I apologize for running a bit late with this week’s Games Of The Week. If you can find the source of this alien infection that’s kept me practically comatose, that would be a big help. Despite the weirdness, I spent a lot of time on our first game, the latest installment in the Civilization franchise. We’ve also got a flight sim on the iPad and a stealth action-RPG for Apple’s tablet.
Civilization: Beyond Earth – Mac
Civilization: Beyond Earth had a lot of people excited since it looked to be the successor to Sid Meir’s classic Alpha Centauri. Mac users had to wait a few months to find out if this was true, but I finally got my hands on the game this week.
The concept is there. Like much of the Civilization family of games, Beyond Earth is more complex and has a heavier focus on strategy than Alpha Centauri. But make no mistake, this is a Civilization game. There isn’t a clear idealogical bend to each of the factions, and you’ll find that your terraforming meets a much harsher reception.
If you’ve played Civilization V, you’ll be on solid ground here. Beyond Earth retains the city states from Civ V, albeit in a simplified form. The virtue paths are also present, though also simplified.
The game does have a new mechanic called “Affinity,” which is how you approach life on the new world. Do you try and terraform it to a new Earth? Do you adapt to the new environment and use technology to survive the new world? Or do you seek harmony with your new world? Each of these happen based on your research in the tech tree and the units and wonders you develop. The Quest mechanic in the game exists to give you a narrative structure, as well as showing you different things to explore in the game.
If all that sounds a bit confusing, it may be because you haven’t played Civilization in a while. Beyond Earth could possibly still be accessible the masses, but you’ll need a lot of patience.
The various endings aren’t nearly as obvious from the outset, beyond the “vaporize everyone not wearing your color” option. So while Beyond Earth isn’t an update to Alpha Centauri, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a full on update to Civilization’s game concept, updating the intervening decade or so of changes to the series.
What’s Good: Sci-fi Civilization with a storyline. Lots of variety to gameplay.
What Sucks: Complex. Difficult to approach as a new player.
Buy it? If you were a fan of Alpha Centauri, or just a dedicated Civ player, check out Civilization: Beyond Earth. Pick it up on the App Store for $39.99.
Sim City: BuildIt – iOS(Universal)
I am not really sure why EA wanted to recast SimCity as a free-to-play game, since the older iPhone version was one of those games that I always installed on my devices. I can only assume that there’s a lot more money in metering out how you can build your city.
Unlike other games in the franchise, your factories don’t generate tax revenue in SimCity BuildIt; they generate raw materials instead. You then use these raw materials to build or improve your residential districts, or to develop products in your commercial zones that are then used for more advanced improvements on your residential zones. You can also trade your factories’ output to other cities for cash. These all involve waiting a certain amount of time before you can get them.
The rest of the city management game stays the same. You’ll be responsible for providing parks, fire protections, power, and sewer facilities to your residents. They will demand more of one or another, and if you fail to provide, they’ll abandon their property altogether.
Like all free-to-play games, you spend a lot of time waiting for production. I can live with that, but if you can’t, you can pay. Where this game crosses a bit of a line is that you basically get only about three hours of game play where you aren’t struggling for in-game currency to keep your city’s services going. Like Dungeon Master, I hope that EA dials back the aggressive sales pitch.
I don’t know if this is a true Sim City game, but it is a pretty good casual city builder game. There just needs to be a bit less of the sales pitch.
What’s Good: Takes the free-to-play city builder back to the original city builder.
What Sucks: Really aggressive on the in-app purchases come-ons.
Buy it? If you’re bored with the free to play knock-offs, check EA’s Sim City BuildIt. Download it for free on the App Store.
X-Plane 10 – iPad
The ideal of a full-on flight simulator for the iPad might seem to be a bit on the wacky side, but X-Plane 10 actually works well. I think that the developers knew it might be a hard sell as well, as the game is free-to-play. When you start you can go through a whole gambit of training—complete with take off, landing—and get some brief introductions to other aircraft beyond the little Cessna you get to fly.
X-Plane 10 features some simple free flight modes where you can choose your aircraft, location, weather, and any instrument issues you might have. You can also create online dogfights or flight crews—a nice little sandbox to play in. And you can create a lot of weird scenarios to contend with.
Although you’re stuck with a Cessna at first, you can purchase other aircraft to use. It’s a pretty diverse group of aircraft—you can get everything from an Airbus to a helicopter. The combination of touch and motion controls is a bit touchy, but all in all, it works. I would like to blame how terrible I was at this game on the controls; alas, I cannot.
What’s Good: Very detailed simulation. Lots of options. Good tutorial.
What Sucks: Collecting all the planes is a bit pricey: The game should offer a bit of a discount to unlock all aircraft.
Buy it? If you like aviation and want a cool sandbox, pick up X-Plane 10. It’s free on the App Store.
Retro City Rampage DX – Mac
Before Grand Theft Auto was a big open 3D world you could create mayhem in, it was an overhead open world in which you could create a more limited form of madness. Retro City Rampage DX evokes that earlier GTA, but imagines it on the SNES. In addition to the look of a classic game, it comes filled with references to 80s movies and games.
After a robbery gone awry, you end up “acquiring” a time machine in the form a phone booth, and you’ll need to help a Doc not named Brown get all the parts to fix it. Along the way, you’ll go on rampages, finish side quests, and pick up some odd jobs. The whole open-world experience is here.
The game uses a keyboard-based control mechanism: You move around with WASD or the arrow keys, jump with space, and shoot with shift. It’s a bit awkward at first—the game could really use controller support. When you drive, you can choose between two control schemes: I went with the automatic, where arrows drive the car directly, rather than separate controls for speed and breaks.
Retro City Rampage DX was build upon an ambitious concept, and it works surprisingly well. It is a nostalgia fest, which might limit its appeal, but on the other hand, if you want a crash course in all those snarky 80s references, this might be a good place to start.
What’s Good: Fun open world game with a ton of great writing and references.
What Sucks: Needs controller support.
Buy it? If you loved the old school GTA games, or are just a huge retro game and pop culture nerd, check out Retro City Rampage DX. Grab it for $9.99 on the Mac App Store.
Sneaky Sneaky – iPad
You can distill stealth games down to puzzles. You have to move in a certain way to avoid detection, while collecting treasure and dispatching your enemies. Sneaky Sneaky examines that theme further, creating something akin to a combination of Adventures of Lolo and Assassin’s Creed.
You play as a character fittingly named Sneaky, and you make your way through various worlds, dispatching guards and collecting gems as you go. Each stage is made up of a series of screens, and on each screen you’ll have an enemy and some cover. You’ll need to use the cover to strike at your enemies, or slip by undetected. The game takes on an RPG feel if you’re discovered, as you and your enemy take turns moving around.
Sneaky Sneaky is a really fun game. It makes a lot of effort toward being something unique, while still paying respect to its influences. These are the types of games that I just love on iOS—they’re quick but deep. You can put a lot of effort into mastering each stage and sneaking through undetected, and as you progress you’ll want to go back and see if you can hit new areas with tools you acquire.
What’s Good: Fun stealth game with a lot of depth.
What Sucks: Controls can be a bit finicky.
Buy it? If you’re a fan of stealth games or just fun action RPGs, check out Sneaky Sneaky. Pick it up on the App Store for $2.99.