iOS, Android, Kindle, PC/Mac/Linux • Before I begin, a personal note: I’m a big fan of Choice of Games, both because of the sheer range of themes and authorial voices in their library of gamebooks and because of their inclusive ethos – more on that in a bit. Oh, and I’ve known Jason Stevan Hill, Choice of Games’ COO, and Nissa Campbell, author of Heart of the House, for years. Heart of the House is a branching adventure with themes of mystery, horror, and romance, in a Victorian setting that eschews the goggles and cogs of steampunk in favor of the hauntings and seances of Spiritualism. Hold that planchard steady, my spirit guide tells me we’re not alone. Did you hear that? A single knock as upon a great door? Did you feel that? A touch of cold at the back of your neck? Did you see that? A tenebrous shadow, almost a face, then subsiding into a roil of tiny tentacles? They’re here.
iOS, Android, PC/Mac/Linux • The original Reigns is a game that, to this day, makes me feel like an idiot [to be fair, it’s not hard to do -ed.]. It’s not due to complexity but because I don’t know anyone else who doesn’t enjoy it. It’s universally beloved and yet I can only muster a half-hearted “meh” whenever it loads up. What am I missing? I know there’s something that I’m missing, something that will emerge if I just keep swiping. Today the sequel landed for iOS, Android, and PC/Mac/Linux and, dammit, I’m going to figure this out. Today, I’m going to start playing Reigns: Her Majesty with a clean slate and figure out what all the hoopla is about.
iOS, Android, PC/Mac • I’ll admit that I didn’t get the first Reigns. I know it was everyone else’s 2016 GOTY, but I just couldn’t get into it at all. Swiping left, right and ending up…somewhere? I just couldn’t figure out what all the hubbub was about. Apparently, if you stuck with it, all sorts of special story-driven stuff happened, but I didn’t have the patience [or common sense -ed.] to keep playing. That said, it remains on my phone. One of these days I’ll really dig into it and realize I had an awesome game right under my nose all this time and it will be great. Or, I might delete it and just download the sequel, Reigns: Her Majesty, which is coming to all platforms on December 7.
iOS Universal, Android • 2017 has seen a flood of digital board game conversions from new kid on the block, Asmodee Digital. Today, however, I think we can safely say is their strangest release. It’s called Catan Stories and finally allows us to roleplay as settlers on the titular island like we’ve always wanted to! In all honesty, I’ve never wanted to do this, and never really thought about the people collecting my wheat and sheep when I roll dice in Catan. I’ve thought about the robber, wondering why he’s such a dick, but I don’t think that’s where Catan Stories takes us. Anyway, Catan Stories is out now for iOS and Android.
iPad, PC/Mac • Subsurface Circular exists primarily because of a willingness to experiment during a lull in the developer’s schedule, but it also seems to suit the needs of a maturing game-playing public. While its gameplay is aptly described as “text adventure”, the game deserves credit for establishing an atmosphere and an aesthetic using high-quality audio and visuals. This is possible in such a short window largely because it’s a single-room mystery: the game is played entirely on a train for robots, with the player taking the role of a robot detective smart enough that humans have rendered it unable to leave the train as a precaution.
iOS, Android, PC/Mac • Summer is a huge pain in the ass. Instead of talking to developers and actually playing games, I’m spending my days going to amusement parks and museums “building memories” with my kids. Gross, right? The worst part is that a small part of me is actually kind of enjoying it. Fear not, it’s only a matter of time before they ask me for money and the warm fuzzies quickly dissipate. The worst part of all this involves Stately Play getting the short end of the stick. A bunch of stuff happened last week that I didn’t get a chance to talk about simply due to time constraints. Considering that this week is probably going to be worse–tomorrow is a holiday here in the US, and I won’t be around to post–I figured a quick news dump was in order. Let’s start with our old friend, Solitairica.
iOS Universal, Android • It’s been a long time coming, but the latest bit of interactive fiction from the creative geniuses at Cubus Games has finally arrived. It’s called The Frankenstein Wars and adds the living dead to the Napoleonic Wars and what could be cooler than that?
iOS, Android • If you’re one of those weirdos people that usually find gamebooks or interactive fiction to be a bit too dry, you need to give Cubus Games‘ stuff a go. I kind of fell in love with them after reading Heavy Metal Thunder which somehow managed to be more badass than the title required it to be. It took the usual gamebook conventions and mashed them up with beautiful 80’s-90’s-style action-schlock. You weren’t just an antihero, you were an antihero who makes Max Rockatansky look like a measly War Boy. You kill while spouting one liners and pretty much do whatever the hell you want, and it’s pretty great. That’s not the only great gamebook they’ve churned out, however. HMT had great sequels and they even had a book set in the Mayan civilization. Their latest book is coming in June and it, too, looks like a doozy.
iOS, Android, PC/Mac • One of our favorite gamebook creators back in our Pocket Tactics days were the fine folks over at Choice of Games. Their gamebooks appear spartan, lacking any illustrations, but are actually deeper than just about every other piece of interactive fiction out there. This comes from their spreadsheet-like approach to tracking your choices and adjusting your character as you proceed through the story. It also comes from the fact that many of their gamebooks tell epic, sweeping stories rather than focusing on a single quest or adventure. Their latest isn’t any different.
iOS, Android, PC/Mac, Console • While it’s sad to think that we won’t be getting any more Sorcery! titles from the mad geniuses at inkle Studios, it’s comforting to know that we’re getting something. Heaven’s Vault is their upcoming title and I say “something” because we really don’t know much about what the hell Heaven’s Vault actually is. A few screens of a woman and her robot looking over a desolate landscape is all we have to go on. That and the fact that Raymond Chandler and Gene Wolfe were mentioned as inspiration. That’s all they really had to say, but they keep throwing more info at us anyway.