It was only recently that I personally joined the ranks of those who own an Android, and I have been scouring the Android Market for what I consider the best apps available for free. For me, a game has to be fun, and meet three specific criteria to be considered great: awesome visuals, decent sound, and easy controls.
I have personally put more than 40 hours into my search for the best free apps in just the past month and I have put together a short list of three games I consider to be great that are available for free from the official Android Market: Asteroid Defense, Zenonia 3, and Vampires: Live.
Asteroid Defense, from Deonn Games, is a tower defense game with some new twists. It places you in command of a floating space station orbiting earth and your job is, of course, to defend the earth from incoming planet-busting asteroids.
It offers the standard fare of tower defense games including various upgrades to the available weapons, varied speeds of play, and multiple kinds of ‘enemies’ (asteroids in this case) that require different approaches to defeat them. Where it differs from most of the other TD games I have played is that the different weapons have to be built in connection to each other, as is fitting for a space station concept. Each unit you place must be connected in one of four directions to another unit. This means that in the end result, your strategy will have to be focused on creating not just the right mix of weapons but the right placement of each weapon in order to most effectively reach the target.
The asteroids fall from the top of the screen and the space defense station is at the bottom. As you build higher and higher, the ‘warning space’, or area that you can see before the asteroids show up, becomes smaller and smaller. The challenge, of course, increases accordingly. Asteroid defense is totally free, and it even has a sequel. Asteroid Defense 2, however, is a premium game that costs money for the ‘full’ version. In the free version (also called Asteroid Defense 2 Lite), you can play survival mode forever and ever, but you do see ads constantly.
The ‘full’ version offers a campaign mode but it really isn’t necessary to enjoy all the game has to offer. Asteroid Defense or Asteroid Defense 2 Lite are both great tower defense games with no cost, sharp, gorgeous graphics and a sound scheme and music score that is enjoyable, rather than repetitive and annoying. Personally, it’s my absolute favorite free game on the Android at the time of this posting.
The next stop on our tour of free Android gaming goodness is Zenonia 3 by Gamevil Inc. It’s unknown what happened to the first two in the series (I’m kidding, they are actually all pretty decent games) but the third one makes its presence known in the gaming world as one of the best Zelda-like RPGs I have found that costs nothing to play, ever.
Unlike many games of its type, Zenonia 3 does not offer a free version and a paid version that differ in capabilities or playability. I have played more than 30 hours of Zenonia 3 and still haven’t seen or heard anything about a premium version. This might normally mean a lower quality game, but with its somewhat retro-style graphics and engaging story line, Zenonia 3 clearly breaks out of that convention and comes out swinging. There are three different ‘classes’ of character you can play, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, each with their own graphics and sound attached. The story of Zenonia 3 is where it really shines. In typical anime style, it opens with a long cut-scene depicting a great war of the heavens and leads the player through the early life of the hero as a tutorial. Once finished with that, you dive headfirst into the deep and engaging story and set out to save the world caught in the middle of the great war.
Featuring multiple different types of attack, a crafting system, and of course various kinds of armor, weapons and equipment, Zenonia 3 has a ton of content to keep you interested with each level. One of the biggest challenges for a game of this sort on an Android is the control scheme, since your average Android doesn’t have a D-Pad or dedicated buttons for gaming. Zenonia 3 presents you with a ‘virtual’ D-Pad on screen that actually responds quite well to your different movements. On the right side of the screen are the attack and other buttons for controlling your hero. Again, these are nicely sensitive and usually didn’t require multiple tries to get one to respond, which is a great change from many other Android games. Anyone who has one will tell you that the touch screen interface, particularly on the virtual keyboard, can be less than satisfactory in an action or combat situation. Additionally, Zenonia 3 offers an option to change the overall speed of the game, which means the twitch-fest style combat can be tailored to your particular speed of twitching. I am betting I will play this one through to the end, for the story if nothing else.
Last but certainly not least on the list is Vampires: Live from Storm8, which is a direct port of the already popular Facebook game by the same name. It’s an RPG, essentially, but without any real ‘action’ in the conventional sense. There are quests to complete, levels to be made, inventory and minions to manage but all of this is done through a shifting screen of touch-buttons.
The real appeal for this game is that its turn-based style of play allows one to relax more and slam buttons on the screen less. It’s one of those games you really can play in a very casual way and I found it oddly satisfying when I would go up a level, face down a particularly nasty boss at the end of a long quest, or even just browse the available upgrades to my vampire character.
Vampires: Live does not offer a paid version, per se, but it does offer you the option to purchase ‘blood points’ which are the basic currency in the game. This is the same kind of expanded content we see in other games that are moving into the free-to-play realm and, as always, is totally optional and not in any way required to enjoy what the game offers. Some of the graphics on Vampires: Live are quite gorgeous, like the loading screen, but for the most part you’re going to be looking at boxes full of text and small icons. It’s unusual for me to enjoy a game that is so lacking in graphic goodies but this is certainly an understandable exception.
The game gives you a certain amount of ‘energy’ per day, and each action you take requires a certain portion of that energy. When your energy is gone, you have to wait to get more, purchase more using blood points, or gain more energy in a variety of different in-game ways. What this means is that while your initial sessions will be fairly short, you’ll get more and more play time as you progress in levels, which is a nice reward system for this type of game. Bear in mind, too, that your friends can also join the game and you can form a group of unstoppable power together. Each friend that you add to your Vampire clan will assist you by giving you bonuses in attack power, defense ability, and even offer you more play time via extra energy in various ways. Overall, Vampires: Live is usually the last game I play in a day, but I do keep coming back to playing it. There are a host of other games based on the same format, from the same company, so if Vampires are not your thing you might try Kingdoms: Live or Racing: Live or any of the others.
There you go! My current favorite Android games, and why I enjoy them. So far, I am loving the Android OS and the free apps at the Android Market, and it’s supremely handy to be able to browse the Market from my PC and send the games to my phone from there without hassle or a USB cable connected. If you have an Android and find yourself gaming on it more than making calls on it, I sure hope you will give these games a try and post your own opinions in the comments. There is a wealth of available free games out there for Android, and I am going to do my best to play all the ones that are worth the time. Personally I am thinking of trying “Ninjas: Live” next because I fully believe that Ninjas are greater than Pirates but that’s the subject for another post. Until next time, my friends!
All apps tested on: Sanyo ZIO by Kyocera running Android OS 2.2.1