The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting

Ah the joys of commuting during the British winter. The indeterminate delays, the relentless cold, the bloke sitting behind you coughing his guts out onto the back of your head – it's the circle of hell that Dante and Virgil wisely decided to skip on their voyage into the underworld.

To help get you through the next couple of months, here's a selection of the finest new smartphone titles – perfect for those mid-commute snow storms. All of these will provide a few minutes of respite from the misery … as long as your fingers don't freeze to the screen.

Alert Safety Boom

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Woojijuice, iOS initially free with in-app payment to unlock extra missions)
Developed by ex-staff from defunct UK developer Mucky Foot, Alert Safety Boom is a bomb disposal game merging the car hot-writing mini-games from GTA Chinatown Wars with the fiddly object manipulation fun of the Trauma Centre titles. You need to use your array of tools to snip wires, replace batteries and break switches on a series of increasingly complex devices, with the touchscreen allowing some interesting interactions (including unscrewing bolts by actually using an unscrewing movement on the screen). The interface isn't always as reliable as it should be, especially as the challenges hot up, and it's not always clear what you need to do next on each phase of the disposal project. But it certainly engages, and the comic book story sequences between missions are amusing.

Bubble Bobble Double

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Taito, iOS, £2.99)
Taito has already brought its talismanic dinosaurs Bub and Bob to iPhone courtesy of a neat Puzzle Bobble update. Now, the veteran Japanese publisher has transformed the original Bubble Bobble platform title into a compulsive touchscreen puzzler. Here, Bub is travelling through space, fending off enemy invaders; he's fixed in the middle of the playing area so there's no movement involved – you just need to tap on incoming enemies to fire a bubble at them, then tap again to burst it, hopefully taking out any other nearby baddies in the explosion. The game starts off at a sedate and enjoyable pace, but the challenge ramps up considerably when greater numbers of encroaching monsters turn up in an array of formations. It's basic stuff, but the skill is in creating combos of bursting bubbles and ensuring you hoover up all the bonus fruits. The fast-paced stages and lovely visual effects ensure you're always playing for a just a teeny bit longer. And you can choose to re-experience the classic Bubble Bobble coin-op as well. Lovely.

Dynamo Kid

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Orange Pixel, iOS and Android, £1.19)
Right now, there are plenty of smartphone platformers having a bit of a play about with touchscreen control dynamics, but this is a particularly well-constructed example. It looks like a fairly traditional cutesy sideways scrolling platformer, except – as in cult indie hit Canabalt, or Adult Swim's Robot Unicorn Attack – you have no control over movement; your character just runs and it's up to you to clear his path. Tapping the Kid makes him jump and tapping enemies knocks them off the screen. Meanwhile, you'll often encounter walkways that appear as faint sketches – these need to be swiped to colour them in and make them passable. It sounds all cute and playful, but this is in fact an unrelentingly hardcore platformer that tests your multi-tasking skills to the limits. Sadly, the touch controls don't always register as quickly as the game demands, which is frustrating, but Dynamo Kid is slick and enticing enough to keep you coming back for more rather than chucking your iPhone across the train in disgust.

Go Usagi

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Destigo Games, iOS, £1.19)
Remember Chu Chu Rocket, the brilliant Dreamcast puzzler? No? Well, this cute little puzzle title is a dead ringer for the cult Sega title. Your job is to direct a group of rabbits through a maze by placing direction tiles that guide them toward the exit. You can also use the tiles to divert the enemies patrolling each stage – and the fewer arrows you use, the better your rating. The 36 nicely-designed levels get very fiendish very quickly, so there's a considerable mental workout in store. You can also opt to try the free nine-level Lite version if you're not yet ready to commit funds to rabbit conservation.

Shoot to Kill: Addictive as Hell

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Vivid Games, 59p (iPhone), £1.19 (iPad))
As video game scenarios go, this should be a familiar one. You're a soldier stuck in Hell, but with plentiful ammo and an array of weapons you should be able to blast your way out. What follows is a top-down multidirectional shooter in which you simply tap on incoming enemies to blast them into chunks. Tilting the screen reloads, while touching the icon in the bottom left switches to your special weapon which offers more destructive power to deal with harder foes. It's relentless stuff and perfect for twitch gaming fanatics who like it when the odds are stacked insanely against them. The control system can sometimes struggle to keep up with the number of targets on screen, but this is decent, bloody retro carnage and the social networking and multiplayer options add a modern tinge. There's also a free version so you can dip your toe into the inferno first.

