Last week had some interesting gaming news for Mac nerds. Catan finally came to the Mac. Rockstar had a big sale on their iOS games. There was also an announcement for Ustwo’s next game, Monument Valley.
Pac Man Dash – iOS(Universal)
Pac Man may be the original video game franchise, but other than moving the original game to new platforms, the franchise hasn’t gotten much attention since its heyday in the eighties. Pac Man Dash takes Pac Man outside of his darkened mazes full of ghosts and instead puts him on high speed runs. This game draws far more from Sonic the Hedgehog than it does the original Pac Man games. A side scrolling runner, each of the five levels has fifteen challenges. These range from eating a certain amount of ghosts or running a certain distance before the time runs out. Each run is 30 seconds, but you gain time by eating ghosts.
As you play you can unlock new power ups for Pac Man. These do change the game a bit. Purists may not like this game, but it offers a nice spin on the classic game. The game is a promotion for a new toy line, Pac Man and the Ghostly Adventures. There is an included barcode scanner that gets you bonuses for buying the toys. There are some freemium trappings as well, including a play limit that requires the game to be online and running to recharge.
What’s Good: Reworks the running genre into something more level based, and feels less arcade like as a result.
What Sucks: Pac Man Dash feels more like Sonic than classic Pac Man. Freemium trappings are overbearing.
Buy it?: If you’re liberal about the use of an old character outside of its context and don’t mind some annoying fermium tactics, this is still a fun game. Grab Pac Man Dash for free on the App Store.
Astronaut Spacewalk- iPhone
This is a bit of an older game, but with an update coming that will include iPad support this is worth circling back to. Astronaut Spacewalk is a really detailed simulation of an Astronaut’s experience when doing an EVA from the Space Shuttle. The game has a huge control overlay that takes up the whole screen. It will take some time to get used to the difficulty of control. You’ll need to stop your self when adjusting directions, trying to treat this like a flight sim just ends up with your astronaut drifting around in circles like Major Tom. It isn’t a forgiving game and you’ll find yourself running short on oxygen or propellent pretty easily even in the first stages.
Simulation is a tricky genre. It has a narrow appeal, but requires an intense amount of design work. Space Nerds and sim nerds should both appreciate the level detail that the developer put into this title. You start out simply navigating around the outside of the space shuttle, but later missions have you repairing satellites and doing more complex work with the same limitations in place.
What’s Good: This game is all about the details, and everything is covered in the control scheme. You can change the cameras, pitch yaw, and thrust.
What Sucks: There isn’t much bad about this game, though it does have a limited appeal due to it’s genre .
Buy it?: If you’re a space nerd or are into detailed simulations, this game is worth checking out. You can grab it for $2.99 on the App Store.
Flying Fun- iOS (Universal)
Flying Fun is an app that’s art seems perfect for younger kids. It’s friendly and approachable, and the game itself is fairly simply to play. You press your finger to get lift from the helicopter and remove it to cause it to fall. You try to avoid obstacles and collect coins. There are three levels of difficulty, allowing the game to keep a bit of longevity when you start to get bored. The coins you collect can be used to buy power ups that allow you to play longer. You can also buy new characters to play as well.
This game is simple, and should be fun for younger players. There isn’t much to complain about. If there was something to improve, it’s that the top and bottom of the screen are linked scrolling you back around. This can cause you to crash easily, and it would be much better if both sides were closed off.
What’s Good: A simply game with a friendly art style for kids.
What Sucks: The looped screen just doesn’t feel right.
Buy it?: You can try Flying Run for free on the App Store.
Hakitzu Elite: Robot Hackers- iOS (Universal)
Learning to code can be boring. Back in the early days of computing a lot of geeks cut their teeth making weird little games and entering code manually. Hakitzu Elite wants to recreate that experience, but with more exploding robots. You have a set number of robots, and have to kill all of the enemies in one turn. This is a resource management problem, but your comp-sci textbook never had gatling guns and lasers. You get rewarded for reducing the number of steps taken to complete your task.
There are some issues with the game, as it isn’t always clear what you should be doing. It doesn’t even give you a clear indication that you have to type out the commands manually after the initial tutorial. The really big flaw is that you can’t test your code. You have to just execute the code and start over if you make a mistake.
What’s Good: Fun way to learn the logic of coding. Some pretty deep puzzles.
What Sucks: No ability to test code before executing it. Not always clear what you should be doing.
Buy it?: This is a fun game, and it combines learning code with exploding robots. You can grab Hakitzu Elite for $2.99 on the App Store.
Ittle Dew – Mac
What if you went back and had the animators from Doctor Katz make a Legend of Zelda game? You’d end up with Ittle Dew a new game out on the Mac. The titular character is floating on a raft when she and her flying magical fox sidekick hit the rocks on the beach of a mysterious island. The only shop keeper not he island charges a premium for a replacement raft, forcing Dew to start adventuring. She finds dungeons full of gold coins guarded by a series of puzzles, goblins in costume, and impressively designed bosses. This game would feel at home in the 16-bit era, but has modern cel shaded graphics.
There isn’t a lot to complain about here. This game manages to channel everything that was great about the old Zelda games, you could ding it for a lack of originality, but it was clearly meant as homage rather than imitation. There could be some more prompting, as the game seems frozen when you clear that collectible card and Dew is just sitting there. You have to hit the attack button to continue, but this isn’t obvious at first.
What’s Good: This is a great homage to classic games. It’s vast, and should feel instantly familiar to anyone who grew up playing SNES. The levels feel distinct, and the dialog has a good sense of humor.
What Sucks: Some places where the game could use prompts to avoid confusing the player.
Buy it This is a great game, and is available on the Mac. Grab Ittle Dew from the developer’s website.