The Beatrice twins are great fun at wampa parties on Hoth.
This review of Reiner Knizia’s Dice Monsters will largely focus on the criticism that the game feels random. That’s not very insightful. After all, the title of the game has the word “dice” right in it. But that visceral negative reaction, that a game “feels random”, is actually sort of puzzling. Most of the games I enjoy have substantial randomness to manage, and games which give players lots of choices can still evoke that reaction. Fortunately, I was trained as a philosopher [you don’t say? Read on… -ed.], so I’m always attracted to an opportunity to gaze deeply into my navel and extract a clearer meaning for something my gut has told me on several occasions is naturally fuzzy. Perhaps this will help: if you read on, we’ll mostly be talking about responsibility, that beloved topic of mom speeches and after-school specials.
If that doesn’t get you to jump past the break, I’m not sure what else I can do.
Here’s something I never thought I would type: I played Brass this morning on my phone. Even with the rash of board games being ported to our touchscreens, Brass was one of those games that I always thought was too complicated and unforgiving to make a decent splash in a place like the App Store, yet here it is.
I first played Brass about five years ago and since then it’s become a staple with my game group. If we have four players, there’s a better than 50% chance someone will suggest we play Brass (or another Wallace gem, Tinner’s Trail). It’s a nearly perfect eurogame that doesn’t feel like a eurogame, but I’m not sure why. It has Victory Points, limited actions per turn, and a solitary dude on the cover (although, he’s not as dour as most). Those all go out the window when you’re in the middle of a game, however, and the theme–the cotton industry of northern England in the 1700’s, seriously–really comes to life. Despite the Victory Points and gaminess of the card play, this is an economic sim and you end up feeling like a tycoon or, more likely, a pauper by the end. It’s wonderful, and now it’s on my phone.
Reviews like this are difficult. Obviously, I’ve made my opinion clear on the game of Brass. Therefore, the big question comes down to, does this app let me play Brass unhindered? Do I get the same feeling on my phone that I do around the table? Is it Brass? Yes, yes, and yes.
I ain’t as bluntly violent as a Frank Miller gig, but a silhouette’s noir both figuratively and literally.
Taken together, the loose intellectual property regime applied to game mechanics and the caution which results from high development costs mean that originality is precious to reviewers, and often to players. Simon Christiansen’s delightfully batty interactive fiction work dives off the beaten path and into the surreal with PataNoir, a game which takes the metaphors of the famously colorful noir genre seriously. Seriously enough that you can interact with them, even–your trusty Smith & Wesson revolver accompanies you like a dedicated and worldly servant, and in PataNoir, that means you can talk to it. That turns out to be crucial, because you won’t go into the game with the habits of mind appropriate to your powers over metaphor. If you find yourself facing someone with a head of hair like a bountiful crop of golden wheat, you can harvest that figurative grain, and she’ll now have a buzz cut like a freshly-mown field. Also, you’ll have some figurative wheat in your inventory, which might come in handy if you find yourself, say, having to visit a casino as bereft of luck as a fallow field. Cut hair to win at cards isn’t the sort of causal chain which pops readily to mind.
If you’ve played The Room or The Room Two, you pretty much know what to expect from The Room Three. Fireproof Games hasn’t altered the formula nor added anything new to the mix that could, in any context, be called daring. No, they figured out something that has worked for two enormously popular games, and they’re sticking to it.
This may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. When I finished The Room Two, all I wanted was to spend more time in this universe solving puzzles. The Room Three gives me that, and does it in spades.
There’s no reason for this image to make you question your presumptions, except this caption.
You’ve probably never wondered how to evoke existential dread with a peppy, humble abstract puzzle game. Now you never need to–adding “by Simogo” after the name turns out to be perfect. Just as M. Night Shyamalan can no longer make a movie without a twist ending (because even a perfectly conventional plot would be so out of character for him that it would surprise the audience), Simogo are famous for bending players’ minds. So if it looks like they just found a surprisingly enjoyable, very simple sort of puzzle and released it as SPL-T, players familiar with their reputation can’t help but suspect there’s something more buried in there. So it’s a puzzle within a puzzle, made all the more vexing because there might be nothing to find.
While much of my high school experience is clouded in a chemically and emotionally induced fog, there are a few school-related gems still accessible on my internal hard drive. I remember a philosophy presentation that consisted of me playing Pink Floyd’s Money on a boom box while incomprehensible gibberish from a transparency was projected over my head. It was deep, man. Another project comes to mind as well, mainly because of ROCK. It began with choosing an epic poem to dissect in order to spit out an interpretation whose only purpose, I’m sure, was as a source of comedy in the English department’s lounge. There was only one poem that I wanted to study, and that was Coleridge’s TheRime of the Ancient Mariner, not because I have a sea fetish, but because it had been covered by the greatest rock band that ever rocked, Iron Maiden. As usual, I blew off the assignment until the day it was due and, having never read the actual poem, wrote my interpretation based entirely on the Maiden track. Lucky for me, the song was close enough to the real deal that I pulled a B and no one was the wiser, including myself.
That lengthy and wandering introduction brings us to the puzzle game Magic Flute. If, by some stretch of reality, you need to write a paper about Mozart’s opera of the same name, I wouldn’t use this app as your only source of info. That is, unless the opera is about sliding floor tiles and a general feeling of ennui. If so, you’re looking at an A+.
Well it’s just been ages since we reviewed a game populated by awful racist stereotypes.
Pocket God is an iOS game released in 2009 — which makes it old news for a video game and downright methuselan by iOS gaming standards. A kind of Fisher-Price version of Populous, it was one of the app store’s first mega hits, but in spite of regular updates and spin-offs it is largely overshadowed by bigger-budget fare these days. After this long quiet period it has reappeared, in a cross-over with obscure strategy title Desert Ashes.
Pocket God vs. Desert Ashes is taking it’s cues from a game far older and more revered than either of its two licensees, and that game is Advance Wars. Game Boy classic Advance Wars is a series exclusively spoken of in wistful sighs and nostalgia-fuelled ramblings. For gamers of A Certain Age, it was their introduction to the wonderful world of moving tanks and men around a map while muttering numbers to themselves with great intensity. It mixed charm and accessibility with a solid strategic core — so naturally Nintendo has let the series lie fallow for many years. Like Kate Bush’s acolytes, this absence has seen the series fandom morph into mania, and the internet is spotted with games trying to re-create the old warhorse — Desert Ashes and its predecessor, Mecho Wars, among them. The elegant simplicity of Advance Wars has made it a hard act to follow, and the copycats always seem to lack the progenitor’s charm and craftsmanship. So is this iteration an imitation that flatters or humiliates?
What do you mean you can’t read all the cards from here? Sigh.
If you’ve spent five minutes perusing Pocket Tactics you are likely aware of two things: I’m really into boardgames and I’m also a huge dork. Every now and then these two qualities will combine and I try my hand at creating another VASSAL module.
For those who aren’t aware, VASSAL is a toolkit that lets you create digital boardgames for online or solo play. So, when the urge hits, I will start to scan cards and chits from a board game, import them, and then program the thing up so that I can solo my way through a game for which a professional app doesn’t exist. The problem is, I’m neither an artist or a graphic designer. I have no experience with creating a usable and friendly user interface. In short, all my VASSAL modules are ugly as sin and so convoluted that I’m the only one who can figure out how to actually play the game in question.