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In every grand, exploratory adventure, there comes a time where our hero gets stuck in the mud.

By that standard, this episode is my quicksand. But even though I find some of the most cursed treasures of the Samsung app store here today, I dig up some gems along with them.

As with all of my prior app store expeditions, I sally forth with a Samsung-provided kit. A Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, S6, and S6 Edge Plus are all that is in my pack as I frack through the next layer of mobile game sediment.

What you’ll read below is actually the 11th installment of my app store circumnavigation. Be sure to revisit what came before (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10) before you partake of what’s new!


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Conquer pirates — and loading screens — in Cloud Raiders

Managing a base of Vikings and their cloud-supplemented economy proves surprisingly engaging.

Above: Managing a base of Vikings and their cloud-supplemented economy is surprisingly engaging.

My introduction to Cloud Raiders similar to my reintroduction to California grocery store sushi. Everyone seems to be smashing together the same basic ingredients; some places just manage it better than others.

Your crew of airborne vikings crash on a plateau with pirates floating just off your map. This land is rife with development potential, leading to you marshaling your pillaging forces in a base building/real time combat combo that will be familiar to anyone that has gamed on a cell phone before. Dropping new buildings and tap-aiming your canon fire at invading scallywags are both smooth interactions, and the wealth of activities between them field genuine interest rather than just occupying your time until in-game energy runs out and the pay wall goes up.

All of this assumes you have an above average internet connection, a well-above average amount of patience, or both. Cloud Raiders will not operate without network access, and even then frequently stalls or slows gameplay down to re-establish connection. The core gameplay is strong enough to outlast that frustration, which I can’t say for every cartoon-art-style-base-builder-slash-real-time-strategy game out there.

Best played on: Samsung Galaxy S6

Lil Wayne uses a cheap flash game to sell digital clothes in Lil Wayne: Sqvad Up

Would you spend money (in-game or otherwise) on the clothes of a man who can't spell the word "squad"?

Above: Would you spend money (in-game or otherwise) on the clothes of a man who can’t spell the word “squad”?

There must be better ways to force brand awareness for your clothing line than this.

Rapper Lil Wayne has traded in his music career to become a skateboarder specializing in rail grinds. As you roll him down the generic street backdrops, skidding on floating bars and the heads of attacking birds, you acquire cash to spend on Mr. Wayne’s litany of cheap, marked-up threads. Players can also snatch up dangling pairs of sneakers in the game’s one level to “sqvad” up and acquire Lil Wayne’s entourage as playable characters, which seems backwards. Shouldn’t the person people actually know be the goal of the game, rather than the default player skin?

This endless skater does contain temporary power-ups both in the environment and for purchase, and provide the only real sense of accomplishment to be had. The rest is a grind, both on the rail and in terms of progression. Lil Wayne’s obnoxious voiceover is likely to turn away those who aren’t his fans, and the in-game ads that end run will most likely get rid of them too.

Best played on: a Lil Wayne hit piece segment on TMZ.

Fallen Souls isn’t a game — it’s an insult

Every facet of Fallen Souls is a cheap, slipshod facsimile of actual game design.

Above: Every facet of Fallen Souls is a cheap, slipshod facsimile of actual game design.

These Fallen Souls should expect no redemption.

Every asset, every texture, every file of Fallen Souls feels either ripped from stock fantasy MMO asset packages or the end result of a lazy production pipeline. Combat is a ramshackle system of one-button, almost autonomous victories. Reward systems pump out so much experience and money that the in-game economy breaks after you gain a few levels. And when you endeavor to spend anything, you have to deal with an upgrade system that adds up to a less amusing version of the multiplication function on a spreadsheet.

And yet all of that pales in comparison to the masticated roadkill that counts for Fallen Souls’ narrative. Sign-posed by a wretched, horribly transcribed script, you slog through a series of fetch quests from less than a handful of identical-seeming NPCs. If the in-app purchases weren’t as pointless as the rest of the experience, this game would be downright predatory toward players easily coaxed into Skinner boxes.

Best played on: no.

Blackjack 21’s soulless ghost casino is not worth the chips

Blackjack 21's casino is a vacuum of silent routine and blundering attempts at faking social activity.

Above: Blackjack 21’s casino is a vacuum of silent routine and blundering attempts at faking social activity.

I get the feeling that some casino mobile designers just have trouble finding copyright-free lounge music.

Like Solitaire Abyss before it, the flat and uninspired gambling that goes on in Blackjack 21 Online Casino is as vacuous and threadbare as it’s name. You navigate competent but lifeless menus to sit at an unassuming table and play basic game of blackjack until you accrue enough chips to buy stock images of boats and mansions. The designers pushed a chat function to the edges of both the table and main menu screens, setting it abuzz with conversations that feel piped-in from a random human interaction algorithm.

Sound effects, animations, and generic player icons are all serviceable in the barest sense of the word. But the total lack of music is what really cinches the feeling of purgatorial nothingness. Playing just a few hands of cards made me feel like the faceless default player icon.

Best played on: a day when you feel like too much of an individual.

Become a made man in Doodle Mafia by crafting ‘elements’ into crime scenes

Add things to other things until you are the don of the Doodle Mafia.

Above: Add things to other things until you are the don of the Doodle Mafia.

Three games in, and I am not convinced that the makers of the “Doodle” series know what doodling actually is.

I’ve played as this series’ God and Devil, but have yet to contribute one scribble to one page. What I have done is drag one object, creature, phenomena, or element (all of these lumped together as “elements” by the game’s definition) from one menu list to combine with another element to create something new. Doodle Mafia doesn’t add anything new to the series’ formula in that sense. You still click and drag one thing onto another to create a list of new “elements” based on purposefully obtuse logic so the game can sell you hints.

Where Mafia distinguishes itself — rather well — is in its addition of a sort of story campaign mode. You adopt the role of an up and coming criminal making his way in the big city, spanning several chapters detailing your rise to Legitimate Businessman status. But here you make every interaction, like pawning a watch or goading information out of a drunk, through that same element-pairing menu.

Unlike the main mission, where new elements populate a diorama of multiple crime scenes, these story campaigns operate on a much more common sense logic. Want to bribe info out of a barkeep? Combine the “money” element with the “barkeep” element. The entire campaign has a Chose Your Own Adventure vibe, complete with one dumb move sending you back to the beginning with 0 percent completion.

I’ve met with both sides of your afterlife, Doodle-verse. But it’s your made men that give off the best impression.

Best played on: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus

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