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For people who want to keep their minds flexible and like their puzzles dense
Rebus is an artful, surprisingly complicated puzzle title that presents players with a drawing, symbol, or other cartoon-style image and tasks them with figuring out the word or phrase they represent. But these aren't the rebuses you played with as a kid: These visual riddles are as devious in their execution as they are elegant. The developer doesn't bill it as an "absurd logic game" for nothing; each challenge will take all the lateral (and literal) thinking you can muster to find the solution.
Why we love it
We actually love it because we hate it: Some of Rebus' puzzles are so vague, esoteric, and subtle that we end up solving them out of spite more than anything. But we do solve them, and we keep coming back for more. It's not just that it's challenging -- it's that it's so ridiculously challenging that we refuse to let the game beat us. And while we're getting all that frustration out, our brains are incidentally learning new ways to think about and approach problems. Stupid, sneaky game ... making us all smart and stuff.
For anyone who likes slice-of-life games and mini-games.
Crap! I’m Broke: Out of Pocket ($1.99) by Arcane Circus is a crazy life management game that hits a bit too close to home for many people, I’d imagine. If you enjoy games that are packed with mini-games, like Peter Panic (http://appadvice.com/review/peter-panic), but like having a slice of life thrown into the mix, then Crap! I’m Broke is the game for you. Let’s face it — for most of us, life gets crazy and overwhelming with bills and other unexpected costs that pop up every now and then in our lives. However, while we may be comfortable with where we are now (or not), chances are that we all started out somewhere (or still are). The moment we got our first job, we experienced what it is like to earn a dollar and value it, because that’s about the time when we start having our own bills to pay. And let me tell you — bills are no fun. Of course, while it’s not fun to struggle in life, it does make for a challenging mobile game. When I got wind of Crap! I’m Broke in my inbox, I was intrigued — a game about being broke in life? How could I not be curious? So I decided to check it out. The visuals in CIBOOP feature a Cubist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubism) aesthetic that is rather unique in the App Store and makes the game stand out much more. While it has a Cubist look and feel, it is still rather flat and minimalistic, like most artsy games these days. The colors are a nice mix of soft pastels and vibrant tones as you make your way through the broke life, and all of the contrast comes together nicely in the end. Animations are mostly smooth, though some of the movement can be a bit jarring at first as you make your way from job-to-job due to the odd controls. The game has a quirky jazz soundtrack to go along with everything, and the sound effects definitely make this real-life-simulator feel rather realistic. In terms of visuals and audio, CIBOOP is a nicely done package. As a simulator game, there’s only one mode in CIBOOP, and you’ll find out that you start off as a guy who just got a new home in the city, and for the first three months, your mom will help you with the rent. But after that, you’re on your own. You have a refrigerator that has some different food items that you can purchase to prevent starvation, and a laptop where you pay your bills and get messages alerting to you either unforeseen expenses or maybe some cash back (but mostly the former). In order to get some cash, you’ll have to get out of your place and go find work from nearby businesses. At first, you start out just washing dishes at the diner next door, but as you pay your bills and earn your keep, you’ll be able to unlock more jobs from other nearby businesses, like burger flipping, sorting cans in the factory, bartending, and even being a bouncer for the club. One thing you’ll always have to be sure to do is keep an eye on the hunger and month gauges in the top left. The circular month gauge lets you know how much time you have left until the end of the month, when bills are due. The hunger gauge is your hunger — if you work too hard and forget to eat, you’ll starve to death. And if you don’t starve to death, you’ll be buried under piles of debt. Either way, the outcome isn’t pretty. However, the developers did add an “ending” to the game, so if you can manage to survive life’s struggles, there is something to look forward to. The controls in CIBOOP are simple enough. While you’re in your house, just drag your finger across the screen to pan the camera around, and tap on items to interact with them (refrigerator, laptop, and door). When you’re outside, run to your next destination by holding the left or right side of the screen. When there is a job vacancy available at an available business, you’ll know because of the sign on the window or wall. Tap on the door to enter the business and get to work. Each job is a mini-game with its own set of controls that you’ll be able to check before getting started. For