Pandemic, The Cave, Transport Tycoon, NBA 2K14, and Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign are our Games of the Week

| Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

There isn’t much for game news this week, but please email me with any games we should be checking out at MMcconnell [at] macgasm.net and I will take a look. On to this week’s games.

Pandemic – iPad

So it may not work well for a big game night, but the iPad often makes board games even better than their physical equivalents. Pandemic is another shining example of this genre. The game has a simple premise, you and up to four players take the role of various scientists attempting to cure four diseases that are spreading throughout the world. Each turn has you moving your scientists around trying to treating infected cities, building research stations, and moving around the world. The world is divided into four colors: yellow, blue, black, and red. You’ll need to collect five cards of one color to cure a disease. After each player’s turn they draw two cards that correspond to cities that get new infections. If a city has more than three infections, it becomes an outbreak that spreads to the surrounding cities.

Pandemic

Each of the scientists you can choose as characters has a special power: the medic heals all disease in a city, the scientist cures diseases with less cards, the dispatcher can move other players pieces. You and other players will need to leverage these abilities to combat the diseases, as the game doesn’t have a very forgiving difficulty curve. It will take some time to even figure out how to manage your time and resources. There are a lot of near misses before you are able to best the game. The best thing about these co-op board games is that more experienced players actually help newer players get a grip on the game. Also the anti-social can play all four roles in the game pretty easily, though there isn’t an official forever alone mode.

What’s Good: Fun cooperative board game that is translated well to the iPad.

What Sucks: Game has a steep learning curve.

Buy it?: If you’re looking for a geeky board game that values cooperation over competition, grab Pandemic for $6.99 on the App Store.

TheCave

The Cave – iOS(Universal)

The Cave reunites Lucasarts alums Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer to make a hybrid platformer/adventure game. This was previously released on consoles and PC/Mac. You choose three of seven characters all with their own unique stories and explore a talking cave full of puzzles and the objects the characters’ most desire. The game has a unique design where there are four static levels, and three levels that are tailored to for each character you select. This increases the replay value, though the third time you’ll be playing two characters you’ve already played to get the final story you missed. This is a fun mixture of platforming and adventure, and the stories all have a darkly comic feel. (The Scientist seeks the fortune she was promised for destroying the world, the Monk seeks revenge for being passed over for master of monastery, and the Twins seek to end their parents.)

The real question is how well this games was translated to tablets. Sadly the answer is not well. The whole game is intact, but the controls make some of the exploration and jumping nearly impossible. There are several passages where you need to drop dynamite and run away, but the drop command isn’t always reliable. It’s a shame that the controls are such a mess, because this was one of the best games of the year on the Mac. You do get used to it after some time, but when the controls do fail, it’s extremely frustrating. If you don’t have any other way to play this game, it is still worth playing . This was such a fun nostalgic exercise, while still being wholly original. The characters are all well thought out as well, and their stories are told simply buy fully.

What’s Good: Game and character design is unique, but still feels like a tribute to an earlier time in gaming.

What Sucks: Controls are a huge mess and really need some work.

Buy it?: If you don’t have a way to play this o PC or Console, grab it on the iPad for $4.99

TransportTycoon

Transport Tycoon – iOS(Universal)

If you enjoy Sim City, but would much rather focus on building train and road systems, Transport Tycoon is going to scratch your itch. As you don’t build cities, you simply supply them with their transportation. In the process you create your successful business.

This is a remake of an old PC game, but it has been given a good amount of polish for the iPad. There is a complete tutorial that shows you how to build your train tracks and stations, create bus routes, cargo stations, and all the other units in the game. Problem is that the stats portion of the game isn’t given much explanation, which is how your success is determined in many of the scenarios. The manual is pretty obtuse, so you’ll need to be patient to get the hang of it. If you weren’t patient you wouldn’t be playing a transport simulation, now would you?

What’s Good: Really nice translation of building controls to the iPad. Hug variety of scenarios and content.

What Sucks: Tutorial on stats and advanced building are nonexistent, manual isn’t very helpful.

Buy it?: Fans of the old game, or big simulation fans should grab Transport Tycoon for $6.99 on the App Store.

NBA2k14

NBA 2K14- iOS(Universal)

The should just call this game Lebron 2K14. Since the centerpiece of the new NBA game on iOS is a career mode that focuses on Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Other than the addition of a very overdramatic take on the last few seasons for the superstar, this is the same NBA game as last year. Even in the full season simulator, this is a pretty arcade take on basketball. You don’t call plays, you don’t even substitute players. The game manages a lot of that for you.

It’s a hard call for sports games, as some people really just want a quick game with their favorite team. Those players are really going to get what they want here, but is it worth it to buy the game again just for updated rosters? Lebron fans will get a lot catering to them, as the story mode really dramatizes his seasons. It resembles something out of a wrestling game. If you’re really into managing stats and rosters, then the iPad version of the game isn’t worth it. The game lacks any real depth.

What’s Good: Lebron mode is a weird take on a sports game, focusing on telling a dramatic story for the season.

What Sucks: Game lacks depth, not much different than previous game.

Buy it?: Unless you’re in need of a Lebron focused game, or you have to have updated rosters, pass. The game is $7.99 on the App Store.

DarkReign

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign – iOS (Universal)

Puzzle Quest was the original game to combine Puzzles and RPGs, and is still one of the best series out there. They teamed up with Marvel for the newly released Dark Reign title for iOS. This all takes place during the Marvel crossover of the same name, where Norman Osborne slowly replaces the avengers with his own “heroes.” You play as a squad of heroes attempting to stop him. You may be picturing big super hero action scenes, but instead you should be picturing a grid of gems. This is a match three style puzzle game, but the gems you match add up to allow you to invoke your hero’s powers.

For a free to play game, there is very little pressure to actually buy some of the in game currency. Though that does seem tied to the rarer heroes, so you likely will need to pay out if you want to collect every possible permutation of a hero. There’s modern and classic iterations that have their own upgrade tracks. You do collect the two types of in game currency to level up your characters and unlock more character slots by just playing the game, so it does seem that the free to play aspect is minimized for all but the truly impatient or obsessive. There is multiplayerish, as you can fight another player’s roster at random. The downside is that you get inundated with messages about your characters, so you may want to tweak the notification settings on the app.

What’s Good: Puzzle Quest and Marvel fans can both finding something new here from the other franchise. Nice to see a free to play game that doesn’t constantly push the player for IAP.

What Sucks: Multiplayer causes a lot of notifications.

Buy it?: It’s free and a really well done game, check it out on the App Store.

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