Games Of The Week: Heroes Of The Storm, ? Loop, Sonic Runners, Scapefall, The Silent Age

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Some you may be preoccupied with the iOS and OS X betas, but for the rest of you I have some cool games to soak your time. First up is Blizzard’s free-to-play entry in the MOBA genre. I’ve also got the latest attempt by Sega to cash in on their classic mascot. I close out the week with a sci-fi adventure for the Mac.


Heroes Of The Storm – Mac

HeroesOfTheStorm

Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard’s mixtape to their fans. Pulling characters from every one of their franchises, the game is a MOBA with tons of fan service. If this sounds like one of those, “shut up and take my money” moments, you might be surprised to find out this is free to play.

Of course considering how much money came out of the similarly free to play Hearthstone, I don’t think Blizzard is using the wrong strategy. The game sets up a framing story about a nexus that pulls together heroes from all the realms to battle for supremacy, though you won’t run into the story much. This game is focused entirely on multiplayer action.

If you haven’t played a MOBA before, this game actually has a great tutorial for getting into the genre. You play as a hero on a team against another team, each of you has minions that constantly spawn and attack your enemies and their base. You’ll need to balance strategy and tactics to take out of your enemies’ base. You get new skills as you level up in each battle.

If you have played the genre before, Blizzard offers more than just their IP to the genre. The stages are brilliantly designed. Their mercenary camps and titans come from different games and have excellent animation. The best example are the immortals from Diablo which battle. Whichever team’s immortal wins then turns and attacks their enemy and wreaks havoc on he enemies base. The Spider Queen’s lair has characters collecting gems to offer the spider queen, and they can recruit her as well. All of these designs help the game feel less like a grind.

There are daily missions that unlock gold even if you aren’t winning matches. This in game gold is used to buy characters and skins. If you aren’t patient enough to earn your gold through playing, you can just spend real world money. There’s a rotating cast of free heroes so you can keep trying out those until you find heroes you like.

What’s Good: Accessible entry point into MOBA genre, unique stage designs.

What Sucks: Still not a forgiving genre for new players.

Buy it?: If you’re a fan of Blizzard, MOBAs, or both, check out Heroes of the Storm for free at Battle.net.


? Loop – iOS(Universal)

Loop

There is a subtle approach to designing puzzle games that create something truly engaging. Often the games end up being twitchy arcade affairs, or they end up being too difficult to hook you in. ? Loop appears to balance that perfectly, making the game easy to play around with but difficult enough to keep you intrigued.

Each level is made up of pieces that you can rotate, your goal is to move them together until you complete the correct shape. This might seem a bit intimidating, but they do a good job of setting the levels up so that the solution can be reasoned out.

The graphics are minimal, but colorful. There’s a decent soundtrack as well, giving it a spacey feel. This game creates a really nice atmosphere, but it doesn’t really need it. The puzzles are really engrossing. My only complaint is that you can’t figure out how far you’re into the game. You just get the number of the puzzle you’re on, without any idea of how many there are in the game.

What’s Good: Excellent puzzle designs, relies on logical solutions.

What Sucks: No clear idea of how far you are into the game.

Buy it?: If you like logical puzzles, check out ? Loop. Download it for free on the App Store.


Sonic Runners – iOS(Universal)

SonicRunners

I honestly wonder if there are any Sonic fans left out there. The once great mascot of “Sega does what Nintendon’t” has hit the skids since the Genesis era. So I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that his latest game is a free to play endless runner. It’s technically the second endless runner starring Sonic, but Sonic Runners is a bit closer to his side-scrolling roots.

The game takes its stories from the Sonic cartoon show, so you will have to deal with a pretty cheesy take on the story. To be fair they could have left it out altogether, but it is used to punctuate different maps and play modes. Just be on guard against some 80’s Saturday morning cartoon writing.

While this game has tons of trapping of the free to play endless runner, there is a kernel of a good game here. It’s built out of classic stages from the 16-bit era that will have you dashing and spin attacking your foes at high speed. The real problem with that is that you’ll be playing the same levels over and over again. There are new levels that change up the aesthetics and change the course, but they don’t come up often enough.

This game was a disappointment, but if you like Sonic, you’re used to that by now. This is much closer to the great games than almost anything Sega’s done in recent years, it’s a shame that it isn’t more polished.

What’s Good: Perfectly channels 16-bit era Sonic games.

What Sucks: Repetitive levels, lots of free to play gimmicks.

Buy it?: If you’re a Sonic fan looking for something new check out Sonic Runners. Download it for free on the App Store.


Scapefall – iOS(Universal)

Scapefall

The idea of a side scrolling real time strategy game is inventive. Scapefall puts you in charge of Japan, Russia, or The US in the middle of a war. You’re all on a single plane where you send your troops left or right to attack your enemies.

Generally, this game has all the familiar tropes of the RTS genre. You build up factories and apartments to drive your population and wealth. Then you build armies. You’ll also research and launch rockets.

The rockets seem to be the focus of the gameplay, but are mostly an afterthought. They fail often when you’re first starting out, and your army can do a much better job. The game doesn’t seem paced for the kind of ambition that goes into your choices, but the game is still fun. It’s a bit more arcade than strategy, but it is fun.

What’s Good: Quick little RTS game, with tons of options.

What Sucks: Game is too short to explore many of those options.

Buy it?: If you’re a fan of RTS, but don’t want to spend 30 minutes on a match, check out Scapefall. Download it on the App Store for $0.99


The Silent Age – Mac

TheSilentAge

I was thoroughly dismayed when I found out that The Silent Age didn’t even have a single David Bowie reference. What I did find was a competently sci-fi thriller that plays with time travel in interesting ways. You play Joe, a janitor at a military R&D company. You get a promotion after your partner leaves under mysterious circumstances, granting you access to the high security labs.

A mysterious man appears in the basement. He’s shot, dying, and telling you that you’re the only one that can save the future. He gives you a solar powered Time Machine that allows you to jump around in time. When you end up in the future, everyone is dead.

The conceit allows for more complex puzzle solving, as you flip back and forth between the two times. It does often still involve clicking around to find an item to move forward in the game, but the process involves some logic. Overall, this game is about the story. It’s tightly written, and keeps the game moving. It’s a tad on the predictable side, but still manages to be engaging.

What’s Good: Time mechanic makes for interesting puzzles, well written story.

What Sucks: Too much reliance on click and item hunt puzzles.

Buy it?: If you’re interested in a cool sci-fi story, check out Download it from the Mac App Store for $9.99.