example, dish washing just requires you to scrub the dishes with your finger until the dirt is gone. Burger flipping is done by tapping on your character to flip a burger, and then tap the patty to get the bun on and have it served. The mini-game instructions are pretty clear and easy to follow. While the controls mostly work, I did have some issues with the burger flipping and factory jobs so far, as I haven’t made it to bartending or bouncing yet. I noticed for burger flipping, some of the faster patties are harder to get the buns on, because I’ve tapped numerous times as they’re whizzing by and barely made it before it got served. It’s not as responsive as it should be, and I hope to see this fixed in the future. I also noticed that for the factory job, as I’m trying to sort through as many cans as possible, my character drops the can a bit short of the bucket that it belongs to, causing me to lose out on money and also cutting down the shift time. These wouldn’t be big issues if it weren’t for the fact that the game is entirely dependent on the amount of money you make, so every little bit helps out here. I’ve been short for the bills at the end of the month because of silly mistakes done due to unoptimized controls, and it’s rather frustrating. Hopefully the controls get better optimized in a future update. Once you’re done with a job’s shift, you’ll be kicked out of the business and you can either look for more work elsewhere or go home if you need to eat or have to pay the bills. The game gives you a loud, audible warning when you’re approaching starvation threshold and bill time, so by the time you hear the second warning, you should know to hightail it out of there and get home. To pay bills, just get to your laptop and then choose the “Pay Off” option. But you should do this after getting something to eat first, because otherwise you screwed yourself over with no money left for food. Sometimes jobs will have “Employee of the Month” challenges, which will net you a nice wad of cash if you can successfully complete it. This will help with keeping your tummy full and is a step closer to paying the bills to make sure no debt piles up. At the end of the month, after paying your bills, you also get an opportunity to purchase things from the web store on your computer. These can be furnishings for your place (disposable income) or one-time purchases that can give you bonuses for working certain jobs for the month. You’ll also encounter some transients on the street as you go to and from work, and interacting with them means giving them five bucks. The game has its own karma system too, so who knows — that generosity may pay off if you feel like going into the market to buy some lottery scratchers. At the start of a new year, you’ll also have the opportunity for New Year Resolutions, like “Go to a gaming convention” or “Visit family.” These are goals that you’ll want to save up for, which will get you some great memories in return. One big issue with the game that I did notice after trying several times to make it past a few months in Year 2 is the fact that the game is insanely difficult. I get it — life is hard and this game reflects that. But it isn’t exactly fair when you can barely survive for a few months after the first three because the jobs don’t get you enough, and it seems that everything that goes wrong with your computer (battery) and house goes wrong too soon, piling up on your bills. You’re struggling from the get-go and you’ll have to rely on sheer luck to get some Employee of the Month challenges in order to even come close to paying off your bills on time without getting debt or not starving. I will be keeping CIBOOP on my iPhone 7 because it’s beautiful and a nice time wasting distraction (and it can teach kids a great lesson), but I want to see optimizations made for some of the mini-game controls and not such a steep difficulty in the beginning. If these changes can be made, then the game will be a lot better. If you’re a fan of slice-of-life titles that are packed with challenging mini-games, then I recommend giving Crap! I’m Broke a try. If your’e on the fence, I’d recommend waiting to see if things improve with updates. Crap! I’m Broke: Out of Pocket is available on the App Store as a universal app for your iPhone and iPad for $1.99 (http://getapp.cc/app/1114606759).
Why we love it
The game has a unique aesthetic and is fun to play, even if it's a bit repetitive. The controls do need better optimization though, and the difficulty needs to be toned down a bit.
For those who enjoy story-driven games.
A game set during World War I that provides a point, and click adventure style that has now been ported to the touch platform. There’s an animated comic book art style, and yet the game is relatively historically accurate, which is quite a surprise. The game storyline follows the timeline of the actual war, and the diverse characters each play a key role. You go from the French countryside to German prisoner on through to trench warfare, all while solving puzzles along the way. The story of Valiant Hearts is highly engaging to keep you actively pursuing the progression to see what happens next.
