When I first heard about The Westport Independent, I thought “Great! Lucas Pope’s fleshed out that newspaper-editing jam game.” It took me a moment to wrap my head around the fact that this wasn’t an expanded version of The Republia Times, and a great many other reviewers have compared The Westport Independent to Pope’s smash hit, Papers Please.
Double Zero One Zero seem proud of that influence: they credit Pope as an inspiration, and the game’s art is cold-war retro-pixelated in a way that invites comparisons, though the extremely restrained palate of The Westport Independent is one of the first hints that this game will go in a completely different direction from the frenetic desperation of Pope’s political games.
One day the fearless genre blenders of game design will run out of raw materials to recombine. On that day gaming will either die or be reborn anew but, until then, we can have an awful lot of fun with genre-mixing titles like Crashlands.
I’m going to die here, aren’t I? I can tell by the mood lighting.
Buried is, in many ways, a classic gamebook. It’s pure decisions, with no statistics or random elements. It also sets out to be a more cinematic experience than the typical Interactive Fiction game, with detailed images of the game’s environments, an evocative soundtrack, and an interesting attempt to auto-pace gameplay.
The game opens in the immediate aftermath of a logging accident in the Kentucky, but it is only the most nominal and necessary of spoilers to reveal that most of the game is actually a survival-horror story set in a secret underground facility.
If that setup has you salivating, then Buried is almost-certainly worth your time. It’s a well-written story that knows the genre conventions it is working with and deviates from them just enough to keep you guessing.
A hallmark of a truly great puzzle game is when they take up space in your mind even when you’re not playing them. You’ll be doing the dishes or some other menial task, and all of a sudden, the solution to that damned puzzle you’ve been stuck on for days becomes abundantly clear. It’s only happened to me with a select few games in recent memory, and A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build is one of those games.
The Aralon writing staff meeting to discuss character development
Aralon: Forge and Flame is the latest release in Crescent Moon Games‘ series of mobile RPGs and is a sequel, of sorts, to 2010’s Aralon: Sword and Shadow. Aralon: Forge and Flame is an open-world 3D RPG in which the player follows quests; explores dungeons, cities, and caverns; and is tasked with finding the bastards who killed their father all while bringing peace to the kingdom of Aralon.
If there are two things that reliably distract us from the doom and gloom of the Mt. Hexmap Writer’s DungeonTM, they’re match-3 RPGs and CCGs. Imagine my surprise, then, when word came that a combination of the progenitors of both genres—Puzzle Quest and Magic: The Gathering-was in the works. However, my excitement was checked by the lackluster recent releases in both series–Marvel Puzzle Quest and Adventure Time Puzzle Quest suffered from poor free-to-play balance and Magic Duels has been basically non-functional for months. Thank goodness that Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest was able to overcome most of the shortcomings of its predecessors. It’s the video game equivalent of a chocolate peanut butter cup: two familiar tastes that are even better together.
I always wanted to drive a Ferrari, but this one is a real POS
One of the Trese Brothers’ first games was Templar Assault, a Space Hulk clone with a few new wrinkles. There’s no shame in that: Space Marines versus H.R. Giger was destined to become a game genre from the moment Aliens hit the big screen back in 1986. Games Workshop just gave us the definitive tabletop version by giving all the marines power armor (there’s no “I” in “mecha,” Ripley).
Narratively, Templar Battleforce is a sequel, set later in the history of the Star Traders universe, but this expansive and polished game is a xenomorph of a different ichor. The influence of Warhammer 40k and X-COM is still clear, but this game is a strategy-RPG at heart, more like The Trese Brothers’ last release, Heroes of Steel. More than anything else, Templar Battleforce reminded me of Atlus’ Super Robot Taisen games: there are oodles of fiddly bits to adjust and level up, but no tedious grinding, only a series of fixed battles with story told in-between. Some of the time you get to choose from a short list of deployment options, but there’s no overworld to wander, just a tech tree, unit management, and the next mission waiting for you.
There is a school of thought that you should judge a game by how much the mechanics immerse you in the theme of the game. By this standard, Steam: Rails to Riches is a runaway success. Navigating the loops within loops strategy feels like piecing together endless tiny cogs inside a steam engine. Playing the game is akin to being tied to a track in front of one.
This is not a criticism: it’s a warning. Some people love this stuff. Martin Wallace, who designed the original tabletop version of Steam, is their patron saint. His games can be brutally unforgiving on those who don’t play to the best of their ability. If the other players don’t hammer you, the mechanics will let you do it to yourself.