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.
Switch • I like to imagine that Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was pitched by the most dependable, sober person at Ubisoft. You may have heard that it’s mostly XCOM, but with much less uncertainty and with some light puzzling elements replacing base management. Add a manic, child-friendly theme and remove permadeath, and that’s pretty accurate, which makes me think that pitch involved a virtuoso in the projection of normalcy. The characters are pre-made (so I can’t do what I’ve long done with XCOM and learn my kids’ classmates names by assigning them to my soldiers*) [I, on the other hand, change all my soldiers to British redheads named Amy Pond. It’s a bit weird. -ed.] but they have distinct skills trees which allow them to specialize in quite varied ways. Consequently, you have a lot of freedom to build the tools you want, but the game is correspondingly free to offer rather off-the-wall challenges.
Tabletop • Arkham Horror: The Card Game gets a lot of love around these parts. It’s as flexible as a tentacle–it can be deeply thematic if you’re into that, or offer moderately involved deck-building and agonizing decisions during play for the more mechanically minded. It can be enjoyed solo (though I recommend playing two characters) or in groups of up to four, as a campaign or a one-shot. I’ve been extremely pleased with it as a solo experience playing both the original campaign and the full Dunwich Legacy cycle, and will here offer brief mini-reviews of each expansion in that cycle. While I’ll avoid spoiling anything beyond the initial setup in each, even the basic premise of some of the expansions gives information about the plot, so beware.
iOS, Android • Dave has given me the impression that HexWar are the Lucy van Pelt to our Charlie Brown, repeatedly advertising wonderful games and delivering troubled ones once we get our hopes up. I assume that, once the running gag had been established, the challenge for Charles Schultz was to find a way to create interest in a joke with a predictable ending. With Lightning: D-Day, HexWar did it by translating to app from a well-regarded, unusually simple WWII card game famous for its poorly-written rules. I had hoped that the combination of a lower degree of difficulty than their ambitious past games mixed with an easily addressed problem in the cardboard version made this a superb candidate for an unqualified HexWar success. Then again, we all know how this joke ends.
iOS, Android • I’ve heard people mention three web-based boardgaming sites often: Brettspielwelt, Yucata, and, um, Bootyjew (that’s what I’ve always heard it called, and I am proud of myself for finding a link despite that). BSW has always sounded the strongest, but it wasn’t enough for them–now they’re coming for our mobile devices, as well. Their first foray: Friedemann Friese’s Friday, a sterling choice. It’s a well-regarded solo game with complexity just a bit above Onirim‘s, so they avoided the twin bottomless pits of development effort: AI and multiplayer, like Pitfall Harry. I looked it up–that’s actually the name of the character from Pitfall! I’m not excited about it, it just seemed like a waste of punctuation to end a sentence with “Pitfall!.”
iOS, Android, PC/Mac • This will be Stately Play‘s ninth article mentioning Pathfinder Adventures. If you’re not into PA, our apologies. Dave’s the guy who stands in my way when I propose something terrible, but our affections overlap enough that it’s not an ideal example of checks and balances. But political commentary is an even worse idea than a ninth PA article, so let’s proceed to check out the differences between the mobile and PC/Mac versions!
iOS • In upgrading from my iPad Air, with its long-inadequate 32GB of storage, I was mostly looking for more storage, Pencil support, and the ability to care less about the nature of the deposits left by my children’s fingers. I’m not terrifically picky about screen wonderflonium, the camera, or the speakers. I don’t even care about the ability to have a full-sized keyboard in the cover, because I’ve been surprisingly happy typing on the screen. So, as a hardware reviewer, I’m not exactly curmudgeonly, but I expect to be insensitive to a lot of what I’m seeing written about the new iPads. People who review lots of devices have more incentive to care deeply about what seem to me like rather minimal differences.
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.