This week we have a game made by one of the titans of game design. We’ve also got a text adventure based on one of the classics of science fiction. We’ve also got a couple of puzzle titles, and a euro board game. As always if you have any games you think we should look at, drop us a line on Twitter @Macgasm.
Manhattan Project – iOS(Universal)
The Manhattan Project demonstrates the best and worst qualities of the so-called “Euro” boardgames. Descended from Settlers of Catan, these types of games can be complex, but rewarding experiences. Manhattan leans towards the complex, but has a hard time bringing the reward.
You take on the role of a nation trying to build an atomic bomb. You and other players take turns trying to conduct research, mine for fuel, spy on your neighbors, and then train more workers to get your bomb tested before your opponents. The players are also able to build aircraft and bomb their opponents’ buildings.
You can play online and local games, or against AI players. Once I re-read the rule book a few times, I was able to pick up and play this game. That isn’t something that everyone is going to want to do. The rules are pretty dense, and on the iPhone, they end up pretty hard to read because rather than re-writing the rules using the iPhone interface, they just used a scan of the board game rules.
What’s Good: Interesting game with a lot of depth.
What Sucks: Executed poorly, unreadable rules.
Buy it?: If you’re a fan of the original board game, check out Manhattan. It’s $6.99 on the App Store.
Primitives – iOS(Universal)
Primitives is an action puzzle game for iOS. It’s got an easy premise, you need to guide a shape to the goal within a time limit and collect three stars along the way. (You can skip the stars and take a lower rating, but who wants to do that?) As you advance the courses become more complex, the stages will move, you’ll have to guide multiple shapes at once. Where you’re guiding multiple shapes, they move at different speeds requiring you to work out the timing. The complexity growth curve is very well done, as many puzzle games simply ramp up in a tutorial then drop you off the edge of a cliff. Each of the six episodes of the game introduces a new mechanic, but build off the previous levels.
The level design in Primitives is what really warrants a look. In the second set of levels, there’s a level where all of the stars are in interlocking rings. Each stage requires a good sense of timing and you’ll need to work out the mechanics as you go. If you get stuck and run out of time, you can tap anywhere along your path to reset the level back to that point. The first two sets of fifteen levels are free, and then with the first five of the last four episodes available as well. You’ll need to pay $.99 per episode, or $1.99 for all of them. These also remove all the ads.
What’s Good: Great level design and difficulty curve.
What Sucks: Not clear right away that it is pay to unlock. You have to wait until you’ve unlocked the paywalled levels.
Buy it?: If you’re a fan of action puzzle games that play with mechanics, check out Primitives. Try it free on the App Store.
80 Days – iPad
It is interesting to see Steampunk reinvent/reinterpret early science fiction (Jules Verne, HG Wells, etc.) 80 Days seeks to capitalize on that renewed interest to remake Around the World In 80 Days as a text adventure. You take the role of Passepartout, guiding Fogg around the world to win his wager. You’ll pick the routes and methods to travel. There are multiple paths through dozens and dozens of cities. This means that each play through is completely unique.
As well as managing the itinerary, you’re also responsible for scrounging up funds for your travel by buying and selling goods in each city. You’ll need to talk with fellow travelers to find out which cities are likely to maximize your profits. You can also delay your journey and wait for banks to get credit for Fogg. Your conversations with other travelers will also extend beyond your trips and bartering, leading to side stories and diversions. An example of this is where you befriend a boxer on an airship, and Fogg bets he can train you to be a good boxer. This leads to a whole sequence where you go through the boxing match. ( I lost.) All of this tales place through well written text, and stylized static art.
What’s Good: Well-written lots of opportunity for replay.
What Sucks: Not for everyone.
Buy it?: Fans of classic text adventures and steampunk should check out 80 Days. Grab it on the App Store for $4.99.
Rules! – iPhone
Rules is Simon on steroids. Rather than remembering patterns of colors or sound, you remember the rules to clear tiles from a grid. Each tile has a picture and a number on it, and the rules vary from clearing them in descending order, to only tapping green monsters. For the first ten levels, each tile is the same picture every time.
As you advance you get new rules, but then you still need to remember the earlier rules to clear the rest of the tiles you don’t with the newest rule. For example, the third level is to clear all odd numbers, the second is all green tiles, then the first rule is to clear the tile is descending order. So you’ll clear some of the greens with the odd numbers, then you clear the rest of the greens, and then finally the remaining numbers in reverse order.
Each stage is timed, and your overall time per level will go up or down based on how quickly you completed the level. Each level is the new rule, and all previous rules until all tiles are cleared. As you advance, you will find that you clear levels long before you’re back to the first rule. Sometimes you’ll skip a few along the way. The gameplay is varied enough that the game always feels interesting, and it’s challenge is a slow burn.
What’s Good: Easy to learn, good difficulty growth.
What Sucks: Design looks a bit childish.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a fun action/puzzle game, check out Rules. It is $1.99 on the App Store.
Godus – iOS(Universal)
Peter Molyneux might be the weirdest guy in gaming. He’s got a weirdly obsessive attention to detail in his games, sometimes bordering on the insane. (He was very proud of the fact that in Fable you could use a condom to keep from having children.) Before his tenure as outspoken game developer, he invented the god game with Populous. He has returned to the genre with Godus. You start Godus by rescuing two followers and leading them to the promised land. They then breed and build making room for more and more followers.
As your population increases, you unlock new abilities and technology. Some of these cost worship points, and all of them require stickers to unlock. That may be the sticking point for some people. The sell on freemium in Godus is soft, but it’s there. It’s not egregious, but if you want to play for free, you’ll need patience. You can build and shape the world based on worship points, so that’ll be the commodity that drives you to IAP.
There are also events that you unlock in the game pretty early. These involve loading up some of your followers on a ship and sending them to foreign lands. These levels are essentially puzzles that require you to reshape the land and isolate threats to protect your followers.
This is a fun game, but it does have some weird bugs. I had problems with occasional crashes, and their in game sign in system wouldn’t let me sign in a few times. These seems to happen in spurts and then clear up, so I’m not sure where they came from. The game was good enough that I fought through them until it worked.
What’s Good: Great concept, puzzle levels add depth to the game.
What Sucks: IAP, buggy.
Buy it?: Fans of Populous or god games in general should check out Godus. Grab it on the App Store for Free.