Before we hop into the games this week, I wanted to remind you that the Hour of Code is this week, and Apple is holding special events at retail stores for kids. If you’re an adult interested in learning to code, you can take a virtual class over at Kahn Academy or via the Codecademy app. Who knows? You might find that you have a knack for it, and maybe your game will end up in this column.
Okay, now that we’ve got the evangelization out of the way, let’s get to the games. First up is the newest installment of the franchise that resurrected vector graphics. We’ve also got an Endless Runner take on an arcade classic. Then we close out with a game that looks at the survivors of war.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions – Mac
Geometry Wars is series of a wireframe shooter games that are evocative of classic vector arcade games. It began life as a retro game within a game for Project Gotham Racing 2, then evolved into a full-fledged game that kicked off the first boom of downloadable games on the Xbox 360. Now, the franchise is on its third installment, Dimensions.
Dimensions has a ton of content beyond the original’s black box arcade game. You have an entire campaign of missions to complete. Some require you to reach a certain score within a time limit, while others will require you to keep a timer going by killing enemies to keep adding time. The stages have a variety of 3D shapes that change your approach to the battle—you even get to play boss battles.
In addition to this classic approach to gameplay, Dimensions has some other modes for you to try. The most basic options are the life and time attacks, but you can also play no-weapon modes and try other interesting gameplay tweaks as well.
Expanding the scope of an existing franchise often ends up muddying everything that made the games great. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions expands the game, but keeps the traditional Arcade modes intact for those who want the classic flavor. Throw in local and online multiplayer, and you’ve got a great game for shooter fans.
What’s Good: Plenty of new content as well as classic modes.
What Sucks: This game isn’t easy—if you are new to shooters you’re going to die a lot. Heck, even if you play a lot of shooters you’re going to die a lot.
Buy it? If you’re a classic arcade fan or like arcade shooters check out Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions. Download it on the App Store for $14.99.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath – iOS (Universal)
Console remakes are hit and miss on iOS, but I wonder how many people actually played Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath when it originally came out on the Xbox. The Oddworld series has always had a unique design aesthetic, and Stranger’s Wrath applies its unique feel to a wild west setting.
You play the Stranger, a bounty hunter who cleans up outlaws that threaten a small town. Rather than a six-shooter, you’ve got a crossbow with bugs for ammo, and each ammo type has its own unique effects. One ammo type binds the enemy until you can bounty them, for instance, while another knocks them out completely. If you’re more of a stealth player, you can use these (and other) specialized ammo types to take out enemies before they even see you. You can brute-force your way through the game, of course, but that isn’t nearly as engaging.
The touch controls are pretty easy to pick up, but you can use a MiFi controller if you like (unfortunately, I don’t have a controller, so I couldn’t test this aspect of the game.) Stranger’s Wrath does feel a bit dated in that it’s an action platformer in the vein of Jax and Daxter, or Ratchet and Clank. It may be a contemporary of those titles, but it would have been nice to see the developers actually remake the game with a more modern take on the same concept.
What’s Good: Oddworld is still fun, multiple approaches to the game.
What Sucks: Gameplay is a bit dated.
Buy it? If you missed out on this game the first time, or are nostalgic for PS2/Xbox era platformers, checkout Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. Pick it up on the App Store for $5.99.
The Last War – iPhone
The Last War is another social strategy game, though rather than focusing on real-time gameplay, it takes cues from turn-based games. So rather than sending your units scattering towards bases, you march around a grid, pitting your troops against groups of zombies. Each side has a leader that influences the outcome of the battle, and you can increase your leader’s special skill to boost your troops’ performance.
You’ll also build your city, managing resources and buildings along the way. It’s a bit less dynamic than what you’ll find in something like Clash of Clans, but that allows for a really unique design. The zombie apocalypse has a pretty cool sci-fi vibe here. If the campaign and city-building aspects aren’t your cup of tea, then you can play on the big map, a grid with resources and other players’ cities. that you can scout, attack, and occupy. It’s hard to play like his early on, as you’re holding up your offensive team’s resource-gathering. But once you’ve unlocked a third leader, playing on the big map may be a bit more engaging.
The Last War is a free-to-play game, and it lets you buy various resources, supply packs, and in-game items with in-game currency (you can, of course, buy loads of in-game currency and ensure that you never wait for anything). If you’ve got a modicum of patience, The Last War shouldn’t drive you to in-app purchases—you usually have to wait a half-hour at most, and you can do other stuff while you wait. The daily spin can also offer you VIP status that allows you to hurry some buildings along.
What’s Good: More methodical take on social strategy, good art design.
What Sucks: The IAP-phobic will likely be turned off (though it isn’t egregious by any means).
Buy it? If you like strategy games, or prefer The Walking Dead over Band Of Brothers or Braveheart, check our The Last War. Pick it up on the App Store for free.
Crossy Road – iOS(Universal)
If you’re of a certain age—that is to say, “old”—you likely shoved crap-tons of quarters into Frogger arcade machines. You may have even been lucky enough to have it on the 2600, or on one of the host of different retro consoles and computers that it ran on. If this describes you, then you need to go get Crossy Road right now. This endless runner is essentially Frogger forever. Rather than taking a frog across traffic, you start with a turtle across traffic. Then a river with logs comes up, and then…what? Another road.
Then train tracks.
Seriously, who planned this town?
As you play, you get coins that you can use to unlock new characters to play. Using in-game coins unlocks characters at random; if you want a specific one, you can pay a dollar and get it right away (it beats wasting your allowance in the arcade!). The game doesn’t mimmic Frogger’s pixel art, but the voxel art style gives it a retro feel nonetheless. It definitely hits the nostalgia button pretty hard.
What’s Good: Endless runner version of a retro classic, lots of content to unlock. Classy handling of IAP.
What Sucks: I had four other games to play this week, and I’m hammering away on my iPad.
Buy it? Crossy Road is awesome, totally addictive, and a great tribute to a classic game. Grab it on the App Store for free.
This War of Mine – Mac
When you play war games, you tear through the landscape with machine guns, rockets, and artillery exploding all around you. Buildings and houses get reduced to rubble, and except for in specifically scripted scenarios, there are no civilians to be found. It’s meant to be that way, but This War of Mine explores the lives of civilians during war.
This War of Mine is the opposite of a power fantasy: It’s a story of survival and resource management, akin to the Lost in Blue games on Nintendo DS. It comes to us via 11 Bit Studios, the company that brought us the Anomaly series. Simply put, these folks know how to make great games.
You play a group of three survivors that have to scavenge and rebuild in a country torn apart by civil war. You start with a fridge, a workbench, and a chair, and you’ll have to break apart furniture to get wood for cooking and warmth. And throughout the game, uou’ll need to manage your survivors’ hunger, health, and emotional well being. You spend your days inside your house, trading with merchants that occasionally come by, and building tools and supplies. At night, you will need to choose someone to go out and scavenge.
It won’t take long for you to discover that you need to have someone stand guard at night. Weapons have to be built and are scarce, so don’t expect an epic last stand.
The game’s politics are intriguing, but it wouldn’t be much more than a boring lecture without excellent gameplay. It may have been pitched as a polemic, but it’s an extremely effective survival game.
What’s Good: Huge amount of resources and possibilities to approach the game.
What Sucks: Story is mostly limited to text.
Buy it? If you’re interested in a survival game with an unique twist, check out This War of Mine. Pick it up for $19.99 on Steam.