Pocket Tactics’ Games of the Month: August 2015

Pardon our dust.

Pardon our dust.

It has been a very long while indeed since we had Pocket Tactics Games of the Month. Picking favourite games from arbitrary calendar periods is always a bit contentious but when Neumann briefly converted to TimeCubism over the summer we couldn’t even agree on the definition of “month”, much less decide what the good games from one were.

Anyway. Things have calmed down enough that we can resume regular service on Games of the Month. Let’s see what the PT writers’ dungeon thinks of the games from the last lunar cycle (or so).

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The Huntmaster’s Handbook: Rob Lemon’s Galactic Keep strategy guide

For cryin' out loud, people STOP DYING

For cryin’ out loud, people STOP DYING

The wonderfully original Galactic Keep is more than just a pretty, multi-mandibled face — it’s also an RPG whose combat requires a little more nous than might be apparent at first. In the interest of preserving the temporal integrity of this timeline, I asked Galactic Keep creator Rob Lemon to write us some tips on keeping your Coalition agents alive. There’s a heck of a lot going on under the hood of this game, and Rob lays a lot of it bare for us. –O.F.

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Danger close: 24 minutes of Space Grunts’ explosive turn-based dungeon crawling

He's just a grunt! A SPACE GRUNT

I believe that Corporal Hicks has authority here.

Space Grunts is not a film about Danny Trejo and Tommy Lee Jones having a conversation in orbit. Though I’d watch that. No, Space Grunts is a game from Dutch dev OrangePixel, who made his bones with the sort of arcade action games we tend not to cover around here.

Space Grunts is entirely more our sort of thing: it’s a sci-fi turn-based roguelike that reminds me a bit of Chunsoft’s Mystery Dungeon games. You can see OrangePixel’s arcade pedigree in the game’s weapon effects and exuberant explosions  — there might be a gas leak somewhere in that dungeon.

This game is coming to PC later this year with Android and iOS versions to follow in 2016. You can pre-order the PC version now at a hefty discount.

OrangePixel just posted an extended gameplay video of a development build that will let you avoid work for the next 24 minutes, provided you turn the sound down. Check it out after the jump.

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Old soldiers never die: Free update to Battle of the Bulge adds x-platform and more next month

Rise from your grave.

Rise from your grave.

When Philadelphia’s finest studio Shenandoah was consumed last year by Slitherine, the Galactus of wargaming, grognards started to worry — as grognards do. There hasn’t been much in the way of news forthcoming since the acquisition, which some took as evidence that the makers of Battle of the Bulge and Drive on Moscow would vanish down the memory hole.

That is apparently not so. Shenandoah rises anew, according to news sent my way last night — and its first order of business is to re-release its first (and most brilliant) game: Battle of the Bulge. A new edition of the WWII sim will be released on the 17th of September, bringing the game to PC and Mac for the first time and adding a bevy of new features.

The biggest change will be cross-platform multiplayer across iPad, iPhone, and desktop platforms. Battle of the Bulge was always at its best as a head-to-head multiplayer game, and increasing the size of the user pool will be just the defibrillator it needs. The new multiplayer setup will include in-app tournament support.

Additionally, revenant Shenandoah say that they’ve re-written the game’s AIs — both Axis and Allied. I seem to recall that Bulge’s AI was relatively sharp back in 2012, so I’m curious to see what that means.

Most importantly (and I just verified this with Slitherine’s PR a few minutes ago), Battle of the Bulge won’t be a new app on iOS. If you already own it, you get all the new features (and the benefits of a re-invigorated multiplayer community) gratis.

The new Bulge drops on iOS and desktops on the 17th of September.

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Review: Lara Croft GO

Tomb Raider is actually the tragic tale of a woman’s vain search for an exotic pet which won’t try to kill her.

He’s so cute! I think I’ll name him Jörmungandr.

Lara Croft GO adapts the puzzle structure of Pocket Tactics darling Hitman GO to the Tomb Raider setting. Replacing the delightfully unexpected boardgame aesthetic of the earlier game are far more varied, visually appealing backgrounds and artful animations.

It’s a step away from what might have seemed like a defining trait of this new franchise, and at first might seem like a poor fit for the discrete, turn-based actions in the game, but it also allows for more cinematic moments without which the “Lara Croft” moniker might feel superfluous. The puzzles are generally well-designed and satisfying, if not extremely difficult, but there are surprisingly few of them. “Always leave them wanting more” may be good advice, it’s entirely possible to take that advice too far.

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Review: Galactic Keep

Do my student loans count as "another sentient creature"?

Do my student loans count as “another sentient creature”?

Galactic Keep was very nearly iOS gaming’s own Duke Nukem Forever, the vaporware yardstick that internet wiseguys trot out to declare that some other game is doing comparatively better — as in, “at least it came out before Galactic Keep.” When Duke Nukem Forever finally slouched over the finish line in 2011, punters wondered where all the effort had gone. No one had expected DNF to be good, exactly, but we expected a spectacle — fifteen years’ worth of it.

By contrast, there is no question at all where Galactic Keep’s six years of development were spent. This is a game that is hand-made the way a Fabergé egg is. There is extraordinary detail everywhere, from the character back-stories to the enormous bestiary of enemies right down to every last insignificant corner of the options menu. Though the game is the work of a handful of people, the game’s art direction is so cohesive and so out-there-weird that it sometimes feels like a found object from an earlier time, like a pen-and-paper RPG printed in a forgotten zine self-published by a slightly unhinged neighborhood character.

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Tales from decrypt: The Guides is a unique puzzler for a year with no Simogo games

Somehow, a satellite

Somehow, a satellite

The Guides came out for iOS and Android a couple of weeks ago, and it escaped our notice then. I am filled with regret about that because The Guides is one of the year’s most interesting puzzle games. It’s a beautifully designed toy box filled with an enormous variety of code-breaking ciphers and visual riddles with a weirdly unsettling story lurking behind them. It’s the sort of game that reminds us why puzzlers have found their greatest form on mobile devices, where they can act as gateways into a surreal universe.

The last couple of years have been well-served with a (mostly) brilliant array of these sorts of games: you ought to have played 2 Dreams and Matchstick Memories but above all else the offerings of Sweden’s Simogo starting with Device 6 and Year Walk. But Simogo have been all quiet this year with their heads buried in the forthcoming Wii U re-imagining of Year Walk. When I say that The Guides is the closest thing we’ve had this year to a new Simogo game I mean that as some extra-strength praise.

The game is the first adult-targeted outing for children’s game maker Kevin Bradford and designer partner Luke Lisi, who designed the badge and branding for the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City. Kelsey’s doing a full review for us but you can get The Guides for two bucks. Check out the trailer after the jump.

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