Out Now: Piercing the Veil Edition

By Tof Eklund 15 Jan 2017 2

Creepy and kooky, we've got a regular Addams family of games this Friday the 13th Sunday the 15th. Whether you'll fall in love with Cousin Itt or run screaming in terror may depend on your tolerances for everything from excrement to typos and zombies to included assets.

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The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

I can handle Super Meat Boy, but Edmund McMillan’s Binding of Isaac squicks me out. Just in case my mom is reading this: The Binding of Isaac is kind-of like Legend of Zelda, the game on the gold cartridge that I didn’t want to stop playing at Sean’s second-grade birthday party, except that it’s about being a horrifyingly abused child who “escapes” into a nightmare realm full of monsters he must fight with his own tears and urine. Apparently there’s a critique of religious fanaticism in there, but mainly this is a game where “poop” can be an obstacle or a weapon, and comes in a variety of, uh, textures. Apparently the iOS port is pretty good, but, in an exception to my general policy, I didn’t play Binding of Issac this week: I wasn’t kidding about being squicked. Mom, if you’re still reading this, “squick” basically means “gross out” and it’s different from “trigger,” which describes a powerful reaction to a source of trauma. Squicks are also personal, with no value connotations. By all accounts, the iOS port of Binding of Issac is amazing, I just can't play it.

Everyone, go, have fun, play in the… mud... on iOS. Just don’t tell me about it. I’ll be over here, obsessively brushing my teeth.

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Mysterium: The Board Game

Mysterium is an original, award-winning board game inspired by Victorian spiritualism, and Asmodee’s digital port is just as gorgeous as the tabletop game. You might think of Mysterium as “clue grown up,” [Seriously guts, it's CLUEDO -ED] just with one player as the spirit of the deceased sending clues to the investigating psychics who must attempt to relate the baroque and surreal art of vision cards to the equally hyperdetailed suspect, location, and weapon cards. There’s a deft touch to some of the visual effects, like a pop-up magnifying glass with a realistic fish-eye effect near the edge, but it feels like Asmodee took this one out of the oven a little early, as the game does little to help new players find their footing: the only tutorial is in Story Mode, which is different in some key aspects from a regular game. The writing is the most obvious but most easily correctable gaffe: the story in Story Mode is in need of a professional proofreading pass, and there are some embarrassing instances of placeholder text being left in the game. Mysterium is a social game, and the difference between playing with people and playing with the computer is stark. Chat can’t recreate the table banter you get with your regular tabletop group (if you are so lucky), but it’s sufficient to allow players to ask for help, offer interpretations, and kvetch. You can read Nick's full review here.

My spirit guide is showing me a rider named Update upon a pale horse, but an apple tree blocks the path… Mysterium waits for you to move the planchette on iOS and Android.

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Sonny

You remember Sonny. You don't? What Flash games were you playing in ‘07?!? Sonny and Sonny 2 were some of the most epic games from the golden age of the .swf, a combination of JRPG combat, a Diablo II-style skill tree (from back when people still called them “Diablo II-style” skill trees). There’ve been rumors about the new iOS Sonny: that it would be the original Sonny and Sonny 2, with a third chapter concluding the story, that it would be a remake of those games, that it would be an entirely new story with similar themes, and that it was a hoax perpetrated by a DC area pizza parlor. After playing the new Sonny, and I can confidently say that it is the remake so many OG Sonny fans were hoping for. Like old Sonny, new Sonny is a grindfest, but it’s a remarkably enjoyable grindfest due to little tweaks to the “Active Time Battle” formula, like pausing when a character is ready to act (Hallelujah!) and status effects that are actually worth bothering with. Sonny’s youthful, recently-undead appearance can’t hide the fact that this game rested more on skillful mimicry than originality even when it was new, but it’s still fun, and Sonny’s pick-up-and-play design and short, tense battles are better suited to phone play than they ever were to a browser window.

Zombies to the left of me, ZPCI to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with Veradux. Get Sonny on iOS.

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Journey of Haha

Journey of Haha is a loosely Sokobon-y game that appears to have been made in RPGMakerMV from default assets, so it won’t be winning any originality in visual design awards, but looks have never been the raison d’etre of the Sokobon genre. Early levels are very easy and I didn’t have time for a deep dive, but there's at least the potential for some really interesting level design later on.
Funny Haha or awkward Haha, this Haha’s on iOS and Android.

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Chezz

Here at Pocket Tactics, we love zany experimental takes on chess… we do love zany experimental takes on chess, don’t we? I’ve been wrong before, like the time I said “here at Pocket Tactics, we love Kardashian-themed FTP fashion games.” Chezz follows in the footsteps of Chesh and Really Bad Chess, except that this time the gimmic is that Chezz is a RTS with no turns: instead, pieces need to cool down for a few seconds after they move. Rules for check and checkmate go out the window as well, but castling and en passant capture work as usual. Chezz is FTP, but single-currency, meaning that the power-ups offered by different crowns (for your King) can also be attained by watching enough adds. Multiplayer is necessarily simultaneous, but games are very short, and the best way to figure out just how different Chezz is from chess is to get creamed by a fellow noob who at least knows how to take advantage of the cooldowns. Ouch.

Chezz isn’t your so-many-times great Granduncle Gupta’s chaturaṅga, but it’s worth a look on iOS and Android.

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Mechanical Box

Mechanical Box is one of those rare apps that’s been out on Android for some time and just made the leap to iOS. It’s a puzzle game that's a little like Please Don’t Touch Anything, though lacking that game's distinctive worldbuilding. Mechanical Box's puzzles cover a wide range of styles and difficulties, and only a hint button for explanation or context. I found some of the puzzles to arbitrary and gimmicky, but almost 20,000 people on Google Play disagree with me.

You can now Mechanical Box yourself in on iOS as well as Android.

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