This week we have some interesting games for you. On the Mac, a classic sci-fi series becomes an MMO. Then we have a “Rougelike” from the makers of League of Evil. For iOS we have an endless runner steeped in Japanese myth. After that, we have a minimal RPG for loot fans. Then finally we have James Kochalka’s foray into video games.
Star Trek Online – Mac
Star Trek Online had a tough launch on PC. Initially trying to take a run at a subscription model, the game succumbed the same fate as many would-be WoW competitors. Now that it has been free-to-play for some time, the game has made its way to the Mac. Considering the game has been out for nearly four years, there is a lot of content to keep you busy. You’ll need to pick your faction, The Federation, The Klingons, or Romulans. You’ll be introduced to a post Picard galaxy where all of the various factions are at war again, with a Borg invasion thrown in to keep things interesting. Though you can customize your character to fit your particular specialty of choice: Tactics, Engineering, or Science, you’ll always end up the captain. You’ll get a crew that becomes your away team for the on-foot missions, and provide special skills for the ship-to-ship battles. Once you’re in you get a mission that pits you against the Klingons and the Borg, then after that you’re released into the wider world. There is a fairly substantial set of story quests, as well as side-quests. However, what really adds to the heft of the game is the huge variety of user generated missions. (You can make missions, but this is still in beta.)
If you’re even a bit of a fan of Star Trek, there’s a fair amount of material here to keep you interested. If you went into Eve looking for space battles but were turned off by the economic theory, Star Trek Online might be a better fit. Content-wise this is a great game that has a ton of material. Technically there are still some issues with the game’s Mac client. I ran into frequent crashes, mostly when on foot. The game patches frequently, so I’d expect this to be fixed soon.
What’s Good: Extensive content and customization.
What Sucks: Crashy client, frequent patching.
Buy it?: It’s free to play, so if you like Star Trek or Space Sims, check this one out on its website.
Devious Dungeon – iOS(Universal)
Devious Dungeon draws a lot of inspiration from Rogue Legacy. From the developers of the iOS platformer classic League of Evil, this game mixes a Roguelike with a platformer a’la Rouge Legacy, but nixes the whole ancestry and castle building elements. In addition, they’ve added a leveling system that increases your stats. Every four levels you’re also given a checkpoint you can return to in case things get tough. Though each time you return the levels have scrambled. You can buy equipment to increase your stats, and both your levels and equipment persist after you die. Though most rogue-likes feel like a grindfest, this game is pretty casual. Making this an action RPG pushes the lack of story and inventory management to the back seat, and instead it becomes a hack and slash platformer.
Though you can easily dismiss this game as derivative, there isn’t a mobile Rogue Legacy you can play right now. On the other hand this is a more simplistic take on the genre, and on a tablet or phone that isn’t the worst thing. Like the developer’s other title, League of Evil, this game manages to pack retro charm into the design. That goes a long way to making this endearing to players of a certain age.
What’s Good: Strips down Rougelike to essentials, great retro design.
What Sucks: A tad derivative
Buy it?: If you’re an action RPG fan, check out Devious Dungeon on the App Store for $0.99.
Tanuki Forest – iOS(Universal)
Tanuki Forest is what would happen if the developers of Jetpack Joyride decided to get jobs at Studio Ghibli. The game puts you in the role of a Tanuki, and you help guide dead animals through shinto gates to the afterlife. It’s not as depressing as it sounds, and that might have to do with the cute chibi style characters. As you play, you’ll unlock costumes for the Tanuki that will transform him into another animal. These change how your character behaves, which may have been the biggest mistake for the developers to make in this game.
These tweaks to the controls are meant to vary your experience, but they add too much confusion. Runner’s are a genre that thrive on rhythm, and changing the controls in the middle of the game throw that off. You get new challenges as you play, these seem to draw a lot of inspiration from Jetpack Joyride as well. Though you can say that this game is derivative, the character designs are endearing.
What’s Good: Great character design
What Sucks: Confusing controls and derivative gameplay.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a new endless runner (flyer?) in the vein of Jetpack Joyride, check out Tanuki Forest on the App Store for $1.99.
Finder’s Keep – iPhone
Finder’s Keep is an RPG that doesn’t live or die by its story. Instead it puts all of its eggs into your need to level up and unlock new loot. Skipping the pretense of saving the world, it gives the player a set of levels, a shop, and a tavern. Your only directive is to keep going further up the tower. This free to play iPhone game isn’t a lot to look at, as you can see above. Beyond an avatar, your character is represented by disembodied feet and weapons. When you arrive at each new level of the tower, it is filled with fog. You explore, finding creatures to battle and treasures to unlock. Each battle nets you a key to unlock treasure chest that yield even more items. There is a pretty deep item management system. You can unlock enhanced weapons by combining them with materials, or you can trade in others to simply level up your plain weapons.
If you like loot, then you like Finder’s Keep. There is almost zero story to engage the player, and the combat isn’t very deep. The free to play nature isn’t intrusive at all, you’ll find that you’re powerful enough to take on most of the enemies pretty easily. Each of the missions can be accomplished in just a few minutes. This seems to be a game centered on the idea of daily play, but the experience isn’t really compelling enough. The game does have heroic and daily challenges, but you have to play quite awhile before you’re given access to these.
What’s Good: A ton of loot and missions.
What Sucks: Not very challenging, no story.
Buy it?: If you like getting loot as much as you like getting the baddies, this is the game for you. Check out Finder’s Keep on the App Store for free.
Trails of Glork – iOS(Universal)
I never expected to see a game from James Kochalka, let alone an arcade shooter in the vein of Galaga. Glrok is a three eyed alien with a super backpack. The backpack reminds Glork he can do better in his trial to fend off aliens trying to invade his asteroid. If that wasn’t bad enough, two sisters, Zoe and Chloe have new battle suits they use to bully Glork into performing various quests for them.
If it sounds weird, you probably don’t know James Kochalka. That said, even if you don’t care for his odd sense of humor, fans of classic arcade games will find a solid shooter. The game play is a pretty straight forward riff on Galaga or Spaced Invaders. Though for the sake of control, you’re shooting constantly and just controlling how the character moves. The enemies come in waves and then organize into lines and attempt to crash into you. There are enemies that move along the ground that you’ll need to jump over.
The game has flexible controls, you can either play with a virtual controller or just tap and hold each side. The latter is the default method, and it’s the easiest to stick with. As you progress you’ll unlock new powerups like basketballs you can kick up at your enemies. The mixture of classic arcade action with Kochalka’s surreal weirdness is a great combo. What’s surprising is how much depth there is to the game itself, as you progress the game keeps changing enemies and combination with enough randomness to make the game constantly feels fresh. This is a fun game that you can pick up and play for a few minutes at a time, and always get something new from it.
What’s Good: Great character designs, fun writing, lots of variety.
What Sucks: Might be too weird for some people.
Buy it?: If you’re a fan of classic arcade shooters, or like James Kochalka’s comics, grab Trials of Glork on the App Store for $2.99.