I’m starting off deep into geek territory this week with a game that invokes both Wing Commander and Robotech. We go even deeper into nerd country with a new adventure game from one of the kings of the genre. Even the Angry Birds are getting nerdy this week, with their first RPG.

Now on to the games:


Strike Suit Zero – Mac

StrikeSuitZero

Space shooters is one of the best genres that get absolutely no love. Strike Suit Zero is a game that combines the gameplay of the classic Wing Commander games with the aesthetics of Mass Effect. Oh, and it has a mech. The game puts you in the role of Adams, a disgraced pilot given a second chance to defend earth from Colonial invaders. The early levels have you flying a normal fighter in a pretty straight ahead Space Sim. Once you meet up with a slightly mad AI, Control, you’re given the Strike Suit. This allows you to fly as a normal fighter for most of the time, but after a string of kills you can transform into the mech mode which allows to have missiles that lock onto multiple enemies, and a more powerful cannon. This tosses a bit of arcade action into a more straight-forward game, but it feels like a nice bonus. The story plays out over the communications between your squad mates and the capital ships, which is a nice avoids pulling you out of the game for extended cut scenes.

If I had a complaint about this game, it’s that the game has a pretty steep difficulty curve. The missions, even early on, are long and have few checkpoints. A mistake near the end of a mission might put you back a half hour or so worth of work. (To be fair, that’s somewhat always been the issue with this genre.) The controls are also a bit much to get used to. I played with gamepad, and when you switch between the mech form and the regular fighter the controls change a bit, which can be confusing at first. Despite that this is a really fun game, so it’s worth the frustration. Once you work out the controls, the difficulty is genuine challenge. You’ll need to think more strategically, and figure out the approach you’re supposed to take to each missions objectives. If you’ve ever liked space sim games, especially Wing Commander, this game is worth checking out. If you really like the game, you can also buy a couple of missions pack DLCs to keep the game going.

What’s Good: Excellent integration of story in gameplay, fun gameplay.

What Sucks: Steep difficulty curve, somewhat confusing controls.

Buy it?: Fans of Wing Commander and other space sims should grab Strike Suit Zero. It is $19.99 on Steam.


First Strike – iOS(Universal)

FirstStrike

First Strike is ghoulish fun, though it’s lagging behind the times. It is a RTS focused on a single style of warfare: Nuclear. I think that you have to have a bit of a dark sense of humor to enjoy the over the top nuclear warfare of First Strike. Where you can retake the radioactive wasteland to continue lobbing missiles at your enemies. You play one of a few different factions, named after real world Nuclear Powers, and you work to expand while bombing your opponents into submission. There is a tech tree that enhances your weaponry, defense, intelligence, and unlocks super weapons. Each game takes about forty-five minutes or so, and as you play you unlock new factions. Each of these has missions for you to complete and unlock even more factions. The difficulty curve is a bit misleading, as it has more to do with the tech you have to start with and the number of territories you start with. So you’ll find it difficult to work through the tech tree, attack, and defend, while making sure you’re aggressively expanding.

First Strike seems like it would be some lost PC classic, and there is nothing wrong with that. The touch controls are pretty simple to pick up. You touch a territory to see the available actions: Build, Expand, Research, and debuild. (Debuild lets you get rid of old missiles so you can build newer tech.) As your technology advances you get more options to build different kinds of missiles. The super weapon you choose will be built separately of any territory, it really comes in handy when you’re losing territories faster than you can reclaim them and rebuild you arsenal. Though this is billed as an RTS, I don’t know that I can say that it will impress deep strategy players. Though the resource management and territory expansion can get complex, you have to play this on the hardest level for it to be truly difficult. If your strategy bug lies more with Civilization or Age of Empires, and less with Starcraft or Panzer General, you will like this game.

What’s Good: Dark sense of humor, easy to learn gameplay.

What Sucks: Strategy lacks depth.

Buy it?: If you were a fan of Scorched Earth, or are just looking for a fun and light strategy game, check out First Strike. It is $3.99 on the App Store.


Ferno – iOS(Universal)

Ferno

One of things that I love about reviewing games on iOS, is that there has been a resurgence of arcade style games. Ferno has a simple concept. You control an orange flame. Holes will open up in the stage that shoot out blue and orange flames. You need to dodge the blue flames while absorbing the orange ones. Each orange flame makes your flame a little larger, giving you a larger potential score. As you get larger it gets harder to dodge the blue flames, so you can lift your finger to burn back down to your original size. This clears out any blue flame in your area and banks the score.

