Personally, I think the best mobile games are the puzzle games: puzzle games often lend themselves very well to touch controls and they’re usually perfect for short periods of play. On5’s Catomic is a purrfect (I had to get one in) example of this, with intuitive mechanics that work perfectly for a quick gaming experience while also lending itself to longer periods of play.
Taking the ever popular match three mechanic from games such as Bejeweled, Catomic puts a different spin on it by clearing the board entirely and having you place down the tiles. This sounds like it would make the game far too easy but it isn’t quite that simple: you don’t get much of a choice with what tile you have to place down, and without careful planning you can very easily fill up the board and end the game.
Placing down three of the same tile next to each other will collapse them down into one tile of the next level up, with the new tile taking the place of the tile placed last. Getting matches also progresses the overall theme - the aim of the game is to make enough matches to get to Mars, but you have to start from airships. These progress between two different states: testing vehicles and building them. Testing takes place across the top of the board, while building actually uses a tile on the board. Fortunately you can choose where to put these but they can get in the way somewhat.
There are a few additional tile types outside of the usual cats, with mice and raccoon tiles not only taking up a space but also moving around freely. The mice can be trapped, so if they can’t move a cage will form around them and they’ll no longer move. Match three together and they’ll attract an owl engineer which does something, and while I think it speeds up the aforementioned research/testing cycle, I can’t see anything in-game that tells me for sure. Raccoons can’t be trapped in the same way, and annoyingly if you attempt to trap a mouse using a raccoon tile the mouse won’t be trapped either. To get rid of raccoons, you need to use the magic hat which will clear a tile or trap a mouse in place.
With these is the two halves of the “Catue of Liberty”, which takes up a spot on the grid until the two halves are joined at which point they provide a big boost to the score and give you a magical crystal. The crystals are very useful pieces as they will complete a set, no matter what tile it is. They also, if placed on the board in a place that doesn’t complete a set, turn into a money generating tile. Starting with piggy banks and moving up to banks and beyond, these progressively earn more money each turn.
These are all mixed in between the usual tiles, and you can purchase them - and all of the basic tiles - using the in-game currency earned from those money-generating tiles. This can be handy if you’re really struggling and I’ve personally found that it’s almost impossible to progress past gaining the first university without buying some tiles. The costs for these can be quite high, so I try to only buy the lowest tier tiles unless it’s a really dire situation.
Finally, I want to touch on the In App Purchases (IAPs): they’re a bit weird. In the base game, there is a move limit which ticks up every 20 seconds or so, or you can spend around 80 pence of real world money to remove that entirely. There’s also the ability to move a tile every 125 moves, but you can only do it three times before needing to pay £1 for it. Then comes the weirdest one: there is the ability to buy an item called the “Duplicating Camera” which selects a tile and copies it. The first use is free, but wanting to use it afterwards costs $8.54 - the app doesn’t even list a GPB price. On top of that you can buy coins for costs ranging from £1.74 to £11.30 (Popular Choice before the game has even launched), or you can buy infinite coins for the triple-A game and season pass cost of £86.94, completely wrecking the game's mechanic.
Aside from all of that, however, Catomic is a really good time. I recommend putting down the £2-ish to get the infinite moves and unlimited tile mover usage, which really should be just a base cost in my opinion. Past that - and ignoring some interestingly poor translations that pop up occasionally - I really suggest having a look at this little puzzle game. The gameplay is smooth and it loads very quickly, and I’m definitely keeping this game on my phone - I want to get to Mars.
Catomic: Space Cats and Atomic Owls! (Reviewed on Android)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
A great puzzle game that switches up tried-and-tested mechanics, let down by minor translation issues and mechanics locked behind extravagant pay walls.