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.
W, T…where’s an F when you need one? Seriously, how often are games iPhone-only these days?
Haste is about as unoriginal as games get without being mere clones of other games. It involves connecting adjacent letters in a matrix into words, much like Boggle, but with score bonuses like those from Scrabble. Each game lasts only 90 seconds, and it is only playable online against another player. Well, sort of–therein lies the most engaging issue raised by Haste. I’ve never had difficulty finding an opponent within seconds, which means that either Haste is a massive underground hit, or it features AI opponents deliberately presented as humans.
I’d normally use this paragraph to go into more detail about the game, but there’s nothing under Haste’s toga. Online-only Boggle plus Scrabble scoring in 90 seconds is all there is to it. That familiarity and simplicity need not be viewed as a pure negative–those are exactly the qualities which ensure that it has appeal for the older, peripheral gamers who represent one of the greatest opportunities for growing the gaming audience. The AI opponents have names like “Marcia” and “Sharon”, so developer Lachlan Potts appears to have this demographic in mind.
My charioteer enters a turn at ludicrous speed. The absence of a “soil oneself” button among the available orders seems like a failure of verisimilitude.
Have you ever wanted to race chariots in the Roman Empire? No? Excellent–your prudent approach to risk would do the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank proud. Owning some chariots, though, and having some other schmucks race them for you (following your input during each turn-based race), sounds a lot more exciting than farming or trading grain for pots, while still leaving your Health Savings Account intact. I find management sims of interesting pursuits highly appealing (indeed, Owen first piqued my interest in Pocket Tactics by describing Phantom Leader as “Football Manager for fighter squadrons”), and Slitherine chose a marvelously under-used setting for Qvadriga, now ported to tablets from its desktop debut.
Cool theme aside, Qvadriga (Latin for a chariot drawn by a four-horse team) offers a moderately robust management sim complemented by an innovative blend of real-time and turn-based interaction with the actual races. You can move your enterprise to various cities around the Roman Empire, racing on tracks with different levels of competition in cities which specialize in various race-relevant arts. Your chosen faction provides certain global bonuses, but purchasing better horses or chariots can also improve your resistance to damage, top speed, and so forth. The charioteers themselves also have skills which they gain through experience on the track (though they may have some when hired), but all of this complexity is limited by your current city, which offers relatively few options for new purchases. Continue reading…
I have no idea why this game is themed around bulls.
6 Takes! (also known on the tabletop as 6 Nimmt! or Category 5) sits at roughly the halfway point between Uno and Go. It’s a popular family card game which is quite easy to learn, but manages to use a single mechanic to produce recognizable maneuvers and finely-balanced decisions. Players simultaneously select numbered cards from their hand, which are then allocated, lowest first, to the row which ends in the highest lower number. Play the sixth card in a row or a lower number than any which ends an existing row, and you collect a row’s worth of cards to score. That’s all you need to define the gameplay–just score the fewest bull icons, and you win.
For those of us who live in castles and sip Glensillynameich neat, that’s not the greatest pitch in the world [hmm, quite. --ed.]. But from my vantage point, deep in the bowels of Playroom Rinella, there’s a clear attraction to games my children can easily learn but which give me enough to think about to remain completely engaging. It’s quite stimulating to be constantly on the lookout for an opportunity to fill the fifth slot in a row with the number one higher than the last card, or to replace a row so as to force some opponents’ cards onto a row with less space. It’s similarly mortifying how frequently I forget about the existence of a full row while concentrating on the other three, and toss out a card guaranteed to gain me points.
White enemies are high priority targets, mostly because of their offensive hairstyles.
Groundling Games are about as indie as it gets: they advertise that they met in college playing D&D, an endearing background that any nerd can respect. Together they’ve made a tabletop-replicating experience for iOS and Android called Fallen Lords. It’s a natively digital co-operative board game for 1-4 players, heavily inspired by the highly-regarded Ghost Stories. The numerous mechanical differences, including tile-laying dungeon exploration (replacing the defense of a town) and more varied opposition, give Fallen Lords a distinct identity.
While Groundling deserve credit for innovation, especially with respect to the monster abilities which often provide important tactical considerations to balance, Fallen Lords plays very much like the first game of a studio with limited resources.
I know we’ve been trained to expect explosions, but this is what a plan coming together looks like.
Have you ever looked longingly at your mailbox, waiting for your glossy print copy of Pocket Tactics Magazine and found yourself reflecting on the postal system? What an interesting task it must be to design paths for postal deliveries so that everything gets where it ought to go with a minimum of waste and no collisions. Have you, perhaps, thought that you must be able to find a way to do it which would get your treasured reading material into your hands faster? Perfect Paths stylizes this sort of path-planning into a round-rectangle, relaxing pastel exercise in spontaneous cranial combustion.
Notice the subliminal “T” shape, indicating Truth.
iON Bond is a well-presented, deliberately paced puzzle game with one glaring flaw. While there is no chemistry content beyond the attraction of opposite particles and repulsion of equals when bonded, but even a small number of particles can interact in many ways, especially with real-time control over the duration and timing of bonds. Mere messing about will often put you in an unwinnable situation, so most levels involve some careful analysis of what is possible given the limited tools at your disposal prior to the attempt to execute a plan. Or, if you’re me, the fat-fingered attempt to execute part of an ill-conceived plan the failure of which is informative enough to make the solution more salient.
The system is simple enough that it’s possible to simply deduce a solution from the outset, though savvy readers have probably already guessed that my excuse for failing to do so will be that this is rarely the most efficient method of finding a solution. The aforementioned flaw comes from the interface: you make bonds by dragging your finger between two particles, and remove them by swiping your finger across an existing bond.
This means that the more crowded the area, the more likely it is that the place you’ll start swiping when you try to break a bond will be close enough to some other particle that the game will interpret this as a drag to make a new bond. Such crowded areas are also exactly the ones in which timing is most crucial. The remainder of the review will consist of profanity-laden emphasis of the resulting frustration. Perhaps it’s a metaphor for the negativity of breaking bonds.
Seventh-graders, you’ve been training for this moment for years: a talented creator needs a drawing of a unicorn.
Dream Quest is the opposite of Warhammer Quest.
Owen wrote of Warhammer Quest, “There’s little in this game that you haven’t seen elsewhere, but you’ve rarely seen that stuff assembled into such an elegant, sophisticated package.” Dream Quest takes some of gaming’s hottest and most novel elements and joins them together in a tremendously unsophisticated-looking package: it’s a deckbuilding rogue-like dungeon-crawler which unlocks content as you progress across playthroughs. As far as the package it all comes in — let’s just say that it emphasizes that packaging isn’t the game’s focus.