This week we have some interesting games for you to check out. On the Mac, we have a game that combines strategy role-playing with a Viking fantasy story. After that we’ have a classic arcade title on iOS, but how does it play? Then we’ve got a board game on iOS that’s deceptively simple. Fans of minimal puzzle games will like our penultimate title. Finally we have a card game based on a surrealistic cartoon.
The Banner Saga – Mac
The last time that the art in a video game was this good, you had to shove quarters into Dragon’s Lair. Banner Saga looks like it was created in the golden age of animation, but plays like a hardcore strategy RPG. The game takes place in a world where winter refuses to end, and an invasion of Dredge is coming from the North. The Dredge are essentially armored barbarians, and the player is in control of groups of humans and Varl. Varl are tough giants, with a weak alliance to humans. Trying to keep that alliance together is a delicate process, and you’re forced to do a lot of mediation. The developers bring their expertise from Bioware here, with conversation trees that change the way the game plays out. Characters can die as well, which will change the game even further.
This is a game that straddles the modern era of customization-heavy RPGs, with the classic era of strategy focused combat. Managing the characters is fairly straight forward. That simplicity doesn’t come at the expense of customization. It is a bit obnoxious that you have a single currency for leveling up your characters, buying supplies for your caravans, and getting items for your characters. The art style is great, and the story is engaging. It draws a lot from Vikings and Game of Thrones style fantasy, making this stand out from the usual sword and sorcery genre.
What’s Good: Great art, engaging story, easy character management.
What Sucks: Single currency for all items and character management is limiting.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for old school RPG action, but still want modern RPG storytelling, grab Banner saga for $24.99 on Steam.
R-Type II – iOS (Universal)
R-Type is a series of shmups that come from the tail end of the Arcade era. Eventually morphing into a home console series, and a sliding into a tactical genre. R-Type II is still in the series’ golden age. Playing this game in the default difficulty will show you old arcade games make IAP child’s play. This game will chew through lives quickly. The games has an unlimited mode, which removes lives from the equation. (Old schoolers can think of this as Free-Play mode.) If you haven’t played any of the R-Type games, this series is a side scrolling shmup with the hook of secondary vehicles that shoot your powered up weapons. In addition you can charge your main cannon to increase your firepower.
Classic games are always tricky on iOS. Trying to impose touch controls on games from different eras can create a terrible experience. However, there was a lot of work to translate the controls to a touchscreen, which goes a long way into making this game as good as this. There’s no nonsense with IAP, or other gripes with modern games. What you get is a great port of a classic game. (If you are interested in the original, it’s on the App Store as well.)
What’s Good: Great update to classic game.
What Sucks: Difficulty is not forgiving to novices. Be prepared to die and die a lot.
Buy it?: Grab this game if you’re a fan of the original, or are just looking for some classic arcade action, grab R-Type II on the App Store for $1.99.
Qwirkle – iOS(Universal)
Qwirkle is an odd name, but it’s catchy. Fitting for a game that’s easy to pick up and play, but hides a fiendish complexity. Qwirkle is a board game for up to four players. You take turns putting shapes down on the board matching them by color or shape. in a row of colors you can only have one of each of the six shapes, and in each shape row only one of the six colors. You get a point for the number of tiles in each row. It’s a Qwirkle if you can make all six, you get bonuses for creating multiple rows and columns when placing. You can play against, bots, online using Game Center, or pass and play. The online play is asynchronous.
This is a nice quick board game, you can finish a game in about 15–30 minutes. Of course your milage may vary depending on who you’re playing. Even with three bots, the local AI games move fairly quickly. The AI has three lvels of difficulty, which seems to change how they leave tiles for you to play off of. For tile matching, this game is deceptively strategic. That goes for offensive and defensive strategy, but the core of the game is always accessible. This is a nice casual game to play with people who might not be ready for Catan or Carcassonne. While on the iPad this game is great, the interface is not the best for playing on the iPhone.
What’s Good: Simple game with lot so depth in replays. Good multiplayer support.
What Sucks: Interface squished down on iPhone.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a quick board game grab Qwirkle on the App Store for $2.99
Lyne – iOS(Universal)
Lyne takes it’s cues from minimal puzzle games like Hundreds. There’s slightly spooky ambient music that drones in the background as you play, and the striped down graphics. Though they are drawn from similar ideas, Lyne’s gameplay is far more contemplative than Hundreds dexterity tests. Lyne gives you sets of shapes and it’s your job to connect the same color shapes with single lines. The trick is that when trying to complete the other colors, you cannot cross the lines you’ve already made. Later stages add junctions you need to cross a set amount of times to complete the levels. After you play through the initial two sets of levels, a daily set of levels unlocks. There’s a lot of content here.
Lyne is not the sort of puzzle game that you can just twitch your way through, instead you need to think out your plans to tackle each level. It’s refreshing to see a puzzle game that isn’t just another rehash of Bejewled or Tetris. The design to this game is another highlight, as the game manages to be stripped down without being retro. The large amount of content makes this game worth picking up, as you get a lot of game for your money.
What’s Good: Great design, fun, lots of content.
What Sucks: Minimal design and gameplay is not for everyone.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a game to play that requires a bit more planning than reflex, grab Lyne on the App Store for $2.99.
Card Wars – Adventure Time – iOS(Universal)
Ever wanted to play Magic with Jake and Finn from Adventure Time? Well you can’t play magic exactly, but you can play a game that has you summoning creatures to lands and attacking your opponent. Like the show Adventure Time, this game equal parts surreal and whimsical. You lay down your lands and summon enemies of matching types, enemies like the Wandering Bald Man or the Mouthball. There are a lot of variations with the cards, you can create a lot of variations with custom decks. You battle various characters from the cartoon series, as either Jake or Finn. Though this is a paid game, it does have a stamina and in-game currency.
It doesn’t seem that you need to worry about having to fight with the stamina system to keep playing, unless you start losing battles. The in-game currency is used to unlock new cards, as well expand the number of card available in your deck. This isn’t a free to play game, and this feels like a shakedown. If four bucks isn’t enough for the game, find the real price it should be and charge it. This mars what is actually a pretty fun game, and if you don’t mind grinding away to get what other can shell out cash for, check it out.
What’s Good: Fun game, captures the spirit of the show.
What Sucks: Needless IAP program that shakes down paying players.
Buy it?: If you don’t mind working around the IAP system, this is a great game that captures the spirit of Adventure Time. Grab Adventure Time Card Wars on The App Store for $3.99