Apple’s spring media event has come and gone, and some people are measuring their wrists, while others are welcoming their new USB-C overlords. Me, I’ve got some new games you won’t have to wait for. First up this week is a new free-to-play TCG/SRPG hybrid from Square. We’ll also take a look at the remake of a PS One-era classic. Finally, we’ll close out with a beautiful snowboarding adventure for iOS.
Heavenstrike Rivals – iOS (Universal)
Heavenstrike Rivals is the newest free-to-play title from Square Enix. Equal parts SRPG and card game, it takes cues from games like Ironclad Tactics and Scrolls, while adding in the flavor of Square Enix’s JRPG titles.
The writing isn’t as good, obviously, as those other titles, and Heavenstrike Rivals relies heavily on basic RPG tropes and character types. The Kingdom of Lunnain is a steampunk kingdom in the skies, a series of islands held aloft by giant chains. After an invasion of the fallen, the world gets split in two: the regular kingdom and the Forsaken area. You play a new captain in the Forsaken area fighting off the Fallen with your squad of monsters. It’s only slightly convoluted, and you can skip most of the dialog.
The battles take place on a grid, and you and your opponent place your monsters in one of three “lanes.” If a monster makes it across to the other end of the grid, it attacks that side’s captain directly. You build your squad by buying random characters or winning them in battle. Some of the artists behind the Final Fantasy games designed Heavenstrike Rivals’s characters, so they’re very excellently done.
Heavenstrike Rivals features online PVP and event missions in addition to the main quest, which should be more than enough content to keep you entertained. Though the game is free to play, I never hit a point at which the game became too hard to play without paying for extras in the twelve hours I spent playing it over the past week, so that tipping point might be buried later in the campaign.
What’s Good: Great character design. Plenty of content.
What Sucks: Story is pretty cliche. Lots of stereotypical character tropes.
Buy it? If you don’t mind a game that’s light on the story but heavy on gameplay, check out Heavenstrike Rivals. Download it from the App Store for free.
Magic Touch – iOS (Universal)
Magic Touch is the sort of casual arcade game that becomes almost instantly addictive. While it is free to play, it has none of the trappings of that format that make it so insidious. Instead, you just pay to remove ads.
And the ads aren’t even all that invasive—you’ll get a pop-up when you start the game, and another you finish.
The game is fairly short, too: You play a wizard in a castle who must ward off attaching knights who are buoyed by balloons. To keep them out, you’ll need to trace the symbol on each knight’s balloon with your finger. As you progress, you’ll find that some have complex symbols, while others have multiple symbol-laden balloons that you need to contend with.
You collect coins as you go and you can use to by power-ups that appear as you play (they come in handy when you get the higher levels). The backgrounds don’t do much, but they do provide some variety.
The game ramps up the difficulty in a way that makes thirty seconds to a minute feel like an eternity. This is the kind of craft you used to see in classic arcade games that needed to deliver value in a short time.
What’s Good: Quick game that provides a short yet intense experience.
What Sucks: Doesn’t always pick up your symbol tracing on the first try, which can be frustrating.
Buy it? If you’re a fan of arcade games, or simply like unique play controls, check out Magic Touch. Pick it up from the App Store for free.
Oddworld: New and Tasty – Mac
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is a classic game, though I wasn’t sure how well it had aged. Luckily, the remake Oddworld: New and Tasty ensures that you don’t have to experience those PS One-era polygons—I’ve revisited more than a few titles in that era, and trust me, they don’t look great.
The gameplay, on the other hand, has aged perfectly. Puzzle platformers have experienced a renaissance thanks to games like Last Inua and The Cave, but Oddworld is a different beast entirely.
You play Abe, a Mudokon who finds out that his employers intent to turn his entire race into their next meat product: You have to escape the factory and help as many Mudokons escape as you can. The entire game centers around stealth and puzzle solving, so while you will have to jump and run, you’ll also have to find ways to trap—or sneak by—your enemies when you hit them. You’ll also need to sneak through obstacles like motion detectors and disable mines.
The game doesn’t control badly with a keyboard once you get used to it, but I would rather play with a controller, and unfortunately, my Logitech and Xbox 360 controllers didn’t work. I also suspect that this game’s rather difficult ramp-up will not going sit well with modern players since you have you use trial and error to work through levels.
What’s Good: Nostalgic trip with a huge upgrade.
What Sucks: As difficult now as it was on the PlayStation.
Buy it? If you’re a fan of the original Oddworld games, or are just looking for a very challenging mix of platforming and puzzles, play Oddworld: New and Tasty. Download it from Steam for $14.99.
Killing Time At Lightspeed – Web
Games are traditionally about your agency in a world: The choices you make have a direct outcome, and usually result in you saving the world. But Killing Time At Lightspeed is the first game I’ve seen where the agency you have only affects what you know about the world, not what happens to it.
The game is a riff on old school text adventures, but rather than having you “Get Lamp,” you’re reading a futuristic version of Reddit and Facebook. Your character is on a near-light-speed trip to a new planet, with the journey taking you a half an hour or so. In that time, your friends are living out thirty years back home.
Killing Time At Lightspeed features lots of material about the people themselves—as well as how they react to a world where implants and AI become exponentially more widespread each decade. And as you like and comment on statuses, you get to see and interact with the story as it happens.
The news area has all sorts of interactive buttons, but none of the stories are even remotely fleshed out, which is a bit of a disappointment. But in fairness, the game was developed as part of a jam and therefore was put together in a a limited amount of time, so those extras may have ended up on the cutting room floor.
There will be those who won’t feel that Killing Time At Lightspeed is a game, as you don’t have much to do but change how you react to the information you receive. However, I don’t feel that you’re going to play a text adventure in your Web browser if you’re looking for a traditional game.
What’s Good: Excellent story. Very unique gameplay experience.
What Sucks: News area of game is not fleshed out beyond headlines.
Buy it? If you want to see a very unique game, play Killing Time At Lightspeed. Go play it for free.
Alto’s Adventure – iOS (Universal)
The endless runner genre has this ability to survive in a new permutation, evolving just enough to maintain survival, and Alto’s Adventure is just the latest example of this phenomenon.
Alto’s Adventure centers around a simple concept: You snowboard down a mountain to catch your escaped llamas. This is a single-button game in the vein of Flappy Bird and its ilk—you simply tap your screen to jump. Hold your finger down after you jump, and you will backflip as you go, which allows you to do tricks as you go to increase your score.
The in-game animation is beautiful and very fluid. You can tell that Alto’s Adventure’s designers paid close attention to every aspect of the game’s vibe, right down to its ambient soundtrack. The weather and time change as you play, and it has really cool night scenes where Alto and the llamas are just silhouettes against the brilliant night sky.
As you play, the game will increase in difficulty, and you can collect coins that you can use to unlock various upgrades and new characters.
Simply put, Alto’s Adventure is an excellent example of mobile gaming’s incredible potential.
What’s Good: Beautiful animation. Great soundtrack. Lots of depth for a simple concept.
What Sucks: Ramp mechanics are a bit touchy. Takes a little longer to learn than you might expect at first glance.
Buy it? Unless you hate snowboarding for some reason, go grab this Alto’s Adventure. Pick it up on the App Store for $1.99.