Whew—it’s been a while! What have I been doing since our last Games of the Week installment? I’ve been spending most of my time playing our final game this week—it’s the newest entry in one of my favorite franchises. But first, we’ve also got another sequel on the Mac, though this one is a lot more kid friendly. Meanwhile, if you’re more of an iOS kind of player, I’ve got one of the best retro puzzle games I’ve seen in a long time. Enough blabbing—on to the games!
Bloxland Story – iPad
I think that I am in the target audience to be charmed by Bloxland Story: It combines a retro design sense with a really addicting action puzzle game. Bloxland Story’s best feature might be that it’s a puzzle game that doesn’t have any free-to-play/in-app purchase nonsense. The game is broken up into groups of stages, and each stage requires you to collect a specific amount of blocks in order for you to move on. You collect blocks by selecting groups of same-color blocks that stretch across multiple columns, and if you work to chain selections of three or more blocks in a row, you will earn extra points. The number of points you have when you hit your block goal determines the number of medals you get.
The nice thing about Bloxland Story is its simplicity. This is an action puzzler that challenges you to think fast to make chains—if you have trouble mastering it, you’ll struggle with even the early levels. I think that fans of puzzle games will find something classic and pure here, in a genre that has been heavily polluted by social and free-to-play games. It isn’t that those games are bad, but you never get to just zone out and play.
What’s good: Excellent puzzle game without free-to-play nonsense.
What sucks: Learning curve is tough, fast pace play might turn off more deliberative puzzle fans.
Buy it? If you’re a puzzle game fan, check out Bloxland Story. Pick it up on the App Store for $2.99.
Tail Drift – iPad
Tail Drift is an airplane racing game, except you won’t be soaring through the open skies performing acrobatics. Instead, you race along a twisting path with your rivals. You can roll all the way around the track, and along the way, you can pick up power-ups and speed pads. You can then use those power-ups to drop mines, shoot your rivals, or get a quick speed boost.
The game owes a lot to Mario Kart, but that isn’t a bad thing. In addition to the nromal racing mode, Tail Drift also includes time challenges and distance challenges. The first of these challenges requires you to get a quick lap time—simple enough, right? The latter challenge is a bit more intriguing: The track is overlayed with gates that add five seconds to your remaining time. You’ll need to keep hitting those gates to prevent your clock from counting down to zero. Tail Drift comes with several maps that feature a mix of stage types, and each stage has three stars to unlock. There’s also a bonus item that you can unlock on each map.
Tail Drift lacks multiplayer support, which would give this game a bit more longevity. Once you have worked through the three available maps, there isn’t much reason to keep playing the game. Maybe there’s more content coming, but once you clear the game, it may be difficult to get you to come back.
What’s Good: Fun action, variety of play types.
What Sucks: No multiplayer.
Buy it? If you want a cool arcade racer, pick up Tail Drift. You can get it for $1.99 on the App Store.
The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo – Web
Text adventures have made a neat little comeback as of late. The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo (TUWWFN) pulls out that nostalgia and wraps it up in memories of sleepovers and the urban legends that kids tell each other about video games. For a game that takes place entirely via text in a Web browser, TUWWFN manages to create a creepy vibe. You can finish the game in about thirty minutes, but TUWWFN does offer some incentive for you to continue exploring the game after you beat it.
After you finish, you get to see which of the five endings that you got, and you can get hints on how to change the results of your ending. You can then restart the game and try again. It’s a clever twist, though it exposes some of the rough stitches on the game’s inner workings. You can see where timed events open new possibilities in some menus, but by and large TUWWFN holds up as you work to unlock the endings. For a quick little Web game, this is a robust vision.
What’s Good: Great concept, well executed.
What Sucks: Multiple plays will expose a bit of the inner workings of the game.
Buy it? If you like text adventures, or just want a game that feels like a campfire story, check out The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo. It’s free to play on the Web.
Costume Quest 2 – Mac
My love for all things Double Fine should probably preface every review for their games. Costume Quest was a cool RPG the company made a few years ago, and you can still get on the iPad, but the sequel has just come out on the Mac. Costume Quest 2 picks up tight where the original left off: A brother and sister duo tries to save Halloween from a time traveling dentist (seriously). At first, the game has you going forward in time to Dr. White’s facist dental utopia where all candy and costumes are banned. Soon thereafter, you get dropped back into the past where you have to prevent Dr. White from getting his hands on the time talisman. The game’s new settings gives you a bunch of new costumes and enemies to fight—I particularly enjoyed the very creepy clown.
Costume Quest 2 game doesn’t break much ground, as it’s an expansion on the original game’s concepts. It’s an enjoyable game, mind you, but if you weren’t a fan of the original Costume Quest, you’ll want to pass on the sequel. I like that these games have started to feel like those old TV holiday specials: All of Double Fine’s games have a creative sense of whimsy to some degree, but the Costume Quest series is on an entirely different level. You can build and collect a ton of costumes, each creates a different set of attacks and skills for your character, so you have plenty of room to experiment with how you approach the game.
What’s Good: Fun continuation of a good series.
What Sucks: Doesn’t do anything new to draw in new audiences.
Buy it? Fans of the first Costume Quest—or those looking for a kid friendly RPG—should check out Costume Quest 2. Pick it up on Steam for $14.99.
Borderlands The Pre-Sequel – Mac
I think what draws me most to the Borderlands series is the writing. The games all have a pretty twisted sense of humor, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is no exception. This latest installment is set between Borderlands and Borderlands 2. As with all the games you can take one of four characters—three of them served as bosses in previous Borderlands games, and the fourth is none other than Claptrap.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel plays out as a flashback as Athena is interrogated by the other Vault Hunters, and the game focuses on how this group of Vault Hunters helped Handsome Jack rise to power—an excellent way to deal with how likable a villain Jack was. We get to see that charisma go to work on people, and witness how Jack descends into becoming the total jerk he is in Borderlands 2.
The gameplay formula is unchanged: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is still equal parts Mad Max, FPS, and Diablo. As you go through the game’s various quests, you’ll get tons and tons of procedurally generated guns. So far, the weirdest thing I’ve found was a sniper shotgun that fired five flaming shells at a time. At some point, all the loot does get a bit boring and just becomes loot to haul and sell. The side-quests are really well fleshed out, and many have interesting story arcs of their own.
It’s worth mentioning the “Girlfriend Mode” controversy from the last game: A developer stuck his foot firmly in mouth with a rather sexist comment, which (understandably) resulted in a lot of outrage. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel seems to go out of its way to include plenty of female characters, and by and large, it’s a good course correction.
This game doesn’t do anything new, though—if you like the earlier games, you’ll get more of the same with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. If you hated the earlier game, this latest installment isn’t going to do anything to change your mind. However, it does polish some of the rougher edges from the earlier games.
What’s Good: More of the fun Borderlands gameplay, better side quest stories.
What Sucks: Doesn’t do much new to the formula.
Buy it?: If you were a fan of the earlier Borderlands games, check out Borderlands: The Pre-sequel. Pick it up on the Mac App Store for $59.99.