Would you believe that this is an exhilarating screenshot?
I’m sure Dave is going to mention this later when he does Out Tonight, but I wanted to very quickly stick my head in the door to say only this: SPL-T is awesome.
SPL-T was announced and released in one neat little flourish today. It’s a new Simogo game, here to redeem a year that we previously believed would have to get by without one. It is an absolutely ingenious puzzle game. My first two goes with it were spent blindly groping around making moves at random — and then it just clicked. It clicked hard.
SPL-T is very simple: I won’t bother attempting to explain it because you will understand it faster through play. But go get it. It’s my favourite puzzle game of 2015 — sorry Dr Croft. I can see SPL-T earning a permanent spot on my devices.
This is a game that only the makers of Device 6 and Year Walk could have made: if these screenshots had turned up in my inbox coming from an email that didn’t end in “@simogo.com”, I would have trashed them so hard Oscar the Grouch would have felt it. This is a game that has fewer animations than the ATM you visited at lunch today. Tio Salamanca from Breaking Bad has a more ambitious sound design. And yet: it is the year’s most elegant puzzle game.
As happens every week, I missed some games in yesterday’s Out Tonight post. The best of the forgotten games this week looks to be Kindo from French developers, Space Bears. They bill it as “a medieval board game from the 21st century”, but I’m not sure I know what that means, so lets take a closer look. Actually, during its development it went under a different name, Kingdoms, and Owen’s already heaped praise upon it.
It’s a simple tile laying game in which players have two actions per turn, either laying new tile or fortifying an existing tile. The goal is to capture your opponent’s king, and Owen compares the game to Go and Chess with the aesthetics of Letterpress.
The game has a single player mode against three different levels of AI, but it seems the best way to play is multiplayer. For that you can choose pass-and-play or online via Game Center.
Kindo is available for iOS Universal and runs $2. Check out the trailer after the break.
Two new releases that are flaunting the usual Wednesday night release convention and just popped up on the app stores this morning. It’s anarchy, I tell you! Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.
The first is Arnhem: Airborne Assault, a scrappy little wargame from Richard Berger. It’s not going to win any beauty contests unless all of the other contestants are members of AC/DC but it seems like a pretty good little hex-and-counter wargame. It’s a WWII affair that puts you in charge of the Allied paratroopers making the ill-fated airborne assault on Holland in 1944. The combat model is big on fog-of-war, so considerations like moving your troops through forests and maintaining contact with the enemy are a big deal. There’s a couple of genuinely tough scenarios in there, but I haven’t spent enough time with the game to decide if it’s Clever Tough™ or Throw Your iPad in the Canal Tough™. You can find out for yourself for two bucks: it’s available for iPad and for Android, too. This one’s got online multiplayer for up to four players, too.
A gameplay video of this, plus another new release below.
Last summer when French developer Paul Vauvrey showed me his memorably elegant abstract strategy game Kingdoms, I noted that his only mis-step was giving the game a title that no one would ever be able to Google. Nothing less than sensible, Vauvrey has renamed his product Kindo which is rather cute, I think. Bonus: the only current Google results for that name are for this jazz fusion band from Buffalo, who look like they won’t put up much of an SEO fight.
Kindo is very close to shipping now: online multiplayer and AI are up and running, and I can tell you from having played a pre-release build this week that the AI is an absolute bear. Have a watch of the trailer after the jump to see how the game plays, and you can sign up for one of the 900 iOS open beta slots right here.
Vauvrey tells me that Kindo should be out quite soon — you’ll need an iOS device running at least iOS 7 to play it.
Ah, yes: the Marble Age. The swords were terrible, let me tell you.
Owen here, temporarily taking back the Out Tonight reins from Neumann. Oh man. I’d forgotten what it was like here in the Pocket Tactics New Release Observatory high atop Mount Hexmap. Cold and airy. A light breeze smelling faintly of freshly rezzed cyberspace. The whole infinite sweep of the App Store stretching out before you for miles and miles. It’s bracing. Stimulating! I notice that the web browsing history has a strangely significant number of searches for sexy pin-up pictures of Vlaada Chvatil. I should probably talk to Neumann about that.
