We didn’t talk about ALFA-ARKIV when it came out a couple of weeks ago because I had seen a few screenshots and, frankly, I couldn’t quite figure out what it was supposed to. Now I’ve played it, and I still don’t quite think I know. But I am deeply intrigued by it.
I’ve sunk about 45 minutes into this thing, and I don’t want to make any judgements about its quality yet. Hell, I don’t know if it’s a game. In ALFA-ARKIV you’re a hacker who’s stumbled across the document drop of a Chilean revolutionary who’s trying to unravel a mystery about the lone survivor (and purported accomplice in) an Islamic extremist suicide bombing in a Russian puppet state. Who is she, and why did she survive?
The gameplay, such as it is, consists of poring over the documents in the cache, looking for clues that you can relate the AI-controlled people you meet in the in-game chat. Sometimes you’re looking at official police incident reports, sometimes hand-scawled diary entires, and occasionally videos: surveillance of suspects and propaganda reels from ISIS-like mujahideen. The production is slick and ALFA is trying hard to cast a convincing spell. The app acts like a new OS for your device, trying (like Republique did) to present you with a plausible portal to this game’s universe from your couch.
This is not a game to be played on a coffee break or while waiting for an elevator. It’s as demanding of your attention as an interactive fiction game like 80 Days. I can’t say yet how interactive it is, though — maybe there’s some puzzles waiting beyond the point where I jacked out — but I do know that ALFA-ARKIV is a absolutely unique experience. It’s not remotely afraid to tangle with touchy contemporary issues like surveillance and Islamic extremism. How insightful it is on those matters I don’t know just yet. But it’s got moxie for even attempting.
ALFA-ARKIV is iPad-only and it’s free to try; there’s an IAP to unlock the whole game after an introductory segment. Watch the trailer below.
As a teenager, I dealt with my insecurities and troubles the way most teenagers in the 80′s did, I grew a spectacular mullet. This has absolutely nothing to do with Heavy Metal Thunder, the new app from Cubus Games, even though it sounds like it should. Seriously, Heavy Metal Thunder sounds like a terrible set you’d see at the county fair, headlined by Warrant or Faster Pussycat. That said, I did have a pretty awesome mullet.
Instead of a app that lets you hire a one-armed drummer or replace your lead singer with a pale imitation who only got the job because he can’t drive 55, Heavy Metal Thunder is a sci-fi adventure that puts you in charge of repelling an incoming alien invasion. After saying it out loud, I guess the whole sci-fi thing does sound a lot better, especially since Heavy Metal Thunder is interactive fiction in the same vein as the gamebooks from Tin Man Games or inkle. Honestly, the screens and trailer for this one look a lot closer to Tin Man’s take on digital IF.
Heavy Metal Thunder releases on September 3rd, so we can probably expect it next Wednesday night. I’ll be spending the weekend playing the hell out of this one, so I should have a review ready at launch.
Everyone here at Pocket Tactics should be familiar with Luca Redwood’s work. Not only did his last game, 10000000, win puzzle game of the year back in 2012, but the rogue AI, M.E.T.I.S., from his latest game and set forth a challenge that the readers of Pocket Tactics blew apart.
Well, the game that spawned M.E.T.I.S., Smarter Than You, is slated to hit the App Store on September 25.
Smarter Than You is asynchronous Rock, Paper, Scissors which involves lying, bluffing and basically doing your best Vizzini impression except you’re doing it against people all over the world whom your never actually met. If that’s not enough, Luca’s added a crazy monetization scheme that involves giving tips to other players who you enjoyed playing against. Somehow, Luca gets a cut. Or something. Even he’s not quite sure if it’s going to work. Otherwise the game will be free to play. Yes, it’s a free-to-play, social game and I can’t wait to try it out. What’s happening?
Trailer after the break. See you on September 25th. Or, maybe I won’t. Or maybe that’s just what I want you to think.
From the Pocket Tactics New Release Assessment Centre and Horse Racing Tip Emporium high atop Mount Hexmap, the report has just arrived via PT HQ’s elaborate pneumatic tube messaging system: it’s a pretty decent Wednesday night. Also I have some hot horses for tomorrow’s 4 o’clock at Saratoga. Email me about those.
There’s three ports you’re going to want to investigate: two from other gaming platforms, and one from the pulpy world of books. But there’s also more made-for-mobile games that may catch your fancy. A lot of lighter stuff this week, but interesting. Trailers and chat after the jump.
