Winter is here, and the weather is truly unforgiving, so you really should be staying in and playing games. If you absolutely must go out, however, make sure you have at least one of these quality offerings on your portable device - if you get snowed in or the power goes out, you’ll be glad you did!
Dynamic dev duo Simogo are on an absolute roll - each new game they come out with is as creative and inventive as it is brilliant. From the charming pastoral Sunday driving of Bumpy Road and super-slick rhythm puzzling of Beat Sneak Bandit to the unsettling but informative reinvented Swedish folk tale that is Year Walk (coming to Steam early in the new year), they have been rewriting the rules for mobile gaming as they go, most pointedly with their latest, Device 6. There just isn’t anything else like it.
The best way I can describe it is an interactive visual novella, where the words don’t just sit on the screen but corkscrew round, around and upside down as the story unfolds. The protagonist Anna wakes with a sketchy memory and finds herself in an unfamiliar house cloaked in illusion and mystery.
Taking cues from the film noir canon and The Prisoner, Device 6 is an impeccably crafted experience where considerable effort has been injected into every element, from the stark Saul Bass-esque visual styling to the brass-laden swingin’ ‘60s soundtrack by frequent collaborator Daniel Olsén. To say more would spoil it, but be assured it is a completely engrossing and wonderful one, which taps into the real potential of the touch-enabled device as a platform. Unmissable.
While we’re on the topic of disconcerting puzzlers, the first installment of Fireproof Games’ The Room certainly fits the bill, spooking us all back in 2012 with its tale of a man driven to the brink in scientific pursuit of the mythical ‘null’ element, his notes and progress concealed within a series of Victorian-effect burnished wooden puzzle boxes. This sequel is a direct continuation with even more of the confounded contraptions in ever more elaborate configurations.
The mechanics of the game remain as markedly tactile as before; recovered keys and other objects can be rotated and tinkered with to uncover their hidden secrets. The exquisitely quaint backdrops for the level now take on a thematic resonance with the puzzles, from below decks on a pirate galleon to a mad scientist’s lab via an abandoned seance chamber. Satisfyingly unlocking the elegant solution of each one, you’ll be driven to explore further and discover the meaning behind the cryptic notes and scraps of paper contained within. Best played at night with the headphones on and the lights out.
The app store has proved to be fertile ground for translations of well-loved board and card games, whether it a straight translation of a fan favourite to play on the go, or an enhanced version with all manner of interactive bells and whistles. It’s rare then to find an example of one so well presented for a game that doesn’t actually exist in physical form!
Dead Man’s Draw is a pirate-themed press-your-luck card game which started life as a game-within-a-game included in a mod of Civ IV created by now Stardock CEO Derek Paxton. For their first ever mobile game they’ve taken this seed of an idea and evolved it, and the result is a highly playable original card game you can play against the AI or with friends!
There are ten suits in all, from treasure chests and cannons to mermaids and hooks, each with a special ability - for example, cannon cards allow you to remove any one card from your opponent’s hand. Each player takes turns drawing new cards to add to their hand; they can draw as many as they like, but if they draw two cards of the same suit, the hand is bust and they score nothing. Only the highest card held in each suit counts towards a player’s score; the game is over when all fifty cards have been dealt, and the highest scoring player wins. The beauty of the game is that many of the cards’ special abilities can chain together to form devastating combos which can hugely upset the balance.
After a few introductory hands learning the rules, there are many nautical adversaries to face off against and unlock, and as you progress the game will occasionally revise or dismiss a rule to switch things up. Beneficial amendments called ‘traits’ can be unlocked and purchased with in-game currency if you find yourself floundering in the later levels. It’s currently free on the app store, so arrr, what ye be waitin’ forrrrr? (Sorry, that’s my best pirate talk.)
So-called ‘edutainment’ games, the establishment’s attempt at getting ‘the kids’ to learn while they play, used to be a sometime fixture of gaming’s past, from questionable franchise tie-ins like Mario Is Missing, to the unquestionably awful. With this in mind I was understandably wary when downloading this title from BulkyPix, but I needn’t have worried. Type:Rider is a stylish, flowing platformer that never puts the facts before the fun, but nevertheless offers an abundance of both, and on a arguably niche but very interesting subject matter.
Controlling a displaced colon (the punctuational rather than anatomical kind), you chronologically roll your merry way through levels themed around specific typefaces and fonts, collecting the letters of the alphabet along the way. Obtain the full set and you’ll unlock another chapter in the history of typography, from man’s earliest markings to pixelation and everything inbetween, displayed in leather-bound volumes for later perusal at your leisure.
Complete with a wonderfully spacious soundtrack, Type:Rider’s union of entertainment and knowledge is a worthwhile purchase for everyone, not just font lovers.