Games of the Week – Dumb Ways to Die, Home, PYXL, Tumblewords, XCom: Enemy Within

Last week brought another big franchise to the Mac, with the announcement of Max Payne 3 for Mac. A modern classic, Torchlight, was free on A couple of high profile iOS titles got big updates: Modern Combat 4, and Knights of Pen and Paper. Infinity Blade II was given a deep price cut through the end of the month.

We have another fine selection of games for you this week. We have a mini game collection based on the cutest gruesome PSA ever. We have an indie survival horror game for iOS. On the iPhone we have an action puzzler with some cool design. We have a different spin on Bookworm for iOS. Then we have an almost full port of a PC/Console title for IOS.


Dumb Ways to Die – iOS (Universal)

Dumb Ways to Die was an adorably catchy PSA from the Melbourne Metro that warned people to not be stupid around trains. However, not many PSAs are this funny, nor have adorable little blob characters. Now they have released a free mini games collection for iOS that allows you to try to save the little blobs from themselves. As you play, the events get harder and you’re given less time, until eventually you die three times and it’s game over. The games do repeat, but they change depending on progress. As you finish with higher and higher scores, you unlock characters for the start screen, and a copy of the original video.

What’s Good: A fun mini game collection that’s a quick play, perfect for casual gaming. The unlocking system might be kind of pointless, but it does give you some incentive to keep playing.

What Sucks: A few of the games are a little buggy.

Buy it?: Grab this. It’s a fun game and free on the App Store.


Home – iOS (Universal)

Home tells you to turn down the lights and plug in your headphones. The developers even ask that you do your best to play the entire game in a single sitting (something that isn’t too difficult as it’s about two hours long). The lead character awakes in darkness armed only with a flashlight. You have to investigate what happened, starting with the creepy house with blood stains and a body. Things don’t get much better from there. What you end up with is a game that manages to be intriguing and creepy with nary a zombie to be found. The story relies on your urge to explore, and even then leaves a lot open to the player’s interpretation. At the end of the game, you’re encouraged to share your thoughts on the plot with other players on the game’s website. Ported from the PC/Mac, this game really embraces the touch interface. Remember to always raise your light and try to investigate everything — the more you find, the richer the story gets.

What’s Good: This game wins on both design and actual gameplay. Realizing that horror is better served by atmosphere than gore, the game relies on keeping you isolated from the story to build tension.

What Sucks: The graphics try to emulate a classic 16-bit style, which keeps the game firmly in the indie genre, but here that style works against the tone of the story. The game is also only about an hour and a half, which, unless you like to replay games to see all possible endings, might be on the short side.

Buy it?: This game has some excellent story telling that makes it well worth the $2.99. Grab it on the App Store.


PYXL – iPhone

With the very basic look of PYXL it’s easy to assume that it’s in line with Letterpress and Dots, but playing the game seems to take more inspiration from titles like Super Hexagon or Hundreds. It’s difficult to play for more than 30 or 40 seconds early on, and as you advance it doesn’t get more forgiving. Unlike Super Hexagon, PYXL has an easy mode that does let you at least get your bearings. The basic premise is easy enough. You control a triangle in the center of the screen that has a different color on each side. Circles float in from the side, and you have to catch them with the corresponding side of the triangle. Black circles float in as well, which require you to pop them by tapping them. If you tap the other circles, it’ll rush them to the center. Like the best action puzzle games, this is addicting Though each game only lasts about a minute or two, you’ll find yourself furiously hitting ‘Play Again’ in the hopes that you’re going to finally top your high score.

What’s Good: Simple rules make learning this game a seconds long affair. It relies more on strategy than reflex; in fact, if you try to do everything by speed you’re more likely to make a mistake.

What Sucks: If you’re looking for a relaxing puzzle game to zone out with, this isn’t the game for you.

Buy it?: PYXL is the sort of game that steals far more time than you meant it to. Pick it up for $0.99 on the App Store.


Tumblewords- iOS (Universal)

Bookworm was one of the first really addictive web games. Tumblewords takes that premise and challenges the player to maximize their words as the game has a limited number of turns. To prevent issues with the board, you are given a swap set of letters you can move in and out of the board anywhere to help you maximize your score. As you complete your letters, you’re given up to three stars that allow you to use a variety of special abilities, like shuffling the board or flipping a pair of letters around. In addition to the improvements to the main game, they’ve also added two player games, so you can now play with a friend, either locally via pass and play or over Game Center. Webcomics fans will love the fact that the game’s various skins were all designed by Webcomics artists. KC Green, Liza Ferneyhough, and Chris Onstad all have a few different designs they’ve contributed.

What’s Good: Takes a standard genre but does enough to it to make the game feel completely new. Local multiplayer was a nice touch. Multiple designs allow user customization while still having a unique look and feel.

What Sucks: Touch inputs can be a bit fiddly with the swap and powers.

Buy it?: This is a fun game with good local multiplayer. Check it out for $2.99 on the App Store.


XCom: Enemy Within – iOS (Universal)

Though we’re about to see another leap in tech coming along at the end of the year, it’s crazy to think that the iPad has nearly the power of current generation consoles. At least that’s the pitch of 2K’s port of XCom: Enemy Unknown to iOS. There is a bit of cheating here: the animations have been slimmed down, as have some of the textures. That aside, for $19.99 you can get basically the same game as the console or Mac version. If you aren’t an XCom fan, then that might not sway you. Franchise and quality aside, this is still a twenty dollar game. XCom is the name of a unit of elite soldiers who are called up when aliens invade earth. The story is pure B movie stuff, but it’s written well enough to keep you engaged. What really sells this game is the gameplay. Xcom is a turn-based strategy game with some twists. Different characters level up as they go giving them special abilities, and the enemies have their own classes and abilities. The characters can die, so when you sink all your points into a character and they’re killed in a couple of turns, you feel the sting. You can even do some serious customizations to ensure your attachment and eventual heartbreak. Between missions you can unlock new weapons and tech, and you build out your base. There is a ton to keep you busy.

What’s Good: Excellent port of a console game. Really engaging engine and design, a lot of customization allows for wildly different experiences for each player.

What Sucks: Takes time to load, will chew your battery up and leave it for dead without a lot of effort.

Buy it?: Yes this is twenty dollars, and yes you should buy it. If you want to see something more than freemium casual games from the big publishers, this is the type of game you need to buy. Grab it on the App Store. Did you get it yet?

Mac geek? Gamer? Why not both? Mike is a writer from Wisconsin who enjoys wasting immense amounts of time on the Internet. You can follow him on Twitter.