So I'm taking the "Action & Strategy" category back to its (linguistic) roots. Dear reader, you're looking at a list of Most Excellent Games that involve a) Movement, b) Thinking Ahead, or even c) All Of The Above.
At least one item on this list is about shooting things, yes. Others are about puffing up real big and floating, or about manipulating rotating dots through space. There's even one that requires you to move your feet. Yes, your actual feet. If that isn't Action, I don't know what is.
Welcome, brave adventurer, to the Top 8 Action & Strategy Android Games of 2014!
Leo's Fortune might be the perfect platformer. Its blue, mustachioed puffball of a protagonist is vaguely Slavic and incredibly charming. His special ability in this life is to take in a gulp of air and hover.
You'll be enchanted by the physics of the game from the get-go: everything is just smooth and slick as you please, mobile gaming as you always dreamt it might be. Controls are simply elegant, making use of thumb swipes on either side of the screen to ricochet off sharply curved tunnels and avoid spiky wheels of death. If you happen to mis-puff, never fear: the game will gently place you back just before you departed from this mortal coil, letting you try, try again.
I'm an admitted addict to Leo's jolly chortles of approval he bestows when you pull off a challenge with panache.
Leo's Fortune costs $4.99, and there are no in-app purchases.
The deceptively complex, mesmerizing, mysterious Duet has won about a zillion awards. Hundreds of thousands of people love it. I'm obsessed with it. You need it. It's free. Get it.
Look: it's two balls spinning in a perfect circle. Control whether they go clockwise or counterclockwise to avoid the obstacles and proceed ever-upwards. Err and you'll splat spectacularly in a blast of colored paint, leaving marks wherever you've been.
Every time you think you have the physics figured out, the game presents you with an apparently impossible new challenge. As your errors accumulate, the screen is painted in vivid reds and blues, and, slowly, inevitably, you learn.
Did I mention the music? I have to mention the music. Evolving electronic background beats. It's stellar.
Duet is free with ads; an in-app purchase nets you an ad-free version (which seems more than reasonable if you love it).
République is episodic dystopia adventure gaming done right. To get technical, it's much more Stealth than Action, since the only real weapon at your command is your ability to lurk unseen in the shadows. Assist the protagonist, Hope, in her attempt to sneak away from her Big Brother-esque captors by hacking their systems using..... your mobile phone. Ludonarrative assonance, anyone?
Graphics are gorgeous, of course. More episodes anticipated soon.
République costs $4.99, and there are no in-app purchases.
Gameloft's Modern Combat 5: Blackout is the best mobile First-Person Shooter (FPS) to date. Think Call of Duty or Counter Strike, shrunk down to the palm of your hand. As you might well imagine, shrinky-dinking a console game onto a handheld device brings with it a share of control clumsiness - indeed, if you want to get the most out of MC5, you might think about hooking up a physical controller to your 'droid.
And yet! MC5 is utterly playable via thumbs, chock-full of all the storylines and detailed scenery and bang-bang-bang you could wish for. If you're a fan of the genre, you probably already picked it up.
Modern Combat 5: Blackout costs $6.99, and there are no in app purchases.
Wind-up Knight 2 is an utterly fun mobile-native title wherein you joyously explore a cartoony fairytale world rife with puzzles. Your hero: a wee knight who constantly plunges forwards in whatever direction he's facing. The challenges: immediately waist deep and rising. It's fiendishly tricksy, letting you finally learn a new technique to bypass your current trouble only to render your cleverness moot with the next twist.
Wind-Up Knight 2 is free to try for the first few levels, then there's an in-app purchase to unlock the full game. IAPs will also unlock gear upgrades and the like.
At first glance, TreeFortress Games' Bardbarian may look like something you've played before. Wrongo, kemosabe. What we have here is a genre mashup so perfectly blended as to deserve its own cocktail, in all likelihood garnished with one of those little umbrellas.
Take two shakes tower defense waves of enemies and swirl them with a healthy swig of action-RPG gameplay. Add in a smattering of fresh environments and muddle it with a skill upgrading system. Finally, bust out your axe-lute, because this one's on the rocks. (.... forgive me)
That's right: you vanquish goblin hordes with the power of metal.
Bardbarian is free, gloriously free (there are some in-app purchases, but they're by no means necessary for a good time). Why haven't you downloaded it already?
CounterSpy™ puts you squarely into the shoes of a rookie C.O.U.N.T.E.R Agent on the side of the good ol' US of A. Your mission (and you have little choice by to accept it): sabotage Ruskie facilities, steal valuable info, eliminate your tacks, and ensure the East doesn't destroy the West by any sneaky means necessary.
Balanced mix of stealth, action, exploration, and sheer class (look at those slinky graphics!). Feels like a casual Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell.
The storyline is wholly excellent, worthy at least of Ian Fleming's bathroom reading.
CounterSpy™ costs $3.99, and there are no in-app purchases.
Bounden is totally "Action." What could be more Active than actually getting up and waltzing around the room with a partner?
You've never seen anything like Bounden before. It is a cooperative dancing game, making full use of your device's gyroscope to direct you and your ballet buddy to spin and twirl around the room together. We gushed about it back around the release date - check out - lauding it as innovative, intuitive, hysterical (just try playing it without getting the giggles), and even excellent foreplay (Watch What Happens).
With Bounden, mobile gaming takes a pas de chat into the future.
Bounden costs $4.48, and there are no in-app purchases.