Monday, July 18, 2016
You can get Clicker Heroes at https://www.clickerheroes.com/
An idle game in which your stable of heroes kill monsters for gold. As I assume is true of most idle games, its structure is based on a series of concentric gameplay loops. First you're clicking monsters to kill them and collect gold, which you use to hire and upgrade heroes. The heroes make the monster loop faster, so after a while you stop focusing on individual monsters and instead use the constant flow of gold to manage your heroes, occasionally using their powers (which are on cooldowns of varying length) to make a lot of progress quickly. But despite being in the title, the heroes are just one of several loops - eventually you start "ascending", sacrificing your heroes to start over but collecting "hero souls" which you use to upgrade "ancients" that give you passive bonuses that make the hero loop faster. Then you start "transcending", sacrificing your ancients to start over but collecting "ancient souls" which you use to upgrade "outsiders" that give you passive bonuses that make the ancient loop faster. There are a couple of other mechanics, such as relics that are essentially another facet of the ancient loop and mercenaries which grant rewards on timers. And somewhat evilly, there are "guilds" that present a lightweight social obligation factor through daily "raids" that must be collaborated on to make any real progress. It can be satisfying, in a mindless way, to check in on your increasingly-huge numbers for a few minutes here and there. But ultimately, the game is a treadmill, doling out progression on longer and longer schedules. As such, the only way to win is not to play.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Race The Sun
You can get Race The Sun at http://flippfly.com/racethesun/
Race The Sun is an endless runner with a compelling atmosphere. Deaths are slightly too spectacular and flow-disrupting, but the mission-based unlock system means they are also the only way to get access to new mechanics - despite the game's continual navel-gazing about the inevitability of failure, failure is the only way to progress. As a result, the pacing feels slow and oddly forced - rather than honing skill on a well-tuned challenge, it feels like running laps in an incomplete game in order to earn the next piece. For example, the first few runs are guaranteed to be cut short by running out of time when the sun sets, because you have to unlock the pickups that extend your time by raising the sun - after unlocking them, I never again lost due to running out of time. Some runs later, I crashed because I went through what was obviously a gateway - but I hadn't yet unlocked the gateway mechanic. If the game didn't force you to spend so much time on an incomplete version of itself and if it were a little harder to die, the core gameplay and aesthetics would be great at creating flow.
Monday, July 4, 2016
You can get Lumines at http://store.steampowered.com/app/11900/ or on the PlayStation, XBox, or iOS stores.
Lumines is a falling-block puzzle game where you must group like-colored blocks into rectangles to clear them away. Every so often you switch to a new song and corresponding visual skin, and the speed of the song determines the speed at which blocks are cleared away. Slower songs make it easier to rack up large combos, but also leave more time for the board to overfill and end the game. The puzzle gameplay is fairly straightforward and can actually be solved deterministically - once you know how to play, you can do so indefinitely until the blocks fall too fast for your reflexes to keep up. At that point, all that's really left is the atmosphere created by the songs and skins, which vary in different Lumines games and may or may not be to your liking.