Are you ready for some retro gaming? If so, you’ll be happy to know that we’re a little heavy on remakes and re-releases this week. But first, we’ll have at an original mashup of swords and sorcery with bumpers and flippers. We’ll also take a look at an update to a lost classic of the adventure genre, and we’ll close out with an update to Quantic Dreams’ first big hit.
Blitzkeep – iOS (Universal)
BlitzKeep is billed as “pinball meets the RPG,” and while that’s apt, I think it simplifies the idea a bit too much. Each stage has you explore a series of rooms full of monsters that try to shoot your character up: You defeat monsters by slamming into them, which also allows you to level up. Each room has a timer, though, and you need to move on to the next room before the timer runs out. Each stage concludes with a boss fight.
As you play, you get equipment that boosts your player level, but if you run into a monster that has a higher level than you, you’ll die.
BlitzKeep is a fun game, but you’ll need to find paths through levels that allow you to level up and collect equipment before the monsters’ levels get too high. The game has five levels so far, but Elijah Delventhal, the game’s developer, says that an additional episode is coming soon. The existing levels do have some replay value, though, as you can unlock skills that change how your character attacks and moves through each level.
What’s Good: Fun twist on an action RPG. Easy to pick up and play.
What Sucks: Short.
Buy it? If you’re looking for a cool twist on the RPG, check out BlitzKeep. Grab it on the App Store for $3.99.
Heroes of Might and Magic III – iPad
Heroes of Might and Magic III is an interesting game in that it combines turn-based strategy with the resource controls traditionally associated with real-time strategy games. The campaign tells the story of warring factions in the Kingdom of Erathia: You play each of the factions in turn and learn the backstory from each faction’s perspective as you play. It’s pretty standard fantasy stuff, though most of the story-telling comes via lead-in cut scenes.
To play, you navigate an overworld map and play a set amount of moves per turn. As you play your turn, you can capture areas, pick up resources, and battle enemies on a grid. You also have a castle under your control, and you can recruit new soldiers and heroes as you manage the buildings inside your castle.
Heroes of Might and Magic III offers lots of depth, which you would expect from a PC game from 1999, and a multiplayer option provides even more content. That said, I don’t know if this game will appeal to anyone who wasn’t a fan of the original. The learning curve is a bit steep as well, as you can invest a couple of hours in a campaign level only to die halfway through.
What’s Good: Huge game with a mix of conventions from real-time and turn-based strategy.
What Sucks: A bit dated. Tough learning curve.
Buy it? If you’re a fan of the original PC game, check out Heroes of Might & Magic III. Buy it on the App Store for $9.99.
Grim Fandango – Mac
When I heard that Tim Schafer was going to update Grim Fandango, I was really excited. Fandango dates back to the tail-end of the classic LucasArts adventure-game era, and many consider it to be a lost classic.
You play Manny Calavera, travel agent for the dead, and help the souls get their passage to the afterlife in the matter befitting their life. Manny’s down on his luck, though, as he can’t seem to get anyone that isn’t walking or being mailed to paradise.
Grim Fandango is full of noir twists, and its style references classic films like Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon. The contains elements of Aztec mythology and design, and its characters resemble sugar skulls. Overlaying these design elements on top of a 1940s Art Deco aesthetic gives Grim Fandango a really unique feel.
The HD update looks awesome and features improved modeling, lighting, and backgrounds, as well as an updated soundtrack. By default, Grim Fandango still uses a 4:3 aspect ratio, though with an attractively designed border that makes it feel more at home on modern screens. You can run Grim Fandango in 16:9, but it looks squished and weird in that aspect ratio.
I was surprised by how little guidance the game provides: Older adventure games were always a bit obtuse, but you still don’t get many clues in this game. I suggest you follow a walk-through—Grim Fandango is worth seeing in its entirety.
What’s Good: Really cool aesthetic and storytelling.
What Sucks: Really difficult game: Follow a walk-through.
Buy it? If you’re a fan of classic adventure games, or want to see an early example of Shafer’s unique design talent, pick up Grim Fandango. Find it on Good Old Games for $14.99.
Grow Cuby’s Quest – iOS (Universal)
The casual game scene seems like an unending game of Follow the Leader. Once Candy Crush’s became a smash hit, for example, developers rushed to replicate King’s success and released countless match-three games with dubious revenue models. More recently, so many games borrow Flappy Bird’s minimal control scheme that Apple put together a “featured” page devoted to the genre.
Grow: Cuby’s Quest uses tilt controls instead of Flappy Bird‘s single-button control mechanism, but its premise remains simple: Guide the eponymous character through an asteroid field and collect power crystals as you go.
Cuby gets bigger as you collect more crystals, and shrinks as you take hits or stop collecting crystals. If you don’t collect crystals for a few minutes or take too many hits, you die. Various power-ups allow you to suck up crystals, take hits from asteroids with impunity, and shoot a laser to clear a path; you can also collect ice to defend yourself against hits from asteroids.
Grow was pretty fun at first, and it has a ton of unlockable equipment for customizing your character. If you don’t want to play for hours to get these customizations, you can just plunk down a couple of bucks instead. The game works well as a quick distraction, but I do worry about longevity: I’m not convinced that it’ll will stay on your phone for more than a week or two.
What’s Good: Easy game to pick up and play.
What Sucks: Not a lot of variety; lacks staying power.
Buy it? Looking for a quick casual distraction? Check out Grow: Cuby’s Quest on the App Store—it’s free.
Fahrenheit: The Indigo Prophecy Remastered – iPad
Fahrenheit is the remaster of The Indigo Prophecy—for those of us in North America, at least. For everyone else, it’s just a remastered update to Fahrenheit, a game originally released in 2005 by Quantic Dream, the studio behind Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls.
Fahrenheit is unique in that you play three characters through the course of the game. You begin by playing Lucas Kane, a possessed man who is forced to murder another man in a diner bathroom. You’ll also guide him as he attempts to discover what’s possessed him, and what’s causing his hallucinations. You also play as Carla and Tyler, two cops who are working the murder case. It feels odd to work against yourself on each side of the narrative, but as you’ll find out, there is a lot more to the story.
The gameplay consists of point-and-click adventure areas, scripted action events, and conversations. A virtual D-pad doubles as camera control, and the game will prompt you to swipe the screen to interact with other characters. The conversation trees will give you a series of choices for you to pick from, allowing you to set the tone for the rest of the conversation.
Fahrenheit: The Indigo Prophecy Remastered features plenty of updated textures, but most of the underlying animations and structures are the same as they were in the original game. The remastered game definitely looks better, but the facial animations, which date back to the PS2/Xbox era, are a little odd by modern standards.
What’s Good: Excellent story. Nails the tone of a good horror movie. Unique narrative structure.
What Sucks: Gameplay and story are very linear. Not for those who like a lot of open exploration.
Buy it? If you’re a horror fan or like story-heavy games, check out Fahrenheit: The Indigo Prophecy Remastered. Buy the iOS version or Mac version for $9.99 each.