New games are starting to trickle out again now that the holidays have passed, and we’ve got a cool mix of titles and genres to share with you this week. First up is a tech demo for the Mac that requires some real life skills. We’ve also got an indie classic that’s come to the iPad. Finally, we have a puzzle platformer with a cool design.
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Endless Express – Mac/Web
Endless Express lies somewhere between a simple Web game and an art project: In it, you’ll need to navigate the timetables of an otherworld train network and try to make your way home.
The game begins with you realizing that you fell asleep on the train, and all you have to work with is a timetable listing station connections and times. You can explore each station’s surreal surroundings, but you’ll want to pay close attention to the schedule to make sure that you catch the train to your connection. Endless Express has some serious rough edges, but that’s to be expected considering the game is a tech demo. Still, the mechanics and design are interesting enough to warrant a look.
What’s Good: Surreal design. Fun mechanics.
What Sucks: If you’re looking for something epic, this isn’t it.
Buy it? If you’re interested in unique game design or surreal art, check out Endless Express. Download it or play for free on its maker’s site.
Crime Fighter – iOS (Universal)
Crime Fighter is a DOS game that a friend recommended to me when it was ported to iOS. In it, you start out as a petty criminal and try to build your game in a small town: You can rob houses, steal things from the dock, kidnap children, blackmail the rich and powerful, and recruit a team of criminals to help you.
“A turn-based Grand Theft Auto” is an apt description. Shootouts with police and rival gangs employ a turn-based gameplay mechanism, while the burglary mini games have you pushing boxes around within a time limit. Crime Fighter has a lot of variety, but it isn’t optimized for iOS: Its graphics are impossibly small on the main navigation screen, and some ads obscure portions of the interface (they do pass, but it’s still annoying). If you like, though, you can pay to remove ads—and to get a leg up when you start the game.
What’s Good: Cool concept. Lots to do.
What Sucks: Not optimized for iOS.
Buy it? If you were a fan of the original Crime Fighter on DOS or just want to see a turn-based GTA, check out Crime Fighter. Download it on the App Store.
Papers, Please – iPad
Papers, Please was already awesome on the Mac, as I noted when it came out in 2013, and bringing it to the iPad was a no brainer. The game plays out mostly via text and simple animations, and manipulating the in-game paperwork just feels more natural on a touchscreen.
If you missed out on the Mac version, you need to play this now: You take the role of a guard at the newly opened border of Arstotzka. At first, your only job is to deny foreigners, but as the border opens, your job gets more complex: You’ll need to deal with smugglers, anti-government activists, diplomats, and everything in between. Papers, Please has you using TSA-style nudie scanners—a bit out of sync with the game’s 1980s setting—and detaining suspicious migrants, among other things.
While you navigate the odd ethics of Soviet immigration, you also have to manage the health of your wife, son, mother in law, and uncle, all of whom live with you in your government-provided apartment. To keep your family healthy, you need to pay for the medicine, food, and heat needed to keep them well. How much you earn depends on how many people you process, so the tighter the border restrictions, the harder it is for you to make a living. It makes all those other “offers” you receive seem that much more lucrative.
What’s Good: Great game with a branching story and lots of interesting changes.
What Sucks: Might be a bit slow for action fans. Lacks stats or management for RPG fans. Sits in a unique niche.
Buy it? If you didn’t pick up Papers, Please for the Mac—or if you want to replay it—download it for $7.99 on the App Store.
Hero Emblems – iOS (Universal)
Hero Emblems sits in a genre that I just can’t get enough of: RPG puzzle hybrids. My love of the genre is pretty apparent—I played 1000000 until my eyes bled, I loved Faif, and Puzzles & Dragons was a brief addiction. Hero Emblem goes out of its way to give an actual story, which goes above and beyond what most games of this genre deliver.
The plot is typical for an RPG: You play as the Royal Guard as it searches for a kidnapped princess and tries to right the ills of your beleaguered kingdom. The puzzle portion is standard match-3 stuff, with each symbol attached to one of your characters, so in addition to managing attacks and magic, you have a healer and a shield to maintain. When you get larger combinations, you can power up attacks in interesting ways.
Hero Emblem probably isn’t as addictive as, say, 1000000, but it’s close. I do have to complain that the game’s sound and music ignores your mute setting and runs roughshod over whatever else you’re listening to. This wouldn’t be so bad if there was a way to turn the music off altogether, but alas, there isn’t.
What’s Good: Story elements bring more to the RPG side of the equation. Match-3 puzzle game is well designed.
What Sucks: Ignore system mute setting. No way to turn sound off.
Buy it? If you like RPG puzzle games, Hero Emblems is about as good as it gets. Pick it up on the App Store for $2.99.
Gunbrick – iOS (Universal)
Gunbrick is a platform game that puts you in the pilot seat of a cube with a gun on the bottom. You roll your way through stages, avoiding obstacles as you go. The puzzle platformer is a lost art, but Gunbrick nails it.
You’ll need to work out how to maneuver your cube in order to jump up, hit switches, and fall with your protected side facing down. The levels are short but well executed: They slowly introduce different gameplay elements and features that add up over time. Gunbrick holds together really well, even as game elements are added and taken away. The game’s hyper-stylized art style helps as well, giving it a cool, other-worldly feel.
What’s Good: Platform puzzles with lots of good design to show off.
What Sucks: The only way to get ahead is to fail. Game requires lots of trial and error.
Buy it? If you enjoy puzzle platformers or highly stylized art, check out Gunbrick. Pick it up on the App Store for $2.99.