Shanty town: Year Walk makers Simogo unveil The Sailor’s Dream

Seeking to find.

Seeking to find.

Simogo have revealed their next game: The Sailor’s Dream, a title that they see as completing a triptych of games alongside the critically acclaimed Year Walk and Device 6.

In a blog post today, Simogo’s Simon Flesser refers to The Sailor’s Dream as “a more philanthropic story” than the eerie Year Walk and the drolly self-referential Device 6. “Instead of creating a feeling of suspense,” he says, “we want to communicate something that feels warmer, yet melancholic.” To that end, The Sailor’s Dream has no puzzles, and Simogo calls it “challenge-free”. The story will be told from multiple perspectives, maybe like an interactive Rashomon.

Simogo have squared the modern artist’s circle: they have become commercially successful by making games with no obvious commercial appeal. The Sailor’s Dream sounds like their boldest stroke yet — go tell a game publisher that you’d like funding to make a “challenge-free” game and come back and describe their guffaws in detail.

We bestowed year-end awards on both Year Walk and Device 6 last year, so I’m clearly quite fond of Simogo. The game arrives on iOS in “late 2014″. Let’s see where this story takes us.

Watch the trailer after the jump.

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A place of (not so) quiet reflection: MZR hits iOS soon

Ugh lay off it's Monday

Ugh lay off it’s Monday

Okay, imagine a game about solving mazes quickly. Now imagine that your goal in the game isn’t to solve the maze, precisely, but to bet on which possible solutions to the maze are the fastest. Also imagine that the mazes take place in one of those hallucinogenic flashbacks that Rust Cohle was always having in True Detective.

That’s what’s going on in MZR, which British dev Yordan Gyurchev (working as Funky Circuit) submitted for Apple certification over the weekend. The frantic pacing and throbbing visuals are quite a departure for Gyurchev, whose previous work includes the comparatively sedate alien invasion-themed geography quiz Inquisition Earth.

Gird yourself to watch the trailer after the jump.

UPDATE: Down in the comments, the eagled-eyed Blackfire1929 spotted that MZR is on the App Store already for free. I told you it was soon!

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Racing slick: Our warm-up lap with Motorsport Manager (which is in App Store approvals right now)

Right on the Button.

Right on the Button.

I was floored back in June by the trailer for Motorsport Manager, an iOS open-wheel racing sim that former Hello Games dev Christian West has been building by himself for the past year. It was just beautiful to look at, which isn’t something a rational person ever expects from a game of this variety.

Sports management games are such rarities that those of us who enjoy them are more than happy to accept them as cantilevered spreadsheets with a bare minimum of video game tinsel. I still remember when the big feature in a new Out of the Park Baseball game was sound effects. This was in like 2007, by the way, not during the Reagan administration.

I’ve been playing a preview build of Motorsport Manager over the weekend, and I can tell you first-hand that, yup, there’s sound effects. Generally speaking, the high-gloss presentation completely lives up to the expectations set by the trailer. But let’s see what else is in there.

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Field Marshal Owen’s Guide to Commander: The Great War (for Noobs)

Home by Christmas, they said.

Home by Christmas, they said.

So you’ve decided that you’re not waiting for my review, and now you’re embedded into the couch, a cold drink within arm’s reach, and the recently released iPad edition Commander: The Great War loaded up. Good choice. I’m terribly fond of this game, and non-wargamers need not be intimidated by it.

Commander is a turn-based, grand strategy-level wargame based on the First World War. It is an admirable attempt to do justice to an enormously complex, globe-spanning war — so while not a terribly complex game, it still has a number of different levers one must learn to operate to get the most from it. Your experience might also suffer from the fact that World War I has been completely eclipsed as a topic of popular understanding (and as a subject of wargames!) by its successor. Going into Commander without a working knowledge of the historical context is a handicap you don’t need to suffer. Owen’s got your back, baby.

So with this guide, I’m going to attempt to give you a quick grounding in how to get started with Commander. I’ll also try to color in enough of the history so that you feel the weight of what you’re trying to do.

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Missing in action: Where are Blood Bowl and Star Realms?

It's a punt.

It’s a punt.

It’s come to my attention that some of you are performing a dark cabalistic ritual to summon the mysteriously delayed mobile edition of Blood Bowl. STOP. You are performing the wrong dark cabalistic ritual. I know you meant well, but you appear to have summoned this Kim Kardashian game into existence instead. Also the Jonas Brothers have been crashing on my couch for the last three days. You’re not allowed to watch E! while invoking the occult anymore.

