Out Now: Holidaze, Holidoom, Holi-loop-de-loop Edition23 Dec 2016 1
New releases have slowed down this week, as publishers are understandably reluctant to put new games, especially premium ones, up against the year’s hottest releases with prices slashed from cheap to DEER (Devs Eat Exclusively Ramen). EA just told Bob Cratchet that he’ll be crunching every day from now through New Year, Jim Young traded in his copy of Overwatch to get Della an Otterbox for her iPad Mini, and Della pawned her Mini to get Jim an Xbox Elite controller, but there’s cause for good cheer as zombies gather here to hear a theme park classic rolling near. This is the last 'Out Now' of the year, so enjoy!
RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic
The indisputable release of the week is RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, with the “best of” the features and maps of storied PC games RollerCoaster Tycoon 1 & 2. Good things come in premium packages, and this is a train rollercoaster set will look good set-up next to your Christmas tree or Festivus pole. Some awkwardness is inevitable adapting builder controls designed for a mouse to a touchscreen, but the Dev Team did a good job of making the interface touch-friendly, and a new tutorial helps players over the original learning curve. Frankly, I’m surprised they released this week, as Classic is now too late for most of the GOTYs out there, including ours, and December releases rarely get considered for the next year’s awards.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
Roll out the holly and bury the landmines, Telltale’s zombie choir has come a wassailing, and their idea of a Christmas Carol is “Re: Your Brains.” A New Frontier (aka Season 3) kicks off with Javi coming home too late to see his ailing father (but not too late to see papa rise from the dead), and the signature theme of The Walking Dead is established once again: zombies are the external stressor that forces people to work together despite their flaws and disagreements, but that same stress frays relationships and undermines cooperation. You know what you’re getting with Telltale, and A New Frontier promises to be another strong entry in the series. You’ll only be disappointed if you expect a different kind of game from The Walking Dead’s usual narrative conventions.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is available on iOS and will surely be biting holiday cheer on Android soon.
Versus: The Elite Trials
Versus: The Elite Trials is the second in Zachary Sergi’s Versus series from Choice of Games. Sergi’s Heroes Rise trilogy was one of the first truly original superhero settings since Wildcards, and now he’s turned his attention to the Battle Royale/Hunger Games genre. Kind of. In the first game in the series, Versus: The Lost Ones, you were snatched from your homeworld and had to fight, find allies and learn the ways of Versus and its ruling council of Elites. In The Elite Trials, you’ve been selected to compete for the privilege of joining the ranks of these powerful beings. There’s a lot going on in here: political intrigue, opportunities for romance, a quest for a missing champion, and a shadowy cosmic threat. I recommend starting with The Lost Ones, but The Elite Trials does include a playable recap for those eager to jump in.
Evhacon 2 looks like a polished 3D ARPG in the holiday spirit of Assassin’s Creed, just set in a fictional analogue to Imperial Rome. When I emptied out this centurion’s sandals, however, I found a lump of coal. Evachon 2 plays more like a tech demo than a game, and it’s a tech demo with neither a smart camera nor meaningful manual camera controls (sometimes a button pops up that will rotate the camera 180, but never when I needed it most). It’s buggy too, in a “well, now the next scripted event will never trigger” kind of way. The story, which somehow involves a massive invasion of not-Rome by terrifyingly emaciated African men draped with all the Hollywood old cannibal and voodoo stereotypes, didn’t set well with me either.
A pinball game? On Pocket Tactics? Look, I said it was a slow week. Besides, Snowball! is a Pixeljam game, and their stuff is so charming you don’t have to be able to play it competently to enjoy it. Snowball! in an expanded and polished edition of a browser game Pixeljam released in 2012. Unlike "faithful" pinball games, Snowball! never thinks of itself as belonging in an arcade. The table is ridiculously huge table and populated with tiny pixel children playing in the snow (no, you can't hit them), while cartoon physics allows for player-actuated electromagnets, additional snowballs of various sizes, and a small but complete breakout game nestled into the table. Call it the Wonderputt of holiday pinball games.
We hope you guys have a great holiday period. Pocket Tactics will resume on December 26th, with a handy guide from Nick on what to spend your store credit on. After that, we'll be kicking off our GOTY Awards content - two Awards will be announced daily, with the Reader's Choice Award being revealed on January 1st.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!