Tabletop • I’ve been pondering whether or not to review Journal 29 from the moment I cracked its first truly difficult puzzle. You see, it’s not the usual fare here at Stately Play, and I wasn’t sure if our readers wanted to live the dread of English teachers everywhere, having to read a poorly written book report. Yes, a book report. You see, Journal 29 is an actual book made out of dead trees without a battery to recharge or screen to tap. It’s like the 80’s, with the exception that I’m not listening to Spandau Ballet [for the record, Dave is totally still listening to Spandau Ballet -ed.].
iOS Universal • I have kids in two different school systems, one in public high school and the others in a private elementary school. Although the schools are merely two blocks apart and many, many families in the area have children at both schools, we learned that they rarely manage to sync their schedules and, as such, their spring breaks never coincide. This led to the past two weeks when I was traveling and then home with children, both of which really cut into my writing time here at Stately Play. Today, the house is empty and I couldn’t be happier. Not only does that mean I can actually sit and write again, but it also means I’m back to not wearing pants. Freedom. None of this has anything to do with the topic of this post, however, which revolves around one of the true maestros of the App Store, Michael Brough. His dungeon-crawler/puzzler/roguelike Imbroglio has just expanded with Phlogiston.
Steam • In which the author addresses the greatest philosophical problems in gaming I tried to do a brief look at Silicon Zeroes, the easy chair of the programming game mini-genre, but, like Proust’s madeleine biscuit*, a single level touched off a bunch of related thoughts I needed to address. But SZ deserves at least a brief overview: if you’re familiar with Human Resource Machine or TIS-100P, you’ve seen the basic idea before: simple programming tasks are basically just puzzles, anyway, so folks have started turning them into puzzle games. SZ does so more comfortably than most, with an easily-grasped interface and helpful features like the ability to bundle a code segment into a reusable chunk. But it also includes the level in question: a problem in which you’re briefly denied access to one of the functions you’ve been using (subtraction), and have to build something to accomplish the same goal. Months later, I think I have an idea of how to understand the intellectual product which makes games distinct from other art forms, and which tracks my intuitions about intellectual property. Though you might have different intuitions, we’ll at least be able to disagree more specifically.
iOS, Android, PC/Mac/Linux • With 1000000 and You Must Build a Boat under his belt, Luca Redwood has become a legend around these parts. Both of those titles looked and played very simply, but had a hidden depth that you realized only once you rolled up your sleeves and delved in. Luca’s next game is called Photographs and, until now, we didn’t know much about it. That changed this morning when I was sent a preview copy that I’ve been messing around with all day. I’m pretty sure that Luca Redwood fans won’t be disappointed when Photographs hits the App Store.
PC/Mac/Linux • According to Steam, over the past week I’ve played Factorio for 31 hours. That may not seem like a lot to gaming diehards, but we’re talking about a guy with three kids who is forced to spend most of his waking hours away from a keyboard. 31 hours in a week on my laptop, playing games, is simply unheard of. Even games like Civ or Cities: Skylines haven’t drawn that kind of devotion from me in the past few years. In fact, I’d have to go back to pre-kid days when I’d spend every night playing World of Warcraft while my wife travelled for her job. Yes, I was a really cool cat back then, too. The thing with Factorio is that I haven’t even scratched the surface. I suddenly understand why my kids like Minecraft so much.
iOS Universal • The Room: Old Sins is the fourth title in the vaunted The Room series of puzzle games, the first of which came out way back when the iPad 3 and iPhone 4S were the pinnacles of mobile gaming. The first game was a revelation, mixing cutting edge and realistic graphics with a tactile feel that you could only get from a touchscreen. The next two games in the series offered more of the same touchy-feely puzzles while expanding the size and scope of the world in which the puzzles existed. The Room: Old Sins doesn’t do anything new to change the well worn formula, feeling much like every other game in the series. Luckily, that’s exactly what we were hoping for.
iOS Universal, PC, Switch • Every now and then you’ll see a screenshot for a game and realize you need to buy it even without knowing what the hell the game is about. I do this with board games all the time, and have shelves of games with gorgeous art that I never play because they’re dull as sin or just not something I could ever introduce to my game group. Gorogoa was released earlier this week and the screenshots are incredible–even the icon is cool as hell–so I immediately jumped on it. Would Gorogoa sit on a virtual shelf, unplayed, or would the gameplay match the visuals?
iOS, Android, PC/Mac/Linux • There are mornings when I wake up and read press releases and really wish Owen were around. Today is one of those days. There weren’t too many developers that Owen appreciated more than Luca Redwood, whose 1000000 and You Must Build A Boat were always on his top whatever lists. Luca has a new game in the works, Photographs, and it’s unlike anything else he’s done. Maybe unlike anything anyone has done. I know I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
iOS Universal, PC/Mac/Linux • Fez looks like one of those games 12-year old me would have loved but old, decrepit me should detest. Like all platformers, it looks as though it requires at least a modicum of dexterity, something I haven’t been in possession of since I was 24. Still, like Braid or Super Meat Boy, it’s one of those indie platformers you hear about even if you’re not a fan of the genre. Today Fez made its way to the App Store so I gave it a go. Lo and behold, I’m not as worthless as I thought I’d be.
PC/Mac/Linux • There are few games that take over my complete existence for periods of time, where nothing else in the world matters other than taking another turn. The Civilization games will do this, as will most city-builders. Another group of games that I tend to lose myself in for days or weeks at a time come from a small indie developer, Zachtronics. I instantly fell in love with them after my first foray into SpaceChem, and have loved just about everything else they’ve ever conjured up. Their latest is in Early Access on Steam right now and it’s just as good as anything they’ve ever made. If you’re looking for a puzzler that requires actual brain power, logic, and a dose of coding, look no further than Opus Magnum.