Flick Kick Football

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(PikPok Games, Android, iOS, 59p)
Released on iPhone over the summer, PikPok's beautifully made freekick simulator is now available for Android devices. The aim is to score from a series of increasingly difficult freekick positions by swiping across the screen to bend the ball around defenders and the flailing keeper. Yes, that's all there is to it (apart from a bonus if you manage to get the ball just inside the post) – but the implementation is so slick, the interface so natural, scoring is a genuine pleasure. There are rugby and American football versions available, too, if you find yourself addited to, erm, ball flicking.

Kosmo Spin

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Simogo, iOS, TBC)
It's not out til early December, but I had to include this lovely, idiosyncratic puzzler from Swedish studio Simogo. You're a character named Nod who must save a small planet, populated by breakfast cereal people, from invading aliens. A flying saucer orbits the world chucking down balls, and you simply run around the surface heading them back into space, while collecting the globe's endangered inhabitants. The visuals are beautiful, skilfully applying the currently trendy handicraft look to create a look that's part Little Big Planet, part Katamari Damacy. Gameplay-wise, the ultra intuitive touchscreen controls – just swipe the screen to spin the planet – will remind mobile veterans of Gamevil's legendary NOM; but others will just enjoy the immediacy of the set-up. And the music is lovely too. The perfect time-killing treat for style-conscious smartphone owners.

Game Dev Story

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Kairosoft Co, iOS, £1.79)
We're a bit late with this as it was released in September, but if you haven't played Kairosoft's captivating game development sim yet, download it right now (or at least try the free Lite version). The idea is straightforward: you're the president of a start-up game studio and your job is to knock out hit titles, expanding your workforce and building a healthy fanbase in the process. Hiring the right staff is essential, as is getting licensed to develop for the hottest consoles and exploring the different genres on offer. While you play through the 20-year career mode you get a sort of comedic history of the games industry with consoles like the Virtual Kid, Sonny PlayStatus and my favourite, the Senga Uranus, popping up and fading as you go. It's not the most challenging or cogent business sim you'll ever play, but it's joyfully constructed and amusing (brilliantly, the most expensive form of advertising you can purchase is a marching band). Most gamers will be happy to forgive its idiosyncracies as they take shot after shot at the Triple A bigtime.


The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Frugal Games, Android, 85p)
If you grew up in the 1980s you'll remember the vast array of handheld LCD games from Nintendo's iconic dual-screen Donkey Kong to the myriad Mattel and Grandstand releases. Now, indie developer Frugal Games has recaptured those heady days of extraordinarily limited interaction with Flee, a driving game devised to exactly mimic a handheld classic. The player's role is simply to move left and right to avoid the oncoming cars, but it's the design sensibilities I love – the display perfectly replicates the monochrome purity of those classic devices, even going as far as to add its own brush-aluminium-style surround and buttons. Plus, when you press the screen you get a simulation of the old LCD distortion effect, and the display and surround even become smudged as you continue to use the game. Okay, it's more of an excuse to reminisce than an actual game experience, but 85p is not much to ask for an hour or so of nostalgic fun.

CarneyVale: Showtime

The 10 best new smartphone games for winter commuting- Top Financial

(Gamebit Game Lab, Windows Phone 7, NA)
This hugely challenging combination of vertical platforming fun and ragdoll physics has been around for a couple of years, winning Microsoft's Dream-Build-Play indie game design competition in 2008 and appearing on Xbox Live. The new Windows Phone 7 implementation is crisp and challenging, making the most of the device's touchscreen interface. Your job is to get your circus athlete to the end of each event, launching him from swing to swing while popping balloons and avoiding hazards. The well-implemented physics give credibility to the challenge – which becomes considerable after the use-friendly opening levels. At the moment, Showtime is one of the best titles available for Windows Phone 7 and its Xbox Live functionality, including a range of Achievements, shows off some of the promise of the platform.

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