Good New Games: Salvidor Dali Edition
Okay, only one of these games has anything remotely in common with Dali. Can you spot it?!!
Hero Academy (iPhone)
What it is: What we’ve all been waiting for — an asynchronous multiplayer turn-based tactics game where you draw units and items like cards, with random online game matching. (I’m “Jammy” on there if you’d like to play.)
Why it’s interesting: If you can find one thing in the description above that’s not interesting, I will give you $100.
What it is: A seamless iPad port of Vectorpark’s surrealist Flash masterpiece. Strong contendor for most beautiful app on iOS.
Why it’s interesting: You can enable “see-thru” mode to check out how all the little pieces fit together, which somehow makes the game’s simple geometry even more stunning.
War of the Roses (Universal)
What it is: Basically, a super simplified take on Go. You and an opponent place stones, and you get exponentially more points as your contiguous groups grow. Placement is based on cards, which limits the paralysis of choice and keeps the game moving.
Why it’s interesting: Four times a game, if you have the right card, you can swap out an opponent’s stone and put yours in its place. This can drastically swing the score, so matches never feel completely hopeless.
Q:I just got an iPad, so I'd love to see what you guys consider the "essential" games to have installed. Other app recs would be welcome, but since you focus on games I'd be happy with just that :)
Well, three of the “essential” games on our list are universal apps — Edge Extended, Bumpy Road, and Bit Pilot — and they all play great on the iPad. I would hasten to add World of Goo, Forget-Me-Not, Fractal, and SpellTower to that list.
Older Games That Still Pretty Much Rule
I haven’t found enough good new games recently to do a quick-hit style list, so I figured I’d highlight some old favorites that I might not get a chance to mention otherwise.
Dungeon Raid (iPhone)
Does everyone realize that this game should be, like, way up there with Drop7 and Canabalt and whatever else is in the iPhone game “canon”? I mean, it’s basically double heroin, in app form. You’ve got gem-matching like Bejeweled—except better because you can trace crazy huge lines all across the screen—plus dungeon crawling RPG elements like Puzzle Quest—except better because it uses a roguelike structure where you maximize your character for a single run—and the result is devastatingly, apocalyptically addictive. And you can play it with one hand! Really, I’m not sure any game is more perfectly suited to the iPhone.
(Alright, I know it’s not that old, but it was technically disqualified from my 2011 list, which made me sad.)
Boost 2 (Universal)
Man, I was into this shit when it was still Boost One (#worsthipsterever). Back then, I loved it for its ultra-clean modernist style, for how fluid the tilt controls felt, and for how the entire world unfolded and inverted half-way through your run. Then it got one of the best updates I’ve seen for any game—it sharpened up the graphics, tweaked the interface, and introduced the now-definitive time trial mode, along with a bunch of other goodies. I’ve been playing this one for a while and don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Okay, so this is just a clone of the old Flash game Curveball. But Curveball is probably my favorite flash game ever (I wish I knew who developed it. Anyone?), and Vector Ball has its own style, retina graphics, solid physics, and good touch and tilt controls. (I actually prefer tilt; touch is too easy.) So yeah, not the world’s most impressive feat of design, but I’m happy to have it in my pocket.—Nick
Q:It probably goes without saying that you guys have a hell of a lot of iPhone apps. How do you keep it all organized? Folders? Deleting stuff? Help!
Here’s a screenshot of my games page. So yeah, it’s basically just folders. The folder numbers do actually correspond to rank, so Games 1 holds my favorites, etc. New Games is for stuff I like and want to write about/rank. The games just hanging out on the screen are brand new. David uses a similar system, but he has categories for Unplayed, Favorites, and Local Multiplayer, and doesn’t do my obsessive ranking thing.
He also says, “I’m considering starting a folder for games I can play with one hand and a baby in my arms.”
I delete tons of stuff because I download games constantly and I only keep ones I like on my devices. Thanks to the new “Purchased” feature in the App Store, I don’t really have to worry about losing track of what I’ve bought in case I ever want to go back.
I don’t use iTunes for any of this because I fucking hate iTunes.
Super Crate Box (Universal), the scintillating arcade-style action platformer from indie superheroes Vlambeer, hit the App Store last night, and with it the tradition of great videogame boxes continues.
If you read this blog, I assume you recognize the top four boxes in that picture up there. And I’ll bet they’re all tied to emotional memories, too — a little jolt that runs up your spine when you see each of them. Something like despair, amusement, affection, and excitement, respectively.
SCB’s eponymous box adds a new feeling to that list: suspense.
In SCB, the all-important box does two things. First, it gives you a new weapon. No surprise there. Second, it gives you one point. That’s the revolution. In Super Crate Box, the only way you can score points, the entire purpose of the game, is to grab a box. That means you get zilch for killing enemies. That means you have to switch weapons constantly, even when you got your favorite two seconds ago. That means you can never get comfortable. That means every time you approach a box, you know the entire game is about to flip on its head, for better or worse, so you have to be prepared for anything. The tension is beautiful.
That’s the singular flash of inspiration in the concept behind SCB’s box, but what’s inside the box shows a meticulous attention to detail. The weapons in the game are all familiar—mini guns, revolvers, laser rifles, grenade launchers—but they are executed with balance, precision, and variety. Each forces you to play in a different way: land mines are powerful but require time and space to operate, while the disc gun instantly cuts through swaths of monsters if you can dodge its rebound. You’ll praise the lord when you get a rocket launcher with a big red baddie in your face, and curse the developer as you pull dual pistols with enemies swarming. And because you never know what’s next, at some point you will have to rely on each and every weapon to get you out of a jam, even the one you hate the most (I’m looking at you, flamethrower).
The chaos created by running all over and adapting to random weapons gives SCB a depth of strategy that’s rare in fast-paced, action heavy games. You must constantly balance your desire to run after boxes to score points with your need to clear out monsters so you don’t die. As you unlock more advanced arenas and more frantic game modes, you have to develop an intimate feel for each weapon and a balletic touch with your character’s movement to survive more than a few seconds. And since SCB’s physics and mechanics are wound as tight as the most relentlessly hardcore bastard of a retro game, this learning curve is nothing but a joy to climb. Well, besides the time you spend cursing.
And now we come to the elephant in the room. Super Crate Box was originally a PC game, and as you know, PC games are often controlled with the keyboard. You may also notice that neither the iPhone nor iPad can use a keyboard to control games. What a conundrum!
Look, I know this is supposed to be a big deal. And I promise, few despise virtual controllers on iOS games more than me. I couldn’t bring myself to put the super awesome platformer Pix’n Love Rush on our list because I never felt I could rely on its controls in tight situations. But just a few hours before I wrote this up, I posted a 102 in SCB on my iPad. Granted, it was on the easiest mode and level, but that’s like 70 higher than I ever managed on the PC. Vlambeer got help on this port from seasoned App Store developer Halfbot, and it shows. You might need a few rounds to get comfortable with the virtual buttons, but honestly, after playing the game heavily for a week, I don’t even think about the controls anymore. They just work.
On the PC, Super Crate Box was a pure, perfect gem of a game. It lost nothing in its translation to iOS. And it gave us our latest great videogame box, a modest little brown crate, filled with suspense and thrills.