As good as the original

Screenshots of Assassin's Creed Pirates for iOS and Android.

What do Assassin's Creed, Batman, Dead Space, Final Fantasy and Hitman have in common? All the games have versions for mobile devices.

Mobile games do not have a good reputation.

At best, they serve as a casual distraction, something to pass the time away with while at the dentist or to stave off boredom while commuting. At worst, they are lazy cash-ins by established franchises and have poor production values.

Casual gamers may be satisfied with a round of 2048 or a battle in Clash Of Clans, but people used to more substantial gaming experiences on consoles and the PC will find it hard to get their fix on mobiles.

Luckily, established game developers are beginning to see mobile devices as legitimate platforms for gaming. Final Fantasy's publisher, Square Enix, has re-released many classic games and created new games, such as Chaos Rings, Song Summoners and Bloodmasque, for mobile devices.

Industry heavyweights such as Electronic Arts and Capcom have also jumped in, with mobile games related to Resident Evil, Megaman, Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises.

With so many to choose from, here are some recently licensed games worth playing on your mobile device.

colintan@sph.com.sg

Civilization Revolution 2

$18.98 (iOS)

Civilization is a unique strategy series. What other game lets you control the empires of history's stars, such as Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar and Catherine the Great, from 4000BC to modern times?

Along the way, cities will be founded, new technologies researched and war declared.

The series was originally conceived for the PC, but it showed up on consoles as Civilization Revolution. The spin-off featured simplified gameplay and lacked the depth of the PC versions. However, the core structure remained intact and the game was still thoroughly enjoyable.

When it was first ported to iOS and Windows Phone, the heavily downgraded graphics were disappointing.

Civilization Revolution 2, designed specifically for mobile devices, promises to fix that. The sequel's graphics have been overhauled and the game now looks as good as it did on the console version, no mean feat for a mobile game.

There is also fresh content - world leaders such as former British prime minister Winston Churchill and former United States president John F. Kennedy as well as new technologies, units and buildings have been added.

As always, the game is insanely addictive. The satisfaction of colonising new lands and attacking your rivals with missiles while they are still using spears is hard to describe.

Very little of the core gameplay is changed, however. The new units and buildings add a bit of variety but do not affect the game too much.

The game also now lacks the multiplayer mode that its predecessor had. One hopes an update will include this feature.

If you already have Civilization Revolution, the graphics overhaul and minor additions may not justify you buying this version, but those new to the series will find the game an excellent starting point.

Hitman GO

US$5.98 or S$7.50 (Android and iOS)

The gameplay of Hitman GO is a dramatic departure from the real-time action of the Hitman series. It is a puzzle game presented in the style of a board game.

For lack of a better word, it looks elegant. The board resembles a minimalist diorama, the sort of game you expect to see played in chic cafes in between sips of chai latte.

This minimalism permeates every part of the game. There is no tutorial, no story and no dialogue between characters.

In each level, there is only a target and a handful of guards who stand in Agent 47's way. Even death is handled gracefully. No gruesome events occur. The figurine just gets knocked on its side and removed from the board.

A player moves the hitman around the board, changing boards as he progresses to the next level. The aim is usually to get past enemy figures to reach a specific spot on the board.

The hitman kills his enemies when he is placed by their side or back. If he approaches an enemy from the front, the enemy will move into the hitman's space, thus killing him.

It is a simple concept to grasp, but the difficulty ramps up quickly as new layers of complexity are added in each new board. A player will encounter patrolling enemies and he has to decide when to distract them, for example by tossing rocks. The hitman will eventually gain the ability to shoot enemies with his signature weapons - two silenced pistols.

In-app purchases in the form of hints and new levels are available. However, there is no need to spend cash as all the levels are eventually unlocked and a player has five hints to start with.

The developers do a nice job of supporting the game. They recently updated its content and added levels for free.

This is a welcome spin-off that will charm even those unfamiliar with the series.

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