Anyway, let’s have a look at the new releases tonight, shall we? This is the penultimate batch of new games we’ll see in 2014, as the App Store’s game-extruding orifices will all shut next week for Christmas. We’ll have a slew of games coming in at the very last minute on Friday, but let’s look at the ones landing tonight for right now.
What is a mobile video game worth? Quite a lot, say Square Enix, who are stubbornly sticking to their gunblades on mobile game pricing strategy. Their iOS port of PS2 JRPG Dragon Quest VIII launched back in May at the price of $20 — it’s on sale this weekend for the very first time at $15, still a vertigo-inducing price tag by App Store standards. It’s tempting to look at Squeenix and see a doddery old man complaining that kids these days listen to their music too loud and expect their games to cost a dollar.
Cas Prince of PC game developers Puppygames recently wrote that game prices are dropping so precipitously that the rich and diverse ecosystem of game creators we’ve come to enjoy is in danger. That long post includes apparently self-immolating statements like “[customers] are worthless to us[.]” But hear him out.
“Once upon a time, back in the early 2000s or so, games would sell for about $20 or so. Some developers did really well at that price point -– I mean really well. Most of us didn’t do that well, and made beer money, but we carried on making games anyway because that’s what we liked to do, even if nobody wanted them. When we got a customer we were able to treat them like royalty.”
“Then came the Humble Bundle and all its little imitators. It was another cataclysmically disruptive event… You’ve sold 40,000 games! But you’ve only made enough money to survive full-time for two weeks because you’re selling them for 10 cents each.”
Obviously, Prince is talking about one- and two-man indie studios here, not publishing behemoths like Squeenix. And casting Squeenix as the defender of the “premium”-priced game is problematic when the other fork of their mobile games strategy is pushing free-to-play bilge. But at least Square Enix have resisted the temptation to rip out Dragon Quest’s spine and turn it into a freemium cyborg like Namco did with Tales of Phantasia.
I wonder sometimes about publishing this (mostly) weekly price drops post. Am I aiding the forces pushing game prices down? I love getting a game for a dollar as much as the next guy, but many of the games I love can’t be sold profitably at a price point that low. I don’t know. I’ll keep doing it out of inertia for now, but I’m open to the notion that there’s something better to be doing on Saturdays.
Once a month, the PT staff gather around the Official Pocket Tactics Ouija Board and Comcast Customer Service Help Line and (after making the traditional offerings of ASL chits and Vimto) commune with the animistic spirits of the App Store to divine their favourite games of that lunar cycle. This past August, the rituals were particularly draining: not only were there a slew of important releases to choose from, but the App Store spirits kept erroneously rejecting our submission.
After the jump, Pocket Tactics‘ favourite games of August.
A few weeks ago we heard from Luca Redwood about his next project, an iOS game-slash-experiment called Smarter Than You. This is going to be a multiplayer-only game about duelling and bluffing whose only monetisation will come from “tipping” your opponent as a salute for a well-played duel. At the pub the other night, Redwood told me that he didn’t think it was going to make any money. I agreed.
But there’s more here than just a game — Redwood is also working on an AI called M.E.T.I.S. that he says will be able to out-decieve and defeat any human in Smarter Than You. M.E.T.I.S., it appears, has a rather healthy sense of digital self-worth. She’s got a Twitter account that she uses to remind us of her superiority. And this evening, she’s sent me a slightly intimidating email that included an image I couldn’t make heads or tails of. I tried pinging Redwood himself but I haven’t heard back. I’m sure he’s fine though! Rogue AI sending vague threats around the world from his house. He’s OK.
After the jump, a cryptic image that M.E.T.I.S. has invited all of us to decipher.