Basically, it was a year to the date from the time I stopped playing Pokemon Go last year to picking it up again around a month ago. In that time, a few changes had been implemented and I’ve found myself enjoying it. We’ll see how long that continues… After all, it still is a “bad” game in so many regards. There are a lot of awesome features to it, too. Anyways, I recorded this a few nights ago after activating a Lucky Egg and evolving as many Pokemon as I could. I was able to generate enough experience to jump to the next level and added a few new entries to my Pokedex. Forgive (or enjoy) the static noise (fan) and My Brother, My Brother and Me in the background.
Time Clickers is an incremental game, a newish term for a genre that’s perhaps better known to host idle and clicker games, that is, games like Cookie Clicker, Progress Quest, and Candy Box. These games generally have no end objective and offer the player little avenue for input, but are wildly addictive. I’d like to think these games are best experienced passively with a routine check-in, but that hasn’t stopped me from spending elongated sessions with them or alt-tabbing to one of them every 30 seconds. The endless grind for improved effectiveness results in short-term satisfaction and long-term emptiness that usually sees me dropping off.
The basic, never-ending objective of Time Clickers is to destroy waves of assembled cubes. Doing so generates cubes to spend towards weapons, abilities, and upgrades. It starts off innocuously enough with a measly handgun but after a minute, the player has accumulated enough cubes to hire some additional weapons. Altogether, the player can eventually hire five other weapons that dropped out of Unreal Tournament, not to mention the ability to unlock idle mode for the handgun so they don’t have to actively destroy cubes themselves; a slew of abilities are also available for purchase. At this point, progress is based around increasing the DPS, thereby increasing the revenue intake. Each of the weapons can be endlessly upgraded and for the first run or two, that was my singular motivation.
The time aspect of the game comes into play in the form of Time Warps (as well as spending time “playing” the game, I suppose). After wave 100, a new type of cube begins appearing, one which can be spent on a variety of upgrades in the game’s skill trees. To spend these however, one needs to Time Warp back to wave 1. With each successive Time Warp, waves go by quicker, upgrades come faster, and Time Cubes, this new form of currency, are accumulated well, more rapidly. The “wall” one hits where enemies are too tough keeps extending into ever higher waves and progression somewhat resembles a roguelike in this way. This currency and these skill trees are now motivating me although I can still look forward to Weapon Cubes which begin appearing after wave 1,000. I haven’t gotten that far but the related unlockables don’t seem as clutch as the ones I’m dealing with now.
At this point, after about two weeks with the game, I don’t see a window for when I’ll be satisfied or done with it. I’d like to treat this game more as a timewaster, but I routinely find myself glued to it when there’s no time to waste. It’s a very addictive game and indicative of what so many of its contemporaries do so well: take a barebones approach to progression and ratchet up the feedback and reward loop. Time Clickers in particular is a prime example of this and with mobile and Steam versions that support a unified cloud-save system plus leaderboards it’s an easy sell for a free game. Shoot, the mobile version incentivized watching ads well enough that I did nearly every opportunity they came along! It’s inevitable that my focus will eventually turn away from Time Clickers, but for the time being I’ll keep alt-tabbing and wasting my lunch hour away with it.
In a vacuum, Fallout Shelter can become tedious and boring. In the weeks since its Android debut, I’ve played it a few times a day. Early on it served as the highlight of my work break and bedtime gaming session whereas nowadays it triggers the forgetful “oh yeah, that game!” response. With others playing concurrently though, the experience promotes healthy “watercooler conversations” about each individual’s vault. Ultimately, this is a marketing vehicle disguised as a free-to-play game; one that provides ample enjoyment upfront but has little incentive for long-term attachment.
I’ll preface any further exposition with the acknowledgment that I’ve not played a Fallout game in any material way. I did play a smidgen of Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel – arguably the worst title to play in the series – but that doesn’t color the otherwise rosy impression I’ve developed of the series from word-of-mouth.
Fallout Shelter is a resource management game portrayed like an ant farm. On startup, I was introduced to a barren vault which a few wasteland wanderers wished to call home. With them safely inside I was then taught about the three core resources that promote everyday vault life: power, food, and water. I quickly expanded my vault size with the addition of rooms that generated these resources and with a little more education, I was on my way.
