Just like game platforms like Steam on the PC, the Google Play store makes it possible for developers to release “Early Access” games to the public. This lets mobile gamers play the game before it’s officially done.
It also helps the developer in a number of ways. First of all, it means the public can provide feedback on bugs and features they’d like added. Developers can also sell early access games or sell in-app content. Which means if you like a game, you can help support it until it’s final polished version is done.
For players, the advantages are there as well. First, you get to play a game before the mainstream public is likely to do so. It also lets you support game concepts that might otherwise never make it to the mainstream market. The coolest aspect of early access games is the chance to play some part in game development. Your feedback can shape how a game turns out in its final form!
Of course, always keep in mind that these early access games are not finished. They might be buggy or lose your progress. If you’re OK with that, let’s look at four of the best titles currently in Early Access.
How To Get Early Access Games
In the past, Google Play featured dedicated sections of the store to early access games. At the time of writing, we couldn’t find either of those sections in the app or on the web.
However, finding early access games still seems to work by simply searching for “early access” in the Play Store. These games have “(Early Access)” in their title and the description will also reiterate that this is essentially beta software.
OctoMaze is the only game on this list that needs money upfront, but it’s already such a solid little puzzler that we didn’t mind spending a few bucks on it. The idea is simple enough, but in actual play it can be devious to solve each level.
You control the tentacle of a purple octopus with a rather intimidating jawline. You need to grab a set of objects while avoiding traps and bad guys. If you get all the bits and bobs you need, the level ends and you move on to the next.
Some of the best mobile games have been puzzlers with simple base mechanics that then iterate on them in clever ways. Angry Birds is that sort of game. The premise is simple: just knock down pigs and structures using birds fired from a slingshot. Yet there’s infinite variation in its levels.
OctoMaze starts out with some simple starter puzzles, but the challenge is very quickly there and some of the puzzles are real head-scratchers. The game’s aesthetic harkens back to the good old days of PC puzzle games. It ran perfectly on our Galaxy Note 10+, but did not fill the entire screen. On phones with a 16:9 aspect ratio, this should not be an issue. This one has potential to be one of the great mobile puzzlers.
Another Life – Life Simulator has some fascinating ideas, although it does need quite a bit of polish still. Graphically the game is very basic, with the main action happening via text. Essentially you take control of a virtual person’s life from birth until death.
You need to make key decisions along the way, which will influence what sort of person your character will become and whether they’ll have a good life or not. In many ways Another Life is reminiscent of fantasy life sims such as Princess Maker or Long Live the Queen, just with a more realistic setting.
There are some random problems here and there throughout the game. For example our first character was invited to a school debate competition at age 5. What a precocious little tyke!
As your character ages it gains life points, which can be used to buy various items that provide perks and bonuses. As far as we could see, life points aren’t linked to any sort of in-app purchases, and right now the game is supported by a single banner advert that runs at the bottom of the screen.
While Another Life is an incredibly interesting idea and worth trying out, this is definitely not a game for younger players. Since this is a life sim, it also deals with the darker and more adult themes of life. It’s not graphic, but as you can imagine some parts of life can be disturbing.
Battle royale games have taken the world by storm, with games like Fortnite and PUBG tearing up the charts. Everyone is trying to create a fresh spin on these games, but Flying Beagle might be onto something with their top-down, stylized game.
Unfortunately only those with invite codes can play the Early Access version of the game. So ask around among your friends and social media contacts whether anyone has invite codes to hand out. Players who give out invite codes get in-game currency, so it shouldn’t be too hard to convince them to part with one.
The game makes heavy use of vehicles and the early access version has four classes of vehicle, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are 30 players in each battle royale and 20 different character skins at the time of writing.
Early access players do note existing issues with network performance and controls, but we think this has the potential to be the next big battle royale style game. If you can get a code, you could get in early. Sadly, we could only look in through the window as other people played. Our code is probably still stuck in the mail!
Some of you reading this may have fond memories of a classic computer game called The Incredible Machine. In that game you were given goals and then had to build a Rube-Goldberg type machine to achieve that goal.
Cool Machines isn’t exactly the same sort of game as Incredible Machine was, but it does channel the same sort of energy. In this game you need to manipulate physical objects to reach your objective. In the demo we played that goal was to get a ball into the right receptacle.
Cool Machines is actually a pretty tricky game. The physics engine is always running, except for the object you are currently manipulating. This means that in certain puzzles, you need to move things around while the scene plays out! For example, you may need to hastily move a plank you used in the first half of the puzzle into a new position for the other half.
The Early Bird, And All That
Mobile gaming has come a long way, but these early access games show that the industry isn’t too big to involve regular players. Embrace the unpolished gems and get yourself some early access games!