Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thomas Was Alone (PS Vita)

Thomas Was Alone is not a new game.

Well, "not new" in the sense of "we've-already-forgotten-this-summer's-memes-and-world-events-and-summer's-not-even-over" not new.

It started as Flash-based game in 2010, but really started building momentum as a PC and Mac title in 2010, and notoriety among a broader audience in it's content-enhanced Sony PS3 and PS Vita versions in 2013.

I hesitate to write something about the game, because I want you to experience it on your own. And I'm not going to be able to say anything that adds to it.

But I feel compelled to say something about it.

So go play it, avoid the Wikipedia spoilerific entry about it, then come back.

Good to go? Right, then.

The PS Vita version (the first time I've played it on the platform) is fantastic. Not just because the platform lends itself to this kind of game (whatever "this kind of game" is, but more on that later) -- No, it's great on the Vita because it makes subtle use of the Vita.

You can use the touchscreen to select your avatar, and skip cycling through all of it. Or, touch the icon avatars in the lower right corner, and scroll to the one you want, (when that one's not visible in the larger screen).

Simple. Clean. Appropriate )and not over-done) use of the hardware.

What about the game itself?

To say Thoms Was Alone is a "puzzle platformer" is kind of like calling Portal is a "puzzle game" or The Last of Us a "survival horror" game (I can't believe I never wrote anything about either of those, but especially that latter amazing title).

No, Thomas Was Alone is a puzzle platformer witty humanist allegory exploring the unconquerable, indomitable complexity of emotions and wants and will of the heroic and the tragic and the just existing ... us.

And yes, that's with the whole thing being presented in geometric shapes and bold colors.

Just ... play the game.

Enjoy the gameplay for what it is -- Tight, well-thought-out, consumable, replayable good design that makes you better at playing the game for having played the game.

Maybe enjoy it for it's clever wit, great musical score, and occasionally deep homilies.

Maybe be moved by something deeper being said about the human condition, and how special and flawed and amazing and petty and elevated and fallible and ever-changing we all are.

But I do recommend you play it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Marvel Puzzle Quest (Android)

I'm digging Marvel Puzzle Quest.

It's a good treatment of both licenses, polished and slick, and has been a good living case study of an evolving, licensed mobile free-to-play app.

The game is free, monetized through purchases in the game, and for the most part, this isn't overly annoying - though it gets there every once in a while (there are distinct "I can't be competitive unless I spend money" moments in the ongoing game events).

Like many free-to-play games, Marvel Puzzle Quest does a good job of rewarding daily play, with the added bonus of character freebies that please franchise fans.

The leveling up mechanic is slick, but the power cap is annoying, and not explained in advance, so you might top out at your aggregate power cap - but not have leveled up the powers you want.

This is less of an issue now that developer Demiurge has added the ability to re-level the powers of maxed cards - a good example of that "constantly evolving" aspect of the game. Plus, it doesn't take a ton of playing to to get the regular, lower-level duplicate cards needed to re-balance maxed characters.

The game is mostly offline, with an asynchronous online mode where you basically play "ghosts"of real players' 3-character squads that fit into a timed theme defined by the game (for example, "Lone-star heroes", which lets you pitch your single star, more common heroes against other players' similar rosters.

The game has turned into my go-to time filler on my phone. Games aren't as quick as I'd like, but they're close.