Instead of beseeching the dark powers for aid, I sent around inquiries to see what the holdup is on high-fantasy football game Blood Bowl (announced for “early July” a few weeks ago) and on the iOS version of sci-fi deck-building card game Star Realms (which was meant to be here around July 4th).

Details of what I uncovered after the jump. But fair warning: none of it is particularly good news.

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Review: Bicolor

SPOILER: Pull that 4 left, left, up, right, and you can erase everything by moving each 3 horizontally in a really satisfying motion.

That 4, crucially, lets you draw in white. Bicolor is basically just a puzzle version of white crayon apologetics.

There was a period during which I hated Bicolor. It’s a simple puzzle game, involving drawing and erasing lines on a grid. While the concept won’t raise your heart rate, it’s not quite like anything I’ve played before, and it gratifyingly forces you to break the glass to use cognitive tools you rarely have to employ elsewhere.

But it commits one of the cardinal sins of the puzzle genre: massive difficulty spikes. For two days, I was completely stuck on a level which prior experience had left me entirely unprepared to solve. Indeed, it almost seems as though part of the problem is that there’s so little to learn–beyond the basic insight that squares with only one connection are bad, every level presents a new challenge, and most of them are over quickly and leave you feeling like there were probably lots of other options.

Those concerns are real, and genuinely frustrating. However, the very freedom Bicolor provides allows it to subtly offer beautiful solutions to levels which can be completed with less holistically elegant bumbling about. Discovering one of these solutions feels like earning an achievement, but without the manipulative increase in a meaningless number. It’s just a wink from the level designer, which is strangely satisfying in a world so full of explicit rewards. It also so thoroughly engaged me on one evening that I didn’t notice the time until after three in the morning.

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Joffre good show: Commander the Great War is here for iPad

Don't Foch around.

Don’t Foch around.

After a couple of years in the making, Slitherine’s Commander: The Great War launched for iPad in the wee hours of the morning — it’s on the App Store right now for $20. We talked a couple of weeks ago why I’m excited about this release: it’s the first true grand strategy game on mobile, simulating the economic, diplomatic, and military aspects of World War I.

In many respects this is the biggest strategy game yet for the iPad, a game that’s going to swallow whole evenings on the couch and devour entire trans-continental plane journeys. I wanted to get my own hands on it today before I talked about it, and I can report that my first impressions are good.

The graphics aren’t retina-quality, I’m afraid, but that’s my biggest complaint so far. Maybe that was too much to expect from a port of a PC game that’s a few years old already, anyway. But the controls are good and the game is stable. I played this game to death on PC a couple of years ago and so barring any catastrophic technical hitch that shows up later, I’m ready to give this Commander the PT seal of approval right now.

You can fight the war as the Entente or as the Central Powers, controlling each nation’s research and production individually, and commanding their armies and navies on an operational level. You can jump in at any year — right at the start in 1914, or later when the front lines have calcified and the Americans have finally decided to show up.

Commander is super large-scale: you’re controlling forces in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the North American east coast, and western Asia. In terms of scope, this game makes Panzer Corps look like an Angry Birds level pack. But this is still a pretty accessible war game. You can expect a full review from us next week. Now if you’ll excuse me, my Serbs are about to march into Zagreb.

Commander: The Great War is on the App Store right now, and there’s a trailer below.

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You’re the best around: SolForge World Championship announced

Eight go in, one comes out

Eight go in, one comes out

In all the recent hubbub about Hearthstone and it’s recent expansion, it’s easy to forget that Stone Blade Entertainment was doing the digital CCG thing since before Hearthstone was even a glint in Team 5′s eye. With more than 1.5 years of life on iPad, SolForge has grown quite the rabid fan base (who are probably upset that I mentioned the big H in this article at all), and now it’s time for those fans to celebrate SolForge and maybe win some cash in the process.

Earlier this week, Stone Blade announced the upcoming World Championships of SolForge in which competitors can play for a minimum purse of $5K in an 8-player, invitation only tournament. Qualifier tournaments begin this weekend, offering entrants a chance at some in-game gold and one of those coveted invites to the big tournament which starts next year and will crown a champion at GenCon 2015.

Interested in showing your SolForge plumage? Head over to the tournament page for more details and instructions for signing-up.

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