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a comic book that tells stories of super-villains, each with their own dastardly plot, and the small group of heroes who ensure they don’t succeed. The difference between Sentinels and other comics is that Sentinels isn’t a comic book, but a game played entirely with cards. Even so, what you take away from a good game of Sentinels isn’t the mechanisms of the game, but the stories that it creates. For example, there was that time Omnitron killed off The Wraith and Legacy but Ra managed to defeat him on the last turn, just before succumbing to death himself. Or the time that Haka and Bunker were about to kill Baron Blade, but the evil Baron managed to build another Mobile Defense Platform just in time to save himself and, in turn, knock the heroes out of the fight.
Every game of Sentinels has stories like these buried in it, if you’re willing to look past the individual cards and see the narrative that the card combinations can create.
We’ve known about the digital port of Sentinels from Handelabra Games for over a year now, but until Gen Con we hadn’t actually seen any real gameplay. Sure, there were glimpses of the interface and some environment graphics thrown at us, but nothing really meaty. That all ended last week, when Handelabra revealed a trailer showing the game in action. I had the pleasure of playing the game while at Gen Con and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I cannot wait to play some solo games while running 3-4 heroes. I play that way quite a bit at home but, even with Handelabra’s Sentinels Sidekick app, keeping control of all those heroes and the villain by yourself can be a bit overwhelming. On a tablet? Dreamy.
After the break, take a look at some gameplay for yourselves. Sentinels of the Multiverse is expected this Fall for both iPad and Android tablets.
You might think you love Panzer General, but I promise that you don’t love Panzer General as much as Nicu Pavel does, who has been working on his free open source remake of SSI’s PC strategy classic for over two years now. In some cultures, Pavel is now legally married to Panzer General.
Back in January, Pavel brought the web-based Open Panzer to iOS, but this week has arrived for Android devices. “It’s also available on Google Chrome and FireFox OS,” Pavel told me, “but I don’t think it matters for many.” Nope, I don’t think it does either. What about Chumby, though?
Given its HTML 5 roots, Open Panzer doesn’t feel quite like a native app, but Pavel has stuffed it with content like a Zimmerit-covered Thanksgiving turkey. There’s a ton of campaigns in this turn-based operational level wargame, including the just-added “Great Patriotic War 1942-1945″ (Soviet side, 20 scenarios) and “Das Reich (1939-1945)” (Germans, 32 scenarios). It’s not as nice to look at or touch as Slitherine’s Panzer Corps for iPad, but you can’t beat the price.
Pavel’s planning his next update already: Open Panzer 3.0 will be ticking with a new AI and a new weather modelling system.
Gallic indie gaming hero Michael Peiffert sends across the above screenshot of the forthcoming Omega Edition of his extraordinary space exploration adventure Out There, and gosh that is pretty. The Omega Edition was announced back in July and will deliver an entirely new engine and expanded content to the game sometime later this year.
That screenshot “shows perfectly the direction I’m taking for the graphics improvement,” Peiffert told me. “Light use of 3D and lighting effects with hand-painted and much more detailed textures.” This will surely be 2014′s most-guilded lily, as Out There was already one of the most visually impressive games in memory. No word if the new engine will enhance the game’s suffocating sense of loneliness or induce a deeper sense of wonder, but the French have that technology, you know.
Read my review of the game from February to learn more if Out There passed you by earlier this year. Still no hard-set release date for the update (which will be free to existing owners of the game on iOS and Android) but it smells close.
You have never played an empire-building game that takes its genre quite as literally as SettleForge does. This game is Carcassonne as played by the Olympian gods: it’s a solitaire digital board game where you create a kingdom one tile at a time, trying to place tiles that synergize to win the trust of your people.
Developer Andreas Mank told me last week that this is his first original design, but he’s worked in the games industry for some time; his portfolio includes work on Jowood’s PC fantasy RPG Spellforce 2. I played a preview build over the weekend and the game is still pretty rough and full of placeholders (plus the in-game text is a mix of English and German and my Deutsch is nicht so gut) but it already sports what is quite possibly the most beautiful art I’ve seen this year.
At the start of each game, you’re given three missions from your populace (pretty presumptuous of them to drop a to-do list on the guy who’s busy creating the bloody universe) which you fulfill by placing tiles in the right places — hunters need forests to stalk around in, miners need mountains, and so on. Not all tiles can live happily together and some more advanced tiles require prerequisite links to be present — you can’t have a jeweller without working diamond mines and metal smiths. Most of all, you have to be strategic about your placements so as to not paint yourself into a celestial corner.
SettleForge has been in development for three years and will ship this winter for iPad, the devs hope, and it’s going to be a proper game. “We hate in app purchases and we decided to create a game that we love to play ourselves,” Mank told me. Righteous.