price of $4.99. It was a lot of fun back then, and it still works today.
If you can’t wait for Farming Simulator 2013 (which was recently released for other platforms) then the 2012 edition will hopefully scratch your farming itch. Whether you want to play the game properly, or are simply up for your own version of the infamous no-scope cornshot video below (language warning), for $1.99 you can find out.
Using a fleet of genuine licensed equipment, you can work the land to produce corn, canola and wheat then harvest your crop so you can invest in even more equipment. The game uses an open world model, so you can drive around and explore before deciding what you want to do next.
Farming Simulator throws you a bone in the form of computerised farmworkers who will steer and work for you (for a cost), so if you’re more of a management type you can play that way too. The game is littered with in-app purchases, though there’s still plenty to do for the initial $2. Farming Simulator is even available for Windows Phone/RT, though keep your eyes peeled for the 2013 mobile update soon.
I recently wrote an article about my love affair with Pandemic games in which I concluded that Plague Inc is where it’s at when it comes to wiping out humanity on your mobile device. Plague Inc improves on the Pandemic formula with features like an unlock tree, which provides plenty of incentive to keep playing and trying different strategies (and you can always pay to unlock).
The other thing that makes Plague Inc great is the on-going work the developer has put into it, as regular updates have provided new features and game modes to enjoy. The last update added a Speed Run game mode and Center for Disease Control & Prevention content after the CDC contacted the developer for a chat.
This is an addictive, unique timewaster with plenty of depth.
What’s that you say – “this isn’t Minecraft!” – and you’d be right. It’s no secret that most game clones are lame attempts at cashing in on the success of another, often using a similar confusing title. And, on first glance, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this is just another Minecraft knock-off. But this isn’t Minecraft. It’s better.
Survivalcraft attempts to take all of the things missing from the current Minecraft Pocket Edition (which costs an unnecessarily inflated $6.99, not to mention the quite frankly ridiculous console prices) and implement them in its own loveable way. Among these features is an endless world, a mind-boggling achievement considering the limited abilities of our devices.
Other enhancements include caves (oddly absent from the current Minecraft PE), the ability to use custom textures, the online sharing of your worlds and the jacked-up survival aspect. As the name suggests, Survivalcraft puts heavy emphasis on survival with tougher rules and smarter AI to keep you on your toes. The game was actually first released on Windows Phone, then Android before shaking up the iOS charts when it arrived on the platform in a very stable and playable state.
Star Command ($2.99, iOS & coming to Android)
Nobody makes space exploration games any more, and if they do they need to make themselves heard. Star Command had me salivating when I first saw it, and while it’s not quite where I hoped the genre would be at this stage in the game, it certainly scratches a sci-fi itch of sorts.
In Star Command you play the captain of a ship who must assemble a crew and clear your name, all while zipping around the universe responding to rescue beacons and getting into trouble. Elite this is not, but it is probably the closest thing (beyond Faster Than Light) you’ll come to a stellar space sim on iOS.
While the initial version was harder than nails and had newcomers spitting teeth, the developers have added a beginner mode to ease new players into the game, along with tips and help. Star Command is currently in development for Android..
True Skate is the first attempt at a realistic skating simulation by iOS developer True Axis, who previously enjoyed success with their Jet Car Stunts fast-paced racer. Thankfully, True Skate is a brilliant concept that has been expertly seen through to the finished product.
Your fingers are the rider, and by tapping, flicking and swiping you can pull off tricks, grind and cruise your way around a detailed skate park. If anything, that’s my only criticism – there’s only one skate park included, and another available by way of in-app purchase.
But for $1.99 it doesn’t feel so bad once you’ve experienced the realistic physics, beautiful graphics and diverse range of tricks on offer.
Before leaving I feel it’s only right to point out that the hugely celebrated Transport Tycoon will be making it to iOS and Android this year, announced using the following video at E3. Suffice to say, we’re excited.
Do you have any more favourite simulation games that you like to play while you’re out and about? Which classic PC sims would you love to see return to grace on today’s touchscreen devices? Let us know what you think in the comments, below.
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