As we get closer to the holidays, I am sure that many of you are looking to get some new Apple gear to play games on. Our first pick, a new game from the makers of Minecraft, will keep your Mac busy for a while. We’ve also got a social take on a Popcap classic for you to try. Finally, we have the latest adventure game from Telltale.
Scrolls – Mac
Following up Minecraft is a pretty tall order, but Mojang hopes its newly released Scrolls can hold its own. It’s a strategy card game, akin to Ironclad Tactics: Each side has a set of cards with a mixture of elements, and you discard cards to gain resources and to draw additional cards. Each card represents a spell, creature, or enhancement. Use your creatures to try and destroy your opponent’s idols, and if you can destroy three of them, you win the match.
Scrolls draws a lot from Magic, but it does manage to have its own personality, even though the basic idea of building decks is a central mechanic in both games.
The game features both single-player and multiplayer modes, and it comes with an in-depth tutorial to help get you started. And you’ll seriously need that tutorial—even on Easy mode, the computer AI is pretty challenging, and unless you build a custom deck, it will be pretty difficult to play at all.
There is no way that this game is going to be anywhere near as popular as Minecraft. Then again, it doesn’t really have to be. If anything, Scrolls does show that Mojang has some potential beyond pixelated construction.
What’s Good: Lots of content.
What Sucks: A tad bit difficult.
Buy it? If Hearthstone didn’t hit your card game spot, check out Scrolls. Download it from Mojang for $5.00
Seabeard – iOS (Universal)
If I had to quickly sum up Seabeard, it would be Animal Crossing: Island-Hopping Edition. The art style of Seabeard owes a lot to Nintendo’s life simulator: You sail around gathering the material necessary to rebuild your father’s island. You’ll also rebuild his crew along the way.
Like Animal Crossing, there’s a lot to do in Seabeard. Although you’ll be island-hopping, you’ll find plenty of things to keep you occupied. Early on, you’ll find yourself fishing, bounty-hunting, and gathering resources. You’ll be rebuilding the island piece by piece, customizing it as to what interests you about the game.
It’s fun to have a sandbox game that’s focused on the variety of things that you can do. Though Seabeard draws a lot from Animal Crossing, it feel like an original game in its own right. You will have to put in some time with more tedious quests, though Seabeard does allow you to pay to advance. It also limits how frequently you can move between islands with a set period of time—you’ll have to wait about thirty minutes, which often comes at the end of a quest. I assume that this puts maximum pressure for you to make some more in-app purchases.
What’s Good: Big creative Sandbox.
What Sucks: In-app purchases come at worst moment sometimes.
Buy it? If you like Animal Crossing or other life sandbox games, check out Seabeard. Download it on the App Store for Free.
Thinking – iPhone
QuizUp was the last major trivia game I remember playing: It was fun, but required you to compete with our players each and every time. It also divided trivia into niche categories. But Thinking fixes nearly everything that I disliked about QuizUp.
Unlike QuizUp, Thinking always cycles you through all of the categories—Art, Science, Math, Sports, Literature, Riddles, and a couple others. You get a set number of plays per day, given out as “brains,” and if you answer all ten questions correctly you don’t lose a brain for that attempt. The game tracks your progress and keeps you informed of it as you play the game.
If you want to complete against friends, you can play Party Mode, which lets you pass and play. (Like single-player mode, Party Mode also use Brains, and once you use them up, you can’t play again until tomorrow.) There’s also a junior mode for kids. You can have one player in each mode, but you can unlock an additional slot for each mode for 99 cents.
The use of in-app purchased is my biggest gripe with Thinking: You’re essentially locked to five plays a day unless you pay out for more. The party mode takes two brains to play. However, you only get so many more attempts. You can’t just pay to not be bothered any further.
What’s Good: General trivia game that’s well constructed.
What Sucks: In-app purchases model is overbearing.
Buy it? If you’re interested in Trivia, or bored with other games, check out Thinking. Download it on the App Store for Free.
Peggle Blast – iOS (Universal)
PopCap has a tendency to turn its established games into hyper-addictive versions of the originals. Bejeweled transforming into Bejeweled Blast is one such example: PopCap didn’t change the core of the game, but instead it delivered a quicker experience and added social leaderboards.
Peggle Blast does the same thing to Peggle, cribbing the level map from Candy Crush. The game didn’t really change too much otherwise.
That isn’t to say that Peggle Blast is the same game with a veneer of social mechanics: PopCap added new elements that expand the game beyond clearing the orange pegs. For example, some levels require you to get gems to the bottom of the stage by clearing the pegs below it. PopCap also added stages where you need to crack eggs with your shots.
Peggle was a well-made game that mixed casual approachability with the deep mechanics of classic arcade games. These additions make the game deeper, but without sacrificing what made the original so fun.
You can buy bonuses via in-app purchases to make the game easier, which might anger some people, but it’s a pretty soft sell. I think that the only place you may meet some real frustration is when you have to wait four hours between levels. You can pay 99 cents to unlock levels right away, or you spam your Facebook friends. Otherwise, you can just stop playing for a few hours and come back to the unlocked levels (if this sounds familiar, it’s because King took a similar approach with Candy Crush).
What’s Good: New play mechanics and power ups are fun.
What Sucks: In-app purchases may anger those who just want to pay for the game.
Buy it?: If you like arcade puzzle games, Peggle Blast is a must-have. Download it on the App Store for Free.
Tales From The Borderlands – iOS (Universal)/Mac
Telltale has already created some masterful adventure games from other platforms—The Walking Dead and Back To The Future games come to mind. I still think that it was a big risk for Telltale to take Gearbox’s FPS/RPG hybrid title Borderlands and try and make it fit into its adventure game formatting. The company has gotten better at action, but the chaos of Pandora was still a tall order.
I shouldn’t have doubted Telltale. Tales From The Borderlands doesn’t try and put the adventures of a vault hunter into a point and click format. Instead, you’re playing as people at the fringes of Borderlands. You play as a corporate stooge and a con-woman, splitting your time between each narrative. It makes for a balanced story.
The actiony bits of Pandora are all here—you’re just crawling around between them, trying to survive. In the first episode, Zero from Borderlands 2 makes an appearance, just to demonstrate the difference in your abilities to his. The writing is spot-on—it nails the tone of depraved humor. The writers take their own style and voice, and they are not afraid to pull at some of the world’s more human elements. There’s also some surprisingly great voice talent here.
For a game that shouldn’t have worked, Tales From The Borderlands works surprising well. You can get the first episode on the App Store now for $4.99 and then purchase the rest as they are released via in-app purchases. You can also pre-order the whole set for $14.99 (the Mac version’s $24.99 price includes all episodes).
What’s Good: Great writing; excellent conversion of the game’s world to the new format.
What Sucks: If you can’t deal with not playing the whole story, you may want to hold off until the whole game is released.
Buy it? If you liked Borderlands or are a Telltale fan, pick up Tales From The Borderlands. It’s $4.99 on the App Store. You can also pick up the Mac version on Telltale’s site for $24.99: At that price, you get all of the episodes, so it’s a good value.