That blue fella’s a librarian. A Space Marine returned a book late once. ONCE.
Space Hulk is the Max Payne of games: it’s completely absurd, but exudes such constipated seriousness that I find myself able to appreciate its drama. That’s important, because those of us used to the more flexible maps of most tactical games might otherwise find the tight corridors in which these objective-based missions occur too limiting. While this sort of level design tends to put a great deal of emphasis on a few decisions (and a lot of die rolls), that works fairly well with the narrative and setting.
Among boardgame aficionados, the lavish, flexible tabletop game has achieved impressive renown since its first release in 1989. Developers Full Control have brought the game to Mac, PC, and now iPad in a way which keeps the third edition rules intact, but with a presentation and interface which feel well-suited to their new contexts. For many readers, all that really matters will be that it’s Space Hulk and it works, but there’s more to know which might swing the decisions of others.
All three AIs need energy. Clearly, Starbucks has a growth opportunity on the planet Irata.
MULE Returns represents an attempt to bring 1983′s M.U.L.E. to a new generation, a game which merits the renaissance because it introduced effective same-device multiplayer back when the device in question was an Atari computer. That it managed it using real-time auctions and without violence of any kind made it seem sort of like an overachiever in the innovation Olympics. It also has a semi-cooperative element, in which only one player can win, but it’s possible for all to lose, which creates a pressure for players to make deals, which keeps M.U.L.E. highly interactive.
Sadly, MULE Returns lacks everything that made M.U.L.E. notable: it has no multiplayer, and the AI is so simple that it’s almost completely uninteresting to play against. Reviving a 30-year-old game has to be a labor of love, but MULE Returns needed a little more of it.
Very few game experiences start as badly as my first impression of Pathogen: the first thing I tried (opening the options menu) froze the game. The menu is terrible, with shockingly poor tap detection and general poor responsiveness exacerbating the aggravation of having to navigate a structure presented much larger than necessary with no option to zoom out. Worse, even if it had been implemented correctly, the single-player campaign is apparently designed to save your progress only once every five levels (though you can progress to the next set of five after completing only one of the prior set). Then the game takes a break from kicking you in the nuts to poke you in the ear–it overrides the mute button, so that options menu starts looking pretty key.
The setup on the iPad is pleasantly spacious, much like a large island devoted to herding only nineteen sheep.
Sheepland has a casual-friendly art style, relatively simple rules which offer multiple viable strategies, plays fast, and it’s sold at a single price, with no in-app purchases. To me, that sounds like the perfect pitch for an iOS boardgame. Animal husbandry is one of the most broadly appealing themes available, and the snickers from the deviant-minded shouldn’t put anyone off–we, uh, those degenerates who find innuendo everywhere.
The only obvious trouble with such a game is there are some revered gaming pioneers occupying much the same space. Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Lost Cities, and Hey, That’s My Fish! are some pretty serious competitors, many of which have matured into formidable iOS games only after substantial post-release attention. Sheepland shares qualities with many of these, but most of us are better served by one of these more established options.
Apparently the inclusive “or”, with the roles played by execution of the port and lighthearted creativity, respectively.
Videogaming’s lovably crazy uncle, Double Fine, have brought their trick-or-treating RPG, Costume Quest, to iOS from consoles. Describing the game’s premise (fighting monsters on Halloween using the power of your costume while on a quest to save your sibling) doesn’t do it any justice. There’s an imaginative glee of transforming from a boy in a cardboard robot costume into an giant chrome and steel robot. Costume Quest is a love letter to childhood, displaying on screen the sort of over-the-top awesomeness we used to imagine in the years before emptying our inboxes and finishing those TPS reports were our fondest aspirations.
Ports, though, are dangerous. If you think of the fruits of Double Fine’s creativity and humor as mangoes, briefly casting your mind back to Apocalypse Now may help you understand how cripplingly harrowing landfall can be. This is especially true when the control scheme of the target device is necessarily different from that of the original–Bastion is a fantastic example of how seriously it can be necessary to rethink a game for a port to work as well as the original. Costume Quest may best serve the gaming community as a cautionary tale in how seemingly reasonable choices can go seriously wrong.
Cards and pirates? Are they setting up a “poop deck” joke?
Stardock are probably best known to Pocket Tactics readers as the developers of the Galactic Civilizations games, originally made for the uber-niche OS/2 — so the arrival of a casual pirate-themed game may seem a bit like seeing Buzz Aldrin on Sesame Street. Perhaps that goes too far–more like a flashy, undemanding, and unsatisfying Michael Bay flick; that’s more in tune with many of our expectations of causal games.
But, even for those of us for whom “casual” is a bad sign, there are some games in the category which are worthy of attention, just as there are some flashy blockbusters which pose interesting questions. Is the foreknowledge of the oracle of the Matrix compatible with freedom? In this case, the question is whether a nice coat of paint and a few embellishments to a simple probability calculation can elevate Dead Man’s Draw enough to be worth playing. To foreshadow the rest of the review, I’ve now played through almost all of the single-player content and have killed my brand-new 5S’s battery twice, yet haven’t made a single in-app purchase.
From the perspective of the chickens, some of the images are quite morbid.
If you don’t have an iPad used by children, read no further, and come back later this afternoon for Owen’s Pro Strategy Football review.
For those of you still here: Chicken Cha Cha Cha is one of the few games for children with an extraordinarily well-considered interface–perhaps no surprise, given that it comes from The Coding Monkeys of Lost Cities and Carcassonne fame. Not only are the chicken-related assets cute, the animations help direct players’ attention to salient details, subtly for rarely-used features or those of interest only to adults, and more obviously to help younger players focus on their next actions without accidentally taking other players’ turns.
The basic mechanic is Memory: there are a bunch of face-down tiles in the middle, and in order to advance a space on the outer track you have to turn over the tile which matches the space. At the end of your turn you return it whence it came, and the first chicken to pass each of the other chickens (plucking a feather from their tails as they go, to keep track) wins. Where regular Memory speeds up at the end because there are few choices left to remember, Chicken Cha Cha Cha speeds up because the players have made more progress on memorizing a large but stable set of options, which leaves parents feeling like it exercises a somewhat more challenging skill. Even better for parents, however, is the use of parental controls.