I hear a lot of people bashing the large amount of free to play games on the App Store. If you’re one of those people you better pick up our first game, a translation of a fantastic survival game for the iPad. I’ll also take a look at how Microsoft proves that bad reputation with their first mobile Age of Empires game. Then we close out with a casual game from one of gaming’s foremost critics.
This War Of Mine – iPad
Making a game like This War of Mine into a mobile game is a great idea. The game was already a personal story of scavenging and survival in a war zone. Shrinking it down on the iPad makes it feel more personal, and adds some further depth.
I loved the game on the Mac and everything has been ported to the iPad intact. The gameplay is still split into two phases, day and night. In the day time you build up your shelter using materials to scavenge together furniture, stoves, and other survival essentials. At night, you’ll pick locations and scavenge for materials, or you can steal and raid other survivors for food. Beware, at night the same thing can happen to you. As the game advances you’ll be able to trade and find other survivors to join you.
One of the things I liked so much about this game was that it was a very human story about war. Games are usually about extraordinary people doing extraordinary people, and This War of Mine is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That makes the stories you discover all that more human and engaging. All of this is backed up by a solid survival game that has you really think out how you use materials, and may force you to make hard moral choices.
What’s Good: Good story, well crafted survival mechanics.
What Sucks: Game might be too heavy for some players.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a game that tells a different kind of war story– or like survival games, check out This War Of Mine. Get it on the App Store for $14.99.
Stephen Colbert: Escape From The Man Sized Cabinet – Web
The idea that a major network would create a text adventure to promote a show is strange enough, but the fact that it’s a thinly veiled tribute to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is just mind-blowing. I suppose that we shouldn’t have expected anything less from Stephen Colbert, who is promoting his iteration of The Late Show. You click links to advance through the story, some areas with multiple choices that allow for you to explore more thoroughly.
There are a lot of jokes, as you would expect. On the other hand, I don’t think that I had expected the entire game to be a strange tribute to C.S. Lewis. The whole game is a strange exercise in nostalgia, but it’s pleasant. You can play through the whole game in less than hour, though you may want to play through a few times to check out all of the different paths you can take. This might just be a weird advertisement for the upcoming shows, but it’s a lovingly crafted one. Games as advertisements aren’t a new thing, the NES era had more than a few games based around brand mascots.
What’s Good: Fun game with a lot of references.
What Sucks: On the short side.
Buy it?: If you’re a fan of old school text adventures, or just like Stephen Colbert, check out Escape From The Man Sized Cabinet.
Age Of Empires: Castle Siege – iOS(Universal)
Dumbing down Age Of Empires into a Clash of Clans clone was a huge misstep for one of the better RTS franchises in modern history. (Though I wasn’t sure what I expected out of Microsoft after Ensemble Studios folded.) Once I got past expecting it to be a proper Age of Empires game, I did find that this isn’t a terrible take on Clash of Clans’ style.
There is a bit less to do than something like Dominations but the game has you build your castle and defenses in one game mode. In the other game mode, you attack other players castles. There’s also a campaign but that isn’t well thought out.
The game has the usual free to play mechanics, though this one is focused on paying to avoid waiting a few hours. I think that the game isn’t going to stand out in what’s starting to be a pretty crowded genre. It isn’t that it’s poorly made, it’s just a bit too generic. Which is a waste of the rather strong name.
What’s Good: Straight-forward and easy to pick up.
What Sucks: Unoriginal, poor use of franchise name.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for another Clash of Clans clone or just don’t mind what they slap Age Of Empires’ branding on, check out Age Of Empires: Castle Siege. Get it on the App Store for free.
Million Arthur – iOS(Universal)
Million Arthur is a game and anime collaboration, in the form of a card battling RPG. The game has an interesting framing story about Merlin gathering millions of Arthurs (get it?) to battle for leadership and fend off invaders. The battles take the form of card battles, each card a different knight in your army. The battles take place either as random encounters as you explore camelot, or you can battle other players.
Battle is a bit strong to describe the gameplay of this game, since it mostly is just watching an automated combination of your cards attack. I think that this is a trend that has popped up in JRPGs, and I am not sure how much traction it is going to get with western players.
You can pick from your knights and create a set of attacks based on your level. However when you actually battle, everything is automated based on the set up you choose. It’s not that engaging, and the exploration is just hitting button and watching basic animations.
On the other hand, the art in this game is really cool. The illustrations and character design is done by a variety of anime artists. You can also download full voice animation for the cut scenes, which are static art with word bubbles.
The game is free to play. The IAP is focused on both limiting play and buying chances to unlock rare and special cards. The latter I don’t mind so much, but it does feel like you only get 10 or 15 minutes of gameplay every few hours.
What’s Good: Excellent art style, varied game modes.
What Sucks: Gameplay is largely automated. Limiting free to play model.
Buy it?: If you don’t mind a game that plays itself, check out Million Arthur. Grab it from the App Store for free.
Hatfall – iOS(Universal)
Yahtzee Croshaw has spent quite a few years ripping games a new one in his video column, Zero Punctuation. He has made adventure games in the past, but he has now entered the mobile gaming fray with Hatfall. The game has a simple premise, you need to maneuver your guy underneath a falling hat.
It gets a bit more complicated when the screen is cramped with identical guys, or there are two things falling at the same time. There’s ways to figure out how to survive and grab your hat, if you succeed enough you can unlock bonuses. Some of these bonuses decorate the office you see in-between stages, while others unlock mini-game modes. (The best of which is a hat dating simulator.)
You can also unlock bonuses that change the way your clones look, and make it easier to figure out which character is you. The game is actually pretty fun, especially with the various mini-games you can unlock. I am not sure how much staying power the game will have, but it’s a well crafted time waster.
What’s Good: Variety of mini-games keep it interesting.
What Sucks: No good way to keep track of the modes you’ve unlocked.
Buy it?: If you’re a fan of twitchy arcade games and foul mouthed games critics, check out Hatfall for free on the App Store.