Beat Sneak Bandit: Half Music, Half Game, All Amazing
Key Moment: The Searchlight Shuffle
At first, Beat Sneak seems mostly like a puzzle platformer with a nifty rhythmic underlay. But as you progress, its melodic nature asserts itself. On the more complex levels, each obstacle you face takes on the characteristic of a musical phrase. You find the pattern in the sounds of the stage, you wait for your cue, and when it comes, you tap out your part with precision.
When you pull it off, as above, your bandit glides past danger with a groovy grace. Then you set up for the next movement and do it all again. As this ritualistic cycle repeats, playing the game begins to feel remarkably like practicing an instrument. This is what makes Beat Sneak Bandit one of the truly outstanding titles on the platform—the gameplay and music harmonize with each other, doing things together neither could alone.
Gasketball: For Gamers Who Wish They Were Ballers
Key Moment: The Smooth Stroke
Look how much is happening here: the portal adds a layer of intuitive yet deep gameplay, the ball leaves a faint trail to aid on future attempts, each object pops with animation, and the little robot helper dude even dodges the shot. Incredible attention to detail.
But what gets me most is at the very start of the clip, when I scoot the ball back just a bit before flicking it into the portal (yes, that’s me playing). It’s such a purely analog motion; I’d do the exact same thing if I tried to hit something by sliding a quarter across a table. I never even realized I was doing it until I recorded it—it was all instinct. The whole game is built around this simulated shooting action, and my brain apparently can’t even tell it’s not real. I’m prepared to call that a success.
Let’s Try This Again
Welcome back to On Tap! Pardon the absence; I’ll try to make it up to you with some cool new stuff. Such as:
- I’ve updated the list of our favorite iOS games with new titles, and I fiddled with the format a bit. I think it’s a lot more readable and useful now, and hopefully you think so too.
- I came up with a new post format that will let me talk about important game mechanics without having to ramble for thousands of words. I won’t lie, I’m pretty excited about it. So excited, in fact, that I’m putting up the first one right… now!
English Country Tune
There’s a certain masochism involved in being a serious gamer, right? I mean, we want fun games, but we also want challenging games, and every challenging game will occasionally make you mad as hell. I probably screamed “fuck!” ten times an hour while playing Super Crate Box, and I adore that game. I suppose it’s an odd way to spend one’s leisure time, but I wouldn’t trade it.
If that makes no sense to you, and in fact sounds like a form of minor lunacy, you probably shouldn’t play English Coutnry Tune (Universal). But if you know what I’m talking about, then you’ll probably want this 3D puzzle game, from the prolific mastermind Increpare, on your iWhatever. ECT cultivates challenge as if it were a vintage of fine wine; you will sense notes of bafflement, incredulity, loss of self worth, nutmeg, and despair when you play, culminating, always, with a crisp finish of satisfaction.
What I’m saying is, ECT’s puzzles are tough but fair. Its premise is utilitarian—you are a tile, and you navigate a series of three-dimensional, grid-based levels solving puzzles. Mostly, you push things; you push balls into goals and push blocks off ledges. It’s hard to pin down what makes it better than other games that do those things, but basically, the puzzles in English Country Tune are just really, really good. After a couple brief tutorial levels, you won’t find a single puzzle you can solve by just pushing stuff around mindlessly, which means you actually have to think about every stage.
The reason ECT is so mentally engaging, I suspect, is that the rules governing how objects behave are both unusual and rigorous. The most striking example of this is how the spheres (which the game calls “larvae”) interact with gravity. In-game text says, “The larvae are weightless. They simulate gravity as a camouflage technique. They will fall relative to how they were pushed.” So, you determine how gravity affects the spheres based on the direction you push them from. They will fall in opposite directions if you push them from the top versus the bottom.
Understanding this concept is hard (and so is explaining it), but incorporating it into your brain to the point where you can actually predict how spheres will fall requires a dizzying knot of mental contortion. But when you get it, a transformation takes place, not on screen but in your mind, and the game becomes maleable. This happens over and over again in English Country Tune, when you learn a new mechanic or discover an evasive solution, and it makes every last bitter drop of challenge worthwhile. You will stare at the game for entire minutes, straining to see something you are incapable of seeing. Then a switch flips, and wouldn’t you know, it was right there the whole time.