The game tracks your highest overall score, and your highest individual burns. These are ranked in Game Center against players worldwide and your friends. Ferno might be a quick play, but it’s addictive. The game is free, and free of freemium come ons. Instead, you have to see ads between plays, which is much better than artificial cool downs and pay to continue. In the old days, this wold be the kind of game that could eat an entire roll of quarters.

What’s Good: Fun gameplay, easy to pick up and play.

What Sucks: If you don’t like simple games this isn’t for you.

Buy it?: If you like quick arcade games, check out Ferno. It is free on the App Store.


Broken Age – iPad

BrokenAge

When longtime Lucasarts designer Tim Schafer took to Kickstarter to fund a new adventure game, the Internet went nuts. With good reason, Shafer worked on some the classics in the genre: Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle just to name a few. That anticipation is a double edged sword, as Broken Age had a lot of hype After some drama around breaking it up into two parts and an embargoed PC release to backer, the game has finally come to iOS. I can’t tell you if it lives up to your expectations, but I really loved this game. I chewed through the game in about four or five hours, and enjoyed every minute of it. The game is split between two characters. Vella is a selected for the Maiden’s Feast, where the towns sacrifice girls to Mog Chathra. (Think Cthulhu as a cotton ball covered in eyes.) She decides to fight back and ends up taking a tour through the other villages in her quest to kill the monster and save her town. The other character is Shay a boy stuck in a repetitive loop of safe “missions” at the mercy of his spaceship’s maternal AI. Once you figure out how to escape this safety, he meets up with Marek. Marek wears a wolf suit, which has to be a Wilfred reference, and encourages Shay to break out of the mold and help him rescue creatures ravaged by war. Each story is really well done, featuring unique puzzles and progression that makes them feel entirely separated.

There’s a lot of great voice acting in this game. Stars like Elijah Wood, Jack Black, and Will Wheaton all do very well in their respective roles. Everyone in the game delivers great performances, not just the big stars. My particular favorites are the two blind girls guarding the Dead Eye God’s Pyramid. Through the whole game, make sure to explore the entire dialog tree with every character. You’ll find a lot to laugh at. Broken Age avoids most of the random click quests that beleaguer many adventure games. You will need to do some work, but the game retains the feel of a graphic novel that you’re exploring. Which brings me to the game’s art style. The game is just beautiful. It picks up some of the character design of Double Fine’s Costume Quest, but the world design is really vivid. The different villages all have their own unique feel and the characters take that theme further. There’s only so much that I can fawn over this game, but it deserves it. Go play it now, so we can all wait impatiently for the second act.

What’s Good: Great art and design, good voice acting, fun game.

What Sucks: Having to wait for Act II.

Buy it?: Everyone should play this game. Grab Broken Age on the App Store for $9.99.


Angry Birds Epic – iOS(Universal)

AngryBirdsEpic

Angry Birds is the franchise that defined mobile gaming, and it seems that Rovio is trying to ensure that they put their birds in nearly as many genres as Mario. After doing some kart racing, the birds are now trying their hands at an RPG adventure. Despite the fact that there is a cartoon and other media, Angry Birds has a pretty simple story. Pigs steal eggs, Birds respond with a genocidal quest to get all of their eggs back, not exactly the stuff of epic RPG stories. Though I doubt that Rovio cares. The rest of the RPG tropes are intact, turn based battles, items and equipment management, and stat management. There’s no doubt that they made a solid RPG, but it depends on how much you enjoy grinding levels.

The game is mostly composed of battles in different stages. You get a limited amount of chances to beat levels, though your health refills between each level. There’s crafting built in to create healing items and weapons, but certain parts of these will require in-game currency. You van also watch cartoons, and I am not sure if that is meant to be an ad for their cartoon or an enticement for the game. All and all this isn’t the worst RPG I have seen on the app store, but it lacks a decent hook. It may be the way that Pac Man fans felt when they saw all the Mario games, I’m willing to cede being too old to get it. There are likely gamers who regard Angry Birds as video games, much in the way people my age think of Mario. I do feel by saying that, I’m selling the game a bit short. It’s crafted well mechanically, and at this point expecting them to give the games some sort of story, even an RPG, might just be overreaching.

What’s Good: Well crafted mechanics, fun intro RPG for kids.

What Sucks: Missing story, usual freemium tactics.

Buy it?: If you want to get your kids into RPGs this might be a great place to start with them. Angry Birds Epic is free on the App Store.