Why we love it
Valiant Hearts features beautiful hand-drawn artwork and has a cast of amazing characters that you truly feel attached to after getting to know them. The game is also historically accurate and has rather challenging puzzles.
For those who like Sci-Fi and the Wild West with some covered shooting too.
The sequel continues the style of the original with a top down shooter adventure that gives you dual stick controls, and a story based adventure to play through. Both editions emphasize tactical combat to allow you to take out enemies from behind with stealth, as well as flank enemies and take cover. The new version seems to have more happening at once, and yet it’s easier to manage all that’s going on. Space Marshals 2 presents relatively expansive mission maps with numerous pockets of enemies. There are also blockades, transitions, and bosses to contend with across the 20 deluxe missions.
Why we love it
Space Marshals 2 is beautiful and packs in a ton of action. You'll have a hard time putting this one down once you get going.
For anyone who wants to build their own rocket ship and blast of to explore a realistic solar system
SimpleRockets has you channel your inner rocket scientist and build a custom rocket ship, and even rovers, to explore space and planets. Based on Kepler's equations you experience a very realistic orbital experience as you explore the planets, moons and the sun. You will learn about rocket science and Astrodynamics while having fun playing challenging games making this a great app for the classroom as well.
Why we love it
The realism of this app sets it apart. SimpleRockets is not only fun is a real learning experience. Who doesn't want see what it's like orbit Mars?
Imagine a Broadway musical brought to life through a series of arcade mini-games.
This game can fully stand on its own as a musical with great lyrics, voice work, and storyline. It's taken up a notch as each musical intro sets the stage for a unique set of fast paced challenges in which you're given a task, and have about five seconds to play through it.
For any gamer who likes platformers with puzzle elements and novel story-telling
Thomas Was Alone is a game as unassuming as its title. This simple puzzle platformer lets you take on the role of a sentient rectangle, Thomas. It rises above mediocrity with hauntingly minimalist levels made with geometric designs and dimly-cast shadows. The game combines physics-like elements with puzzles of increasing difficulty that require you to use the right character and ability to achieve your goal. The driving force of the game comes in the form of a disembodied, droll narrator, who gives life to the collection of colored pixels while weaving an intriguing tale. Along with the brilliantly scripted voice acting is a perfectly matched, moody, ethereal soundtrack by David Housden. You’ll find more gameplay and story with the free expansion, ‘Benjamin’s Flight,’ as well.
Why we love it
Thomas Was Alone has the right blend of challenge, story-telling, and artistic visuals to make it an instant classic. The simplicity of the game is felt in it’s straight forward controls. Forward and backward buttons on the left and a singular jump button on the right. The main menu gives you the option to select chapters from the game to replay (only after you’ve unlocked it of course) so you can always go back and experience your favorite stages whenever you want.
For gamers who value story-telling over gameplay
That Dragon, Cancer is a deeply religious game with a secular message that any gamer can learn: the end of a battle doesn’t always need to happen with a win but peace can be found when there’s no longer any need to fight. The game is about Joel, Ryan and Amy Green’s year-old son who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The abstract level design helps reinforce a sense of loss. The title plays less like a traditional game and more like an interactive movie, though lacking some the choices you might expect. The game moves along a destined path and you play not to win but simply to take Joel and his parents to the end of their suffering and grief (whatever form that may take). In the end this is not a game intend to be beaten, but a story that demands to be told.
Why we love it
You might not want to play this one in public. The emotions it engenders are so visceral that in the end you’ll find yourself mourning empathetically along side Ryan and Amy. It’s a high-concept story driven game that tells you as little as it needs to. The experience of playing through, the almost voyeuristic nature of the gamer’s perspective, allows you to extract meaning from the seemingly abstract and bizarre dream-like scenes. It might not be a game you play twice but it’s one you have to play at least once.
The classic style of point and click adventure games of the past like Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, and others are on full display in Thimbleweed Park. You get to play as two FBI Agents who are faced with a small town murder to solve. There are numerous quirky characters to interact with as you play through a storyline that is about a dozen hours.