This weekend was the 3rd annual International Tabletop Day. In honor of all those shuffled cards, graph paper maps, and rolled dice–I take a look at a card game that has migrated to the iPad with some really nice additions. I’ve also got an app that marries Clash of Clans and Civilization. I close out the week with a look at the newest free to play Marvel game.
Boss Monster – iPad
Ever wanted to be a video game villain? If the answer is yes, then Boss Monster will interest you. The game was born on cards– which I’ve played a ton. The iPad game adds some art animation around the original cards, and does more than just set up a virtual table.
The easiest way to describe the game is to use the two player version. You and the AI are each a boss at the end of a dungeon. You choose your character at random at the beginning of the game. You then have a hand with five room cards and two spell cards. You discard two cards of your choice and the game begins.
Heroes will be drawn each turn that try to make it through your dungeon to kill you. They’re fended off with rooms; these are monsters and traps that take away the heroes’ health. If they make it to the end they wound you, if they don’t you take they’re treasure. First player to ten wins. If you get five wounds, you lose. The spells have effects that can help you or hurt your opponent.
I want to stress how fun this game is, as bad draws can make this game punishing early on. It does feel like luck plays a bit too much of a factor, but the games are fairly short. If you get a bad run early on, stick with it the game gets more fun.
The game is free, but this only unlocks a basic two player game against the AI. You’ll have to pay $6.99 to unlock pass and play, an expansion deck, along with all promised future expansions to the game. The art and design of the game is great. It’s a cool pixelated art style, and cards are filled with tons of pop culture and video game references.
What’s Good: Fun game with a neat concept. Cool art and tons of references.
What Sucks: Game can be frustratingly reliant on luck.
Buy it?: If you’ve got any 80’s or 90’s nostalgia, check out Boss Monster. Download it on the App Store for Free.
Back To Bed – iOS(Universal)
It’s easy to praise Back to Bed for its art style. Drawing from Dali’s surrealism to create a dream world, the game has melting clocks and staircases that let you walk on walls. Mirrors connect to other places to act as portals. What I think is odd is that while all of this is inherently interesting, the gameplay steals the show.
You play a facet of Bob’s personality that tries to guide him back to bed. As Bob walks he will always turn right when he hits a wall. If he falls off the edge he’ll re-spawn at the beginning of the level. You’ll need to pick up apples and drop them in Bob’s path to keep him from walking off the edge. Later on, you’ll need to protect Bob from alarm clocks that wake him up and end your game.
The game is difficult, but doesn’t rely on trial and error. As long as you think things out you can easily solve levels without getting too frustrated. This game’s inherent weirdness reminds me of classic games like Earthworm Jim that embraced their oddities. I’m really enjoying the Renaissance of new games that are something more than fantasy or giant space marines as their setting.
What’s Good: Interesting settings, unique gameplay.
What Sucks: The game is missing guidance on some levels to show how large it is or when it is introducing a new concept.
Buy it?: If you like weird games or just intriguing puzzles, check out Back to Bed. Download it on the App Store for $2.99
DomiNations – iOS(Universal)
Ever wondered what Civilization would be like if it was made in the vein of Clash of Clans? Nexon has you covered with DomiNations. This genre mash up is very successful, it manages to keep you as concerned with advancing your civilization as building defenses.
Like Clash of Clans, the game is split into two different parts. Instead of building a base you’re building a village and its people. That means houses, gathering food and gold, and as you advance the things needed to run an economy. You’ll also need to keep an eye on defense as you’ll be attacked by other players.
You’ll be building an army as you play as well. You’ll use this to conduct Clash of Clans-esque raids on other players. The game also has a campaign mode. There isn’t much difference between the two, but the campaign battles are much easier.
Even though this is free to play, they aren’t very stingy with the gameplay. There are wait times when you build things, but they’re in minutes not hours. Resource gathering can be a bit tough, which may drive you to the IAP.
What’s Good: Fun mix of genres, variety of gameplay types.
What Sucks: Resource gathering gets slow pretty early.
Buy it?: If you’re bored with Clash of Clans and are looking for something a bit more complex, check out DomiNations. Download it on the App Store for free.
Vim Adventures – Web
I’ve been finding a lot of programming and sysadmin tutorial apps in my other column, but this week I bring you a game that seeks to teach the command line editor, Vim. The idea of turning a *nix tutorial into an adventure game is already interesting, but Vim Adventures is actually a really good game on top of it.
You begin in an island with just the navigation keys enabled: hjkl. As you move around you can talk to villagers and find new tools to move around. This includes getting around barriers by learning how the cursors move between lines based on position in the lines. Each of the basic Vim commands is introduced via an item, similar to Zelda. I don’t think that you can do much to make Vim any less arcane, but this game gets it as close accessible as it will ever be.
The game gives the basic tutorial away for free which teaches you how to navigate and delete text, as well as the help command. After those first three levels the game is $25 for the remaining lessons.
What’s Good: Accessible tutorial for Vim, introduces concepts with concrete examples of how to use them.
What Sucks: Early on it isn’t clear if you get new items by talking to NPCs or not. Once you get the first item its clear but at first people are telling you things you can do, and you can’t do them.
Buy it?: If you are curious about Vim and don’t want a dry manual, check out Vim Adventures.
Mighty Marvel Superheroes – iOS(Universal)
I think that Marvel has done a great job in saturating the App Store with games based on their characters. On the heels of Clash of Champions, Marvel has another free to play game out in the App Store. Mighty Marvel Superheroes has a more cartoony look, it has a similar look to the cancelled Marvel Super Hero Squad.
The game is a free-to-play brawler. You attack your enemies by tapping on them. Each hero has a special attack as well, which does a lot of damage. The missions you play are fairly generic, you and three other players play against hordes of enemies. There are also boss fights, but not with the Marvel’s villain roster.
If it sounds like I’m down on this game, it’s only because it doesn’t do a great job of selling itself. Once I figured out that this was a free to play Pokemon, it was better. Instead of collecting Pikachu, Charzard, and Squirtle; you’re getting Spider Man, Daredevil, and the Hulk.
Which is where the free to play aspects coming. You have a hard energy limit which you get through in a half hour or so, and then you’ll need to wait an hour or so to play again. You get to spin for one free hero a day, but you can use IAP to get in game cash to just buy higher level and rarer heroes. It’s a pretty standard model, nothing game breaking. I also had problems with the game freezing in odd places. It seemed to be when the game was syncing with the server, so it may just be a hiccup until they have the back end figured out.
What’s Good: Collecting and teaming up the heroes is fun.
What Sucks: Shallow game play. Enemies should be less generic.
Buy it?: I think this might be better for younger players that are comfortable with only playing 30 min at a shot. Grab Mighty Marvel Superheroes for free on the App Store.