iOS • Format plays much the same role in modern writing that fate played for the ancient Greeks. Monument Valley 2 is exactly what that title suggests, and the original was so popular that there’s little need for reviews. But I’m a game reviewer, and to resist describing it would invite the intervention of displeased gods. So: Monument Valley took the inspiration for its puzzles from M.C. Escher, its visual style from Helvetica and sunsets, and its lightly-presented narrative from maturing, regret, and making amends (and how distinct are those, really?). It was the sort of gem which made people feel like there was still something they could use to show off the potential of touchscreen devices to jaded onlookers. MV2 refines that success very gently.
iOS, Android • Jaipur on tabletop has long been highly regarded as a fairly light and quick, but still satisfying, economic game. The translation is everything we could hope for from an Asmodee digital title. Asmodee’s online service could improve in numerous ways (most notably by allowing asynchronous games), but they tend to choose games which support relatively large player bases so it is, at least, usually possible to find opponents. Solo play includes a generous campaign with a variety of tweaks to the formula, and, of the three AI opponents, only the easiest seems like a pushover.
Pete calls me Duke. I am his Very Special Dog. You are probably thinking that all dogs are Very Special. Great! You are a good person. I like you.
[What follows is an account of the campaign from the core set of the Arkham Horror: The Card Game, told from the perspective of a single card: Stubborn Detective. It contains minor spoilers, but, due to the variable nature of the campaign and the limited perspective of a detective interested in seeing the world through a comprehensible lens, keeps most of the discoveries hidden. Also, the Stubborn Detective remained true to his name, stubbornly refusing to be drawn during the final scenario, thus not being present to share any secrets from the campaign’s denouement. If you can’t tell, I followed Dave’s recommendation, and am very impressed by this game. – Kelsey]
After successful contributions to game designs such as Snakes and Ladders, Candyland, and Monopoly, Satan returned to our tabletops with a single element of Magic: the Gathering: the blind-buy booster pack. Disliking the random booster is roughly as popular among players as the orgasm, so it was with great surprise that I realized, some time ago, that they also have virtues I value. The game which turned me around into trying to see the good side of boosters was Rodeo Games‘ Deathwatch. Players earned boosters slowly enough in Deathwatch that you either had to be smarter than me, grind, or buy, which is exactly the sort of arrangement which would normally make me hate the developer.
iOS, Android • Onirim is a highly-regarded, fast-playing solo card game by Shadi Torbey and Z-Man Games, and is now a highly-regarded, even faster-playing ideal phone game by Asmodee Digital. Perhaps the easiest single-sentence summary for Stately Play readers is this: Card Crawl is more like Onirim than Card Thief, and this stands as a strong compliment to all three games. Card Crawl gave about as much satisfaction as a turn-based game could offer in such a brief playing time, and Onirim gives us decisions with a similar tactical feel and memory element. Card Thief has much in common with Card Crawl, but Tinytouchtales innovated with it enough that a third game could be more similar to their first outing without being redundant. In other words, Onirim fills the same niche as Card Crawl while still being sufficiently distinct to justify itself.
iOS Universal, Android • Shortly after this review was published, Funforge updated Tokaido, notably adding the previously missing two-player option. Because two-player local play was my ideal use case for the game, this pleased me greatly, and it deserved special mention. My thanks to forum-goer “Misguided” for directing my attention to the improvement. Tokaido crystallizes thinking about the merits and challenges of digital translations of tabletop games. The cardboard version features lovely art, evocative of stylized watercolors, which sets the mood for a pleasant walk along a scenic road in ancient Japan. Not content to simply replicate these static images, developers Funforge created a 3-D, animated version which captures the artistic impact of the original–given the extent to which this is the game’s greatest asset, that’s genuinely impressive. Unfortunately, the very quality of the presentation highlights limitations of both the app and the underlying game.
Switch • With a daughter turning nine in March, I had an excuse to pre-order a Switch and the new Zelda. The one-sentence review I would give of it is this: it’ll make you feel like a kid again, until you watch kids play. If I could add another sentence, I’d note that I’m only writing about it because I promised my kids I wouldn’t do the thing I just started doing in the game until they could watch me, and they’re in school. As I have now been gifted with an unsought opportunity to reflect, I’m going to make the most of it to try and excuse playing Zelda to the exclusion of writing for you wonderful people for weeks. It was “research” for this piece.
Much of our hope for this site was that it would attract readers smarter than us to generate superb discussions in our forums. From these, we would harvest ideas for articles. I kind of shot myself in the foot by misconfiguring our emails for a few months (though we think that’s fixed, so if you tried to sign up for a forum account and didn’t get an email, try again!), but today we have such an article.
iOS, Android • Link Twin is a simple, pleasantly-presented puzzler. Though modest in scope and number, its puzzles pass my idiosyncratic test: they sometimes stumped me until I stopped playing, and were immediately solvable when I returned. That tells me that there are various ways to approach them which are valuable enough to attract one’s thinking but easily accessible enough that breaking one’s chain of thought makes it possible to take a new tack. This would leave me perfectly satisfied, but for the fact that the minimal narrative hints at something more.