New room types were unlocked after meeting certain dweller requirements (20 inhabitants, 30 inhabitants, etc.) and the existing rooms could be added on to and upgraded to yield more resources or skill experience. Each dweller had seven skills that could be increased via their outfit, skill training, or just leveling up. Assigning them to rooms and having them produce resources, babies, or focus on skill training helped them increase levels, as did sending them out to the wasteland. Accordingly, I could also equip them with weapons which came in handy during exploration, enemy raids, or radroach infestations.
There’s no traditional story to the game and there’s not one end-game objective to shoot for. There are always three minor objectives to work towards at any time (collect x amount of resource y, assign x amount of dwellers to the right room, etc.) and these yield rewards for completion. The most coveted are lunchboxes which contain four gifts, one of them guaranteed to be rare. Ideally the rare gift is a special dweller, outfit, or weapon. Personally, I received a rare weapon early on and I was set for wasteland exploration afterwards and thanks to the bottle caps I began generating, my vault expansion took off.
Expanding the vault entails burrowing deeper underground and in total, there are about two hundred spaces to make use of. My current vault occupies about forty spaces and I’ve got a population nearing seventy dwellers. Having gone through a tumultuous period where I was under producing vital resources and not generating enough bottle caps, I’ve slowed progression considerably. I’ve got a couple steadily having children, a far cry from the two or three I had previously. I’ve also focused on equipping everyone with outfits conducive to the rooms they occupy, maximizing resource production, or skill advancement. I’m not overburdening any one resource and by expanding slowly but surely as I now am, I’m more confident in my growing layout.
Still, I’m struggling to find incentive to play as much as I once was, which is natural. After all, the newness has worn off and I’m no longer being introduced to new concepts. I find the lack of an end-game objective to be a double-edged sword. The upside is the ability play relatively endlessly with little hindrance. The downside being the lack of an incentive for someone like me who isn’t chomping at the bit to play anything Fallout related and only finds this game marginally enjoyable. Wanting to feel like I accomplished a definitive objective, I’ve set a personal goal of unlocking the final room – it requires 100 dwellers in the vault. I’ll probably play for a brief span of time afterwards, but I’ll eventually delete it, and life will go on.
As I mentioned earlier, the game is more engrossing when playing alongside others. I learned through this game that one of my coworkers is a major fan of the series and he was able to provide many solid pointers as his vault remained way more developed than mine. Having conversations with others drove me to continue expanding my vault and compete in a sense. The actual game lacks any sort of involvement or connection with others however, outside of the Google Play Games functionality. I could imagine trying to steal resources, gear, or dwellers from other vaults could be fun, in a Clash of Clans sort of way. Even being able to view other players’ vaults to get ideas or compare/contrast layout would’ve been cool. As it stands, I’ve got little incentive to continue on other than my self-imposed endgame.
I’d still recommend downloading Fallout Shelter though. It’s free after all, and it is the opening act for what will undoubtedly be one of the year’s defining games. Be warned though–you may begin booting the game up and finding yourself with little to do often. You may even forget about the game for a day or two and then boot it up to find a few dead dwellers. Asking the question “why am I still playing this?” could become common. Friends playing as well will invariably enhance the experience. Then, like me, you may keep the vault in the forefront of your thoughts and want to continue checking in on your dwellers. Heck, you may even want to purchase Fallout 4 this year.
You Must Build a Boat had me addicted like no other for the better part of a month. The puzzle/role-playing game is the sequel to 10000000, which I knew much of but unfortunately, ignored. In hindsight, that may have been a boon as this game only amplifies the concepts of that game, and may have worn out its welcome if I just played 10000000. Both games are match-three style puzzlers designed around brief gameplay sessions. However, they incorporate RPG mechanics coaxing long-term play and activating acute pleasure centers in my brain.
When I first started the game, my avatar was on a raft looking vessel with a couple other dudes. Very quickly, they informed my character that his mission was to, yep, build a boat! At this point the game transitioned to what would become a very familiar screen over the next half-dozen hours. The top twenty percent featured my explorer in a dungeon. He would run through dungeons encountering enemies, traps, and treasure chests. The bottom twenty percent consisted of the tiles that I would match by swiping columns up or down and rows left and right. Matched icons would cause my adventurer to react correspondingly. If I matched key tiles, he’d unlock a treasure chest. Likewise, if I matched swords or staves, he’d attack physically or with magic.
