Web gamers, we have two titles for this week. The first is a classic game based on a classic novel. The second game sees Redmond poking a bit of fun at themselves. On the iOS side we have some great games. The first is a city building game set in Quahog that seems a lot like a game about another cartoon town. Then we have the surreal and arty puzzle game that has a lot of buzz. Then finally we have Blizzard’s new form of game addiction released for iOS.


Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Web

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Don’t Panic and grab your towel. It’s been 30 years since the adventures of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect were adapted into a classic text adventure. If you’re a fan of the Novel, Movie, TV Series, or Radio Plays, you’ll find this yet another permutation of the same story. You’ll awake as a hung over Arthur Dent on the day the Vogons have come to demolish Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Before you get visions of space fields, fabulous aliens, and any other visuals, this is a text game. This is about as old school as gaming gets. What works here as opposed to most text games is the writing is hilarious. Most of The Guide’s humor is still intact, which makes the text a lot more interesting. (How awesome would it be for a version of the game narrated by Stephen Fry. )

This is a hard game. This isn’t Halo on Legendary hard, this is Halo on Legendary blindfolded with your fingers broken hard. You’re going to die and die a lot until you find the odd combinations of actions it takes to even make it beyond the first few scenes. There’s a reason old gamers are cranky, and it’s that games like this drove them slightly insane. The language parser is quite specific, which is frustrating. It only has certain verbs and nouns it will recognize, so you’ll have to word things carefully. There is a FAQ that tries to help, but honestly you’re just going to have to rely on the die and die again method.

What’s Good: Fun trip down memory lane, or a peek back into the early days of gaming.

What Sucks: Difficult, text parser is very exact.

Buy it?: If you carry a towel or live by the motto “Don’t Panic,” you want to play this Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If you’re curious about the very earliest days of video games, it’s worth checking this out as well. Play it for free on the BBC.


Escape From XP – Web

EscapeFromXP

You wouldn’t expect Microsoft to have as much of a sense of humor as they do. If you don’t believe me, check out Escape from XP, an arcade shooter about the last IT guy out of XP. You climb up a tower of Explorer windows while you’re attacked by a horde of old Windows icons. They crawl up the windows from each side. You can try to shoot them all, but it’s only a matter of time before you’re overwhelmed. When you die you call for a helicopter evac, and you’re given the option to press the button and end it all for XP. So yeah, it’s pretty much a heavy handed advertisement for you to get something other than XP.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good game. This is a quick little arcade shooter that’s fun to play. The keyboard controls are aping a dual stick shooter. You move with WASD and shoot with the arrow keys. You’re armed with a machine gun, but you can switch to a battery blast to clear the area around you. Think of this as Robotron meets Contra. Except you can’t win. Eventually the only choice you’ll have is nuking XP, but of course that’s the point. If you hesitate on nuking XP, everyone’s least favorite computer mascot Clippy advises you that it’s time.

What’s Good: Fun little arcade shooter with an IT twist.

What Sucks: Game is a commercial that it’s time to ditch XP. You can’t really “win.”

Buy it?: If you’ve ever worked in IT supporting XP, or hand a stubborn relative who refused to update, this may be some needed release. Check it out on IE’s website for free.


Family Guy: The Quest For Stuff – iOS(Universal)

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I don’t subscribe to the theory that Family Guy rips off The Simpsons. Nevertheless, you can’t argue that the new Family Guy game for iPad is essentially Tapped Out set in Quahog rather than Springfield. That isn’t necessarily terrible, but this is nearly a carbon copy. After Peter engages in an epic fight with the Chicken, the entire town is destroyed. You’ll have to help Peter rebuild it from scratch. You use in game currency to unlock new buildings, new characters, and little customizations to bring the town to life. Like Tapped Out, Family Guy The Quest for Stuff uses the freemium model, and it doesn’t take long before getting anything for free requires around a day or so of waiting.

I think that if you enjoy city building games, and can either pony up the cash to speed up the gameplay or are patient enough to play for just a few minutes a day, this might be fun. If you’re willing to pony up, Quest for Stuff uses the same model as most Freemium Games: in game currency. You can spend quite a bit of money here, so don’t say you won’t warned. Fans of Family Guy will find a huge array of in jokes and characters included, so it is worth playing around with.

What’s Good: Fun Family Guy jokes and characters.

What Sucks: Freemium relies on long waits to try and get you cave in for in game currency.

Buy it?: Fans of the show, and only those with patience for the worst sort of freemium model, should check out Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. Download it for free on the App Store.


Monument Valley – iOS(Universal)

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A lot of the reviews of Monument Valley mention its similarity to the PSP/PS3 game Echochrome. Though it shares the mechanic of twisting a shape in 3D to manipulate paths with Echochrome, Monument Valley has a lot more going on. Rather than just simply manipulating paths, there are levers and switches that change the levels. The levels themselves are designed well enough to be characters in their own right. Speaking of, this game is light on characters, you play the lost Princess, and you keep meeting a ghost who gives you clues to the nature of your character’s past. That’s it for the main cast. Scattered throughout the levels is a race of crow people who squawk at you and block your path. That’s it for the supporting cast. There are ten levels to the game, each is a monument that has been forgotten. These have some amazing design work, and break up into several parts. My favorite level is one that looks like a castle and you open it from different sides to turn on lights in each parapet. It plays with both dimensions and causality in a way that feels exciting.

While the design is great, it is easy to tear through this game in three or four hours. It’s engaging the whole time, but it is hard not to feel a twinge of disappointment that there isn’t more to play. The story telling is excellent here, revealing a lot of story in brief touches. The level designs however, are the real masterpiece. Every level feels like a unique puzzle, but you can always find the solution easily as long as you experiment. Monument Valley continues to highlight iOS as a platform where interesting games are being made.

What’s Good: Level design and story telling are masterful.

What Sucks: Short. (New levels have been promised.)

Buy it?: If you’re a fan of arty games, unique story telling, or just fun puzzles, check out Monument Valley. Grab it on the App Store for $3.99.


Hearthstone – iPad

HEarthstone

I was never a huge WoW fan, but I liked the original Warcraft games. Hearthstone revisits that setting with yet another game type, a collectible card game. Think Magic: The Gathering, but with more simplified rules: there’s no land and a much more limited range of card types. However, you are still essentially two characters using creatures and spells to battle each other. The game is online only, as  you battle random opponents via matchmaking. There is a practice mode, which you oddly need to be online for, but that doesn’t give you as much experience or gold. The in-game gold is used to buy new card packs, or enter Arena battles. The Arena battles have you create a new random deck, and battle opponents until you lose. Deck building creates a whole new strategy, but the random order of the cards can tip things in either player’s favor. The smartest thing they’ve done is limit the communication between players. Online play can often be toxic, but by limiting players to one of eight preprogrammed phrases, it limits how annoying people can get. Of course this is the internet, anyone can find a way to be annoying. So you can just mute the other player altogether.

Hearthstone is free to play. It isn’t nearly as naggy as most Free to Play games, but there are two places where money comes into play: new card packs, and arena battles. You can unlock both through the use of in game gold you can earn by playing, but you will have to win six or seven games to get a new card pack or arena battle. However, if you aren’t patient you can simply pay $1.99 to enter the arena. Card packs are a more sliding scale, $2.99 gets you two packs of cards while you can get forty packs for $49.99. I played a lot of this game, and won quite a few games as well, without paying. The money really does seem to be optional here, though that depends on if you’re okay missing out on rarer cards. This is a great game, and really fun, but I am not too sure about the idea of digital collectables. The whole thing just seems like a weird way to monetize a game most people would gladly pay ten bucks for.

What’s Good: Fun game that’s got a lot of depth. Free to play that doesn’t shake you down for money or limit your playtime.

What Sucks: Digital collectibles is an odd business model.

Buy it?:Fans of Blizzard are already likely tapping away, but this game offers a lot more than just Orcs. If you like creative strategy, it is worth checking out Hearthstone. Grab it on the App Store for Free.