Each run of a dungeon would end when my character reached the edge of the screen. I had to react quickly enough to his obstacles as the screen never stopped scrolling, even if he did. When it eventually did, I would arrive back on the ever-expanding boat with a constantly growing staff. Back here, I could spend the coin I’d accumulated and increase the effectiveness of the tiles, recruit monsters for permanent stat boosts, and much more. The tile-matching was very responsive to my touch and fun in itself, but coupled with the sort of gameplay loop found in an RPG and then consolidated into a six hour experience instead of a sixty-hour experience and this wound up being a game I could hardly put down.
Now that I’ve completed it though, I don’t feel like going back. Or rather, I have and don’t want to repeat the cycle from square one. Upon completion it prompts to start at the beginning albeit with a stiffer challenge. I haven’t found that sufficient motivation to begin anew, although I am picking it every now and then; I’m just putting it down much easier. Nonetheless, I spent roughly seven hours with it on my first go-around and I could’ve probably done that all at once. Excluding the grinding I did at the very end. That grew tedious. Other than that fact, this game is well-worth the paltry asking price.
This is a review of Crossy Road. It’s timely only if you’re reading this month’s ago, or if you’ve never heard of Crossy Road. Unfortunately, if it’s the latter, you’ve missed the zeitgeist. That doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on the fun though. Crossy Road is an evolution of Frogger with elements of modern mobile game design tacked on for revenue streams. It’s a game built around understandable mechanics, unobtrusive monetization features, and an attractive art style. It doesn’t fill you up, but it’s easy to keep coming back to.
As I mentioned, the core gameplay of Crossy Road is heavily inspired by Frogger. It’s basically that game with one important twist – it’s endless. Instead of crossing a few lanes of traffic and navigating floating logs to reach the shore on the opposite end of the screen, your character is on a never-ending journey. Both obstacles are present and accounted for here and seem to be randomized, keeping gameplay fresh. Tapping the screen moves the character one row forward and this is how the score is calculated. The high score competitions can get heated, recalling the days of Flappy Bird.
This is a free-to-play game, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with advertisements. The primary source of revenue for the developers would appear to stem from the many character skins. These can be unlocked by spending accrued coins on an in-game prize machine (think the gumball machines at your local grocery store). The coins are earned slowly, but extras can be earned by watching advertisements. Or, this coin collecting process can be subverted altogether by purchasing the character skins. Each character has features that make them unique, but not substantially different. For me, they were just something to work towards, while I strove to improve my score.
Crossy Road is a free game, available on Apple and Android devices and it’s well worth the download. I thought it was a stellar pick up and play game for those moments when you need a distraction. If you have friends playing it too, the competition aspect will help to deepen the experience. But, it was a distraction sort of game, and something I couldn’t spend a long stretch of time with after the first few sessions. It is, however, something I’ve spent much time with in the dozens of sessions I’ve played it. Well worth a look.
The Room Two picks up right where its predecessor left off, at least, I think so. Both games present a story in the form of handwritten notes that I typically found to be incomprehensible. Still, the core gameplay was rock solid and tested my deductive skills rather than my patience. From the first-person perspective, I toyed around with all objects I could interact with in a set of rooms. Everything was a puzzle and when I solved them seamlessly, I felt much satisfaction. When I couldn’t, the hint system came into play and when I relied upon it, I found I simply failed in exploring my boundaries – there weren’t many illogical solutions. The Room Two is a meaningful timewaster that continues in the tradition of the original.
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
Oscura: Second Shadow is a game I have yet to play. Like most of the games I have for Android or Steam, this one was acquired through a Humble Bundle, and remains untouched. Instead of personal experience then, I can only write about what I know of the game through quick research. Fortunately, the game’s website has a press kit that filled me in. The game takes inspiration from platformers from the 1990s, specifically the Super Mario and Rayman series of games. Stylistically, much inspiration is drawn from Tim Burton’s repertoire, and I’d also say Limbo. I’ll have to give it a shot sometime to see how it handles on a touch-based device, as I’ve not had much good things to say about platformers on such devices.
The game was developed by Ole Alfheim in conjunction with Chocolate Liberation Front. It was published by Surprise Attack Games, initially on iOS on June 26, 2014 and two months later (August 26, 2014) on Android. Per the game’s press kit, Ole appears to be an Australian and the brains behind this game and its predecessor.